Friday, 26 August 2011

A Dangerous Game

Over the summer we've been playing in a cut-throat netball league on courts near the Barbican. As I'm sure is immediately obvious to everyone currently in England, winter is on its way. Our last game was to be this week. Yet Tuesday's final showdown was cancelled for a spot of rain. And who is to blame for this meteorological travesty? None other than Kate in the Countryside. Here's why:

Fig. 1: The Fall
A month ago our Netters Crew strode onto court, psyched and dangerous. Small attractively-spaced clouds dotted the skyline, but the morning's rain had long gone. With minutes to go before half time, when we had already all but routed the opposition, I dived aggressively [difficult to imagine, I know] to intercept the ball. Cartoon-like, I found myself sliding on a slimy patch of concrete [see diagram opposite], took off for a moment mid-fall, then my head slammed into the floor. 

Fig. 2: Our Team
I opened my eyes in amongst a sea of hilariously good legs. The whole episode had gone from Tom and Jerry to Bring It On in a matter of moments. The main thing I felt, as I failed to move much, was embarrassment. A nervous-looking Netball Organiser came over to say that she'd called an ambulance. Cringe. Moments later, a biker in black leather arrived. It was then I worried that something really had happened to my brain. But no - he was just there to check I wasn't planning on dying before the ambulance made it. 

Better Legs Than Middleton (BLT-Mids), a star player from our netball team, collected my stuff and offered to come to the hospital with me. 

Ambulance arrived, I was bundled into a stretcher. I remember convincing myself that it was possible that none of the netballers would see me in my luminous stretcher with biker and three-man Ambulance entourage. Disconcertingly, since I couldn't seem to speak very well, I kept being given options: 'Do you want this wheelchair? Can you walk? Can you see me? Do you want to come in the ambulance now? Do you want your friend to come? ' 

My response - I learned later - was to keep trying to divert the Nice Ambulance Man from asking questions about me by telling BLT-Mids to explain about her own maladies:

e.g. 'BLT-Mids tell the guy about how you fell off your bike that time and nearly died. Go on, tell him - great story.' Also: 'BLT-Mids has hurt her eye! Have you told the man Mids? Maybe we can get it checked out when we get there!'

At this the (mildly alarmed) Nice Ambulance Man finally stopped humouring me: 'You do realise it's a hospital not an optician we're going to don't you? Now tell me if this hurts...'

At the hospital, we waited to be seen: me lolling and babbling in the world's most antiquated wheelchair, BLT-Mids trying to charm the doctors into submission. This worked fairly well. We advanced as far as a preliminary cubicle near to some doctors, but unfortunately achieving this holding place seemed to have no working relationship to how soon I'd be seen. It did mean that we had the benefit of witnessing minor surgery in the rooms around us. Squarks of pain and unpleasant clipping noises were nonchalantly ignored by all. 

Four hours later, a doctor arrived. She looked at me, asked me the same six questions that had been asked by each of the seven nurses that had preceded her, poked me in the ear and scalp, then announced me free to go.

'They never looked at your eye!' I said to BLT-Mids, disappointed, as we fled the scene.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

On the road to nowhere (Morocco Part III)

Who needs Bogart anyway?
The man at the ticket office suggested a place called Benguerir instead of Casablanca. Little disappointing for our silver screen dreams, but only fifty minutes away instead of a trek longer than our flight home

'Is there much to do there?' MD asked hopefully.
The Ticket Man laughed. 'No! You stay for one hour. Then you come back.'
We looked at each other. It was 60 Dirhams for the two of us - about five quid - so we decided to give it a go.

Our train was divided into carriages that had been tacked together from what appeared to be the wrecks of six or seven different trains. We found a six-seater compartment that seemed to be women only. It was hugely genteel. Second Class, where we sat, boasted air conditioning. Outside, a couple of little boys played football up and down the corridor. MD helped a lady to put her bag into the rack, unhappily cutting her finger in the process. (I only found this out later. MD - not wanting to turn her kindly gesture into a possible litigation issue - discreetly mopped the blood away.)

