A Cup of Tea and Dog Farts

My morning began quite normally, with Ziggy bringing me a cup of tea in bed just before he watches the 08:00 news on the telly.  It is customary for me to take my daily medications with said tea before settling back down for another half hour’s kip, depending on what time I went to bed the night before.  In this instance it was 2:20am so at least another half an hour was called for.

Ziggy’s next move is to go down onto our plot to water his vegetables.  The instant he picks up the keys to the gate, which leads from our top garden,  JD and Marti, our Labrador and Mastin, will leap up to follow him down the steps.

They usually mosey around the plot for a while then go for a wander around the neighbours’ unfenced land, Marti to check out anything of interest and JD to go avocado scromping.

But today had an addition.  We’d had our son’s dog Choco staying with us for the night.   We think he’s a Staffie crossed with something a bit bigger, and he’s a youngster of about two years so is still very excitable.  However, he’s not yet as well trained as JD and Marti and we can’t rely on him to return when we call him.  As a result, when he tried to follow Ziggy and our dogs on their morning constitutional he wasn’t allowed to join in.  Ziggy shut the gate behind him to thwart the dog’s exit.

That was when the whining, crying and barking commenced at full volume.

Another change in our routine at the moment involves Leon.  He’s working down on the coast at a beach restaurant, 12 hour shifts which only see him return home just before 03:00.  By the time he’s unwound from all the excitement of working it only gives him a few hours to sleep before rising at 11:20 and leaving for work two hours later.  The last thing he needed was to be wakened by a yowling dog at eight in the morning.

So I leapt out of bed and dashed off down the garden to shut Choco up.  The only way to do that was to bring him inside the house, but then he’d be dashing back and forth between the door and windows with the same vocals.  So I was obliged to confine him to my bedroom.

I climbed back into bed to try and resume my slumbers.  I know.  Don’t say it.  I know what you’re thinking!

And I might as well have stayed up because the little bastard now started whining at the glass door which leads from the bedroom onto the pool area.  Various vocal commands on my part went unheeded so I tried to block out the noise by hunching my head down between my shoulders to keep out the noise.  Fail.  Then I tried wedging wadges of the bed sheet into my ears to act as earplugs, but that didn’t work either.

He eventually quietened down and I was just drifting off to sleep when he started up again. He’d heard the rattle of the gate indicating the return of his friends.  So I got out of bed and let him out.  Peace at last.

Well, for five minutes, then I could hear a scrape at the door.  I recognised it as Marti wanting to be let in.  I figured she’d give up if I didn’t respond so I ignored her, but she was having none of it.  Her keen sense of smell told her that Choco had been into that bedroom in her absence and being very protective of me, demanded entry.  I let her in.

NOW I could get some sleep.  Except you have to remember that this dog has been running around the countryside, culminating in a climb back up the 34 steep steps from the plot.  And she’s a very big dog, covered in a thick double coat (goes with the breed), and it’s a Spanish summer’s day.  She lay by the foot of my bed panting like a steam train.

Then Choco started pawing at the door too, so she moved even closer, to the side of my bed and continued with her huffing and puffing.  After five fruitless minutes of non-sleep I gave up.  I got up.

I should mention here that the bedroom is not very big.  There is not much space between the bed and the fitted wardrobes.  In fact, when Marti is lying with her back against the bed her toenails are touching the cupboard doors.  So when I got out of bed I only had a couple of feet (in both senses) in which to get dressed.

As I reached for my underwear the dog whispered.  So as I hopped around on one foot trying to put on my pants I found myself engulfed in dog fart.  I can’t remember the last time this dog farted.  She is not a frequently farting dog.  But she had to fart now, of all moments!

I couldn’t move away from the fart because the dog took up my exit route, and she was going no-where.  Putting on shorts requires a little bending forward, so that brought me in even closer proximity to the source.  It is not easy, if you’re an overweight almost-69-year-old, to get dressed in a two-foot cubicle when you’re trying not to breathe!

Consider yourself lucky (I do) that I’m still here to tell the tale.

 

 

 

 

 

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INTO AFRICA SKETCHES

Chapter 3

One of the first things to come under discussion, apart from 24 packets of butter, was the dog.  And when I say dog, I mean a DOG, although anyone could be excused for thinking she was a lion.  Her name was Nina and she was the biggest Great Dane I had ever clapped eyes on.

Unfortunately she had been seriously ill with tick fever and consequently was as thin as a rake, with every bone protruding under her sand-coloured coat.  One of our obligations to her owners was to try and build her back up to full size.  Full size?

We were relieved to find that none of the children were afraid of her, despite never having come across such a large dog before, let alone have to share their home with one.

F Kids with Nina

 

Chapter 4

We were shown our new house and it more than makes up for the lack of decent shopping facilities.

The house is a sort of straight zig-zag shape.  Or an elongated H with the top right arm and bottom left leg missing. This is extremely difficult to describe in words.  I’ll draw you a sketch. 

It is in Riverside, the same residential suburb as we are in at the moment, only about a mile further down the road and stands on a large corner plot bounded by a high, fancy concrete wall.  It has a big garden with trees and stuff, most of which I have yet to identify.

F 16 McFrazier Road 2

 

Chapter 5

Shortly after the exodus of women, came the labour force being driven home.

Hundreds of men crammed in the back of lorries, which came in a multitude of shapes and sizes.  But they didn’t just stand up in the trucks, they also sat on the roof of the cab, or on the rear and side panels, with their arses hanging over the edge.  The state of some of the roads in Kitwe left a lot to be desired and as the vehicles bounced in and out of the potholes it was a miracle that the passengers all stayed in, or on, at all.

One of the other great mysteries was the shape of the trucks and buses.  I came to the conclusion that they must buy them from a specialist manufacturer, as they all had the same trait – lopsided bodies and back wheels which took a different route to the front wheels. They looked like they were driving crab-wise.  No wonder so many ended up in ditches.

