Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Bah Hachoo Humbug.

I'm sure that flus come at worse times than between Christmas and new year, but this particular time is probably the least fun time of the lot.
Bah Hachoo Humbug.

Let's pretend that my sneezing sounds like this - and feel all holiday happy and fizz.

It's pretty much the reverse of inappropriately lugubrious holiday music, isn't it?

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Post Prandial Phantasies. Burp.

"On the seventeenth day of Christmas
The Elephant said to me -
It's almost HALLOWEEN!"

Someone has a turkey-stuffing hangover...

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas, You-All!

This morning's shower ditty:

"I don't want a lot for Christmas
That is one big honking fib!
I'm dreaming of buckets of gold and rubies
A necklace like a diamond bib

(Just like Maria Christina of the Two Sicilies in her seminal royal portrait of 1830)*

Oh, I just want you for my own
Just how much you're gonna know
When i throw you down, tear off your stockings
And smooch you beneath the mistletoe -

At which point Mr Tabubil stuck his head into the shower, asked if I was quite done, and that he was going to be out on the terrace with a boiled egg. Did I want one? There was one for me if i wanted one.

*The line doesn't scan, but pedantic accuracy is important when it comes to Santa's Wish List. You can hum it in E sharp if you like.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Second-rate Holly Jollies.

I am trapped in customer service telephone hell.
            I wouldn't mind so much if the infinite roll of Christmas carols they're playing at me weren't buried in so much static.  Or if they chose versions that weren't maudlin and lugubrious.  
            Stop singing about holly jolly holidays with a catch in your throat.  And if you're going to hang a star upon the highest bough, remember that only Judy ever got away with quavering like that. Your quivers, semi-quivers, demi-quivers and little achey-breachy wibble-wobble-whoopses will not be supplanting Judy as doleful holiday queen anytime soon, alright? Go try a jolly little jingle bells.  Go ahead, try it. Throw in that perky decant about snowflakes if you want, but above all, sing it cheery!  
            I've got a long wait and an epic argument ahead of me and i want to be in a fighting spirit. Not curled up sobbing underneath my Christmas tree while a second-rate celebrity sings a mournful dirge about snowmen.
            Please.  Thank you.  Please.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Zephyrs and Divans and Ladies of Leisure

It's been a quiet few months here at Tabubilgirl. A medical situation has turned me into a Lady of Leisure, and I have spent the spring reclining genteelly on a sofa (proper divans being in short supply) watching the world turn green outside my window, while the Platanos Orientales unfurled their green canopies across the street -
            Which meant coughing (genteelly) into a hanky as the year's first warm zephyrs drew the platano pollen out from between those green leaves - and then coughing less genteelly and with more steel as the spring winds built in force and the damn trees dropped their annual load of toxic yellow fuzz all over the damn place -
            At which point, picking platano pollen out of my teeth, I decided that Ladies of Leisure were more inclined towards Farscape marathons in a darkened room with the window firmly shut than quiet contemplation of nature's annual miracle.
            That particular miracle is a loaded one. Both barrels.

This past Sunday, when the zephyrs were turned off for the afternoon and the fuzz was away on half-holiday, Mr Tabubil took me for a stroll around our local park. As we progressed toward the children's playground, we noticed that the children we passed all seemed to be lightly tinted pink.
           Their mouths were sticky, their fingers were worse, and their little faces were either dazed and ill or carooming off the trees in some sort of hyperactive fit- 
            Leaving Mr Tabubil in the dust, I made a beeline for the playground. The Fairy Floss man was here!
            Our fairy-floss man pushes a hand-cart with a treadle-powered fairy-floss machine. Pumping the treadle with his foot, he dips a wooden stick into the spinning sugar vat, and neatly twirls you a cloud of pink sugar-floss larger than your head. 
            Mr Tabubil treated me to a stick, and I ate it, and life was very good.  We wandered back up the park, and I found a man with a hose who let me wash my hands and drink some water, and life was even better. Fairy-floss is divine, but sticky is sticky. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween in the Calle Rosas

This morning my mother-in-law  took a little trip into Centro - the old heart of Santiago -  for a little Halloween shopping.
            Our first stop was a little arcade just outside the Plaza de Armas- the arcade was mostly hairdressers and cell-phone-cover stores, but I remembered a little toy store in there that had a wall of boxes full of rubber animals. You know the sort of thing - rubber snakes and technicolor stegosaurus and wolf-spiders with fangs the size of hubcaps. I wanted to see if they had any plastic rats.
            Did they have plastic rats? Does New York have a Big Apple in it? Did Gustave Eiffel design some rather nice train stations in South America? Did they have rats?! -
            We left the shop with a bag full of big black red-eyed rodents, a handful of little black mice and a clutch of nasty rubber spiders. My mother-in-law insisted on carrying the bag.

On the back side of the Plaza de Armas is a street called Calle Rosas. Down the west end of the street there are shops selling fabric and sewing machines and fabrics and parts for sewing machines, but what Calle Rosas really does is parties.

