(Quick disclaimer: there are some appalling, degrading descripitions of women and overweight people in this article. I would honestly never normally talk like this about anybody, but it's the only way I know to express my real outrage at the events described below)

Last night I had what (I hope will be) the most disgusting experience of my life.

One of the hardest things about running a bar is knowing when to say "sorry mate, you've had enough". Some customers can drink all night and stay relatively sober, but then one drink tips them over the edge and they become monsters. This happened last night with four English women in their late thirties, who were doing fine and then suddenly started falling over. By 5am they were wrecked and no how much water and tonic I gave them, had completely lost the ability to walk the 5 kilometres back to their house. One of my Spanish customers - who had only drank 1 gin and lots of water - kindly offered to drive one of the girls home on his moped and then drive back in their car to take them home. I agreed, for my part, to walk the girls down to the football pitch to jump in the car.

Walking them up there was difficult. I had three girls: one who looked like Ellen Degeneres and I figured for a lesbian; one very sweet woman who had spent most of the night crying because she had embarrased herself by falling on her arse (hugely ironic, as it turned out; and one fat blob, whose ability to walk had been replaced by a raging libido that was driving her to shag her mates. The most drunk of the three was the fat blob, so I ended up carrying her most of the way. Which was hard, she must have weighed at least 20-stone.

They thanked me all the way down to the football pitch, and I said de nada, because the escort service was included in the price of the drinks. It isn't of course, and neither is the cost of the hernia operation I'll need after picking up the fat blob 20 times whenever she collapsed. I didn't mind though - I've got a bit of a Knight-In-Shining-Armour complex, and like to help people in distress.

I picked a bad route back to the football pitch - it was short, but involves walking up a large hill then down a steep incline. Ellen and falling on arse girl beat a path ahead of us, while I slowly dragged fat blob up the hill. When we finally crested the hill, I couldn't believe what had happened. Falling over girl had fallen again, but this time she hadn't landed on her arse. She'd landed on her head.

I dropped the blob and ran to help. Falling down girl was completely unconcious, blood streaming down her face. Now, I've been meaning to take a first aid course, as my entire knowledge of medicine comes from watching Scrubs. But I jumped into action anyway, reciting everything I'd ever heard about head traumas - keep her airways clear, get her as close the recovery position as possible and, for fuck's sake, do not move her head.I knew it was probably going to result in nothing worse than a bad headache in the morning, but decided that we couldn't risk it being worse, and had to act as if she had a skull fracture, or spinal injury, or blood clot, or any of the other millions of things that can go horribly wrong when you fall down a hill and land on your skull. Once she was stable, I got Ellen to take over (which took a lot of shouting, and almost involved some physical violence) and ran for help.

I sprinted for the football pitch, and I swear to christ, I was like goddamn Indiana Jones. The road we were taking wound past a building site and back around the other side. I didn't have time for that, so I launched myself off the wall at top speed, jumped 10 feet, landed heavily on a pile of sand and ran onto the road as fast as my legs would allow. The football pitch was the key - we had her other friend who was vaguely sober, a car, and the ace in the hole - someone who spoke Spanish and could negotiate with the emergency services.

Except they weren't there.

I tried calling but couldn't get them. Fine. Focus on what needs to be done. I sprinted back to falling down girl and rang the missus while running, telling her to get an ambulance, pronto. Back at the scene things were getting worse. Using my phone as a torch, I could see that she had a large swelling on her forehead, a possible broken nose, and was still unconcious, but what was worse was that she was now vomiting incessantly. I moved her head to keep her airways clear, which I really didn't want to do, but it didn't matter at that point because while I was gone her friends had decided that the bast thing to do was to violently shake her head and say "come on, wake up". (At least, that's what Ellen did. Blob was, and I swear I'm not making this up, feeling falling down girl's tits)

I did my sand jump thingy again and flagged down the vehicle. Turned out it wasn't our ambulance, but the local cops. They came and helped, and at first seemed more worried in getting ID than helping. Now, I speak very poor Spanish, but I spoke a lot more than the English women, so I told them what happened. One of them grudingly drove off to fetch an ambulance, while the other (much nicer one) stayed to help in case things got worse. They both seemed more worried about getting ID off the women than the actual situation, which pissed me off at the time (although later on I figured out why they were like that).

While they were trying to communicate with the women, I got what I had been hoping for - a call from the fourth girl, who was down at the football pitch. I sprinted down to meet them again, hopped in the car and explained the situation while we drove. When I got to the bit about the cops, though, the driver hit the brakes hard. "Are there police there?" he asked in Spanish.


"I can't go, I've done a lot of coke tonight."

I wasn't that pissed off at him - lots of people out here do coke, and I recognised that he was willing to do pretty much anything to help, but was worried about being arrested. So I said okay, wait for ten minutes and see if we need you. The cops didn't know where I was going, so they wouldn't come to talk to him. He agreed. Then I asked her friend to come with me.

"No," she said, "she's fine. She's just pissed."

"She's not pissed," I said, " she's got a head injury, a definite concussion, and god knows what else."

