Friday, December 16, 2011


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Friday, November 11, 2011


Whenever I felt the need to eat, I made a habit of stopping where the big interstate trucks parked because there, for sure, would be the best food and best comfort! In summer, their air conditioning would be working well and in winter, there would be, for sure, a warm log fire to relax by. On this day, I found myself looking for a place to have a mid-afternoon snack. The nearby large roadhouse looked inviting, and there had been a group of semi-trailers congregated in the vast car park, waiting for their owners.
‘Good afternoon’ a friendly greeting made me relax right away.
Sitting down in a cosy nook, I had asked for a chicken salad and a pot of coffee in accordance with the weight-watching program I was undergoing at the time.
‘Very well.’ The young lass had made notes and disappeared into the kitchen.
The background music was all ‘country’ and I had glanced into a newspaper for the latest news on the economic front, what so-and-so said in Parliament and the reply from the opposition, the news from the footy teams and how they dealt with unruly players.
Boring, boring, I thought - always the same. But it helped me to relax, so much so that I felt like dozing off.
‘Here you are luv,’ a friendly-voiced waitress put down some cutlery, pepper and salt and then ‘bang!’ an enormous bowl of something appeared in front of me. My sleepy eyes  snapped wide open and I gasped in shock. It was a large mound of salad, piled high above the rim of the bowl, and on top of it, carefully balanced, was a half a grilled chicken!
I can’t eat all that, I thought. What a portion! Looking around helplessly I had seen on each table one or two tall, burly men in singlets or T-shirts, tucking with gusto into similar mountains of food. They all seemed to take the size of the portions for granted! Trying to fit in with the other ‘road people’, I had pretended to tuck in with great appetite. But I still had to furtively wrap most of the chicken into a paper napkin to take ‘home’ to my motel room.
Later, back in my car and driving off, I had made a mental note to check the size of the meals in future before ordering.
Upon approaching the town of Darebin, I had remembered some friends in Melbourne asking me what I did if I fell sick or something similar whilst on a country trip.
Well, on my last trip to Darebin, I had lifted a heavy case of samples out of my car. Grabbing it wrongly, or misjudging my ability, my back had given out and the pain which shot up and down my spine was excruciating. I had managed to drag myself into a motel room, close the door and fall on top of the bed. The pain got worse because the bed had suddenly become so unbearably soft. Carefully, I had managed to slide off it and slowly lower myself onto the thickly carpeted floor. The relief was instant - no pain, no aches. I managed to pull down from the bed a pillow and a blanket.
Never had I thought a floor could be so comfortable to lie on. I slept through the evening and the night, but before I dozed off I had wondered what the staff would say if they came in the morning to make the bed and found me on the floor, unable to move. Would there be a doctor in the town that could come and help me? How long would I have to lie on the floor before I could move again? I was a long way from home . . .
However, when I woke up in the morning, I had felt extremely well and had no more problems with my back! As I slept deeply, nature had taken over and healed, like the utilities programs in my computer, I thought.
Another time, I had caught a bad flu virus. I must have shaken hands with a real germ carrier of an architect! Arriving at a motel, I had checked in with a croaky voice and running nose, shivering and obviously with a slight temperature. Once holed up in my room, I had helped myself from the courtesy bar to a tea bag and a small bottle of Bundaberg rum. After a cup of hot tea laced with rum and when ensconced in a warm bed, I had started to glow like a stop sign. But again, when I woke up the next morning, although my pyjamas were wet with sweat and my hair was sticking to my scalp and forehead, I felt fine, even on top of the world I had thought,
Another time things were a bit trickier for me. Again, on a country trip, I had parked my car in front of a hospital engineer’s office. The ground was so uneven that I had twisted and sprained my ankle. First I took no notice of the pain and completed my business with the engineer before driving off. As soon as I was on the road, I had noticed that my left ankle was swollen and extremely painful. Putting my car in ‘cruise control’, I had experienced immediate relief. But every time I had to slow down and use the brake, the pain that shot up my leg was indescribable. I never noticed before how often one has to brake, even on a clear freeway! Finally I arrived at the next town and, jumping on one leg, with gritted teeth and bated breath, I checked myself in at my motel,
The next day I went to the local hospital by taxi, where a doctor x-rayed my ankle and put bandages on it. I hired a pair of crutches from the nearest chemist and spent the next two days in my room, conducting my business as well as I could, from my telephone. Other illnesses have, thankfully, never happened to me whilst on a business trip.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


On the horizon there was something like fog and I was driving right into it. At first I noticed the occasional locust splashing on the windscreen and I had winced in my seat. The creatures turned into something like scrambled eggs and slid down the windscreen in a gooey, slimy mass. My windscreen washers did their work and cleared the screen, but this was becoming increasingly difficult as the number of smashing locusts increased. What would happen if I ran out of water to clean the windscreen? I thought. And then I noticed the red warning light indicating an overheated radiator. Just now this had to happen, I thought bitterly. Turning into a roadhouse, I quickly parked my car and ran into the restaurant part where I found a man looking worriedly at the darkening sky.
‘My radiator has suddenly overheated and I think I need fresh water.’
The attendant appeared to be amazed at my naive talk and advised me out of the corner of his mouth: ‘Nothing to do with it. You have to brush the locusts off your radiator and you’ll be alright. You’ll still need some water for topping-up’.
He suddenly had a small hand broom in his hand and walked to my car where he brushed an amazing amount of roasted locusts from the radiator – all crispy fried, I thought. After everything was checked - water, petrol and the windscreen was cleaned properly once more - I was about to drive off.
But first, I returned to the service station’s office and bought a small hand broom and felt slightly safer. Returning to my car in a haze of swarming locusts, I had noticed the horizon looking black. All the time the chirping noise and flying whirr of the creatures had been sawing at my nerves. A four wheel drive had pulled up behind me and I asked the farmer who emerged from his heap of scrambled eggs what else one could do in such a situation. He glanced at me in a strange way. Somehow, they all seemed to know how to cope with a situation like that one.
‘Well, you’ve got a small brush or hand broom, I see,’ he pointed at it. ‘You surely need netting in front of your radiator . . .’
‘What’s that?’ I interrupted.
He pointed to his vehicle. ‘What you need is a fibreglass mesh tied in front of your radiator to prevent the bloody locusts from clogging up your radiator.’
I stared at the flywire mesh in front of his radiator – that’s the solution, I thought.
The farmer noticed that I was simple and added ‘Of course you still need to get out of your car occasionally and brush it clean once in a while. Otherwise your radiator may still boil!’
I had thanked him with great relief and gone back into the service station’s office where I bought some flywire mesh and tied it in front of my car’s front grille.
Upon continuing my trip into the ‘black hole’, I learned what fear was. You cannot see the road ahead; your windscreen wiper cannot clean away quickly enough the messy slime that runs down the windscreen. And when you are out of water, and the radiator is hot again, you have to get out and brush away the insects and that’s when they get you. In the stifling heat, they crawl into the car, into your clothes and as quickly as you brush them off, they clog up your mesh again. And all the while, that high pitched chirping is penetrating your brain and you cannot do anything about it!
With my suit clinging wet to my body, shaking and wide eyed with terror, I got through the swarm, headlights blazing. At the next roadhouse, I steadied myself with a strong cup of coffee.
While the mechanic filled up the petrol tank and checked the motor and radiator, he tried to talk to me: ‘So, you’ve been through that swarm already. They are expected here by tomorrow. Then we will have trouble,’ he said with a grim expression. ‘You won’t believe what they eat. There is nothing left wherever they strike!’
‘I thought the Government was spraying their areas to reduce the swarm.’
‘Yeah, but only crown land, me boy!
‘What do you mean? They spray only on government land and across the fence, on private property, nothing is being done? And there is more private land than crown land in some areas. That’s no good.’ I got agitated. ‘The authorities are bragging on the radio about what they are doing to break the plague while they keep breeding on private land.’
He laughed, ‘You’ve just learned a lesson now, haven’t you?’
I swallowed bitterness. ‘Yes, I suppose I just have.’

