Sources of Joy – Day 98
This blog has to be brief. My early night (just before midnight) starts in half an hour.
The morning was productive. I was beautifully focused and business-like.
I managed to fend off getting entangled in a conversation with the landlady, her mother and her two grandchildren when they came to get plums for their chickens. I said “Come on in! Go for it! Chat with João! I have an urgent deadline, I cannot talk!” With that I disappeared into my office. The deadline was not that urgent, but I could not waste time either. And with that, entered my office and started typing at speed. It worked.
I met the deadline, and spent my post-deadline leisure time reading the glossary accompanying the next job. A glossary compiled by a translator; fascinating stuff! I was cheerfully reading through the text – and hastily typing those phrases for which a deft translation leaps out at you, but may slide into oblivion forever if one does not record them immediately, when I remembered that the kitchen was a mess, and the meals on wheels ladies would be arriving with João’s lunch soon. I hate it when they arrive and things are not in order, so left my work mid-sentence. Needs must…
As I took the bucket of vegetable peels to the compost bin (sounds grand; it is a rusty old 44-gallon drum) at the far end of the garden I remarked to João that instead of chickens I might consider getting a pig. Her response should have been a warning that my day was about to get crazy. She said “Ooh yes, and then I can play with it!” I wryly replied that it would be an outdoor pig, and would be killed for Christmas. And then I laughed. I know. Such a spoiler. All I need in my life is a recalcitrant pig refusing to move its butt from the sofa at bedtime. Chickens after summer it will be.
João interrupted my lunch with a request to visit the bathroom urgently. So that was the end of lunch. When she was finally sorted out, and seated on the sofa sans pig – imaginary or otherwise, I realised that the post prandial tea and coffee had not been had. So I put the kettle on, announced the fact to João, and returned to my lovely office to catch the second half of that sentence. Well, the text was so absorbing that I clean forgot that anything else existed on the Planet, not least of which is our basic aluminium kettle on the gas hob.
Despite all the cigarettes I smoke, I love fresh air and, weather permitting, will have all the doors and windows open on any given day. Two nights ago, I fried some chicken which I took to a bring- and-share the Choir had after practice to mark the beginning of the summer break. While the kitchen was now clean and tidy, the niceties of cleaning the fat spatter off the outside of the kettle had been accorded a very low priority in my life. Who’s the pig, now?
Anyway, I was awoken from my translation-induced wonderment by the smell of food. Was someone having a barbecue? Then I remembered we do not exactly live cheek by jowl with apartment neighbours who regularly burnt meat any more. A few more absent-minded sniffs later, I thought, “That smells like food I would cook – Oh, my God! – the kettle!”
Another sentence abruptly interrupted. By the time I had a thick cloth in my hand, I had switched of the gas burner and had been able to register that the kettle was mostly blackened on the outside. those spatters of chicken fat were well and truly cooked. As I saw with relief that the new kitchen unit above the stove had not been burned or browned, and had not melted, I whipped the kettle as fast as I could out the back door, switched on the tap there, under which stands a metal bucket. A torrent of water gushed out, and as soon as it was three-quarters full I dropped the kettle in – and stood back while it hissed. I realised then that the kettle was floating, rushed inside, got a knife, and used it as a screwdriver to flip the lid off the kettle. I poked the kettle with my cloth, and watched with satisfaction as it sank to the bottom of the bucket.
I should mention at this juncture that letting a kettle boil completely dry, and then some, is an excellent way to remove limescale from the bottom of its interior. I should also mention that dropping a near molten kettle with its lid still on into a bucket of cold water will result in a concave, but not symmetrical, kettle bottom. Still, it had no holes. I set about removing the completely loosened, if a little crisp, bits of limescale from the kettle, and after several dunkings, adjudged it cool enough to remove. I returned to the kitchen and began cleaning the blackened exterior. This proved to be a little harder – and more time-consuming – than originally anticipated. I left that job unfinished on the kitchen counter. I had better things to do.
I had a quick shower, and dashed off for my acupuncture session. At least I was not as sleep- deprived today as I was last week. Nevertheless, talk of pigs, an interrupted lunch and a burnt kettle combined with the excitement of starting a new project did not result in the kind of calm with which I normally like to approach this treatment.
I did manage to relax, but did not fall into a deep slumber as I usually do. I hovered, with smatterings of the glossary devoured earlier skipping playfully but intrusively across my third eye. I did derive some benefit, but was still a little jumpy when it was time to come home.
I revised a limited edition book containing hundreds and hundreds of descriptions of exclusive boutique hotels. Close neighbours of my Chinese doctor friends are the only people I know who would actually be interested in its contents. My copy of the book arrived in the post about 10 days ago. Well, of course they were not home when I popped in to thrust said book into their mitts.
