Crazy Tales

Short tales, usually of woe or stupidity, involving one (usually me) or more members of the Patras family.

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.

Advertisements

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.

Unexpected Visitors

A couple of days ago I was kicked out of my slumbers at 05:45 by dogs barking. Constantly.  I could hear them going crazy at a distance (obviously the front gate) then after a gap (while they raced down the garden path) closer-by at the rear/side fence.  Clearly something or someone was on the prowl.

Whatever it is will soon go past I told myself, and turned over to resume my sleep. And turned, and turned, but the racket continued.  I am not the sort of person who can pull a pillow over my head to block out the sound – I’d suffocate – which is rather extreme.

One dog in particular was giving it great ferver, I thought that sounded like Marti, our mastin (Spanish mastiff).  Of course next door’s dog was joining in.  Thankfully the five yappy dogs which used to live across the lane from us had, with their owner, recently moved out, otherwise the entire neighbour-hood would have been awake by now.  It was no good, I could see I would have to get out of bed and give my two a bollocking to shut them up.

I threw on the nearest t-shirt (it is still quite warm at nights and I hadn’t yet fished out my sleepware from my winter wardrobe) and slid into my slippers then quietly slipped out of the bedroom.  This might seem like a contradiction given the cacophony going on outside, but Ziggy was still sleeping.  Having said that, he can sleep through anything.

It was still dark so I groped my way past the dining chairs, through the kitchen and into the lounge, where I could look through the window facing the front gate.

The answer to this disturbance stood right before me, in the form of a dark brown donkey which had its nose poked up against the bars of the gate.  I wondered if she was expecting to be let in.  She was clearly a bold donkey as she seemed totally unperturbed by the dogs.  And I was surprised to see that it was JD, our small black Labrador, who was making all the noise, not Marti.  As I watched, a grey horse appeared behind the donkey.  Actually it was a white horse (no I don’t mean a bottle of scotch!) but you should never call a white horse white, you know.  I decided this needed more thorough investigation and headed back to the bedroom to don shorts and sandals.

By the time I returned to the lounge both animals had wandered a little further up the lane.  As I let myself outside through the patio door the dogs greeted me with approval before disappearing back up the garden path, presumably to try and see the animals through the fence.

As I walked up to the gate I could see the equine pair several metres away.  At my appearance the grey took fright and trotted past me, back down the lane.  The donkey decided to come up to the gate and say hello.  As she neared I slowly put my arm through the gate and tentatively extended my fist for her to smell.  (I wasn’t going to risk my fingers in case she was a biter) but she was very good and as I moved my hand up her head she accepted a stroke between her ears.  By this time the grey had walked back into view and was now watching the proceedings.

The dogs reappeared, JD giving a bark to let me know she was there, while Marti just stood quietly.  I must have stood there in the quiet pre-dawn for a good fifteen minutes, with the donkey siding up to the gate where I was able to stroke her back.  She looked to me like she was pregnant.  From where it was I couldn’t make out whether the grey was a mare or a gelding but it stood quietly, turning every now and then to grab a wisp of grass from the verge.

I was wondering if I should put my dogs in the house and let these two into my yard rather than risk them wandering up the lane and onto the road.  (Our lane was a ‘dead end’, servicing only 12 properties.)  Someone would come looking for them during the morning I was sure.

It was then that I heard footsteps.  Whoever it was, they were walking very strangely, I thought.  Then I heard thunkle, thunkle thunkle.  Like, not the tinkle of a bell, but the thunkle of a cow-bell, or a goat-bell.  As a little face appeared followed by a thick body, it transpired it must be a sheep-bell.  Along with the donkey and the horse came sixteen sheep.  I wasn’t going to bring that lot into my yard!

The dogs had become completely still by now, obviously realising that I was happy with the situation.  And the presence of the sheep could explain why Marti hadn’t barked, but when Marti saw the sheep her interest was definitely piqued.  The sole purpose of her breed is for livestock protection (from wolves) but to the best of my knowledge this was the first time she had actually seen sheep.

Oh this reminds me of an incident I simply must tell you about.

One warm spring night a couple of years ago I was sitting at my outside table checking my emails.  A friend had sent me a link to a video about the return of wolves to the Yellowstone National Park.  At the time JD was lying in her bed outside and Marti was snoozing on the floor in the dining room, the door of which opens onto the area where I was.

