Author: Ann Patras

I was born and raised a L*O*N*G time ago in Burton on Trent, England where my parents ran the family's busy corner grocery store and later a pub. I moved with my husband and 3 kids to Africa in 1989 where we lived for 32 years. We had many new, strange, exciting, frightening, weird, silly, sad, happy and amazing experiences during that time. After many years of procrastinating and moving to Spain in 2011 I completed the first book in my 'Africa Series' "Into Africa with 3 kids, 13 crates and a husband", in 2014. This only recounted the first year of our family’s somewhat unusual life in Africa. My second book, "More Into Africa with 3 kids, some dogs and a husband" which covers three further years, was released in 2016. I am currently in the mess of writing the third. I love writing about our daft experiences and hopefully making people laugh in the process. Finally, I am absolutely thrilled to to bits to tell you that INTO AFRICA received the Silver Award in the Wishing Shelf Book Awards 2016, (non-fiction category) in the UK.

Time for a Siesta?

Ah, siesta time on a Spanish summer’s afternoon.

Lay back on the patio couch and be lulled by the whispers of the mountain breeze talking to the tall pines, which are providing some welcome shade from the blazing sun.

An array of birds have settled in the swaying branches to feast on the nuts contained within the pine cones.  Occasionally pine cloves are detached, to fall like solitary (large) hailstones on the corrugated carport roof.

But the birds’ noisy activities are usurped by the squeaking of the weather vane going cock-eyed.

Then the neighbours arrive, complete with friends, at their weekend residence next-door, and their dogs bark with delight at receiving company after such a lonesome week.  But the dogs soon quieten when the musicas español begins, accompanied by the singing senoritas.

Even this is of no concern, as it is soon overpowered by the arrival of the dear cicadas, which should not be confused with the sweet sound of chirruping crickets.  Today the distinctive, squeak-buzzing cicadas are excelling themselves, reaching over 112 decibels on the logarithmic scale.

BOOM

Holy Crap!!!

Sounds of skidding toenails as our three large, terrified dogs scuttle inside the house.  Spanish cries of (equivalent) “What the £**& was that?” are heard.

Fear not, my friends, it was just one of the birds at the top of a tree getting carried away with its nut-gathering, and dislodging a grapefruit-sized pine cone from its stem, to fall some 30 feet onto the hollow roof.

Ah, Yes.  The perfect setting for a Spanish siesta.

Zzzzzzzzz

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In Sight of the End

My son Leon, aka my marketing manager, asked me this morning,

“Can you remember when you last wrote anything on your website?”

“No.”

“Well neither can anyone else, because it was so long ago.  Don’t you think you should do something about it?”

“Yes. What?”

“Why don’t you quote something funny from your next book? Preferably using words of more than one syllable!”

“Leon, I have just this minute finished editing one of the chapters in the new book, and it left me in tears. And I don’t mean tears of laughter either. I can’t think of anything funny right now!”

“Oh.  Well when you’ve got over that bit, work on something.  Please!”

So here I am, working on it.

You know, this authorship lark isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Well, not when you’re as disorganised as I am.  For a start I have to be in the right mood to write.  This ‘2000 words a day between muesli-o-clock and a healthy lunch’ routine doesn’t happen on the street where I live.  If I’m not in the write frame of mind it’s an absolute waste of time.

This was proven earlier in the year when I gave myself a dressing down, for not ‘getting on with book 3’, as my current masterpiece is imaginatively referred to.  So I sat in front of my laptop and instead of playing spider solitaire I wrote about some random occurrence circa 1985 in Lusaka.

I actually managed to almost complete a whole chapter.  Then other lifely commitments (like cooking or sitting making up new words ) overtook my time, so it was a few days before I returned to my book-ing.  As is my wont, I read through the piece I had begun, before proceeding to finish it off, to find that I had actually written the biggest load of boring drivel conceivable.  You’d be better entertained by reading the Smith section in a telephone directory (for those of you who can remember those!).

Another issue thwarting the progress of book 3 is that I ran out of letters. No, I don’t mean A,B,C,D,E… letters, but Dear Ethel, type letters.

The material for my first two books was a doddle to establish because I had scores of copy letters I had written to family and friends reminding me of what had happened in my life.  But after living in Zambia for over four years, and had my folks visit us there and see what life was like, these letters became less frequent, so I now have to rely on my memory – a very risky source.

But fear not, dear reader, for the good news is that I have now actually reached the end.  Admittedly a few bits in the middle need a little tweaking here and there, and a multitude of editors have yet to be unleashed on its contents to annihilate the typos and unscramble the grammatical errors, but the end is in sight, as the policeman said to the flasher.

