Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Mother and the Tradesmen

*names have been changed

Dear lord and lady where do I start with this?  I'm not sure this post is going to be #relatable unless you live in Catalunya and are an expert in dealing with the tradesmen here.

Electrical sockets. A simple thing. However, the architects and electricians here do not go through any form of training. They just give it a whirl and hope for the best, which is evidently what happened when they built our apartment. Unfortunately, this means that our sockets and lights and various other electrical fittings frequently malfunction.  For the latest disaster, we made the mistake of enlisting  'outside help'.

Five weeks ago, a little man arrived (with zero tools) to fix our sockets that didn't have any current and Mother's broken bathroom mirror light. Mother and I both glanced at each other when *George waddled into our house to "take a look". He "took a look" and then returned to his van to bring his tool box up. It was more of a small first aid box but there we go.

"You see? The lamp is broken, no light, look!" Mother indicates to George to look at the broken light. He had already established the situation but I translated anyway.

"Si. Ok."

I tell Mother that George is going to change the bulb.

"He'll break it. I bet. Look! There's no wa..."

Ah. George has smashed the bulb connections.
George sighs and blasphemes in Catalan.

I do not translate.

"WHOOOPS A DAISY, GEORGE! I TOLD YOU! We need a whole new fitting!" Mother's input was, of course, valued in this sensitive situation.

George tells me he must now remove the entire mirror. He begins to lift the mirror (by himself)...

He bonks a corner of the mirror on the marble wall tiles and it shatters.

This is going really well. I'm trying to stifle my giggles whilst Mother is screaming internally.

"Oh!" Mother exclaims.

George is absolutely mortified. I can't bear to look. I'd quite like to leave, to be honest.

"Well, what now? You can't leave that here like that, it's DANGEROUS!" Mother, offering her help.

George apologises and explains he will have to go and buy a new lamp and mirror and bring it back in a few days.

A tremendous huff comes from beside me;

I try to make the situation a little less uncomfortable by not translating Mother's demands.

Anyway. Fast forward 5 weeks. Yes, that's right. 5 weeks. The current day. I have aged. During the last 5 weeks there has been a ridiculous amount of communication between Mother and George's employers regarding how slow and useless tradesmen are. I might also add here that dear old George arranged 3 visits within these 5 weeks that he simply did not turn up to.

I receive a phone call this afternoon from George, telling me he is half an hour away.
I see. Appointments are not in their brain capacity, it would seem. I gently tell Mother;

"PARDON?! WHAT? What on earth is this chaotic mess?! How do these morons operate? They cannot work like normal people, can they! As if they just assume we will be at home! We have stayed home the previous 3 times and he didn't even arrive! LIBERTY! "

We stayed home to encounter George again.

He arrived with an accomplice. Just as useless, I'm afraid. They also arrived empty handed.

It seemed to click when Mother stared at George, as he swiftly (nervously) jumped back downstairs to collect the lamp. His accomplice was left alone with Mother projecting God knows what at him (he does not speak English, either).

George trots back with a lamp under his arm.
Before they connect it they spend 15 minutes figuring out how to do it. That training day they didn't attend really would have come in useful here. Mother suddenly says;

"What colour is it? It better not be some ghastly LED light! Oh GOD what if it's not the same as the last one! I want a warm light not a horrendous blue light!"

I gently ask what colour it is and close my eyes as George informs me it is, indeed, a cool blue LED light.

I translate this back to Mother.


Mother pulls her entire body a foot back and rearranges her facial features as if she has just witnessed 12 humans vomit all over her Chanel suit.


I didn't feel the need to translate.

"You don't want?" Poor George is very confused, after being pestered for 5 weeks to bring the damn lamp.


I grow concerned as Mother looks as  though she might have a mental breakdown any second.

Faces are just glancing at one another, trying to figure out what's going on as Mother rapidly shakes her head and slaps her hands on her face.

"urmmmmm....." I do not know what to say.

"THIS IS NO GOOD!    Oh for God's sake, I can't believe this! What do you mean, it's not the same as the last one!? I want the same as BEFORE! Oh my GOD  I just...... I can't have BLUE! It's awful! It's cheap! Look at how cheap this is! I can't bear it, oh God no make it stop turn it OFF TURN IT OFF!!"

George is looking at Mother as though he has murdered her husband.

I shake my head apologetically and they start disassembling the lamp...

Mother then demands the men to find the lamp she wanted, the warm light. However, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum inform me that they can 'try' but it could take weeks.

Ah, what a surprise.

Mother gives in;

"Oh for God's sake, just leave it there then. I'll just have to not use it won't I! NEVER turn it on because I'll be blinded by that horrific white glow! YUCK! If they take it away I won't have a lamp for the next 12 years!"

Ever the exaggerator.

