The Black Hole

One of the many books I read whilst sitting on loungers by various pools or on beaches during the long holiday was about the Indian Mutiny or the First War of Independence as the Indians call it. The book was The Siege of Krishnapur by J.G. Farrell which won the Booker Prize in 1974. Tragically the poor guy drowned in a fishing accident at the age of 44 and only wrote 7 books. Let me say I don’t usually read Booker prize winners but this one was really good. As one later reviewer said there is no way that this or any other book written about the Indian Mutiny from a British prospective would ever be considered for a Booker prize now due to our obsession with political correctness.

Anyway I digress as the the black hole in question has nothing to do with Calcutta or the British Empire.

I must apologise for missing doing a post yesterday. I am sorry to say I became socially confused ( in the Navy the officers become socially confused with drink and ratings get pissed) by the time I normally write the blog and felt the better part of valour was  not to write a load of nonsense though some of you might feel I do that everyday anyway.

The day had started so well with my first visit to the Martina Franca Wednesday market for a very long time. It was nice that the various stall holders I frequent had not forgotten me and indeed asked how the vacation had gone etc. However things started to go downhill with an invitation for lunch which turned into quite a liquid affair. From there the bar seemed to beckon and that as they say was that.

There was however a genuine purpose to the lunch as it was to talk about our Pozzo Nero ( black hole) . Here in Puglia the pozzo nero is where all the household grey water and toilets empty into. In the old days it was just that a hole in the ground by these days it is tank with soak away and biological stuff to aid the disposal.

Ours is one from the old days and is not doing so well now. It should have been upgraded when we bought the place it seems but hey ho it never got done.  So the plumber who had been to the house to fix a problem with the drain said the time had come to put a proper tank in and place it not alongside the house where hauntingly the pozzo nero is at the moment, but a good 200 metres away down the hill.  It was lucky that the wine did flow quite freely. My Italian definitely improves with lubrication but more importantly for some reason Italians actually begin to understand what I am saying rather than just sitting looking confused by the jumble of words I am sprouting.

So we were able to have a good discussion about a subject that I would have struggled with before lunch as I seemed to be able to follow what they were saying and they answered questions I asked which is a rarity on normal days.

Apparently even with our ancient system we should have been having it emptied every year and haven’t been. Hence the trouble with the drain and the worry as to where the overflow might be going with the house so near. By then I needed another drink I have to say as it all sounded rather nasty as we sleep in the downstairs guest rooms when no one is staying with us.

When we lived in Ipplepen , Devon in the late 1990’s all the houses including ours had septic tanks and soak aways so we are not new to the concept. There a guy under contract came once a year and emptied it using a suction pipe to draw it up into a big tank on the back of his truck . He charge £80 a year for doing it I remember.

Here in Puglia it seems this job has become one of those jobs where the charge has risen way above inflation and now beares no relation to the work involved . There are many of these jobs down here which in the old lira days people say it was a lowly easily affordable job and suddenly with the Euro the same job went stratospheric. Now these guys want between €300-€500 a year for a single emptying. Is it any wonder that most builders that install the tanks offer you the option of having them knock a bloody great hole in the bottom of the tank so there is no need to have it emptied as everything is going into the soil. Of course fewer contracts mean the price goes up as so it is all self perpetuating.

Why is it that Italians seem so adverse to competition . In most other countries someone with a keen business sense would undercut the rest and clean up . Others would then follow and a load of contractors would also get out of the business and find something else to do. Here they band together to keep the price high and rig the market. It is especially galling when you know that unlike the guy in Devon who handed you a nice receipt that showed VAT etc and who then went home and did his books and paid the taxes due . Here there will be no receipt, no VAT paid and no tax paid so what he takes from you goes straight into his pocket . That makes his charge extortionate in the extreme.

Work starts next month on ours and I haven’t yet decided on the hole in the bottom !!


About hereinpuglia

Retired to Puglia after some 40 years in the travel industry working for P&O Lines, British Airways, Alamo rent-a-car,Abercrombie&Kent, owner of Quest Tours and Travel and finally with Thomas Cook North America. Married to Geraldine we now have a small house with too much land near the town of Martina Franca in Puglia. Two kids one married and living in Hong Kong and the other single and living in London. No dogs, no cats no animals.
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3 Responses to The Black Hole

  1. Mike – research the options available – WTP’s, septics, Imhoffs etc – you will find that a properly spec’d tank will need little emptying as long as you take a bit of care over what goes in it – i.e it must be edible for the bacteria. Also take care over the drainage field, good fall and porous soil – many in the UK have been caught out by the increased rains – rising water table has led to guess what rising to the top????

    • hereinpuglia says:

      Will get busy on Google this weekend. Not sure about the soil here doesn’t seem very porous but we are on the side of an hill.Thanks for the advice.


  2. Mike – Whilst on Google, look for soil porosity tests. All you need to do is dig a trial pit – nothing big – say 30cm square and say 60cm deep or maybe a little deeper. Fill with water and time how long it takes to drain. There is a formula that I could dig out if you want it, but as a first step just use your eyes and a bit of common sense – you will be able to tell if it holds onto water or not. Suggest you do this now whilst the soil is moist. Another layman’s test is dig down at various levels and try and work the soil between your fingers – if it crumbles easily then predominately limestone/sand base (good) if it all ‘goos’ up then clay (bad) – normally it is a mixture of the two.

    If you do have soil problems (which I doubt you have as you are on a hill – mind you those further down the hill might!) the other alternative, is to plant up the drainage field with water hungry plants i.e. reed bed – This I have done, I have suggested that we plant our tomatoes there, but this has met with rejection from SWMBO – don’t understand it, as I suspect that they would be the tastiest ever!

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