Wednesday, January 31

great great british things

sally tagged enid and enid tagged abu dhabbling. stephen’s post in response made enid think about the things she misses when she’s living abroad. (annette’s post just made enid jealous.)

stephen said “the smell of the plants.” well, enid supposes that’s more an abu dhabi thing. all that sand must get a bit much after a while, not even wet enough to make sandcastles. we get greenery in molvania, when it’s not covered in snow that is. (see later)

stephen said “fish and chips”. for sure. enid and the man once had 6 hours in gatwick before their onward flight. what to do with 6 hours of britain? they hired a car, drove to the seaside, walked along the beach and then found a café with a view of the pier and ordered fish and chips. result. (enid and the man have one of those fundamental differences over chips, that really they both should have considered hard before they got married. the sad truth is, the man likes gravy on his chips. meat gravy, with fish. sorry, but there it is - enid has married a culinary philistine. everyone knows it should be curry sauce.)

stephen said “country pubs by rivers on summer nights”. well, yes, of course. one of the best things ever about britain - those long summer nights combined with a bit of good weather. to make it perfect you should add old friends, the sort you can really relax with. for those of you who haven’t visited britain recently, the good weather not as rare as it used to be. global warming has its upside... perhaps.

frost, stephen? like the green smell thing, this is not a thing enid misses. if you had 30 cm of snow on your window sill, you’d not be missing it much either. enid chose today’s photo just for you - it was taken a couple of days ago.

ok, so what else does enid miss then?

(one) when you live abroad, you get used to everyone around you speaking foreign. there’s your language, the one for you and the man, and then there’s the other one (especially if it’s russian, but even if it’s french, which enid does speak.) and then you fly home, and you’re sitting on the tube, and the person sitting next to you speaks to the person opposite... in english. and that part of your brain which has been used to not understanding a bleeding word of what’s going on pops up a little alert, saying “english person! english person! that person beside you is english!” and then you have to tell your brain to stop being so silly, because you’re in central london, and of course everyone’s english (mostly).

this reminds enid of her father’s 65th birthday. it was soon after she and the man had returned to the uk from living in tokyo for two years. they took her parents to france on a day trip, and had lunch in a nice restaurant. when the man wanted some water, he turned and called to the waiter in japanese: “sumimasen!” the waiter was a little taken aback; this wasn’t what english people usually did in boulogne-sur-mer.

(two) enid misses banter. banter in the pub, banter in the newsagent and on the bus. nice, moany, british banter with an ironic edge. she likes it that shop assistants aren’t too smarmy (like the us) or rude (france). she likes it that they leave you alone for just the right amount of time, instead of rushing up saying “my name’s morticia, how can i help you?” (us) or painting their nails and sneering when you clearly want to buy something (france).

(three) enid misses british fonts. the signs in britain are a nice helvetica, clear, large - on the downside perhaps a bit shouty. the us is too fond of serif fonts, which combined with its odd penchant for degrees fahrenheit and measurements in feet and inches, makes it seem a bit stuffy and old fashioned. french signs have a really odd font, and the letters are just that bit too small for the size of the sign, leaving too much white (or rather, blue or green) space. and molvania uses cyrillic, of course, which is just plain perverse. remind enid to bang on about the invention of cyrillic, and for that matter, katakana, sometime.

other expats, what odd things do you miss about home?

Tuesday, January 30

the saga of hank continues

on sunday, the man got an email from hank. it said something very much like this: “we have no money for rent and we have to be out by monday. the baby will freeze to death in this weather and we can't feed him without hot water. if he dies, my landlord will pay. i just don't see any hope for anything anymore. you've been a great boss to work for and a good friend too. i asked my family to help but no response. enjoy life and remember that some other people's lives are just hell.”

the man got hank’s landlord’s phone number and asked anastasia at the office to call it. “he owes me a month’s rent - $270,” the landlord said,“and i’m throwing him out if i don’t get it.”

the man and enid discussed the situation. hank had only just moved to this flat, which it now seemed there was no way he could afford, given his monthly income was only $160. how did he plan to make up the deficit, and buy food? just after the baby was born, his family had sent him a lot of money. had he been intending to use that money for rent? if so, where had it all gone?

but in the end, what did it matter what the reason was? enid and the man couldn’t let the newborn baby end up on the snowy streets of kernib, could they, no matter how stupid his parents were. (real question here - enid has no idea what to think about this. at what point is it ok to give up on hank? never? next month, when he can’t pay his rent again? too difficult.)

by two o’clock that afternoon, enid and the man were standing in an icy shopping mall miles outside kernib waiting for a man wearing a yellow jacket. half past, and they were still waiting.

