Travelling the basements of Hammersmith and Holland Park
Two ambassadors from Thames Water paid a visit to the Thomas Edmund household in Hammersmith recently. They were part of an army of surveyors who were required to survey six hundred houses in the Hammersmith and Holland Park region of London. The first time such a task has been completed, and is intended to improve upon the absence of knowledge of the height of the houses above sea level in the area.
When we had the survey to establish how high above or below sea level our house was we got the result of three paltry meters. Given that the Thames tidal backwash goes a good four meters above sea level the hope is that no one who is supposed to raise the Thames Barrier has a snooze when it gets really stormy and the tide is high.
They came encumbered with all sorts of optical equipment, tripods, and rulers that went on for meters. But they also came with stories about the other sites they had surveyed. Initially when they came in, they kindly put blue plastic bags over their shoes - but on the basis of their stories - this could have easily have been to protect their shoes against the less than impeccable sites that they had to visit.
One was a basement makeshift Mosque under Sheperds Bush post office which did not have the usual immaculate associations that one has of a Mosque. It was overcrowded with people sleeping, praying, and washing feet, and the environment was not helped by the smell of open sewers due to the poor drainage arrangement of the basement.
Another was a house in the lower reaches of Holland Park - owned by an ex General, where everything seemed normal, until the piles of used shot gun cartridges were seen in the garden.
A third owned by a somewhat eccentric individual, had a fully fledged mini nuclear bomb shelter in the garden - this for some reason concerned the surveyors, who then discovered the owner was nothing to be afraid of, as he offered them cups of Earl Grey tea.
But the Thames flooding is only part of the worry - the other side is heavy downpours of rain. The problem is that the Victorian sewage pipes are no longer sufficient to cope with a large deluge - this was proven a few years back, when many basement flats had the unpleasant experience of sewage backing up through the basement loos, until it almost reached the ceiling. The basement loo of the Thomas Edmund household has a valve and pump, which is supposed to help such situations, but not necessarily, if one considers the next anecdote.
One basement office had a metal manhole cover on the floor that was thrown five meters across the room due to the explosive pressure of water. Luckily on that occasion there was no night owl finishing off a hard day’s work - no one was harmed.
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