Thursday, 9 May 2013

No good turn goes unpunished - 2

The last post mentioned a builder friend of mine whose single thoughtless mistake cost him a lot of money and effort, and working on the principal of 'no good turn goes unpunished', there is another amusing story attached to him, when he tried to help a friend by unblocking their main sewage outlet.

He arrived at the house with a massive, extremely high-pressure water-jet, and found the access hatch about 50 yards down their long garden. The hose of the jet was tipped with a bullet-like point which blew water in a backward direction, forcing it's way through the pipe at about 250 PSI.

He turned the machine on and began feeding the hose through the underground pipe. After about 25 yards were fed in, he encountered a resistance, so drew the nozzle back and forth a bit until it gave way, then carried on feeding the pipe onward and upward from the bottom of the garden.

After a while, it dawned on him that he had actually fed in more pipe than there was distance between the hatch and the house, so - leaving the machine running - he went in through the back door and entered the bathroom, just to check.

What he found was about 15 feet of thick hose flailing around the bathroom with the metal nozzle smashing mirrors and furniture, drenching everything with high-pressure water at the same time. Gallons of high-pressure water. The resistance he felt was - in fact - the 'U' bend to the ceramic toilet bowl, which the bullet nozzle had made light work of.

He felt duty bound to refurnish and re-decorate his mate's bathroom, so once again, he lost money on a job which he was never going to charge for in any case.

I have tried to think back to remember if I have had any work-related catastrophes on this sort of scale, but - being a belt-and-braces sort of bloke - I cannot think of any to match. Honest, unless I have scrubbed them from my consciousness because they are too painful to recall.

Now I think of it, the times when I have come closest to killing myself have been when I have tried to save money for friends by cutting corners. I remember one time when a mate asked me to unblock his front gutter from a ladder, he being too scared of heights to do it himself.

I made my way about 30 feet up the front of his house, then peered into the gutter which was a single stretch of thick, cast-iron running about 25 feet across the entire width of the building, so full of wet mud and moss that it must have been double it's empty weight.

I remember thinking that the wooden board it was attached to did not look in very good condition, so I gave the gutter a gentle tug. Big mistake.

Without warning, the whole thing fell off, and somehow I managed to catch it before it swept my feet away from the top rungs, sending me down with it.

I was then faced with a dilemma - how do I get down the ladder holding a 25 foot long, 2 CWT lump of iron and mud without dropping it and without using my hands?

It is amazing what you can do if you are staring certain death in the face, and somehow I kept my balance and footing down each rung until I reached the pavement. I put the thing on the ground and then lay down at full stretch, trying to get my breath back and trying not to faint.

My friend came out of his front door and stood over me saying, "Oh. You decided to take the whole thing down, then. Was that really necessary?"


  1. His name isn't Peter Sellers? A very filmic description of your friend's work (I'm quite sure that I would rather unblock the sink myself than letting him come near my house. Oh, I see: mistake - I lost scale - you talked of a sewage). And you have been very lucky to reach the ground unharmed. I'm slightly scared of heights (mount a church tower, but not a high ladder), so I shudder even when reading this.

    1. I think that maybe these were his worst - but funniest - days, as he runs a very successful building company.

      I have bever been scared of heights, until I find myself falling.

  2. The combination of fear and self preservation is a wonderful thing.

    1. Yes, the two go hand in hand - or they ought to, if irrational fear can be kept out.

  3. what at truly amusing post, made me laugh out loud, especially at the one where you were trying to do a good turn... much appreciated your sharing those stories... like to come back and read whats been happening in your corner of the country.. all the best janzi

    1. Thank you, Janzi. It's good to laugh - after the event...

    2. I would follow you, but your hatred of pubs (I understand your reasons) makes us far from soul-mates. I will drop in now and again though. Thanks for doing the same to me.