I have lived away from what I still call home, i.e New Zealand, for nearly 20 years now. An awful lot has happened at home while I have been away and almost all of it took place while I was fast asleep. When you are on the far side of the world you learn to dread the phone call in the middle of the night. Nothing good ever came down the telephone in the dark of the night. Not in my life anyway.
When my Dad died a couple of years ago. We had friends for dinner and the phone call came in at 1am. It takes a bit of the fun out of the evening and makes them profoundly uncomfortable, what on earth do you do or say? My older brother has been married twice, younger brother once. Two deceased Grandmothers, Several dead dogs and cats. Mum and Dad splitting up back in the 90’s They always do this stuff while I am fast asleep. Your family ring you with the important news of the goings on while you had your head down. I am torn as to whether it couldn’t wait until morning to let me know the stories of the dreadful or wonderful things that have happened while I was sleeping. What am I going to do?
Recently Vodafone sent me a voice text, to my landline, at about 4am. I nearly had heart failure as I was loudly awoken by the phone ringing. as I went to grab it, the phone clattered to the floor. I answered the call to take some completely useless information being read out by a computer about my mobile phone. You can imagine how my conversation with Vodafone went later in the day. Well you can’t actually but it was grim for the call centre person taking the call.
The life and death going on in the night is the worst thing about living on the opposite time zone to your family.
The things that happen in the night are not always actually sad or terrible though, sometimes it is surreal or bizarre. The catalyst for knocking this post together came a few nights ago when Jen and I were woken in a most dramatic fashion at 4am by an extremely loud noise we had never heard before. It was silly o’clock Monday morning when all hell suddenly broke loose. Fast asleep to rudely awake in the unblink of an eye with an unbelievably loud siren screaming blue bloody murder nearby. I reached for the lights, but there weren’t any, power cut! Where the hell was the noise coming from then? I walked around in a daze in the bedroom wondering what was going on. The noise was in the house! I grabbed a torch and went downstairs into a cacophony beyond description. This at a ridiculously early hour on a Monday morning after an indulgent helping of Sunday night wine and beer.
It was the burglar alarm. We have never activated the burglar alarm (installed by the previous owners) in the 7 years we have lived at our house. We don’t pay any sort of subscription for it. There is no-one monitoring it. We have never heard it before. It has never gone off before in the myriad power cuts we have had. Why now? What is it running on? We don’t know any codes to turn it off and there is no-one to talk to about it. Jen and I just looked at each other in horror and I went looking for tools. You know, tools like burglars might carry? I pulled the front off the control unit and there was some old and unhelpful paperwork in side that informed us of all the things an engineer, if we had one, could do with his codes, which we didnt have, to change the settings. I went and looked at the offending siren which was screaming my ears raw. I unscrewed the cover and cut any cables I could see which then silenced it.
The cry was immediately taken up by the control box instead so I unscrewed the fuse box inside, cut all the wires which achieved nothing, why would it? There was a power cut of course! I then saw a large battery with a wire into the gubbins bit of the control box, cut that. Then the really good stuff came. The external alarm box on the side of the house took up the baton of screaming for help to all comers. I am not really wearing anything remember as I don’t wear pyjamas and I was inside my own house trying to shut down a banshee. I went out and grabbed a ladder to lay siege to the alarm box on the house. Jen helpfully pointing a torch at my bottom. I clamber up the ladder. Take the cover off the extraordinarily loud alarm and look at all the wires. Jen said, “Cut that one” pointing at the biggest. So I did. The silence actually was a physical thing. You could weigh it and sell it as an antidote to people with lots of children, or people who have to deal with Americans. The benefit though is that I have discovered sound is a great deterrent. Apparently ships use it to deter pirates. I have ramped up the repaired alarm volume to a stun setting. It will knock down passing magpies which is an additional benefit that has just occurred to me.
Shocking stuff. We still don’t know why that happened and Jen will enjoy telling people about it for some time to come. I have zero sense of humour about being rudely awoken in the middle of the night. Jen finds my lack of amusement at this sort of thing very funny. This was demonstrated first in New Zealand in 1996. We lived on a farm and one day it was weaning time for the cows and calves. The Cows were noisily herded away from their babies to one side of the farm and the very upset little ones were herded to the other side of the farm to cry for their mothers. The sounds were distant and the lowing of Cows and mournful young moo’s of calves are a familiar sound at this time of year. It lasts a couple of days. When you are awoken at 3 am to the (very close indeed) sound of a distressed calf though you do wonder “What the….!” I sat upright and shook my head. MWAAAAAAAH!! (only adult cows, moo) The calf was in the garden! We have a fence all around the house and the calf started the evening at least 3 fenced fields away. Jen had put an awful lot of work into the garden and flower gardens and lost calves do not make good bedfellows. So wellies, or gumboots if you prefer, were located and as it was warm outside that would suffice for clothing. We set off to persuade the calf out of the garden in the dark, naked, armed with torches. Jen found it hard to concentrate as she was laughing so much whereas I was once again ‘not amused’ Jen enjoys telling people about this on a regular basis.
So the moral of the story is, keep the bloody livestock out of my garden and don’t wake me up.