There is an incontrovertible law of both physics and causality that demands that bread lands butter side down on carpets, a pocket full of small change will be rejected from town centre car park machines and anything involving plumbing will end in tears.
So it was with the dripping tap that seemed intent on eroding the bathroom sink into a heap of soggy porcelain paste. It was, of course, on the “to do” list of household tasks along with rewiring the dodgy lighting in the under stairs cupboard, removing the contamination at the bottom of the oven which seems to be evolving into life forms beyond the imagination of even the most lurid of science fiction game developers and the thorny problem of re-pointing the garden wall. Somehow, these vital tasks found themselves relegated down the list as more pressing undertakings took precedence. Watching football, drinking beer and listening to the radio were the boxes that had to be ticked. For weeks, the incontinent faucet plipped and plopped with the insistence of an old Danny Kaye 78 until it finally met its nemesis in the colossal form of a teenage boy in possession of cognitive logic based on brute force. He, unlike his father, succeeded in making the tap stop dripping.
The laws of Murphy and, indeed, Sod dictate that when things fail, they do not fail safe. Prime examples of this truism are helicopters, knicker elastic, amorous advances at office parties and governments. The tap was no longer dripping but was now issuing a torrent usually associated with jet blasting rally cars and grubby civic buildings. This sudden inundation threatened to convert the bathroom into Aberystwyth or Hebden Bridge. On the plus side, the customary monosyllabic adolescent grunts had been replaced with gales of hysterical laughter as the sink began to overflow and the tap gave up the existential ghost and abandoned its role and definition of tap.
Risk assessment, emergency contingency and disaster recovery plans are vital and the decisions made in the first moments of a crisis are crucial. My initial response was swift and robust. A towel was wrapped around the tap, a tooth mug was employed to bail out the sink and a concentrated effort was made to remember where the main water supply stop cock was hiding. Fortunately, someone sensible was close by in the shape of the lady wife who knew where the stop cock was located and arrived in the bathroom bearing spanners. It went downhill from there.
The bathroom fitting formerly known as tap refused to be removed without a fight suggesting that it had been installed by a gorilla with similar upper body strength as the family Orc who broke it. After much monosyllabic geriatric grunting, the beast was finally free of the sink and it became clear that the tap had dripped its last. No problem, a quick walk into town, buy new tap, back in about half an hour. What could possibly go wrong?
Walsall once boasted a proud and vibrant town centre. Now it is like watching a dear old friend slowly dying. In the town of a hundred trades, it proved impossible to buy a simple bathroom tap on a Saturday afternoon. Yes, all the expected retail outlets were visited and no taps were for sale, not even for ready money. Enquiries were made and advice sought which resulted in blank looks, shrugs and one suggestion that I should try Birmingham or Wolverhampton. It would appear that the basic equipment needed to ensure even a modicum of personal hygiene was not a stock priority for the trade’s people of Walsall. On the plus side, there was a huge range of junk food available, England flags, the clothing of dead people in charity shops and an awful lot of rubbish that cost only a pound or even 99 pence. The ancient open air market was no help; Geraniums, flat triple A batteries, England flags and dodgy mobile phones were not going to set the water flowing again at hippo towers. Running out of time, a walk to a known builder`s merchant on the edge of town turned out to be futile because it was shut. Supermarkets were doing in roaring trade in flags and beer.
Returning home, empty handed, to find people desperate for coffee, tea and a wee, the only option was to take the car to an out of town retail park to hunter gather a tap. Two hours and 50 quid for a pair lighter, the new tap was fitted and the water supply returned. The new tap failed and the flood was back. After allowing family members to use the loo and then fill as many jugs, pans and kettles as possible, the water supply was again disconnected. Further inspection confirmed that the tap had unwisely invited a cracked seal into our home and the ongoing problem was not the result of my cowboy plumbing. By now disgruntled, I retired to the Portugal Spain game and drank beer and we boys were lucky enough to be able to urinate on the compost heap at half time. No such luck for the ladies of the household.
By strange coincidence, that God of Walsall`s social media, Brownhills Bob, highlighted a preposterous piece in the woeful Express & Star on the very day that it was impossible to buy a tap in Walsall. Given his location, the Bobster knows a thing or two about dying town centres and the power of multi-national corporate retailers. The arrant nonsense expressed in the publication formerly known as a newspaper claimed that £400million was being invested in local high streets. A clue to the accuracy of this drivel was gained by the description of Pizza Express, Nandos and Prezzo as “restaurateurs”. Even if you forgive the typo, one might be justified in asking how many Michelin stars have been awarded to these junk food joints. The E&S have put the rat back into restaurant and trumpet the arrival of Primark and Co-op into Walsall. For all its good intentions, disregarding its involvement with the disgraceful Workfare scheme, the Co-op is yet another supermarket. Primark and the Co-op do not sell bathroom taps.
The task for Sunday morning was to drive back to the out of town retail park and demand a refund. No, the offer of a credit note or replacement was not acceptable. I thought about offering an emergency colostomy performed using one of the alleged taps but considered that procedure too risky for a customer unqualified in either surgery or plumbing and, after some difficult negotiation, I was finally reunited with my cash. Driving home, dark thoughts of a day without water suppressed the usual rage at the inconsiderate motoring skills of others until I discovered salvation by complete chance.
Approaching red traffic lights, I noticed an old fashioned hardware store that, astonishingly for a Sunday morning, was open. The contents of the shop spilled out onto the pavement. Broom handles, dustbins, fishing nets, mops, buckets and rabbit hutches indicated the possibility of taps. After parking in a side street, the urge to enter and ask for four candles was overwhelming. Fortunately, the original offending ex-tap in my pocket provoked caution and the shopkeeper proved to be both sympathetic and helpful. He disappeared into an unseen stockroom and returned with an array of precious and rather wonderful taps. Inspecting the device that in a former life once controlled the flow of water, he concluded that lime scale was the problem and then selected a suitable replacement for the princely sum of five quid. He also suggested that the investment in some stuff that chemically removes the stalactites that grow in taps might be a good idea and also gave sound advice on changing the wretched thing.
I suggested to my saviour that a town centre location would make him a fortune but he disagreed as he felt that the rents and rates in Walsall were prohibitively high for successful business. I was unable to offer an alternative argument and so plundered his shop for some three core mains cable, a new light fitting, an industrial strength oven cleaner and a big bag of ready mixed pointing mortar. My newest and bestest mate, Mohammed the shopkeeper and font of all knowledge, carried the bag of mortar to the car.
The tap is now fixed, there is light in the under stairs cupboard, the oven is almost healthy and the garden wall can wait. Walsall, however, is far from fixed and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. Bloop, said the local politician, bleep.