As I type the sensation of chilly tightness in my fingertips is evident and my laptop is rocking back and forth on a pillow that sits atop a duvet that’s wrapped around my legs. Music is playing in the background and without me choosing a song, YouTube started playing ‘Mr Blue Sky’ by ELO.
Now the the track has flipped to another by Jeff Lynne – and is saying repeatedly ‘Don’t bring me down.’
Maybe this is prophetic. My mood wasn’t particularly sour – but I felt like I needed to write – and this wasn’t because I was filled with joy.
A fellow blogger posted the other day, and she hit a chord with me. I feel the same way she does more often than I’d care to admit and consequently I’ve avoided reading a lot of her and other people’s posts for some time because I didn’t want to confront those emotions.
I’ve deleted practically all of my social media accounts for much the same reason.
I’ve always said that I didn’t want to write unless I was being honest – but YouTube is probably right. I shall try to be positive and not bring you all down.
Maybe there’s a better way of describing what’s going on…
A few weeks ago the drainer in the kitchen sink was blocked. My large rubbery bathroom plunger (usually deployed to shuffle along the clumps of long blonde hair that inexplicably started to block the plug hole around two and half years ago) was just too large to fit in the tiny side sink downstairs.
Irritated by the need for another purchase I had turned to Amazon and procured a couple of (reasonably priced) remedial items.
A large bendy pipe cleaner and a smaller ‘baby plunger’ arrived a few days later, and (as with many things in my life recently) remained in their box completely unopened by the kitchen door for a couple of weeks.
Eventually my irritation with the slowly draining murky soup began to outweigh my unwillingness to fix it.
I finally opened the box and looked at the contents.
Of the two items inside the pipe cleaner initially looked the most likely to have an impact. It was sparkling white, around a foot and a half long and had tough sprouting bristles spanning its entire length.
It clearly meant business and appeared capable of evacuating any stubborn passage with extreme prejudice.
The illustrative picture on the box (with a cutaway of a u-bend filled with easily moved articles) promised much.
However, as I gently fed it down into the hole I was soon became pretty certain that it wouldn’t meet the lofty claims made on its packet.
The network of tiny pipes under my dual kitchen sink seemed to bear more resemblance to spaghetti junction than the gently curving (and suspiciously wide) one in the image on the packet.
As I pushed it further and further down I became more and more certain that nothing could be both bendy and stiff enough both to navigate such a maze of plastic whilst simultaneously clearing a stubborn clot of grease and crap.
Unsurprisingly it stopped dead with around six inches of ‘grapple length’ sticking up in the air.
I turned and twiddled it – but it didn’t seem to be going in any further than it already had.
After some spirited ramming in and out of the plug hole for a minute or two I realised that rather than unblocking the pipe all I seemed to be accomplishing was ripping the plastic bristles off the wire and compacting the clot even more.
Poking the blockage with the tip of a pipe cleaner wasn’t doing a thing.
Rather than fixing the problem I was adding non biodegradable (and very resilient) plastic to the already immovable chunk of ‘whatever the f&&k it was’ in the drain.
I extracted the mangled wire and picked up the plunger, removing its cardboard label. There was no chance it was ever going back to Amazon after I’d shoved it where the sun no longer shined.
First impressions were good.
This new svelte model of plunger fitted the smaller side sink perfectly – and formed what appeared to be a tight seal around the plug hole. I manoeuvred it into place and firmly pushed it down.
The water swirled a little in the drainer but the level failed to drop.
I lifted it up again and rammed the wooden handle down once more (this time a bit firmer) squishing the rubber cup rapidly into place.
Nothing moved in the murky soup. It swirled, but once more didn’t go down.
I lifted the plunger and put it back into the sink for another go but it wasn’t working.
After several spirited pumps I was still getting nowhere. I lifted it out, and looked at the underside to make sure there wasn’t a break in the rubber.
It looked fine. I speculatively stuck it to the work surface and it happily formed a seal, then pulled off with a satisfying ‘pop’ when I yanked it away.
I put the plunger back into the sink.
However when I submerged it under the murky water what I hadn’t realised was that I’d failed to align it correctly.
I rammed it down again. This time faster and more energetically.
Without warning a large fountain of murky (and rather old) coffee grounds and grease sprayed directly into my face and all over the front of my top.
I stopped dead, suddenly very pissed off, as well as smelly and dripping.
“It’s not getting unblocked.’ I called to my partner in the next room.
‘I think we’re going to need a plumber.’ I said, with fetid brown water dripping from my beard.
‘Oh no!’ she replied and came to survey the damp man hunched over a truly disgusting puddle of drain water, brushing little bits of crap from my face.
