Monday 30 September 2013

More Jeep Shit, Sorry

I have to thank everyone for their comments on my last post regarding the Jeep, amusing, sympathetic and in John Delaney’s case, bloody useful even though I am now left completely confounded!  I am following up Beach Bum’s lead to and Nigel’s advice to email, rather than phone.  I had been looking for a quick solution but now, I guess, Marcia will just have to get used to driving in the three tonne truck again until I get this sorted.

I had to laugh at the suggestion I needed a ‘Toe Truck’.  My toe is improving albeit very slowly and painfully.  I did promise the Fifth Columnist no more graphic photos so you will all just have to take my word for it but yes, it was jolly uncomfortable crawling under a vehicle in the rain (it has not rained here in months, the one time I really did not want it to rain, it poured yet more misery upon me) with a sore appendage that no matter how hard I tried to avoid such an occurrence, managed to stub on every sharp object underneath the car my knee jerk reactions to which added a few more puncture wounds to my leg and head and turned the damp air blue.

On the subject of comments, I really did not expect many from those whose knowledge of things mechanical was limited but Fifth Columnist, whose interest in cars extends only to a small nod of appreciation to his chauffeur when noting the waxed-to-perfection coachwork of his classic 600 Mercedes Pullman as he climbs in came up with the best:

If you keep ogling the nieces Marcia won’t need much persuasion to drive the truck over you, and you might worry more about your spleen rather than the jeep's spline.”

I have to confess, as she started the car up and stuck it in gear, it did occur to me that everything I own is in her name.

I’d like to think she carefully followed my instructions so that I could identify the problem but, being slightly neurotic, I could also imagine her calculating the outcome.  She has this grudging respect for me knowing that I am a far better mechanic than the locals so was best placed to problem solve and restore to her a working Jeep and that if she did squish me into the dirt, the car would be seized as evidence.  So long as I remain useful, I think I am safe but in the meantime, I have hoisted in the gypsy’s warning about her nieces.

Anyway, the car situation merits a summary.

John D has discovered that according to the factory records, Chrysler reckon my car is a 1996 4,0 litre, six cylinder Jeep Grand Cherokee.  Now even an apprentice mechanic on his first day at work can count plug leads.  I have eight of them.  Furthermore, a six cylinder Chrysler has all its cylinders in line under one cylinder head.  A V8 has eight cylinders arranged in two banks, forming a V and requiring two cylinder heads.  I have two cylinder heads.  I’m not a mechanic by trade but I was becoming reasonably confident that there was a V8 under my bonnet (or hood if you are American).  Besides, it says V8 on the back of the car.

That looks like a factory installed Chrysler V8 to me.  I could be wrong of course.

I checked the handbook entitled ‘1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee’.  It described a 4.0 six-in-line and a 5.2 litre V8.  I checked the vehicle registration documents.  They described the vehicle as fitted with a 4.497 litre V8.  Did Chrysler ever make a 4.5 litre V8?

John  D (blast his eyes) suggested the car might be a chop job, a car with which someone had gone to all the trouble of lifting out a six-in-line and dropping in a V8.  If that is the case, whoever did it went to extraordinary lengths, right down to applying the factory under bonnet stickers.

Anyone could forge those stickers with an HP printer and a bit of glue...

The handbook announces the car as a 1996 model but the Americans are fond of releasing new models in one year and declaring them as of the next model year.  A car designed during the years preceding 2013 and released that year is, therefore, announced as the 2014 model.  Yes, I know it is desperately confusing and defies all logic, I guess the designers and marketing men are all Trekkies and have wasted their youth collecting New-in-Box Star Trek memorabilia and wearing underpants far too tight to let testosterone take its normal course and modify behaviour from childish fantasy to reality.

The trouble is, if it is an American 1996 model, which means it was probably built in 1995.  That means it was built before the transfer case was modified.  That means I cannot run the car without the front drive shaft.

