Plumbed Fiction

I met someone at a dinner party the other day and it transpired that we both wrote blogs.

‘What’s yours about?’ she asked.

‘Oh, it’s about books. And about me,’ I said, worrying that I wasn’t making it sound all that great.

‘What about yours?’

‘It’s about plumbing.’

‘Really?’

 ‘Yes.’

But how can you possibly find anything interesting to say about plumbing? I wanted to ask, but managed to stop myself. I began to see it as a challenge; I wondered if I’d be able to write a post about plumbing.

I spent the rest of the dinner party racking my brains to think of any books about plumbing. But unblocking drains is not the most literary of pursuits, and I drew a complete blank.

When I got home I stared at the piles of books in the living room (we have yet to buy bookshelves), and combed through the titles. If one were to just take a book’s title, there would be several contenders for plumbing-related books:

The Waves by Virginia Woolf

Wild Swim by Kate Rew

Liquid City by Marc Atkins and Iain Sinclair

A Bend in the River by VS Naipaul (if only one could insert ‘U’ before ‘Bend’)

And what about Shame by Salman Rushdie?

But, obviously, none of them is actually about plumbing. Missed opportunities? I wonder what a novel about plumbing would actually be like.

The plot would risk being achingly similar to soft porn. A woman, at home, alone. Her sink is blocked. She calls a plumber. He says, ‘Take off your rubber gloves and leave them with the rest of your clothes on your bedroom floor.’ Or perhaps she says, ‘The sink isn’t the only thing that needs unblocking …’

Or it could be a crime novel.

Meet Pete Sinker. He’s a plumber. And a psychopath. How about Bob Snatcher, who bludgeons his victims to death with a sink plunger and spanner? Or Sam Yanks, the serial killer who finds his victims with an ad in the Yellow Pages, in which he poses as a plumber.

I suppose it could be chick lit. A sad single woman finds love when a dark handsome man comes to fix her bath. She’s too nervous to ask him out, so she keeps breaking things – sinks, dishwashers, washing machines etc – so that she can see him again. Then, of course, they realise they both love each other and live happily ever after.

Or, more alternative, there’s an old Polish cleaner in a very smart house, who accidently breaks the washing machine. She calls a plumber, begging him to be as quick as possible – it’s an emergency, if the mistress of the house finds out, she’ll get the sack. The plumber arrives and turns out to be from the same village in Poland/her long lost brother/her husband who she thought had been killed. There are some good in-jokes. They reminisce about when they first got running water in the village and their favourite type of cabbage, and laugh in the afternoon light.

Now I come to think of it, the possibilities are endless. Maybe one day I will come across The Heart-broken Washing Machine or A Short History of Sinks in Polish or Pete Sinker Plunges Again. And when people look sceptical and say, ‘How can there possibly be an interesting book about plumbing?’, I will direct them to this post and hope they will see what fertile stuff lies dormant in the U-bend.

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