A U-shaped thingy, some nerve and the toilet would flush again.

Who needs a man around the house, or an overpriced plumber for that matter, when you can get elbow deep in a toilet and fix the problem yourself?

That was my fate recently. And I’m not sure whether I should be proud of myself or completely grossed out.

In the past, my first reaction to any home improvement issues was to call my dad or brother. (I don’t care if the house floods, you’ll never convince me to stick my soft hands into the dark crevice where spiders and other creatures lurk, to turn off the water mains. That, I believe, is one of a man’s few purposes.)

But back to Friday night. The toilet’s handle had been troublesome for quite a while. And on Friday night I may or may not have broken it completely.

For some reason I decided to pop the hood and have a look at what had gone wrong. Open toilet exploratory surgery, if you will.

The only other time I had a look in there was a few years ago after several drinks, and a deep discussion about how clean cistern water was. A friend argued that the water in the toilet was of the same quality as that of a tap.

It can’t have been that bad because he drank it and is alive, well and more sober these days.

The second time I looked in there wasn’t nearly as much fun as the first time.

I didn’t know what I was looking for, so I saved a mental picture of the scene and ran to the guest toilet downstairs to compare. The problem, it seemed, was that a U-shaped plastic thing connected to the pump thing had lost its grip.

Its only chance for survival was a transplant. I scheduled emergency surgery for the next day.

Of course, I checked in with the experts – my brother and father – before I made off to the hardware store. As I ordered my U-shaped plastic thing, I turned around and saw my dad standing behind me. He reckoned he needed something for his car. I think he was just checking that I got the right part. Which I did. Eventually.

At first the woman at the counter seemed confused as I described what I wanted. After parading all possible toilet parts before me, we finally hit gold.

I rushed home and changed into my DIY outfit. Then I went in. Elbows deep in cistern entrails and mustering every bit of concentration. One wrong move and I’d bust the entire system. The pressure nearly killed me, but luckily I held my nerve.

When I was done I flushed and waited with bated breath. The three-minute long operation was a success.

Who needs to stare at a plumber’s crack when you can simply do it yourself? - Cape Argus