take one woman with low self esteem, but quite good hair
add one moronic illness
stir in some medication which causes hair to fall out
mix it all up and this is what you get...

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Plumbing the depths 

It all started with the best intentions.

For several months, the tediously slow draining of the bath and sink had been irritating me. Not for us the pleasing spiral swirl of water down plughole. Instead, when in the shower, we would slosh around in a stagnant pond of our own waste water, even when we'd taken care not to switch the shower on full power. Only later, when returning to the bathroom to fetch a comb, say, would the so-called waste system have deigned to empty the bath and despatch it to... wherever it is despatched to.

Numerous scrubbed tidemarks later, I finally decided to take arms against our sea of grimy bathwater and, by opposing, end it.

First, an old trick I'd learned from my mother. She had discovered that a plastic-coated hook-ended net curtain wire, thrust into a plughole as far as it could go, would often return with a bounty of hair-based detritus, freeing up the pipes for their more usual, liquid purpose. Not in this case. The hook would return clean, the wire strangely kinked.

Bottles of dangerous chemicals, against my initial wishes, were duly despatched into the hole. Whilst doing a sterling job of cleaning the metal plughole surround, they did nothing to speed up the draining process.

I removed the end panel from the bath and peered at the trap. It looked pretty simple to disconnect. Armed with a tray to catch the detritus, I removed it and inspected it, fully anticipating finding a clod of slime or a large hairball. It was as clean as a whistle. I replaced the trap sullenly, and realised that I'd have to think of a plan b.

I decided to undo the plughole to see if there was a blockage there. There wasn't. But in replacing it, I'd introduced a leak into the bath waste system under the plughole. I unscrewed and rescrewed the plughole several times to no avail. I tried tightening the screw but, to my frustration, ended up cracking the stainless steel plate. Luckily, a hardware shop within walking distance was able to provide a replacement, but still, it continued to leak from the underside.

By this time, I had shed tears and sent a number of texts to Big, who was travelling on the train at the time, headed up with one which simply said: "I HATE THIS HOUSE". And yes, the "shouting" was deliberate.

So, I'd gone from having a slow-draining bath to a leaking, slow-draining bath. Not good.

I managed to engage a plumber for the next day, making do with a basin wash in the morning, afraid of the puddle which might ensue from a shower. The plumber arrived and duly dissed whoever had installed such a shoddy arrangement of pipes. "Not enough fall", "can't get to the pipework, it's all tiled in", "probably hair" were some of the phrases muttered between the heavy-breathing of a very unfit man.

He tried plunging, but only succeeded in filling the bath with unspeakable matter and compacting the pipe-based detritus into an impenetrable blockage.

So, I'd gone from a leaking, slow-draining bath to a not-leaking-anymore but not-draining-at-all bath, filled with watery sludge. "Never seen anything like it..." he muttered.

He returned the following day with a long, flexible rod and some acid. Aside from filling the room with the smell of rotton eggs and managing to dislodge one impressively large hairball, there was no discernible effect of this latest strategy.

And so, for now, we are without shower, bath or basin. By sheer coincidence, last night was spent in a hotel for my old company's Christmas do, so we were able to revel in the spirally swirliness of plumbing which works as it should. Tomorrow, we shall be leaving to spend the next ten days on holiday in Northern Cyprus.

Meanwhile, the plumber will return whilst we are away, supervised by our neighbours, with the appropriate tools to unveil the hidden pipework, which he will meticulously take apart until the blockage can be eliminated.

Hopefully, we shall return to a bath which drains. Slowly. It seems that, given the plumbing we have, it's about the best we can hope for.

I, meanwhile, promise never to tamper with plumbing again.

I doubt you will hear from me for a while, so I wish you all a Merry Christmas, wherever you are and whatever you are doing. May all your plugholes convey waste water to the appropriate place in a timely manner.

Peace out.

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