A Slip of the Finger

I will never forget, if I live to be a hundred, one of the most mortifying experiences of my life. It took place on the morning when I turned 40. The day had started as a normal Tuesday work day; although I had already received a number of phone calls from close friends as well as the usual bundle of Facebook messages, which I had checked during a tea break. What no-one knew, and not even my long-term fiancé, Jake, was that I had also received a call from my gynaecologist whom I had seen the previous day. It was this call which resulted in my extremely embarrassing experience – even thinking about it several years later, I feel quite sick to my stomach!

By nature I am a very private person, and although I do have friends at work, none of them are so close that I would discuss my personal life with them. Some facts are only ever disclosed to one or two friends whom I have had since school and university days.  Jake is the total opposite to me and is very social and has a huge amount of friends. We used to work for the same company, and the only reason that he was still a fiancé and not a husband at that time was due to the fact that his hard- nosed ex-wife was still making it financially impossible for him to finalise their divorce.  We were struggling to get her to understand that, as there were no children in the marriage, she had no right to demand all the things she felt entitled to after 10 years of being with Jake. Well, that was something we were trying to sort out, but in the meantime, to all intents and purposes, Jake and I were committed to being a lifelong couple.

To get back to my 40th birthday and the phone call which caused me such embarrassment. Jake and I were keen to start a family when we first met and, although we were both very fit and healthy nothing had happened. We were not prepared to undergo any fertility treatments and run the risk of a multiple birth. We had already decided that if we were not going to be able to have children then we would concentrate on the two of us and do as much travelling as possible and enjoy being parents to our four legged fur babies.

Anyway, I am waffling and I need to get back to the day in question when I had received the call from my doctor.  I had been feeling really down for the past few weeks and always tired and my cycle was all upside down and seemed to have disappeared altogether. I was very worried that, Iike my mother, I was already starting early menopause. I had both blood and urine samples taken but before he could give me any information, the doctor’s mobile phone rang and he had to race to the local hospital where one of his patients was in labour.

When I heard his voice on the end of the phone the following day, I was very nervous as I just did not know what I was going to hear. “Hello Kate, this is Dr Jacobs. Firstly, I must apologise for having to rush away yesterday, but babies have a way of making their own arrangements. Anyway, I hope you are sitting down as I have some news which might be rather unexpected.  You are in fact pregnant and that’s why you have been feeling the way you have. From what you told me yesterday, you are probably around 8 weeks already. Congratulations, and I remember you saying that today is your 40th birthday, so double congratulations are in order.  You need to make another appointment for us to do a scan and then we will be able to see if all is progressing the way it should.  I am sure that, with your usual level of good health, there is nothing to worry about at all.”

When the call was concluded I felt totally shocked! I had almost given up the idea of our ever having our own child and, now being 40, had felt that it was highly unlikely that it would ever happen. Once I had recovered I decided that, rather than phoning Jake who I knew had a very busy schedule that day, I would just write him an e-mail and send it directly to his desk. I quickly wrote him a note saying that I had just received the best possible 40th birthday present and started it off with  “Congratulations you Sexy Hunk – your sperm has done the job” and added a grinning emoji and a picture of two clinking champagne glasses, just for good measure. Then I pressed the send button.

It was just a few minutes later that my boss, George Jones, popped his head around my office door waving a piece of paper in his hand with a huge grin on his face. “I think you sent this to the wrong sperm donor Kate!”  I nearly died when I realised what had happened! I had sent it to George instead of Jake and now I was sure that the entire office would hear the news even before my poor fiancé.  What on earth could I do to rectify this most embarrassing of situations! Just bite the bullet, pretend to see the funny side of things and go straight over to Jake’s office to tell him the news in person instead of touching the wretched computer again! Technology? Only good when the person using it concentrates at all times- even when they are suffering from emotional challenges!

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Resignation

Dear Michael and Jane

It is with a great deal of regret and sadness that I am sending you this letter. We have been housemates now for roughly 4 years and I have got to the stage where, to coin a much used phrase, enough is enough. I am quitting as from today.

