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Thursday, 29 May 2008

(mad dogs and) 9 year olds go out in the half term rain

It being a wet half term, F9 has spent most of it drifting around in his dressing gown, over which is a garment of staggering vileness, that is, his new cagoule.
Very Noel Coward goes Train Spotting.
The dressing gown has half-inched brooches of mine decorating the lapels, and the pockets bulge with soft toys. From time to time he winks and blows on his gun.
The cagoule is merely nasty.
Armed with phrases from Calvin and Hobbes, he has been slowly driving us all mad. It is his USP, his sine qua non, this ability to force your blood pressure from normal to nasty in 3 or 4 seconds.

At any given point, T11 will be outside, red in the face and furious, meaning only one thing: that he has spent too long with F9, meaning that he has spent about 5 minutes with F9.

F9, careless and artless, will bustle in, clutching E’s binoculars and the splashproof box we keep (or kept) our Euros in. He has hazy notions of ownership, barring that all things useful, gadgetry and jewels gravitate to his magpie mitts. He points the other hand, accusingly, back at T11,
“Such a crosspatch, that boy,” he announces, “going into the future, kicking and screaming.”
“I want to kill him!” roars T11, hot pink tears spurting like a cartoon.
“I know,” I say, with maternal parity, “I know.”
“Tut, tut, tut,” advises F9, advancing unbidden past metaphorical Go, collecting several hundred pounds of other people’s money, “always do your homework.”

I’m meant to say here that I very much love my sons, but over-exposure can result in re-evaluating boarding schools. I’d even consider cashing in the dog if it meant a few quid, and you know how hard I’d take that.
“Be nice to me,” F9 warns, “pretty soon my tax dollars will be funding your prison cell.”
“It’s not even dollars,” sobs T11, “if anyone ever pays him anything, it will be pounds. I HATE HIM!”
Tut tut tut.

Beyond listening to tutting and sobbing and the interminable ring tone of T11’s brand new mobile phone, I seem to have done nothing recently but laundry and tidy, and still the house is the sort where you take your shoes off to go outside, rather than on the way in.

Strangely, F9 has not tried to monopolise, appropriate or otherwise spoil T11’s super dooper new phone, despite us all being a little too much in love with it. Very swish.
Possibly because he has actually managed to order himself an iPhone. My heart sinks to the grim inevitable. When not trying to prise him out of his inappropriate clothing, I am spending far too much time monitoring the iPhone situation. It is very stressful. He is obsessed by the things, fully confident of being an imminent owner of same, and scornful of my attempts to explain a thing or two about the ‘Til Hell Freezes Over likelihood of all this.
“But it’s only £169,” he says pitying my inability to rub my hands in glee at the bargain and order two.

Every now and again I nearly fall for it.
“What’s your mother’s maiden name?” he’ll call down from the study.
The name will be on my lips, “None of your business,” I remember in time.
Or, “What was your first car?”
Again, I am about to launch into a dull little exercise on my canny financing of this esteemed motor, until I recall that ‘first car’ is another security question on another site, and he is merely chasing my credit card details round the internet.
“A favourite place?”

Pursuit of blocking iPhone ownership for 9 year olds has also prevented those who should be in charge, but are frankly too weak and laden down with laundry to be so, namely me, to get near the computer. Possibly this is the most painful part of half term.
Meanwhile, I have but to turn round and I am confronted with another discarded little bundle of wet clothes seeping into the carpet, or being eyed by the dog, which the King of All Idleness cannot quite be arsed to stagger with to the washing machine.
Daily, we have little sessions where I point at the machine, explain its purpose while F9 blandly looks around for something to tamper with, steal or break.
“Can’t you at least try to put them in a pile in the right room?” I ask.
He looks at me with pain, like one who has crawled 3,000 miles through snow and has been asked to clear out the loft, not merely across the hall in mis-matched socks being reminded of light duties.

But mere irritation pales to nothing to recall the heart-stopping pain felt when the little bugger disappeared today.

