Category Archives: comedy

The burglar alarm that phones you . . .

mole

August 12 2000

12 Forsythia Grove                                                                                                                                 Outer Hamlet                                                                                                                                           CORSETTSHIRE  ZY6 4GT

My Dear Ralph

It has been such a long time since we wrote, hasn’t it dear?  I have supposed it must be due to your new relationship with Thule – and recent sojourn to the chilly expanses of Greenland.  And I myself have been engaged in the planning of a “Winter Tree Walk” – and all the boning up on the subject of trees – that that involves.  Of course, the second I had my first thoughts about preparing a flyer, my little, and exactly hand-fitting, camera decided that its years of happy operation were over  – and I have had to go and buy a new one.  I have chosen the towering stem of a local Beech tree to feature on my flyer and it certainly is a most impressive image.  I am not sure whether I should purchase eight or so hard hats to equip any attendees on my tour of trees with?  This may sound slightly over the top, but I will be inviting people into the canopies of very large trees and – on windy/thundery days – one might be slightly more likely to be struck on the bonce by a falling tree or bolt of lighting!  Luckily, Beech trees – with their very thin and wettable skins – conduct electricity very rapidly down to the ground.  And so that particular tree is most unlikely to explode!  Still.  Under the canopy, one would still be under the influence of an electrical charge, and I wouldn’t want to have to perform CPR – particularly on individuals uninsured for personal injury (as they would be).  What do you think dear?

Meanwhile, I have recently been subjected to the most nosy, and intrusive, questioning concerning my actual whereabouts, by somebody who features at two of my work places and isn’t due to fly back to South Africa until September.  This personage is a total stranger and I have been feeling distinctly disinclined to answer questions concerning where I will be, when I am coming, and how long I will be there.  Mulling the whole thing over, I decided that she was either just one of those excessively nosy people or might be interested (with associate) in engaging in some form of summer burglary (burglaries do apparently peak during the school summer holidays).  And although I do reside in a most inaccessible house – in full view of a pub – I did decide to do some research on simple home alarms.  It turned out to be most interesting pet and – despite my massive phobia relating to electronics and actual button pressing – I was very tempted by the type of alarm that detects the burglar and actually phones you up to let you know about it!  (I first heard about this on the news, when it transpired that one of the presenters had had to go home because his burglar alarm had phoned him up to let him know that someone had entered his house.)

I decided to equip the device with a roaming SIM (which searches for the strongest signal on any available network) and the most aggravating aspect of the whole set up was to get this SIM card registered and activated.  The company selling the alarm had put around five videos on how to program it on to their website so, gritting my teeth with steely determination, I trotted over to the library – equipped with headphones – to go and view the instructions and take copious notes!  But actually, it was easy.  I fitted the SIM card, and the batteries, and then linked the “remote” to the alarm.  I then put the number of the roaming SIM into my phone (so I’d realize it was the alarm phoning) and typed my mobile phone number into the burglar alarm.  I did decide to turn off the howling siren effect as, should I be 15, or so, minutes away from the house, the whole street could be paralysed by the 200dB shriek emitted!  I also recorded a short phone message (six seconds long) into the alarm’s microphone – and screwed the whole ensemble high up on to the wall. I did, naturally, check that this stretch of wall was actually in receipt of a telephone signal before I did this . . .

And then I decided to find out whether my efforts had worked and that the alarm did work (I naturally assumed that it would be dead as dodo and sit, silently, on its perch on the wall!)  But actually pet, I walked into the room and the alarm’s red light immediately flashed on and, about five seconds later, my mobile phone started to ring in the room upstairs.  I ran up there and, sure enough, the alarm was phoning to give me the message that I had just dictated into its microphone.  Miraculous!  I felt exceedingly flushed with my success I can tell you!  Technology does move on and sometimes a lot of interesting learning can happen, if one can just push out the boat a little.

Love, as ever

Your Aunt Evangeline

 

 

Watch out for the tractor . . .

John Deere 8640 twin-wheeled farm tractor (Belgium 2005)  Source: Wikimedia Commons.  Author: Werktuigendagen

10 Forsythia Grove, Outer Hamlet, CORSETTSHIRE ZY6 4GT

January 13 2000

My Dear Ralph

I have a story today which centres on the dangers that can be posed by giant farm tractors motoring towards one fully-loaded with straw bales, and with the driver apparently unable to see out of the cab.  I can say this with some assurance Ralph as, surely, if I am unable to see the driver – then he will also be unable to see me?

