Wednesday 29 May 2013

Introduction of Google Goggles Sees Huge Rise in Facial Reconstructive Surgery!

A Geeky Goggler (I still wouldn't crawl over her to get to YP though)

If technology wasn't already intrusive enough, I now read that Google Glasses (they really do beg to be called Google Goggles and the twerps who wear them, Gogglers, don’t they?) will soon have a facial recognition application installed.  This application would allow Gogglers to scan Google’s extensive database and identify any stranger they meet and learn anything about them that Google has on file.

Ace, absolutely bleeding ace.  I am SO looking forward the first smug bastard Geeky Googly Goggler that comes up to me and says,

‘Oi, you’re Hippo!  I know all about you!’

So I can have the satisfaction of telling them a couple of seconds later:

‘Good.  Then you won’t have been too surprised about that then!’ having planted my fist right between their Goggly Googly eyes.
Please insert donations to the Church in the back pocket provided. 
All alcoholic beverages must be surrendered to the Pastor on arrival in church. 
Oh, and he's running short of fags as well if those seeking absolution can take a hint.
Virgins seeking conversion should form an orderly queue outside the confessional.

Monday 27 May 2013

The Things That Really Matter

I scored two 'highly in demand' tickets for my girls to attend this live televised concert
and all I got was this lousy photo?

Rico has big plans.  He is my neighbor and for many years we hated each other.  We still do to be honest but we have learnt to co-operate.  Let’s face it, co-operating is easy and makes you feel good.  If you hate someone, all you are doing is giving him free lodging in your head.

A couple of weeks ago, Rico started building an island in the river.  Well, not exactly an Island but a bloody great wooden deck supported by piles driven into the river bed.  It all looked jolly industrious but I hadn’t a clue what it was for.  I just assumed Rico was trying to reclaim enough territory to declare his own dictatorship (I mean State). Then Rico sent one of his blokes over asking if he could borrow my truck.  Now, I was the one who had been banging on to him about neighborliness so I could hardly say no. 

Apart from the odd glimpse, I haven’t seen my truck since. 

A few days ago, one of my blokes had an accident on site and drove a disk cutter through his leg while cutting concrete so I had to send a runner to Rico’s to ask if I could borrow my truck to take him to hospital.  After all, the bugger was bleeding to death on my land which would cause all sorts of headaches not least the fact it was an excellent excuse for the rest of the crew to down tools.  The driver returned with an instruction from Rico that we should hurry up as he really needed the truck back.  Curious, why the desperate rush?

This kind of thing intrigues me.  I wasn’t going to ask Rico what he was up to building an island in the river.  It is his money and he is loaded so, so what? Let him spend it.  But I really wanted to know.  Trouble is, if I asked any of the villagers, word would get back to Rico that I was asking, betraying my curiosity.  Stubborn pride meant I would only accept him telling me.  Nothing else for it, I was going to have to go round there for a gin and tonic and give him the opportunity.

Bugger me if he hadn’t built a Montreaux style stage in the middle of the river.  Burly blokes were wheeling speakers the size of Brinksmat armoured cars onto it while others were erecting cantilever arches carrying more spotlights per metre than a rally car's bumper.  Cables as thick as a baby’s arm snaked all over the place.  Rico must have seen my face.  If he had given up on food and was turning his place into a disco, I was fucked. Angolans don’t have volume controls on their humungous sound systems, they have on-off switches.  With the death of anything approaching a peaceful night’s sleep at weekends, I would have no choice, since I could not beat him, but to sort of join him and turn Fat Hippo’s into a whorehouse.  I don’t think Marcia would like that, she is already concerned about me tucking into her bar stock.

‘It’s only for one night’, Rico said, ‘and it starts at 7pm and stops at 10pm’.

‘Oh yes?’ I ventured cautiously.

‘Some famous group are going to give a live performance and make a music DVD at the same time.  They’re called Kassav’

‘Never heard of them’ I replied, and I hadn’t but, judging by the size and quantity of the speakers and amplifiers, I knew I would.

I sank my G&T and by the time I arrived home, Marcia was there unloading stock for the shop.  Since I had run out of whisky the night before, the only alcohol I had drunk that day was the G&T so my blood was dangerously viscous.  The G&T may have been drunk but I wasn’t so I wired in and helped unload a truly impressive tonnage of stock, miles more than usual, but no booze whatsoever.