“when i planned this weekend,” said the man, “i didn’t envisage waiting round a cold arcade waiting to give a man i’ve never met a fistful of dollars.”

“didn’t you?” enid asked. “it was exactly what i had in mind.”

at last hank’s landlord arrived, carrying a sports bag with hank’s name scrawled on in black marker pen. the landlord shook hands with them both, then launched into a barrage of russian which he fired at enid; she had to say a few words in her atrocious accent to let him know that she wasn’t the usual molvanian bride. then the man handed over hank’s rent money, and they all shook hands again.

then there was more waiting, for no apparent reason. enid and tm spent the time speculating on why hank’s bag was there. did it contain all his possessions? or the charred remains of his body? or, to be more positive, $5,000,000, because hank was really super rich and was testing them, and would now reward them for being such public-spirited people. (they were getting a bit bored and silly by this point.)

a woman in a fur-trimmed coat arrived. aha, someone who speaks english, thought enid. but no: the landlord handed the money to fur coat, who folded it and stashed it in her handbag without counting it. everyone shook hands again, then the landlord picked up hank’s bag, and departed, followed a little later by the woman.

very soon, a text came from hank thanking them. enid had very mixed feelings about it. she doesn’t feel good, she feels awkward, and irritated with hank, and if she’s really honest, she just wants to get out of the whole situation. she must be a very bad person, she thinks.

the aftermath

enid: “I am very pissed off with you, you know. you didn’t even seem very sorry.”

tm: “I was... uh... am sorry. i said so. i even gave natalie an extra £10.”

enid: “because i asked you to.”

tm: “you didn’t.”

enid “i did.”

tm: “well, you did, but i thought of it too.”

enid: “and what about me, you didn’t give me an extra £10.”

tm: “i would have got you flowers.”

would have? what does that mean? would have if i’d been bothered? would have if i’d remembered where my wallet was? would have if i hadn’t had some important video games to play that evening? would have if i’d realised how thin the line is that separates amusing dizziness and irritating incompetence?

Monday, January 29

locked in with natalie

natalie is back! her son is out of hospital and spending some time with his grandmother in the country to recuperate. today was her second monday back at work, and as usual she was here early and finished on time. enid had already paid her, so was surprised when natalie called her, pointing at the door. it was locked, and there was no key to be seen.

once, there were two keys, but the man had lost his a couple of weeks before and not managed to find it. now there was just enid’s.

enid cast her mind back to that morning. the doorbell had rung. the man was eating pancakes for his breakfast, but had interrupted them to take stalin upstairs and shut him in the office. enid had unlocked the door and let natalie in. then she had made a cup of coffee for natalie, and tea for herself. by then, the man was back in the kitchen, finishing his pancakes. she’d said goodbye to him, taken her tea, and gone up to the office to work. and there she’d stayed for five hours, but for another coffee-making trip.

so, if she’d removed the key from the lock after she’d unlocked it to let natalie in and then lost it somewhere, either the door was locked at that point - in which case the man wouldn’t have been able to leave, or the door was unlocked, in which case it’d be unlocked now. the answer was obvious - she’d left the key where she always left it, the man had taken it, left and then locked her in.

she called him. no, he hadn’t got the key. it was her key, he’d never take it after that time she was annoyed with him for locking her in. (what if there’d been a fire, she’d asked, angrily.) enid explained her logic, but the man is, after all, a man, and what he heard was “blah blah it’s your fault blah blah.”

enid got a bit cross, and asked the man to have a look anyway.

he did so. “nope, can’t find it.”

“have you tried your briefcase?”

“uh, no, ok, i’ll look there... nope, not there either.”

“how about the car?”

“well, i suppose... i’ll go and look and call you back. but i’m sure i don’t have it - have you looked around the hall floor, it could have fallen out, and got swept aside or something.”

while the man went out to his car, enid decided she had to do something, so she may as well look for the man’s missing key. she went into every one of the man’s pockets, in trousers, coats and jackets, finding british money, a doctor’s receipt, some missing nail clippers, and, mysteriously, 4 CDs - but no keys.

the man called back. “it’s not in the car. it must be in the house, i don’t have it.”

“but you must have,” said enid, very cross by now. “it’s the only thing that makes sense. i always leave it hanging there - i never take it anywhere else. how did you get out if i took it?”

