As far as comparable interesting holiday stories go, I’m afraid The Mom was right. I really can’t top this. Though in May getting up to Bute on the West Coast of Scotland took a bit of doing. But that was the usual sort of ‘getting out of London is tricky’ type thing, coupled with cheapie airlines, baggage handlers, weather, and ferry schedules that didn’t want to accommodate stragglers.

But this sort of story is basically what childhood was like.

There would be a group of engineers, computer scientists, physicists, and so on, all standing around, trying to work out how best to Do The Thing, be it instal a window air conditioner, build flat pack furniture, or construct a deck.

It generally ended in the same way: much creative cursing, much beer, and not much in the way of productive activity. I don’t know why this is. And I thought it was just us, but I’m beginning to see that it’s not.

Recently, I was invited to a BBQ thrown by a very dear friend, as her mum was in town from Doha. To celebrate the occasion, a new BBQ was purchased. It required assembly. Her boyfriend and step dad went out in the British summer weather (aka rain, mist, gloom, doom) and set to work. We women folk would peer out the window now and again to see how they were getting on. Either because of our faces pressed up against the glass, or to protect themselves and the BBQ from the elements, a gazebo was erected thus eclipsing our view. So we went out to check on them. They’d built it, but had done it wrong, and so were unbuilding it and trying to figure out the error in the ways. This process was repeated several times over the course of the morning and early afternoon, until finally they got it – for the most part – assembled.

I remember when The Mom got a new BBQ and I was tasked with assembling it. I don’t know why it came to be my job as that sort of thing isn’t my strong suit, but a friend of mine, who is generally quite handy, and the local crazy guy were kicking around, and so the three of us set out to do the deed. The local crazy guy doesn’t have a lot of English, but he mimes brilliantly. My friend was several beers in but that appeared only to sharpen his mind. I was tasked with handing over screws and bolts whenever necessary. Inside about an hour we had it done.

And do you know how we managed this feat? Because we had no idea how it ought to have been done, no experience in such things, and actually just followed the instructions, desperate to get it done quickly so we could get back to more pressing things (such as the beer that was waiting for us in The Mom’s fridge).

The way I see it, the more you know, the worse you’re going to be. This is especially true when you’re used to be an expert in the field and are now facing something so basic that you’ve forgot how to do it. I find myself fairly incapable of using short words as longer, more complicated ones just come naturally to me now.

So when The Mom told me that she and her pals had had to go through several fairly ridiculous attempts to free the dog (and no one suggested just taking the dog’s collar off and getting the bolt cutters to get rid of the chain) I was in no way surprised.

This is what happens when most of your friends are or were academics. Universities do strange things to a person. I should know. I grew up hanging around one, did all the studying possible, got a doctorate, and still to this day, work at a university. Universities don’t generally go in for simple solutions. This sort of thing quickly becomes ingrained on one’s mind.

In fact, I’m pleased the dog managed to get himself freed at all, especially since I suspect the next step would’ve have been to build a dog house around him and hope for the best.