I hate to appear desperate in front of Marcia so I said, ‘MARCIA!!! There’s no whisky!  YOU FORGOT THE WHISKY!!!’

‘No I haven’t’ she replied sweetly, ‘it’s all on the second vehicle’.

Second vehicle?  Marcia’s shop was now being supplied by convoy?  She already had enough here to supply a battalion, any more and she would be able to cater for the whole bloody regiment.

‘Haven’t you heard?’ she asked me, ‘Kassav are doing a live concert at Rico’s.  They expect 1500 guests and will be turning people away, where else will they go for a drink other than us?’ She smiled angelically.  Wives only ever smile angelically, by the way, never smugly.  At least that’s what I told myself.

Clearly, everyone was in on this except me, I had to assert myself.

‘Right’ I ordered, ‘call the site, tell them I am on my way up there.  They should dig out the new coolers and freezers and get all the new tables and chairs out on the roadside ready to load up when I get there.  I also want the 1000 litre water container on the truck so that I can fill it from the well.  The Jango is going live!' I announced. '
Is there anything else you can think of?’ I asked Marcia with a smug smile.

‘Not much, except we do not appear to have a truck. What are you going to do, walk up to the site?’ This was Marcia with her best saccharine voice (avec sourire angélique).  No barb could ever have been delivered with more grace or any less effectively.  Even the usual drunkards in the shop, normally oblivious to anything other than a meteor strike (although thankfully this remains untested) winced in sympathy.  Oh I knew where the truck was and could, with a mere phone call, intercept it before it fell back into the hands of Rico.  No, it was the implication I was too unfit to walk to the site that sliced so deep.  How grievous the truth?

‘Good idea!’ I exclaimed with enthusiasm so artificial had it been a drug it would have been banned by the Food and Drugs Administration Boards of India, Pakistan and China, ‘that way I can have everything ready for loading.  The boys can do the water run by themselves afterwards’. 

I trudged disconsolately back to my room under a blazing African sun, once again confounded by a bloody woman.  I have survived so far by being able to talk faster than people can think.  Marcia, whose grasp of English is precarious to say the least, appears to be able to do both; think and talk at the speed of a Gatling gun at the same time, and that is so unfair.  What chance does a mere man stand against a woman with WMD?  Weapons of Mass Diction?

I pulled off my dusty sandals, my shorts and T Shirt and wondered how long I could push the ‘getting changed’ ploy in the hope the second vehicle carrying the booze would arrive in time for me to squeeze in a snifter and fill the old hip flask before I embarked on my Trans-African expedition.  Well of course, this is Africa, isn’t it? So by the time I had tied my bootlaces for the second time and brushed my teeth for the third, Marcia was becoming a tadge suspicious, especially when she caught me trying to comb my millimeter long hair and quite unfairly suggested I was taking the piss. So I set off with no sign of the second vehicle or, more urgently, a bit of the amber nectar.

I’d gone about 200 yards, just around the corner in fact, when a pick-up pulled up alongside me.  It was loaded with crates of beer and, I could not help but notice, cases of Grant’s, Clan MacGregor, Famous Grouse, J&B, Johnny Walker, Passport, White Horse; I only enjoyed the briefest of glimpses so this list may not be exhaustive.

The driver leant out and asked me, ‘Where is…’, he consulted a piece of paper,  ‘...Marcia’s shop?’  He said this in Portuguese, which of course I do understand.

‘Just around the corner’, I said helpfully, also in Portuguese, ‘Look for the big Jango on the right’

‘Muito Obrigado’ he said and dropped the clutch.

‘No, NO!  WAIT!’ I screamed. 
Some highway robber I would make.  I can’t even hold up a truckload of my own whisky.

I was pretty disgusting by the time I got home but an hour or so afterwards the new freezers and coolers were all hooked up and filled, the tables and chairs laid out, it looked cool.  We were ready.

‘Who are Kassav?’ I asked.

Apparently, they were the band playing when Noah’s Ark ran aground on Mount Ararat.  For Marcia clearly, they were old hat.

‘So you are not going over to Rico’s to see them play?’  I asked Marcia, ‘After all, Angolan TV will be filming this’.  I had arrived back to find a bunch of slickly dressed guys in the shop claiming to be television guys.  I get lots of guys in the shop claiming to be anything from the President’s son to God and all they want is credit so I usually just give them a kick in the teeth or call the dogs but these guys seemed pretty credible, after all, you don’t get three guys turning up in your shop in the Barra de Kwanza all dressed in genuine Indian Armani suits with the same story.

