A not so happy holiday

When the hairs on the back of my neck start to prickle, it’s an omen. Good or bad, I read out the advert to my spouse.

“Holiday special, three bedroom flat in Umhlanga, facing the sea. All mod cons. in return for caring for an aging hound. Period, two weeks only. In two ticks flat my darling wife made up her mind. “Lets go for it, if its free, we have nothing to lose. Are you sure we have nothing to pay?”
I didn’t argue. I know better than that. “Absaballylutely!” I declared.

Two weeks to the day later we arrived at Umhlanga. Tired after the eight-hour journey, we found the estate agency who held the keys to the flat were closed.

I hammered on the window, ”How the Hell can it be closed, its only three in the afternoon.” My wife imagined she had the solution.
“Phone them Geoffrey, here, use my cell.”

Clutching the tattered piece of paper bearing the phone number, I dialled and received the kind of reply I might have expected, “Thank you for calling, we are not available right now, kindly leave…”

Nothing can be more infuriating, “Damn, what do we do now?”

By mutual agreement, we went to the shop next door. An assortment of haberdashery littered the window. Peering through the plate glass I saw another face peering back at me. “Oh Lord,” I whispered. ”It’s full of Chinese knick-knacks.”

Pushing on the ornate brass handle of the door, we found ourselves inside. For a moment, I thought the guy was wearing silk pyjamas. He smiled a smile laced with gold fillings then bowed. “You Misser Kendall yes?”

I shook my head. “No.”

A look of disappointment registered. “Ah so solly, we wait Misser Kendall.”

My curiosity is aroused. “You say Kendall… my name is Kennell.”

The Chinese gentleman puts on a happy face again. “Ah yes, Misser Kennell, so solly, I have key, I have key for flat. Misser Glant next door make arrangement for you, so solly.”

Pat my wife breathes a sigh of relief. “Thanks Heavens, now perhaps we can start our holiday.”

The bunch of keys handed to us were more than formidable, they were down right outrageous. “What in the name of goodness are these?” I asked.

The Chinaman smiled. “Misser Glant so solly, he say you sort out velly quick, no problem…..good day.”

The door behind us closed with a bang. “I think he was glad to get rid of us don’t you?” My wife was deep in thought, something was bothering her. Getting to our car, she stopped in her tracks. “Did you see the bandage on his left hand?”


I’d buckled up and was driving off when she planted the first seed of doubt. “I was wondering about that dog.”

Finding Surf-view Villas might have been easier to find had it been closer the surf.

“It can’t possibly be here darling, we are six blocks up from Marine Drive.” said my anguished wife .

“Well, that’s what it says on the facia, “urf view `illas.”

“Bit dilapidated don’t you think?”

Reminding myself that one never looks a gift horse in the mouth, I drove up the driveway and parked adjacent to an odd assortment of dustbins.
No sooner had I applied the handbrake when an elderly gentleman wielding a wicked looking walking stick headed straight for us. “You can’t park there.” he snarled.

“Why not?” I queried.

“That’s number six’s parking, what number are you?”


“Hmph, I thought so, number eight doesn’t have a parking space.”

I am completely flummoxed. “Why not?”

The old boy aimed his stick towards the far end of the building, “They turned it into a dog pen, that’s why.”

By this time my wife was out of the car. “While you two are arguing I’m going to recce the place,” she said, and started off towards the end flat.
Now I was getting mad. “So where do I park?”

“Try the road.” Having made his point, the old boy promptly disappeared behind a hedgerow.

“Wait up darling, I’m coming.” I shouted from beneath the boot lid, only to find that Pat was already at my side.

“You know those large brown and black dogs that tear people to pieces?”

I felt that tingle at the back of my neck again. “Rotweilers, don’t tell me it’s one of those.”

I closed the car up and we walked to the length of chicken wire that penned the animal in. Then turning to my wife I ask. “What’s his name?”

She looks distant. “I don’t know. They didn’t give us his name.”

Taking a second glance I find that hims a her.

Now the dog is sitting between us and the front door of the flat, and the wooden gate into the enclosure is padlocked. Hauling out the bunch of keys, I know its going to be the very last one I try. They didn’t call it Murphy’s Law for nothing.

I was right. With one eye on the dog and the other on the padlock, I turn the key.

The growl coming from the animal is disconcerting. Unlatching the lock I open the gate about four inches. Enough to make the hound leap forward with its fangs bared.

“Shouldn’t its tail be wagging?” I ask nervously.

