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Monday, August 10, 2015

plumber? no.

plumber (plʌmə)
noun: plumber; plural noun: plumbers
a person who fits and repairs the pipes, fittings, and other apparatus of water supply, sanitation, or heating systems.
Late Middle English (originally denoting a person dealing in and working with lead): from Old French plommier, from Latin plumbarius, from plumbum ‘lead’.

Some time ago the little copper pipe that brings water to our toilet snapped off in a freak accident involving late night intoxication and a plastic chair. I spent time looking for the post describing the incident but I am unable to find it.

Anyway, at the time The One managed to plug the bit of pipe protruding from the wall using a stick from a birdcage and three condoms.

Hey, any old boat in a storm.

We've been using the hand shower since then to manually refill the cistern as and when needed, and all has been well.

Unfortunately that is not where the story ends because I am not one to let sleeping dogs lie - I've been absolutely terrified of waking up seasick on a floating bed when the plug finally fails and the house slowly fills with water.

So about a week ago we set off to Builders to buy what I figured we needed to fix the problem. Back home we shut off the water supply, cleared the bathroom and carefully unwedged the plug. At that exact moment a blue whale attached itself to the tiny pipe and proceeded to empty the contents of its blowhole into my face. The bucket I tried using was pitifully inefficient and as much use as a thimble would have been on the Titanic.

Moreover, the R400 worth of parts we bought proved useless. Everything was either just too big or just to small to fit into or over the bit of copper pipe. Having no condoms in the house (we're monogamous, married and have no uteri), the One improvised with some rubber tape and more birdcage stick.

Undaunted, I sent him off to Builder's to get more stuff during the week. While examining the pipe I had the bright idea of using irrigation fittings instead of proper plumbing material.


Der Tag! I woke up early this morning, determined to make our toilet automatically fill itself again.

Again I cleared the bathroom, shut off the water and unwedged the plug, enduring the ensuing shower with a brave smile because I felt certain that I was going to lick the problem easily. This time everything fitted snugly inside and around each other the way it was intended. I had a triumphant smoke before turning on the water supply, gloating about my imminent glory.

When the water surged into the pipes, however, a tiny dribble quickly turned into an alarming spray and suddenly ended in the all too familiar deluge. Much profanity was uttered at this time.

I tried to be philosophical about it, though; in my mind it was only a minor setback. I tried again with a different configuration, omitting the triumphant smoke outside this time. Maybe I'd angered the Gods of Plumbing with my arrogance before.

Sadly, turning on the water supply had the same soaking result.

Desperate now, I called on The One to perform his plug trick. He was busy cooking dinner but he indulged me and plugged the pipe. I suppose I'd damaged the pipe with my fiddling (read forceful hitting) because for the first time his magic failed and I found myself racing outside to shut off the water mains before mopping the bathroom floor for the umpteenth time.

I had a long think and a couple of cigarettes. I didn't trust my oh-so-brilliant ideas anymore but I was willing to try one more. I forced a piece of garden hose, softened with boiling water, all the way over the copper elbow that was still rudely sticking its nose out of the wall, feeling sure that it would create the perfect seal. Then I removed some irrigation piping from a plastic plug so I could reuse the plug to attach the hosepipe to the valve that goes to the cistern.

Using my Swiss Army Knife I neatly bisected the pipe, gracefully slipped and delved the blade deep into my own hand. I'm afraid I'd make a dreadful slasher because I find the sensation of slicing into living flesh extremely distasteful.

Dripping blood, I ran to The One in the kitchen. The darling man stayed perfectly calm. He ordered me to hold the gash under running water while he got kitchen towels and then ordered me to apply those to the wound with pressure, holding my hand above my head. Meanwhile he gathered first aid stuff, after which he had me hold out my hand, cleaned it with 100% ethanol, some antiseptic ointment and finally cotton wool which he firmly fastened with Elastoplast.

I was in tears. Not only from the pain or the shock but also from frustration and defeat.

After plying me with calming cigarettes and Coke he finished what I'd started using the hosepipe. Regrettably he had the same showering results. Thankfully he managed to do his plug magic minutes before he had to leave for band practice.

Meanwhile, the abandoned valve with its garden hose appendage spitefully drools globs of water at random.

Here's a fun exercise: Try showering using one hand only. It's surprising how dumb your dominant hand becomes when it has to wash your hair or your face all on its own.

I will never underestimate the intricate work of a plumber again. I may need the services of one of those professionals very soon.

Written by I