I had no intention whatsoever of going over there.  One glimpse of the speakers had convinced me that I would stumble home with blood pouring out of my ears.  It was an all ticket event; entrance controlled by the marketing company who would engage a private Security Company and the police to control not only entrance but the surrounding area, which included my patch.

‘If you don’t want to go there, Marcia, and I certainly don’t, how about we get a couple of the older girls down?  They’d love it.  I was thinking of Cristina and Jolie.’

‘C’mon Marcia’ I insisted, ‘they will go to their first ever live concert, televised to boot, and we will only be five hundred metres away to keep an eye on them.’

So it was settled.  Cristina and Jolie jumped into a taxi and came down to the Barra de Kwanza.

They were terribly excited.  They were thrilled.  They were wholly inappropriately dressed. 

‘This won’t do, Marcia’, I told her ‘they can’t go dressed like that’

They looked like lollipop lolitas.

Now these two girls did not set out to dress like teenage sirens hunting a Sugar Daddy, all they were guilty of was copying the mode of dress they see every evening on the Brazilian and Mexican soaps in which it is de rigueur for all females, except the handful of obligatory black clad embittered widows, to dress like a King’s Road Tart.

Marcia has decided, by the way, that she wants a daughter.  I am 54 years old and not exactly in the best of health.  This alone should not necessarily be an impediment to the consummation of her desire but I haven’t exactly got a tap on my testes marked Male-Female according to which direction it is turned.  If I get it wrong, I’ll have to do it all again in two years’ time.  The idea of a daughter at my age horrifies me.  By the time she is fourteen, I will be seventy.  Assuming I am still alive, which all medical evidence suggests is something you shouldn’t bet on, what am I supposed to do, beat off unsuitable suitors with my Zimmer frame?  What the hell kind of advice can a bloke like me give to a fourteen year old girl on the cusp of womanhood without destroying her confidence in men, the majority of whom, based on the example I set, are bastards? 

When it comes to beachwear, the Brazilians say ‘Less is more’ and I agree.  On the beach, why not be unashamed of your body?  It doesn’t matter how big or skinny, how young or old, we are all on the beach enjoying the sun, sand and sea.  When it comes to an evening function such as the one the girls were about to attend, less is more also applies only in this case the less flesh they expose, the more sophisticated and attractively enticing they are.  My problem was how to explain that to the girls without upsetting them.  After all, they may only be fourteen or fifteen but like all women, if they ask you what they look like in a particular dress or wonder what you think of their new hairstyle, they really do not want to hear, ‘Awful’.

It was actually surprisingly easy.

‘Eek!  Cristina!  There’s a seam on your skirt that has opened up!  You can’t wear that!’

‘Jolie!  Your hem is loose and there is a bleach stain right there!’  ‘Where?’  ‘Right there!  Never mind, if I can see it everyone else can’

‘Girls!  Both of you have VPL’s, that’s terrible!’

‘No, No, No!  You’ll be walking on decking, those heels will jam in the gaps and you’ll fall over, you need flats’

‘I’m sorry, I have to put my foot down.  If you want to carry your smart phones, you don’t stuff them in your bras ruining the lines of your dresses, you carry a clutch bag’

It’s true.  The girls dress so skimpily they have nowhere else to carry their mobile phones other than stuffed in their bras if they are even wearing one.  I have seen plenty of deformed bums.  I mean what, as a bloke, are you expected to do?  Dial ‘Nipple’ for an emergency service?

I realize I was behaving a bit like Gok Wan but preparing the girls as I was would avoid me having to behave like Jean Claude Van Damme later on in the evening. 
I used to look at women and undress them with a single glance.  Why should any other bloke be different?  There is a huge argument on at the moment about the right of women to dress in public as provocatively as they want.  Fine, the more of them the better and a correspondingly lesser chance one of my girls will be assaulted.
Marcia rose to the challenge, raided her wardrobe and the girls left for the concert looking like two very elegant young ladies.
That was two days ago.  Haven't seen them since.
Just kidding.  They were back by midnight having had a fabulous time (I thought the music was crap, obviously I could hear it at my place) but they were thrilled and I have to confess, the girls looked fabulous too.  They were radiant, full of Joie de Vivre and I shed a tear imagining myself as Maurice Chevalier but refrained from singing, 'Thank Heaven for Little Girls'.
God, they were so small and fragile when they came to me, now they are really quite beautiful.
Why no photographs, I hear you cry!  Well, I took several before they left for the party.  Beautifully framed, well lit, exotic. I wanted Gok Wan to eat his asian heart out. Then I thought I would give the girls my expensive digital SLR so that they could take some more photos on site as it were. 
They lost it.
I ask you, what is more important?  Two girls who I adore and have just enjoyed their first live concert dressed up to the nines in Marcia's finest or a bloody digital camera?
Well, it is the camera, of course, but I didn't tell the girls that.