            Chileans take parties seriously. For a start, you need a pinata. And hats, lots of hats. Not the good old Australian party standby - the paper cone with an elastic band to go under the chin and maybe a streamer at the top, but crowns with jewels on, and policeman's helmets, and dragons to roost on your head and coil down around your ears, and Egyptian cobras done in gold lame, and pirate's tricorns, and veddy English top hats, and feather bonnets, and green fedoras and flapper cloches -
            Hatted out, you need your streamers and balloons. And banners, done up in glitter with the name of the guest of honor written three feet high, and horns and hooters and poppers and silly string - 

            Imagine all that and then, add Halloween. Calle Rosas had gone bananas. There was no other word for it - the stores that normally can't breath for confetti and paper streamers were tricked out (see what i did there?!) in balloons and paper bats - there was so much Halloween dangling from the ceilings of the stores that you had to enter in a sort of semi-crouch and sidle around barrels full of rubber masks and plastic pitchforks with plastic blood on to even get inside. 
            We started in the smaller stores that exist wistfully on the fringes of things where Calle Rosas bumps into Veintiuno de Mayo (21 May 1879, the Battle of Iquique. Chileans like to name streets after significant dates) and, creeping bent between racks of vampire capes (basic black, sex-bomb red, virginal white, or cotton-candy pink) we came away with bunting and streamers and bags and bags of little black plastic spiders. 
            And we bought Mr Tabubil a hat - a black bowler with cobwebs and big round eyeballs on it, and dangling wads of grey cheesecloth from around its ears. It is glorious.
            Our purchases were bagged by fellow in a cowl and a hockey mask, who gurgled liquidly when we said Gracias. He had coughed at us when we entered, liquid and hacking, and when we flinched, he had  reeled sideways into the arms of a dancing skeleton and
clutched at a plastic pike with plastic blood on the handle - he was having a wonderful day. 
            After that we braved the bigger party stores.  Who knew what we'd see?  
            If we could get through the doors.  It wasn't the flying bats or the whispering ghosts or the jiggling hanged men with battery-operated jiggles - it was the flying bats and the whispering ghosts and the jiggling hanged men.  But mostly it was the people.  I don't know if any stores made any money anywhere else in Santiago today, because the entire city was out shopping in Calle Rosas. The only thing that made the experience bearable was the army of pumpkin-shirted men and women that patrolled the crowd, looking to latch onto anyone sufficiently wide-eyed and desperate, and took you and your shopping list in hand and dragged you bodily through the scrum.
            They did abandon us, sporadically, so that we could be menaced by men in hockey masks (clearly the spook-face of the year) and army jackets that looked as if they'd been shredded by claws and buried for a month. A monster would come close - and closer, and we'd notice that behind the hockey mask was another mask - this one with scars and maggots and a reek of fresh rubber. Bending down, he'd shrug, slightly, and we'd notice that the clinking sound we were hearing was the chains that he wore draped across his shoulders and over his chest, and we'd see that his leather motorcycle gauntlets were shredded by the same steel claws that had done for his coat, and once he'd seen that we'd seen, he settled down to make us feel really uncomfortable.
            Above us, the ceiling howled and cackled and laughed manically, mechanically, because every single square foot of it was occupied by those whispering ghosts and jiggling hanged men, and a little girl, screaming with laughter, was jumping up and down and setting them all off.
            We laughed too, and our hockey-mask maniac winked at us and shuffled off to menace someone else.

Outside the store, we walked to the end of the street and there was no more Halloween, anywhere at all.  It was a whole festival confined to that one street, and nowhere else in the city. We caught a taxi and drove home and unpacked our loot on the kitchen ledge.
            It's all about context, I think.  Take our Ghastly Severed Hand, for instance.  At a Halloween store, no-one would look at it twice, but at mid-afternoon outside the Calle Rosas, when Mr Tabubil came around the corner from the laundry and saw it lying on the kitchen ledge, he hit the ceiling. 
            Quite literally.  He screamed and then he jumped.            

            It is a rather good severed hand.  
            Also, there is a small black rat sitting on Mr Tabubil's nightstand.  My mother-in-law and I are trying a small psychological experiment.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Feliz Dieciocho!

Who says only humans and roosters dance the cueca?

Happy Birthday Chile!  The 18th and 19th of September are the Fiestas Patrias - a festival commemorating the formation of Chile as an independent state in 1818.  
One eats empanadas, attends asados (BBQs), and dances the cueca, Chile's national dance.

(If you're interested, metafilter has quite a comprehensive post on the cueca today!)

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Today I saw -

- The most beautiful sight; a six month old baby being carried in a chest harness by her dad, who had his big blue down jacket zipped over the both of them. The baby was round and fat-cheeked, and I smiled and the father beamed proudly back at me, but what he didn’t see was that I was smiling at his daughter industriously spitting up the most enormous quantity of milk all over his jacket. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Curtains, Part Three

In which we meet the maestros. 

In which the maestros attempt to give us what we, in fact, didn't want and didn't intend to take.   

Someone at the curtain store must have talked to someone, because twenty-four hours after the maestro (workman) and his cut-price curtain rails had jingled their way out of my apartment, the curtain store went into full damage-control mode. They were terribly sweet. The bodega (warehouse) sent regular daily updates on the progress of my new curtain rails, and when, six days later, they called me to tell me that all was ready for a proper installation, they turned themselves into pretzel knots making it clear that they were completely and entirely at my disposal. Any time I liked.
            "Monday, for instance." They said. "Would Monday work for you?"
            "Lovely." I said.
            "Between ten-thirty and eleven in the morning?"
            "You will be home, won't you?" They said anxiously. "We're not putting you out?"
            "I'll be there," I said. "Between ten-thirty and eleven."
            "Wonderful." They said. They bowed themselves off the phone and I looked forward to a nice job very well done.
            Accordingly, when the clock ticked round to twelve-thirty on Monday morning with no sign of the curtain people, I found myself feeling moderately miffed, and I called the shop.
            "Yes." The man on the phone said. "We thought we'd drop by around three.  Four at the latest.  Sound good?"
            "You said ten-thirty to eleven!"
            "Well we did say that." He said, as if it were all perfectly reasonable and obvious. "Yes, we did.  Is three o'clock okay, then?"
            "You've got to  give me a heads-up on this sort of thing " I said. "I can't be at home this afternoon.  I've got a dental appointment at three o'clock!"
            "You do?" He cried. "But we have a delivery!"
            "For ten-thirty this morning!"
            The voice on the phone sobered abruptly. "I'm going to have to talk to my manager about this." He said. And he hung up.