We had been at a paint your own pottery place where I had agreed, with astonishing bad-temper, to join in with some friends in painting a bowl for one of our group to take all the way around the world. For she is emigrating and seems to need a present by which to remember us all.
Like she’ll want a bowl, I growled.
I saw it as something she would drop or laugh at and shove in a cupboard – she is not sentimental – and my resentment (cause unknown) had built with blush-worthy unpleasantness. I just did not want to go, did not want to participate, begrudged every second and every penny which I would have to pay. A true spoilsport.
I parked and we trudged.
T11 fiddling with his ring tones.
F9 skipping before me, lingering behind, not walking with.

In the end, inevitably, it was a fantastic morning. Five of us collectively painted the best bowl in the world
(unglazed version shown, c'mon, use your imagination). Our seven boys behaved like dreams; nothing broke; nothing got knocked over; there was no argy bargy over sharing the paint. In short, I was a very good little girl indeed. If this is what it is going to be like in the OAP home (paintbrushes and someone else clearing up), bring it on.

After this, I nipped to return some horrid shoes and somewhere between the door and the till, F9 disappeared.
But I didn’t realise.
I was trying to explain in patronising broken English, to the confused Polish employee, that I seemed to have lost my receipt, when my sixth sense picked up, perhaps because the shoe display rack was neither spinning nor rocking, perhaps because there was no howl of anguish or tut tut tutting, that something was very wrong.
I snatched my credit note, and scooped up T11 from his interminable texting (full spellings only, I insist, and no ROFLs). Then did one of those panicky adrenaline-fuelled things were you run through the whole shop, and take in upstairs without crying from thigh-pain, pray randomly and fool-hardily to God scattering rash promises while scanning the whole of Cheltenham from the corner vantage point clocking a thousand people as if I were armed with a James Bond face recognition kit. And came to the conclusion that He Was Not There.
I blamed myself for being mean about the pottery, for being careless and crap and slack and head in the clouds, and gulped desperate air, wondering if I were well enough to bawl.

Quite what the next stage is normally, I don’t know.
The shoe shop, who didn’t have security cameras, were ringing Primark, who did. The logic of this escaped me but it was Action.

I was part way through the mental policeman’s heavy, “Well Milla, you thought it more important to quibble about a pair of sandals than look after your son properly,” and my panic was only 2 minutes old.
In Ikea once it was 15, until F3 was found sitting inside a demo kitchen cupboard singing to a spoon.
I was imagining confronting the discarded dressing gown back home when my mobile thrummed, and it was Boots, “Gotcha li’l boy,” I was told.
Heaven in three words.
We ran.

His turn it was to be pink and teary and a little contrite, hanging around all incongruous by the hand cream. He winked at me anxiously, and I kissed his hot little cheeks.
We walked back to the car. Reduced, he is manageable and oh so scrummy.
His hand wriggled only slightly in mine. A little slippery fish of a hand.
Tut tut.

Friday, 23 May 2008

no thanks, i'm full

Some of you labour under the misapprehension that I don’t like the dog. A thought which makes me catch my breath, slap a hand to the bony breast bone and give a little light laugh, choking daintily, “No, no, no!” The dog and I are just fine.
It’s the cat I couldn’t stand.
Poison in fur that cat.
But luckily the kitchen fitter stole her, popped her on a cushion in the front seat of his van and took her home for his mam. I made sure the anti-cat locks were on and didn’t linger at the doorway.
Bye cat, missing you already. Not. Slam.

We had some people to dinner recently, part of the massive catch up surge needed to pay back a million mates (yes, yes, I CAN count) feeding us without return over the past couple of years. One of whom’s daughter was the original owner of Poison Puss, before playing pass the parcel with her and fobbing her off on us nearly 12 years ago. For Medical Reasons. Cat's not Girl's. Like one needs a cat with Little Ways. My arm is silvery with scars from de-fleaing sessions involving far too many claws. Our friend remained unconvinced that I had had Mog’s best interests at heart when the re-homing issue raised its furry head, which I found kind of rude.

There were so very many bottles following this dinner party that there was no way the men would be able to lift the recycling box on the Friday, so I staggered to the car (three trips) with carrier bags full to dispose of them (noisily) at the pub. I wore my dark glasses.
The crashing of bottles into the bottle bank split the air for about 3 minutes, despite me tipping them in at speed. It seemed suddenly very public all this, and three minutes really rather a long time when one is standing sliding bottle after bottle after bottle into, hopefully, the right slot.
I got confused over some of the greens and whether they were really brown.