F Homeward Bound  3

Chapter 8

The It’s-a-Knockout competition was very well organised.  The teams were made up by employees of the various companies operating in and around Kitwe.  We wandered around to watch the various, often hilarious, events which included the usual jousting on a pole; racing – on stilts – through a maze of beer crates; walk the plank – blindfolded, and many more.  The kids were a bit puzzled by all this – they couldn’t understand why grown-ups were playing the sort of games normally associated with children, but on a bigger scale. They took some convincing that they couldn’t join in (and I wouldn’t have minded a shot at a few of them myself).  We eventually strolled back to the rondavel and got around to cooking our food at about 4:00pm.

Ziggy and I were given the privilege of using the braai first in view of the fact that we had the youngest children.  That turned out to be more fortuitous than we had anticipated, because just as we sat down to eat, the heavens opened.  Chaos ensued as everyone tried to squeeze everything, including themselves, inside the area protected by the thatched roof.

Within three minutes we had: twelve adults (I’m not sure where the extra two came from); eight chairs; five kids; a pushchair; two tables; six coolbags; two coolboxes; a beer crate and a potty – all crammed under the twelve-foot diameter roof.

F Rondavel in the Rain 3

Chapter 13

One day Brad came trotting indoors followed closely by Vicki who, being a little snitch at the time, piped up,

“Mummy, Brad’s got a lizard in his hand.”

Naturally I didn’t believe her.  Foolish me.  Next minute Brad put the lizard (actually a gecko) down on the floor and we watched it scuttling around the kitchen.  Really it was not as bad as it sounds, until its tail fell off when Coke pounced on it.    The gecko beat a hasty, stunted retreat and the severed tail continued to wriggle.  URGH.  Until Coke ate it.  DOUBLE URGH!!

On the subject of creepy-crawlies, on another occasion the kids called me to the front door to look at a ‘mosquito’.  It was five inches long.  It was not a mosquito.

We had recently purchased a book entitled Insects of Zambia and after quick reference to this discovered it was a stick insect.  Using some blue tack, I stuck a 50p coin next to it for size comparison and took some photographs.  As the name implies, it looks just like a stick.  On a tree you probably wouldn’t even notice it.  But as we didn’t normally have sticks growing out of our front door we were able to spot it quite easily.

F Stick Insect

Also Chapter 13

If Brandy wasn’t handy Coke would try to bite what/whomsoever was.  He mostly went for the ankles or calves, but in the case of Vicki he took a liking to her fat little bottom, so he tried to grab that.  I was in fits one afternoon watching him chase her up and down the garden, Vicki attempting to outrun him, but standing little chance.   But the funniest sight of all was Coke with Leon.

Leon had been playing in the paddling pool and as usual had no clothes on.  Coke was sniffing about nearby when something very tempting caught his eye, whereupon he hopped up to Leon and tried to bite his little willy.  Naturally, Leon shouted and ran off.  Coke found this a great game and ran after him.  So there was Leon running around the garden, holding onto his spab, with Coke at his side jumping up trying to bite it. Every time he almost succeeded Leon

would yell “Hey” at the top of his voice, at which Cokey would bark.  For the next few minutes all I could hear was – “pitter-patter pitter-patter, HEY, yap, yap”, “pitter-patter pitter-patter, HEY, yap, yap”, etc

Eventually Leon came running inside, shouting to the puppy right behind him,

“HEY, you shouldn’t do that to me!”

F Leon with Coke the Biter 3

Chapter 21      (The New Year’s Eve party)

I had brought Ziggy a choice of harem outfits; powder blue or emerald green.  He felt the powder blue was more his colour, saying that it matched his eyes.  When I went into the bedroom to do his makeup, I was totally overwhelmed by the sight before me.  He had already donned his baggy pants, but underneath them he wore his jock strap!

I don’t know if you’ve had any experience of jock straps.  In my opinion they are not a pretty sight at the best of times; but exposed beneath sheer, powder blue chiffon…

Well, it was just something else – the eye-catcher being the huge bulge at the front and bare arse framed by the narrow straps at the rear, you certainly didn’t need to use your imagination.

F Ziggy in the jock strap 3

 

Chapter 22

I mentioned earlier that the majority of the women always appeared to have a baby strapped to their backs with a shawl or large towel.  This lady had obviously been feeding her child when she got the exciting news about the washing powder, consequently the baby was strapped to her chest.

To put it politely, she was not a small woman.  In fact she had breasts the size of water melons and she had obviously not had time – or perhaps she just forgot, or possibly never even intended – to tuck away the current milk dispenser when she commenced her sprint.

The child, probably about six or seven months of age, was not to be deterred in its endeavours to gain sustenance and as the woman ran, her ginormous breast bounced around before her with the babe frantically trying to catch the generous nipple in its mouth every time the tit swung in his direction.  How the mite wasn’t knocked unconscious by this weighty appendage I do not know.

I’m sorry, but I laughed until I cried.  I just couldn’t help it.  Thank goodness I was hidden away in the car at the time.

F Woman with baby outside ZCBC

Chapter 26

Mfuwe Lodge consisted of several semi-detached wooden chalets surrounding the main facility, which comprised Reception/shop, a lounge/bar and dining room.  The facilities were quite basic but pleasant.

A large area overlooked the Mfuwe Lagoon, which was home to some creatures and watering-hole to many more.  Immediately in front of the lodge grounds the lagoon water butted against a dam-type façade, presumably to prevent the various animals from walking straight out of the water to enjoy the human company.  Otherwise the lagoon was mostly surrounded by trees and bushes.

In the water we could see hippos, well their ears at least, as the rest of the head and body was completely submerged.  I privately wondered if hippos could breathe through their ears.  Every so often one would raise its head out of the water and yawn expansively, exposing massive tusks and a cavernous mouth large enough to swallow a small car.  These visual displays were interspersed by a strange hippo communication which sounded like a very stout old-English gentleman slowly laughing “haw, haw, haw, haw, haw” at a modest witticism. There were also lots of birds, many heard but not seen and vice versa, which at future times we became quite interested in spotting and identifying.

