I’ve no idea if it rains more here now than it used to do in the past. But when it rains, it really rains! As I said before, our apartment is on the ground floor, but below us we have our garage, and a laundry and some storage space – and so from the road outside there is a drive which goes down to our garage and another couple of garages. On the other side of the condominium there is another drive which goes down to the other garages, which is a much larger affair.
Anyway, we had some rain. Probably unusually hard rain. But it rained and rained and rained! And the water came down more and more and more. It was like a river! And it was flooding the basement!
Evidently, so I was told, there had been a river running down behind condo, and all the rain water would run off the roofs and through the drains and down into the river. However, the local council, in their wisdom, had decided to allow houses to be built in the path of the river, and so the river was closed. And so our rain water course was changed and channeled to the drains in the road outside. Nothing so startling you may think. Only that the river was in a downwards direction, and the road… yes, you guessed – upwards. I’m not an expert in the laws of nature or physics, but I was always led to believe that water prefers going down to an upwards direction, but evidently someone in the council offices begged to differ! Oh yes! Another little point. Yes, it is true that the law stipulates that black and white waters are kept separate: that is dirty water from the toilet and and clean water from the bath and rain water are separate. But this building was built before any such delicacies like this were thought about! So I’m really talking about all or dirty water!
Moreover, the drains at the bottom of the hill were old, and not capable of dealing with the ever increasing volumes that the years had allowed, and …
Apart from the fact that our condominium drains had been neglected and allowed to silt, when it rained, and rained hard for prolonged periods we’d have the mass of waste water come down from the village. Not finding place to go, due to the small and insufficient drains bellow at the bottom of the hill, it would find its natural way to go. Obviously in a descending direction. My garage!
When in desperation I phoned the Administrator, Mr Scolastra, asking what he would do about it, he answered as if wringing his hands saying, ‘Oh! It’s raining. It’s going to rain even more! There is nothing I can do! It’s flooding everywhere!’
I remember trying my hardest to unblock the drains in the gardens, and bought a pump to pump the water any from the basements and over the wall and down the hill! I felt like Noah trying to save the world in vain! With my young family watching me in the dark from the windows as I did.
The Miracles of Economy!
Written here (as previously), in this way, perhaps it could well be thought of as just two freak occasions – firstly that of the heating bill and then that of the flooding. But it wasn’t so simple. Every time it rained hard, there would be the constant fear that the drains would fail again and I’d be fighting the elements once more. And for the heating?
The next year I bought a couple of Calor Gas heaters, in the hope of escaping our fate of the previous year. But it was awful. We had so much condensation, and it was really quite dangerous especially with two small children.
The next year I discovered there was indeed natural gas mains in the road outside, and legally there was nothing stopping us detaching ourselves from the centralised heating system and becoming autonomous. But everyone in the condominium was totally against it!
It was only now I was starting to realise that many of the others had indeed vested interests. The administrator was obviously getting a backhander from the oil supplier, and several others were on the fiddle with other things as well. But one of the discoveries I made was [if you remember I said each apartment had a meter for the heating consumption – 20% fixed 80% for consumption] that the heating meters were easy to manipulate. These meters were internal condominium meters, not official gas or electric ones, and so if by chance, God forbid, the wires which were attached were by any way detached, clearly by error, the meter would not turn – but nonetheless allowing hot water for the heating system to continue flowing into the flat! Free heating! Voila! The secret of how to economise! The water would flow, but the meter would not go!
So after the second winter I set about installing our own gas central heating system, which I was 100% entitled to do by law, but the whole condominium were against, including the administrator!
And so … I started! Bollocks to the whole lot of them. Mean dishonest cheating bastards!
After the initial problems with disagreements about what was possible and what not, I then got a plumber in and slowly but surely work started. As I said before, below our apartment we have a garage and laundry, and some space for storage, and so fitting a boiler and connecting it up to our system was a simple matter. What proved to be a little more tricky was connecting to the mains.
The gas mains were already installed in the road outside, and I had done all the necessary paperwork with the gas company. So, the only remaining thing to do was … just connect.
I remember it was a lovely sunny summer’s day, and the plumber cum labourer cum trench digger was finally ready to go! And so with a little (not much)help from me he started to dig the trench across the condo garden lawn. But this is where it all started to go wrong!
After ten or so minutes of him starting to dig, residents started to come out to complain and tell him to stop, and that he couldn’t continue. This went on, and arguments ensued. Not a happy situation.
Not happy at all.
There is an old joke going around Italy about the Carabinieri; the militarised police force. It goes something like: Why don’t Carabinieri need passports? Answer: Ignorance has no borders!
Ha, ha, ha! ( In Italy the Carabinieri are well know for their IQ – or lack of it. Or so I’ve been told!)
But on a serious note, this is more true than you think. One thing I have learnt over my many years of life: You cannot argue with stupid ignorant people. You can’t, it’s not possible. I choose my words carefully. Not in spite nor disrespect, but merely factual description. It might well be argued they were honest and good, as this description could well be given to simple folk. Personally, I would beg to differ; on the basis that someone or other had been swindling the heating and other things in the condominium for a long time!
So, to cut a very long story, very short – the gas pipe was laid, the trench refilled and the turf replaced as to it’s former glory. What a stressful day!
When I got up the following morning, and opened the shutters… someone had ripped up the pipeline over the night and it lay as a tangled mess over the garden.
What do you do in situations like this? It’s a terrible thing being in a situation you can’t get out of. In reality, it was a time I should have been very happy; I had a beautiful family, enough work and money to get by. But I had a real fly in the ointment. People often, when talking about Mozart, say that it was an amazing thing that he was able to compose beautiful music when his personal life all about him was a total disaster. I can see, though, that it’s not extraordinary at all. Although I hated going home to where I lived, I was able to carry on, and put a brave face on. Outwardly I was happy, and positive. Great kids; happy marriage; work I liked doing – but there was a dark cloud over me.
It was a dilemma, having a strong sense of love for my family and having done everything right to protect them in the best way possible, but at the same time having ended up in something of a trap, and being put in a situation of being downtrodden and subservient. Something akin to inadvertently poking a hornet’s nest of quasi underworld, and being totally out numbered.