[This was written sometime over the last winter, when the events therein (only slightly fictionalised) actually happened. Having a fondness towards it, I decided to use this little vignette to launch my tiny paper boat of a blog out into the choppy, turbulent ocean of the internet. "God speed, little doodle..." as Ned Flanders once said.]
As I lie here in bed vilely hungover, my body swathed in a tangle of duvets and maintained at a comfortable temperature by an electric blanket, with only my head (the sole part of my purulent anatomy above the covers) prey to the biting chill that infects my house, I’m musing on the way that setbacks, like stooges and Christian gods, seem to have a fondness for the number three, as I was visited last week by a tiresome and entirely unwanted Trinity of Inconveniences.
The first of these was the reason for the appalling cold permeating my abode, rendering it vital for the continuation of good health to wear a thick jacket and woolly hat indoors, and is down to the eccentric nature of my heating system. A black, toad-like stove squats in the fireplace of my living room; stuffed with turf, coal, paper, sticks, and whatever else can be jammed through its grate, it produces a Satanic Mill’s worth of incandescent heat which, in addition to heating my scrawny, deckchair frame, is distributed by a tangle of copper pipes to the most remote radiator in the house, thus providing universal well-being and toastiness. But, I hear you cry: surely the immense heat will, if unchecked, cause your pipes to explode, threatening the integrity of both house and human? You may have visions of me, smouldering, stunned, and with a copper pipe driven through my head, being dragged from the flaming wreckage of my house by my faithful Hound and falling to my knees on the wet grass, screaming “Nooooo!” at the unfeeling stars! This is where the circulating pump makes its appearance. This noble device, fitted to the pipes, monitors their temperature and, when the critical level is approached, sluices cooling water through the whole system, thereby averting disaster! Hurrah!
Unfortunately for me, however, this integral component had burned out. And not only that, but there appeared to be a blockage somewhere in the labyrinth of pipes, and a Handyman was required. So, through the intermediary of the Ear Trumpet, one was called. Two days later he arrived, examined the offending parts, muttered something about a New Part, ten minutes’ work, it’ll be grand, and then disappeared, both out the front door and, although I wasn’t to know it at the time, out of my life. This latter fact only became apparent as repeated phone calls determined that he was definitely coming out on Tuesday, then Thursday, then first thing Saturday, bit of a backlog, you know, then he was ill, then he’d been abducted by aliens who brought him to the mind-shattering central chaos at the heart of the universe masked by the name Azathoth, then he’d been out digging a hole in his garden and plummeted through the Earth’s crust into a night-black cavern where vast, slimy beasts fought the dreadful spider-people across the millennia, but once he’d found the Red Jewel of Sgdhki’fgh and brought peace to the Underworld, he’d be right out to fix my pump. Meanwhile, I was left sitting in my kitchen warming my hands on the grill of the oven, freezing, bereft of energy and laughter, and wishing that I still drank so I could dissolve my ennui in a gallon of cask-strength single malt whiskey.
It was at this point that the second of my Trinity of Inconveniences came a-knockin’ on my back door. As I was stomping around my glacially chilled house cursing the worthless Handyman who’d abandoned me to my fate, I decided that the only way to improve my spirits, in lieu of actual, bottled spirits, was to get upon the internet and ejaculate my boiling rage out into cyberspace. Yea, for online ranting will solve all ills! That’s when I discovered that my computer, gateway (or prophylactic, depending on your perspective) to the rest of the world, had developed some weird hard-drive lurgy and was defiantly refusing to turn on. No amount of pressing buttons, fiddling with tangles of cables, or shouting improbable obscenities could summon forth even a flicker of computer life. After many minutes of this, I was reduced to maudlin pleading, like a heroin addict begging for a fix, but the curséd thing just sat there like a plastic turnip. The tears were freezing solid on my pockmarked cheeks as I digested this second setback: no heat, and now no blogging (or podcasts, shopping, facsimiles of the Utrecht Psalter, or the myriad of other services which makes the internet a sanity sustainer out here in the depths of rural Ireland).
There was only one thing for it, one course of action compatible with honour. I savagely wiped the tears from my eyes, strode purposely into the kitchen and grabbed my car keys, put on my drinking hat (a stove-pipe affair set at a jaunty angle) and my curry-eating trousers (a multi-coloured hippie-ish garment chosen because even the most virulent turmeric stain is invisible on its polychromatic surface), then headed out to my velocipede with one thing on my mind: motor to the nearest town, find a cheap curry house with a liquor license, and spend the evening getting totally bladdered while stuffing my béal with spicy food. With luck, the resulting internal warmth, combined with alcoholic numbness, would tide me over until heat and technology were restored to my horrible hovel. Having an alcohol problem means that I rarely drink, but it was, after all, a crisis.
At this point, seated in my car and dreaming about that first piquant bite, I met the third malignant performer in the little Trinity of Inconveniences that had chosen to descend on me. My car, when started, was producing a whirring, grinding noise deep within its bowels, similar to someone dragging an iron bar along a set of metal railings. I rang a mechanic of my acquaintance, describing to him this problem, and he chortled and said those most dreaded of words: “Well, it doesn’t sound good…” I was ordered not to drive anywhere until he’d had a thorough look at it, so I hung up, leaving him rubbing his hands together and chuckling at his imminent acquisition of the few remaining coins in my dusty and pitiful savings account. I stamped back into the house, dragged out an ancient bottle of gin from the back of my press (hurling anything in the way over my shoulder in a frenzy), and then, without tonic, lemon, or any of the accoutrements of civilized drinking, I got completely slaughtered, slugging the foul liquid from a pint glass while watching Lucio Fulci zombie movies (the uncut versions) and simultaneously listening to earsplitting noise music on the stereo. Sometimes it’s the only way to cope.