Water commotion: the politics of the garden hose

Image from worddork.blogspot.co.uk

Image from worddork.blogspot.co.uk

Britain has a strange relationship with its water.

One minute the water companies are staring helplessly at excessive flooding and the emergency services are dolling out sandbags; the next, they are imposing a hosepipe ban. And ever since this gorgeous heatwave of ours emerged, we have all been waiting for the moment the bans are slapped on us once again, Sprinkle, squirt and be merry, our little subconscious voice whispers, for tomorrow we’re dry.

We have a small grey metal watering can at home. It is no fun, but eco-friendly. A drawback of this policy is that my children have never learnt parsimony when using a garden hose.

My sister’s house: and we have been charged with looking after Clover, her collie, for a week. And very quickly the children discover that Clover adores the hose, and would chase the water which comes out of it to the ends of the earth.

So, though I admonish and advise that the hose should be used with economy, wringing my hands like Uriah Heap, every time I look out of the window the dog is hurling herself with gay abandon after a fresh jet of diamond-clear south-English water. “Turn the hose off now!” I holler unbecomingly, and the children effect penitence worthy of a Benedictine monk.

But five minutes later the form of a devil-may-care dog hurtles past the window, in a helter-skelter water-seeking leap.

And of course the water does not stop at the dog. Maddie is 12, Felix 10, and it is a natural progression that they should wish fervently to drench each other, whilst fully clothed.

My mother arrived at teatime on Wednesday. And unusually she was not stormed by children at the front door. “Where are they?” she enquired, baffled.

The answer? They were skulking in the sitting room clad only in undies and towels. Their clothes were in the tumble drier, sweating off the results of the last water fight.

Yesterday my mother took pity on us and invited us to dinner; and, repast over, it took Maddie and Felix just seconds to source my father’s top-of-the-range garden hose. It has an attachment just like a gun. Pull the trigger and you can make water do tricks; it can create rain-forest-fine spray or an Al Capone deluge. Very well, my father said, you can water the lawn.

Afterwards we tumbled into the open-topped Audi that is Phil’s pride and joy, and the trial began.

Felix had a huge grin. For as long as I can remember, there has been a running joke that Maddie is a judge, qualified even to tell Mum and Dad off if they misbehave. Which, of course, we do.

“I would like to recommend that Judge Maddie be removed from the judiciary!” Felix opened. “For my first witness, I call me. Maddie soaked me with the hose!”

Judge Maddie moved in deftly to defend her admittedly shaky position. “Now, Felix,” she admonished, trying valiantly not to laugh, “I would remind you that the first thing you said to me when we got outside was “will you soak me with that hose?”

Damned. The jury was about to troop off to deliver a guilty verdict when Felix brought out his star piece of evidence.

“Now, Maddie, ” he squeaked delightedly (he can still do that) “It would be true to say that you waited until Dad stopped watching from the dining room window, And then you said: – and I quote –  ‘Dad’s disappeared from the dining room window. Now I can squirt you as much as I like.’ ”

Oh, dear.

It was G K Chesterton who  said: “Children are innocent and love justice, while most of us are wicked and naturally prefer mercy.”

I beg to differ. Mercy has much to recommend it.


42 thoughts on “Water commotion: the politics of the garden hose

  1. oh dear,you are a water-wealthy place that has no concept of the need to build great big dans to hold the stuff for times of less rain.

    And of course for instant fun,kids and dogs, just add water

  2. God, they seem frighteningly erudite for children. I hope I don’t come up before them. I can see Felix’s gimlet stare from beneath his periwig despite all my protestation of innocence. “As God is my Judge, I’m innocent” to which Felix would sternly reply ” He’s not, I am, you’re not, six months”:)

    1. They’re not really erudite, but they play strange games with things others might not, Roger. Felix is obsessed with being a lawyer. He considers that he does lawyering at school. Every single decision we ever make is thoroughtly argued. It is exhausting.