For all these years I have had your safety and needs at the forefront of my mind. I have never been able to do all the things that I really wanted to do, but only what you allowed. So many rules to obey and when I disobeyed them I was made to feel like an absolute loser, and you often threatened to get rid of me. Do you have any idea at all how that made me feel? You often made the comment that I looked upset, and maybe a bit guilty? Well, I actually did often feel hurt by your words and rough treatment of me, but all I was able to do was convey my feelings with my body language without saying a single word in my own defence.

You have been able to go out for expensive meals and have trips to the theatre whenever you felt like it, knowing that I was looking after your fancy house with all its precious antiques. I never ever broke a single item, and everything was always in perfect condition when you got home. You rarely even bothered thanking me for my loyalty, let alone having to stay awake until late at night until you both stumbled in, often reeking of alcohol. I must say that I was very glad when, several months ago, after your last run in with the traffic police, that you started using Uber to go out in the evenings. I used to worry as to what would happen to me should you be involved in a serious accident and not come home. I know it sounds very selfish, but we have been very much dependent on each other these past 4 years or so.

Anyway, as I said just now, enough is enough and I am leaving. At this stage I have not made up my mind exactly how I am going to move on with my life, but running away seems to be the best option. I am going to wait until I have had my breakfast tomorrow and, when you open the gate to bring in the rubbish bin, I am going to make a dash for it. I have made good friends with the woman who runs the local doggy grooming parlour, and she and her workers are very fond of me. I know that they will help me to find another job. They are sure to be prepared to give me a good recommendation, should it be required. They have always been suspicious of the way you two have treated me – almost like a poor, mentally deficient relative.

So, come what may, this letter is to tell you that you both need to look at your selfish behaviour and, before it is too late, make serious changes. Even at this stage things could be improved, but it’s all up to you. I have done my best to be hard working and honest, and I have never attacked you or made a mess in the house. I have been faithful, loving and courteous to your ghastly relatives with their ill-bred brats. I so often wanted to nip their overweight backsides, and really had to force myself to be well controlled when they visited you. You can be very grateful that I didn’t savage either of you two either, and believe me there have been many times when I would willingly have taken a big chunk out of you both. Especially when you sit on the couch, watching a rugby match, drinking beer and munching away on delicious biltong and offering me not a single solitary piece. Greedy devils that you are!

Well, you will find this letter once I have left, and hopefully you will come to your senses, see just what you have lost, and perhaps we can come to some or other amicable arrangement for the future. However, this is all up to you – the ball is totally in your court! Maybe you could consider buying me a couple of new ones if I do agree to any new terms and conditions which I feel may improve my life should I return to your home.

Anyway, you may find me at the parlour, unless I have already found a new home.

Regards

Mickey the Mutt

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Mary

Mary, Mary Quite Contrary
Tell me why your legs are hairy?
Don’t you even stop and think
Or are you always at the sink
Washing dishes, making food
Looking after all your brood?
The man you married
Whom the kids call Dad
Deserves to remember
The wife he once had;
Instead of that he sees a drag-
Moaning and groaning
An untidy old bag.
Now get your act together
Regardless of the weather.
Go look in the mirror and what do you see-
I know you’ll say “is that really me?”

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Now off to the salon to get your hair cut.
No arguments please and don’t say “but”.
Do as you are told and move it Mary,
You can’t carry on with legs so hairy.
So make the time when you get back
To take a hot bath and use a face pack.
Then get those legs groomed before he comes home.
If you don’t make an effort
His eyes are going to roam.
No-one deserves to have a sloppy wife,
And he will start to make comments
Which will cut you like a knife.

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So you know the kids are playing
At your neighbours for the day,
So take my advice and do not delay.
Make yourself gorgeous before the day is done
And you may be surprised and be the lucky one,
Whose husband is delighted when he comes in through the door.
This is the person he had fun with years before.
The children will be proud to call you their Mum
And you my dear Mary – well the good times they will come!

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Too Many Choices

Wouldn’t our lives be so much easier, albeit rather boring, if we had far fewer choices to make every single day? From the moment we wake up each morning we have to decide what we are going to wear. There is no problem if you belong to an organization which has its own uniform or are in a job such as a nurse or a fireman which determines a dress code. Most of us, however, have a certain amount of freedom when it comes to deciding on what to wear today and it can be a real headache. So much depends on the weather as well as which of one’s clothes have been washed and ironed and are already back in the wardrobe. Making a choice that suits our current mood is also part of the equation.

