19 September 2005
Ah, the fun we have....
I got up this morning with plans in mind: to check the proofs of the first Phantoms... book (my first co-publication: yikes!) and to revise the first Taiwan novella, to make it fit to show people. This meant printing out the novella, as I'd given my hard copy to Jean last night (her having made it plain that she was ready to read it unfit). While it prunt, I thought I'd start a load through the washing machine. So I filled it up, added detergent, pressed the go button - and it went for about ten seconds, and then died. No real surprise: it was in the house and old already when I moved in ten years ago, and it's been developing cranky habits for a while now. Still, because I am well trained, and because it had died so thoroughly that the little "I am on and working" light had gone out, my first thought was to check the fuse & wiring. But the electric socket is behind the cooker, and when I set hand to the cooker to move it (because I am a shoddy housekeeper) my hand came up all greasy and ick, and I did have all this paperwork to do, so I thought I'd go do that first, spend the morning being professional and the afternoon doing DIY.
So I pack my bag and off I go into town. I post a bunch of stories to a "Yearís Best" anthology, just in case, then I go to the Lit & Phil to do my proofing & revising. In that order. Except that when I come to unpack my bag, I have - in the fluster of the washing-machine catastrophe - forgotten to pack the proofs. Aaargh! I try just swapping things around in my head - do the revisions now, go home, do the DIY, come back into town with proofs this afternoon - but that just feels all wrong all round. So when I do sit down to the revisions, I spend half an hour comparing two different versions of the first dozen pages of the novella (the original full-length draft versus a cut version that Iíve read from a few times) and then flee, unable to make any decisions about anything.
Instead - of course! - I go shopping for a new washing-machine. Because of course I don't really believe the blown-fuse theory, I'm sure the thing is utterly dead; and I'm worried because it's full of my clothes and water and I don't know how to get them out, and I'm worried because I don't know the protocols of buying new washing-machines and I'm suspicious of the practicalities of disposal and connection, I'm not even sure that replacement will be physically possible because the back gate no longer opens and access through the front is conspicuously narrow, so I try to bury all those anxieties under the simple pleasures of shopping. Yes, folks, I really am that superficial.
So I find a couple of candidates, and come home with all my anxieties accumulating on my shoulders, wondering upon which of my smart strong practical friends I should unburden myself (in that "help, come round and sort me out" sort of way, that Iím so good at); and I fuss about for a few minutes and then assemble screwdriver and fuses, clear the cooker, drag it out of the way and address myself to the electric socket behind.
And I don't even get as far as taking the plug out; I just set my finger to the power switch to turn it off, and press - and nothing happens, it doesn't move. So I press harder and still not, it's fixed solid, I would say rusted up except that it's plastic; and after a moment there's a slightly fizzing noise behind it, and suddenly the washing-machine starts up like a little angel that's been sitting there patiently all this time, only waiting for its power to come back.
None of this is any surprise, except that the washing-machine isn't dead after all. That socket has been sitting in all the heat & greasy fumes behind the cooker for, oh, twenty years at least. Maybe longer. And I've always known the electrics were dodgy. The only question is, do I increase that dodginess by replacing the socket myself, or do I get a professional in? Bizarrely, I've done this kind of work before, but only in a strictly dodgy way; I once wired up an entire cottage from a single thirteen-amp plug next door. Hmmm...
© Chaz Brenchley 2005
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.