And Not a Drop to Drink (again)

It’s quiet here now. Through the open window of the potting shed I can hear the chirping of the Marsh Warblers, the Chaffinches and the distant scrap metal dealers going about their business. There is the gentle hum of rural England, the faintest of drones from a combine harvester over the meadow as it positions itself outside the local council offices in readiness for todays rally against diesel tax; and the unmistakable giggling and hubbub from local village children as they play on the nearby rope swing down near the beautiful little babbling brook, exchanging football cards, crack cocaine and used needles. The village hall is holding a “Bring and Sell Your England Cricket Tickets’ Fete this afternoon, and the verger is nailing up an effigy of Stuart Broad. Yes, sadly only an effigy.  The sun is out. Tis a tranquil scene. I’d put some Mozart on, if I thought it would still fit me.  Yes, it’s all very quiet here now. But that hasn’t always been the case….


For the past few weeks the air has been thick with a whiff of emulsion, the rasping of sandpaper and the clatter of ladders. Our door has been darkened by carpenters, plumbers, plasterers and pipe fitters. Also, The Incumbent has been decorating the boys’ bedrooms in preparation for their return from college next week. All this coincided with a huge spike in business for what the Local Paper is calling “One of the slightly more promising home t-shirt businesses in the West Dartford area”.

Yes, finally business could be described as booming as, following a huge demand for Medium, Slimfit Bonnie Tyler t-shirts recently (go figure), and a call from several companies to kit-out their workers, the new line in British Lions and Festival Tees has been keeping me nicely thankyouverymuch in bourbons biscuits and doner kebabs. In between Medium Ladyfits, I’ve been popping upstairs to lend help, advice and elbow grease to the Boss as she undercoats, fills, sands, top-coats and glosses her way around the house.

It wasn’t all fun and games from the get-go. She didn’t take to it at all at first. As the air became bluer and bluer I had to step in to point a few hints and time-saving tips I’d learned over the years, stuff which while not ridding The Incumbent of her hatred for decorating, would help her reach her goal of completing two rooms in two weeks. I taped the roller to a broomstick and did a few walls there, a ceiling here. I visited the DIY store more times than I went to the pub. All the T-shirt profits were spent on Brilliant white Gloss, Sandpaper, Insulating tape and roller trays. I even semi-believably feigned interest when we picked out new carpet, which was to be delivered and fitted tomorrow, Thursday. So we even had a real deadline. And I’ve really missed deadlines. (!)

So come Monday afternoon, nearing the end of the fortnight (look it up) we were carrying out what I believe those in the trade called ‘snagging’: Seeing to all the little knocks, blemishes and missed bits in each room which needed to be put right before the carpet fitters came in 72 hours time.

(We chose a lovely beige cable carpet with a slight brown fleck in it, seeing as you asked. Oh, you didn’t)

A few scrapes and holes were smoothed over, a little dab of emulsion once or twice and the room looked spiffing. I thought my partner and guvnor should be really pleased with herself, and I told her as much.

“You’ve done really well here, you should be proud” I offered.

“well….” she said, not wanting to boast.

“no, really, you’ve done a top job. AND…”  and this was where things started to go wrong for me “….AND you’ve learnt a few things along the way from me, haven’t you ?”  Even as I was saying it I knew I was sounding far too smug for my own good.

Why do I do these things to myself ?

As we attempted to get the back bedroom straight, she asked me to take a look at the floorboards on the far side of the bed. Lifting up the underlay, it was clear that some had splits in them, some were not laying right and there were several screws that were standing proud of the floor.

“Yup, no worries, I’ll go fetch the screwdriver and some screws. You find some hardboard for me.” I was like a young Tim Allen. I was MR Home Improvement. Skipping back up the stairs like a someone in a Check-a-Trade advert, electric screwdriver in one hand, a fist full of self-tappers in the other, I zapped down a few offending items back into the holes whence they came, and added a few more for good measure. The Incumbent had found a yard or two of hardboard laying around which we placed over the area of split floorboards, (promising to come up with a more permanent answer later on), and replaced the underlay. The missus, walked up and down the previously selected spot and pronounced it to be “Bloody Marvellous”.We had finished for the day. I suggested we celebrate in one of two ways. We went down the pub.