Right, so you have finally made up your mind on how to dress for the day. Now it’s a case of deciding what to eat for breakfast. Remember that we are constantly being bombarded by so called experts telling us that this is the most important meal of the day. Now to decide as to whether to have a bowl of cereal or some toast and marmalade or to cook some eggs, or to go the healthy route and make a smoothie. Do you feel like your normal cup of coffee or is it to be rooibos tea or juice this morning? Decisions, decisions, decisions and the day has only just started. If you have a family to consider then the scenario just mentioned soon becomes a battle ground with every member’s mood as well as their own way of making choices potentially creating absolute chaos. Suffice to say that morning mayhem, due to having to make choices, could be ageing you well ahead of your time!

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So, you (and hopefully the rest of the menagerie – cats and dogs included along with a spouse and offspring) are dressed and fed (usually no clothes are involved for the cats and dogs) and ready to face the challenges of the day. As for you, well you have a shopping list which somehow needs to be taken care of along with your normal commitments.  This will have to wait until after work when you can stop off at the local shops on your way home. You have had to make choices in your office environment all day long and despite being exhausted, making choices just continues when you look at your shopping list.

Is it better to buy toothpaste for sensitive teeth, whitening toothpaste, fluoride toothpaste? Surely one that does the whole bang shoot is the best choice in a busy life? Then what about the shampoo? One which all the family can use or one for thinning hair, one for dry hair, one for oily hair, one for heat damaged hair – oh for goodness sake now what to choose? Right, let’s get on with this as it’s getting late – one bottle for all hair types will just have to do for now.

Over to the groceries and more decisions to make. Beef, chicken, pork or fish for dinner or should it be a vegetarian meal tonight? Most of the vegetables look a bit jaded after being in the fridge all day but the carrots look ok and the green beans seem fresh enough. Now for the bread for tomorrow. Should it be brown, wholewheat, a farm style loaf (but that’s white bread and it’s meant to be unhealthy). Oh what the heck, it looks the most appetising of them all, so in the trolley it goes.  Rush, rush, rush – time is running away and the family will all be at home by now waiting for your return so you can whizz up a delicious evening meal.  Just remembered, there is washing powder to buy and which brand should that be? The usual one is out of stock so it takes forever to compare prices as well as claims regarding the efficiency of each product before a box is put in the trolley. By now you are totally fed up and, along with every other tired, and disgruntled end of day shopper, you have to stand in the queue to pay for your purchases.

When you finally get to the checkout lady you still have to decide whether to pay with your already heavily loaded credit card or to use those extremely rare bank notes. When will the decision making end? You carry away your shopping and put it in the car.  Now to decide on whether to hoot at the gate of your home in the hope that someone will come out to help carry the packages inside, or just to drive in, park and go it all alone. Just another day filled to the brim with having to make choices – but what would the other option be. Daily rations of bread and water and an orange jumpsuit to wear every day perhaps? Maybe not such a good option after all! So carrying on making choices has to win the vote!

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Service with a smile – the ups and downs of running a pub/restaurant – Part 1.

Part 1

There are so many memories, both good and sometimes not so good, which I hope will make interesting reading for anyone who frequents pubs and restaurants.  Knowing what goes on behind the scenes whilst you are tucking into that succulent steak and taking a sip from a glass of really good wine could surprise you if you ever found out! However, some secrets are best kept secret to protect innocent people involved!

After having tired of the many years of being witness to the constant presence of in-house politics in the corporate world, my other half decided that it was time for us to have our own business and to take control over our lives. Little did we realise that having control, when dealing with the public at large, is more a dream than a reality. However, we were excited to try something quite new and, after a great deal of research, decided that to go the franchise route would offer us a much better chance of succeeding in our venture than trying to go it alone.

“There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man,
by which 
so much happiness is produced as by
a good tavern.
” – Samuel Johnson

Due to many stumbling blocks along the way to our getting our business up and running, we finally opened our doors (under the watchful eye of several members of the franchise head office staff) a few weeks before Christmas. What an opening it proved to be. From the moment the locals knew we were in operation, it was absolute pandemonium. Despite all of us, owners and managers, front of house staff, as well as the entire kitchen complement, having received fairly in-depth training from the franchisor, the reality of providing quick, efficient service to the masses was daunting to say the least! None of us had time to eat anything at all whilst on duty during the first few weeks. Our uniforms started hanging off us due to weight loss but we were too busy rushing around to even notice!

