Boxed in

I have been in the cupboard for three days…

Damian Clarke
Jan 31 · 2 min read

Mick-the-Aussie-plumber is visiting to do some work in my cupboard. I have been in the cupboard for three days, so I know it needs professional help.

I am building a utility room in the cupboard under the front stairs.

The water, gas main and electricity mains connections all come into the house through the cupboard, and run along its Eastern wall. They are all in one place, and I have designed an inspection hatch to give us access to them once the walls are completed.

The mysterypipe enters the house on the other side of the cupboard, down at knee-level, and rises along the Western wall of the cupboard, following the profile of the stairs to where it ends, at eye-level. It is covered in some sort of fabric tape, and the end sticking out of the tape is encrusted with rust and knobbly bits like something you would see in a shipwreck documentary.

A spaghetti of pipes that looks surprisingly beautiful in its ugliness.
A spaghetti of pipes that looks surprisingly beautiful in its ugliness.
Pipes (Photo by Bruce Warrington on Unsplash)

In the manner of a professional carpenter — or a grandfather pointing with his pipe — I point the handle of my hammer at the knobbly marine artifact.

“Mick, whaddyareckon this is?” (I am speaking Australian)

“Well mate, I couldn’t rightly say?” (He is speaking English)

“Is that Pommy for I’m fucked if I know?” (Australian, again)

“Yeah mate.” (He is now speaking Australian too.) “It could be gas — they used to have water in the gas here, so they put the pipes on a slope to let the water drain away. I wouldn’t cut into it, that’s for sure. I’d just box it in and leave it well alone.”


Mick clamps his tiny pipe cutter around the water main and calmly turns it in circles until the pipe snaps. A tiny trickle of water drops into a strategically positioned yoghurt container.

I point to the black coating that looks like thick tape wrapped around the mystery pipe.

“Mick?”

“Yeah mate?”

“Whaddayareckon this stuff is?”

“Probably asbestos — nothing to worry about if you’re boxing it in.”

Copyright © Damian Clarke, 2019. Original post first published on the Our Albion blog, 1 February 2006.

Our Albion

he story of a guy with a hammer, some nails and an old house to use them on.

Damian Clarke

Written by

I’m a writer and publisher working in Sydney, Australia and London, UK. I specialise in finance, technology, insurance, property, medicine and sustainability.

Our Albion

he story of a guy with a hammer, some nails and an old house to use them on.

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