Monday, 13 January 2014



My front gate is a pretty reliable indicator of how much rain there’s been. When it’s dry it works a treat, but as the weather becomes wetter the gate swells, so you have to lift it slightly to slide the bar into the slat.

Hmm, think I’ll give it a little spray of WD-40, stop that rust spreading and lube the bolt to ease on its slidy way.

Mind you, I’d have to be blindfolded to need to rely on such tactile evidence of recent rainfall: the bottom corner of the garden is now a lake. The turlough in the field beyond has stretched its watery edges, as this year’s conveyor belt of brutal Atlantic storms relentlessly pummels in. I find myself standing on the back step looking at the lake on what was lawn, wondering if the young oak and two year-old apple saplings will survive. They're hardy buggers at the best of times and I chose old native Irish tree stock in the hope they’d be fitting for the climate.

So I stand there and stare at the lake, the gradient of the lawn and then head inside to watch the weather forecast. I’m sure it’ll be fine. Just more proof that you can take the boy out of London but you can’t take London out of the boy.

Turloughs exist almost exclusively in the limestone fringes of the West of Ireland. After more than 20 years of living here, I’m now used to the idea that lakes will rise out of completely dry ground, but when I first saw one, I was taken by surprise in more ways than one: not only because this huge lake had suddenly appeared in a perfectly dry field, but more because the summer before they’d built a mini-village of holiday homes in that field, selling them off to innocent American punters dreaming of cowslips, cold ones and bodhrans.

After the lake rose, at least half of the houses were standing in water up to their ground floor windows, and I couldn’t for the life of me believe the chutzpah of the builders, who must have known.

“Right!” said I to myself back then, “Never choose a place to live around here unless you’ve seen the house in February!”

Anyway, I’m off to get the WD-40 to spray that gate bolt. Have to admit, there’s something strangely comforting about the blue bottle with the yellow label. If I’m willing to ignore the rather uncomfortable fact that WD-40 is so called because it was Dr. Norm Larsen’s 40th formula for a Water Displacer to protect nuclear missiles; if I temporarily allow my principles to crumble into dust; to sigh and absurdly declare “Nyoocleear schmoocklear!”, then I can comfortably admit that I love WD-40.

To a man who’s no great shakes at anything practical, the little spray has, over the years, made me feel substantially less useless. I may not walk the macho path of power tools, saws and set squares, but thanks to that little spray I managed to score kudos as a young man.

Back in the days when cars had engines, rather than the plastic-encased computers of today, I lifted the distributor caps of many a young gal’s Cortina in pub car parks. A quick spray of WD-40 on their contact breakers, a flying squirt all over their spark plugs and a dollop on their coil and it was

“That should do it darlin’. You can turn her over now!”

Broom broom missis indeed. Chest hairs shooting out of me and a quick teenage snog with little cheeky Kathy, all thanks to that little blue and yellow can.

Truly, if there was ever a place and a time for WD-40, Winter in the West of Ireland must be it. I’m standing out of the wind and rain in the old pigsty, which serves well as a shed. The task in hand today is the hand shears, which have a wobbly central bolt, thanks to my strongman small brain efforts a couple of months ago.

The Snapper had arrived home with some snowdrops, and in the absence of a crowbar I repeatedly drove the shears into the ground and wobbled them back and forth to make holes for the bulbs.

Effective at the time, the tactic proved costly, as by the end of the job the blades were wobbling around independently of each other. Life has never proved lucky when I’m around and sharp objects are moving unpredictably, so I spray the bolt with WD-40, loosen it out, tighten it up, clean off the blades and spray them too. They’ll be rust free, sharp and swift in the Spring. The stuff’s safe around electricity and even un-handy scribblers.

After sorting the shears I make the most of my time in the pigsty, because it’s where they all told me I’d end up. I spray my bicycle chain and the rusty bit on top of the handlebars. It’s pretty dry in here, but nowhere stays completely dry in the depths of a County Galway winter.

The Christmas tree stand retired to the attic with a spray of WD-40 over its screws, so that next year turning the little blighters won’t require me to perform an excruciatingly painful combination of limbo dancing and pixie-wrestling. 

Last Thursday’s storm clean punched the metal mailbox from the fence, leaving it sprawled on the lawn yards away. I’ve wiped it down, stuck it back in place and now, I think the only thing left to spray is the mailbox key. There - sliding in and out as nature intended, were it not an inanimate object.

Enough! My colyoomistas deserve better than ranting product placement lectures. I’m off to walk the dog. At least I would be, if the bloody zip on my coat would do up.

Lady’s bouncing off all four paws in excited anticipation, but the zip is, oop no, dammit. Hang on, I know what’ll work on that zip...

©Charlie Adley

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