Friday, 8 January 2010


Just a little vieux anglais to thank people for the very kind things they have told me the last few days. One writes for a variety of reasons, but deep within, a little acknowledgment - even praise - spurs one ever onwards.

Having just opened my diary at random, I came to the Oxford & Cambridge boat race day. I have no direct connection with either university, but for some reason have always cheered on Oxford. I do, however, have strong rowing connections. My brothers both row, and very well, for my old school. My father rowed in Australian Surf Life Saving competitions. And friends here have rowed at Henley Regatta (possibly my favourite event in the English calendar) and even for Great Britain in the Commonwealth Games. So I naturally have tried to take an interest, and usually eventuate with a strong desire to look every bit as fit as they do. Then I remember how early they rise and the temperature thereat. And despite the fact I tell anyone who will listen that the Thames is one of the cleanest city rivers in the world, and has welcomed back marine life including sea horses, it remains the Thames.

But I wish to tell no more of rowing. The day preceding this world-famous event, was much more peculiar. On arrival in this country, I made a varied assortment of friends, as I think one does. This happened to include some South Africans. Goodness knows why, but I rather enjoy the lilting accent some of the posher SA's seem to have. The proper Afrikaans leaves me rather cold. One of the better-spoken ones returned home not long after we had met. Naturally, one says in a very well-meaning manner "Oh yes of course, do keep in touch, must catch up if you're ever back again etc. etc."

Imagine my surprise to receive a text many months later. "Hallo, it's *such and such*, how are you? I'm back in town, do you fancy catching up?" Naturally I accepted. I find it difficult to refuse anything at the best of times, and I genuinely thought it might be nice to share a cup of tea, Rooibos of course. Come the time to leave, an eerie, black cloud was bearing down upon Londres. I should have known then and there. Still I carried on; TfL this, replacement bus service that. Meeting in Vauxhall with no Victoria Line is incredibly painful. And dull. Finally I arrived, late of course, with my phone ringing.

"Hallo!" I trilled.
"Hallo?" Blatant unease there.

Quickly I became aware that the voice on the other end of the line was wrong, and for several reasons. One being that the voice was English, another that it was wholly unfamiliar and latterly, it was coming from the man standing next to me - staring and slightly colourless.

"Well you're not the *insert name here* I was expecting! How hilariously awkward." I don't think I was quite so articulate, but then I'm allowed some artistic license.

 "Oh. I was very worried *insert name of friend who had failed to mention she was giving out my number to chaps when they asked for hers* had had a sex change."

Worryingly, he looked genuinely concerned as though this could have been the case. At this point, the heavens chose to open, featuring golf ball sized hailstones. As we could both appreciate the comedy of the situation, we decided that, rather than remaining outside, amongst the weather, we should have that cup of tea after all. It turned into a rather funny afternoon. Howsoever could I have been so foolish! To lazily assume that nobody else, similarly named, would mistakenly contact me, asking to take tea. The first twenty minutes was spent laughing at the absurdity of the whole thing. Shame that didn't last, because he then became frightfully dull and nouveau riche. Yacht this, broken marriage that, celebrity party this, negative equity that. Dull, dull. Little wonder my friend gave him un faux numéro. How irritating that she should have chosen mine. Why not one of the many people she truly dislikes.

Bored, I made my excuses and dashed into the maelstrom.

What I do cherish is that this and other bizarre modern tales can and do happen. Sometimes they might bring unexpectedly welcome surprises, others... Little more than stories for a dying dinner party. They remind one of the possibilities of life and equally, it's abject pointlessness. For years, my brothers and I have rolled our eyes at our Mother's incessant use of positive affirmations. Irritatingly, I may be doing some unrolling.

1 comment:

  1. Exactly! Why didn't she invent a number, stupid thing! But it got you a good story and a hilarious memory. BTW Lewis, I did the meme, and having started I could hardly stop myself (so egocentric, I know). I also misread the no. of blogs to recommend and only named 6. But it's all too late; the dead is done. Thanks again for tagging me. Sabine x