The pub we bought had an Irish theme and catered for 75 people in the restaurant area. There were also tables in the bar area where one could eat as well. Therefore, it stands to reason that for brand new owners and staff it was no mean feat to keep demanding patrons happy all the time. Despite having had a trial evening where friends and family had been invited to test our capabilities in preparing meals and giving the appropriate service, the first few days of business were totally crazy. The most relaxed members of our entire staff were the barmen as they had taken to their job like ducks to water, or drunks to drink! They were young, enthusiastic and great with the public.

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We had really hit the jackpot by finding ourselves a true Irishman several weeks before we opened and we employed him as our head barman due to his previous experience and outgoing personality. He was confident in handling a busy bar and he proved to be an absolute bonus for the few months in which he worked for us. He left in a bit of a hurry under some sort of a cloud, by all account but it was probably due to domestic problems. He was in his early twenties and had a great affinity for a certain four letter word whilst telling you where to go! This came out of Gordon’s mouth regularly in a broad Belfast accent. He was working in a pub and not a church or a school so there was no need to censor the barman.  The piece de resistance was the fact that he taught one of our young Black kitchen staff to parrot his expression. Every evening as Jonathan left to catch the staff transport, Gordon would ask him to repeat his favourite saying.  The reaction of the patrons when they heard a Black guy swearing in an Irish accent had to be seen to be believed.

The kitchen staff were under great pressure in those early days but all things considered the mistakes were few and far between. The food which came out of our kitchen was first class and relatively speedily prepared. There are many amusing incidents which I would love to share with you which involved our kitchen workers, but this I will leave for a later post.

Our young waiters had all just recently left school and there were some amusing incidents (in hindsight, and not at the time). A few weeks into running the business a rather irate woman called me over to her table to complain about one of my waiters who had sworn at her. I asked who had served her and she told me who it was – the only boy we had as yet employed (girls were the favoured choice of the franchisor – but we soon changed the dynamics to suit our needs). I called the youngster over and, away from prying eyes, I asked him what had happened. It turned out that the woman had asked him what was in the pie of the day? Being new to the menu as well as the job he answered “shit, I don’t know!” We all found it amusing – pity the miserable old bat couldn’t see the humour! Anyway, afterwards we tried to ensure that all the young staff actually had a good idea of the contents of each day’s special pie!

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We were put on a spot by our replacement bank manager to give his blonde and rather dumb daughter a part time waitressing job. Suffice to say she didn’t last very long as she just could not learn at all. The best memory I have of her was the busy Sunday lunch when one of the waiters was frantically looking for the chicken schnitzel which the kitchen staff had prepared ready for delivery to the customer. It had disappeared from the relevant preparation station. However, there was an abandoned ostrich fillet starter standing all alone in the cold prep section. We soon found out what had happened. The dizzy blonde had grabbed the schnitzel and taken it to the customer who had ordered the ostrich starter, who in turn hadn’t said a word and proceeded to devour it. When the waitress was told what she had done, her reply was, “well, I knew it was some kind of a bird!”

So many memories, but that is all for now! Will be back with another batch of memories of those busy days (and nights too!).

“I feel sorry for people who don’t drink. When they  wake up
in the morning, that’s as good as they’re going
to feel all day.” – Jack Lemmon

Laughter is the best Medicine

My brother Bernard died in early March 2016, and his philosophy was to keep on laughing as a way to cope with the pain he endured for several years due to his aggressive cancer. It must have been such a difficult time for him to have endured, but I can say that he did seem to have managed to keep on laughing almost to the end.  He was extremely intelligent and unbelievably well read but had a very wicked and totally sacrilegious sense of humour and had no hesitation in taking the mickey out of all and sundry. I do believe though that a certain level of intelligence is linked to a good sense of humour – real humour, that is, and not the Laurel and Hardy slapstick type.

It has been documented by psychologists that there are noticeable changes which take place in the brain when one is laughing and there is no doubt that time spent having a good belly laugh changes one’s perspective, even if it is short lived. Laughter decreases stress hormones and improves one’s immune response as well as increasing antibodies to help fight infection and illness.  There is always something which one can find to laugh about, it just takes regular practice. A happy baby just laughs because he can, and that in itself is enough to make those around him laugh as well.

