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The Wrong Way
Perspective is everything
31 March 2020 . 5min read

In the garden there is a big round hole. It's about 3 feet deep and has a blue edge to it. It's full of water. It doesn't work.

Some of us have actual physical to-do lists. Some of us have digital to-do lists. Some of us have mental to-do lists. I have none of those. I have no to-do lists, quite simply because my brain doesn't work at all well with them. They cause some kind of short-circuit. I've learnt that it is just best not to have them.

In what I can only explain as a blatant, outrageous act of defiance, fixing this broken circle of water, managed to create its own to-do list. It was a to-do list of a single item. "Fix water thing". Having created itself, it then had the audacity to lodge itself into my mind. There it sat.

Sometimes a thought would bump into it. I could feel it. Now, with that single "proper" to-do list item in there, one would naturally think that it would get resolved nice and quick.

It was.

It sat around for a couple of years, and then that singular to-do item got addressed ... last Saturday.

Permit me to lay out the vastness of the task at hand. The circular water thing was a small pond thing. The broken thing was a fountain pump. I know, it is a lot to keep in your head at one time.

From about the age of 5, I can remember my father fixing things. He would not only fix things, but he would improve things. I remember our TV which had a slider for the volume control, and touch channel changer. It had 8 channels, although obviously there was only BBC1, BBC2 & ITV; 3 channels. Want to change channel or adjust the volume, then just walk over to it and do it. Simple. Dad wanted to improve that. So he built a little black box with 8 buttons & a dial. He then ran a cable into the TV, and wired it directly into the TV. We now had a remote control.

It seemed like magic to me.

As I was older, our car often needed repairing. It was a 1977 Triumph 2500 PI Salon. A straight-six engine, with mechanical fuel injection. It was fabulous. It had a mind of its own. It needed maintenance.

I remember something being wrong with the gearbox. It had 4 forward gears, with overdrive on 3rd & 4th; it was complicated. So, armed with a Haynes Manual, Dad took to fixing it. Taking the gearbox out, using an old Castrol GTX oil can to soften the fall as it dropped onto the garage floor; it was a bit of a mission. Next came a total disassembly. Spring, cogs, rods, all sorts - spread all over the garage.

I don't recall what the actual problem was, but I remember we took the gearbox out 5 times over the next 10 days. In the end, it was fixed. Dad fixed it.

With all that, and other, history behind me; it was my turn.

Step one, check that it is broken. Throw the switch. Nothing. OK, a positive start. Step two involved removing an unnecessarily large amount of rockery and garden statues. Step three was more free-form.

OK, don't worry, I'm not going to spend the next 1000 words giving a blow-by-blow account of every single step; just stick with me for a moment.

Checking that the 240 volt cable, that was "protected" with some tape, was good (ignore the rust). I had to confront the fact that it could be a broken pump.

This hadn't worked for at least 2 years, so the water was... well, let's just say "green".

I fished out the pump. As a sanity check, I flicked the power switch to it. It coughed and then worked. Excellent, I wouldn't have to undo all that nasty tape around that nasty connector-block-hack thing.

I lowered the coughing pump just below the waterline. It worked. Mmm, what was the problem? I looked at the water. It had settled, and was clear. OK, so perhaps it just needed a kick. Great, that was an easy fix.

So I installed it back in the same position. Flicked the power switch... cough, then nothing.

Pulled the pump out; it worked. Put it just below the surface; it worked. Looked at the water; it was clear.

So we had a working pump, "working" water, but combined, they didn't work.

I'm sure you have had the same kind of feeling. You know, when two things work separately, but combined, they just don't at all work. Sometimes it is in your place of work. Sometimes it is in the relationship between your loved ones. Sometimes it is between your kids. Put them together, and they just don't work right.

I finally did work out what the problem was. There was nothing wrong with the pump, there was nothing wrong with the water. The problem was that the pump had to pull in the water to pump it up. That inlet was pointing downwards. It wasn't pulling in the water; it was pulling in the sludge at the bottom.

I didn't need to change the water. I didn't need to fix the pump. All I had to do was to re-orient it, so it pulled the water from above.

Sometimes the reason that things don't work is not because of the individuals. It is not the combination of those individuals. It is just that we are looking at it from the wrong angle.

Sometimes you just need to look at the broken thing from a different position to see that it really isn't broken at all. It just needs a minor adjustment of perspective.

The pump wasn't broken. The water wasn't broken. One just needed a minor change of position; fixed.

Taking a photo of something boring from a different perspective can make it more interesting.


Profile photo of Nigel Derbyshire

I'm a carbon-unit who writes; a Carbon Writer. Life & culture are my default topics, mixed with a little English wit & sarcasm. Full of mostly true stories, I occasionally remember to write them down. Found in a crowd, or contemplating in a corner. Habit of talking to anyone. Author.
- Nigel Derbyshire