Instead I was able to observe they had installed a new security system at their enormous villa on the hill. The gate buzzer has a small camera. I only noticed this after it made a few discreet whirring noises while I looked though the gate railings to see if anyone was home. The whirring noises made me realise, upon closer inspection, that it was probably a video camera, and may even record sound. So I pressed the buzzer a second time, and looked into the camera and declared the reason for my visit. It dawned on me while doing this that the camera was most likely taking an excellent film of my left tit, so I bent down and continued delivering my message. I do hope the footage is in colour, because I was wearing my new bright pink vest.
I stopped on the way down the hill to deliver the last jar of the most recent batch of peach chutney and collect my mail. I did not stay to chat, since I was eager to get home to the rest of that other sentence – but not before stopping at the local shop to purchase additional scouring pads for the injured kettle.
As I parked my car on the opposite side of the road and was getting out to open my gate, my little old lady neighbour beckoned to me to come inside her house, via the garage. She had mentioned the other day that I had not been inside her home yet – as I was rushing off somewhere. I humoured her, thinking that this little interlude would not take long, and it would still be early evening by the time I got back to where I was before I burnt the kettle.
I was wrong. It turns out today was her 83rd birthday. My landlady – our mutual neighbour from down the road had learned this fact earlier, so made an 8-minutes-in-the-microwave chocolate cake and brought it over for an impromptu party. The three of us sat in the garage on traditional low Portuguese “worker” chairs – ideal for when you are weaving palm-leave baskets, cracking open almonds, shelling peas, or stuffing figs and such. The birthday girl spent 10 months in Canada years ago with her husband; they returned to Portugal because they could not get their papers in order. She has retained a few phrases of English, and she was bold enough to use one of them on me today. “Here. Would you like a beer?” Before I could do anything but smile and accept, the half-pint bottle was in my hand. There I sat, with my great height in a large, rather warm garage on a tiny little stool with a large piece of chocolate cake on a plate in my lap and a beer in my hand. Oh well, bang goes the no-sugar diet to reduce inflammation of my joints.
We had a lively chat, chiefly centred around the 83-year-old regaling us with the amusing story of how her last white chicken, who gave her one egg a day and was quite pretty, for a chicken, left her to join the run of her immediate neighbour. When she asked the neighbour if she had seen her chicken the neighbour said rather unconvincingly that she had many white chickens, and she did not think so. Anyway, days and days passed, then the neighbour said she had found the missing chicken, and tossed it over the fence to our birthday-girl – who hastened to add that it was not her pretty chicken with the special feather in the front of her head, but a gangly, poorly-looking one, which, moreover, provided further proof of being an imposter, since she only produced two minuscule eggs per week, and not the one decent-sized egg to which our little old lady had become accustomed. The imposter, being sickly, died soon after that.
The chicken stories were just finishing when Maria do Rosário (83 today) had to get up and go to the door, to tell the woman who passes by now and then selling goat cheese that she did not feel in the mood for goat cheese, and besides, she had some visitors.
Just then, my landlady’s husband and grown son arrived in a van to remove their fridge from the storeroom at my home. Since my landlady did not have her key for the back room in which is hidden the key to the storeroom, I had to dash across the road to do the honours. I opened the gate for the van to drive in, too.
The three of us resumed our party, only to be interrupted again by my landlord, who had now returned with the pole for the washline, and a corresponding bar to fix to an exterior wall. This meant both his wife (his very good helper) and I had to be involved. We bid our farewells to my new neighbour and friend and assisted with the putting up of the washline. I had asked my landlady earlier if she had a decent wire cutter. An old roll of fencing was still attached to a post at the back of the property, and I wanted to join it to all the other rolls of old fencing before all the junk on the property was collected by someone who does this for a living. So my landlady asked her husband about it. The three of us traipsed to the back corner of the property. I held the one end of the roll of fencing up (it had a massive block of cement and brick attached to it), while my landlord cut the wires and freed it from the post. My landlady and I duly rolled then dragged it, with its two cumbersome blocks of cement and bricks at each end, and put it on the pile. My landlady then asked her husband if he had a hammer in his van. He did. Next thing, she’s on her way back to the middle of my garden wielding a six-pound hammer, and she smashes the biggest block with amazing ease and grace is just a few blows. Not to be outdone, her husband takes the ruddy great hammer from her, and demolishes the smaller block with considerably more difficulty. Oh what a lovely couple of hours we have all had!
The second part of that sentence got translated at around 19h30, shortly after I made that after-lunch cup of coffee for João and strong mint tea for me – with water I watched boil in a little pot.
I worked after that.
Oh, look, it’s way past my bedtime!