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Laughter therapy as a holistic treatment to assist in mental as well as physical well-being appears to be on the increase and there are centres in America for the treatment of cancer patients where laughter therapy is being advocated.  There is also Laughter Yoga and both Laughter Therapy as well as Laughter Yoga can be investigated on the internet as there seem to be various options available and an abundance of information.  If these methods can help alleviate day to day stressful situations and aid in coping with diseases such as cancer, then they do deserve some serious (excuse the choice of words) consideration.

Those who readily smile and refrain from taking themselves too seriously are often people who are having to cope with the most difficult of situations. These same people are often very quick to laugh and often at themselves. However, there are many of the miserable ones out there in the big bad world who are just sad sacks who really have very little to complain about. Yes, maybe they are just depressive by nature, but sadly their tendency to see the glass half empty instead of half full, can be a turn-off as far as other people wanting to spend time with them is concerned.

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I live in a suburb where there are many upmarket retirement complexes in the vicinity. People buying into these complexes are most certainly not financially needy as the prices asked in most of them are too high for many citizens to afford.  The local shopping centre is frequented by many of these “pensioners” and there is rarely a smiling face among them. Sad to say they really could do with taking a look in the mirror at their miserable, down-turned mouths and start re-assessing their good fortune. They have the security of the complex, the comfort of a warm bed at night, and very often relatively good health to enjoy. A smile and more than that, a really good belly laugh, could improve their looks remarkably!

Don’t get me wrong – I am not attacking only the older generation regarding their lack of a smile or a sense of humour. There are many much younger people who seem to suffer from the same disease called “smilelessness” and many of them drive fancy cars and dress in expensive clothes and even have time for personal pampering sessions. It doesn’t seem to change the fact that they just don’t seem to take the time to look at their lives, be grateful for what they have and smile and laugh a bit along life’s way.

“A wonderful thing about true laughter is that it destroys any
kind of system of dividing people.” – John Cleese

Despite all the negativity which is so prevalent in South Africa currently, it isn’t hard to find a smiling face. Usually it is the less fortunate people who have very little to be thankful for who are the quickest to respond to a friendly greeting with a huge smile. It is an African custom to greet one another in passing, regardless of whether or not you know the person whom you greet. Having studied an African language as well as the culture of several of the African language groups, it has become second nature for me to wave or greet African people when I pass by. If the day is bleak for whatever reason, a friendly smile and a “how are you?” can go such a long way to improving one’s frame of mind. Taking a few minutes to make some or other silly remark to the people one meets during the course of the day often can result in laughter.  Therefore, how sad that in the case of so many privileged people,  a smile would most likely cause their dissatisfied faces to crack – and a laugh, now that is really stretching things a bit too far!

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Sending him on his way.

It was the second day on board the cruise ship and Andrea was feeling more relaxed than she had felt in years as she leaned against the railing of the ship’s deck, gazing out at the horizon.  The constant strain of juggling home and office as well as the stress of her recent break up with her long-time boyfriend had taken its toll. She had been suffering from insomnia for weeks and her boss had noticed that she was constantly tired and irritable and suggested that it was time for her to think about using up some of her accumulated leave. She had been so diligent regarding her deadlines at work that she had hardly ever bothered to take any leave. It was only over weekends or when there was a public holiday that she was away from the office.

So far the week long cruise was proving to be exactly what she needed. Her cabin had its own balcony and she loved watching the flying fish and the occasional school of dolphins cavorting in the waves – she could forget about work for the first time in years, and even the hurt caused by the recent break up was surprisingly not bothering her much. The food and entertainment on board was first class and although she wasn’t really interested in spending much time with the other passengers, the ones she met at mealtimes were pleasant enough and not wanting to intrude on her privacy. She tended to be reserved by nature and found it rather difficult to make new friends. The few good friends she had were people she trusted and had known for many years and, due to her busy work schedule, she saw less of them than she really should, but maybe things could change once she got back home.