“i’ve got to go into a meeting now,” said the man. “i’ll come home afterwards, though i don’t see what good it will do.”

so natalie watched tv while enid searched all the suitcases, sock drawers and other junk collecting places of the house. still no key.

an hour later, the lift rattled and the man buzzed the intercom. enid rushed to the front door - which opened. “the key was in the outside,” said the man, sheepishly. “i must have locked it and left the key there. i did have a hangover.”

young enid

for fun monday, enid has looked through her old photos and found this one of her in the back garden with her father when she was about two. she doesn’t really like looking at it - seeing the past like this just makes her wistful. the enid child there on the lawn has life ahead of her; there are so many possibilities, so many things she might do, people she might marry, careers she might choose. back then, none of her wave functions had collapsed. but now, in 2007, there are just choices made, and not always good ones.

enid’s father is 73 now, and his features have been smudged by age. age does that - it takes people’s faces and rubs out the hard lines of youth leaving watercolour old people with just a wash of grey.

according to sally, enid’s dad is 53 (say). his friend fred, who's the same age, would also be 53 (say). this , to enid, shows a slight weakness in the system. suppose, enid thinks, we were actually as young as we feel - if we measured mind’s actual years by enid (maybe), then enid’s dad would be about 45 (maybe), which is a lot more accurate. enid's dad likes to travel to new countries (even molvania). he thinks you should keep living until you die. he does the times crossword every day, and although he says he’s not as good at it as he used to be, he still impresses enid, who can’t do crosswords at all and thinks she ought to learn before her brain rots.

in this system, fred would be 83 (maybe). fred bangs on about his poor health, the old days, and the number of immigrants mr blair is allowing into the country these days. fred never tries a new thing, or reads a new book. fred has nothing left to want.

but the best thing about maybe years is that they can reduce. take up a new hobby, make new friends, learn to do the crossword - and you can wipe ten years from your age (maybe).

p.s. enid would like a better acronym for maybe - if you have any suggestions, please let her know.

Friday, January 26


yesterday was a bad day. it had snowed on wednesday, then mostly melted overnight. stalin and fluffy’s morning walk was muddy, slippy and grumpy-making.

back at the flat, enid’s cable modem was blinking sadly at her - no interweb, no interweb, no interweb. enid called voila, her inaptly-named cable provider - neither french nor prone to deliver anything with the kind of speed and flair that demands a “voila!” voila said (to paraphrase) “you are a stupid girly and you know nothing about technology. reboot everything and phone us up to tell us it’s working again.”

enid did so, twice, but her message to voila remained that the modem wasn’t working.

finally voila actually bothered to look into the matter, and told enid that the workmen outside her house had cut through the cable. “we should get it going again today, in not then tomorrow maybe,” they promised, with the kind of dedication to service that got molvania where it is today.

of course this had to happen on the very day that everyone in enid’s company in london was in a big offsite meeting and she had chance to work on the server. enid would like to meet that mr. sod who invented the law of bad things happening when they have most impact, and shake him warmly by the throat.

enid called the man and begged to share his office space. he, being a very nice man, threw some people out of a meeting room and invited her in: enid was saved. she worked hard, and in a couple of hours had managed to achieve what she’d expected to take all day. sometimes computers go right - it’s good to remember that when so often they don’t.

the man suggested lunch. although enid doesn’t usually do lunch, today she was celebrating success snatched from the jaws of failure - and the man had mentioned titanic, supposed to be one of the poshest restaurants in kernib. enid should have learnt her posh-restaurant-in-eastern-europe lesson by now, but she hadn’t.

they stepped inside the restaurant; their coats were whisked away from them. titanic was expensive-looking in that versailles-meets-brothel kind of way that should have made them run for the local pelmeni shop... but it was too late.

they ordered israeli wine; the georgian saperavi, their usual standby, was almost as expensive.

the menu was the usual blend of “european” and “japanese”. enid does not use quotation marks lightly; she means them. no european would recognize “baltimore veal stake* with blue cheese and pineapple souse*”. no native of osaka would choose the man’s starter of assorted spicy sushi - an exotic fusion of japanese-style raw fish mixed with molvanian mayonnaise on nori-wrapped rice pudding.

enid’s pumpkin soup was pretty much exactly as she makes it herself at home - therefore tasty (she claims modestly) but not very exciting.

if every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, the same is not true of kernib high dining. every posh restaurant is bad in exactly the same way - expensive fixtures and fittings, service that's too formal and at the same time inadequate, poor food that is a very odd blend of molvanian and japanese. enid's advice is this: if you open your menu in a molvanian restaurant and see sushi on it, run and hide.

on the other hand, when they are bad, cheap restaurants are bad in very different ways - one might a huge menu of which nothing is actually available, another will char its meat to a black cinder, and yet a third will make enid very ill indeed. but most cheap restaurants are actually quite good - something that can only be said for a tiny minority of the expensive ones.

enid and the man had finished their starters a long time before a waiter came up and told them that their main dishes were delayed and would arrive in seven minutes. his precision motivated the man to start his watch's timer function. after twenty-seven minutes enid and tm had finished their bottle of wine, and ordered two more glasses. at last, after thirty-seven minutes, their fish arrived. bread-crumbed and served with a lemon slice and parsley, it wasn’t exactly 4 star dining. both enid and the man had forgotten to order a garnish (molvanian for vegetables and carbohydrate) so their mains sat sadly alone in the centre of their vast white plates.

the bill came promptly: £90.

what a titanic mistake.