"Where is the new mirror?"  Mother asks, as she sees the men trying to fit it to the broken mirror.

Ah. Apparently they do not have one. There appears to be two mirrors stuck to each other and only the top mirror is broken, so they want to pull them apart and leave us with the mirror intact.

Mother is not wrong. I do not know anything about DIY but it doesn't seem feasible to pull apart two mirrors that have been suspiciously glued together without resulting in a giant shattered mess that will take them five more weeks to clear up.

Conversations ensue as  Mother's level of annoyance increases and the level of awkwardness in the room rises rapidly. The men are trying to convince us that it won't break. They will "try" and if it does, they will bring a new one. When that would be is under much questioning.

"Oh God. Darling, tell them! Tell them it will break! Tell these men.... ask the men what the voltage of the lamp is! Tell them I AM TRAINED in these things, I KNOW! Move them out of the way. Don't let them touch that broken mirror! It WILL break and I will be without a mirror and a light and oh GOD this is ..... just TELL THEM, darling, tell them what I'm saying!"

This is very difficult to translate because, at the exact same time,  intellectual George decides to give his lengthy speech in Spanish to me.

"So, yes or no to mirror?"

"what? WHATTT? I want a NEW MIRROR! Oh for God's sake! Just leave it. Just leave it. Gracias. I suppose"

The men then proceed to wrap hideous black duct tape across all the shattered and broken parts of the mirror. This is gorgeous, really sets off the pearl marble wall. Lovely.

Mother glares at their work in disgust and then rolls her eyes. She has given up trying to teach these men how to work.

I take the initiative to refuse further translation in the hopes that it will get these morons out of our house a lot faster. Mother continues to screech translation instructions to me as I nod and say some sort of Spanish rubbish to the men to satisfy her.

Eventually they leave with their first aid box. Oh, and the cat. Thank you very much Dumb and Dumber, you've left the front door wide open and taken our cat with you.

So, here we are. The lamp replacement is about as good as no lamp at all, since Mother refuses to switch it on. The mirror is worse than before they came in the first place. This is the archetypical story of inviting tradesmen into your home; they come to fix one thing and break another. However, in Catalunya, they don't fix the first thing and end up breaking two things.

We'll do it ourselves next time. DIY QUEENS DO NOT NEED A MAN!
Thank you, next.


Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Holiday Throwback

Hello dear readers. I am fully aware of the thousands of blog posts in my mind that are not getting the exposure they deserve, however I do intend to rectify that. I shall not digress into guilt here, however. This post is about our accidental holiday exactly ten years ago.

In the autumn of 2008, Mother and I were becoming desperate for some sun after spending three months trying to embrace the 'British Summer'. Alas, as many of you might be aware, The Summer of '08 in the UK did not live up to our expectations. So, upon the arrival of my October half term, Mother decided to whisk us both off to an exotic destination. Since the internet was invented, going on holiday has become increasingly difficult, in my opinion, due to the never-ending options, discounts and false advertisements seeping out of your PC screen.

"Booked!" Mother exclaimed as I came home from school one day.

"What? What is booked?"

"Our holiday, darling!"

"Oh good! Where are we going?"

"A beautiful island off  the coast of Spain! One of the Balearic Islands, sweetie!"

Obviously I didn't know what a Balearic Island was but the word "island" was enough to get me packing. In the midst of my teenage years, I decided that 12 pairs of shorts and 97 bikinis would be sufficient for a 5 day break. Wonder where I get it from.

Arriving at the check-in, I realise we are flying to Mallorca. Now, ordinarily, this is a great choice for some European sun in October. However, I simply never imagined Mother stepping foot in Mallorca, simply because every time she mentions it, she pronounces it; "Muh-YAAAAAAAW-KAAA" (with a delightfully strong South-East London accent) and grimaces. Oh well, perhaps this is a different 'Mallorca'. Maybe it's Majorca? Is that a different place? My 16 year old self was fairly weak on European geography.

A number of hours later, we are being shuffled off the plane, out into the sunny airport car park of Mallorca and shoved into a people carrier with about 10 other people. Well, this is fun, I thought. It's like 'Coach Trip'. Mother tried to smile (grimace) towards the other passengers (oddly enough, most of them were from ...... 'The North'.  A source of distress for Mother).

Anyway, this trip from airport to hotel takes rather a long time. I am desperate to get to the beach (hello yes that's me, the typical Brit sun-seeker).  Mother is desperate to get off the minibus. Unfortunately, we are the final drop off (evidently the bus was an airport transfer for a variety of people all going to different areas of the island).  So, after a lengthy tour of Mallorca's motorways, the driver says to us (in perfect English. In fact, he was English. Possibly  a 'Gary') ; "alright ladies, 'ere we are. Magaluf. 'Av a nice 'oliday!"