"I understand." His boss said portentously, "that there is an issue of a medical appointment."
            "No." I said. "The issue is that you were supposed to deliver my curtain rails this morning. And you didn't."
            "That isn't the issue." He said. "The issue is that we have a delivery to make and you have declined to be home at the hour set."
            "Three and a half hours after you were supposed to be here? I'm happy to be home for you, but you've got to let me know in advance. You told me you were coming this morning, so I made a dental appointment for this afternoon-"
            "Which is when we're delivering-"
            "Which is not what we discussed-"
            "And if you're not there, we can't deliver."
            "Right!" I cried. "Right! Exactly!"
            "Oh." There was a long, thoughtful pause. "In that case, we'd better reschedule for tomorrow."
            "Yes." I said.
            "Tomorrow." He said. "Will you be home tomorrow between ten-thirty and eleven?"

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Park When the Weather is Unseasonal

This weekend, the winter went on vacation. The temperature rose, and the skies turned blue, and Mr Tabubil and I took a nap on the floor in front of an open window, while a breeze blew air at twenty-four degrees celcius across our faces.
            And after that, we went to our park. With the winter somewhere else, it was a rather busy park. The children's playground was one big buzzing sea of primary-colored sweaters (chilean mothers dress their offspring to the season, not the weather*) and away from the pre-teen scrum playing cards and smooching on the benches, the lawns under the trees were practically standing-room only.  It was exactly like one of those cardboard picture books that you give to small children with fascinating and singular activities hapening in every square meter of green grass - 

            Here's a man walking a little Scottie dog on a leash with its white whiskers hanging down, and its long white tail standing up, and its white legs twinkling as it runs.
            Here's a group of little boys playing football with a big red ball almost as tall as they are.
            Here are a young man and a young woman having a picnic. They are sitting on a blanket and drinking wine from long stemmed glasses and smiling at each other, rather foolishly.
           And here's a baby, pushing along a plastic walker that plays Farmer in the Dell over and over and over, while his parents cheer him on and he makes enormous grunting noises with the effort of every step.
            Here's a group of girls with a life-size cardboard cutout of a singer, grinning wildly and taking selfies on their cell phones.
            And here's another baby -  a baby bulldog with great rolls of puppy fat around his shoulders and enormous puppy feet. He's as big as tank, and he's yanking his leash out of his owner's hand and  bounding about the lawn, tangling up the football game, desiring to bepetted by every single person in the whole park, all at the same time. Doesn't matter if they want to. He'll make them want to - he's bigger than they are.
            The baby with the walker is looking hard at the couple on the blanket.  Now, all on his own, he is slanting, unblinking, towards them across the grass, and they are sitting very still, side by side. The woman has put her glass down on the grass and is holding out her arms-
            One f the girls with a cell phone is knocked flat. The puppy bowls over her like a panzer tank, a cardboard cutout with a marvelous white smile goes flying andthe air fills up with screams. The baby with the walker loses interest in the man and woman on the blanket and angles away.  The couple sigh deeply and sit back on the blanket, like puppets whose strings have been cut and the woman reaches out for her wine and drinks, deeply, looking at the grass.
            Above them in a tree, red aerial silks are slung over the highest branch, and another man and another woman practice their twists and falls high above the ground -
           And a Canadian sits with an Australian on another blanket.  They are pretending to read books and watching every single thing -
           We watched until the sun went down, and then sometime in the night, I became cold and dragged an extra blanket up the bed.  And in the morning we woke to a chill, damp fog. The winter was back from vacation and we could scarcely see the building next door.

*Winter is winter and what the weather is actually doing in the streets is an irrelevance. The calendar says that winter starts June 21st, and on June 22, women push strollers filled completely by small humans wrapped in woolly hats and fleece vests and puffy coats and layered over of their padded trousers, hand-knitted woolen leg warmers. And after all that, the occupant of the stroller is buried under so many blankets that half the time you have to take the existence of the baby on faith.
            When Sarah and Miles were visiting us last year, little Laurie was going through a growth spurt. If I hadn't know them I could still have tracked their progress through the streets of Santiago following a chain of Chilean matrons giving them the stink-eye because it was cool enough for a cotton cardigan and when Laurie sat in his stroller his pants rucked up there was an inch of leg visible between the top of his sock and the bottom of his trousers.   
            Dearie me.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Curtains, Part Two

When I ordered curtains for our brand new renovated apartment, I ordered nice curtain rails to go with them. I wanted the sort of rail that has sliders and cords to winch the curtains in and out, not just a rod to hang rings on, with a wooden stick at the leading edge to pull the curtain across the window. I don't like that sort.
            When the maestro (workman) arrived to install the curtains, he knocked on the door and I saw him through the peephole with his arms full of lovely-looking rails. But as meter after meter of shining aluminium slid through the door behind him, it became clear that these rails were the cheap, jingly sort with noisy rattling hooks and a rod to drag the curtain along behind- the very sort curtain rail I had paid a premium not to have in my shiny new flat.
            "Are these our rails?"
            "Yep." The maestro smiled at me sunnily and dropped the lot of them in a rattling, clattering, jangling heap on my feet.
            "We ordered the other sort."
            "You did," he said, "yes, you did, but we're giving you a special deal. For exactly the same price we're giving you a much better sort of rail."
            I looked at him and he looked back. I cracked first. "Would you," I said "please explain to me why these other rails are much better than the ones we paid for?"
            He looked at his boots, and sighed, and then he looked at me, compassion writ large all over his face.
            "The fact is, you didn't pay for the other sort. I didn't want to have to say it, but this was all you paid for."
            "Would you mind waiting one minute while I go and get the paperwork?" I walked across the dining room to the table and picked up the invoice. I pointed to the relevant line.  "It says here-"
            He interrupted me. "No. This is what you paid for and this is what you've got! People are always trying to get something for nothing. Don't think you're going to get anything out of us!"
            He picked up a the end of a rail and dragged it toward the dining room window, electric drill in his other hand.
            "I'm going to call the store now." I said.
            "You do that." He said, and he whirred the drill once or twice, meaningfully.
            The nice folks over at the shop had  a copy of my invoice in their records and after we read it together, line by line, twice, they were reluctantly compelled to admit that what I'd paid for wasn't in fact, what I was having installed in my new flat. Even more reluctantly, they agreed to get the dear maestro and his shoddy rails out.
            "So I'm supposed to take all this away with me?"
            "But I brought it here."
            I was getting cross. "That," I said, "is not my problem."
            "Fine." He slammed an armful of rails into a noisy pile on the floor. "Fine. I don't have any of the other sort in the bodega (warehouse) right now. You wanted curtain rails- I gave you curtain rails! Now I'm going to have to go and find some of the other sort!"
            "You do that."
            He looked at me balefully.  "It's going to take time."
            "You won't have your curtains up till next week."
            "All right."
            "I can't believe I came all this way!"
            With his arms full of jingling rails, he stamped furiously out the door. He'd have slammed it behind him too, but by the time the tail end of the very last four meter length of rail has slithered out behind him, the momentum was lost.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Sunday Brain-Fog Zucchini Slice

