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Pragmatic in the attic

water tank

Imagine the excitement when I discover the rough wooden door to the attic, high in the wall in the oldest section of Badger House. Imagine the delight when I discover that it contains a cistern.

Yes, this is the thrilling plumbing post that I promised Brigette earlier. Sweasel.com is all about the minions.

Houses in Britain are generally designed with a cold water storage tank in the attic. This is filled from the mains (what we’d call the ‘city water’) and in turn is fed by gravity into the bathroom taps, toilets and the hot water heater. Only the cold tap in the kitchen sink is fed directly off the mains.

WHY this is so, I haven’t discovered. Not definitively, anyway. So that individual households had a supply of water in case that nice Mister Bonaparte came calling, maybe. To avoid everyone in London getting up at six in the morning, enjoying a fulsome dump, flushing the toilets simultaneously and whooshing the whole United Kingdom down the Thames some morning, perhaps. Anyway, they’ve done it this way for a long time.

Modern water storage tanks are completely enclosed plastic dealies, but the older style cistern is open to the air. I’m going to have to get a ladder and find out what’s what up there. I might be brushing my teeth and washing my face in mousewater. Yum!

It’s probably modern, though. We know Badger House was without indoor plumbing until as late as the 1960s and major renovations were done in the 1970s and again in the 1990s. As per law for historical buildings, the inlet and outlet pipes are all exposed and run across the ceilings and down the walls. From the time we get up in the morning and begin using water, Badger House gurgles and chuckles to itself as water moves around the pipes.

It’s like living in the alimentary canal of a big dozy beast.


Comment from wendyworn
Time: December 4, 2008, 6:08 pm

YAY! Plumbery stuff! I’m liking it!

Comment from porknbean
Time: December 4, 2008, 6:29 pm

Weren’t they still tossing ‘shit’ into the streets, rather than flushing, when Bonaparte was swaggering around?

Comment from bad cat robot
Time: December 4, 2008, 6:36 pm

I’m thinking its that good ole reverence for tradition, Weas. See, back in the dark ages the kitchen sink had a pump. Direct water action, so to speak since you needed a lot of it and right away. Everything else needed gravity feed since it is awkward to use a pump to refill the WC. Child labor units were used to carry buckets of water up to fill the cistern (also available in rainwater). My folks have a Victorian-era house in deepest Maine. It has the most amazing wood cistern in the attic, I always wanted to make a ginourmous hot tub out of it. It also has a dug well in the basement. (Handy when you are encased in ice in the winter and don’t want to go outside until spring). But some poor shlub had to personally move every drop from point A to point B. I love technology….

Comment from Jo
Time: December 4, 2008, 6:45 pm

I get all that gurgling right here in my condo. But, y’know, without the accent.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: December 4, 2008, 6:58 pm

Wendy, were you the one who plumbed for Uncle Sam? B and I were trying to remember.

The history of plumbing in the UK is uneven, PnB. Some of it is very, very old. I believe it was at the Kew Bridge Steam Museum where Uncle B and I saw a lot of early London waterworks. They still had some old branch lines and trunk lines that carried fresh water — so called because they were literally hacked out of branches and trunks, then jammed together to make long running pipelines.

Comment from wendyworn
Time: December 4, 2008, 7:00 pm

yes, I was das plumber (I was stationed in West Germany. It was still west when I was there)

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: December 4, 2008, 7:01 pm

I would also point you to the Brighton Sewer Tour. Brighton was the cholera capital of England, because they held off fixing their sewers so long.

Comment from Enas Yorl
Time: December 4, 2008, 7:34 pm

Hey, you use firefox don’t you Stoaty? Be careful – new malware out there targets firefox specifically. Nasty piece of work too – it collects passwords for banking sites.

Comment from Gromulin
Time: December 4, 2008, 7:36 pm

Hey, since the Flaming Weasel is on holiday, can you give us FNG’s a little backround on Badger House? You mentioned historical…as you know, stateside, that means it was built in the 40’s…

Or just blow something up so we can usher in the return of the Flaming Weasel. Possibly test the theory that a 110 volt hair dryer works twice as fast at 220?

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: December 4, 2008, 7:39 pm

Never warmed to FireFox, Enas. I was an Opera user until my latest disk crash. After the rebuild, I went looking for the smallest, lightest browser I could find (Opera was getting a bit hoggy, sad to say). I ended up with K-meleon (which many people typo as K-melon but which is obviously — from the logo — supposed to be a cutesy spelling of chameleon).

Verdict: meh. It uses the Mozilla engine, too, so it may have the same liabilities as Fire Fox.

Comment from dfbaskwill
Time: December 4, 2008, 8:04 pm

Technology talk all the way from wooden stump water mains to sophisticated new browsers. Exactly why I keep coming back to the long skinny mammal, day after day.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: December 4, 2008, 8:04 pm

Oh, yah, definitely. I’ll give an overview of Badger House soon. I gave one last year, in October, when we bought it and moved Uncle B in.

The truth is, we don’t really know that much about it. Not before the 20th Century, anyway. I’m going to have to get a train to the town where the Parish records are held and see what I can find.

The bones of the house are late 16th C, anyway. The oldest document we have — it turned up on a title search when we bought the house — was a property tax bill from 1610. And before you ask, no — we don’t owe interest and penalties.

Comment from MCPO Airdale
Time: December 4, 2008, 10:24 pm

Stoaty – Have I told you lately how jealous I am of your move to Old Blighty?