“If it’s friendly.”

There was nothing friendly about this mutt so I closed the gate.

My wife is clearly not happy. “I can’t stand around like this any longer, for Gods sake do something.”

“Well I’m trying to do something but…”

“If we don’t open that gate and I get to the bathroom, I’m going to wet myself, so what’s it going to be?”

‘The gentleman from number six saw our problem. “Can’t get in huh?”

“Not with that mutt sitting there.”

“Do what the Chinese did.”


“The chap looking after the place, he threw the dog a length of sausage. Did the trick apart from once, when it got him.”

“Got him?”

“Bit the hand that fed him.”

Like a bolt from the blue, I had the answer to our problem. “Pat.” I said jubilantly,

“We have wors in the cooler box, remember?”

“Yes but…”

In two ticks I was back with two and a halve kilo’s of frozen Wors. Enough I thought to keep the hound busy while we made a hasty entry.

“Let’s get everything lined up before we feed the brute.” Three suitcases, cooler box, portable television, make-up case, gas bottle and grill, three cases of beer, hair drier, beach umbrella, and two fold-up chairs.

“Whew!” I gasped. “Lets get on with the onslaught.”

Taking the wors, my wife is not at all certain my plan will work. “I hope she’s into frozen foods.” She had a point. “Cut the wors up into a sausage, and I’ll defrost it quickly”.

“How can you do that?”

I was about to mention armpits, then remembered the car engine was piping hot.

“I’ll stick it on the engine for a while lovey, that’ll do the trick.”

“I can’t wait that long, here give me one, I’ll feed Lassie myself.”

Well trained, the dog catches the sausage in mid air, gulps, and devours it whole.

“Oh Lord, now what?”

Number six watches in dismay, “Haven’t you got shin, that’ll keep him busy.”

“It’s not a him, its a her.” Explains my wife, “And we don’t have shin.”

“Hmm, pity, have you tried D.C.O. on the animal?”

“D.C.O? Hasn’t that got something to do with a bank?”

“Dog Code Obedience, an animal like that needs strict training, watch.”

Staring directly into the animals big brown eyes he gave the commands to “SSSSSSSSS…..IT.”

The dog remained standing. “The wretched animal is completely untrained,” muttered number six, “Unless.”

Our hopes raised with our eyebrows. “Unless what?”

“He happens to be Afrikaans speaking.”

“Thats ridiculous, and the dogs a bitch.” snapped my wife.

I agreed, “You can say that again, in more ways than one.”

The old man suggested we lure the dog to the far end of the run then feed it another sausage. I strongly objected “Hold on, that’s our supper don’t forget.”

“We could go out.”

“We could but how do we get back in?”

Number six headed back to his flat, leaving us to our own devices. At the same time a small tot of about three and dressed in a yellow sun-suit arrives on a little red tricycle. “Hello.” she says happily, “My name is Tina.”

“Hello Tina, my name is Pat.” said my wife. Do you live here?”

“At number four.”

“That’s nice, we have come to stay at number eight, but that naughty doggie won’t let us in.”

Tina pushes past us nonchalantly on her tricycle, “I know, she won’t let anybody in unless you know the password.”


“Yes, you whisper it in her ear.” she says and was off again.

I run after her, “Hey wait Tina, won’t you tell us the password?”

The little girl stops. Wearing a very serious face, she slowly shakes her head. “Oh no, I promised not to tell.”

Like a fool, I plead with the child. “Please, please tell us the password Tina, we have to put all these things inside before it gets dark.”

“I would…” she begins.

“For an ice lolly.”

“Alright, I’ll buy you two ice lolly’s if you tell us.”

The child must have had a way with dogs. Pushing the gate open, the child walked calmly to the dog and whispered in the dogs left ear. Like magic, the great animal cowered, gave a yelp, and ran to a far corner of the dog pen. Tina beckoned to us.

“You can come in now.”

Running to the front door I managed to get it open and frantically gathered our belongings into the flat before the animal came to its senses.

Tina practically lived with us during our two week stay. Fifteen ice lolly’s later, she whispered into the hounds left ear for the last time.

We were packed and ready to go. Naturally Tina was there. “Won’t you please tell us that password Tina, we are going back to our own home now.”

“Steak burger and French fries?”

I would gladly have traded my car. “All right, a steak burger and French fries it is.”

Standing on tip toe the child leaned towards my left ear and cupping her tiny hands around her mouth whispered the magic word.


Geoffrey Kennell
Off the cuff

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