Nan Knows Best ??

We’re at the pub/restaurant. My mother’s birthday (happy birthday mum!).

Talk turns to New year superstitions.

“ … hope nobody’s done any washing yesterday; your nan always used to say “wash clothes on new year’s day, wash a member of the family away”,”.

We’re all smiling. Some of us are poker-faced, trying not to give away the fact that, er … well, you know … laundry might actually have been committed  our very houses … and, yes, yesterday.

We can remember that and lots of other things she used to say, bless her.

The kettle won’t work because the plug is too heavy,”

“A wet bird won’t fly at night,”

“A fool and his money are soon parted,” (well, she can’t have been wrong every time eh?).

A couple of days later, after a shower I notice the water isn’t draining as quickly as it should. I have a choice, of course: ring a man-that-does, get some of that miraculous gunge that promises to clear pipes – or take the risk of fixing it myself.

The ladder comes out. Goes up the wall.  The outside pipes disconnected. They are easy to get at so, logically (I am capable of it every now and then) the best place to start. No blockages there: well there wouldn’t be would there … oh no, that’d be too much to expect, wouldn’t it?

So, unfastening the side panel and grovelling about. The trap beneath the plug-hole is where the problem lies I discover with the help of a three thousand candle power torch. Hmm; the hardest to get at. The most obvious place. But it comes apart of course.


… then I get all squeamish. It looks horrible, revolting.  Days, weeks and even months ago, it was looking great on my head, or my wife’s head. Just natural hair is all. Some soap residue, bits, inevitably of skin, a blue catering plaster (!) and all mixed up into an unholy, greasy paste. All kinds of conditioners, bath salts and shower gels go down this pipe; my sister in law has her hair dye applied with her head over the bath. I hesitate, then “cowboy up” and, using wads of toilet paper and an ancient screwdriver I gingerly set to. Trying not to contaminate myself with by letting it come into contact with my skin. Then washing my hands in overly-hot water and scrubbing them harshly. Just in case.

Today I was up at the allotment. Carrying bags of stable-clearings on my shoulders: urine-soaked  and heavy with dung. Bare-handed. Dropping them onto the compost heap, brandling worms busy at the surface. Stirring up the contents to keep the bacteria working, surrounded happily by the sweet, sickly aroma. There’s ants in there, buried deep, centipedes and ground beetles. Later, digging, pulling weeds, tossing them onto the ready-to-burn pile. Hands covered in sticky, cold soil. Uprooting three squelchy turnips, rotten, damp, wireworm  and slug infested. Carrying a couple of disturbed toads – to a safer place – and disturbing woodlice and spiders  settled in neglected-until-now piles of plastic pots. Some slimy black slugs leaving that mucous lining on my hands.


And I am suddenly struck by the fact: I have absolutely no problem getting immersed in these types of “dirt” but had my knees turned to jelly by what was in that short section of pipe a day or so earlier.

A couple of other things my nan used to say;

“It’ll be all right when the pain’s gone,” … and

“Don’t worry; if that doesn’t kill you, something else’ll come along that will.”

Where did she get these things from?


One response to this post.

  1. Human “dirt” just never seems as natural! Love the old sayings, I think ppl made them up to amuse themselves before blogging was invented 🙂


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