Friday, 16 August 2013

Bleeding Internet...

The whole interweb thingy connection has gone down, again.  Usually it is only for a few hours, occasionally a whole day.  Mine has now been down for many days, hence three posts at the same time.  I am now sat over at Rico's place using his connection while Alex enjoys lunch but Marcia has just rung me to say the new generator has arrived so I have to rush off to the site.  Three posts, one after the other.  Enjoy. 
Me?  I am stressed to hell.  I will reply to all your comments later but, right now, I have to dash again.

When I first came here, there were no international communications.  Only correctly registered international corporations could have international direct dialling.  To get just a local phone installed took ages.  To make an international call using one of these, you had to call and call and call the international operator and once through, hope that he or she would actually open the connection and call you back to complete it.  Using this system, it was only worth the effort if I phoned people who knew that I was in a Lusophone country AND were willing to talk to me, otherwise the guy at the other end, hearing someone babbling to him in Pork and Cheese would hang up.  I didn’t make many phone calls.  I could receive faxes from HQ in London but only through the press centre in down town Luanda, right next to the Foreign Relations building in which, not so many years before, they had tried, convicted and sentenced four British Mercenaries to death by firing squad.  It doesn’t pay to be on the losing side in this environment.  There were no such things as satellite phones, mobile phones or email.  I went months without talking to any member of my family in Europe. 

Back in ‘95, an old mate of mine in the British Forces Broadcasting Service read on the news wires that an ex-British Army Officer had been killed in Angola.  He assumed it was me and announced my demise on air, explaining to his listeners how he had introduced me to Harrison Ford as the real Indiana Jones while Mr Ford was filming Mosquito Coast in Belize and how, although sad, it was perhaps appropriate such a free spirit should die in the wilds of Africa.  It was all terribly moving apparently.  He then dedicated a Rolling Stone’s track to me before playing it.

Axel Berg, a very good friend of mine from motorcycle racing days in Germany heard the broadcast and rang my brother in Stuttgart to commiserate.  Micky, in a state of profound shock, rang the rest of the family.  None had heard the news.  He rang the Foreign Office.  They hadn’t a clue but promised to contact the British Embassy in Luanda.  Last Micky had heard I was up country running diamond security teams for de Beers so he rang them.

De Beers did have international phones and they really do care about their employees but I was nevertheless surprised when I was standing in the Codiam buying office at Serpa Pinto in Luanda having just got back from Lucapa with a shipment of diamonds and the boss called me over to the phone.

‘It’s yer brother, apparently you are dead and I forgot to notify Head Office,’ he said dryly before handing me the receiver and like all good managers, going off about his business.

Cool!  I had never been dead before and wondered if I could collect on my Death-in-Service insurance and fuck off to that beach bar in Belize I always dreamt about.

‘Oh, thank God you’re still alive!’ Micky blubbed down the phone.

‘Bollocks,’ I said, ‘being alive has just cost me quarter of a million and my ticket out of this shithole.’

It seems bizarre then, given I have been used to no communications at all, that only a few days incommunicado should irritate me but irritate me it has.  I rang Marcia in town and complained. 

‘Good!’ she said, ‘Maybe you’ll get off yer arse and fit the kitchen,’ and hung up.

‘Gosh! Her English is improving,’ I thought.

The thing is, I have been fitting her kitchen.  First I had to work out the jigsaw puzzle.  Then I had to figure a way around all the missing bits and repair the damaged-in-transit bits.  Then Marcia rejected the first layout, the one she had agreed and I had designed and built the house around, so I had to reposition all the cabinets again, which meant the plumbing for the sink and dishwasher, and the electrics for the oven and extractor hood were on the wrong walls.  The house is built from sturdy, double panelled timber so it was easy during the build to hide all cables and pipework.  Swapping everything around would mean either ripping all the interior kitchen walls off or surface mounting everything, neither option appealing to me.  Fortunately, the house is built on stilts. As I, together with the plumber and the electrician pondered the problem, the solution came to me.

‘Drill straight through the floor,’ I decided, ‘and run everything underneath the house.’

There then followed a discussion about the size of the holes necessary.  The dishwasher requires a water inlet, a waste water outlet and a supply of electricity.  The cable was fitted with a chunky UK standard plug.

‘Cut the cable,’ I told the electrician.

