A week of cold showers

Our heating & hot water plant © Ricky Yates

Our heating & hot water plant © Ricky Yates

Visitors to the Chaplaincy Flat, when they look out from our main balcony, often ask exactly what is this industrial building, with its very tall chimney? The answer is that it’s a plant that produces hot water and heating for a large number of buildings in the immediate vicinity.

Judging by the utilitarian nature of it’s architecture, the plant clearly dates from the communist era. But it was obviously built with a far greater capacity than was necessary when first constructed. For now, the whole of ‘Rezidence Pobada’ is also supplied with heating and hot water from it. ‘Rezidence Pobada’, where the Chaplaincy Flat is situated, has been developed over the last ten years on the site of a former brewery.

Being supplied by this plant with heating in winter and hot water all year-round, means that we do not have a separate central heating boiler. Hot water is metered as it enters the plumbing system of the flat and the amount of energy we use for heating is likewise taken into account as part of the monthly service charge that the Church kindly pays on our behalf. An adjustment is made annually, dependent on meter readings.

All of this works extremely well, except for one week each year. During July every year, the plant is completely closed down for annual maintenance. Below is the notice telling us of the closure this year, which started yesterday and continues until next Monday.

Notice of the annual closure of our heating & hot water plant © Ricky Yates

Notice of the annual closure of our heating & hot water plant © Ricky Yates

Because this happens in July each year, the lack of heating is irrelevant. But what it does mean is a week of no hot water. Yesterday morning, despite the plant having already been closed down for a few hours, there was neither a problem with having a shave or shower, as the water in the system was still perfectly warm. But, this morning, it was a different story.

Boiling water in the hot water jug in the kitchen, then taking it into the bathroom & pouring it it washbasin so I can shave, is an irritation and a little time-consuming, but something I can live with. But having a cold shower, even when the ambient temperature is quite pleasantly warm, is not my favourite way to begin the day Brrrrrrrrrrrr! It is like an act of penitence and it isn’t even Lent!

However, it is a reminder that having ready access to hot water, whenever I want it, is yet another example of taking something completely for granted – until it suddenly isn’t available. Of course many people in this world have no ready access to hot water, all year long.

So it is cold showers in the morning for at least the next four days. Hopefully, as in one or two previous years, the maintenance crew will complete all their work in six days rather than seven. Rather like those waiting for white smoke to appear from the Vatican chimney, on Sunday evening, I too shall be looking for a similar sign coming from this slightly less significant chimney, indicating that my penance of nearly a week of cold showers, is finally over.

PS I haven’t forgotten that I still have the other six questions about my Liebster Bloggers Award to answer.

10 comments to A week of cold showers

  • Hi Ricky,
    The first year we lived there it was a shock to not have hot water for a week. I wondered how we’d manage; however, the washer and dishwasher both made their own hot water, so that wasn’t a problem. The main problem was the shower–as you’ve written in the post.

    Rather than take a shower, we opted for baths during that week. I heated a couple of large pots of water on the stove and then mixed these with cold tap water. The bath wasn’t so deep, but there was plenty of water to get clean. Then we used tap water to rinse.

    Doesn’t it feel a little bit like camping???!!! :0)

    Have a great day,
    Sher :0)

    • Ricky

      Hi Sher – Thanks for visiting & leaving this comment. You’re quite right, the only real issue is having a shower. But rather than trying to carry pots of boiling water through the flat, I just opt instead to suffer for a very short time under a cold shower. Maybe I should have been a bit more organised & taken a week’s holiday/vacation as several of our neighbours seem to have done 🙂

  • At least your bracing cold shower is in the warmth of summer, Ricky. 🙂 I remember reading Kilvert’s diary, where the young curate mentions breaking the ice on his hip bath on Christmas Day! Fingers crossed the work will be finished quickly…

    • Ricky

      I agree, Perpetua. To be fair, they always have the annual closure during July when the weather should be pretty warm. I’ve now suffered two cold showers with three or possibly four more to come, depending on when they do finish the work. Compared to the Victorian era we are quite fortunate.

  • Sean Mccann

    Hi Ricky,
    Commiserations. My family had a similar experience in February this year when, after a very severe storm, power lines across Ireland were blown down and tens of thousands of families were without light and heat. My own area was only slightly affected with about 20 houses ‘in the dark’ due to a single fallen tree. Of course the fact there were so few people affected meant we were 6 days without power while more ‘serious’ (or numerically larger) faults were repaired first. We used an old two ring gas camping stove to cook and heat water for tea making, washing and shaving, etc., and hired a small generator to keep our water pump and the filtration system for our well working properly. Our adult children were lost without the Wi-Fi connection and when their mobile phone batteries died and couldn’t be recharged except in their workplaces. After the power outage was over they were delighted, but also had an appreciation of the difficulties their not so distant ancestors had to contend with in everyday life before ‘mod. cons.’
    As my friend Val says ‘Every day is a school day’. Good luck with the penance! Sean.

    • Ricky

      Thanks for the commiserations, Sean.

      I do know all too well what you mean when you are only one of a few without electricity or some other public utility. When I previously lived in Oxfordshire, a very localised storm brought down a tree which in turn brought down our phone line from the overhead wires in the street into my Rectory. It took as week before British Telecom came to repair it & meant parishioners couldn’t phone me & we had no internet connection to send or respond to emails.

      Similarly with electricity. Our supplier was Southern Electric plc based in Southampton & our little corner of NE Oxfordshire was the ultimate extremity of their supply area. If there was a storm across southern England that brought down trees which in turn brought down power lines, you could be sure that our remote corner was the very last to be reconnected 🙁 However, both experiences, along with this annual absence of hot water, do make you more appreciative of so many everyday things that you normally take for granted.

  • Em

    Brrrrr! Our hot water heater went kaput a few months after we moved to Prague. I felt grumpy about it but, like you, was cognizant of my privilege. A friend likes to say, “Aw, are your diamond shoes too tight?” when I gripe about a first-world problem 🙂

    • Ricky

      Brrrrr! indeed, Em. Fortunately, hot water was restored on Sunday evening, twenty-four hours earlier than planned, as has usually been the case in past years. I love your friend’s expression, not that I normally go around wearing diamond shoes 😀 We do so easily gripe about what you rightly describe as our ‘first-world problems’.

  • Robert Doolittle

    Hi Ricky: Your hot water story reminds me of our experience in Kyiv, Ukraine. each fall the steam heat(centrally) generated is turned on to supply heat to differing parts of the city. It is supposed to come on on Oct. 15. One fall when we were there, we waited patiently on towards Nov. with no heat. We asked at the church (ULC) office where we worked, and were told that the heat does come on Oct. 15, but that is when the first section of the city gets heat. Our section was the last to get fired up. We had temperatures of 60 F and a little lower for a couple of weeks. The only way Elaine could get warm was to go to bed to read. I have a picture of her in bed with covers up and wool hat on and mittens reading. We also had periods of no hot water during August when maintenance was being done.
    Give my regards to Sybille when you see her and God be with you walking in the Swiss Alps.

    • Ricky

      Hi Bob – I’m pleased to say that heating has never been a problem, unlike your experience in Kyiv. It’s just the ‘no hot water for a week’ that we endure each year. Thanks for the good wishes – I head off to walk with Sybille on Thursday.