I’m not the world’s greatest D-I-Y-er, far from it. For one terrifying moment I stood rooted to the spot, watching the water level in my toilet inexorably rising, convinced the contents were about to start seeping over the bathroom floor. Ignorant of the intricacies of plumbing (water can’t spill out – it just goes to the overflow) I imagined a bathroom slowly sinking under sewage.
I was panicking. But in my defence an unflushed toilet pan filling up faster than the Titanic is an alarming sight. Panic over and the water level having ‘stabilised’ some two centimetres beneath the lip, it was time to act. I headed out for the garden. I needed a twig and fast. Twigs have come to my aid on more than one occasion like this over the years, it’s just a case of finding the right type.
So I headed for the apple tree and gripped one of its sturdy branches. Ten minutes later I was still twisting and turning like an embarrassing uncle on the wedding reception dance-floor as the branch stubbornly refused to detach itself. Was it aware of my intended purpose?
After five minutes of vigorous plunging nothing much had happened: Tell a lie, the branch had broken up and disappeared into the u-bend. The water level was virtually unchanged. There was only one thing to do: wait until my wife came home.
We decided against calling an emergency plumber reasoning that we could be charged a small fortune if this turned out to be a big job. We would consult our DIY book and take it from there. Half an hour later and we had a diagnosis: We had a blockage somewhere in our system. All we had to do was to unblock it. This would involve:
1. Finding a manhole
2. Assembling a rod
3. Inserting said rod into manhole and agitating
Phew! There was enough material here to keep Graham Norton going indefinitely!
“It’s a dirty job,” said the salesman at our local DIY centre handing over a pack of rods for a very reasonable twenty five quid. I looked at the rods doubtfully. “Put the rods together and stick them up the drains,” added the salesman helpfully, “And I’d recommend some clothes pegs…” My wife and I, about to leave the shop, looked first at each other then at the salesman,“…for your noses…”
A little while later we both stood armed with rods (and clothes pegs) at our manhole cover, which just for the record turned out to be somewhat strangely located in our next door neighbours’ driveway.
The manhole itself proved unwilling to cooperate, steadfastly refusing to budge an inch. As I scratched at the soil and began struggling to dislodge the cover, I felt like Indiana Jones stood on the brink of a new adventure. Indiana Jones with a clothes peg attached to his beak.
I can’t possibly describe the stench that assailed our nasal organs. So I won’t even try. Trust me the adjectives simply do not exist to do justice to this odour. Somewhere in the dark recesses of this drain, waste matter had been festering away for days, weeks, months and from the smell of it quite possibly centuries.
And by opening the manhole we had just let this very, very rancid genie out of its bottle. Now it was just a case of getting the rods into the pipes. Gagging despite our pegged noses, we attached the rods together until we had conjured up a super rod of some ten metres replete with a fearsome looking corkscrew on the front.
The rod boldly went where the sun don’t shine, metre by metre. My wife, feeding the rod in behind me as I crouched over the hole, resembled a gondolier as she jiggled the rod at shoulder height.
The rod burrowed down inside the drains somewhere under our patio, my wife and I twisting clockwise (failing to twist clockwise means your rod could become detached in the drain – and then you really do have a problem) until we hit something, something solid. “Yee-ha!” I screamed. I couldn’t help it. Okay, so we hadn’t quite struck gold – far from it –but it felt like it.
A gigantic sound of suction resonated through the whole street as the corkscrew worked its magic. A moment later it was as if the rivers of Babylon had burst their banks. It came gushing through the drain…gallon upon gallon of ‘it.’
And as I stood watching this hi-speed train gushing by I felt an immense satisfaction. Not only had we liberated our drains ourselves, but we had also saved a tidy sum of money into the bargain, as bills for this type of work can run into the hundreds, sometimes even thousands of pounds.
And so peace and harmony have been restored to our house. Not only is the toilet enjoying a new lease of life, but the sink and shower have never had it so good. No sooner is the plug taken out than the water is sucked away in a superfast vortex.
Life has once more settled down. It’s quite amazing how a blocked pipe can disturb household harmony.