The landscape as we travelled was oddly similar to Courcheval, albeit red-brown, rather than snow-covered. Scraggy trees were dotted about and the occasional donkey, but hardly any other signs of life. MD fretted about us riding blindly into the middle of nowhere and some 'one-horse town', a phrase not heard since the days of the Wild West. 

An hour later, we were there. Leaving the station we found: nothing. The train station was in fact a short journey from the air base, so there weren't even shiny guns to look at. The place was deserted apart from a cart-driver and his one horse. MD, chuffed about her earlier use of Wild West terminology, bought our tickets for the return journey and then went outside to hire the cart. It had gone. 

Majorelle or Oundelle?
On arrival back in Marrakech, we headed to Yves Saint Laurent's garden, the Majorelle, for a bit of shade, some cheery pottery and an ice cream. Inspired by the sunshine and (I suspect) heatstroke, MD began making suggestions for a reinterpretation of the garden back in Oundle. In particular the colourful pots. It's true, they're charming, but I fear they wouldn't stand up to English countryside climate.

Making the compulsory scoot round Yves' gift shop, it felt as though we'd wandered into the Armani store in Milan in boardshorts. The shop assistants tittered dismissively when we asked how much something cost and, when I dared to pick an artefact up with my hand, one came up to stand so close behind me that I could hear him breathing. I smiled at him, flung the little wallet casually back amongst its fellows - completely destroying the clean lines of the display - and accidentally trod on his foot as I withdrew to reorganise their soap presentation. MD, for her part, snuck up behind him to stand in his way as he retreated, causing another completely accidental collision.

Having satisfied our anarchic urges, we left - not even shutting the door behind us.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Racisme and French Lessons (MD in Morocco II)

Yesterday we went on a ramble round Marrakech to hunt out the train station. We'd been told it was 90 minutes by rail to Casablanca, so thought this would be an entertaining trip. 

Extent of my French skills
What we found instead was the bus station, though it was many minutes before we realised our mistake. As is their wont, when we entered the mysterious station, a number of burly-ish, drunk-ish Moroccan men started hassling us. My GCSE French gets rustier by the hour and MD (though a dab hand with cockroaches) is similarly limited on the Gallic front. You'll be amazed to learn she can't even speak Arabic. 

'TRAIN?' we bellowed to them, in a French accent, hoping to achieve some understanding. 


So we ignored the madding crowd and decided to explore the station - trying to make sense of it ourselves. We found something that went to Casablanca, though this confusingly appeared to be a bus.

A small quite sweet chap came over and addressed us in English:
'You want bus to Casablanca? Number 5. Here.'

At this, we understood where we'd gone wrong. But by now the burly crowd was upon us. One in particular was waving and aggressing with fists and face: 'You want ticket from him now? Not me? [Thrusting ticket book at us] I have ticket!'

MD looks fairly put out. Enough to make most sensible beings scuttle away in fright, but not Bolshy Bus Man, Oh no.

'See! [Again with the ticket thrusting in face thing] Ticket! You! You RACISTE!'
'Excuse me?' [From MD. Kate cowers. A passing bug flees in opposite direction.]

'Raciste! Raciste! Raciste!'

At this point it looked a little as though MD was considering whether to punch BBM in the face or depart. I stood back aghast, mumbling mildly rude things at the man under my breath ('No fat man - YOU raciste' etc).

But, taking the higher moral ground, MD turned her back and walked away, me at her side. BBM proved a surprisingly persistent persecutor of 'racisme' in tourist form, but he wasn't great at keeping up with us in the sunshine. We headed for the nearest taxi, and finally made it to the Train Station.

Turns out Casablanca is actually a six hour round trip. We ended up on an hour long jaunt to an air base instead. Of which more later.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Mother Dearest in Morocco

To Morocco with MD this week. A chance to observe her in an alien habitat (away from Oundle and The Countryside), it has already been an inspiring sight.

