By: Michal Reibenbach
After I married I went to live with my husband and daughter in an old broken down cottage way out in the country in a small village in Yorkshire. Things in our old cottage were forever falling apart, and on this particular morning almost as soon as my husband left the house for work and my daughter for school a water-pipe had burst in the attic.
I was lucky in that it happened on one of the days on which I had a maid. The pipe had burst above a wooden ceiling that my husband had installed above our hall; the water splattered down through the ceiling, causing it to crack in places. Because I was fearful lest it falls down completely, my maid and I stood beneath it and propped it up with brooms—as we waited for a plumber whom I had called urgently, to arrive. Since the water kept on dripping down through different parts of the ceiling; we went rushing around with our brooms and we started to giggle, for we were getting soaking wet and the situation seemed very funny to us.
After about an hour, the plumber finally arrived; and, as he was a poor country plumber, he didn’t have a car and arrived on a bicycle. Since there was a rainy storm raging outside he arrived at our cottage extremely wet. He was middle-aged; small and slight and was wearing a raincoat which was much too big for him. His eyes peered out at us through large, round-rimmed glasses that were exceedingly wet. In one of his hands, he was holding a dripping wet bag of tools from which a small stream of water ran down onto the floor, while with his other hand he was endeavoring to wipe the water from off his head! The poor wet man looked rather funny! I led him into the hall to show him the areas in the ceiling from which the water was leaking. He rested his tool-bag on the floor, took off his wet glasses; and then stood there endeavoring to wipe his glasses dry with his sweater underneath his raincoat while at the same time squinting up at the leaking ceiling—by now he truly looked hilarious!
“Dear me! Dear me! Dear me! Dear me” he affirmed like an old woman. “Yes, I can see you’ve got a little problem there!” He put his glasses back on and rushed quickly over to help my maid as she was still desperately trying to prop the ceiling up with a broom. Next, he turned to me and said, “Could you please bring me some more broomsticks?” I did as he requested and, from out of the broom cupboard, brought him several more broomsticks. He took them and jammed them along the space between the wall and the ceiling. Then when the ceiling was safely secured he stood back and gave a loud sneeze! Whereupon from out of one of his pockets he pulled a large handkerchief with which he wiped his runny nose. While shoving the hanky back into his pocket he said firmly, “Before I start to work, I believe a nice hot cup of tea would be in order!”
My maid and I exchanged incredulous glances. I raised my hand to cover my mouth, which had begun to twitch uncontrollably. We tried hard not to laugh but at length we started to laugh heartily for we found the situation so very comical; there was this completely soaked, odd-looking plumber, as well as ourselves who were also very wet, in the middle of a crisis—water was now cascading down from all over the hall-ceiling, and all this plumber could think of to do was to request a cup of tea! It was so typically English, and yet it was also absolutely the right thing to do–for indeed we were all shivering! The plumber didn’t take our merriment amiss, but instead simply looked at us with a twinkle in his eye. Soon our laughter subsided and my maid rushed off to make a warm cup of tea for all three of us. We sat down for a while in my kitchen, warming our hands on the teacups as we gulped down our delicious hot, sweet, milky tea in silence. It did indeed revive us–for afterward we felt much refreshed! Thus, the plumber who had been somewhat tired after his arduous peddling through the storm and his subsequent propping up of the ceiling with broom-sticks was now strengthened with new energy by his hot cup of tea. So that once he’d drunk down the last drop of tea in his cup, he was able to rush off quickly to collect his tool-bag, and then to vigorously climb up into our loft and there he proceeded to mend the burst pipe!
In the meantime my maid mopped up the water from the hall- floor and I busied myself lighting a fire in the sitting room hearth; it wasn’t long before I had managed to build a blazing hot fire with dancing orange flames coming off it. My maid and I then stood before it, enjoying the heat and endeavoring to dry our clothes at the same time.
In his own good time, the plumber managed to mend the burst pipe in the loft. When he came down from the attic I scurried over to him, “Thank you so much for coming out in this beastly weather to mend my pipe; it was so kind of you. Please take your well- deserved pay,” I said, as I offered him some notes of money which he accepted with a jolly, “You’re welcome!”
I then said, “Come and join us in the sitting room; you can warm yourself in front of the fire and wait until the storm has subsided a little bit.”
“That would be nice,” said the plumber, “maybe I will stay for just a few minutes,” and he gave an enormous sneeze! He then followed me into the sitting room, where he stood with my maid and me in front of the warm flickering fire.
“Now that the pipe is mended I think we should celebrate with another cup of tea!” I said. At this, my maid beamed, and she glanced at me with merriment in her eyes.
“Yes indeed,” She said, and she hastened away to make us once again cups of hot tea: sweet, milky tea. It was quite delicious and much appreciated. As I drank my tea I felt very relieved that the pipe had been mended, that the ceiling hadn’t fallen down and now that it was all over when I looked back upon the events of the day I felt that it had all been rather hilarious!
The author lives in Jerusalem.
She has had stories published by Cafelit publishers, Spillwords, Literary Yard and Grant Hudson’s anthology ‘Miracle’