I clicked on the link to the video which instantly started with howling wolves.  In a flash Marti came flying outside, hackles raised all down her back, and after glancing at me raced to the front gate. Even on the move her whole shape was that of a dog (or even lion) waiting to pounce, but she didn’t stay still for a second.  Seeing nothing at the gate she tore back and forth along the length of the hedge at the front of our yard.  Finding that clear of wolves she turned and raced back in my direction, careened past the table and headed off down the garden path.  Even forty metres away, with a wall and plant-life between us I could hear her threatening growls as she scoured the fence/hedge looking for wolves.  After a couple more sallies back and forth she eventually lowered her hackles and returned to sit at my side, but was clearly quite distressed by this affair.

As soon as she had reacted to the wolf howls I had turned off the video and sat, open-mouthed in awe at nature’s amazing display of inbred reaction.  Having got her as a six-week old rescue dog I knew that she had never come across a wolf in her life before, but she knew exactly what it was and what to do.  I continued watching this amazing video, but used headphones so as not to distress Marti any further.

I still get goosebumps just recalling it, but it does explain why there are no wolves around here! J

Here’s the link to the video if you’d like to watch it (highly recommended!).

www.youtube.com/embed/ysa5OBhXz-Q?feature=player_embedded

Anyway, where was I.  Went off at a bit of a tangent there…

Oh yes, the arrival of the sheep.

I stayed at the gate, motionless, for ages just watching the animals.  The grey strolled a few metres up the lane and was slowly followed by the sheep.  I have seen loads of sheep-dogs in my life, but a sheep-horse???

The head honcho sheep, the one wearing the bell who had, up until now, remained in the centre of the flock, appeared to be intrigued by the donkey standing so close to the gate and also came closer.  I must have moved a fraction because the sheep lifted its head and, seeing me, instantly spun around (I didn’t think I looked that scarey!).  At this the flock moved as one in copying their leader and shot off down the lane, its greyness (the horse) joining in the stampede.

Donkey had just stayed where she was.  Then after looking up at me she slowly ambled off down the lane after her buddies.  I trust they all found their way home safely.

I know I found my way safely back to bed to try and catch a few zzzzz before it was time to be woken for a cup of tea in bed, which is brought to me daily by slumbernut, who at this point was still gently snoring on his side of the bed.

I dozed off while wondering what the rest of the day would bring.

Alas, nothing compared to the start of the day.

2 Vicious gate guarders

Marti and JD ‘on guard’ at the front gate. This was taken in 2013, before Marti ‘filled out’.

Anyone for Twins?

Talking of the twins…

We were?

Yes.    We being the royal we, as in ‘im indoors’ and me.  I asked him to fetch me a drink of my (non-alcoholic) wine from the fridge as he ‘owed me one’ for the day.

“Oh yeah?” he says.

“Yeah,” I replied, “for not being there when they were born.”

They – Victoria and Leon James – were the subject of our conversation because it was their BIRTHDAY when we were having our little chat.

I am not going to tell you that they turned 39 yesterday because that would be quite rude of me, but on the other hand it will save you the trouble of trying to recall what year it was when they had their 3rd birthday party in Zambia.  It would after all be quite a schlep for you to have to go trolling through Into Africa with 3 kids, 13 crates and a husband to find out.

I’m sure I mentioned in said book that when they arrived they came as a bit of a surprise.  But I didn’t tell you about the palaver that went on in order for them to arrive actually in the hospital.  So if you have five minutes to spare (or ten, depending on how fast you read) and fancy being bored with enlightened on the issue – I promise, no gory details – then read on.

Back in the ‘70s Wednesday was my mum and dad’s night off from their pub.  Occasionally, when Ziggy was working away from home, I would go out with them to one or few of the other local hostelries which they enjoyed.  On this particular evening, the 22nd March 1978, we went to a pub called The Waterloo not far from where I lived.

As we sat chatting in the bar, mostly about what 17-month-old Brad had been misbehaving at that day, I made an observation.

“You know Brad was five weeks early, hey?” I asked.

They nodded.

“Well tomorrow it will be exactly five weeks until I am due to give birth to this baby.” I stated.

“Oh!”  “Is it really?”

“It occurred to me,” I went on, “that with Ziggy working all week in Southend which is several hours drive away, if anything like that should happen this time around, I might need some help getting to the hospital.  Perhaps we should, you know, make a plan.”

“Hmm, yes” said Nancy, my mother.

