Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Log off

On Saturday morning, I despatched the Shah to buy some logs.  Autumn is setting in and I would rather run out of food than run out of logs.  When he returned, I thought I would make myself useful and help him to stack them in the porch where they dry out slightly, ready for use.  I stuck the keys in the front door because it always slams when we are out front and the likelihood of getting a teenager to raise its carcass and drag itself to open a door for you is ...well, you can imagine what it is.
Happy, helpful teenagers
 Here is my lovely log-pile – partially constructed.

This log-pile, despite its great beauteousness, caused the Shah to adopt his WTF? face and speak to me as if I were some sort of idiot savant who deserved a good pat on the head and 5 out of 10 for trying hard.  He promptly deconstructed the pile and built it up again, lecturing me all the while about angles of slippage or some such bollocks.  Of course, I hardly found this irritating at all and there was very little bickering and name calling while the general public strolled by our front garden, regarding us with a collective quizzical expression.

After a while I left him to it as I couldn’t stand the alternate sighing at my efforts and smirking as he lectured me on basic Physics and stamped off indoors to sit down with a cup of coffee and the papers slog round the supermarket.

Here is a picture of the Shah’s super-duper 10/10 all-star medal-winning log pile. 


So far, so what?

Let us fast forward to Sunday afternoon.  In the intervening hours, all four of us were out on Saturday night, at least three of us not returning until the early hours and one not returning at all (this is relevant, I promise).  At around 4pm on Sunday the doorbell rings.  World War 4 then breaks out as nobody can find their feckin’ door keys.  The Shah’s are not in their usual place, mine are in my handbag upstairs etc etc.  Eventually, and after a lot of argument, some keys are located and I open the door to find one of those blokes standing patiently there with his crate of sponges, dishcloths etc in his arms and his script at the ready.

I know full well that my face has fallen as I saw him and I have adopted an expression that basically says ‘FFS – not more money?  Don’t you realise, matey, that I have just haemorrhaged cash this week already?’ So the conversation goes a bit like this:-

Me (hoping to cut to the chase):  I’ll have one of those dishcloths (now bugger off and leave me alone so I can catch up on last night’s X-Factor)
Him (determined to spout his script): Hello! My name’s Tony and I’m pretending to be a reformed character after several spells inside but am, in reality, just here to fleece you by charging megabucks for utter tat whilst carefully casing the joint...
Me: Yep, lovely Tony.  Now can I have one of those dishcloths or wot?
Tony: Er, yeah.  Like I was saying, my name’s Tony and I’m..
Me (unable to disguise irritation any longer): I’LL TAKE A DISHCLOTH
Tony: My name’s Tony ...
Me: Gaaaah (flecks of foam gather at corners of mouth)....
Tony (delivers killer blow): Oh, by the way missus, you left your door keys in the door.....(hands over bunch of keys to EVERY EXTERNAL DOOR IN THE HOUSE).
Me: Argh.  Er, Tony – thanks so much for your honesty – I’ll take one of everything...

World War 5 then ensues as the Shah and I argue bitterly over whose fault it was that the keys were left in the door not only while we were out carousing but also overnight and that fact has necessitated me spending the GDP of a small African nation to buy Tony off.  He blames me for putting them in the door in the first place and I blame him for being the last one through the door – in fact he must have used the feckin’ keys to let himself in so the moral high ground is surely mine.  Don’t you think?

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Loving the wild life

You read it here second - today’s offering comes to you from the pages of last Friday’s Daily Mail – the Richard Kay page to be precise.

On his page, Mr Kay offers us a small article which alludes to a certain Rio Ferdinand, footballer of this parish.  Those of you unfamiliar with Mr Ferdinand may wish to follow that link.  If you can’t be bothered, let me tell you that he is a Premiership footballer and multi-millionaire who has played for Manchester United for almost ten years. 

This is what Richard Kay has to say:-

He earns £120,000 a week, lives in a £5 million home and has a taste for flashy cars – but one thing apparently lacking in footballer Rio Ferdinand’s life is nature.  For the Manchester United player has, I learn, asked for plans to be drawn up to build a large, barn-style home  on an ecological reserve in the Cotswolds which is home to more than 4,000 rare species and just a corner kick from Prince Charles’s Highgrove estate.

‘Rio wanted somewhere secluded and away from the paparazzi, but it’s the rare creatures that live on the reserve that have been the real draw for him,’ says a friend.  ‘He is particularly excited by the beaver colony which has lived there since 2005.’

In fact, a key feature of the 5-bedroom house, designed by architect John Pardey, will allow the soccer star to do just that – an elevated hide and jetty on the 80-acre lake have been designed so Ferdinand can happily observe the beavers in their natural habitat.

Now I don't know about you, but I was comforted to realise that some of our high-earning (and utterly deserving) footballers have an interest in rare wildlife.  Who would have thought it would be beavers?