Every bloody morning...

I wake up at 4am.

It doesn't matter what time I go to bed, I still awake at four. I have tried staying up until four in the morning but was then unable to fall asleep. I have tried drinking myself into oblivion but only wake up at the same time with a raging hangover. It really is very tedious because I am genuinely tired. I really want to go to sleep. I can hear my pillow calling me. I am filled with envy at the sound of Marcia's steady, peaceful breathing. The gentle wash of surf on the beach should be soothing.  At this time of the morning I find it irritating. My hearing is so acute, I can hear the dogs padding around outside, Rico's guards whispering a hundred yards away, light footed geckos chasing insects. If there is a breeze there is, to me and me alone, the deafening cacophony of palm fronds caressing the roof.

To pass the time, I read the Telegraph on line.  Then the Independent and, just to prove I may be awake but my brain isn’t, I read the Daily Mail.

It is my brain that is the problem.  When I am asleep, however briefly, I have vivid dreams.  Most of them are nice, set in places infinitely preferable to reality; I have been spending a lot of time with my late father recently and that is really nice.  He looks older but not as tired as he did just before he died.  Other dreams are so bizarre as to defy description. 

In this ‘Other World’ my visits to which are so frustratingly brief, I can fly.  Not with ease, I hasten to add, I have to both relax AND concentrate.  Now the two don’t usually walk (or fly) hand in hand but trust me, crack it and you can fly.  And it is a truly wonderful experience, if a little scary as I am always conscious, in my unconscious state, that if I think about the fact I am flying, which is impossible, humans can’t fly, I will fall out of the sky and wake up with a sudden start just as I am about to plough into the ground (clearly a sort of ethereal ejector seat).  As a result, flying straight and level is an art. I am getting pretty good at getting up there, the trouble is that once I am up there (don’t forget, my knees go weak looking over a second floor balcony I am so frightened of heights) I can’t help thinking about it and instantly lose altitude at an ever more alarming rate.  Birds must have the same problem, they are forever crapping themselves midair.  Think about it though.  You have thought yourself up to a great height by not thinking about it and relaxing instead.  Now you suddenly think, ‘Holy Fucking Christ! I’m a million miles high!’ and, as you plummet earthwards as a result of thinking, you think, ‘I know I am stressed right now but I really must concentrate on not thinking anymore’.  You try relaxing when you are hurtling in towards terra firma faster than Google Earth can zoom yet sometimes I do manage it and, just in time, claw my way over tree tops into free air again.  It is terrifying yet exhilarating. No wonder I cannot sleep once I wake up.

It is my brain, you see, if it would just relax and stop thinking so I could concentrate, I wouldn’t crash and could enjoy a decent night’s sleep.

For reasons that must now be all too evident, I usually do not write and post at this Godforsaken hour.

Friday 17 May 2013

Marcia is the boss of course....

But the real winners were the kids.

And all it cost me was a close shave...

It's alright, it'll grow back.

As Megan has reminded me, it is a Mohawk.

Admit it Megan, I looked the part ever so briefly.

I just love it when the kids come to visit.

What a Cock(erel)

A few days late but no less welcome for that.

Part II, 'The Wrath of Marcia' to follow...

Wednesday 15 May 2013

Shit. Shitty. Shittiest. A Horrible Way to Wake Up

The other day, I decided it was time to shovel shit.  I need some weathered goat pooh for the raised beds around the restaurant, about a truck load, and I knew just where to go and get it.  Even though Joaquim, one of my neighbors, is about as much use as a chocolate fireguard, he is a well-built fellow and would be able to help me shovel the valuable product from the upper floors of the nearby restaurant, abandoned since colonial times and now the dormitory of the local goat population.  The floors are about six inches deep with the stuff and if I didn’t nick it soon, someone else would.

