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Date: 22/08/17

The Confessional Of The Seal

I'm thinking of going to live in a tent.

Property (apart from being theft, comrades) is also terribly time-consuming, as I have had cause to find out of late.

There was the electrical inspection in early July, which led to the complete replacement of the fuseboard three weeks later; and then followed the installation of the new central heating system at the beginning of this month.

It is this latter event - allied with something else - which has indirectly caused the latest crimp. For the water pressure in the bathroom - having been so pathetic for years that it was possible for me to make a packed lunch for the morrow at work, do the washing-up, have a shave and wash my hair before there was enough water in the bath to make getting into it worthwhile - was now up to where it should be.

But this has created a problem. I have had for years one of those attachments fitted over the bath taps so that I can rinse my shobbin (I seldom use champoo, just warm water rubbed into the scalp then rinsed out again). When the water pressure was so low as to indicate the property equivalent of prostate trouble, this was no problem. However, now the flow was so strong that it caused a backflow out from around the psuedo-rubber doubry which fitted over the tap and caused a steady stream of water to emanate backwards over that end of the bath.

This would not be a problem in itself, were it not for the fact that the sealant at that end had long since disintegrated. And here we have the second element to which I adverted earlier, and which I outlined in paragraphs three to seven here.

Now that it was clear that I wasn't going to get a new bathroom, I suppose that it was high time that I set to and dealt with the minor faults in the existing one, of which the seal around the bath was the most obvious. But I hadn't got round to it by last Sunday night when I took a bath. I hadn't noticed - it not being particularly obvious when sitting in the bath - that there was all this water flowing down through the gap where the sealant ought to be.

I did notice when I went downstairs afterwards and heard the dripping of water, and saw it coming from an ominous (but mercifully small) bulge in the kitchen ceiling directly under the bath. Crisis time! Luckily, there was still too small an amount to bring that portion of the ceiling down, and the plaster is held up by the paper over it in any case. But it was clear that Something Had To Be Done.

As fortune would have it, I'd already booked today off, and the weather was never going to be good enough to let me cut the grass, however much it needed doing. So I checked online with my DIY store of choice (it's the one I appropriated here for comic effect), and left work on Monday a little earlier than usual so that I could walk the hundred yards or so to my nearest branch and get some sealant.

When I got home - having bought three 350ml containers of sealant (it was a special offer) and a couple of bottle of some gloop which softens up the old sealant so that you can get it off more easily - I realised that I wasn't going to be able to do the job (which would also involve the wash basin and the worktops and sink in the kitchen) without one of them there gun-thingies to squirt the stuff out. So, having slept in a bit longer than I'd intended to anyway (it's always the way, either feast or famine), I headed off back to Screwfix for the gun.

At around 10:45, I set to it. I had decided to start in the kitchen, as this was my first attempt at a job like this, and it wasn't going to matter so much if I cocked that up a bit. I tried scraping the old sealant from the little area of worktop to the right of the cooker, but it wasn't having it, so I had to apply the remover to it and wait fifteen minutes or so. This was fine, because it gave me time to figure out how to load the gun. Cutting the nozzle to a good aperture wasn't an issue; a sharp pair of scissors did that. But cutting the top off the canister of sealant was another matter; not even my Stanley knife would touch it. Until I remembered a lesson learned during the early stages of The Great Winter Project™: Change. The. Fucking. Blade. Occasionally. That did the trick, and I loaded the gun up.

Before I launched my attack, I had to get the old sealant from around the other worktop areas and the sink, but this wasn't too difficult because it was in a pretty poor state. A wash down of the combat zones and, finally, I was ready.

The gun operated easily enough, but the skill is in maintaining an adequate and constant pressure on the trigger. This took some mastering, and the result was the first area I did looking like thin knicker-elastic when it has gone all bobbly. I didn't really care too much what it looked like as long as it covered the required gaps, but by the time I had done the rest of the kitchen I had got somewhere near to the sort of finish that at least an apprentice professional might think of as A Good Start.

