I’m a self-confessed New Year party pooper. Call me cynical if you will, but I don’t do New Year celebrations. Much my teenaged offspring’s disgust, I don’t party, get drunk, sing Auld Lang Syne, kiss strangers at midnight or wear silly hats. I will happily settle for a nicer than normal meal with my family, then switch off my mobile phone and toddle off to bed so that I can make the most out of the following day, when we generally have the world to ourselves as the rest of France either gets over its hangover or feeds its face once again. But this year, Karma decided to bite me on the bum for pooh-poohing the New Year, and this is how it happened.
I woke up happy and hang-over free on New Year’s day. After a leisurely breakfast with PF, I power-showered myself into positive thinking for the day. I congratulated myself on the fact that I was a practical woman who can change a wheel and paint a ceiling. Come to think of it, my eagle eye had spotted that the bath plughole was not draining fast enough during my power shower…
Three years ago, MM and PF were silly enough to buy an old house with waste pipes the diameter of your average toothpick. You could have driven a Sherman tank down the waste pipes in our previous house – a luxury compared to the congested B-road network we have in our current bathroom. The equivalent of three narrow Cornish lanes join together in a pint-sized spaghetti junction, hastily assembled and buried forever in a cement sarcophagus by the previous owner of the house. Needless to say, when this particular junction gets blocked, the traffic backs up further than anything you can see on the M25 at rush hour, with wet and smelly consequences that must be avoided at all costs. But I could deal with that – easy peesy, lemon-squeezy. I’d already proved my prowess as a bog-standard plumber.
And THAT was when MM made the mistake of biting off more than she could chew. Pride comes before a fall, and Karma was ready to bite me on the bum with a crap surprise she had waiting in the pipeline. Cue theme music to “the Good, the Bad and the Ugly” to get you in the mood:
As the rest of France was settling down to their starters on the New Year’s ritual gastronomic frenzy of oyster/salmon/foie gras quaffing, MM was peering down the open washing machine waste pipe – the only available access to the lost tunnels of Sewage City. Grasping a coiled, 10m long snake in her right hand, MM was a hybrid of Calamity Jane and Indiana Jones: a mean, clean, bog-busting machine.
For those of you who are happily unsavvy about the plumbing world, the snake ( – or the “ferret”, as the French nicely call it -) is a basic necessity for unblocking pipes. This long, flexible, metal rod can go where no woman has ever gone (nor would ever wish to go): through the murky labyrinth of stinky pipes stretching from your bathroom to the rat-infested sewers below.
In theory, Mr Snake blasts his way through the blockage in the pipe, and dislodges it. The pipe then belches loudly and sends up fumes that make Indian take-away burps smell like cherry blossom, then MM tidies up her equipment and gets back to more feminine activities. In theory.
In reality, MM looked for her rubber gloves, and couldn’t find them anywhere because PF had tidied them up so well they’d disappeared. Rather than acknowledging that reality was tapping her on the shoulder, MM unwisely decided that she would go for it anyway, equipped with two old t-shirts and her inimitable optimism: having power-showered all self-doubt into oblivion, she was certain that this would be sorted in five minutes flat because she was simply the master of the Universe.
45 minutes later, MM was feeling flushed (for lack of a better word), squashed in the small space behind the washer with no more than her heaving stomach for company. Battering away at the constipated pipe with Sammy the snake, I coolly enquired if a few prunes would do the job. A little while later, PF popped his head around the door and grinned as I swore copiously at the plumbing in both French and English. I finally realised that whilst I was probing the innards of the waste pipes, the rest of France was dipping their crudités in tapenade. I promptly lost my cool, and angrily yanked the flexible rod back out of the pipe.
Now flexible rods, being flexible, tend to have a life of their own when pulled at speed from a confined pipe. That’s how MM ended up redecorating herself, the floor and the bathroom tiles with modern, albeit odorant, art. Bang on time, Little My opened the bathroom door and wrinkled her nose delicately as she contemplated her mother, who was splattered from head to foot in raw sewage and looked like she’d been mud wrestling with hippos at the local water treatment plant. I suspect that I have put her off Nutella for ever.
I attacked everything in sight with bleach (rest in peace, black t-shirt). I had a second, (not so power) shower. I sat down to lunch with wild eyes and frizzy hair, stinking of bleach. The plug hole still drains slowly. But looking on the bright side of things, if you start the year up to your eyeballs in shit, things can only get better.