In the event that this one fights its way out as quickly as Brad did (16 hours start to finish, including the doctor in charge trying to stop him coming*) then we couldn’t hang around waiting for Ziggy to take me to the hospital.  *NO, he didn’t try to push him back inside!  He tried to stop his emergence with drugs – which clearly didn’t work.

A discussion duly took place between Nancy, Mev (my dad) and myself with ‘the plan’ being made.

We enjoyed the rest of our evening and I was duly dropped off at home.  Relieving the babysitter – our next door neighbour – I briefly explained our plan to her, as she would likely have to be party to the exercise.  She agreed to help whenever needed.

Fortunately Brad was not an early riser but the next morning I was awoken suddenly at 7 o’clock, with a very familiar damp feeling under my backside. Yep, my waters had broken.

My first call was to Ziggy, or his digs to be precise as this was light years before cell phones existed.  He came to the phone, saying he was in the middle of eating a hearty breakfast.  I told him the good news.

“You’re kidding me.  It’s not due for weeks yet.”

“Neither was Brad.  And it is exactly five weeks early, to the day.  Just like Brad!”

“Oh Shit!”, which was the sort of response I had expected.

“Okay, so now what?” He asked.

“Don’t you worry about it.  We actually made a plan last night and everything is under control.  Nancy will take me to the hospital and you just get there as soon as you can.  It would be nice if you could be there for the birth this time.”

I had to have that one dig, as he’d missed being at Brad’s arrival because he had been in the hospital car park eating fish and chips whilst I was giving birth!

As this conversation was taking place only minutes after my damp discovery I told him to finish his breakfast first, which he did.  He then packed his bag, paid his accommodation bill then nipped along to the site he was working on to explain that he wouldn’t be working that day.  This was the Thursday before Easter so he was due to drive home that night anyway, for the long weekend.

Next I phoned my mum.  I got the same response, more or less.

“Are you being serious?” she asked, “not doing a dummy-run ‘just in case’?”

I assured her I was deadly serious but that she shouldn’t panic.

“I was in the middle of preparing the sandwiches for the pub, have I got time to finish them?  Have you actually gone into labour yet?”

“No, it’s okay, only a few twinges to let me know this is the real thing and that I didn’t just pee myself in the bed.” I assured her. “You have plenty of time to finish making your sandwiches.”

By this time Brad was awake and demanding my attention so we went down to the kitchen for breakfast.  Then I finished packing the small case I’d put aside for taking to the hospital.  I had made sure this was ready well in advance.

I didn’t want a repeat of the performance I’d had with Brad.  On that day, a Saturday, once we realised what was happening and that Brad was arriving much sooner than we’d expected, it dawned on me that I had nothing prepared.  I mean, I didn’t even own a night-dress.  So Ziggy dropped me at my folks’ pub while he went shopping in town to buy me a couple of nighties, as well as some other bits and pieces.  By the time he returned to the pub to take me through to the hospital, the customers were getting very nervous about my presence, as I was starting to get contractions.  But that’s another story.

Next I went to Betty next door and asked her if she could look after Brad for us while my mum drove me to the hospital.  No problem, just call me when you’re ready to leave, she’d said.   I made sure Brad was organised with toys to keep him occupied and I was folding the terry-towelling nappies which had just finished drying in the tumble dryer when my mum arrived.

“What on earth are you doing?  You shouldn’t be working now.”  She was such a fusspot.  “Are you getting any contractions yet?”

“Yes.”

“How often?”

“Oh about every twenty minutes or so,” I answered calmly.

“WHAT?  Let’s go!”

Brad was more than happy to stay with Betty, who had four kids of her own albeit older, and my mum promised to come back to look after Brad as soon as she’d seen me comfortably (??) settled at the hospital.

I think now is the time I should just explain a little about my home town.  Burton upon Trent sits, as you might imagine, on the River Trent.  The main body of the town lies on west side of the river and there are a couple of fairly substantial suburbs on the eastern side.  We lived in one of those.  My parents’ pub sat in Burton ‘proper’ on the other side of the river near the Town Hall and the railway station.   The hospital was also on the west side of the river, but further away from us than my folks’ pub.

So within fifteen minutes of her arrival, Nancy and I were on our way to the Andressey Hospital, as it was called then.  As she drove she mentioned that the traffic was ‘getting a bit hectic’ at the bridge when she came over it.

In 1978 there was only one bridge over the River Trent at Burton, so as you might imagine it could get quite busy.  This was especially so if travelling in a westerly direction, because there were four busy roads all converging onto this one bridge.  It was even more hectic on the days when the very popular outdoor market was held twice a week, which was on Saturdays and Thursdays.

