The cousin of LSS, a farmer chappy whom I shall call JP (because those are his initials), turned up with his wife to say hello. During the conversation about how we were getting on and what we were going to do next, we happened to mention we didn’t think much of the French way of storing cold water, which is by means of a pressurised ballon. The setup we inherited means that when you want to turn the tap on, you need to go and switch the pump on in order to fill the tank. This then works fine for about 24 hours but over that time period the pressure leaks out of the tank – so no further water comes from the tap. You then need to go into the shed to switch the pump on again.

“Ah, non!” says JP. “That’s not the way it should work. You see, it’s completely automatic. The water pressure drops, the pump switches itself on, pumps the water up from the well, and fills the container. The pressure rises, the pump switches itself off, and voila, you have constant water.”
LSS and I looked at each other blankly. This was definitely not the way it was working.

“Ah, look, I’ll show you. You’ve probably not switched it on correctly.”
So we all trot out to the shed where he gets his first view of the ballon.
“Hmm. You have a leakage of air here. You need to undo this tube and re-tighten it. Do you have a spanner?”
I pointed wordlessly at a pair of the aged FIL’s aged spanners which were lying on top of the aged ballon – presumably for just this eventuality. Personally I hadn’t liked the look of these spanners, as they didn’t appear to be any good for anything. Unless you needed a couple of paperweights. And didn’t mind rust-marks on your paper.

“Ah, bon.”
He struggled with the aforementioned bits of metal (I hesitate to call them tools) for a few minutes. Finally:
“What is this merde? Don’t you have any decent spanners?”
I fetched my Bahco shifting spanner. Which works.
“Merde. Why isn’t this switch working? Ah, I see, you need to drain it first.” We connect a hosepipe to the bottom tap and drain the entire 200 litres of water into the garden. He then switched the pump on. The ballon filled. And the pump kept running. Pressurised water started to leak from sundry connections. At this point the rest of the interested onlookers namely myself, LSS, and JP’s wife, retired hurriedly to the garden.
“Merde.” He unscrewed the pressure gauge, and was immediately soaked with a deluge of rusty water. Hurriedly, he switched the pump off, and then proceeded to dismantle the pump connections.
“Bon!” With this grunt of satisfaction, he switched on.
The electricity supply tripped.

Having rewired the switch for the third time, the pump finally groaned into life. However, no water was entering the ballon, because all the water in the pipes had by now drained back into the well. We had to pour two bottles of water into the pump in order to prime it again.
“Merde. It shouldn’t be doing that.”
No, really? You don’t say.

Finally the ballon was full again. Then drained. Then filled. Finally admitting defeat, he said he had the feeling that the pressure switch was faulty and should be replaced.

So two hours of labour later we were back where we started. With a manually-operated, non-pressure-retaining, ballon.
However, instead of being a very pale brown colour, the water is now dark brown with all the rust which has been stirred up from the frequent emptying and refilling.

“Remind me not to ask him to fix anything else for us,” I said to LSS as they drove off.

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