A Squash and a Squeeze by the wonderful writer/ artist duo of Julia Donaldson and Azel Scheffler, was, much to my delight, my youngest daughter’s favourite book a lifetime ago. Only young, I think the fable of its message passed her by, she simply loved the sing-song rhyme, joining in with, ‘Wise old man won’t you help me please, my house is a squash and a squeeze,’ with gusto. However, I’ve been referring to the brilliant simplicity of this tale ever since.
Move over Aesop.
A tired old lady seeks the help of the local vicar when her house on the farm just feels too small. It’s a fair gripe, the house is poky. Instead of instructing the Hand Of God, however, the vicar commands the lady to fill her house, one by one, with her animals. How on earth will that help? the woman cries but, nonetheless, trusts in the vicar’s wisdom.
Once she’s filled her house with every one of her animals then summarily removed them all, the house no longer feels a Squash and a Squeeze but positively roomy. Clever vicar.
A few weeks ago, my boiler broke. I returned after a night out to find the floor around it flooded but, once ascertained that this was indeed boiling water and not oil and I would thus not need to evacuate the sleeping household, I simply switched off the boiler and hoped that my Carlsberg of a boiler engineer would be able to fix it quickly and cheaply the next day.
|The new one - not so different from the old.|
The boiler had died. Over the next three weeks the floor had to be replaced as the leak had caused it to rot and my washing machine was threatening to slip through into the foundations below. Meanwhile, I had to amass quotes with constant sharp-intaking of breath. Phew! Oil (gas hasn't made it to our village yet) boilers are expensive.
During the wait for the new boiler, I:
- learnt that there is an optimum temperature under which clothes, particularly children’s school skirts, will not dry
- rekindled my love for our wood burning stove, the kettle and the oil-filled radiator.
- fell in love with the immersion heater
- realised that the immersion heater does not heat more than enough water for half a shower and was reminded that being stranded with a head-full of shampoo and the deluge of cold water to wash it away, is tantamount to torture
- realised that tumble driers still shrink clothes however desperate the washer woman’s plight.
- used over a pound of sugar in the oil engineer’s tea. Honestly – three spoons in every cup and skinny as a pole with, as far as I could tell, great teeth.
- learnt that even fingerless gloves are not conducive to typing
- adored the winter quilt
Now, I don’t believe that a boiler breaking down when you are fortunate enough to have a rainy day fund to tap into (do you see what I did there?), is anywhere near a crisis. Yes, our health is the most important pre-requisite to happiness and four walls also help a lot. But I have to say, when the temperature plummeted and my fingers became so cold I had to plunge them into a bowl of water direct from the boiled kettle (I know, I know), my eldest daughter was going to bed in pyjamas, gloves and slippers and my youngest announced that she hadn’t had a shower for four days because she kept missing the one-shower-a-night slot, the passage from old boiler to new did become a little trying.
The Carlsberg engineer fitted the new boiler in only two of the allotted three days. The house warmed up like a Ready Brek advert and, once my family were showered and cleansed and packed off to warm beds, I had a bath; a full, steaming, bubbly bath. Never has hot water felt so luxurious nor bubbles so soft. How much do I now appreciate constant hot water and warm toes? The instant gratification of pink skin again, was almost worth the time without.
This was my Squash and a Squeeze moment. Or should I say, my Damp and a Freeze?
Have you had a Squash and a Squeeze moment recently? Please share!