The Case Of The Subterranean Bang
A tale of suburban woe and economy.
Having retired to bed at around 10 pm last night, I had been looking forward to finishing my book. “Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo. A cracking story. The only problem is, it’s a very large book, and rather uncomfortable to read in bed. My wife was still on the Skype phone to her friend in France, and had been since 8:30.
Pixie the cat was nowhere to be seen; probably out on one of her frequent evening rambles around the neighbourhood, which is normally punctuated by the sound of caterwauling, hissing and spitting, and the sight of flying fur as she says hello to one of the many district felines.
I had just reached the part where Cosette was getting cross with Jean Valjean, when a dull “thump” shook the house. It was followed by the sound of someone dropping a tea-tray containing one’s entire collection of bone china. Following this noise, utter and complete silence ensued. Finishing the paragraph, I thought I’d better investigate why my wife was throwing tea-trays around whilst on the phone to her friend, so donning my dressing gown and sheepskin slippers, I found my way downstairs, where I found her peering anxiously upstairs. “What did you break?” she asked.
“Ah-ha!” I expostulated.
Well, if it wasn’t me, and it wasn’t her, the cat was out, and we don’t have a dog, what the hell was that noise then? It sounded as though it had come from the cupboard under the stairs. The door creaked as I opened it slowly, fearing that somehow the recently-captured Tilehurst bomber had escaped and was finalising his fiendish experiments in the stair cupboard.
A scene of devastation met our eyes. The serried ranks of home-brew beer bottles stood glistening in the light of the 40 watt bulb which I had installed using a contact switch. This fiendishly clever device turns the light on whenever the door is opened. It is not an energy-saving bulb; and once the directive from the EEC comes into force Heaven alone knows what we’ll do when it burns out.
Although I am becoming quite a fan of LED bulbs, the technology is not yet in place to enable the cost of the bulb to compete with the 100-year-old design of a tungsten filament. And the current fluorescent bulbs are all very well, but they take ages to warm up.
Where was I? Oh yes. Serried ranks. Well, when I say “serried ranks” it was evident that one squad-member had deserted its post. Peering into the gap, it was soon apparent why the beer bottles were glistening. When I bottled the last batch of elderflower wine, we ran out of wine bottles, so I used some clear glass beer bottles for the remainder.
It was evident that fermentation had not –quite– finished, and the resultant pressure had caused this particular ex-beer-bottle to expire. Dramatically. Shards of glass were embedded in the under-stair timbers, and the floor was awash with elderflower liquor.
The conclusion was actually to be expected. At times one felt like shaking Jean Valjean and saying “get a life, man! Don’t be such a prat!”. Yet all in all, bearing in mind that it was written in the late 1800’s, a very good read. I can thoroughly recommend it.
Oh and the understair cupboard? All clean again. My wife donned her French suit of armour on top of the full “Noddy” suit (a British army invention in case of NBC warfare), and, armed with long-handled pincers left over from her gold-pouring days, removed all the bottles to the safety of the kitchen.
One of the most suspect individuals is, as I write, in the fridge door. In a plastic bag. In a teatowel. Oh, and the eggs compartment – which is normally directly above the bottle tray – has been placed at the back of the fridge.
The remaining suspect bottles are back under the stairs, this time standing in an empty cat litter tray, covered with a blanket.