This evening I used the slicing plate on my food processor (a lovely instrument!) to grate some veggies, but I sort of forgot to take the food processing blade out of the bottom of the bowl.
            Carrot soup is a wonderful base for any sort of dish, right?

Like zucchini slice muffins, perhaps.
            A zucchini slice is a wonderful dish, but in a fit of Sunday-afternoon brain-fog, I doubled the vegetables, halved the flour, 2/3'd the eggs, swopped the cheese in the recipe for something i found at the bottom of the fridge, spooned the mix into cupcake shells, forgot the spices until I dumped them on as a garnish when the muffins were half-way done.  In the oven I undercooked 'em, then compensated by sticking 'em back in the oven until they were scorched -
            And none of it should have mattered!  A zucchini slice is a recipe that takes whatever you throw at it and comes up roses and zucchini-scented violets.  Heck, I've done it once with exactly three ingredients - zucchini,  carrot and one egg -  and it was divine.
            But these  little muffins?
            They taste... blue.  There's no other way to describe it - they taste like a flavor would smell when it goes wrong, they taste like a bell would feel when it's struck in the wrong key. They taste... absolutely appalling.

Anyone got a good recipe?

Thursday, July 17, 2014


Right now I'm watching a movie called Trapeze! It was filmed in 1956, and stars Tony Curtis and Gina Lollobrigida and another fellow with a jaw like a ball-peen hammer. 
            Trapeeze is Technicolor and CinemaScope and dancing girls on elephants! It's about two trapeze artists trying to perfect the triple somersault, and the scheming woman who wants to be a star and comes between them. 
            The woman has a chest like the front of ship and a waist you could pour through a hose - even when she’s wearing leotards. When she walks, her hips sashay like she's a hula dancer going for the All-Hawaiian-Islands trophy and her eyes roll about like they're on gimbals pointed due man-flesh. 
            Nobody speaks. They declaim. Crouched like boxers in a ring, the men square their jaws and stretch clawed hands up to the heavens: 
            "I'm tryin' to give you somethin' pure! Pure, you unnerstand? A flying act like the woild's never seen! But for you it's all about the money! You've got no soul - no soul, I tell ya!" 
            At the top of the circus tent, the Woman wriggles her hips and rolls her eyes and purrs "come fly with me, love" and whispers to the love-sick trapeze artist at her feet that "you don't-a need 'dat man down 'dere. In here -" she presses her palms to her voluptuously corseted chest, "you 'ave all the talent you need!" 
            Far, far below, the cynic is scrunching his face and roaring "Dames! All of ya the same! Born to destroy every thing and every man ya touch! Born cold, born to break a man and destroy his woild!" 
            The cynic is on to something, all right. High above, his puppy-eyed partner rolls over on the platform and wags his tail and you, the viewer, are waiting, just waiting, for Her, a dreamy smile on her painted lips, to reach out one pointed toe and push him off. Off of the side without the net. 
            Any man over the age of twelve who lets himself fall for all that cantilevered engineering (anyone who'll wear a corset on a flying trapeze is clearly planning something not in the training manual) deserves everything he has coming.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Park

Tonight I am wandering. Mr Tabubil is stuck at work in a late meeting and I am out wandering in the early winter twilight - down our street, through the tunnel of platano orientale, still shedding its awfulleftover summer fluff, past a collection of tall and modern apartment buildings with the apartments all laid out in rows like shoeboxes - and into a park.  

            On the paths in the park there are kids on bicycles, on the lawns there are grown-ups on blankets, and in the sunken rose garden there are dogs greeting other dogs and running in happy circles when they meet. At the other there is an enormous  playground, and it is always full of children.
            There are lots of parks and squares in Santiago, but as play-places go, they can be pretty sterile.  Children play separately, on their own recognizance, while their grown-ups sit on the sidelines, nodding guardedly to other grown-ups and encouraging their charges not to play with les autres. In our park, matters are different. Around the edges of the playground, parents sit in companionable knots and chat while their children run and shout and inflict social justice upon each other, and always, the children are playing with the other children. When Mr Tabubil and I first began to come here, the grown-ups and the children would look us up and down and smile and nod - decisive nods. Welcome to the neighborhood. Our neighborhood.

Tonight a man and a woman have a slackline stretched between two trees. They are winching. Climbing up, taking a step – or two – balancing, checking tension, dropping down to the grass, and winching again. A small girl stands with her skirts pressed against her fathers legs. Her eyes are as big as the moon. The man with the slackline lifts her up, and he and the woman - one on each side of her - walk her slowly all the way up and down the line.

