If you are eating a sandwich – or indeed any type of food – I suggest you put it to one side and return to it later.
What follows is not for the faint-hearted but as I had to suffer it, I feel you should too.
After waking on Sunday I turned on the bathroom tap and was somewhat surprised to find that nothing came out.
Where one would normally expect a steady flow of running water, instead there was a sort of spluttering, wheezing sound – a bit like an elderly person running to catch a bus – and then nothing.
Some research by Mrs Canavan – by that I mean she switched on her iPad and googled ‘water problem in St Annes?’ – revealed that we were one of many households affected and the encouraging response from United Utilities was that they were ‘working hard’ to ‘find out what the problem is’, which, roughly translated, meant ‘we’ve not got a clue what’s going on either, but hopefully we’ll crack it at some unspecified time in the future.’
Now it so happened that on Sunday, Mrs Canavan and I were heading to Bristol for a family celebration – my great aunt Beryl was throwing a bash after undergoing successful knee replacement surgery, we know how to party in our family.
However, this water issue rather disrupted our preparations. We couldn’t shower, clean our teeth, brew up, wash the pots, have a water pistol fight... It was most frustrating.
Ironically, the only person not put out was our five-month-old, Mary, who doesn’t require water, just a spot of milk from her mother’s ever-flowing bosoms, so at least one of the family was happy.
The worst part of this – and this is your final warning: if you haven’t already, put down that sandwich – was before embarking on our trip to Bristol, both Mrs Canavan and I, if you’ll allow me to be crude for a moment, needed the toilet.
I’m not talking any old toilet visit. I’m talking the type of which requires a long sit down, plenty of toilet roll and a squirt of air freshener afterwards. Worse still, we’d had a very rich lasagne the night before.
In short, it is exactly the kind of thing you don’t want to happen when the water’s off and you can’t flush your loo.
Mrs Canavan went first and came out several minutes later with an apologetic look on her face.
I desperately tried to hold mine in, but in the end the minced beef and tomato sauce combo proved too much and I had no option other than to follow her. As I’m sure you don’t need me to spell out, this was not pleasant.
By the time I’d finished, the toilet was rather unpleasant and the smell reminiscent of the time I opened my rucksack and discovered several egg mayonnaise sandwiches I’d accidentally left in there from a hiking trip some eight weeks earlier.
When we were due to depart for Bristol, where we were staying for two nights, the water had still not come back on and hence we still could not flush the loo.
In an attempt to contain what was already a rather pungent odour, I shut the bathroom door and wedged three towels under the crack at the bottom of the door.
That was Sunday morning. The next two days were, to make maters worse, two of the hottest of the year. Then we returned home on the Tuesday evening.
Immediately I was concerned, for as we swung into the street, my next door neighbour greeted us by saying: ‘Funny smell coming from your house, I think you’ve a drainage problem.’
I gingerly opened the front door and was hit by an essence that is very difficult to describe in words. Suffice to say Mrs Canavan fainted and the cat, who had been locked inside since we left, shot out the door holding a tea towel over his face screaming ‘save me’.
The smell wafting down the stairs was so gut-wrenchingly awful that Mrs Canavan and I, before advancing any further, briefly thought about purchasing a couple of those protective white suits that police forensic teams use when examining a dead body.
We tossed a coin to decide who would go upstairs and flush the toilet. I will be eternally grateful that I won that coin toss, and so it was that Mrs Canavan had to creep upstairs and, wearing a pair of Marigolds and a heavy-duty gas mask, get rid of what was in the lavatory bowl.
When she returned downstairs she was shaking and ashen-faced and looked not unlike Theresa May on the morning of the election result. The cat, meanwhile, is so traumatised we’ve booked him in for counselling.
We have learned two things: never take what comes out of your tap for granted, and don’t have a rich evening meal the night before your water goes off.