27 January 2011

It all goes a bit Pete Tong

If I see the B&Q in Nelson again, it will be too soon. Flamin’ Ada, I feel as if I’ve spent most of 2011 haunting aisle 5. I’ve lost count of the trips we’ve made – some fruitful, some fruitless, and worse, not once did we hit the snack wagon in the car park for a restorative bacon buttie. Of course, you can guess what’s in aisle 5 can’t you? Here’s a clue. We return to the northern narrowboat – a narrowboat that we weren’t able to winterize before winter arrived blowing a big fat freezing raspberry. We enter boat. Having learnt from last year’s experience (yes, I know only an idiot makes the same mistake twice, so kick me, please) we check the water pump visually before filling the water tank (Last year, tank fills, tank empties, bilge fills, Greygal fills with tears as she realizes what’s happened). So there I am looking at the water pump as A turns it on at the mains and fantastic, no leaks. But then I realize that I’m looking at the part that broke last year so I move my torch beam and focus on the pump itself…which is pissing out water. Cue shouting and swearing. And more swearing, quite a lot more actually as one of the reasons why we’d come up north was to stay on the boat while I attended a client’s site later in the week. So no saying tits to it all and buggering off home, like last year. The time was Saturday mid afternoon – and it was time for action. We checked the chandlery in the marina – the last pump he’d had he’d sold the day before. (Tried to suppress growing rage). But he put us onto Pennine Cruisers – one call established that they had water pumps, not our model, but we reckoned if we hacked bits off or made up our own bits of pipe and connector, we could make do.

So off to Skipton, where we have this rather farcical episode. Don’t ask me why but we can’t lock our car without setting the motion detecting alarm. We hadn’t got the dogs out of the car on our arrival at the boat while we did our checking, so off we sallied to Skipton with the dogs in the back but no means of locking the car. As we had also not got our luggage out, including 2 Apple laptops, we didn’t want to leave the car unlocked. Although why any maniac would want to try and take on six greyhounds going bonkers in the back of a Citroen C8 is beyond me…So off I trot to see this pump…it doesn’t look quite the same as ours in terms of connecty bits so I go back to the car and tell A to go and have a shufty while I take over car/dog minding duties. All this is the hissing rain, with soaked clothes and wet shoes. A comes back, declaring ‘it’ll do’ – which for some reason didn’t inspire much confidence. In fact, I was feeling pretty low all round. A is a genius with electrics and electronics but has a bit of a dodgy track record when it comes to plumbing. There’s usually a lot of effs, his face turns purple, and then there are bits flying through the air. Well, we would see. I had to trot back to the shop to pay for the sodding thing and then at last we were off back to the boat.

For various reasons that I can’t recall – was it the fact that it was raining inside the boat? – I lit the Squirrel before we did anything else. We got the dogs in, so they could warm up, and once we were feeling a little drier ourselves, we set to, A as chief plumber, me as plumber’s mate (which mainly involved stopping Ranger sticking his nose where daddy didn’t want it.) As A cracked on, I became aware of a strong smell of scorched jeans – or was it bum cheek – as poor old A had his rear end jammed pretty much up against the Squirrel door. He didn’t complain though…lost a few pounds in sweat, but trucked on like a good ‘un. As the pump was different to the one that had bust, he did have to get creative with a few bits and pieces. I feel very bad now in that I ever doubted him but it all seemed a bit Heath Robinson to me – and yet it worked! Without a leak! Okay, the dogs might have been covered in PTF tape by then (have you ever tried to work with that stuff?) but we had a working pump!! Hurrah! Shame about all the broken taps…

Cue the first of several trips to B&Q the following morning to get some new taps for the washbasin and a mixer tap for the kitchen. Cue another trip the same day to get something we didn’t know we needed until we took the pipes apart, and I’m sure there was another visit in the week as well….sort of lost the will to live by then. To cut a long story short, new washbasin taps all went in and worked perfectly, while the mixer tap resolutely failed to do anything at all. T’was a bit of a puzzle to us plumbing newbies as statistically this was evenly matched – the chances of a new tap being faulty against both pipes or both connectors having simultaneously failed. In the end, we plumped – for want of anything better to plump for – for either a blockage or an airlock. A decided that the only thing to do therefore was to start taking the plumbing apart from the kitchen sink down…cue a few more effs, quite a bit of water spurting everywhere, and then A getting his massive tool out – a wrench, I recall – and just disconnecting bits from other bits until there was nothing to disconnect. And what do you know? The couplings on both pipes had some sort of spring loaded filter thingy in them that were jammed shut – well, that was our take on the matter, but we’re probably talking rowlocks. They weren’t repairable so off I toddle to B&Q – what a surprise – to see if I can find replacements. I can’t. I return home disconsolate, thinking that we’re never going to have a functioning galley tap again and planning for a life of working with tiny taps and a tiny basin geared to brushing teeth, not pots and pans. And then the gallant A says, never fear! I shall simply knock out the stupid broken filters and we’ll do without them. Will this work, I ask? Maybe those little spring loaded lovelies perform some essential task? Maybe our tap will not take kindly to being denuded of his filter friends? Sod that, out they came, back went all the plumbing bits in roughly the right order, and on went the tap. And yes, oh reader, it actually worked! For how long, who knows, but I’m enjoying it while it lasts. My tap runneth over.

P.S.If we commit the same idiotic mistake next year, then you have permission to call me some very rude words. No, ruder than that.