Dear Reader,

I stand before you, helpless.

Standing before me, dear Reader, is a washing machine.

It is not just any washing machine. It is the Pro-Vice-Chancellor’s washing machine, located next to the staff microwave. A sign reads ‘No to Dirty Cups, by order’. Another sign reads ‘No Bicycles’.

I have moved the bicycle out of the way, and have placed my Christian Laboutin frocks, my cape, my stockings, and yes, if you must know, my pyjamas, into the washing machine. I have placed a small amount of finest fabric conditioner into the drum.

I bend down to examine the dial.

Heavens, dear Reader.

World-leading Runeological expert though I am, I can make no sense of what I see.

Just as I am beginning to panic, the door to the pantry opens. A sturdy figure in a day-glo jacket and helmet strides in. I am saved, dear Reader, by none other than the CEO of UWL (Taizhou Branch).

‘Jade!’, I exclaim. ‘My dear, do help me! The dial on this washing machine appears to have been written in a foreign tongue.’

‘It is in English, dear Ada?’, says Jade, as she clips her fog lights to her handlebars and departs into the winter night.

Sometimes, dear Reader, I do not understand the Other.

I am left with only one option. Sobbing to myself only a little, I take out my phone and dial a reassuringly familiar number.

‘Yes?’, barks the rough voice of dear, dear Cordelia.*

‘Cordelia!’, I cry. ‘How I have missed you!’

‘What do you want?’, says Cordelia, her affectionate greetings clearly lost somewhere in the great tube which lies at the bottom of the mighty Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and through which our all-too-perishable words are transported.

‘Oh Cordelia’, I weep. ‘I am sending you an image of my washing machine dial now.’

There is a brief, trans-oceanic pause.

‘Silk setting is no. 3, top right’, barks Cordelia.

The phone goes dead.

Dear Reader. Sometimes it is hard being a stranger in a strange land.


*The Attentive Reader will of course need no reminder of who Cordelia is.


6 thoughts on “A Stranger in a Strange Land

    1. It is far too late, my dear, besides which I feel sure you knew already what position 3 said (很烫洗). I suppose you were too busy arranging some domestic object in a patch of sunshine to heed the cries of an old friend in need.

      1. And is that how one is spelling Laboutin these days? This is not what it said on the sign at the market stall. It is fortunate I still have my gold-digging boots (above, left).

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