“Right, what is the objective here and how and I going to get it done?”
Internal self-talk is a prerequisite for my DIY expeditions. I have to know what I am aiming for and then agilely adapt as things don’t quite go according to plan. The trickier it gets the more I talk and it often becomes talking out loud.
DIY is in my genes, you horde stuff just in case you can use it and you tackle most jobs, sometimes with helpers. At 5ft 4 and 8 and a half stone, there are not many things that defeat me. Those that do usually involve heavy lifting. I am expert at creating Heath Robinson contraptions to get things done and balancing on objects to increase my height.
Expedition 1: Going into the loft to change the cold water tank valve
First make sure your phone a friend is in fairly close proximity (downstairs is good or within 10 miles drive). Then put said phone is pocket, take the chain of front door (if friend is not downstairs). Set up ladder and jamb the bottom with a heavy object. I used to tie the ladder to the crossbeam, but I could not get past the rope into the loft.
Next assemble everything you need in a bag or the washing-up bowl. It must be everything. Loft entry and exit is a gymnastic feat with points awarded for style, minimizing bruises and keeping safe. Ideally you only want to enter and exit once.
My loft hatch is high up in the wall not the ceiling and it’s 16 inches across the diagonal. The loft is not boarded so after 12 steps up the ladder I need to do a – penguin on ice – stomach launch to get on to the loft entry board. John Curry or Robin Cousins would be proud of my stylish slide. Especially as I have to keep my head up (avoid the loft insulation); back flat (there is a crossbeam just inside) and always end up with my lower legs still sticking out of the hatch (requiring a snake belly crawl to get in).
Once inside the loft I get from horizontal to kneeling and surfer like – a knee surfer – balance on the loft board. At the time of this expedition I only had three proper loft boards. So I moved It’s the Knockout style, I knelt on one, and shuffled the next one along toward my destination the cold water tank, and so on.
Thankful I had remembered to turn the mains water off and on arrival at the tank removal of the valve was fairly simple, although my special loft clothes (old, dirty and long sleeved to reduce itch) are always to warm. It partly the fear and also the exertion. I then replaced the value applied the PTF tape, tightened it up and hollered to my companion & helper down below.
At this point I remember I live in a timber-frame house and my neighbours and anyone on the lane will hear me holler. It odd really, my helper does not respond. I expected him to be on alert standing by. He can’t actually be standing right by the loft hatch and ladder though, if he did he would put me off my gymnastics and I would be scoring 5s not 8s.
At this moment the mobile phone comes into is own. I call my helper he responds (he was on the phone to his mother!) and we go through the happy plumbers sequence of
It’s leaking; empty washing-up bowl of essential items and use it to catch drips while shouting, “Off, off, off”
Rapid retightening and fiddling with washers in the loft
“Water on please”
“On” still leaking
“Off, off, off – more frantic fiddling and cursing out loud.
“On again please”
And then cheers and hands in the air (metaphorically, there no room to raise an arm).
New valve no leaks and I didn’t fall through the ceiling.
Well I didn’t fall through the ceiling yet. After gathering everything and replacing it in the washing-up bowl. I backtrack to the hatch, sliding my loft boards with Stuart Hall commentating in my head.
“Now she’s having go, nice and slow, no sudden movements and if she’s lucky an opportunity to try the loft exit. Tee Hee.”
Loft exit is limbo and a backwards Fosbury Flop combined. Lie on your back and put you lower leg down, knees bent to the floor. Twist your torso and shuffle for foot space on the ladder, breathe slowly, concentrate and finally twist you legs so you are standing on the ladder with your torso at 90 degrees to your legs still in the loft. Breathe huge sigh and usually say “ok now, you’re safe”.
After all that , it is a bit of an anti climax to close the hatch, climb down the ladder, take off ones filthy loft clothes and have a nice hot shower. It is an intrepid, expedition though and I wonder if you fancy a go?
Footnote: If you are wondering , it is impossible for my helper to enter the loft.
To my advantage I am short and incredibly flexible……