Archive for June, 2007

French Life – Mr Allen 3

Friday, June 29th, 2007

Before committing myself to a jolly in France there were a few things I needed to do.

Clients get tetchy if you charge them for flights when you could make the same enquiry by telephone.

Number one on the the list is making some checks with the British Embassy in Paris, just to make sure Mr A had not turned up dead. As far as they knew, he was still alive and had not come to their attention. “Goodbye  sir” and with that hung up.  To be honest I have never found the Embassy in Paris particularly helpful or friendly, but maybe I have just had some bad experiences.

I did a few other basic enquiries with hospitals in the vicinity. I checked Lourdes, Tarbes, Pau and Lannemezan and although very helpful they all drew a blank.

The next job, was to check out the telephone numbers. In a lot of places you just have to take pot luck and ring the number and see who answers it, but in France you can do a reverse search. I use a service called Quidonc which told me who the numbers belonged to.

One number came back to a branch of the French Bank bookmarked on Mr Allen’s PC which was something. I had half hoped the next one would come back to Mr Allen or maybe some floozy. Nah it came back to a man with a French name. I checked the address and it was in a small place up in the mountains. Although it was in the same department as Lourdes, it was quite a trek to get there. My software reckoned the journey would be about an hour or so.
I then tried ringing the number for the bloke but I got a France Telecom answer phone message cut in. I hung up. The French mobile rang and again there was an answer phone message in French.

In other words I had not got very far.  Mr Allen was till missing and his last known location was Lourdes.  Nothing for it but to go and find him.

I was in the process of sorting out flights to Pau and stuff when it occurred to me that maybe L might want to come along for a bit of a break. I couldn’t see that she would be in the way and I did not anticipate being captured and tortured on this trip.

I mentioned it to her and she didn’t so much say yes, as bounced around a bit, well a lot actually clapping her hands and grinning. She can be a very excitable young thing sometimes. I don’t think I have ever been able to bounce like that. It transpired she had always wanted to go to Lourdes. I wish I could have said the same thing.
I booked us into the SAS Raddisson at Stansted, where Mr A had stayed as I might be able to get some information. I hired a car for a week from the same firm Mr A had used for the self same reason.

We got to Stansted in the middle of the afternoon after a hassle free trip out through East London and Essex on the Stansted express. We booked into the hotel which is pretty smart and right next door to the airport terminal. There is what they call a wine tower which is a 14m high glass tower where they store the wine. When you order a bottle a girl on a trapeze (a wine Angel) goes up and gets it whilst doing acrobatics. L was over awed. Our rooms faced over the airport apron and run ways. It was weird the fact that you could see these jets about 50m away but they were totally silent.

It was tempting to chill out in the room, but I thought I had better earn my money and so left L at the hotel and went to the car parking offices. I told them I I was looking for Mr Allens car and gave them the registration number. They were reluctant to help but eventually let slip that it was not there and never had been. So if his car isn’t here and it isn’t at home where the hell is it?

I went back to the holtel and L and I decided to use the health spa and swimming pool which is in the basement.  As were passing reception I stopped and told a little fib to the girl behind the counter.  I said I was due to meet Mr Allen when he came back to the UK I said he had stayed at the hotel on such and such date. The girl was foreign and efficient but not very helpful.

Then L started talking to her in Estonian. Big smiles yak yak yak yak came from neighbouring towns yak yak yak, how long had she been here blah blah blah. Anyway, It transpired Mr Allen had stayed there but had not booked a room for his return. The receptionist remembered him because his daughter had been to see him. The description fitted Amy to a nipple. She had been miffed at been charged for car parking when she was visiting a guest.

So why had Amy not mentioned that she had been to see her dad at the hotel and where was the bloody car? I was starting to think maybe Mr A never left the UK. We were assuming that just because he had booked a flight and stayed at the airport that he had actually gone to Lourdes.
My brain hurt.

So we took advantage of the facilities on hand and the hotel health spa did me the world of good.  I undid the healthy bit later by having a very agreeable few drinks in the bar followed by a cracking osso bucco at the restaurant accompanied by a stunningly beautiful L and a charming little Burgundy.

Then we had an early night.

Nudge nudge wink wink say no more squire!

Domestic Engineer

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

When I eventually got back from Egham, I found L in the kitchen armed with a couple of screwdrivers. The dishwasher door open and the interior panel off with wires hanging out. She was manipulating wires and bits of stuff around and saying a lot of things in Estonian which didn’t sound very polite, but my Estonian is a little thin on the ground I must say.

“What are you doing?” I asked

“Trying to mend the dishwasher, the programmer has broken” L replied.

“Are you sure?”

“Of course I am sure” L said with more than just a minor note of irritation as she beavered away with her back to me.

“Can I help?”

“Probably not”

Thank God for small mercies I thought.

“There is really only a few things to go wrong with dishwasher. The main ones are the element, which heats the water. Then there is the water pump, and lastly the programmer, somtimes the seals go and they leak but…” she explained with an exasperated look on her face “The programmer is the most expensive bit, so you don’t get a prize for knowing it is that that breaks down more often than anything else”

“Is that a fact?” I said nodding my head sagely.

“Yes it is actually” she retorted looking with disgust at the offending gubbins in her hand. It was a programmer apparently.

“Are you some kind of expert or something?” I said in a bit of a sarcastic tone.

“As a mater of fact I am, I told you already that I am a domestic engineer” she retorted rather curtly.

“Oh right yeah, actually I thought it was joke” I said a little taken a back

“Why?”

“Well, domestic engineer, you know cleaner, housewife” I explained smiling

“why is that a joke, I am not a wife, I don’t understand?” she glared at me over her shoulder as she did something to the door.

“Well, err you know domestic engineer is a fancy title ladies give themselves as a joke, when they mean that they stay at home and look after their families” I explained.

“Why do they need a fancy title?”

“Why indeed” I agreed

“But I don’t understand why it is funny?” She persisted

“Well err its not really I suppose” I muttered

“So why is it a joke?”

She was a like a dog with a bloody bone. Do you ever wonder how you have managed to get yourself into a conversation or situation? I thought I had better try and make amends at what was clearly my gaff. I think. Gawd.

“So can you mend it?” I asked.

“Not now” she said closing the door very seriously.

“Whys that?” I said

“Because” she said rather sharply as she turned slowly turning towards me with a face like thunder. “I have finished”.

