Alice-Azania Jarvis: 'I was so looking forward to a holiday – until this week'

In The Red Alice-Azania Jarvis
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The Independent Online

Another month gone and I still haven't sorted out what to do for a summer holiday. I'd promised myself that this year I'd go somewhere exciting; it was just a matter of where – and what I could afford. Or at least it was until this week, when my bathroom decided to collapse.

It's not really one of those things you expect – especially not on a Tuesday morning when you're on the way to work and your mobile rings to inform you of the bad news. And it's certainly not something you budget for. I certainly hadn't. The only sum that's been accumulating in recent weeks is the bit I'd been putting aside for my holiday. Or, as it may henceforth be known, my ex-holiday. I have a nagging feeling that my plumbing emergency will be the only major expenditure I can afford for the next few months.

Of course there's always the possibility that the building agents – they own the shell of the building; I own the flat – cough up. They should, really, since it's their pipe that has caused the problem. As it turns out, my collapsing floor was caused by a long-term leak from the building's central pipe, which meant that all the water – sewage et al – from every one of the dozen or so flats above me has been congregating behind the walls of my bathroom, seeping under the tiles and rotting the floorboards. It's probably worse if you're the poor chap who lives below me, in which case you've had to tolerate your ceiling slowly and mysteriously rotting over the years, following by the incomparable joy of having several years' worth of stale sewage propelling the plaster in great chunks on to your floor. But I'm still feeling hard done by.

The problem is that already I can see the managers of my building making every effort to wheedle their way out of paying. Firstly, the phone call, which I answered with an innocuous "Hello?": I was met by a torrent of urgent hysteria on the other line, from some women in some call centre telling me that if I didn't call a plumber, turn around and leave work to let them in then the problem wouldn't be covered by insurance.

Then there's the fact that they claimed that they had already sent an insurance officer around (without warning) and that I'd been out, so they wouldn't be sending another. I told them that was illegal (I think it is, anyway) and they backed down pretty sharpish. Finally, there's the fact that ever since the floor's repair, they have been mysteriously unavailable. Now I'm not sure what to do. Either they'll get their act together or I'll have to fork out. Whichever happens, this summer's not looking like a fun one.

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