What happened was this.  I was motoring down the farm track in the Banger 0.9L Mk III (towards my destination just beyond it) when, all of a sudden and with no warning whatsoever, a large – and fully laden – farm tractor emerged from a side turning  just ahead of me.  It turned in my direction and motored, at a brisk pace, towards me.  I should think that around 6m separated us at this point.

I don’t quite have words to describe the sensation of horror which overcame me as this towering mechanical monster loomed over me.  (My mind came up with an immediate mental picture of its sharp metal “spears” – used for impaling bales of straw upon – also puncturing me.)

The Banger is fitted with one of those gear sticks that require one to elevate a circular disc prior to engaging reverse gear.  And I must admit dear that I was so petrified in my seat that I was unable to find reverse gear in time.   I was very fortunate that morning that my car horn worked, and equally fortunate that the tractor driver was not hard of hearing.  For he stopped – around 3m away from the front of my bonnet.  As he turned away, I made a “fluttering heart” gesture at him and he smiled enigmatically . . .

Neither of us got out of our vehicles and neither of us said a word.  It wasn’t until later – while boning up on a Health and Safety Executive file on the subject of “Driving a Tractor Safely” – that I realized, firstly, how many grisly incidents occur in any one year involving farm tractors and, secondly, that the driver is supposed to look all around him/her before setting off and sound his own horn!  In fact, from what I read, we should have made an entry in the farm accident book and recorded a “near miss!”

I am certainly much more aware now that tractors are prone to toppling over on uneven ground and that one should not motor underneath one while its loading gear is suspended overhead!

I have also practised a more rapid capacity for getting into reverse gear and proceed down the track with a window wound down so that I can listen out for an engine starting up!

We all think our day is going to proceed smoothly, don’t we? But all it takes is a series of apparently minor errors on one, or more, people’s parts for our day to end up in the mortuary.

Yours still in the land of the living . . .

Aunt Evangeline

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New endeavours . . . .

C'est moi

C’est moi

I have decided to wrestle with a new blog template for my next 100 episodes. And “wrestle” I certainly did, even though I chose exactly the same template (twenty twelve) as I did nearly four years ago. (I tend to try to work out the controls solo and too much eschew the reading of instructions . . .)

So my new blog resides at: http://talesfromperfect.wordpress.com

Thank you Keith Garrett (of “Man of Many Thoughts”) who has found it already.

And a request to WordPress. Please develop a “translation widget” so that the non-English peoples, world-wide, can take more part. As things stand, the readership of all our blogs appears confined mainly to speakers of the English language.

Evangeline

Mole intelligence: episode 100

Image useful for illustrating the lighter side of life

Image useful for illustrating the lighter side of life

10 Forsythia Grove
Outer Hamlet
CORSETTSHIRE ZY6 4GT

November 20 2000

10 Forsythia Grove
Outer Hamlet
CORSETTSHIRE ZY6 4GT

My Dear Ralph

Thank you for your moving expose on the nature of morality. Keep going!

I myself have departed from Especial Care Services. I did indeed feel this was necessary as I do not think they truly wished to hear any penetrating insights from me. The good news is that I have found a new position, even more out in the sticks than is usual. I have become (miraculously) an alpaca herdswoman . . . And in case you – as a convinced city dweller of the first order – have absolutely no idea what these are, I will enlighten you. Alpacas are smaller versions of the llama and, in case you are not very much the wiser, are clad in very woolly coats and disport large (and slightly exophthalmic) brown eyes.

My role involves the highly technical task of scraping their turds from off the turf; filling their water troughs/hay mangers, and placing handfuls of beef nuts in their feeding bowls (which are hung over the rails of estate fencing). I must say that these tasks do not necessitate one to be in possession of a high quantity – or quality – of intellect. But it seems that the alpacas are none too bright themselves, and only appear to be motivated by the rattling of feed inside a bright orange bucket. Honestly dear, one is practically knocked flat in the rush of animals stampeding towards their bowls.

Alpacas are, for the most part, not very chummy animals, but one exception to this is a female called “Sherbet.” Sherbet is quite inclined to sniff my hair as I extend my head towards her and allows me to stroke her long, fleecy, neck. One morning, she knelt beside me as I swept the stable floor, and the farm manager showed up.

