One thing I’ve been seeing a lot on social networks and blogs recently is people saying what they’re grateful for. Being grateful for what they have in their lives right now. And it’s important, because although right now we are in lock down, and the world’s in a mess, most of us still have a lot of things to be grateful for.
Some of the things I’ve seen people mention are:
- Good health
- A place to live
- Healthy food
- Having a job
- The internet
- Clean water
I’m sure there are a lot of things we can add to the list of things to be grateful for.
But first I want to tell you some stories about hot water.
In the old days on the farm
When I was about 11 years old, my family moved from suburbia to the Australian bush. It was a block of land, not in a town, or village, but a 25 minute drive to the nearest shop. There was Australian bush all around us. There were some neighbours in the area, but they were a couple of kilometres away.
My parents bought an old house from the city and had it transported on the back of 2 trucks (they cut the house in half to do it) to the ‘farm’. Farm in inverted commas because most of the time we lived there we didn’t farm anything. We had someone’s cows for a while. And we had chickens. And we had a pet goat and a couple of horses.
So it wasn’t a ‘farm’ in the true sense of the word. Some people might call it a hobby farm.
So, we lived in this old house. There was no electricity or town water supply. We had a bore (a big well) with an electric pump to pump the water to our house, and we also had a tank which collected rain water.
The water heater
To be able to take a bath/shower, we had to heat the water. We heated the water in a system that required a fire to be lit, which then heated the water as it passed through the tubes of the system. It was a kind of instantaneous system, you had hot water only while the fire was burning, there was no storage tank.
It was called a rocket water heater.
We were a family of 2 adults and 3 children – most of the time. On some weekends, our step-brother and step-sister came to stay, so then there were 5 children. Sometime later my mother had another child, so then sometimes there were 6 children, but we’d changed our hot water system by then.
Back to the rocket.
It was my sister’s and my job to light the fire every evening for the daily bath. We had to keep it alight until everyone had taken their bath (the kids) or shower (the adults). Then we could let the fire die out until the following evening’s bath schedule.
We didn’t have a choice about when to take a bath. And, apart from the hour or so while the fire was lit, we didn’t have any hot water at all in the house.
After some time with this system, in the same house, we changed to a storage system for hot water. But it was still powered by a fire.
So, my sister and I still had the job of lighting the fire every day. However, with this system, it would heat the stored water, which would stay hot, or at least warm, and last well into the next day (unless we used it all). We didn’t all have to rush for a bath or shower while the fire was lit, like we did with the rocket.
As a kid, it didn’t make much difference to me, but my mother probably appreciated it.
After leaving this farm, and going back to live in the city, I don’t remember having many other hot water problems over the years. Most Australian houses and flats have good hot water systems, and unless it’s an old one that’s broken down and needs replacing, there aren’t often hot water problems there.
Hot water in Moscow
Let’s look at when I moved to Moscow. As you may remember, if you’ve read this post, I moved to Moscow at the beginning of 2007 to teach English. And, like all (or most) Moscovites, I lived in a flat. And the flat was connected to the town’s hot water supply.
Yes, that’s right. In Russia, the town supplies the hot water. You don’t have a hot water system/boiler in your home. The hot water comes to you from outside, already hot. Just like the heating I wrote about in this post.
Which is wonderful, because it doesn’t run out. You can have a really long, hot shower whenever you want (yes, I know we shouldn’t waste water). In Moscow you can be the last one in your family to have a shower in the morning and there’s no possibility of the hot water having run out caused by your husband or teenage kid having a long hot shower before you had time to get to the bathroom. There’s no hot water storage tank in Moscow flats. The hot water just comes from outside, and comes, and comes.
It’s a brilliant system, and much appreciated in the winter.
No hot water in Moscow
Summer, however, is a different story. In Moscow, every summer, the hot water is cut off for maintenance of the pipes. It’s not the whole city cut off at the same time, but they rotate, different areas of the city in different weeks.
During the first years I was there it was off every summer for 3 weeks! Yes, that’s right, we had no hot water for 3 weeks! So, how did we cope?
My flatmate sometimes used to take cold showers. I heard her singing from the bathroom while in the shower, and one day I asked her why she sang in the shower. She told me it was to take her mind off the cold water.
I’m not one for cold showers. Even in a hot Australian summer I can’t take a cold shower.
So, I made a hot ‘bath’ in the plastic washing tub. I boiled pots of water in the kitchen, and tipped the hot water into the washing tub, which was placed in the bath. Then I mixed some cold water in to make it the right temperature, and washed myself. At the end, I tipped the tub of water over my head.
