Going back to when I first returned home from Portugal, it was two days before my birthday.
No sooner than I had gotten in the door and turned the water back on, I discovered that my neighbors hadn't exaggerated when they said we'd had an extraordinary, truly unheard of cold spell during my absence, several straight weeks of temps getting down to -17C/2F.Hardly something I'm unused to, having weathered New Jersey, New York and Connecticut winters all my life. But here we were unprepared.
Early fruiting of cherries and such have been a disaster and plants we take for granted, like rosemary and roses, were decimated. While that was painful, it was the spring-fed lake that quickly formed in my bathroom once I'd opened up the water main that first caught my attention. I'd heard of burst pipes but never actually experienced one before. Naturally, it was after 6pm on a Saturday night, when everything's long closed. Did I mention stores are all closed on Sundays? Oh, and most of them on Mondays, too?
A panicked call to a builder friend in the next village had him on my doorstep within minutes. He soldered the burst joint which was flat up against the bathroom wall behind the washer, only for us to discover two more pipes, these beyond repair as the copper ruptured at a bend, not a joint, connected to my heating system. I stayed in my friend Innis's guest cottage and picked up the necessary parts over the next few days. (As I'd mentioned, a lot of places are closed on Mondays, only adding to my woes—that and the fact that I managed to come home with a brass coupler that had no threads inside, a manufacturing defect. Imagine how thrilled you'd feel to discover you'd have to drive two hours round trip to exchange it, when gas is $8.25 a gallon.)
There was much muttered cursing and angst, mainly Chris's when he realized we were joining imperial and metric pipes and that meant soldering, which he said was less reliable, as proven by the soldered spots refusing to hold. Chris got drenched more than once in the cold outbuilding when we turned on the water to test the seal. There were, he assured me, couplers designed for such, which I could not find, after multiple trips of more than an hour each way to various DIY stores whose clerks solemnly shook their heads at me as if they'd never heard of such an extraordinary thing in a country riddled with ancient, imperial-sized piping. But finally the heating was up and running, the soldered spots weeping only slightly, and Chris assured me they'd likely 'heal' themselves in a few days and to just keep an eye on them. I could at least stay home and start unpacking.
There is, however, always a silver lining to these incidents, if you're determined to find one. I was. Stay tuned...