Mending the pipes

You may remember the dripping faucet in my bedsit that inspired this artwork?

Record the sound that keeps you awake at night, Felicity Ford, 2009, pillow, permanent ink, faucet stamp, pillow-speakers, CD player, audio recording of permanently looped dripping tap sound, title and basic concept taken from Learning to love you more by Miranda July and Harroll Fletcher

To recap; I moved into this place in January and the faucet in the bathroom was broken. The sound of it – a persistant, slightly-wavering-in-pitch, hissing drone – was a constant presence in the new home. As such, it was just one of many sounds that emphasised the sense of dislocation associated with the house move. This home didn’t feel like my home when I first moved in, because it didn’t sound like my home. The sounds we take for granted in our environment – the distinctive hum of a boiler, the perculiarities of certain plumbing systems or the rigorous sounds of various household appliances tell us, on a deep and often unconscious level, where we are.

So when I first moved here, I missed the sounds of the home I lived in before. Having documented every inch of my last home in the development of The Fantastical Reality Radio Show, I know each room and its timbre, each floorboard and its creak and every blast and gurgle of the characterful and jubilant gas boiler. I had reached the point where I could tell by the distinctive engine-tone when Mark’s car was the one easing itself into his perpetually tight and encroached-upon parking space.

…so the new home has taken some getting used to, sonically speaking, and one of the things I did when I first moved here, was invest a little time in exploring its soundscape. I knew that without this investment (akin to the imaginative investment associated with FRRS) I would just never get excited about this home. The perpetually dripping faucet quickly came to dominate the space with its alarming sound of water-wastage, and when organising my love assignments for Love is Awesome, I based one of my assignments on this feature. Pillow speakers inside the printed pillow played the sound of the tap, and the pillow was hung from the wall in such a way that you could lean against it and be immersed in the sound. It quickly ceased to be a difficult sound and became, instead, an interesting sound. The investment paid off. I now sleep on that very pillow, soaking up its exciting, faucet-drenched associations, and it reminds me of how you can learn to live with something difficult, and it will be OK.

But now a strange thing has happened.

The plumbers came last week and fixed the dripping tap.

There is a peace and stillness that amazes me… a quietude that I can’t quite believe. And it feels strange and odd. Happily, however, the plumbing in my home remains entertaining. My tiny electric water-boiler actually works now (no more boiling the kettle to do the washing-up!) but whoever carefully installed the system back in the day, cunningly wired the pressure valve of the hot-water pipes to the light-switch/fan of the bathroom. This means that if you have the hot tap on in the kitchen – say if you’re running a bowl of washing-up water – then going into the shower-room and switching on the light causes hot water to gush out of the tap in the bathroom basin. But if you want to wash your hands with hot water in the bathroom, then you have to go out to the kitchen area and switch on the hot tap, then go back into the bathroom, as the bathroom hot tap won’t work independantly of the hot tap in the kitchen.

They plan to fix this; it was an entertaining day in my house when the plumbers came:

‘I really don’t mind if you leave it like that. I actually kind of like it. It makes my friends laugh when they come over and is sort of like a magic trick.’
‘Yes but we really need to fix it.’
‘I mean, respect for whoever did it; it’s very clever and all that, and in over 30 years of plumbing I’ve never seen the like of it. But we can’t have that; taps coming on and off randomly in different rooms.’
‘I see.’

We also had another interesting conversation:

‘So do you work from home?’
‘Well I’m a PhD student currently looking at The Domestic Soundscape, so I kind of need to be in said environment, so I can listen to it.’
‘What sort of thing is The Domestic Soundscape?’
‘Well, you know, we have all this stuff going on around us all the time, and it all has sounds, and it’s amazing, and we don’t pay any attention to it, and I’m interested in that, in ways of enjoying it more. Because we spend a lot of time at home and it’s nice to contemplate how it sounds in a way, don’t you think?’
‘I have a really noisy X-box.’
‘They do tend to be rather noisy don’t they? I think my brother said there is a very large fan inside them and it’s sort of hard to hear a film if you want to watch a DVD or whatever, because the fan drowns out the sound.’
‘That’s right…’

So thank you plumber for mending my tap; it is better not to be wasting so much water all the time, even though I do miss the sound of the old tap. And thanks for not laughing when I told you proudly about the artwork I made from the old one. It probably seems a bit silly to you when you mend taps all the time for a living, but you certainly didn’t make me feel silly. I really hope they bring out a quieter X-box soon so that the fan doesn’t annoy you, but if that doesn’t happen, just ask me and we can work out a design for a knitted X-box cosy to muffle out the sound of the fan.

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