March 16th, 2007
I was sitting in front of my computer on Tuesday morning, wondering what to write about in my next letter, when I heard the lift whir its way up and stop at my floor. The front door to my apartment was ajar to get a flow of air going through, and a rather rotund, balding man in his forties appeared in the doorway wearing a very filthy red and white striped butcher’s apron. This apron made him look just like a butcher. So I threw caution to the wind and leapt to the assumption that he must actually be a butcher! I hadn’t ordered one, so I was naturally curious to know what he was doing there.
He said something to me in Greek. As I’ve only managed to accumuate about six words of Greek so far (and one of those is Taxi), my blank expression must have given away the fact that it was all Greek to me.
He tried again, this time in broken English,
“Is this restaurant?“
That threw me! I was expecting something along the lines of either “Do you know where Stavros lives?“, or “Wanna buy a pork chop?” – not “Is this restaurant?“
I wanted to say “Is this restaurant what?“, but realised that my puerile sense of humour would be lost on him – notwithstanding the fact that my apartment isn’t actually a restaurant! It bears no similarity to one. There’s no bar; no tables and chairs; no menus; no Maître D’; no hot and cold running waitresses; no smell of garlic wafting out through the two-way kitchen doors; no two-way kitchen doors! And there are no customers! If my apartment is a restaurant, then it’s not a very successful one.
I didn’t reply immediately. One’s automatic reaction when someone who speaks a different language comes out with something slightly bizarre is to try and work out what they actually meant to say. Like the time many years ago when I asked a French lady where the corkscrew was and she said it was in the chicken! It transpired that she meant kitchen!
So you do have to use a bit of brain power sometimes, but in this instance nothing sprang to mind. He’d got me beat. Was he delivering to a restaurant? There isn’t even one in the same street! Or was he looking for somewhere to eat? I daresay I could have knocked up a fried egg sandwich, but how much should I charge him? And should I tell him about the dress code?
I would have liked to have been more helpful, but in the end I just said “No“.
So he pointed across the hall to the only other apartment on my floor.
“Here is restaurant?“
He didn’t get it, did he!
“Look you stupid ****, there are no ****ing restaurants here. Can’t you see that this is a private apartment block? Now **** off! I’m busy!”, I said.
At least, that was the message I hoped he would pick up when I simply said “No” again.
He looked confused and bewildered. I wondered vaguely how I must look!
But that was the end of it. He scratched his head, said “Ok“, got back in the lift, and returned whence he came.
I turned back to my computer, wishing that I knew the full story of what had just happened, and realising that I never would.
After about thirty seconds, it occurred to me that Cleopatra, my faithful Pointer bitch, had remained silent and inactive throughout this bizarre episode. She’d shown no interest whatsoever in our grubby visitor. I looked round and saw that she was lying on the floor with her chin on the ground, looking up at me inquisitively as if to say “So who was that then?“
“Well you’re a good guard dog!“, I said to her. Not that I really expected anything less from her. I still haven’t heard her bark or even growl since shortly after we rescued her five months ago.
She just looked at me, yawned, rolled over onto her side, stretched out her legs and gave a very long sigh, as if to say “Where’s the problem? I was here if you’d needed me!“
‘Yes… and a fat lot of good you’d have been if I had‘, I thought to myself. If you need a tail wagged, or a hand licked, or a treasured possession chewed to pieces when your back’s turned, then she’s the one that you’d head-hunt for the job – otherwise, forget it!
And then, all of a sudden, she lifted her head up, her ears alert, and her nose started twitching. Twitching and sniffing. Sniffing and twitching. She stood up and faced the still open front door where the butcher had been, her nose held high trying to pick up the scent, presumably of whatever tasty aromas had been lurking on that blood-stained butcher’s apron.
This sniffing and nose-twitching went on for fully a couple of minutes, until eventually she adopted the classic Pointer stance, leaning forwards with her head and neck outstretched, and one front leg raised in the air, bent at the knee.
“WOOF!“, she said bravely and defiantly in the direction of the long-since departed butcher.
It was a very perfunctory, half-hearted woof, but a woof nevertheless! Then she sat back and looked at me proudly as if to say “Was that what you wanted?“
I smiled, shook my head in despair, turned back to the computer, and started writing…
I was sitting in front of my computer just now, wondering what to write about in my next letter, when I heard the lift whir its way up and stop at my floor…