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International Incidents No Problem

4th September 2016

The unabridged version of the potential international incident between Somalia and Bangladesh that had been brewing for the past weeks concerning a 3 month blocked shared drain, which was avoided this week by the combined efforts of 1-2 Clear and a neighbouring Council’s Environmental Health Officer.

Each time one house (a Bangladeshi family) flushed the toilet it came up in the neighbouring property (a Somali family) and flooded the garden. The 80+ year old Somali guy had dug a bath sized hole at the corner of building which was filled with sewage… Nice!

We’d been recommended to the Somali guy (a man who’d been in the UK for almost all his life working in heavy industry) and I arrived to be met by him and his son (with a very broad regional accent), and a short time later by one of the local Council’s Environmental Health Officers.

The old man explained that the Bangladeshi people next door had built an extension over the only manhole. At this point it was suggested that I went and knocked on the door of the neighbouring Bangladeshi property…. and then it started. The owner, a guy in his 30’s saying, “We have no problem, it is not our problem”.

I persuaded them to let me investigate further, removing the stench pipe and inserting the old trusty rod and plunger, a quick push saw sewage spew up through the kitchen gully and onto the yard – they then realised they had a problem.

Then the blaming of each other began in earnest, with the old Somali guy (talking at 100 miles an hour in broken English), and the Bangladeshi guy going at it hammer and tong. Both the Council Officer and I stated that they had to sort their differences unless the Council would issue a notice and it would ultimately cost them more.

Eventually, getting on for an hour and a half later, I thought we had agreement for the work required, who was going to pay what, and we would do the work Tuesday.

We were just about to leave when the Bangladeshi guy says; “No, I’m going to get a cheaper quote”

Well this really did upset the Somali guys and it got serious… The old man said “No, we want Mr Paul to do this, he’s is recommended, he knows job, it was your guy’s that built extension over f…ing manhole in first place…” Bangladeshi guy says, “No, I know some guys would do this real cheap”.

Then the old man came out with, “We want Mr Paul to do this, we don’t want any Polish doing this” – his son immediately added “and we don’t want any f…ing Asians either”… as one would expect this lit the blue touch paper!!

At this point the Environmental Health Officer and I looked at each other, told them this was totally unacceptable and that we had to leave – so we left….

Needless to say the old man called me the next day and apologised for what had happened and asked for help… I again visited and discussed the options but the Bangladeshi family would not open the door. The Council decided to issue the notice at the end of the following day…

Later in the day I was pleasantly surprised to receive a call from a very quietly spoken lady with a West Yorkshire accent, and introduced herself as the Bangladeshi guy’s wife. I said “ah, As-salaam-alaikum”?, she replied appropriately, which certainly broke the ice. She proceeded to ask if we’d still be willing to do the work. I said yes, but we could not have any more confrontations or racist remarks, and we would want payment in cash from both parties before we started, to which she agreed. I then called the old Somali man who agreed, and finally made a call to the Council’s Environmental Health Officer who could not believe they had seen sense… and wanted to know how I’d done it and confirmed that he would suspend issuing the enforcement notice.

Anyway, payment was forth coming before we started, the work was completed, all the sewage removed and the drains left running free – we did not see her husband or the Somali sons all day, but having said that but at no point did the Bangladeshi wife or the old Somali guy talk to each other – except through me!

Moral of the story ‘Sometimes it just takes a woman’s touch – Alhamdulillah’

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