It had been a good evening which destroyed the next day. I can’t take it any more, though God knows I try.
But the food had been fab.
I started boasting about what a fantastic meal it was to T11 the moment I got up – weak, exhausted, but ready to brag. He stared at me appalled.
It’s funny. Most of the time I’m extremely dismissive of myself, but every now again, usually after a fabulously-cooked meal, I can become extremely, and perhaps unpleasantly, smug.
Not in front of the friends, no, I do have some shame and sense of propriety, and they were treated to the usual defensive brush off, but T11 hadn’t managed to leave the room fast enough so I could indulge to the hilt in some full-on praise of myself and my exceptional cooking skills.
The meal grew, a fish fond in a fisherman’s memory, to transcend mere Made By Me status but toddled off instead, promoted, into the portion of Me Map marked “should have won a Michelin.”
I called to E for corroboration.
“Was not that curry one of the best you have ever eaten?” I asked, thinking of the curry by now as if made by someone else, so perfect was it.
“Can’t remember,” he said, “Seemed ok.”
“It was perfect,” I reminded him warningly.

We all ate left overs for supper and quite a lot went into the bin. Flanked round which, were still many drunken soldiers of empty wine bottles, making the lid hard to reach. Reacquaintance with this dish forced something different to emerge from the curry, making me reassess my reaction to it.
We ate largely in silence, me wishing for my dark glasses, the others in subject-avoidance.
The beast of the night before, a worrisome thing which haunts me too often, shifted the furniture of my memory. Random phrases emerged and I fretted that I had in fact, contrary to my modest assumption, indulged in some begging for praise at the time, praise which wasn’t necessarily going to have been highly deserved. I saw a flushed face thrilled with herself, busily explaining the recipe, and cringed.

One thing I was pleased to spot, though, was that F9 had turned off the computer prior to my wending my self-congratulatory way to bed, so I had no nasty sessions with the Sent Box of my e-mail to confront the next day. Ain’t life grand.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

the dog it was that died … oh, cruel cruel dream, I wake up in the shower, brought to by an importunate bark

The joke goes something like this.
How do you tell which loves you more, your dog or your wife?
Lock both in the boot together, and leave. Whichever is pleased to see you after an hour, well, there’s your answer.
Even to contemplate, I grip my chair.

You wouldn’t have thought there was another turd in her, so frequently does she squat and leave her odorous offerings. I feel undressed without a pocketful of green slippery poo bags awaiting their fill. But yes, in the brief hour between E exiting south: work, and me returning cross from a school trip, the beast had laid two tremblingly large turds of dubious consistency and a nasty sprawl of wee, the lot making the carpet outside the kitchen very much a no-go area requiring scene of crime tape. Penalty no doubt for inflicting dog prison on Lolly or, more likely, for bringing her home from it. Strange things have happened to her tum meanwhile.

I tackled the turds with long-stretched arm. Dollops which sagged and oozed and wept into loo paper which sogged and collapsed into a stinky mash. I gave myself wrinkles wincing.
Have I mentioned that dogs are vile?
Not nearly often enough.

Lolly herself lolled careless in her basket, sprawled like a post-coital floozy too idle to tug her dressing gown across her bits. She stumbled to, yawning. Very feckless teenager deigning to commit to breakfast at noon. She stretched her paws and gave a bored squeak while I gagged, and sprayed Oust and Febreze and I-Hate-Pets’R’Us, with generous abandon and little care for the ozone layer. Faecal particulate matter swamped the air, storming the nostrils. It begged for reviving handkerchiefs to be pressed to the snout. I needed a chaise longue on which to collapse and see out my recovery.

Next port of call for the frowsty wolf was the water bowl from which she supped greedily, replenishing her withered bladder. Her spongy beard steeped in slurpy leavings, she padded in to spray it, with the kind of extravagant shakes dog favour, all over the kitchen floor. Sending me scurrying for one of several mops which cause our utility room to be so dangerous.
God, but she’s a full-time job, a one-dog employment opportunity, salary in the negative, perks few.

