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By Ashleylister @ashleylister
Less of an essay this week, you may be relieved to hear. Instead, I offer you brief accounts of acts of stupidity under the given theme plus a poem about damage caused.
When my partner (eventually my wife and mother of our children) and I moved into our first house in bosky Berkhamsted in the shire of Herts circa 1983, there was a certain amount of renovation our 'two up, two down' period terraced cottage was going to require, but we were up to the task, excited by the prospect of creating a home together.
Like many such dwellings of a certain era, the cottage opened right onto the street (no front garden) and when originally constructed would have possessed no bathroom or inside lavatory. A tin bath before the fire on a Saturday night and a trudge to the privy out at the bottom of the back garden would have served purpose for several generations. By the middle of the last century, most such properties had acquired a single-storey flat-roofed extension to the rear that housed a bathroom and an inside loo - luxury. Ours came with such an addition - although it was the only cottage in the row that was still not connected to mains gas; and even in the 1980s our next-door neighbor still relied on her tin bath filled by kettles of hot water.
Wanting to be truly comfortable and modern, we planned to have gas-fired central heating fitted and so paid to be connected to the grid, had a boiler and radiators installed and a week later someone came to read the (newly installed) gas meter. Imagine our surprise when only a further week after that we received our first gas bill in the form of a final demand (all in red letters) threatening to terminate our supply if we didn't pay immediately for the outstanding usage. The bill was for a ridiculous sum in excess of £2,000. Oops. We hared off to the British Gas showroom on that Saturday morning and argued there was no way we'd used £2,000 of gas in a week. The manager conceded that a mistake might have been made - to the order of two decimal points - in the recording of our meter reading. We should have been billed for £2 usage (plus the small standing charge), not £2,000. Such stupidity, such excitement.
But I hadn't really intended to relate all of that. I was - and am now - going to tell you about my sterling attempt to clean the rather disgusting lavatory in the property. I have no pictures of the original, so the photo below, culled from the internet, will give an approximation.
I sprayed and scrubbed at it like a Trojan for a while, flushed and repeated several times and then thought 'Aha - the sure fire way to kill any remaining germs would be to pour boiling water down the loo.' Doesn't that sound like a cunning plan?
I filled the kettle to capacity, brought it to the boil and then proceeded to cascade the contents into the lavatory bowl. There was an almighty cracking noise, such as a whip or a starting-pistol might make. The porcelain split clean around the water line into two separate pieces and all the contents gushed out over the floor. Shit! (Except luckily there wasn't any at that stage.) Oops again. In that one simple move I had wrecked the loo, because it never occurred to me that the porcelain might not withstand the heat... a never-to-be-repeated mistake. Serendipitously, we decided at that point to gut and reconfigure the entire bathroom, so out went the bath as well as the shattered toilet and after a couple of somewhat inconvenient weeks, the whole lot was re-plastered, re-plumbed, tiled and fitted out with a new lavatory and a shower cubicle instead of a bath-tub.
Has anyone been watching the Great Pottery Throwdown on Channel 4? It's quite an entertaining programme and the only reason I mention it here is that tomorrow is semi-final day and apparently the contestants are going to be challenged to make a fully-functioning toilet from their blocks of clay. It should make for interesting viewing!
For a poem this week, I offer you this somewhat oblique fragment of a work-in-process because I think is stands in its own right:
That time of year again,
mid-March northern hemisphere
temperate proto-springtime.
That kind of light again,
operating theater bright
behind bare branches.
That reminiscence again,
lives in the balance,
keen edge of pain part dulled.
That form of regret again,
the weight of knowing
what's done cannot be undone.
To break a gentle heart
not once, but twice,
that wasn't very nice.
Thanks for reading. Stay virus free, Steve :-) Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to Facebook


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