To add to my confusion, I read the instructions contained in the vehicle manuals, all of which were supplied with the vehicle.  It clearly states, and unless the guy chopping the vehicle employed an outstanding forger to modify the graphics printed on the centre console to factory standards and then went to all the extra trouble to wire in the relevant warning lights on the dash, that the means of switching between modes of traction is supplied by a Quadro-Trac transfer case.  But, according to the manual, Quadro Trac does not have a separate 2WD function which clearly, mine has.  When I first bought the vehicle, I tested all the traction functions.  In 2WD I was able to pull off rooster tails and even posted videos of me doing so.  In part time 4WD and Full Time 4WD it stuck to the ground like glue and in 4WD LO the car appeared willing to climb the side of a building.  It all worked so I doubt there is a problem with the transfer case.  I also doubt that this car is in any condition other than when it left the factory, wear and tear excluded.  Could it be that this was a cross over model and that although the factory was still fitting the old transfer case they were fitting the new model year centre consoles marked up with Quadro-Trac?  Mine is definitely marked up Quadro Trac yet has the 2WD slot which, according to the factory handbook, Quadro Tracs do not have.  And the factory VIN database can say what it likes, this car has a V8 complete with all the relevant factory stickers.  Confused?  Yes I am rather confused.

According to the driver's handbook, what you are seeing is a figment of your imagination.
Quadro-Trac does NOT have a seperate 2WD position.

When you are up to your neck in Alligators, it is bloody hard to remember that the original intention was just to drain the swamp.  All I want to know is: can I drive the car with the front prop shaft disconnected?

Anyway, it isn’t going to fix itself so I got underneath the car today and hauled the shaft off.  I need either the UJ rebuild kit or a complete new prop shaft, I don’t care.  I just want the right part.  You have no idea how pissed off a man can get when he tracks his part all the way across the world on the DHL on-line package tracking system, slogs into town to pay the import duty when it arrives in-country only to discover it is the wrong part.
This is the bit I need.  It's a yard long and weighs a tonne.  This one's fucked.

Sunday 29 September 2013

Know your Jeeps? I need your help!

I have a Jeep Grand Cherokee V8.  It is registerd '97 but of course it could be a '95 or '96 that sat in the showroom for a while.  The exact model year of the car is crucial, though.

It's a red Jeep.  Anyone know what year it is?

The universal joint on the front propellor shaft has failed.

What I am trying to find out is: can I disconnect the front prop shaft and run the car in two wheel drive without ruining the transfer case?  This would allow me to keep running the car while I wait for the UJ rebuild parts to come in.

The trouble is, having researched this on the internet, I get conflicting advice.  Some say it is OK to run the car without the front prop shaft if it is fitted with Command or Selec Trac but NOT if it is fitted with Quadra Trac.  Mine has Quadra Trac.  Other forums refer to the type of transfer case saying that it is possible to run without a front prop shaft with a NP242 transfer case but not with a NP249.  Still other fórum advice I received state that V8's (mine is a V8) were all fitted with the NP249 so cannot run with a disconnected front propshaft while yet more advice suggests that the NP249 transfer case was redesigned between 1996-98 allowing it to run without a front prop.  My car is right in the middle of those model years and I can't take the chance.

I tried ringing some Jeep dealerships in the States and only succeeded in running up an enormous telephone bill.  The local dealership here insist I must bring the car in.  How can I drive it 100 miles with a bust propshaft UJ?  And then all they would do is take six weeks to import the parts, find loads of other things wrong and charge me a fucking fortune for a new transfer case and gearbox, it all being my fault 'cos I drove the Jeep to them.

Dropping a propshaft and rebuilding the Universal Joints is child's play, I just need to know if I can run the car in the meantime, in which case I can wait for someone to hand carry the parts in or, if the car cannot run, I take the hit and DHL the parts in.

If there was a Mopart dealership here, I could just ring them and they would tell me all I needed to know and sell me the parts needed dirt cheap.  But I am in Africa, which is a real bummer when it comes to fixing broken down cars.

Like I say, I am not sure of the exact model year of the car but the chassis number is:


I love these classic uncomplicated cars that can generally be fixed at the roadside with a hammer and a blow torch rather than all this modern stuff that needs plugging into a computer to sort out and you can't beat a big lazy American V8 when it comes to chugging through the bush.