Comment from Mrs. Peel
Time: December 4, 2008, 11:57 pm

You know, my house is the same age as me, and around here, that’s old.

Anyway, I obviously spend too much time hanging around Brits online. Today in class, a guy dropped his eraser, and I almost said, “Hey, you dropped your rubber,” before I remembered that that term refers to something very different in American English. That could have been embarrassing.

Comment from Lipstick
Time: December 5, 2008, 1:03 pm

Is that Badger House on your American Weasel graphic?

Comment from scubafreak
Time: December 5, 2008, 1:46 pm

Hmm. Jonesin, our overlord on the Cornfield, posted an interesting tidbit this morning on the poor showing that average Americans gave on basic Civic knowledge of the U.S.

the test is here, http://www.americancivicliteracy.org/resources/quiz.aspx

It’s kind of interesting to see where you stand. I scored a 90.91%.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: December 5, 2008, 2:00 pm

No, Lipstick, that’s an inn of the same era. I just Googled “tudor architecture” and out it fell. Badger House is much smaller; a cottage, really. I was thinking this morning I ought to replace that image, lest someone think I was rattling around that huge place ๐Ÿ™‚

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: December 5, 2008, 2:13 pm

Heh. I got 90.91% too, Scubafreak — 30 out of 33. I wonder if we missed the same three?

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: December 5, 2008, 2:15 pm

A priest checks into a hotel and fixes the receptionist with a beady eye.

“I hope the pornography channel in my room is disabled,’ he says.

The receptionist looks up at him: ‘No, it’s just regular porn, you sick bastard!’

Aye thenk yew…

Comment from scubafreak
Time: December 5, 2008, 2:26 pm

Stoatie, the ones I missed were:

Question #4 – B. Would slavery be allowed to expand to new territories?
Question #8 – C. appoint additional Supreme Court justices who shared his views
Question #19 – B. teaching evolution in the schools

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: December 5, 2008, 2:29 pm

Nope. I got those three. I can’t remember the ones I missed, but I’m sure they all had to do with money. I’m shit on economics ๐Ÿ™‚

(Ignoring Uncle B’s joke because she heard it in person and laughed already).

Comment from scubafreak
Time: December 5, 2008, 2:49 pm

LOL… I recommend itching power in his freshly washed underwear as punishment….. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Comment from Lipstick
Time: December 5, 2008, 3:06 pm

Thanks weasel — I’m fascinated by Badger House and all old houses.

LOL Uncle Badger!

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: December 5, 2008, 5:17 pm

There. Now it’s Badger Cottage.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: December 5, 2008, 5:50 pm

It’s a hard house to photograph, Lipstick, so the latest Weaselgraphic makes it look smaller than it is.

In essence (and as far as we have been able to make out) Badger House started out as a farmhouse, sometime in the late 16th Century. Though it now has a ‘Kent peg’ tile roof, we’re pretty sure it was originally thatched. Apparently, they weren’t using tiles that early in this part of the country.

By sometime in the 1930s, the house had fallen into a pretty bad state of repair and was about to be knocked down by the farmer who then owned it, and who had built another house right next door. The story goes that he was all ready to start the demolition when a passing salesman stopped and asked if the house was for sale. He said it was… and Badger House lived to see another century.

One of the descendants of that local farmer lives nearby today and he has a nice painting of the house, showing a large pond with ducks. No pond now, no ducks, either: shame – badger is rather partial to duck ๐Ÿ™‚

In the 1970s a previous owner had the house extended and did it quite sympathetically. Now you wouldn’t be allowed to do that – in fact we are quite limited in terms of what we are allowed to do.

We’re hoping to learn more once the Weasel of Leisure starts researching.

Comment from Steamboat McGoo
Time: December 5, 2008, 7:29 pm

Do you still have the MySpace(?) photos posted from a year ago, Badger?

Comment from Brigette Russell
Time: December 5, 2008, 7:34 pm

Oh, boy, the plumbing post, as promised. Maybe next week I’ll blog about my septic tank and link here.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: December 5, 2008, 7:41 pm

It’s a Flickr set. And I have to use Google to find it now, since apparently “sweasel” is somebody else’s username and I can’t remember mine. I’ll have to take lots more pictures, though, if it EVER stops raining…!

Your garage is looking primo, McGoo. Sorry for lack of commentage, but I’ve kept an eye on your progress.

Comment from Steamboat McGoo
Time: December 5, 2008, 7:55 pm

Thanks, Stoaty. I’m glad it’s essentially done.

No biggie on the commenting. We’ve both been damned busy. You more than me, I believe. But I’ve been lurking when I can…

And … If I might … Folks, go over to the flickr link Stoaty provided above. Badger House is really neat!

Comment from Lipstick
Time: December 5, 2008, 8:14 pm

Thank you both for the explanation and the photos. Wow!

Comment from EW1(SG)
Time: December 6, 2008, 9:01 am

90.91% on the civics quiz~ missed the Lincoln-Douglas debates, Roe v. Wade and, of all things, the Gettysburg Address.

(Yeah, I know…it was late … and “shall not perish from the Earth” just dinna spring to mind.)

Comment from Pupster
Time: December 7, 2008, 6:24 pm


Did Uncle Badger tell you about his first girlfriend?


Dude really has a ‘thing’ for mustelids.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: December 7, 2008, 7:09 pm

Awwwww…that’s adorable, Pups.

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