Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Sir Richard Branson Owes Me

The Goat and I flew into Dulles Airport from Dubai last Thursday night for our wedding weekend. After giving up hope that I would ever marry (being solidly middle aged), 26 of our dearest friends and family came from all over (London, Calgary, North Carolina, California, Connecticut, Florida, Michigan, Boston) to enjoy a social, sightseeing weekend in Washington DC and a lovely wedding. The weekend was brilliant, and everyone had a marvelous time. Except the bride.

Nerves? No. He's the man for me, and my mother had done a beautiful job planning the weekend, with my sister in law and an old family friend bending over backwards to help her make sure that everything was perfect. And it was. People who had nothing in common except the two of us came together and became instant friends. The Morrison House was beautiful, and the food and drink superb. Even the Goat's young nephews were angelic and fun to be with, jetlagged and overwhelmed as they were. Perfect. Except that we arrived on Thursday, got married on Sunday, and it is now Tuesday and no one has any idea where our luggage is.

I spent my wedding weekend frantically trying to get some truth, and my bags, out of Virgin Atlantic Airline instead of tending to my guests. At least I had had the foresight to pack my dress and jewellery and his dinner jacket in our carry-ons, but cabin bag size and content limitations are such that, other than the computer and camera, nothing else would fit. So I haunted the airport (because the airline's phone number left us on hold indefinitely) while the poor Goat and my 72 year old father entertained everyone. Saturday afternoon I was told that a message had come from London that our bags were on the flight that would arrive at 2055, so I relaxed a bit and finally got to spend some quality time with my guests at a huge pre-wedding BBQ my brother and his wife were throwing at their house. I even started to enjoy myself. After all, even though three flights had come from Heathrow between mine and this one, my luggage was still going to be there in time for the wedding and I could still give everyone the gifts I'd brought them from my overseas travels -- you know, the Persian rug I'd bought for my brother's wedding present (missed that event last year), the Indonesian batik for my sister in law, the Thai and Chinese silks I'd bought for various people on the Big Trip, the t-shits and tschotkes I'd picked up for the kids in my travels. These would be there along with everything else, and we would not have to get married in Alexandria's finest hotel barefoot in four-day old shorts and whiffy t-shirts. More fool me.

When I arrived at the airport Saturday night to get my bags (I was not trusting to having them delivered), I was told that they were NOT on the flight after all, and then had to spend the morning of my wedding day (and several hundred dollars) chasing around the shops buying shirt studs, shoes, underwear, a full face of makeup (no liquids in carry on!). place cards, etc etc instead of spending the morning of my wedding day having a massage and mani/pedicure with my girlfriends.

Sir Richard Branson and his bloody airline have a lot to answer for.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


We’ve moved house and have been doing all of the usual domestic things one does when one moves in – putting up shelves, getting rid of the duplicate toasters, microwaves, sets of dishes, etc., buying curtains to keep out the curious glances of the neighborhood– but we’ve had to deal with an additional problem that I don’t believe most people in suburbia usually have to deal with. We’ve got pigeons. Everywhere.

Now I love birds on the whole. I used to have a couple of small parrots, and gave them the run of the living room. David Attenborough’s Life of Birds is one of my all-time favorite series. Songbirds in a bird bath out in the yard or on a feeder in a tree are pleasant to look at and listen to. But a whole flock of pigeons roosting on the roof and nesting in the ventilation/light well outside the bathroom window? No thank you.

For one thing, the incessant cooing wakes you up. For another, the stench is incredible.

I never could tolerate smells very well. I’ve got a sensitive nose. Perfumes make me sneeze, old cooking smells make me retch. If I’ve been in a smoky room, I have to wash my hair as soon as I get home. You know the type. Hyper-nosed. Well, let me tell you… the smell of three or four pigeons raising their families right under the bathroom extractor fan is indescribably awful. There is no other stench quite like it. When I go up in the evening when the air-con has been off all day, I’m assaulted by the malodorous mephitis half way up the stairs.

The poor Goat, being the man of the house, got elected (by me) to deal with the pigeon population, a fact I admit he accepted with good humor (OK, so he knew that if he didn’t volunteer, I would a) never shut up about it and b) call in an expensive exterminator. The way to a Goat’s To Do list is through his checkbook.). Being a planner, the Goat checked out the situation a couple of days ago and found that the little hut on the roof over the light well provides perfect protection from the middle eastern sun, attracting the birds to the shade. The ledges on the bathroom and laundry room windows of our villa and the next made perfect nesting spots. The chicken wire that was supposed to seal the entrance but which, of course, had never been maintained has rusted and rotted away, leaving pigeon-sized access holes. After considering a bit, he determined that the birds had to be chased out of the well and the well closed but not sealed, as we need the air circulation. New chicken wire. There was nothing to be done about the remnants of the pigeon condominium; in the fullness of time, it would dry up and stop smelling up the house. That’s the theory, anyway.

So yesterday, he snapped on his Marigolds and sorted them out. The entire roof was covered in birds – dead and alive – and the droppings up there are an inch thick. Ignoring the rest of the roof for the moment, he tackled the well. No amount of shooing was going to budge those birds, so he picked up some rotten eggs and threw them down at the little terrors. Once they’d all skeddaddled, he quickly sealed up the entrance with fresh, strong chicken wire. Ventilation yes; birds no. The now homeless birds glared at him, no doubt plotting revenge, but we’re bigger than they are, and we pay the rent. Round One to the Goat.

That still left the ‘external’ bird problem – the ones living on the roof (The dead ones I’ll let the gardener sweep up next month). Never satisfied, I wanted them gone, too. Before we moved in I had noticed droppings here and there on the bricks around the house – unpleasant but not too awful. I now know the previous tenant must have cleaned up just before we arrived, because if I don’t shovel out the steps and back porch every couple of days, we’d soon be knee-deep in pigeon poo.

Unfortunately, the pigeons have no desire to leave. The villa has a flat roof with a sort of a turret with a crenellated edge. The spaces between the crenellations are just pigeon-sized, and the birds take full advantage of the comfy quarters. They seem to like to sit nose in and tail out, because the walls down one side of the house are covered in grey and white streaks. And as for the high window on that side – let’s just say that unless something is done, I’m not going to need curtains there to keep out the nosy neighbors. Actually, I don’t think anything can be done. In his roof explorations, the Goat discovered that there is no access whatsoever to the turret from the main roof. Who designs these houses? Round Two to the pigeons.

So now those damn birds just sit there and laugh at us, knowing full well we can’t chase them out. I can almost hear them lording it over me as they continue to ‘decorate’ my house. Maybe I’ll round up a couple of the Mirdif alley cats and toss them on to the turret. That’d ruffle their feathers.
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