The dishwasher has been playing up.
It's still under warranty so a chappy comes round, unclogs it and mutters something about half a chicken and some rabbit fur in the filter, before telling us that the plastic waste water pipe is tortuously convoluted, "Like the the very Labyrinth inhabited by the bipedal tauroid Minotaur himself, guv." were his exact words. "Get a plumber in and have it shortened."
It's a piece of plastic piping, I think, affronted at the mere thought that, just because I occasionally boil a chicken in the dishwasher, I don't know about plumbing.
Of course, there is the fact that what I do know about plumbing was learned from watching Calgol adverts and eighties pornography. And I haven't even got the appropriate moustache.
Still I thought, I can do that, and promptly manhandle the washer out of its niche and begin poking about at the various orifices with a screwdriver. After 30 seconds staring at the ends of the pipes, (which look like something out of star trek) I realise I couldn't. Well, not without going to night school for the best part of a year anyway, and that seems impractical.
The Wife wanders over at me, still staring into its white rear.
"Go to Plumber Tim at Number 8," says The Wife. "He is a plumber. He can fix it."
"But . . . I haven't even googled it yet", I counteract.
"Go to Plumber Tim at Number 8," The Wife retaliates. "He is a plumber. He can fix it."
"But . . . I could probably get the part for 4.99 and a special tool that all plumbing jobs require, called something like a splinker I expect, and do it myself within a timescale of less than one Gregorian year." I expectorate.
"Go to Plumber Tim at Number 8, The Wife corroborates. "He is a plumber. He can fix it."
Compromising, I then go over to Plumber Tim's at Number 8, him being a plumber and all.
"Is Plumber Tim in?" I ask his wife querulously.
"Yes." She looks at me all squinty like, perhaps trying to see if there was any residual trace of testosterone in my body, but like a metal detector on an incontinence sheet, found nothing desirable.
Plumber Tim is in his basement. He has an eye patch beneath a green card-dealers cap. The basement is a tangled lair of copper pipes, radiators stacked against the walls like huge, white, metal, corrugated dominoes used for heating, and one side taken up by a gigantic boiler with more parts than the Large Hadron Collider.
In the centre of it all, a poker table sits like an island, cards flat on its surface like the losers in a gunfight, a pall of cigar smoke hangs over everything like a curtain of carcinogenic attitude. Plumber Tim sits at the head of the table, a pile of washers in front of him, smiling around a cigar the size of a table leg.
He strikes a match on his stubble, lights his stogie, and then nods at me to approach. I creak off the bottom step of the stairs.
I remind him who I am, of our neighbourly affiliation, and that I need a favour.
He has three friends with him. They all wear headpieces. One a sombrero, another a stetson, and the third a dinosaur mask.
"There are mah buddies" Plumber Tim takes his giant cigar out of his mouth and indicates them one by one, "Mex, Tex and Rex." They look at each other and hiss when I mention the word "favour", as though it is a word of great power, a magical incantation the very utterance of which defines the difference between professional trade and mates rates.
"So what's this . . ." Plumber Tim stretches out arms that are so heavily muscled and tattooed they look like rolled up Persian rugs stuffed with coconuts. He only has one hand, the missing one replaced by an adjustable spanner rather than the traditional hook. It looks very useful. " . . . favour?" he finishes.
I tell him.
Mex, Tex and Rex shake their heads in derision.
"You tried doin' it yerslef?" plumber Tim grins at me.
"Well . . ." my voice quavers. "You know how it is, I'm sure I could, but time is short, and I've got . . . you know . . . bears to wrestle, knife fights to have, that sort of thing . . ." I tail off, having made my point on my manliness.
They are an eclectic bunch, Plumber Tim's friends, and I momentarily wonder how Rex can play cards with the limited visibility through his mask, and his tiny, tiny arms.
"You ain't got no cojones, friend!" Tex laughs at me. I see from his tattoos that he is Corgi registered. He spits a brown glob of tobacky into a spittoon, where it makes a 'klidonk' sound. Shortly afterwards, there is a small flush, because this is, after all, a plumbers lair.
"Yeah, no cojones gringo" Mex agrees.
"Raargh!" Rex confirms.
"I do so have cojones." I growl in a high pitched tremor, desperately trying to remember if cojones is slang for money or a type of olive. I decide on the first, as it seems to fit. "I'll get my wife's purse and show you!"
After the laughing dies down, Plumber Tim unwinds himself from his chair and pushes the green see-through visor of his dealer's cap back on his head. A moment later, he stands up, his head knocking the bare light bulb aside as he walks a few steps towards me, looking me up and down like a monkey examining a banana.
"Tell ya what." He growls, and his cigar moves from left to right across his scarred mouth, as if pushed by an invisible hand. "I'll come over to yer home. I'll help yer out. And I'll get me a look-see at yer sweet, sweet wife, maybe show her a few . . . plumbing tricks, eh?" He glances back over his shoulder as he says this, and his compadres guffaw and spit, their hacking coughs and laughs applauded by the tiny flushes of conveniently located spittoons.
"Well?" Plumber Tim leans forward and looks me in the eye with his own single one. "What do you say to my little . . ." He looks back over his shoulder again, and a couple of stifled laughs erupt from behind " . . . offer?"
"Super." I nod, and look back over my shoulder as well, which sort of confuses the issue. "Would Thursday be okay for that?" I ask.
Of course, some of the above might have been my imagination. My wife insists that Plumber Tim actually said "Sure, but it might have to be in a week or two because I'm a bit busy till then."
He also has two hands, is actually quite skinny and speaks with a pleasant bristolian lilt.
But he was thinking about my cojones.