Wednesday 19 May 2010

Under the frenzy of the fourteenth moon

I hate hate hate surprise visits. In fact, you could lose the word “surprise” from that sentence and still find me reeling, but that’s not the point. Surprise visits are the work of the devil.

Lesson 1: Always sound out of breath when you pick up the phone. Making yourself sound out of breath lays the foundation for any lie you may subsequently choose to tell. This is elementary stuff and I loathe myself for ignoring my own advice.

Phone rings…..

Me: Yes?
Caller: Oh, hello, you sound fraught. What’s up?
Me: Ach, I’m just trying to get the packing done.
Caller: Packing? Where are you off to?
Me: Hmm? Oh, Thailand.
Caller: Thailand? But that’s crazy. Why would you go there? The place is in absolute turmoil. People are being killed, for crying out loud. Blimey, I sort of wish you hadn’t told me that.
Me: I know what you mean.

God damn it.

Lesson 2: Keep things vague and don’t just say the first thing that comes into your head – especially if you’ve been lounging around watching the news as the phone starts ringing. Prepare in advance, perhaps keeping a scrap of paper by the phone with a short list of suitably drab lies and believable locations scribbled on it.

Phone rings….

Me: Yes?
Caller: Oh, blah…
Me: Ach, blah….
Caller: Packing? Where are you off to?
Me: Hmm? Oh, I need to go up to Dublin for a bit. Very annoying. Some fool is failing to get the gist of the manuscript I sent and….
Caller: Dublin? That’s terrific! I’m in Ireland, less than an hour away from you, actually! Maybe we could drive up together? I was coming to visit you, anyway. Surprise!

Lesson 3: Keep things vaguer. You need to establish the caller’s location before you can freely make your next move. Stands to reason.

Phone rings…..

Me: Yes?
Caller: Oh, blah…
Me: Ach, blah….
Caller: Blah?
Me: Hmm? Oh, I need to go away for a bit and sort out some.….look, never mind all that, where are my manners? How are you doing? Where are you? It's so nice to hear from you…
Caller: I’m in Ireland, less than an hour away from you, actually. I was going to pay you a visit. Thought I'd stay over for a couple of days and....
Me: Switzerland! [Always neutral, nothing to worry about.]
Caller: What?
Me: Switzerland. Yes indeed. Sorry, that’s where I’m going. That’s why I’m packing. Phew. What a terrible shame I’ll miss you.

It may seem cruel, but if you don’t follow these basic steps then you may end up suffering my recent tragedies.

Phone rings…..

Me: Hello?
Caller: Hello, it’s me. Is this a good time? Are you busy?
Me: Busy? Ha! No way. I’m lounging around watching the news and eating some spectacular scones I’ve just made, getting ready for a whole weekend of lounging around eating scones and doing absolutely nothing. Just putting in the practice, you understand. Ha ha ha. How are you doing? You sound like you’re driving?

You see? There’s nowhere left to run once you tell the truth. All you can do is fetch the bedding, pick some flowers for the guest room, tip some bleach down the loo and get the kettle on. It’s no use wasting time shouting “you God awful bully; you completely selfish, disgustingly unthinking, rancidly inconsiderate social menace; you fuck; you fucking fuck” at the dialling tone after the event. But it helps.

Actually, it doesn’t.

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