DIRTY STUFF

I SEARCHED UNDER EVERY BLADE OF GRASS FOR THAT MONGREL FLOAT NEEDLE, BUT ALL I GOT WAS DIRT UNDER MY NAILS AND GRASS UP MY NOSE

WILLIAM PORKER

I REALLY get uptight now when I drop small pieces as I work on stuff, and then have to grovel around on the floor to discover where that damn thing has got to. Yesterday, for example, I had to get out my old and extensively battered Victa lawn mower, a two-stroke Craftsman I had bought out of Noahís estate a bloody long time ago, after he had finished manicuring the on-board woolly mammoths. There was a need to cut down a small patch of grass, and I didnít reckon it was worth starting up my ride-on mower. So, even though the Victa had sat in my shed for 14 months, I thought Iíll just fire up old faithful and get that job done.

Ha! First off, it wouldnít even consider roaring into life. The fuel in the tank had turned to jelly, and nothing was getting down to the plastic carburettor.

So I drained the tank, put in fresh stuff, and it still wouldnít go for more than three smoky seconds. I know why this is, I thought, the jelly has blocked up the needle and seat. Iíll just undo the central jet screw, lift the carby face off and fix it. Of course I was doing this out on my overgrown grass, and of course I didnít put a dead shirt or a lump of cardboard under the mower to catch anything that tried to escape. Iím far too smart for that. So I pulled the flat face off, and the small float went one way and the even smaller float needle simply vanished.

I knew that sourcing parts for second-hand Noahís machines would be difficult, and I wanted to get the patch cut before it got too dark to distinguish between grass and dirt. So I began to carefully search under every blade of grass, eyeballed the oily spaces around the carburettor, pulled the closest wheel off to see if that mongrel needle was hidden behind, doing this over and over again because I was too damn stubborn and desperate to give up the search. The plastic needle was all of 2mm thick and about 4mm long; surely this small bit off Noahís mower canít be that hard to find? But all I got was dirt under my fingernails and grass up my nose.

After half an hour of nothing and two dislocated eyes, I was about to give up and consign this old mower to the tip pile. I donít know what triggered the remains of my brain, but I widened the search to a small patch of dirt a full metre away, and a small piece of pink plastic grabbed my immediate attention. So thatís where the little shit went to!

Almost lost it again in picking it up, but I wiped off the dirt and ever-so-carefully fitted it back in with the original float. I didnít breathe as I completed the final assembly. Finally the ancient Victa machine bellowed into life and I raced off to smash down some grass.

That episode was bad enough, but one thing I hate even more is cars that swallow spanners. I worked at one stage for a Jaguar and Daimler dealership, and those complicated cars were expert at ripping off dropped spanners and screwdrivers. And no matter how hard you looked into their internals, these bloody Pommy machines hid whatever fell anywhere near them. I lost half a toolbox over the years and suffered multiple hand cuts and bruises Ė I reckon all of my stuff got secretly mailed back to England, so the assembly line workers wouldnít run out of tools.

Then one time I was working on the wiper linkages of an HK Monaro, taking the plenum chamber cover off to get at the assembly, when I discovered the moving bits had been jammed by a spanner. A Dowidat ľ x 5/16in UNF ring spanner, to be exact, still shiny. It was then I knew that Munros were also hungry for hardware. I still have that spanner today.

I also remember an older V4-engined Lancia that I was replacing a blown head gasket on, late one evening at a Concord service station. I discovered a vital cam sprocket dowel had mysteriously disappeared. This Italian V4 was an overheadcam engine with a single cylinder head, and that stepped dowel was there so you could lock in the valve timing. I searched for a bloody hour over that concrete floor, shifting jacks and waste bins, but this vital missing bit had left for a seat in hell.

It was now midnight, and the only thing I could do to ensure the owner could drive his car away the next morning was file up another. Got that done and refitted the cam sprocket, turned the engine over and it locked up solid. I hadnít put the plugs in, and that original dowel was sitting on a piston! So I took the head off again, retrieved the bastard piece and at 2am I ripped that car along a deserted Concord road until the engine cried for mercy Ė just to teach that wog machine a lesson! s

I SEARCHED UNDER EVERY BLADE OF GRASS FOR THAT MONGREL FLOAT NEEDLE, BUT ALL I GOT WAS DIRT UNDER MY NAILS AND GRASS UP MY NOSE