Thursday, 3 March 2011

How To Bypass A Sense Of Humour, And Bangkok Airlines Is Re-Branded.

Bother, bother, bother. I'm in the middle of a somewhat surreal conversation with Miss Emms about the latest MPs' expenses story, when an email pops into my in-box from Dinah. Then I make the mistake of trying to deal with both things at the same time.

"Oh, shit," I say. "Oops, sorry, Miss Emms. No, that wasn't a comment on the story in The Daily Telegraph. I can see your point, though to be honest, the article is a little misleading. MPs who left at the last election claimed the winding up allowance to make redundancy payments to their staff, and to pay any outstanding rent on their offices etcetera. So this isn't really in the same league as the other expenses scandal at all."

Miss Emms doesn't sound at all convinced, and to be honest, I'm starting to wonder if she's got a point by the time she's emphasised that some of the MPs knew they were leaving Parliament months before the General Election, so should have given their staff and landlords notice much earlier than they did, and saved the taxpayer the money.

Miss Emms doesn't pay any tax, anyway, but I'm so desperate to get her off the phone by then, that I decide that it's not worth debating the subject any longer. Instead, I opt for the tried and tested technique of assuring her that her comments have been noted - repeatedly - until she gets so bored that she hangs up, thus leaving me free to re-read the hideous contents of  Dinah's email.

"You'll have to come and get Dad tonight and take him home with you," she says, "If you can't get any more time off work to stay with him, that is. I am so out of here. The man's got no sense of humour since he met the Thai Bride."

Oh, for God's sake - isn't this just all I need on top of the stress about Max's job? And he'll probably leave me if I have to bring Dad home for any longer than twenty-four hours. Max might have the patience of a saint, but even that has its limits. I'll just have to persuade Dinah to change her mind.

I dial her number but, although it connects, it cuts off after three rings and goes to her answer-phone. I try again, several times, but still without success. Which is odd, seeing as Dinah sent the email from her iPhone only a couple of minutes ago.

"Greg - remind me how you tell when someone's ignoring your calls?" I say. "As opposed to when the phone's just turned off, or engaged?"

"When it rings a few times and then goes to answer-phone," says Greg.

So that explains that, then. There's nothing for it but to ring Dad instead.

"Oh-h, Molly," he says, as if the end of the world is nigh. "I'm so glad you phoned your poor old dad. It's nice to know one of my daughters cares."

"What are you talking about?" I say. "Have you and Dinah had a row?"

"Your sister has no respect for her elders," he says. "Oh, hang on a minute - I need to press record on the TV. I don't want to miss the end of this match."

"I'm at work, Dad," I say. "And I'm busy, so I can't hang on -"

But Dad's already put the phone down, leaving me to wait for what seems like hours, while I listen to him talking to himself. Or to whoever it is that is playing whatever sport it is that he's been watching.

God knows how many times he says, "Oh, come on, boys!" but, by the time he gets round to asking himself, "What the hell's the matter with this damned remote?" I've almost lost the will to live.

I'm just about to end the call, when he finally comes back on the line.

"Sorry," he says. "The boys almost scored a try just then."

"Never mind the bloody rugby," I say. "What's happened with you and Dinah? And seeing as she's been the one looking after you for the last ten days, don't you think you might be over-reacting to whatever it was?"

"No, I'm not," he says. "There was no call for what she said. None whatsoever. Not when all I'd asked her to do was to book my next flight to Thailand."

I am obviously going to need a cigarette if I am to get through the rest of this conversation. Three weeks after a heart bypass, and all Dad can think of is getting back to Thailand and pumping himself full of Viagra. It's enough to make a grown woman weep. Not that Porn-Poon would qualify as that.

"Okay, Dad," I say, as I walk down the stairs towards the lobby. "So what exactly did Dinah say?"

"Well, I was explaining to her what to do about the internal flight for the last leg of my trip," he says. "And I told her her to book me onto the airline I always use."

I light a cigarette and take an enormous drag. Call it sixth sense, but I think I'm going to need all the nicotine I can get. Meanwhile, Dad sighs as if no-one understands him, and then continues to explain:

"So Dinah says, 'Oh, who's that, then - Steradent Airlines?'"

My laugh seems to have come from nowhere, so I have to try to turn it into a coughing fit, while Dad explains that Dinah never knows when to stop.

"Then she says that there's probably enough of the stuff on board to float a battleship," he says. "What with all the old men flying out to see their girlfriends."

"Is that all?" I say, hoping for the best, but doomed to disappointment, as usual.

"No," says Dad. "Then she asks me how long check-in will take but, by then, I can tell she's trying to be funny, so I just ask her how long she thinks it'll take. And she says, 'About six hours - what with all the zimmer frames they've got to get on board.'"

"Ah," I say, borrowing The Boss's best non-committal response, but Dad's a lot harder to shrug off than the average constituent.

"Don't give me that 'Ah' business," he says. "You told me what you use it for. Anyway, Dinah's just left, and she said you'd come and collect me. So what time will you get here?"

Now Dad's not the only one who's misplaced his sense of humour. Just wait until I get hold of Dinah. Though I will have to congratulate her on the Steradent gag.

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