Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Spiders, dust and splinters

It’s been a while since I’ve last written something on this blog. There are a few reasons for this; As you may have noticed, I finally converted my photography interest into a hobby a few months ago and that blog steals most of my time on the train back home from work. Of course the other reason is that we have now been “down under” for almost five years and life has a way of changing anything that is new and exciting into mundane routine. When I do have a story to tell, it then relies on the presense of that elusive inspiration. I told my sister the other day, inspiration is a lot like going to the loo. Some days you push and push and nothing happens, and other times it comes like the volcanic whoopies and you have to drop everything and start writing before it is too late and all is lost. But before I expand too much on that disturbing thought, here is the next story from the life of the “Möllers Down Under”…

So what does one do on a Saturday afternoon in Melbourne if you have kids? I won’t give up my kids for anything in the world, but no one said it would be easy to raise them to the minimum standard acceptable to society! The Minister of Finances and Home Affairs was away at some women’s conference and I was tasked with the fatherly responsibility of looking after the kids. On this particular day (which will forever be burned into my memory) it rained in Melbourne, but unfortunately that didn’t mean that my offspring had any less energy. No, quite the opposite. I think there is a strong correlation between the daily energy quota dispensed to kids and the weather outside. The colder and wetter it is, the more energy they get. When the weather is such that those adorable and bubbly little characters have to stay indoors, the energy gauge resembles the rev counter of a Ford XR6 in Logan*. The fact that daddy worked hard all week and craves only a little quiet time in front of the telly with a cold one apparently doesn’t feature in this equation. No, in the Möller-household things were a little more interesting on that Saturday.

At that stage we had only recently moved to Melbourne and I still had frequent bad dreams about the day I was in the rental agent’s office where, with some hesitation and a slightly quivering bottom lip, I handed over a cheque for the rental bond, in the unlikely event that there is some damage to the property the day we leave. With that in mind I told Herman to rather play in the passage where his ball could not cause any damage that could jeopardise my deposit. I never considered the light. Neither did he, but the ball did. 

The one minute I was still enjoying the gentle sounds of children and bouncing balls, the next minute it was quiet. It was not the type of soothing quiet you enjoy while taking a nap on the picnic blanket under the trees. No, this quiet was one of those ominous and eerie quiets – the kids are silent, the wind is still, there are no birds singing. Just as the flat-eared dog sneaked into his kennel I heard a cry from behind the closed door of the passage – “daaaadddyyy!!” in a tone of voice that made it clear I was in for a surprise. With a churning stomach that I last felt when the copper waved me down, I opened the door.

As I looked up I was confronted with a light fitting that hung at a disturbing angle, barely clinging to the ceiling and threatening at any moment to provide the young lad with a practical demonstration of Newton’s Law of Gravity. The light’s impending rate of acceleration would be exceeded only by the rate of descent in my bank balance.

Kids and toys were immediately evacuated from the passage and a ladder brought in. I ascended with screwdriver in hand to try save what could be saved, but there was little hope. Where the light used to be fixed to the ceiling there was about thirty two previous holes that the unfortunate dad before me had to make to get the light back in place. The result was that the ceiling there was just one big mush, and where there was no mush there was a hole. I had a snowball’s hope in hell trying to get that screw fixed. The only thing left was to see what could be done from the other side.

I descended and after some exploration though the house, found the manhole. Of course the kids followed me eagerly and watched my every move with excited eyes that said “Now THIS is cool!”. I’m pretty sure crawling around in a roof has never made it to any list with the title “Things to do before you die”, but rather “Things to avoid or else you die!”. Who knows what evil lurks there, waiting patiently for the unsuspecting passer-by to sink his fangs into?

Before long I found myself deep inside the horrid darkness amongst spiders and dust and all that insulation stuff that makes you itch all over and wooden beams placed at the precise height of the average man’s head. With torch in mouth and wild eyes searching frantically for anything that can bite I made my way across to the offending fixture. I sat there for a while pondering, and thought to myself “Now WHAT?!?”, because all I could see from that end was the other side of the mush and the hole. But then a little inspiration hit and I saw the light, figuratively speaking of course: take one standard nail and bend it to form a hook, press it through the light’s screw hole so that it can hang by the head of the nail, then hook the other side through the ceiling. Attach one end of a wire to the hook and the other end to a beam in the roof. Eureka!

Like my mum always used to tell me, “the one who gets the vision gets the job” and so the roof dweller crawled / bumped / scraped his way back with torch in mouth and hands full of splinters over beams and spiders and stuff till I reached the hole, then down the ladder. Then it was back again with the ladder under the light to execute the first part of my plan. After that operation was completed I trekked back to the manhole with the ladder and wire and pliers and kids, ascended once again with a torch whose light was fading as fast as my will to live, into the darkness between spiders and itch-stuff, crawled towards the light, attached the wire to the nail and beam and voilà!

With a victorious smile that would make me an excellent Colgate ad candidate I shouted down to the kids and asked them how it looked. “The same!” came their reply. CAN’T BE! “Look again!” I shouted. “The same!” they said. “Wait, I’ll come down” I said and with that it was back through the dark netherworld mumbling profanities and almost shaping another bigger hole in the ceiling that would no doubt have provided endless entertainment for the kids. Between pipes and cables and cobwebs and everything that looks uncomfortable, through the manhole, down the ladder, past the wide-eyed children gawking at their dad and back to the passage to inspect the affair.

With all my faffing about on the one side of the light, the other side decided it had had enough and decided to bail. My watery eyes confirmed what the brood told me, the light now hung to the other side. Yet again I staggered to the garage to get another nail, still mumbling profanities to myself as I bent another hook. Once that was done it was back with the ladder to the light to hook the second nail, then back with the ladder to the manhole to complete the creepy part of the exercise – up with the ladder into the dark cave of misery. At this point I started to get the hang of it. I couldn’t care less about those damn splinters and if the spiders really wanted to bite they should go ahead and bite – I just wanted to get finished! I started to perfect my method with a rhythmic bend-back, long-step-to-next-beam, shift-weight, straighten-back-and-moan, bump-head, converse-with-self, repeat. Finally I got to the offending light and rigged the second wire. You’ve heard of suspension bridges, right? Well Melbourne now has its first suspension passage light! So with hammer and pliers and vice grip and roll of wire and torch and spare nails and approximately 13 splinters in my hands and itchy fibres all over and who knows how many spiders hitching a ride, I made my exit from the black darkness with a semi-controlled fall down the ladder and back again to the passage to fit a new bulb.

On that Saturday in Melbourne other blokes gathered around a barbeque fire or watched the game, I jumped around between roof and floor like a frantic monkey. But let me tell you something, you’ll be hard pressed to find a sturdier light and our bond deposit was safe, for now...

* if you happen to live in Logan, I actually meant Ipswitch.


  1. Excellent, had me giggling in the office. Thank you for sharing your experiences. Now I can tell hubby how to fix a light when it happens to us, although I now know the kids must NOT play with balls in the passage. :)

    1. I've since issued them with sponge balls - for their safety and my sanity! :)

  2. Worst bit is of getting up into a roof is sticking your head through the hole in the roof for the first time. Mind plays some bad jokes on you. We use to have one of those lamps on an extension cord. Throw that up there first to blind/scare the Aliens first.

    1. That could work, unless they see it as a sign of aggression or a mating ritual...