Wellies at work (Rousse)

Four inches of water lay across the floor of every lift in the office building. This explained the new fashion for work footwear: green wellies.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An almost doctor (Rousse)

My sister S revealed that she too had undertaken doctoral studies, so why did she not use the title ‘Doctor’?

She confessed that she had submitted her work and passed her viva examination, but couldn’t be bothered to deal with the minor corrections to her thesis. She therefore never graduated with a PhD.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sheffield trains and brothels (Rousse)

A tall French woman in a long white cotton dress stood perplexed on a platform at Edinburgh Waverley railway station. When I offered to help her, she held up her phone to me to display her train ticket. She complained that she couldn’t find the service to Sheffield at the time specified on her device.

‘That’s because your ticket is from Sheffield to Edinburgh, and not the other way round. The time you have here is the time that the Sheffield train departs for Edinburgh’, I said in French. ‘When we board the Sheffield train later, I can explain to the guard the mistake that you made when booking your ticket. If you are lucky, he won’t charge you for a replacement.’

Our new friend Julianne boarded the train and sat opposite us in the same carriage. I hoped that she couldn’t follow our conversation in English as TPR started to confess all his brothel visits to me.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A cycle ride across the US (Rousse)

I cycled miles and miles across the US.

The most terrifying part was on the inside lane on the freeways; the most adventurous through dense forests, where the trees and the sky were my only company.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An ancestral soup tureen (Rousse)

I spotted an enormous Victorian china soup tureen inside a glass-fronted display cabinet in the British Library. Amongst the pastoral scenes that decorated the white porcelain was some elaborate script. This indicated that the tureen was given in commemoration of dedicated service to the Freemasons.

The first recipient was JPT, the second JP. This astonished me.  These two men were my great-great-great grandfather and his son-on-law (my great-great grandfather).

The curatorial staff at the British Library, however, couldn’t have cared less. To them, the tureen was just another shabby old scrap of china.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Belle rescues conference at the Hilton London Olympia (Rousse)

I was back at the Hilton London Olympia running a one-day conference.

The morning sessions went very well. My former colleague PT was the star of the show as he peppered his presentation with witty asides. I knew it! He really did have a sunny side, but was just reluctant to expose it in everyday exchanges. In the past I had also suspected that he might have a penchant for cross-dressing. I was correct on this count too. On the podium he wore a short-sleeved, green lawn cotton dress with a large slit up the back, high heels, and subtle make-up. The majority of the delegates accepted him as he was, although one of his graduates chased after me in the break to express her surprise at the change in the demeanour and dress of her former tutor.

It all started to fall apart at lunchtime. First, KB announced that one of the key afternoon speakers had pulled out. Then I spotted that the presentation slides from one of the company information providers indicated that the slot would be a simple sales catalogue walk-through. Meanwhile there were problems with the venue. These included water leaking through the restaurant ceiling, and filthy lavatories.

I also lost track of time during the lunch break. This was partly because the delegates kept coming up to me to ask questions. Some of these were completely irrelevant to the conference theme. A father and daughter combo, for example, demanded a detailed explanation of the list of letters after my name.

I was desperate for some extra help as the conference organiser, so was very relieved when a familiar figure approached me after lunch. Dressed in a man’s Tweed suit matched with a Fair Isle tank top, here was my saviour. ‘Welcome Belle. I have missed you so much’, I said, grinning from ear to ear.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Urban garden woodpecker and wood (Rousse)

I looked out of the bedroom window and couldn’t believe my eyes: there was a woodpecker on our bird feeder!

I looked out a second time and saw my old colleague BP picking up logs from the lawn. ‘Please just add them to the wood pile by the pond’, I requested.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hostess goes missing from own party (Rousse)

I met CW outside the beauty salon on Broughton Street. She told me all about the botox treatment around her lips as we walked up the street.

Later we met the other members of our book group to travel to a party out of town. On arrival at the venue, we discovered that we had the ‘wrong date’. The hostess’ old retainer told us that his mistress had been away for some time, but we could make a meal for ourselves if we were hungry.

We managed to scrape together a few scraps in the shabby kitchen with its peeling 1970s wallpaper. None of us thought to question the whereabouts of the lady of the house.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Teaching and Trainspotting (Rousse)

The school secretary informed me that my first class as a newly qualified teacher would be mathematics with the fourth years – even though I was completely unqualified to teach this subject at secondary level. When I learnt that my group was the remedial set, I agreed to give it a go.

Then the secretary added that the focus of the class this week should be ‘safe smoking’. I immediately withdrew my agreement, stating that I had a strong moral objection to teaching such a subject. I suggested that the school invite instead my friend LF to lead a session on smoking cessation. The secretary did not have the authority to act on this proposal, so she left it for the time being and then said that she would give me a tour of the premises.

First we passed a small classroom where four hulking teenage boys dressed in ‘leisure wear’ sat at a row of desks. When the secretary told me that each of them was paired with a teacher, I assumed that these were the special needs pupils. I was completely wrong. They were the stars of the school, destined for top universities, with specific members of staff serving as their academic mentors.

Next, at assembly, I heard the school song for the first time. All the staff and pupils joined in at the tops of their voices, some with their hands over their hearts as an act of loyalty.

I later learnt that the school song was composed by the person responsible for the soundtrack music for Trainspotting.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shorty gets lost with a stranger in the Scottish highlands (Rousse)

‘Hey Shorty!’ I heard someone shout behind me. A course figure lumbered into view. I couldn’t tell whether it was a man or a woman, but s/he was definitely calling me.

‘I need a lift to work’ said she, for indeed this was a woman. ‘You’re heading for the car park, so I expect that you can give me one’.

With no public transport from the nearby housing estate into town, I appreciated that anyone without a car would struggle with a commute. I agreed to the stranger’s request, happy to take biscuits as the fare.

It all seemed a fair exchange until my passenger gave me dodgy directions – and the pair of us ended up lost together in a remote Scottish highland glen.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment