7.30pm, Sunday 29th July 2012. Day two of the London Olympics if you need another time reference.
I am in bed.
Yes, that’s right. 7.30pm.
I am, by every description you could apply, knackered.
There have been so many things going on, so I’ll just fill you in on one thing – one thing that I’ve been working on for the last few weekends.
I’ve been repairing a shower.
It is a little known fact that I’m very competent DIY-er.
I just choose to hide it.
Carpentry, plumbing, electrical work; I can do any of these things to a very competent, semi-professional level.
I just can’t be bothered (or interested) to do it for myself, when I can pay a professional tradesman to do it, while I’m getting on with something else; something that I want to do.
Not something that I have to do.
But I am a sucker for a pretty face, and a maiden in distress will, in certain circumstances, get me in to all sorts of trouble.
And that has been the beginning of a number of downfalls that I’ve walked, open armed and wide-eyed, in to.
The bathroom shower, I was told, had a persistent leak.
Actually, that was putting it mildly.
That one bathroom shower was probably responsible for the entire south of England water shortage.
‘Probably just a simple washer replacement’, I had told myself, the night before.
Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I pitched up, the next morning, with my toolkit.
I thought ‘take half an hour to fit a new washer, spend the rest of my life being adored and idolised as a total hero, and have maidens far and wide flock to my feet to tend my every whim’.
I walked in to the bathroom, threw back the shower curtain and found myself staring at:
The trouble is, as you will have just realised, in control-surface terms, that’s all there was to look at.
The rest of the shower – the actual mixing cassette (where the flows of hot and cold water are blended in to a single flow) and the flow and temperature control mechanisms were actually out of sight.
Hidden inside a false wall.
I took a (very) deep breath, switched off the water main and began dismantling the controls.
First I removed the faceplate
Then I removed the water flow control
Then I removed the outer temperature control arm
Then I removed and dismantled the mixer control gears
Then I took a very deep breath and cut the waterproof sealant, and removed the backing plate from the wall.
Nestling six inches inside the wall was a large, square, brass cover, with the inside of the flow control pointing at me.
The brass cover was fastened with a screw in each corner.
Problem the first, immediately became apparent.
The hole in the wall that I had to work in, was a mere three centimetres wider, than the size of the large brass cover.
Somehow, to move forward, I would have to remove those four, deeply set, screws, using a technique familiar to gynaecologists and watchmakers.
While I was mentally regrouping I did what all good British workmen would do.
I asked for a cup of tea and a slice of toast.
Then I walked over the road to the village shop, where I bought a packet of BluTack (other adhesive putties are available).
Back in the bathroom, tea and toast appropriately disposed of, the careful application of BluTack on the end of a very long screwdriver carefully removed the screws.
It would be no exaggeration to say it was like a bomb-disposal scene.
I had just enough gap to slide the screwdriver in and, very, very carefully, ease each undone (but firmly attached) screw, one by one, through the tiny gap.
When I’d removed the large brass cover, I fiddled and worried the mixing cartridge out of its seat and through the tiny gap.
The troublesome, leaking device nestled wetly in the palm of my hand.
I quickly realised that the mixer cartridge had no standard washers.
Instead, the mixer had twelve (yes, twelve!) O-rings, and four (yes, four!) internal washers.
And each O-ring was a different size.
And each washer was a different size.
And none of them were any of the three main standard plumbing sizes.
I admitted defeat.
I reassembled the whole bloody thing.
Reseating the screws, using the BluTack and long screwdriver, was once again like a bomb disposal scene.
I resealed the backing plate on to the wall, turned the water back on and sat in the bathroom.
I was almost deafened by the fast-flowing drip-drip-drip-drip of the leak-from-hell.
Four hours, in case you’re wondering.
That’s how long it took.
So I got on the internet, and found the incredibly helpful, Glasgow-based, Shower Doctor.
They advised me that I might need a new mixer cartridge (we estimated the old one had been fitted 20 years ago), but I might be able to get away with a service kit.
A new mixer cartridge was over £120. A service kit was three times cheaper.
I opted for the cheaper.
Three days later a package arrived from Glasgow.
I arranged to revisit the shower at the weekend.
(to be continued)