In a break with tradition, we put off flooding the kitchen until the second night in our new house.
All the rest of the moving in rituals were in place, hazily recalled from the six years previously when we’d last put ourselves through this.
There was the home delivery pizza eaten on unopened packing cases.
There was the first family meal around the incorrectly-assembled dining table, where we thought back to the last time we’d had a ‘first meal’; sat at a different table, in a different country, as a family of three and thinking about all the changes that have happened in such a short period since Amnesiac’s birth.
And there was the obligatory domestic disaster.
But they weren’t the only waterworks we had on Saturday. The first set came from Kid A, who’d begun her first week at her new school brightly, but whose mood had darkened as the week wore on.
(Seeing either of the kids acting up like this always reminds me of the start of Debi Gliori’s fantastic No Matter What: “Small was feeling grim and dark…”)
We’d invited some of our new neighbours over for tea (having first done an emergency supermarket run to, er, buy a kettle). Their two young sons proved the perfect foil for Amnesiac, so it wasn’t long before the superhero costumes were out and the energy levels were rising. All of which left a nearly nine-year old girl feeling a bit left out.
And with that came a hardening of the features and a withdrawal from the conversation, and then great hacking floods of tears, until she had effectively managed to make herself disappear in plain sight.
One minute she was there, the next… It was like when David Copperfield ‘vanished’ the Statue of Liberty, only without the bubble perm and jazz soundtrack.
When the neighbours had gone home, we took Kid A aside and had a chat about her attitude and behaviour.
We know she’s only rebelling in a way that will get her attention, but all the while you’re hoping your arguments about Making Friends and Fitting In don’t get picked up and thrown back at you in the form of “I didn’t ask to come here”, or one of its variants. Thank god we got here before the teenage years.
Instead, she went off and had a think, and little while later came back to tell us that she was back to her old self. Literally.
Because earlier in the summer she had announced that with immediate effect, she wanted to be addressed by the full, multi-syllable version of her first name. It was a small act of taking control, reclaiming the name that’s on her birth certificate but one that never gets used unless she is in the deepest of trouble.
We respected her wishes and from then on, went about using the uncut, passport-strength version of her name. Teachers were informed; new name stickers ordered, the whole nine yards.
And now, after a week-long experiment of trying out her new identity at a new school…it was over. As of right now (again), she’d like to be known by the shorter version (again).
The rebellion lingers on of course, stuck fast to plastic lunch pots and sealed on the front of her school exercise books under sticky-backed plastic that we hunted high and low for over the weekend; but the switch has been flicked, the decision reversed.
The more fun, snappier-named version of Kid A is back. And not a moment too soon.
So, having solved that emotional crisis, we were all winding down through our new Saturday night routine of getting uniforms, school bags and lunch boxes ready for the morning. Which is when we brought the second flood upon ourselves.
We’d identified the dishwasher as a potential troublemaker on our very first visit to the house ten days earlier.
Opening the door for the first time, we could see that the entire house was caked in a thick layer of dust – not just Doha dust, but post-renovation dust with no cleaning for a month. It was so deep in some places you could mark out geological periods in it.
Then there was the paint job. Most of the rooms were decked out in a colour scheme which would have given Willy Wonka nightmares – all tangerine and lime green, sometimes even in the same room.
The fridge smelled like a platoon of zombies had only just vacated it as a hideaway and to top it off there was a rancid puddle of murky water loitering with intent round the dishwasher like teenagers outside a chip shop.
We were filled with many things; confidence wasn’t one of them.
But we reminded ourselves that the worst of it was mostly cosmetic, so we booked cleaners and painters to come in while our crate was still being cleared at the port.
And now here we were: boxes unpacked, order restored, weekend ending… Tiredness and overconfidence are a toxic combination, so when we tentatively switched the dishwasher on for its inaugural cycle, there was brief pause to lull us into a false sense of security before the blast – and I do mean blast; it’s like a mini water cannon, right there in your kitchen – blew the rusted tap clean off the mains connector.
There was no other course of action. I had to shuffle the machine out of its formica crevasse to try and contain the torrent. But it was no use, the volume and force was too much.
Behind me, the kitchen started turning into a paddling pool. The water then seeped out beyond the doorway into the hall and living ‘area’ (it’s an open plan space that takes up the rest of downstairs).
After that first visit, Mrs LC had fired off a tweet about the state of the house which elicited one response along the lines of ‘sounds like building quality is up to its usual standards’. Compound maintenance were informed about a broken appliance with the capacity to cause liquid havoc, but clearly decided to wait until they had more evidence.
Evidence which was now pooling around our incorrectly-assembled dining table.
I thought about that tweet as I crouched in the space where the dishwasher should live, being drenched by the jet of water pounding from the wall. All I could do (apart from shout unheard swear words into a watery cupboard) was stare at the electrical cable connecting the machine to the wall and wonder, repeatedly and with increasing despondency, just how safe it was, and how typical of my cack-handed inability with any mechanical object it would be if I were electrocuted on our first weekend by a dodgy Doha dishwasher.
The kids were amazing; already changed for bed they were dispatched to the neighbours we’d had round earlier to get numbers for an emergency plumber. Mrs LC aimed for the compound security hut to get someone to come and shut off the water. (Turns out our stopcock is on the roof, as you do.)
And with the water finally stopped, the cleanup began. Mrs LC and I were still mopping up with tea towels when the plumber arrived. Having fitted a shiny new tap, he reappeared with a couple of rubber blades.
Essentially giant windscreen wipers attached to broom handles, we played out a crazy game of curling in the kitchen as I sent broad sweeps of water towards the handy drain that is a design feature of houses here (I say handy; that assumes it’s been placed in the lowest part of the floor…) while he frantically channelled his blade back and forth to direct the water into the hole itself.
It was like a golfer having a caddy who hovers over the hole and knocks it the ball in as it whizzes past. Neat.
An hour of mopping and blading later and we were back to semi-normal. Having stone floors helps a lot. As does the aircon inside and the heat from outside, all of which meant that, by morning, it looked like nothing untoward had happened at all.
Which is how it should be. Normal service had resumed.