09/10/2019 Simon ‘Wardy’ Ward is nomadonanomad
Some years ago, I had acquired the skill to be able to say ‘hello’ in something like 20 languages. When it came to being able to say ‘two beers please’ I think I was up in the low 30’s. Note my priorities, beer first, conviviality second! I have spent some time wondering about how many languages Hyacinth can say, ‘it’s too expensive’ in. Probably over 50 would be my guess, as it comes out of her mouth at speed and totally instinctively. I have never known such a cheapskate. She told me the only root veggies they could grow were carrots as the soil was too heavy and mainly clay. I suggested putting a lot of sand down and buying a rotavator to break it up. I honestly thought she was going to have a heart attack at the thought of the expense. Almost a fractured wallet!
I mentioned in my last post that she doesn’t cook, she incinerates but it gets worse. If something isn’t eaten it gets put in the fridge until the next meal when it re-appears and she re-incinerates it so it just gets blacker and blacker. I would have liked to get some photos but it would have looked a bit obvious that I was going to be taking the piss. They, as a couple, are also unbelievably messy and dirty. Nothing gets put back in the proper place, and when either of them washes up they never get stuff properly clean.
Photos. I managed to sneak this picture. Richard was cooking something and the baked-on grease on the outside of the frying pan caught fire. Note, he is NOT doing a flambe! This was the second time and I happened to have the camera at hand and couldn’t resist. To reduce the amount of dog food they have to buy, as it’s too expensive, she makes the poor bloody dogs this crap. They will only eat it when they’re absolutely starving. Brisa and Mora, two of the dogs, never did get a picture of Tito the greyhound.
The food she incinerated consisted mainly of chard and butternut squash. Chard was growing everywhere in the garden but no squash, so where did it come from? I never found out but there was a ton of the stuff stacked up outside the house, and after a week of eating the same bloody thing I was getting very fed up with it. Before they set off for their break in Brazil they had mentioned about food for me while they were away and I told them I was more than happy to cook, just leave me the necessary ingredients. Hyacinth told me that she would make a dish called giso, a soup that she claimed was a stew.
It was one of her almost edible meals and as it was a soup even she would have had difficulty incinerating it. She asked me if I liked chick peas and lentils as she could add some to bulk it out. Ok, at least there’ll be some protein, and she put a huge packet of each to soak one morning at breakfast. Problem was that by the afternoon the soaking had finished, of course nowhere near long enough, and I knew that both chick peas and lentils would be far from tender. That was an understatement and the chick peas in particular could have been used by the army as ammunition! In the first few days of my time there she would make salad but with no tomatoes and the onions being rationed it consisted only of leafy greens, of course mainly chard! There was some other green stuff which I never found out what it was but I think I would have got more enjoyment out of eating my visa card.
Photo. Butternut squash. Tons of it and I had no idea where it came from? The cookware. Non-stick are not words in Hyacinth or Richard’s vocabulary. The kettle would only part boil water. The boil then had to be completed on the gas hob. On no account should the water be boiled from start to finish on the gas hob because….you’ve guessed it. Gas was too expensive! The microwave only worked on one level and for only 30 seconds at a time! Remember, these folks are loaded.
I asked her to get some different things so that I could cook a decent variety of food but everything I suggested was ‘too expensive’. The supply of food for two weeks, apart from the ton of giso, consisted of 6/7 potatoes, 2 onions, two dreadful pizza bases, a mountain of pasta but NO tomatoes, and a shedload of cartons of the cheapest, nastiest processed tomato sauce imaginable. Think about that. In a Mediterranean climate, at an organic farm, and you don’t have a single tomato. Unbelievable, but true. They did leave me 8 eggs but when I decided to hard boil them as they would just stick to any of the pans 4 of them floated meaning they were rotten!
Almost everything I cook starts with onions and I mentioned two onions not lasting for long and she went on and on about how expensive they were and maybe the price would come down the day before they left and if so she might consider getting some. Yeah, fat chance of that. Richard even stated that it would be better for them if I could eat what was there! Note, better for THEM! Excuse me, who’s doing who a favour here huh???? At this point I was really regretting saying I would farmsit for two weeks and I’m sure many folks would have just left without a second thought. Again, for your entertainment, my dear readers, I decided to tough it out and suffer.
One thing they had ‘treated’ me to was oatmeal. I live on the stuff and although she did say it was expensive, she didn’t put the word ‘too’ in front of it. I usually have it with banana and raisins, super healthy stuff, but it was obvious that the fruit would be finished inside the first week as the raisins, in particular, were deemed to be in the ‘I need a mortgage’ category. About the only thing that was going to last was the milk! Even the amount of yeast for the breadmaking machine would make it likely I would only be able to make 3 loaves and the butter would certainly run out along with the tiny pot of dulce de leche to which I had also been ‘treated’. WOW!