And you’ll be delighted to hear that book 3 does, in fact, contain lots of funny bits.

 

PS.  Don’t worry, I’ll have worked out a real title for Book 3 before it’s published.

Cemetery Celebrations

I swear on my life – which I value greatly – the article which is the subject of this story was genuinely in our local press a while back.   I simply could not pass up a chance like this.

I almost fell off my chair when I read a headline in the Lifestyle section of the English-language edition of our local Spanish newspaper –

CEMETERY CELEBRATION

The Malaga English cemetery is making friends and entertaining people.”

This was a ‘must read’ if ever I saw one.

“The foundation which took over the running of the cemetery two years ago reported that the burial ground was enjoying a surge of popularity.”

What???  To quote my dear, appropriately departed, Dad, “the mind boggles.”

I can just picture it.  A horde of little old ladies and gentlemen, on hearing that the cemetery was “the place to be” go dashing through the wrought-iron gates, anticipating an exciting game of bingo or sing-along, and instead they trip over the cunningly positioned ‘Welcome to the Cemetery’ sign and WHAM.  Before you know it, there’s a whole heap of people just dying to get in.

But these people are deadly serious.  You can’t make this sort of stuff up.

The article advises there are “almost 2300 ‘friends’ of this cemetery – and the number is growing daily.

No shit!  Is someone scattering organic fertiliser over the graves?  It certainly sounds like a load of manure to me.

Apparently, members of this Association are entitled to discounts at concerts and other functions held at the cemetery.  Does every body get 10% off?  Would you get a double discount for a family crypt?

Can you imagine the music they’d play at these concerts?

Dem Bones

Knocking on Heaven’s Door

Live or Let Die

Don’t Fear the Reaper

Bat out of Hell

Three Steps to Heaven

Spirit in the Sky

I Ain’t Got No Body

Sympathy for the Devil

Ghost Busters

And what about all the poor souls who want to get in there for legitimate reasons – like, those who got dead somewhere else first?  Is there enough space for them? Do they have to wait in a different queue like at the airport?   If they were stuck in the queue for a long time (like at Passport Control!) they’d start to smell pretty rank in no time at all, especially in the heat of a Spanish summer I can tell you.

According to the report, Friends of the Cemetery also do “Lantern lit nocturnal tours of the cemetery, to coincide with a full moon”.  It wouldn’t surprise me to hear they have Count Dracula and Frankenstein as guest speakers on a good night.  Given the potential for werewolves, these tours must be a howling success.

I told a friend about it and asked if he knew where the cemetery was. He said,

“Yeah, it’s in the dead centre of town.  They reckon it’s a pretty cool place to be.   But apparently the functions at the crematorium are even better.  I’ve heard the chicks are dead hot there.  I think I’ll instigate a Friends of the Crematorium? A hot idea like that would certainly deter grave robbers.”

I warned him this was no joke, and could soon find him digging his own grave if someone ‘on the other side’ heard him making such flippant remarks.

Then, of course, there are the “Interesting Talks”.  The subject matter must be riveting.

“Everyman’s Guide to Embalming”

“Do-It-Yourself Casket Making”

“Grave Digging Workout Routines”

“Headstone Engraving Made Easy”

 

I mean, what else could they possibly talk about sitting around in the middle of a cemetery?

And do they hold Séances?

“Is there anyone out there called John?  If so please knock three times on the ceiling.”

It must be like a bloody earthquake when all those Englishmen start rapping on their coffin lids.

No thank you very much.  A glass of vino in front of the telly is more my style.  You won’t catch me joining ‘Friends of the English Cemetery’.

“Not over my dead body, you won’t”, as a true Burtonian would say.

 

 

 

Innovative suggestions for the enhancement of my report will be read with interest.  And all reviews/comments will be gratefully received. AP

Small Black Plastic Gubbins

I had a lovely Christmas, thank you for asking.  It was relatively quiet, mostly due to the fact that Brad was missing.  He and his girlfriend are in South Africa where they are spending Christmas at Mabalingwe Game Lodge with her family.  I had a phone call this morning (Boxing Day) from a ‘Police Sergeant Botha’ to say he was sorry to break the news, but my son had been eaten by a lion. I thought it was a hoax to get money out of me so I ignored it.

Anyway, Leon and Vicki, along with her boyfriend Sam and best friend Will were here, even though V&S were late arriving, due to both having to work !!! until five o’clock (on Christmas day for goodness sakes!).  We opened lots of presents and my Christmas repast went down well, being served at the correct temperatures without any errors or omissions this year.  (I actually think this was a first.)

