At 11pm the toilet decided to run water into the overflow pipe…endlessly. I knew there should be a relatively simple solution. I pulled at the top of the toilet water tank. It would not move. I prised it with my nail file. I twisted it with all my might and strength and a fair bit of grunting. To no avail. I searched in vain for anything resembling a tap under the toilet. Nothing.
Risk of flooding ascertained as nil….. I sent a message to the landlord, gave up and went to bed. The noise of running water became nonsensically louder and louder, it was incessant and annoying and kept me wide awake. I had uncontrollable thoughts that involved lobbing the toilet out of the window.
I stared at the ceiling. I sighed loudly. I had a euphoric moment when I found ear plugs and a mental crash when I realised they didn’t block out the irritating sound of running water. Unsuccessfully, I tried:
- not to think about the waste of water
- not to calculate how many bathfuls of water would be lost
- not to think about the pointlessness of turning off the shower to shampoo my hair
- not to let the noise drive me beserk
2 am. Unable to stand it anymore, I leapt out of bed and stamped my fury back to the bathroom. I stabbed uselessly at the flush mechanism hoping for a miracle. I actually pleaded out loud with the toilet. It teased me by ebbing the water flow for a few seconds then poured endlessly again. I groaned. I shouted at the toilet. Then I used brute force and wrenched the top off the tank (breaking part of the flush mechanism) and saw that the valve inside was broken. Unable to close the valve, there was nothing to do except wait until the morning when someone could tell me what to do.
I went back to bed for a bout of not sleeping and thought about the role of the watchman. For years I lived in rented accommodation in the Middle East where a group of apartments or houses had the benefit of an onsite watchman available 24 hours to solve all manner of maintainence related problems. Armed with only a few words of English, a screwdriver and an elastic band, inadequate or inappropriate solutions often led to additional problems. There were frustrating moments, and I had been scathing about the reliance on the screwdriver more than once. However, in the early hours of the morning as the sound of that water was pushing me near insanity, I felt with great certainty that any one of the watchmen would have known how to switch off the water in the bathroom. I should have watched more closely. Grrr.
7am. A message from my landlord. That small thing that looks like a screw on the pipe under the toilet can be turned 90 degrees to switch off the water. Nooooooo. Something so simple. How could I not know this? Why was it not in my handbook for life? Screwdriver in the slot. Turn. Peace.
So, the watchman was right after all. A screwdriver. I just haven’t worked out what the elastic band is for yet…..
This morning, on the paper round with the Kid, it was quiet. Too quiet. It was also raining and windy. I adopted an unnatural arch to my neck to prevent my hood from flying off the back of my head. I didn’t want to be out. I felt very grumbly.
Then I heard something. Foot steps. And out of the gloom came a solo runner….my mind rushed with the following thoughts:
- I miss running.
- Nice black running jacket.
- Shorts? Really?
- Envy. I want to run.
As I carried on trudging against the rain, folding wet newspapers in half and battling to keep the front page closed against the wind’s alternative plans, I know that I have to start running again. If I can feel running envy in the dark, the rain and the cold, then it must be something I REALLY want to do.
The journey of not running is not one that I relish recounting, but when I get to a solution, I will provide a summary. Meanwhile I am doing some fabulous running in my dreams.
(I have omitted to post a picture of the dark morning streets – the post has the right dose of gloom without it).
Moving back to England after 18 years of living overseas was something I had wanted to document as it happened, but every time my fingers hovered over the keyboard, I just couldn’t write about it. It was too difficult. My sense of home had been shaken about, thrown up in the air and had landed on the floor in hundreds of pieces and I didn’t know which bit I needed any more. I closed the door on the mess and concentrated on the Kid’s integration into a country she had never lived in.
Then I discovered all the boxes that had been stored in the loft nearly two decades ago and pulled out photos, letters, childhood toys, school projects and cherished objects. I read names but could not recall the faces. I saw faces and could not recall the names. I looked so young! My sporadic diary writing documenting what seemed mundane at the time but now provides a fascinating window to my own history.
All those objects that had been my treasures evoked vivid memories as if I had been there just moments ago, not more than 20 years. Ordinarily I would define these “things” as clutter (my constant refrain to the Kid is “do you still use this, can we get rid of it?”). Do I really need to keep my dead hamster’s snippet of bedding in an old Strepsils tin, or an eraser from my school trip to The Big Pit in Wales, my university essays, my school project on dinosaurs from the 1970′s? I could barely find a handful of items that I was willing to part with. Each one served to take me to a place that was once my home and to remind me of how I had felt and what had been important to me. I was surprised by the impact these items had on my ability to recall past events.
Boarding school meant letter writing was a frequent means of exchanging information with friends and family. The green leather writing case was well used (and still has a 10p stamp in it – was that once first class post?). I have hundreds, perhaps thousands, of letters and cards. I have re-read a fraction of them. Tantalisingly, they are only half the story as they are the letters I received, the letters sent in reply are perhaps languishing in another loft somewhere, and I can’t quite recall the contents.
Sifted, re-organised and somewhat slimmed down, my memories are now all repacked in my old school trunk (yes, I still have that too), so I don’t have to call them clutter. It is a vast memory box, and in quiet moments I am going to dip into my past and wonder at a much-loved old soft toy, the name badge from my first job and the obsessions I once had with taking (bad) photographs of animals and creating holiday scrapbooks. There are old houses and old schools that it is simply impossible to visit, but the trunk, I can get there. I think the Kid needs one too.