The water inlet has a device the size of a packet of butter at the end of the pipe just where it is supposed to screw onto the water inlet pipe.  I have no idea what it does but I assume there was a good reason Bosch thought the extra expense was worth it so rejected the plumber’s suggestion to just cut it off and fit a new union to the pipe once it had been passed through the floor.  This resulted in quite a sizeable hole.

‘We will have to fill the gaps,’ pointed out the plumber, ‘else snakes will get into the house’

‘I never considered that,’ I admitted, ‘don’t bother filling the gaps’

‘But, Sr Tomas!’ he exclaimed, ‘Snakes!’

‘Snakes perhaps,’ I said, ‘but no rats.’  I hate rats and I really like snakes that eat rats.

With all the floor cabinets fitted and the plumbing and power supply decided upon, I started to fit the cabinet doors.  The hinges come in three parts and have to be assembled and screwed to the doors and then the cabinet carcass.  Naturally, and with my experience of this UK supplied kitchen so far, I wasn’t in the least bit bloody surprised that none, not one of the pre-drilled holes lined up.  And this is the problem with buying ‘bespoke’ kitchens.  They’re not really.  Bespoke is when craftsmen turn up on site to chisel and plane away wood and make it fit.  This company’s idea of bespoke is to run through all the permutations offered by a massive bin of generic parts made in China and cobble together something that almost, but never quite fits and leaves the client to sort it out.  I probably have cabinets from their Lancashire range and doors from the Yorkshire range.  Hardly a marriage made in heaven.

The door hinges came with something called ‘soft close’.  I didn’t know that as among the other things the supplier had omitted to supply was an installation manual.  As I ripped the hinge packs open, I noticed these strange hydraulic devices and hadn’t a clue what they were.  The doors seemed to open and close perfectly well without them.  ‘But they must have been included for a reason?’ I reasoned.  So I fiddled around.  I played with the three bits comprising a hinge trying the components first this way, then that.  Alex thought this was a brilliant game and happily kept me company.  I lit a cigarette and poured myself a scotch into the cut down plastic water bottle I was using as a glass to help me overcome the enormous sense of frustration overwhelming me before having another go.

‘No, Daddy, you are doing it wrong!’ Alex exclaimed, ‘you do it this way!’ and proceeded to assemble in the blink of an eye, a perfect soft close hinge.

‘Wow!’ I said.  I tossed him another bag of hinge bits.  ‘Do it again.’  And he did.  It was so simple, it was child’s play.

Under Alex’s supervision, I retrofitted all the installed hinges with the soft close component.  I tried slamming the doors as hard as I could.  I tried just gently nudging them closed.  It made no difference.  Two inches short of fully closed, the door slowed to a snail’s pace and quietly settled into place as if guided by an Angel’s hand.  The last time I had seen doors as well behaved as these was on Star Trek.  I called the plumber and let him have a go.  ‘Brilliant!’ he exclaimed.  I called the electrician so he could have a go as well, ‘Amazing!’ he said.  For the next ten minutes, all three of us played with the doors as men do when they are supposed to be working (thank God there are no nail guns on site) and then Marcia got back from town.

All the base units had been fitted and levelled.  The dishwasher positioned, the built in oven fitted.

‘What do you think?’ I asked Marcia, ‘and get a load of these doors!’ I continued, giving her a demonstration.

‘Is that where the fridge is going to go?’ she asked.  I nodded, my enthusiasm slightly deflated.  I wasn’t expecting her to give me a blow job there and then but a few ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ and maybe a peck on the cheek would have been nice.

‘I think it would look nicer over there,’ she said pointing to a wall bereft of electrical connections.




  1. Look, call me old-fasioned if you will, but how is a chef supposed to throw a tantrum if none of the cupboard doors will slam properly?

  2. I once noticed an obit' in my 'old boys mag' for a very good friend. I wrote to his 'widow' saying all the usual guff. A few days later he phoned me and accused me of having sent the scurrilous info to the mag, and was really quite nasty about the whole affair. All I'd done was written my condolences. Yer can't win!

    1. Clearly a man whose obit is long overdue.

    2. This wouldn't be the man you thrashed as a boy for blubbing at school, would it?

  3. I admire your tenacity with this kitchen. I belong to the GSI club. (Get someone in) I reckon you need Marcia to stay in the kitchen and supervise you closely. That or make Alex foreman.

    1. I may be fifty four and with a weak heart but I still prefer getting laid to getting laid out so I'll do the kitchen exactly how the Memsahib wants it, even if, as she reminded me, it takes the rest of my miserable life!

  4. When you're done sorting your kitchen, i could use some help with mine.


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