Monday, June 29, 2009

Domestic Bliss, Chateau Stevie-Style

It finally stopped raining long enough for me to get the cover off the swimming pool

I normally aim to have the pool up and wasting my time by late May or Early June, but it is a practical impossibility to remove the pool cover without draining the water out of it first, and this year each time I had siphoned off the wet more had fallen from the sky to replace it. I was beginning to believe that I wouldn't ever get a chance to open the bloody thing to be honest, because once we get into mid July the heavens will open on a semi-regular basis in a series of tropical downpours. This is generally followed by an even wetter August through to September, at which point the weather veers into the brass-monkey version of Fall we've been getting of late.

First job was to remove the lock that secures the little windlass on which is wound the ends of the cable that is stitched through the eyelets on the cover to pull it tightly around the walls of the pool in the manner of a drumskin, albeit a particularly loose and floppy drumskin. None of the keys on the ring would fit the lock and turn (though one jammed inside it nicely for several jiggling, swearing minutes) but it turned out that once I had gone through every key on the (large) ring, the lock turned out to be unlocked anyway. I dimly remembered that I couldn't find the key at the end of the previous swimming season and had to rush the normally precise pool shut-down procedures on account of the gale force winds that had sprung up the moment I had wrestled the cover into place, and had elected to leave the lock unfastened until I could instigate a search for it.

The cable then could be unwound from the windlass by a process of walking away from the pool to keep the wire taught1 until I hit the big hook used to hang the vacuum on with the small of my back, at which point an alternate method was employed in which I stood on the twirgly mass of cable with both feet and stretched upward so that lengths of cable were pulled off the spool, and then I gathered up the slack, stood on the coils of cable and did it all again. After that it was a matter of only an hour or so to pull the twirgly cable through the eyelets until I had a tangled mass of knotted steel-reinforced cable wound round the fence, my feet and my ankles. It was all very trying.

I pulled off the pool cover, wetting myself down with the last remnants of the stinking goo that forms from rainwater, old leaves, twigs, algae and mosquito larvae, and made my first direct observation of the pool water, which this year was clear, I think. I say "think" because it was hard to tell the colour of the water when the bottom of the pool was a thick mat of verdant growth. A mat of algae of truly staggering proportions had taken root on the floor of the pool, and was busy working on its first flint axe-head.

How? How had this stuff grown when there was no light? It was green, which meant it was photosynthetic. It needed light the way I need bacon sandwiches, but the pool cover is several microns of jet black material through which no light passes. I fearfully peered again into the water as the ugly thought presented itself that some higher, bioluminescent life-form had evolved in the pool and was even then plotting to take over the unsuspecting world. This was terrible! What if I had loosed some pool-incubated alien horror on the pacifistic Americans? They were so child-like they would be killed for food or used as hosts in some sickening parasitic way before they realised their danger. Clearly, Action was called for.

I long ago2 figured out that it is cheaper, quicker and less mentally debilitating to drain the pool of such polluted water and to clean it, then refill it with fresh, clear water than to attempt to mitigate the problem with filters, vacuums chemicals and imprecations. Not only that, draining it means I actually get to swim in the thing rather than just look at it as the temperatures soar past 95 degrees Fahrenheit, so I grabbed my trusty submersible pump and one of the hosepipes and began the process of getting the water, algae and PBLTAs3 out of the pool and onto the driveway, where this liquid challenge to Mom and Apple Pie would end up in the drains where it belonged. I was so overcome with emotion at the thought of how I had just saved democracy that I went for a lie down.

When I awoke, about an hour later, it was to find that the threat to democracy was now forming a pool in the middle of the sidewalk, which it seems has sunk owing to all the bad weather of late. Cursing liberally, I relocated the hose so that Mrs Stevie would walk in the stream when she got back from whatever she and the Stevieling were off doing while I was busy saving the Free World. This proved to be the key to removing the threat for good.

Powerful as my submersible pump was, it couldn't shift a full pool of water in the eight hours it had before I went to bed. Not wanting to burn out the pump by running it dry, I turned it off until the next day, leaving the pool to siphon by gravity overnight. The next day I resumed pumping operations, and began breaking up the algal mat with a scrubbing brush on a very long stick (a standard piece of pool maintenance gear rather than a Stevie-improvisation, in case you were wondering). I saw no evidence of PBLTAs, which meant that my quick thinking had probably saved the day. Of course, I would remain an unsung hero in this action, since no reporters for major news outlets read this blog (nor any reporters for the minor news outlets, even those UFO-ridden free papers you get at supermarkets come to that) but that was okay. I knew whose heroic measures saved the country, never once thinking of the danger to his own life while doing so, and that was enough. I'm not one to bang my own trumpet.

The once proud civilisation of green goo broke into pieces and was sucked up the pump and flushed away with the last of the water. Or almost the last of it. I could see that the water was deeper on the other side of the pool, where the tangle of cable had been abandoned, than on the side I had deployed the pump. In order to finish the job, I would have to move the pump. Then I could wash the little pools of algae in towards the still-submerged pump and get the liner clean.