Now if you remember, I mentioned earlier that this was the Thursday before Easter, so as well as the lure of the market, every man, woman and child, with their dog, was making their way into Burton as all the shops would be closed on Good Friday, and they had to stock up for the long weekend.

We drove down the steep Bearwood Hill Road, which filtered into Newton Road before reaching the traffic lights controlling this wonderful junction.

Alas we came to a standstill partway down the hill behind about eight cars which were interlaced with two double-decker buses.  That in itself was a bad sign as buses in and out of our suburb normally only came one at a time.  And all those vehicles in front of us had to fight with the traffic on Newton Road before they could even reach the traffic lights.

We slowly made progress with each change of the lights and had only three cars waiting in front of us when my mum asked me,

“Are you alright, our Ann?  You seem to be doing some huffing and puffing.  How often are you getting the contractions?”

“About every ten minutes,”  I grimaced.

I thought my mother was going to have a seizure herself.  She started ranting that she was going to call for a police escort, though quite how she would do this was beyond me.  Never a policeman in sight when you need one!

“Then I’m going to toot my hooter,”  she said.  I managed to stop her just in time.

“No-one will know why you’re doing that mum.  And if they did, they can hardly move out of the way, where would they move to, it’s choc-a-bloc on that bridge?”  She conceded my point.

But I had to stop talking to put a bit more effort into the breathing exercises I’d been taught in antenatal classes a couple of years ago.  It was supposed to relieve the pain.  Bullshit!

As I sat and breathed with varying degrees of severity my mum eventually got us across the Trent Bridge, then she let it rip.  It was as if she were daring a police car to pull her over for speeding so she could get an escort, a move I was now becoming in favour of.  But at the pace we were going, I was more concerned that we might finish up in A&E instead of the maternity unit!

She abandoned the car near the front of the Andressey building then walked with me until we met a nurse, to whom we explained that things were pretty imminent.  As she lead me through to the check-in desk Nancy went and put the car in the designated car park before it got towed away.  Nancy joined me as the woman behind the desk was finishing taking my details.  I had told her that I was five weeks early but she didn’t seem bothered about that and said,

“Right, if you’d just like to get your towel and toiletries and take a bath…”.

“Oh, there won’t be time for a bath!” Nancy and I piped up in unison.

Not unless I’m down for a water-birth, I muttered under my breath.

With a look which said she hadn’t believed a word of anything I’d said, the battle-axe handed me over to a nurse who had arrived nearby.

“Right, let’s find you a bed,” she said.

I knew the general procedure from my previous visit.  There was a long ward full of beds containing females in various stages of agony.  The rule of thumb was that the sooner you were likely to pop, the closer your bed was to the exit, which lead to the delivery rooms.  This staff nurse obviously had more sympathy for my plight than the dragon woman, as she put me in a bed second from the door.  My status was also supported by the fact that I was having my third contraction in the space of ten minutes.

Once attired in the stunning hospital gown and settled in the bed, I was having a really bad spasm when Nancy suddenly said,

“Oh, I’m so sorry Ann, but I just can’t stay here and watch you in such agony.  I’m going to have to go to Brad,” and with that she was gone.

The staff nurse conducted a physical examination and was surprised when I told her I was five weeks early.

“You can’t be,” she said, “you’re too big.”

I assured her I knew exactly when the baby was conceived and that I was five weeks early.

With eyes rather wide she continued, “Well if you are, you’re having a very big baby!”

Now, that I did NOT want to hear.  When Brad was born he weighed in at a miniscule 4lb 14oz (2.2Kg) so compared to most women, I’d had a relatively easy time of giving birth.  But it certainly hadn’t been without pain, so I dreaded to think what it would be like expelling a ‘very big baby’.

But I didn’t have much time to dwell on that because ten minutes later I went into second stage labour.  That surprised them a bit.

It surprised me too!  Despite having gone through it all before, I had forgotten exactly how strong the involuntary urge to ‘push’ the foreign body out became at this point.  And one must not do that, until told to so by the attending doctor, or in my case, midwife.  So they teach you (at antenatal classes) how to breath properly to contain that urge.

For those of you who haven’t done it – men mostly, I reckon – you might have noticed that there is more to this child-bearing business than meets the eye.