I put her out with ill grace, my foot may have made sidling contact with her beamy behind. Accidents happen. She needed rapid re-acquaintance with her real lavatory, the great outdoors, although her interest in this swift tutorial was limited.
From the stair, I could hear her impatient, desperate bashing at the door, claws clattering on the glass, outraged to be left outside. She would be high on her hind paws, assaulting the door like a bear beneath the lash, baying in a booming bark too big for her.
In a 1950s film there would be the chance that a great big eagle might fly by and snatch her to its teetering eyrie but no such luck here.
I trudged back downstairs to let the foul hound in.

She stood stock still, eyeing me in an offhand manner, affecting blank surprise that I might think that she might want to totter in.
Hello? you barked, madam.
Then she took her time about swaggering inside, swinging her hips louchely while licking her chops with insouciance before lurching back to her basket, seemingly exhausted.
My don’t the heart just break? A dog’s work, it’s never done.
Man’s best friend?
Hmmm. Don’t think so. Not in this house.

The school trip had been to a Large Store, previously the sort of place I am fully prepared to linger, wafting up and down wide aisles like the Stepford Wife I aspire to be.
Until now.
Every year each class is invited here to make something: a salad, a pizza, a cheesecake and to undertake some sort of item-spotting task within the store. This year a dragon had popped on an apron to do the recipe demonstration, best friends to Robert Helpmann’s child catcher. Her hair – it would not dare – was unmovable, her chin a knee, and her laser stare, scary with disdain, bore down on the children. “Step away from the table … don’t touch … don’t talk … it’s rude to talk when an adult is talking … keep back … stop talking … keep your hands off … be quiet …” on and on and bloody on. It was quite shocking how bossy and spoil-happy she was; and in the rare moments she wasn’t issuing orders – say to draw deep sour breaths – one of her three minions was there to carry on the good work, hissing, “it’s rude to talk when an adult is talking!” Cartoon snakes the lot of them, smacking the air with their wooden spoons, ridiculous red faces beneath hygiene caps. Pursed lips.
God knows I can’t stand an impertinent child and would put myself high up on the Stressy List but I was as a laid-back hippy, dopey with moon dust compared to this lot who seemed unable to accept that their tiny charges were only 8 and 9 and, rightly so, a tiny bit excitable about wielding a whip. Aren’t we all.
It made me cross.

Back home, scowling at the dog, I stood in the largest, most gorgeous kitchen in Europe knowing that unpleasant tasks faced me:

That my immediate future was grim.
The carpet in need of another chemical assault if our olfactory systems were not to be corrupted. Rock hard soil to be negotiated with outside in the name of weed clearance.
Dull things belonging to other people to tidy.

The dog shuffled over, as near to hang-dog as she could bear to muster, laying slow, precise paws, almost balletic, on the temporarily clean floor, while still rife with low cunning, for farts seep from her behind. Smelling moistly, like a pub pie.
Revenge is flatulence, best issued warm.
Her meaty brothy breath clouds the air. She barged her head into my leg. Gee, thanks. I fiddled kindly with her ear. Her tail swishes. Friends again. Sort of.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing

What’s not to like? I’d asked.
Well, plenty in the event.
A fairly disastrous weekend ensued with plenty of, er, emotion expressed over at GrandParental Towers, an expensive lamp in shards, and lots of rain for us.
There was certainly no need for a hat.
My mother meanwhile is contemplating Anger Management courses.
F9 apparently all but colluded in his own kidnap at the zoo and …
Ho hum. ‘Never Again’ is my new oft-cited phrase of choice. I imagine it’s ringing round the walls of GP Towers, too, only louder and more often.
I’ll say no more. Only I do.
“We agreed the matter was over!” bellows F9 when I bring it up. Again.
The lamp, the not-quite kidnap, the bickering.
Not hiding the veruccas.
Small crimes which I am used to but which the generation gap magnified nastily.
And, give me strength:
Mentioning, gulp, my blogging.
I had been reckless enough to indulge in hope – fule – that all would go swimmingly. Not a mistake I’ll make in future.
That the blogging is out and the URL exposed (“Oi 'ate Countrylite!”) forces conniptions by day and nightmares by, well, by night.