Joaquim had promised that he would turn up early in the morning returning at the same time, the wheelbarrow he borrowed from me a month or so ago.  Angolans, by the way, do not shop for tools and equipment; they augment their stock by borrowing so it is worth keeping on top of them.

Marcia had left for town at eight, I was already dressed and ready for Joaquim.  He had taken my truck to give Marcia a lift to the main road where her personal taxi driver was waiting for her.  On the way back he would collect the wheelbarrow and then we could get stuck into shoveling the smelly stuff.

Nine O’clock passed.  Then Ten.  Midday I helped myself to the cold left over duck and red cabbage from the night before.  By one pm I was seething with rage.  If you really, really want to annoy me, agree to help me at a certain time and then switch your phone off for the next few hours and cruise around in my truck.

Finally, at 2pm I heard my truck coming.  It isn’t just dogs that can recognize the sound of their master’s vehicle arriving from a long way away, master’s themselves are pretty good at it.  I know every creak and groan of its chassis, every clank and rattle of its drop sides, every asthmatic complaint of its exhaust and groan inwardly in sympathy with its gearbox at the sound of every missed gear.

I am always lending Joaquim my truck.  I own the only ones in the village so of course I will help out.  Life can be pretty tough for these people and fishermen can’t afford the outrageous hire charges just to move a load of material, often with a lower value than the diesel consumed, yet so important to them.  But I fucking hate it when they take the piss.  Where the hell had he been all these hours?  This time I was going to fucking have him.  I bent down to put on my sandals to give thr traction I would need to plant to really good one on the end of his nose...

Joaquim came into the room.

‘Kimmie, my dear and trusted friend’ I gasped, ‘I can’t move!’

I was on my hands and knees, one sandal gripped in a white knuckled fist.

‘Sr Thomas,’ he started, ‘I am really sorry I took so long but…’

‘Fuck where you’ve been all this time, you bastard, get me off the floor’ I politely encouraged him through gritted teeth, I was in agony.  Sweat was dripping off me and I was convinced I would vomit.

Like I say, he is a big bloke so he scooped me under the armpits and had me on my feet in only ten hours of excruciating pain.  Actually, he achieved that maneuver in seconds, it just felt like hours.  I hate showing pain in front of natives but I think I did squeal a bit.

Blokes like Joaquim, the skivers of the world surviving without regular employment through a wit that escapes honest, hardworking citizens have all the luck.  We had earlier arranged through his contacts with the Catholic Church (building their new Church here) that he would fix an hour’s use of the damn great front loader the Left Footers had on their site to bring in a couple of bucketful’s of black soil so that we could shovel it by hand into the beds.   The front loader broke down so that notion was stillborn.  He promised me he would arrange a couple of helpers to shovel the soil into the back of my truck but then it rained which would mean my truck bogging down in the soft soil.  He gets away with it every time.

I sat there gasping wondering just how many of my vertebrae had shattered into razor sharp shards and was ready to call it a day when the git pushed me too far.

‘Shall I call Marcia?’ he asked solicitously.

You little shit, I thought, we ARE going to shovel shit, you’re not going to get away with it this time.

‘Have you got the wheelbarrow?’ I demanded, ‘Good.  Throw them shovels on as well and let’s go’

The old restaurant is quite an intricate piece of architecture.  My original idea had been just to park up with the truck as close as I could and then run the wheelbarrow empty up the stairs and then back down them full creating a pile of droppings on the ground we could then shovel into the back of the truck.  Double, even treble handling I know but efficient enough if you are not in a hurry and your spine is in one piece rather than millions.

I let Joaquim drive for two reasons.  Firstly, I needed to remind him who was the boss so it was his duty to drive me.  Secondly, because it was all I could do to climb into the passenger seat; trying to press on the clutch or haul on the steering wheel would have been terribly embarrassing as I wasn’t wearing highly absorbent nappies.  Back pain is debilitating in the extreme but, as I was finding out, can be subsumed not only by painkillers, but by pure hatred as well.

When we arrived, I realized that I would suffer something more acute than physical pain, I would endure the shame of allowing Joaquim to do all the shoveling by himself.  Bollocks to that, I needed a simple solution.  I needed to find an efficient way to get the shit from the top floor into the back of my truck.