I should explain that when we4 put in the pool, we were persuaded that we should use this rubber cat-litter-like product as a cushioning layer between the pool liner and the pounded earth it rested on. We were supplied with four bags of same as part of the installation package. We were then informed it would take about sixteen bags to do the job on a pool our size, and we, like mugs, bought it. The instructions showed how to rake the rubber granules into a flat, cushioning surface on which the liner would lay. What the instructions carefully avoided saying was how every step taken on this stuff would leave a deep hole in it, or that dragging the liner into place would inevitable scoop the stuff up and redeploy it all on one side of the pool, meaning it would all have to be re-raked. It was all extremely tiresome. Once the liner was attached and the water added, the stuff gradually crept around forming small pot-holes in the liner in which dirt collected. I recommend that no-one use this product. There must be a mat-style rubber padding one can use instead of this granulated rubber rage-inducer. if not, improvise one or just put the damned thing down on dirt like everyone used to do. Anyway, it was into these pot-holes that the algae was collecting, and why I came up with the submerged pump/hose-pipe method of cleaning the pool liner.

I relocated the pump, and it promptly quit on me.

I field-stripped it to see if something was jamming the impeller, but I couldn't see anything jamming it. I eventually discovered by a lengthy process of elimination that the pump was now tripping the GFCI. Somehow, it had developed a spontaneous Ground Fault.

This is, of course, the very bane of any job: the breakdown of an essential piece of equipment, adding hours to the original job while whatever it is gets fixed or replaced. In this case, replaced, because I've spent enough hours of my life on piddling side-quests fate has shoved onto my plate. I was mad because I have come to rely on that pump for all sorts of water shifting jobs and now it wasn't there when I needed it. It was particularly galling that it had gone nails-up at the very end of the job. I was within thirty minutes of refilling the pool when the pump failed, and I had no alternate way of doing the job.

So it was off to Home Despot where I went through the usual displays of stuff in beaten up boxes in the hope of finding a unit that a) did not look like someone had used it and then returned it5 and 2) had all the pieces it was supposed to have. In this I was unsuccessful.

Some day someone will explain to me why the managers of Home Despot franchises think anyone wants to buy stuff that comes in a beaten-up box or that has been given a damned good thrashing by the forklift's tines while being "stocked". Someone will also explain why people treat other people's stuff so cavalierly. I have no doubt that many of the boxes were ripped apart by "customers" investigating the contents. Idiots catering to animals. Man, I'm growing to hate New York.

I zoomed over to a nearby Blowes where I discovered a nice little unit (not as nice as my original, but that sort of goes without saying in these days of "just so good an no better" thinking) that only cost %150 of what I wanted to pay, so it was grab one, and a big bottle of bleach and head off for The Steviemanse.

The new pump proved up to the task and in no time at all I had the pool bottom clear of water and was ready to scrub the bottom with a short-handled scrubbing brush (better control and more oomph than the longer handled one). It was at this point that my sandal strap tore out of its mounting and almost pitched me onto my face. I discarded both beach shoes and walked round the pool so I could pull out the pump. The twirgly cable caused me to have a slight delay as I freed my toes and ankles from its vampyric embrace, then I was able to skin the sole of my right foot on an obliging raised paver, forcing dirt and grit into the wound and some class four swear words out of my mouth. I hopped around the garden on my left foot while attempting to suck out the poison until the almost unbearable agony subsided to a sharp, stabbing pain, then got the old pool ladder (which is a step-ladder design) and climbed into the now almost clean pool.

I say "almost clean" because the first thing I did was to step into a shallow pond of something that looked like water but felt like concentrated sulphuric acid in the slash on the sole of my right foot, eliciting more howls of manly anguish, swearing, pleas for death and so forth. Once the moment had passed, about ten minutes later, I was able to finish the task, climb out, remove the steps from the pool, rig a hose and begin the task of filling the wretched tub all over again. Only then was I free to seek medical attention for my poor foot.

I limped into the bathroom, past the sniggering Mrs Stevie, and applied a field dressing, then returned to the scene of action and threw in half a bottle of bleach. It was getting late, what with slashing of feet, twirgling of cables and malfunctioning of pumps, and I realised that the task of filling the thing was going to take more than a day. Since I wasn't going to risk the pool overflowing by running the hose overnight, there would be more time for the insidious green goo to regain a foothold. This I offset by making the water highly chlorinated from the get-go. A few hours later, when the pool was about half-full, I added a sachet of shock powder with algaecide to seal the deal.

When I left home this morning there was still about three hours worth of water filling to go. I left this in the capable hands of the Stevieling, with vivid descriptions of the vengeance I would wreak on her tiny self should she disappear into Stevieling Land for a few hours and allow the ruddy pool to overflow.

So I expect I shall find an inch of water in the basement when I get home tonight.

  1. It goes very twirgly after six months being wound on the spool and will tangle at the drop of a hat if it is let go slack, adding hours to the job while you disengage it from itself, the scenery, your tools and appendages
  2. Last year
  3. Postulated Bioluminescent Threat to America
  4. i.e. I
  5. A common Home Despot problem despite their introduction of a rental program to alleviate that very practice

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