Sunday, 9 March 2008

The Excuse

I wake up suddenly and lie still. Something has disturbed my sleep. It's dark in my bedroom. I distinguish my kidney shaped dressing table, cluttered with teenage girl necessaries. There's that noise again. A persistent plopping, like a tap dripping; Dad will be cross if I haven't turned the tap off on my hand-basin. I peer at my alarm. It's four thirty in the morning. A relief; he left for work at four so no chance of him finding out.

I try to go back to sleep. It's a long journey to work and back every day, leaving my parent's period house in this quiet Surrey village at seven thirty to arrive in London at nine and not getting back until seven thirty in the evening. A bus to the station, a train, then another bus, each stage of my commute tightly synchronised with no room for error; a long day for a fifteen year old probationary apprentice hairdresser, keen to impress her boss; but I can't drift off. The unrelenting plopping is gathering speed and volume.

I light my bedside lamp, place my naked feet on the parquet floor, gaze around my cosy bedroom. The chintz curtains are tightly closed over the leaded-light windows. I hear the click of the heating system as it automatically switches on. I turn my eyes towards the dark green tiled fireplace at the foot of my bed. The persistent plopping is coming from that direction. I pad barefoot to the fireplace and I am unable to scream, too revolted to move; rooted to the spot!

Maggots! Thousands of them! Plump, white maggots marching up and down the grouting of the tiled hearth like a regimental platoon. As the existing troops uniformly wriggle along they are rapidly joined by more foot soldiers, free-falling down the chimney breast, landing with the haunting 'Plop' onto the cold, green tiles, joining the swelling military ranks on the straight white lines as if under orders from a barking Sergeant Major. I am mesmerised but move quickly as the new arrivals, finding no room in the hearth, edge their way over the shiny brass fender to create a splinter group, within seconds finding the patterns on the wooden flooring and a second squad of squirming, writhing maggots occupying their new parade ground.

But the door to freedom is on the other side of the fireplace and its grisly inhabitants. I have to get past the invaders to escape. Choosing the alternative, I leap back to the comparative protection of the bed. Mum's bedroom is next door. Will she hear me screaming? No matter! I shriek and screech. She hears - comes rushing in.

'What are you screaming at for goodness sake?' as she clutches her dressing-gown around herself with one hand and pats her head full of spongy rollers with the other.

'Maggots - millions of them,' ' I'm blubbering.

Her face is white 'What?'

The marching maggots have reached legion proportions. She disappears, returning with a galvanised bucket brimming with steaming water, strong smelling disinfectant and a wooden handled mop; sloshing the contents over the wooden flooring and tiled fireplace. Things worsen as the tidal wave of boiling water sweeps the maggots along the floor, entirely surrounding my bed - proving maggots can swim. I am trapped, sobbing, shaking and already late for work.

'Get out of bed.' she ordered.

Mum may be as horrified as me by the gory sight, but at least she is wearing slippers, at the other side of the fireplace, near the door and a hasty exit.

'I'm not putting my feet on that floor,' as I bury myself in the pillows 'I can feel them crawling all over me! Get me some Wellington boots and dad's big waterproof mackintosh. Otherwise I'm not moving - ever!'

The scene in my bedroom is sheer desolation. Lifeless maggots, fat on dead, decaying bird, are stranded on my pretty hand-woven rug, like grains of cold boiled rice. Some maggots are making feeble efforts to escape to higher ground away from the avalanche of water by slithering into my work-shoes. Others are trapped in the tiled hearth, floating on the surface, joined by naive maggots plopping down the chimney to a certain death by drowning. Mum comes back with the waterproofs and the wellies; I escape the bedlam and collapse in a frenzied heap on the landing floor.

I get to work very late that day. I explain my valid reasons. My boss doesn't believe me. It's the most inventive excuse he's ever heard.

Friday, 7 March 2008

Headless Ostrich

Ostriches were once farmed purely for their feathers creating much wealth for the Feather Barons who built ornate Feather Palaces. Many of these remain in South Africa. They've been restored and are luxurious tourist accomodation. We visited an Ostrich Farm and found the Ostriches rather funny. They are exactly like Rod Hull's Emu. Cross, bad tempered and get too close to one and it'll have your hat, camera and your face.

Then I felt sorry for them. Place a paper bag on their head and they become motionless. The one above is about to be sat on by a tourist and a photo opportunity. I'd be a cross bird if somebody put a paper bag on my head.

Here the guide has exposed the prize white feathers used for Feather Boas and the Folies Bergere.

These Ostrich are racing. The can run at 60 mph. Considering they can't fly I suppose this is how they survived their predators. We were assured that as soon as they reach the finishing line the jockeys put a paper bag over their heads and they stop dead. I was standing at the finishing line but didn't believe them so my photo is rubbish because I leapt out of the way.

Then we ate Ostrich for lunch and browsed the Ostrich shop. A very useful bird. The eggs are made into lamps, there are feather dusters, feather boas and well crafted Ostrich leather goods. I was very taken with an Ostrich handbag but it was two hundred pounds. I didn't buy anything. They are far more expensive to buy here as very similar bags retail online for several hundred pounds.

I shall buy Ostrich meat though. It is delicious and healthy.
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Monday, 3 March 2008

Design Fault? Update

I loved my last Finepix Digital camera but it broke after two years constant use. Something wrong with the Zoom Feature. Not that I ever Zoomed. I loved it because it didn't have sticky-out bits like lenses. It nestled in my handbag or pocket along with my lipstick. It also had a dock for recharging the whole camera without removing batteries.

Above is the replacement camera bought one month ago. Again, no sticky-out bits like lenses but instead of a camera dock for recharging the whole thing it has a battery charger. I successfully charged the battery as soon as I got the Finepix Z10fd. This meant removing it, charging it and then replacing it. This worked fine. I had a happy month taking pictures and then the battery needed recharging. I removed it, sat it in the recharger, red light went off, charging over, so I put it back into the camera - the wrong way round.

I've replaced many batteries into many technological things the wrong way round, realised this, removed them and replaced them the right way round. Not this one. Jammed. Stuck. Broken nails trying to shift it. Sweating. Perplexed.

I re-read the information leaflets supplied with the camera. There are several slips separate from the main booklet with Cautionary Warnings such as If Battery Replaced The wrong Way Do Not Attempt To Force Removal. I have a sinking feeling.

If Battery Replaced The Wrong Way Round go to your main FujiFilm FinePix Dealer. I go to my High Street dealer. Roger disappears into his workshop with my camera for many minutes. He returns, perplexed.

'Can't understand this' he says 'Usually when a battery's put in the wrong way round it's easy to take it out and do it right'.

Roger 'phones Finepix.

'Oh yes' say Finepix 'This is a common problem. Send it back to us'.

So FujiFilm are selling a product with a known design fault?

Hopefully this will just cost me postage and insurance. Meanwhile I don't have a camera and I miss it. I need to photograph food and shoes.


Finepix replaced my camera with a new one within a week. Well done Fuji. The new camera included updated and clearer illustrated cautions about how to replace the battery. If I'd had these in the first camera I would never had put the battery back the wrong way round.
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