F Mfuwe Lodge

Chapter 31

Continuation of letter to my parents…

The kids are fine.  In fact the Terrible Trio have latched onto a new game.  They pile into the wheelbarrow – sometimes complete with Cokey – and persuade Jackman the gardener to push them all over the garden, which he does, at GREAT speed.  He has them screaming with delight as he winds his way around the trees at a precarious angle.  How the dog stays in without being able to hold on is quite beyond me.  It is hilarious to watch.

F Wheelbarrow rompF Wheelbarrow romp

 

Chapter 33

Then we heard sounds of movement in a bush nearby, but before we could reach it the thieving bastard managed to run off into the vlei.  However, there we were lucky enough to discover the cassette player, one of the large Onyo speakers and my wicker basket – stuffed full with a variety of goodies.

The next move was to get the car, so Ziggy fetched the car keys and tore off down McFrazier Road whilst I stood over the recovered loot wielding my axe.

It was only at this moment that I looked down, to see that my attire for this venture was not entirely appropriate – or fitting to be more precise.

Wearing only the corduroy overalls, my tits were sticking out either side of the bib like a pair of puppies peeking out from behind a pillar.  Thank goodness the thieves had been running in the opposite direction. The mind boggles at what a sight my far from petite, bouncing boobs presented as I tore down the drive screaming like a banshee and waving my axe.

F Axewoman & Knifeman

Chapter 36

This was our first experience of school Races – other than our own half a lifetime ago. I had forgotten how much fun kiddies races were and while still taken quite seriously by some budding athletes, our three weren’t exactly in that league.

Leon was very inventive in the sack race.  Instead of jumping awkwardly along like the other kids, resembling constipated kangaroos, he stuck a foot in each corner of the sack and proceeded to walk, very slowly, up the track.  The level of concentration on his face whilst doing this was classical.  When he reached the finishing line he just stood and waited there, wearing a big fat grin, for someone to come along and remove him from his sack.

Vicki on the other hand simply stood rooted to the ground at the starting line, with her face turned sideways and refused to go anywhere.

F A Day at the Races 5

An Interesting Monday

Well that was an interesting Monday.

Without going into a lot of background, Brad needed to go to a hospital in Benalmadena for a check-up on the surgery he’d had on his left knee.  I was pretty familiar with the route to that place, having had my taxi services called upon on several occasions.  One of the things I knew was that there is often up to a kilometre of stop-start traffic on the hard shoulder leading to the off-ramp we needed to take from the motorway.

So out of curiosity I’d checked out an alternative route on google maps to come in from the opposite direction, with hopefully less traffic.  But I found that this route ideally meant me taking a mountain road from our town to the said motorway.  Having travelled it several times I don’t particularly like that road as it’s full of bends with very few overtaking spots if you got stuck behind something slow, like a horse and trap, or a couple of bloody cyclists.

We stuck to our original route and as we drove the normal roads leading to the Xanet hospital noticed a few banners along one section of road, but thought nothing of it.

Brad’s appointment with his surgeon went extremely well.  She was delighted with his progress and on seeing how well his leg was doing, even suggested that he could start putting weight on it two weeks sooner than would normally be allowed, accompanied by appropriate physiotherapy.  But she went a bit too far for me when she said that she was happy to take this unusual step because Brad was clearly a very responsible person.

How I kept quiet I do not know.  I bit down on my tongue and tightly sealed my lips to stop myself from making any comment which might dispel her trust in her patient.  How I stopped myself from bursting out laughing I do not know.  Thank goodness my almost exploding face was hidden from her view by her computer screen, which she’d turned to one side when she showed Brad a video of the surgery on his knee.  (Can’t wait to watch that!  She gave him a dvd of it!!).

If I’d have told her all the things Brad was ‘responsible’ for she might have changed her mind about his proposed progress, which would then likely result in extra taxi services being required, so I kept ‘mum’.

We left the hospital in good spirits and headed for the car.  With air con on and refreshments suitably distributed we drove away from the parking area to the roundabout which led onto the road heading back towards the motorway.  Except some idiot had strung a shitload of tape across it.  “Road Closed”

“What now?”

“Just follow that car going straight.” Was Brad’s advice.  The bloke in front looked like he knew where he was going, so I did.

Brad soon managed to google a map and told me which way to go to head from then onwards.  It was pretty much part of the route that I had looked at, but coming from the opposite direction.

We drove through a villagey type suburb which was well festooned with colourful bunting and streamers and as we drove on to a more formal bit of road found barriers and taped areas, and progressively more people, in particular, police type people.  It was only then that Brad said,

“Oh, it must be for the Vuelta España.”

“Wonderful.  What the hell is that?”

“It’s a cycle race.  A biggy!  I’d forgotten it was today.  It must be coming along this route.”

“Terrific!”

As we drove along there were loads of barriers and police cars, police motor bikes, and police men. I made a point of not looking at them in case they tried to direct me off down any other strange roads. I was so busy trying to appear like I was determined in my route that I completely missed the turn which would have taken us up onto the motorway heading back the way we’d come.  Still that was now quite a long route from this point, so I wasn’t bothered.

Driving under the motorway we reached the spot we’d have come in at if I’d taken the way I’d Googled earlier.  So off we drove up ‘the pretty way’ to Mijas pueblo.  It looked like it was going to be a long drive as the mountain, which Mijas sat on the other side of, looked ages away.

As we drove along this unfamiliar mountain road I asked Brad if he’d noticed how there seemed to be quite a few people ‘just standing around’ outside buildings for no apparent reason.  There weren’t many settlements along the way, but what there were had bodies outside. (Not dead bodies, you understand!)