A couple of hours later we returned with our bellies full of cider, and a carrier bag full of curry. There was good Korma.  Although I had a madras.

I sat down at the keyboard for a quick check on emails, looking forward to the impending feast. The Incumbent was in the kitchen dishing up. I waited excitedly to hear the words “Dinner’s Ready !”

I have to tell you now, that no such undertaking was received.

Behind me, between the curtains and the patio door, came a disconcerting sound. It sounded as if there was water dripping through the ceiling, running down the wall, door and glass, down to the floor, making a huge puddle. I pulled back the curtain. There was water dripping through the ceiling, running down the wall, door and glass, and onto the floor, making a huge puddle.

The next 15 minutes was a bit of a blur. Dashing up the stair as fast as my three-inch long legs would carry me, I ripped up the underlay on the floor where I’d earlier been working and, sure enough, I could hear a faint hiss of water escaping the pipe. I took the screwdriver and undid one of the screws which I’d previously inserted. Then came the flood. Where once had been a tiny little jet of water, squirting out of the hole the screw had made, but being partially blocked by the screw itself, unscrewing it had opened up the hole sending a torrent up into the air. Looking remarkably like the moment when Dambusters breached the Möhne Dam, I thought momentarily of taking a photo to be used later in this blog, but the cries of “Oh For Fuck’s Sake!” coming from downstairs alerted me to the fact that I should try to remember how to turn the water off.


“TURN THE WATER OFF !” I shouted, and I heard her emptying out some cupboard or other where presumably the mains stopcock is housed (I didn’t know where it was then, and I don’t know where it is now). The water still kept coming. Gushing up like a big gushy-up thing, or like a scene from one of those films I don’t watch any more. The step ladders used to get up to the loft (I never knew my real ladders) carry a weight limit warning of 15 stone, but I didn’t care, I needed to get to the water tank.  With one giant leap and several little uncomfortable ones, I climbed into the attic and made my way carefully along a beam, ensuring I didn’t put my foot through the ceiling (well, we didn’t want to have any accidents, did we ?)

I turned off each and every valve I could see, and some I couldn’t. With the missus keeping watch at the hole in the floor in the bedroom, she eventually hollered that the waters had receded. I slumped over the tank exhausted. I was sweating like a 70’s comedian in a police line-up. I knew I’d have to go back down and face both The Incumbent and the music. And I had to use the step ladders again. They surely wouldn’t take my weight a second time.

She called the insurance company who ordered out an emergency plumber. That was 6.30 on Monday evening. It’s 10.30 am on Wednesday now. The plumber still hasn’t arrived. In the end we would spend 23 hours without water—unless you count all the water which had saturated the lounge wall, the coving and the wooden floor, lifting and swelling everything, stinking out the house. 23 hours without water,  22 of which I used the words “I’m sorry” in every other sentence. No shower, no toilet and, most drastically, no cups of tea.  Taking advantage of a mate who happens to know his pipework, and who happens to drink in The Shovel we eventually got our pipes fixed and our water back on. I thanked him profusely and gave him a large drink for his trouble. The Incumbent called the “Emergency Plumbers” and gave them some directions on Self Intercourse.

The whole pub knows what I did and find it rather amusing. All our friends know and are ceaselessly mocking me. And now you know.

It’s quiet here now. The Incumbent has decided to go out for the day. Gone to Canterbury  to visit her boys at College.

She’s taken the screwdriver.


The Dambuster theme continues:  The insurance company has sent along professional dryers, complete with huge turbo turbine machines which look like they were once strapped to the wings of a Lancaster Bomber. So my tranquility has ended, interrupted by the sweet sound of two Merlin engines. One in the bedroom, one in the lounge.