‘However did you manage that?’ he said, gazing suspiciously at said Sherbert. ‘Did you give her sweets?’

I denied this dear, mentioning only the propensity that animals have for realizing that you intend them no harm. The other two animals with whom I have a slight relationship, are either very young or very old. I feed the underweight youngster with goat milk sucked from the teat of a lamb-feeding bottle. I sit it on my lap while it feeds and gaze at its extraordinary eyelashes and great big eyes. Its mother has mastitis and won’t let it suckle from her teats. She pushes it away and stamps her cloven feet. The old alpaca may, or may not be, blind and I notice that the bigger adults shove her away from the feeding stations. So I have started to call her by name – Meena – and feed her in a separate pen. These are the most warming aspects of my role (albeit the smallest and shortest ones).

And yet, like the gardening that I also engage in, it is a lonely place out in the fields with only the sky and trees and ‘God’ to turn to. There seem to be very few human beings around with whom I can share some small congress of the soul. And throughout my life it seems that this has almost always been the case. Even should anyone (at this late stage) show up to offer “love” – and, doubtless, immediate sex – I might eschew the “opportunity” and go on by myself.

I will write my memoirs – “The Truth versus Silence” – as, no matter the level of governmental opposition, I think the world will want to hear from a woman who has been the Chief of MI6. This was, perhaps, the thing I was born to do.

Yours

Aunt Evangeline

Fallot’s tetralogy . . . (episode 99)

iStock_000021621315Small

November 19 2000

1A The Hole
Hope End Street
CARPOOL C87 4AZ

Hello Auntie

I have been engaged in one of those situations (at work) which give one pause for thought. It is now my second year of study at Carpool University Hospital and I have been allocated to a 6-week-long sojourn in the Coronary Care Unit (CCU). It can be pretty scary, as I expect you can imagine, to be surrounded by potentially blue-looking people and their bleeping paraphernalia. But one man, in particular, engaged my attention. He was in his twenties and had, apparently, had a late diagnosis of a heart condition called “Fallot’s Tetralogy.” I had to go home and look this up! It means that there is a hole between the two bottom chambers (ventricles) of his heart and that the wall of the right ventricle has become thickened under the strain of trying to push blood into narrowed pulmonary veins.

But the issue more to hand, at least to me, was that he looked like he might have an intestinal obstruction. I can say this with some degree of confidence Auntie, because he was only able to manage the occasional lick of ice cream, had a hugely distended abdomen and kept vomiting up (green) bile. So as a – still lowly – student nurse, I toddled off to the nurses’ station to informing the staff nurses of Mr X’s predicament.

But, do you know, they barely gave me an uninterested flicker of the eyelids – and a bored sigh – before returning to whatever notes they were penning in patients’ documentation. I have noticed this type of attitude in the so-called “professional” nurse before; they think they are too high and mighty to engage in some actual thinking – and can’t wait to condescend to someone they perceive to be of lower status. In the absence of any interest in the information I was trying to give, I slithered off to the sluice and occupied myself in some minion-style cleaning of metal bed pans.

However, on my cycle ride home (in the pouring rain and clad in my usual black – rubberized – outfit) I had time to think the matter over. And it did seem to me Auntie that, given the opportunity, I ought to try to do something to help this patient. But what? After all, I am a man who does not even have the funds to drive a basic automobile and who, likewise, has to listen to his music from a “Walkman” strapped to his belt!

The following day, I was on a “late” shift and so arrived on the ward at around 1300 hours. During the course of listening to the staff handover, it transpired that Mr Corcoran – the cardiac consultant – was due to come and do “a round” of the patients some time during the afternoon. A “flashlight” went off in my head at that moment Auntie, and I resolved to try to hang about on the fringes of this event.

It was at around 1500 that Mr Corcoran, plus entourage, swept into the CCU. He started to attend to every patient, in their turn, while a junior doctor expatiated on what they thought was going on. Thule was among them! Eventually, some twenty minutes later, they reached the bed of the patient with Fallot’s Tetralogy and it was obvious, from what I could pick up from the sidelines, that nobody had noticed that he might be obstructed.

I felt so enraged by what appeared to be serious neglect on the part of the qualified nurses, that I found myself speaking up. ‘I have noticed,’ I said, ‘that Mr X is virtually unable to eat and he has been vomiting bile for the past three days. The vomiting is projectile in nature.’