Mother has booked a holiday in... Magaluf.

We are in Magaluf?!    MAGALUF?!   Magaluf, as in 'Shag-a-luf'?

WOW. Fantastic. Great. This is just.... Yes, excellent.

For those who are unaware, Magaluf is not a holiday destination. It is hell.

A simple Google Image search will not show ANY photographs of an idyllic island, let me assure you. This is what you will find on the first results page;


I nearly vomited whilst scrolling through.

A Booze Cruise doesn't appeal to me, I'm afraid.

Mother remained silent for approximately 45 minutes. This is unheard of. A moment of silence from Mother is absolutely terrifying and is a sure indication that something rather shocking is about to occur. However, when Mother eventually uttered a word, she simply said;  

"Magaluf? I don't think I booked... Magaluf?"

So. We are on an accidental holiday.

However, to my great surprise, Mother then said;

"Oh well. We're here now and it's sunny. Get your swimsuit on, darling. We'll go to the beach!"

A remarkably positive outlook on such a horrific situation.

And so it goes that we spent the remainder of that day avoiding the club street and enjoying the white sandy beaches.

For those of you needing a good cry, now would be the time. The following day a ridiculously large storm arrived in Shagaluf, barricading Mother and I  (and all the other hotel residents) inside the hotel. You may think that the worst part of it all would be the extremely untimely weather that lasted the remainder of the holiday. It was not. It was, in fact, the simple idea of spending an entire twelve hours inside a hotel with the Tylers and the Damiens and the Kierans and the Chontelles and the Kayleighs . Sorry, Katie Hopkins got inside my head there.

With absolutely nothing to do (unless we were willing to watch Casino Royale on a loop in the breakfast room),  Mother became creative. Dear old Travel-Ted was gifted with a tailor-made napkin suit;

How resourceful she is.

The glowing beacon of hope on this trip was the Indian Restaurant along the beach. To our surprise, it was better than decent. Practically empty as they didn't serve greasy drunk food at 4am. Mother made very good friends with Dave, the Indian waiter and owner. Sort of a one-man-band situation here, I think. I, myself, am still stunned as to why 'Dave' decided that Magaluf was a good place to reside and start his business.

Mother, not one to be defeated by the world's most dreadful town, made conversation with Dave every single night (yes, we ate there every single night). A small feast of mildly-interrogative questions hop back into my memory here;

"Are you married? Where is your family? Do they live here? Why are you here?"

Ok, so simple, small-talk questions. Unfortunately, however, it escalated by the third evening so much that I actually ended up third-wheeling their dinner date. (To clarify; it was definitely not a romantic date. I would not have allowed such a disaster).

The moral of the story, here, is ... NEVER go to Magaluf. Not even accidentally.

However, if you do  find yourself there and cannot escape (crying at the thought) , make the most of it and hang out with Dave and his curries.

I hope you enjoyed this little memory (traumatic flashback for me, personally) and raise your glass to more on-brand, exotic holidays in future.


Monday, 5 March 2018

In which Mother tries to reprimand

Good evening all! It is very late on a Saturday evening, so we know what that means, right? YES, indeed, it is one of the seven nights of the week that Mother has several glasses of wine and behaves inappropriately!  The only reason I enjoy these tests of my patience is my ability to write a blog about it.

Mother and I are on a 4-day business trip (sidenote: I do not work with Mother on a regular basis) in a 'lovely' *cough* little town beside Valencia city. The purpose of this trip is strictly business, therefore leaving very little time to explore, which meant that I was not at all disappointed to find the hotel and venue in an extremely odd, remote area. However, my life does revolve around food (obviously) and so, upon dinner time, I am curious as to what I might be able to consume in this little village-thing. A-ha! A supermarket, thank you very much! A good little take-away salad will suffice. Oooh, look! They have pots of pureed fruit for adults! Right up my street! ... Ah, no... wait. Of course. The baby food does not quite reach the high standards that Mother holds. Instead, we venture into the 'town' to find something better.

"Perhaps they have a simple French bistro, darling!"

Yes, I'm sure someone has popped up an exquisitely posh, French culinary delight opposite the auto repair garage. Oh, I think I just saw Marion Cotillard glide out of there.

I must preface this by informing you all that Mother is in need of some hot food  due to her unbelievable misfortune the other night. I brought home some rosemary potatoes and tartar sauce from our friends' Italian restaurant to go with our fish and halloumi. Mother prepared the dinner by burning the halloumi (in the oven..!?) and filling our entire home with cheese-scented smoke. I then seated myself down for dinner to see steam coming off the tartar sauce. I enquired.

"Why is the tartar sauce steaming, Mother?"

"Pardon? No, darling, that's not tartar sauce."

"Yes. Yes it is. Why is it.... hot?"

