I got up on Saturday determined to fix the tap.

It was getting really hard to turn off.

So I knew it must be the washer.

Washers for basin taps are ½”, as opposed to ¾” for baths.

And I was pretty sure I had some ½” washers in the toolbox.

So first thing, I removed the panel behind the basin.

Then I shut off the cold water supply with a screwdriver.

Then I unscrewed the tap with a spanner.

And I got the first inkling that it might be a bigger problem.

The entire tap was totally corroded with limescale.

Cold taps always get corroded.

People use the cold tap for drinking water, so the cold water supply doesn’t go into the tanks in the loft, or through any water-softener process, like the hot water tap.

So cold-water taps get untreated, and consequently hard, water.

I thought the best thing to do was put WD40 on it.

That’s a mixture of paraffin and oil, so it penetrates rust and repels water.

That was working well until I dropped the tap on the carpet.

I found WD40 really stains carpets.

Now the wife is not best pleased.

She’s got no tap, no water, and oil on the carpet.

But I carry on, and eventually I get all the limescale off.

Now I can see the problem isn’t the washer at all.

The problem is the brass part that holds the washer isn’t moving freely in the brass base.

This is forcing the C clip, on the spindle, out of its groove.

Technically speaking, it’s fucked.

Now I’ve got a bigger problem, because no one makes these taps anymore.

(My wife is an art director and she specificied the taps had to be nickel-plated, not chrome-plated.)

So I think the only thing I can do is go to B&Q and find something to cap the water off with, short term.

That’ll hold it until we can get a plumber, and at least I can turn the mains water back on.

Then at least Cathy can use all the other taps.

So, after the usual Saturday traffic, I get to B&Q.

I brought the corroded tap with me so I can match the thread.

Now obviously B&Q don’t have what I want.

It’s one of life’s truisms that B&Q never have what you want.

You have to find something you can do a bodge with.

But I don’t mind that.

It forces you to think creatively.

So B&Q haven’t got anything to cap the water supply off, what’s the alternative?

Well there’s a brass tap gland with a much shorter shank than I want, for just under a fiver.

I check the threads, and it looks like that will fit.

So that should work to cap it off in the short term.

Then I notice something else.

It looks like the old tap cross head will fit on the new shank.

If it does I’ll have an ugly, but working, tap in the short term.

Even better.

Then I get home and compare the brass tap-glands.

The new one is very similar to the old one.

How about if I take the shorter shank out of the new one, and replace it with the longer shank from the old one?

Might work.

And you know what, it only does.

I put the entire bodged assembly back and we actually have a working tap that looks exactly like the original.

Even though that wasn’t a possibility when I started.

And it made me think about something that I need to relearn again and again.

Something Edward de Bono said.

“Thinking isn’t about decision. Thinking is about movement.”

In other words, if we can’t do one huge thought, let’s do lots of little thoughts.

Maybe we can’t see a way to get across the stream in one leap.

So maybe we do it one stepping stone at a time.

And whenever I’ve had a problem: writing a campaign, winning a pitch, opening an agency, buying a house, starting a family, it’s always worked like that for me.

One step at a time.

I couldn’t see the answer at the beginning.

So I kept taking little step after little step.

As de Bono says, just keep moving and stay open.

And somehow, eventually, I arrived at the solution I wanted.

All there was were lots of little steps all joined up.


It reminds me of a line from the movie ‘A River Runs Through It’.

“All there is to thinking, is seeing something noticeable which makes you see something you weren’t noticing, which makes you see something that isn’t even visible.”