A Load of Hot Water

… an immersive story about poor house design…

So, there I am, happily ensconced in the Waikato, New Zealand, living in a lovely little pre-fabricated cottage with wonderful landlords. What could possibly go wrong, you might ask?

Well, one morning I woke up, as I thankfully often do, and went for my morning shower only to find a complete absence of hot water. A quick inspection of the bathroom revealed no problems with the shower or surrounding plumbing, so clad only in a bath towel, I made my way to the airing cupboard where I discovered that the immersion heater, which lurked troll-like inside, had sadly expired during the night. Slightly put out by the fact that there would be no hot shower for Rob that morning, I called John, my landlord, who informed me that all would be made good by the time I returned from work that evening. Buoyed up by John’s typically swift and positive response, I made my way to work smelling only slightly worse than I normally did.

On the way home from work, a drive which took about twenty minutes in ‘The Beast’ (more about that in a future post), I wasn’t sure what to expect, but lo and behold when I pulled into the driveway, there was the old immersion heater sitting indignantly outside the house and John standing on the veranda (or deck as we call it in NZ) waving at me. As I got closer to the house, I could see that John had a wry smile on his face. While this was not unusual, it was when put into the context of DIY and house maintenance. I was no sooner out of the car when John called out: “All done! You’ve got a nice, new water heater installed in place of the old one.”

Great, I thought. Well, that means I should be able to have a shower and finally start to relax for the evening.

“Come and have a look,” said John, still smiling mysteriously to himself.

Now, I must admit that to me, one immersion heater looks very much like the next, but an expert I am not and I couldn’t be sure if I had inadvertently uncovered one of John’s many secret passions. The genealogy and bloodstock industry I knew about, but precious little else. Anyway, I decided to humour him and made my way into the house, readying myself to be suitably impressed when he showed me the sleek new model sitting inside the airing cupboard.

“Ooh, nice,” I said, as he opened the airing cupboard door.

“Notice anything unusual?” he asked, his wry smile threatening to erupt into laughter at any moment.

Well, I looked at the immersion heater. In fact, I stared at it quite intently for a while, but I couldn’t see anything obviously wrong with it. I mean, it was sitting on the floor with a couple of pipes and an electric cable sticking out of it, but that seemed quite normal to me.

After letting me suffer for a couple of minutes, John said: “Have a look at the doorframe.”

As he closed the door, I turned my attention to the surrounding frame and then I spotted it. “Wasn’t the doorframe in one piece, this morning?” I asked as I noticed two large cuts, one on either side of the airing cupboard door.

“Yes,” said John, finally bursting into laughter. “You wouldn’t believe the fun and games we’ve had today, trying to replace the old immersion heater. The builder came around at half past nine this morning and only left about thirty minutes before you got home. You see, when they built the house, which was pre-fabricated, they put the immersion heater in first and then built the walls and doors around it. I don’t think they ever thought that one day someone would need to replace the thing. There was no way that we could get it out without having to tear down and rebuild the doorframe. I hope you don’t mind?” he continued, tears of mirth literally cascading down his face as he looked at my impression of a stunned mullet.

Eventually, I pulled myself together, amazed at the stupidity of whoever had built the house in such a way as to make the removal of the immersion heater a physical impossibility and said to John: “Well, at least I’ve got hot water again. Now, given that you’ve damaged the property I’m living in, is there any chance of a rent reduction?”

“No,” said John.

If you want to know more about my exploits in New Zealand, then why not check out this related post:


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