A Reply to Geoff’s Question Regarding Events On My Birthday.

Hi Geoff,

Who cares, really, about birthdays in the grand scheme of things and especially when one is moving along on the relentless conveyor belt walkway, (shuffle way?), to older age? Not me for sure.

I was 68 this time which of course means I’m in my 69th year and it’s OK but that’s mostly because there’s nothing at all I can do about it; it’s gonna happen whatever.

You asked me: ‘How did your big day go? Mine was dreary.’

Well, my day was certainly less dreary than yours due to the excitement that inevitably, though accidentally, followed a mishap during my routine of domestic cleaning on Saturdays.

Let me explain.

I was in the shower some day in the week before my birthday and had noticed that the bath was not draining as it ought to; there was a growing delay with the water’s egress and therefore a puddling pool at the plughole. (Good title for an album dear?) I suspected hair balls at a flexure and used my rubber plunger (steady now!) to force the water under pressure down the outlet pipe so to dislodge whatever was obstructing the flow. I later saw that this had made little difference to matters and was beginning to consider getting some branded drain cleaner solution.

Then, out of the blue, the shower gave up the ghost so, as the house maintenance man, I was employed in finding a suitable replacement at a reasonable cost. I made enquiries of mates, friendly plumbers and electricians, one of whom got me a trade price quote for a shower unit. This was approximately £120.00 and he wanted nothing for getting me one at that price. My mate Alan the plumber said he’d gladly fit any replacement I bought for £150.00 – £180 (this variable figure to accommodate any problems he might encounter in the way of piping etc. so the guts of £300.00 for a new shower up and running.

You know me. I abhor wasting money, it’s in my blood and bones I believe.

I surfed the net and found a very similar, if a little bulkier, unit at £52.50, free delivery etc. it did seem to tick all the boxes regarding no disruption to my beautifully self tiled bathroom wall in fact it would probably cover the site of the previous one with a little extra to take out blemishes and previous ‘repairs and touch ups’ from previous replacement units. All good.

I therefore ordered a new shower unit at £52.50 and in the waiting time we made do with a bath taps hose attachment which, in my case, was a fecken nuisance but needs must etc.

The unit duly arrived and I ran around getting the bits that I needed and that were not a part of the delivered package, i.e. 15mm compression fittings and large plumber’s spanners. I also felt some deep dismay when I saw the electrical cable entry was on the opposite side to the old one. Never mind: I persevered and in true R.A.F. trained engineer tradition I soon (after some serious struggles mind) had the bastard on the wall with suitably heated water coming through on demand.

When the dear wife used it first she mentioned, not having experience of manly fixing of things, that the bath was not draining as it ought to; there was a growing delay with the water’s egress and therefore a puddling pool at the plughole. Had this anything to do with me and my recent plumbing related engineering? No, I told her, it’s probably obstructed by hair which gathers and adheres to itself and other greases and gunk then gets stuck at a bend or somesuch. My wife has beautifully kept, long blonde hair, which I find in all areas when on my cleaning rounds. I will admit that I also find some of my silvered patrician type hairs along with hers but mine is shorter so it’s helplessly and innocently trapped by the longer, fairer, strands. Not my fault!

On the Saturday of my birthday Chrissie went to shop in town and I began a round of my cleaning chores and had just cleaned the bathroom sink, bowl, tiles and the bath shower facility when I saw, on the rinsing element of my chore, that the bath was not draining as it ought to; there was a growing delay with the water’s egress and therefore a puddling pool at the plughole. Ah! I’d forgotten about this, distracted by some important man work stuff no doubt. I also then remembered I could take out the screw bolt in the centre of the chrome drain fitting and this would give me access to the outlet pipe in a much better way. I’d be able to look into the S-bend and push a bottle brush in to dislodge debris and maybe even pull some back out. I had a suitable screwdriver in my fist and before you could say, ‘Mic, don’t do this. Get a plumber and pay him the call out charge instead’ I undid the bolt and removed the drain cover. It was then that I saw the remnants of some plastic or polythene but certainly perished seal had torn away too. Worse was to come. I then was extremely dismayed to see that the action of removing the drain cover had caused the outlet pipe to fall back and down and come to rest on the floor under the boxed in bath. I considered my options and very quickly realised that the bath and its showering facilities would be of no use to us unless it drained in a proper way i.e. to the outside network. We stood to lose a lot of the kitchen ceiling below if I didn’t somehow get the two items re-connected. I knew instinctively that I needed access to the S-bend if I was ever going to marry the two parts back together.

I wrestled with the bath panel and after a while it was out and on the landing as was the long piece of wood it was fixed to. Now I had much better access to the S-bend and was able, after a struggle, to reconnect them. This I accomplished with a happy heart.

I tested the joint and it leaked. It leaked very well I must say. It was as though it had been waiting to show me how well it could leak. I had the presence of mind, and a mild though growing sense of rising panic, to put the bath plug back into the plug hole and this of course stopped the flow. I mopped up under the bath with a fat copy of the weekly local newspaper, The West Briton, and spread the Leisure Section on the floor under the bath drain as a precautionary measure against future bad luck in this now clearly ill-fated venture.

