Saturday, 30 June 2012

Why always me?


The letter got miss-delivered by the postman. It clearly says on the envelope Number 1245 and we definitely are not Number 1245. I decide to walk up the street and deliver the letter to its rightful owner.

The old lady saw me approaching her house and opened the door.

“Oh, thank you” she said, “come in for a cup of tea!”

“I was just delivering …” I mumbled.

“Oh do come in …” she interrupted, “I often see you walking the dog to the park and back again. I’ve just put the kettle on …”

I looked at my watch and thought, she’s probably lonely, and just a few minutes won’t hurt!

I entered the living room and immediately noticed a large parrot standing on a perch in the corner, and two budgerigars on top of their open cage near the window. An old dog at least one hundred years old sat by the fire and a cat slept on the settee.

The old lady beckoned me to an armchair and went out to make some tea. 

As soon as she left, the large blue parrot moved his head left and right, as they do; looked at me and screeched “STUPID!”
I jumped out of the seat, not expecting him to talk.

He repeated again “STUPID … STUPID …” over and over every minute or so.

The old lady came in with a tray of tea and biscuits and cakes.

“Ah … Polly is being friendly” she said, “he often hears me talking to the dog and repeats what I say.”

At that point the parrot screeched “STUPID HAT … STUPID HAT …”

Let me tell you there is nothing stupid about my cowboy hat with a feather. It’s sartorial elegance in the extreme as I’ve been told by the man in the pub who sold it to me!

“I wonder what he means?” said the old lady trying to cover her faux pas. No doubt she’d seen me wearing the hat on my way to the park and had voiced her un-called for opinions to her pets.

She offered me a piece of cake. As soon as I held a small plate in one hand, and a tea cup in another, the geriatric dog got up ever so slowly from his mat, came towards me and started sniffing my groin.

What is it with dogs and sniffing people inappropriately? I’ll add, in case you’re wondering, that I had just had a shower that morning and had splashed Old Spice after-shave all over, even though I have a beard and don’t shave. So there was no need to sniff there or anywhere else.

“Oh … he’s being friendly” repeated the old lady, making no attempt whatsoever to take the dog away, “It’s his way of greeting you!”

Well … I’d rather not be greeted that way, thank you very much.

I mean … just imagine … what if we humans greeted each other that way? We meet someone for the first time, and instead of shaking hands, we drop on our knees and sniff to our heart’s delight.

Obviously, there should be a protocol as to who goes down first. Otherwise both people would kneel down together and end up bumping their heads.

One person should stay standing, and the other greets him … or her … and then …

OK … better change the subject.

I pushed the dog away … gently … yes … gently; although I must admit that was not what was on my mind when he started sniffing his welcome.

As soon as the dog went back on his mat the cat woke up from the settee and jumped on the arm of my armchair; and then started licking my hand.

I moved away slowly whilst the old lady, totally unaware of my discomfort, continued prattling on about her family and her children all grown up and living abroad. No doubt to escape from her lunatic menagerie.

The cat, still sitting next to me, having been denied the taste of my hand proceeded to lick himself in the most private of places.

Yet again … this is another annoying habit of the feline as well as canine species which, fortunately, we humans do not copy. The mind boggles at the contortions we’d have to make if we were to reach … OK … you get the point; let’s move on.

I moved surreptitiously towards the cat and nudged him gently. He dropped to the floor and walked out the room.

I listened to the old lady going on about her lonely life with no one to visit her; and how she often just goes out on the bus so that she can meet people, or stands at the window looking at people pass by and imagine what kind of life they lead. She said she plays a mind-game when she sees people. She looks carefully at what they wear and then guesses the sort of work they do. She also likes to name people in her head according to how they dress, the way they walk, and their general demeanour.

She said she’d been watching me take the dog for a walk for a very long time. “Do you realise” she said, “that whenever you stop by that tree to allow the dog to sniff at its roots, you always scratch the back of your head? Why do you do that?”

I’ll admit I never noticed that habit. And from being told, I’m sure I’ll resist that particular temptation in future. I’ll do all my scratching that’s needed before I leave home from now on.

She was about to tell me what nickname she had invented for me when suddenly there was a flutter of wings.

The parrot left its perch and made himself comfortable on my shoulder. I did not dare move an inch. Those creatures can be dangerous you know. Once they get hold of your nose in their beaks they will not let go.

“Oh … Polly likes you too!” said the old lady joyfully, “it must be your gentle and kind personality. Animals know when someone loves them. Do you like birds?” she asked.

I hesitated to tell her that the only birds I like are Kentucky Fried Chickens; although right now I would not mind tasting Kentucky Fried Parrot as well.

She didn’t wait for an answer and continued talking ignoring her feathered friend on my shoulder.

The wretched bird, still sitting by my left ear, eyed the big feather in my hat for a few moments, and then, to my horror, jumped at it and attempted to mate with it. I held the hat tightly on my head with my right hand for fear that it might be dislodged and end up matrimonially united with a myopic parrot.

I mean … how short-sighted can he get? It’s only a feather for crying out loud. Who’s STUPID now? Can’t tell the difference between a beautiful lady parrot and a feather in an cowboy hat!

The old lady laughed, not understanding the situation, and said that he was welcoming me into his domain. Whatever that means!

I had absolutely no wish to be welcomed anywhere belonging to that stupid creature, and my hat and feather certainly shared this opinion.

The parrot struggled vainly with his amorous advances at my hat and started to flutter his wings wildly and squawking loudly, no doubt upset at being snubbed by his new-found lady friend.  

Eventually the old lady realised that I was somewhat uneasy, to put it mildly. She got up slowly from her chair and removed the parrot from its clutches on my hat and replaced him back on his perch.

She then turned to me and asked whether I’d like to meet the budgerigars still sitting on their cage preening themselves.

I made an excuse about having a meeting somewhere or other and left hurriedly.

And that’s another cowboy hat with a feather totally ruined!

Friday, 29 June 2012

Focus on God


Once again Father Ignatius was taking the Catechism class at the local Catholic school. The fifteen year olds were often quite challenging and their questions certainly merited careful consideration and were always answered honestly; no matter the subject under discussion.