The restaurant stands on the banks of the Rio Kwanza.  Shoreside are staircases preventing any vehicle coming up alongside.  Riverside, however, were pathways leading to a bankside terrace lined by mature palm trees.  Beyond the terrace were the kitchens and leading off to the right, a small courtyard above which was an upper storey window.  The courtyard was sunken but otherwise ideal if only I could back the truck in there.  Joaquim has the attention span of an amoeba so it wouldn’t to do hang around trying to figure out the last bridge I had to cross before I arrived there so I climbed into the truck, reversed it in through the entrance, maneuvered across the restaurant floor and onto the terrace, gave it a lot of right hand down and along the bank before reaching the old kitchens.

Joaquim, master dodger of work, was impressed.  Actually, I think he was both impressed and amused.  So I had proved to him that I could pass a truck through the eye of a complicated series of needles but I was well and truly confounded now.  In fact he even called out some encouragement:

‘Estas fudida agora!’  he exclaimed. (You’re fucked now).

You see?  This is where natives consistently underestimate their expatriate guests.  Think of Rorke’s Drift.

The power steering pump mountings on my truck failed ages ago.  As the mounting bolts have sheared in the block, to rectify this means an engine out.  Bugger that, I thought at the time, it’s nothing a foot on the dash and heaving on the steering wheel can’t sort.  So I pulled the belts off the power steering pump pulley and ran the truck like that.

Now I was faced with a hundred and thirty five point turn and a bloody great drop into a yard if I made it.  The width of the esplanade I had just reversed down was half the length of the truck.  On a normal day, I wouldn’t even have been there, it was just that Joaquim was really starting to piss me off.  He pissed me off even more when he said if I dropped the four rear wheels in, he was convinced I could get it out again.  Like hell I would, I just spin the tread off the tyres trying.  The little shit, he just wanted to see me bog the truck so that he could go home.

There’s a lot of rubble, both wood and hard core that falls off a restaurant after twenty years of neglect.  So I started collecting it to make a ramp.  Joaquim caught on and lent a hand.  Pretty soon, I was satisfied but basically I was aiming at two 40cm wide ramps over which I had to run the rear wheels of the truck.  Once again, I was threading needles.

Perhaps overcome by a bit of conscience, Joaquim tried to stop me, irritating me yet further by suggesting I could never do it but then he saw the red mist and stood back.  Marathon runners (I was one once) have to go through something called ‘The Wall’.  It is bloody painful and sorts the men out from the boys.  Those who fail drop by the roadside.  Those who do get second wind and a crack at the win.  I had my second wind by then and five minutes later, the bed of the truck was underneath the upper storey window.

All we had to do was drag the wheelbarrow up to the first floor, fill it and then tip it out of the window into the truck and repeat.  I got my truck load of fertilizer.  Joaquim muttered something about me being hard as stone but the Portuguese also translates into stupidly stubborn.  No shit! I thought.

The next morning, after a sleepless night, it took me half an hour just to carefully roll myself into a position that would allow me to swing myself out of bed.  As I stood there, naked, one hand on the back of the sofa and the other on the surface of my desk, several things occurred to me at once.  Marcia was nowhere to be seen, my cigarettes and lighter were beyond the reach of a man with a shattered spine and I really desperately needed the loo which was an impossible twenty yards, two steps and two doors away.

I could hear the maid in the kitchen.  Could I really be so desperate as to call out allowing her to discover me shivering with spinal rigor mortis, my shriveled willy hanging out and in danger of giving her a hell of a lot more to clear off the floor than a bit of trampled dust?

Marcia covers the furniture with cloth, drapes, not sure of their proper name.  They are just great swathes of material disguising the shabby nature of our mobilia.  At the other end of the sofa arm I was clinging to, I could see my mobile phone.  So with my left hand, one that only has two working fingers, I started to chew the sofa cover.  Tantalus.  Til now I thought it an interesting parable.  I wasn’t desperate for juicy fruit or sweet water, I wanted to get my hands on a Nokia phone but by Hell I was beginning to realize what he went through.  Every time I tugged on the cloth, the phone stayed where it was, out of arm’s reach.  Finally the last fold of cloth was absorbed by my grip and the phone started to move in the right direction.  Gently I tugged it toward me.  By now the sweat was dripping off me.  I was in excruciating agony and the phone was so close.  My knees were trembling, my bladder was bursting and my bowels were in desperate negotiation with the last loyal bit of my anatomy, my sphincter.  I tugged some more and the phone slid off the sofa and tumbled to the floor.  The back flew off and the battery fell out.  To understand Woe, one has to experience it.  Phoning Marcia for help wasn’t a bad plan, it was a jolly good idea, I just cocked it up.