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


‘Morning Glory’ was a bush nursing hospital in a remote country town and surrounded by shady eucalyptus trees, giving it a picturesque appearance. During recent renovations, it had just installed new PVC floorings throughout. It was my company’s product and it was selected because it needed only the occasional quick buffing with a floor polisher. Yet despite this ease of maintenance, I had received a phone call requesting my visit to sort out a ‘faulty vinyl’. Sure, sure, I thought grimly.
Sister Theresa, who was running the hospital, smiled when she saw me. It was a trusting smile which made me determined to get to the bottom of her problem.
‘Mal, our cleaner tried to buff the floor with his floor polisher but said your vinyl was too soft!’
Despite the nonsense I’d just heard, I smiled back at her reassuringly. ‘Is Mal here?’
‘No, he starts work at six o’clock in the afternoon’, she stated.
‘But, sister, if I can come all the way from Melbourne to impart some knowledge and help him solve a problem, don’t you think that this merits his being present in his own time?’
‘I’ll phone him now because he does not live very far from here.’ Sister Theresa liked to get on top of problems.
While she retreated into her small office, I walked around the building, head bowed and studying the flooring. It was very well installed and looked bright and friendly. Suddenly, I came across the complaint mentioned and knew instantly what had happened to the flooring. The cleaner had switched on his floor polishing machine without having a buffing pad on the rotating disk with gripping spikes and he had routed into the PVC flooring. Of course, he had not admitted to having made a mistake and damaging the flooring himself, but complained instead about ‘the appearance of the floor after having buffed it’.
Within half an hour Nigel Firty had arrived. He looked annoyed for having been called from his home, in his own time, and, showing no embarrassment, pointed to the spot of approximately 70 cm of damaged vinyl. He took the buffing machine out of the cleaner’s room and polished an area of passageway without any problems. Obviously, he had learned his lesson in the meantime!
‘Unfortunately, I was not here, Sister, when this happened but I am confident that it will not happen again. If I send you a large piece of the same PVC flooring free-of-charge, could you ask the flooring contractor to cut out the damaged part and insert the new piece?’
Sister Theresa nodded ‘That will be fine.’ She, too, realised that this was not the time to point the finger at anybody but to ensure a friendly working relationship all round.
‘Thank you for coming, Peter,’ Sister Theresa spoke again. ‘If you could help us with that piece of vinyl that would be great.’