This particular day was known by the class as “Free Day”. They could ask the priest any question on any subject and he attempted his best to answer them.

A cheeky young lady put her hand up eagerly and Father Ignatius motioned her to speak up.

“It must be difficult being a priest Father,” she started hesitantly, “I mean … you can’t do what you want. You can’t go on a date like …”

The whole class laughed.

Another girl sitting next to her chirped in “Or go in the woods in the park with your girl friend”.

“Oooohhh!!!” said some girls.

“That’s right,” interrupted a boy, “priests can’t go riding motorbikes fast, or have tattoos and all these things we do. They always have to be saintly and walk around like angels.”

Father Ignatius remained silent and tapped the ruler gently on the desk to attract their attention and get them to settle down.

He then said, “A man goes to the doctor's and complained that his whole body hurts wherever he touches it.

"The doctor frowns and replies ‘That is not possible! Show me.’

“The man pushed gently his left shoulder with his finger and then screamed in agony. He then pressed on his elbow with his finger and cried even more in terrible pain. He touched his knee and cried even louder. And then again he touched his ankle and the pain was just as excruciating.

“Everywhere he touched made him cry in great pain. ‘It hurts all over, doctor,’ he said, ‘is it serious?’

“The doctor replied, ‘Not really, your finger is broken.’ ”

The whole class laughed in unison.

Father Ignatius waited until they’d settled down and then continued in his gentle voice.

“Sometimes we get too fixated on the wrong things. Just like the man in the joke.

”That’s when we fail to focus on the right priorities in life. We allow our outlook and our earthly vision to be blurred by the many distractions which this world has to offer.

”Life becomes a series of goals set, targets to be met and achievements aimed for. And we miss the obvious point.

”Set your hearts on the things that are in Heaven, where Christ sits on His throne at the right-hand side of God. Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth.”

 Colossians 3:1-2.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Close encounter of the feline kind



I would like to thank my friend Vicky for her kindness and generosity of spirit. I would also like to acknowledge her exceptional talents in drawing, painting, cartooning and photography.

I encourage you all to visit Vicky’s Blog (here) and enjoy her varied and interesting posts.

Despite being a very busy person Vicky has generously volunteered her time to draw the cartoons in this video; which quite honestly would not have been made without her very valuable contribution.

Thank you Vicky.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Embarrassing situation



I’ve thought long and hard about posting this lest I offend any of you. However … after a discussion with a friend … here goes:

I was putting my shopping in the back of the car in the supermarket car park when another car drew up and parked in the space but one from where I was parked.

Out stepped Lily; and she got her small dog held by a lead out of the car.

Lily is a vivacious bubbly late-twenties young lady friend of mine whom I hadn’t seen for about a year or so. She’s always smiling and laughing contagiously with an infectious joie-de-vivre which few people possess.

She recognised me and said “Hello” staying by her car so that her small dog, just as bubbly as her, would not jump at me.

We talked for a while facing each other next to our respective cars, reminiscing about old times and enquiring about the well-being of family and friends.

Suddenly a violent gust of wind lifted Lily’s flowing short skirt right up to her chest, revealing, for reasons best known to herself, that she was wearing no underwear.

Why do some women not wear any underwear?

I’m not asking this in a disapproving sort of way; I’m just asking for any reasons which may have escaped me. Perhaps someone would enlighten me. Is it very widespread a practice?

Anyway … up went her skirt and she half-heartedly and totally unsuccessfully tried to get it down with one hand whilst trying to control her dog, handbag and hat with the other. The dog became somewhat fractious in this Marilyn Monroe moment and made her attempts at a modicum of modesty entirely fruitless.

At one stage the dog ran round behind her causing her to pirouette 360 degrees like a dancing ballerina on a jewellery box with skirt still aloft.

I did not know what to do and stood there watching.

I could hardly approach her and try to control the skirt – totally inappropriate. I was too busy holding on to my cowboy hat with feather in case it flew off my head and into nearby bushes. The feather was quite ruffled, I tell you!

Eventually, the wind got tired of teasing her and blew away laughing quietly.

There was a moment or two of silence and then to my amazement and surprise she giggled and said, “I didn’t embarrass you? Did I?”

I didn’t know what to say. What is the etiquette of embarrassment in such situations?

“Ehmmm …” I mumbled, “I have a very bad memory!”

I really don’t know why I said such a stupid thing. Which was totally untrue since the image of that incident is still imprinted on my mind.

To keep the conversation flowing she continued, “Did you like my navel stud? It’s a real diamond!”

I nodded reassuringly and said nothing, even though at the time I was certainly not focussing on her navel.

She waved goodbye saying, “We should do this again some time!” presumably referring to having a friendly chat.

I’m still pondering whether to confess the situation to the priest or just tell him I lied about my bad memory.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

For whom the cock crows


Sunday Mass was over and everyone had left. Father Ignatius was clearing up in the Sacristy when Arthur, a young Altar Boy, came in sheepishly.

“Are you still here?” asked the priest.

“Yes Father … can I ask you something please?” replied the young teenager.

“Fire away …” encouraged the priest as he sat down.

“I think I committed a sin yesterday … and I took Communion today.”

“You think … are you not sure? What did you do?” asked Father Ignatius gently.

“I was at the Karate Club yesterday. I go every Saturday. During break some of the boys were talking about Jesus and they were mocking and laughing. They were telling jokes about Him and saying bad things!”

“I see … and what did you do?”

“That’s it …” hesitated the young lad, “I did nothing. I didn’t want to tell them about Jesus in case they laughed at me. I just kept quiet and smiled.”

“I understand …” said Father Ignatius pausing slightly, “have you told Peter about this?”

“Peter Marsden?”

“No … not Peter Marsden! Who is he anyway?” asked the priest frowning a little.

“He is our Karate Instructor … we call him Sensei …” replied young Arthur.

Father Ignatius smiled.

“I meant St Peter …” he continued, “you know him? We have a large statue of him at the back of the church.”

The boy nodded.

“What do you know about him?”

“He was a disciple of Jesus,” said Arthur.

“That’s right … and like you he was a little hesitant when asked about Jesus. When Jesus was arrested Peter denied knowing Him three times. And then the cock crew and reminded Peter of what Jesus had said … do you know the story?” asked Father Ignatius.