She pressed the start button and the dishwasher started its cycle.

Her stony expression gave way to that big beaming smile of hers.

“You crafty Doris”

She laughed a big happy laugh

“I think you mean crafty domestic engineer” She corrected me wagging her finger. And with that, she kissed me on the cheek and left the kitchen leaving me looking at a dishwasher.

There is only one Domestic Minx, but I wonder what the Estonian is for Domestic Minx?

French Life – Mr Allen 2

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

The day after my trip to luscious Amy’s house, I headed out by train to Egham to visit mother.

Mrs Allen was about 70 I would say. Greyish curly hair and slightly dumpy. She had a sort of permanent lopsided smile which when coupled with her bright red lipstick and slightly protruding teeth gave the impression that she was a sort of cross between a pissed clown/donkey/vampire. It took me about 30 seconds to realise that she was a bit odd.

I really did hope she wouldn’t flash her bits at me like her daughter.
She spoke and laughed like like Sybil Fawlty from Fawlty Towers which was bad enough, but the damn woman constantly laughed out of context and would mutter to her self and then giggle in a wheezy sort of way.

I introduced myself.

“Ohhh Helllooo I was expecing youuu wheeezze hahhahha wheeezzze come in” . “Amy said she was going to get you to come, wheeezzzzeeee hahahahah. snort snort”

“Did Amy say that?” I asked

“Oh yes dear she diiid, do you know Amy? Oh yesss snort wheezzzzee hahaha of course you do”
Good grief, It was going to be a fucking long afternoon, Mrs Allen was going to be seriously hard work and that I was not going to get anything sensible out of her.

The house was quite large and obviously worth a few bob, but not very well maintained. It had a shabby uncared for feel. Don’t get me wrong I am no DIY buff and am in no position to point the finger at anyone who would let those little jobs go unnoticed, as my late wife would testify, but even I would have drawn the line at the decaying paintwork and rotting window sills. The carpet was poor quality and very patchy and the furniture and décor generally grubby, yet the house itself was quite light.
I asked if her husband had an office or study. Yes he did in fact, he lived in the upstairs of the house. He had his own sitting room study, bedroom and bathroom. She lived downstairs and they had a communal area which included the kitchen, dinning room and conservatory. There was an annexe at the back of the house which she said was for guests.

I went upstairs and found that every room was locked.

“Mrs Allen do you have any keys for upstairs?”

“Oooh no dearr I doughnnt Mr Allen doesn’t ,like me going into his rooms” she said in her drawley way and put her hand to her check. It would have been camp except she was a woman.

“Amy haaas some thoooughhh”

“Oh right I will have to ring her”

“Ohh theres no need for that dearrr, shes in the annexe” and pointed to the door.

Odd because there was no car in the driveway.
I went into the annexe and there was Amy. Like yesterday she was just about contained by her clothes.

“Oh fancy meeting you again” she enthused and acting all surprised.

Yeah fancy, what a friggin coincidence I thought. I explained about the keys and Amy went through this charade of looking for the keys in her bag showing me her charms in the process. What a stroke of luck she had them- the keys that is, not the charms. We then went out of the annexe and up to her dads rooms. What a contrast to downstairs. The rooms were very bright and modern. Ikea or habitat in style and very nicely done but very young.

“look at this place.” said Amy shaking her head “He thinks he’s got a bachelor pad”

It was a real babe layer I must admit, and not what you would expect for a 68 year old accountant. Maybe I was just stereotyping. As I said it had a younger feel to it. The thing that lodged with me though was the CD and DVD collection. Very varied indeed and extensive. Granted no System of A Down or Panic at the Disco, but there was Kaiser Chiefs, Billie Holliday, Led Zep, Nat King Cole, Blue Oyster Cult, Frank Sinatra, The classics and loads more. I reckon he had well over 350 cds. His daughter didn’t give them a glance. Likewise his DVD collection was both extensive and eclectic.

I went into his office. There were two desks. One old fashioned roll top bureau and another modern desk with a very smart PC set up. Amy said that the pc was password protected and I wouldn’t find anything there. Oh really how would you know my little honey pot?

I booted the Pc up anyway and whilst it was doing the biz went through the roll top bureau. It was a little less orderly which suggested that somebody had been rummaging. I don’t know why but I suspected my little friend Amy. Mind you if her dad was missing why shouldn’t she look through his desk to see if she could find anything.

You know Norman you are getting bad minded in middle age, stop being so bloody suspicious.

I had a little search through the papers and found a copy of the print out for Dads flight. Stanstead to Pau with Ryanair. It left very early in the morning like about 6am ish so he would have had to have either left home very early or spent the night at Stanstead. I carried on beavering and then found a little scrap of paper with a telephone number 05 62 40 xx xx. A French telephone number, but for who or what? I found a diary for last year, but there was not much in it. However I did find another three telephone numbers written down on the same day in January 2006. Two were French 05 62 98 xx xx and the other was 06 19 xx xx xx which is a mobile number. The last number was a UK mobile number.

There were a couple of bills from Vodaphone according to Amy this was dads mobile and I took the number.

“What kind of car does your dad have?” I asked. I don’t know why I wanted to know, the question just popped into my head
“A mini cooper, he has only had it a year or so.” Amy said with what I sensed was just a hint of indignation “I couldn’t see what was wrong with his old car”

“What did he have before?” I wasn’t that interested really, but it was conversation.

“A Ford escort, he had it from new”

“Was it not very old then?”

“What?” she said a little taken a back “What do you mean?”

“Well you sounded surprised he should have changed his car so soon, I just assumed it cant have been very old”

“well it was erm I don’t know exactly a K reg” she muttered

“Did the registration start with a K or end with a K”

“Ended”

“Christ what year was that, 72/73 I think, no wonder he changed it” I laughed.

“Well I suppose, but I felt he could have got something more in keeping, for his age, why go wasting money on a car when you are about to ……”

” About to what?”

“Nothing its just that he is old and well you know old people….”

“Die, is that the word you’re looking for?” I helped

She blushed. Did you know that you blush from the nipple upwards? Amy was like a rather large robin red breast. Not that I was looking you understand.

“So you didn’t approve of his choice of car” I pressed her.

“No I thought it was silly”

“Where is the car?”

“Pardon”

“Your dads car where is it”

For an instant she looked flustered.

“I don’t know”

“Is it in the garage or what?”

“I don’t know I presume he took it to the airport”

Something I would have to look into.

