It’s all been getting a bit serious up in here lately, so to lighten the mood let’s have another rummage through the ruins of my accident-prone life…
This weekend I had a telephone conversation with my mother during which Mum was on a bluebottle safari. Apparently said bluebottle had the brazen cheek to follow her Home Help into the house and Mum hates bluebottles with a passion approaching the psychotic ( I must confess that I share this dislike of bluebottles with her - they are nasty, dirty, buzzy creatures which need to die immediately ), so that our conversation was peppered with the intermittent thwack-thwack-thwack of a rolled-up newspaper hitting walls, windows, lampshades etc. Anyway, it reminded me of the first time my parents took me abroad on holiday…
I was around 13 yrs-old, and we decided to take a coach tour which encompassed France, Holland, and Belgium - because my parents thought I’d enjoy these countries ( which I did ) and because the tour was based in Ostend where my parents spent part of their honeymoon and they thought I might find this sweet and nice ( which I didn't ). Two rooms had been booked for us by the tour company, a twin for my parents and a single for me. I was excited to have a room of my own.
Except as soon as we arrived that went out the window. Almost literally.
Our luggage had been deposited in the twin room, so we entered there first, to find a half dozen bluebottles buzzing in circles around the ceiling light. Dad and I left Mum wearing a grim expression, clutching a rolled-up Daily Express newspaper, and muttering “ Right. Come here, you dirty little bastards!” as she chased the offending insects around the room, and we fetched my luggage to what was meant to be my room.
There is no delicate way to put this so I’ll just say it…the tour company had booked a hotel smack in the middle of Ostend’s red-light district. And my room looked directly across a very narrow street into one of its licensed houses of ill-repute. Dad and I walked into the room to be greeted, via the wide open window, by the sight of a very buxom and somewhat under-attired lady of the night ( and the daytime too, it seemed ) leaning out of a window in the building opposite. She spotted Dad and his expression of I’m-horrified-but-fascinated-at-once-by-this-cultural-difference and gave him a big smile and a little finger wave, and he promptly whisked the curtains closed, turned to me and announced that I’d be sharing the twin room with my mother. No arguments ( bless him for being an overprotective father, he wasn’t quite so horrified by the thought of me seeing naked ladies as he was by their clients seeing me - and any other motive on his part I refuse to think about ).
Later, after dinner, enjoying a drink in the hotel bar, I realized I need something from the room, so off I went. Of course I got off the fucking elevator at the wrong floor and wandered down the wrong corridor…why would I not?
This was also the first time I’d ever come across lights that were on a timer - you hit the switch at the start of the corridor and the light came on for a set time before going out again, necessitating that you hit the switch at the other end. All very energy-saving and noble except that I don’t think this particular hotel was thinking about being eco-friendly so much as they were struggling to pay the utilities bill. Anyway, there I was wandering down this corridor - identical to every other bloody corridor in a hotel that generally had about as much decorative feature as one of those slabs of fucking concrete in the old USSR - unable to figure out where the damned room was, and poof! out went the lights. Since the corridor was an internal one ( meaning it had no fucking windows ) I was plunged into pitch darkness and my nerves have never been exactly solid in darkness…
…five seconds later I burst out of that corridor, shrieking in panic, having dropped my room key ( of course ), and ran into a very startled French couple exiting the elevator, who tried their best in their limited English and my even more limited French to comfort me, help me find my room key, and guide me toward the right floor.
By this time I was wondering what kind of weird, masochistic peoples were these bloody Belgians?
But it could still get worse. Surprise, eh?
Just before going to sleep that night, I decided it might be a good idea to mess with the radio alarm clock. I have no idea why I thought it would be a good idea to do this since my jinx with all things electrical was already in full-swing by that age. Maybe it was the Continental air or something - who knows, and who gives a rat’s ass? I tinkered with a radio alarm clock that was all written in fucking Flemish and the result was…well, it was BAD.
I panicked when I realized that I didn’t know shit about the language I was tinkering with, so I did the only sensible thing I could think of - I switched the radio alarm clock off. Honestly, all the wee LED numbers went dark, and I was pretty sure I’d switched it off completely.
And so Mum and me settled down to sleep.
About an hour later we were awoken by the most unearthly screeching sound emanating from the radio alarm clock that I’d been so sure I switched off. And I mean this was a screech. This was like no normal alarm I’ve ever heard before or since. Maybe Flemish people are hard to wake in the mornings? Anyway, the LED lights were on and flashing, too, like some kind of emergency fucking Bat signal. Mum leapt up out of bed, covers all going everywhere, eyes like saucers, and she yowled “ What is it? What’s happening? What’s that bloody racket all about?” whilst I was frantically trying to trace the cord to the electrical outlet behind the bed and yank the damned thing out of the wall. I tried to reassure my panicked, half-awake mother that the hotel wasn’t really on fire, it was just some fuckwitted Flemish design of a radio alarm clock ( yeah, absolutely nothing to do with me, the Queen of Electrical Jinx, tinkering with something written in a language I had zero understanding of )...by the time I got the instrument to just shut the hell up with its unearthly screeching, Mum was looking at it like she was wondering whether she might be able to find a Belgian priest amenable to exorcising electrical equipment on short notice.
I thought it prudent to deposit the offending item in a drawer, first wrapping the cord firmly around it for what purpose I’m not sure…and there it remained for the duration of our stay. Dad became our morning wake-up call. And yes, he laughed himself silly over the whole incident, and yes, he offered to “fix” the radio alarm clock…an offer which was greeted by a chorus of “ No! It’s fine! Really! Don’t touch it please!”
I’m happy to say that the rest of this holiday went relatively smoothly…well, unless you count the ‘beer incident’ in Brussels, and maybe UK HM Customs & Excise suspecting us of smuggling drugs ( that was their fucking problem, not ours ), and there was that thing with me nearly falling out of the window in the hotel room and don’t even ask me why I partially-flooded the bathroom…faucets in Belgium are different from those in Britain, okay!?!