The day after 'the event', the quickest people to respond are a surprise. I'm happily ensconced in Nickson Villas, chatting with The Blessed Mandy, Saint of Everything (our cleaner) and making sure she is ok after last night's 'event'. Happily, Mandy has suffered no ill effects, other than a slight concern that the ghost of her dead husband had come back. This will be immense relief to Nel, as loosing our cleaner would probably send her into a cycle of depression that not even a Placebo could help her with(topical joke there, not a reference to Nel's wellbeing).
A knock on the door usually heralds Smitto, the postie......
One of my principle duties these last few weeks has been as Mail Receiver for the apartments, a duty I take very seriously. The phenomena of on-line shopping makes this a growth area (Career Option No 47 perhaps?) as an unending tide of oversize parcels require signing for. Sex toys, it appears, are a dead giveaway, due to the (unique)lack of advertising on the parcel, as Smitto points out. He makes me sign for all the items he delivers, which means I've got to take the books for Steven(author), new lifejackets for Becky and Tom(sporty rowers), and for Apartment 2, a continual parade of plain brown packages that squelch, slosh and lie densely in my hands.
On Monday, the doorbell rang, and it was Smitto with another armful of packages. "Know these people well do you?" asks Smitto, grinning broadly "Sign here". I'm terrified that the dense parcels for Apartment 2 will start vibrating if I move them too suddenly, so I carry them carefully, like sacrifical offerings, placing them near our front door so that I won't forget them later, then I'm back to the computer, looking for bio-fuelled flights to Barcelona. After an hour or so, it's time for another cup of tea, so I head to the kitchen. I realize that it's been a whole hour since either of the cats miaowed for attention, and I'm wondering where they are, when Tosh scoots past me, making a break for freedom out of the kitchen window, rapidly followed by Calli.
The parcel lies on the floor, a corner ripped open. Later interrogation of the cats brings outright denial of guilt(and incidentally, I believe them as Tosh is scared of plastic), but there's no concealing the shiny, plasticky blackness of the contents through the clear plastic wrapping, all molded bumpiness and a coil of thin,shiny, snakelike tendrils (tassels?) that probably attracted the cat's attention in the first place. The problem presented is not one of my disapproval of our neighbours, but their disapproval of me, as a snooper. Nosy neighbours are hated in cheek-by-jowl England, as much as privacy is valued, a fact we've had to reacquaint ourselves with, as this fear of closeness among neighbours means you can live somewhere for twenty years, without knowing anything about the people who share your sewage. let alone saying "Hello". Faced with the problem of handing Apartment 2 a parcel that has clearly been tampered with, the solution is obvious. Charlie Brown had a great philosophy - "There's no problem so complicated or difficult that you can't run a way from it", and with this in mind, I place the parcel outside our neighbour's door, resolving to resign my unpaid position as apartment Superintendent.
....When, this morning, the knock came again, I stride to the door, ready to tell Smitto where to stick his parcels, but the caller is'nt a postal worker.
"Hello, Sir. I wonder if you have a minute? We're just checking people in the neighbourhood, after last night, you suffered no damage, I hope?"
I'm amazed. This, I think, is impressive. The City Council have sprung into action already. Maybe Hull's got more going for it than we thought.
"No, we're fine. Nel - that's my wife- was woken up, but I was awake.I've got a broken arm, you see. Nel was pretty shaken up, but she's ok. I checked outside and there's no cracks or anything, so the building looks ok...at least we can say we've survived an earthquake, eh? "
"When you say you're wife was scared, does she need anyone to talk to, Sir?"
"Nah, nothing like that. It was pretty impressive though, 5.2 on the Richter Scale. Felt like the whole house had been picked up and dropped back down again. I was cleaning me teeth. Nearly swallowed me toothbrush. Did'nt hurt me arm though. Got knocked off the bike. Hit and run. What a story that is ! Big elbows and everything. Still, floods last year, earthquakes now, what next, eh? Fun though. Probably make a good blog entry."
"I know what you mean sir. There have been a lot of events recently. Have you ever thought what these events mean for you and your family. We believe you can be protected from all these disasters...."
.....Oh, great I think, they're not Council employees, they're Insurance Salesmen. Talk about vultures...
"...prophesied in the Bible as indications of the End Times. England has never had earthquakes before, and now God is punish ..."
...apparently its the REAL vultures....
"Actually, sorry, no, not interested. Goodbye.I'm an atheist. It was an earthquake. End of. Goodbye. Thanks. Sorry. Goodbye. Closing the door now. Bye. Thanks. Thank You. Bye."
I retreat, Mandy finishes her work and heads off home, and I go back to the computer. The cats gradually emerge from their hiding places after Mandy leaves. To the cats, Mandy is a God, one they are terrified of, mostly because she mercilessly wields a vacuum cleaner as her Instrument of Power. They recover quickly from her weekly manifestations though, and pretty soon I have two cats 'meeping' for attention. They're comforting evidence of the lack of the supernatural. Not only did they fail to display any of the psychic powers of legend that sees other pets saving their owners from burning buildings,(they slept right through last night's earthquake), but they make terrible witches familiars, totally failing to arch their backs and spit in the prescence of Evangelicals.
I think about the Plan we had when we came here last year. At the top of our list was to achieve a state of Zen-like boredom as a counterbalance to our previous experiences. This time we'd just live a quiet life and do things that normal people do. Floods, earthquakes, broken limbs, lawsuits, house-buying disappeared into some vacuum of tenant evictions and realtors having nervous breakdowns, weird jobs - its all gone horribly wrong. Life has conspired against us, and has reclaimed it's right to be interesting and exciting. To me, its obvious that is how it is meant to be. Time to throw our Plan away, and embrace destiny. Life, as the Celts say, is for the living. Bring it on, I'm up for it. Live well and live fast, there's no stopping the carousel, baby, so jump on. No more sitting round moping about the broken arm, I'm going to act. I think briefly and decide in the spirit of this regained impetuosity. Tomorrow, I'm off to Driffield to see the Neolithic Field Systems. Hang on to your hats.