There was somewhat of a pause at this point as Mr Corcoran looked at the qualified nurse who, in turn, glared at me. ‘Has he?’ he said. He then went over to examine the taut, drum-like, abdomen of the patient, listening to it (for interior sounds) through his stethoscope.

‘This young man’ is quite right he said. ‘This patient needs to go off to theatre immediately.’

It was gratifying Auntie to see Thule smile at me from among the group of medical students and doctors gathered around the bed. But it was even more gratifying to feel that I had had the nerve to try to do the right thing, at the right time, and that my actions might result in the saving of someone’s life.

Of course, for the rest of the week, the backs of the qualified nurses were ostentatiously turned towards me whenever I was on duty. But not only were they wrong in the first instance, they have further shown their mettle in this additional display of unkindness. They have not learned. And I wonder what further sins of omission they could commit during the course of their qualified – and “professional” – careers?

Bye now Auntie

Ralph

The hunting horn . . . (episode 97)

mole

10 Forsythia Grove
Outer Hamlet
CORSETTSHIRE ZY6 4GT

November 8 2000

I had one of my more perturbing experiences whilst out gardening the other day pet. During the course of bouncing down a lonely farm track – in a particularly secluded part of Corsettshire – at 0740, when light was faintly dawning, I had occasion to bounce past a group of men clad in flat green caps, just outside a farm. I also had occasion to notice a sizeable quantity of 4×4’s, and horse boxes, parked in an adjacent field. The men stared at me and I stared back. They were still staring down the track after I went past, en route to the large stone house, at the bottom of the track. The only way forward out of this spot is, naturally, down a mud-laden lane which meanders (in the wrong direction) through an overhead tunnel of trees.

Of course, just my luck, I was motoring along in my Citroen Dyane ‘Piebald’ clad in one of those woolly Nepalese hats (complete with plaits) – which certainly did not fit into any scene featuring country pursuits. Indeed, I looked like a large advertisement for ‘Hunt Saboteurs Inc.’ There was nothing for it dear. Once I reached my destination, I had to get out and start unloading the large consignment of silver-leaf Cineraria and Bellis perennis (the double daisy) which I had brought with me and were intended for an empty, south-facing, bed of soil.

There was rather a silence coming from the track from which I had just come, so I embarked upon some slight nonchalant whistling and kept my eyes directed well away from the gate and passing track. Eventually, parties of up to five horse riders (at a time) jogged past and they too seemed to be humming, with their eyes similarly averted.

I must say, dear, I breathed a sigh of relief when the last hunter (as in horse) had gone past and I began to embark on planting my double daisies in their stations. I also let the house Labrador out as he is one of those who is particularly prone to barking at even non-existent intruders. I was thinking that it would be such a pest if I had to get my old set of garotting cables out the car in order to defend myself against any huntsman who thought I might be a hunt informer. (I would have had to get up on a chair – given the virtually non-existent phone signal in this spot – in order to let anyone at all know that God knows what activity was being enacted in the locale of Deserted Wooded Valley.)

About half-an-hour elapsed (with no persons viewed anywhere about the house and garden) when I distinctly heard the sound of a hunting horn emanating from a large wooded copse about one mile off in the distance. And this was followed by the sound of yelping dogs . . . Oh dear. I thought. I hope I am going to be able to get out of here (intact). And, indeed, leaving was a slightly more demanding pursuit than usual owing to metal hurdles having been placed across the track and groups of land rovers being dotted over the hillside. However, I have to say that the metal hurdles were politely removed, as I approached, by the farmer and we both waved and said, ‘Cheerio.’ (I had, by this time, removed my woolly hat.)

The next time I saw the house and garden owner, I was feeling that perhaps I should address the situation in some way.

I said, “Do you know in advance when ‘sporting pursuits’ are being carried out in the immediate vicinity of the house?” I fancy the lady looked a mite uncomfortable when I said this, for she hastily assured me that such events only occur once a year and, hopefully, next year, I will be somewhere else!

Yours, recently escaped from the jaws of controversy,

Aunt Evangeline

The graves registration unit . . . (episode 96)

Veteran soldier (war in Burma, 1943)

Veteran soldier (war in Burma, 1943)

1A The Hole
Hope End Street
CARPOOL C87 4AZ

July 24 2000

Hello Auntie

I have just been over – after quite some hiatus – to see Granddad and Grandma, who are resident on a housing estate on the outskirts of Carpool.