Arthur nodded again.

“The important thing to remember Arthur,” continued Father Ignatius gently, “is that Peter was sorry at what he had done; and Jesus forgave him. And Peter went on to become head of the Church.

“I quite understand that you felt a little intimidated yesterday. Jesus understands it too, and He forgives you just as He forgave Peter.

“But remember this Arthur … as you grow up there will be other occasions when you’ll be faced with the same situation. People will mock Jesus, God or your religion. This is the way of the world I’m afraid. Jesus has many enemies in this world, despite all He has done for us.

“It’s at those times when I pray and hope that you’ll have the courage to stand up for Jesus and for your beliefs.

“What happened yesterday is understandable in the life of someone so young as yourself.

“The sad tragedy Arthur is that grown-ups often deny knowing and loving Jesus for fear of what others might say. In a free society as we enjoy these days, compared to the times of Peter, grown-ups still shy away from knowing and loving the Lord. They keep their heads down in embarrassment.”

Father Ignatius looked at the child in the eye and asked.

“You’re learning Karate you say?”

Arthur nodded.

“Good …” said the priest, “that’s a defensive martial art. Isn’t it?

“You should remember always to defend the Lord, Arthur. Not with your fighting skills, but with your wisdom, your pure soul and by the way you live.

“The Good Lord will help you to know what to say and when to say it.

“You’re the Karate Altar Boy … defending the Lord with your soul!”

Arthur smiled broadly.

“Now you’d better hurry home before your parents start worrying about you.”

As the young boy turned to leave Father Ignatius added, “and don’t forget to pray for me … I need prayers too you know!”

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Meme



Vicky has tagged me for an unusual Meme.Here are the rules:
  1. Post these rules.
  2. Post a photo of yourself and 11 random facts about you.
  3. Answer the questions given to you in the tagger’s post.
  4. Create 11 new questions and tag new people to answer them.
  5. Go to their blog/twitter and let them know they have been tagged.
I’ve posted the rules and here is a photo of myself taken recently with a black pencil on white paper.

And now for eleven (?) eleven … yes … eleven facts about myself.

Well, to start with I am a very private person and rarely say much about myself. So I am caught between a dilemma and a hard place as to how I could continue with the Meme. However, being very obliging, as you know, I shall continue to reveal as best I can but hopefully not too much!

The second fact about myself is that I seldom follow rules. So forgive me if I do so in this Meme. Not following rules has got me in trouble at times. Like the day I was stopped by the police for going too slowly on the highway. I was too tired to take my goldfish for a walk so I took him for a drive instead; so I had to drive slowly so as not to splash water all over the place. He complained afterwards that my slow driving brought tears to his eyes but he was too wet to notice.

When I was fifteen I was shorter than I am now. In fact I was so short people thought I was a navel fancier. So I bought a book entitled “How to make yourself instantly taller.”; and it worked. I stood on the book and I was immediately two inches taller.

I always cry at the cinema, regardless of which movie they are showing. The prices they charge nowadays are criminal. And I hate having to sit in the dark and watch big hairy monsters walking everywhere. And that’s only the usherettes. One of them is thin and tall with long black hair all the way down her back. None on her head … just down her back. She is so intimidating that all I can do in the back seats is watch the movie.

I was once lost on Mount Snowden in Wales when mountaineering. It was getting rather dark and it started to rain. I thought at the time that this was the end of me; and I hadn’t had a shower that day. Can you imagine … dying out there on a mountain and wearing yesterday’s underwear. After hours of shivering in the cold rain and nearing death I heard voices shouting “Victor … Victor … are you out there? It’s the Red Cross!” I had to shout back at the top of my voice so they could hear me “I’ve already donated at the office!” Honestly, why do these people come out to collect money on mountains in such bad weather instead of rescuing lost people like myself?

During a job interview when I was young the telephone rang and the interviewer answered the phone. It was his friend fixing a golf match. He carried on the conversation for ten minutes whilst I waited there. He offered me a job. I turned it down saying “If you care so little about me now; you’ll care less when I work for you!” On another occasion the interviewer asked me to scratch his back because we couldn’t quite reach the itch behind him. On a third occasion I was interviewed by a pretty lady. Unfortunately for her two buttons on her blouse had come undone and she hadn’t noticed. Not one, but two buttons. That interview lasted for ages somehow with me stammering at her every question. She said I was shy because I wouldn’t look her in the eye.

Some years ago when I worked in the City (London) a colleague and I went to visit St Paul’s Cathedral nearby. As we entered, he waved his hand pompously and asked “Do you believe in all this Victor? God and all that?” I replied “Actually … I do!” He remained silent and never raised the subject after that. Somehow his opinion of me changed from that day.

When I was involved in politics years ago, in an open debate with a live audience in a packed hall, the other politician accused me of lacking vision because I wore socks of different color. I explained that I was open-minded. He replied “There’s no point in being so open-minded that your brains fall out!” I quickly gained the advantage by bursting out crying and gained the audience’s sympathy and he was labeled a bully. I didn’t win the election though because even my Electoral Agent refused to vote for me. What hurt most though is that I’d forgotten my reading glasses home and I voted for the other fellow. At a radio interview during the election campaign I was asked by a caller what I wanted for Christmas. I said “A pair of slippers”. The following day the newspapers said “Victor wants a pair of slippers whilst his opponent wants to improve life for the community of this town”.

At a business lunch I surprised my guests by ordering the whole meal in French. It was an Italian restaurant. We had pizza. The waiter asked me whether I wanted mine cut into six or eight slices. I said “Cut it in six … I’m not that hungry to eat eight!” He then gave me a drop of wine to taste before serving everyone. I said “Fill the glass man … do you think I’m a little bird needing just a drop or two?”

When in Houston years ago I lost my shoe whilst rushing to catch a taxi for a meeting. When the taxi dropped me as near to my office as possible I hobbled all the way, which slowed me down no end. Being clever, I just walked on the edge of the sidewalk with one foot in the street and the other on the sidewalk. This solved my walking problem but it took me longer because I had to go round and round in circles following the sidewalk edge around the block until I found my office; which was on the other side of the street. I remember it was very hot that day, at least 45 Degrees Centigrade in the shade. Being clever I stayed away from the shade.

