Crazy Tales

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

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!).

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?”


“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 2


Creeper 3


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.”


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?”


“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?”


“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?”


“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.”

The Most Expensive Dishwasher in Spain

Thanks to this book writing business I have just acquired the most expensive dishwasher in Spain.

It is my husband’s fault, of course.

After the release of my first book I received precise and very bossy instructions from my publisher to “get stuck straight into writing the sequel”.

The previous couple of months had been spent editing and proofing, and drawing silly illustrations for Into Africa, so I was somewhat out of the groove with the actual writing bit.  I needed to concentrate, with no unnecessary distractions.

Washing dishes was a distraction.

That is not strictly true.  It was the non-washing of dishes which was the distraction.

You see Ziggy – the husband – had said,

“Don’t you worry about the washing-up, dear author-wife of mine, I’ll make that my job.”

The trouble was there being only the two of us we didn’t dirty all that many dishes, especially in summer, so not much washing-up was needed.

“Easy for him then,” you would think.  But then you wouldn’t be thinking like Ziggy.

He didn’t like to ‘waste water’, so he accumulated enough dirty dishes until it was ‘worth filling the bowl’ which, of course, took a few days.  The fact that we had a 50 gallon tank of solar powered piping-hot water sitting unused on the roof seemed to have escaped his attention.

The sight of this molehill of crockery gradually growing into a mountain every time I ventured into the kitchen became such an irritation that I couldn’t concentrate on writing at all.

So I decided to buy a dishwasher.

First of all I had to figure out where I was going to put it, as our kitchen wasn’t exactly large.

After much mumbling and measuring I decided that between the cooker and the sink would be a good idea.  Unfortunately that space housed a cupboard filled with our variety of saucepans and fry-pans.  But I figured I could transfer those to the cupboard which, up until that point, stored the jugs, sieves, colanders and other culinary equipment.  All I needed to do was find another place for those.

Simple.  I would buy a new cupboard to mount on the wall, which could easily accommodate such lightweight items as sieves, etc.  Then I thought if I purchased three units to fill the entire space available I would also be able to spread out the load of other kitchen essentials which was currently crammed into cupboards tighter than passengers in a Ryanair 737 jet.

Before the new cupboards could be installed, however, it would be necessary to remove some water pipes from the walls which had become superfluous to requirements when we had removed the inefficient back-up electric water heater (for when there was no solar heated water after a couple of cloudy days).  I warned the plumber I would be requiring his services soon.

I measured the space which would be available after the removal of the saucepans cupboard and with my trusty tape-measure in hand, I trawled all the white-goods stores within a 20km radius of our casa to acquire the cheapest, half decent dishwasher I could find.

It transpired that the available space could only accommodate a slimline version, but that would be more than adequate for the amount of washing up we generated.  I got a good price – after I haggled – and arranged for its (free) delivery the following week.

The plumber duly arrived and cleared away all the unsightly pipage and installed a connection for the dishwasher.  I also managed to get Ziggy to contribute to the project by removing the hideous never-used-because-it-achieved-bugger-all cooker hood.  I, in turn, climbed into the sink and removed the blind fitted above the window so that it could be washed.

I climbed down, stood back and surveyed the scene.  What a bloody mess!

There were gaps in the wall tiling where the old water heater had been, as well as a row of tiles missing from where the cooker hood was removed.  What tiles were left appeared to have been installed by a one-armed blind man.

“Ziggy,” I announced, “this wall needs to be re-tiled!”  To which he agreed wholeheartedly.

So I contacted a friend, who had a friend who did building stuff and arranged for him to come and assess the job.  He was a Spanish gentleman who came highly recommended by my friend who said he worked for €80 a day, which I thought was quite reasonable.  He was free to commence the work, which he estimated would take him two days, so I hastened to buy wall tiles, adhesive and grouting mix.

We were quite impressed with the enthusiastic gusto with which he applied himself to the job, starting with removal of the old tiles using a pneumatic chisel.  Wearing a face mask and steel toecap boots, he disappeared into a cloud of brick dust which eventually settled on every surface, flat or otherwise, in the entire house.  At the end of the first day he left us with a partially tiled wall and without the use of the kitchen sink, which he’d had to remove to allow him access to the walls.  Nor could we operate the cooker which he’d temporarily relocated to almost block access into the lounge because, although plugged in, it didn’t want to work.   We assumed it had been switched off someplace we were unaware of.

Work continued fairly smoothly the following day.