It was five minutes into the Departures area at Heathrow Terminal 1 when I remembered that MD-on-Holiday is a different creature to the one familiar to readers of Kate in the Countryside

We walked past Curry's (looting activity limited thanks to airport security).
She's got one (probably)
'I really need a laptop,' she observed, 'or something to carry around anyway - all I've got is that monster desktop thing.'
'How about an iPad 2?' I mooted, without much commitment. Technology and MD usually spend most of their time fighting.
'Are they good then?' she asked, stopping to look at a particularly shiny one.
'Yes! So much fun - and think how cool you'd look clutching one of those under your arm at school.' [MD is a teacher. A good teacher. Ignore the picture.
'OK. I think I'll get one. If you think it's a good idea?'

Amazed, I fell silent as MD proceeded to checkout, completing her purchase in thirty casual seconds, before scurrying out looking as though she might have done something rather daring. 

MD is someone who would normally rather eat Dogface [our dog] than listen to my opinions on which type of ham to buy from the Co-op, let alone be advised on the purchase of a frivolous piece of gadgetry.

It didn't stop there. Since our arrival in Morocco, she has killed four mighty cockroaches with her flip-flop of doom, haggled some poor bloke in the Djemaa el-Fna half to death for suntan lotion and - most impressively - learnt to use said iPad with such ease that she's now conducting witty exchanges from beside the pool, and plans to graduate to Facetime tomorrow.

Yesterday we took a bus into the centre of Marrakech. As we loitered, waiting to get on, the bus driver looked as though he was tempted to pull off. No chance with MD the roach-splatter about. She dived forward and bashed relentlessly on his window while he looked on in awe. He won't be doing that again, I can tell you.

For my part, I have befriended a cat (largely in hopes that he will eat the squashed cockroaches with which MD has littered the room) and spent much of the rest of the time cowering from beasts behind MD's mighty frame. Incidentally, she recently revealed that she has now achieved the dizzy heights of 5 foot 1, leaving her (as far as I can tell real size) of 5ft for dust. 

Forget Green Giant dear reader. What you need is couscous. 

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

The Bog Controller

For those here in anticipation of an update on the BOF and Pretty Neighbour saga, do not fret. There have been developments. But until they can be revealed in full, please distract yourself with today's trip to the pictures:

My ambient cellist friend Pegson (for details of former adventures see here) is a media darling, so evenings spent with him always seem to contain people who introduce themselves as being 'in the arts'. What can this mean? They seem sure it is impressive. Connected to something that occasionally produces 'art'. I digress.

For this week's jaunt, we (Pal, Pegson and I) ambled to the launch of a worthy new venture which was celebrated with the screening of a very non-worthy (though hilarious) new film.

Afterwards, there was a drinks thing on. Pegson and Pal said 'no let's not, it'll be dry,' but I, attired in BOF's cloak of belligerence, argued that we really should go rather than dashing in for the free film and sodding off. It was at a members club somewhere about. It was packed. Also it was for charity so there was no free booze. The signs should have been obvious.

In we went - Pegson and Pal mumbling aggressively to one another behind me. Secretly I was also keen because the club was near and I was bursting for the loo.

'You can't go up here.'
This I announced before negotiating the crowds to the most likely area for a loo-venue. There, by a flight of stairs, stood a tall surly waiter-ish man dressed in black.

'Excuse me, where would I find the loo?' I asked him, politely.
Chap: 'You can't go up here.'
KitC: 'That's fine, I just want to go to the loo.'
Chap: 'Up here is members only.'
KitC: 'OK great. Where's the bathroom please?'
Chap (getting hostile): Look. You can't go up here, it's for members.'
KitC (desperate now): I don't want to! I just want to find a loo!
Chap: Well you can't, you...

Happily, at this point, another similarly attired gent arrived, looking surly too, but slightly more helpful.

KitC (relieved): Oh hi. Excuse me, where's the loo?
Chap 2: ¿Que? [OK, that's made up. But it was something similarly blank. He continued:] I only just start work here.

At last, I found the lavatory. Unisex. Isn't that everyone's favourite loo genre? It lends itself so well to the inevitable moment when that man in the queue before you decides that your loo is the loo for him. In this case the chap after me was so emphatic in his belief that my locked loo was in fact free, that he managed to push the door open, while I was in there in flagrante.

I returned to Pal and Pegson. 'That's it. We've got to leave. Now.'

The gits (delighted at being proven right) insisted we stay. Lesson learned.