How To Turn A Simple Task Into An Extravaganza

The things about necessary tasks is that they tend behave exponentially, if you don’t keep a careful eye on them. Even if things go to plan, the chores and errands one needs to accomplish within a single day, can easily expand to fill the time allotted to them, and then some. In my life, things rarely go to plan.

But all good stories must start somewhere, and it is in the unravelling of the tale, that a writer earns their keep. Take for example, my offer to water my friend’s plants while she went on holiday …

This was supposed to be a minimal task. Perhaps calling at the house a couple of times over the course of the fortnight to give a quick spray around with the hosepipe. See – not even a watering-can affair. How difficult could that be? How could that possibly interfere with my serious routine of writing and tennis-watching?

Neither of us anticipated a heat-wave. So hot, I haven’t dared venture out of the house for much of the last four days – except, of course, to water those plants.

The thing is, I haven’t actually used a hosepipe before. I’ve seen other people using them, and thought how nice it would be to have one, perhaps for the allotment (if only I could afford it/get round to it/find somewhere to store it), but I’ve never actually picked one up and used the spray gun. Until a couple of days ago.

Things started well. I found the plants … sitting in their containers. I found the hose … attached to the wall and connected to a tap. I turned said tap on, moved confidently towards the first container, pressed the control button and nearly blew the container over!

At that stage, I still had the sense to let go, which immediately switched the water off. Sensible. I returned to the wall, and turned the tap down. Also, sensible. What I hadn’t realised was that the force of the water had loosened the joint between the hose and the gun …

I merrily continued down the garden, spraying a little bit here, a dollop there, and a good dowsing over there, every so often discovering that the hose wasn’t coming with me, giving it a bit of a tug to chivy it along and returning to the patio when it managed to get itself wrapped around a plant pot and wasn’t budging. I even managed to diagnose a blockage – a kink in the pipe – when the supply diminished into a dribble and tried to give up.

It was when I had reached the end of the garden, and was trying to water a rather large ‘tree’, which I couldn’t reach and had to stretch for, that the pipe and the gun finally parted company. Water sprayed everywhere! Mostly over me, missing the tree completely. My dog, who had been quietly sniffing her way around the garden up to that point, swiftly ran into the kitchen as the heavens opened above her.

It shouldn’t have been a disaster. But the one thing my friend had imprinted in my brain was the necessity NOT to flood next door’s garden. Such an incident was spelled out to me as the worst kind of doom.

On receipt of the vision of an overflowing watery cataclysm, something in my brain took a shortcut, and told me the quickest way to stop the water was to put my thumb over the now open end of the hosepipe. How stupid can one be?!!!

Whatever I was thinking about my superhuman strength and ability to enact my own personal version of King Canute, I cannot now begin to imagine.

I am fortunate in having a fairly flexible brain these days, and on discovering that I was now dripping from head to toe (first time I’d been cool all day), and trying to constrain something akin to a whirling dervish crossed with a dancing cobra in my hand, I realised that the sensible solution was to put the monster down, run back to the wall and turn the tap off.

I won’t bore you with the details of how many times I had to refit the spray gun before I could get it to stay connected to the end of the pipe, nor how many times I had to go back and check the tap was turned off before I could bring myself to go home. But I believed I had finally cracked the procedure when I made a second visit a few days later, and this time, only watered my feet.

The best thing about being a writer – the stories!

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