The hiatus occurred subsequent to a conversation that I had with Granddad on the subject of immigration. Granddad is dead set against it and wants to ‘send them all back.’ And I, as you know, have a rather all-embracing attitude towards the nation’s newcomers.

So I said to Granddad – some moons ago now – ‘Well Granddad. You are one quarter Belgian aren’t you? When are you going back?’

Granddad, of course, went rather puce about the chops and retorted, ‘I FOUGHT IN THE WAR.’

The story he then related was rather an interesting one. He had apparently served in the Royal Berkshire regiment and, at the age of 18, had been sent to Burma, where he formed part of the Graves Registration Unit. The job of the Graves Registration Unit was apparently to depart up river – the Irrawaddy and tributaries – with the purpose of enquiring about the location of any British dead languishing in the vicinity of hill villages. Once they had ascertained the location of dead bodies, their job was then to mark the position of those bodies – with white crosses – before returning down river to Rangoon. A separate unit then went to collect the bodies for burial in military cemeteries.

Granddad ably described the suffocating heat and humidity in the Burmese jungle and the soldiers’ endeavours to sleep on simple charpoys fitted with mosquito netting. He also rendered up a rather rapt description of the virtually-naked Burmese women bathing under water falls in the Chindwin hills. ‘Ah. Those were probably the days,’ he said.

I didn’t actually know he’d done all that Auntie. Maybe he thought I was too young to cope with the graphic description of the stench from the rotting corpses he also spoke about.

On this visit to Granddad (and Grandma) however, things were a lot more pacific. We studiously avoided all mention of immigration and Granddad treated me to a tour of his garden shed instead. This environment was a virtual Aladdin’s cave of lathes and woodworking tools, and I have enclosed a couple of snapshots of them:

GRANDDAD2016 051

Granddad is somebody – as you can tell – who has a real shed with a collection of tools going back for nearly a century. But although his lathe is still standing proudly, in one corner, I don’t think it works now. Granddad says that they don’t make the narrow drive belts any more and the ends of his, I notice, are connected together by pieces of wire.

WALLYANDDAD2016 052

Anyway. I’d actually rattled over there (on the bus) in the hopes of securing some funds for tailored clothing to wear about the hospital. (It had occurred to me that I might better secure the romantic attentions of Thule, if I was able to promenade up and down the corridors in natty bow ties and fine woolen suits.) Sadly, however, neither Granddad – nor Grandma who, sadly, is camera shy – mentioned funds, and I had to make do with a plate of fish and chips instead!

Your loving nephew

Ralph

P.S. How about you Auntie? I couldn’t touch you for a tenner could I?

We need to talk about Kevin . . . (episode 94)

rooster crowing (retro (circle) Image by 'vectorolie' www.freedigitalphotos.net

rooster crowing (retro circle)
Image by ‘vectorolie’
http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

3A Hyde Park Terrace
LONDON W2 5PH

July 6 2000

Hello Mum

I know I have been gone a bit quiet recently, I’m sorry. Sometimes it feels necessary to recoup one’s forces and try to regain a sense of Life’s direction. I seem to be meandering about somehow. Perhaps I have become one of the world’s many dilettantes? A woman of no particular skills . . .

The only recent event of slight note has been my acquaintance, Kimberley’s, request to look after her chickens while she went off on holiday. I met Kimberley while out walking Ferris in Hyde Park and she seemed like a splendidly capacious woman, adorned in any number of brightly-coloured scarves originating from countries all over the planet. I agreed, anyway, to the chicken care – despite knowing that I would have to trek over the park twice a day, owing to the squeeze of traffic pressing on her residence and the fact that her own garage would be locked. No parking of my own Triumph Spitfire Mk IV therefore!

It all seemed fairly straightforward (initially) Mum. Kimberley’s neighbour, Basil, would let the chickens out and all I had to do was feed/water both the chickens and the plethora of hanging baskets suspended above the decking out back. However, there was a slight mention of Kevin (the cockerel) before she departed. The slight mention alluded to the fact that Kevin could play up and that ‘playing up’ would take the form of flying at you – talons bared – and beak agape – in an attempt to drive you away. Barry, Kimberley’s husband, actually demonstrated the grabbing of Kevin – and the whirling about of him above his head – while clutching hold of his feet! And Kimberley informed me that, in the event of difficulty, a stick would be left inside the run for me to use. I certainly didn’t feel up to the whirling of Kevin above my head option . . .

