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.
STOP PRESS+++STOP PRESS+++STOP PRESS+++
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.