18 July 2010

Things are not always as they seem

Some people take their toilets for granted.

We've learned the hard way that one should never take for granted the fact that their excess waste can be swooshed away in one easy push of a button.

During some trauma with our sewerage system in December last year, we were obliged to get very close to the toilet in our Rustico. Now every time we flush we sing the praises of this toilet.

The renovation of the Main House is now at a stage where we needed to finish the bathrooms.

When we purchased the property, these bathrooms had all their fittings, including a clawfoot bath, sinks, showerheads and taps. Some of them were in their original cartons but all had been opened and there was evidence that they'd been the subject of some rummaging. We'd had a cursory glance in the cartons and were confident that all the main parts were there. We also logically assumed that all the preparation work for installation of these parts had been completed because the previous owners had been at a stage where they were purchasing such extravagant fittings (the taps were EUR 600 each!)

What we discovered was something quite different.

The opened cartons did not contain all the necessary parts and some of the parts that they did contain were broken. The benchtop of the huge wooden handmade cabinet in the upstairs bathroom was not actually attached to the rest of the cabinet. The wooden character framework that sits on top of the bench and extends up to the ceiling was not joined to the cabinet but simply balancing on top of it. No holes had been cut in the benchtop for electrical cables or taps. The shower had not been tightened properly so leaked in several places. The toilet had an old-fashioned ceramic water tank that was positioned on a lacework frame at the top of the wall behind the toilet. It had a chain pull that had a ceramic bulb on the end of it but it had no water cock to control the level of water in the tank and therefore the tank overflowed when the toilet was flushed. The pipe bringing clean water to the tank leaked in several places. The pipe taking water from the tank to the toilet leaked at the base of the tank as well as where it entered the toilet bowl.

I had the good fortune to peek into the bathroom at the exact time that my very frustrated handyman (Stu) was being sprayed with water from all directions.

I tried to withdraw immediately in order to avoid both the water and Stu's swearing but I was too slow.

He spat his frustration at me, showing me how poorly every connection fitted. Ignorant though I am, I could fully appreciate that a 20mm chrome pipe could not be adequately connected to a 1 inch ceramic pipe with silicon alone. I saw the magnitude of the problem immediately and, fearful that I might never get out of the bathroom, I suggested a trip to the local plumbing shop.

Completely conquered by the mess that he had to fix, Stu gathered all of the problem bits and pieces while I reversed the car out of the driveway.

We pulled up at FARS and cringed at the number of tradesman vehicles in the carpark. We'd been there once before and experienced total humiliation in the presence of several wizened and wrinkled Italian plumbers. Nevertheless we were desperate.

While Stu got his goodies out of the back of the car, I scanned the English/Italian dictionary for a word necessary for the sentence I was preparing. Leak. Fuga.

Our confidence level dropped as soon as we entered the shop and saw the main man behind the counter snigger just before he dumped us on his junior. The man who had dumped us was one who we'd dealt with before. Perhaps he remembered that we were foreigners who didn't have any idea of plumbing? I glanced at Stu and we shared an 'I want to run away' grin. Several plumbers were already being served so we waited. We felt like two convicts at a military event.

When we finally approached the counter, Stu took great pains to set his bits and pieces up in a manner that might appear logical. I told the junior that we 'had a problem, we had leaks in lots of places and we wanted a solution'. He immediately grasped our problem but not the solution. Instead he called one of the plumbers over to inspect our embarrassing connections. My Italian didn't extend to explaining that we weren't responsible for the chaos that lay on the bench in front of us. As the plumber fingered our connections, I concentrated on the five black stitches that tied together the skin at the tip of his thumb. He kept putting one pipe into the other to demonstrate that they didn't fit, then promptly lost interest. We cringed again. Another plumber came over. I looked at his fingers. He suggested a seal and the junior brought out several, none of which fitted. After that plumber lost interest, the junior told us that it 'wasn't possible'. He gave us a price for a whole new assembly but also suggested that we also try his competition closer to town.

Stu gathered his embarrassing bits and pieces and we skulked out of the shop, vowing never to return no matter how bad our plumbing situation got.

We drove to the competition and found a carpark devoid of tradesman's vehicles. Acting quickly lest tradesmen come, Stu gathered his bits and we entered the shop to find a woman behind the counter. Stu let out a quiet groan, unfairly assuming that the cleavage wouldn't be able to offer a solution. She immediately looked at our pipes, measured everything with a vernier and proffered a correctly sized seal and a little concertina gadget. Although she was worried that one of her solutions may not work, we were more than happy to pay the EUR 2 for the parts and her positive attitude.

One should never take for granted the fact that their toilet refills with water without leaking all over the floor. Buyer beware.


  1. You have spelt toillets wrong. And I am still waiting for the next edition.

  2. Wise words indeed.
    Cheers, Neil


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