Before any time away from work, there are preparations to be made so that my son, his home and his fish can manage during my absence. Amongst other jobs, the fridge and freezer must be filled with home-cooked meals and snacks, the house needs to be cleaned, prepared and stocked with strategically placed supplies, the pond pumps and filter need to be maintained… and all elusive resident spiders caught and evicted from every room in my spider-fearing son’s home.
Food and other necessities having been organised, the pond was the last major task. I had already spent the previous two days lugging flagstones and great granite boulders to construct a waterfall. The first attempt, a joint effort with the builder, looked great but too heavy for where it was and I had to dismantle it the next day and begin to rebuild it. As I worked, ,I jumped at the unexpected frog beneath my palm that used my bare arm as a springboard, cringed at the lurkers on the wet granite and the wriggling things clinging to the fountain spout… but I persevered by pretending I could not see them.
But then the pumps needed cleaning…and it is a job I dread for several reasons. Not only do the heavy pumps have to be dragged from the depths, I also have to face a deep-seated fear… getting up close and personal with wet worms. Or, in this case, thousands of writhing leeches, huddling together in great squirming, glistening clusters.
I am not afraid of worms or even leeches…though heaven help the medical profession if they ever try to put one on my skin. It is an old problem that dates back, I believe, to my childhood. I don’t mind earthworms in earth. I even played with them and kept my own wormery when I was younger. But, around half a century ago, there was a morning after torrential rain, when the path to school was so completely covered in washed-out, pallid bodies that I could not take a step without squashing worms. Since then, I have a real phobia of wet worms…or anything that looks like one.
You learn to deal with it, in normal circumstances. The odd wet worm can be expunged from awareness. You can look the other way… pretend it isn’t there, or that you have not seen it. You cope. With the pond, at the moment, you are not looking at normal circumstances.
The first time I encountered wet, writhing bodies while cleaning the sump, I had to call in the cavalry in the shape of my younger son. I simply couldn’t do it. But that was never going to be a long-term solution; my younger son works long hours and my elder son was physically unable to help. I had to find a way.
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