Then she started to whine. "God this is so embarrassing. Thanks for your help, and I'm sorry you've been dragged into this, but probably the best thing now is if we all go home."

I totally lost the plot when she said this. "Look", I said, "I'm fucking in this now, and your friend needs help, and if you won't help, I will." I jumped out of the car and ran back, not looking to see if she followed. She didn't.

I got back, and as calmly as I could said, "you're mates at the football pitch. For various reasons, they can't come up here, and your friend is refusing to come help". I guess I expected the same outrage I felt. What I didn't expect was for the blob to jump up and say, "okay then, well, I'm going to get a lift home, I'll see you tomorrow". Me and Ellen watched her stagger off towards the car in disbelief. We didn't think about her too much though - at this point, falling down girl had regained some conciousness. Not enough to talk or move, just enough to start crying.

While we were waiting for the ambulance, falling down girl started shivering violently. I asked the cop for a jacket, but of course his jacket was in the car with the other cop. So I took off my t-shirt and wrapped it around her to keep her warm. It wasn't cold, but I did get bitten to death by mosquitos. No problem though, I thought, it's a fellow human being in need, and I'll do what I can to make her comfortable. Eventually the ambulance arrived, and the paramedics swept in with the reassuring air of professionals. They put her in a neck brace, injected her with something, put her on a drip and stretchered her away. Ellen wanted to go with her, but didn't have enough English to negotiate her way into the ambulance. I used my few words of Spanish to get her in and watched them drive away. Then I did what I knew what I was going to do all along - I started walking after them. If nothing else, they would need some kind of translator, and I wanted to be there when they did.

Walking down was strangely tranquil. It was 7am by now, and the village was getting to work. I walked past builders and breadmen, and watched the sun climb over the hills. I wasn't sure what to expect when I got there - worst case scenario is that I would be turned away for not being a relative. I just knew that there was a chance I could do something useful, and I wanted to be there if I could.

About 20 yards from the hospital, I saw two women walking towards me. I though I was hallucinating for a second, but then I realised that no, it really was Ellen and falling down girl walkikng towards me. How could this possibly be, I wondered. The only thing I know for sure about head traumas is that they will always keep you for 24 hours observation in case things deteriorate. Then as they got closer, I realised that they hadn't been discharged. Falling down girl still had a large plastic tube hanging out of her arm.

"What the hell are you guys doing."

Ellen looked at me earnestly. "We were waiting for ten minutes in there."


"That placed killed my father!"

My CPU was totally overheating, and I just couldn't get to grips with what she was saying. "I couldn't give a fuck about your father! Your friend needs medical attention!"

"I'm not leaving her with those butchers"

"Listen - I just sat with you for an hour, I got an ambulance, I ran down here after you, - "

"Yeah, thanks for that. But we're leaving."

"If you don't turn around and go back right," I said, barely hanging on to my sanity, "I'm going to call the cops this second, I swear."

"They killed my father!"

I switched attention from Ellen, who I decided was obviously nuts, and grabbed falling down girl by the shoulders. Her eyes were a storm of confusion - she didn't know where she was, who I was or what was happening. "Listen, you've just suffered a head injury. You're probably fine but you need to...what the hell is that?"

Just then a car pulled out next to us, and a Moroccan guy jumped out of the passanger seat, revealing the driver who was smirking at me like she'd just arrived at a dying party with a crate of vodka. "Fancy a shag?" said the fat blob.

Let's just recap on two things: 1 - I was already as angry as I've been in my entire life and 2 - I hate drunken drivers more than Hitler. Two hours ago, this girl hadn't been able to stand or finish a sentence, and now she was behind the wheel of car.

I can't even remember what I said to her: something about going to the hospital; something about calling the cops; some threats that possibly involved petrol, bricks and axes; the words "fat cunt"; and the phrase "don't you ever fucking set foot in my bar again". They relented and agreed to take her back. I stormed off in the other direction. About 100 yards up the road, I thought better of it, turned around, and stopped to read her license plate. While I was doing that, she zoomed past me, giving a cheery wave and a toot of her horn, and was gone. That's it, I though, pulling out my phone to call the missus so she could call the cops. Of course, being that God is a bastard and all, that was the exact moment that my phone ran out of battery. I checked for change so I could use a payphone, but I was cleaned out. So I set off towards the village.

Now, walking up the hill to the village is a challenge, one that I've often felt required professional mountaineering equipment. But I stormed up there, fists clenched, occasionally kicking things as hard as I could, and reciting the licence plate over and over at the top of my lungs. One or two cars almost stopped to give me a lift, but pulled away again when they saw that I was a lunatic. I arrived back in the bar 20 minutes later to find the missus had been up since I called, cleaning. I screamed at her to call the cops, which she did, then I had a gin to calm down, and then exhaustion took me and I just kind of passed out.

Two follow-ups to that:

1) Next day we went to the cops to follow everything up. They had tracked them down, decided they couldn't prosectue for drunken driving (which pisses me off), and discovered that falling down girl had been re-admitted to hospital that afternoon. Apparently, she's doing fine.