Wednesday, September 14, 2011


A few months after the Cuban Missile Crisis (note the capitals), I was lunching with another Russian expatriate who rejoiced in the name of George George. I knew him well as he was a great friend of Alex’s. He ran a small import/export business from a minuscule office in Jermyn Street and was a fairly frequent traveller to Europe, including the occasional visit to East Germany (sorry, the GDR).
Early in the meal, he said, in almost an off-hand way, “I hear you’ve had a spot of bother with the War Office.”
I was staggered when he said he knew of my fracas with Colonel Allen. Then I remembered George’s tale of how he came to Britain.
He had been in the last class of the Imperial Russian Military Academy, escaped shortly after the revolution and eventually set up in Germany where he qualified as a lawyer. In the early 1930s, he didn’t, as he said, “like the look of Hitler” (though he was not Jewish); he felt that Germany was not for him. He had corresponded with some vague relations who lived in Scotland, a situation which went back to the late 18th century when there was a flourishing trade in timber between Scotland and Russia, so, after much thought, for he spoke virtually no English, set off for the United Kingdom.
He found his German law degree was quite useless in Scotland. Indeed, an English law degree did not qualify one there either. So he left for London.
He much enjoyed telling of his time after war was declared in September, 1939.
“I went along to the authorities and said I would like to volunteer. I pointed out that I was fluent in Russian and German and had more than a working knowledge on Italian, Spanish and most Slavic languages, so thought I might be useful as a censor. They thanked me but pointed out that my request for naturalisation had not yet been approved. So I was sent off to learn how to be an air-raid warden.
“Someone may have pulled a string or two, as my naturalisation was approved quite quickly and I was sent for by what we now call MI5. They decided to use me in
their foreign language department……..and put me in the Dutch section; I knew, perhaps, a dozen words of that language.
I digress. George, very tactfully, asked me if I was still seeing a lot of Alex.
“I suppose I see him most days when we are both in London.”
“I had a call from Jim Craufurd. He’s worried about your friendship with Alex.”
In parenthesis, I would mention that Jim Craufurd was a cousin of my father-in-law and, thus, knew me, though slightly.
“Gosh, is that old fool still with the spooks?”
“That’s not very polite, Michael. He’s among the most revered ex-members of the intelligence service.”
“I’m astonished. I know what my wife’s immediate family think of him. I knew he was a KC in the dim and distant past but that most judges wouldn’t have him in their courts as he was almost impossible to understand.”
“Be that as it may. He is worried about Alex.”
“My dear friend. You know Alex better than I do. You know he is almost the archetypical Russian. He loves Russia, loves using the Russian language, he’s volatile and demonstrative. But he’s no more a fellow-traveller than Winston Churchill.”
Then I remembered the chance encounter in Geneva but thought better than to mention it to George, sure that, despite the lady’s nationality, nothing of a sinister nature had occurred (if you omit the cuckolding of a husband)
“Oh, well, I know it’s a difficult situation. I’ll trust your judgement.”
Blimey, I thought. Dear little (he was just over 145 cm tall in his Homburg hat) George was still heavily involved in the defence of Her Majesty’s realm. I supposed it was a case of ‘once in MI5, you’re there for life’, though that rule had hardly applied to Messrs Burgess MacLean and Philby
1963 arrived and with it the “Profumo Scandal”. A fairly senior Cabinet Minister (the Secretary of State for War—i.e. the bloke in charge of the Army under the Minister of Defence) had been accused of having an affair with a famous (?notorious) call-girl, Christine Keeler. That might have been tolerated but it transpired that among those enjoying her favours at the same time, was a Russian naval captain, one Evgeni Ivanov. Golly, I thought. Wasn’t he one of the blokes I met with Alex in the Moscow Arms?”
He was indeed and, it turned out, no more a naval captain than our daughters’ nanny for he was identified as the head of the London office of the Russian secret service, the NKVD. Obviously, ‘our chaps’ in MI5 had known this, hence their great interest in Alex. Incidentally, it is amusing to recall that British spies in embassies, whether in friendly or not-so-friendly countries nearly always seem to use the cover of “The British Council representative”, while our American cousins are often undercover as “Agricultural Attaché”.
I have often wondered what MI5 thought when one day early in 1962, they saw the front page of The Manchester Guardian (as it was then called). There, slap in the middle was a photo taken at the British Iron and Steel Federation’s trade mission to the USSR. Three men were depicted. One was the head of the BISF, another was Comrade Khruschev. Standing between them acting as interpreter, was Alex.
In the summer of 1964, I called on Alex in his flat in North Notting Hill one Saturday afternoon. It was on the top floor of four, no lift, quite spacious and comfortable. I knocked on the door and Alex answered immediately. He greeted me “Slav Style” with a big hug and a kiss on the cheek.
“Ho, ho,” I thought. “He’s been at the vodka.”
I went into the living-room and was introduced to a cheerful-looking chap, about fifty or so.
“Meet ‘Uncle Vanya’,” said Alex.
Now I had heard of the Chekhov play, but this fellow wasn’t dead. He solved my unspoken question by saying,
“I am Major-General Efremov, Senior Military Attaché at the Embassy.”
Here we go again.
What with one thing and another, plus the undoubted fact that Alex and “Vanya” were at least two very large ones ahead of me, I let that one through to the keeper. Vanya told me of his time as a parachutist in “the Great Patriotic War” and I, without too much exaggeration, retailed some of my Korean experiences.
“We were bloody fools to back that awful Kim Il Sung,” remarked my New Best Friend. I felt I could pluck up the courage to ask him to come to the window which overlooked the street below.
“Look at that──those two cars opposite.”
The automobiles in question were a Morris Minor with two men in bowler hats in the front and a large black car which I picked out as a Russian Zil. In this were a couple of hefty-looking chaps in large fedora-type hats.
‘Uncle Vanya’ roared with laughter.
“Those fellows in the little car are your chaps watching me. The blokes in the black car are my chaps watching your chaps watching me. Bloody stupid. Your MI5 know that the new head of the NKVD here in London is he ambassador’s chauffeur. I am what I told you; the senior military attaché. But they continue this charade. Gives them something to do on a wet Saturday afternoon.”
That was (almost) the end of the affair save that, once more I heard from Curzon Street. Not the rude Colonel Allen but a much more polite chap who asked me what I thought of Efremov.
So Our Spooks know I met him. Here we go again.
But it turned out a little different.
“What was your impression of the General? Does he like it here?”:
“He certainly seemed to. Indeed, I have wondered whether he might be ‘turned’”.
“Yes. But he doesn’t have his wife and family with him. The NKVD/KGB think he’s not totally reliable, so they keep them in Moscow as a kind of hostage to ensure his return to the Soviet Union.”
And that, as far as I was concerned, was the end of my (very sketchy) entry into the world of the NKVD, MI5, KGB and anyone else who had thought that my mate Alex was a fellow-traveller.


Saturday, September 10, 2011


Dear Visitor,
Today, I have the pleasure of introducing a guest author, my good friend Michael Muschamp, and am confident that you will enjoy his amusing reminiscing as much as I do. PETER FREDERICK

Yes, I know the heading should be “The NKVD and I”. Whatever, at least it rhymes.

1962 found me in London where I had worked for three years or so as manager of a New Zealand firm’s UK office. Not the world’s biggest office; self plus secretary and the occasional visiting fireman.

For the past three years, I had been sharing an office in the posh environs of Mayfair with another Kiwi, Alex Marks, who was the London end of a large NZ construction company. His boss and mine were good friends and the arrangement worked very well until the summer of ’62 when, for reasons unknown either to me or Alex, the bosses fell out and I was told to find an alternative home. Which I did, just round the corner from the ‘old’ one. Mind you, to get to my small office on the first floor, you had to fight your way past he rubbish bins of the ground floor caff.

Alex was about fifteen years my senior, a chap of medium height, greyish hair, bright eyes behind large rimmed glasses. Annually, he attended his good friend, a Jewish tailor, and bought two suits; by the month’s end they looked as if he’d slept in them. He probably had, for his success with the opposite sex was, not to put too fine a point on it, extraordinary. Given that he was usually emitting a good deal of garlic, I could only remain somewhat staggered

An example of his success in this important aspect of heterosexual life occurred in the spring of 1962. We met, by arrangement, in Geneva, both en route to the Hannover Fair, the biggest of its kind in Europe. It was chilly for the end of April but we put up with the temperature and had a coffee in a lakeside café. There was hardly a soul there, save for, a few tables away, an attractive woman in, I guessed, her early thirties.

We left to do our own bits of business, arranging to meet at Alex’s hotel three hours hence, i.e. at 7.30. A stickler for punctuality (a defect which has haunted me ever since my naval days), I knocked on Alex’s door at precisely 1930, local time. The door was opened. But not by Alex but the “lady by the lake”.