"It was hot when I took it out of the bag, sweetie!"

"No, Mother. It was next to the carton of hot potatoes. Perhaps the potatoes warmed the portion of sauce a little bit... but why is the sauce now steaming?"

"..... I put it in the oven. It's supposed to be baked, isn't it?"

"Are you joking? You put tartar sauce.... in the oven???"

"Well, yes! I thought I had to heat it up!"

So there we have it. Mother burnt the halloumi to a crisp and we dined in a smoke filled room trying to eat lumpy, baked tartar sauce. You can see, now, why Mother might have felt inclined to find food cooked by anyone else.

Back to the restaurant-hunt in the desert. So, there is only one restaurant here. It is Chinese. I was sceptical, what's new. Mother was optimistic.

"It must be lovely, darling! - Look, there are real Chinese people coming out of it. They must be real Chinese chefs, it'll be great!"

To be honest, she was right. It was the BEST Chinese food I have ever eaten and it was unbelievably cheap. A miracle.

We dined here yesterday for lunch and returned back to the hotel (rolling) very happily. Today, we decide to return for dinner, rather than stuff our faces with more boxed salads. Half way through our Korean chicken (ten out of ten, would recommend), a family of 300 come in. I exaggerate. 4 adults, 6 children. One child is one child too many, in my opinion, however I mildly understand the necessity of reproduction and I manage to hold back any resentment. Mother, on the other hand, does not. As the family enter the restaurant, the excessive amount of children pour themselves into the fish pond and loudly exclaim, continuously, with excitement. I presume they have never seen a fish before. I inhale and exhale, like YouTube meditation videos teach you to do whenever feeling a little overwhelmed. Meanwhile, Mother instantly marches (loudly) over to the table of parents who have seated themselves as far away from their own offspring as the restaurant's seating arrangements could possible allow.

"NIÑOS! YOUR NIÑOS, SÍ??!!" *translation; "Children!  Your children, yes??!!"

All four parents spin around and meet Mother's extraordinarily angry face. I see them physically tremble as they slowly nod...

"LOUD! TOO  LOUD!" Mother covers her ears frantically over and over again like a monkey.

Immediately, without hesitation, all four parents (the two men look at their partners to see what to do) get up and literally run over to their children, shouting "STOP, STOP, STOPPPPP!" despairingly at them. The children obey straight away and are formally escorted away from the fascinating fish and back to their seats, nodding apologetically towards Mother on their way. Mother nods, smugly, back. An understanding has been established.
During this, my reflex was to pretend I had nothing to do with Mother. I did not know this crazy British woman. I am dining alone. I take my phone from my bag and lean over it as if I have something very important to write. In fact, I open my notes and type; "chinese. children. cringe. help. blog." in hopes that this will have a dual purpose of disguising my knowledge of what's going on with Mother and also remind me to write a blog about it.

The remainder of our dinner went smoothly, of course. HAHAHA  OF COURSE IT DIDN'T. Nope, one display was not enough this evening, we had to have two. Another family arrived shortly after; mother, father, son, daughter. They seemed civilised and quiet (in comparison). However, when Mother is on a role, she really doesn't like to be stopped. So, when the little boy/girl (all children sound the same to me) raised his/her voice a tiny decibel above Mother's accepted noise level, she shot up, out of her chair like an overdue firework. Immediately, without Mother actually opening her mouth, the father spun around and said;

"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, haha!"  and delivered a huge, friendly smile whilst Mother continued to bare her gritted teeth and snarl. Much like a dog.

Mother finds it difficult to accept the kind-hearted nature of the Spanish, due to spending many years in England, gearing up for some kind of verbal altercation at any opportune moment. So, Mother un-snarled slowly (an amusing visual) and nodded in acceptance. No words exited her mouth.

"It is Spain, this is what it is like, hahaha!" The wonderfully happy father proceeded to say. Poor soul, he thought he was going to get a laugh back. He did not. Mother simply said "mmhmm..." and smiled ( a bit). I however, interjected and took on the situation by sharing an embarrassingly large grin and laugh back at him, to show him that I understood, do not worry, please don't feel bad, I, in fact, am mortified.

" Well, if that is what Spain is like, bringing their children up to behave like chimpanzees in restaurants, they are DOING IT WRONG!" Mother informed me as she turned back to our table.

Mortified that the family might have heard (very strong understanding of English), I whipped out my phone again, on autopilot,  ready to disassociate myself from Mother, forgetting that she was sitting at my table.
Once again, I must stress to you, dear reader, that Mother is not Cruella de Vil (all the time) and is usually ridiculously nice to everyone she meets. As long as they are male. And athletic. With brown eyes. And shirtless.

Until next time, chums! xoxo

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

A Life or Death Situation...