After some to-ings and fro-ings the staff nurse, aided by another nurse, eventually wheeled my bed out of the ward, down the corridor and into a delivery room.

As they got me where they wanted me and readied all their gear, I panted and groaned my way through another agonising contraction.  The next minute the midwife smiled at me and said,

“Okay Ann, you can push whenever you’re ready.”

Nothing happened.  I had no more urge to push a baby out from between my trembling legs than jump naked off a fifty storey building.  So we all just waited.

Then suddenly it came again.  Fed up with having to hold it back previously, I pushed with all my might.  I’m not sure how many pushes I made, I wasn’t too fussed about counting at the time, but eventually at 12:45pm out it came.

“Well, you’ve got a little girl… she counted all the fingers and toes … and she’s just fine,” said the staff nurse.

They wrapped Victoria in a foil blanket and after briefly showing her to me, put her straight into an incubator for premature babies.

“But we thought you’d have a bigger baby than this!” and promptly stuck her hand into the cavern very recently vacated by my new daughter and said, “Oh, there’s another one in there!!”

Well that threw the buggers into a bit of a tizz, I can tell you.  They’d only catered for one.

“Just wait while we go and get another incubator, Ann.”

“Don’t worry, I’m going nowhere!” I replied.

So they faffed around, sorting out all the extra bits and pieces they needed, while I gazed and whistled at the ceiling.  They really should put some nice pictures up there for people lying here, I thought.

Leon James was born exactly five minutes after Victoria.  One push and he was out.  He could have been born much sooner if they’d been properly prepared!

He too was immediately cocooned in tin foil and shown to me before being placed in his own box.

The twins then had to be rushed by Ambulance to the Special Care Baby Unit which was housed on the other side of town in Burton’s General Hospital.  As they were wheeled away the midwife looked at me.

“You don’t seem too surprised by finding you’ve had twins, Ann,” she said

“That’s because I’m not.  I told my doctor over a month ago that I thought I was having twins, because I could feel them moving in different places.  But he wouldn’t believe me!”

Way back then, unless there were signs of problems, the average mother-to-be only got to see the gynaecologist four weeks before she was due to give birth.  I hadn’t made it that far so hadn’t had a scan.

“I can’t wait to see the doc’s face when I tell him!” I said.

His wasn’t the only face I couldn’t wait to see.  Ziggy was going to be in for a bit of a surprise too.  Shit, everybody was!

Alas, still needing the recovery facilities afforded by the maternity unit, I had to remain at the Andressey.  I was neatly draped and sitting up in bed when Ziggy arrived just after one o’clock.  He stood by the bed.

“So how are you doing?  How long do they think it’ll be before you have it?”  [One does not deflate back to normal size immediately after childbirth.  I still looked very pregnant.]

“What do you mean, how long?  It’s already happened.  You missed it.  Again.”

“No!  I came as fast as I could.  Broke every speed limit on the way here.”

“Yes, I’m sure you did.  But it all happened pretty damn quick.”

“So what have we got?  TELL ME!”

“At 12:45 Victoria was born,” I told him with a big smile.

He was so happy, laughing and dancing about like a maniac beside my bed.

“And at 12:50 Leon James was born!” I continued.

“What?  What did you say?  Did you say we have a boy as well?  Twins?  TWINS????”

His face was an absolute picture.

After he got over the shock we sat and chatted about what had gone on.  Then he was anxious to leave.  He said he couldn’t wait to tell my mum.  Before he left he established that he would be able to see the twins in the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU).

He planned to go home, give my mum the good news then follow her to the pub so that he could leave Brad with them there for half an hour while he went to the SCBU.  Of course he would come back and see me later.

As he left the ward his grin was so wide it almost reached into his ears.

What a day that was!  Thank you my babies. XX

Jeepers Creepers

SOUTH AFRICA, Sunday 14th Feb 2010

You’ve heard of something being as interesting as watching grass grow?

One Thursday evening Leon came round for supper.  While we were waiting for the roast, we decided to have a game of cards.

Waiting for him out on the patio, whilst he was buggering about with something inside, I was sitting looking at nothing in particular, when I thought I saw a slight movement – of a plant.

Now you might ask, “What’s so unusual in that?  They are not exactly solid as concrete or contained in a hermetically sealed, breeze-free tank, but grow wild and rampant in your garden.”

Ah, Yes.  BUT it was a totally windless evening.  Not the slightest hint of even a breath of wind was to be felt.