So, my dear American readers, there's a US born car down in Africa and this English Para Medic needs some urgent advice to get it rolling again.

The bust UJ where the shaft is connected to the transfer case.
The forward end of the same prop shaft where it plugs into the front axle differential.
One question:  There's a spline there.  Is it supposed to be sliding to allow for suspension travel?  If it is supposed to be sliding, I see no evidence of it doing so; it looks as if the spline is seized into the prop shaft which means any shock or strain imparted by suspension travel will be borne by the universal joint and the diff.

Oh, I forgot to mention, the neices came to stay.  They were so disappointed when I told them the car was stuffed and they would have to stay another night,  I was gutted.
Three very disappointed neices

Wednesday 25 September 2013

My Little Corner

Didn’t want to bore you with yet more photos of a festering toe but, rest assured, it is on the mend.  I know some of you thought I was stark staring mad not to limp immediately the 80kms to the nearest hospital, admit myself and pay many hundreds of dollars a day to stay there while they cut my toe off and insist I stay another two weeks to recuperate before finally discharging me.  I like NHS hospitals.  They do everything possible not to have to admit you and if you do make it in, do everything they can to get rid of you as soon as possible (one way or another according to Sky News).  Here, they’ll admit you for a splinter under your fingernail and before you know it, you’re having open heart surgery and the bill is 30 grand.  Twice I have woken up in hospital here and twice I have ripped my drips out and done a runner, once successfully.  The second time they brought me back in handcuffs, I kid you not.

Had this happened in rural Trelwanyd, I would have let Nurse Gray place me into his immaculate Berlingo, drive me to hospital and be treated by a load of Hi-De-Hi types all fussing over me and feeding me tea and Welsh cakes.  It would have to be something bloody serious, such as waking up in the morning to find my head had fallen off into my lap, to induce me to walk voluntarily into a hospital here.  I suspect I would never walk into a hospital here, I would have to be carried in unconscious as on the two previous occasions,

I think the general consensus was that it was a bite from a snake of the viper family and there is no denying, there are plenty of them around here.  I have been nipped by snakes on many occasions but never a venomous one so this is a first for me.  Firstly, I would say the strike was not nearly as painful as I had previously imagined a bite from a venomous snake to be.  Stubbing one’s toe on a brick is a jolly sight more eyewatering.  Secondly, I was astonished at how fast everything happened, the necrosis, the swelling and then yes, of course, the subsequent pain.  I can only describe it as a tadge  uncomfortable.  I could handle the pain, it was the nausea and dizziness I found disconcerting.  Bizarrely, the little, ring and index fingers of both hands went numb (OK, just the index finger on my left hand as I have lost the other two).  I even dropped a full glass of whisky!  The pain from my foot lanced slowly upwards until it reached my groin making walking, already a tadge difficult, almost impossible.  At one stage as I sat there in the night sipping whisky from what was left of my glass I realised I could no longer focus on my book.  Then I knocked the torch over so lay there in the dark smoking.  It was only in the morning I saw that something was definitely wrong.  By that stage though, the venom was well in so no amount of anti venom would make any difference.

I treated myself with high doses of antibiotics.  At first I was also breaking open capsules of antibiotics and pouring the powder directly over the wound.  That didn’t work so I resorted to an old bush treatment and poured raw, unrefined, fresh out of the tree-hive honey over my toe and bound it with a handkerchief.  Three times a day I bathed my foot, covered my toe with honey and bound it again.  Tomorrow you will see the difference.

Although not quite bouncing about with gay abandon, at least able to perambulate with considerably less discomfort than of late, today I unpacked and hung my suits, tidied up my desk (hitherto, like any flat surface here, a repository for personal effects still to be allocated a home in the new house) and installed my new printer on a home wireless network, the first time I have ever managed such a feat.  Flushed with success I hung not one but two pictures and then prepared everything I needed to cook a damn fine beef stir fry for when Marcia arrived home.  Thus prepared, I had time left over to training the new maid.  I shan’t bore you yet with all the details, I shall merely give you a hint of the clay I have to work.