            There is a public recycling station in our park.  That is why i wandered this way. Aimless winter happiness feels too foolish and ephemeral for virtue. I need utility, please, thank you, but either Thursday is the official neighborhood recycling night, or everyone else has felt the same urge- the row of recycling bins overflows into sacks - and stacks - of plastic jugs and aluminium cans. Piles of  milk bottles. Pyramids of glass bottles. There's no city-wide recycling program in Santiago, so those who choose to recycle must make these little pilgrimages to the neighborhood stations. It's heartening that so many in Providencia want to, but there clearly isn't capacity to meet the demand.
            Lamps are coming on between the trees. There is a dandy sitting on a park bench. He has mutton-chop whiskers on his cheeks, and an electric-yellow unicycle leans nonchalantly against the bench beside him. The dandy is reading in the dark; a kindle on his lap, and his brow furrowed in concentration as he poses with a book of which he cannot possibly be reading a word. I salute him, gravely, in the night.  He cannot see me either.
            In a pool of light on the lawn, a little golden spaniel and a beagle dog are running in circles, faster and faster and wider and wider - and stopping, every few passes to stand nose to nose, breathing deeply and smiling. A man is trying to photograph speeding dogs and unicycles (the man with the book has stopped pretending to read and is wobbling sideways and hither along the path) and snorting with frustration when the dogs come out as blurs the unicycle lurches out of frame.
            It is too dark to see my hands now. The man and woman on the slackline are a pale smear of white between the trees, winching it down. At the top of the park i turn left, past the local catholic church. It is the hour of evening service. The church is full, and there is a crowd in the courtyard. Yellow light spills out the church doors, and the service, loud on loudspeakers and megaphones, comes out into the night.
            And I go home in the winter dark. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Curtains, Part One

On Thursday last week, the curtain company that had done the curtains in our old flat sent a maestro (workman) to visit to our new flat. As per previous discussions with the company, he was there to measure our new windows, and to look at the measurements of our old curtains and decide the best way of using the old curtains and how much new material we'd need to buy.
            He was a lovely fellow - very professional, very understanding, and we had a nice long talk, the upshot of which was that he wanted to take both the old and the new measurements back to the shop with him so that his fellow curtain-people could help him how best to maximize the material that I had.
            He'd call me Friday - or Monday at the latest, because the best option might take a little thought. I heard nothing, so today I called the curtain company. And this is what the manager said:
            "What on earth are you talking about? The maestro came back and said you wanted all new curtains and that you were coming out to the shop to choose materials. We've been waiting for you."

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Today I saw...

- A young man with an expansive walrus mustache attempting to drink a tub of yogurt.  The dear soul was doing his best.

- A small child lying on the tiled floor of the lobby of an apartment building. She was flat on her face and her arms and legs were spread out wide. A slightly older boy launched himself off the front stoop and began running in circles on the sidewalk. The small girl lifted her head- infinitesimally, and slumped back. She was absolutely, determinedly paralytic. You couldn't have shifted her with a bulldozer. 
            A mother appeared. Hands on hips, mouth tight, she regarded the small child.  Two small slitted toddler eyes regarded her back. Regretfully, I walked on. Regretfully, because the pyrotechnics were going to be technicolor, surround-sound, sword-and-sandals, gods-in-the-desert epic.

- Passing a coffee shop, I saw a gentleman in a Savile Row suit. He was bandbox span-and-spic, with silver cufflinks and a mirror shine. His beard was trimmed and pressed, his trousers broke perfectly across his instep, and his jacket sleeves hung to  a precise 0.8 inches above his cuffs. 
            He had an iced coffee in his hand - one of those enormous iced creations that come in tall plastic cups, with cream and syrup under a domed lid, and ice-cream on top of that, and on top of that more cream -
            Stealthily, he looked to his right. And his left. And right again, and then he lowered his head and positively inhaled that mountain of cream. He slurped, he licked, he dug into the cream with his straw and used it as a shovel, and his face was pure unadulterated glee. I think I loved him a little bit, right then.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Final Contractor Visit

Our team of illustrious construction maestros is  back in the apartment for Last Fixings and Sweeping Up - a door that won't close, an electrical socket that isn't live, a closet that needs painting, a wall whose paint is bubbling suspiciously - all that sort of thing.

And the following advisory is now in effect:
The next young man who attempts to use a clean ironed pillowcase as a drop-cloth for plastering is in immediate and specific danger of a thick ear.

Just saying.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Chocolates for the Dentist

Yesterday I had to go to the Dentist

            I peeked. He held in his hand an enormous metal syringe.  He pushed the plunger, just a little, and a drop of novocain beaded on the tip.
            "Don't worry." He said. "I'm very gentle."
            "I know." I said.  "But I'm going to cry anyway."
            He took my shoulder in a warm, reassuring grip. "I know." He said. And picking up the needle, he slid it in as smooth and light and delicate as silk. I didn't feel a thing.

            And that, unfortunately, was the last mutually positive moment of the whole experience. I had my happy music cranked, and all was peaches and cream and roses, or it would have been peaches and cream and roses, but the drill was buzzing and there were things flying against my tongue, and holy hell, those things were bits of my teeth-
And there was a little moment where we had to put the drill away because of tears and a middle-size panic attack.
            My happy music is the original Broadway recording of Cats.  Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat is divine for diverting attention, but the track only lasts four minutes and fifty-five seconds, and if you accidentally turn off the repeat button during a panic attack, you get something different right when you probably shouldn't.
            "Here we go!" The dentist cried, changing  his drill bit for something smaller and pointier - "Turn that music up!"
            So I did.  And it would have worked a treat, if we'd been bouncing along with the Gumbie Cat in the chorus where the cockroaches and mice do all the tapdancing, but the drill roared and I cranked and got -
            "Gus!  Is the Cat!  At the Theatre Door -
            Limpid -
            Plangent -
            Exquisitely slow -
            And the music stayed exactly where it was for sixteen consecutive bars of what sounded like water dripping on stones.
            There was another little moment.
            After the dentist had wiped my face clean of tears with the little paper apron dentists make you wear around your neck, we switched to Australian shearing songs and sea shanties, and went rollicking around Cape Horn - "Heave Away! Haul Away!" and the Dentist breathed steady for three whole minutes - 