*these were actual spelling mistakes on the actual menu in one of the best restaurants in town. haven’t they considered giving one of the no hoper brits in o’briens a free meal in return for correcting their menu?

Tuesday, January 23

realtors really can't rite

enid is reading a lot of so-called english written by realtors at the moment. (realtors, for anyone as out of touch with modern american culture as enid is, are estate agents.)

she finds it quite amusing that most of the houses have dinning rooms. presumably that’s because the city streets are so noisy.

then there was the one with the "Elegant Lge Master Suit on Uppr Level". presumably a nice pinstripe, stored in an "Elegant Lge Master Closet".

this morning, enid read the best one yet: “Large sunny bat has a fully installed PureEarth Technologies Inc. whole house water filtration system.” enid wonders how you would install a whole house water filtration system in a bat, even if it were a large and sunny one.

Monday, January 22

enid and the false leg

after banging on a bit about men’s dangly bits, enid seems to be moving on to a new obsession with unidexters.

when enid was about ten, and her brother eric about seven, their great auntie hilda and great uncle sydney came to stay. uncle sydney was a source of great curiosity because he had only one leg. obviously originally he had had two, like everyone else, but his left one was attacked by germans in the war and had to be removed. eric and enid were fascinated by the missing leg, and even more by its replacement, the false leg. what was it like, enid wondered? was it fully jointed, like a doll? plastic or ceramic? did it have toes? did it even have a foot? was a sock painted on, to save time in dressing?

finally, enid could withstand her curiosity no longer. early one morning, she rallied her troops. in the half-light, she nudged open the door of the spare room, hid behind it and sent her brother crawling into the room, directing him with whispered commands: “go on, it’s there, behind the bed.” “further!” “grab it, quickly!”

at which point they were discovered, and false leg-based antics were put a stop to for good.

to this day, enid’s parents laugh about how enid sent her poor little brother into the fray while avoiding danger herself. she likes to claim it shows early management potential, but is concerned that it’s actually prurient curiosity, combined with cowardice and low moral standards. oh, hang on, perhaps that is management potential.

Saturday, January 20

dog removal

this morning enid got a quote for shipping* stalin and fluffy to san francisco, and she is in shock, because it was $4,560. enid presumes that for that much cash, the dogs get to lie on goose down beds, sip a little slightly sparkling mineral water and dine on fresh game and truffles. perhaps they even get shipped* in their own private jet.

enid pointed out to the man that if they left stalin and fluffy in molvania, they could buy at least eight new puppies for that once they arrived. rather worryingly, the man immediately started discussing how stalin would manage to fend for himself on the streets of kernib, and could he have one of those cute goldendoodles?

(the consensus was that stalin wouldn’t manage very well as a street dog. he’s smart, but not smart enough not to menace small children out of their hot dogs. enid thinks he’d see the inside of a van with bars in no time.)

enid is now searching for a cheaper dog remover.

*enid thinks it’s funny we say “shipping” when we mean “aeroplaning”.

Friday, January 19

third-person singular

most people who find this site from google are not looking for enid (poo) but for “what is the third-person singular” or “a sentence in the third-person singular”. enid suspects that they are american school children, or british ones who stay up very late at night, and she’s sorry to disappoint them in their search for enlightenment on the subject of english grammar. (she knows she’s disappointed them, because they visit her for an average of zero seconds - not even long enough to put the kettle on.) as enid is english herself, and hence knows all about the language, she thought she’d write a small entry for her childish visitors to help them with their homework.


english has three people: first, second and third. it also has three cases: vanilla, singular and spectacular. (enid is putting them in their usual ordering here - how ever your teacher may prefer the manchester method, in which singular is given last, and always written in bold.)

let’s do the easy one first:

the first-person vanilla is bus driver, the second- is nurse and the third- is school teacher. you can see that these are ordinary, everyday professions, hence the term vanilla, like ice-cream. (english used to have a third-person chocolate, but it became a rather fat third person, and had to go back to plain ice-cream, or even frozen yoghurt.)

spectacular, on the other hand, is reserved for royalty, and in truth should never be spoken aloud by a commoner. there is still a statute in english law that says “he who pronounces people spectacular, less it be within ye lenten period, or he of noble blood, shall be taken to ye tower and there lambasted with ye grammar until his ears shall bleed.” enid will take the risk on your behalf, children, even though it’s not lent: the first-person spectacular is the queen, the second-person spectacular is prince charles, and the third- is prince william.