Then, you might remark “There must have been an insect or even a very small lizard crawling up it’s nether regions.”  But “No”, I would reply, “I checked all over and around it”.  There were no foreign bodies to be found lurking anywhere upon it.

It was moving entirely by itself.

SH!T, I thought, the Triffids have landed.

Actually it was the tendril of a Morning Glory plant which has chosen to infiltrate the bougainvillea bush just outside my patio.  This particular tendril had grown its way around the white, plastered pillar which supports my patio roof, so it was all on its little ownsome, and thus clearly definable.

About 30cm (or about a foot to the unmetricised) of tendril leant against the pillar.  Until it started to move – away from the pillar towards where I was seated on the patio.

I rubbed my eyes and looked again, but as I stared at it, sure as eggs is eggs and the Pope’s a Catholic, I could physically see it growing.

I thought “Sod me”, or words to that effect, and after checking it out for a few more minutes, called Leon to come and witness this amazing phenomenon, cos even surer than eggs is eggs and the Pope’s a German (at the time of the incident) Catholic, no-one would believe me if I told them about this, without having a witness.

I said to him,

“Leon, just stand perfectly still and watch that plant, and tell me if you can see anything unusual about it.”  After less than a minutes, he said “Bloody Hell, it’s MOVING”.

We continued to watch until after about seven or eight minutes the end of the tendril had moved a couple of inches away from the pillar.

I went and called Ziggy to see it too, but in his own particular idiom he told me to go away.

Leon and I were transfixed by this marvel and only when it was too dark, did we realise that we should have been videoing this close encounter with nature.  But I did manage to take a couple of photos showing its progress.

When I first saw it, the tendril was flat up against, and halfway across, the pillar, as in photo 1.  It then started to move towards me until it was eventually about six inches away from the wall (photos 2 & 3).

In the final picture it had turned and was making its way back to where it had originally come from.

creeper-1

Creeper 1

creeper-2

Creeper 2

creeper-3

Creeper 3

creeper-4

Creeper 4

By this time we had realised that it wasn’t so much ‘growing’ as moving round.  Spookyyyy.

But to watch it in action was like seeing one of those documentary programs where they speed up the film.   Albeit this was somewhat slower, but it was LIVE.

Watching grass grow definitely has nothing on watching a creeper creep!

A Day at the Dentist

Today I spent two and a half hours in the dentist’s chair. I won’t say the obvious, like “I hate going to the dentist” because that is a pretty stupid statement. I have yet to meet anyone who actually enjoys going to the dentist.

But I had been dreading this visit more than usual because of the knowledge that he was going to remove not only a molar and replace it with an implant, but he was also going to remove a wisdom tooth which had not very wisely appeared next to it.

I personally didn’t see why the wisdom tooth needed to be removed as it wasn’t giving me any trouble. On the contrary I had been using it to eat with in the absence of external structure on the other molar, which finished at gum level. Which is another reason I was unhappy about the upcoming procedure. The dentist had nothing for his pliers to grip onto to pull it out.

But I was told that these not-so-little wisdom teeth can actually become quite a nuisance as they grow bigger as they can start to take over your mouth, which is another unwise thing to do in my opinion.

The dentist had already told me during the initial consultation that the nerve was running very close to the root of the wisdom tooth. I think he was hoping I would have had forgotten that little snippet when I visited today, which was hardly likely since the x-ray of my lower gnashers, strongly featuring the route of the nerve, was displayed on a screen not 14 inches from my face.

I was assured that I need not worry, as he would be giving me several strategically placed anaesthetics to numb any pain. That was reassuring. I closed my eyes as he reached for the first needle.

To be fair, he had swabbed my gums with some numbing substance to ease the pain of giving me the pain-reliever but I could still feel the liquid emerging inside my gum. Then he started to tap and poke and scrape around, as they do. After a couple of minutes he said
“I’m afraid you will feel some discomfort during the procedure. But if you actually feel any pain, like I’ve touched the nerve, just raise your left hand.”

Too bloody right I shall, I thought, all fisted up straight into your face!

Half an hour or more had passed when he let out a sigh and said,
“I’m afraid I’m having a bit of trouble with this back one, the root seems to have fused to the bone.”

TERRIFIC!

Since a circular saw wouldn’t quite fit in my mouth he resorted to an angle-grinder, at least that’s what it felt like, to separate the two elements. It wasn’t easy. Nor was it pleasant.

I think my dentist spends his leisure time on archaeological digs, because that’s what it felt like, except thinking about it, when I’ve seen those being performed on television they looked a lot more delicate.