I’m sure these bastards were convinced they could take their money to the grave with them. One day during a furniture renovation project, Hyacinth found a two-peso coin in this manky old sofa she was trying to re-upholster. She was absolutely delighted and had no idea, when I told her she couldn’t take it with her, that I was taking the piss! Their lawnmower, I’m sure, had been another find at the side of the road. It would have made a great item for the Antiques Roadshow and I had to be careful, because it lacked any power, to go around the dandelions as a ‘head on’ with one could have been terminal for the mower. I did consider, while it was going, slipping my hand under the cover to see if it would trim my nails.
Photos. The sofa during renovation. Two other photos of it showing the springs held in place by rope although photos aren’t good so difficult to make that out. The lawnmower! Two photos of Hyacinth and Richard’s favourite roadside Ikea.
Back to the state of their house. I honestly believe that if Zarate suffered an earthquake of a magnitude around 7 on the richter scale it would probably cause about $10,000 worth of improvements to their place. I also have just remembered Richard telling me on my first evening that I would have to be up and about no later than 8.30am in the morning as their cleaning woman would be coming to do her weekly 4 hours of work. No problem, but my immediate thought, after having another look round at the mess was, ‘has she been away on holiday for many years?’ The next morning cleaning lady turned up and the first thing she did was plug her phone into a socket to charge it up. Over the course of her 4 hours of ‘labour’ it became apparent to me that she had a deal with her telecoms company for unlimited texts and millions of free minutes yakking. There wasn’t much cleaning going on, and that’s a fact.
A workawayer, American, told them he would tell folks he was English because of the ‘yanks’ bad reputation worldwide. Ok elsewhere to try and get away with being English sunshine, but not here in Argentina! Then she stated she used to hate the English because of what happened in 1982 but went there on holiday and realised it’s not people but governments. (Almost correct but Junta would be more accurate for your lot Hyacinth. Diverting attention from the ‘disappeared’ was the real reason where the dictator, Galtieri, was getting plenty of flak from the families of dissidents who were taken and never seen again) Then she came out with, ‘but we don’t make war!’ So, I did a bit of research and it quickly became apparent that in the 19thcentury they never stopped! 50% of streets plus towns and highways are named after colonels and generals. Bet they didn’t receive that accolade for getting a gold Blue Peter badge!
One morning she got up in a bit of a flap as she’d found out that a TV crew were going to turn up to do a short film of the place for a ‘sustainable living’ programme. Suddenly we were getting the hurry up to tidy the whole place which basically meant hiding as much crap as possible. Myself and another Workawayer were told that we would spend the time digging and if the TV folks wanted to speak to us she was going to tell them to speak to me as the other guy spoke almost no Spanish. I was considered to be just about acceptable! All day she wore an awful cheesy smile and I did wonder whether she’d had cosmetic surgery overnight? I was interviewed and I resisted a sarcastic answer when asked if it was a good thing to eat what I’d helped to grow! They had no idea.
Another thing that happened that day was my co-worker, Lewis, had arranged to make a video call to some friends back in England at a particular time and to be ready, he worked through his lunch hour. After the TV crew left Hyacinth cleared off for a couple of hours. When she came back Lewis was sitting down enjoying his call to his mates and she demanded to know why he wasn’t working. When Lewis told her that he had done 6 hours solid digging she said that she didn’t know because she’d been asleep! Cheeky bitch.
Photos. Crap to hide, get the old seat from a cinema! An old washing machine that didn’t work but she wanted it cleaned probably she thought it was making the place look messy. The filthy sugar container. I did think, for about 5 seconds, that I would give the place a clean but quickly thought ‘stuff it’. They wouldn’t notice.
One other thing that she would do was to demonstrate a particular task, I’ll give the example of digging, and she would dig down only about 15cm and do it at high speed for about a minute. No need really as I know how to turn soil over in readiness for planting. Then she would disappear for a brutal all-in session of flower arranging or freestyle speed gossiping and re-appear two hours later and say that I hadn’t done much. It was obvious she expected me to go at the same speed for hour after hour. Again, cheeky bitch!
I was thinking about a part three, but enough is enough and after what happened to me not long after leaving the farm makes this episode of my life pale into insignificance. But that’s for my next blog when I will explain that there are far worse folks here in Argentina than Hyacinth and Richard. Such a shame really because I do love this country and for the most part the people are so friendly and welcoming.
So as always, thanks for reading this far and may the Flying Spaghetti Monster go with you.
Simon ‘Wardy’ Ward.