now what you’ve been googling for - the people singular. these, as you can perhaps guess by now, are unidexters (look it up). the first-person singular is douglas bader, the second-person singular is heather mccartney, and the third-person singular is peter cook. (for bonus points, tell your teacher that peter cook is not actually a unidexter, but was awarded the third-person singular by queen victoria for first using this term to refer to people with one leg.)

seriously, if you were looking for a sentence in the third person singular, then enid suggests you try this one: “a student who finagles deserves to be eviscerated with an agricultural implement.”

Thursday, January 18

on the agenda

the man has just sent out an agenda for his weekly executive meeting (called execpulse - blurgh). the agenda started thus:

To be played on the pipe organ (all stand)

and finished thus:


Review of new actions (Jeff) – 2 min

Lemon thins hand baked by Jeff (Jeff)

enid thinks that every meeting should end with biscuits. her choice would be squashed fly, if they still make them.

Wednesday, January 17


enid is very chuffed this evening because she’s no longer a tag virgin. yes, she’s been tagged by sally, who writes wise words about life with five husbands and a child (or was it the other way round?) enid’s fairly new to this blogging business, so she thinks it will be easy to tell you five things that you didn’t already know.

sally was inspired by babies. enid will try to be inspired by someone who looks very like a baby... the man.

(one) you might have guessed from that introduction that the man is very bald. the poor thing has been that way since the age of 21. when enid first met the man, he was just as bald but had a long, curly pony tail. with huge forbearance, enid did not comment on the disgustingness of same. luckily, the man looked in a mirror one day and decided enid should cut the offending article off. once she’d done so, he put it in a large brown envelope, and sent it to his mother - who was convinced he’d been kidnapped, and wondered where the ransom note was.

(two) enid and the man were married in 1997. they had a very small wedding, with just their family, promising their friends a big party when (if) they reached their tenth wedding anniversary. after all, they said, any old fool can stand in front of a registrar - it takes perseverance to last for that amount of time. well, in a couple of months, enid and the man will have been married for ten lon-, uh, wonderful years. (enid thinks it’s pretty safe to say this. even if she started divorce proceedings now, she doesn’t think they’d have completed by march 1st.) enid, the man and their bank are hoping that none of their friends remember this promise.

(three) enid had another boyfriend, angus, when she met the man. after she dumped angus (quite kindly, she thinks), he found out about the man, and wasn’t best pleased. one night, as enid and the man left the pub, they saw angus’s car outside, and angus inside it. the man walked across the car park towards home, while enid hung back, timidly. angus started his car, revved the engine, and drove straight for the man, who had to jump onto the bonnet and run over the roof to escape. (a few weeks later angus forgave them both, and they are all friends again now.)

(four) the man has the largest collection of music of any entity enid has ever known, including itunes. there are several albums that he has bought twice, forgetting that he’s already got them in his collection.

(five) only today, the man sent enid a love pome. (she thinks he was trying to cheer her up after the awful corporate night out.) it was the first pome she’s ever had from him that didn’t start “hippedy pippedy pop”.

(six) and since she’s just been nice to the man there, enid thinks she’ll show him up. one day at work, enid and the man were discussing expenses with their boss. “hey,” asked the man, “what does the ‘m’ in ‘per diem’ stand for?”

enid would like to tag her old chums stephen and annette of abu dhabbling. she thinks it’s only fair if they do five things each.

Tuesday, January 16

corporate dinner

enid doesn’t like them. no, really, she doesn’t like them at all - they don’t seem to be the place to meet interesting people, have a good intellectual discussion, or be silly and have a laugh, but rather to posture and pose.

yesterday’s visitor’s real name was dick; he must have had remarkably perceptive parents. dick is the millionaire ceo of a huge american company, and has about 43 big screen plasma tvs, which he described in detail - their sizes, their pixel resolution, their hd-readiness. then he moved onto his pool house, its fridge, its plasma tv, and the number of square feet it is in area.

“that’s bigger than my flat,” said enid, who had no idea if it was really because her flat is metric.

to be fair to the people from the man’s company, she didn’t think they enjoyed the stream of consciousness boasting either. tim, next to enid, pointed out that he had much higher resolution pictures in his house - he called it a book. bevin insisted on calling the pool house “the tool house”. considering that the man’s company was supposed to be giving this visitor the red carpet, enid was refreshed by everyone’s frankness.

there was little to do but concentrate on the food and wine. enid ate too much of the former and drank too much of the latter. her main course was a dish of bull’s testicles (don’t worry, although testicles seem to be becoming a theme of this blog, enid assures you that she isn’t obsessed by them). when it arrived, the gonads were surprisingly small in diameter.