I turned my attention to the PC. There was quite a bit of stuff on there. Outlook express showed he got loads of jokes from one particular person, but nothing apparently untoward.

He needed to do some housekeeping, there was loads of spam and crap round robin jokes and crappy emails.
There was an email confirming a reservation at the SAS Raddison at Stanstead. for the night before Dads flight.

A car hire reservation from Pau Aiport for 10 days. Odd, why hire a car for 10 days when he was going to be away longer?

I tried to log on to his internet account but it was password protected so I didn’t waste any time on that at this stage.

I did look at his internet browser (Firefox) and was a little surprised to find a French bank bookmarked. I didn’t say anything to Amy.

In fact there was not a lot on there really

If I was going to follow this up it was now time to talk money.

That subject out of the way I said I would follow some lines of enquiry and then head to Lourdes.
“Will you please try and find my father and bring him home” She looked me in the eyes
“I will certainly try and find out what has happened to him, but I can never guarantee bringing him home, as you rightly pointed out people die” I replied.

“How do you mean, surely we would have heard?” she looked shocked.

“I am sure he is OK, but you know people die all the time and the bodies remain unclaimed and unidentified for ages. A few years ago in Paris alone 3000 people died in the heatwave and a lot of bodies were never identified or claimed. It was a national scandal. It happens here in London all the time”

“Surrey,  We are in Surrey” She corrected me
“Whatever. Look leave it with me and I will see what I can do”

I need to verify whether she wanted me to go straight to Lourdes on the next available flight or give it a few days and see if I could find something cheaper.

“Well I suppose he has been missing for a couple of weeks, so there no point wasting money and rushing is there seed if you can find a reasonable deal please.”

Ave Maria, Lourdes here I come via stanstead and Ryanair.

French Life – Mr Allen 1

Monday, June 25th, 2007

With all these Brits heading off to live in France we have had quite few jobs over there recently. Some have gone better than others, but what is emerging is that people are getting themselves into some right pickles the other side of the Channel.

What has been surprising is the number of people who have “disappeared” into thin air. Of course people don’t really just disappear, there is always more to it than that. Its a bit like what happened in Spain in the early 1980s. For some reason people want to start a new.

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself rattling out West on the tube to Ruislip, which is sort of North of Heathrow airport. I got to the address, which was a reasonable looking semi detached house, to find nobody in. Great, just what I needed, a wasted journey. I waited for about ten minutes and was about to sling my hook when my mobile rang. The lady was running late and would be there in 5 minutes.

15 minutes later and she turned up in one of those 4 wheel drive Volvos. She was early forties and not a bad looking woman and she knew it . Long tanned legs, short skirt, large breasts almost fettered into a white blouse. Not that I paid her any attention.

She enthused her apology and ushered me in, all the time telling me about the traffic and school run etc.

I made a comment about her tan and she said that they always spent half term in Barbados. Alright for some.
The first thing I noticed when I went into the lounge, was the bugger off Bang and Olufsen flat screen TV and the B&O stereo. Very pricey gear indeed. Two laptops a couple of gameboy, X-box thingys. As my mum used to say they didn’t appear to be pulling the devil by the tail.
She made me a cup of tea and sat opposite me all the time chat chat chat.

Now I know I am right sexy geezer and bring out the lust in woman, and this woman was trying to distract me, and actually, every time she opened her long tanned legs she did a bloody good job. Het thongs was either very skimpy or non existent, and another movement confirmed the absence of material, between the shaved pleasure dome and moi. I should tell you that this has absolutely sod all to do with the job but it was interesting and better to look at than the expensive telly.

She went on to tell me that her husband was a plumber, sorry domestic heating and water engineer, but worked for some kind of specialist company installing air-conditioning or ventilation systems or something like that. She had three children and they all went to private schools. I made a mental note to become a plumber in the next life.
So why was I here? Well, this lady had a father who is 68 years of age and he had disappeared in France about two weeks ago and she was very upset at her daddies disappearance. Cue tears and she wanted me to find him and bring him home to the bosoms of his loving family.

Of course the billion dollar question is how did she know he had disappeared in France and what was he doing there. I was not expecting the response

“Because he went to Lourdes” she said very matter of factly.

“Lourdes?”

“Yes, you know, Lourdes, where the miracles happen”

“And he disappeared there?”

“Yes” She said looking at me as if I was some kind of defective.

“Look Mrs M..”

“Call me Amy” she interjected wafting her hand in the air.
“OK Amy, Millions of people go to Lourdes every year, and as far as I am aware there my be the odd miracle, but not many disappear. Look this may seem like a daft question, but what was he doing in Lourdes?”

“He went on a pilgrimage, why else would he go there?” “In fact he goes at least twice a year sometimes three time. Has done for the last ten years or so” she said as if it was the most obvious thing.

“Twice, maybe three times a year, he must be a very devout catholic” I said as a not so devout catholic.

“Oh he isn’t a catholic” she said shaking her head, so her ample breasts wobbled like to dogs fighting in a kit bag “He just likes going there. In fact this was his second visit this year and he was talking about going again in September”

“And he goes for a week at a time ” I asked

“Oh no he goes for much longer than that. In fact this time it was for three weeks and last time in January it was almost a month and he was going to go for three or four weeks in September. Why did you think he would he go for a week?”

“I was just supposing” I lied. I have never been on a pilgrimage to Lourdes but I know people who have and it is for a week once a year.

“Who did he go with?” i continued

“On his own”

“No I meant which tour company, but as you have mentioned it it is useful to know he travelled alone” I said

“He booked it all himself. Got his flight on line and sorted his accommodation the same way I suppose”
I asked a whole load of boring questions about when he left and the last time they heard from him. It transpired that when he was in Lourdes he would phone home maybe no more than once a week.
I established that Dad lived with is wife in Egham, Surrey and was originally an accountant by trade and now had his own small engineering business based in Staines. Staines is sort of next door to Egham. Mum was at home but had not thought it odd that her husband had not returned from his three week religious jamboree. They had not contacted the police because they didn’t think it was police matter if a 68 year old bloke just vanishes into thin air in a foreign country.  I think if my dad went missing in France I would speak to the old bill, or at least make some enquiries straight off, not wait two weeks, but that’s me.

