If ever a plumber was needed
in the town,
the people said, “Send for
And if ever a class of mixed infants is in need of winning over, I would also recommend sending for Mrs Plug.
Allan Ahlberg has precision pitch when it comes to amusing the young and this is one of his masterpieces. We have a naked lady (brilliantly illustrated by Joe Wright), toe stuck in a bath tap. We have Mrs Plug whipping a blow-lamp from her Useful Bag to burn a robber’s bottom. And – crême de la crême – we have the Ship’s Captain with Miss Plug and Master Plug (the plumber’s babies) sitting on his lap until he suddenly realises that his knees are getting wet – send for Mrs Plug! Ah, bottoms – surefire route to a child’s heart.
And, oh for Mrs Plug on speed-dial when, last Friday, our loo took it upon itself to continue running water into the bowl after flushing. WC gone mad. And us on a water-meter, ye gods!
Mrs Plug, you may have gathered, had a Useful Bag containing, we are told, saw, hammer, spanner, pliers, purse, comb, lipstick, plunger and blow-lamp. I reckoned I could manage without the blow-lamp so assembled the rest of the gear. As it turned out, there were two other bits of kit that proved essential for the job and I would thoroughly recommend that Ahlberg includes these should he ever produce a director’s cut of Mrs Plug. One is a tablet (or phone) with access to YouTube where one can watch the lovely Vince the Plumber disassembling the gubbins in a dual-flush, back-to-wall cistern; the other is … well I’ll keep that under my hat for now.
ActorLaddie might have known what to do but he was out guiding a walk around Dicken’s London so I decided to go with the flow and channel my inner Mrs Plug.
I turned off the water at the mains then followed Vince as he talked me through detaching the push button on the flush so as to access the cistern. There seemed a pretty good chance that the problem was to do with the innards being scaled up: in London, we take our water hard, like our Brexits. A good descaling might well restore normal service: worth a shot, anyway. Then, said, Vince, empty the cistern like this, and he pushed a screwdriver into the hole which the push button mechanism would have gone into had it not been detached. In his video, the cistern emptied revealing the ball-cock and its pals in all their furred up glory. When I pushed in the screwdriver, nothing happened. I watched the video again, many times, trying to replicate the angle of the screwdriver, to no avail. I paused it. I watched in slow motion. I used different sizes of screwdriver. The cistern stayed full.
At this point, to be honest, my confidence was waning. It looked, annoyingly, as if I was going to have to ask a more competent cove for help. But no! In the depths of my despair, I was drawn as if by an invisible force towards my work basket; and lo – it was as if a voice gently said to me “a size eight knitting needle shall you take.” Take it I did and saw that it was good and, what’s more, just the right size to push in the hole. And behold the water drained away leaving the cistern’s innards shivering and scaled.
I combed my hair, applied the lipstick, grabbed the purse and headed out to purchase white vinegar for the descaling of gubbins. The reassembling of the whole shenanigans was a matter of mere moments and I’m pleased to report that everything is now working smoothly and tickety boo. I am, in fact, flushed with success.