Monday, February 28, 2011
Stopping outside ‘Cosmo Carpets’, owned by Wally Herding, I grabbed my clipboard and some new catalogues and walked inside. Wally was a very easy going man and totally informal with his customers. His conversation with them was more like a casual chat and he put everybody at ease.
He was also utterly reliable and gave his customers good service. That’s why they kept coming back to him time after time. I, too, liked to call on him; he always made me a cup of coffee and liked to sit down for a friendly chat. Wally also had been a company representative in his younger days, with a flooring company, and therefore could relate to us in the trade. He never treated me as ‘just a rep’, an attitude I encountered in some other establishments.
‘Hey, Peter,’ he greeted me whilst showing a customer a swatch of carpet samples, ‘Don’t go away. Please wait, if you can. I’ve got something to show you!’
I’ve never minded waiting for Wally. His wife, who worked just as hard as her husband, was also in the shop and she took over.
‘Have a seat, Peter’ she smiled ‘Do you have sugar in your coffee?’ She was well-rounded, very motherly and made the fastest coffee in the West!
‘That’s very kind of you Shirley, but don’t go to too much trouble. I can make it myself - and make you one too!’ I went to the little nook in the large warehouse where the electric jug was waiting for me and went to work.
Soon I was back, sitting with Shirley, sipping coffee and talking about all sorts of things - except flooring. There was no need to; they had been good supporters of mine for many years.
‘Nice suit you are wearing, Peter! You look great in it.’ She gently reached out and fingered the fine fabric.
‘Thanks, Shirley. I just got it made and today is my first day in it.’ I was genuinely proud of my business suit and at the same time, tried to forget its cost.
Half way through my cup of coffee, Wally had finished with his customer. He noted down in his business diary another ‘free-measure-and-quote’ and the agreed day and time.
While the customer rushed out of the shop with purposeful strides and an expectant expression on her face, Wally turned to me, all smiles: ‘How are you, Peter? Hey, great suit you are wearing! Sorry you had to wait but now I have time for you!’
‘Thank you, Wally. May I assist you with anything?’ I had no idea what he wanted me for but was keen to be of help.
‘You’ve always told me how much you love animals, Peter! Now I have something to show you.’ He opened a large wooden crate, a kind of army chest with holes in it, reached inside and pulled out two ferrets. ‘Here,’ he said, ‘say “hello” to Max and Joe,’ and he held them towards me. Like two mink stoles they were hanging down from his hands, their black eyes blinking at me with curiosity, their whiskers twitching and at their bottom end, their little feet were pedalling in the air.
They seem to be straining to get to me. ‘Do they bite?’ I had heard stories that they had a vicious bite and that some people would only handle them with strong leather gloves.
‘What? Max and Joe? Never! Here you are’ and he handed me the pair. They seemed to enjoy this and cuddled up to me and looked at me with pure pleasure. They seemed to be happy in my company. Despite my dignified, expensive business suit, white shirt and tie, I became instantly a babbling fool, stroking them and whispering sweet nothings in their cute little ears. Whilst ferrets do not purr like cats, they do have a way of looking at one and conveying their pleasure at what one was saying: ‘you really mean that?’
Wally, their proud owner, stood there, beaming. ‘I can see that you love animals, Peter.’
‘Yes, I do. You should see me when I call on a veterinary surgery. I never want to leave. Looking at all the “patients” there, I talk to them and I really have to pull myself together to go!’
Wally just remembered something and pointed at the two cute little fellows who were rubbing against my cheeks: ‘They are in season now!’
I had not understood the meaning of this remark and he realised that he had to explain something. ‘What I mean is, right now, they smell a bit!’
‘What do you mean?’ I was looking at the little fuzzy, furry, faces and then the stench hit me! It took my breath away. I looked around for the source of it, not wanting to believe the obvious.
‘Oh, I see!’ Gasping for breath I ripped the stinking, mangy, rags off me and handed them back to Wally. ‘Thank you for showing me Max and Joe, Wally, but I really have to go now. I am already late for my next appointment,’ I lied.