“are those really from a bull?” she asked.

“hmm,” replied tim. “in that bullfight, it looks as if the bull won.”

Monday, January 15

police questioning

it’s funny how little you understand as an expat sometimes, and how quickly the unexpected becomes commonplace. just now enid was showering, getting ready to go out to dinner, play the corporate wife and help the man woo some visitors from the usa. then the doorbell rang and the dogs let rip as if a horde of people in stripey jumpers were making off with the family heirlooms.

drat, thought enid. she pulled a dressing gown on and ran downstairs. the video entryphone showed two policemen in peaked caps. enid opened the door and tiptoed onto the landing (it was dirty, and she had bare feet). policeman 1 greeted her, then let off a barrage of less comprehensible russian.

“i’m sorry, i don’t speak russian,” enid replied in her best russian.

policeman 2 dredged his memory, and the interrogation began in english.


“father name?”


“number this house?”

enid gave her answers, then the policemen apologised (for getting her out of the shower, she presumed) and went away.

why did they want that information? were they checking on the address enid gave at immigration? will enid get in trouble because she’s living in the country but only has a three month tourist visa? will they be deported? were they just getting out of the rain? enid hasn’t the foggiest.

she reflects that, had this happened in the uk, she’d have wanted to make damn sure why the police wanted this information before giving it to them. perhaps she’s just a sissy who’s scared of police with guns - or perhaps she’s been an expat too long.

Friday, January 12

a happy ending

the man is never quite sure what to say to his friends when they present him with a squealing red bundle of baby and say “isn’t she cute?” - to be honest, "cute" is not usually the adjective that crosses his mind.

enid came up with an idea. she was reading the interweb one day, and discovered that new mothers often comment on how much their new babies look like their fathers. (without being conscious of it, they probably do it reassure their husband that the child is his.) “there you go,” she told the man. “if the parents point out its big blue eyes, say then say they’re just like its father’s. the same with hair colour, or whatever they choose to pick up on.”

this morning hank phoned to say that he wouldn't come to clean today after all. at 3 am, olga had given birth to his baby - a month early.

“boy or girl?” asked the man, politely.

“boy - and his testicles are the size of melons!”

“just like his fa... uh, no...”

Thursday, January 11

life's not hollywood

sometimes life is disappointingly not like a film. all the amateur dramatics of yesterday didn’t lead to a hollywood ending - not great romance, nor a car chase.

the man took hank to the station. they searched the precinct and the coffee shops, then when the platform was announced, searched that too. no olga. hank was left on guard at the turnstile while the man searched the station again. still no olga. when the train left without her on it, the man drove hank to a police station so he could report his passport missing.

a few hours later, olga phoned the man. “i’ve taken hank’s passport by mistake,” she said. “it was in the bag with all my documents.”

the man told olga that he assumed she didn’t want to meet hank, so she could drop the passport off at our flat.

“oh, no, i want to see him,” she said. “where is he?”

not wanting to worry her by telling her hank was last seen at the police station, the man told her that he thought hank was going home after he’d finished searching in town, and sending some emails from an internet café.

late last night, hank called. “it’s all back on again,” he said. “we’ve made it up. can i come and clean on friday?”

Wednesday, January 10

introducing hank

when she started work on her contract, enid employed a cleaner. well, to be accurate, two cleaners - a molvanian woman called natalie and an american man called hank. enid thought this doubling up was a good idea, because often cleaners disappear, and this way she’d have one in reserve, like on blue peter. (and she turned out to be right - in november natalie’s child was ill, and natalie took two weeks off to visit the hospital. then she didn’t come back, and didn’t answer her phone either. enid hopes all is well with her, and worries that it isn’t, but that is another story.)

hank is a very odd person indeed. he came to molvania to marry olga, a local woman he’d met on the internet. hank arrived with just his american passport in his pocket - no money, no job, no return ticket. he met his internet bride, and married her, despite a screaming row the night before the wedding about their differing views on bringing up olga’s two children. (olga believes in motherly love and the gentle approach. hank is a mid-westerner who has served in the us army, and he believes in discipline, sometimes physical.)

after a few months of poverty in olga’s home town, hank and olga moved to kernib, the capital of molvania, leaving the children with their grandmother. after a few weeks, hank got his job with enid, and olga found work too. they moved into a small flat, and everything was looking good. but then (and “but then” is something you often write when telling hank’s story) they got pregnant. olga lost her job, and money was tight, until she found bar work which paid quite well. but then (see) olga grew too pregnant to duck under the bar and had to resign. hank and olga fell behind with their rent, were chucked out of their flat, and had to spend a few nights in a motel.

