Yesterday morning at approximately 7.25, I was awoken by a ratty-looking man with a beard and – for reasons I’ve still yet to work out – two policemen.
I opened the door to the flat in my sleep-clothes: a pair of sweaty underpants and an oversized grey hoodie – one that was way too big for me even at Christmas, when I was four stones heavier – and I looked down at these three men, gathered as they were one floor below me by the open garden gate.
After the customary, and to my mind slightly offensive, double-take, the ratty one said: ‘There he is. Bag in your drain, mate.’
As you might suspect, I had absolutely no idea what was going on. My first thought, on seeing the police, was that someone had been broken into. Or stabbed. But why then would a strange, wiry man with a snout be telling me to bag in my drain. And what on earth could that possibly mean? Was he insulting me?
‘Wake up, mate!’ he shouted, smiling, and both policemen chortled into their attack-proof vests. ‘A plastic bag got caught in your drain out back. Flooded the shop downstairs.’ I still wasn’t quite getting it. I wondered if maybe I was dreaming. ‘Go and check your back room, mate.’
Leaving the front door open, I wandered to my bedroom feeling slightly shell-shocked...
I should explain: Keith’s flat is over a shop. The two bedrooms – mine and his – look out over the roof of the shop, which slopes back from the street down toward our bedroom windows. Beneath our windows are two small drains which take care of any excess rainwater. Sometime on Monday night / Tuesday morning, one of the drains had become partially blocked with rotting leaves and other ghastly ichbar, whilst the other had become completely covered over with a rogue carrier bag.
I pushed open the door to my bedroom and my face fell. Literally slipped off my head and fell at my feet in a horrified pile. I had to pick it up and plaster it back in place before I could even begin to decide whether or not I could actually believe my eyes.
Apparently it had rained rather heavily in the night.
Annoyingly, after my recent conversation about deskplace posture with Dr Lovely, I had just invested in a new monitor and keyboard, both of which I had plugged into my trusty Toshiba laptop and arranged in an ergonomically sound configuration on my desk.
I walked slowly toward my computer, as if approaching the charred body of what may or may not be an elderly relative. Halfway across the room, my feet began to squelch on the sodden carpet.
Keith incidentally, was not at home. He was staying over at Tilly’s house on the fashionable side of town. I - as I am wont to do when I am home alone – had been sleeping on the sofabed in the living room. I’d had a bit of a film night. Just me, a large packet of Revels (I know, I know) and a couple of DVDs. What DVDs were they? you ask. I’ll tell you. One was The Libertine. (A few good scenes but mostly rather dull – it seems the Earl of Rochester was the Sebastian Horsley of his day. Actually nowhere near that dull, but that same sense of ‘egotism as raison d’etre’. Yawn.) The other was Lars and the Real Girl. (Quirky and charming at first but after an hour I just wanted to slap Lars and set his stupid doll on fire. Towards the end of the film, I was actually praying for it to end.)
The thing is, ordinarily I would have had my laptop in there with me, but because of my back and the wise words of Dr Lovely, I’ve been trying to restrict laptop use to my desk.
My poor desk. Jesus. It looked like a desk on the Titanic.
My window had been open an inch or two, which obviously hadn’t helped stem the tide.
My laptop was also open, sitting there on the desk like a raped clam. It was drenched. Wetter than an excited mermaid. I cried out. A curse word. In agony. Then I quickly unplugged everything – two lots of four-socket extension leads were sitting in a centimetre of water – and I returned to the front door.
The police were now next door talking to the little old lady, whose flat had also suffered a soaking. Meanwhile, the ratty guy – who was annoyingly chipper, I must say – was on his way out of the front gate. He smiled at me as he left and said, if I remember correctly, ‘Don’t let any more plastic bags on the roof’. I bristled at this, angry at the implication that I could have in some way averted this catastrophe. ‘Nothing to do with me, mate’ I responded, but he’d already gone.
I closed the front door and returned to the scene of the crime. (It certainly felt like a crime.)
When I unplugged the various leads from my laptop, picked it up and held it on its side, a pint of water poured out onto the floor. I didn’t know what to do. It was like it was bleeding.
I shook it gently till it had more or less stopped dripping. Then I dried it as best I could with a towel and took it into the living room, placing it open and upside down – like an open book, spine up - in a brief patch of mocking sunlight. Then I did the same with the keyboard, my old PC, a pile of books and magazines, DVDs and CDs, a bunch of various lovely bits of stationery and all of my bedding and mattress.
Then I wiped down the walls and covered the floor with more towels. I then stamped on the towels like I was pressing grapes and as soon as they became soaked, I chucked them in the empty bath and replaced them with more.
Leaving the bathroom I caught sight of myself in the mirror. The first thing I noticed, apart from the look of panic still smeared across my face, was that hanging out of the flap of my boxer shorts was the fat end of a crispy piece of kitchen roll. Ah. That may have had something to do with the sniggering and double-taking. My face fell on the floor again.
