A day ahead of schedule, yesterday the builders started the strip-out. Carpets, skirting, the wooden panelling in from the loft soon found their way to our front drive. Things were going swimmingly until something (still unknown) happened to the pipe and tank in the loft.
Pretty soon water was pouring down from the ceiling into the back bedroom. The builder called me, I called the plumber, and the plumber was in Inverness. (Hours away!)
Normally you can just turn off the water and drain the pipes, but that did not work. The stop cock is old and stripped and the water would not turn off. We tried to find other plumbers (all out of town or no answer) and even called Scottish Water a few times to beg them to turn off the water at the street, but they wouldn't. At one point I was even driving around trying to see if a plumbing van would drive by and I could flag them down and bribe them to use their long key to turn off the mains. If I would have only thought, I would have gone to the plumbers merchant and bought a key myself. (I naively thought only plumbers would be allowed to buy them. Apparently not true. Live and learn.)
As a stop-gap, the plumber had the builder flood the pipes (put a big dent in the one going to the loft so the water couldn't continue to flood up there and then turned the sink on in the bathroom. He also tried the tub but it's blocked, and it would fill up and he'd take the water out in buckets and the kitchen sink, but it leaks onto the floor.) The downpipe outside is rusted through, so the water from the sink was pouring into our back garden and into the neighbor's yard. The builder was running buckets of water down from the attic, but it was still pouring through the ceiling and onto the floor below.
Things were desperate there for a while. We were trying to track down plumbers, I had the kids in the car (they're 3 and 10 months) and kept running between them and the house. And making phone calls, as my phone drained of batteries and water ran from the ceiling. Ugh. Eventually things got sorted. (The plumber came, and was able to turn the water off at the street. If only we had one of those long keys!) I talked with the neighbors and they said their garden is fine. The plumber is coming today to strip out all the sanitary ware and get things sorted. And then we'll assess the damage.