My brother was over from Paris ten days ago. He’s a journalist there and works endless 12-hour days. Weekends are for wimps. He can’t believe how cushy we have it.
“Your rush hour is at five!” he wheezes. “Five! That’s lunchtime.”
When they visit, the sun always shines in Englandshire; well, not at Christmas, durr, but. So his daughter, C7, assumes that English life consists of playing catch, poking inefficiently at the barbecue and drinking Bloody Marys in the garden. Would that she were right, but perhaps if there was indeed a little less of the latter there would be a corresponding little less jungle to attack. I’m busy avoiding it now.

It having galumphed enthusiastically from vicious winter to high summer while I was turning round to put something in the freezer, I am now reminded of how unattractive the summer version of me is. A little jaunty toe nail varnish is not enough to counter-balance bitten legs, nettled legs, brambled legs, brambled arms, ivy’d arms, hot panicky face, hair strewn with brambles, ivy and random leaves. Trashed muddy finger nails. Hands puffy and throbbing from nettles. Guess whose garden is taking some tackling? Next stop is June, when hayfever kicks in. My cup runneth over. No wonder the wine winks.
And then we go away for a weekend and it pours down: where’s the fun in that?

My brother has been air-lifted by the SAS from Albania; he has covered the second Iraq war; been in recovery from Black Swamp Fever in a Pakistani field hospital; photographed gross devastation at Phuket following the tsunami wreckage and that of New Orleans and yet, when he saw F9 setting off with worrying confidence on his bike to the park round the corner, he winced and said, “Mil, do you think that’s safe?”

I went through the motions of thinking about it, nearly indulging in a hearty show-off fest of how This Village isn’t Like That but loathe to tempt fate (lorry: small mad boy; escaping horse on a mission: small boy, still mad; paedo: small boy; rushing stream: you get the picture). So I mumbled into the washing up (all those tomatoey glasses) and told some reassuring lies and woke at 4 in the morning wondering not for the first time about just how slack a mother I am.
Capital city children such as C7, are certainly more micro-managed. C7 requires staff (East European) to convey her to and from school, and whilst country lite children might strike the city savvy as yokel with their tree-climbing knees and ability to set up a game of rounders in 3 seconds flat, they have an enviable independence and I’m not contemplating yet, having them subcutaneously chipped. We launch them onto a wobbly bike, and take good luck for granted. Besides, I’m far too busy considering Products to be sitting in the park, with the alibi of a book so my children don’t connect my presence with the truth of covert spying.

I have already exposed a distressing dependency on, and unsavoury interest in, household items (Dysons, irons, ovens, doors etc) and so it will come as no great surprise to find that recently I have been obsessing over floor cleaners.
Not Dysons, silly! No, ones that work.
What’s more, I am expecting efficiency from items costing less than a tenner. It’s called belt tightening. Although my belt is quite tight enough and leaving marks on my tum. That’s called greed.
I fell for a rather gimmicky number in a rubbish shop. It’s triangular and black and you plug it in to charge it and then it ferrets in and around and under and purrs along the wooden floors in busy circles. It’s partly because the dog hates the hoover, a rare bit of Venn Diagram we share with each other, and mainly because I’m far too lazy to bother unwinding the cable just for under the table.
Besides a gloriously stout chap with sticks was so loved-up by his, clutched gamely under a porky arm and clearly worth the resulting battle with stick-management, that I just copied him and bought one, too. A marketing person’s dream. Big Boy had seen it on QVC (no, I don’t understand either) and was squeaking with joy at having located them. Having no decision capacity myself, apart from for the wrong thing, his pleasure was enough for me to follow suit.