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Conversation with a teenager

We are mooching about in the kitchen.  I have a conversation with my (Undergraduate studying History and International Relations) son.  It goes like this:-

Me:  Are you going to go and see 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy'?
Him:  Nah!  S'gay.  Why?
Me:  Well, it's about the Cold War and I thought you might be interested...
Him: Oh!  I thought it was some spazzy kids' film...

Which just goes to prove that you can lead a boy to culture but you can't make him think. (To coin a phrase).

Sunday, 11 September 2011

My Darling Happy Anniversaree!

Over the holidays (by which I mean the school holidays – I work in a school – keep up)  I spent a happy day meeting up with two old chums I see far too little of these days.  One of them lives in Bury St Edmunds and faces some particular physical challenges in travelling long distances so our contact is mainly via email.  The other (I am ashamed to say) lives less than 10 miles away but she also has two kids and a mad dog and a demanding job that involves frequent travel so, if we are lucky, we see each other for a coffee about once every six months.

So we decided that we would all meet between Bury and Surrey and chose Lakeside Shopping Centre as the venue – plenty of parking, places to eat and a bit of retail therapy thrown in – what could be better?  And it all went swimmingly.  I collected friend 1 on the way and popped in to view her (very lovely) new home.  The traffic was pants but, as friend 2 was late also, it didn't cause any problems and we met up and had a delicious lunch at Wagamama and caught up on our lives, our mutual friends, our various siblings’ activities and all those things that women of our age like to natter about.

But.  There’s always a but, isn’t there?  I mean, it wouldn’t be my blog if there weren’t a but in it and, after all, if I finished up with “and then we went our separate ways and had a lovely, traffic-free trip round the M25” that would be damn boring ne c’est pas?

So – we were strolling through the shopping centre after lunch and friend 1 says casually that she wouldn’t mind popping into Charles Tyrwhitt to see if she can find a nice shirt for her husband as their wedding anniversary is coming up.  “Yeah, why not?” I say casually.  “By the way – when is your anniversary?”    “Oh, it’s a week today,” she replies cheerily.  “It’s exactly a week after yours – remember?”


No I feckin’ didn’t remember.  Bugger.  I felt as if a bucket of cold water had just been poured down my back.  The Shah and I are absolutely rubbish at this anniversary thing – and we’ve had 21 of them so it’s not like we need the practice.  He is actually better than me and this was the crux of my anxiety because he is somewhat Machiavellian by nature and has been known to hide cards, gifts etc around the house for me to discover when he has left for work and it’s too late for me to rescue the situation.

So, with rapid heartbeat, I phoned him.  He was, as it turns out, on his way to a meeting in London and was in full work mode*.

Me:  Hello – it’s me.  Can you talk?
Shah: (sounding distracted and not in the least interested):  Umm, okay...
Me (biting the bullet):  Is it our anniversary today?
Shah (Loudly) Oh BOLLOCKS!
Me: Phew!

A sigh of relief.  Well in our defence, there are too many things to remember in August.  There’s my birthday, my mum’s birthday, his mum’s birthday, his nephew’s birthday, er Madonna’s birthday, er, the Queen Mother turning 122 or, um, something *voice tails off feebly as she flails about grasping at straws*

To be honest, we’re not the sort of family that go berserk on fulsome gifts, flowers etc for every occasion but we are given to buying the odd card and maybe going out for a meal.  Unfortunately, my ginormous portion of chicken raisukaree at Wagamama had rendered me a dead ringer for Mrs Creosote so going out for another meal in the evening was out of the question. I mean, it's not as if our house rings to sounds like this:-

So, all in all, it was a bit of a damp squib.  A couple of nights later we had a late celebration and went to see The Inbetweeners choosing the local independent cinema - not just because there is a bar and you can take drinks in with you, honest – because the kids all go to the local multiplex and eschew the local place because it doesn’t have fancy seats and mega-surround-sound etc etc.  Needless to say both children are disgusted that we find The Inbetweeners funny and would rather have plucked out their own eyes than been seen there with us.  We were worried we were going to be the oldest people there but there was a white-haired old codger a few rows in front who left looking somewhat shell-shocked at the end. 

We wondered if he had got confused with The Tweenies?   

*Work mode - once the Shah gets to work, all other thoughts leave his (pitifully tiny) mind.  He has been known to phone his son as follows:-
Shah:  "Hello - this the Shah speaking." 
Son & heir:  "Dad?  Are you ****ing barking mad?
Shah: Oh, er sorry....

