Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Never 'Assume'


Every morning, my Grandmother would eat stewed prunes for breakfast. As a child, especially a child in Germany where social taboos are strictly enforced in smart society, I learnt that I could stop adult chatter dead with a simple, innocent question. And so it was when, with guests present and me on my best behaviour, I asked my Granny why she ate prunes for breakfast and not the delicious Brötchen smeared with local butter and home made cherry jam that we all enjoyed. Frau Waldmann suddenly found something incredibly interesting beyond the window to distract her attention while my grandfather choked on whatever it was he had intended to swallow rather than inhale. Clearly no one seated around the breakfast table had the inclination to explain to a curious little boy the efficacy of prunes on regular bowel movements. My grandmother, with Teutonic reserve, said, ‘Because I like them Andy. Would you like another cup of tea or will you take coffee?’

I am the same age now as my grandmother was then. Thankfully, I do not need to resort to prunes or anything else for that matter. I eat what the hell I like and still you could set your watch by me. It’s a good start to the day. Mug of steaming tea, my fags and a good book and ten or so quiet yet productive minutes sat in splendid isolation.

We are not plumbed in yet so water has to be carried up from the river. Water to cook, wash, flush or rinse, it is all carried in 20 litre yellow plastic containers that once held vegetable oil. No one buys proper water or fuel containers, we all just recycle the ubiquitous cooking oil container.

As it started to get dark this evening I thought I had better prep the gennie so that is was ready to go. I hunted around for the fuel containers and found one stashed in the lean to quite close to the gennie. I sloshed the fuel into the tank and checked the oil. I then went into the shop and told Marcia everything was good to go but that she would need to buy more fuel tomorrow as I had just put the last twenty litres into the tank.

‘That’s impossible!’ Marcia exclaimed, ‘we had 80 litres delivered last night!’

‘Well in that case,’ I said, ‘someone has nicked sixty litres because all I found was one full container.’

She didn’t believe me so I took her outside and showed her where I had found the container and pointed out that there were only two containers there, one already empty and now the other as well.

‘That’s diesel’

‘What?’

‘You have just filled the petrol generator with diesel. Didn’t you smell it?’

Well, to tell you the truth, I didn’t. I wasn’t even suspicious when, as I was pouring the ‘petrol’ into the tank it foamed up and overflowed, a distinct characteristic of diesel. I spun the lid off the tank and took a good whiff. Bollocks. Since we only had a petrol generator, I just assumed that all fuel on site was petrol. Half an hour later I had drained the tank and flushed the carburettor and went hunting for the missing 80 litres of petrol. Eventually, I gave up and dragged back to the shop to tell Marcia there was no other fuel on site. Clearly irritated, she charged out of the shop with me trailing behind. Kicking the door of the bog open she pointed to four yellow containers and asked me what they were.

‘Water?’ I ventured.

‘Petrol’ she said.

‘So let me get this straight, Marcia, every morning I have been coming in here to have a shit, light up and smoke a cigarette while sitting next to 80 litres of petrol in a 2 metre by 2 metre enclosed space?’

You see, I had just assumed it was water.

12 comments:

  1. you are being watched over by that wry whiskey supporting ex pat angel in the sky!!!!

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  2. ps that previous photo of Alex is a cracker!!!!!!!!

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  3. Teutonic reserve? What are you talking about? I have been given the impression that, on the whole, Germans are not only blunt but are given to discussing their bowel movements most freely. Why do you think there is a ledge in your average European toilet bowl? So you can examine the contents before flushing. Try and sell that concept to the rather more straight down the toilet tight arsed Englishman.

    And do not kid yourself, Tom: The prune that kept your grandmother regular is your coffee and cigarette.

    Try not to blow up.

    U

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  4. Procedure Angolan Bush Khazi.

    1) fill the loo with 3 gallons of hi-grade petrol

    2) loosen trousers and seat oneself on loo in sitting position

    3) light cigaretee and ponder life's wonders (floods etc.)

    3) clench and release (repeat as necessary)

    4) accidentally drop lit cigarette in loo

    5) liberally spread oneself and loo contents over a 100m radius from the blast

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  5. John, I bet that Guardian Angel must be a nervous alcoholic wreck by now!

    Barefoot, funny you should use the word 'nippy'. Until I realised my loo was a potential bomb, my only concern had been dangling my bits down the bowl of a tropical toilet...

    Ursula, the von Borkens only ever discussed the weather, the quality of cakes from the Conditerei, what they should have for lunch and where; and when, given the strange spring weather (see? weather again) they should visit Bad Reichenhall to take in the air and waters. The rest of the time they played Canasta.

    And it is whisky and cigarettes for my breakfast, Ursula, not coffee.

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  6. Chris,

    perhaps you could do a Ministry of Information instructional film on that?

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  7. Further to my last, Chris:

    Chris,

    When making this instructional film, please bear in mind the following. As an ex Ammunition Technical and Bomb Disposal officer, I feel qualified to be the technical advisor on your forthcoming blockbuster.

    1) fill the loo with 3 gallons of hi-grade petrol

    Any more than a pint will go round the U Tube unless of course you are aiming for the sympathetic detonation of the cess pit which would, of course, provide a spectacular backdrop to the sudden departure into orbit of the star of the film.

    2) loosen trousers and seat oneself on loo in sitting position

    I find that merely loosening my trousers is insufficient to avoid a deposit in my skiddies. Trousers are better lowered as far as one’s ankles.

    3) light cigaretee and ponder life's wonders (floods etc.)

    Better perhaps that the hero is seen reading. Something like the biography of Douglas Haig (ordering men to walk through minefields under withering German fire etc.)

    3) clench and release (repeat as necessary)

    I prefer not to prolong the agony and tend to release all in one go and bugger the accuracy, rather like bomber command.

    4) accidentally drop lit cigarette in loo

    Where else would a Gentleman dispose of his cigarette under such conditions?

    5) liberally spread oneself and loo contents over a 100m radius from the blast

    Prior to the spreading, there should be the rapid ejection of our hero through the roof of the disintegrating structure. This allows the director both close in shots, as well as the panoramic shots showing our hero achieving new heights in his career.

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  8. Well, it would have been a great way for a bomb-disposal expert to go...

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  9. Josh, it might have been a poetic way to go for a Bomb Disposal Officer but having your sphincter blown up to around your ears could never be considered a great way to go.

    A great way to go would be being shot, aged 90, by a jealous husband...

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  10. So, my double entendre passed undetected. It was sorta silent, but deadly, I presume.

    And in my defense, it could be both poetic and great. I'm reminded of another great piece, beginning, "Here I sit, brokenhearted"...

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