DIY (Destroy-It-Yourself)

Despite what you may think, I am not entirely perfect. Here and now, I am happy to admit that yes, I do have the occasional thought. And, contrary to popular belief, I do not know "everything" despite being able to come up with a smart-arse answer to most questions.

I am flawed. It's true. But I accept my flaws, and it makes me a better person.

One such "flaw" is my DIY skills. Over here in Sunny Basildonia, DIY stands for Do-It-Yourself. Those of you across the pond refer to it as Home Improvements. The rest of you, I have no clue (see, admitting a gap in knowledge=brilliance!)

Now, don't get me wrong, it's not that I am bad at ALL things DIY, but I lack the skills, and therefore I lack the confidence. Years ago, I managed to completely re-tile the bathroom and entire toilet, with zero skills or knowledge... And those tiles never came down, cracked, or needed repairs. By the same token, the re-tiling that was done in the bathroom a couple of years back by a professional - half a dozen tiles are currently coming away from the wall.

Give me a computer, and I'm all over it. I know what it all does, I know how to replace or repair most parts, and generally, I can get a dead machine back up and running in no time. Flat-Pack-Easy-To-Assemble furniture I can handle too. While most people struggle with the diagrams and which thingie is Part A, and where the hell Slot C is, I can read through it, sort the bits out, and build the furniture.

What I also lack when it comes to DIY, are the correct tools. For many years, my toolbox consisted of some metal things, a half-dozen screwdrivers, a saw, a drill and a hammer. It took me YEARS to realise that there were different types of drill bit, for example. I was certain I had some sort of super-coated dense wall in my house, after melting several bits. Turns out, I was trying to drill into the wall with wood-bits...

And once I DID have the correct drill bits, putting up shelving by eye, and NOT with a spirit level is, for the most part, just another way of putting up wonky shelving.

Trust me, I know.

So imagine the mixture of both glee and horror when our trusty electric shower conked out on Sunday. Years ago, once all the pipes and electrics were run, I installed it, and over the years, when it's died, I've managed to service it myself and get it back up and running.

However, Sundays death was permanent. Something technical had died, and while I COULD have bought the part I suspected it was, it would have meant ordering it online, waiting for it to be delivered, un-soldering the dead bit, re-soldering the new bit, and hoping it was that part in the first place.

So, Kellie decided we needed a new shower rather sharpish - especially as yours truly cannot get into, and out of, a bath. I HATE baths too. They make me feel useless, so, new shower it was. Kellie had a hunt online, found the one she liked the look of, and I went off to collect it.

Bus to town, bus to retail park, buying the shower, bus to town, bus home. Two hours. Yes, as usual, the buses around here are atrociously shite.

First things first, will the shower fit? So, I took my ruler (and not because I don't own a tape measure, but I couldn't find the stupid thing anywhere!) and checked. Yep, it will fit in the existing place. Next, check the electrics and plumbing. Yep, while the pipe elbow needed rotating, everything else was fine. So, dead-shower removal.

Off came the wall screws. Out came the electrics. Before removing the plumbing, turn the shower water supply off, and... No, back up... Turning the stopcock off, something odd happened. A slight grinding noise came from within, followed by the tap itself popping out half an inch and spraying a fine mist of water over me and the floor. Regardless of which direction I turned it, water was leaking from within. So, in a last ditch effort to stop the external flow of water, I smacked it inwards. It didn't completely stop, but was obviously broken.

Bucket under the leak, emergency plumber called. This is at about half three, and I was told he could be with me any time before... TEN P.M!

So I sat and waited. And sulked. And re-read the installation instructions for the shower. And sulked. While it wasn't my fault, it was just typical... Thankfully, at just after five, the plumber turned up.

I've had the pleasure of this chap before - he was here a couple of weeks back fixing another unrelated leak in the house, and he was miserable... Doesn't like being on his knees, doesn't like having to move stuff out the way, doesn't like working in tight places... Honestly, if you don't like those jobs, you're in the wrong profession mate.

This time was no different. Apparently, I had reported the job wrong. While I reported it as "stopcock not shutting off and leaking" and they sent it to him as "stopcock seized up and leaking" what it ACTUALLY was was "Gate Valve damaged and leaking"

Yes, because I know the difference between a stopcock and a gate valve.