I have to admit, Mum, that I arrived before dusk (at 2150) on the first night and, do you know, chickens do not want to go to bed until the last gasp of light. I stood there, and they stood there, and it was very clear who was in charge and it clearly was not me. Eventually, the lower status chickens cleared off up the ramp and I thankfully dropped a plank against the door of the coop. Kimberley had, of course, been most conscientious in her mention of The Fox. The fox, apparently, lingers – just out of sight – at dusk, waiting to tear apart any unwary chicken who has not gone to bed in time . . .

Guess where Kevin and the Big White Chicken were Mum? Still running around the run, or at least, they were running away from me. Also, Kevin seemed very intent on getting his ‘leg over’ so-to-speak and this caused somewhat of a pang in my own breast, for even a cockerel gets to have more carnal congress than a recently-divorced woman aged 41!

Eventually, however, they did retire to the larger shed at the end of the run and this set up a further set of questions in my mind. I had not been the person to let them out of the coop/s in the morning and so I didn’t have the faintest idea where Kevin and co. laid their beaks to rest at night. Were they usually in the shed? My unease increased when I realized that there appeared to be no means of locking the shed for the night. There wasn’t a bolt or padlock on the door! In the end Mum – and in somewhat of a panic – I wired the door shut and leaned a full watering can, a spade, and a plank against the door as further obstacles to the ingress of The Fox.

I didn’t sleep well at home that night! I had terrible visions of this magnificent cockerel – and the Big White Chicken – being torn to pieces in the jaws of the local chicken predator – and just finding feathers and the remnants of a few limbs and wings scattered around in the dust when I next appeared.

However, the good news Mum, is that I only have to keep them alive for another five days!

Best Love (as always)

Harriet

Gazing into the abyss . . . (episode 93)

iStock_000021621315Small

1A The Hole
Hope End Street
CARPOOL

July 2 2000

What ho! Auntie

You sounded decidedly more chipper on the telephone the other night. So your plaster cast is finally off! How are the ‘kicking sets’ going down at the Outer Hamlet swimming pool?!

I am writing to report on my latest attempt to engage the attentions of Thule. Despite a certain amount of loitering around the corridors of Carpool District Hospital, I never seemed to bump into her. And, then, just before last weekend I observed her in the act of appending her name to a list on the ‘Outdoor Activities’ notice board. I naturally waited until she was out of sight, before sleuthing up to see what activity she had signed up for . . . It was a trip (that very weekend) to Sunless Pot in the shire responsible for the Kendal Mint Cake. Auntie, I added my name, before galloping back to my bedsit to see whether my wet suit was in sufficiently good repair for me to pack in a bag. It was. Only one or two holes in the rubber!

The following morning, along with quite some motley crew of around ten people, I arrived in the canteen car park, prior to climbing into the mini van. Thule was there but, disappointingly, she seemed to be hanging about the person of a character called Dan: the potholing team leader. Dan, as I’m sure you can imaging, resembled – to my jaundiced eye – the sort of chest-beating gorilla that you tend to see on episodes of Tarzan. AH – AH – AH – AH – AH goes that yell, doesn’t it? She did manage a rather cursory hello to Yours Truly, but that was it. I slumped into a seat and proceeded be harassed, rather irritatingly, by the only other female on the trip. I don’t want to appear unduly prejudiced on the subject of appearances Auntie, but she did have buck teeth and, every so often, she gave out a sound of loud slurping. Uncontrolled salivation I think – not necessarily of the lubricious kind – but more related to some physiological anomaly or other. It was only by dint of changing seats after every motorway service station that I managed to shake her off.

It was certainly a long haul up the slopes of Sunless Fell to the pot, particularly as I was assigned to the carrying of about 200′ of electron ladder. This is the sort of ladder, Auntie, that is metal, flexible, and narrow to the point of only accommodating one foot on each of its rungs. At this point, I was rather wondering what I was getting myself into – particularly as, by then, heavy lead acid cell batteries had been allocated to each person, in addition to helmets clad in a sizable light. I think I had been envisaging a little saunter along minor horizontal tunnels!