She joined us for dinner and left immediately after, explaining that her husband was due home early next morning. She spoke English with a decided Russian accent, but, at the time, I thought no more of that, knowing Alex’s love of his native country and its language.

He had arrived in New Zealand in 1920, the youngest of three children whose parents had undertaken the perilous journey to escape the Bolshevists, via Siberia and Kamkatcha for, as I was to discover a little later, they were , in the words of another émigré, “upper-middle class intellectuals, a bit like the Huxleys”. The language at home in Wellington, where they eventually settled, was Russian. Indeed, his father who was one of the founders of New Zealand’s radio manufacturing business, only spoke a very few words of English to his dying day and, whatever their family name was, it certainly wasn’t Markov or even Marx, the anglicised version of which had become Alex’s patronymic.

A few months later, in early October, it was cold, grey in England and, when it wasn’t raining, looked as if it would do so at any tick of the clock.

The newspapers, the BBC and ITV (thank God, only two channels then) were full of dire warnings. World War Three was just a-round the corner. Or, so they said. The United States and the USSR were playing a deadly game of ‘chicken’. Who was going to crack first as the Russian ships bearing missiles for Mr Castro were approaching Cuba?

My previous employment as a naval officer meant that I was subject to recall to the forces of the Crown whenever a state of emergency was declared or such seemed likely. Thus, I was not completely bewildered when my phone rang and an unmistakably military voice said, “Muschamp?”

“Michael Muschamp,” I replied, hoping, in vain, as it transpired, that the disembodied one might be a little less peremptory.

“You’re on the Emergency List of the RN, aren’t you?”

“Yes, I was transferred from the RNZN when I came to live in England.” I purposely omitted ‘sir’ as I had no idea who was interrogating me. I didn’t have long to wait.

“I’m Colonel Allen, War Office,” quoth the ill-mannered one, “come to my office in Curzon Street tomorrow at eleven.”

Not so much as ‘by your leave’ or ‘hope you haven’t another appointment.’
“I’ll be there, sir.”

“Room 35 on the third floor. Don’t be late.”

Having established that the fellow was three ranks senior to me (maybe only two as Lieutenant-Colonels are usually referred to without the first word), I thought I had better throw in the ‘sir’ in aid of good and friendly British Commonwealth relations. And ‘Curzon Street’ meant ‘MI5’, a fact of which I had become quite aware. for, before she was lucky enough to marry me, my wife had worked there though, of course, her post was a good deal junior to that of the peremptory “Brown Job” (the navy’s epithet for army personnel).

This exchange had left me aghast. I was fully aware that, some seven years since I had ‘been at sea’, I would be about as much use to one of Her Majesty’s Ships as a rope entangled in a propeller (‘screw’ in naval parlance). Nevertheless, I fronted the apparently anonymous Curzon Street building, told the guard who I was and where I was going. He checked, made a phone call to which he contributed,

“He’s in a suit, sir. Quite smart, actually.”
Some compliment.

I took a creaky lift to the third floor, found Room 35 and knocked.

“Come in, damn you.”

So I came in.

To face an angry-looking fifty-ish man, regimental tie, rather creased suit. He motioned me to a chair opposite him.


If that’s the way to win friends and influence people, I went to the wrong school, I mused.

I sat.

“This feller Alex Marks, you know him?”

“Yes, sir. We shared an office until about six months ago.”

“Why did you leave?

“Our respective bosses in Auckland had a bit of a falling-out.”

“But you still see Marks?”

“Yes, he’s a very good friend.”

“Funny sort of friend. You know he’s a Russian?” 

“ I know he was born in Moscow about 1916 and fled eastward with his family a bit later.. They finished up in New Zealand after a hair-raising trip. Not that he remembers it, but I’ve met his sister who told me about it.”

“You know he’s been seeing some Russians from their embassy here?”

“Yes, sir. I went with him once to the Moscow Arms where he introduced me to several Russians.” (The pub’s name had nothing to do with matters Russian except for the odd coincidence that it was in Moscow Road. In West Kensington) “But they all wanted to speak Russian so I didn’t go again. Of course he knows plenty of Russians who live here. He enjoys speaking Russian and, as someone once said, ‘You can take the man out of Russia but you can’t take Russia out of the man’”

“Well, I don’t want you to see him any more.”

“Might I enquire, sir, what right you have to tell me this? I may well be on the Emergency List of the Navy, but I am yet to be called up and I was unaware that a State of Emergency had been declared.”

“You are a cheeky young colonial. Get out.” 

So I got out.

I didn’t tell Alex.

(to be continued…..)
Would you like to leave a message for  Michael, right below? Many thanks!

