A soap opera of a slightly different kind

A soap opera of a slightly different kind


WHEN I was little, one of my favourite movies was the Song of the South, a movie that was well ahead of its time in combining live action and animation, and about which I remember most the infuriatingly chirpy and catchy song “Zip-a-Dee Doo Dah” and the story of Br’er Rabbit and the Tar Baby.

For the 99.9 per cent of readers not familiar with the story, the main character is a none-too-bright rabbit. His arch-enemy, the not-much-brighter Br’er Fox, devises a plan to catch Br’er Rabbit by fashioning a lump of tar into the shape of a small human, and putting some clothes on it. Br’er Rabbit idiotically picks a fight with the lump of tar and every time he lands a punch on it he gets a little bit more stuck, until he’s trapped. There’s more to the story than that, involving reverse psychology and Br’er Rabbit talking Br’er Fox into a course of action that ultimately permits his escape, but it’s the Tar-Baby bit that stuck with me, if you’ll pardon the pun.

‘Three and a half hours later I got home to find The Companion in the bathroom sobbing and cursing like a rowing club front-bar patron.’

Last Wednesday morning I was washing my hair in the shower when I knocked the soap dish off the wall with my elbow. It really hurt and I broke the little metal bracket that holds the dish on to the wall, so I asked The Companion to drag himself away from Air Crash Investigations on the National Geographic channel and fix it, since I was going out to lunch and wouldn’t be back until later.

Three and a half hours later I got home to find The Companion in the bathroom sobbing and cursing like a rowing club front-bar patron. The shower bracket apparently wasn’t fixed and as I poured him a whisky and asked him why, he told me what had happened.

To get the bracket off the shower wall and the soap dish back on, he needed both a new bracket and a screwdriver. So he went to the tool box only to find it had been so long since it was last opened, the clasp had rusted shut. To shift the rusted-on clasp he needed the WD-40 so he went to the cupboard in the hall, to find a shelf had collapsed under the weight of the red wine. So now we know what that noise was the other night. (I TOLD him keeping WD-40 and Merlot on the same shelf was a mistake!)  A plank of wood in the shed would be ideal as a replacement, but it was about four inches too long so he’d have to saw a piece off the end, only the saw was in the garage and when he hit the button on the automatic garage door opener a safety switch tripped, the door jammed and the lights in the kitchen went off. 

Flicking the safety switch back on didn’t help; it kept tripping and, to his credit, he realised that meant there was a bigger electrical fault somewhere. After his effort to address our telecommunications issues at the farm his eyebrows have returned to their usual position and he now knows better than to mess around with the electrics. 

The electrician said he’d be right there, which of course meant it was 90 minutes before he arrived, diagnosed a fault in the door opener, replaced it and reset the remotes ($407, including labour and GST, thanks very much), and fixed the safety switch so The Companion could get into the garage, whereupon he remembered we threw the saw out because it was both rusty and blunt and a new one would be cheaper than getting it sharpened; so he got in the car and drove to Bunnings.

On the way he decided to stop to pick up the dry cleaning but couldn’t find a park. Thinking he’d be only a few minutes, he stopped in a clearway outside the shop, and by the time he got back to the car, a ranger was writing him a ticket ($161). At Bunnings he found a tenon saw and mitre box (only $25 – well done him!) and drove home without further incident.

Armed with the saw, he took a bit off the end of the plank, and found it was now about half an inch too short to function as a shelf. Exhibiting remarkable ingenuity, he adapted the off-cut of the plank into three legs to support the short end of the shelf, and replaced the wine. Liberally applying WD-40 to the clasp on the toolbox, he eventually convinced it to open and located the screwdriver and a spare bracket. Now armed with the necessary tools – and a mere three hours after starting – he was able to remove the screws holding the metal bracket to the shower wall, replace the bracket and secure the soap dish.

Since it had been an arduous (and expensive) day, and a warm one, too, he decided to have a shower. You can see where this is going. When I found him he was sitting on the floor of the shower holding the broken soap dish. He calmed down a bit after a second whisky.