In this modern version of the Enid Blyton classic, we have two Scottish brothers, a lovely blonde girlfriend and instead of the gender confused girl, we shall include the token ethnic, like Disney in 2008. Timmy the dog has been conveniently replaced by a white Kia Picanto: five doors but without central locking to keep that authentic feel.
I was invited by a friend to come along for the weekend to his girlfriend’s parents house in a Welsh village with him and his girlfriend. His brother would come along too, so I would not be the gooseberry. (I had met both girlfriend and brother before, see also The Famous Five explore Edinburgh.)
After arriving at Highbury station on a Friday night and a hike up to the meeting point, missing the girlfriend who came to walk towards me after the directions that were given to me failed to enlighten me, I met my friends at the flat. When I say the flat, I mean her room that she’s been generously sharing with the two boys for the last two weeks: the woman is up for a sainthood.
We walked to the car which was parked by the church, one of the guys had actually attended Mass earlier that day: the things you have to do for a parking space in London these days. The size of the car meant that the girls (both a respectable 5ft3) were bundled in the back between the weekend-bags, coats and the groceries. Leg-space is overrated: jolly good, let the fun begin!
After just an hour in London traffic both brothers showed their impatient nature. The designated driver (who claimed to be a quarter Chinese, a quarter Irish and half Grouch…) started complaining that it would take us seven hours to drive there and that we could have driven to Scotland in that time. It is amazing how quickly women can bond just by rolling their eyes…
Between snacks and short stops to attend to calls of nature as well as calls from fiancees, I was told that the house was currently empty as her parents were away: we would go there to start decorating and make it homely for their Christmas return. It had four ensuites and a sauna that she had designed and built with her brother. (At this point, she omits the fact that she has actually designed the whole house. Modern day little Annie is no home maker, she is an interior designer.) She does warn me about the fly- problem they had and when she last left, she had left a fly bomb: we might had to deal with the aftermath of that. The flies would turn out to be the least of our problems.
We arrived at a dark drive-way and walked towards an impressive looking house. Inside it was spacious and perfectly decorated with foreign ornaments, all tokens from extensive travels. The living room was a beautiful open space with big windows and there were stairs leading to the bedrooms and small stairs going down to the kitchen. Excited by the sight and keen to fight the freezing cold of the empty house with mulled wine, we brought in the bags and descended into the kitchen…
There we found the floor covered in water and water still dripping from the ceiling. The boys considered it could have been the frost bursting a pipe from the floor heating that heats the whole house. The electricity had tripped and the freezer and its content had defrosted. After a quick assessment we concluded all toilets in all the ensuites were either over flowing or were frozen solid; so under the header of damage-control it was decided to switch off the main tap. At 1am we found ourselves in a freezing house without any water or heating and no electricity in the kitchen or gas to cook on. Oh and there were thousands of dead flies by every window in the house.
There was only one solution: lashings of mulled wine.We managed to find the camping gear in the basement and opened the doors to the terrace to heat up the wine. Going outside was a strangely tropical experience for a Friday night in December, especially considering that our sound scape was made up by the cracking sound of the thawing river . Mugs in hand, breath visible in the cold, we sat around the kitchen table: it was time for a P.O.A …
(to be continued)