We English people have a wonky gene you know. It has been officially named Genus Grumblinus but I call mine Fred. Scots, Irish and even Welsh people don’t have it but I am not sure about the Aussies, they certainly are very quick to recognise a winger and as they say “it takes one to know one”. It is a sneaky little gene that makes people grumble and want to blame the rest of the world for how their life is.
Through the early years of my life I would frequently hear references to an unknown entity commonly referred to as “THEY”.
“The roads are terrible, they should do something about it”.
“My next door neighbour’s crazy, they should take her away”
I never did find out who this mysterious “they” was but of course if there is no one else to blame there is always the good old British Government to fall back on.
I’ve met a few grumblers in my time but recently I met a real expert. He is one of those people who really should pull his bed away from the wall so he can get out the other side now and again. You certainly don’t ask him how he is unless you have an hour to spare and a comfortable chair.
”The power keeps cutting out” he would say – endlessly.
He had a lot of power, three whole phases with lots of ‘erbs (an ‘erb or “Herbert” is an old Lancashire measurement of power created by one Herbert Ramsbottom of Oswaldtwistle and is defined as the amount of power required to push a 3 inch pork pie up a Yorkshire man’s left nostril) and still the circuit breakers kept tripping out.
I went to investigate. It was around breakfast time. I found a large two storey house, very tall jammed onto a small block of land. The outer walls were painted a dark chocolate brown.
My grumbling friend “welcomed “ me at the front door. I couldn’t help but notice what big feet he had, huge great plates of meat on the bottom of his legs.
“Come in” he said. As I entered the house a side door opened and hot steam came out in a cloud as someone hurried past in a towel. We went into the dining room and sat at the table. The open French doors led onto a patio overlooking a large and very deep swimming pool, I couldn’t help but notice the turbulent water as hidden pumps fed water to a mini Niagara falls which tumbled spectacularly into the pool.
A pembantu, without taking her eyes off the television mounted on a wall, scurried around in the kitchen. She took a piece of meat from a large freezer, deftly put it on a plate and into a microwave which started whirring loudly. She then resumed her task of loading clothes from the washing machine into a large tumble drier.
“The power keeps cutting out” he said. “I just don’t understand it.”
I listened patiently shivering in an icy draft that fell from somewhere above and behind me.
“What did you say?”
“Nnnnothing” I said, “it’s just my teeth chattering”
“Would you like a nice piece of hot toast?” That’ll warm you up” he said.
He got up and grabbed two slices of bread and put them in a large shiny toaster on the benchtop. As he reached for the plunger I had a sense of foreboding. Something was telling me that something, somewhere was somewhat overloaded.
He pressed down, the bread disappeared for a split second. Then…..
Thunk, two slices of bread shot through the air, a cat appeared from nowhere, grabbed the toast in mid flight and disappeared out through the open French doors.
Somewhere we heard a piping hot body mid shower squealing in dismay as the steaming water reduced to a dribble. Niagara stopped flowing, the turbulent waters of the pool settled, the cold blast of air down my back ceased, the television stopped blathering, the washing machine stopped sloshing, the rumble drier stopped rumbling, the whirring microwave stopped whirring and peace and quiet settled on the house.
Somewhere I heard a bird singing in a tree.
We sat there in silence for a moment then the beautiful peace was rudely interrupted by a grumbly voice.
“And all for a piece of toast” he said.
“Just through interest how many air conditioners have you got in this house?” I asked.
“How many people live here?”
“Myself, my wife and daughter, oh and the pembantu.”
“Perhaps you could leave some of them off” I ventured.
“What and swelter all day long” he retorted.
“Perhaps you don’t need Niagara Falls in your back garden, it does seem a bit of a waste of energy” I suggested.
“ I have worked hard all my life to get to where I have got and you begrudge me a little water feature.”
My mind wandered to hundreds of tons of coal being dug out of the ground in Kalimantan, shipped to Surabaya, burnt to produce steam (and carbon dioxide) which turns generators to produce electricity which flows down overhead cables all the way to Bali’s desperately overstretched power grid to power a pump the size of the Queen Mary just to lift two tons of water every hour ten feet out of a pool only to fall back into it again just because “it looks good”.
My mind continued its amble through space and time to jumbo jets hurtling through the air transporting apples, oranges and flowers halfway across the world, to wealthy business men struggling to drive huge cars through the narrow back alleys of Bali and memories of a bale style restaurant in Sanur without walls that installed air conditioners!
In the overall scheme of things it all seemed a bit pointless and just a tad irresponsible.
Fred the wonky gene was kicking in.
I pondered for a moment.
“I am sorry I don’t think I can help you” I said.
“Just one final question.”
“Yes” he said.
“What size of shoes DO you take?”