by Peter Cook
There are those who are competent at DIY. Those who are hopeless at it. And those who think they can do it, but haven’t a clue.
I fall into the latter category, as I discovered when I called round to fix the lavatory cistern in my daughter’s house.
“Aha,” said I, having removed the cover. “Essentially the diaphragm inside the cistern siphon has suffered a seizure and ceased to suck.”
“Easy for you to say,” my daughter responded.
“Not in these teeth,” I came back, quick as a cobra strike.
It was easy to see that the diaphragm was worn out. It’s a problem I am familiar with. My own diaphragm has seen better days as I am reminded every time I climb the stairs.
“Now if I just wiggle this bit here, and adjust the plunge lever, and ... oh my gosh!” I have snapped off the thing that closes the inlet valve and water is gushing forth as if from a water cannon.
“Make like the Dutch boy,” I shout, but my daughter has never heard the parable. I try to stem the flow with my own index finger but only succeed in spraying water over me, the bathroom, my daughter the cat and the dog.
It’s serious but not yet disastrous. The water is gushing into the cistern but escaping via the overflow. Something must be done or we’ll empty Bewl Water.
“Where is your stopcock?”
“There’s something outside under a metal flap.”
I find the tap but this cock has not stopped anything for some considerable time. I twist until I am first red, then blue in the face. But it won’t shift.
It’s Saturday – it would be wouldn’t it – there is no one I can call.
“Tell you what,” I say, “I’m dashing home for my plumbing box. If I can disconnect the cistern and fit a tap on the inlet pipe, we might yet save Bewl Water.”
When I return I have found a piece of flexible pipe and a tap. Gingerly I disconnect the cistern. Water gushes up like it was the Trevi Fountain. But there’s no time to toss in a coin and make a wish.
I fit the flexi-coupling, spraying water everywhere and ending up soaked. But it doesn’t work. The connection is not sealed. We need some fibre washers.
I dash into town and buy a packet, dripping all over the checkout girl and muttering something about a sudden heavy shower.
Back to my daughter’s house. Once more I disconnect the cistern. The pipe gushes worse than ever this time, because I have to fit not one but two fibre washers. Once more I tighten the nut on the flexi-coupling and attach the tap.
Hooray, the water ceases to flow.
Everything and everyone is drenched. But Bewl Water might yet be saved. It takes an hour to swab up the water from the bathroom by which time I am shivering with cold.
Sunday morning sees me in a DIY store looking at cistern systems. None of them are like the one I have just removed. Technology has marched on. I choose something I think may work.
Back at my daughter’s house I fit it, rigidly following the instructions on the pack. Disconnecting the makeshift tap I screw up the inlet pipe to the new fitting. There is some spray but not too much.
With some trepidation I try the handle.
A miracle has occurred – it actually works. A quick flip up for light usage and a more positive push down for the heavier stuff.
And that is how I came to save Bewl Water.
I celebrated in a way that, at the time, seemed most appropriate.