Wednesday, 1 September 2010

The black goo monster

Today started differently, which is different in itself. Normally, if not already awake with my brain boiling since four, I would be hauled out of bed shortly after six by a sense of dreadful urgency. After feeding the cat (called Fruitcake for blogging purposes), who would have been dancing on my chest and yowling for ten minutes, getting in the shower would feel like being allowed to go back to bed for a bit. Next came the simultaneous emptying of the dishwasher, making a packed lunch, and making a pot of tea. I would then take the cat up to Mrs Turer (whose blog name will be announced later when she has decided). The cat would be followed by the tea and a short discussion of how we had both slept (Mrs Turer normally fine, me some degree of not fine).

As I said, today started differently - differently from yesterday and differently from September 2009 till the middle of July 2010. Mrs Turer (now 'Cho' she has decided) took a turn this morning feeding the friends' eager ginger creature. And perhaps I should explain at this point that Cho has a job. She is self-employed up in the roof with a computer. In fact it has long been a fantasy of mine that she should become so wealthy that my job would just be to take her her post and cups of tea and coffee. This fantasy has become sort of true. Sadly, the wealthy bit is missing. Anyhow, being self employed, she can decide she's going to feed a neighbourhood cat before she starts work. This plus my own 'garden leave' adds up to the fact that there is no sense of  urgency at all in the bathroom on my part, just a vague sense that I must somehow sort out the future.

Consequently, while scraping a part of my face to make it presentable in case a job comes banging on the door, I notice black stuff round the plug of the handbasin. I know what this means; the black stuff and I are old enemies, and the plug is my favourite part of the bathroom. To close the plug you just push it down. To open it you push it down again. The spring feels strong and the plug is a slightly domed chromed surface that has nothing to do with past participles or Individual Learning Plans.

The black stuff, on the other hand, is a gloopy mixture of soap, hair and some life-force born of neglect. Left to itself it clogs the pipe that takes the shavings, dirt and soapy water away to Nowhere. The lovely plug, in extreme circumstances, then becomes redundant too. So, in my pyjama bottoms, and soapy round the chops, I declare war. I grab the rubber plunger from it's place at the foot of the handbasin and unscrew the plug from the basin. I put the plunger over the plughole to act as a temporary plug, fill the basin half full with water, place a finger over the little overflow hole (to do with making a vacuum), and pump the plunger up and down several times. Water and black goo go in and out of the plughole like the thrashings of some dying sea monster. They drain satisyingingly away to Nowhere.

When you look into a plughole you there's a sort of rudimentary trap like the spokes of  a wheel. On the spokes lurk the hairiest remains of the black stuff. They are just out of reach with your fingers. Cho employs a knitting needle, apparently, to get at them. I use a finger and the nail-file attachment on the nail clippers. As in life and learning, everyone has different ways of achieving the same end. Today my method was very successful and I chucked a large lump of hairy goo-monster down the toilet. Another route to Nowhere.

I can hear friends and colleagues who are still properly employed saying "Alec, you've got too much time on your hands," It's true, and it's rather weird. It's never happened before, unless you count being a hippy nearly forty years ago. I suppose I would reply, "Yes, but you've got a secure future." Which is true, isn't it?


  1. Ah, but to echo the enigmatic closing line of your first post, all secure futures are temporary. Am intrigued by the Alan Turing echo in your blogging name. What is the connection, I wonder? Have you been a secret mathematician all these ELTing years?

  2. No, just a silly pun that got lucky