Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life

Article excerpt

Drip, drip, drip. The noise of my downstairs London conversion flat, where the plumbing was fitted by turn-of-the-century sadists who booby-trapped the building so that if the upstairs neighbours ever dared to try to refit their bathroom, they would unleash a leak and never, ever be able to find the source.

Drip, drip, drip. The water drips from their bathroom, through my ceiling into my bathroom through the middle spotlight of the false ceiling, which is now camouflage-patterned with damp patches and horrible yellow watermarks, into a big red bucket.

Drip, drip, drip. It is like Chinese water torture. It started when the two brothers upstairs (I mean siblings. I'm not using the slang for black guys, before anyone gets too excited) put in a new bathroom a few weeks ago. I feel a bit sorry for them.

Handsome, polite young men they are.

They bought the flat together recently, presumably because it is so hard for twentysomethings to get on the housing ladder these days.

Little did they know that a few weeks after beginning their renovations, they would be dealing not only with a half-ripped-out new bathroom, as their desperate plumber searched for the source of a mystically evasive leak, but worse, with the wacky woman downstairs who is apt to burst into tears when she can't get her Sky broadband booster delivered. Let's face it, an incessant leak through the bathroom ceiling was never going to be something I handled with distinction.

At first, I was calmness itself. I let it all wash over me, so to speak. The XBB (exbuilder boyfriend) came round, assessed the situation, went upstairs to inspect the new bathroom and then consorted with the neighbours' plumber, a cheerful Irish chappy in a long-sleeved white vest.

I stood there smiling passively as they chattered on in builder-speak. I felt weirdly serene. What will be will be, I thought. The XBB even congratulated me at the end of the first day's leaking, because he thought I had handled it so well by keeping quiet and allowing him to do the talking, which went like this:

XBB: 'You've used cheap, plastic pushpiping, mate. Pressure's too much for the joints.'

Cheerful Irish Chappy: 'No, no, no. It's just a little leak from the shower cable. Sure, it's all fixed now. You won't be getting any more problems with it. …

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