Amy gave me a couple of photos of her dad and some more general background info on him. Nothing stunning just stuff. In fact Amy didn’t really know a lot about her dads activities apart from the fact that he liked to paint (Acrylics mostly but some water colours) and had been warned off the demon drink as he had had a bit of a problem.

The telephone rang and she went to answer it and spoke quietly but not quietly enough.
“I cant talk, I have someone here” she said “Ten minutes at the lido bye”

As she sat down again she made no attempt to cover the fact that she was not wearing knickers.  She seemed a bit breathless and I would say she was either getting a buzz at exposing herself to me or in anticipation of her rendez-vous at the lido. Whilst this might be the thing or erotic fiction and men’s fantasy’s this was in reality rather odd behaviour indeed and does not happen to me. Often . The whole thing was odd. The Hole thing hahaha – that was not a deliberate crap pun.

Next stop was to visit mum and have a chat with her and see if there was a anything at the house that might help.

I have nothing against older women but I did hope mum would be wearing underwear.   I had seen enough wildlife for one day.

A Dollar Saved

Monday, June 25th, 2007

It took me a while to recover sufficiently to return home after my less than happy experience at Hotel Bob in Z.  Eventually however I got home and saw Dr Death for a full check up. He warned me that the beating I had taken could cause some short term problems and to be a little careful in what I did.

As it was I had a no stress trip to the USA lined up. I was due to go to New York for business and to Connecticut to see friends.  Not a long trip but one I intended to be pleasant.

Anyway, I had been in New York about 3 days or so when I had some really bad chest pains.  I was sure it was acid heartburn but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a touch concerned.  The friend I was working with,  Charlie D, also had exactly the same chest pains.  Maybe we had eaten something or there was bug going around.  I have to be honest, and say that the idea of shelling out a load of wedge to be told by an American doctor that I had heartburn pissed me off  a bit.  I managed to convince Charlie D that he should see the doctor, which he did.

It transpired he had a reflux caused by a minor stomach bug.  I was relieved and happy at saving $50 or however much the consultation was.  two days later I rang Charlie only to be told by the person answering that Charlie had died suddenly the night before.

I had a major touch of the seconds, and went straight to the quack who booked me into a hospital for a battery of tests.  It cost me (or rather my insurance company when they eventually coughed up) a bloody small fortune.  It transpired I had heartburn, caused by a reflux of acid due to  a minor stomach bug.

I was livid.

I hot footed it over to Charlie’s place and saw his widow.

“He was fine apart from that minor pain the doctor said was a tummy bug” She said
“was it sudden” I asked

“Oh yes he didn’t suffer” she said “It was very quick, the truck hit him and he died instantly”

Bugger.

Going to The In Laws 4 – Joseph

Thursday, June 21st, 2007

“You can checkout any time you like,
But you can never leave”

On the Saturday night at the in laws we had a full on family dinner. Roast beef Yorkshire pud the works. My favourite. The wine was good and all in all it was a very convivial evening. The kids were very sociable and were not nagged too much for being children by their parents.

Towards the end of the meal, Dawn, wife to BIL1, was pontificating about immigrants and human rights. You know the sort of stuff people yak about, The European Bill of HR, another example of Brussels interfering in Britain and the Labour government doing its best to wreck the country bla blah blah. Now I am now great fan of TB, labour or any other politician for that matter, but I asked her whether she knew that said bit of legislation had been driven by Britain, under the Conservatives and against the better judgement of most of the other member nations at the time. No she was not aware of that and was I sure. Healthy debate.
She then went on to say that a lot of this amnesty international and human rights stuff was just bullshit. For example, she couldn’t see what the fuss was about over Guantanao bay and human rights. These were terrorists etc etc should be taken out of circulation. Dont get me wrong I am not in favour of anyone blowing anyone else up just for the sake of it. I have no doubt that there are some serious bad arsed dudes banged up in The Bay, but if you arrest someone you put them on trial present your evidence as fairly as possible and accept the verdict. This may be a bit of charade but it is the rules and system that we have in place. Everyone should be treated the same. In the war against whatever, it easy to drop the rules if it suites you, because you are on the side of good and they are not. I don’t want to get too political but the question is this, how does it feel to be considered to be the bad guy and as result not have the protection of the law and your human rights?

I have thought long and hard about whether to recount this story, but having discussed it with several people, I have been encouraged to tell it.

It is a bit long and I don’t apologise for that and also I have to be vague about exact places dates and times.
Some months ago I was contacted by a large multinational mining company, to look for one of their consultants, who I shall call BR. He had gone missing in a certain African country which we will call Z. We shall Call the leader of Z Bob. Very briefly BR Had been working in the east of the country and had returned to the capital about three weeks ago with a variety of samples and had sort of just vanished. Would we be willing to go to Z, look for BR and if possible return him to a place where his company could access him.

Z is not a place to go to lightly and I was not going to go alone and unprepared. The company were way ahead of me on this and stumped up a very reasonable budget and resources to facilitate us.
So it was the 6 of us headed off somewhat uneasily to Z.

I should explain that in a case like this I will ostensibly travel and work alone and make all the enquiries, but will be shadowed by at all times by at least one other member of the team. We call it baby sitting. The rest of the crew are for back up and for other enquiries should things start moving quickly. As a rule if something goes wrong the baby sitters will not intervene immediately but will be able to monitor what happens to the main man and should be able to see where you end up. Obviously, if it is going tits up big time on the street, the baby sitter will step in, but the idea is to have a few hidden bodies to bring into play if something goes wrong.
To cut along story short, we made good progress and found that BR had left the capital and headed East again and was apparently in a town about 70km to the East. I wasn’t sure why he had gone there as my understanding was that this part of the country was used for tobacco production and not mineral extraction but that was not my concern. We headed East.

Initially we did not find out too much but then BINGO somebody had seen a man fitting BRs description being arrested. Nothing for it but to head to the local army HQ/cop shop to see if the story was true. I presented myself and was seen eventually by a fat, shifty looking, senior officer who told me they knew nothing of BR and had no reports whatsoever about anyone matching his description. He was lying. I knew it from the word go that he was telling fibs, but I have learnt that in places like Z you keep your big gob shut. I thanked the officer and “donated” about 30 quid to police charities and left. I had really bad vibes about this and about the fate of BR and was on the point of deciding to abandon the job.
I had only gone about 500m from the police station and was drinking a bottle of coke at road side stall, when 2 Toyota pick ups and a Nissan saloon car pulled up beside me. The occupants of the pick ups were all sporting that most famous of African fashion accessories, the half timbered AK47. They were out and onto me like flies onto a cow pat. I was bundled into the car and driven off at high speed. This was not good and what followed was worse.