And finally, the eleventh fact about myself. I often get drawn into embarrassing situations, like the interview with the young lady. I try to use these situations in my humourous stories here, but I confess I often do so with trepidation because I do not want to scandalize you or shock you or worse still, lose you as a reader and as a friend. Like for instance the situation which happened to me a few weeks back in the supermarket car park …

And now to answer Vicky’s 11 questions. This is the longest post I’ve ever written. Are you still with me or have you fallen asleep?
1. Do you cut your sandwiches into squares or triangles?

In squares when using cheese triangles. And in triangles when using square ready-sliced cheese.

2. Do you know Beethoven as one of the greatest composers who ever lived or as a
big dog in a rather ordinary children's movie?

He was a deaf composer who asked his wife not to leave him because she was his inspiration. She replied “Me? Your inspiration? Don’t make me laugh . Ha … Haha …Ha!” That’s how the 5th Symphony was composed.

3. What colour is your toothbrush? And, is your toothbrush interchangeable with your spouse's? With their full knowledge and consent?

Red. Not interchangeable or shared with anyone. Just like my whisky.

4. Do you stir your coffee left to right or right to left? And do you ding the top of the cup until the rest of the family starts yelling blue murder?

It depends on the day of the week how I stir my tea and coffee. Wednesdays is clockwise; other days anti-clockwise. I went to the doctor recently and told him that I get a sharp pain in the eye whenever I drink tea and coffee. He told me to take the spoon out of the cup before drinking.

5. Is perspicacious part of your vocabulary? (No, I didn't think so...)

It’s in my dictionary but until now I did not know how to spell it so I couldn’t look up its meaning.

6. Do you ever wear odd socks? And, if so, do you always start the day by saying you hope you don't die today?

Wearing odd socks is what makes me special. That and my cowboy hat with the feather in it. It guarantees I get a seat on trains and buses. Also lenient penances at confession.

7. What was Donatello before he became a world-famous Ninja turtle?

I’ve known Donatello for years. He owns the pizza restaurant not far from us. I didn’t know he became a Ninja.

8. Does your exercise regime challenge more than your Wii controller muscles?

That’s a very embarrassing question. I’ve gone red in the face and I’m trembling all over. As Elvis would say “I’m all shook up!”

9. What are the names of Donald Duck's nephews?

Roast duck, duck a l’orange and crispy duck!

10. Do you laugh hysterically at your own jokes? At Confession?

I’m always very serious at confession. It’s the priest who’s wetting himself laughing. I can never understand why.

11. And, lastly, for fans of the brilliant Charles Schulz, have you ever had reason to call any of your children 'Pigpen'?

No. Never. But you should hear what I am called!

And now this Meme is open to whoever wants to join in. Please let me know so I can read all about you.

Friday, 22 June 2012

FOLLOW ME

I did not mean be my friend on Facebook, or follow Me on Blogger or Twitter. 

I meant do it in real life.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Le chien



This is our dog. I suppose he has learnt to pray and be thankful for all that is good in his life. We got him from a dog shelter some years ago where apparently he was found roaming the streets.

He is difficult to live with but with patience we’ll all learn to adjust. At least he is not as vicious and calculating as my demon cat.

The thing about this dog is that he has learnt French. Yes … you heard me right. He has learnt French.

We have one of those teach yourself French DVD Video which we play over and again on TV to learn various phrases. As we sit there repeating what is said on TV the dog sits on the carpet watching intently.

I’m sure he’s listening carefully and getting the different intonations and accents which so enrich the French language. You can see his ears twitching when certain words are pronounced slowly by the woman on TV.

“Bonjour Monsieur Dupont. Ou est l’hôtel Majestueux?”

Which I’m sure is very helpful and reassuring in case our dog ever gets lost in Paris and needs to find his way back to the hotel.

The thing is … I don’t know whether, in his head, the dog is pronouncing the words correctly, because, he has actually never said them out loud.

It could be that in his head the words are all distorted and garbled up because he pronounces them with a doggy accent. You know … it’s just like you or me trying to speak a foreign language. Our English, American or Australian accents would not pronounce the French, Italian or whatever language words as a native of those countries would. It takes a special skill to speak a foreign language just as a local does.

So how do I know if in his head our dog is pronouncing the French words properly if he never says them out loud like you’re supposed to on the Video?

But one thing I’ve noticed since he joined us in learning French by DVD. His bark has taken a distinctively French timbre as of late.

He no longer goes “Woof Woof” to scare cats away from our garden. His bark is a more elongated “Hein hein hein woooof woooof” as if to say “Oh zut alors! Qu’est ce que c’est ca?”

I’m not sure the itinerant cats roaming our garden understand him anymore.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

If not now when



Once upon a time there was an elderly lady who had a bone china tea set. She had a teapot, a milk jug, a container for sugar, twelve cups and saucers and side plates for biscuits and cakes. The individually hand-made items where white in color with beautiful red roses hand-painted as decorations and gold plating on the rims of the cups and plates. Although the set was quite old it was in pristine condition as if it had just left the factory; now long closed and out of business.

She loved that tea set and displayed it proudly in a glass-fronted cupboard in her living room.

She never used it because it was reserved for very special occasions. You know, just in case the Pope or the Queen might visit. Which of course they never did; nor were they likely to ever do. The old lady was very concerned in case an item would break or be chipped in use and the set would be incomplete and the damaged item irreplaceable

The tea set remained in the glass-fronted cupboard, admired by everyone who visited the old lady, and proudly loved by her whenever she looked at it.

One day the old lady died and her distant relatives, who never visited her when alive, sold all her belongings and used the money towards a holiday abroad.

When the old lady met St Peter at the Gates of Heaven, for that is where she was destined, the old Saint, who was used to drinking from an old clay cup when on earth, remarked casually “You never did get to use that lovely tea set, did you?”

“No!” she replied forlornly, “I saved it for a special occasion which never arrived!”

“Hmmm …” thought the Saint stroking his beard, “You also never got round to planting aubergines and courgettes in your garden. You always wanted to do that. But never did!”

