Well I’m still alive so I suppose that’s a good thing. Yep, I woke up this morning and there I was – alive and kicking still. I can’t really ask much more than that now can I? It might sound like I expected not to be here in the flesh today, as though some dramatic cataclysm might have overtaken me but no, I’m just stating the fairly flippin’ obvious, given that someone has to be writing this piece.
Simple and obvious as it seems, gratitude for breathing is something I no longer take for granted. Life is not a box of chocolates, I don’t care what Forrest Gump says. Life is basically a whole load of timber, a bucket of nails, a saw, hammer and maybe a bit of paint. Make of it what you will. If it has gone awry at any point leave that bit behind you. Take your wood and your nails, build a bridge and get over it. Otherwise you make the best of it.
I came into this world stark naked with not a notion in my head. I couldn’t talk, walk or smile. All I could do was drink, fart, poop, sleep and cry until I got the hang of it and I got by. Not everyone is blessed with being born into the same environment as I was, that goes without saying, so I do count those blessings. I live in a relatively safe place, no famine, volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis or poisonous snakes, to sneak up on you and bite you in the arse. That’s not to say this little Island hasn’t seen its troubles, behind us now I’m glad to say, nor that I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth, far from it.
I have known what it’s like to go hungry. Good things happen and bad things happen. I guess for me at least, the secret is to keep reaching back for the next plank of wood to build whatever needs to be built to move forward. There is no conspiracy. No one is ever out to get me and when a whole heap of bad luck comes pouring across my lap, I try to be philosophical and accept that when that happens, it’s just my turn. It’ll be someone else’s next week and sure worse things can happen – I’m still breathing aren’t I?
Last Saturday was perhaps the nicest day we’ve had all year. It was the beginning of a long bank holiday weekend and the sun was shining, I had feck all planned and I could relax. At least that was the idea. Then I heard my name being called. My full one. That’s never good.
Turns out a rather unpleasant substance was rising through one of the shores at the side of our house. Yes, a nice hot sunny day at last I got to shovel Sh*t for my sins. Fortunately, or unfortunately perhaps, this was something I had come across in our last house, so I was in possession of not just one set, but two sets of drain rods.
I set about trying to glean the blockage in the sewage system with a little gusto. Unfortunately I am currently nursing a rotator cuff injury and I live with a damaged back permanently, so it wasn’t long before I was fecked. Just as I thought it was clearing, lo and behold I discovered it was because I had diverted some of the blockage sideways and it was rising through another shore. Sweet love of the divine. To add to my misery, my darling Jo checked the other side of the house, only to discover the manhole cover there, was only barely disguising a rising tide of a brown, gloopy, porridge like substance, that really didn’t smell like porridge.
It took some time and investigations to discover the eventual source of the problem but it had to be done. Now for some people, this would be a wholly impossible task, but I had been through worse before and it wasn’t besting me at the expense of calling out the professionals on a bank holiday weekend. They would surely have arrived only short of wearing eye masks, brandishing flintlock pistols and suggesting I might stand and deliver. But my previous experience had hardened me so I pushed on…literally.
My first such experience was an eye opener. If I’m honest, it was more of a gut wrencher, a stomach churner and a shock to the system. It was a similarly hot summer‘s day in our last house when we detected more than a faint odour in the air. On investigation the lid of the main drain in our back garden was lifting, and when I opened it I was horrified. Granted I was a Sh*t shoving virgin back, then so I had no idea that anything so vile and grotesque could ever be part of my life’s experience.
It is a long time ago now, but I recall every sight, sound and smell, as though it was yesterday. And yes you read it right I said sound. Then as now, I’m loathe to call in the professionals when DIY blood is coursing through my loved one’s veins, and she is there to direct me as though I was her apprentice. So I borrowed some rods and set about clearing the obstruction.
Now I have to be honest. I hadn’t a clue, not a bogs. The hole before me was 2 foot by 2 foot and about five feet deep. It was full to overflowing with a brown gloop that no man should ever have to interfere with. I literally had to scoop bucket after bucket–full from the bubbling, warm, rancid mass before I could start with the rods. The moist gloopy globules of gunge, quite literally turned my stomach. I began heaving and as I recall, vomited several times into the mess I was clearing as I worked. Ah the joy of manliness.
Eventually I began screwing the rods together and slid them into the porridgey abyss and that is when the sound came in. It was a sucking, schlurpey, vacuum- releasing, air pocketed gulp and it made me dry reach, all the contents of my stomach having already been dispensed with. When I eventually cleared the blockage that day and the sludgy mess of human decay slid away, all that was left was the clean-up.
I hosed everything within an inch of its life and when the last trace of all offending material was gone, I finally turned to myself. I kid you not, I stripped off right there in the garden. I didn’t give a feck. My clothes could burn and I needed a shower. I scalded myself and scrubbed layers of skin from my body, Howard Hughesque like in my quest to be clean again.
I am at the best of times, a man conscious of personal hygiene, so I was a little freaked out that even the smallest particle of what I had spent my day schlurping through, might remain on my body. Afterwards I was convinced that I could still smell the offending waste, so I took a nose trimmer and cleared out every last morsel of hair from my nostrils, for fear the odour might be clinging to them. Cue tips, cotton balls, I did everything, but I swear I could still smell it a week later. It was pure paranoia.
Having survived such things, the subsequent tribulations of my life seem less significant somehow. After all how bad can it get. Today the power’s that be, have sent me for another fecking medical test, a new one that makes me nervous, but you know what, it only serves to remind me that life’s too short and things could always be worse. Now – if I wake up in the morning and the air is fresh and I am still able to breathe it in – well that’s a good day. Life is after all – what you make it…
Haven’t read a Max Power book yet? I think it’s time to pick one up.
Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Darkly Wood II The woman who never wore shoes, Larry Flynn, Bad Blood and Little Big Boy
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