Condensation has been an ongoing problem chez robson ever since we moved in.
Robin opened the curtains and wrinkled her nose at the water streaming down the windows, flooding the window sills, soaking the curtain and dripping on to the floor.
"It's worse than it was yesterday," she said.
I clambered out of bed and splashed through huge puddles to the shower. I got myself clean and dry, and then I swam back to the bedroom to get dressed. I picked up the extra towel I keep in the bedroom and dried myself again before I put my clothes on.
Robin drew a stick man in the condensation on the window pane. She considered him thoughtfully for a time, and then she drew a stick woman to keep him company. She decided that they didn't look happy together and so she wiped them out.
"Yuck," she said, "my hand's all wet."
"It's the blood," I told her. "From the stick man massacre. It gets everywhere."
The cats tippy-toed into the kitchen in search of food they never look very gruntled in the morning until they have had their breakfast, but when the condensation is at its worst, they look singularly disgruntled as they step carefully towards their biscuits, shaking each paw as it comes up from the water covering the floor.
"It's not good enough," said Porgy. He sounded angry. "You've got to do something about it. We can't carry on like this."
"I agree with Porgy," said Harpo. "Get it fixed or I'll bite you." He thought for a moment. "Perhaps I'll bite you anyway," he continued, "because I can."
Bess didn't say anything. She just ate her breakfast before the boys stole it.
"I'll take care of it," said Robin, "don't you worry your fluffy heads about it."
"It won't stop me biting him," said Harpo, and he bit me just to prove the point. "Yuck!" he said, "you taste horrid. What have you been eating?"
Over the next few days hordes of sleazy house drying salesmen came to the door, summoned by Robin through the magic of yellow pages. Each attempted to convince us that their particular product was much more suitable than the rubbish being offered by those other salesmen whose business cards they couldn't help noticing piled on the lounge table. Robin collected vast mounds of leaflets which she thumbed through carefully every night before she went to bed.
"Have I got a bargain for you squire. Low mileage guaranteed; one careful little old lady owner who only used it to drive to church on Sundays. You'd better buy it quick, it won't last long at this price."
"Why are you trying to sell me a second hand car?"
"Oh, sorry squire. Force of habit. That was last week's job. Now what am I selling this week? Oh yes I remember..."
And then the man from HRV arrived to peddle his wares. He had a clipboard, which immediately impressed us. He measured up the rooms and took copious notes. He drew little diagrams for us and sketched in arrows to indicate how the air should flow for maximum drying effect. It all seemed terribly efficient.
"Can I look in the roof?" he asked. "That's where we fit the fan and the ducting. I'd like to make sure it's roomy enough."
I carried a stool into the hallway and positioned it nicely below the trapdoor that opens up into the roof space. He climbed on the stool and stretched up towards the trapdoor, but he couldn't quite reach it.
"Bugger!" he said. "My arms aren't quite long enough. Never mind! I have the perfect answer."
He reached down and unclipped his prosthetic left leg then, balancing carefully on top of the stool on his right leg, he used his left leg as a lever to push open the trapdoor. Once the trapdoor was properly open, he re-attached his leg, jumped up and grabbed hold of the frame and heaved himself into the opening. He looked around the roof for a time and then dropped back down onto the stool.
"That looks perfect," he said. "Isn't it amazing the number of things you can do with an artificial leg? It's so much more useful than having a real one. I'd recommend it to anybody."
Robin and I were in instant agreement. We didn't even have to talk about it. It was never going to get any better than this.
"Where do I sign?" asked Robin.
"Here, here, here and here," said the man from HRV. He scratched his left leg. "It still itches," he said thoughtfully, "even though it isn't there."
In the fullness of time, HRV engineers came and laid pipes throughout the roof. They put ceiling vents into all our upstairs rooms and connected the vents to the pipes. They attached the other end of the pipes to a mysterious humming mechanism. Wires ran from the mechanism to a dinky little control panel on the wall in our hallway. The engineers pressed the on button and it beeped (always a good sign). Red lights came on, and mysterious numbers glowed. It was all very impressive.
Astonishingly, the instruction manual was only four pages long. Furthermore it was only written in English. I found this quite unnerving. These days even the instruction manual for the kettle is a hundred pages long and written in twenty languages. I began to wonder if perhaps we'd made a mistake buying something with such a thin manual. I read it nervously. The device seemed quite simple and straightforward. I felt worried all over again.
Mostly the unit is completely automatic. It just sits and hums quietly to itself as it sucks moisture up through its vents. If the temperature in the roof space gets higher than the temperature in the rooms it starts to blow instead of suck, and all the hot air from the roof gets spread around the house. This is indicated by a little red light coming on. When the light goes out, the unit stops blowing and starts sucking again.
By pushing buttons in arcane patterns, the unit can be switched to burnt toast mode. This is a super suck designed to rid the house of horrid smells and fumes such as those produced by burning toast. Oh yes! I had to try that. I pushed the buttons...
The unit in the roof began to hum as the fan went into overdrive. The ceiling vents vibrated slightly as air rushed up through them into the roof space. Vast draughts of air whistled past me as the fan sucked mightily. My hair stood on end and loose papers plastered themselves over the vents. Porgy the Cat gave a frightened squawk as the suction pulled him upwards. Fortunately I managed to grab him as he flew past me. I hid him safely in his favourite cupboard until the burnt toast mode turned itself off. Wow! That was impressive.
After a day or so of happy sucking we noticed a big improvement in the condensation problem. Robin could no longer draw stick figures on the window in the morning.
"You know," she said thoughtfully, "I think I'm going to miss those stick people. I felt I'd got to know them really well. And it was such fun, wiping them out every day."
Even the cats noticed the difference.
"Gosh," said Porgy, "it's so nice having dry paws at breakfast time."
"I like it when the kitchen floor isn't covered in water," said Harpo. "I think I'll bite you, just to show my appreciation."
He bit me.
"Yuck!" he said. "You still taste horrid."