            Which was the point at which he got through the enamel of the tooth right into what felt like the nerve direct. I'm pretty sure I owe him a box of chocolates. The expensive sort. If he'd only been a leetle more aggressive with the novocaine at the very beginning-     
            He tried to make it right. He pulled out the needle again. And again, until I was bleeding like a stuck pig from all the needles, and it still felt like he was drilling right on the exposed nerve of my molar.  I was a wreck and he was almost crying. The poor dear soul.
            I begged for the gas. He told me that in Chile, gas was restricted to use on small children under extremely specialized circumstances and he wouldn't even know how to do it.  I asked if he'd ever had a patient panic and try and knee him in the chin and run.  He said "No", but winced, and took a my shoulder in a firmer grip.

When it was all over, he leaned back in his chair and looked at me. 
            "You know what I'd do now, Tabubilgirl?" He said. "I'd go find a nice bar and have a stiff drink. A pisco sour, maybe. Not just one. Line them up on the bar - a whole line of pisco sours. And drink every single one of them. One after the other. Doesn't that sound wonderful? "
            I definitely owe him a box of chocolates. And if we ever have to do that again, I'm getting drunk first. Not pixilated, not tight, not pie-eyed, norcock-eyed, nor bent, but firmly, solidly pissed. They're going to have to pour me into the chair.  Prop me open with those little rubber wedgies. I intend to snore beatifically and aromatically through the entire thing. 

            The dentist would probably prefer that too.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Game-Day Buffet in the Physiotherapy Gym!

Half a minute after I took this photograph, a nurse arrived with five hundred thousand french fries, to go with all the pretty packets of mustard and ketchup scattered between the olive bowls and potato chip plates. The fries were exceedingly tempting, but the nurses and the physiotherapists and the orderlies beat me to it and I made it out of the scrum with one solitary french-fry in my hand. I wonder what all the cardiac patients thought?  All those middle-aged men with big bellies and scars down the middle of their chests and the daily lectures on healthy eating and do you want it to happen to you again?

            With the High-Noon Chile-Netherlands game playing in the middle of my session, physio today was a gas.  None of the 12:00 patients showed up, and the place was pleasantly empty and strung with bunting, and those of us who were left - with the audibly disappointed exception of those tied to beds by ultrasound or electrical equipment - decided simultaneously that we needed to do our cardio work right NOW, thank you, whether it was in our physio regimen or not - on account of how the bikes and walkers and elliptical trainers are all situated right underneath the big TVs.  And when we ran out of cardio we simply stayed. The physio staff didn't particularly notice. The game was on!
            The fellow who does hand rehabilitation was looking pretty twitchy. His setup is a semi-circular table - he sits inside it with a TV mounted over his head so he can monitor his charges while they load spindles with wooden buttons and tie shoelaces and watch TV while they work.  Fortunately for everyone in the gym, his last patient abandoned him at 12:07, and he could stop looking like a candidate for an imminent coronary, and come around to the other side of the table and watch.
            And then I left, because I had things to do and places to be and it almost killed me to go.  But I waited, listening for the city, but 1:30 came and -
            Nope.  Well, not exactly.  Not this time, anyway.
            And the city was silent as a tomb.

            And Mr Tabubil cleaned up scandalously in the office pool.  He's got to stop betting against Chile. Just for once.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Cleats at High Noon

Today Chile plays Holland in the Copa Mundial.  At noon sharp.  High noon - soccer cleats and a leather ball on main street.  
Mr Tabubil's office is bringing in the big screen - again, and because the game runs over lunch-time, the bosses have ordered empanadas.  I wonder if the empanadas will arrive, or, if they do, if the delivery person will go away again or simply crowd into the conference room with everyone else to watch the game?
The smog is back, and the government is begging everyone to not go off and have a futbol asado (BBQ) because the city can't stand the extra smoke.  I wonder if it'll stand the extra noise?  If we do pull off a hat-trick against the Dutch Juggernaut and win?  We can't shout louder than when we won last week against Spain and made it into the group of 16. 
Fútbol is a religion, and Chile worships at her altar.  When she won against Spain on Wednesday the sound went on for hours and hour and hours.  I woke at 3 in the morning to horns, and cars parp-parp-parp!-ing along the streets.
But the moment it started - ah. Listen to a city going beserk -

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

That Darned Copa Mundial Keeps Happening

It's been a big day for the Tabubil Household! Australia played the Netherlands, and Chile played Spain. Mr Tabubil had 5000 pesos (USD $10) riding on Spain winning that one by two goals.
            "Two goals? Spain?"
            "Why not? They're coming off a ridiculously heavy loss to the Netherlands, so they've got the motivation.  And talking motivation - Chile and Spain have a rivalry going way back. It's going to be a grudge match.  And with the fire of past recent defeat burning in their bellies - "
            "Spain's also got the oldest squad in the cup, and Chile's having a real good season-"
            "-and after the way the guys in the office were swanking around after the Chile-Australia,  there's no way I wasn't going for Spain as hard as I could."
            "That explains the two goals, then."
            "One goal's only optimistic. Two's... ambiguous."
            "You're going to lose 5000 pesos."
It's certainly the first time I've seen a betting strategy that rides entirely on generating irritation in the other members of the pool. Testosterone's a real bitch.