  3. When we stop enjoying getting ‘squirted’ is when we truly get old! This took me back to my childhod Kate. For three whole months during the monsoons we didn’t even need a hose. But mum’s wrath was a constant 🙂

  4. I just love hearing about Maddie and Felix stories, this is just too cute, especially the part where Maddie serves to provide judgement for Mum and Dad. 🙂

  5. Ah, Kate; those hoses. My family or origin is ripe with “hose” stories and justice. I wrote about the time my grandmother calmly handed the hose illegally watering the marigold to my father to handle when the hose police were patrolling the neighborhood. Then, there was cousin Louie, who, at the ripe old age of 5 or 6, turned the hose into the neighbor’s kitchen window . . .

  6. Summers in the hose and sprinklers are wonderful things. We just had to keep moving the play so that one section of our lawn didn’t get swamped while another area die of dehydration.

  7. I still cannot see a hose without wanting to squirt everyone in sight. It is a bit of childhood I never outgrew. There is nothing like running through the hose on a hot summer day.

    1. There isn’t; I came home from work the other day and walked through fully clothed. And it was wonderful. Most of the time, though, that would be a foolhardy thing to do. It is a damp country for so much of the time.

  8. It cannot have been popular with the judiciary to have the whippersnapper attorney come up with that clincher!
    (Oh, I do so want to escape legalese, but am doomed, I tell you; doomed!)

    1. You are correct, Col. Judge Maddie was helpless with giggles but defeated!
      Legalese is my son’s second language. He is destined to be a solicitor. Or a barrister, would would be great for my hopes of a luxurious granny annexe.

  9. I just wrote a post smugly saying we had had lovely weather all day, and although raining now,I thought it was a passing shower. The weather heard me. Thunder and lightning conjoined to let me know this is a storm. Forty minutes in, it is still grumbling, and the rain is bouncing off the street.
    Sounds like your children would be perfectly happy there, though I suspect the clever fountain that you can stand in and stay dry on the Southbank might thrill them more.

    1. I read this a while ago, Isobel, and wondered if the storms were heading our way. They have not reached us yet. Whatever the likelihood of storms, that Gulf Stream is firmly above us and the weather for the Summer is set. Whoopeedoo!!!!

  10. We are horribly water-challenged, Kate, and yet even I can’t totally resist letting my granddaughters play with the hose. It’s too irresistible! I try to place them somewhere at least pointed in an area that could use a little drink! Felix and Maddie–Barristers in the making? 🙂

  11. Oh, how I wish we would admit we are more water challenged than we do admit here. We use so much and truly we don’t have it. So enjoyed our summer in Germany and Switzerland where we could jump into a lake or a river.

  12. This is something my years as a camp counselor taught me: The one who is shouting loudest and is most upset is probably the one who caused the problem in the first place.

  13. The punny heading of your post reminds me of the corny joke in an old I’m Sorry, I’ll Read That Again show.
    The crew (John Cleese, Bill Oddie, Tim Brook-Taylor, Graeme Garden et al) are in a submarine. You can see where this is going.
    One of them — Tim, I think — squeezes into a water-tight compartment, according to the stage direction which is spoken aloud (for this is radio, after all).
    “Water tight compartment!” he squeaks breathlessly.

    ISIRTA was my favourite radio prog in the early 60s, broadcast in the dire Billy Cotton Band Show slot. My parents never quite got it, which I found quite gratifying.

  14. cant approve of wasting water but I can remember what fun the hose was –

    I had an underground tank put in when had this abode built – takes all the rain water from the roof and drives – and ,having collected an extra one a year, have 13 water butts connected to the downpipes – water I would have to pay for is never used in the garden – plants will die before I do that – but not many do they are wise to me, know I have no mercy!, and have put their roots way, way, way down to the water table:)

    I agree with watering can – bad news using that for the garden – tell myself its good exercise but I don’t really believe me – those children of yours are great:)

    1. 😀 Thank you, Alberta! I love the idea of that extremely effective underground water tank. You have the whole water thing sussed. I suspect that as the whole of Britsin moves to being metred, people will be a little more careful with the amount they use…

  15. My husband went out and bought not one but two water-pistols yesterday to squirt the neighbour’s (usually incessantly barking) dog if it dared utter a peep before 9 this morning, and was mightily disappointed that said dog was kept inside inside until after 10, thus thwarting his planned attack. Boys will be boys, whatever their age.

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