Anyway, the reason I’m talking to you now is to share a  list which I just compiled, which I thought might entertain you a little.  You see, my daughter bought me a new bedside lamp for Christmas.  I just went to ‘install’ it, but first had to clear my bedside table.

This is what was on said furniture –

  • Bedside lamp – faulty
  • Hanging from lamp – pair of spectacles, on a cord
  •                                      – fob-watch on a chain
  • Box of tissues, almost new
  • Thick plastic paperclip-sort-of-thing, blue
  • White pearl Button, in tiny plastic packet
  • Small spiral notepad
  • 3 pens (black, red, purple)
  • €1 coin
  • 2 touch-screen sticks (1 lime green, 1 purple)
  • 1 dog biscuit, heart shaped
  • Bottle of Aloe Gel, 1/3 full
  • Small blue emery board
  • Folded tissue, from handypack
  • Small black plastic gubbins, purpose unknown*
  • Vicks Inhaler
  • Zambia K500 note
  • 1x12cm thin black satin ribbon, previously attached to a cardigan shoulder
  • Amstel beer coaster
  • Enough dust to give someone a serious asthma attack

Having cleaned off the dust and removed certain of the duplicated/unnecessary items, my lovely new touch-lamp is now suitably sited.

My old touch-lamp lasted nigh-on seven years before developing a mind of its own, when it randomly began to switch itself on at the most obscure times.  This could be somewhat disconcerting (ie read ‘heart-attack material) if it happened while you were walking through the dark room at night, or suddenly awakened from a deep sleep by a mid-night brightness.

Anyway, I hope you had a wonderful Christmas, or bonus day, or two, off if you’re not into it.  We only get one day off here in Spain, no Boxing Day for us.  Of course, I get as many days off as I want, seein’ as ‘ow I’m an old retired person.

In closing I would like to wish you a 2019 filled with good health, a reasonable amount of wealth (no need to be greedy) and tons of happiness.

20181226_142105

PS      I’ve remembered what the small black plastic gubbins is.  It’s the nozzle for the vacuum function on an old, but still partially working, bag sealer stored in the top of a wardrobe. (It fell off as I was chucking the machine into the cupboard, and I couldn’t be arsed to get the steps to fit it back on).

MY SON KEEPS BEATING ME!

 

For readers who think my son Leon is a little sweetie, or those of you who know the older version and think of him as a lovely, smiley (not-so) young man, ever ready to lend a helping hand, think again my friends, because the little b@$!@~d keeps beating me!

I kid you not.  It’s been happening quite a lot lately and I’m not sure how to cope with it.  Only yesterday the bugger beat me at Carcassonne, then Scrabble and finally thrashed me 3-0 at Rummikub!

I know, it’s utterly outrageous.  That’s the thanks I get for teaching him so well when he was a little snot-nose.

And if that’s not bad enough, he almost caused me to have a heart attack this morning.

I was sitting outside on a sunny Spanish day.  It was lovely and peaceful, well relatively, with the only sounds coming from the birds hurling their discarded pine-nut shells onto the patio roof and our Spanish mastiff snoring on the sofa. I sat quietly checking my emails when completely out of the blue (or door behind me) a noise so outrageous almost sent me soaring skywards.

“WOOF, WOOF, WOOF, WOOF, WOOFITY, WOOF, WOOF, WOOF”.

No, it wasn’t our Labrador, but Leon shouting woofing noises at the top of his voice.

When I climbed down off the rafters I asked him what the hell he thought he was doing, scaring the living daylights out of his mother like that.

“WOOF, WOOF, WOOF, WOOF, WOOOOOOOF!” he continued.

“LEON!  Stop it!” I yelled at him. “What the **** are you doing?”

“I’m trying to frighten that bloody dog awake, like she’s been doing to me in the early hours of the morning these last few nights!  WOOF, WOOF, WOOF, WOOOOOF.”

“In the end I brought her into my room.  But after five minutes of settling back down in bed I still couldn’t sleep – because of her snoring!  WOOF, WOOF, WOOF, WOOF!”

I glanced across at the recumbent mastin as she still lay on the sofa, softly snoring.

“Well it didn’t work” I pointed out.

Chilled Martini

ONE OF LIFE’S LITTLE IRRITATIONS

I had just finished my breakfast and was now trying to write.

While I’d been eating a flash of inspiration came to me and I needed to write it down quickly before it abandoned me.  The only trouble was, THE FLY.

