Wednesday, 15 February 2012
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.
‘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.