As we rounded one bend we came across a crowd of people standing on a wide verge which sat beside a sharp bend that traversed a gully.  I was about 20 metres away from reaching and taking this bend when all of a sudden a cavalcade of vehicles rounded a bend coming from the other side and they would reach the gully section before me.  It would have been too tight a squeeze for us to pass so I quickly pulled over to let them through.

There were loads of them and they were clearly all involved with the cycle race.  There were cars and vans with people packed in ‘em or on ‘em, shouting and waving at the crowd, who reciprocated similarly as they got bombarded with leaflets and flags and dog-knows-what other promotional material.

So we waited.  And waited.  It was only when an ambulance and a police car had gone past that we figured that was the end of ‘em and continued with our journey.

A few kilometres further on, as we rounded another bend, I could see the junction which entered Mijas pueblo (a beautiful touristy town) and it was seething with police and race vehicles and personnel.

But at least I was now in familiar territory

Another issue I have not mentioned thus far is that at the beginning of our excursion Brad had queried a condition with my vehicle, a Renault Kangoo.  Our conversation concluded with the realisation that the clutch on the vehicle was reaching the end of its lifespan.  As the journey progressed I could feel that I was becoming dangerously close to being clutchless.

As we reached the Mijas roundabout I hung a right to take the road back home where we were immediately faced with climbing a rather steep slope.   I drove up the initial section in second gear and only when the gradient decreased a little was I able to risk changing into third gear and eventually fourth.  This stretch of inclination running along the side of the mountain lasted for over a kilometre and wherever feasible was lined along the none-rock-face side with yet more people.

One thing which had long become apparent was that the route we were taking was remarkably free from other traffic.  After passing Mijas we didn’t come across anything in front (which was hardly surprising, given our speed) but similarly neither were we creating a build-up of traffic behind us.  In fact not one vehicle came up behind us.  And we had only encountered four vehicles coming from the opposite direction, which included the Alhaurin to Fuengirola bus which almost took me out on a shallow bend.  Thank goodness I was on the mountain side of the road!

I was actually a little concerned that when we’d met the cavalcade of promotional vehicles earlier, one of their banners had plastered itself to the front grid of the Kangoo, and the officials and police we had encountered since had thought we were part of the ‘crew’.

There were long stretches where there were no spectators, which wasn’t surprising since the road was lined by the rock face of the mountain on our right side and a steep drop to hell and beyond to our left.  But it seemed that the organisers didn’t want the cyclists to be despondent from lack of support, so had colourful banners lining the road instead.

As the road snaked its way along the side of the Sierra de Mijas it consisted of many sharp, blind bends between the banners.  Brad and I became increasingly concerned that on one of them we would suddenly come face to face with out-rider motorbikes carrying backward and forward facing cameramen, followed very closely by over two hundred speeding cyclists, who would be none too happy about our presence.

The journey home – click for video

We both breathed a huge sigh of relief when we reached the main pivotal “BP roundabout” on the outskirts of our home town of Alhaurin el Grande, where the Vuelta España paraphernalia turned onto the A-7053 heading towards Mijas Costa, which we later discovered was the starting point of the race.

We did a very quick shop before I dropped Brad off at his home which is only ten minutes’ drive from mine and by the time I had reached my wi-fi he had already sent me snap shots taken from his television, where he was watching the Vuelta España cyclists already hurtling halfway along the exact same mountain road we had oh so very recently vacated.

Talk about a close call.

What came next! – click for video

 

Flat Water

Well what fun that was.

If I ever tell you that I’m going to go to the cinema, please ask me if I have sufficiently researched the film I’m going to see.  And if I say “Oh, yes, it’s won lots of Oscars”, just ask me “what is the shape of water?”.  That’ll bring me back down to earth and ensure I don’t make the same bloody mistake again.

What a load of CRAP.

The storyline has a mute falling in love with a sea-god and which, had I done any research at all, would have warned me off right from the very start.   As it turned out the movie covered just about every PC issue known to the Law Society, the Commission for Human Rights and the RSPCA put together.  And there were more holes in the storyline than my best colander and had more corn than Kelloggs!

To give you a clue:

  • The leading lady was unattractive
  • She was a mute
  • and her best friend at work was black and
  • They worked as cleaners, who were implied as unimportant workers
  • at a government establishment which carried out top secret work
  • yet they had unsupervised access to a highly sensitive area.

I haven’t decided who classified as the lead actor as there were three vying for that position –

  • Leading male 1 was a Merman (male mermaid) (good guy).
  • Leading male 2 was a male chauvinist pig (bad guy).
  • Leading male 3 was a balding, unemployed homosexual artist (wow a 4-in-1!) and was another good guy. He was also the l-lady’s other best friend and neighbour.
  • Supporting Actor was a Russian agent (very topical at the time of going to press).
  • The black cleaner and No.3 both had an excellent understanding of sign language.
  • 2 could be done for animal cruelty at the drop of a hat as he chained up No.1 in a pool and poked him with a taser rod, though he was able to reach over the open sided edge of this watery prison, which seemed a bit at-odds.
  • 2 was also partial to a bit of sexual harassment at work and at home
  • We didn’t have to wait long for the leading lady to indulge in nudity
  • and No.2 having the gratuitous sexual intercourse with his wife was quite athletic.
  • Then the owner of a café showed serious racial discrimination by refusing to serve a black couple who happened to walk into his empty bar
  • before he was sort of propositioned by No.3 which didn’t go down too well.
  • Then the Russian agent, who was actually quite a good guy offered to help the leading lady to set free the very scaly hunk, No.1
  • who it transpired had the most amazing healing hands (albeit big and scaly).
  • Unfortunately he also had a penchant for eating cat, which No.3 was amazingly tolerant of, given it was his
  • Everything had been going well with a dollop of bestiality for good measure between the leading lady and No.1 before his release into the wild
  • when we witnessed a spot of torture inflicted on the nice Russian by No.2 (he really is a nasty oke).
  • Then the chauvinistic, skiviing husband of the black cleaner grassed on the leading lady to No.2
  • He of course tracked down the unlikely lovers just as they were saying gesticulating their tearful goodbyes and shot the pair of ‘em. But of course Mr Hunky Healing Hands brought himself back to life and wiped out the bad guy
  • before jumping with his leading lady into his watery world where it appeared she also came back to life, and transformed into a watery wench, before fading into the credits.