He was very unimpressed, because he didn't know if he had a spare gate valve, had it been reported correctly, he could have stopped off on route and grabbed one, even though he was on his way home from Harlow, and had had a bad day, and just wanted it to be over...

Carry on at me mate, I'll make sure your day ends sooner than you'd like...

Luckily (for him) he DID have a new gate valve on the van, but now he was pissed off because the chaps that had done the bathroom refit and tiled over the joints he needed access to. So out came a hammer and chisel, and after a few minutes of banging, my bathroom sported a nice new hole in the wall. He carried on huffing and puffing and sorting out the thingie until, finally, it was finished.

To rub salt in his moody wound, I pointed out that, while he was here, I also had another leak (yes, another) in the toilet... Every time the toilet was flushed, a little trickle ran out the cistern and onto the floor. He started saying that it wasn't on his job sheet, but I said if he couldn't do it, I would just call up the repairs line and report it after he left... He knew full well that if I did that, the nearest plumber would be routed BACK to my house... Guess who the nearest plumber would be!

Lucky for, er, him I suppose, it was an easy fix... Adjusted something and tightened something else, and voila! No more leak. He even cleaned up the mess in the bathroom perfectly. Signed his sheet, and off he went!

With the water now off, I set to removing the shower, and after a bit of straining and struggling, it came free. Hallelujah!

Now for the sizing up of the new one, right size, right shape, electrics fit properly, water inlet was in the right place... But... er... The OLD shower had a nut the screwed onto the pipe fitting. The new shower, however, did not. Re-checked the installation instructions, and it read something about using compression fittings on the inlet.

Here is where my Non-DIY brain fired up. While I understand what "compression" means, I didn't have the foggiest what one was. And since I don't generally keep plumbing supplies in the house (shockingly) it meant I had to get one. And the nearest DIY shop?

A few doors down from where I got the shower.

Yes, I am swearing at this point.

So now, at six in the evening, I have to go back out, bus to town, bus to retail park, and go into B&Q. I go to the plumbing section, and start hunting for what I need. However, "what I need" in Dan-Terms, and "what I need" in Plumbing Terms are, more than likely, two very different things. In my pocket, I have the old elbow joint, it's connector, the shower installation manual, and a series of photos on my phone.

What do I need? I my terms, I need a right-angled pipe, with a screw fitting on one end to attach to the wall-pipe, and a compression fitting on the other end to attach to the shower.

Of course, nothing is labelled like that. So I ask one of the chaps in orange aprons to help me out. And I explain it to him in Dan Terms, with the visual aids of instructions, copper pipe in my pocket, and a slide show presentation.

"You need a standard compression elbow joint like this -" he doesn't even look, just reaches out and picks up the thing I am stood beside "- and just take off the nut and olive from the end you're connecting to the wall, and go from there."


"OK, thank you very much!" and off I trundle with my new piece of pipe work, which a WHOLE £1.50, and head back to the bus stop, frantically Googling "What is a plumbing olive"

Bus to town, bus back home, and finally, at about half seven, I am ready to go. I measure up, I drill holes, I run wires, I remove the olive and nut, connect the elbow to the wall, connect the shower to the pipes with the compression joint, screw it all into place, and turn the water back on.

No leaks.

I rush down stairs, reconnect the shower isolation.

No emergency shutdown.

I head back up, turn on the isolation switch.

No blackout.

I make sure the dials and stuff are all aligned, put the cover on, connect the hose, and set to filling and commissioning the shower.

Water flows. Water heats and cools according to the dial. The pressure is perfect.

Ladies and gentlemen, at approximately 8pm last night, I had a fully functional shower, that I installed, without ANY help from anyone! Had the stop cock... Sorry, gate valve, not broken, and had I owned a compression joint, the job would have taken me no less than 90 minutes. However, due to the stop cock - sorry, sorry, gate valve - waiting on a plumber, and having to go out and get the right part, it took nearly seven hours.

In either case, it's a win for me! And, they say you learn from your mistakes.

  • I learned that trying to travel anywhere in Basildon on First Buses takes as long as getting a coach into central London. During Rush Hour.
  • I learned how to be a really effective plumber.
  • I learned the difference between a Gate Valve and a Stop Cock.
  • I learned how to bash a hole into someones tiled wall.
  • I learned what a Plumbing Olive is.
  • I learned how to fit a Compression Joint.

And yes, I did get in the shower as soon as it was done. And yes it was glorious.

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