Monday, September 5, 2011


The town of Bilbool was not very far. I had already passed its signs and soon I would be amongst houses again. Bilbool was a small country town and I only had to visit a school, a Government department and a bush nursing hospital.
The school had always fascinated me. It was so small that the principal was also a teacher, the cleaner and God knows what else. It had a small administrative building made of red bricks, many years ago, and since the town’s population was dwindling, there was plenty of space everywhere.
‘Good morning,’ I greeted the friendly lady behind the office counter. ‘Would Mr Frank Upton be in? I don’t have a firm appointment but he is expecting me today.’
She smiled. Obviously, they did not get too many reps. calling, being in the middle of grain-growing country with little else to warrant a visit from far away Melbourne.
‘He is teaching right now but just knock on the door and he will come out. But he may ask you to wait till recess.’
‘That is fine.’ I thanked her and walked the long corridor in search of a classroom with children and a teacher in it. Through the glass windows I could see into empty classrooms that would have been filled with children in days gone by. With young people flocking to the cities, country towns now struggled to preserve their small communities.
Sure enough, the last classroom to my right hand side was active. Children were sitting on their small chairs and listening with admiration and awe at what was being taught. At the front of the room, I saw Frank, the principal, teacher, caretaker, and whatever other functions he may have had in this little country school. He looked more like a farmer than a teacher, with his shirtsleeves rolled up, his collar unbuttoned. His sunburnt face, with lean features beneath a tussled shock of hair, was animated as he talked. I had also noticed that his pearly white teeth and blue eyes, cheerfully darting from one child to another, accentuated his personality. And, of course, he wore the grey gabardine trousers of the country folk and matching desert boots, made for walking on unsealed roads.
Suddenly, I realised that he was teaching German language. His blackboard was covered with picture cut-outs of various household articles and he kept pointing at them with a thick forefinger. I don’t know what came over me, but I knocked on the classroom door, opened it and stuck my head in.
I heard myself say in German: ‘Could I see you for a moment, please? I won’t keep you long.’
He flashed a smile at me and nodded. I am sure he mentally checked my grammar. However, my question had a noticeable effect on the children. Their mouths dropped open and they stared at me utterly surprised. Obviously, they had accepted a foreign language as being something to give them a hard time in school, but that somebody would actually speak it, when he didn’t have to, seemed to astonish them.?
‘That was a surprise, Peter,’ Frank extended a grateful hand. ‘Could I ask you to wait another ten minutes, when we have recess? I shall not teach for the rest of the morning and I am all yours then.’
‘Great, Frank. I shall wait outside the reception area. Alright with you?’
‘Perfect! See you soon.’ He went back into the classroom and recommenced torturing the poor children with a difficult language.
It turned out that Frank wanted my advice on installing a safety floor in the passageway. ‘Every time it rains, the rain water comes inside, making the corridor slippery and downright dangerous for the children’.
I had a look at the situation. ‘Frank, I’ll give you my honest opinion. The installation of safety flooring will cost a large sum of money and will still not solve your problem.’
‘Well, what do you suggest?’ Obviously, Frank was not keen to spend money unnecessarily. And if a floor covering rep. advises against buying flooring, there must be a valid reason.
‘Your main entrance to the school has no porch; it is flat and without protection. You step from outside directly inside. The rain hits your entrance and virtually comes inside every time the door is opened. And even closed, it runs from outside into your interior as there is no barrier.’
‘Y-yes. But what can be done about it?’ He was keen to make the right decision and was prepared to listen.
‘You have no roof protruding as a barrier for rain. If you had at least a canvas or aluminium awning which would act like an umbrella, the rain would fall at a distance from your entrance! ‘This, combined with outdoor industrial matting and another industrial mat inside, a minimum of five paces long, would take everything off the soles of shoes and your corridor would be dry.’
‘That is very good advice, Peter. It certainly would cost less than replacing a floor. I’ll be glad when I’ve stopped the kids from slipping.’
‘Now, hang on, Frank.’ I interrupted his beautiful thoughts. ‘There may be kids still falling because they push and shove each other. Even if you had a safety floor, there is no guarantee that nobody will slip - ever! But you will reduce the chance considerably if discipline is high.’
‘But that means your own advice will lose your company business,’ he said looking puzzled.
‘We do not work that way’ I explained to Frank. ‘If you really needed flooring I would say so. But I will not recommend something that’s not necessary’.
Frank assured me that he would get some quotations for a large awning and industrial matting and do his homework budget-wise. We shook hands and I left with the elating feeling of having helped a friend!


