Two Of Those “Ho-Hum” Days

What was I saying on Monday about “ho-hum” days? There’s actually no such thing. SOMETHING is always happening.

On Tuesday morning, we notice that the kitchen sink isn’t draining away. I seek to clear it initially using a bit of bleach and hot water. But that doesn’t work.

[Our kitchen sink. Hertfordshire, England. Photo by me, 2018.]

Hmm. We have a mountain house miles from civilization in the Catskills; I know how to do bits of this and that, I smugly think. I suspect any clog could be in the first U-bend in the pipes. I unscrew it and – well-prepared – in a pre-placed bucket I catch the water as it rushes down from the sink.

I inspect the bend… and gosh darn, it’s clear. The clog must be farther on in the piping? Obviously this isn’t gonna be simple. I refit the U-bend to the rest of the pipes and text our sixty-ish year old landlady. She’s lovely and is, by now, essentially a friend. Ah, she knows a plumber, her texted reply comes back within minutes… but he’s on holiday this week. She’ll find someone else and let me know…

And I decide I need a coffee. I refill the sink and again consider where the clog may be. Moments later I notice water is seeping down from the sink around the underside seam of the drain plug and running along the piping into the cabinet below. Quickly I pull out all the stuff we all store under a kitchen sink. I must have accidentally loosened the drain fitting when I uncoupled the bend in the pipe! Damn it!

Having cleared the cabinet, sponged up the water, and put the bucket again under the piping, I discover the kettle has not boiled. Neither is the microwave clock on… and I realize. The plug under the sink must have gotten hit with water! Ugh.

[Under the sink. Photo by me, 2018.]

I check the main electric box near the back garden’s side door, but no breaker had been tripped. After having called myself a variety of unprintable names, I text the landlady that matters are now rather more complicated: half of the kitchen sockets are out (but fortunately not the fridge). She rings me and, early in our chat, as I summarize where we are, she states, “Oh, dear.” Iโ€™m stunned. Hearing her nearly lose all self-control like that means clearly we have reached โ€œDEFCON 1.โ€

She tells me sheโ€™ll call her electrician friend, too. Before she touches disconnect, suddenly she wonders to me if the issue is perhaps the main external drain? Thames Water is responsible for that because our property is on a shared line and it has been a problem several times before. She wants to pop by for a check.

By the time she arrives, I have already lifted a lid. She looks, too. We agree: Yep, the external drain looks blocked. 1600s house, but 21st century drain. Although the house seems better built than the current day drains. Nevermind. She rings Thames Water…

Meanwhile my phone is pinging away. My father in Pennsylvania *now* – of all times – wants to FaceTime. He has been without power since Friday due to a massive snowstorm that wreaked havoc on northeast Pennsylvania. I decline his request; obviously he has his power back now. I’ll talk to him later…

Thames Water tells the landlady they will be here within the next eight hours. A plan now in place, she leaves. I go upstairs to the office to FaceTime Dad, and we have a 15 minute chat about how drains clog, how snow is deep, that trees fall over, and that Pennsylvania is run by even bigger idiots than is New York.

Following that, I attempt to work for a little while at least. Take me away. Back to “1797”:

[Sneak peek from untitled follow up to Conventions: The Garden At Paris. Click to expand.]

And I could’ve used a drink myself about now, too, I think, as my mind returns to the present. The kitchen sink is clogged. Half of the kitchen is without electric. The Mrs. – who is in central London today for a conference – is going to love this when she gets home. I’ll never hear the end of it.

About 4pm, without warning the electrician turns up. He takes one look under the sink and goes into the electric box near the side door and flips a switch I had not noticed. Bingo. The electric on that stretch of wall is back.

I know him reasonably well. He’s about sixty-five and has been by several times before and we’ve talked. Being an American, I learned long ago, is an immediate ice breaker here in Britain.

“You S.O.B.,” I joke with him, “I checked the box already. I didn’t know about that switch.”

He laughs and replies, “It was early this morning. The plug dried out by now. But when you see [the landlady], mate, make sure you tell her I was here for hours.”

Literally as I am watching him get into his van, Thames Water now rings on my mobile. The guy tells me he’s about half an hour away.

About twenty minutes after that, the landlady rings, saying the electrician rang that he had just been there. She asks if she could be here when the water people arrive? No problem, I tell her… “Oh, wait,” I notice the Thames Water truck now parking outside, “he’s here now.” She replies that she’ll “dash” right over. (She lives just a short drive away.)

The Thames Water guy clears the drain. Satisfied, the landlady leaves yet again. The Thames Water guy leaves not long after she does.

Alone again, I return to the kitchen… turn on the tap and… the sink still doesn’t drain. This is starting to feel like an episode of Frasier. I’m reduced to asking nonsense of Alexa about โ€œunladen swallowsโ€:

At least Alexa had not laughed at me as all of this was going on.

“Oh, well,” the landlady sighs after I ring to update her. “At least the drain is clear. That would’ve been a problem for the neighbours in the near future.”

About an hour later, I drive over to collect the wife at the train station. I’m sensing she is doing her best to keep a straight face as I explain what has gone on since about 8am. “You’ve had some day,” she observes.

Fortunately, night now intervenes. Wednesday morning, our landlady texts me that she’s found a plumber who’ll be by about midday. I know that already; he has just gotten off the phone with me.

Since it will be several hours before the plumber appears, and with the wife again in London, back to work I go. Novels donโ€™t write themselves:

[Sneak peek from untitled follow up to Conventions: The Garden At Paris. Click to expand.]

At THAT point, working on THOSE paragraphs, the doorbell rings. I practically hit the ceiling… immersed in writing about, you know, death – and my mind recalling the deaths of formerly quite living loved ones of my own as I do so. (And thereโ€™s more there Iโ€™m not showing you here as it will give away too much storywise.) I actually have tears in my eyes.

I shake myself out of it and rush downstairs…

The plumber turns out to be a pleasant guy just a bit younger than the electrician. We have some laughs while he pours an acid into the pipe: “You can’t get this stuff in an ordinary shop any longer. Too dangerous. Trade only.”

As we’re waiting for the magic fire potion to do its thing, of course we talk.

He enjoys motorcycling across the wide open spaces of rural France. (“Once, gendarmes stopped me. I’d known I was going pretty fast. One warned me: ‘Eh, 3 kms an hour more, Monsieur, and you give us your bike, yes’.”) And any “ice” had already been broken; he has lots to say about America. He’s been to California. (“Got a bit drunk in Napa.”) And he wants to visit New York City someday. (“How many days for Manhattan just to see it? Maybe see a couple of shows? Three? Four days? All the sights. Wow. Am I making you homesick?”)

Most importantly, he cleared the sink pipe. “Panic” over. Two days.

Don’t say nothing ever happens to you or you have nothing to write about! ๐Ÿ™‚

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Author: โ€œConventions: The Garden At Paris,โ€ โ€œPassports,โ€ โ€œFrontiers,โ€ and โ€œDistances.โ€ British Airways frequent flier. Lover of the Catskill Mountains...and the 1700s. New novel of 1797-1805, "Tomorrow The Grace," due out in 2019.

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