“That’s right …” remembered the old lady, “Somehow I never got round to it. You know how it is … I was busy cleaning the house and things …”

St Peter chuckled quietly and added “Buon giorno!”

The old lady looked up at the tall man in total confusion.

He laughed and said, “Remember that winter when you promised yourself to learn Italian? You even bought a book and a dictionary, but never got to enroll at the local college for evening classes.”

“Yes … that’s right …” she replied shyly, “I wish I’d done that. Somehow the time was never right to start those classes. I would have enjoyed them too!”

An ominous silence followed and she wondered frightfully whether her omissions had somehow prejudiced her chances of entering Paradise.
“Do come in, my dear!” said the kindly Saint, “you know …” he added as he scratched his head, “it grieves me when I look down on earth and see so many people procrastinating and postponing doing something they set their hearts on.

“I watch and think … if not now, when?

“Somehow, people always have a reason for not doing something. When the Big Boss created the world for us He meant us to enjoy His creations, not postpone them and endure life!”

As she was led to her room in Paradise she discovered by her bedside the porcelain tea-set she once owned, two packets of aubergine and courgette seeds and an Italian dictionary.

The kindly Saint had given her a second chance to fulfill her dreams.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Not Waltzing Matilda

I’ve met some very strange people in my life. Some don’t even live on this planet and are lost in their own little world. But none come stranger than 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!

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Memories ... Memories.



Father Ignatius was certainly the product of his up-bringing.

Raised in a poor family who had known real hardship; yet at the same time a family held together, despite all the turmoil that life threw at them, by a common bond of mutual love and basic Christian principles.

It’s because of his up-bringing, and because he grew up with very little materially, that he developed a habit of frugality and saving whatever he could rather than wasting it away.

He had taken a private vow of poverty when he became a priest, and since then he spent as little as possible on himself. He was not mean in the sense of avarice since anything he had, or whatever else came his way in terms of money or goods, he eagerly shared with the poor in his parish.

The little he kept for himself was usually either books or certain items he had collected over the years and kept for their sentimental value.

One Friday afternoon he decided to clear up the spare room of personal items he had not used for ages. He decided to donate them to the rummage sale in aid of the elderly.

As he was searching through a box full of books he found an old vinyl record; the old 45 rpm type record, black in color in a torn paper sleeve. He looked at the title of the song and sat down on a nearby chair.

Suddenly, the memories came flooding fast. He held the record in his shaking hand, as tears welled up in his eyes. He hadn’t seen nor played it for years, yet here it was, like a ghost from years long past, awakening distant memories so long forgotten.

He remembered how, as a child, he had saved all his pocket money, and went to the music store after school to buy this particular record as a birthday present for his dear father. Now departed.

The song was quite popular then.

He remembered his father’s reaction when he opened the brown paper bag and pulled out the shiny black vinyl record.

His parental eyes welled up too all those years ago, the same as Father Ignatius’ eyes are welling up right now.

His father placed the record on the table and said nothing. He just held little Ignatius tightly in his strong arms and kissed his head gently. Ignatius was held so tight that he could hear his father’s heart beating in his chest.

He could hear it beating right now, as he sat there holding the record in his shaking hand. And strangely as it may seem, the experience also brought to mind the sweet smell of cooking as they all gathered there as a family in the kitchen that cold winter evening.

His mother moved towards the table, leaving for a moment the food on the stove, and picked up the record.

“How lovely …” she said as she read the title.

She too then hugged little Ignatius as tightly as she could.

The priest remembered that that particular day was the first and only time he had seen his father cry. Silently, he had wiped his eyes with the back of his hand and quietly said: “Thank you … son”.

He was a big strong man, not given to much emotions or small talk. He had probably invented the British stiff upper lip and kept his feelings well hidden within himself. Usually silent at the best of times; mumbling the odd “yes dear …” whenever his wife asked him something. A gentle giant in every respect.

His father had known extreme poverty and hardship throughout his life, having lived through the depression and economic crisis.

Father Ignatius recalled how his father told him that many a time, when he was a child during the depression, he had gone to bed at night with nothing to eat; because there was simply no food in the house. Those were terrible times indeed, as his father often recalled.

He remembered that his father had worked the land from the age of eleven, leaving school with little or no education. It was the done thing in those days, to work hard at an early age to help the family beat off starvation.

And in later years, as young Ignatius was growing up, his father still continued to work hard on the farm to bring enough food to feed his family. His mother too, took on washing to earn a few pennies to supplement the family budget.

Yet despite their impoverished state Ignatius never had to go hungry, as his father did before him; and he was always well dressed and cared for by his parents.

He wondered about all the sacrifices his parents must have made, and how much they had gone without, to ensure that Ignatius lacked nothing as he grew up.

Father Ignatius then brought to mind the day when, as a young man, he built up the courage to tell his parents after the evening meal that he had decided he wished to become a priest.

How he had feared their reaction on hearing the news.

Although they were a good Christian family, he often suspected that his father wanted him to take over the small farm he had built up over the years. How would he react to the news that his son would not follow in his footsteps as a farmer?

“Mom … dad … I’ve been thinking and praying about this for a while. I want to become a priest …” were the opening words to an announcement that he dreaded making.

His father just smiled gently and said: “Son … I am proud of you.”

Father Ignatius could hear those words ringing in his ears, as clear as if they’d just been spoken; and he sobbed gently as he remembered his parents now both in Paradise. No doubt looking down on him, and hopefully still proud of him.

He said a silent prayer as he wiped his eyes with his handkerchief.

He then went to his room and put the record on the turntable and one more time let the lyrics come to life.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Relax …



I think I’m generally, most of the time, a pretty relaxed sort of person. That is when my cat does not plot against me and does something or other to raise my blood pressure.

You can imagine therefore my skepticism when it was suggested that as a family we’ll try a few relaxation techniques to help us all “get better” – whatever that is!

First off the mark in this new regimen of prescribed relaxation was music. Off went the bagpipes and drums CD and on came some turgid soft music played on some wooden pipes accompanied by humming from a tone-deaf singer who would have benefited from some throat lozenge.

