Friday, 2 March 2012


Some evenings you just want to sit down and relax, just put your feet up, read the newspaper, watch TV. Nothing more till bedtime. But then some damn thing gets in the way. You just have to fit in.

Take the night several weeks ago when I was just getting comfortable, the angles of my old body just settling into the contours of my rocking chair (yes, I have one here in the Philippines and I love it.) and reading the first few pages of one of Max Allan Collins' great crime novels. Bliss!

But then comes an interruption. Cousin Perli has texted Fay with big news. Cousin Lilia and her husband have arrived in town from America.

'You would like to meet them?' Fay asks and I tell her it's up to her. She is not keen, she says. She doesn't like sudden invitations (because it doesn’t allow her enough time to put on her face is my conclusion). It seems we are not to go.

Ten minutes later I am surprised to hear Fay asking if I am not ready. Now we seem to be going.

I wash but my face is greasy, Fay says, and she makes me sit on the bed so that she can remedy the defect.

'You have to be presentable,' she says. She looks at me dubiously. 'You cannot go looking like a man from the mountains.' Many years ago she was a visiting nurse in such a region and seems not to have been impressed by the menfolk.

I'm not exactly Britain's best groomed man but to be compared to a man from the mountains is unduly harsh.

Later, when she finally has me looking unmountainmanlike, she says, 'We shall have a grand meal and we shan’t be home till late.'

Then we’re off, picking up cousins Perli and Noring and Perli's eight-year-old granddaughter on the way.

Lilia from America is a sprightly old girl. She is a doctor and confident that what she utters is direct from her Maker. At least that’s how she seems to me. Shortly after our arrival at her home and apropos of nothing, she is announcing to us that children should stand up for themselves and says you cannot go on helping them for ever, for how will they learn? 'I taught my children to fish,' she pronounces. 'I did not give them fish.' I recognise the lines from 'The Book of Worn-Out Aphorisms and Cliches of Our Time' and am tempted to ask how they are getting on in the fishing industry but I look grave and mutter, 'H'm, yes indeed, how true, how true,' as I do when I’m trying to prove to medicals and people of that type that I am just as wise and profound as they think they are.

After this Lilia dispenses packet after packet of medicines which she has brought with her for Perli and Noring. Apparently she does this whenever she comes here. It's so generous and considerate. She visits every year with her husband, Celestino, an immediately likeable man, and they stay for three months, escaping the Michigan winters.

Then there is an interruption and two ladies, local women, are admitted. They have a basket and reveal under a cloth thin strips of dried meat, about twelve inches by six.

There is some chatter and Fay tells me it is wild pig.

'Wild boar,' I tell her, the schoolmaster within me unable to shut his trap.
Fay does not respond. I sidle up to the basket and say approvingly to Lilia, 'Wild boar' as if it’s a dish I’m served regularly at my gentleman's club.

'Venison,' she tells me with an authority I cannot match.

Humbled I go to the back and nod at Celestino.

'Venison,' I tell him, again with the air of a connoisseur.

'Wild pig,' he corrects me.

Anyway, the evening ends abruptly. There is no expected grand meal. Lilia and Celestino arrived from Manila only this afternoon and have not yet unpacked. We feel obliged to make a decent exit. And to think that I had washed and had my post-wash face specially attended to.

Another damp squib of an evening, I think, but I don't say anything to Fay. It's best not to sound off in this world. Let sleeping dogs lie. Keep your trap shut. Do as you're told.

'A VIRGIN IN THE PHILIPPINES' by WH Johnson is to be published as an e-book in the next few days. It will be available on Amazon and from the author in Kindle (MOBI), EPUB and pdf. See

No comments:

Post a Comment