Let me start by saying I have very little knowledge about the workings of internal combustion engines. It's shameful, really, but beyond changing the battery (which I did wearing garden gloves over rubber gloves, just in case) I haven't done any work on my own car; to say nothing of the poor little engine toiling away in the lawnmower I bought last year. So when it failed to start the other day when I pulled its string, I had no idea about how to proceed. That is to say, I had no idea how to proceed constructively. What I though to do, and what I did do, was whine to Leah that I needed to get in touch with a particular friend of ours who Knows Such Things as lawnmower engines.
Unfortunately, he was busy for a while and in the interim the grass grew to some considerable height. This was of course a bad blow to my reputation among the neighbors, and it caused me no little concern; the worry didn't reach the point of invading my dreams, but I'm sure it came close. Yesterday I finally got a chance to consult with the master, and he of course diagnosed the problem in under 30 seconds: the spark plug was flooded with oil and so wouldn't light. Oh, and also I should have changed the air filter long ago. Air filter? Spark plug? Who knew such things formed part of my lawnmower? That's why, of course, I didn't want to take the thing to a professional: I don't mind looking dumb in front of friends. It was a learning experience!
So everything is all fixed up now, and the lawn is mowed. Phew. And next time, I'll know two things I can check right away when something goes wrong!