‘I am glad you like them’, Wally called after me. His wife Shirley nodded proudly, the ferrets nodded and winked, and that was the last I saw of them, rushing to my car.
The cloud of stench followed me. It had penetrated my suit, shirt, tie and singlet. Calling off all further appointments, I rushed home. Driving all the way with my window down, I finally reached my place. There, I tore my clothes off me, had a lengthy shower, donned another suit, put the soiled clothes in a plastic bag and dropped them off at a dry-cleaner. Mrs Murphy, our neighbour and source of local gossip, saw me driving home during mid morning and looked definitely disgusted. In her eyes, I was definitely a bludger who did not do an honest day’s work!
From that day forth, whenever Wally phoned me and requested that I call or whenever I happened to enter his warehouse I automatically asked the same worried question: ‘Are there any ferrets?’
Sunday, February 13, 2011
My Granny is an old crone,
In the Department stores she does roam,
Where goods disappear
As she shops without fear
And they re-appear in her home.
When my cat wants to show that she’d missed me,
she jumps into my arms to kiss me.
Two paws on my cheeks,
Of fish her breath reeks -
And then she does nothing but lick me!
There was a young fellow named Horting,
who a political position did courting.
but once elected,
the voters neglected,
he'd nothing but rorting and rorting!
who a political position did courting.
but once elected,
the voters neglected,
he'd nothing but rorting and rorting!
Thursday, February 3, 2011
Right in the heart of the city, where the streets are narrow and the buildings seem to reach for the sky, there was a textile wholesale business on the third floor of such an older style business centre. It was run by a managing director, a foreigner, who spent most of his working hours in his sumptuous office, apparently making phone calls all day. In an adjacent room were two ladies working busily on large ledger sheets and they, too, were making constantly telephone calls. The whole room looked definitely busy, with office files strewn everywhere, stacks of printouts placed precariously everywhere, mainly over the edge of shelves and seemingly losing balance any moment.
There is in the centre of the room an intercom, apparently the most important part of the whole business set-up. And out of it is constantly coming the managing directors barked words: ‘Where is such-and-such?’ and ‘When is Mr. Smith coming?’ So much so, that he is being referred to by the ladies as ‘Mr. Whereis-Whenis’.
Outside the two offices are the store rooms with rolls and rolls of fabric stored in tall shelves and placed on long cutting tables with wrapping material, strings and enormous large scissors hanging by a string from the wall, looking almost as if requiring a weapon licence!
One side of the offices and store rooms has a row of large windows, reaching from floor to ceiling, like any of the windows of the other buildings in that very same street. The only difference is that they can be actually opened by swivelling them on a centre pivot, their outside can be turned to face inside, facilitating better cleaning from the inside only. But that was only theoretically as nobody has ever done that. Besides, in front of the windows in the store rooms were long tables placed with displays of ties, handkerchiefs and scarves making the windows themselves practically out of reach.
And whilst downstairs the busy traffic of the street ebbed and flowed, with pedestrians rushing about and cars tooting their horns, there is always a tranquil atmosphere at this third floor, carefully nursed by three lazy apprentices. They have been employed by the managing director, Mr. Goldberger, because they were cheaper than hiring adults and with a bit of luck and push, adult performances may be gained from them. However, this has been only his theory so far.
The three apprentices, Jackie, Peter and Nigel, knew that they were expected, work-performance-wise to function as adults, but also were aware that, as apprentices, they cannot be legally responsible for any mistakes they make.
And whenever they could, between cutting fabric and wrapping up orders, they thought up many a mischief to while away their time.
Peter, for example turned out to be puberty-wise somewhat confused and tended to stand at the office door, listening to the two women’s idle chatter. And sometimes he picks up a real gem: Minnie said to Elly: ‘ My husband says I have the body of a seventeen year old…..’, giving him the instant illusion of Minnie without clothes!
It was lunchtime today, when Jackie produced a large plastic bag, placing it with triumph on one of the long cutting tables. ‘Here’, he said in with the voice of a winner, ‘this is for all of us. I got it from my grandfather who makes a strong brandy from this!’
