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I tell them I can fix it, but it just won't wash

I'm locked in a strange symbiotic relationship with my house.

I'm locked in a strange symbiotic relationship with my house.

I'm locked in a strange symbiotic relationship with my house. Whenever something breaks in my body, something also breaks in the house. The more I'm physically unable to do repairs, the more repairs present themselves.

This week it's been the dishwasher, which is already a source of household friction. It's 18 years old and the tray has lost most of its wheels. You have to heave the thing in and out in a motion designed to destroy your lower back. It also takes specks of food and bakes them into a hardened glaze more commonly achieved by a kiln.

Jocasta says I'm a mean tightwad who'd rather see the whole household in traction (having put out their backs) and suffering from food poisoning (having eaten off the plates) rather than buy a new dishwasher. She may have a point but have you seen the price of a new dishwasher?

Meanwhile, I'm limping badly, having destroyed my hamstring while dancing with young women at a bush wedding. The pain is enormous and it now takes me five minutes to walk from one end of the house to the other. I distinctly remember the moment it happened: I was jitterbugging with a 29-year-old and had just spotted the look of admiration from the crowd. It was a look that said: ''We thought he was just an old guy from work, but have you seen him move? Wow, that guy can really dance.''

It was a magic moment and the consequent week of agony, sleeplessness and painkillers has been entirely worth it.

The dishwasher, however, has sensed my weakened state and taken this as the moment to collapse. I come home to find the family celebrating its demise. ''Looks like we'll have to get a new one,'' trills the Space Cadet. ''I think, Dad, you're going to have to admit defeat,'' agrees Batboy.

Why the two of them have any interest in this matter is a mystery: so rarely do they use the appliance I'm surprised they know its name.

Jocasta surveys the stricken dishwasher, her shoulders squared and her chin up. Light appears to beam from her eyes. She is Napoleon after Austerlitz. Henry V after Agincourt. Alexander the Great after the Battle of Gaugamela. The battle has been lengthy but her enemy lies vanquished.

''If it had happened earlier in the day,'' she observes coolly, ''I'd have rushed out and bought a new one before you even had a chance to offer a view.''

These are fighting words. My authority as Tightwad-in-Chief is under threat. I determine that I will fix the dishwasher. What a shame I find myself unable to bend my knees.

I gently angle myself towards the floor, so I'm lying prostrate before the offending appliance, my useless legs trailing behind like a beached mermaid. I gingerly open the door, unleashing a cascade of dirty dishwater. In my injured state, I'm unable to scramble to safety and end up lying in a pool of greasy and possibly electrified dishwater.

I shout for the power to be turned off but the safety switch does it for me, plunging the house into darkness. In that still, dark moment I hear my family and the distinct sound of mocking laughter. I'm pretty sure the dog joins in.

I switch off the dishwasher, flip the safety switch so I can see, fiddle with the dishwasher, try plugging it in and again plunge the house into darkness. I repeat the cycle several times, limping up and down the hallway - Quasimodo with a mission - the safety switch adjudicating my every effort at repair and dismissing each as a failure.

The problem, perhaps, lies elsewhere. I unscrew the S-bend beneath the sink and locate a ball of matted material so horrific it may be that serial killers have been using our sink to dispose of their victims. I pull out the offending mass, unleashing another wall of putrid water which, again, empties onto my prone body with the sort of force normally associated with a fire hose.

I call for bath towels and slither around on the floor, sopping up the mess with both the towels and my jeans, pausing occasionally to steel myself against the shooting pain in my left leg.

''We could just get a new dishwasher,'' says Batboy, in an intervention I consider unhelpful.

The longer the evening goes on, the more I'm unable to stand upright. I'm a study in backwards evolution, wallowing on the still greasy floor like the first fish to attempt survival on land. ''We'll just let the electrics dry out,'' I say to no one in particular. ''It will be fine by morning. There's another good 10 years in this machine.''

I hear a long sigh from Jocasta. Remarkably, I can also hear the sound of my two sons rolling their eyes, which gives you some indication of how loudly they do it.

It's a long way from Saturday night and my moment of triumph, but as I sit here, wet and in pain, in a pool of greasy and possibly electrified water, before a dishwasher that will never work, I still have my memories.

My god, I was good.

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