enid and the man ‘lent’ hank some money and olga found another apartment, cheaper than the last. olga got work on a sex chat line, and started spending her nights talking to americans. hank was jealous because he and olga had started this way. who knows, olga might get talking to a richer american.

a few months later, a woman turned up at hank’s apartment, asking for money she claimed she was owed. hank told enid proudly how he’d opened the door and pushed the woman over, then gone to the balcony and thrown bottles at her and her husband as they left. enid became nervous, and made sure hank cleaned on wednesdays, when the man is there because he works from home that day. really she’d have liked to have sacked hank, but she knew her money was all that was keeping hank and olga off the streets.

things settled down for a while. instead of his usual stories of how incompetent, emotional and pathetic olga was, hank started saying that she was a fine woman, and a hard worker. enid sighed - perhaps it would work out in the end, this ridiculous marriage.

but then, this morning, hank arrived in a terrible state. last night, after midnight, a woman had telephoned their apartment and asked for hank. olga thought he was having an affair (although he claimed that she was just answering an advert they’d put in the paper months ago offering hank’s services in any english-speaking job. “call anytime, it said,” hank told enid. “yeah, right,” thought enid.). olga took hank’s passport, got in a taxi and left. now all hank has in the world is £2 and his west virginia driver’s licence.

the man called the american embassy for hank, and told them the story.

“oh, not another one,” they said, and offered no help at all.

hank knows that the only train back to olga’s home town leaves the main railway station at noon today. he and the man have driven off there to try to catch olga and retrieve the passport.

hank claims that this time he’s through with olga and he’ll be off back home if he can get his documents. poor olga. poor hank.

stay hungry

so, this is enid’s new way of eating. (not diet, it’s not temporary, she likes it so much she’s going to do it forever.) be warned, it’s not based on current thinking about when to eat, probably not at all good for you, and enid is not a doctor. what it is is simple.

enid doesn’t eat all day, and then she eats and drinks whatever she likes for dinner.

that’s it.

all of it.

it’s easy to understand and there’s no counting of calories or fat units - that kind of thing is far too difficult to keep up. people start in a rush of enthusiasm, but then they get fed up of all the accountancy and they can’t be bothered any more, and the weight piles back on.

enid also thinks eating is a bit like an addiction, and banning eating from most of the day has helped her a lot. she’s one of those people who, once she’s started eating, tends to be popping into the kitchen every five minutes for another bit of cheese, or a biscuit. now she knows she doesn’t need to think about food, and it clears her mind for other things. she does want a break from the computer every so often, so she indulges in really good coffee and herbal teas.

people ask enid, “don’t you get incredibly hungry?”

enid replies, “well, yes, i do - but in a way that’s the point. now the food i eat at dinner tastes like the most amazing food in the world, because i’m properly hungry, not full from lunch and snacking. anyway, after a week or so, i stopped being so very hungry all day, and got used to the feeling too. now, when i have lunch, i feel full and too sleepy to work - particularly if i eat carbohydrates.”

people say, “have lunch? do you break your diet then?”

enid says, “no, because it’s not a diet, it’s just staying hungry. sometimes i have to fit in with the people around me, sometimes i know i really need to eat. it’s not a prison sentence, it’s a choice.”

“fit in with the people around you?”

“yes. if christmas dinner is served at 2, i don’t annoy everyone by saying i only eat after 7. so long as i’m losing weight slowly, i’m happy. i’ll get there in the end.”

“so you eat lunch and breakfast whenever anyone else does?”

“no, just when it’s a special occasion, like christmas or a holiday. if i want to keep someone company, and stop them feeling awkward, but i don’t want to eat, i’ll have a piece of fruit, or drink some soup.”

“you’re weird.”


Tuesday, January 9

back in the ussr

enid doesn’t know how unlucky she is, boy. molvania is actually very warm for january, like the rest of the world.for the first time anyone can remember, there hasn’t been snow at new year. (is global warming really so bad? sometimes enid wonders.)

but the long sad drive from the airport, along the only motorway in the country, is even more depressing in the grey sludge-light than it would have been if it were lightened by snow. the soviet apartment blocks look more depressing, the ladas look more beaten up, the countryside looks older and flatter.

if it weren’t for missing the dogs so much, enid would find it unbearable to be back.

