My dad it seemed, always acquired, one way or another the latest gadget for Mum, when we were quite small the latest thing back then was a twin tub, it never seemed to be in the same place as before when we came home from school, dancing around the kitchen, it was a permanent joke with mum, she would shout out “Shut the door, the washing machine is loose” expecting it to escape I think down the road to freedom.
There was the ‘Hoover’ as well, but that is too long a story to account here, perhaps another day.
In the bathroom, was what we called ‘IT’ nobody ever referred to it as anything else!
Every Sunday, my Dad would venture into that little room at the top of the stairs and with courage and fortitude far greater than anything he had to muster up during the war, would place the plug in the bath outlet, stand back, take a deep breath, then at arms length would turn on the tap.
The contraption that heated the water was hung on the wall, I kid you not when I tell you the screws that held it in place were a good six inches long, they had to be.
It was about three and a half feet in height, two feet wide, nearly a yard deep, (that’s just under a metre to you lot) gleaming white and looked more like a refrigerator than a boiler – which it was supposed to be.
‘IT’ was the greatest spreader of alarm and despondency in our house when I was a boy, with the exception of a certain television set which reported such great TV occasions, like the coronation, with nothing more than a thin, bitter, horizontal line across its sneering face.
This particular Telly, which even its despairing manufacturers called ‘a rogue-elephant set’ put together last in line on a Friday, had nothing on ‘IT’.
‘IT’ made hot water and was stuffed with British Thermal Units, electric eyes, thermostats, switches, and fed on gas of some sorts pumped in from huge great cylinders at the bottom of St. Luke’s avenue in the middle of town, it smelt like low-grade sump oil.
‘IT’ sat there all week silent and aseptic like one of those operating theatre cabinets full of long knives and oval trays for swabs that were meant for the men in white coats (sometimes green) to leave inside you. (This I am an authority on.)
Then as if disturbed from its idol life on each Sunday morning, after Dad I think must have taken a little Dutch courage, ‘IT’ erupted.
There was a sudden Kerrrrrrrr-UMP! Like a two-thousand-pound bomb going off in the middle-distance followed by a deep, guttural roar as the low-grade gas burst into life underneath its belly.
If you had the radio switched on it would twitch, and if you had the TV on, the blood would run from its electronic face, completely.
My Brov’ and me, lying on our beds in the adjoining room would count it down like ‘Journey into Space’ on the radio every Saturday night :
The house would tremble and we waited expecting ‘IT’ to rise slowly from its launching pad as the blast-off reached its mighty crescendo, then roaring off into the morning sky leaving a hole the size of Vesuvius’s crater in the ceiling.
I remember one such Sunday morning in particular; we always seemed to have a cat in those days and the particular little feline we had then was normally a confident, insolent animal happened to be passing by when ‘IT’ first exploded into action.
So did the cat with a vertical take off that a Harrier pilot would have been proud of.
Forever after, that trembling psychiatric case feared to pass ‘IT’ by day or night and took to staying out all Saturday night until dinnertime on Sunday when food was on the table, but that poor pussy was never the same after that, when it wanted feeding, instead of the normal meeee ..owes it would kind of stutter m-m-m-m-mee-mee owe, or something like that.
Anyway, Dad had it taken out in the end, (IT I mean) for fear it would one day bring the house down around our ears on one quite Sunday morning, he had a back boiler put in to heat the water, now that suited us two boys to a ‘T’. During the summer months we could get away with just a ‘lick and a promise’ because it was too hot to light a fire to heat the water. I know all our nerves took a turn for the better though, Brov’ and me found there was a lot more room in the bathroom to float our model boats in the bath after that…….good days.
Thanks for stopping by.