I was taken to some kind of detention centre. I guessed it was the police station I had been at earlier. There was a large reception area with a desk and bars at the window. There at the desk was the fat, shifty, senior officer who fired a load of questions at me about what I wanted with BR. He was somewhat aggressive for a man who knew nothing about BR. I think you can imagine the type of scene. I told him the truth ie that BR had gone missing and I had been asked to find him. The Fat bastard obviously knew about BR and got seriously pissed off very quickly when I couldn’t or wouldn’t tell him any more. He shouted something and the next thing I knew I was suddenly frog marched out of the the room and down long dark corridor not quite 2m wide with cell doors on each side. One cell was opened and I was thrown in and then beaten with long sticks and had the shit kicked out of me. literally.

I regret to say that was only the start.

After about an hour or so they were back. I was taken to another larger sort of cell where they beat the soles of my feet with sticks. There are no words to describe in pain and I knew my light footed dancing days were over before they had begun. They were asking me about why I was looking for BR and what was I really doing there, was I on my own and who was I working with.

I would love to say I was super hard and didn’t talk, but that is just bollocks. The thing is, they didn’t believe me when I told them the truth, which tends to make ones position just a touch difficult.

Now then under the namby pamby human rights laws I should not be tortured and am of course entitled to a telephone call or access to a lawyer and fair treatment, but you know somehow I had a sneaking suspicion that was not going to happen.
One of the guards came and took my Swiss Army watch from me and another my wallet. The watch had been present from my wife. I was not happy at his taking it, but could do nothing except bleed and hurt. They went out of the room. Fuck I was in serious pain, this was not funny. I had been told in training once to remember and if possible recite the ten commandments. This is supposed to keep the mind focused and you can rise above the torture. Yeah right, but in the absence of anything better it would have to do. I must have passed out or gone to sleep because the next thing they were back. This time there were about four guards and they had pieces of rope and string with knots tied in them. They stripped my clothes and beat with with the ropes and shouted questions at me. This is really painful. The being beaten with ropes that is. You can try it if you like, just get an average bit of rope or cord and a knot in the end and hit yourself on the back a couple of times. I recited the ten commandments but some how this became the names of the seven dwarfs.

Doc saved my life. For some reason I kept saying Doc I couldn’t think of any of the other poxy dwarfs, but the dopey fuckers thought I was talking about an accomplice. They stopped beating me and I was aware that someone else was in the room asking me questions. I knew it was the senior officer I had spoken to earlier. He was asking me questions but I was too fucked to be able to answer him. I then heard him say leave him till tomorrow and if we get no sense from him get rid of him we will send him to Chikurubi. Chikurubi is a notorius high security prison in the capital.
I was dragged along and thrown into a cell. Fucked if I know which one but it stank of shit and piss and it was hot. So hot. I lay on the floor bleeding. I cried or at least I would have done if the tears could have left my shut and swollen eyes. I wanted my girls to be there, to tell me they loved their daddy and that it would be all right. My eyes were so swollen that they tears just sort of weeped out of the swollen lids. My nose was full of blood and snot and my throat burnt. My mouth was full of blood and I couldn’t breathe and just lay there gurgling. Then I was sick which was full of bile. Obviously damaged my liver or something from the beating. The vomit stuck in my throat and mouth and the acid was burning and I started to choke. I was going to die on my own vomit.

Then I heard a voice. and felt a soft hand on my face.

“Dont die mista, dont die”

The hand got inside my mouth and scooped out the vomit and blood.

“They beat you bad mista but you not gonna die. Dont let them kill you mista. You be ok soon you see, god will help you”

I felt the hand stroking my head and the little voice telling me it was going to be ok and not to worry he would look after me. I was away with the fairies because I knew this was a male but in my minds eye I could see my little girls. They were playing in the garden at MILs and smiling and skipping and doing little girl things.

It was a sunny happy time. A sausages in the woods time. A time to hold on to.

I felt fingers moving the crap and blood from my eyes but I was almost blind and could only see very vague outlines. All the time that voice kept telling me I was going to be OK and stoking my head. I can tell you hat despite the immense pain, the fact I was not alone made me believe that just maybe it might be OK. I felt my head being lifted up into the lap of the stranger and he cuddled me and I was away into a black deep abyss of sleep.

Soemetime in the night, (I found out later it was 2.30am) I was woken up.
“Mista wake up. Mista wake up” I was being shaken.
“What your names mista, whats your names”

“Norman”

“Its all gone black de lights are out and der are white men here looking for you they are calling you”

I could here voices and some sounds of activity but it meant fuck all to me, it just didn’t register. My head was put on to the hard floor and I heard my cell mate calling “Norman is here, down here mista”

Then familiar voices.

A thump as someone or something thuded into the cell door I know now it was one of the guards.

“Open the door you cunt or I will tear your fuckin head off” You didn’t need to be the other side to know that BF meant business. The guard was jibbering and messing round with the keys. CRACK the yabbering stopped and I heard a body hit the floor
“Don’t fuckin bother I’ll do it myself”

I hear the door open and the sound of footsteps and there was flash of light as a torch or something went round the cell.
“What the fuck happened to you?” said BF
I muttered

“Not you Norm, your little mate”

“Sweet baby Jesus” SB was in the room “What the fuck did they do to you son?”

I heard my room mate telling them that they had pulled his teeth out with a pliers.

“How old are you son?”

“Ten years old sir, I am ten year old”

I felt someone beside me and a kiss was planted on me forehead I was craddled in strong arms and hand brushed my forehead.

“Hello Norm my old mate, You don’t look so fuckin hot either lets get you home shall we”

“Yes please” I cracked
I could here SB talking to the boy asking

SB “who did this to you?”

Boy “It was the big fat man”

SB”why”

“I was looking for my father he was taken away by them”

“Come on son you’re coming with us” said SB

“Can’t do it Bob we cant take him” said BF
“Fuck off I aint leave in this kid here” said SB

“He comes” I managed to say

“CONTACT” – The enemy was and we were about to have a fire fight. I say we I wasn’t going to do anything. The fire fight was short but noisey. Time to go.

We were out of the building and I was thrown into the back of what I later found out was one of the pick ups. The rest of the vehicles had apparently been disabled.

