Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Amnesiac Old Men

I have to write about this. I'm surrounded by amnesiac old men. Very dear, wonderfully kind, very well meaning men to be sure, but still, that's what they are. Amnesiac Old(er) Men, and bless his dear heart, Koos is one of them. He knows I'm writing this and we've already had our laughs about it, so there's no malice intended, but the only reason I've still got hair on my head is because I promised myself I would write this post. So, here it is...

Three weeks ago, I went to the shipyard boss to ask about booking a week on the slips. "Bertus", say I "when can you fit me in?" "In February", says he. "Hmmm, are you sure? is there nothing earlier?", plead I, worrying about that tiny pinprick leak I have in my hull that has me squatting for hours over it, studying the rate of flow through the miscroscopic gap, and wondering whether I'll live to sink another week, or is that live without sinking another week? " Sorry", says Bertus, studying his charts, "that's the earliest I can slot you in". "OK", I sigh. I make the booking and potter off to buy a wet and dry hoover, so that I can suck out the little puddle that builds up every few days in the lowest point of my hull. Koos is with me during this exchange with Bertus, and we bemoan the fact that February will be cold. It may also be snowy and icy, but it will at least be cheap as I stand to get a 30% discount as compensation for the risk (almost a certainty) of hypothermia, not to mention guaranteed frostbite or at least chillblains.

Now, Bertus, the Yard boss, is somewhere in his late fifties, and is a honey. I am genuinely fond of him. Nevertheless, his short term memory is busily changing places with its long term counterpart, and while he will regale us for hours with anecdotes about the good old days, anything that has occurred within the last month or so goes into some kind of mental pending file where it lies conveniently dormant until it is old enough to be regurgitated as past history. As a result, when on Monday this week a ship that was due on the slipway didn't turn up, Bertus started looking round for a willing replacement. Right. Now you'd naturally think that given my rather recent plea, he might perhaps think of me. Wrong!

Bertus has forgotten my leaky bottom and cheerfully asks Koos if he would like to consider taking the spot. Now, remember that my dearest Koos is also of a similar age. So..picture this scenario.

We are waking up quietly on Tuesday morning, and Koos says musingly."I think I'll put my ship on the Slipway today." I freeze. All feelings of early morning languor have rushed off down the end of the bed to cuddle up with Sindy. "Umm, Why?" I ask in a voice that I hope is loaded with frost. I wait to find out what could possibly have prompted this bizarre statement. Koos explains about the ship that didn't turn up. With icicles forming on my vocal chords, I ask why Bertus didn't offer me the spot. Koos then, with awesome innocence, questions why I should want it. I remind him, through clenched teeth, about my recent request. He has forgotten. He has forgotten too that he was with me when I made the booking for February, but to cap it all, within the space of 24 hours, Bertus has also fogotten that he offered the spot to Koos at all, and later in the morning we find that he has made yet another arrangement for the slipway, meaning that neither of us can make use of the unexpected vacancy. Grrrrrrrrrr!!

Am I reeling? I am. But that's not all..Oh no!

One of the language schools for which I work is run by another dear amnesiac older man - a charming spaniel eyed Englishman called Roger, who I always have the greatest difficulty in refusing. Late last week he called me in desperation. "Val! I need you! What hours can you give me, and when?" "Hmmm", I consider, "I'm very busy, Roger, but if I shuffle a couple of things...well...I can give you Monday and Tuesday evenings". " Great!", he practically shouts at me "Val, you're a life saver. I'll let you know which classes you're teaching but it will definitely be Monday and Tuesday evening." Fine, I think, and dutifully re-shuffle other private lessons, and cancel another course that's in the pipeline but isn't yet definite. I then sit and wait. And wait. And still wait. On Monday afternoon, I have still not heard. I call on Roger. "Oh,um, Val! Didn't I tell you?" "Tell me what, Roger" "I'm so sorry Val, but I've got someone else to do those evenings. I thought I'd told you." I growl at him with all the menace I can muster, lay on the guilt, add on a few extra broken arrangements to further underscore the severity of his error...but then he deals his trump card. Looking at me with those big sad spaniel eyes, he says "I'm sorry Val, I thought you'd be relieved."

Of course, I know he'd thought no such thing. He'd just forgotten. Even more of course, he's just another of my inevitably dear, amnesiac older men. It seems I can't live my life without them. Bless them. Bless them all!