Follow one crying eye on

‘It’ll make a blog post, I suppose…’

There is more than a little sense of déjà vu in Jillings Towers today. Although, linguistic pedant that I sometimes become, it is not what my eyes can see that is the problem, but rather what my extremities – and indeed increasingly, my core and other adjacent parts – can feel.

We are once again a heating-free zone. Having marched across town to the ‘big’ Sainsbury’s and back, laden with domestic essentials of the heavier variety (and fortunately a lighter-weight duo of sticky buns – which barely touched the sides of our respective chilly gullets in our immediate and greedy effort to turn glossy icing calories into useful human warmth), I am now hunched over my laptop, with a blanket on my knees, awaiting the return of the latest plumbing chap to tread our troubled boards. 

The heating issues we experienced in the Autumn had largely been solved, and we needed only two new thermostatic valves on a couple of drippy radiators. Mr J completed Mission Valve Purchase at the weekend, and the plumbing firm engaged to replace our main shower this week agreed to fit them whilst on site. Pats on the back all round, and an early start on Monday to greet the quietly pleasant bathroom fitter who set to work in the bathroom.

Monday saw good progress, with the old shower door panels removed and the new wall panels cut and placed in position. More mutual back patting – we’re finally getting this done. Remember, if you will – our thwarted plans for the shower refurb before Christmas. In the event, our seasonal guests accepted the reduced facilities available without complaint (although I am steadfastly not looking at Tripadvisor scores for the Norbiton area, just in case) and indeed Daughter J – a shower-only apartment dweller – turned it to her advantage and took leisurely baths as a rare treat. 

The shower panels which had proved so elusive before the festive season were duly delivered and a date arranged for fitting which should have been two weeks ago. We were then advised that the fitter had a family emergency and had to return home for several days so the whole renovation was deferred. In the meantime, we decided to double check that these panels were fine – and to our horror, discovered that they were not what we thought we had ordered. There followed much earthy language and histrionics (mine, of course, Mr J is much better behaved in these circumstances, possibly on this occasion because Mrs J had done the ordering so it could not be his fault!) and then – after a restorative cup of coffee and a review of the original order – I grabbed the phone and began to remonstrate with the various companies who had been involved in the supply chain. All delightful and helpful, as it happens, although they did conclude that I was completely justified in believing I had ordered the right item. Sadly, two identically described and photographed items are in fact quite different and I had a 50% chance of the one I ordered being correct. So I had simply been unlucky (and I am still pondering how to write a reasoned product review for this ridiculous situation). I have already described in my previous blogpost the early morning arrival of what did transpire to be the right panels at last.

Back to the chilly present. Day 2 of the refurb began well with a friendly offer of coffee accepted and the fitter was once again ensconced in our bathroom, occasionally to be heard whistling, with the odd encouraging sound of construction. We have previously had builders and fitters who couldn’t stop talking – our loft conversion, for example, was completed by three lovely guys (one to chat to me all day, one to make the tea and nip to the shop for teabags, and the other to do all the work). This time we were busy and quite content to leave him alone. This was a mistake.

At the end of the day, our plumbing loner emerged to say that all was done and he would return the following day just to fit the radiator valves. I tentatively ask if I can view his handiwork. ‘Of course. And I have tested it for you.’

One quick glance later, I realise he has installed the sliding door panels the wrong way round – meaning that:

  • the previously easy access is rendered slightly less so,
  • turning the shower on and off will be impossible without climbing into the shower tray and getting wet (for cleaning or whilst adjusting the temperature), and
  • the neat little cabinet which previously sat against the wall will have to go somewhere far less convenient. 

‘So, you’ve put the door in the wrong place. Can you swap it round?’ (I play distractedly with the new door – sliding it gently to and fro, enjoying the smoothness and silence of the glide, trying to appreciate the gleaming clean glass and shiny shower fittings – and realising gradually that he has siliconed the door panels to the wall panels which all looks and feels very much unswappable.)

’Er not really. And this is the way we have to instal them. The conventional way.’

He leaves. I am, perhaps unreasonably and certainly monumentally, distraught.

A fevered trawl around the plumbiverse reveals that the normal orientation for shower doors is as per our previous arrangement and NOT the ‘conventional’ way our new door has been hung. 

I fear our choices are to (a) grin and bare it (sic) or (b) have it ripped out and reorder all panels which will inevitably be damaged in the process. Neither course really appeals and I spend a sleepless and catastrophising night anticipating the morning’s standoff. Should we have intervened at regular intervals to check his progress? Why did he not ask us how we wanted it done? Did he not notice the way the panel he removed had been fixed? Why would we want to change this if we had not specifically said so? Round and round, pointlessly and inconclusively, I am alternately furious with him and hard on myself. I am even unable, at this juncture, to bring to mind the oft-used phrase « At least it is material for another blog-post. »

As dawn dawns, Mr J – the more measured Jillings, to be sure – rallies alongside me and announces to the returning installer that ‘We have a problem!’ 

There follows a brief and not-very-well disguised sulk, leading to much in-bathroom banging and crashing, some sotto voce vernacular (no doubt a specialist plumbing dialect) and eventually a ‘So now it is done. You must wait two hours before you use it. I will now deal with the radiators.’

As I play with the lovely new door and savour its new graunchiness (‘if you push against it a little, it does not make that screeching sound’ – Oh hu-bloody-rah!), he informs us that he will be switching off the boiler and the water supply for a while. 

Six hours later, a replacement and much chattier plumber explains that it was pure fluke that our boiler conked out when his silent colleague fitted our new valves and that he is absolutely fine with haring over to Hampton in rush hour in his gaudy little van to buy a new part before fitting it and hopefully switching our heating  back on.

The premise of this blog, I remind myself, is to see the cheeriness alongside the weepiness. I therefore state for the record that am now confident I will thaw out soon. 

Note: No plumbers were harmed in this process. (As far as I know.)

Follow one crying eye on