So there you have it.  No need to cough up £15 for a cinema ticket in the UK now, though we were lucky as our cinema only charged €5.50 each for the privilege of having our intelligence insulted.

Now if Mel Brooks had directed the film, it would have been a whole different kettle of fish!

I wonder what’s showing next week…?

Bamboo Poles and Lollypop Sticks

I’m sure most people reading this have experienced one of those days when things just don’t go right. Well it galls me to admit this, but I had an entire Christmas like that.

It started off fairly innocuously with my first faux pas (Number One) when I realised a few days before Christmas that I hadn’t actually bought any presents for one of my ‘kids’. I had sent out an email to all relevant parties in good time before Christmas recommending that in view of the (sad) financial status of the majority of players, the purchase of presents this year should be kept to an absolute minimum.  However that did not mean that one person should not get anything at all from his mother.

We have always been keen on getting surprises, but I figured no-presents wasn’t the sort of surprise Leon would be too happy about, so I hastened to purchase something.

I had organised a gammon and a big chicken for Christmas day.  We don’t do turkey as apart from the fact that we don’t much care for the darker meat, we’d probably find ourselves eating it for a fortnight afterwards. I finished off my main grocery shop on the Friday in order to avoid the last minute rush of Saturday.

On Christmas eve afternoon the second omission reared its ugly head.  As everyone knows, it is essential to have Brussels sprouts as part of the Christmas feast. And before you jump to conclusions, No, I hadn’t  forgotten to buy them.   We do know that lots of people do not like Brussels sprouts, but I had a nice recipe which made them more interesting for the less enthusiastic sprout eater.  They would be par-boiled then baked with fresh cream, blue cheese and walnuts.  Number Two.  I had forgotten to buy the blue cheese.

There being no Christmas eve shopping here in Spain on the Sunday, I was contemplating leaving out a slab of cheddar overnight in the hopes that it might go mouldy when Ziggy, in a rare fit of brilliance, said “Why don’t you try the BP Service Station shop, they sell all sorts of random things?”.

So when Leon tootled off in my Kangoo to collect Brad, Donė and Choco the dog who live ten minutes away, he called at the BP shop.  And sure as cheese is blue, this saved the day.

They had been invited to join us for some langoustines which Ziggy was cooking up. Well not the dog.  I mean he was invited, but not to eat langoustines; that would be ridiculous.

As Ziggy was about to cook them someone asked what I was serving with them.  What? Number Three!  It had never occurred to me that they needed something “with them”.  My thought (I won’t say plan, because that is not a word I am very familiar with) was that we would just place this huge platter of enormous prawns in the centre of the table and “tuck in”.

When I’d told my guests that we were having these on Christmas eve it never occurred to me that they would think this was a full on meal.  I didn’t even have the makings of a bloody salad (apart from a head of lettuce and small avocado pear I planned to use with a starter on Christmas day).

The best I could do was to throw two small half-baked French bread sticks in the oven and slice them up.  This was adequate and the langoustines were delicious.

Christmas day arrived and I’m delighted to report that this year I had remembered to bake the traditional shortbread the previous week and that it was actually my best batch ever. So we spent a leisurely couple of hours eating shortbread and unwrapping presents.  What happened to the “minimum presents” I had stipulated?

1 Tree and Prezzies 2017

Just a few presents

I had suggested that we might have our ‘Christmas dinner’ at about 7pm but given that I only put the bird in the oven at about five o’clock that clearly wasn’t going to happen, perhaps nearer to eight.  When the chicken was ready it had to sit down and rest for half an hour on Brad’s instructions (he’d been watching Jamie Oliver on tv) so I only put the potatoes in to roast when that came out.  The plan intention had been to have a prawn cocktail starter but as time drew close I figured that by the time we’d eaten that and ‘let it go down’ the bloody chicken would be stone cold, so suggested that we perhaps have it as a later instead of a starter.

This was agreed upon wholeheartedly and after much farting around with sliced green beans, broccoli and the infamous brussels sprouts in blue cheese sauce and Brad had made the gravy, we eventually sat down to our main Christmas repast at nine o’clock! The good news is that the chicken was NOT cold and everyone enjoyed their meal.  The bad news Number Four is that I had forgotten to buy Christmas Crackers so there were no flying keyrings /thimbles/puzzles, no wearing of silly hats nor reading pathetic cracker jokes.

We waited for another hour or so before having dessert which, rather than Christmas pudding which not everyone enjoys, consisted of homemade baklava.  I figured this was quite fitting as it is a Greek pastry and our surname is Greek (even though we’re not!).

During the course of the day we’d played assorted board games of varying levels of interest which, to my horror, included Monopoly which Vicki had brought with her.  We played until all the properties had been purchased then tallied up our gains before the game became tedious.  My favourite Christmas only game has to be the new one I found last year, Pass the Parcel with a difference.  It is played with pears pairs.  A pair of dice and a pair of oven gloves.

In case you’ve not yet come across this you really must try it, it’s hilarious.  A multi-wrapped gift of your choice is to be opened wearing oven gloves.  But instead of unwrapping when music stops, as in the kiddies’ game, a pair of dice is thrown and when a double shows up the unwrapper must stop IMMEDIATELY and pass the oven gloves to the next in line.  In the meantime the pair of dice is being passed around the table and tossed by each other player in turn until a double is thrown again and the unwrapper changes.  Sometimes you barely have time to get the gloves on before someone chucks a double and you have to pass them on to the next player.  I think Leon had four abortive turns before he even got to touch the parcel, never mind remove a layer of paper.