My recently completed washing up was now covered in clumps of brown ‘something or other’ – and so was I.
‘It’s just not moving.’ I said dejectedly.
‘It ripped all the stuff off that one..’ I said, pointing to the brown, damaged and bent pipe cleaner I’d discarded on the floor by the washing machine. ‘…and this one just sprayed crap in my face.’
I held up the offending plunger and pointed at it to underscore which item was to blame.
It made no attempt to look guilty or accept the gravity of its failure.
She looked at me sympathetically and then slowly moved back to her previous task in the other room.
I sat on my stool looking dejectedly at the sink.
It represented much more than just a drain being blocked. It spoke volumes about my mood and my lack of willingness to face up to problems. Its completely clogged state was a metaphor for everything else that was wrong with me at that moment in time.
Hidden under its murky cold depths there was something far below the surface.
It was possible to visualise what that unholy clump of crap might be, how it might have formed and what its constituent materials might be – but above the surface it just looked clogged and unusable.
At that point it no longer mattered what had caused it. The sink was neglected and just needed attention.
It had been filled with all the wrong things and become progressively more sluggish and slow, until it had completely ceased to function in the way it used to.
My shoulders slumped.
I didn’t want a plumber to come and fix me.
No. I didn’t mean me. I meant the drain. I was thinking about the drain wasn’t I?
I didn’t want a plumber to come and fix the drain. That was what I meant. I’d become lost in thought.
I picked up the plunger again. F&&k you drain. F&&k you.
I repeatedly rammed the plunger up and down. I already smelt of crappy water and had coffee grounds soaking into on my polo top. I couldn’t get wetter and smellier, so I might as well carry on.
Then after several more spirited pumping motions – on the main sink next to the drainer… a bubble!
I stopped and listened.
Something had moved. A single little bubble popped on the surface of the fetid water in the drainer.
Was it working?
Emboldened I carried on lifting and ramming repeatedly – until all of a sudden THE ENTIRE FETID SINK FULL OF CRAP UNEXPECTEDLY DRAINED AWAY!!!
Practically without warning it was suddenly completely empty!!!
Giggling with glee I called to inform my partner of my triumph (modestly) advising her why we were no longer in need of a tradesman.
‘Man unblock sink!‘ I proclaimed. ‘Man clever! Man done good!‘
I put one hand on my chest and looked into the distance, feeling Napoleonic.
‘Yes you have.’ she said, pandering to my fragile male ego – and patted me on the shoulder.
If she was 2 ft taller I’m sure that this would have been a pat on the head, but I was happy either way. I’d unblocked the sink – and for a moment I was a DIY god. Nothing could touch my achievement.
Maybe I could start a plumbing business?
I could get business cards printed and advertise in the local press.
Possibly – but my innate talent was clearly evident.
Maybe another day.
I settled instead with cleaning the sink and making the drainer sparkle again – and when when I’d finished it looked lovely.
It was unblocked, free flowing – and (if I do say myself) working better than it had for a very long time.
I also hadn’t called a plumber to fix myself.
I mean the sink – not me. I was talking about the sink wasn’t I?
Or was I…
I needed one too.
I am that sink currently. I filled myself with all the wrong foods again, neglected myself, didn’t handle lockdown, the pandemic or the stress and depression that came with it well and now I have a lot of ground to recover.
Some days I feel stronger than others, and on many I feel weaker than all the rest, but after hitting (what I feel to be) an all time low regarding my self image over Xmas I’ve been on a wagon of sorts for a few weeks now.
I have not eaten any ‘crap’ and each weekend have been block preparing Tupperware boxes full of chopped vegetables as ingredients for meals. I’m hoping that the stresses and strains of the working week will not make me reach for comfort foods if making good things instead seems easier.
Making the right kinds of meals is always easier if you plan ahead – and as my favourite Slimming World consultant used to say, ‘fail to prepare and you prepare to fail’.
I can’t quite face hardcore dieting yet – but I’m several steps closer to being back in the right mindset than I was a few weeks ago. I’m sleeping a bit better, feeling a tiny bit more energetic, and overall a little more upbeat.
All I need to do now is explore the blockages in my head and unpick the reasons why I reverted to so many bad behaviours when faced with the adversities of the last two years.
Maybe if I start writing again and attempt to unravel some of those then I too will start draining – just like my sink.
As if by magic YouTube’s ELO playlist moves on to ‘The lights go down’. I think that it and Jeff Lynn have helped make this post possible. Maybe the universe is still listening…
I’ll try and write more again soon internet. It’s nice to be back.