“Hmmmmmm” went on and on the female singer, “Tweeeeet tweeeeet” accompanied the pipes.

As this did not work the CD was changed for one with recordings of gentle rain from the rainforests. I mean, what’s the point in that? It rains here most of the time. Why do I need the recorded sound of rain in a far off land?

This was followed by waves splashing against the shore. Every so often … “Woooosh” went the waves. “Woooosh” again and again. You’re supposed to close your eyes, listen to the sound of the waves and relax.

There was no chance of this happening whatsoever. Instead of relaxing me the continuous woooshing sound made me want to go to the toilet!

The next track was no better either. It was the sound of whales singing.

What’s so relaxing about that?

Have you ever heard a whale sing? It goes something like “Woooooo Woooooo”. It’s an elongated intermittent very tedious screeching whistling sound which is neither tuneful nor relaxing. If a whale went to a music producer or agent and said “I want to sign a singing contract to make records and to perform in Carnegie Hall” it would certainly get thrown out of the building quicker than it got in.

The annoying high-pitched shrill sound reminded me that the kitchen door needs oiling to stop it squeaking. Yet another neglected job which would have been attended to after being reminded several times had it not been for my relaxation schedule.

I would have been more relaxed if the whale was dressed in an evening suit and bow tie and sang “Nessun Dorma”.

Since music did not soothe the beast it was suggested that a long soak in a warm bath would do the trick.

When I reluctantly agreed to get up from the football match on television and make my way upstairs I found that, to my surprise and total bewilderment, the bathroom lights were off and the place was lit by a million candles.

“It’s relaxing!” I was assured.

Believe me, there is nothing relaxing or reassuring about standing there amongst all those flames and fearing that you’d singe parts of your anatomy.

Why do people light candles in the bathroom? How can sitting in a hot tub like an ornament on an over-sized birthday cake supposed to make you feel relaxed?

I believe candles are bad for the environment. Just think how many candles are lit all over the world on a daily basis. In bathrooms, at the dinner table, in restaurants, churches, birthday cakes as well as numerous other places such as outdoor concerts at night to add to the atmosphere created by a supposedly melodic singer! All these candles contribute to global warming, you know! Not to mention the swarms of hard working bees busily producing the wax to see all their hard work go up in flames.

And then the bathroom was filled with this lingering smell of lavender, or was it lily of the valley, or some other concoction of plants and herbs infusing in the hot bath water and meant to convey to the imagination relaxing feelings of beautiful idyllic countryside meadows and hills covered with every blossom one could imagine. It was all feminine and gentle and beautiful and …

I mean, what’s wrong with Wright's Traditional Coal Tar Soap, with its long-established strong manly smell used by generations on end to their satisfaction?

Why do we need all these bottles of liquid soaps in a variety of colors and perfumes and silly names like “Angel Bubble Bath”, “Zingvigorating Shower Gel”, and “Action Hair Shampoo and Conditioner”?

Can anyone tell me the difference between a bubble bath and a shower gel? And the ingredients you find in these things makes one’s mind boggle. Some have coconut oil, and mango juice, lemon, passion fruit and a million other ingredients you would not imagine would find their way in your bathroom. A hair shampoo we sometimes use apparently has wheat germ in it; although what purpose this particular ingredient is meant to provide totally escapes me! I suspect we have more cooking ingredients in our bathroom than in the kitchen.

I sat gingerly in the hot tub and felt far from relaxed with all those candles burning around me. I was very nervous in case the cowboy hat I was wearing at the time might catch fire.

Can you imagine?

If the long feather in the hat accidentally came into contact with one of the nearby flames and that spread to the whole hat and then to my bountiful curls? What a disaster that would be!

I just remained there rigid amongst the pink bubbles all around me and did not dare move an inch for the prescribed thirty minutes or so which are meant to make you feel relaxed and wash away all your troubles and worries. Far from being tranquil and stress-free I dreamt longingly for the soothing companionship of my rubber duck and little sailing boat which had been confiscated from me for the purpose of this exercise.

“Are you nice and relaxed?” asked the voice from outside.

“Yes … never felt more relaxed in my life. This is wonderful!” I lied through gritted teeth.

I then got out and treated myself to a pint of Guinness and a large measure of single malt 12 years old whisky.

Now that’s what I call relaxation.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

The importance of being considerate


To be quite earnest, it’s quite important to be considerate too. It helps oil the wheels as it were and makes life run smoothly for you and everyone else don’t you think?

Earnestly speaking, I consider myself quite a considerate type of person. But unfortunately this doesn’t always work out as intended.

The other day for instance I saw an elderly lady in the street; she must have been about seventy or so, hobbling from foot to foot on the edge of the sidewalk. I waited until the lights indicated it was safe to cross then I held her gently by the arm and said, “Don’t worry madam; we’ll soon cross over safely to the other side!”

She tottered alongside me looking behind her all the time until we reached safely the other side as the traffic lights changed again. I took off my hat; you know the one, the cowboy hat with a feather, as a sign of respect and smiled politely.

She then hit me on the head with her umbrella.

I was about to say something when she said, “You made me miss my bus, you idiot!”

“I’m sorry madam” I said, replacing my hat and being thankful it was off my head when the umbrella landed, “I saw you hopping from foot to foot hesitantly …”

“That’s because I want to go to the toilet” she hollered, “I’ve a good mind to pee in your stupid hat!”

I ran away before she did.

This however did not stop me being considerate by nature.

One night I noticed that one of the floorboards in our bedroom, under the carpet, was a bit loose. It made a distinct sound when you stepped on it.

Being very considerate I hammered it in the dark so as not to wake up my wife.

Unfortunately, in the darkness I hammered nails through my shoes lying there by the bed and I pinned them to the floor board.

Next morning when I put my shoes on I couldn’t move one inch. I fell flat on my face damaging my cowboy hat.

I thought I had put on weight in my sleep during the night and the extra calories all fell down to my feet!

That very night I had dreamt I was in a marshmallow factory. I woke up eating the pillow.

I remember another occasion where my considerate nature conspired to work against me. We were on holiday and we went out on an organized boat trip to swim with dolphins. It’s something which, for some reason, most people love to do.

