Shovels and spades

Six men stood in the road including myself. We all stood there hands in our pockets looking down at the tarmac. The sky was bright and sunny and all the activity on the pier had shifted to the hundred or so yards between the low pump house and the Cottage. That activity was now focussed on the road that separated the Cottage from the orchard where the pump house was situated and the length of pipe that must run underneath it.

Having taken advice in the pub a series of holes had been dug. There were five of them running down the orchard and one across the road by the Cottage. Each of them had revealed a length of the black pipe that run from the pump and there was no sign of a leak.

There had been some debate as to exactly where the holes should be dug.

Some of the men thought there should be some science to it and so they suggested stamping at the ground with their feet. Tom Cronin said that if it sounded hollow with the ground being so dry that was a sure sign that there was the leak. So there was a stamping of feet and one of the men told Tom Cronin he was a feckin’ fool as all of the clumping sounded hollow to him and there was nothing to it but to dig some feckin’ holes.

We looked at the diviner but he just shrugged his shoulders and patted the air with his hands and told us to dig where we thought best and if we found the leak then there it was.

With that advice in our ears I was asked for a shovel. I fetched one from the garage and gave it to the man.

‘That’s not a shovel’ he said. ‘That’s a feckin spade you’ve given me. You can’t dig a hole with a spade. A shovel has a point you see. A spade you can use for digging potatoes but you need a shovel for digging holes.’

There was some delay whilst some shovels were found and we then set about digging the holes. There were done in a couple of hours but there was no sign of a leak.

There was a pause then for some further talk and as it was warm we took that talk in the pub. The pipe ran under the road to the Cottage and so the next place to dig was outside the Cottage near where the pipe ran in. There was concrete there and one of the men mentioned that his cousin had a small digger that would go through the concrete if he gave him a call he would have it on the pier whilst we finished off the next pint.

Twenty minutes later we stood by the Cottage and watched as the small digger tore at a patch of concrete. The pipe ran just under the surface but it was dry there as well.

Tom Cronin had the answer now and he pointed to the road. ‘There’s the leak he said. It’s in the feckin’ road. Look we’ll dig it up now and we’ll have your water back soon enough.’

I tried to suggest that perhaps we should not be digging holes in the main road up the peninsula.

‘You’ll need to wait for the council then’ he said. ‘If you wait for them you’ll have no feckin’ water for a year. Look any car coming down for the next hour we can turn it back and they can take the back road. The digger here will have the road up quickly enough and we’ll find your leak and then we’ll put the road back again and it’ll be no worse than any other part of it.’

I baulked at digging up the road even if it came with the promise of clean fresh water in the Cottage after more than a week without. Although Cork and its council felt a long way away I was sure they would come knocking if we started digging at the road.

‘Can we not pull at the pipe?’ I said.

Tom Cronin bent down then and took the black pipe is hand and gave it a hard yank. It came out loose in his hand. He pulled hard at it again and the rest of it came out a few drops of water spilling out of the end.

He scurried across the road and pulled out the other half. More water spilled out of that end. So we had the pipe in half, one piece each side of the road.

‘We have it. We have it!’ he cried. ‘There’s the feckin’ leak. It lies under the road and now all we need do is dig it up and put it together.’

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