I even managed to wash my hair this way.
I don’t know why we find it so difficult, our grandparents (and probably our parents, depending on our age) used to do this. They didn’t have the luxury of hot running water in their homes.
Gradually over the years, in Moscow, the city authorities reduced the hot water ‘off’ period from 3 weeks in 2007, currently down to 7-10 days.
Some flats in Moscow have an individual hot water system. We had one in our last flat, which we lived in for 6 years. Ours was gas, and worked perfectly. We didn’t have to worry every summer about when the hot water in our local area was going to be turned off.
We felt very privileged having this system in our flat, and we kind of took it for granted, knowing that at different times over the summer our friends and colleagues were having cold showers and we weren’t.
Hot water in Bucharest – the studio in the Old Town
Now we’ve been in Bucharest for almost 2 months and already we have some hot water stories.
In our first apartment, the little studio in the old town, the shower was awful. Not only did the water leak all over the floor, but it was impossible to regulate the shower and get steady hot water from it.
We got cold water, no problem. Then when we slowly turned the regulator/tap to make it warmer, it sometimes suddenly got too hot to bear. So then we had to turn it down again back to cold, and try again to find the right temperature.
The temperature was right for about a minute before it went cold again. Most times I spent 5 minutes in the shower just trying to get the right temperature to be able to stand under it.
It was impossible to have a proper shower there. In fact, for the 2 weeks we stayed there, I didn’t ever have a really good shower. And forget about washing my hair, I couldn’t find the hot water sweet spot long enough to get my hair wet.
Hot water in Bucharest – the new apartment
And then, as you may know, we moved. We moved into this amazing Airbnb place. With a bath and a shower.
And when I had the first shower here, I felt like I’d died and gone to heaven.
It was that good.
So, for a few days we felt very privileged to have this amazing hot water. But then, something strange happened.
Most evenings, the hot water became very un-hot. Tepid. Even cold sometimes. But only in the evenings.
I made enquiries online, wondering if this was a peculiarity of the building, or of the local hot water supply, or something else. They told me that, no, it wasn’t normal. I found out that they have the same system here as in Russia, that the hot water is supplied to all the buildings. It’s not necessary to have an individual hot water system/boiler in every apartment. And, after a little investigation, I found out that sometimes whole areas of Bucharest are without hot water due to non-payment to the water companies by the local governments. Or, pipes are old and break, leaving thousands of people without hot water.
If you’re interested, here’s an article from last November about this very situation in Bucharest.
So, for a short while, we weren’t sure if we’d have hot water at night or not. We tried to make sure to wash the dinner dishes before it got too late in the evening, otherwise we’d have to wash them in tepid or cold water.
Come morning, the hot water was usually back to normal.
And, having lived in Russia for more than 10 years, we understand that sometimes hot water problems are to be expected.
For a while after that, we had a great hot water supply every day, as you would expect – no problems.
A new hot water problem
Then, last weekend, on Sunday to be precise, I said to Olivier, “We’ve had such a great hot water supply for the past couple of weeks, the problem seems to have gone away. It’s so great not to have to worry about having hot water.”
“Yes,” he said. “It’s great.”
Guess what happened the very next morning.
No hot water.
Just a little dribble of cold water from the hot water position.
As I’m trying to have a positive outlook in these difficult times, I decided not to stress, knowing that it was probably just some maintenance or something. It would come back on soon.
At lunchtime I contacted the owner of the apartment. He said that yes, there was some work being done, and the hot water would come back on the next day.
Not a problem.
The ‘next day’ was yesterday. As I write this, we still don’t have any hot water.
So, the past couple of days I’ve had a small, shallow bath, 10cm deep, just like in Moscow during the summer hot water ‘off’ period. Pots of boiling water carried to the bathroom to make at least a little pool of water to wash off the day’s sweat. A lovely nostalgic experience.
And, the days are hot right now in Bucharest. It’s been around 30 degrees these past few days, with more hot days coming for the rest of the week. I’ve been sweating. I need a shower.
But, there’s nothing to do but wait until the hot water comes back on again. I’ll ask the owner again tomorrow if he has any news, but, if here is anything like Russia, nobody will know, things happen when they happen. No need to panic or get upset about it.
But, it’s allowed me to reflect a little on how grateful I am for everything I have right now. Including hot water.
When I have it.
How’s your hot water situation at the moment? What other things are you grateful for right now, that you may have taken for granted in the past? Let me know in the comments.