It had been zipping around me for the past fifteen minutes and was now beginning to really piss me off.  Quietly whizzing around my head, it had been in my ear, my hair, got me in the eye twice and was constantly landing on the back of my hands.

As quickly as I tried to write the little bugger kept distracting me, both physically and mentally.  My arms were waving around like an octopus in overdrive. As much as I swiped and swatted, the only thing I achieved was two bruised fingers, very messy hair and a broken plate.

It even had the gall to land on my laptop and walk exactly over the words I was typing, knowing full well that I wouldn’t risk swatting the screen.

I was about to give up on the project and the fly when, as it flew right in front of me, purely by chance one quick CLOP resulted in one dead fly.

Yes!   Gocha, you little bastard.

Fly 0  : Ann 1

Now at last I could get on with my work. I picked up my tea for a celebratory slurp.

Thankfully I noticed it just in time, its shiny black body winking up at me from the brown liquid.

OK then, we’ll call it a draw!

FOR SKIN AS SOFT AS A BABY’S…?

I’ve always thought I was pretty good with colours.   I mean, I know the difference between lilac and purple, red and maroon, green and blue obviously, as well as black and brown.  And I definitely know the difference between grey and blonde.   I just needed to make this perfectly clear before I continue.

I was born with blonde hair, but it turned brown somewhere between the age of 2 and 5 (there are photos missing from the album of the actual transition).  I then stayed with dark brown hair for many years, decades in fact, until the latter years when my hair began to fade.  The trouble was, it wasn’t fading very evenly, so I decided to let my hairdresser send it a fairly subtle shade of blonde instead.

But at the beginning of this year I got fed up with this dyeing lark and decided that it was time I admitted defeat and let nature take its course.

That was a couple of cuts ago, so I am now GREY all over.  This is the real me.  A happy grey person.

I am telling you all this because certain of you may want to dispute the issue of whether I’m a grey or blonde after I tell you about my latest little experience.

I am not one to lash out on fancy creams and lotions for my skin.  I might spend a couple of euro on a pot of face cream from Lidl, but as far as the rest of me is concerned, I have always found Johnson’s Baby Lotion quite adequate.  I mean, if it’s good enough for a new-born baby it’s got to be good enough for an old fart.

After a couple of years living in Spain I finished my SA-bought Johnson’s bottleful so have since purchased an equivalent at our local supermarket, which has its own store-brand called Hacendado.  I have always found products bearing the Hacendado label to be of excellent quality.

When I bought the latest bottle I noticed that it looked different as I grabbed it off the shelf but assumed they’d got a new label design.  On getting it home I put it away in the cupboard while I finished off the dregs in the bottom of the previous bottle (which I’d cut the top off to reach  – ever thrifty, me!).

So it was some time before I had occasion to make use of the new bottle for the first time.

I was a little surprised when the squirt of liquid from the pump came out clear instead of white, but figured it must have ‘settled’ while it had been standing in the cupboard, and the liquid had separated into two components.  I gave the bottle a shake and took another squirt but that too came out transparent.

No issue, I thought,  maybe they changed the composition of the substance, and proceeded to rub the moisturising lotion onto my shin.  At that point it turned white.  Ah, that’s novel, I also thought, and continued to rub it onto my leg, doing the other shin also.  Quite soon it absorbed into my skin.

This morning I made the momentous decision to cut my toenails.  I only mention this because during the clipping process my arms came into contact with my shins.  Please do not try to visualise this, it was not a pretty sight!

Anyway, I thought my shin skin felt different to usual, obviously the new baby lotion.

Later in the morning I once again applied some lotion to my legs, and again it came out clear and turned white after I rubbed it in.   I noticed that my skin felt different again and to be honest I wasn’t sure that I liked the feel.  It almost felt sticky.

About an hour ago I decided to rub some onto my arms, but I checked out the contents of the bottle first.  I gave it a good shake then unscrewed the top and withdrew the pumping device, which revealed that the liquid was in fact transparent all the way to the bottom of the container.

I screwed the pump back in place and then, and only then, looked at the writing on the bottle.  It said “Gel a Champu Pieles”.  It was Baby Soap/Shampoo!

No wonder my bloody skin felt sticky – even if it was ‘the most gentle of solutions for young and sensitive skin’ it shouldn’t have been plastered on and left there!

I have now purchased the correct Locion Corporal Hidratante which feels much better, thank you very much, and will soon have skin as soft as a baby’s bum.

Anyone want some baby shampoo?