The Real Slim Shady

Updated: Jan 25

My Life Down the Drain (Part 2)


May I have your attention please, will the real Slim Shady please stand up, will the real Slim Shady please stand up.


This was pretty much all you heard in April 2000. Eminem was massive, and you couldn't drive anywhere without hearing it on the radio 20 times. There was no Spotify, no I-Phones (not even I-Pods yet) and no digital radio. Your choices were a few FM stations, crackly AM noise or a fumble with a Backstreet Boys CD from your glove box which had melted in the heat.


When Chris and I arrived at Worcester Park it wasn't hot at all, it was cold and raining. Unbeknownst to me at the time, this was going to become a common theme over the next few years. You see, as most people who spend their life out on the road will know the weather in this country is as bad as the stuff down the drains. It's rare to get many sunny days in a row and guess what, when you are dealing with the smell (albeit you do become immune), sometimes this is a blessing.


After getting out of the car, we were soaked to the bone by a typical April shower. Yes, car, not a van. Chris had been running around the country in a Volvo estate with a CCTV camera in the back. This was the Druants way. Turn up in a suit and tie and speak with the customer. Make a good impression and talk about the claim. Then when the time came to investigate return back from the car in full boiler suit and rubber gloves like some kind of drain superhero ready to find out if the problem was covered under their insurance policy.

A lot of the time the drain wouldn't even be blocked, usually by the time the customer or 'insured' as they were known, had submitted a claim a contractor of some sort had been there before to clear it, so as was the case for us that day, all we needed to do was find out 'why' the drain had blocked.


Now as most industry people will know, there are many things that can cause a drain to block. A 'soft blockage', usually caused by wipes, condoms, sanitary towels, kids toys, puppies (a story for another day) or grease and fat. 'Roots', growing in the drain and causing things to snag on them. 'Displaced or open joints' varying in degree of severity, and usually in clay pipe or full on collapses caused by a multitude of different issues. To be fair, there are lots of other reasons (pitch fibre being a classic) but I am not going to go into them all now, save that for the drainage training days!


It was important that we looked after the customer and took the problem away from them. A lot of the customers were older (we looked after the Saga policy) so they really were none the wiser when it came to drain problems and relied on people like us to be honest and straight with them. I have always loved helping people, so to be able to help these people was going to be really rewarding for me. I could see how I would enjoy this part of the job. Unfortunately, I was also going to see the bad side of the industry. The next several years of my career included investigating claims where pensioners were defrauded to the tune of thousands by unscrupulous traders, something that, sadly, still takes place today, 22 years later. As long as we work together, we can rid the industry of these heartless evil people who prey on the elderly, and I am sure Drain Safe will address this issue in a more effective manner. There are also a lot more professional companies nowadays, which wasn't the case in 2000.


We were pretty sure that the two pensioners at this address didn't use condoms or sanitary towels, however you could not rule out incontinence pads or the like but in these cases its not something you would ask them. We just got ourselves 'tooled up' and in our superhero suits and got ready to investigate.

Old mobile phones, retro
Nokia 3310

The first time I saw the state-of-the-art CCTV camera, I was taken aback. It was a piece of kit that was seriously rubbish even back then, yet it was cutting edge technology! Not quite as good as the Nokia 3310 in our pockets, the Gadmon black and white camera had to be screwed on the end of your rod and had a cable that had to be kept from tangling up. The camera head got so hot it would scold your hands, and the monitor box looked like it belonged in the 1970s. I spent some time researching this ancient relic on Google, but I couldn't find any evidence of it anywhere. No pictures exist. Remember drain technology was in its early days, this thing was only a 'look-see' in every sense of the word. You could not record with it even if you wanted to. You could barely make out the pipe on the tiny little black and white screen and if you were lucky you might be able to pull it out without the head coming off.


We lifted the manholes and got on with investigating, we found the cause of the problem quickly, a root mass in the pipe near the front of the house. A tree had been planted near the pipe and had grown into an open joint causing the pipe to block. The houses were built in the early 1930's so it was important to check that they were not sharing use with their neighbours Chris told me. It was all about the section 24.


'A Section 24 Sewer' is a drain which serves more one property which was constructed before 1st October 1937 (1965 in inner London) and is the responsibility of the Sewage Undertaker. 'A Sewage Undertaker' means one of the 10 regional bodies responsible for the disposal of waste and surface water.


If the the drain had been shared, which it wasn't (we tested it with dye), then it would have been an issue for the water company at the time. This of course was 11 years before the transfer of private sewer regulations which was to change all shared systems as we knew them, but section 24 sewers still exist and apply today. Once a section 24, always a section 24.

Drainage, CCTV, CCTV Survey, Pipe
A bad artists impression of the Gadmon CCTV camera

So in this case it was the homeowners responsibility and insured by their policy. We would arrange for the roots to be cut out and the pipe lined between the 2 manholes at the front of the house - yes thats right between the 2 manholes! - Patch repairs did not exist, cold cure polyester liners were the only thing available at the time, and we know the problems associated with them in more detail nowadays.


We let the customers know what was going to happen and showed them on the camera, yes - best practice even in those days, even if you couldn't see much on the black and white screen. We cleaned everything down, packed up all the kit, washed and were heading north back to Runcorn, where I would meet everyone I would be working with for the next four years. But first we had to navigate the M25.


Chris started the car up and the radio came on, Well, I am Slim Shady, yes I am the real shady all the other slim shady's are just imitating...So wont the real Slim Shady please stand up, please stand up.


Enjoy, singing it all day now you have read this.



To be continued.......









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