Nigel’s greedy hand dived into the large sack and pulled out an enormous pear. ‘Eeh,’ he sounded disgusted, ‘it is dripping wet – and sticky!’
‘They are supposed to be’ Jackie explained. ‘In fact they are so over-ripe that the fruit juice just runs off them by their own weight! It’s a special kind of pear, like I said, very watery and with a high sugar content, for brandy-making. Of course, we can eat them as well but they dribble a lot.’
Now, Peter, too, was holding something mushy in his hand ‘Look, it’s practically cascading like a water fall – the rest is just puree…’ He suddenly had a piece of cloth in the other hand, wiping the counter top off its sticky wetness.
‘It’s like a water bomb….Jackie mused. ‘I bet, if you drop it on somebody, it’d burst like one – plus it leaves that sugary mush as an added bonus!’
‘Why don’t we try one out?’ Nigel sounded like a scientist, his chin motioning to one of the large windows.
‘We can‘t’ Peter was more timid and yet, yet equally eager. ‘The window has never been opened and we’d need a special handle to stick into its frame to unlock its mechanism.’
‘I think I know where it is’, Jackie’s brain produces results. Going to the table in front of the window, he pulled open a draw and reached inside. He seems to fumble around inside the collection of scarves and handkerchiefs for quite a while, indicating his strenuous effort with his tongue firmly wedged between his teeth.
‘Here it is!’ in triumph he produced a wrought iron handle with a square, long shaft, black with age and slightly rusty. ‘That should do it’
Nobody has ever seen this instrument before and therefore a moment of staring at it was in order.
‘And where do you use it?’ Nigel said slowly.
‘’There, of course!’ two hands pointed at an unobtrusive round hole in the metal frame, with the square inlet hardly visible.
The apparatus turned slowly and the window creaked a few times before pivoting on its axis and allowing three urchin’s heads poking out and observing the hectic traffic of pedestrians right below them.
‘Look how they rush about!’ Peter articulated ‘Some walk really funny…’ He pointed at a lady in particularly high stiletto heels, walking almost mechanically as if wound up. And that large poodle she’s leading – almost a designer dog - hey, what are you doing?’ The latter was a callout directed at Jackie.
‘Bombs awaaaay’ Jackie, seeing himself in a military position, aimed and let go of a pear.
They quickly observed an explosion on the poodle, a frightened yelping, followed by a shrill voice emanating from the fashion model. She did not recognise her price dog at all. Covered in pear puree and dripping wet and tembling, that creature was simply unrecognisable!
More could not be observed as the ‘three musketeers’ quickly pulled back and slammed the window shut. There was more noise welling up from the street and after a while it seemed to die down, obviously people got accustomed to the new situation.
That’s when the window was carefully opened again and the state of traffic was reconnoitred by the three.
Among the milling crowd was a business executive, walking busily in his tailor-made suit and carrying a grey attaché case, probably hand-stitched leather which he kept protectively close to his person. And that was his fault as the next pear plummeted down and, as it did so, its mushy body expanded into a pale watery cloud, nearly missing his main body but making contact with his hand, holding the satchel!
His surprised ‘Whaaat’ was heard up and down the busy street, with the stream of pedestrians coming momentarly to a standstill. Again, the window was quickly slammed shut and the many people now looking up the high building could not make out anything.
Three rascals sat on the floor hidden from the hostile world outside, aided by the fact that the windows sheer, continuous, curtains closed out any view into the work place. Faces were red with excitement, apprehension and, yes, pride because this caper was really something!
The noise from downstairs receded to regular street level, with everybody continuing as normal. Everybody seems to be pre-occupied with one’s own self. What does it matter if there are two strange looking creatures standing in an office doorway – actually, they were three, counting the dog.
A middle aged lady, overweight and overdone, makeup-wise, was proudly and domineeringly stepping along. Her hair was carefully done up into a beehive style, but much more intricate – a work of art! Her fleshy face heavily powdered and enhanced with a red lipstick, indicating kissable lips where there were none, a bosom jutting far ahead of her with an extensive cleavage pointing out her goodies, a double chin like a concertina, a blue dress with lots and lots of lace edgings, obviously hand- knotted and sturdy legs to hold everything upright.