Friday, August 19, 2011


Sales representatives were basically in the ‘people business’ and every meeting had the potential to bring problems. And I do not mean just lack of sales. When staying in contact with somebody, a deep relationship may develop, sometimes deeper than one is at first aware of! For example, in a tiny country town of Edenborough, there was the only floor covering shop for near and far which belonged to Max Whiting and his staff of three.
There, my cup of coffee was made with more love and attention and the biscuits were more generous. The shop was run by a manager, Alf Downing, as the boss did the actual flooring installations - a somewhat unusual arrangement. But the flooring installations were of top standard, of course, having been installed by the boss himself! How I loved calling on this shop, because the welcome was so much more sincere than anywhere else.
There was never a complaint to investigate and everybody seemed to have a permanent happy smile. Every time I called on that establishment, the complete staff assembled in the shop to meet with me: the boss, the two other floor layers, the boss’s wife and her father, a farmer who had nothing to do with floor laying but liked to meet ‘city people’. I always found myself sitting in that shop on a roll of carpet or PVC flooring, a cup of coffee in my hands and biscuits on a plate which was balancing on the roll I was sitting on, with everybody facing me with all attention I had ever wanted. Of course, I always had some knowledge to pass on, installation techniques to discuss, questions or queries to answer, new product catalogues to give out and technical data to hand out. It was sheer enjoyment, sitting there, having their utter attention; it was a circle of real friends and the atmosphere was always relaxed and warm.
Whenever I hit the town at lunch time, I used to phone ahead and arrange with the shop’s manager, Alf Downing, to have lunch with me. There was a little cafe which served simple meals but the seats were actually benches, arranged in cozy nooks, giving one the sensation of utter privacy. Sitting there and enjoying Alf’s company, I always felt that the two of us were the only customers in the shop. (Sometimes we really were!)
‘Here we are, Alf,’ I would say as we sat down. ‘It’s time I had lunch with a real gentleman!’
Alf smiled his relaxed smile ‘Thank you, Peter. Oh, I’ll have a tuna sandwich and a cup of coffee, if that’s alright with you.’
‘Of course it’s alright’, I replied and went to the counter to place my order.
‘You mentioned last time that you had leukaemia? That’s terrible, Alf! Are you in treatment? And what can be done about it?’
‘Nothing much can be done about it, Peter’. He smiled quietly and gave me the impression of utter peace and calm.
‘It is in remission right now and I can lead a normal life. But it can flare up at any time and I could die at any time.’
Seeing my horrified face he smiled and added: ‘But at the moment I am alright.’
‘But you have a young family, Alf - a lovely wife and two beautiful daughters. This is a terrible predicament. And you are doing such a good job, managing the flooring shop. What did you do before you joined Max Whiting’s team?’
‘Oh, I am a printer by trade and also used to do a little bit of artwork and layout.’
‘So, that’s why your shop is always so nicely laid out and signs and price tags are always placed correctly! You are an artist as well!’
We always had a chat whilst chewing something and it was very relaxing for me. Alf had this natural, friendly, personality and always seemed to be at peace. At the end of our meals, he would say ‘Now, let’s go to the shop and meet the others! We all want to know what you have for us this time.’
Back in the shop, the whole team was there and, yes, another cup of coffee and more pleasant conversation followed. I always regretted having to move on to another town and getting back into the ‘rat race’.
One day, when walking from the parked car to ‘our cafe’, as we called it, I noticed Alf limping slightly.
‘Hang on, Peter, I am a bit slower today’ he pointed to his right leg. ‘I’ve got this pain in my hip and I do not know from what. But it’ll go away,’ showing again his serene smile.
But it didn’t go away. I had been back in Melbourne, for a week’s work, when I received a phone call one evening at my home: ‘This is Joe here, Peter. You know me; I work for Max Whiting in Edenborough.’
‘Hello, Joe, it’s nice to hear from you. How are you doing? I hope I can help you with something!’
‘It’s about Alf, Peter. He is in the St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne, dying of leukemia - will you visit him?’
Never had I received a greater shock! This was a dreadful telephone call, with a very direct question. I felt the blood draining from my face and my hand that held the receiver was shaking and I could not do a thing about it.
‘Whaaat? I . . . er . . . since when?’ I babbled uncontrollably. Then fear set in: First I was losing a dear friend and secondly . . .
‘Will you visit him?’ Joe had more presence than I.
‘Yes, of course!’ I do not know how I had the strength to say that. It was a most dreadful situation. Obviously, his illness had surfaced again to full-blown leukemia! What do you say to a good friend who is dying?
‘He wants you to visit him, Peter. He thinks a lot of you!’ He sounded natural and genuine, with no trace of flattery. Putting back the receiver, I broke down. I could not handle this, I thought. Never had I been in such a predicament. Yet Joe’s voice still reverberated in my ear. ‘Will you visit him?’ spoken with such naive trust. This was another of those occasions where my wife had given me great support. It helped me a lot, feeling her hand on my shoulder and speaking to me softly. We went to St. Vincent’s Private Hospital the following morning.
‘Yes, Alf is on the fifth floor and you may visit him now. Take your time,’ said the sister at the reception with a soothing voice and gentle smile.
I cannot remember entering Alf’s room, as I was still
trembling and pale, but I believe my wife led me in. Alf was in his bed, fast asleep. There were flowers on his bedside table, a jug with orange juice and a dressing gown folded neatly at the end of his bed. The reality was not as bad as I thought, I noted and recovered somewhat.
My wife and I sat on chairs by his bedside and simply waited. I thought of all the good times we had enjoyed together, about his family, his young wife and two lovely girls who used to smile at me from the photo he kept on his side table. I certainly dreaded his waking up, but suddenly, his eyes opened.
‘Hello, Peter, I was wondering when you would come!’ He smiled and his serene face seemed to gleam with joy. He always knew that I would come!
My wife introduced herself and took over the conversation which suited me fine as I was still confused as to what to say. What was appropriate in such a situation? Fortunately for me, Alf had a long and interesting conversation with my wife and the mood was that of a ‘normal’ patient who was recovering. But he wasn’t getting better, I thought. Every now and then a nurse or a nun would come into the room; they all had a nice smile and reassuring manners. At the end of our visit, I had promised to come again the following day, which pleased Alf visibly. Our conversation was just ordinary small talk between friends - that’s all.
When we left I was very glad that I had visited him and relieved that our visit had turned out alright and that I had been able to cope with a situation like this. Somehow, I had come through the occasiont! From then on, I visited him every day for the next five days. Alf always looked forward to my visits and on the fifth day we found him sitting on his bed with his feet dangling and eating a roast chicken with gusto.
‘You are doing well, Alf!’ I greeted him.
‘Yes, Peter’, was his cheery reply, ‘I feel fine and the doctors are sending me home tomorrow. I am in remission again and only need to visit the local doctor back home in Edenborough once a week. Isn’t that great?’
Alf, with his leukemia put on hold, went home to his family and friends. He had to retire from work on doctors’ orders, to look after himself better. I phoned him at home nearly every day and we had great conversations!
However, these daily conversations were interrupted when an urgent business trip took me to Tasmania, but, as soon as I arrived back home I phoned him again.
‘Hello, Jenny,’ I greeted his wife cheerfully. ‘How is Alf today?’
There was a moment’s hesitation before Jenny replied, ‘He died’.
Handing the phone to my wife, I walked away, thinking of everything we have been through together and the many conversations we had about life and the joy of it. And now, there was what he loved most in this world, his family, alone - a grief stricken wife and two bewildered little girls.
Since that time, whenever I had to go to Edenborough or had to drive through it, I always bought flowers and visited his grave. It wouldn’t matter how busy or how late I was for an appointment somewhere, I always had the time for Alf! Laying down the flowers by his graveside I prayed for him and spoke to him. I have since asked people in Alf’s town about his family and was told that they were ‘alright’ and that his widow had found a job in the town and that life was going on as normal as could be. But one person, who knew Jenny well, told me that she had noticed that every now and then there were flowers on Alf’s grave and that she had always wondered where they were coming from.
The years go by and sometimes we, who live, tend to question the purpose of carrying on, but for me, one thing never changes: whenever I have to drive through Edenborough, I always buy beautiful flowers and visit my friend Alf!


Wednesday, August 3, 2011


The radio announcer warned drivers to be very careful when driving in the area of the mice plague, however, I just had to drive to the town of Hurtley. Again, as was my wont, I drove to this location on a warm summer evening in order to be able to meet my client there first thing in the morning.
Hurtley is a small farming town with great grain silos, which are visible from far away. Also, there are huge mounds of grain simply covered by large tarpaulins. The people there are particularly friendly to anybody who calls on them. Unfortunately, they lose their young folk to the city and those who stay, try very hard to make a living and to stop the population drain. I thought of my contact there, a hospital engineer with a craggy face and deep sunburn, which told me that he was also running a small farm in his spare time.
Darkness had set in but in my headlights the roads were clear and there was no traffic at all. I had the feeling that I was the only person in the world driving on that road. The gentle music in my car and the soft glow of the dashboard gave the interior a pleasant ambience. Suddenly, I saw something - a strange vision. Slowing down to almost walking pace, I gazed at what seemed like a gigantic grey carpet on the road - a carpet stretching from one field, covering the road, and continuing on the other side. It was so large that I could not see where it started or where it ended. It covered the ground and billowed as if there were a draft underneath it. Incredible! As I got closer, dread came over me - ‘the grey carpet’ was a plague of mice, migrating across the road and spilling into the field on the other side. They moved in such tight formation covering the left side of the road and spilling onto the middle that they really looked like one gigantic grey carpet. When I wound down my window, I heard them emitting a high-pitched squeaking that continued on and on. It was a clear moonlit night and I could see quite a distance into the land on both sides of the road - and what I saw was wall-to-wall mice. There was no end to them.
I quickly had to make a decision: I had to continue my journey, come what may, as I had people waiting for me: the motel where I had booked a room and my client early the next morning. Driving slowly and gritting my teeth I kept going, into the mass of living flesh. My car slithered and slid and my hair stood on end because I could not see where the road ended and where the fields started. Unlike in floodwater, I could not see the middle line on the road to guide me, yet every now and then a traffic sign indicated to me that I had managed to somehow stay on the road. After about an hour of this gruesome experience I had reached the outskirts of the town and the mice had started to thin out.
I staggered into the reception room of the motel and the manager looked with alarm at my white face, trembling body and wet shirt, clinging to me. I stammered a bit when I told him what I had just been through. He nodded understandingly and his face hardened. It was like a punishment from God and there was little the suffering population could do about it.
Digging trenches with poisonous liquid, trapping them, shooting them; nothing seemed to have had any effect on this plaque. And as for the cats, they were nowhere to be seen. Jim, the motel manager, spoke very slowly: ‘And when this plague is over we can expect a plague of snakes. They normally follow mice.’
‘That is terrible, Jim. How do you cope with all this?’
He managed a forced smile. ‘You city people have no idea what we go through at times. As if the drought was not enough for us!’
I had walked into my motel room in a very depressed state. The next morning, upon seeing my blood spattered car, my stomach churned again. After completing my business with Alan Frosby, the maintenance engineer, I had driven off to the next town and found the roads clear and the land eaten bare, devoid of any plant life. Only occasionally did I encounter mice and the ones on the road were as flat as pancakes. This eerie experience will be with me for a long time, taking its place in my memory, next to some other catastrophes I have encountered in my long years as company representative.

