Monday, 18 June 2012
Not Waltzing Matilda
She’s Australian and no, she does not waltz. In fact she’s as bad a dancer as I am.
The fact that I mention she’s Australian will become apparent a little later on.
Matilda is about sixty-four years old and is an old friend of the family. She lives alone in a secluded farm deep in the countryside in Northern England. She’s self-sufficient with a few chickens, ducks, pigs, a cow, a goat and an old horse which takes her and her cart to a nearby town whenever she needs to buy anything; and let's not forget her many cats and dogs. She lives on her pension and is happy in her own world.
Much happier than the rest of us I suppose working all hours to make ends meet.
We don’t visit Matilda often, but we correspond from time to time.
A few months ago I had reason to make a business trip to a city not far from where Matilda lives. It was on a Friday so I decided to call on Matilda and spend the weekend with the old lady.
I arrived at about five in the evening and after a nice cup of tea she asked me to help her feed her animals.
We started with the chickens, and then the ducks and whilst reminiscing happily whilst feeding the cow Matilda realized that time was getting on and she had to go to town for her weekly game of poker with other old folks in the Church club she attended.
She gave me her cell-phone number, just in case, and asked me to make myself at home until her return.
“Don’t forget to feed the pigs!” she yelled, as she galloped away on her cart out of the farm drive.
The pigs were a recent addition to her menagerie; all six of them. I got some feed and gingerly entered their enclosure and started spreading the food for them to eat. One of the pigs came eagerly at me to feed and managed to trip me head over heels into the mud. My immaculate work suit was totally ruined and I was soaking wet with dripping black liquid all over me. I suppose it was my fault being with animals in my best work suit, but Matilda had asked me to help and I didn’t have time to get changed. Luckily, my feathered cowboy hat survived the muddy onslaught and was not damaged in any way. That at least cheered me up no end.
I left the pigs to their devices and entered the house, leaving my dirty shoes at the door, and headed for the bathroom.
I ran a hot bath and settled in for a long soak whilst contemplating what to do with the ruined suit. Best to throw it away, I thought.
I was there for a few minutes thinking what color suit I would buy when it happened …
Oh … the memory keeps coming back like a recurring nightmare …
I’ve had sleepless nights about this, I tell you.
There I was in the bath soaking away my relatively minor worries about a ruined suit when …
You’ll never believe this … I assure you.
You too would have nightmares all your life if it happened to you.
The door slowly opened.
I could see the door handle move ever so slowly and then the door was pushed open with an ominous creaking sound as you get in horror movies.
My blood ran cold down my spine in a hot bath!
And then … a kangaroo got in and walked casually towards me and jumped in the bath with me splashing water all over the place.
I was terrified.
Can you imagine?
There I was sharing a bath with an animal native of Australia. Matilda had never mentioned a kangaroo as part of her farm cum zoo.
What else has she got in this house? A koala bear, or a platypus?
What was I to do? I did not dare make any sudden movement in case … I don’t know … in case the kangaroo did something which I’d regret.
I became somewhat protective all of a sudden.
He looked at me suspiciously and made un-approving tutting noises like kangaroos make.
I slowly reached for my cell-phone and managed to find Matilda’s number and phoned her.
“Matilda …” I said in a semi-whisper so as not to alarm my bathing companion, “there’s a kangaroo in the bath with me!”
Now there’s a sentence I never dreamed I would ever say.
She laughed raucously down the phone.
“That’s not a kangaroo sport!” she said in her distinct Australian accent which she has not lost despite her years in the UK, “it’s a wallaby. He’s Joey, my recently acquired pet! Do you like him?”
Well, it was not a question of liking him or not; and the difference between a kangaroo and a wallaby did not particularly concern me that much at the time.
It was more a matter of sharing a private moment with a wild animal which showed signs of becoming suddenly agitated; much to my detriment, may I add!
“Oh, he’s being playful,” Matilda re-assured me, “he probably thinks it’s me in the bath. He often has a bath with me!”
I must admit I didn’t know what to make of that.
Am I in such a physical state in my prime of life to be mistaken for a woman in her sixties?
Can this Joey creature really not tell the difference between Matilda and I?
I mean … the difference between me and her is so obvious and plain to see.
How could he miss that?
I’m wearing my cowboy hat with the feather on. When’s the last time this stupid animal saw Matilda wearing such a hat?
“Are you all-right?” said the jovial voice down the phone interrupting my concentration, “are you playing with Joey?”
“I certainly am not!” I replied as masculinely as I could. I put the phone down and slowly, very slowly, got out of the bath and out of the room as quickly … but slowly … as I could, so as not to disturb Joey who followed my every movement with his eyes and smiled as he tutt tutted his disapproval of me!