I now stood back and on shaking legs took stock. I saw I’d need to get a replacement seal if I was ever to recover the natural equilibrium and balance of drains and dry floors in our bathroom. Chrissie had returned by now and greeted me in her usual friendly way. I told her about the situation upstairs and she smiled enigmatically, recalling I’ve no doubt the time when I’d ‘fixed’ the leaking tap on the washbasin and ended up with a flood across the bathroom, which made its way very easily down through the floor via the kitchen walls, and a smashed basin (when tools fell on it) which resulted in a, successful, insurance claim that ran into the mid hundreds and brought us a brand new sink complete with taps which I fitted myself! Or perhaps the other time when I’d replaced the shower unit and had, just as I was finishing off, dropped a spanner and caused a crack in the bath of the colour coordinated suite just big enough to cause a leak. This bath was boxed in too but this was easily removed for access and I very soon fashioned a repair with the broken piece and some trusty Araldite Epoxy resin which, after some time curing, worked fine on testing but then leaked when weight, in the form of a person, or a weight of water, was added to the bath and the whole thing flexed. This bit of bad luck was what had caused us to replace the entire colour coordinated bathroom suite last time.

We had lunch and decided that, as nothing could be gained in the bathroom fiasco until I’d found new seals, we should make the best of the rest of my birthday by going to sit by the sea, visit friends and perhaps even have an ice cream to eat in the rare sunshine of this summer. Chrissie drove us to Penzance where I knew there was a branch of B&Q and there, after some browsing I found, bagged and priced at £4.97, a complete S-bend with all the relevant seals I’d need and I bought this. Chrissie was also delighted to find a new lampshade to fit in with her plans and designs on our newly refurbished front room. We set off to sit on the beach at Marazion where we each had an ice cream and relaxed with the cares of the world far behind us. We then did our visiting and eventually made our way home again. It was much too late now to begin wrestling with the bathroom bath and drains so we spent the night in happy harmony watching a film and relaxing, I may have had some wine, it was my birthday after all.

Next day dawned as next days will and after the usual coffee and chatting in bed I got up to do battle with the bath drain. I opened the bagged package and removed the seals I thought I’d need and fitted these onto the new outlet assembly. Might as well get all new bits in there, I thought to myself. However, it was immediately, though very disappointingly, clear that this assembly was bit smaller than the one I’d removed. It was for a sink! Not a bath! I had a brief moment of ferociousness in which I considered taking a sledge hammer to the bath and all the fixtures and fittings just to show them who was in charge but I realised, with the mellow maturity of my advanced years I like to think, that this would be a lot worse then just having to drive to our local branch of B&Q, return the incorrectly purchased items from yesterday, and get one that fitted a bath.

This is what I did and had the good fortune to be directed to Eddie who was a retired plumber now working part time at B&Q. Eddie deftly showed me the items I required, in a see through polythene bag and priced at £8.97. Due to my experiences the previous day I was uncertain if I had the kind and size of seals so asked the kindly, and patient, Eddie if I needed any other seals. He said I had everything I  needed in the bag but then his years of experience must have led him to see the uncertainty in my eyes and he asked me what it was I wanted to do. I explained, in a much shortened version, what had occurred. Eddie told me there was no seal where I’d found, and torn out, the perished one. I insisted there had been and after a few minutes of polite (I knew I desperately wanted his help) debate Eddie decided that the installing plumber, my mate Alan, had most likely put in everything that came with a new bath just as a sort of belt and braces affair.

All I needed, he gently informed me, was a tub of jointing compound, Plumber’s Mait, at (£3.97). IMG_2249This is a sort of flexible non setting putty that I should generously smear round all mating surfaces then refit the pipes and couplings etc., and I’d be fine. Even as I drove home with the tub of jointing compound on the passenger seat, I wasn’t convinced, but I knew the store would be open until 16.00 so I went with it. Once home I did as Eddie had told me and when I tested, tentatively at first, there were no leaks. I tested twice, once with a little water and once again with a lot more.

I noticed on this second test that the bath wasn’t draining as it ought to; there was a growing delay with the water’s egress and therefore a puddling pool at the plughole. Once again I brought my trusty plunger (steady, I told you, steady!) back into play and after a bit of grunting, as workmen and amateur plumbers are apt to do, as if by magic the water disappeared down the recently and most efficiently resealed plug hole – like it should. Further workmanlike and determinedly thrusting plunging (I won’t tell you again!) saw me bring the state of drainage from the bath shower back to their previous levels of efficiency. The furniture and fittings were all replaced and we once again had a properly functioning bathroom.

Plus, I’d saved the cost of a plumber’s call out charge and/or the cost of the drain cleaning solution!

So, yes Geoff, my birthday was a tad less dreary than yours!




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