Oh joy.




No Hammer, Just a House of Horrors

In a rare moment of sobriety this weekend I decided to do a few jobs around the house. Nothing major, you understand, just a few little bits that needed doing. I’ve never been Mr.D.I.Y for several reasons : I’m crap at it; I’m a lazy little bastard; there’s something I wanna watch on telly; Dad will do it for me; I can pay a mate / local tradesman to do it for me. But times being as they are with the piggy-bank being empty, I need to forget my lack of enthusiasm for or skill with a screwdriver, drill or hammer, act like a man, get off my arse and do it.

I limbered up with a doorknob. That’s not something I’d admit to in public, but nevertheless it’s true. I’ve had to open my kitchen door with a teaspoon ever since the knob fell off a few weeks ago. The spoon makes a good jemmy, and doesn’t scratch the paint. I have gotten quite used to it. It even has it’s own little home on top of the heater beside the door and The Incumbent has pronounced it all to be ‘funny’ as opposed to it being a pain in the arse . But what with the imminent arrival of Mum , who will not see the funny side of it, and having invited some pals round next weekend for beer and curry, I knew I had to get my act together. Railway Cuttings is no mansion, no show-home, but it’s a slippery slope down to Trampsville when you have to open doors with cutlery. Next stop: J-cloths as reusable toilet paper. I don’t wanna go there again.

Two squirts of ‘No More Nails’ later and my two new knobs were affixed (one each side of the door, DO keep up!). What was dad thinking of, using screws and nails and things ? This is the future of DIY!. Yes, yes I realise they’ll last about ten days. I realise this stuff isn’t quite the miracle cure for sticking everything they tell us it is, but once the guests have left and my knob falls off I’m happy to go back to the spoon. (God this is thrilling stuff! Dick Francis ??? Pah!) Encouraged by my success, I moved on to repairing the curtains. This too seemed to go swimmingly, with the aid of another ‘labour-saving’ device, some iron-on adhesive tape ( a bit like Wonderweb- the batchelor’s friend). “End Curtain-Sticking Misery Now ” Why get out the needle and thread when there’s stuff like this on the market ? Back of the net!. (continued after this advert)

Wales Rugby T-shirt

As I knelt on the floor, ironing two halves of some purple curtains together I wondered if this was the sort of thing that other male icons such as Humphrey Bogart or David Niven would be doing on a Saturday afternoon ? Try as I could to convince myself they would, deep down I suspected not. They would be doing something far more mundane: A glass of scotch on the porch while shooting tigers, a quick fumble with the missus (or somebody else’s missus) on the polar-bear rug, then off to play poker all-night with the guys in some smokey bar, Claudia Cardinale draped around their shoulders, vodka martinis coming our of their ears. Hmmmm…………

I was deamily immersed in my thoughts, all the time making sure my seams were straight, when suddenly I was roused by the unmistakable of a wooden doorknob hitting a veneered floor : ‘Clunk’, followed by the unmistakable sound of an annoyed bloke. ‘Oh Bollocks !!. The Incumbent, bless her, did her best not to titter. I had to leave the ‘no more cotton’ activity on the floor and return to the ‘No More Nails’ scenario in the kitchen. I refused to be defeated by this fucking doorknob, even if I had to go down the path of ‘Some More Nails’.

A mere several hours passed and both jobs were finished. The curtains were back on their rods and, if you sit in just the right position (and ignore where the glue is already coming unstuck) they’re looking magnificent, if a little pissed in places (as oft am I). In the kitchen, the knobs are stuck securely to the door, as long as you don’t touch them. Apparently, the trick is to hold them in place for 35 minutes while the adhesive dries and hardens. I might as well have used my own faeces. Next time it’s hammer and nails time.

Tomorrow I’m fixing a heater to a wall in the hallway. Or maybe I’ll get my dad to do it.