HOLMSEY: Why is everything such a hassle?

Aircraft carriers, floating bridges, the NHS, Tory politicians, England’s rugby team and The Archers – things ain’t what they used to be!

I’m building a small wall, which meant digging a trench, that constantly filled with rainwater. So I spent £80 on a ‘Titan dirty water pump.’ It worked marvellously well, once I’d connected a hose (not supplied), and taped it to the outlet pipe with ‘waterproof’ tape.

Sadly, after pumping happily for all of five minutes, the tape fell off again. It wasn’t really waterproof at all; it was an imposter! At my age, I’m never really surprised when things fail to work, so, to avoid trouble, I’d taken the precaution of buying two different brands of £10 ‘waterproof tape’. I tried using the other one, but that also failed.

Life is too short to waste time on useless rolls of tape or trading standards, so I drilled a hole and screwed the hose directly to the pump outlet. Yes, I’d probably invalidated the two-year warranty,and it had a small leak, but it sort of worked, until it didn’t. The blasted thing hummed away nicely; it just wouldn’t shift any water. It did make a kind of gurgling noise, so I knew it was still alive.

With great patience, after each and every deluge, somehow, I managed to cajole the bothersome pump into working again. Usually, this meant spending time wedging it up at a crazy angle, or shaking it vigorously. Naturally I turned it off and on again, a lot. I also flushed it with clean water, fiddled with the electrical plug and the ‘float device’ – which seems to inform its miniscule electronic brain that there really is water present – water that ideally needs shifting, please.

I couldn’t be defeated by a stupid water pump

It never stops raining anymore, so I’ve had daily battles with the pump, battles I managed to win, until last Friday morning. After work on Thursday evening, I managed to clear the ditch, the trench was almost dry, ready for work to recommence on Friday. Unfortunately, it rained overnight, which meant by morning, I needed the temperamental pump again. I rose at dawn and spent half an hour trying to persuade it to do its thing, hopefully before the equally temperamental builder arrived.

Towards the end of that wasted half hour, I started fantasising about smashing the useless thing with the nearest lump hammer. Instead, through necessity and gritted teeth, I talked nicely to it, and asked it to work, please!

Let’s spare a thought here for anyone trying to accomplish any outdoor task this winter. We’ve had unprecedented rainfall since October; February was the wettest on record. Self-employed groundworkers, contractors, bricklayers, roofers, fencers, farmers and everyone else dependent on dry ground to earn their living must have serious rent or mortgage arrears by now. They and their children must be hungry. Throughout my life, I’ve faced every kind of challenge. Poverty, relationship breakdown, business and money worries, tax investigations, immutable bureaucracy, dangerous wild animals and all manner of machinery have been responsible for tremendous amounts of anxiety and stress. Each and every time, I’ve triumphed against these obstacles using nothing but grit, determination and cunning. Trust me, if you were crossing an ocean, or stranded in space, you’d want me beside you. I’m a streetwise troubleshooter who thrives in any crisis; I know, it’s a gift.

I couldn’t be defeated by a stupid water pump, so I sucked on the end of the filthy outlet hose and syphoned that disgustingly muddy rainwater. Miraculously, the pump spluttered into life and my trench emptied one final time. It’s now filled with beautiful concrete, and I no longer fear rain. But why doesn’t anything just do what it says on the tin? Why is it not possible to make anything that works properly?