Throttling the next person who asks ‘What do you do all day?” is right on the top of my agenda.
Take today for example: erupting from dreamland, (it was a particularly nice dream by the way) at 4:30 am to the vibrating roll of a thousand drummer boys beating a retreat on the corrugated iron roof approximately six feet above my head was an ominous way to greet the day. As is expected under these circumstances, the electricity had gone into hiding. Flashes of sheet lighting, however, alternating between blue, green and pink like psychotic disco lights, served the purpose equally well, although neither the deafening claps of thunder nor the deluge of humungous chunks of ice which deserved a ‘larger’ name than hailstones, played any tune I wanted to dance too.
The dogs, sensibly, remained quaking under the duvet with no intention of emerging until the show was well and truly over. I would have chosen to follow their example but a storm of this vicious magnitude meant, I just knew it, that the roof would be dripping water inside somewhere, so remedial action was likely required. The roof, as it turned out, was sound. Not a leak to be seen anywhere although, for the first time ever there was a veritable torrent of ice-studded water flooding out of the built-in wood-burning stove. The welded-on chimney topi had vamoosed in the gale.
Not much I could do about that other than stick a dechki inside the stove, right beneath the chimney pipe and leave it to fill. Wedging towels behind the front and back doors was par for the course. Crawling back to bed 30 minutes later seemed rather a waste of time so, even though dawn failed to break at the usual time, I decided to brave the world anyway. But, on opening the front door to check the weather status, I found that there was nothing there. The outside world was a pearl grey vertiginous universe, echoing with eerily muffled bird cries accompanied by the kettledrums of thunder. Setting the percolator on the stove to brew coffee I found that the gas cylinder needed changing which meant a wet dash out into the woodshed to haul in a heavy new cylinder. This done, I congratulated myself as golf balls of ice made a renewed attack. I refused to even think about what had been, until then, a burgeoning garden. Nothing I could do about it anyway other than try to replant once the storm died.
By 8:30 am the rain had settled in to a steady drizzle, the dogs had been forced out, a gallon of coffee, boiled eggs and toast consumed, so, even though thunder rolled threateningly around the high mountain tops which I still couldn’t see, I dragged on waterproof trousers and bicycle cape then set out to trudge four kilometres up and over the mountain to the nearest bus stop as I had, no two ways about it, to go in to far away Murree for meat. Otherwise the dogs would go hungry and that would never do.
Making a beeline up the mountain can be enjoyable, on a nice day that is, but slithering over uneven stones, heavily camouflaged in ankle-deep mud, is not my idea of fun. Halfway up the rain descended in earnest again, straight down in a blinding sheet of solid water but, what the hell, I was soaking wet anyway. The four kilometres went on forever. The Suzuki pickup, when one came, was jampacked to the gunnels with other dripping specimens of humanity who, grudgingly, breathed in some more to make space. Phew!
Halfway to Jikka Gali, where I needed to change Suzukis, the man wedged in across from me screwed up his face in horror, pointing towards my left leg. I looked. Looked again. Froze. Gathered my wits. Grabbed a tire wrench from the cluttered floor. Took a deep breath and hit myself hard enough to at least stun the hitch-hiker perched on my knee. Ouch! As it fell to the floor about six different feet stamped on the huge black scorpion then scrapped up the remains and tossed them out. Close shave!
Limping, quite badly, down the almost deserted Mall I made it to the butchers just before he sold the meat I had ordered by phone the previous day. The butcher looked ill. Coughing, spluttering and dropping cigarette ash all over the heart he was chopping up for me. He admitted to having fever. Yes. He’d been to the doctor. He’d had tests done. He had TB and was splashing his germs all over my meat. Being sensible, for once, I refused the meat which he instantly sold to someone else, went next door, bought tripe instead then retraced by long, cold, wet, journey home with added weight, eight kgs of tripe and a fast ballooning knee.
Arriving home, the electricity still off, the storm moving back in with renewed vigour and more hailstones, I discovered that the phone was dead, that I had lost my cell phone, that rain had now sneaked in through the top of a window frame and trickled down the wall I repainted only last week to form a lake on the carpet.
It is now evening. It is still pouring with rain. The electricity is coming and going. I can’t connect with the outside world. I’ve had to dig out a winter sweater and thick socks. The dogs, after all I went through for them, are in hiding underneath the bed, totally refusing to come out and eat and I, my distant friends, am going to enjoy a hot bowl of soup, a thick wedge of the olive, garlic and fresh herb bread that I baked yesterday and then, after plastering more pain relief oil on my black and blue and swollen knee, intend on hibernating until the storm is over. Tomorrow is, after all is said and done, another day.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 30th, 2010.