Monday, January 8

birthday boy

today the man has one of those birthdays ending in zero that everyone takes more seriously than the ordinary sort. (enid thinks it strange that if we’d had three fingers and a thumb, we’d be having these kind of celebrations every eight years, rather than every ten.)

the event was celebrated two days before with a family dinner at the box tree in ilkley. this is the restaurant where the man celebrated his twenty-first - even with the same people (but, for most of them, not the same waist measurements or hair colour). actually, not quite the same people - tm had a different squeeze then, a thing which one person too many pointed out to enid. the same people were mil, tm’s brother dick and his wife gale, and tm’s sister, tease, and her husband gared.

mil paid for a people-carrier taxi as tm’s present, so that nobody had to drive. as the cab climbed the pennines, enid (who is from kent) decided to pronounce all the names of the places as they were written, e.g. “will we be going through tod-mor-den?” she does this on most visits, and it never fails to amuse her (but not the others).

in the restaurant, once comments about the unchanging decor were out of the way, champagne was ordered and tm opened his presents. the best was from mil - a slide rule used by tm’s father, who was an engineer. tm’s father died when tm was five, so everyone was a bit choked by this present. enid gave tm a watch which tm had chosen himself, and so was lacking in excitement value and a bit of a let down really.

the food was excellent, and enid is sorry to report that she ate rather too much. she had roasted scallops, then some lovely rare beef, then cheese and finally a prune and armagnac soufflé.

the man and gared had an amaretto with their coffee, because they had had one in a restaurant in highgate once despite hating it, and have laughed about it ever since. now they’ve done it twice, enid thinks they must be either insane, or secret sticky drink lovers.

Friday, January 5

fondue murder in shirt shock

enid has a fantastic mother-in-law, who stands in the kitchen ironing the man’s clothes while enid plays with the interweb. well, that’s not quite right. just now mil had put the ironing on hold to read a shirt. “what does this mean?” she asks, “switzerland was a very long way from salt lake, but i wanted to get a long way from that den of iniquity - far enough to forget a few people, and far enough for them to forget me.”

enid had to admit she had no idea why anyone would write a pot-boiler on the inside of a shirt. together, enid and her mother-in-law explored the garment and found another panel which claimed that an alpine fondue, #1050, was evidence of a murder weapon.

curiosity peaked, enid turned to the internet, and found this it seems that the makers of the man’s new shirt write a novella each season - this one is about jackson archer, a private eye from salt lake city. he needs a vacation and hopes the quiet charm of château lenzerheide, with its soothing views of the weisse kiefern peak, will clear his mind. no such luck: on the night of his arrival, the owner of the chalet is mysteriously murdered with a fondue fork.

apparently the story and the clues that lead archer to solve the mystery are sewn into the label's clothes. enid has informed the man that they need to recover their finances after christmas before he can even think of reading more about the main suspect, suzette claris, a chic but pouty french actress.

Wednesday, January 3

not banking on it

at the moment, enid is very, very cross with her bank (which she’ll call hbsc to disguise its true identity). she thinks it comes off very badly as a place for keeping her money when compared to a shoebox under her bed:

does enid have instant access to her money?
hbsc: no, just £200 a day
shoebox: yes, all of it

if enid checks into a hotel in her maiden name, does that matter?
hbsc: yes, because her cards are in her married name and the hotel thinks she’s nicked them
shoebox: no

if enid leaves molvania, where all she can buy are crappy wooden dolls and vodka, and goes to london, and spends lots of money, is her access to her own money stopped?
hbsc: yes, because it’s an “unusual spending pattern” - i.e. someone might have nicked the card and then we lose money, and we don’t want that do we, so better to cause enid some pretty major inconvenience.
shoebox: no

enid supposes her bank has other advantages, but she doesn’t want to think of them now because she’s still cross.

Tuesday, January 2


2006 brought enid both ups and downs:

:-( enid unwillingly left the south of france followed the man to moldova on christmas eve 2005, and was very unhappy and lonely for the first part of 2006.

:-) in the middle of the year enid discovered antidepressants and a better attitude - and the sun came out. she made a wonderful moldovan friend, who is bringing up her baby on her own without a complaint.

:-( satan and fluffy were bitten by moldovan insects in the summer, and were so ill they needed blood transfusions.

:-) in august enid started a new long term contract with her old english employer, and felt a bit better about herself. she also got to visit london every month, see old friends and buy essentials like books and DVDs.

:-) in september enid and the man moved to a lovely flat in the centre of town, from where enid can walk to a english bookshop, an austrian cake shop and the pub. what more could a girl want?

:-) to be thinner, of course. in october, enid invented her own diet, which works so well that she has so far lost 20lb, despite the cake shop and the pub, and she can now buy nice girly clothes when she visits london.

enid hopes that 2007 will return english-speaking culture and friends to her life as she moves to america. she hopes that anyone reading this blog finds their heart’s desire in 2007 too.