Our shower broke. One night I was standing in it, freshly clean, and found I couldn't switch it off. The flow control knob was stuck. I had to run upstairs, naked and wet, to find the valve that controlled the water supply to the shower and shut it off.
"Your cartridge is knackered," said the First Plumber. "It'll cost a hundred and thirty quid for a new one, plus my time to go and get it for you, strip down the shower, and refit it all. About 180 quid all together."
There must be another way, I thought.
The Second Plumber didn't return my phone call. Neither did the Fourth, Fifth, or Sixth Plumbers.
The Third Plumber did respond. He said he'd come and look at the broken shower on Wednesday. He didn't. On Friday he called and said sorry, he'd forgotten, and he'd make it the following Monday. He didn't. A day or so after that, he turned up unexpectedly, glanced at the shower, and said it would be 200 pounds to have it repaired.
At that point the Sixth Plumber returned my call, suggesting we abandon repairs and have a completely new shower. "That's probably your best bet," he said.
For two weeks, the broken shower dripped. Limescale built up.
A friend, Sam, and my father-in-law looked at the shower with me. Sam and I dismantled the shower control unit, but failed to see how to remove it completely. My father-in-law knew what to do, and with his help I removed the old cartridge and replaced it again. Now I knew what to do; how to replace a thermostatic shower control cartridge. I had the secret knowledge of the Plumbers.
In the plumbing supplies store, I casually leaned on the counter while I ordered a new cartridge.
"That will come with the O-rings, won't it?" I asked breezily, as if I knew what I was talking about.
The cartridge came, with O-rings, two days later. It took only 20 minutes to fit it and restore the water supply. Jubilant, I ran upstairs to declare victory to the rest of the family.
That motley collection of expensive and useless Plumbers are welcome to come round here and enjoy a hot shower any time they like.
(16th April 2004)