So I took it home which is when I found that it was missing both a vital part and the instructions, so I had to drive back.
And the second had a non-working charger so back I went again.
The third one is obviously sub-standard as I have to prop up the charger to ensure it connects, but I just cannot face a further return journey. That way the thing stops being cheap and becomes steeped in petrol guilt.
It whirrs more loudly than in the shop, very attention-seeking, and Lolly still jumps up and down in her dim way, expressing disapproval at my suburban attempts to deal with her fur debris and with F9’s crumbs, and there is a polite silence drawn over cleaning the wretched thing out which seems all but impossible. The instructions peter out at this point, as does my interest, scant as it ever was.
Moreover, it’s only when I’ve spent 45 minutes (to save 30 seconds of cable winding), in inept Wand Operation that the boys barge back from the park (not crushed by tractors or half way to Thailand at all) scattering careless grass clippings all over My Nice Clean Floor that I realise what a massive waste of time this whole housework shambles is. Not that this is a truth which had eluded me before, it's a flat old football of spoilt discontent I've kicked around on many an occasion, but the full horror was crystallised as metaphor for my life. The merry round of drear repetition. Even so, I found myself twitching for the Dyson. The Dyson and the Sauvignon.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Knit one, Bowl one

We’ll be lording it up at Lords, ho ho, my best beloved and me.
“You’ll need a hat,” said E, “or you’ll burn.”
So dodging the showers I took me into Town to look for a hat and purchase some shoes, the last having been squelched into horse shit cum quickmud in vain pursuit of that ghastly dog dancing with ponies. Nice they were too, my new shoes, barely three years old.

I look dreadful in hats, forlorn and flowerpotted, fit only to be cast as a vicar’s wife in “Rosemary and Thyme.” The sort with 3 sad scenes and no part in the denouement while the vicar humps a young lovely. Whatever I selected and dumped dolefully on my head made a sad frump appear in the mirror. Sun burn it is. That or a burqa.

The shoe hunt – I hate shoes – was a disappointment too, the ones I bought will have to go back. They will not do in the cold light of a home inspection. So it’s either the painful ballet-type things or my grim sandals.
Although I did bump into a friend who has been in the news a bit recently for having been swindled to the tune of £600,000 by what is called a Love Rat. It had been her children’s future and she squandered it on hope and lies and misplaced trust. She claimed to feel “empowered” by having just returned from New York where a paper had paid her to go to witness his deportation. She told of his many, many grubby liaisons, with other fallen fools most, like her, single mothers, now older and sadder. And poorer still. How when she thought he returned home "tired," it was exhaustion from hard work, so off she'd go to make him supper, while he recovered in a chair knackered in fact from spending her money and shagging other women.
Her sad tale combined with her chipper confidence forced me to realise that woeful lesbian sandals were not a bad cross to bear.

My mother meanwhile is blessed with the children during our absence.
“Wouldn’t T11 prefer to go to W11?” she bleated bravely.
Possibly, I thought
“No,” I said firmly, “he’s coming to you; they both are.”

When T11 was born, my father asked me what I now wonder were telling questions regarding grandparents and their importance in my childhood. While my life’s blood ebbed away (surgeon hit an artery: I was very ill) I was yet well-mannered and mindful to spare their feelings on the doling out of affection front. I didn’t want to appear too loved-up with my grandparents, and thereby exclude my parents, so I hedged my bets and answered in true slippery, evasive form.
He took me at my word.
They are busy people, ridiculously busy and tend not to see their grandchildren much.
“But you’d hate it if I were a Nan in a Mac at the school gates, forever up and down the motorway, pushing in,” my mother said in one of her conversation-stopping ways.
Try me I thought.
I’d asked if they wanted to stay in our house rather than have the children at theirs, a monument to expensive good taste and beautiful things.
“No, darling,” said my mother. The 'darling' chilled, and the no was the no to end all nos.
At the best of times my mother is given to umbrella-ish nos, the sort to stamp on a lot of what she would think of as my peripheral nonsense. This No rivalled the Dome in negative potential, and was slightly insulting. I sensed Lolly might be well and truly under this marquee of a No.
Lolly is currently residing at Dog Prison, aka the kennels, which is very much Her Sort Of Place. Full of barks and stinking of dog she is rampant to be within its portals. Our goodbyes are swift. Both of us feeling the better.

