The rain is still falling.  Still.  Part of me struggles to believe it.  So much water has poured in through the hole in my ceiling that there’s now a hole in the floor, the boards rotten right through.  Tomorrow the erosive power of the cascade will wear a hole through Mr Clarke’s floor too (and his one’s concrete), down and down, on its unassailable path to the centre of the Earth, at which point the sheer volume of water careering downwards through the many layers of the planet’s innards will quench the fire that burns at its centre, and the great cooling process will begin that sees this globe descend into another – this time irreversible – Ice Age.  All life extinguished, the planet silent, formless and void once more.  All because of this blinking rain and that crummy hole in my tiling.

It may sound silly but put yourself in my position and maybe you’ll appreciate the weight that’s on my mind.  I can’t help it if my imagination runs away with me – I try to remain level-headed but it’s all so infuriating.  What started as a drip from a tiny crack in the middle of the Artex last February is now a gaping chasm two inches wide with a steady stream of fluid dropping into a succession of frustratingly-too-small vessels from around the house.  The washing up bowl, plant pots, mugs, even the bucket we usually reserve as the sick bowl in times of illness – all of them are lined up, waiting to take their turn at collecting as much of the stuff as they can muster, while my wife and I conduct our new cyclical routine of one of us rushing to the window to deposit the contents outside while the other positions the next receptacle beneath the open maw of the ceiling, for 18 hours of the day (overnight we heave the bath out of its fittings, to give us a chance of some sleep – we’d do it in the daytime too but it’s an awful lot of effort to tip out).  Admittedly, yes, our system would work just as well with three, and even just with two containers if we’re careful not to spill any of it during the transition, but really we feel we ought to give all of our belongings a chance to show their worth in an emergency situation.  Even the lid from the mouthwash bottle is currently in the queue, ready and willing to be of assistance in our time of need.  The bottle itself, however, is still about thirty percent full, and I’m not keen to waste its precious cargo or dilute it to pathetic homeopathic proportions for fear that by doing so I might be sacrificing my oral hygiene.

Our friends are being very supportive.  Bill pops round every afternoon to bring us some nosh, something to keep our energy levels up and our stomachs satisfied.  Sometimes he offers to hold the biscuit tin in place below our new water feature so that we can take a quick relief break or have a cup of tea.  I suppose the one advantage to the situation is that it’s easier to fill the kettle with one hand now; no more faffing with the mixer tap.  You’ve got to take the positives where you find them – even if they are potentially contaminated with traces of asbestos.

Jenny visits us on Tuesdays in her lunch break.  She’s awfully busy down at the office but it’s nice to know that she still thinks about her parents at a time like this.  Her boyfriend Mark has been round just the once.  Took one look at the place, turned up his nose and said he’d be in the car.  Git.

The only real trouble I’ve faced is with the boss at work.  First chance I got I rang him up to explain that I might be a bit late.  Ever since then he rings me up every morning to ask if I’ll be back in.  It’s been three weeks, he says.  Six weeks, three months, six months, a year – I can’t keep your job open forever you know.  Besides Mrs Wilson called and you still haven’t gone round and sorted her smoke alarm.  What if she dies in a fire?  Nag, nag, nag.  Thankfully I’m still being paid, even if it is only at half rate.  Claire’s work were much more understanding.  Take extended leave, they told her.  We’ll cover your shifts until everything is sorted – we’re here for you honey, hugs and kisses, mwah mwah mwah.  She’s a nuclear physicist on the SPARTAN programme, investigating the rates of decay of alternative energy sources.  Claire says that in all her researches she’s never come across anything as corrosive as this weather.  It’s a joke of course, and it lightens the mood – you should see some of the stuff she has to handle at work, it’s at least four or five times worse than this.

Oh, here we go again.  The urn is full once more and I’m on my way to the window to empty it out.  Poor dad.  After we scattered him to the winds from the top of Ben Nevis (his favourite place) I’m sure he’d never have imagined his former post-death lodgings would be put to this use.  Still, I know he’d be happy to know he could be of use to us in this troubling time for the family.  Right now, he’s smiling down on us – I can feel it.

I used to complain I was caught in the rat race, that every day I was doing the same thing over and over again, with no real end in sight, no real hope of achieving anything.  Little did I know, hey?  If there’s one thing this ordeal is teaching me, it’s not to complain about what I’ve got – there’s always someone else worse off than yourself.  That’s what Cilla used to say – Cilla Black; used to live next door.  Always singing.  Barmy, she was.  But so wise.  And the jokes!  Every time she saw me – heeeere’s our Graham!  Still makes me chuckle now.  Never had the heart to tell her my name was Ian.  But she taught me a lot of things while she was alive – or I can see that now anyway.  Life may sometimes seem like a loop, an endless sequence of day after day after day – but it isn’t.  Within that structure there’s always a chance to break the loop, to stop the cycle.  You just have to be on the lookout for the opportunity, for the chance.  Because it’s there alright, it just might not be all that obvious to the person who drives relentlessly on, blinkered to their environment, their heart closed off to hope.  This is a loop – this never-ending water-catching dance – but life isn’t.  Life is a series of forks in the road, and all you have to do is have the courage to take the turn-off that you’ve never taken before.  Otherwise you’ll end up back where you started.