A few weeks ago, Mother went on a girls' night out. Inevitably, she found herself obtaining another BFF and this has led to many more girls' nights out. A dinner is planned for her and the girls this Friday in a restaurant. To Mother's dismay, it is Spanish. Actually, it is Catalan ... but we won't get into that debate on this blog, no thank you. So, as we all know, Mother is not a fan of Spanish food and makes it known to everyone she comes across (including strangers). So, she had to investigate specific details of this restaurant beforehand. Unfortunately, she insisted I join her on this walking-tour-of-town after my shift at work. 

"Oh, rats! I forgot to look up the address, can you do it when you get to work, darling? I'm busy."

Yes. I shall do that at work because it's not like I have anything else to do. Like... work, or anything...

So, I found the address of the restaurant and after work I met mother (a very irritable Mother because she had been in a 'high street' store where there were children present) and we walked a good twenty minutes to the other side of town. At every step of the way, Mother said; "Ah yes, I recognise this, I think the restaurant is around the corner, it's got an arched wooden door"

N.B. The houses, buildings, museums, restaurants etc in this area of Spain, as I am sure you can imagine, all have arched, wooden doors.

So, we made our turns around these corners. Until we were back to where we started.  I checked Google Maps again and showed her that we were standing at the exact location of the restaurant and then I pointed up to a sign that displayed the name of the restaurant.

"Oh, um.. well that's not it!"

Excellent. "What do you mean, Mother? It clearly is... this is the name of the restaurant you told me. Here it is. It even has wooden doors, see?"

"No, no, no! I'm telling you, this isn't the one! It's got a blue sign! It's not this one. Come on, darling."

So, off we trot in search of a restaurant that Mother cannot remember the name of. Or the location.

A further twenty minutes later, we step into the path of two policemen.

"Ah, wonderful, they'll know, come on!" Mother says as she drifts towards the tall, dark and handsome policeman. The older, shorter man was completely invisible it would seem.

I tried to quietly stop her, as I'm sure these policemen are not here to tour-guide Mother.

"Hello! Hola! Do you speak English?" Mother smiles up at Hunky Policeman.

"Si! Yes I do, can I help?" Bless him, he's very sweet.

"Ah yes, thank you. Well  -  I'm looking for a restaurant! It's near here"

"Ok, no problem! What is the name of the restaurant?"

"Ah. Yes. This is the problem. I don't actually know...." Mother displays an intense 'sorry' expression on her face.

"....right. Um.. okay... what kind of cuisine?"

"Spanish. Well, I think. I don't actually like Spanish food but, you see, I'm going for dinner this Friday in this restaurant that is apparently Spanish but I don't like Spanish food - sorry - so I have to go and look and see, do you see?"

"...Si. Ok. So....  a Spanish restaurant, you are looking for, yes?"

"....yes. OH, it has paintings on the ceiling!"

"Hmmm...." Hunky Policeman turns to his colleague and presents the dilemma to him. He is of little help, considering the minimal detail he has to work with.

The colleague turns and  continues his job; redirecting the traffic with his whistle. Mother jumps dramatically each time the whistle is blown. Hunky Policeman finds this most amusing.

"Why is he blowing his whistle?" Mother demonstrates whistle-blowing.

"Haha, well - it is the job of the policeman, we must stop cars from coming here on this street"

"oh, why?" Mother enquires.

"Well, there is lots of ambulance and fire fighters there because a lady she jump from the balcony at the house there on the street"

Right. So Mother is interrupting this very serious suicidal rescue mission in order to locate a restaurant four days in advance.

"Oh, really!? Gosh, that's terrible! Do you have data on your phone? We can look at all the restaurants here on Google and maybe I will recognise the name?"

"Yes of course, I will look, it's no problem" This man is very, very accommodating.

Ten minutes later, after letting Hunky Policeman scroll through pages of Google, Mother calls her BFF and asks her the name of the restaurant.

What an idea.

"Ah, yes - that's it!" Mother says as she is informed of the restaurant's name.

Hunky Policeman looks excitedly at Mother as she comes off the phone.

Mother sheepishly gives him the name of the restaurant; "yes, it's the one you said ten minutes ago. Sorry...."

"No, it's no problem! So, this restaurant is down this street here and you walk to the plaza and then you turn to left and you see the Calle [street] and maybe you ask with people for the restaurant close to there? It is that way, see?"

"WONDERFUL! You have been most helpful! I am sure you have better things to be doing but I am so grateful! Really - and if I see you again I will tell you if I found it! Thank you, muchas gracias, darling!"

Mother then proceeds to jut her arm out and grab his unaware hand in a firm handshake.

"oh, aha, yes you are welcome!" He is taken aback but smiling, nonetheless.

Mother sends a loud parting wave to his colleague and shouts "GRACIAS!!!!" at him. He gives her a little wave back.

