News from Home 22, Part I
3/24/2006 (updated 3/24/2006)

Whenever the little things go wrong here at the Trellises, we call on our good friend Mc Sweeney - Odd Job Man, Philosopher, Irish Rover, Raconteur, and general all-round Presence. Thus, the call went out Thursday last, as our ancient (1937) drain work again shuddered to a halt, and backed up into the bath. McSweeney turned up promptly, rubber boots, ancient corduroy trousers and jacket, wispy hair peering from under a threadbare Donegal cap, and, as ever, about seven days growth of beard. He walked around a bit and took in the situation, nodded professionally several times, but could not resist a small sucking of the teeth, and a tiny tut-tut. I reminded him that it was a mere three months since the last blockage. He paused to consider the options.

“It is a terrible and strange thing”, said McSweeney.

“How so?” I ventured to ask.

“It is as if all the giants of the old mythology had somehow wedged themselves into a four-inch waste pipe. Truly, it is a problem, and it will need some thought.” At this, he sat upon an upturned bucket, took out an ancient pipe that looked as if it had been found on some Mesopotamian archaeological site, and proceeded to stuff it with shag. “Would you happen to have a bottle of porter about you, in which I could join you for a sup?”

I thanked him for his inverted hospitality, but reminded him for the umpteenth time that I no longer partook. He shook his head.

“It’s only beer, now, and hardly alcohol at all – why, it is virtually a Soft Drink!”

I informed him, with regret, that there was no booze in the house, not even of the soft variety. He took it philosophically.

“Did I tell you of the time that I once found a goat down the bath waste? How the creature got there was a mystery…the owner, a farmer called Foden (this is back in the Old Country) was bathing the wretched beast prior to the County Show, and some freak vacuum of enormous pressure had sucked it down into the bowels of the earth like so much toothpaste. I dug down to the pipe and cut it open longitudinally, releasing the goat with an enormous ‘GLOP!’ The creature seemed none the worse for wear, shook itself free of some obstinate slurry, and ran off to graze on some thistles.”

As with many of McSweeney’s tales, I thought I detected a hint of exaggeration. I asked if he was considering using the snake.

“The snake is a worthy weapon in the armoury of the plumber, but as its name implies, it is a slippery customer, and must be handled with care to avoid any unwanted backlash. Did I tell you of the time I was in India, and I witnessed a local plumber hypnotize (for thus it seemed) forty feet of stainless steel tape, and convince it to go of its own accord down into the sewage system?”

As it happened , I had heard this story on at least three other occasions. I asked him what the other possibilities were, with regard to unblocking the drain.

“Dynamite”, he said. “It may come to that. Or the acid is an old friend, but like old friends, sometimes they’re there for you, and sometimes they’re round at the betting shop, or drunk at their sister-in-law’s. Have you tried the plunger, at all?”

I said it was the first recourse, before any outgoing call.

“I hope you didn’t push instead of suck”, said McSweeney. “sometimes those things are the devil itself in the wrong hands. Always call your professional first.”