Fascinated by work to sort out mother of all blockages

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There’s a certain element of compulsion – mixed in with the obvious revulsion – when the lid is lifted on a blocked drain.

You’d think I’d have run a mile when the neighbours asked if they could raise the drain on my drive in order to ramrod their sewage pipes. But instead of politely saying ‘yes’ and turning to leave, I went to have a look.

One weekend later, with more than one set of clothes splattered in splashback, I still find myself sneaking out to have a peep at the mother of all blockages.

My neighbour – who I will admit is also my brother, which somehow makes it all that much better, keeping it in the family and all – has been working furiously on the blockage, as has his wife.

How their marriage has managed to survive is beyond me. My husband and I would have divorced rather than go through the double-ended poking, hosepiping and rodding that they’ve endured.

It has included taking a toilet off a wall, cracking open a pipe, digging up some roots and using every conceivable length of wire in the house to chip away at every conceivable angle. We’d have sold the house and let the new owners deal with it in order to keep our relationship solid.

We’ve spent hour upon hour waiting for the golden charm to appear – you know, the item that one of the millions of children who hang out at this end of the road must have dropped down the toilet and in a fit of pique, or embarrassment, or laziness, not told anyone about.

Sadly that hasn’t happened and the blockage appears to be a result of my sister-in-law’s good cooking. But how mesmerising, watching toilet paper followed by sludge and then more of the same, then a break and some more.

There’s something so intensely satisfying about the moment when each section of the blockage clears. It’s been the same feeling of smugness I get after spending hours pinpricking the bits of food out of the dishwasher nozzles. I created the grime, so I’ll do the time, or something corny like that.

All I hope is that should I ever find my own drains in the same situation, I’ll be just as enamoured in the whole process. But as they say, the grass is always greener on the other side – and now we know why. It’s well fertilised.