In other news, Australia acquitted herself nobly against the team that took down Spain 5-1, and although she didn’t quite squeak out a win, she didn't exactly roll over either. 3-2, thank you. That's respectable, that is.
            And Chile clobbered Spain. I didn't watch the game. I let the city tell me, and tracked the goals and penalties by the roaring in the streets. Waves of rising sound - honking and shouting and cheering and screaming and drums and trumpets. And even now, the streets are flooded with the blue and red and cars are barping and honking their way up and down.  All over town. 
            I'm no fan of FIFA, or the economic politics of the World Cup, but dear lord, do I love Chile in soccer season.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Birthday Billions

Mr Tabubil's office is running a pool for how many points Chile is going to win by in the Chile Australia game today. The posted options run from 6 to eleventy-billion.
            Mr Tabubil has thrown in in a wild-card vote for Australia to win by one goal.  There was much derision, but, he told me smugly, his strategy is sound. 
            "If a miracle happens" he said, "and Australia wins, I don't have to share the pot, and when Australia doesn't win*,  I  gets points for being a Real Sensitive Guy who's sticking by his wife's country no matter what." He paused for me to appreciate his brilliance."It's even better than roses, Tabubilgirl. Happy Birthday."
            I squawked, and he sighed. "I was going to take you out for dinner, but if we could even find a restaurant with a functioning kitchen tonight, anyone silly enough to eat food cooked while the game's on deserves exactly what they pay for.  I figured we'd stay in, put some smooth music on the stereo, open a box of chocolates, and listen to the reverberations of a whole nation screaming Goooooooooooooooool
          Eleventy-billion times."

*And if Australia does pull out a hat trick and win the game, I knew they had it in them, and I knew it all the time, and no-one, but No-one, is a bigger patriot than me.  Seriously, Australia, give it your all.  Or my birthday night is going to be less romance, and all sniggering.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Six to Eleventy-Billion.

Tomorrow afternoon Chile will play her first game in the Copa Mundial - Chile versus Australia.  Chileans are rather passionate about fútbol, and I am Australian. Tomorrow afternoon I plan to hide.
Chile? Spain? The Netherlands? Australia?
            It's not exactly contentious that FIFA is as bent as a nine-bob note.  Most right-thinking Aussies around this way are presuming that the group Australia got was the result of someone at FIFA HQ being given lots and lots and lots of lovely money. 
            Mr Tabubil's office is running a pool for how many goals Chile is going to win by tomorrow. The listed options run from 6 to eleventy-billion.
            Can't they let us go down with dignity? On the basis that Australia's chances have been officially calculated at less that those of a snowball in the Sahara at mid-day in the sun, I'm not going down with the ship.

Chi. Chi. Chi. Le. Le. Le. Viva Chile.

via http://breaktime.biobiochile.cl/

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

El Smog

Sometimes, the extraordinary in the everyday is more everyday than one would really like.  Here is my poor city yesterday at noon, drowning in its contaminación.  Santiago sits in a valley like a bowl at the bottom of the Andes, and in winter, when there is no
breeze to blow it away to torment other people elsewhere, it sits, and it grows, and it stays.

On the bad days - like yesterday - you can taste it on your tongue.

And at the bottom of the bowl, the smog is so thick that the sunlight lies like bars of grey soap on the streets...

(All photos courtesy of Charmaine.)

Friday, May 30, 2014

Possibly a Scream. In the Dark. But not in my Living Room. Thank You.

So -
There's this art blog called This is Colossal that showcases young and contemporary artists and mostly, generally and specifically, I adore it. As with any venue, some of the stuff leaves me cold, some of the stuff leaves me wishing I had room in my house for a 10x14 foot wall installation, and sometimes I see something that makes me sit up and go "Oh."
And every single time, I crave what I have seen with every sinew and fiber of my being, and I damn my middle-class bank account. 

            This morning I found Livio Scarpella, a marble sculptor who is just the most. The skill, the craft, the artistry, the sheer nous and po-mo irony of his subject matter - I adore it and I want it.  I want it right in my living room.  And there's only one little problem with that. When i imagine actually possessing one of these remarkable works, I come out in cold gooseflesh all down the back of my neck. It's simply that I couldn't bear the thought of tiptoeing  to the kitchen in the middle of the night knowing that it was waiting for me in the dark.
            I showed the sculptures to Mr Tabubil, and I had to hold him by the shirt to keep him in front of the computer screen.
            "AUGGGGHHHHH."  He said.  "I do not want. I do not want to see, actually, and what's wrong with you AUUGGGHHH. Are you completely out of your mind?"  

            I must be, because they're just... divine, no?  What sort of crazy, fertile, splendid, febrile brain came up with this stuff?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

It Takes a Village to Move to a New Apartment


A person of superior conduct who, through the whole detail of his manners and deportment, and with the ease of a habit, a person shows respect to others in such a way as at the same time implies, in his own feelings, and habitually, an assured anticipation of reciprocal respect from them to himself.
                                             -(principally Coleridge)

When I moved us from our old apartment to our new apartment - it was me who spent weeks on the phone and the email sorting out fees and inventories with the moving company. When a manager came to do a walk-through, it was me who was home to meet him and walk him through the apartment, valued inventories and massing lists in hand. 

           My husband happened to be home as well that day.  He was curled up miserably on the sofa with the flu - and when I'd shown the moving supervisor everything there was to show, he turned and away from me, walked into to the living room, sat down next to my husband and said "So. What are your questions?"
           My husband looked at him blankly. He pointed at me and said "Ask her. She's running this move."

 The man looked at him, then looked at me and said "Who?" His face was genuinely confused.            
            While my husband goggled, the man nestled in close on the sofa and said "Right. Now let's look at the lists. Are you happy with the prices? Are you happy with the valuations? What else do you want to know?"            
            I walked out of the room and left them to it.

The men who actually packed us and moved us were an entirely different set of souls: kind,competent, splendid at what they did, and swift - rooms rolled away beneath their clever, competent fingers, vanishing into paper and bubbles and large cardboard boxes. It seemed almost cruel  to do what I needed to do to refined professional men like these.

