A dinner party
As clichéd as it may sound, time really does fly!
Attached to the email was a spreadsheet with the names and contact details of the part-time class of 94/95. I've emailed a few of them including R who was in my first syndicate. Each syndicate comprised 6 members and R was the 'other gay one'. Well, the 'other gay male one' as MS, a lesbian, would have been yet another 'gay one'. Out of a class of 42, having 3 gays in the first syndicate is statistically significant, I'd have thought. Thought? I should know - goes to show how much of the statistics I studied that year is remembered.
Besides the three gay ones, there was MD, a blonde, athletic, pleasant but rather dim guy, F, a straight but camp accountant that I'd come across at university digs many years previously, and A, a rather earnest Austrian who worked at the same place I worked at.
I invited them round to dinner one Saturday.
It was a cold winter's evening so we probably had a fire blazing away in the hearth. The dining and sitting rooms are one very large room with a very high ceiling that needs a fire when the weather is cold. A heater or two would also do but a fire is so much nicer! The room looked set for a night of perfect entertaining.
R, MS and MD, all being single, arrived on their own. A arrived with his wife, an Austrian nurse who couldn't stop telling us how horrified she was by the standards of cleanliness at South African hospitals. F arrived with his wife, a very attractive woman, quite mumsy if I recall correctly - I think they left their children behind. Our children were tucked in their beds upstairs.
We'd only been in the house since the beginning of the year and we'd got Barney, an Alsatian puppy, soon after we'd moved in. Today he is an old man with stiff joints and lots of grey around the mouth, but Honey, a recently-acquired SPCA special, keeps him on his creaking toes. At that time, Belly, now long deceased, was the greying one whose joints he constantly taxed with his playfulness.
Some of the syndicate were 'doggy people', some not. I seem to recall that R didn't fall into the doggy camp. Being an overly friendly puppy, constantly seeking attention, Barney was banished to the kitchen for the evening as soon as everyone arrived.
Despite it being the first time that my wife had met them and that none of us had met the two other wives, the evening went well in an easy-going, serious kind of way rather than turning into raucous, frivolous, drink-fuelled riot. At some point, I think it may have been between the main course and desert, R excused himself to go to the toilet.
He was gone for ages. I went through to the kitchen to get desert.
It's a rather quirky house and the downstairs toilet is approached via the kitchen. In those days it was a room just beyond the kitchen door and had a door that looked out over the garden. These days it's still approached via the kitchen but it's just off the utility room and is properly contained within the house.
As I walked to the counter, I looked towards the toilet door. It was open, the light spilling out over the garden. R was standing on one leg, balancing with one hand on the door while he inspected his shoe. I opened the kitchen door and R stood up, looking slightly sheepish.
'What's up?' I asked.
'Um, nothing really, I was just cleaning my shoe.'
I looked towards his feet and could see that there were pale brown smear marks all over the bricks that made up the floor outside the toilet. I could also see a stick with a brown lump at one end and lots of bits of crumpled up toilet paper.
'Oh, looks like you stood in some dog shit,' I said. 'I'm so sorry. Barney must have shat in the kitchen.' I hadn't seen nor smelt anything but I hadn't been in the kitchen long before going out to R.
'Yes,' he said, 'I've been cleaning my shoe. Sorry I've taken so long.'
Once we got back into the kitchen, I looked around for the traces of Barney's mess. There was nothing there. I turned to R, 'You didn't clean it up, did you? You really shouldn't have.'
'No, I didn't, it was under the dining room table.' R looked embarrassed.
If it was under the dining room table, it had to have been there all night as Barney had been banished to the kitchen. It also meant that R had stood in it soon after sitting at his place. And that meant that his foot had been in it for a number of hours!
Unbelievably, it hadn't smelt as that would have alerted all of us to its presence right at the beginning. So R wouldn't have smelt it but he would have felt it. And once I had checked under the table and seen what a huge mound it was, I realised that R must have realised he was standing in it very early on in the evening but had kept quiet about it.
R, if you get to read this as is entirely possible, I really admire your manners and the way you were able to try and not embarrass us, your hosts, that night. I could not have done it!