But even my mother’s nos are no rival for the sort handed out to my friend P by her father in law.
Mr D had been a vet, and when P and her family went away recently, Mr and Mrs D offered to stay in their grand Cheltenham house “to look after it.” How kind.
“Sure,” said P (thinking of the spring clean this would occasion to keep at bay cries of “my sluttish daughter-in-law, P.”) “I’ll leave instructions about the rabbit on the side.”
“NO! NO! NOOOO! Young lady,” bellowed Mr D, “You will do no such thing.”
P, used to recalcitrance from this quarter, raised a perfectly manicured eyebrow in query.
“We can’t possibly be expected to look after a RABBIT!” he continued. “A rabbit!” A handbag!
“Why not,” P asked, reasonably, of the erstwhile vet.
“It might escape and be killed.”
“It’s in its run, it’ll be fine.”
“NO, no no! it’s out of the question.”
He trumpeted some more excuses and then trumped them all with the fact that they might not come and stay at all, they might not make it down the motorway, indeed that they might die.
“Die?” said P, mentally reaching for a gun.
“Die,” agreed Mr D, spookily echoing her intentions. “Someone might shoot us.”
P drove 25 miles to leave the rabbit with her mother.
The rabbit survived.

And when my mother comes to collect the nippers, we will be ensconced in good seats, slurping on something delicious, while it is she who has to listen to bewildering tales involving lost furry gloves and “it” having been Luke’s fault and something unfathomable having been left in the rain.

Furthermore, what’s not to like about cricket?
I mean what's nicer than a game in which you can turn up for 2 days out of 5 (any 2 will do);
at which no-one looks at you askance for opening a bottle at 11 because, hey, if you've haven't by 12 then they are ALL looking at you thusly;
where you are allowed glass to drink from rather than brittle plastic, for they know that you have no intention of doing with it anything other than supping on champers;
where the absolute expectation is of good sportsmanship and manners, yours as well as the boys in white;
a game for which the result may be a draw, despite taking those 5 days, but does it matter, well, not really (unless we was robbed, obviously);
where you can be one woman to 1000 men, all of whom will behave impeccably, chat to you randomly, and none of whom will openly sport a tattoo or wear greasy nylon;
With or without a hat, whether ill-clad or not, can’t wait. Knitting is packed (large bag, chic-poor, capacity-rich) and I’m ready to go.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Can't Do That Here, Love

Two old people, putting up coathooks. Factor in a hangover and the potential is ripe for comedy, or tragedy.
Certainly much time for the mere dental nurse of the piece – me – to spend on her hands and knees on gritty floor picking up careless screws while E, the important dentist, drill-happy, swore at walls and issued instructions then caught his thumb on a sharp edge and said, “I hate bloody DIY.”
Gosh, he's kept that quiet.
And it’s no barrel of laughs being the dental nurse either since each of your jobs, that is each of my jobs, is of far less importance than anything which is being done by the dentist, who is the agenda setter, with a sore thumb and a temper. So one minute I am battling with exuberantly belligerent packaging, ripping my fingers on cruel plastic, the next sent a-scurrying for the spirit level, or the pencil in the pocket, and then the dentist calls for coffee.

For sho’.

The lapse into black speak is explained by my recent finishing of the wondrous “Twelve Bar Blues” by Patrick Neate. It tells of the jazz age unfolding in New Orleans at the beginning of the last century and what vicious nasty lives they all lived. A bashed thumb was the least of your problems. And if you weren’t a whore your mother was, or your sister, or you were what passed for married to one. With names to render those on Jeremy Kyle bland, faces were ribbon-slashed by handy razors and eyes were incidental in the scoring of a slight. The tonks (hastily acquired familiarity with the correct term for jazz bars, I think) were cauldrons of discontent with dancing too scary for whites to witness. I loved it but it made Cheltenham look a dull old place and I’d had Cheltenham down as a stew of Boschian depravity, very Hogarth come a Friday night, when all the boys and girls come out to play. And drink, and vomit and fight. And that’s just the girls, ho ho.

But fresh from an acquaintance with Neate’s world, I was toughened, and grateful. For sensible comparison could only prompt a buoyancy purely by considering the sheen of civility offered by Cheltenham’s enthusiastic commitment to disabled parking bays. Plus we were tempted by the prospect of seeing a friend – one with a beard and a set of drums and friends of a similar ilk (or elk, as an old boss used to say) – playing, yes, jazz. How very synchronicitous. I reckoned that the slashing opportunities were comparatively few so off we set.