He returned on the third day to finish off the grouting and I mentioned the inefficacy of the cooker.  This baffled him somewhat but after much chiselling, fiddling with wires and swearing in Spanish, after several hours he eventually got the cooker working.  As daylight began to fade he repositioned the sink and cupboards, some of which had been waiting patiently in the dining room, back to their designated spots.  He also installed the dishwasher which had been delivered during his activities.

Payment for his work was then due and I was quite surprised to find that his charges had increased by 25% to €100 a day but I accepted this, given the unexpected call on his plumbing and electrical skills.  Nonetheless, a jump from the estimated €160 to €300 did hit the wallet somewhat.

After he departed I turned to re-fill the saucepan cupboard, much of the contents of which he had stacked on the sink draining board and counter.  I had noticed a rather strong smell of cooking oil was permeating the area and soon discovered why.  I would appear that when he had moved the cupboard into the dining room he hadn’t emptied it, and on dragging it he must have caused the large chip pan, which had recently been filled with oil, to tip over.  Virtually every item that had been in the cupboard was now smeared or swamped in cooking oil.

After cleaning all the pans and re-stacking them in the cupboard – quicker to write than to do – I surveyed the remaining scene.  Despite having given him a number of old towels to protect the surfaces, he had managed to chip two holes in the counter top, but more worryingly he had irrepairably damaged two small areas where the counter met the wall when he had wrenched away an edging strip.  The counter top was going to have to be replaced!

Fortunately the company who had fitted the more recent of my kitchen cupboards was able to supply and fit the wall units I required, together with a new counter.

The washed blind was returned to the window and my new kitchen makeover looked spot on.  Furthermore, the dishwasher works like a dream.  But at what cost?

After I had cleared up the kitchen I had asked Ziggy to take the old towels, now on the floor, and put them in the washing machine in the laundry.  After they were washed I loaded the machine with some normal laundry.  On going to peg out both loads of washing on the line to dry I noticed a distinct smell of oil.  The towels all felt tacky and reeked of oil, as did one casual dress, three t-shirts, two pairs of shorts, a sweater and assorted underwear!  Unbeknown to me, the bloody builder must have used the towels to wipe the floor of all evidence of his oil spillage.

I threw the towels away but a second washing made little difference to the clothes and I soon realised that the inside of our washing machine must be coated in a thick layer of oil.  Running it three times on empty, with lots of soap on the hottest possible setting eventually cleared the oil slick.  The clothes, alas, were a lost cause.

So let us now tally up the damage.

Dishwasher                                        €235.00

Plumber                                              €  70.00

Materials for tiling                           €187.58

Labour for tiling                               €300.00

Cupboards and new counter         €434.00

Wrecked clothes, approx                €130.00


So the total cost of getting a dishwasher was –  €1,356.58

I think I’d better get stuck into writing that sequel.   PLEASE will you buy a copy – I need the money!


That’s When the Big Fight Started.

I wrote this a few years ago and posted it on a Writers’ website I belonged to at the time.    A thread on my favourite Facebook Group – We Love Memoirs – brought it back to mind today, so I thought I’d share it with you until I get around to posting something ‘proper’.  

As you might imagine I have been incredibly busy of late, with the release of Into Africa.  HAVE YOU BOUGHT YOUR COPY YET?

Anyway, here’s my little ditty.




Here is a story to be told, it happened to our Mummy.

She’s still quite cross about it all, but we thought it was funny.


Our Daddy had an accident, he nearly burnt the fryer

He put the pan outside to cool, but should have put it higher.


Next morning our dog King got up and thought it was his birthday

From head-in-pan his fur stuck up, like Mummy’s real bad-hair-day.


You see, he’d licked the pan all out and cos it was so greasy

His head and shoulders got oiled up – it wouldn’t come off easy.


Mum thought she’d better bath the dog but he was dead against it.

He leapt right out, jumped on her bed, and absolutely drenched it.


And then he ran into the yard and jumped amongst the flowers

Whilst Mummy stayed inside to clean  – she said it took her hours.


My brother said “Let’s go and play.” So off we went to Peter’s

His Mum was buying ice-cream cones and said that she would treat us.


I didn’t know my brother Tim had left our gate wide open

The dog came out to track us down, well that’s what he was hopin’.


‘Twas only some time later on, we noticed King was missing

Our neighbour said he’d seen him trotting past, when he was fishing.


With everyone out calling him, on bikes, in cars and trucks

We found him by the pig-farm road, all covered up in muck.


But by the time we all got home the day had turned to night.

When we walked in our Mum just screamed “My goodness, what a sight.”


What happened next was quite a scene, now Daddy’s broken hearted.

He said that Mum must bath the dog.  That’s when the big fight started.