Saturday, July 23, 2011






Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Hello Peter, your car has been serviced and it is ready for your country trip.’ The friendly voice on the telephone belonged to Stan, the man in charge of Selby’s Motors. Since a lot of people treat their car almost like a loved one, as a member of the family, his role was like that of a family doctor. His diagnosis of a car is always eagerly awaited by customers and his recommendations are followed religiously.
‘That’s great, Stan, thanks for your good work.’ I am sure I sounded relieved and grateful.
‘That’s alright, Peter. We know that you are due for your country trip and therefore have made servicing your car a top priority!’
Good service! I thought. Whilst I hated putting the car in for service as I always felt stranded without it, I realised that it had to be maintained properly. If not, it could let me down in the country side, in the middle of nowhere, between two towns, with tons of mozzies swarming around. I knew from bitter experience that you could do nothing about it then because when the motor doesn’t run, the air conditioning doesn’t either. It then gets stifling hot inside the car and you are forced to open a window. And that’s when the gnats get you! Out of nowhere they converge on one as if trained that way.
So, I went to my loyal service station and picked up my car. Relieved, I sank into the comfortable seat, turned on the air conditioning and sighed with sheer pleasure as the crisp, clean, refrigerated air hit me. Automatically, I undid my tie, took it off and dropped it on the seat next to me. I undid the top button of my shirt and . . . ah, that was luxury! For a moment I envied all those people who did not have to wear a business suit, shirt and tie.
Upon driving back to the office, the traffic was at its peak and I got nearer to my office only by the stop-start method, which I always found unnerving. I much preferred to do my business calls in the country because at least you could drive without the frustration of traffic and stop where you wanted to stop. It was wonderful to be able to park right outside an architect’s office and just go inside!
Suddenly, I had the feeling that something was not right. Was it the air conditioning? I fingered the control buttons - it was turned on alright, but why was the air suddenly so stiflingly warm? Feeling the air vents, I panicked. The fan which normally blew out the refrigerated air was not working. What an inconvenience! I was supposed to go on a country trip but could not possibly do so with the car in such condition!
‘Stan,’ I explained on my car phone to the service manager of the workshop, ‘the air conditioning does not work. It started alright, blowing cold air but suddenly the fan is not working. What happened?’
‘There can’t be much wrong, Peter,’ Stan’s voice was very reassuring. ‘We checked everything before handing you the car. Can you bring it back and we’ll have a look at it?’
Despite the heavy traffic I managed a u-turn and raced back to the workshop. Once there, Stan sounded less optimistic ‘To check the air conditioning’s fan and motor, we have to open up the dashboard and have a look at everything - it will take a while as it is a big job. Leave it here and we will phone you tomorrow with the result of our inspection.’
This did not sound reassuring at all. I’d have to face another full day without my car! Feeling like a broken man, I hailed a taxi cab and returned to the office. Whilst I had enough business to attend to at my desk, it was not a happy situation. I was in the middle of a large batch of phone calls when Stan reached me on the line. His call got to me between my outgoing calls.
‘This is Stan again, Peter. Your car is ready to be picked up. I’ve fixed everything. Now you can go on your country trip. Can you come right away as our workshop closes early?’
Slightly breathless I had entered the service station and Stan was waiting for me. All the other office staff and all the mechanics seemed to be looking at me, for some reason. ‘Peter, where is your necktie?’ Stan enquired with a very formal attitude. This was an unexpected question and I said the most stupid reply I could think of:
‘I haven’t got a necktie,’ I replied, totally confused about what that had to do with my car? ‘And what’s a necktie?’
‘Your tie, Peter!’ and he tucked at his own accessory to jog my memory.
‘Oh my tie? It’s in the car, on the seat.’
Suddenly, the whole office staff and the mechanics started to laugh and Stan explained: ‘Peter, we found your tie entangled in the fan. Here it is,’ and like a magician, he produced my tie which was in a terrible state.
‘It somehow got sucked up into the air intake opening at the floor and prevented the fan from blowing. There is nothing else wrong with your car!’
With a red face, I had accepted my car keys back and the tattered tie and got into my station wagon. What happened? Well, with all that starting and stopping in heavy traffic, the tie had fallen from my seat onto the floor, must have slid forward and been sucked into the air opening. What a reason to give a car back to a mechanic! I did not live this down for a while. Whenever I put my car in for service, Stan or whoever was serving customers, always remarked: ‘Ah, I see you’re wearing your tie!’ Naturally, I can laugh about this now but I still wish it had never happened to me!

Thursday, July 7, 2011


The morning’s grey – what will it bring?
Outside, there blows a freezing wind
and brings the South pole closer home.
I fancy polar creatures roam
at intersections, public places,
where people rush with frosty faces
past penguins and seals in masses
who stare at them with frozen asses
as they pursue their daily chore,
so frozen deep down to their core.