‘Her legs are like concrete crushers!’ Peter nastily observed.
‘Like Miss Piggy’s’ Nigel remembered.
‘Don’t be so vulgar! A bit more respect, please!’ Jackie reprimanded and let go of an especially watery, dripping and sticky pear. He looked like a fighter pilot from WW I, in his bi-plane, hand-dropping the bomb at a carefully selected enemy.
The falling pear bomb was somewhat cushioned by the high hairdo but not for long. A loud ‘Eeeeeeeeeeh ‘ was heard and the startled passers-by stared disapprovingly at the bedraggled figure, wet and dripping. She stood there motionless due to her unaccustomed wetness, hair sticking closely to her head and on her upper body. With her cleavage chastely covered in pear mush, she stood there brainless and with her stiletto shoes pointing inwards – a picture of disgust for most of the passing pedestrians.
She, too, eventually joined the others in the doorway in commiserating their loss of appearance!
Youthful exuberance prevailed and the three puberty-stricken adolescents forgot time and place in relishing their fun-filled moments. Forgotten were their normally hard work of handling heavy bails and their sometimes swollen wrists for which they wore leather straps like wrestlers.
More people joined the ranks of victims in the main entrance of the building without seeing the funny side of their respective situation.
Another big pear was trundling downwards when Peter noticed something:’Hey look! Following his pointed finger, they all noticed the bank on the other side of the street and their office staff crowding at the windows and faces distorted in hilarity. They, too were enjoying the action of the three ‘stooges’ and their caper. With the added bonus that they could observe the crowd in the main entrance swelling in ranks – a clear sign of success.
They observed these desperate people looking around for clues whilst scraping this unknown substance from their bodies and belongings, sniffing their finger tips for clues and looking around themselves with looks that showed a wild light.
Now, they noticed the bank across the road, in fact they discovered each other at the same time. The faces of the bank employees resumed their usual sternness, however, strenuously achieved and now they are pointing upwards in a helpful way, obviously having changed side.
‘Hell’, Nigel exclaimed, ‘You cannot trust them!’ and dived away from the window.
‘Banks can never be trusted!’ added Jackie as he, too hit the floor.
Peter slammed the window shut, locked it frenetically, hid the handle back where it was found, deep in a draw and far behind lots and lots of scarves and handkerchiefs.
Then all three pushed the long and heavy table with the counter display stands for ties, handkerchiefs and more fashion paraphernalia right back to the window. The bag with the remaining projectiles, er..pears, was stuffed into the cleaning lady’s vacuum cleaner and her little storeroom was firmly shut and two bails of heavy fabric, herringboned and winter-weight, were placed before it like boulders.
The three half-grown prankster sat on the parquetry floor with bated breath and listened to any signs of activity from outside. Sure enough a low background noice quickly swelled to clearly recognisable tramping sound of many feet coming upstairs and closer.
The doorbell rang storm and just to stop its unpleasantness, Peter unwillingly rushed to the door and opened it. He was pushed aside by a large group of strange looking people with hate-contorted faces and of crimson colour. Rushing past him they stormed to the window side of the warehouse and were stopped by the long tables before them. As if driven by some automatic force, they bent over the long tables with their counter display stands and their outstretched arms tried to reach for a handle to open them. Of course, there was none. One fellow, a doctor-type with a pureed wig and pads of pear mousse on his shoulders, like epaulets, span around and hissed at Peter:
‘How do you open this window?’
As if in a dream, Peter slowly replied: ’They can’t, they have never been opened.’ He was not believed but since there was no handle or anything like that visible, it seemed to be the truth.
The whole group of fuming characters looked at each other, and that included the four-legged ones. ‘Now what?’ Their revenge-contorted faces seem to say.
Since they cannot let themselves be seen in public, they decided to stay in the building a bit longer and find the culprit.
‘What’s upstairs?’ The ex-matron-like lady barked but with a pitch in her voice that betrayed desperation.
