Powerless – The Year the Lights Went Out

Monday, June 9 – The sweet smell of summer
Summer has been here yesterday and today, but I had to rush to bring in the sheets late this afternoon when the sky darkened and fat raindrops started falling for a few minutes. The linen was almost dry, just right for the flatirons. I heat them by the fire, but sometimes have to make sure they aren’t dusted with smuts before we iron white linen.
However, in contrast to the fresh bed linen and scent of lavender water, which I use when ironing, today there’s also been the stench of the cesspit and the reek of men covered in filth and sweat. We suddenly realised that our drains were backing up, which always means there is either a blockage or that the tank is too full of solids for the liquid to drain off through the soakaway. I suppose we knew it would happen sooner or later and we would normally have booked a tank emptying in the middle of winter, but of course we can’t book anything these powerless days.
Martin and Stephen manfully tackled the problem. First they prised up the heavy concrete cover to the tank, which is situated in the hen run. That appeared to have plenty of capacity, so then they decided the problem must lie within the drains leading to it, so they had to lift the manhole covers, one by one, until they found the blockage. That had to be dug out and carted away. I was reluctant for them to use the wheelbarrow, which we use when we fetch goods from the village, but the buckets are used for water, so the barrow was the only option. And oh, how it smelt. They’ve dug a pit over the back of the woods, as far away from the house as possible, to deposit the mess.
Then they needed a good wash themselves before I would let them back in the house. Luckily it’s warm outside, so I gave them soap and buckets of hot water. A hose would have been better, but that’s impossible without mains water. Eventually they smelt reasonably clean, but I refused to let them bring their dirty clothes inside the house and will wash them outside tomorrow if the weather permits. Martin is threatening to dig a ‘dunny’ if it happens again.

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