One of the things that really attracted us to this house was the lovely swimming pool and the first year we were here at least one of us would have used it every day the weather was good. And they mostly were. It was great when family and friends came to stay and it was just so good to jump into at the end of a hot day working in the garden. Although it isn’t heated we were still using the pool up until C went back to the UK to undertake a work opportunity at Harrods in late October. We had it covered in November (by our good looking pool guy Andrea – see posting 7 May 2007) and shortly after that I returned back to the UK with R for her knee operation. But virtually everyday since it had been originally cleaned by Andrea back in April, I’d enjoyed spending an hour or so each morning doing basic pool cleaning and maintenance, all that is apart from fishing out the usually drowned wildlife from the filters. The mice, lizards and beetles had stopped bothering me early on but the hedgehogs and bullfrogs were always pretty shocking to behold upon lifting that filter cover each morning. It was the sense of not knowing what you were going to find in there that was unsettling plus the thought that dead or not I still had to fish out a 2lb bullfrog from the filter and dispose of it.
But we were away for nearly 15 months and if the garden was a mess when we returned then the pool was a real horror. Water doesn’t enjoy being stagnant for that length of time and the 13 million leaves which were originally attached to our two huge poplar trees and the giant oak, had all found their way into the pool. At least we had the pool cover on but when we returned it was sagging two foot below the water level and it was full of rotten leaf matter and pea green bilge water. When we cut the jungle back to reach the pool it became clear that the water beneath the cover was pretty manky too. Usually you’d just syphon off the spoiled winter water on the top of the pool but we knew we’d have to drain it all off and start again with a thorough clean up. This is a major decision if you’re on a budget because the draining and clearing would be costing upwards of E750 and to re-fill the pool with approx 1.5m litres of metered water is a major ticket item in itself. But what’s the point of having a pool if you can’t use it?
Our neighbour P suggested that her good friend Renato, our local store-owner, might be able to help us, using his tractor as a generator to syphon off the water. Anyway Renato was agreeable to helping out and last Saturday he turned up early and we got stuck in. Here’s a shot of the tractor lined up and the grim state of the pool:
You can probably see that we were using 4 hoses/pipes to syphon off the water, 2 above and 2 below the cover. Only one pipe is connected to the pump mechanism, on the back of the tractor. Renato showed me this neat trick whereby we filled an empty pipe with water flowing from the hose connected to the tractor-powered pump. Both ends were then blocked off with our hands. I stayed on the road -side which is 10ft below the level of our pool beyond the hedge behind the tractor whilst Renato clambered up the bank still with hands cupping the hose before he dipped it into the pool and released his hand from the end. This created a natural syphon effect. Simple, brilliant and highly effective – and very cheap!
It was slightly alarming to see how much water we were pumping out down the road, much of it starting to cascade down into a neighbour’s field so Renato and I dug a trench by digging out the weeded verge over about 300 yds down the road to allow the water to flow down a flood drain and down to the river half a kilometre away. Hard frigging work especially because we were having to do it with a garden hoe, a wide snow shovel (light plastic) and my new mate, the wide-bladed pick axe. I was trying to explain that someone had nicked my garden spade but thought better of it, thinking Renato might interpret my pidgin Italian as ‘all you Marchesians are dirty filthy stealing bastards’. So I just let him think I’ve turned to a life of rural charm totally ill-equipped to deal with life in such a setting. He’s probably not far off the mark. Then again I never had to pump a million and a half litres of grimy water down the road in Buckingham whilst digging my own drainage ditches before. Plus I was still wearing the slip-on shoes I put on when he arrived and wading through 4/5 inches of manky fluid. He just kept smiling at this enthusiastic but pitifully prepared English neighbour who was actually no more than his willing gopher. He had me running hither and thither like an apprentice on his first day at the job. But I liked him and despite lots of sad shaking of his head at my uselessness, we seemed to get on fine.
There was one sticky bit when the pump on the tractor stopped working. He stripped it down (!) and cleaned it all up and re-started the thing but it failed to work. I had visions of an expensive unforeseen bill coming my way and offered some very useful suggestions as to what the problem might be. I could see him thinking this is a tw*t who empties a pool of water in his loafers and owns nothing better than a plastic kid’s spade offering technical advice on the mechanics of tractor engineering and pump technology. But he tried a couple of things I suggested and wouldn’t you know it we got it to work again. Ah ha. I’d like to think it was my practical insight that did it but I suspect, and I’m bloody sure he feels, that the pump kicked back into life only as a result of him turning up the horses. But I think I saw a different look in his eye afterwards as if I’d been downgraded from tw*t status and re-assessed as a simple prat. To be honest I think that 4 hours of syphoning had done his pump in but he was being generously spirited about it all.