We left the town PDQ and headed East towards the border.

To cut a long story short we made it across the border without incident well apart from me being sick and pissing blood all over the place, but I don’t remember too much about it apart from “High Ho High Ho its off to work we go” kept going through my head.

I woke up and it was till dark. In fact it was the evening. I was in a bed with rough blankets but it felt so good. I opened an eye and the first thing I was a child with wide eyes smiling at me, his gums torn and ulcerated and his face puffed and bruised. He was stroking my face.

“Hello Mista Norman, I told you that God would help you. He always does”

“Are you God, because you helped me to stay alive?” I asked

He smiled an even bigger smile and gave a little laugh

“No mista Norman I am not God, I am only Joseph”

Josephs parents could not be found. We believe his father had been killed. There was no further trace of BR, we suspect he had gone the same way.

The lads managed to find a dentist pay for Joseph and got some dental treatment for him, it was the least I could do.Sadly we were limited in what we could do for little Joseph in practical terms. With the help of the nuns we arranged for him to be cared for at a nearby mission for children. At least he will have food, shelter, care and education and as much affection as these people can give. Believe me they do fabulous work. It costs £30 a month to keep a child in one of these homes. let me ask you, what is 30 quid to us? Its fuck all, but to children like Joseph it is the difference literally between life and death. There are several ways to sponsor a child and that 30 quid just might make a difference.

I don’t care what the kid said, I have seen the face of kindness and courage and his name may not be God but it is Joseph.

Thank you Joseph.

Going to The In Laws 3 – Search & Destroy

Tuesday, June 19th, 2007

“He’s dead” the first voice whispered

“How can he be dead?” snapped another irritably “He was fine last night”

“I am telling you he’s dead, have you ever seen anything so awful?”

“He looks pretty bad” agree a third.

“Let me have a look” said a female voice. “Nah he’s not dead, I’ll show you”

Female fingers force open the right eyelid and a shaft of light from a little pencil torch pierced the brain.

“WHAT THE HELL” I sat bolt up right at the rude interruption to my slumbers.
“Good morning Uncle Norman it is almost 6.15 can you take us on an adventure please?” Asked Rupert. I looked at the five little faces and saw that each of the nieces and nephews were dressed in the finest camouflage gear available from M&S or Tesco, and all had some kind of military webbing belts and were carrying plastic automatic rifles. Two even had side arms.

“An adventure?” I blurbed
“In the woods” Said Rupert
“To look for terrorists” said Kirsty
“We can cook sausages” Said Jack
“we have the stuff”Confirmed Rupert
“Its not raining”
“We have the ponchos you gave us for Christmas it it does rain” lisped little Mary
“Can we build a basha or a hide”

“Please Uncle Norman it will be really good fun we will be good and follow orders”

“Please, please please!” They asked in unison
I held a hand up in defeat. If nothing else I know when I am beaten.

“Uncle Norman” Lisped little Mary ” What are all those marks on you back and chest”

“Give me two minutes to find my brain”

“You left it in a glass in the bathroom” L said sleepily.

A few minutes later I staggered outside dressed in some old green combat trousers and a green wooly pully. The troops were ready to R&R and had even camed up.

We headed for the small woods which are not far from the house. There is a sort of dip in the land and there is a series of linked lakes known locally as the wells. The kids had obviously been practising their field craft and infantry skills because they were pretty good. The made me run off and hide and they would come and hunt me. My role was E&E (escape and evasion) theirs S&D (search and destroy) we called it Lion hunt. I keep this to a minimum because it easy for people to get carried away. Any way they found me searched me and took me into custody. They didn’t give me the almost obligatory kicking that goes with being captured which I was not sorry about. Japs and commandos we called it when I was kid.
We then built some bashas which are shelters constructed from a poncho spread between the trees about 3ft from the ground and cooked sausages. Walls finest no less, although I am a Richmond pork sausages man personally. But God those sausages tasted good. The sun dappled through the leaves of the trees and the kids chompped away with the table manners of a hyena. I suppose I should have corrected them but they were happy and what the fuck, isn’t it about being happy when you are a kid and seeing kids being happy that is important.
When things really get you down its moments like this that you have to hang on to. Sometime the memory of these moments keep you alive.

It is also worth remembering that millions of children don’t get to be this happy. EVER.

We are lucky fuckers and maybe we should spend more effort being thankful for that, than moaning about sweet FA and what we don’t have.
Here endeth the Gospel according to Norm you may go in peace.

Going to The In laws 2 – Decorating

Sunday, June 17th, 2007

Having fought of the hordes of gonad grabbing kids and having done the usual hello how are you bit, kissing of cheeks and shaking of hands etc I broke free to go and get the bags from the car.

I came back in and MIL was talking to L.

“Oh Norman dear, we have a house full so I hope you don’t mind sharing”

“No not at all” I said thinking I hope “I don’t have to share Mad Jack the bed wetter again.” Great kid suffering from an all together too common a complaint. Being pissed on doesn’t bother me, its the interrupted kip and having to change the bed at some unearthly hour that gets me. Still I am no position to point the guilty finger, I was a bed wetter as a kid and my mum made not big deal of it. So, I tried to do the same on the numerous aquatic occasions I have shared with Jack, I do believe I have managed to conceal the irritation of being woken with a golden shower. Water sports are not my bag baby.

“I know you and jack get on well, and he loves to share with you, because you have never told him off for having his little accidents” MIL said. The woman’s a mind reader I tell you!

“But you know the funny thing is that he hasn’t done it since last time you were here. He says its because you told him you had had the same problem and for some reason after that hey presto a dry Jack” She continued flapping her arms in the air like a gospel singer
“Any way, the thing is I am rather pushed for space this weekend so I do hope you wouldn’t mind sharing with L”

Did I detect a hint of a sideways glance between the two ladies. You will be in the room over the wing. I looked at MIL and she held my gaze.

“You know the room I mean dear”

“Err yes I err” I stammered like and utter arse
“Well go on Norman take L up and get yourselves sorted there’s a a good lad” and she patted me on the cheek gently.

“You have to excuse Norman sometimes, he can be a bit slow” Said MIL to L.

She then leant towards L and said in a loud sort of whisper “I think it could be what they call shell shock you know.” she tapped the side of her temple “Sends chaps a bit odd sometimes, but don’t be too harsh on him he means well”.