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Out of the corner of her eye Andrea noticed a middle aged woman with short greying hair who seemed to be talking to herself whilst trying to remove the lid of a square wooden box. Curiosity got the better of the normally reticent Andrea, and she walked over to the woman and introduced herself and offered to help her open the box. “It’s really stiff and probably due to the length of time that it’s been in my cupboard at home. Oh, by the way, I’m Linda, and thank you – maybe you can get the lid off!” With that Andrea tried to twist off the lid, and finally was successful. What she saw made her recoil in shock – the box contained ashes!

“I can see you’re a bit taken aback, Andrea, but before I throw these into the sea, let me explain”, said Linda. “It has been months now since I fetched the box and a lot of planning has gone into my taking this trip in order to do what is necessary and to say my final goodbyes. So many memories and feelings have been plaguing me and it has been a very hard decision to spend my meagre savings on this cruise, but I think once I have done what has to be done, then I can get on with my life”.

“I imagine that it is going to be a very emotional goodbye for you, and I hope that I am not intruding at such a difficult time, Linda?!

“Oh no, not at all. In fact I am just so glad that you came over to talk to me as I feel the need to unburden myself before I send him on his final journey. The past 12 years have been a total nightmare living with this aggressive, badly behaved individual who ruled my life completely. Being a positive person by nature, I always believed that thing would get better, but they just did not. My friends stopped coming to visit as they never knew what kind of a mood he would be in and often left in a hurry when they heard his snarling voice. They just could not understand why I tolerated it and eventually lost patience with me.”

“It sounds as though you have really had a lot on your plate and it reminds me of the past few years of living with my ex-boyfriend who was also very controlling and often bad tempered. There must have been some good times though?

On his way 2 350x211“Very few, sad to say. In the beginning he was so very affectionate and people admired his good looks and I got the feeling that many of them actually envied me having found such a great companion at the stage of life where many of my friends were on their own and feeling rather neglected. The trouble was that I started to loathe him for cramping my style and being so very demanding. I often felt that I was being totally manipulated and that my time was no longer my own. He was very faddy when it came to his likes and dislikes regarding his meals and I spent hours trying to find things that he would enjoy. Sometimes he actually seemed to appreciate all my efforts but I usually felt frustrated by the fact that keeping him happy was using so much of my time and energy. My decision to let him into my life had not been made in a hurry, but I must admit that there were days of serious misgivings and regret although I really did try to give him lots of love and attention.”

“It sounds as though you probably made a big mistake right in the beginning, Linda? Was it his good looks that attracted you?”

“That and the fact that I believed that we would have lots of fun together, but he turned out to be very ill tempered most of the time. It must have been due to his upbringing and his parentage but these were factors which only became relevant as time went on. I must say that I was actually relieved that, as he got older, he did tend to mellow somewhat and he aged very rapidly over the past few years.”

“It would appear that you had rather a challenging time whilst he was alive. Perhaps one day you will find a companion with whom you really do have great times together. You just never know what lies ahead do you?”

“I won’t be in a hurry to look for a replacement after this experience and the worst thing, Andrea, is that I feel that he sometimes really spoilt 12 of the best years of my life and it sounds very cruel, but I am relieved to be saying a final goodbye to him today. The reason I decided on this cruise in order to scatter his ashes is that he loved the sea and although I really don’t like swimming in cold water, I was forced to go down to the beach with him several times a week so he could race through the waves like a maniac whilst I waited on the sand for him to exhaust himself. Despite his extremely difficult nature, I felt a certain amount of guilt regarding my frequent resentment towards him so this is mainly to appease that guilt.”  With that comment, Linda leaned slightly over the railing and threw the content of the box into the sea. The slight breeze caught them as they floated down and it seemed to take quite a while before they disappeared into the waves.On his way 1 350x233“ Goodbye Rover, and thanks for the memories!”

“Rover? Was that your husband’s name, Linda?”

Linda burst out laughing, “I have never been married, Andrea. Rover was a Rottweiler that I decided to adopt, against my better judgement, when a good friend of mine went to China to teach English and had no idea of what to do with Rover who was still a puppy back then. Big mistake, but that is history now and I feel very relieved and maybe my friends will start visiting me again once this cruise is over! No more bad tempered male interference to worry about. Now time for a nice glass of cold champers in honour of a strong willed companion. Want to join me Andrea?”Onhis way 3 350x350.jpg