Double Duped

Why do I write? It’s a question I sometimes ask myself. Navel-gazing, I’m sorry. I feel I have these different interests and roles to put together. I like nature. I have a disabled child who’s schooled at home. My family takes up a lot of my time. We live, at the moment, a sort of semi-nomadic lifestyle.

I hope too that my kids have this blog as an archival tool. I like to imagine fifty years from now when they suddenly remember their dumb ma kept a blog.

‘Remember when this happened?’ one of them will say, flicking through the posts.

‘Oh yeah! I completely forgot about it,’ the other replies.

Satisfied sigh from beyond the grave. It was all worth it. Saying that, I’m not too sure about writing this particular post. On a personal level, it’s kind of painful. I guess this means I have to write it. Exactly what they’ll want to read.

The story is my family got duped in two different countries on the same day last week. Like the duping star was out and shining on us. For our London-based set, it started by taking my niece Chloe to Hamley’s toy store. Me and Delphine do a lot of toy store browsing. She loves it, I love it.. We stare at the Barbies like we’re at Sotheby’s.

There are nicer toy stores though. Hamley’s narrow building on Regent Street is set on seven hectic floors in not too pleasant a way. The toy demonstrators try and distract you well enough, but I would still not like to be caught in Hamley’s in any kind of emergency. A guy who could have been in the Harry Potter movies was demonstrating a flying snitch. Everyone – me, Chlo, Delph, my mum and Chlo’s dad Kryp – stopped to admire it. The snitch flew back and forth with no sign of being attached. It lowered and fluttered on our hands. I caught Chloe’s eyes. This was her birthday buying trip. By the look in her eyes, there was no doubt. Chlo was in.

In the meantime, in Egypt, Jack and Lu were having a quiet morning. The diving had proved to be ok, but not brilliant. We’ve been to Egypt twice before, the first time to Sharm El Sheikh and the second to Marsa Alam. Both these locations had impressive waters for snorkelling. This time, Marsa Alam had been too expensive and you still can’t fly to Sharm El Sheikh from the UK. so Hurghada it was.

They discovered that Hurghada was the place Egypt made mistakes when developing it for tourism. They found the house reefs pretty degraded. Jack said he knew it was bad when the local fisherman pulled up alongside the dive boat and passed the captain a bag of fish. One included the pretty trumpet fish that you see on the reef – nice to look at in situ but surely not so good for eating? It was like a dog crapping on itself.

Plus, they said it was cold. I mean, cold compared to the Caribbean. The water was 22°C which is not terrible but both of them had had colds before going and it wasn’t warm enough between dives for their ears to dry out. So, struggling to equalise, they called it quits on the fourth day and decided to check out the shops instead.

At this point, I should have had a sufficient psychic message to call them up and warn them. This is because, for some reason, Jack feels other countries are still working on in price-based economy from 30 years ago. He never quite understands why things aren’t dirt cheap overseas. It strangely doesn’t apply to his mental pricing in his own country though.

This means I have to be on the ball with him. Unfortunately, I was busy being hypnotised in Hamleys with the flying snitch to notice, so I missed the message in the ether. Instead of diving, Jack and Lu went into a perfume shop. The man in the perfume shop was nice – he beckoned them over and showed them his range of perfumes.

Full disclosure – I had asked Jack to buy my mum a small present. Doh! We’d been joking about toothpicks and hotel pens but suddenly his eyes had lit up in the perfume shop. This was his moment. He said afterwards that it wasn’t the shopkeepers fault. He’d asked what currency they were working in and the shopkeeper had told him. But, for his own self-confessed unknown reason, Jack had just gone back to assuming that the price was in Egyptian dollars.

And, once he started going, there was no stopping him. Plastic bottles turned into glass, one perfume bottle turned into five. Jack even started putting stickers on the admittedly beautiful glass bottles and writing the recipients name on it, so that my mum‘s jewel-adorned bottle had a big white sticker with the word Bab written across it.

The shopkeeper gave him and Lu a big smile. ‘160,’ he said.

‘No worries.’ Jack pulled out a 200 Egyptian dollar note and pass it to the shopkeeper. The shopkeeper kissed the note and placed it on the table in front of them.

Jack looked at him slightly confused. ‘Aren’t you going to give us our change then?’

The shopkeeper looked back at him equally bewildered. ‘No,’ he said, ‘Euros remember?’

Jack woke up from his dream. Oh yeah.

When he told me the story later over Messenger, I’d had my head in my hands. Ok, €160 wasn’t a complete disaster. After all we had five, count them, five bottles of perfume now.

Meanwhile, Chloe was opening her new, birthday flying snitch from Hamley’s. My mum offered to help her open the box but she’d determinedly refused. Chlo pulled out the snitch and then went to pull out the two pieces of putty the man in Hamley’s said was all you needed to control the snitch. But something went wrong. As she pulled out the putty, a long very transparent piece of string came away. It fell on the floor and was immediately lost. Baby hair was thicker than this string. We all stared at the floor, scratching our heads.

Duh! It hit us. The snitch that had seemingly flown around the shopfloor had been controlled by a piece of string you could barely see. For the next hours, Chloe tried her best to learn how to fly it. Through no fault of her own, she broke most of the string. She did her best to hide her disappointment. We all did. At least this Griswald family will smell nice!


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