‘Maria!’ I called handing her an empty bottle of whisky, ‘can you please go to the shop and fetch me another bottle of whisky and two packets of cigarettes?’

‘Si, Senhor Tomas’

She came back empty handed.

‘Maria, where’s my whisky and cigarettes?’

Maria is only on her second day.  Marcia was kind enough to introduce me to her while she was interviewing but at that stage of the game Marcia could have offered anyone up and I would have said yes.

‘She’s from the Church,’ said Marcia.

I felt another bout of fever and nausea coming on.

‘Sr. Jaime arranged her,’ Marcia continued.

‘Oh well if Jimmy’s willing to carry the can, fine by me!’ I said.

So there I was two days later staring at this rather sympathetic young lady wondering why she had carried an empty bottle of whisky back to the shop instead of chucking it in the bin and returning with a full one and some smokes.

Her face lit up.  ‘Do you want me to go back to the shop, Sr. Tomas?’

‘Yes please, Maria, can you fetch me a bottle of whisky and two packets of cigarettes, please?’

‘Yes, Sr.Tomas!’ and off she skipped.

Five minutes later she was back again with a carrier bag containing two bottles of whisky and one packet of cigarettes.

I leave you with an image of my little corner.  I have spent the last few nights here.  It is miles better than a hospital bed.

Tuesday 24 September 2013

Aah! Ye of Little Faith!

All of you urging me to rush down to the local sawbones and let him cut my lifetime friend away! 

John Gray, that delightful Welsh raconteur and explorer of alternative lifestyles mobilised an Army quicker than Kitchener.  There I was, sat uncomfortably in my sandy mosquito ridden trench, foot elevated on a sandbag trying to write poetry when all of a sudden I was overwhelmed by the Royal Welsh Medical Corps brandishing bandaids sharpened on kerb stones and insisting I reported to the Medical Officer.

I bugged out pretty damn quick, I can tell you.  I may not have been able to hobble as fast as the yoghurt knitters could run but once I was in the trees, they lost pace having to hug each tree they passed (it’s some sort of religion, don’t ask me, they are all Druids) so once they’d spread out a bit, I doubled back through their lines and went home for a cup of tea and a cheese toastie.  They’re still out there now for all I know, there are lots of trees here.

Anyhow, good news.  I am not dead.  I’m not even close.  Am I allowed a little ‘HA!’?

The fever broke last night, one last kit check and I felt fine.  OK, I won’t be playing soccer for a while but since that’s a nancy’s game, I couldn’t care less.  What kind of sport is it when as soon as you stuff an opponent, some tart blows a whistle?  I lost interest after Vinnie Jones retired.  Similarly, no-one was going to blow a whistle on me.  Midnight on Saturday I was faced with a couple of choices.  I think I made the right one.

Now you tell me, doesn’t that look miles better?  I think it does.  I might lose the nail but then again, it was pretty horrible anyway; it would never take varnish and looked awful in Harvey Nick's sandals.

(Kit Check:  British Army slang for puking your ring piece up)

(Ring Piece: British Army slang for Sphincter)

Monday 23 September 2013

Is This Bye-Bye Big Toe? WARNING! Icky Sicky Photos...

“I was walking through the garden one day!  In the merry merry month of… September”

The generator is located on the far side of the shop from the house.  This is great when it comes to reducing noise pollution but means a bit of a walk when it comes time to shut the generator down at night.  Since we do not have the concrete pathways thrown yet, this means a Beau Geste style slog through the sand that is my garden at the moment.  It’s no hardship really.  On a clear night, the stars, filtered through the rustling leaves of the many palm trees on the property are divine and Charlie loves these midnight walks.

As this is a hot country, I tend to wear sandals and shorts when at home, far more comfortable and convenient than boots and safari gear.  But this is bush.  My nearest neighbour is half a mile away and at night, the silence is deafening.

