Thursday, August 10, 2006

GIN SLING by Brian Hodgkinson

For a period of five years, quite a long time ago, I lived in the Pacific Kingdom of Tonga. This could almost count as a traveller’s tale in itself - but there were several incidents which I could count as being especially memorable - this being one of them:-

There were plenty of tattletale spies among the expatriate community of the island who would have loved to believe that virtually every Australian, British or New Zealand male living in Tonga was unfaithful to his wife. And they exaggerated every event into some tales of almost mythological grandeur! Mind you, on some occasions there was a basis of fact in the rumour - my first boss, the Director of Works, made no secret of the fact that he kept a very pretty young Tongan girl as a mistress, and furthermore had at least one child by her. His English wife, herself quite an attractive woman, bore it all with amazing stoicism, until, one day, she decided to take a cruise around the northern islands with a bronzed Australian yachtie who called into Nuku’alofa quite by chance. Sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander, my wife said.

One occasion, which still makes me smile to remember, occurred on one evening when there was a reception at the New Zealand High Commission for some event or other, and which was to be followed (for me, at any rate) by a rehearsal at the local drama club, of which I was at the time a fairly active member.

My wife and I were doing the rounds of our friends and acquaintances when I noticed, among the guests, Andrea, who was to be my opposite number at the rehearsal later, where we were going to put the finishing touches to Chekhov's one-acter "The Bear", prior to public performances some time the following week.

Andrea was an attractive red-headed New Zealand girl, and a very talentend actress. When we saw her at the reception she seemed to the rather the worse for wear, and I learnt that some idiot (in vain hopes of trying to get into bed with her) had been spiking her gin-and-tonic with every increasing amounts of gin. But at about 7:30 I said to my wife -

"Are you still OK to get a lift home later - because I have to go to rehearsal?" "Fine," said she, "See you later."

So I sought out Andrea. "Are you sure you are OK to come to rehearsal? We can go together in my car." I asked. Somewhat tipsily she said "Lead on - I'm fine".

I managed to get her out and into the car, and we set off, although I had to stop twice because she had to be dreadfully ill twice out of the car window en route to the rehearsal hall. When we eventually got there, the producer took one look at her - and said "Go home - you're in no state to rehearse."

So I put her back in the car and started to take her back to her little house on the outskirts of town. The gin seemed to take more and more of a hold with every passing minute. She was sick twice more.

When we got to her house I said "Give me your key, and I'll help you across the garden to the door." (Her house was surrounded by a very marshy area, on the edge of an inland lagoon).

"Go 'way!" she shrieked. "You're just tryin' to have your evil way with me!"

"Nonsense," I replied, and managed to get her house key as she fell out of the car. I almost had to carry her across her garden, and prop her against the house wall while I unlocked the door.

When I got her inside she said "I'm gunna have a coffee" and fell across the kitchen table. Poor Andrea! - what could I do?

In the end I carried her into her bedroom, despite her feeble protests, semi-undressed her and tucked her up warmly, before leaving, locking the house behind me and dropping the key through the letterbox, and driving home.

My wife was very amused when I told her - and even more amused by the several different versions she heard going round the town the following day. Andrea was shamefaced and apologetic when we saw her the next evening.

"Don't apologize," we said, "the one who should apologize is the toad who was feeding you all that gin." But he never did, of course.

Brian Hodgkinson ©


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