I broke off for lunch at this point, then started on the bathroom. There was a little bit of old sealant above the wash basin, which I treated with the gloop and left for twenty minutes or so while I went to read a bit more of William Dalrymple's excellent White Mughals. Having been introduced to the opinions of Abdul Lateef Shushtari - a seeming combination of Jan Morris, Mr. Pooter and Mary Whitehouse - I returned to scrape away at the wash basin. I then found that I was going to have to do the same for what sealant was left on the bath. So, brush on the gloop, back to Dalrymple (and Abdul) for a bit. I came back and started scraping away, to find that I was evicting not merely the old sealant but bits of tile grout as well.

This was exhausting work for someone in my condition, and it took me a fair bit of time to get this stage over with. At last, though, I grabbed my trusty weapon and set to the basin. This was a question of a couple of minutes, although it was as lumpy as my first attempt. Then, the bath.

Things went more than passing well along the back and the long side. Then came The Big One; the tap end. The gap was much wider here, and my intention had been to further cut the nozzle of the canister to give a wider coverage. But I couldn't get even the Stanley knife to touch the thing this time, so had to make do as best I could. There was a fair amount of judicial obiter dicta (much of it derived from the Anglo-Saxon) regarding the obstructive nature of taps, and I needed to go over the area two or three times to make sure that I had a proper seal, but I finally got something near to what I needed.

I was starting to clean up (the sealant - which, incidentally, smells like a cross between emulsion paint and pickle vinegar; not unpleasant - is best removed from the skin with kitchen paper) when I remembered something else.

The uPVC frame round the back door has bowed inwards somewhat on the hinge side, and I'm convinced that it is through the gap thus created that that mysterious and annoying draught has been coming in. So I took the gun downstairs and did my best to fill that crevice as well.

Job done? Well, I think so. It'll take until I next have a bath to be sure, but at least it will be an improvement on what passed before.

But then I had another matter to attend to.

In a word: ballcock.

Whether it's another side-effect of the increased water pressure, but the overflow pipe from the bog cistern has been dripping like hell of late. This is not doing a lot for that part of my not-long-laid path which is under it, nor for the house wall immediately adjacent to it. What to do?

Now, I have difficulties with some seemingly straightforward concepts, especially topological ones. In order to reduce the amount of water going into the cistern after flushing, did I bend the arm on the ball-valve up? Or down? My thought process ran something like this: "if I bend the arm up, then the inlet valve would return to its fully-closed horizontal position sooner. Wouldn't it? But, hang on...if I bend the arm down, then the ball would take less time to get to the shut-off position. I think..."

D'you know, chums, I had to go online to get the right answer: down with it! (the arm, that is). So I bent it downwards a bit and then flushed the lav. As the ball began to rise, I noticed that the valve arm was making contact with the siphon unit, and also that the ball itself was rubbing against the front wall of the cistern. These two factors seemed to be inhibiting the ball somewhat, which may have been what was causing the problem.

(It's a large ball for such a small cistern, I thought).

Anyway, I left it. Today, the dripping from the overflow pipe was markedly worse, so after I had signed, delivered and sealed on the bathroom, I went to have another ferkle about. This time, I bent the arm down a touch more (I'm not unnaturally reluctant to push it - or my luck - too far), but also bent it back towards the house wall a bit as well. I watched the mechanism as I flushed it again, and at least now there was daylight between the arm and the siphon and between the ball and the front of the cistern. The valve shut off well before the water level reached the outlet pipe "Let's see how that works out", I thought.

Except that, a couple of hours later, the overflow was dripping again. Cursing gently to myself (the German ejaculation, "Himmel, Arsch und Zwirn!" is a great comfort at such times, I feel), I went back upstairs. This time I bent the arm down a bit more again. I couldn't help feeling, though, that the ball was sitting a bit deeper in the water than I would have expected, and it's perfectly possible that the ball has sprung a leak. It's happened to me before. Time will tell.

So, that's what I did with my so-called 'day off'.