About a year and a half ago, we had a fair bit of a problem with the septic tanks and I had new soakaways for both of them. But it had become clear over the past week or two that there was a bit of a blockage in the annexe’s pipes and, having checked the tank, it didn’t need emptying – and having it emptied wouldn’t solve the problem. The pipe needed rodding out. And, though I keep a few drain rods outside the back door because the kitchen pipework clogs up every few months (clearing it is a simple job), the large bundle that used to be in one of the lean-to sheds simply vanished a year or two ago. I don’t suggest it was taken but that it was used, not put back and lord knows what happened to it, or the chimney brush that was with it. The rods are dual-purpose, you put a brush on and sweep the chimney, or a rubber disc or a screwy thing and rod the drains.
The obvious thing to do was to buy more and so I did. And, on Saturday after lunch, I made a batch of cakes, meaning to decorate them and give them to Dave, and trotted out purposefully to clear the blockage. which would only take an hour or so.
In the days when my friend Jamie used to lend a hand with such things, he very sensibly used to lay out the rods first to see how many would be needed, but i didn’t remember that until later. It is really difficult to get the rod into the narrow pipe in a modern system – it’s so much easier with the old ones which give more space, and I’m going to draw a veil over the process as it was dismal and rather unpleasant. And I didn’t have enough rods, not even when I added the three from the back door. I needed one more.
My second phone call found a friend who had some to lend me but he was out and he suggested I drive to his farm, phone back and he’d tell me how to find them. By this time my arms were almost useless with fatigue and I couldn’t unlock the awkward door with the too-high handle. And lovely friend phoned one of his farmhands, who happened to be on his way home and it was convenient for him to come and help. And he loaded the bag of rods into the car and we had a chat – he’s a young man from the village whom I’ve known all his life.
I drove home, fetched a wheelbarrow and LT lifted the bag into it. And out jumped a very large mouse. Rummy was walking past. “Look Rummy, mouse!” we cried. Rummy was oblivious and kept strolling on. Stoopid cat. I was just relieved that the mouse hadn’t jumped out while it was in my car.
Briefly, I spent another half hour failing to get the rod into the drain and I gave up. And Dave had finished the pillar and I hadn’t iced the cakes and was not in a state to touch food or anything else. Frankly, when I’d driven up to the pig farm, the pigs themselves had recoiled from me. So Dave took the cakes as they were and said he’d add jam. And Rob picked up his cement mixer, which he’d lent us, and apologised that he couldn’t help as he was on his way somewhere, and they both drove swiftly away.
I went indoors, took all my clothes off and put them straight in the washing machine, scuttled up the back stairs and had a long, hot shower. First I washed with soap and shampooed my hair, then I washed all over with Hibiscrub. Then I got out and dried myself and put the towels to wash, sniffed my fingers and washed twice more with Hibiscrub. Then I got dressed, came downstairs and washed my hands twice more, using a nail brush.
Later, I had a bath and went to bed feeling clean.
The next day, things went much better. I made better preparations and had a sheet of plastic to kneel on and proper rubber gloves instead of disposable ones. I wasn’t tired out any more and, with more control over my muscles, I was able to get the rods in. Thirteen hadn’t done it, but fourteen did and the blockage was clear. I was triumphant. Too soon, as it turned out, as there was also a blockage further up. But this was a much easier job as there was a proper manhole cover and easier-to-get-at pipes, and the job was done in a few minutes.
Beer was drunk and Twiglets were eaten before lunch. And more beer with lunch, as a matter of fact. But we shared that bottle.
I felt that I’d achieved something worth celebrating. I’ve come to the realisation that I prefer getting things done myself, if it’s possible, than asking someone else to do it.