Monday, 5 September 2011

The end of summer

Ah yes - another trip to the Midlands to visit the outlaws.  This time it was to say goodbye to the Shah's big sister who has been visiting from the USA.  Her soothing presence in their parents' house meant that at least we did not have to suffer the usual anxiety attacks that habitually mark our journey.  Mind you, there was a bit of a stand-off between Mother in law and Father in law when we arrived - her swooning with relief that we hadn't spontaneously combusted on the M40 and him threatening to do away with the landline and only have a mobile which he would keep on his person and deny her access so she couldn't make panic-stricken phone calls every five minutes.

The Shah and I are very democratic in our driving.  We almost always share journeys and it has become known that, whenever I am at the wheel, we will have the worst possible trip - be it traffic, weather, whatever.  And so it came to pass once again.  Horizontal rain most of the way to Coventry and a bunch of feckwits on the motorway who think driving at 90 mph with no headlights on in zero visibility is the recommended way to travel.  Hey ho.  So, of course,the journey home was altogether less remarkable with Shah in charge - a beautiful evening of scattered clouds and bright sunlight.  Grrrr.

But hang on, can I just rewind a bit?  There had been what I shall euphemistically call a breakdown in communication between the Shah and his son and heir.  Viz - the Shah forgot to mention the trip to s&h who was a) slumped in a drunken coma on a friend's floor somewhere and b) expecting to play cricket yesterday, not endure approximately 2 hours in the car in far too close proximity to his sister and then spend another 6 hours or so being asked all the usual questions that grandparents and aunties like to ask and hearing yet more comments about his height (6 foot dead on, if you care.  No, I didn't think so).  When we eventually tracked him down and explained the cock up change in plan, he threw a tantrum of monumental proportions.  This proved to be as hilarious as it was unexpected.  He reverted straight back to the person he had been at 5 years old and screamed and bawled his frustration very volubly.  Unfortunately, this only had the effect of making the Shah and me laugh.  And when he began kicking the back of my car seat, I became almost hysterical.  Eventually, he cried himself to sleep (sort of) and peace reigned. 

On the way home, I was watching all the other bored-looking kids slumped in the backs of cars southbound on the M40 and it reminded me of journeys with my parents in one of our ancient jalopies.  Holidays tended to be spent in this country not only because we lived up north and the rest of our family lived down south so there was always someone to visit, but also for reasons of cost - this was the era before budget airlines and package holidays.  None of our cars seemed to have inbuilt entertainment - like radios that worked - and even if they did, it would have been tuned to Radio 3 so it wouldn't have entertained us much anyway.  Consequently, my brother and I had to find our own amusement where we could.  This generally involved some or all of the following:-
  • Chanting games.  Guaranteed to drive any parent wild and therefore most satisfying.  Chant anything - made up words/phrases that sound vaguely rude were our particular favourites e.g. Big Fat Wanny; Rumbumbum; Dick Van Dyke*
  • Toe wrestling.  No seatbelts remember, so all and any wrestling games were great and could involve rolling off the back seat onto the floor and enraging our parents.  I can still see my father's huge hand coming round the back of his seat to whack whoever was closest.
  • Kneeling up on the back seat and leering and waving at other drivers.  For some unknown reason, this game was called 'Kings and Paupers'.  If they waved back they were Kings, if not - you get the idea.
  • Flicking covert V-signs at other bored children in the backs of cars.  Of course they flicked them straight back.  This caused our parents to embark upon a long homily on the youth of today (plus ca change etc) little realising that their own offspring had been the catalysts all along.
Once, our parents decided to brave the Continent with children in tow.  They were both great lovers of Spain and spoke both French and Spanish quite well so surely it was a no brainer to drive to Spain in an ancient Morris Minor?  As I read that last sentence I truly cannot decide if it was an act of the greatest bravado or the greatest foolishness.  Actually, I think I can decide after all.

There were several er, incidents en route.  First of all the big end went in Carcasonne - a beautiful fortified city which we saw a great deal of whilst waiting for spare parts to be flown out from the UK at vast expense.  Secondly, my brother developed the kind of car sickness that surely inspired The Exorcist film. (This links to a clip which I am not going to imbed as it's too gross but if you really want to see what I mean....)

Setting off once again, unabashed, my Dad decided that we would drive straight to Lloret de Mar 

(at that time a small fishing village which had 3 hotels!)  This plan worked fine until I needed the loo.  We pulled into the side of a country road and I was instructed to hop into the bushes sharpish.  Reluctantly, I did as I was told and jumped back into the car.  That was the point at which we discovered that someone or something had been in the bushes before me and I wiped several pounds of shit off my shoes and down the back of my dad's jacket which was hanging over the seat in front.  The jacket was irretrievable, much like dad's temper.  Once there, my dad fell asleep on the beach and burnt the soles of his feet, causing him to spend the next week walking like John Wayne and entertaining the locals.
Not my dad
For many years afterwards, it was Lytham St Annes for us.

* Dick Van Dyke is not, of course, made up but it is the kind of phrase that just keeps on giving if you are a bored child on a long car journey.