The organizers of the trip suggested we go in the sea in teams of six for safety reasons. They wanted to keep an eye on us with the dolphins and we took turns in little groups to swim for a while, and then come out to allow others to go in the sea.

Being considerate as you know, I decided to be one of the last to go in. I stood by the side of the small boat watching everyone else enjoy themselves with the cackling dolphins and caressing them as they got nearer. It was really fun watching those lovely creatures swim around and every so often jump out of the sea.

When it was my turn I went to the communal changing room and put on my tartan swimming costume and took off my cowboy hat.

The other swimmers in my group were already changed in their costumes in seconds and in the water. Unlike me who neatly folded my clothes in an orderly fashion and rested my hat on top.

When it was my turn to enter the water the other people had had enough and got back into the boat.

Just as I entered the water, immediately, the dolphins saw me and they all just swam away!

The head dolphin must have said, “We’re not swimming with him. He looks weird!” And the others followed him deep into the sea leaving me splashing about minus a hat.

It didn’t do my self-esteem any good being avoided by dolphins. And they say they are intelligent creatures too!

Well I very much doubt that! At least I’m not stupid enough to get entangled in fishing nets and get mistaken for a tuna fish.

Being considerate is a great disadvantage in life.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Watch the birdie

Inspired by Vicky who has published some of her great photos on her Blog I have selected here a few snaps which I took with my latest camera.

I was quite a distance away in this open-air zoo and used the zoom lens for this photo.
Even further away from this rhino. They say they're short sighted but have a keen sense of smell; and I had just put on my latest after-shave lotion!
This is what happens when you have the camera hanging on your chest by its strap and you accidentally press the button on a pebbly beach.
This is a close-up of some apples from our trees in the garden. 
This is near where I live.
This is a close-up of a painting of the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately the flash kept shining on the glass at the top of the photo. Perhaps Vicky can advise on how to avoid that.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Believing with eyes closed

Sister Georgina came to see Father Ignatius in his office. She was a nun living in the Convent nearby and whilst it was not unusual for the nuns to visit the Parish House from time to time this visit was somewhat formal. The nun had phoned the priest that morning and asked him for an appointment.

“Hello Sister … come in … come in …” said the kindly priest, “would you like some coffee … or some tea perhaps!”

“No thank you Father …” she said somewhat shyly as she sat down.

“You know you don’t need to phone to make an appointment …” he said as he closed the door and sat at his desk, “just pop in anytime …”

“Well Father … I wanted to make sure you were available … and we would not be disturbed.” She said. “The thing is … I’m finding it very hard believing …”

“Are you having doubts about your Faith Sister?” Father Ignatius asked gently and soothingly.

“No … no … it’s not that. I believe in God and Jesus and the Trinity …” she hesitated, “Can someone be selective in their beliefs?”

“Well Georgina …” he smiled, “it depends on what one is selective about … I do have my doubts about some of the changes we’re making as a Church … What is troubling you exactly?”

“Well Father …”

“Let’s dispense with the formalities for now …” he interrupted.

“Well …” she hesitated again, “for some time now I’ve had great difficulty in believing in the true presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist.

“I can’t quite explain it. Did Christ in the Last Supper ask us to celebrate Communion in His memory … or is it really His flesh and blood? And why would He want us to eat and drink His very Being?”

“It is one of our fundamental beliefs as a Church,” said the priest calmly, “one that has been tested and debated for centuries. You’ve no doubt heard of the Eucharistic Miracle at Lanciano?”

“Yes Father … but how can I make myself believe?” she replied, “I could shut my eyes tightly and convince myself to believe … but at the end of the day my mind says differently.

“I have no difficulty in believing the existence of God … I accept that as fact. I believe in Christ’s Virgin birth, His resurrection, the Holy Spirit and so on … Somehow these beliefs cause me no difficulties and they are part of my being … they are me and have been me for sometime.

“And I suppose that at some stage I must have believed in the Eucharist too. How could I not have?

“I became a nun … studied for years and took on my vocation … and all was well … Yet now, it’s this one aspect of my Faith that I find difficulty with.”

The priest paused for a while and said a silent prayer before going on.

“We’ve all had our moments of doubts and our little stumbles every now and then …” he said.

“It’s our human nature coming to the fore. We’re programmed to think, to analyze … to ask questions and yes … to doubt too.

“It’s what some people call Free Will … and I’m sure you’ve heard the many debates about that and God’s pre-destination of our lives!”

She smiled as he continued.

“God does not want us to work hard at our beliefs. He does not want us to shut our eyes tightly and convince ourselves to believe in this or in that.

“He understands our struggles between total acceptance and the natural desire to examine and evaluate what we’re told to believe.

“He did make us after all … so He knows what makes us tick and how the cogs in our heads constantly turn.

“What God asks of us is to believe like a child. A child never questions the veracity of what he’s told … he just accepts it.

“There’s no need to believe with eyes tightly shut.

“Just accept … like a child. Trust him … like a child. Love Him … like a child.

“And when your mind questions … as it certainly will … just say … Get behind me Satan.

“Look up at God and pray … I believe, Lord; help my unbelief.”

She left with a much lighter heart and a heavy weight off her shoulders.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Ambitions quashed


Two things I’ve always wanted to do in life are cartooning and playing the guitar. And I failed in both.

No matter how much I try my cartoons just do not translate from what I can see clearly in my head to what is drawn on the paper. Somehow, between whatever straw and cobwebs are collected in my brain and the electro-muscular mechanism in my hand there’s a blockage somewhere that turns my every attempt at drawing into something a small child or Picasso would draw.

As for playing the guitar; that’s no better either.

Some years ago my wife and I took guitar playing lessons at our local college. We were both very enthusiastic and to be fair she progressed much better than I.

From the start, I could see disaster looming from the very first note ever played. There were about a dozen or so “beginners” in our class and the instructor started us on a simple exercise. Hold your fingers tight on these strings and press them against the “frets” and with the other hand run your fingers up and down on the string. Here … near the hole in the guitar.

Everyone managed this well; except me.

