Friday, September 22, 2006

Board Stupid

My water tank’s overflow is dripping. It will be a simple matter to replace the washer in the ballcock, and I intend to do the job myself because this will be cheaper. I can think of no circumstances where it is better to get a professional in if I can save money in the short term by having a crack at it myself, particularly as I have at least some of the right tools for the job and am quite good at improvising with others.

The only problem is that the water tank is in the top of a tall cupboard. If I stand on a chair I can get to the tank, but can't quite reach the valve. I could really do with a stepladder, but I do not own a stepladder because the only cupboard in my flat tall enough to store a stepladder in is full of water tanks.

I do, however, have an ironing board. I have seen people on television standing on ironing boards in a humorous fashion, usually pretending to be surfing. I can only assume that these people would have undertaken a full health and safety audit before attempting such a stunt, and that an ironing board is therefore fully capable of supporting a man’s weight.

It is just as I am unscrewing the whole ballcock assembly, thinking “I had better not drop these little bits of valve in the water tank – they are probably Very Important”, that I make a sudden lurch downwards and to the left. There are three tiny, but ominous splashes as I drop the Very Important Bits of Valve.

I get up off the floor and look around the flat for hidden cameras – this would make great footage for “Britain’s Biggest Idiot”. The ironing board is now leaning at quite a rakish angle. By “rakish”, I mean “unusable” – both for standing on, or ironing. I cannot believe that in trying to mend one thing I have made the first thing worse, and also broken a second thing. It is this kind of situation that is often rejected in my sitcom scripts for being “too unrealistic”. Well, who’s laughing now, eh, BBC?

I try to straighten the ironing board’s left leg, but despite years of hard physical labour at a computer keyboard I lack the upper body strength required to bend tubular steel. But my girlfriend will be bound to notice that something is different about the ironing board when the bottom halves of her skirts and blouses are more creased than the top halves because the iron keeps slipping down to the left. I suppose that I could stand on the ironing board again and try to bend the right leg by the same amount to level it out. My girlfriend might then say that the ironing board is lower than usual, but I will just say that she must have grown. She is not very tall, so will probably be quite pleased with that explanation and not question it any further.

I stand on tiptoe on the chair and shine a torch down into the depths of the tank. I can see the Very Important Bits of Valve glimmering on the bottom like pearls, far out of reach. Alongside them are some identical Very Important Bits of Valve. Clearly I am not the first idiot to have lived here.

I leave a note for my girlfriend explaining that the water is turned off and head to Homebase with a list that reads “washer, whole new ballcock, stepladder, ironing board”.