Saga of a woman old enough to know better who lets her life be governed by the ridiculous hobby of breeding and showing dogs, musing on life, the twenty first century, Cameron and his mini-me, and the occasional sheep.

Sunday, August 08, 2004


Plumbing escapades set me thinking about the other end of the rural water consumption experience - the septic tank. Everyone has them and no-one talks about them. I don`t care - I have no shame: mine is situated a hundred yards down the bottom orchard, tastefully surrounded by hawthorn, and the soakaway runs down to a small burn, and eventually I suppose to the Clyde, which flows one field away from the bottom of my holding.

I have an arrangement with my septic tank. I don`t bother it, and it doesn`t bother me. This has worked for 22 years so far.

Every year the council inform me that they will clean it out, and every year I put a stop to that. I suscribe to the philosophy of "if it aint broke, don`t fix it."

My first experience of septic tanks was as a student - in the little villages surrounding Cambridge there were many of them. The fens are flat and the water table is high.......no, not ideal for septic tanks. It was not unusual to answer the door to a neighbour asking to use the phone urgently - "It`s come up!" he would cry, and you knew it wasn`t a lottery ticket.

But I live on the steep side of a valley and there`s no such problem.

There actually is a sewer within 70 yards of the property. 70 yards uphill. Steeply uphill. Use your imagination. I don`t propose to tap into that. Exploding toilets are quite bad enough......

There`s an esoteric art to installing these things. My friend a few miles further up the valley had a new one installed a few years ago, and after a couple of days labour the builder came to her door and said:

"Right, it`s in. It`s time for the chicken."

She was totally at a loss. Was she expected to provide a celebratory chicken dinner for seven workmen?

They gazed at her expectantly.

At last, seeing her total perplexity, the builder gently explained.

The point of a septic tank is that it is septic. You would never dose it with disinfectant. And in this area it is customary to start it off on it`s bacterial way by standing on top and ceremonially dropping in a dead chicken.

Very reassuring, these old pagan survivals.
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