Hurricane Noel

Posted September 21st, 2005 by Penny Wise

The weather this week has been absolutely foul, which has been a great way to save money as nobody wants to venture out of the house. On one of the few occasions Noel did set foot outside, it almost ended in divorce. He's still moaning about it now to anyone who will listen, but at least it saved on plumber's fees.

Our house was an absolute bargain and we love it. It sits two storeys high among two acres of fields and trees and has one of the best lake views in the neighbourhood. The reason it was such a bargain is that the previous owners didn't look after it (understatement of the century). As soon as I saw it, I could see its potential and knew it was the perfect place for us but Noel took a huge amount of convincing. However, he also knew that one of the main reasons it was such a steal was because most people had run a mile at the thought of cleaning it up. For the first month we lived there, we spent $3000 at the dump (even with 'mates rates' as our friends ran the tip!) and every waking hour lighting bonfires. Luckily our neighbours were very understanding, as they enjoyed seeing the place transformed almost as much as we did. Eight months later, with the gardens restored, ramshackle sheds demolished and rubbish dumped, we had added $50,000 to its value - and we hadn't even started on the inside yet!

As with any old house though, you expect a few quirks and one of them involves our hot water supply. The tank is on the roof and several times a year becomes blocked, which involves a call to the plumber, who comes out, fixes it in five minutes flat and we receive the invoice in the mail the following day. I usually let him get on with it, but last time Noel was around when he came and watched what he did to fix the problem. From then on, he vowed not to call the plumber again and do it himself in the future. It was rather bad timing then, that the next time the tank got blocked was a couple of days ago, on the windiest day of the year. Noel had just come home from work, not long before dark and he wanted a hot bath. He turned the tap and nothing happened, so grumbling and cursing he set off up the ladder to the tank at the top of the roof (remember this is a two storey house, so we're talking high up!). This is where we had a slight communication breakdown. Noel swears that he told me to shout when the water came back on until he acknowledged me - due to the high winds whistling around meant he may not hear me. I stand by my story that he only told me to shout as loud as I could. How was I to know that as soon as he began climbing the ladder the wind would double in its ferocity?

Less than five minutes later, the hot water was pouring back out the tap, so I yelled out the window at least eight times and so did Liam for good measure. The wind continued to buffet the house and I went back to preparing dinner, helping the kids with their homework and so on. Half an hour later, Noel came stomping in like a man possessed and turned on the tap. 'Why didn't you tell me the water was back on!' he ranted, while Liam and I protested strongly that we most certainly had told him several times. 'I told you to keep shouting until I acknowledged you back! How did you think I could hear you in that cyclone? I almost got myself killed out there, I had a job keeping the ladder up against the house and you left me out there when the water was fixed the whole time! Thanks very much!' He went to run his bath and refused to speak to me for the rest of the evening. I did think about massaging his ego a little by pointing out that his daring feats had saved us $80 in plumber's fees, but thought better of it.

Other savings so far this week? We had spent months in cohorts with a friend's wife, planning a surprise weekend away to the snow for his 40th birthday. Even our children didn't know about it, and it was going to be a huge treat as they had never seen real snow. After weeks of waiting and plotting, the weekend drew near and I was struck down with a horrible virus that left me literally unable to get out of bed for the entire weekend. The surprise group of 14 heading down to the snow abruptly became 10, the kids found out about what was supposed to have happened that weekend and I became public enemy number one. The only comfort was that at least we saved $100 on accommodation, plus another $100 spending money easily and mercifully avoided the terrible hangovers that the rest of the group reported upon their return.

On the few occasions I have been out during the last week, I have stopped using the air conditioner in my car, in favour of winding down the window instead. The kids complained at first, but once I explained to them that I was saving petrol, they were quite happy with the idea and now join in enthusiastically. When I first got my little car, just a few months ago, it cost me $36 to fill it up. Yesterday with the crazy petrol prices, it cost me over $50 - and that was on a Tuesday, which is supposed to be one of the cheaper days. If that's the way it's going to be, my air conditioner is staying off. It's a shame with all the conscientious saving I've been doing lately that I went and wasted a load yesterday - all because I slept in! The whole school was off to an end of term picnic at the lake and everyone was asked to bring their own food. Because I unwittingly overslept, I was too late and disorganised to put a decent picnic lunch together, so what did I do? Stopped in at the shop along the way and bought bottled drinks, chips, pies and muffins. I hated buying the muffins most of all, as I have been so proud of all the baking I've been doing for the boys' school lunches each week. It just goes to show that it really does pay to be organised!

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