The Frenchman and I went out for dinner with friends leaving La Fille with her regular babysitter. It was the first time we had done this in a long while, almost as long as it had taken to organise. It was such an event our friends opened a bottle of champagne before we went to the restaurant.
We were just finishing the starter when my mobile phone rang. It was our Portuguese concierge who said a pipe had burst in our kitchen and was flooding her out. She sounded as if she had or was about to burst into tears.
The Frenchman and I groaned in unison. This happens so often chez nous I am surprised we are still surprised. The Frenchman jumped up from the table and set off for home, a good 15 minute walk away. As soon as he disappeared I knew I should have gone instead or as well. The Frenchman has many qualities but a knowledge of, or indeed interest in, the way anything physically functions is not one of them. In short, he would not know a stopcock if it was red and had 'stopcock' written on it (which in this case it is and has). I said this to our friends, who knew the Frenchman before I did. They nodded sympathetically. I waited 20 minutes and called him. "We've turned off the supply to the whole building, but the water is still coming. It seems as if the upriser for all seven floors is emptying back into the cupboard under the kitchen sink," he said. My comment about the stopcock had been unfair. This was, it transpired, spot on. The water was coursing back down main water pipe that supplies the entire building out into our kitchen through the floor, giving our neighbours downstairs an unexpected shower, before drenching the ground floor cupboard the concierge calls home. "Have you called the plumber?" I asked. We have a fabulous plumber called Monsieur Mustapha who often bails us out of water disasters. "No. Have you got his number?". I gave up, apologised for abandoning our friends and left the restaurant taking up the waiter's offer of the Frenchman's main course in a plastic container.
When I arrived, the concierge's normally affectionate little dog scampered out from underneath the damp sofa where he had been hiding and yapped at me. Even he thinks it is my fault, I thought. Upstairs I found the babysitter, the concierge and the Frenchman peering into the cupboard under our sink. Someone, the concierge I suspect, had ingeniously wedged the dustbin lid under the broken pipe to catch the water. I replaced it with a plastic bucket. The Frenchman called the plumber and launched into a long explanation. "For goodness sake; just ask when he can get here," I said. He put the phone down. "He can't come. He's in Casablanca." When something similar happened last year it was also a Friday night and Monsieur Mustapha was in Morocco then. Perhaps our old pipes are in on his travel plans and do it on purpose.