My fingers pressed on the frets so hard they almost started bleeding. But my other hand going up and down, up and down, was somehow a few millimeters away from the strings so no sound was coming out. I kept going up and down faster and faster, but speed is not the essence here when you’re too far away from the strings.

The instructor asked me to relax and try again. Slower but nearer … slower but nearer.

I did just that, and this time my fingers got entangled and caught in the guitar strings. TWANG … went the guitar and then everything stopped. My fingers got stuck there as everyone laughed and my wife got embarrassed.

Learning to tune the guitar was no better either.

I just could not differentiate between one note and another. They all sounded the same. You might as well been beating a big drum or have an elephant trumpeting under water it would have sounded the same as my guitar.

The instructor played two notes over and again to get me to appreciate the difference in timbre but they both sounded the same as when I accidentally sit on my cat sleeping in the armchair.

My wife must have thought she married a deaf husband. Although I must admit, like most husbands, I do have selective hearing when it suits.

The next exercise involved using a device called a plectrum or a pick. It’s a small triangular bit of plastic used to pluck the strings of the guitar.

It’s easy to use, according to my instructor. Hold the plectrum with your fingers and pluck the strings one at a time. He showed me how to use it and then asked me to try.

I wish I didn’t … and so did he.

I plucked the string so hard that the small piece of plastic flew out of my hand and hit the instructor in the eye.

What he said next could not be put into music no matter what instrument you use. It was a string of unrepeatable words, none rhyming nor musically melodic, and hardly likely to be ever used in any lyrics I can think of.

He left the room for First Aid treatment and we all decided after a few minutes to give up waiting in the classroom and we went home.

Neither my wife nor I returned to guitar lessons.

I’ve met the instructor in the street a few times since. He smiles and says nothing and walks away in a hurry.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Keep it under my hat.


The rules in our office are quite clear and strict. We should not bring any pets to work.

Why is it then that some people insist on “bending the rules” when in reality they are outright breaking them and risking severe disciplinary action; if not being fired from the job altogether.

For example someone brought a kitten in one of those carrying cases because the creature was not too well and its owner was on her way to the vet after work. Admittedly, the cat did not leave the carrying case or cage at any time, and was only in the office for a couple of hours, having been collected from home at lunch time. But if the boss had come in I’m sure that person would have been reprimanded or probably lost her job; especially since the boss is allergic to cats.

What if I had a hippopotamus as a pet, or a crocodile? Would it be OK for me to bring them to work on my way to the vet?

You think I’m exaggerating don’t you? Well, I’m not.

Last week someone brought in a chameleon or lizard type creature. I don’t know what it was. All I know is it was about three inches long and it was ugly; even though it was supposed to be a baby of the species.

Apparently some colleagues had been talking about unusual pets a few days earlier and one of them decided to bring this reptile to show the others. The animal was brought to work in a shoe box and taken out to show everyone. It jumped out of the owner’s hand and ran on the large conference table where we were supposed to have a meeting.

Yes … you’ve guessed it. The boss came to the meeting a few minutes earlier than expected.

Everyone panicked and froze … except Joe. He’s a quick thinker and a bit too clever for comfort.

He quickly grabbed my hat from the coat stand … yes, my expensive cowboy type hat with the long feather on the side … I call it a plume, not a feather … more stylish!

Anyway, Joe picked up my hat and as quick as a flash put it on the lizard trapping him underneath.

Everyone kept a straight face … or tried to. I noticed one or two badly concealed smirks and one person was literally going red in the face trying to hold back a guffaw of laughter as well as nature’s release mechanism.

I was furious of course. My expensive hat used as a cage and a subject of subterfuge. Can you imagine that? And it’s silk lined on the inside. I dread to think what that wretched creature is doing under there.

I said nothing of course. I could hardly risk someone else losing their job; even though my precious hat was the real victim here.

I sat at the place nearest to the hat and we all started the meeting.

The boss sat at the far end and did not seem to notice even though once or twice the hat moved on the table all on its own.

This led to the person nearest me to laugh quietly and then stifle a sneeze.

The boss said “Bless you” and for some stupid reason I replied “Thank you!”

Why do I do silly things like that? What possessed me to say “Thank you”?

Luckily the boss did not notice who had sneezed.

At the end of the meeting my boss suggested he and I visit one of our suppliers who is only half a mile away from our office.

I put on my coat and followed him when he said: “Put on your hat … it’s a little cold out there and we’re walking!”

Everyone froze again and fixed their eyes on my hat on the table.

I had to think and act quickly … very difficult when you can’t multi-task!

I picked up the hat in a scooping motion and put it on my head.

You should have seen everyone’s face when they saw nothing on the table where the hat once was. I was proud of myself and my magical sleight of hand.

My quick triumph quickly faded as I felt the lizard grappling tightly at my hair. I kept a straight face and left the room hurriedly after my boss.

On our way there, as we walked down the street, the silly creature tried to escape once or twice by raising my hat off my head. The boss didn’t see it, but a passerby thought I was saluting him by lifting my hat and he did the same with his.

I pushed the hat further down my head so that the brim was almost at eye level. That should trap him solid … I thought.

In response the vindictive reptile started pulling at my hair struggling to get out. The pain was agonizing but I could hardly do anything about it. How could I possibly explain the situation to my boss if he found out what’s under my hat?

He would hardly take me seriously after such an incident.

We walked side by side with him doing most of the talking about some budgetary situation or other and me making un-intelligent noises more as a response to pain than contribution to the discussion. At one point as I grunted he said “Well … I’m glad you agree with this. Perhaps you can go ahead and implement it.” I had no idea what I had agreed to.

As we approached the suppliers’ premises I felt a wet feeling under my hat as no doubt the lizard decided on a new plan of attack in order to get free.

We entered the building and a young lady offered to take my coat and hat. I gave her my coat and decided to crumple my hat and its content quickly into my briefcase.

She noticed my head and hair were wet and I said “It’s been raining …” as I wiped it off with my handkerchief.

Why did I say such a stupid thing? Does it often rain under peoples’ hats where you come from?

After the meeting with the suppliers I left my boss, went to a coffee bar where I rang the reptile’s owner and asked him to meet me there and collect his pet.

I am now looking for a new hat. The silk lining in mine has been torn to shreds.