Just over 36 hours ago, I set off for the generator, Charlie gambolling along by my side when I suddenly felt a sharp pain in my big toe.  I shone the torch down to inspect it but could see little else but a couple of beads of blood.  There is a type of weed that grows in profusion around here that casts spiky seeds presenting a constant, but no more than irritating hazard to those walking in bare feet or, indeed, sandals, so I thought no more of it, switched the generator off and went to bed.  

At one thirty in the morning I woke up.  My toe was on fire.  Bugger, I thought, I have probably picked up a chigger.  Chiggers are a type of flea that burrow into flesh, usually under toe nails and have to be carefully and painfully excised so as not to burst the egg sac for doing so would only multiply the grief.  My maid may be pretty much useless in all other respects but she is unsurpassed when it comes to digging chiggers out so I resigned myself to five minutes brutal torture the following morning and tried to go back to sleep.

By three in the morning, I was extremely discomfited.  By four I was running a fever yet my teeth were chattering uncontrollably I felt so cold.  I reached for the torch on my bedside table but clumsily knocked it to the floor the impact with which smashed it.

Bugger, I thought, a chigger AND malaria.  So I resigned myself to the few miserable hours left of the night before Marcia woke up and could go and get me a malaria treatment from the pharmacy.  I never slept a wink and as the throbbing of my toe increased and rose up my calf muscle, I wondered just how many chiggers I had picked up.  I spent that night sitting at my desk smoking and drinking whisky in the dark.  Just before dawn, shivering yet lathered in perspiration and with a blinding headache, I vomited copiously.  It’s definitely malaria, I thought as I hobbled painfully to the kitchen to feel around for a cloth so I could clean the mess off Marcia’s newly varnished wooden floor.

Just as it was light enough to see, Marcia awoke and came out of the bedroom.  ‘Don’t tell me you have spent the whole night in front of your computer drinking’, she said with ill disguised contempt.

‘I think I have malaria’, I said to her retreating back, ‘and I have a sore toe’

She didn’t say anything but her body language said, ‘Diddums’

I hobbled over to one of the windows and raised the blind to let in more early morning light before making my way to the sofa.  I placed my foot onto the coffee table so I could give my toe a good look.

‘Come and have a look at this, Marcia’, I called out.

‘Meu Deus!’ she said.  My God indeed.

‘I bet that hurts,’ she continued.

‘Well, it is jolly uncomfortable’, I conceded while I stared in fascination at my toe.  I decided to take a photograph:

Seven hours after the incident

A few hours later, I took another:

I have to confess, I was amazed at the speed of the necrosis.  The nip on the toe that started all this occurred Saturday night.  It was now Sunday so the nearest medical attention would be a clinic several hours away in Luanda.  All they would do is scrub the appendage and dose me up with antibiotics.  I was perfectly capable of doing that myself and, besides. Harald Klein was coming for Sunday lunch, our first ever guest to the new house and I had set my heart on preparing his favourite German dishes so I wasn’t about to call the whole show off over a sore toe.  Both of us, during the war, had endured far worse.

Klein is diabetic.  When he noticed my toe he was immediately concerned and produced his survival pack for diabetics and insisted on testing my blood sugar.  I never knew that the toes of diabetics could fall off suddenly.  Lepers, sure, no use playing poker with lepers, they’re forever tossing their hands in.  I thought untreated diabetics went blind, then fell into comas and died.  ‘Not so’, said Klein who, being German was too polite to acknowledge irony.  Good old Klein, he is the uncle I never had.

I submitted myself to the test (which required me drawing my own blood) and scored 115 on his machine.

‘Is that good?’ I asked.

‘I’m over 200!’ said Klein.

‘OK, you win’, I replied.

‘Are you going to go to hospital?’ Marcia asked me much later that evening.

‘Nope.’ I replied without averting my gaze from the TV, ‘If I go to one of the clinics what do you think the Cuban doctor will do to my toe?’ I looked at Marcia, ‘realistically?’

Marcia didn’t say anything.

‘Temos que cortar o dedo!’ I said in a probably very poor imitation of a Cuban doctor speaking Portuguese saying, “We have to amputate your toe”.  I think Marcia’s silence said it all.  Cuban doctor’s here are famous for amputating rather than reconstructing.