“Thanks” I huffed

“A pleasure dear, now chop chop so we can sit down to eat”

I went upstairs and got to the door of the bedroom.I had not been in this room since the funeral. It had remained ostensibly unchanged since Alison had been a girl. I must be honest I was uncomforatble with MILs sleeping arrangements. It was not the sleeping with L that was the problem, it was the simple fact that this room had been Alisons, It was the last tangible memories of her baby. I knew what it meant to Cynthia. I turned the door knob and pushed the door open.

It is a long wide room with an ensuite shower room. There are large windows over looking the garden at the back of the house . I was amazed at what I saw. The whole room had been re decorated and re furnished. It was bright light and airy. A transformation. L walked straight into the room put her jacket on the bed and went into the bathroom and shut the door.

I stood in the doorway and then walked slowly into the room. I was alone for the first time in Alisons room since the day of her funeral. Nothing of Alison’s remained except a small photo of her on our wedding day. She looked out at me from the frame a big smile on her face and that twinkle in her eye. She looked so radiant and beautiful and fior an instant I could almost smell her Clarrens perfume.
I looked at her and then nearly jumped out of my bloody skin when I suddenly felt a hand on my shoulder.

“Jesus!”

“No dear only me” Quipped Cynthia. “Do you like the room?” she asked.

“Yes I was just a bit taken a back” I managed to say
“I gathered. You know Norman, letting go and moving on doesn’t mean forgetting. I had left this room because I couldn’t bear the idea of her being gone. All I could see was my little baby girl. Memories so many memories. I would stand and look around this room and see drinking her milk at night in bed, me doing her hair after baths, her playing with her dolls, the nail varnish on the carpet when she 12. And the growing up and then being so in love with you, and being a mummy herself…… She loved you so much and I know how much you loved her. You know Norman, I have never said thank you for looking after my baby as well as you did and still do.”

She looked at me almost sternly but with a kindness which I simply cannot convey in words.

“Stop trying to kill yourself fighting other peoples battles and wars. You have a chance here to live and love again with a beautiful kind young woman”

I nodded.

“Don’t just nod at me, do something about it before you fuck it up”

I have very rarely heard Cynthia swear the odd bloody and shit now and then, but F word is a real no no. I was stunned.

” L has helped me with the room and colours” Cynthia went on ” I wanted a total change a new beginning, move on, celebrate life not mourn death”

“So I see ” I said nodding in approval “I like the photo you chose”

“Oh Good. I have to tell you L and I had a very big fight over it”

” I don’t see what right she had to stop you puting a photo of your own daughter up in your house and in her old room for that matter!” I said rather angrily.
“L said that it was not right NOT to put something up. I wanted to clear the room of everything and she said more or less what you said. She found that photo and thought that Alison looked so happy and beautiful that she had a right to be in her room. She said If I didn’t put the photo up she wouldn’t stay here”
“Oh I see”

“Move on and start enjoying yourself while you can. Oh and by the way in case you have any hang ups, it is a brand new bed, it hasn’t been used at all” she said with a slight smirk and glint in her eye “But after dinner please Norman we are all starving”

Going to the In laws

Saturday, June 16th, 2007

My MIL rang last week and asked to speak to L.

They had a fairly lengthy chat on the phone and L kept saying she would be delighted and how wonderful and stuff like that.

Eventually she got off the and said “I have been invited to Cynthia and Bills for the weekend. Cynthia says you are to drop me off, but if you are not working you are more than welcome to stay” She went on “They are having the all the family together for a meal on Saturday night. I really think she and Bill would like you to be there, but if you can’t go they will understand” ” she rattled on.

“I am sure I will be free this weekend so I will ring them back and tell them I will stay” I said

“Oh no its OK I will tell her when we speak tomorrow”

“Why are you speaking to her tomorrow?”

“We speak everyday on the phone”

“You do?”

“Yes of course we do, ever since I went to the theatre with them, why do you pull that funny face”

“What funny face, well erm I didn’t realise and just suppose…” I muttered.

Now as I have said before I get on well with Cynthia the MIL and Bill the FIL. In general we speak a couple of times a month on the dog and bone when I am in residence in the UK. In fact thinking about it I don’t remember the late Mrs Norman talking to her mother that often. I decided not to say anything, after all it was really none of my business if Cynthia and L got on so well. In fact I was rather pleased they did.
The weekend arrived and we headed off to Berkshire down the M4. Just us of course, there wasn’t another car on the road apart from the other 7million. The in laws live in a very nice gig old house near Newbury which Cynthia inherited it from her parents. It sort of represents a time gone by, because not only are there 6 bedrooms but there is also a small “Staff wing”. In fact if you have ever seen the film Howards End, the house is very much like that. If you haven’t seen the film I would not suggest you go and watch it just to get an idea of what I am on about. Probably easier to look it up on Goolie or whatever.

Needles to say L was bowled over by the Englishness of the house and gardens. To be fair they keep them very nice, a bit prizzy maybe for my taste, but each to there own. There is a summer house in the garden where some of the kids kip depending on the time of year but otherwise they are let loose to run a muck in the staff wing.

Cynthia, bears a very strong resemblance to the actress who plays the mother in the Brigette Jones films. Character wise she is a sort of melange between Mrs Jones and Sybil Fawlty from Fawlty Towers. Bill my FIL is a dead ringer in looks and manner for the late John Le Mesurier AKA Sgt Wilson in Dads Army. He is a really cool easy going bloke. A real diamond. They had four children two boys and two girls.

All the children married and have produced kids except for Helen the SIL. Shes a bit moody sometimes but on the whole not a bad lass. She married a right donkey and they split up about 6 or 8 months ago. I was away at the time so missed all the dramas. I think it was a real blessing for her. Anyway a few weeks later she has taken up with a new bloke. All very sudden me thinks, for someone who was apparently distraught over the loss of her love. I would go so far as to say that I thought the the two love birds may well have been at it before donkey went off to star in another Shrek film. I know, I am just bad minded. He new bloke is a bit of a prawn but quite likeable. He reminds me of a character who used to be on TV called Swiss Tony. I never saw the programme at the time, but somebody bought me the series on DVD as a birthday present. Fuck me what a load of detail that was
I get on OK with the two BILs, but BIL1 is an accountant and a bit serious and full of himself but deep down is OK. His problem is that he has a right stuck up trout for a wife called Dawn. She is a total Fun Sucker and Fuck me she gets right on my tits and I have never been able to hide it. She makes me spit bullets. I get cross just thinking about her.
Moving on. BIL2 is a pretty good bloke and a bit of what one might describe as “A bit of a Card” his missus is more than OK. Quite a sexy little number the truth be known in my book. Not skinny but womanly, nay Rubenesque and has a cracking pair of bosoms. She has a good sense of humour, very easy going and tolerant (fortunately for BIL2) and enjoys a drink. She and BIL2 were really kind to me after the accident. I cannot tell you how much they did for me.