Many years ago when I was stationed in Belize, I was persuaded to have a go at the annual Easter cross country cycle race.  Sherman, my mate and trainer warned me that once we reached Cayo district and started to make the climb onto the Vaca Plateau, I would get ‘real ugly’ with the pain.  If Sherman could have seen me trembling, about to explode from every bodily orifice including my eye sockets, I am sure he would have agreed that no man was ever uglier.

 The door burst open and Alex rushed in, dodged around me and grabbed the remote for the TV.

‘Morning Daddy!’ he chirped happily, ‘My turn for the TV now? I want Charlie and Lola!’  He calls the BBC children’s channel Charlie and Lola, sometimes Sean the Sheep.  Heswitched the TV on, plonked himself on the sofa and started to flick through the channels.  He has no idea what he is doing, he just keeps pressing buttons until he sees something he likes or the decoder loses its mind and decides to rescan all the channels.


‘Yes Daddy?’

‘Daddy is sick’

‘Sowwy Daddy’, he replied without taking his eyes off the TV.

My survival, my last dregs of self-respect, now depended on a distracted four year old.

‘Alex, you see my phone on the floor?  Can you pass it to me please?’

He gave the phone a quick glance, ‘It’s bwoken Daddy’ and carried on changing channels.

The enduring bond between parents and their children depends to a large extent on the lack of perceived injustice.  As a kid, I used to be thrashed by my mother for reasons that completely escaped me and those indelible memories have coloured our relationship ever since.  So whilst suddenly overwhelmed with an urge to scream at him, ‘Give me the fucking phone NOW you little shit!’ I elected instead a more subtle approach.

‘It is your turn, Alex.  If you pass me the hand control, I will put Charlie and Lola on.  While I am doing that, can you pick up my phone?’

He gave me the control and while I selected CeBeebies, he gathered up the bits of the only link I had to relief.

Alex sat there just out of reach and attempted to put the various bits of the phone back together.

‘Please, Alex, just give me the phone’

‘I can do it Daddy!’

Tantalus all over again.  Alex can be a girl’s blouse sometimes.  If he thinks you are criticizing him, he will just drop everything, flounce out and descend into a God Almighty sulk.

When Alex burst into the room, he had left the door wide open.  With one hand on the sofa and the other on my desk, hunched as I was, I was presenting my arse and a couple of fifty four year old dangling prunes to the casual scrutiny of anyone passing by on the way to the shop.  Usually, with the door open, they see me sitting behind my laptop, now they were seeing a brown eye wink.  All I needed to complete my misery was a passing Arab climbing off his camel at the sight thinking, ‘OOH!  There’s everything on the menu here at Fat Hippo’s!’ before tucking in.  With everything unimaginable happening to me so far this dreadful morning, I wasn’t ruling any further embarrassment out.

‘Alex, please, just give me the phone’

‘No, I can do it!’ he insisted while trying to stuff the battery in upside down.

I heard a shocked intake of breath behind me.  It was Mengita, the maid, come to clear the detritus of the previous evening off the table.

‘Mengita, please, don’t go!’, I bawled, ‘just throw a towel around me!’

Considering that Africans are happy to bathe naked in a river, they are surprisingly prudish in a domestic environment.  She carefully inched her way into the room with her eyes firmly glued shut.  I had to give her the ‘left a bit’, ‘right a bit’ instructions so she could unhook a towel from behind the door.  It was only once she had draped it over my rump she opened her eyes again and I could explain.

‘Oh, Sr Thomas!  That happened to my Father!’ she exclaimed, ‘He never walked again and died in his bed!’

Considering that all this started because of shit, and now I badly needed one, this was a historically based prognosis I could have done without.

‘Mengita’, I asked, ‘is there anyone in the shop, customers of mine with discretion, who could help me to the loo?’

‘Sure’, she replied.

I think half the village turned up.


Monday 6 May 2013


Poor sod.  Head down, ears back and trailing a leg. All for love, eh?

I can’t remember the number of fights I have got into over Girls.

I can remember a few spectacular ones.

I was seventeen, had just collected my pay packet and was invited by the Boss to dinner at his hotel, the Royal in Ashby, and a few drinks afterwards.  We were alone in the bar apart from two very attractive young ladies, two guys that were hitting on them as hard as they could and a barman that could have contrived a convincing display of an Egyptian Mummy in any museum.