‘What is this about?’ Nigel had himself under firm control and like a tourist guide he proudly announced: ‘Here are the offices…’ and his outstretched arm encompassed the relevant doors. ‘And this is a textile warehouse!’ he added with a helpless shrug.
Peter, ever helpful, pushed a rag across the wide counter to a mousse-creature but carefully avoided showing his hand which was still covered in pear puree’.
A growling emanated from the group and it sounded menacing and murderous.
‘What’s upstairs, one floor up?’ A broken nose character, almost as broad as tall and in a tight suit, currently very soaked with liquid vitamin, repeated the question.
‘There is a dentist upstairs with lots of people in his waiting room. But you will have to make an appointment…..’
As if by command, the whole group turned towards the door and, hissing unrecogniseable threats, they stomped out the door and the trampling of their furious steps could be heard for a while.
As Peter firmly closed the door, he exhaled deeply and with relief. The other boys, too, had suddenly a darker colour as they became aware of the danger they have just escaped.
Whilst Peter locked the front door firmly and switched-off the door bell for good measure, an office door opened and the managing director, Mr. Miklos Goldberger, poked his head out, asking in amazement: ‘What is happening here?’
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
The road ahead was straight and well paved, with fields of crops on either side. They were interrupted every now and then with untouched nature consisting of eucalyptus, wattles, banksias and other well-known symbols of the Australian landscape.
I had at least one more hour of travelling ahead of me before reaching the town of Delaney where my cosy motel room was waiting.
The urge for a short break overcame me and I remembered a roadside petrol station with a little café attached to it, which would soon be appearing on my right hand side. On a number of occasions I had fortified myself for the final stretch of my journey with strong coffee and a chat with a friendly waitress.
Before long it appeared: an elongated, white building with petrol pumps outside covered with corrugated iron roof, supported by outward-angled pillars that had been fashionable when it was designed many years ago. Now, though the whole station with its rusting roof and posts and its peeling paint, looked a bit neglected. However, it had a homely look conveying the ambience of a well established roadhouse with old-fashioned service!
A large sign, announcing this to be the last stop for petrol and water for the next eighty kilometres added a touch of urgency to its invitation.
But, like I said, the cafeteria looked cosy in winter; in summer, its air conditioning was very severe, making the stop a refreshing one.
As was my habit, my first call was to the washrooms, located at the right-hand side of the building. There are two doors side by side and in front of one of them stood a little girl, obviously a traveller from the city, like myself. I recognised this from her white skin and her clothes being of city fashion. Banging at the door for ladies she realised that it was occupied. Shyly she looked around with a pinched face whilst rapidly changing her weight from one foot to the other.
‘Hello!’ I said, approaching the next door clearly marked ‘Men’.’
‘Can’t get in?’
She pulled herself together and managed the pressed words:’ No, it’s been locked and closed for a long time….’
‘Are your parents here?’ I asked to ascertain the situation.
‘Yes.’ She nodded quickly and her hands touched her belly where she was obviously in great pain.
Her legs crossed, her pretty face contorted with strain, she was desperately thinking for a solution to her problem. That poor girl looked definitely sick!
‘Why don’t you go in here?’ I pointed at the door to the men’s which was slightly ajar.
She stared through the gap into the interior.
‘But that’s a men’s toilet’ she hissed through gritted teeth, obviously she was well brought up and obedient - no matter what!
‘What’s the difference?’ I tried to belittle the matter and observed how she saw a glimmer to hope to her problem. Therefore, I assumed a commanding voice:
‘In you go!’ Pointing to the interior, ‘I shall stay here and watch out for anybody who comes…and explain everything!
I am not sure whether she had heard all I said because I suddenly found the men’s door closed and locked. If this had been a cartoon, there would have been a condensation strip slowly dissolving, I thought.
When she came out, her pretty face was transformed in relief and gratitude, her blue eyes radiated and she whispered a ‘thank you!’ and, with a skip and a hop, she went around the corner of the building, back to her family.
All I could do is give the still-closed door of the Ladies an accusing look!