He eventually completed his quest and then started work on the implant. I’d really had enough by now. Couldn’t he do that another day? Apparently not. So he got out a different tool box, the contents of which he spread out on the bib which covered my boobs and commenced whatever procedures one does for the installation of a metal post in my mouth. At least he tried to.

I caught sight of something which looked like an expanding bolt on the end of a small electric screwdriver, which he appeared to want to install in my gum, asking me to ‘open wide – as much as you can’. You’ll be delighted to know that I cannot describe the procedure because whatever the contraption was that he was trying to use,  it didn’t want to work. He stamped on the control pedal – nothing.

His assistant disappeared somewhere in another room but seemed unable to solve the problem. Within a few minutes we had what seemed to be half the staff of the dental clinic crammed into the room behind me trying to get this fancy piece of dental machinery working. They eventually got it to make a whirring noise, but as soon he got the screwdriver to within two inches of my gaping mouth it would stop.

The remaining half of the staff, including the cleaner, also had a shot at getting it to work but they eventually admitted defeat. The dentist said that instead of screwing in a post he would do a bone graft, at no extra charge. I had no idea what he was talking about and frankly didn’t give a toss so long as it meant that I would be out of this bloody chair as quickly as possible.

As I sat back and waited for him to finish I thought I felt a spider crawling across my face. It turned out to be the thread he was using to stitch up the gaping wound which had been opened in my gum to facilitate the extraction of the molar. I started counting as he stitched and got as far as four when I realised I could feel the needle going into one bit of flesh, then the other, before being knotted up. I hasten to add that it didn’t hurt, as such, but the fact that I could actually feel it was bad enough.  Urgh! It’s making me shudder just thinking about it!

As he moved further and further back with stitches six and seven it got more and more tender, and higher, and began to wonder if his needle was going to come out through my ear!

Having declared the job finished, he got a wad of antiseptic-soaked gauze, wedged it at the back of my mouth and told me to bite on it, softly. For an HOUR.

I was then ushered through to the reception area to be given instructions on antibiotics and pain killers, foods and drinks to avoid – I could only have soft, cold food for THREE DAYS. Yippee, an elongated Ice Cream Party.

Then I had to pay. Yes, PAY – for two and a half hours of pain and torture! Of course the receptionist continued to ask me questions, which I vainly tried to answer through closed teeth.

By the time I’d spent the rest of my allotted hour at home, trying to explain to Ziggy what had happened, I was getting so good at talking through my teeth I think I’m going to have a shot at ventriloquism as my next hobby.

The End.

The Pain of Paperless

A paperless society is fast taking over in many spheres of life, but especially in the world of Insurance.  No forms in an envelope delivered in the post.  No filling them in, taking copies then posting the originals back – in another envelope, with a stamp.  I’m all for saving trees and our planet but living in a paperless society comes at a price.  – – – – SANITY.   In this regard I do hope you will excuse the somewhat sarcastic tone which developed.

This wondrous conversation took place just before we decided to leave South Africa to live in Spain.

“Good morning.  Telcare Claims Centre, Mbali speaking, how may I assist you?”

“Good morning Mbali, I would like to make a claim against my policy, for damage to my car.”

“May I have your policy number please?”

“Yes, it’s AG718718712.”

“I now have all your personal and policy details on my screen.  What is the nature of your claim, Mrs Patras?”

“Someone scraped my car when I was parked at the international airport.”

“I need to advise you Mrs Patras, that we do not issue written claim forms, all information is taken from you telephonically.  This conversation is being recorded and you are reminded that any false information given may invalidate your claim.”

“Yes, I understand that. No problem.”

“I will need to take some particulars of the accident.  Can you tell me what happened?”

“I was parked in the short term parking lot at the airport and someone scratched my offside rear door whilst I was inside the terminal building waiting for my passenger.  I only noticed the damage after I arrived home.”

“Were you able to drive the car after the accident?”

(????)  “Yes.  That is how I got home.”

“Where did the accident happen?”

“I told you, at the international airport.   O R Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg.”

“What street it that on?”

“Given the size of the place, quite a few I would imagine.  But I don’t know offhand.  Would you like me to look it up for you in my road atlas?”

“No, I’m sure our office will have the details.  When did this occur Mrs Patras?”

“On Monday 22nd November some time between 05:25 and 07:55am.”

“But you don’t know exactly what time this happened?”

