It's an old house. And sometimes, old houses maintain a strong sense of individuality. Sometimes they're possessed. And sometimes, just sometimes, we offer ourselves as human sacrifices on the altar of incompetence. Let me start at the beginning. A very good place to start.
In 2004, when we had the house renovated, our star architect at the time (let's call him Stefano for the sake of protecting the stupid) did the "as-is" drawings of the house but forgot one thing. In one wall, on the southeast side, was a built in chimney. This chimney was painfully obvious since there is a hole in the wall on the inside of the house where you are supposed to insert a tube to hook up a wood burning stove. I, in my stressed and out-of-my-mind state, did not catch the mistake.
Upstairs, in the guest room, I gave the architect direction to install a wall sconce and an outlet on said wall. Stefano, in turn, gave the electrician (let's call him Frankie) the instructions. Wall sconce and outlet were installed. Directly on the in-wall chimney.
None of this would have mattered, of course, had the plumber (let's just call him Stupido), installed a water heater which did not consume a thousand euros worth of propane every month. Because had he installed even a reasonably efficient hot water heater, we would not have had to have installed a wood burning stove in that hole in the wall, and we would have never known that Stefano and Frankie had screwed up so severely. Because we never would have had a fire in the room upstairs, an electrical fire, with black smoke and burning plastic, caused by having electrical fixtures located directly on an active chimney, just weeks after we had completed decorating said guest room.
The wall had to be gutted open, a steel tube installed, the wall replastered and repainted, and the outlet and the wall sconce had do be moved over. To make matters worse, we paid for the repairs, because Stefano and Frankie couldn't understand (must have been our bad Italian) why they should be responsible.
Fast forward to three years later, to last Sunday night. That's right. Two days ago.
I accidently used the washing machine and dish washer at the same time. Everyone in Italy knows, that does not work. I tripped the circuit, a result of extreme consumption. Stop laughing, you Americans. This is serious.
When this happens, I go to the box and flip the interrutore (the circuit breaker in English? Something like that), shut off an appliance and life goes on. Only this time, I cannot do it. The breaker will not go on. No power. Upstairs. In the guest rooms.
Did we have guests? Of course we did. When I got done with a full round of break dancing and twitch like symptoms, I got nervous. Nothing quite like this had ever happened before. Our guests-- lovely, lovely people. Australians. Bed and Breakfast owners (see my blog role for their website, that is the LEAST I can do for them). Ian immediate put on his caretaker hat, and asked me for a screwdriver. I don't remember much about the next several hours, except that the following events did take place: I called an electrician, brother in law of Roberto and Roberto (see my former posts about these two), and he came and spent three hours on a Sunday night trying to solve the problem. I cooked dinner, eggs, potatoes and a salad, for my guests who were very gracious about the fact that their stay had been thrown back into the 19th century. I had one massive breakdown involving tears and whining. Emanuele could not find the problem. He would have stayed all night, it annoyed him so much. Sometimes you get blessings during catastrophy. And for me, guest inconvenience is akin to getting punched in the stomach - you see it coming, you can't do anything to stop it, and you gotta roll with it, but it does not mean you like it.
I'm thinking, Emanuele could not find the problem, and he's a good electrician. I am going to need to rebook my guests for the rest of the season. My guest rooms will be permanently without power, because this is Italy and corrente is different here and oh, dear God, I am going to have to come up with a whole new marketing concept involving a lot of candles. I started going mad, quite frankly, which is disturbing because it only took some defective wiring to start the process. Shows a certain vunerablity. Too many years worrying about wiring and plumbing.
Fast forward. Monday morning. Our Australian colleagues and guests check out. They refuse to allow me to make an inconvenience discount on their bill. What can I say? Blessings during a catastrophy. New guests are due to check in. We call our other contact. Ugo. Ugo is a great electrician, Friend of Franco (not to be confused with Frankie the electrician from hell, Franco is our neighbor, friend, and farming guru), and an all around nice guy. The only problem with Ugo is that you have to call him ten times to get him to show up once. But this time, he came, pronto, with his whole team. He heard the fear in my voice. Two hours of diagnostics. Team of three electricians.
Fire in the outlet which is still located too close to the chimney. A Frankie and Stefano Special. Take Two.
So, here, three years later, the outlet and wall sconce wires had fused from the heat, and had finally reached their quite literal boilng point.
In the recesses of my dirty little mind, I was thinking up methods to torture the team which had brought us to this point. I am not a violent person. But when I stuck my nose in that outlet and smelled the melted wires, for the second time in three years, I was so wired (no pun intended) that I could have created a nice little electrical arch, with Stefano and Frankie and Stupido holding hands in the middle.
Problem is solved for now. Va bene.
But I have survived my second B&B right of passage. The first happened in 2006 when we had no water for two days, courtesy of the city of Acqui Terme. And now this. But we survived. What does not kill you makes you stronger. I said to Ugo, DISASTRO. Ugo said, no, Diana, disastro is only when you don't have your health any more. This is just a little problem. That's all. He's right of course, if I would allow myself to be philosophical for a moment.
Right of passage. A small one.