By the end of all this frivolity no-one was up for the prawn cocktail so we decided to all get together again on Boxing Day and have it for lunch. Well that was the plan but courtesy Vicki we got stuck into baked camembert and pickles first so it got delayed until dinner time.

I had already thawed out one pack of peeled prawns but realising that it would be a bit meagre for a complete lunch I had nipped into town to Mercadona (our main supermarket) and bought another pack.  Yes, they were open on Boxing Day, which the Spanish don’t recognise as a holiday.  Suitably thawed I threw them all into a bowl and smothered them with some special mayonnaise I’d made before sharing them out evenly over shredded lettuce and suitable accoutrements.

Brad was the first to take a bite.

“Mother, did you cook these?” he politely asked.

Number Five.  “Er, no.  I assumed they were already cooked,” I replied.

“Well they’re not.  And while I enjoy sushi as much as the next man, I’d rather not eat raw prawn salad.  But for ****s sake, mother, they don’t even look cooked!”

He was right of course.

I couldn’t believe I’d done that, I really couldn’t.  What a bloody dope!

Well that’s one way to get your name in the headlines “Author kills entire family by feeding them uncooked prawns at Christmas”.

Anyway someone said “Don’t worry, it can be salvaged, just take the prawns off the lettuce,  rinse them under the tap then cook ‘em.”

I’d used up about all the lettuce the first time so didn’t have much choice in the matter.  I carefully scooped the prawns off and into a colander and tossed them thoroughly under the cold water tap.  Once completely drained I was able to cook them quickly in some butter.  Of course I then had to wait a while for them to cool down before piling them back onto the lettuce.  There’s nothing worse than warm lettuce.  (Well there probably is but let’s not get pedantic.)

I returned all the plates to my patiently waiting diners and as they were passed around the table was asked,

“Did you use up all the mayo on the first batch as well then?”

No I hadn’t.  Number Six.  I had simply forgotten to put it on.

So the plates all got returned again to the kitchen where I tried to toss the prawns in the evenly distributed remaining half-jar of my delicious homemade mayonnaise without disturbing the lettuce.  It wasn’t easy.

At last we were able to eat. It’s a pity we didn’t have more crusty bread to accompany them but much of it had been consumed with the cheese earlier.  Number Seven?

Fortunately everyone eventually really enjoyed their meal and the evening advanced to another session of fun and games, though thankfully not Monopoly this time.

Before going to bed I actually remembered to load and switch on the dishwasher.  When Ziggy got up in the morning he started to unload it.  He hadn’t got far when I walked into the kitchen.

“I found this in the bottom shelf when I opened up,” he said, handing me a virgin dishwasher tablet.  WTF?  I know that when the machine has finished washing is flips open the tablet container.  I inspected the item curiously then lifted the boxful of them out of the cupboard.  Inside were loads more tablets just like it, all wrapped in cellophane.  Double WTF.    All dishwasher tablets I had bought previously came wrapped in plastic, which should be left on as it melted away when being used.  Number Eight.  It would seem not to be the case with this brand.

“I thought it hadn’t done a very good job of washing the plates,”  Ziggy said as he began returning the dishes to the machine.  The white, blue and red tablet was reinserted in its receptacle in the door, sans cellophane!

So that was our Christmas.  Let us just say that it was not the most successful I have ever conducted unless you allow the amount of laughter it generated to override the stuff-ups.

2 Family Xmas 2017

Ziggy, Brad, Done, Leon, Vicki and yours truly.

 

What?  What about the bamboo poles and lollypop sticks? Oh yes, I forgot about those.

After Christmas I was returning home after a stock-up session at Mercadona and noticed to my disgust that a recent batch of extremely strong winds had managed to dislodge the shade-cloth fastened to the wire fence bordering our garden.

3 Flapping Fence

Flapping in the wind

Something a little sturdier than twists of wire was obviously needed to prevent this from happening again.  Ziggy found some mangy bamboo poles on our plot (of land which contains our fruit trees and Ziggy’s attempts at cabbages and potatoes) so Leon and I set about a repair.  There weren’t enough bamboo canes so we used them in what we considered to be the most effective way and for the rest – well wire twists were reinforced with lollypop sticks. Simple as a pimple.

4 Fixed fence

One fixed fence

5 Fence fastenings

Bamboo pole and lollypop sticks!

And, No, I didn’t eat all the lollypops, Ziggy did!  (I prefer my ice-cream in a bowl.)

And that pretty much rounded off 2017.  It was not too bad a year, all things considered.

TELL YOUR FRIENDS

** TELL YOUR FRIENDS ** TELL YOUR FRIENDS ** TELL YOUR FRIENDS **

If they haven’t yet bought INTO AFRICA with 3 kids, 13 crates and a husband, the kindle version is still on SALE at a bargain price until 13 December.

OR  think about this.  You could even buy it for someone as a gift!  If you’ve never done this before, it’s dead easy, just follow the instructions on Amazon – Help: Purchase a Kindle Book as a Gift.

 

Irregular Black Friday (or How to Empty a Septic Tank)

So yesterday wasn’t a regular Black Friday for me, it was more of a Frenetic Phone-call Friday.  I received more calls that morning than I normally get in a week!

It started at 08:25 when Brad phoned me, though I suppose I’d better give you a bit of background first.

Our septic tank needed emptying.  Now I bet that encourages you to read on, eh?  Just bear with me, it’s not as grim as it sounds, but listen carefully because I’ll be asking questions later.

A friend of ours, Rod, who is a supposed-to-be-retired builder is good for repairs and solving property related problems.  I’d asked him to check out an unpleasant smell which intermittently invades our casita (guest annex).  He arrived on Monday.  His investigations established nothing of great significance but he needed to check ‘from the other end’ if anything (roots or suchlike) was blocking the pipes exporting waste from the casita bathroom into the septic tank.  In order to do this he needed to feed his aquatic telescope through the septic tank but it was pretty full and his telescopic eye could not see its way through all the crap (if you’ll pardon the rather graphic pun) to find where the pipe from the casita emerged.  The crux of it is that we needed to have the tank emptied so that he could complete his quest.

