Fried Fish and Sympathy

This little real-life tale emanates from when we lived in Fourways, a northern suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa several years ago.

I blamed the man with the weedkiller.

He had been to our house the day before to treat our lawn for an infestation of weeds and said that after 24 hours I should give the grass a good soaking in order for the muti (African = medicine) to do its work.

For once, the customary-for-the-season afternoon rain was like a policeman – never around when needed, so I’d had to put on the sprinkler.  A while later I went out to join my friends for a sun-downer at the pub.

I’d prepared supper before I went out as there was a program on tv later, a film based on one of my favourite books and I was looking forward to watching it. I returned home in time to finish off supper – except I didn’t fry hubbies fish because he wasn’t ready to eat.  As I sat avidly in front of the tv I could hear my old man bitching and moaning in the kitchen about having to fry off his own fish.  It wasn’t my fault he hadn’t wanted to eat at the same time as me, and it’s not as if he couldn’t cook.

But it clearly wasn’t my day.  Within the first fifteen minutes I realised that the film was totally unrecognisable as the book I had read.  I was dead peed off that they could bastardise my favourite book so.

As I switched off the tv I suddenly remembered the sprinkler.  I had forgotten to switch it off.  The ground must be well and truly soaked by now.

The tap to which the sprinkler hosepipe was attached stood against a wall just by the foot of our patio.  You could walk the long way round via some steps to access it, or climb down the three foot drop to the lower level flower(less) bed.  Months ago a stack of bricks had been put there to make the decent a little easier.  I felt in no mood for a hike around the garden, so decided on the quick route.

I knew something was wrong when I caught sight of my right knee at eye level whilst my left foot was still treading air. At that point gravity took over and the rest of me disappeared off the edge of the patio.  The trouble was it was dark.  And the stack of bricks weren’t exactly where I thought they were.  (Some bastard must have moved them when I wasn’t looking.)

The section of garden I was about to land in was only about three feet wide before it dropped away another few feet.  I decided to try and avoid descending to the next level, so put out my arm to break the fall.  I broke the fall alright.  I also broke my arm.

“Oh dear me, that hurts.” I said, or words to that effect.

I dusted myself down (with the good arm), turned off the sodding hosepipe and climbed back up the previously elusive bricks before making my way to the kitchen and him indoors.

As I walked towards him with tears in my eyes I extended my wobbly arm.

“I think there’s something wrong with this, don’t you?”

“Oh, you poor thing. What happened? Let me help.” OR NOT!  The sympathetic husband I had been hoping for turned his back on me and continued frying his fish.

‘Well.’  I thought.  ‘WELL !!’

“Well **** you too,” I said and stormed out.

I grabbed the newspaper, my cell phone and my handbag and went off in search of help.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to drive myself to the hospital so with the newspaper rolled up to form a splint to support my wrist, I phoned for an ambulance.

I stood outside my front gate for absolutely ages.   I could hear sirens wailing down the main road, several, intermittently in fact, but I thought ‘that won’t be for me’, ‘nor that’, ‘or that’. After half an hour one sounded particularly close and sure enough mine arrived, lights flashing and sirens wah-wahing.

“Which hospital would you like to go to, ma’am?” I was asked.  (We lived roughly half way between two large private hospitals.)

“Whichever one you would go to in similar circumstances.” I responded. With the blue lights and sirens back on, which I thought was a bit of overkill to be honest, they whisked me away to Sunninghill hospital, complimenting me on my makeshift splint before replacing it with an oversized toilet-roll middle.

I was quickly admitted into the amazingly quiet A&E and then after an interminable time was dispatched for Xrays, where they discovered I had fractured two bones in my wrist.

As I sat on a trolley, waiting for someone to come and fix my broken bits, I tried to phone home to let my dear husband know where I was, but there was no answer.  Neither was there a response when I called my son, who lived in the flat attached to our house.  My best friend – also nothing, she must have gone to bed early.

Eventually an orderly strolled up,

“We’re just trying to find a ward with bedspace for you my dear.” She said kindly.

“What do you mean, ‘bed space’?” I asked. “I can’t stay here all night, no-one knows where I am!  Just stick it in a cast and I’ll catch a taxi home.”

“Oh we can’t do that,” called out an intern studying my Xrays “your fractures need setting by an orthopaedic surgeon.”

I told them that I couldn’t stay.  My husband didn’t know where I was.  He’d be beside himself with worry if he woke in the morning and found that I wasn’t there.

But they wouldn’t listen

I tried yet again to phone home to explain my absence to my ever-loving but still got no reply.  Then my phone went dead. The battery was flat.

Supported by my toilet roll I abandoned the trolley and went in search of a cell phone charger.  I eventually tracked one down at the maternity reception desk, where they kindly put my Nokia on charge for me.  I then took a seat in the waiting area and tried to read a magazine. After half an hour (and two requests by nurses to go check into my ward)  I heard my phone ring.  Before I could make it to the desk, a nurse had answered it

“Sunninghill Maternity Unit, how can I help you?”

Realising what she’d done she quickly handed the phone to me.  It was my son.

“Mother, I know you’ve done some weird things in your time, but why are you in a Maternity Unit at this time of the night, excuse me, morning?”

“It’s a long story Leon.” I said

“Nine months long perchance?” he quipped.

“Don’t be cheaky!  You’re not too old you know….”*                                    *(to get a smack)

“No, but you are!” (te he he he)


“Sorry mother.  So tell me, mummy-dear, what are you doing there?

I told him.

“OK,” he said “that explains a lot. I fell asleep listening to music on my headphones.  Only just woke up and saw the missed call, so I went to the house to find out what you wanted but all the lights were off and it was locked up.  Good job I phoned you though.”

After a short discussion we arranged for him to collect me the next morning.

As I was discharged the hospital staff insisted in delivering me to the ‘patient loading area’ in a wheelchair, despite my protests that it was my arm which was broken, not my bloody legs.  I got some really strange looks from people as I then ran out to get into Leon’s car.

When we reached home at 11:30am I walked in to a somewhat surprised husband.  He hadn’t even noticed I was missing – he said he’d assumed I was sleeping in the spare room!!

I explained to the love of my life of some 28 years what had happened to me, and was over­whelmed by his sympathetic response.

“Pissed as usual I suppose,” was his only comment.  I wasn’t sure if he was referring to  himself or me!  So much for being “beside himself with worry”!

3 thoughts on “Fried Fish and Sympathy

  1. Hi Ann, this really made me laugh, I love the way you describe things, just my sense of humour, I’m going to read the rest of them, definetely getting your book, when it comes out

  2. I am delighted to see you get your life in order (so to speak). This opening tale is awesome; your mix of sarcasm, love of family (kind of) and your manner of sharing with all of your readers (which will grow by the millions) is worth all your hard work. Atta gal!

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