“No, I was inside the airport building.”

“What was the lighting like?”

“Fluorescent I would imagine, like in most big buildings.  It was quite nice actually.  They’ve done a really good job of improving the new International Arrivals Hall.”

“I meant outside where the accident happened Mrs Patras.”

“Well, normal daylight.  You know, like you get on a summer’s morning.”

“Was it raining?”

“No.”

“Did you brake?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Did you brake when the collision occurred?”

“I told you, the car was parked.”

“Were you using indicators?”

“I wasn’t even inside the car.”

“Were there any witnesses?”

“I wouldn’t know. I wasn’t there.”

“You weren’t there?  Where were you?”

“In the International Arrivals Hall, you know, the new one with the nice lighting!”

“Was anyone injured?”

“I bloody well hope so.  I hope the bastard who scraped my car split his bloody head open on impact!”

“This conversation is being recorded.”

“Good, otherwise I doubt anyone would believe this.  I really hope someone gets to listen to it.”

“Did you report the accident to the police?”

“Why the hell should I waste my time doing that?”

“It is a requirement if anyone is injured.”

“But no-one was  injured – to the best of my knowledge.”

“But you said someone had split their head open.”

“No,  I said “I wished they had”.  And as there weren’t any half-dead people lying around when I got back to my car – and more’s the pity – I can only assume the offending party left unscathed.”

“Did you get the name of the other party?”

“No, it must have slipped his – or her – mind to leave me a nice little note with name and insurance details on it after they’d stuffed-up my car.”

“So there was more than one car involved in the accident?”

“Yes.  Mine and someone else’s.”

“But did two cars hit your car Mrs Patras?”

“I wouldn’t have thought so.  What makes you ask that?”

“Well, you said ‘they’ Mrs Patras.”

“It was a figure of speech Mbali.  I was merely referring to ‘the person’ who stuffed-up my car.”

“Do you have any other information about the accident?”

“Yes.  It was a blue vehicle that caused the damage.”

“What make was it?”

“Now let me think.   Which manufacturer makes blue cars?  Well I guess that could be just about any make – apart from possibly a Ferrari.  It wasn’t hit by a Ferrari.”

“How do you know that?”

“Well I can’t say I’ve ever seen a blue Ferrari.  Anyway, the scratch is too high up on the door.”

“But how do you know it was a blue car Mrs Patras.  You said you weren’t there.”

“Because my silver Audi didn’t have a long blue scratch on the offside rear door before I parked it.”

“Will you be making a claim from the other party?”

“Are you sure this conversation is being recorded?”

“Yes.”

“And could you please spell your name?”

“M-B-A-L-I.  Why Mrs Patras?”

“Oh, I just want to make sure the person listening to this recording has ALL the information here.”

“I need to advise you Mrs Patras that your excess on this claim will be R3000.”

“Why R3000?  My policy says R2500.”

“Yes, but there is an additional R500 excess if you claim against the policy within the first year of it being issued.  And you will also lose your no-claims-bonus status.”

“Right.  I see.”

“You will need to take your car to one of our Assessors for damage authentication.”

‘Where is the nearest Assessor to Fourways?’

“Let me see.  Ah, there is one in Benoni.”

“Do you know where Benoni is in relation to Fourways Mbali?”

“No, I don’t drive.”

“Ah, I rather thought you wouldn’t.  Well Mbali, for future reference with your clients, I can tell you that Benoni is about as far away from Fourways as you could ever possibly get without leaving the vast boundaries of Johannesburg.  Do you have anywhere a little closer?  New York, Sydney, San Francisco, or Randburg perhaps?”

“I can get you an appointment in Randburg at 7:30am tomorrow.”

“That’s most kind of you.  I just love being in rush-hour traffic.  Do you possibly have any time a little later?”

“11:30?”

“Thank you, that would be far more preferable.”

“Thank you for calling Telsure Mrs Patras, I will now process your claim.   Is there anything else at all that I can help you with today?”

“The actual physical address of the Assessor would be useful.”

“Oh, it’s 2112 Braam Fischer Avenue Mrs Patras.  Would you like me to give you directions?”

“Oh, I don’t think so Mbali.  I REALLY don’t think so.”

“Thank you Mrs Patras.  I hope you enjoy the rest of your day.”

“Thank you Mbali, I will try, but I’m sure it won’t be anywhere near as entertaining as it has been so far.  Goodbye.”

“Goodbye Mrs Patras.”