Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Back in the UK.

North America.

"It's like a parallel universe where everyone is just a lot fatter," says Eldest. That's one of the things I jotted down during our trip to the United States and Canada. I tried to make notes as we went along so I could write a 'what we thought of it' blog but didn't get very far. Here's another, "I thought I'd love the food and hate the people," says Middle One, "but it's the other way around." I know what they mean.

There's a mother and child in the lift down the cliff face to see the sea lions on the Oregon coast who are so large I'm worried the cable might snap. And genial is the word for the 'folks' we encounter along the way, particularly the men. One said 'Howdy' to me in Walmart for absolutely no reason. A group gathered to offer assistance as I was putting fuel in our RV. "We only have small cars in my country," I said, and they fell about laughing like this was the funniest thing they ever heard. I could get used to this, I thought, trading on being foreign and having a cute accent.

Some more observations - gas is cheap, roads are in poor repair, campers are quiet and orderly, cheese is horrible and comes out of a can, a small coke is huge, in fact food portions are so large we order for four instead of for five and still there's too much, you can get bitter black coffee everywhere, tipping is obligatory, service in restaurants is fantastic except for in McDonalds in Banff, which isn't half so good as House of Nanking in San Francisco, and Yosemite on a July weekend is as crowded as Westfield on a Bank Holiday Monday.

There was a large group of teenagers on a small inflatable dinghy on the Merced river, all with enormous tits - the boys as well as the girls - drinking coke, listening to loud rap music, laughing and filming themselves on their iPhones as they blithely floated downstream. There's a handy metaphor for America right there, I thought.

Hot Water.

It's a dismal homecoming. We step off the plane to a message from the plumber. "Bad news, I'm afraid," it says, "my mother-in-law died so there isn't any hot water but it'll be sorted tonight." Great. Awful about the mother-in-law, obviously, but not what you want to hear after a eight hour overnight flight without sleep; although on the plus side it was Air Canada and I did get to watch When Harry Met Sally again.

At the house we hang around waiting for the hot water to come on. The plumber was meant to fit the new boiler in its new position in the three weeks we were away but didn't get it finished. To my untrained eye it looks like he hardly got it started. "Don't you need to move it from the middle of the cellar to back against that wall?" I ask. "And attach the flue?"

"Er," he says, shiftily.

"He told me it was his grandmother who died," says my mother when I ring her to say we're back. Kindly, she called him while we were away trying to hurry things along.

Six o'clock comes and goes, then the plumber disappears when we're not looking sending a text to say he's coming back later, and doesn't. 

In the ensuing week his visits to the house are infrequent and fleeting. This is because his grandmother died, again, Worcester Bosch has sent the wrong part, he has to get more copper piping, which takes him four hours and he returns without it, he has to pop out for dinner/lunch/a break and doesn't come back after any of them, he has to take his son to A&E because he split his lip and that trip to A&E takes him the whole of Thursday, and Friday, and still there's no hot water. I take to showering at a friend's house or the gym, forgetting to take a vital piece of kit with me on each occasion.

"He's the unluckiest plumber in south London," I say to my unwashed sons, standing several feet away from them. "And we haven't had the funeral yet, either of them."

On Saturday, when he eventually turns up at lunchtime, we make him leave his van keys on the kitchen table. "You're not going anywhere until the hot water is back," I say. 

Miraculously this works and at 10pm it comes on and I have my first hot bath in weeks.

Love E x


P.S. And that's not a metaphor, it's just a relief.

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