Ok, it’s been a while since I did a ‘James Complains’, so just a reminder that nothing here is to be taken too seriously. There are bigger problems in the world than my relationship with plumbers.
And if you are a plumber reading this, then please be aware that I am very much against the notion of tarring everyone who does a particular job with the same brush.
I’m sure there are some excellent plumbers out there and I’m sure they are professional and courteous and do a fine job to boot.
In fact the plumber that came to my house today could be described as a genuinely lovely bloke.
And he knew his way around the old pipework.
And he left us with working taps in both the kitchen and the bathroom and that is to be commended, for that was not previously the case.
Indeed for a while now, Mrs Proclaims and I have been living with the rather lamentable situation of only having hot water in the kitchen sink and only cold water in the bathroom sink.
Fortunately both hot and cold have been available in the bath/shower, otherwise we would have had a crisis.
But we’ve been living with the ‘sinks’ situation for some time and it has been a touch frustrating.
I mean we’ve coped obviously – clearly it’s a first world problem and the bathroom and kitchen are in close proximity so filling the kettle in the bathroom sink rather than the kitchen sink has been a matter of taking a few extra steps.
Still, I don’t think I’m being too self-indulgent in desiring the facility to fill the kettle up in the kitchen. And to be able to wash my hands and face using warm water in the bathroom sink.
These don’t seem too hedonistic as desires go.
So why have Mrs Proclaims and I tolerated the situation for so long?
Well getting a plumber to agree to come out and fix the taps has been no mean feat.
Working in education means you can’t just take a day off whenever you like in order to be at home to let a plumber in.
And while we may have a generous amount of holiday time – it is at very specific times and it turns out that coordinating the few plumbers that would even deign to answer the phone when I called with the time I was available was near enough impossible.
In the past I have resorted to attempting to fix plumbing problems myself.
When we moved into our beloved home four years ago, we were greeted on our first evening in the property with obvious signs of a leak from the bathroom sink.
Furthermore the shower didn’t drain properly and the toilet didn’t flush properly.
When I inspected the sink to see where the leak might be coming from, it became abundantly clear that the sink was actually broken and was coming away from the wall.
I definitely don’t have the skills to fix that level of problem and, because Mrs Prolcaims had a part-time job at the time, we managed to get a plumber out when she was at home.
Although in fact he turned up at different times to those he said he would, and was very pessimistic about the prospects of fixing any of the problems.
He did fit a new bathroom sink for us, but claimed to be unable to fix the toilet or indeed the bath.
The slow-draining bath is annoying, but we can sort of live with it. Using a plunger and some generic ‘plug-hole’ unblocker (an evil viscous liquid that looks like it’s probably going to do more harm than good in the long run) provides a temporary solution and even on a bad day it drains eventually.
But you can’t live with a toilet that doesn’t flush properly can you? I mean it really didn’t work at all.
So I watched a few Youtube videos and worked out how to change the cistern.
And I attempted to change the cistern.
And there was a lot of water everywhere and a lot of swearing and maybe, at one point, even a bit of crying. It took me hours to do it but I did change the cistern.
And in doing so I fixed the toilet.
But I would gladly have paid the plumber to have done that for me. And I presume that he could have done it. So why was he so unwilling to entertain the notion?
Repairing the cistern did give me a bit of confidence so when the tap on the sink that he fitted broke (which I think was the cheapness of the tap I bought rather than his plumbing skills to be fair to him) I attempted to replace it. And, although I did what could only be described as a shoddy job, I did managed to fit a working, if slightly wobbly mixer tap. Which eventually did stopped being a mixer tap and became just a cold tap.
But not immediately after I fitted it to be fair. Indeed, while I did replace a lot of the pipework on the ‘cold’ water side, I did very little to the hot water pipes, so I’m not sure I can be blamed for the subsequent hot-water failure.
Later on the hot-water tap in the kitchen started to drip. In attempting to repair it (as per another Youtube video) I broke it, so I replaced that tap too. Successfully as far as I can tell, for it still works.
This did leave us with a cold tap and hot tap which did not match. I would have changed the cold tap for the sake of symmetry but it was much harder to get to than the hot tap and I didn’t want to push my luck.
But then the cold tap just stopped working anyway and that was definitely nothing to do with my DIY ‘skills’.
Which brings us to our recent situation of having only hot water in the kitchen and cold water in the bathroom.
I thought about repairing them but that cold tap in the kitchen remained as elusive as ever and I thought that it might be worth calling a plumber again.
So I tried, and failed to get hold of anyone who could come out on a day when I, or Mrs Proclaims, were available. I’m not blaming the plumbers necessarily – it is a clear limitation of working in my field (which alas in this case is also Mrs Proclaims’ field and she has been working full time in more recent times).
So we’ve just tolerated the situation for months, but as I’m currently on summer holidays and have a bit more time to sit around waiting for plumbers I attempted again to get someone to come and have a look at the taps.
The third plumber I called this morning actually answered his phone, and even better he agreed to come out tomorrow morning to fix the problem, although he asked me lots of technical questions that I’m clearly not qualified to answer and then surmised that he might not be able to help but he’d come and have a look anyway.
Brilliant, I thought, and promptly cancelled all my plans for tomorrow.
Then he called later in the day and said he couldn’t make it tomorrow.
But he could come this afternoon if I was available.
Not prepared to let my fish off the hook for fear of never catching another one, I cancelled the rest of my plans for today.
He gave me a vague estimated time of arrival.
He turned up at the aforementioned unspecified time.
And told me again he probably wouldn’t be able to fix anything but he’d give it a go.
This was a tad alarming because, what if he tried and couldn’t fix the problem but made things worse in the process? He wasn’t filling me with confidence.
He then set about his work, and employed me as his unpaid assistant. I couldn’t just leave him to get on with it, apparently I had to be on hand to hold things for him and to pass him his tools.
I didn’t mind but when I was doing my DIY efforts I don’t recall anyone helping me, so why did he, a professional, need my help?
Also he was very keen to point out all of my DIY mistakes, but at least some of the mistakes he pointed out weren’t mine at all, they were things that the other plumber had done. Although, in fairness, some of them were my mistakes and I did want to cry a little bit when he pointed them out.
Anyway he did fix our tap problems, though did no better with the slow draining bathtub than I or the previous plumber, albeit he did at least attempt a solution unlike his predecessor. But it was just using a plunger, which I can definitely do on my own.
He left with the caveat that everything he had done could all go horribly wrong in the next few days because “he’s only human after all”.
I don’t think it will go wrong, but I was glad he gave me such peace of mind.
I’ll sleep well tonight.
To be fair he did charge what I consider to be a fair price for his work and did alleviate the problem.
So I’m not complaining about him per se.
It’s just that I found in the case of both plumbers (and to be fair certain other tradespeople) that the following was true:
They never turned up at the time they said they were going to and initial appointments were very much aspirational rather than definitive.
They seemed to expect me to understand what was causing the problem, even though ‘diagnosis’ was implicitly part of the service I required.
They were often pessimistic about the chances of resolving a problem.
Even though I was paying for their time they made me feel like they were doing me a huge favour.
There were some jobs that they just weren’t prepared to do – I generally get the sense it’s because they were aware those jobs would take more time than they had allocated to me and they weren’t big enough jobs to justify another trip to my house – but instead of just saying that they shrugged their shoulders and suggested that the problem was unresolvable.
They made comments that made me feel inept about not being able to do their job. But they probably couldn’t do my job and I didn’t make subtle belittling comments about them did I? Well not to their faces anyway.
In the end I have working taps again which is something.
But I feel slightly more inadequate than I did this morning.