The stress of buying a house takes all the wind and bluster out of one, which is why there’s been so little posted here recently. I’ve been almost too busy to be angry about things, not that you’d know if you worked with me. I’ve managed to successfully disguise my home worries as work worries, which is the opposite way round to how it normally works: rather than bringing my work home with me, I’ve been bringing my home to work (K. would suggest I’ve been doing both, and I can hardly blame her.)
The only opportunity I’ve had to get thoroughly, steamingly angry was about ten minutes after a guest pulled the cord out of the bathroom’s pull switch. Entirely innocently on their part, and I wasn’t angry with them themselves: the switch and its cord, like everything else in our current, rented house, is infected with a sort of neglectful rot. The fundamental problem of buy to let—that the occupiers have no long-term interest in the property, and the owner has decided to live apart from the cues which normally alert you to such serious problems—is evident throughout our house, despite our reporting every instance to the letting agents, often many times.
Anyway, after taking apart the pull switch mechanism, I read on the internets that the one thing one should never bother to do is to take apart the mechanism. All goes rather well, as the thread between the fascia’s two halves creakingly starts to turn and the downward half easily drops away. Then you can take one of the two screws out of the switch block inside, and get around two thirds of the way through removing the other, before the whole block emits a loud twang and scatters itself around the bathroom in pieces. I’ve confirmed since via DIY forums that the mechanism will almost invariably pull itself to bits if you start to dismantle it, so you should just throw in the towel and buy a whole new unit for a fiver.
This is all very well if you’re permitted to start drilling holes in the ceiling to mount a new unit (and if you’re happy messing around with domestic electricity.) And much as our basket-case landlady might notice gaping holes in the top of her bathroom, so would any electrician that the agents might bring in (if they do call anyone: the house might have to split in two first) spot rather quickly that I had been fooling around. My own sense of pride, and the desire to keep our agents sweet enough to hopefully shorten our contract when we finish moving out, committed me to continue fiddling for at least another half hour of mindbendingly frustrating poking and prodding.
Reassembling a double-sprung pull-switch ratchet is a bit like threading a frayed ship’s rope through the family cat: nothing fits where you want it to, you can’t get any purchase, and the reluctant recipient is likely to catapult itself off in any direction at any moment, quite possibly taking your eye with it. But I can now proudly say I’ve done the former, and even more proudly say I’ve never attempted the latter.
For anyone who finds their pull cord coming off in their hand and is desperate to fix it, my first recommendation is that you actually find the smaller spring before spending half an hour putting everything together and wondering why it won’t click and re-click. My second recommendation is that you assemble as much as you can in your hands, tie a knot in the end of the cord and pull the mess of plastic, springs and copper contacts into a neat package before starting to reattach it all to the rest of the unit on the ceiling. But my third recommendation is that you go out and get another bloody unit. If you haven’t got a drill, then gaffer tape will do.