Saturday, September 08, 2007

Belgian delicacy

A couple of weeks ago, I recieved a phone call from someone in Belgium, called Clara. You can read a transcript of the conversation in the last post. I did receive a second phone call from Clara that was unfortunately overheard by my wife. More of what transpired in the aftermath of that phone call will be revealed at the end of this post.

So what else can I report? Should I tell you all how my world has diminished since being forced to leave the Institute I loved? Should I become nostalgic for a life I once was proud to live, replaced now by a a daily, almost prescribed, routine of looking after children and helping my former research assistant to continue converting the partially converted barn in which we are all sequestered? I doubt you come here to listen to such sounds of melancholy after the joys of previous posts, so I won't bore you with the depressing details. Suffice to say that I am not quite the man I would like to be at the moment. Something has changed within - I can't quite put my finger on it, but it feels as if some of my joi de vivre has been extinguished.

When I look around me of an evening, I am forced to admonish myself for being so down. Here is my beautiful wife, mending the socks of our twins by candle light (they are currently being home schooled, as the local schools were full and we are awaiting news of an application elsewhere). Over in the corner of the barn are the boys themselves, climbing over bales of hay whilst playing a game of 'fox and hounds' (the exact rules escape me, but the winner gets to bite the loser until they start crying, apparently). Outside is Ravel, the most faithful person I have ever had the pleasure to meet. He is putting the finishing touches to a coffee table made from an old pine door that someone in the village gave us last week. Despite having no paint-stripper, sandpaper nor plane, he has still managed to remove 3 layers of gloss and bring up the original grain. When I ask him how he does it, he points to a thick layer of paint under his nails and tells me that he 'scrape away the paint like removing frozen ice off windscreen.'

No3 is now 5 months old, and is becoming a handful. He can't quite sit up, but tries at every opportunity. He can't crawl, but put him down on any surface and he'll roll over onto his stomach, raise his head, let out a grunt and kick his legs manically until he gets too tired. On the one hand, I am looking forward to the day he can actually move under his own steam, as I won't have to carry him around all the time on educational tours ('look, here's some grass, here's some hay' etc etc), but then I suppose when he can walk I'll spend all my time holding his hand and still doing the tours. The twins are keeping their distance, and for that I am truly grateful.

Ravel was initially keen to help with the child rearing. He told us that he had helped raise his younger brother, and was therefore an experienced baby sitter. Taking him at his word, we left he baby with him one afternoon whilst we hitched into the nearest town to visit the job centre (there wasn't one). On our return we found the baby in the field outside the barn with a piece of rope round one ankle. The other end of the rope was tied to a stake. In the hands of our infant was some sheep dung from a pile next to the spot where he had been deposited. Dolores managed to extricate the unsavoury excrement, and summoned our assistant. She immediately banned him from any more child care activities until he had read at least 5 books on the subject.

The result of her injunction on Ravel has simply put more pressure on me to provide care for the baby. I have not shirked my responsibility, you will be glad to hear, and in fact I have taken it upon myself to provide as much of a stimulating but comfortable environment as possible. To this end, I instructed Ravel to make a sling from an old shirt and I now carry the infant wherever I go, singing nursery rhymes and engaging No 3 with gurning and baby noise whenever possible. My efforts seem to be paying off, as Dolores has become noticeably less stressed in recent weeks.

Except, that is, for one occasion last week, when the edifice that is our marriage took an almost fatal blow to its foundations. And all because of a Belgian delicacy....

'Hello, is that Joseph. It is Clara here. Can we talk?' said the flemish voice. My phone had rung just as we were eating dinner.

'Er not really. I'll call you back later if that's ok?', I said tentatively. Dolores was busy feeding No.3 and was talking to Twin X, and didn't seem to notice I was on the phone. I hung up and carried on eating. The dinner finished, I made my excuses and walked to the back of the barn. Clara's number was in the recent calls list. It was an international number, so I made a mental note not to talk for long. 'Hello, it is me, Joseph', I said when she answered.

'Oh Joseph. Good. I have been waiting to talk with you for a week now. I thought maybe you were not so keen any more.'

'I er, no that's, er not it', I stammered. I still could not remember who Clara was, or where we had met, but I was somewhat worried that something had happened between us that she wished to follow up on.

'Good, so you wish to go ahead with it then.'

'I'm not sure Clara. You see I...'

'But you have already paid Joseph!' exclaimed the lady, laughing.

'I have?'

'In cash. You said it was best that way so your wife would not find out by looking at your bank statement.'

'I did?', I hissed. I was becoming increasingly confused by where this conversation was heading. Awful thoughts were beginning to form in my mind.

'Ok, you were quite drunk at the time. I think maybe our beer was too strong for you, eh?'

'Sorry, Clara, but I have to admit, I don't actually remember paying for anything. Could you just, er, run me through what happened?'

'What, the whole evening?'

'Er, yes, actually. You see, I, er, suffer from a, er, a spontaneous amnesia disorder', I said. It was a lie, but I wanted the conversation to move forward and not admit to having been too drunk to remember. Clara laughed, and I sensed immediately that she was not convinced.

'OK, Joseph, whatever you say. We had a very nice evening together you know. We talked for a long time and then you told me that you and your wife do not get along so good and I said what you need is a Belgian delicay and that I could provide you with that. You said yes, please help me. Dear Joseph, you then said I should refer to it always as a belgian delicacy, in case your wife should hear something. You seemed so unhappy Joseph, how could I refuse? Now all we need is to confirm your address and your delicay will be with you very shortly.'

'I, er, yes, of course. So, just so I fully remember, what is the, er, delicacy exactly?' I asked, my fertile mind wandering from the sublime to the ridiculous. I may have received the answer there and then, but my attention was drawn away from the phone by the unmistakable sound of Dolores coughing.

Now, keen readers of this blog will be aware that sometimes I get into situations that take me by surprise. I don't know why it keeps happening, despite my best efforts to prevent such circumstances, but I do know that my initial response is nearly always the same. It is marked by a feeling of panic, that hits my mind and spreads throughout my limbs at an astonishing rate. I can progress from presenting myself as a lucid, intelligent man to a discombobulated, un-coordinated idiot within seconds.

I'm not proud of this reaction, but feel compelled to record it for posterity, and to hopefully bring about a more complete understanding of who I am, each time it happens. I won't go into details here, and I will leave it up to you to imagine exactly what happened next, but suffice to say, within a few seconds I was weeping like a schoolboy who has just been caned and Dolores was shouting the dreaded D-word.

It took me six hours to calm her down. I had to first confess that I didn't really know what had happened between me and Clara. I swore to her on Number 3's life, that I would never be knowingly unfaithful. She quite rightly told me that that wouldn't count if I was too drunk to remember anything. Dolores then made me promise to go to the GUI Clinic, and declared she would be withdrawing herself from any physical activities for six months (the length of time required for antibodies to a certain well-known viral infection to develop).

We are one week into the six month period. I've kept my phone switched off the whole time in case Clara rings again. I have a feeling this story is going to be one those where, unfortunately, I have to say....

******TO BE CONTINUED******

1 comment:

Prof. Plum said...

A years supply of chocolate oysters perhaps.....