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Taking the plunger into DIY plumbing

PUBLISHED: 12:55 10 June 2006 | UPDATED: 10:59 22 October 2010

One of the maintenance jobs awaiting my attention on a lengthy list here at Bullock Towers is unblocking the bathroom sink. Over the past few weeks I've attempted to tackle the troublesome build-up of plughole gunge with a dainty little rubber plunger but have failed miserably.

One of the maintenance jobs awaiting my attention on a lengthy list here at Bullock Towers is unblocking the bathroom sink. Over the past few weeks I've attempted to tackle the troublesome build-up of plughole gunge with a dainty little rubber plunger but have failed miserably.

My mini-plunger is far smaller than the man-size plumber's variety (titter ye not, readers) and is by no means robust enough for the task.

Young Gregory, understandably, thinks it's wonderful - the bizarre burping noises made during an energetic plunging session reduce him to schoolboy hysterics, and the plunger itself comes in handy for Dalek impressions.

Despite our bathroom fun and games the plughole has remained almost totally bunged up, which means waste water now takes several minutes to drain away.

The tedious and seemingly interminable process of watching an entire sink full of water swirl slowly down the drain has at least taught us a valuable lesson. It reveals just how much water we, as a family, are 'throwing away' at a time when the nation's water consumption habits are regularly hitting the headlines.

So who really brushes their teeth using only a humble glass of water? And how many more of us carelessly leave the cold tap on full blast for several minutes as we scrub away?

I appreciate it's not an ideal topic to contemplate when you're trying to enjoy your Saturday morning croissants, dear readers, but in our household we've experimented with those environmentally friendly devices that sit at the bottom of toilet cisterns to help reduce consumption.

Have you tried them? And have you noticed, like me, that the flush is then so pathetically weak that three or four attempts are needed to do the job properly? Goodness knows how much of my life has been wasted, embarrassingly locked in the loo as I wait for that wretched tank to dribble full again for one determined, final flush.

Some years ago, I was a self-confessed, chronic water waster. Late at night, under cover of darkness, I'd sneak out and spend an hour in the garden of Bullock Towers with my hose. Every flowerbed would be drenched, every terracotta pot filled to the brim, and every inch of lawn left sodden in my quest for horticultural perfection.

Washing and rinsing the Bullockmobile to achieve an enviable shine would be another long and wasteful process. At the time our hefty water bills were based on the rateable value of our detached house, so there was method in my madness: we were simply getting what we'd paid for.

When Julie suggested having a water meter instead, I was fearful of even higher bills and resisted the 'big brother' scheme for as long as possible. The reality was very different, however - our costs were significantly reduced and the meter made us all more sensible and water-conscious. I've stopped my nightly dousing sessions in the garden and the car doesn't always have so much of a showroom sparkle nowadays. But who cares?

Never have we been more water-conscious or frugal than on our recent week's holiday in a touring caravan, staying on a couple of friendly sites in the Midlands and the Lake District run by the Camping and Caravanning Club. We were borrowing the caravan and it was our first attempt at towing, a thoroughly enjoyable experience which I plan to describe in more detail in a future EDP article.

When I initially stepped inside the caravan, I spotted a golf trolley and was surprised that such luxurious sporting equipment should be provided. On closer inspection, the 'golf trolley' was in fact a wheeled plastic container for collecting all our waste water.

There was also a 40-litre barrel that had to be filled with fresh water from the site taps and rolled back to the caravan with a long metal handle. Such fun!

What amazed me most was how rapidly the three of us got through 40 litres of water. A cup of tea here, a glass of squash there, a bowl of washing-up… and we'd drained the barrel dry yet again. When it came to using the caravan's shower, of course, the level dropped even faster.

Indeed, I rolled out the barrel so many times in my capacity as family water-carrier that every day felt like the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. Just when I began to relax, the Tiger Woods-style waste collector would need emptying again.

I wonder how we would cope if the water supply here at Bullock Towers consisted of nothing more than a 40-litre plastic barrel and a length of rubber hose. Flushing those pesky toilets would only be one of our problems.

t ianb@ianbcommunications.com


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