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Our water gets pumped up from underground by an electric pump. It goes up to a plastic tank, which stands on a covered tower at the side of our house. The tower is as it’s name suggests, quite high about 15 feet or so, well it is for me as I don’t like heights.

It is recommended by the health authority here, that we clean out our water tank every six months. We prefer to clean it more frequently,  we have a problem with Iron deposits that stain everything orange, if we leave the tank for more than a couple of months, the Iron builds up and colours the water, I also find that something in the water irritates my skin.

A few weeks back I noticed, what I thought was algae, coming out of the tap. Every time the tap was turned on, some more of this stuff came out. I asked Neu to look at the tank, its not the best of jobs and he was successfully avoiding it. A few days back I took the tap apart to clean it out and found the thing I thought was algae, was in fact a dead cockroach, lovely! Neu still avoided cleaning the tank so finally I decided I would have to do it myself.

Water tower, with climber (not me)

 Water tank with climber (not me)

We have a ladder that leans against one leg of the water tower, I’m not sure where the ladder came from, it just appeared in the garden when some work was being done on the house, and has stayed. I’m not that surprised that whoever it belonged to didn’t take it away. The ladder has to rate as the heaviest ladder I have ever come across, it is virtually impossible for one person to move it on their own. Added to that it has one leg shorter than the other at each end, making it totally unsafe. Not the best of ladders really.

The ladder is wedged up against the post, I wiggled it a bit, had it showed the slightest inclination to move, I would have abandoned the job, but no, it firmly stood there. I began the climb. Most ladders have their rungs evenly spaced, not only does this ladder not have evenly spaced rungs, but the rungs are very far apart, not the easiest of ladders.

Once at the top I had to manoeuvre my self off the ladder and into the tiny space by the side of the tank. As the roof over the tower is low, there isn’t enough room to stand upright, so bent double I was now on a space just wider than my feet, wrestling with the big plastic lid of the tank and trying not to look down.

I managed to get the lid up and slid it over the back of the tank. Under the lid is some green plastic netting with a fine mesh, it is supposed to keep out any insects that might get under the lid, obviously didn’t work with the cockroach. As I pulled the netting off I was stunned to find the tank full of tiny frogs, about an inch and a half long, pinging about all over the place.

I had to lean into the tank to pull out the plug that would let all the water out, doing so created mass panic in the frogs who literally flew past me or dived into the water. I hoped that some of the frogs would get sucked out with the emptying water, bit of a shock to them I guess but…..

As the water went down, I climbed into the tank, the frogs that hadn’t got out earlier, now went into overdrive, scooting round and round in the tank. I tried to catch them, banging my head on the roof when I leapt in surprise at having caught one.

Once the frogs were all out and the water level down, I began the job of cleaning the tank. By now my back was really complaining at being doubled over, I stood and stretched forward over the side of the tank, until I thought better of it, it seemed such a long way down.

We have a giant bamboo growing beside the tank, it is now taller than the tower and I began to calculate whether, if I should fall, would I be able to grab the bamboo and if I did, would it break my fall. My daughter later told me that she thought, knowing my luck, it would be more likely that I would miss the bamboo, but poke my eye out on the way down.

I thought it best to stop making emergency escape plans and just get on with the job. It took me ages. I had forgotten to bring anything up with me to scoop out the water that lies below the level of the plug and out-let pipe. I couldn’t face going down the ladder and back up again, so used my hands and the cloth I had brought, as I said it took ages.

The tank was finally cleaned, I gingerly climbed out, telling myself that the ledge I was balancing on was actually much wider than I thought, oh no its not, oh yes it is.  I left the netting off, thinking it best to wash it,  I got the lid back on and now only had to get down. I always find it harder going down than up. Not daring to look where I was putting my feet, I clung to the side of the tower doing a good impression of one of the frogs, and lowered myself down to where I hoped the first rung of the ladder was, thankfully it was there.

The next day, Neu went up to replace the netting that I had left off. He said the tank was full of frogs again. Still it’s not as bad as some things that end up in water tanks. My friends, who have a farm in Wales, once had a goat fall into their tank (their tank wasn’t up a fifteen foot tower) where it sadly drowned. My friends only found out when their water went frothy, uhhhm nice!

©Claire Pattison Valente 2009