‘I am very fond of my toe,’ I continued, ‘we have been friends for life.  I am emotionally, figuratively and physically attached to my toe.  Just because he is sick, I am not going to abandon him.  I will wash him, excise dead flesh and dose myself up to the eyeballs with antibiotics.’  I decided to record another stage of my developing toe:

Oh dear!  Everything swollen, surrounding flesh bright pink...

Last night was pretty uncomfortable, wild dreams, fever, sweaty, freezing wakefulness and throbbing all the way up to my knee.  My toe now looked like this:

‘Are we going to hospital?’ Marcia asked me.

‘It’s slowed down!’ I said to Marcia, ‘look! Last night it only advanced half a centimetre.’

‘Yesterday you said if it went past the joint, you would go to hospital,’ she complained, ‘well isn’t that past the joint?’

‘I think we leave it one more day, Marcia,’ I said, ‘give the antibiotics time to kick in.’

Oh come on!  They don’t let you smoke or drink in hospital.  I’d only go there in a real emergency.


Wednesday 18 September 2013

Flash Signal HQ Hippo to HQ Blogosphere

Hippo HQ successfullly relocated Stop Troops had first hot shower in two years Stop Multi burner Bosch field kitchen worked a treat Stop All electrical and communications systems operational Stop  All personnel stood down and resting Stop All damaged mission critical kit ninety percent refurbished Stop Will send full Sitrep with RIC photos by Last Parade tomorrow Stop  Looking forward to first dump on flushing toilet in two years Stop The war continues but Victory is certain Stop God Save the King Stop
End of message Stop

Monday 16 September 2013

Oh, the heartache!

We are moving, finally, into our new cottage!  This should be a time of deep joy and happiness, yes?

Well, it was.  Right up until our kit came out of storage.

This was once a Victorian french polished mahogony extending dining table.  There are four extra leaves to go with it.  At full stretch it accommodated twelve diners in comfort with enough elbow room each to allow the use of semaphore to indicate a desire for condiments.  Behind it you will notice a listing hall cupboard, missing its rear undercarriage.

Here is a close up of a surface in which one could once see the reflection of one's face suffused by the warm glow only highly polished wood can endow.

Not wishing to bore you all with photos of an extensive inventory completely destroyed by the tropical climate and the beasties that thrive therein (all my bone china is smashed, my silver cutlery severely denuded, paintings destroyed, photo albums glued together, book cases eaten apart and anything perceived valuable here missing etc.), I give you one last photo of the books I have no choice but to throw away.

Marcia, clearly distraught at my all to evident grief, attempted to console me by pointing out it was all old stuff anyway and then, with a cheery smile, pointing out that now she could by all new stuff from China.

And they say 'Real' men don't cry.

Saturday 7 September 2013

New kit

What real man ever needs to consult a map?  What real man gives a flying toss about what he wears?  What real man cares a hoot about what people think of his choice of friends, lifestyle or partner?  What real man EVER reads instructions?

Marcia's new shop will open on Monday.  She has spent um, a very huge big lot stocking it (I shed a tear or two when I glimpsed my bank statement last night).  The shop looks great with all its rustic handmade shelving, wooden walls and modern freezers and coolers.

We are still importing loads of kit, not just for the shop, but also for my restaurant on which all effort will be focussed over the next few weeks.  In amongst it all was a small vacuum sealing machine.

Naturally, as a 'Real Man' I just had to have a play.

The machine came from South Africa so the first thing I had to do was figure out how to plug it in, South African plugs being incompatible with European sockets.  Being a 'Real Man', I solved it by chopping off the plug and sticking the bare wires into a socket.

Fresh out of the box.  Remains of my chicken salad lunch top right.
Did I think of vacuum packing that? Of course I didn't!
There are three buttons on the top marked, 'Seal Only', 'Cancel' and 'Vacuum Seal'.  Only panicky woosies need 'cancel'.  Also in the box were two rolls of ribbed plastic tubing, a sort of 100 metre 20 cm wide plastic bag open at either end.