I manage to subtly take Mother's arm and lead her away from Hunky Policeman before she takes up any more of his time asking his name (I could see it coming. It would become a short but intense 'how-to-pronounce-it' lesson of which I wanted to avoid).

Eventually, a lifetime later (I am sure I developed an extra wrinkle somewhere), we found the restaurant. For your information, it was two minutes from where I work and did not have a blue sign anywhere near it.

It was also very closed.

Ultimately, a fairly useless two hours that  I could have spent at home with my Christmas pyjamas on.

I am quite sure that Mother will approach every police officer in town over the coming weeks to inform them that she 'found the restaurant but it was closed'.

I shall be holding down the fort in my festive PJ's on Friday, whilst Mother is gallivanting around town. Another example of roles reversing.


Monday, 28 August 2017


A slight kerfuffle arose recently regarding a new key for a (perfectly fine) door. Long story short; our lovely, safety-conscious neighbour decided it was necessary to change the locks on a shared external door (in light of the recent Barcelona attacks...) which, in turn, meant that Mother had to go to a very specific key-cutting store to make a copy of the new key. Unfortunately, a regular key-cutting store wouldn't... cut it... (HAHAHA excuse the pun!) I say "Mother had to go" but - of course - that means me as well.

Arriving at the store (finally, after negotiating their bizarre, Spanish opening times), I spot two women operating the machines and zero men. I suggest immediately leaving so as not to waste time. Mother wishes to combat my sexist opinions (a basic concept that Spanish women are capable of giving birth to a lot of children and not much else) by confidently marching in and reeling off a script of information (in English, of course) regarding the key situation to one of the two women. The woman stares at Mother. I intervene; condensing Mother's narrative into a "please can you make a copy of this key? Thanks".

Ah, it is not a normal key. It is a "special" key. A security key. With codes. The woman asks some questions and trots off, a little scatterbrained, trying to locate a scrap of tiny paper with a 5-digit code scribbled on. A-ha, the EVER-SO-IMPORTANT-SECURITY-CODE needed to make the copy. Glad she was able to dig that out from underneath her ham baguette. She then informs us that, as it is a complicated key, could we come back another day?

"Pardon?" Mother is shocked.

The woman explains that, as they are currently making a set of copies for a community, they cannot stop the machine (the ONE machine they have in this key-copying-shop) so we will have to return  another day. The fact that we are even in here, getting a copy of a new key that wasn't necessary in the first place, is rather irritating. To have to return another day was, apparently, not an option for Mother.

"No. You'll have to stop that machine. I can't come back. Do it now. I've got a plane to catch and I need this key, it's to my HOUSE!" (n.b. ~ flight was non-existent...)

The flustered woman pressed a button and the machine stopped. Evidently not too much of a problem.

This is precisely when my thought process went from "we'll be out of here in 5 minutes, brilliant"  to; "I am going to be forced to spend the rest of my living life in this store."

The following 25 minutes consisted of Woman 1 aggressively pressing multiple buttons on a high-tech touch screen programming system, whilst Woman 2 observed closely, occasionally joining in on the screen-prodding. Multiple times, Woman 1 waddled off in frustration, heading to the back of the shop to have a munch of ham baguette, then returning to the situation. Clearly, her boss did not train her. Or Woman 2, for that matter, as she appeared to be more of a hindrance than a help. During these endless minutes, Mother continued to tell me, in great detail, the solution for the 'broken programming computer'; "unplug it".

A simple solution.

"Tell her, darling!" Mother demanded of me, "Tell the lady she needs to unplug it, leave it for three minutes and then plug it back it again. Tell her it has a memory,  go on!"
 Mother points at the woman, as if I were unsure who to give this message to.

I do pass this message on, however Woman 1 does not accept these wise words. Instead, she insists on prodding away at the exact same buttons that she's been bashing for the last 20 minutes.

During these torturous moments, a mother with three delightful, screaming toddlers descend into the store. Hooray. I love children, especially when they're screaming their heads off. Just as I turn to Mother in order to suggest a swift exit, I see Mother; bending over the pushchair, head INSIDE the pushchair, making bizarre noises. The mother of these toddlers is staring at her, in shock. However, the sounds of screaming and whining seem to have ceased. The Baby Whisperer has succeeded.

Turning our attention back to Woman 1 (Woman 2 does not return in this story. She gave up long ago. Very little interest in the job and very high interest in her chocolate donut) ~ we see this persistent woman on the phone to, presumably her boss. I tell Mother this.

"Oh, great, do you think he's a man..... excccuuuuuuuuuuuuse me!" Mother hollers at Woman 1, whilst she is on the phone. She doesn't turn around.

"Excuuuuuuse me!!" Mother turns to me and says; "Darling, ask her if her boss is a man, quickly! He will know what to do if it's a man."

