My Life Going Down The Pans. Part 1. The unflushable toilet pans. 


Thursday July 7th.

9 am. My home. “Why don’t you phone up Victorian Plumbing Customer Services and just complain to them until you get something done?”, said my friend Teresa.

Teresa lives up the road, and is incredibly competent. She has recently retired from running Maternity Services for two major hospitals and now has an expert witness consultancy for maternity legal cases, while keeping her hand in doing the odd 12 hour shift as a regular midwife at Kingston, and a weekly doppler scanning clinic for St. Georges. She’s a get-things-sorted woman.

I’ve known her since our children were very small, some thirty years now. We go walking around Berrylands in the morning when we can. She has helped keep me sane in the face of family breakdown and I have cured her creaky knees with Emmett Therapy and Pilates. It’s good for both of us to do an hour’s walk two or three times a week.

Teresa’s recommended general builder has been converting the downstairs larder in to a loo for us, so that it would be easier to have Mum to come and visit. It’s a tiny area with a partly sloping ceiling. There really wasn’t enough room for a handbasin too: and if we did put one in, it would be in just the right place for Mum to pull herself up on and pull the basin off the wall.

A wonderful solution came up: have a “close-coupled” loo with a small wash hand basin on top of the cistern: the waste from the basin would feed the cistern, which would flush the loo. Marvellous, environmental sense, we thought.

We found such a thing on the Victorian Plumbing web-site,Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 11.48.40

from where, incidentally we were ordering a bathroom for upstairs. It’s a Downton Abbey bathroom. Nothing to do with me; my husband ordered it and it’s very nice. The plumber now calls me M’lady. I call him Sean, among other things. He and his side-kick Paul have haunted our house on and off for 13 weeks in a miasma of tea, diabetes, and shoulder-hunching disasters, including leaks necessitating ceilings being replastered, a shower being fitted that would accommodate people of 5’8 and under, (Sean is of short stature) and the drains bubbling up under the paving at the side of the house.IMG_1170.jpg

The low flush loo, the cistern, the parts for the cistern and the basin, all arrived. The trouble was that the low flush loo would not flush toilet paper down the U-bend. We didn’t try it with anything else. At various times over the following weeks the loo, the cistern, the ball-cock parts for the cistern were returned and replaced amid phone-calls, argument, threats, apoplexy, demands for videos of the faulty flush, head-aches, emails, denials from the manufacturer that the items should be sold as a package, and denial from Victoria Plumbing that the debacle was anything to do with them.

My husband got involved and got nowhere.

Sean, (as Paul didn’t need to point out, as he was regularly and loudly fired for his minor but irritating incompetences), is on a very short fuse. This might be on account of his diabetes. Sean discovered he had diabetes because he nearly punched a woman in a minor road rage incident, realised that he didn’t feel right, (although the incident was, of course, her fault), and took himself to the Doctor.

The upshot was that Sean has diabetes and the toilet pan only has holes at the front for the water to flush through: the small cistern does not exert enough force to do it’s job. I mean, it only has one job.

Listening to Sean coming to the end of his short fuse as he took up the case of the experienced plumber against the manufacturer and the retailer of plumbing equipment with a fundamental design fault was educational if not salutary or particularly effective.

Anyway, it took THREE MONTHS for all the work to be completed, and it’s fixed now, and a good job done,  but at the time of this conversation we were still in the middle of plumbing chaos; toilet pans, ball-cocks, and cisterns everywhere; in the hall, outside the house, and on the kitchen work-surface; and Teresa wanted Sean to finish our job and start her decking job.

So why didn’t I phone up Victoria Plumbing and get it sorted? I tried to explain just how much complaining I have to do.

So far that week, and this is quite typical……. (see part 2)…….


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