2) Although I try not to discuss customers in my bar, I couldn't shut up today. Someone who knew them told me something about the fourth girl. The one who wouldn't leave the car to check on her friend. She's a doctor. A fucking doctor, who took the Hippocratic oath to do whatever she can to help people in medical emergencies. A doctor who was happy to make a diagnosis of "she's just pissed" from around the corner, without ever seeing the patient. My faith in the human race is deeply shaken.

Coda: (i've written this much, I may as well do a final thought) Perhaps I got a bit dramatic during all this. Falling down girl was probably fine. It was probably nothing serious. She probably could have taken two paracetemol, gone to bed and been fine the next day. Probably. But there was a chance that something worse had happened. I don't know about you, but if there was a chance that something bad could have happened to one of my friends, they would have to tear me off them with a crowbar until I was 100% sure that they were okay. To see this girl's friends just leave, or make her suffer for their own paranoias, fills me with the deepest contempt. The next time I see her, I'm going to tell her to quit her job, pack her bags, book a flight to the UK and get these cancerous people out of her life. And that will be kinder than anything I did for her last night.

This is beginning to feel a bit like flagpole-sitting. The intermittent contraction-like cramps that Heather experienced yesterday failed to develop into anything more significant, and have disappeared altogether so far today. But I think we’re both a bit glad that today isn’t the day the baby came, because we celebrated Declan’s third birthday with a small party of family and friends.

I believe that certainly the boy understood on some level that his second birthday party was a day of unusual fun centered around him, and I even believe that at one, he understood something wonderful was happening when he got to shove his face in a plateful of cake with no one stopping him until he had his fill, but today was different. He’s now completely versed on the rituals of cake and ice cream, of opening presents and blowing out candles, and fully participated in and relished all of them.

I gotta say, the kid got some cool toys, and unlike so much of the crap that gets hawked out there for kids, every single one of his gifts is something he’s going to have fun with for a long time to come. Here’s a short list from memory:

So the wait goes on.

All and all a great day, especially considering the vicious revenge suicide dreams I was having as a strange ill cool wind blew the heat out of Seattle last night ‘round midnight. I have no idea what those were about-- I flashingly recall a woman who came to a man's apartment and began carving herself up to punish him-- but I was spooked enough to close most of the windows in the house, and make a special trip downstairs to check on my wife who was sleeping in the guestroom bed, because she thought she’d keep me up with her restlessness. She was fine, sleeping better than I was, that’s for sure.

So there you have it. The mundane details of my son's birthday party day. But as Thornton Wilder warns in Our Town, be careful what day you go back to after your dead, because even the most mundane might be too extraordinary to bear.

Speeding, and the LAW

I got my first speeding ticket today. It was exactly two hours and fifteen minutes ago..........NOW! I got caught driving 40 mph in a 30 mph zone. It really wasn't my fault. My speedometer is broken. It just doesn't work. Sure I probably could have gotten it fixed a long time ago an avoided all of this. But my ticket will cost me less than it would if I were to fix the damn speedometer. I found out earlier from a local mechanic that it would cost roughly $80.00 to replace the cable that goes to the transmission and tells me how fast I am going. He estimated the my driving citation would only cost around $50.00. I think I will just pay the damn ticket and be a bit more cautious from now on.



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I have to admit: Safari, from O'Reilly is a bloody good service. You subscribe and they give you online access to all their books (but only so many at a time) plus loads of others. You can also (for a fee) download pdfs of chapters. I can't afford the subscription, but they do a two-week free trial, and when you really do need to read Enterprise JavaBeans before your exam on Wednesday, that's a good deal.

Then I thought: 'Perl::UserAgent' is my friend. So I built a little pet spider to grab the entire book. I suppose, looking back, I'm surprised I managed to get it all befoer this happens. Actually, since this just a warning, I suspect I could go and get another book downloaded before it gets locked, but I really am gonna need it for the next two weeks.

So, the French have rejected the European Constitution. This has two really bad effects: it could make all my hard work on those European Constitution nodes a big waste of time; and it will also mean the continuation of british newspapers, radio and TV programs blurting various soundbites on the theme "French say non!" thinking that they're really clever. Seriously though, I was chatting with a french friend -- well, the fiancee of a sister of a friend actually -- who said he was voting "non" */me winces* because the new contitution was too free market, too conservative. On the news yesterday, a succession of Brits said the constitution was too socialist and too left wing. Maybe this shows where the real problems lie with closer EU intergration.

Actually, where the real problem with closer EU intergration probably lies is to do with the members of the UK public questioned last week who, amongst other things, thought that saying "yes" to the constitution would mean:

Whilst none of these things would bother me too much -- although, I like to see the Union Flag flying alongside the European one --- they are also all untrue. It won't matter how much the public are educated during the run up to an referendum over here; these people don't care, and every shout of "Germans coming in through the back door!" will persuade a million more Daily Mail readers to vote "non", er, I mean no with a good, solid British cross on the ballot paper.


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