So as soon as this is over, once the rain finally ceases, I know I’ll take every chance I get.  In a world of possibilities I will steel myself to seize the day.  Carpe diem.  My eyes will be actively open, looking for the forks, seeking out the roads down which I’ve never walked.  Especially the one that leads to the house of that blasted plumber who told me he’d be here last Easter and then I promise you he won’t hear the end of this.

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“It’s here – right here, in this bumbag.”  “Aha, I see.  Yes, that is definitely money.  Thank you, consider it shown.”

Carl had run the village newsagents for 16 years.  While all the local businesses around him had crashed and burned (which was entirely their fault for basing their offices in windowless paper campervans and driving during that awful fire-and-brimstone incident of early 2006) Carl’s trading had gone from strength to strength, striding through the recession with the confidence of a badger applying for a tenancy agreement having eaten all of the other potential applicants.  Experts were divided on the reason – some put his popularity down to his love of the Jerry Maguire catchphrase, others to the fact that all his competitors had died in the firestorm; no one could say for sure…

“It’s in my wallet.  See?”  “Yes I do – well shown, sir; here’s your Doritos…”

His had been a turbulent life.  The son of a Yorkshire-bred gaffer tape manufacturer and a devoutly celibate nun, Carl was the 51st child of the family and the first not to be named after a different American state.  A budding reader, capable far beyond his years, he had surrounded himself with classic literature at the earliest possible moment – when still in the womb, in fact; Carl was born clutching onto a copy of War and Peace and with the first act of A Midsummer Night’s Dream tucked under his arm and annotated with amniotic fluid.  However, inevitably, as cinema entered the mainstream of entertainment Carl’s allegiance switched, and at the age of 4 months old he took up a scholarship with the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.  Having been passed over for many a starring role (which often went to Humphrey Bogart, his nemesis) Carl finally achieved his big break, starring alongside Frank Sinatra in the little-known Revenge of the Little Hedgehog from Slovenia, aged 6 months and 3 days.  Critics lauded his performance as one of the finest of his generation and there was public outcry when the 1960 Best Actor Oscar went to Spartacus’s Peter Ustinov for what was – comparatively – little better than a school-play performance.

“Ooh, where did it go?”  “I haven’t the foggiest Mr Shilworth – it was right there in your hand…”  “That’s right, but now… it’s behind your ear!”  “That is amazing.”

As a toddler Carl had alternately fought and indulged in the temptations that came with fame and money.  Diamond-encrusted spacehoppers and full strength Calpol heralded the beginning of the opulent lifestyle that would propel him onto the front pages of the tabloids more often than he would care for.  But he always remembered his humble beginnings, regularly managing to send home sufficient funds to ensure South Dakota and Arkansas could afford to go to university and Rhode Island’s need for orthodontic treatment to correct what had become affectionately known in the press as “the nation’s overbite”.  By the age of 2, Carl had earned more from his movie roles than former neighbourhood playmate Bill Gates would in his lifetime.  He was the business.  But it wasn’t to last…

“It’s in my hand.”  “No, that’s the honey – the thing you’re trying to purchase.”  “Oh, I’m sorry, I completely misheard you…”

On his fourth birthday, the career that Carl had strived so hard to establish fell to pieces with one well-placed story in the redtops proclaiming that at 6 weeks old Carl had cried so much one night that he’d woken up New Mexico – unfortunately for Carl, the incompetent reporter hadn’t realised that this didn’t mean a million-or-so people, and the public could not be dissuaded from taking the angle put about by the media.  A petition was set up and signed by 8 billion people (mostly fictional) and Carl was banned from working in Hollywood ever again.  Finding himself out of work at 4 years old, Carl felt that the time was right to take his money, emigrate to the UK and set up a new life in a Somerset hamlet, selling newspapers and confectionery to old men with speech impediments.

“Your hand is empty.”  “No there’s money in it.”  “I can’t see it – show me the money.”  “It’s there, you’re just not looking hard enough.”  “I’m calling the police.”  “Okay, fine, here’s your money.”  “That’s great, ta.”

Carl’s new lifestyle had suited him perfectly.  Free from the invasive eyes of unscrupulous American journalists he had been able to start afresh, put aside the snoring scandal and still keep up-to-date with the latest Hollywood blockbusters from the comfort of his own armchair.  Then in 1996, Tom Cruise and Cuba Gooding Jr. propelled the romantic comedy Jerry Maguire to the very forefront of popular culture and Carl had found a new obsession.  Not since watching and re-watching Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps from his doorway baby bouncer or reading and re-reading D.H.Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers during his first ultrasound scan had he felt so at one with a creative work.  ‘Show me the money’ became his favourite phrase, and as a shopkeeper working behind a till he was to get the opportunity to use it every day for as long as he kept it up.

Everybody in the village loved Carl – he was jolly, he was intellectual and he had a whole load of dirt on many of the old Tinseltown actors and actresses.  And they were sad when he was to leave the settlement after being snapped up for a job that would be made much easier by having the words of Jerry Maguire constantly on his lips – a shrew tamer.