Friday, July 1, 2011


I turned and there was Ian, a youngish architect, smiling at me. He had set himself up on his parents’ farm and travelled up and down the country district, finding business and was seemingly cushioned against the vagaries of the economy that his city counterparts dread so much. Conducting my business was easy as Ian was naturally friendly to visitors. He did not get too many and that made me very welcome.
‘Be careful when you drive on to Dunkston and into Victoria,’ he warned.
‘I know, Ian, I heard about the plague of locusts on the radio. Unfortunately, I will have to spend a day in town because I have to put my car in for service,’ giving him an accusing look which went unnoticed. Anyhow, I wondered what there was to warn about? They were tiny creatures, weren’t they? What could they do? Plus, the government was constantly announcing that it was spraying the area, obviously killing them off before they started swarming, so if I kept the windows closed and the air conditioning on, they could not get to me. I just had to drive through the swarm in comfort. Easy!
Well, it wasn’t! I was wrong as usual and my hair greyed a bit more than nature intended. But first, I had to get the car serviced. There were two good mechanics and I chose one with the least cars waiting. The workshop was located at the begin of the town and it was unique because it had a life-size mannequin outside, near the road, with a motorised arm waving motorists into its driveway. Obviously, the owner of the petrol station cum repair shop had a sense of humour!
Looking at the dummy, I had noticed that it was also being used as an advertising medium for other things because it had a large sign hanging from its neck, inviting everybody to a play in the town: ‘Rome, sweet Rome’ it said in large letters - obviously a pun directed at the Italian population of the area. Also, the dummy was dressed in a Roman toga and, like in ancient Rome, had a laurel wreath placed on its realistic wig. With its finely detailed face and accurate proportions the mannequin really did look lifelike! To make it attract even more attention, the service station owner had installed a windscreen wiper motor that moved the arm. Waving at passers-by and directing motorists into the driveway was certainly a clever set-up!
Wally, the owner came out, smiling. He knew that another city slicker had been lured into his establishment! ‘You like my dummy, then?’ he started a conversation.
‘It’s incredibly lifelike! It certainly gets a lot of attention,’ I observed admiringly.
Wally nodded proudly ‘Yes, I put a bit of work into it,’ pointing at the arms. ‘I’ve installed a windscreen wiper motor. Actually I put two of them in the dummy and added hinges to the arms.’
I stared at the animated figure.
‘I’ve also installed a loudspeaker and work everything from the console in my office. He pointed to his small office with all the space occupied with paperwork and with spare parts used as paperweights. And sure enough, there was a microphone and some buttons and knobs giving the appearance of a primitive radio station.
‘I have only one problem’ he said.
‘What’s that?’ I could not think of a drawback.
‘Come into my office right now’ His voice had become a whisper like a conspirator’s. Eagerly, I had followed him. He placed himself in front of his microphone, his hands hovering over the knobs and buttons. His expression became grim and determined.
He obviously had forgotten about me, judging from his intensive staring at a van with a family inside. Clearly tourists, they had stopped in front of the dummy, and stared at it, talking to each other excitedly. Then one man had left the van and slowly approached the figure, as if mesmerised.
‘Watch this bastard,’ Wally whispered. ‘They all do that!’
‘Do what?’ I whispered back, feeling like a conspirator, too, only not knowing the plot.
The man stood in front of ‘Nero’ as I had named the Roman mannequin, reached out and tried to shake hands with him. This must harm the mechanism, I thought.
Suddenly, the dummy jerked and boomed at the tourist ‘Let go of me bloody arm! What do you think you are doing?’
The shock was very visible, especially as there was nobody else in the driveway. The man almost jumped out of his skin. Trembling, he sprinted to his van, got into it and drove off with the acceleration of a racing car driver.
‘See that?’ Wally turned to me. ‘They all try to shake hands and it damages the motors inside it.’
‘That’s incredible,’ I could only stammer.
But Wally was made of sterner stuff because I heard him mumble: ‘I hope his drycleaner can keep a secret!’
I had to stay in Dunkston while my new muffler was being installed and I also took advantage of getting a full car service at the same time. Wally was an old-fashioned mechanic who took his work very personally, and whatever he did, he did properly. However, I had some visits to make in the town: to the hospital, the local government authority and flooring contractors, all in walking distance, so not much time was lost.
Upon leaving an architect’s place and walking towards a Government department where more architects were waiting for me, I had passed a large cinema and noticed a sizeable poster advertising a concert by Slim Dusty. It was a pleasant shock because Slim Dusty was one of my heroes of country music. In fact, it had always been my dream to attend one of his concerts and witness this legend perform. His concert was scheduled for the next day! I was reading the poster with excitement when I felt a hand on my shoulder.
‘Hello, Peter! You are back in town.’ It was Terry Stringer, an architect, whose small office I had intended to visit.
‘Hello, Terry.’ I was pleased to see him as he was completely natural with none of the snobbish air I sometimes encounter from city establishments.
‘Yes, I was coming to see you this afternoon, if that’s alright with you? I have some new samples for you and your catalogue needs updating.’
‘Splendid, Peter. Let’s say about 3 pm? That’s it then. I see you are a Slim Dusty fan? Are you going to his concert tomorrow? It will be a great event.’
‘Unfortunately, Terry, I can’t! You know how it is - there is always another town to call on.’
‘I know what you are like, Peter. You are too correct. That’s what’s wrong with you.’
‘W-what do you mean?’
‘Let’s say, if you had a car problem that needed fixing or if you were not feeling very well and had to take a day off - you are entitled to it, aren’t you? Then you would have your chance to see Slim Dusty and nobody would know!’
‘You make it sound so easy, Terry’
‘But it is easy. And don’t forget that after the concert, you can meet the master in the pub and have a yarn with him. You know what Slim is like!’
‘Yes, he is very folksy and,’ I was pulling myself together, ‘I have my car in for repairs and a service today. I tell you what, Terry, if the car is not ready by this evening I shall stay here for another day. But only then.’
‘Please yourself. So I shall see you at 3 o’clock then’. Terry nodded and left me in inner turmoil. I have always been a stickler for correctness. It didn’t not matter how far away from a boss I worked, I always did the correct thing, otherwise I just would not have been able to look at myself in the mirror in the morning. Therefore, I decided to leave it up to God. If my car was still being repaired the next day, then I would have had no other choice and I would see Slim.
Wally, the repairman, smiled when I called on him late afternoon. ‘It’s all ready, Peter. New muffler and full service! The tyres are alright and I have just test driven it.’
‘Thank you, Wally. I am relieved that I have a reliable vehicle again and do not need to feel stranded any more!’
But there was a touch of regret in my voice.