Saturday, February 1, 2014

Ashley Sterne Plumbing for Pleasure

This comic article was assembled from Google snippets taken from The Royal Magazine (1921), Volume 45, p. 308.  One snippet could not be obtained, so I have taken the liberty of interpolating my own connective sentences in brackets.

Now that the long winter evenings are once more close upon us we are confronted with the ever-perplexing problem of how to employ them.  Father, with his three Masonic Lodges and two Worshipful City Companies, is happily catered for, as for him the winter months are pleasantly punctuated with a succession of indigestible banquets, the eating of which and recovering from the same serve to pass the time congenially enough.

Mother, too, will work as strenuously as ever in a laudable endeavour to get at least one of her daughters off before the fox-trot goes out of fashion, while the girls themselves will all be perpetually making jumpers.

There remain only the young men of the family to consider, and to them I offer the humble suggestion that plumbing as a winter pastime provides allurement both useful and amusing.  To be able to mend a burst water-pipe or a leaking gas-tube is an accomplishment which few people outside the plumbing profession possess or care to cultivate; hence the plumber is regarded with a kind of superstitious reverence, as if he were endowed with...

[a supernatural ability to trace back a leak to its hidden source, as Burton and Speke traced back the Nile to its headwaters.  This ability demands top dollar.  To substitute for the plumber's expensive ability, you may wish to purchase a dog specially]

... trained to scent out leaks – just as there are dogs specially trained to scent out truffles.  Then the services of the professional plumber can be dispensed with, with much saving of time, temper and money.

Everybody has experienced the farce of sending for the plumber.  The hot-water cistern, let us say, has been burst by the frost, and is rapidly disgorging its contents all over the floor.  Little drops of water and little grains of zinc are percolating through, and falling into the best bedroom.  The crisis is getting very critical when the plumber, who has been urgently summoned an hour ago, puts in a belated appearance.  He at once takes in the situation, goes back for his tools and that mysterious individual known as a "plumber's mate," and meanwhile the water has dissolved the best bedroom and is falling through the floor in a monotonous cascade on to the grand piano in the drawing-room.

After another hour the plumber returns with tools and mate, the latter urging that his 'ere's a job requiring the services not only of his own tools (which he hasn't brought, of course) but also of a plumber's mate's mate; and by the time all these individuals have eventually assembled you find that the hours is 1 p.m., and the day is Wednesday, which means that the job cannot be taken in hand that day because the Amalgamated Union of Plumbers, Plumbers' Mates, and Plumber's Mates' Mates decree that no plumbing work shall be done after 1 p.m. on Wednesdays. 

And so, of course, your house is ultimately washed away, forcing you either to emigrate or enter the workhouse.

[In the ideal case, you succeed in hiring a competent and efficient plumber -- let's call him Reggie -- who shows up in a timely fashion and gets right to work.  He traces back the leak, finds the hole, and prepares a plug.  Reggie then ...]

... slaps it in place, and affixes it with a few tintacks, or a little solder, or – failing these – a strip or two of stamp-paper.  The whole job is thus over and done with almost before the first drops of water from the leak have had time to comply with the law of gravity and fall to the floor.

Gas-escapes, too, may be similarly treated, though care must naturally be taken that in searching for the leak the amateur plumber does not meet a stuffy end through asphyxiation.  A simple precaution which I earnestly recommend is to carry a few white mice in the pocket, as these charming little rodentia possess the peculiar and amusing property of fainting or developing slight hysteria when in the presence of raw gas.  The proximity of the leak can hence be readily ascertained, and after stopping up the hole in the manner already described it only remains to revive the white mice by loosening their clothing and administering artificial respiration.

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