66. Is the Grass Greener? Septic-tank-emptying display team and a fatberg; living the dream

Friday 24 February 2023

Chris and I, along with our neighbour, stood in a row watching in amazement as an enormous nine-and-a-bit-foot-wide tractor with a tanker attached to the back reversed – yes, reversed – across our bridge, which is nine-foot, and back a further sixty metres. The enormous tyres were slightly wider than the bridge. Tense. The man who drove it, and executed a series of further manoeuvres to turn it around and reverse into the neighbour’s field to empty his septic tank, was an extraordinary driver. When their work was done, at the same kind of ‘wow, that’s fast’ speed they arrived in the tractor and tanker-trailer, with an extra two tonnes of, ahem, slurry, they sped off along twenty miles of country lanes. I was glad to not be on the road in the opposite direction.

The tank is now as empty as it is supposed to be (apparently, something has to be left because of good bacteria), having been significantly closer to full than we realised. The previous owner suggested it had been emptied about two years ago and would be okay for another year. The two of them said it had been there a lot longer than two years. I felt it added nothing to my newfound septic tank knowledge to question how they’d know that.

Septic tank at front right corner of shed. Tractor and tanker tracks behind black car with driveway through the gate. Neighbour’s tank at far right, slightly to left of circular board.

The emptying of the tank has revealed that we have a fatberg at the kitchen drain and, we were relieved to hear, one that has been building up for a very long time, ie before we moved in. Neighbours in small communities like this are significantly more important than anywhere else I’ve lived. Our neighbour, after the two farmers had left, came over with a jabby kind of pipe-prod and we had a go at trying to clear our fatberg. It defeated us. But we were massively impressed that (A) our neighbour went to so much trouble to help us out and (B) that he helped us with a stinky, toilety, septic tank issue. He offered us the use of [piece of unfamiliar equipment] if we needed to [do something we didn’t understand]. Chris and I gave him our usual bewildered look, paused and said not to worry as we’d call a drain person. We then had a giggle thinking of the best names for drain and septic tank clearers (“shit shifters” was my favourite), before Chris went off to find a professional, the kind of person who would know why a [aforementioned piece of equipment] might be useful.

So this morning we have a drain sorter-outer coming. Seriously, we are ratcheting up the tradespeople. I had a chat to my friend Fiona yesterday about the unforeseen expenses and issues with houses that aren’t connected to mains drains – how did we ever get to a stage in our lives where we talk about things like that?! Anyway, they moved into their house a year before us and have had to call out an array of tradespeople and deal with all kinds of issues too. It definitely makes you wonder how much previous owners know about upcoming expenditure before they decide to move house.

Yesterday morning, before the tractor excitement, I was in Hawick shopping. It was a frosty, sunny and beautiful morning. I enjoyed being out and about. I also think I quite enjoy chatting to people in shops, or maybe it’s just that people here are more friendly than people in London and the southeast so invite conversation rather than recoil from it. I sat in a coffee shop in Selkirk and enjoyed my morning out and about.

An oil painting “of” my warming flat white in Three Hills, Selkirk. 23 February 2023

My daily tidy/arrange-something-in-the-house plan is still working out, but yesterday all I did was rehang the papier mache bird I thought Chris hit his head on. Another perilous balancing act halfway up the stairs. Turns out that wasn’t the bird he hit his head on. I think I can guess what today’s one tidy/arrange-something-in-the-house thing will be, but I may surprise myself and have a burst of brilliance in between studies and writing today.