            "Um," I was obliged to say. "We've also got stuff in the bodega (storeroom) downstairs in the basement. There's boxes of books, bicycles, our christmas tree, and, er, um.  Very much Um."
The jefe (supervisor) of the moving looked at me with a raised eyebrow.

            "There's this smell-" I hurried on before my nerve broke. "Last week a pipe broke in the building basement. The landlord won't do anything about it - we can't even reach our landlord. He stopped answering his phone sometime after the third call.  The water doesn't seem to have actually touched any of our things, and since we're moving today-
            We came down last night and looked through all our stuff, and it seems all right,  but there IS that, er, that smell.  I'm just telling you so you know."
           Down in the warren of bodegas in the building basement, it was cold and it was damp and it was was very dark. The sort of dark where you could imagine things moving  in the corners on tentacles, or many sets of skittering, articulated legs.            
             "Sorry about that," I said apologetically. "The light's broken as well. It's on a timer, but the timer snapped, and the building management hasn’t gotten around to repairing it yet."
            Outside the door to our own bodega, water dripped from a broken pipe overhead into a bucket at our feet. 

            It echoed. 
            The jefe wrinkled his nose.

            "The building management won't touch it," I said. "They say it's up to the landlord, because it's outside his bodega, even if it is technically in the hallway, which is technically a common space. We came down last night and put a bandaid on it, but it seems to have started leaking through.  At least the super seems to have put down a bucket -"
            The jefe turned the handle of the door to our bodega and pushed.

            "The door sticks," I said apologetically. "It's because of the damp, and I'm sorry about that - "
            The jefe leaned into the door and shoved. It gave way and he fell into the narrow slice of basement that was our bodega, and the smell hit us like a wall.

            "That," I choked, "is much bigger than it was yesterday."
            Hand clamped over his nose, the jefe looked up and down the little room. A ripple of water ran down the wall from the ceiling and vanished behind a row of cardboard box on a high shelf.

            "Lets have a look."  A voice said.  A crowd of curious moving men had gathered behind us in the dark hallway.  Breathing carefully through his mouth, a burly man squeezed past us, and wedging himself between  a bicycle and a pair of collapsible camp chairs, he chinned himself up onto the shelf and - 
            He came down hard.  Right onto the narrow steel stem of the bicycle, which  twisted wildly and dropped him onto us. He scarcely noticed. Shudders were passing through his body like waves - 
            I chinned myself up to look.The water ran only slowly down the wall, but in the cool underground the wall had burst out exuberantly in black and orange mould - fanning out like flowers the size of my open hand.  It was entirely revolting.
            "It's only running down the wall," I said weakly. "The boxes should be fine."
            The jefe, who had not seen the mess, nodded and reached for one. It wouldn't come. He tugged. The box wouldn't give. The jefe adjusted his hernia belt and gave one more pull-

            And the box came away from the shelf with a terrible sucking sound -  
            The cardboard box had liquefied. There's no other word for it. The bottom half of the box had become a spongy mess of rotten wood pulp and blooming black subterranean flowers. It was the most organically repulsive thing I have seen in my entire life - and that life includes almost twenty years living in humid, sticky, perpetually decomposing tropical jungle. It was purely, exquisitely, comprehensively, horrible.             

We slurped the sodden box out of the bodega and released it to ooze onto the floor of the corridor.  There, in that manky darkness, I sat and sorted through the muck, seeing what might be salvaged.  
            Plink. All through that cool creeping underground, the sound of dripping water ran. 
            Plink. Plink. 
            A moving man had gathered up the mass of seeping, dribbling, cardboard and was carrying them away to the trash. He had, I noted, gone back up to the apartment and broken into a packed box of kitchen stuff to find a pair of rubber gloves.  
            Another man - the man who had seen the flowers blooming on the wall - stood behind me and watched.  His breath was light and thready and his hands worked spasmodically, clenching, unclenching, clenching - and he was in my light. Gooseflesh down to my bones, I looked up to tell him to go away, that we didn't need two people knee deep in this slime - and I saw him, standing by my shoulder with the look of a man braced to stay whatever the cost - he had seen something he could not unsee, and he would not leave me alone with that horror. He had made up his mind to stay. It was the noblest thing I have ever seen.             
            His rubber-gloved mate trotted back from the trash, and with a shame-faced look at him, my friend knelt down beside me, scooping up armfuls of the mouldering slush too far gone to salvage. The wet weight of it was too much for him and he lurched forward - too far.  He lurched across the bucket and lurching, caught a single drop of water square on the base of his neck.            
            He screamed - a high, thin scream, and jumped, clawing at his back as he straightened,  and scattering slime from end to end of the corridor.            
            And no-one, not one single one of his workmates, not then, not later - not one of them laughed.

In fairness to the manager at the beginning of this piece - there are apparently other standards of behavior a man can play with.

            During our renovation, I had sub-contractors who folded their arms and stared at the ceiling and hummed when I spoke to them- men whose eloquence miraculously returned the moment they were in the presence of another man, after I had gone and hauled some some other man away from his work to do my talking for me- men whose sudden return to eloquence consisted principally of how "I have been trying to explain to this woman how she just doesn't get whateveranythingatallthatshemighthavewanteddone. She just won't listen."    
            The reason I was crying in the hallway of my new apartment while a pack of divinely-inspired kitchen apprentices refused to leave when I told them to? They were waiting for my husband to tell them to go.           
             Last week I had to go see an insurance agent about a policy on the our place. I caught myself putting on a fresh shirt that exposed just a little more than usual of my rather meager assets, and brushing on an extra layer of mascara, and practicing a hair flip and a giggle. And I realized that I was doing this because in actual fact, if I act a little helpless and girly, our agent beams paternally and gives me slightly better deals.            
            I thought about it, and i thought about it, and I shrugged, and put on a second coat of lipstick. If you can't beat 'em, at least get 'em to give you a discount.