Mistake number one: optimism; number two: taking the children.

I had forgotten how this world of ours hates children; goodness, I’ve only been at it, “mothering,” for 11 and a half years.
My birthday always falls on a grim grey Tuesday in early March. The year in which T11 was T5months was no different and E and I took ourselves off to a pub for lunch. We stopped outside, in a contented “this’ll do” sort of way, unhooked the slumbering T5m and sauntered on in. The barman, busy with an empty pub, ignored us. We played eye catch a bit and then gave up and went to sit ourselves down.
“Can’t bring him in here,” came the welcoming tones from the suddenly vocal barman.
I looked around with mild, anonymous interest, expecting a drunken wretch clawing at optics or a sly teen in search of a cider, but no, it was T5m, warm with milk, who was the crim.
Turned out it was Licensing Laws: no children allowed in the bar.
“But he’s 5 months old,” I bleated, “and asleep.”
I’m all for children not crashing around and being irritating and taking over adult spaces, unless of course it inconveniences me, so we huffed and puffed and muttered grimly and went down the road instead.

On Friday, the night before CoatHookDay, different bar same attitude, delayed version.
I went up to order, and I won’t even go into – oh well, yes, I will – the intense annoyance caused by having asked for a glass of Sauvignon and then seeing the till display a price 50p more than I had expected.
I brought it up while peeling off a twenty (the new fiver), asking, nicely, so I’d know in future, if their policy was to serve the most expensive brand of a generic ask such as “Sauvignon.”
To which the bored barman said no, but that was the only cold one, which seemed a bit crap to me at ten to 9 on a Friday night when they must have been expecting the ubiquitous lorry-loads of pissed hens on interminable hen nights to stagger in dressed as fairies and braying for wine.
Perhaps I’m out of touch with hen drink.

And I do so hate paying half as much again for a glass of wine than I normally spend on a much nicer bottle from the supermarket. At a dinner party the next night the stakes were raised by one of our number claiming to have been charged £8 for a glass. Alcoholic madness.

T11 carried away the cokes, while I took to the table my wine (the new liquid gold) and E’s beer. And then E wanted another beer. Well, it was fun. The jazz was cool, of razor blades there were none visible, and we were mainly white so the dancing, scary or otherwise, was going to be fine. So he bought another which is when the gentleman – solid, bald, earpiece – argy-bargied over.
“Kidsa gonnaravta go” he croaked, the words of one who has never had to organise child-care on the hoof.
“Sarfta nine.”

Licensing laws.
Not mentioned by the barmen when arranging our second mortgage on round two, naturally.

“Can we possibly finish our drinks outside?” I asked, nice with ice, drawing my finger across my throat and pretending I was being hanged, to boot, to signal to Simon (beard, drums) that it was the end for us. He nodded in an eye-rolling way: no kids, didn't really understand.

Out we went, herded onto the pavement like transportees, manhandled from the place, all but clamped in an elbow grip, as if we'd been caught fiddling with the fag machine, subject to smug sneers from the truly legal (ie: child-free), the ordeal doing little for our dignity. We're meant to be the good guys in life's balance and scale. The cheek of it all. I wanted to bluster, or cry.
We proceeded to down our drinks – well, they’d cost enough, as I might have mentioned.
The bouncer did some flicking action with his fingers which was the perfect time for F9 to mutter “How Offensive,” but he didn’t because for once something offensive really had happened (rather than me asking him to shove up, or suggest that he might put away his shoes) and he was lost for words.

It transpired that the children couldn’t even stand on the bit of pavement apportioned to this bar.
Nor could they stand the other side of a cobbled line holding the glasses.
“Can’t take drinks off of the premises see.”

This is the modern danger when out pursuing jazz, this is where our madness lies. Adherence to a set of guidelines which in principle may be just fine, but in literal quest of mapping to the nth degree are just ridiculous.
“I don’t make the rules, love,”
No but you enjoy enforcing them.
Good sport for the casual on-looker perhaps.

So we came home and slurped on wine and tossed our heads and tutted and, glancing at the box of coats which has cluttered the hall these past two years, E said, “We really must put up those coathooks tomorrow.”
For sho’.