My role as Fisheries Administration Unofficial Agony Aunt has continued since I first wrote about it, however, a visit from one of my regular ‘clients’ shortly after the Pchum Benh holiday has led to an adjustment having to be made to my service offerings in this area.
My client (let’s call him Fred) came in to my office and sat himself down in one of the two chairs in front of my desk. Our conversation started as usual with me asking Fred how he was and Fred responding with the latest tale of woe to hit his beleaguered existence – in this instance a case of dengue fever in one of his sons leading to an extended stay in hospital over the holiday. Fred soon exposed the true source of his concern – true to form it was actually the cost of his son being in hospital that was his true woe. I nodded and ahahaed sympathetically as he explained the costs of the hospital stay ($95 per day) and the additional expenditure for blood tests etc. Fred went on to complain about his salary, the pitiful daily subsistence allowance offered by the EU (apparently it’s so low now you actually have to spend all of it on accommodation and food on missions rather than being able to save most of it as was previously the case!) and then suddenly there was a huge crack and Fred was unceremoniously dumped on the floor from the chair whose base had split cleanly in half.
I gasped (and covered a rogue laugh) as Fred quickly jumped up proclaiming that he was fine and stared in disbelief at the chair carnage in front of him. I quickly dismissed his suggestion that we glue it back together and shoved the chair unceremoniously into the office graveyard next to the unloved old PC and fax machine whilst at the same time asking Fred again if he was sure he was ok.
And at that moment I realised, that was it, my career as a couples’ counsellor was over before it had started. No longer would there be two chairs available should any of my colleagues in the Ministry of Fish decide to bring their other half along for a good moan.
I saw Fred again just before I left for my whistle stop trip to the UK. He declined to sit in my remaining chair, instead standing by the door as he told me of his intense back pain after his fall and how it had been so bad he’d had to visit the doctor. He was laying it on with a trowel and for a while I was puzzled at how disappointed he seemed to be by the doctor’s assertion that he was absolutely fine. And then I heard what I thought was the word compensation and the penny dropped, my lovely client (and chief money moaner) Fred had seen an opportunity to make a buck and sadly been thwarted at the first hurdle.