Sweating, and doubtless puce about the chops, I finally toiled over the rim of the fell and the opening of Sunless Pot yawned before me: vast and black and apparently descending into a void without bottom. Frankly Auntie, I was all for throwing in the towel – especially when I saw the ladder, all 200′ of it – being rolled over the edge, but I couldn’t as Thule would definitely have noticed my ignominious scampering back to the bus. There was also a loud growling sound to be heard and this – peering slightly further down into the chasm – appeared to be coming from a waterfall in full fall. Black and white water was frothing from a ledge.

‘Surely we aren’t climbing through that?’ I chirruped from my vantage point.

‘It’s no problem mate,’ said Dan, flexing his biceps. ‘You can take a breath from under the rim of your helmet. I’ll just rope you on.’

God only knows Auntie, how I didn’t turn and run – craven – back down the slope, but all I can say is, that terror had me rooted to the veritable spot.

I submitted to being roped on and gaped down at the ladder.

‘It’s easy mate,’ said the irrepressible Dan. ‘Just keep your body straight and close to the ladder. It might flex a bit above and below you.’ And then he gave me a bit of a thumbs up and a bit more of a push.

Well Auntie. What can I say? Down I went, foot after foot, breathing from the small interstice of air beneath my helmet rim, as the water roared down upon me. The beastly ladder certainly does flex about and it took all the strength I had to cling on as I descended through the zawn.

And if you are asking me if Thule was worth it, then I can only say ‘Yes,’ in a way, because she patted me on the back later on – in the ‘duck’ section – and before the ‘sump’ section – and actually said that she’d seen me about the wards from time to time.

I will tell you about the ‘duck’ section and the ‘sump’ section in future reminiscences!

Toodle pip

Your loving nephew

Ralph

The other sort of swimmer . . . (episode 92)

mole

10 Forsythia Grove
Outer Hamlet
CORSETTSHIRE ZY6 4GT

June 25 2000

My Dear Ralph

I seem to be spending slightly more time repining at home than is my wont, and so it is far too tempting to dip my fountain pen into its green inkwell and pen epistles to yourself and Harriet. Do you like my note paper? It is of a weight and colour (deep lilac) designed to complement – and dignify – the ink. I have, further, invested it with a scent, the scent of lavender from my spray bottle, for I am an old-fashioned lady at heart. It is an opportunity, I feel dear, to also send some notion of my character and style.

And perhaps I have needed the uplift of the above, given the style of the correspondence received from the Bright Litton NHS hospital fracture clinic. I have been copied in to a letter that the medical personage at the clinic has sent to my GP. And quite apart from the factual inaccuracies scattered therein, there is one particularly offending sentence, which reads as follows: ‘Mrs Tankful is a self-employed gardener, who has “managed” to injure her wrist falling off a 2′ high stool.’ Beep beep dear. For a start, the medical personage is conflating two separate – and unrelated – facts. I may well be a self-employed gardener, but I sustained my injury indoors and not ‘out in the field’ so-to-speak. And, secondly, having done considerable damage to both my ribs and my shoulder – in addition to fracturing a wrist – it should be obvious to any thinking person that I did not just topple sideways into a flower bed while sitting on a stool (and wielding, for instance, garden shears). You would think – and you would hope – that this type of male would have become virtually extinct by the year 2000! The only plus point, as far as a communication of this quality goes, is that any, even slightly, decent recipient of it, would raise their eyebrows to the heavens (and give thanks that they had not been sent to see such a male themselves).

I was further dispirited by the telephone message I received from my GP surgery (that very same day) which went along the following lines: ‘Hello Mrs Tankful. This is the Empathy surgery here. We are just phoning to notify you that a letter inviting you to attend the Osteoporosis clinic will be arriving shortly.’ OSTEOPOROSIS CLINIC Ralph?! I have evidently had a slight fall indeed! At the age of only 64, I have entered the arena of OLD AGE!

The coup de gras (have I spelled that right pet?) was administered in an article written by a swimming coach that I came across in the Outer Hamlet public library. This rather excoriating piece stated that there were two types of swimmer who break their wrists. The first type, apparently, once clad in a plaster cast, never goes swimming again (perhaps this is because they are unaware that a waterproof cast is, theoretically, an option). But the other type of swimmer is undeterred! The other type of swimmer attends the pool and does ‘kicking sets’ – both above, and under, the surface of the water. So, guess what dear? I will be attending the pool, once I manage to get shot of the water-soluble plaster cast I am currently interred within. And I shall be attempting both ‘kicking sets’ and side-stroke.

Hrrrmmmph!

Your loving Aunt

Evangeline Tankful (DBE)