'Aah!' I thought, 'you make your own bags!'  (Who said Real Men are stupid?)

Looks like a waffle maker for anorexics...
I dug out the scissors from my hairdressing kit (er, deep, throaty manly cough, I mean Barber's kit) and chopped off a length of roll, stuck it into the machine, clamped the lid down and pressed 'Seal Only'.  The light came on and seconds later winked off again.  I expected it to make a noise or something.  I expected the stench of melting plastic.  Nothing.  So I pressed 'cancel'.  Still nothing.  I popped open the lid and removed the bag.  It had a perfect seal along the bottom.  I blew the bag up like a balloon. not a hint of a leak.  I kept blowing in there trying to burst it but I might as well have been trying to blow up a hot water bottle.

Now I had worked out how to make a bag, I needed something to vacuum seal.

If you are not a real man, you would pick something the machine was designed for, something inane, like a pork chop from the fridge.  A pork chop wouldn't do at all, not for me anyway, I needed something else.  It was Marcia who had asked me to work the machine out so what better item to vacuum pack than her mobile phone?  I was giggling like a school girl (but a 'real manly' schoolgirl) as I located her phone, made up a bag and then vacuum packed it.

This machine is just so cool!  Have you EVER tried to rip one of these bags open in a hurry?

Tightly sealed in plastic, the ring tone was a bit muffled but Marcia's hearing is acute so when I rang her mobile, she came rushing into the room. 

Man, you should have seen her face!  It's the very best laugh I have had in years.

She could see in my eyes that if left alone with the machine I would vacuum pack everything in sight, including the dog if I could stop him wriggling so she confiscated it before I used up all her rolls.  Spoilsport.

Joking aside, it is a seriously useful and inexpensive bit of kit.

Monday 2 September 2013

Snake Daddy!

Regular readers will recall that I once had a rodent problem which I resolved, not with dangerous poisons, but by introducing snakes into the house.  Marcia, like most people, isn’t desperately keen on snakes so had no hesitation venturing her opinion on my eco friendly pest control solution.  The snakes slithered into the various nooks and crannies and evidently did their hunting at night for we saw not scale nor cast of them but the rats and mice, along with all the cockroaches disappeared.  I was pleased and Marcia obviously forgot she was living in close proximity to half a dozen or so serpents.

We must be on our second generation of Fort Hippos snakes, the first to be born and raised within our humble abode, because they have recently become far to tame for their own good.  Coming out only at night was a good ploy by the original slinky crew but a tactic they sadly failed to pass on to their offspring.  Many times over the last couple of weeks I have caught movement out of the corner of my eye and turned to see a beautifully iridescent house snake checking me out with its beady little eyes.  I think they are wonderful.  Marcia, if she saw one, would empty a whole spray can of beastie killer over it.

This afternoon, Dominic and Alex were lying on the sofa watching TV when Dominic noticed movement in the rafters above his head.

‘It’s a snake, Daddy!’ he shouted leaping to his feet.

‘Catch it, Daddy, I want to play with it,’ shouted Alex.

It was only about three and a half feet long and no thicker than a three core electrical flex so was obviously a young snake.  I wondered what it was doing in the rafters, no mice up there, but it carried on unperturbed pausing once or twice to take a look at the gawking trio below before sliding through a hole in the wall I never knew existed and appearing outside on the rafter extension.  The clever little sod had already worked out that I leave the outside light on, the light attracts insects and insects attract snake food.

Dominic, Alex and I were all gazing at it when Marcia arrived. 

Dominic is as lean as the snake!  Not an ounce of fat on him.

What follows is a loose translation from the Portuguese:

‘A COBRA!  No Darling, don’t even think about it!  I am not going into the room until you get rid of the snake!’  Or words to that effect.

‘Marcia,’ I said soothingly, ‘that isn’t a snake, it is a long necked lizard.’

‘You must think I am really stupid,’ said Marcia.

‘Marcia!’ I exclaimed with horror, ‘I would never think you were stupid!' 

Right then I was willing to settle for ‘Gullible’.

In the meantime the baby snake sits there patiently waiting for its supper to arrive.