I miss academia most often in September. There’s something about all the irresistibly tempting Back to School stands in Tesco that makes me wish I were starting a new term of something – something that gives me an excuse to spend lots of money in bookshops, and write essays, and expand my soggy brain with lovely new words and ideas. There are things I don’t miss about school and university (falling asleep in the library and wearing the same jumper for days on end spring to mind), but at this time of year I forget about all of them. I’m overtaken by a vague, powerful longing to buy new pads of A4 paper and accost people on the street to tell them what I think about Restoration theatre.
I wonder how long it will take before September stops being my Month of the Fresh Start? It hasn’t yet, anyway, so in the three years (ulp) since I graduated I’ve attempted to do something different once summer is over, mostly to distract myself from that pencil case stand in Tesco. This year I decided to freshen up our flat. The shower was broken. A good start. Also, the shower curtain was about three bacteria away from moving around of its own accord. Time to get rid. The walls could do with some attention, too: the previous occupants left in a lot of random wall plugs, and we never removed or painted over them. A picture frame might be nice. Or a cabinet! My, the possibilities were endless.
The shower was our first mistake. You’d think that a simple desire to wash in the mornings would be easy to satisfy, but not so: having taken off the old, crusty shower once it had finally clanked itself into silence, we sallied forth to the DIY shops in Reading. We knew (although in retrospect, how little we knew) that our boiler wouldn’t take an electric shower, so we’d need…the other kind. Having accidentally bought an electric shower, we took it back, and sallied forth again with a little less enthusiasm. Turned out the ‘other kind’ was a power shower, now as rare as gold-dust and just about as expensive. We decided that an electric shower was our only financially viable option, and went back to pick up the shower we’d returned not an hour previously. Then we went to a different shop, mostly out of shame, and bought a glass bath screen. That evening, we discovered a) the new, electric shower wouldn’t fit into the space the old shower had occupied; b) some more tiling would therefore be required; c) the screen was missing half its parts. Tim went back to B&Q for supplies, and spent an hour chipping away at the wall before the very sharp and conveniently rusty chisel he was using buried itself into his hand. It bled rather a lot, unsurprisingly. Once we’d bandaged it up between us, I sent him downstairs and started cleaning up the mess we’d made. I came down to find him attempting to open an oven pizza with his head. Such was the stress of the day.
Monday saw the tiling finished, the shower fitted, the gaping hand wound healed and no resultant tetanus – so far, so good. We switched on the shower. It didn’t work. After a bit of fiddling, Tim concluded that it wouldn’t work, ever, and we definitely needed a power shower. We took the electric shower off the wall, and spent the remainder of the evening sobbing ‘I just want to be clean’ into our respective pillows. End of day two.
On Tuesday we took the electric shower back, having carefully drained it of water and packaged it all up as much as possible. Thankfully the people at Wickes accepted the return and gave us the money back, although they had no more power showers in stock. Tim went to Bracknell and bought the power shower. I returned home from my meeting at 10.30pm to find him banging his head against the wall in our cistern cupboard (quite a small space to conduct a tantrum): we were missing a pipe we needed. Still no working shower. We smelled, rather a lot. End of day three.
Wednesday finally brought relief. Not only did the shower work, but it was the BEST shower this world has ever seen, thus making up for the days of hell that preceded it. Still, it hasn’t been an auspicious beginning to the month – if replacing the shower turned out to be a seven-day wrestle with plaster and piping, what horrors might the wall plugs unleash?! We wait with bated breath.
Is this really what adults do in September? All things considered, I’d much rather be talking about Restoration Theatre. Get me an A4 pad, wide-ruled, sharpish. And one of those little coloured markers. I love those.