"No.  Just, no. Let her do her job. Or at least try."

Five seconds later, Woman 1 is actually shouting at her (presumably) boss down the phone, whilst we can hear another voice doing similarly on the other end of the line. This terrifying exchange of harsh words (I have learnt my fair share of Spanish swear words.... they were all used in this conversation) escalated into a tearful smash-down of the phone by Woman 1. Woman 2 makes a slight appearance to see what all the fuss was about and then retreats to a second donut.

At this point, the woman turns to me and rapidly spills out something that translated to "well the machine isn't working so can I come and do the copy at your house?"

I tell Mother this and Mother recoils in shock; 
"Pardon?! Why on earth... What?! I don't see how that would be any better, considering they need codes! How odd but certainly not! I do not accept visitors at home without 48 hour prior notice! She'll have to do it here! Tell her, sweetie, tell her that NO she may not come home with us!"

I mildly translate a decline back to Woman 1.
Woman 1 begins to cry a little. This is HORRENDOUS. I have never seen such a mess of a situation. This is not rocket science but this poor woman has no idea what to do.
Unfortunately, I then share these specific thoughts with Mother, which encourages an idea...

"OH MY GOD, darling, brilliant! Here, tell her I work for NASA."

"Sorry, what?" I am confused, of course.

"Yes, tell this woman I work for NASA and I deal with computers all day long."

"Wait, why am I lying about your career path to this stranger?"

"Just tell her I work for NASA, darling! Then she will listen to me. Look, just get her attention and then you can translate each thing I tell you to at the time, okay?"

I didn't have a choice as Mother leans over the counter and taps the woman on the shoulder. Her shaking body swings around. I translate Mother's message:

"I work for NASA. I deal with computers like these all the time, it is my job. I can see the problem. If you unplug the cable there, see? Leave it 'off' for three minutes and this way the computer will forget everything that was entered before. You can start fresh, see! Go on, try it!"

NASA-Engineer-Mother looks smugly as Woman 2 waddles over to see what's going on. They do exactly as Mother says. Of course they do; this is an official NASA Engineer, we're talking about here!

Now - as bizarre as this may sound - the whole "turn it off and on again" solution actually worked! Who would've thought it?! Only a NASA engineer could have fixed this complex issue.

The two women were as perplexed as they were grateful. I, too, was grateful (mainly to leave but thank God Woman 1 didn't have a full mental breakdown). Mother's grin was as wide as ever as she embraced the women (I'm not joking; she actually dished out hugs...) and there were a lot of translated "thank-you-so-much's".

Finally, we made it home. A billion years later, mind you. I think I missed seven birthdays during this experience. Oh, by the way......
The key doesn't work. 


Friday, 21 July 2017

Looking for a lost African lady

For those of you who haven't read the previous Italy post... I strongly advise you do! It's alright, this one will still be here afterwards.

For those of you who did read the previous post; welcome back! I'm sure you're all wondering what happened to Mother's sausage-feet after disembarking from the plane. Well, I imagine by now that you all regard me as the caretaker of Mother - an accurate assumption indeed. Upon arriving at the baggage claim, I suggest that Mother opens her suitcase and changes out of Ke$ha's shoes and into some appropriate, tourist shoes. Anything would be better, really.

"Okay darling. I don't remember what I packed though...." Mother looks a little sheepish.

"Right. Well, let's have a look" - I say, as Mother releases the tight string encasing the swollen cankles - "Flip flops might be a wise choice. Give your feet a bit of freedom. Where are they?" 

I am raiding her suitcase (sweeping aside the multiple kaftans and Hawaiian-print sarongs).

Right.  I have practically emptied her suitcase on the floor now. Only two shoes are among the pile of colourful clothing.

"What are these, Mother?" I say, holding up a seemingly brand new pair of Barbie-pink, suede heels with about 80 large pearls encrusted all over the top. Fantastic.

Mother pulls out her justifications; "Well, what on earth did you think I was going to walk around in? I mean, we are in two of the most romantic cities, darling! I highly doubt a handsome sailor will approach me if I'm in sloppy flip-flops, will he?!"

We will have to go shopping.

Upon arrival at our hotel in Venice, Mother begins her ritual. She is completely incapable of giving up DIY and therefore the hotel room suffers a bit of 'feng shui'. The window has been tied up, strategically, with a plastic bag - so as to allow the correct amount of fresh air and city noise in. Mother has also installed a fire alarm within approximately 4 minutes of arriving.  Interestingly, Mother also 'fixed' the kettle (by wedging a piece of paper in the lid to keep it down), however Mother had less than zero interest in tea or coffee...

"Wine, darling!! Let's go and find somewhere to have some wine!"