He was keen now to get away as the bulk of the pool was emptied. There was about 2ft of water in the sump pit at deep end still to empty but the hoses under natural syphon power were working just fine. So I helped him to pack things up and having gained a teensy bit of respect I thought I’d try some humour with him. Well you know me, in for a penny… I’d noticed earlier that his tractor was manufactured by Lamborghini so I casually remarked that I’d like to see his family car if his tractor’s a f*cking Lamborghini. Boom boom. It didn’t go down well – I think I lost most of the brownie points I’d accrued earlier. I sensed I’d been regraded again back up to English prick.
Anyway it came to sorting out the money stuff and he was remarkably coy. It’s a sign of their beautiful manners. We’ve sorted things now but he was kind of leaving it up to me to reward him what was appropriate in my eyes. Different class eh.
The interesting thing is that we thought that would be the hard work over. Oh no. First of all he and I had removed about 4/5 of the pool cover before he left. I told him I’d manage to clear the rest away no problem. Except that the remaining bit contained all the leaf matter and a fair bit of trapped water. I kid you not but I reckon 10 men couldn’t have pulled it clear. I’m not a weak lad but I couldn’t shift it an inch. I also discovered the reason why so much gunge had gotten beneath the pool cover – there was a huge split in it beneath the leaf matter where the sh*t had been pouring through over the last 15 months. So the pool cover had a gash in it the size of that on the Titanic. F*ck it, I told C we’d need a new one and proceeded to hack the thing into pieces to get it out of the pool. Another big ticket item but I couldn’t think how else to resolve the problem. Once dissected we got the bulk of it out of the pool and left the part with the manky heavy leaf matter on the floor of the pool. Here’s a shot of yours truly ladling up the gank (with the big plastic kid’s shovel) into the waiting barrow, ready for me to dispose of it on a neighbour’s property. Well it did stink…
I tell you it was like shovelling sh*t. You can probably make out the grimy markings on the walls of the pool and the rather attractive floor motif. We got this cleared up by late afternoon. Next morning I got up early and started emptying the last foot or so of water from the deep end. The hoses wouldn’t work in so little depth so we had to do it bucket by bucket into a trug then lump it up out of the pool and over to the hedge and over into the road. It took me all Sunday morning in baking sunshine to clear it but we did it and to celebrate went out for lunch to our favourite local restaurant. Whilst we were there the heavens opened and there was a terrific thunderstorm . You can probably anticipate where this is headed. We had a great little meal but got back to find the pool’s deep end about 15” deep in rain water. For f*ck’s sake.
Next morning was bright and clear and we made an early start again. With the relatively clear rain water I swooshed this around the floor of the pool and after about an hour had thoroughly mopped and cleared off all the grimy crap from the pool bottom. Then the bailing out of the deep end which took about 3 hours more. But at least it was clear again. Meanwhile C started on rubbing clean one side of the pool. Again it was hot and hard work but the pool side looked great again. We left it around 2pm pretty wacked. Then yesterday morning we both attacked the cleaning in earnest. It was baking hot in the morning but by 2 pm we’d completed about 2/3 of the pool.
We stopped to shower and have some lunch but by 3pm the sky clouded over and by 3.30pm the heaviest thunderstorm I’ve ever seen hit here. We had terrific winds bringing down lots of tree branches on our property, torrential rain, a massive hailstorm, mud slides etc. The upshot? The sump hole at the deep end, which is 2.5ft deep, is full again. Sigh. We have some photos of the appalling storm and the pool filling but it’s just too depressing to be honest.
It’s not the hard work; it’s the bloody feeling that we can’t shake off our hoodoo. If this bloody weather system persists (excuse me but this is Italy in June isn’t it?) I’ll be bailing water like the last man on the Titanic; working frantically and getting nowhere. So if you ever hear people tell you about the joys of owning a pool just smile sagely and refer them to me, because whilst they’re telling the truth, it’s not the whole truth mi’lord.
That said the pool is going to feel sooo good when we eventually get it emptied, cleaned and re-filled. The commemorative video of my inaugural bombing will be on sale at this location shortly. I’ll be the guy with the f*cking huge smile on my face.