I pulled the kitchen roll from my pants, wandered back into my bedroom and threw it into the bin. Then I realised that there was a length of toilet roll in there too. Ah yes. I remembered I'd had a bit of a restive night. Lots of tossing and turning.
When I tried to pull the toilet paper out however, I realised that some of it was stuck to my Johnson. So I pulled off my pants and threw them in the wash basket. Then I stood there, picking at the scraps of bogroll that were clinging fast to the end of my old chap. It was then that I noticed a shadow had fallen across the room. I looked up and saw the ratty guy on the roof outside my window. He was crouching down scraping some bits of rubbish and old leaves into the offending plastic bag. He was looking directly at me. I just stared, till eventually he gave me a thumbs-up and moved on down the roof, chortling as he went.
I continued staring long after he’d gone.
My humiliation was complete.
Not only had this gurning ratman observed me at my embarrassing worst, but also, and worse still, I had realised that the plastic bag which had been the major cause of the flooding and had resulted in God knows how much damage to Keith’s flat, the little old lady next door’s flat, and the shop downstairs, did in fact belong to me. In fact, it was the Curry’s bag I’d brought the new keyboard home in at the weekend.
I was mortified.
I figured out what must have happened, all the while trying to convince myself that it wasn’t really my fault.
When my window is closed, it rattles something awful. Every time a car passes outside, every time someone sighs upstairs, rattle rattle rattle. It is incredibly irritating. Thankfully, silencing it is merely a matter of wedging something between the two sections. Usually I wedge a tissue in there as there’s always plenty of them lying around. On Saturday however, I used a folded-up carrier bag. On Sunday I was sweaty so I opened the window. The bag, I now realise, must at that stage have fallen out onto the roof and floated about pretentiously, as if it were in a film, just biding its sweet time. Then, sometime in the very dead of Monday night, it struck, causing absolute maximum havoc.
So, it could I suppose be argued - at a push - that the flooding, and the damage, was actually my fault.
Jesus, I hope the landlord isn’t reading this. He might be jolly angry.
Speaking of angry, it suddenly occurred to me that I hadn’t looked in at Keith’s room yet. He might be angry too. Actually, if his room was in anything like the state mine was, he might be furious.
So I stopped staring out at the empty roof and I pulled on a clean pair of undies. (I make it a rule never to go into another man’s bedroom with my balls bared.) Then, tentatively, I turned the handle on Keith’s bedroom door, and I peeped in.
It was fine. (If it hadn't been, there is no way I would have admitted to owning that bastard bag.) I walked over to his window and peered through. The roof on his side of the flat is a good foot higher than on my side. I don’t know why. And I don’t care. I was just very relieved. As I crept out of his room – I have no idea why I was creeping; I think I felt guilty – I noticed a pair of handcuffs attached to his bedstead. I giggled like a four-year-old and ran back to the mess of my life.
To his credit, Keith was not that angry, even though the flat currently stinks of stagnant rainwater and what smells like mouldy cheese. ‘It’s not my flat,’ he says. ‘Otherwise I’d break both your arms.’
I have found someone to have a look at my laptop but their prognosis is not good. The first thing they told me is that I have to let it dry for ten days. After that, they said there is every chance it will never work again and everything on it will be lost. The very fact that it was so utterly saturated apparently bodes horribly unwell.
My laptop is three and a half years old and it has so much totally irreplaceable stuff on it that I still feel physically ill at the thought. As well as the photographs, some of which I will one day miss, there is writing. Lots of writing. This is what upsets me. There was a lot of stuff that could one day have been useful. Loads of notes I’d made, blog posts I’d half written – the survey results, stuff about my parents, stuff about my childhood… shit. Loads of stuff. Nearly four years of stuff. Even longer actually as I’d written up a few older notebooks which I then tore up and tossed away.
I actually feel literally gutted. But obviously I’m not. I’m merely metaphorically gutted.
I mean, I know no one’s actually died or anything, and there are probably some amongst you who will be thinking ‘Jesus, get over it’, and in time I’m sure I will, but for now I’m utterly devastated and I really need to go and stand in a corner and think about what I’ve done.
I’ve decided I’m going offline for a couple of weeks. Just till September, by which time I’ll hopefully have sorted out my old laptop or got hold of a new one. Hopefully this will also give me time to sort out my body a bit. I’ve had my blood test and I’ve got the ultrasound arranged for Thursday. I’m also going to get my bleeding anus checked out.
So, one way or the other, I’ll be back in September, ready for yet another fresh start.
In the meantime, please leave your commiserations in the comments. Plus, any thoughts on repairing severely water-damaged laptops – or at least getting the information off of the hard drive. And if you have any heart at all, please don’t mention the words a) insurance, or b) back-up, else, I swear, I will throw an enormous tantrum right in your horrible superior face.
Enjoy the rest of the summer.
Watch out for plastic bags.
PS. Here is a lovely picture of a rainbow over Peckham that I took on Sunday night. I remember thinking, ‘Awww. We might moan about the rain, but if it can do this, then it can’t be all bad.’ Oh, the irony.