Now don’t forget, I was a seventeen year old virgin, very fit with testosterone flowing through my veins and brought up on tales of derring do usually involving a man saving a damsel in distress.  To flinch in the face of impossible odds would hardly be Wagnerian.  My boss begged to differ and went to bed.

Clearly, these two elegant and sophisticated young ladies, dressed in miniscule skirts, impossibly high heels, strident make up and light blouses with no bras (it was a very hot and humid evening to be fair), found the pressing attention of the two gentlemen unwelcome.

Now even though I had exceeded my usual alcohol limit of a whiff of a barmaid’s cloth by about three pints of heavy, I recognized that these were Damsels in Distress and that a true Gentleman should intervene on their behalf.

The last thing I remember was the heavy faux medieval bar stool crashing into my skull.  I had just endured my very first, ‘Good Kicking’.

The two girls took me to their place which was quite close by.  We went on foot and it was the first time I had experienced anyone sticking their tongue in my ear.  The last person that had passed their hands all over my body so intimately was my mother when she was bathing her little baby in a nursery.  Now I had two girls, a few years older than me doing it on a public highway.  I can think of far more romantic places than the A50 but at the time, I just wanted to get my beaten head together in the hope I would get some, well, head.

Sadly, after burying hotel bar furniture in my swede, the attention of my assailants had been diverted to my goolies.  My eyes were closing, port had been spilt, my lips were split and the pain down below had reached my spleen. 
I made it home the following morning, pushing rather than riding my bicycle, still a virgin and it took me four days to recover but, as I explained to my father later, it was worth it to spend a night in agony wrapped in black satin sheets and lithe female limbs even if I didn’t get to shag the owners.  At least I knew what a woman’s breast felt like and learnt that heaven lay twixt their thighs.  Badly beaten as I was, I had already decided it was something worth fighting for.

Poor old Charlie, he is going through the same now.

For years Kizomba, Charlie’s father, has ruled the canine roost that is our neighborhood.  Finally Kizomba has, through Doggie, bred a true contender.  He, Kizomba, knows that of all his proliferate male offspring, Charlie is the biggest threat to his dominance.  So he is beating the shit out of him.

The thing is, Kizomba belongs to Rico, my neighbor.  Regular readers will know that there is a bit of history between me and Rico.  Thankfully, Rico and I are starting to co-operate.  We are both operating in a very corrupt environment so really it is better we combine our resources and present a united front.  Being reluctantly forced into bed together, though, doesn’t mean we have to consummate a marriage born only out of convenience.  Just as Angola was forged out of a proxy war, our war, the one between Rico and I, is now being fought by our dogs, the delicious irony being that my Champion is his dog’s son. In Doggy terms, Charlie is an adolescent male full of the juices of spring and will one day soon, chew his father's arse. 

One of the local bitches started to come on heat a few days ago and poor old Charlie lost his mind.  He disappeared for three days. 

This morning, a shade short of ‘Oh my God, it’s early’ (it was still dark), he limped back severely beaten up and whining piteously.  He is trailing one very badly chewed right rear leg and licking a few other open wounds.  Kizomba, his Dad, had clearly given him a bit of a thrashing.

So what could I do?  Obviously, I hoiked the fridge door open and hauled out a tray of steak.  I need to beef the lad up and give him somewhere decent to sleep while he recovers.  Marcia may not like it but the lad needs a safe berth so his will be next to mine; on the floor but on a bunk made of the clothes I wore that day.  That way he gets my scent and knows I care for him and he can bleed into my discarded clothes instead of the bush.

Charlie is just a dog, but when it comes to trainers, he could not have found a better one.  I am not scared of dogs and Kizomba, large and vicious as he is, is scared shitless of me.  Big as he is, last time he had a go at me I hauled him up by his ears and gave him a damn good kicking.  I may have returned home with blood dribbling down my arms and chest where he had savaged me but the bastard hasn’t forgotten.  I am so looking forward to the rematch.  This time with my dog Charlie which kind of makes it fairer.

Nothing personal, you understand.
'More steak and eggs, Charlie?  How about some sauteed calves liver?  I'll go easy on the onions and only use Basmati rice.  Marcia, there's some bread in the fridge, it is only three days old.  Make yourself a cheese sandwich and give me your pillow so I can make up Charlie's bed...'