Unfortunately I couldn’t find the invoice from the last time we’d had the tank emptied.  Now there’s a story in its own right. Let me tell you about it.

The guest toilet in our house, which is the one we use most, wasn’t flushing as well as it should.   Despite gallons of bleach and drain cleaner being poured down its throat any clearance was short-lived.  So I phoned a friend.  Not the same one as the one who was helping me now, I hasten to add, but another one who had done some building work for us.

My friend, who for the sake of anonymity we shall call Albert, came along and established that he first needed to find the arqueta.  Okay, okay.  It’s Spanish.

Now don’t quote me on this ‘cos I’m no expert, but my understanding is that an arqueta is like a junction box in plumbing, into which the waste from the bath, shower, basin and toilet all feeds before exiting via a single sewage pipe into a septic tank, or wherever.

After much investigation and gnashing of teeth Albert eventually established that the arqueta was under our shower.  So he dug up the mosaic floor tiles until he’d exposed enough of a gap to make a hole in the floor and lo and behold, there was the arqueta.  But then he needed to find out where all the waste went from there.  Using his trusty tape measure he worked out where a pipe should appear on the outside of the house.

There he took up more floor tiles and started to dig a hole. Once the hole was three feet square and almost as deep he concluded that perhaps the pipe did not in fact lead this way. However he did  find the location of a water pipe leading into the house, with his pick, so we then had to call out the plumber to repair that.

When I look back on this little episode I cannot figure out what he was trying to achieve by digging that hole.  It rather reminds me of a song, Hole in the Ground  by Bernard Cribbins.

Perhaps he was trying to find the septic tank.  Not having found it he filled in the hole and I went off in search of tiles that now had to be replaced.  Have you ever tried matching 10 year old tiles?

I had already been in touch with the previous owner, who’d had the property for nine years,  and asked him if he could tell us where exactly the septic tank was.  He said he didn’t have a clue as he’d never had it emptied!

We eventually had to call in a drain expert who unblocked the pipe which was at the seat of the trouble and also found the septic tank within minutes of shoving his camera round the bends.  The tank lay under the tiled area between the house and the casita. He even pinpointed the exact spot where the access point was – hidden under a single tile.  He kindly replaced the tile with a lid which would allow easy access to the tank in future.

Sewage tanker people were contacted and they duly came along and emptied the tank.  All that was two years ago.

So now (we’re back to the original story – this reminds me of Ronnie Corbett relating his tales from his armchair!)  I was looking for their invoice to give them a call.  Naturally it was nowhere to be found.  Dear husband said he’d seen a company we had passed many times which did septic tank emptying and described their location.  I zapped off in my Renault Kangoo, duly found the place and spoke to a lovely lady who in turn phoned her boss to ask when he could do it.  He was working on a job out of town and promised to come around to our place before noon on Wednesday to check out our layout and give me a price, with a view to carrying out the job later that day or the next.  I also asked the receptionist roughly how much I might expect it to cost.  She said +/- €200.  I went home and related this to Ziggy,

“Bloody hell, that’s a bit steep,” he said, “the last time it only cost us €130!

In the event the bossman didn’t pitch, so Ziggy said,

“Why don’t you call the drain expert and ask him the name of the company he put us onto last time?”

I wasn’t hopeful.   I had tried to phone this guy before I’d called Rod in but there was no answer from any of his numbers.  I figured he’d closed shop.  But I said I’d give it a try and this time was answered after two rings!  I duly got the phone number.

Now I should mention that this ‘expert’ on his last visit (about the problem we are having now) had told us he didn’t believe the waste from the casita was going into the same septic tank as the house, and that to establish where it did go would need the casita shower digging up.  (Not another one! I thought.)   Even he said it would be cheaper for us to get a builder in to do this.  Instead he simply applied some evilly strong chemicals (licence required) to the drains and hoped that did the trick.  Clearly it did not, well not long term anyway.

Fortunately before ripping the shower to bits builder Rod had the insight to apply a high pressure hose down the casita toilet while his assistant, with the aid of a torch, watched for any movement in the contents of the septic tank.  Movement there was so it did, in fact, drain into there.

Where was I?

Oh yes, so having got this original septic tank emptier’s phone number I called them.    This is where my lack of Spanish reared its ugly head.  The guy who answered the phone spoke no English.  I did manage to explain that I would get my son to call him.

So I phoned Brad whose is able to converse in Spanish up to a point and asked him to call them to see if they could empty our tank again for the same price as before.   Apparently the bloke he spoke to said something about a vacation and gave him another number and said something about mañana.  Brad wasn’t sure if he was supposed to call the guy today to have the work done the next day (mañana) or to only phone the next day.  We left it.

On Thursday I went back to the offices I’d visited on Monday (like an idiot I hadn’t taken their phone number) to find out when, or if, the boss was planning to grace us with his presence.  Another phone call by the receptionist established he would be at our house between 10 and 14:00 on Friday. I also established that he expected his price to be €175.  I agreed to await his arrival but this time I picked up one of their business cards bearing a phone number.

Discussing this back home we still weren’t happy about the price, so Ziggy said he’d take the dogs for a work early that day so that he could go to our local town hall (before they closed at 14:00 for the day) to see if they provided a septic tank emptying service. (He lives in a dream-world sometimes!)

They didn’t.  But they did give him the name of a man who did.  The man had the same surname as the company I had been visiting but Ziggy said that on giving him the number the girl at the town hall had mentioned a company name that sounded familiar, possibly the one who’d emptied our tank before.  I conceded that the Spanish are very frugal in their variation of names, be it first or last names, so it was quite possible there was more than one Septic Tank Cleaner-outer with the same name.

[I wonder if there’s a special name for a person or company which empties septic tanks?  I can think of one myself but wouldn’t write it down in here!]

