a frog in the drain

Zen and the Art of Drain Cleaning

Friday 29th September 2000, West Yorkshire
zen spannerIN HIS INSPIRATIONAL BESTSELLER of the 1970s, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M Pirsig recalls watching a mechanic in a small-town workshop actually repair a broken component of a motorcycle, rather than scrap it and order a replacement part. The mechanic's old-fashioned qualities of self-reliance, improvisation and skill were a revelation to Pirsig. The book's cover logo is a spanner sprouting into a lotus blossom.

drain scooper I remember packing the paperback into my haversack along with my tent and heading for the hills of Ribblesdale.

What brings it to mind today is clearing out a drain. I realised it was time to act it when I saw a Frog using it as a little pond, but the leafy debris was too deep to get to grips with.

Yesterday I bought caustic soda, but I was put off using it by the instructions; if it is so dangerous to handle, what effect will it have when it gets into our stream, via the storm drain?

Instead I devise a makeshift scoop; a strong plastic cup firmly attached to the end of half an old broom handle. It took me less time to make than it did to look around the D.I.Y. stores in a fruitless search for something that would do the job.

Shed Culture

I'm pleased that I was able to concoct the whole thing from recycled materials. It reminds me of the days when there seemed to be a network of little workshops in back garden sheds. We have less time and space for such projects, and less need for them today. We demand a quick fix for our problems. Apart from the consequences of our quick-fix culture on our planet, I think we are missing out; there's a certain pleasure in thinking around a problem and working it through for page

Richard Bell
Richard Bell,
wildlife illustrator

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