On New Year’s Day 2021, my house flooded.
To clarify – it wasn’t the sort of flood you see on the news, knee-deep in muddy water, trying to reassemble the gloopy mess of a life that used to be. No, no. Luckily, it was clean water… that chuffed all over the kitchen when the internal stopcock exploded off the pipe in the early hours of the morning. Whereupon, all the water in Devon sloshed into my house.
Having enjoyed a standard New Year’s Eve, I’d gone to bed late, and awoke to the sound of my partner paddling her way through the sitting room. Having only had the stopcock fixed a couple of weeks before, I knew exactly where the external shut-off was – having marked it with a stick in the ground – and so I managed to turn the thing off.
However, when I came back into the house, I saw how much damage was done and the thought crossed my mind, ‘Maybe we should just move house.’
The water had streamed across the ceiling, over and through the wardrobe opposite the pipe, and poured through the utility, kitchen, living room, soaking all the floors, and down the stairs into the conservatory. Now, I won’t bore you with all the insurance stuff but I’ll say this: the TV adverts don’t prepare you for the reality of it.
There was no Lycra-clad superhero, all dashing smile and squeegee. There were three and a half weeks of a dehumidifier that was every bit as big as me, and the endless slog, toting funky-smelling furniture and semi-ruined books from the damp to the dry end of the house; followed, naturally enough, by three months of waiting for a bit of lino.
Although moving house during a time of Covid might seem like an overreaction to a burst pipe, I really didn’t think it would sell so fast.
The place opposite me sat on the market like a brown-brick turkey for six years before it finally sold. I’d assumed we’d have a big old wait – I’d be a good way into my forties and probably a bit wider – before we’d eventually go off to pastures new.
It sold in a week.
We’d looked at the Brecon Beacons, Gloucester, Worcester, basically the left-hand side of England and the mid-section of Wales, and then the sale fell through. It was almost a relief. Not a real one, of course, but we found ourselves with a bit of breathing room. It was nice to have a bit of breathing room. The estate agent put the house back up for sale. This time, it sold in two days.
I had been looking, with some seriousness, at Lincolnshire. It’s a beautiful part of the country. Most people think of Lincolnshire as big and flat but, having lived between four hills, surrounded by trees for twenty-five years, big and flat sounds pretty great to me.
Anyway, with all that in mind, we put an offer in on a house in Swindon and have another place in Chard, in reserve just in case. One of them will work out. Not sure which but, hopefully, it’ll all fall into place pretty soon.
Now, you might wonder why I’m telling you all this when I should surely be explaining something of my journey or the process of writing and publishing and all that important stuff. Well, here’s the thing: this, this ridiculous story of one-thing-after-another, will be a source of inspiration. One day. Not right now. I’m basically moving.
But, in a few years time, if you see a story about a woman going slowly insane while she wrings water out of the ceiling tiles and lives, for weeks at a time, in the same outfit because both the washing machine and the tumble dryer have packed up because they were both in the path of a water-based explosion, you’ll know it is based on a true story.
Making a video for the insurance company of me, jumping up and down on the carpet to show the water pooling around my shoes, making sucking noises with every half-hearted, heavy-breasted bounce, will be something I can turn into a novel, maybe even a film, once I’m settled in the new house.
In fact, this is going to make such an aggressively Fawlty-esque story that it might sound unbelievable. But we’ll all know it’s real.
Anyway, I’m Petrina. Tree, for short. Probably should have started with that.
Petrina Binney is from 1980s south London. Daughter of a nurse and a carpenter, she spent much of her childhood writing stories to bring into school for whatever the eighties English equivalent of ‘Show and Tell’ was called. She spent her teenage years avoiding all manner of naughtiness, instead writing copious amounts of self-indulgent poetry and reading multiple Brontes and Daphne Du Maurier. In 2015, she hosted her first ever dinner party and, due to a heavy stomach and a slight bout of alcohol poisoning, dreamt up the character of Fiona Weaver-King. Petrina spends the majority of her time in Devon, with her dogs, and drinking with older gentlemen. Website here.
Petrina will join us as a panelist for The Publishing Process: Trad, Self, Hybrid, Small Press (Panel B5) and will read for us during Modern Works set in Modern Times: Contemporary (Reading A3)