Once siesta time was over (14:00 – 17:00, come rain or shine, summer or winter) I phoned Brad again and asked him to call the number Ziggy had obtained.  Ten minutes later Brad happily reported that a sewage tanker would be at our property between 10 and 14:00 the next day (Friday) and that the cost would be €130!

I duly phoned the first company and cancelled their appointment, citing the cheaper price elsewhere.

If you’re on the ball you will realise that this has now brought us up to Frenetic Phoning Friday.  You remember, I mentioned it about 30 pages back…

Brad called me at 08:25.  I’ll be honest with you now, I was still in bed, sipping my mug of tea which Ziggy brings me religiously each morning.  He (Brad not Ziggy) had received a call asking for confirmation of our address, but wasn’t sure it was from the people he phoned first or second, and didn’t want two tanks pulling up at our gates.  We chatted about it for a while but it got us nowhere.

Half an hour later he called me again saying the bloke in his tanker was querying the address (the name of our lane is not recognised by Google Maps).  He said it might be a good idea if I drove up the lane to meet him nearer the main road.  No sooner had I finished this conversation and was climbing into my car than my phone rang again.

This time it was a friend (who I’d not met before – don’t ask) confirming our meeting for that lunchtime.  Just then the house phone rang.  As I tried to cut my friend’s call short Ziggy amazingly went and answered the other one and walking out with that phone and as I was reversing out (if I could get off the phone to drive) I could hear him trying to direct someone to our lane.  As he was chatting away he looked up the lane and saw the man he was talking to was about ten metres away walking towards him.

Turned out he was the man with the tanker, except without the tanker.  He’d left it at the top of the lane as he wasn’t sure how good the access was.  (Bloody hell we’d had removals vans, pneumatic trucks delivering one-ton sacks of wood and cement wagons down this lane, so it could easily handle a piddly-arsed little tanker!)

So I abandoned my car, still trying to finish the call, so that I could go and move some of our outside furniture to give access to a large suction pipe.

Seconds after finishing that chat I got another call, this time from a friend who was supposed to be joining me and my new friend, then the truck arrived…

Peace reigned, though not much quiet, for a while as the man who does shoved his pipe into our septic tank and slurped all the shit emptied it.  Once he’d finished, stashed his hose and put the lid back on our tank he produced two invoiced books and asked me whether or not I wanted to pay tax. Ah now, that’s a tough one, let me think…

So I received a plain receipt for the sum of €135 (I wasn’t going to argue over the fiver) and we both ended up happier for the experience.

Less than half an hour later I got a phone call from a man about our septic tank.  We had a strange conversation because his English was on a par with my Spanish.

He seemed to be asking me how long the guy had taken to do the job.  I told him “hora medio” which in my Spanish meant ‘about half an hour’ but which I just checked and found means ‘average hour’.  Seems I should have written “medio hora”. No wonder he’d been a tad confused by my answer.

He tried to confirm our address, which wasn’t easy, but I did the best I could.

Then he asked, “was ours the house with the two dogs?” I told him it was.  Being the ferocious guard dogs they are, they had totally ignored the man and his big pipe who had just left, but he had clearly seen our two dogs.

Now you must understand that up until this point I thought he was checking up on the guy who’d done the job.  Then he went on to say “tres perros” which I do know means three dogs.  It dawned on me when he’d talked about two dogs earlier, what he had actually been saying was “tu perros” which means ‘your dogs’.   So where is he now getting three dogs from?

As our convoluted conversation continued I began to realise that he was actually nothing to do with the guy who’d been, he was a guy who was coming.  So who the  hell was he???

Now I had to try and stop him from pitching up with his tanker.

“No, el septico tank es empty (I didn’t know the Spanish word for empty).  Es terminado.”

He was battling to understand me. (Can’t imagine why!)

“Es complete, no necesito para tu.”  ‘It’s all done, I don’t need you’ is what I thought I was saying.

He said something else which sounded like he understood I no longer required his services.

“Si, gracias, adios.”  I said, and prayed to dog that he comprende’d.

Then I wondered if in fact this had been the bloke who’d quoted the €130, and if so, who the hell had I just paid €135 to for emptying our tank?

I have yet to phone Rod to tell him the septic tank it now ready for his inspection.  I’ve had rather enough of the subject to be honest.

 

But might I suggest, if you should ever be tempted to move to Spain based on the wondrous stories you’ve heard from me, that when you buy a house make sure it is on the mains sewage route.

Sausage Rolls and Scourers

I have no explanation why I am still using our outside table to write on my laptop other than I am really trying to put off the realisation that winter is now creeping into Spain.  But as I sat shivering in my cotton top and cardigan I decided to heat up a sausage roll or two for a light lunch.

So I headed to the kitchen and placed them in a warm oven.

I guess I was just subconsciously looking for a reason not to go straight back outside when it occurred to me there was a little job I could complete in our bathroom while I waited for my fodder.  The shower tap had become a bit discoloured so I thought I would take advantage of a few loose minutes, as one does, and armed with my bottle of de-calcifier and a mild scourer I headed off towards the bathroom.

Standing inside the shower cubicle I scrubbed and sprayed and sprayed and scrubbed with my scourer and, to be honest, really didn’t think I was achieving very much.  At that point I must have become a bit over zealous because as I gripped the tap to get better oomph into my efforts my hand slipped off and in trying to grab it back I unfortunately pulled it towards me.

Yeah, you’ve guessed it.  I was suddenly blasted with a jet of cold water which drenched my hair, my cardigan and my top.

Oh, I turned it off immediately, but not before I’d got pretty damn wet.

I squelched out of the bathroom into my boudoir and rummaged through my wardrobe for suitably warm replacement clothes.  Of course most of my attire still consisted of summer-wear so I ended up donning one of hubby’s more enclosed t-shirts and a dry cardigan.  I’m guessing it’s now time to stash my summer gear away and get my jeans and jumpers out of storage.

As for the sausage rolls.  Well, they weren’t too burnt.

Well-done ssausage rolls