"Um - what about.... food?" I am concerned that the concept of 'dinner' has flown out of the (strategically-sized-gap) window.

After a good TripAdvisor hunt for a great pasta place, Mother and I topple into a typical Italian bistro and are shown  to our seat. Only to be re-seated to a 'better' table upon Mother's firm request, of course. Wine is instantly ordered and arrives within seconds, to Mother's delight! Down it goes! ..... Oh. Oh, dear. No it doesn't, actually. In fact, it nearly comes back up in a very dramatic fashion.

"OH!!!! Oh, no! No no no no no no no ..... darling, it's .... it's cold!" Mother looks at her glass of wine as if it were poison. In fact, she can barely hold it. She puts it down and clasps her hands together to reheat them.

"Is it? It looks pretty normal to me..."

Mother ignores me and calls over the (lovely) waiter, who immediately asks what's wrong.

"In England, darling, we don't drink cold wine. Sweetie. Darling." Mother tries to be some form of 'nice' but it proves difficult. You know, due to the shock of the 'cold wine'.

"Oh really? Ah - ha! Here we have it in Italy this temperature when it is the summer"

"Mmmm." Mother, again, nods sympathetically. "Yes. Well, I'm English actually..."


Mother continues; "Is it possible, sweetie, to find a warm wine? Or... warmer? Please, darling? What's your name?"

Oh here we go. Mother establishes a very intense relationship with every waiter in every restaurant/cafe/take away etc. This is no exception. In fact, as we are in Italy, the effort Mother puts into relationship-building is far stronger.

Speaking of relationships and non-existent boundaries, I must also tell you about our departure from Italy. Don't worry - I have vlogged every day of the Italian trip on my YouTube channel, so be sure to keep your eyes on that.

Regardless of the successful shoe-buying in Italy, Mother still opted for her Ke$ha-cages as footwear for the flight home. I am not sure why she doesn't remember the absolute fiasco on the outbound flight revolving around these shoes but there we go.  Another downfall of these ridiculous shoes is that the tassel that ties up does not do a very good job of remaining tied (as you may recall from the previous blog post) and therefore, during the short security check, they untied themselves. I say 'short' security check... I mean short for me. It is a lengthy process for Mother, who refuses to travel with minimal jewellery. Instead, she prefers to be scanned by an airport security guard as the alarm goes off. The people at security ask her to remove her bangles but Mother insists they are 'stuck on forever'. So personal scanning is inevitable. Mother is released, eventually, and slides over to me, signalling to her untied tassels grazing the floor.

"I need to re-tie these, hold on, darling" Mother spins around in order to locate a seat to perch on.

I too look but - as this is security at a rather small airport - there is no seating available.

"There'll be some through here, in Duty Free, come on" I say, starting to move on.

"No, wait, darling. I'll just sit here." Mother signals to a large and in-charge black leather spinny-chair that has just this second been vacated by the head security guard, as he carries his guns on his hip. There is a very important machine by this chair and it is clearly forbidden to be anywhere near it unless you are an authorized member of airport security. This does not phase Mother (despite my best efforts to dissuade her) and she immediately plonks down. I am on edge for the duration of the shoe-lace-tying, hoping desperately not to be arrested. By contrast, Mother reclines and spins around happily before eventually leaving the area.

Now, we are waiting at the gate. Ready to board the plane. Mother does her usual scan so as to locate who she would most like to be seated next to. She selects approximately seven inappropriately-aged 'men'. The boarding process seems to be taking quite a while (ie nobody is moving and we are supposed to be taking off in 4 minutes...) As we are waiting, Mother sighs in a majestic, know-it-all way and says;

"OH! I see why we're running late - we are waiting for somebody! See, we're waiting for Ultimah Chumata, see? That name up on the screen, flashing, darling? They're calling for her."

I look up and see the words "Ultima Chiamata".

"She must be African. Oh, poor lady! She's going to miss this plane if she doesn't hurry up, I wonder where she is...." Mother frantically looks around for this poor, late African woman."

There is no African lady, speedily jogging towards the gate. In fact, she doesn't exist, considering Ultima Chiamata is Italian for 'Last Call'.

We finally board. Thank goodness, no more disasters. Oh no... wait. I hear Mother behind me as we head onto the plane. She seems to be huffing and puffing to someone.

"God! I was here first! NO, no - wait! I was here first!!!"

Mother is cross. Her arms are flailed to the side in a bodyguard style so as not to allow this imbecile to jump the queue.

As I turn around, I see who the imbecile is. Oh, it's the pilot. He is trying desperately to slide past Mother and into the cockpit. Thankfully, Mother had no neighbour-passenger on this flight.


P.S. Stay tuned to the YouTube channel for videos of our Italy trip! Teaser: Mother got extremely sloshed on our last afternoon and it was rather amusing.