Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Sitting on my mantlepiece is a pile of matchsticks. Where the matchsticks came from is an interesting and cautionary tale.

About five years ago I was walking around an exclusive and affluent port town where I happend upon a particularly opulent house in flames. My job as an innocent bystander took me to many interesting and far-flung places. I attempted to use a smouldering splinter from the white picket fence to light my pipe when the owner of the house came rushing from the side of the house with a toy water pistol in hand and beseeched me to help him put out the fire.

I'm a planner and can do nothing without a good solid plan. I steadied the distraught man and proceeded to outline about three potential plans in the gravel with the charcoal remains of one of the fence pickets. We discussed the merits of each plan as the fire raged and decided that the best plan was to save what we could. Which by now was pretty much confined to the rather large detached garage and a particularly fine decent sized yacht anchored in the front garden. 

We decided that we would load up his classic Ferrari with what possessions we could fit in and put the remainder in the yacht. We distributed his prized possessions between the two vehicles strapping a very fine and rare chippendale sofa to the roof of the Ferrari and putting his prized Mr Wong original films into the trunk. We put his large fish tank of exotic and expensive fish onto the yacht. We decided he would drive the Ferrari and some possessions out of harm's way after launching the yacht and having me navigate the fine boat far enough offshore to get a safe view of the bonfire. 

The launching went well and his detailed instructions on how to start the onboard motor and navigate helped me to sail away from the port. Unfortunately, we had neglected to go through the instructions on how to stop the motor, or how to lower the anchor. I manage to discover how to stop the boat when I reached international waters.  

I waited patiently for 3 days for news from the unfortunate owner; existing on nothing more than Champagne and caviar. Towards the end of the third day a fishing boat passed and helped me to navigate back to land where I learned that the unfortunate owner had suffered a breakdown on seeing his prized boat and exotic fish sailing off into the sunset. I also learned from the coast guard that as I had been at sea in possession of the abandoned boat for more than a day I was now the legal owner of the boat and prized exotic fish.

This was a small piece of good news as I had been having a little bit of trouble finding accommodation in the exclusive port town. To tell the truth I was actually finding it difficult to secure accommodation in any town in the country of my birth. I reasoned that since accommodation appeared to be a little difficult I would moor the boat a little offshore and live on that until I could find something better. 

I sailed the boat a few miles around the coast and found a nice decent spot to moor the boat for the evening. I decided to row to land and pick up some provisions for the week (including some exotic fish food for the exotic fish). On land I found a decently expensive convenience store and stocked up on what I thought I'd need. I loaded my provisions into the dinghy and set off for the yacht. I reached the place where I had moored the yacht, but could not find it. 

My sense of direction has never been too accurate, but I was pretty sure I was in the right place. I scoured the sea around me and spotted an object a little way off. I rowed out to it and found that it was the fish tank with the exotic fish and now a frisky seal who was hoovering up the exotic fish with great gusto. As I looked around I saw little splinters of wood along with the name plate of the boat. I rowed back to shore and walked back to the convenience store. I asked the owner what he thought could have happened. He told me that the I had managed to choose a rather busy submarine lane and most likely my boat was either in pieces or being dragged off to antarctica attached to the periscope of a submarine.

A few hours earlier I had been the proud owner of a rather expensive yacht and even more expensive exotic fish and now I was the owner of a fish tank containing a frisky seal and a small portion of driftwood. I later found out that although technically I owned the fish-tank I didn't own the seal and since the seal had been in possession of the fish-tank for more than a day the tank legally belonged to the seal.

I related my incidents to the convenience store owner who laughed heartily and proceeded to tell the entire town. However, he did take pity on me and allowed me to stay in an old disused lighthouse on a particularly inaccessible part of the coast.

I decided to collect a small portion of driftwood to remind me that sometimes some of us are just not meant to be lucky.

Monday, September 10, 2012

how to make a small problem larger

On Monday I had a small problem with a single ant wandering around my kitchen. No sooner had I carefully picked it up and put it out the window (being a believer in Chaos and not wanting to damage anything that would chaotically impact me) then it would appear again in the kitchen wandering aimlessly around. On Tuesday I discovered that this was not a single incredibly persistent ant, but a whole army of incredibly persistent ants. I discovered this after having the good fortune to have spilt an incredibly cheap imitation of expensive single-malt Whiskey on the kitchen table the night before and finding a whole army of drunken ants making merry on my kitchen table in the morning. I carefully noted this observation down with the intention of informing the Natural Zoological society on my findings after I had cleared up.

Clearly I was cohabiting with a nest of alcoholic ants with low standards.

I decided to consult the internet to seek advice on how to tackle my problem. After three hours of careful searching I homed in on a mine of valuable information. The user group I found pointed out, among other things, that the most humane way to get rid of ants would be to encourage a natural predator which would cause the ants to seek a less hostile environment to settle in. Among the huge list of natural predators (I did not realise that politicians were voracious predators of ants) I selected the simplest: the ant-eater. Clearly, such an animal should have no problem encouraging the pests to move on. 

I followed the advice of the user group and phoned the local zoo pretending to be the headmaster of a primary school interested in showing their children some live, but harmless, exotic animals. The zoo dutifully dropped off a mid-sized, very hungry ant-eater on Wednesday morning. I opened the box and aimed the surprisingly strong solution at the source of ants ( a small hole just under the sink u-bend in the kitchen. It's little eyes detected live food and it rushed as fast as it could towards the u-bend. 

One thing I did not realise, and the user group neglected to point out, is that ant-eaters have incredibly sharp claws. It made short work of the cheap plasterboard wall and rammed its head into the enlarged hole hoovering up the ants with apparent glee. 

I neglected to warn the ant-eater that not only the ants were in the hole, but a toxic combination of whiskey-laced ant powder, whiskey-laced bleach and some bovril. None of these items had any effect on the ants who had insisted on thumbing their noses at me by walking around my apartment leaving small bovril-whiskey-bleach stains everywhere. The concoction may have not had any effect on the ants, but it did appear to have an effect on the ant-eater which retracted it's head from the hole, turned around in a circle and expired.

It's now Wednesday late afternoon and I am left with a large hole, a large number of live ants and a dead ant-eater.

After I have sent an addendum to the user-group regarding things to avoid when deploying the ant-eater I will search the internet for a way to get rid of an expired ant-eater and how to patch-up an ant-eater's excavation. As for the ants I have also found that a hostile environment also deters ants. The user group points out that the most effective hostile environment, apparently, are reality TV shows. I will have to book a weekend away and turn the TV onto a 24hour reality TV channel. I only hope that my neighbours will forgive me.