BIL1 was Ok at the time, but to be fair it wasn’t his problem and I think he has enough of his own to keepo him ticking along.
OK so L and I were the last to arrive. I thought L looked a little nervous and was a little quiet as we pulled up into the gravel drive. I was just about to giver her hand a alitle squeeze as we came to a stop but MIL was out of the house and at the car. She almost dragged L from the car and gave her a big hug yabbering welcomes and then kissed L on the cheek and smiled so much I thought her mouth would split. L visible relaxed at the the warmth of the welcome. I got a ” Hello Norman dear” and a wave of the hand. She meant no offence, she is far to gracious and kind to do that, she was just preoccupied with L.

MIL & L walked into the main room where everyone was gathered.

“Everyone please” MIL commanded clapping her hands together. Everyone fell silent for she who must be obeyed.

“This is L…You are to consider her one of the family. She is a long way from home and I expect you to treat her like she is your sister ” and then in front of everyone she embraced L and then held her face in both hands and kissed her gently on the lips just like a mother kisses her child. The rest of us stood and gawked for what seemed like and age but in reality must have only been a few milliseconds because I have never seen Cynthia kiss anyone on the lips except very occasionally Bill.

There was silence and I think we all understood something. I cant tell you quite what it was, but it was one of those powerful moments that separates humans from other animals. It was that element that bonds us. It was just so powerful.
Then the children saw me “UNCLE NORMAN UNCLE NORMAN” they yelled and there was stampede of little bodies which then turned into a cross between British Bulldogs and a rugby scrum as the little monkeys charged at me and grabbed me legs, arms and hands. Little Christopher jumped on my back and tried – quite successfully actually – to strangle me whilst Rupert – what a fucking name, guess whose kid he is? – attempted to pull my bollocks off.

“Oh yes and as you may have gathered Norman is here too” announced MIL. “Don’t get them too excited before dinner please Norman”
If I could have spoken I would have something witty in response. I think.
Instead of being witty, I lumbered into the room encrusted with kids to say my hellos.

Stalker 1 – Part 7 Conclusion

Friday, June 15th, 2007

The day after Roberts arrest I had a few things to attend to.

Number one on my list was Boots the Chemist to get some Strepsils for my sore throat.

Number 2 was to see if I could get any info on Robert before doing

Number 3 which was seeing Mr Protective aka Kims dad.

I drove down to Roberts address and there was quite a bit of police activity. A uniform officer was at the front gate I told him whom I was and that I Robert had rung me last night and we had an appointment here this morning. He told me to wait there and went to speak to someone. A few minutes later he came back with a detective. I stuck my hand out and he shook it. I told him who I was and repeated the story .
“Did you know Mr H very well sir” asked the detective.

“No never met him, he rang me said he had a job he would like to discuss with me and we set a time” I said

“How did he seem” He asked

“OK, a bit agitated and breathless though come to think of it, I thought it was asthma or something like that”

“What did he want to talk to you about?”

“I have no idea that’s why I am here. I wonder if you would be good enough to tell me what this is all about?”

“Well its a bit delicate I will speak to the DI”

Off he went back into the house and about 30 seconds the DI came out. A trim smart man of about 45. He looked at me and almost brought himself to attention. A big smile broke across his face and he shot his hand out to meet mine.

“Hello Adrian how are you” I beamed back

“All the better for seeing you Boss, someone told me you had bought it awhile back in xxxx.”

“It was close I can tell you, but as you can see rumours of my of death have been greatly exaggerated” I quipped.

“Still the comedian then sir!, What can I do for you?”

“You can drop the sir bit right now or I will stick one on you”

“OK its a hard habit to break but I am not sure the fancy threads will stand that sort of abuse” he retorted still beaming like an idiot.

I should explain that Arian served under me in The Falklands and Northern Ireland. We saw a lot of things together. some good, lots bad, but we had a really good laugh together. He is a very intelligent, highly motivated, humorous, capable individual. Real top notch SAS material. I doubt whether the blokes he works with now know how lucky they are. He left The Paras when his wife had their second baby and joined the Police. It did not surprise me to see he had made Detective Inspector. As you may have gathered I like him a lot.

I told Adrian the story about coming to meet Robert blah blah blah. He in turn asked me my telephone number and I told him he took a little note book from his pocket opened it and put a tick next to my umber on a list. They would have got to me sooner or later. It transpired that they found lots of underwear and other exhibits in Roberts flat. The police investigation was in an early stage and Adrian was not going to give too much away. I didn’t ask any questions of him and he asked none of me.

Robert’s being in the street with a large knife was a good start for the police as it meant they had something to hold him on. The CPS apparently regarded the threat to the officers as being nothing because they didn’t really give a toss about policeman being injured. Robert had been seen by mental health doctors as there was grave concern about his mental state. He had been asked to make one telephone call to his girlfriend. She had hung up on him straight away.

I went to see Kims dad. What a tosser. He was ecstatic about the news of Roberts arrest which I suppose is understandable. I just don’t think it is right to gloat at someone’s misfortune. If Robert is ill he is ill. Jeez I have a awful sore throat bit its nothing personal. All in all its pretty sad business.
“Our Boys in Blue did a great Job” He exclaimed.

“Indeed they did” I said and I meant it. They had faced a dangerous mentally ill man armed with a knife. To be honest I feel bad that I put them in that situation but better men and woman who are trained and equipped than Kim or other punters on the street
Mr P was banging on and give his opinion on this that and the other.

“I reckon they should cut these perverts nuts off or summit or given them a good hiding”

“Yes well, you know Mr Protective, you should be careful for what you wish for, because for some reason I have really serious misgivings about your relationship with your daughter. I might be wrong but he- ho at this stage of the game it doesn’t matter because it aint my problem, but if I am right you could become nutless”
For some reason Mr P lost his gaiety, paid me my money with a substantial bonus and I was on my way.

Nutus intacticus