Sunday, 16 January 2011

Mickey Mouse vs Saddam Hussein - Final Post (phew)

It's difficult to know how to wrap up this personal saga set in Sunny Orlando, really. It would have been convenient for the story if the whole fire-place had collapsed on the last day, killing white Ray, Paul Simon and Hilary Clinton, but I'm afraid it didn't.

There was a strong possibility that the the whole thing could have come down, though. Because I had built it up against two steel beams, I had to burn holes into the beams at certain levels through which I pushed large nuts and bolts. These bolts were threaded through stainless steel straps which were embedded into the joints of the stonework and then built on top of, so that the support system was invisible - until you went around the back.

The entire fire-place was held up by 6 bolts through the steel beams, and because they were going to build the wood and plasterboard wall around the fire-place, the nuts that secured them were left exposed on the back of the beam for around 3 months. During that three months, modern terrorists were invented as a result - some say - of the Gulf War and the fact that Norman Schwarzkopf was not allowed to carry on chasing Saddam Hussein over the Iraq border, in order to finish the job once and for all.

I could envisage a bearded and shadowy figure cutting his way through the perimeter fence of the golf course one night, and making his way (at less than 15 mph to avoid the radar) to Arnold Palmer's house, checking his map in the darkness to make sure he had the right place, cutting the little padlock on the temporary door beside Arnold's, creeping into the main living room and around the back of the stone surround, producing a spanner from beneath his jelaba, and unscrewing the six bolts which held it up...

As I was finishing the 'final' touches to the surround, the roofers were putting the tiles onto the vast acreage of roof, all around the 17 air-conditioning units. All the tiles, equipment and men were hoisted into place by a dedicated 'cherry-picker' type hydraulic fork-lift, driven by a local member of the Hell's Angels.

This driver looked as though he might have also have been a member of 'ZZ Top', with a beard that went down to his chest, except that his arms and face were covered in tattoos and most of his front teeth were missing. Whenever he had the opportunity, he liked asking me questions about England, saying that he would dearly like to visit it some day.

Two days before I was due to leave, he started asking me how much it cost to fly to England, and when my flight was, etc. Then he asked me, if he should ever get over there, could he come and visit me? I said that of course he could, and thought no more about it. He had obviously never left the Southern States of America in all his 45 or so years, so I thought the chances of him making it over the Atlantic were small, to say the least.

The day before I was due to leave, he hopped down from his machine and came running over.

"Hey, English! Guess what? I booked myself a seat on your flight tomorrow! I'm coming back to England with you! I'm all packed and ready to go! OK if I stay at your place for a couple of months?"

I looked at him, almost speechless with horror, and asked him if he was joking.

"No, man! Can you pick me up on your way to the airport?"

I spent the whole morning mulling this hideous prospect over, wondering how I was going to break the news to Her Indoors, before a roofer came down to put me out of my misery by telling me that he was only joking...

The Paul Simon look-alike came over on my last day, and stood staring at the huge, ugly fire-place. I asked him if he liked it.

"I can live with it."


  1. Have you got a photo of the finished fireplace filed away somewhere?

  2. No, sorry Sue. Somewhere I have a photo of it stacked up dry in Paris, with Paul Simon standing next to it. I'll see if I can find it.

  3. I am sorry it is over too. I wish you could see the best of the rest of the South or did you?

  4. Maybe I'll give something else the same treatment, J. It makes me remember things by the re-living of it, so at least I get something out of it.

    I got paid for the second trip, Grouch, but not this recounting of it. (send your cheques now, please...)

    I didn't get a chance to tour any other Southern State, Olive. I would like to do that, though. I've been back to the USA a few times since then, but never any further south than NY, and a lot further North than that. Boulder, Colorado, for instance.

  5. Good story tom

    I enjoyed "gone with the wind" too

    it was shorter!

  6. Yes, that was a good read! But then if 'Hey English' had been deadly serious - Tom, that could have been another saga!

  7. Oh, I'm so disappointed he didn't come with. And Olive is right, there are many fine things to see here in the south - even Florida. I would love to see the picture of "Paul". I have really enjoyed reading about my city from your perspective. Ann

  8. Yes, Mol and Ann - I might just about have got rid of him by now.

  9. I enjoyed every minute Tom...tell us another one...come on...pleeease!

  10. Oh, all right, Victoria - just give me a minute to make one up.