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Friday, 17 July 2009

pie in the sky

He’s been and gone, the Skyman, not a chap to be defined by his absence since the extent of his personality was revealed in but a sequence of grunts and flunked eye catching. Still, he wasn’t there to be my best friend, he was thereto arm himself in a surprising amount of clothing to scale a ladder, rising 4 or 5 giddy rungs to install a, sssshh, a dish. The shame. But prior to that,

“You’ve had Sky before,” he said accusingly.
We’d ticked a box saying we hadn’t. We’d also cleared a room to allow what’s called Easy Access to the phone line. He’d told me brusquely that we needn’t have bothered, which left me facing an hour of bashed shins to anticipate in shunting it all back.
“No,” I said, hasty to declare our Sky virginity, “We haven’t, it’s just for the Ashes, nothing more.”
“You have,” he said, totally uninterested. “Look. The marks on the wall.”
“Well, maybe the woman before, but I don’t remember seeing a dish.”
“It was here,” he said, “you’ve had it before.”
Clearly his ‘you’ was not my ‘you’ so I let it go.

I asked a run of idiotic questions. The terseness of his answers suggested he’d considered murder as an option to replying. He used words like ‘scart’ and ‘input’ and 'AV2' to spoil it for me. “It’s all in the manual,” he said.
“You get to an age when you can’t face the manual,” I said.
“Better press on,” he said.

On went the steel-capped boots and the hard hat, out came the ladder. Doubtless a Certificate of Competence in ladder management, awarded following a 2 day course, lay in the glove compartment (I say "glove" but does anyone keep gloves in this compartment, or a hideous miscellany of tat: scratched sunglasses and rumpled A-Zs shy the relevant pages?)
3 people from school, teachers and, what are called I always find rather alarmingly, ‘support staff’ – I imagine them there, poised beneath open windows, ready to catch flying infants, or braced against a wall, shouldering it into submission – took such a course, in stepladder use. 2 people are always to be present, it seems, when grappling with steps: hence the need for 3 when, inevitably, one of them is off on long-term sick leave.
Amusingly, the 3 plucked for this noble task were the fatties. I pause to smile at the images of all 3 getting the Christmas decorations out of the loft, happy days, drenched in tinsel; tempers just this close from fraying; tight, short laughs; trapped fingers and panic and blame; plenty of tepid tea.

And just yesterday, the waterman came.
“Come to read the meter,” he said.
Since it had been tipping down, I winced and said, “Oh, your feet ...” Beige carpet, you see, relatively new after three years of squalor and grime.
“Gotta keep ‘em on,” he said, “health and safety.”
“The meter’s just here, under the stairs,” I said. “It’s quite safe.”
“Gotta wear these boots,” he said. “Sorry. I used to keep a pair of protectors, in the van, for nice people such as yourself, but I got reported. Not allowed to wear ‘em.”
“Can I read it?” I asked.
“You can,” he said in terms of well, I’ve heard some crazy things. “It’ll have to go down as a customer reading though. One of these days, you’ll have to let one of us do it. Mental, I know. Sorry about the mud.”
The mad mad world of meter reading.

Meanwhile, I made F10 some breakfast. There was very little milk.
“Is that it?” he asked in great outrage, he grabbed Catty by the scruff of its exhausted neck as witness to my slack housekeeping.
“It is. You’ll both have to have water, I’ll get some more later.” Both! What am I saying. This cat is stuffed.
“Is there no back up milk?”
“What would back up milk be?”
He rolled his eyes, “For when the normal milk runs out.”
“It’d go off,” I said.
“No it wouldn’t,” he said, “I’d drink it. And Catty would drink it.”
“I’ll go and buy some now,” I said, resisting the lure of the cat-led circular conversation.
“And don’t forget to get back up milk too.”
What that boy and his cat, his ambitions and expectations, needs is an office and secretaries. I feel sorry for them having to settle for me.

I bought a thing of big milk instead, and a lemon and some garlic. Not very breakfasty but I like to do my bit with regard to unnecessary purchases to help keep the shop afloat. The price they charge meant they could close by lunchtime and still make a profit on the day. Empty of purse but bursting with milk, back up or otherwise, I trotted back.

“He wanted you,” F10 said, “the man who doesn’t like his job.”
“Did he say that?” I asked eagerly.
“No. You can just tell.”
“How?” I said, loving glimpses into his thought processes.
“You just can,” he said warningly, “end of conversation.”

I took him to school, he miaowed and purred and talked about Catty who, little does either of them know, is doomed to a morning spinning round in the washing machine.
More end of an era stuff up at the gates, with the current Year 6 lining up for the last time. Brings tears to your eyes, or it did to mine; the crop of mothers there looked stolid and unresponsive, and you have to hope that nostalgia, at the very least, is playing out somewhere in the depths of their flinty hearts: I’m expecting great use of hankies at pick-up time and not just by me.

Somehow, next year, my random F10 will be in the big boy line. He gave me a wonky smile and faked a miaow at me through the bars. We’ll have to do something to quell his inner cat before year 6. That and watch a lot of cricket, if I can be bothered to read the manual.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009


Mrs Lovely was later to say that her husband had been 'well appalled.' He might not much like their dog Pompom (a husband thing, I understand: although in our family and those of many of my chums, a wife thing, too) but if anyone is to say so it is he, and not the big tummed ex-police inspector.

Big Tum patrols the dog field daily with Florian, a tiny dog dangling from his wrist: so often the way, a case of dog not resembling owner at all, at least not in ways that are immediately obvious. It is a sedate perambulation theirs, and each has a frown for human and dog accordingly. For some reason, however, their walk is always timed to coincide with ours; although I know he’s the rising at dawn sort. Never trouble trouble I want to say.
He has an infinite store of rectitude to draw on, and a boundless capacity for passing on a wise word; a finger-wagging man, one of that enviable breed who is always in the right. Long after the event, does he feel the need to remind me from time to time, just when I’m relaxing into the hope of his having forgotten, of the occasion when Lolly, a mere puppy, had leapt through their sitting room window in search of Florian, trailing in her eager wake the newly planted window box.
“Yes, a lot of mud,” his nervous wife will echo, “Goodness, a lot.”
What can you say? The chance to offer to hoover is past by many moons.
And then last week, it all went a bit wrong when it was his dog who leapt with extraordinary and unprecedent vigour onto the back of Lolly and gave it his all to shag her senseless into the ground.

“Florian!” squeaked Big Tum’s nervous wife, her squeal reaching unto the stars.
“FLORIAN!” bellowed Big Tum, bypassing pink and going straight to purple.
Florian, conveniently deaf, clasped his paws the tighter round Lolly and rutted away. His penis, friends, was glistening.
I’m afraid I laughed which did little to appease their mood.

The next day I was late into the field and encountered Big Tum on his way out. “The hooligans are already down there,” he boomed, sweeping on past, giving me a bit of a look.
I strolled through, met my dog-walking friends, and told them what he said.
Mrs Lovely was slow to react. She glanced around the field and then her head snapped back and she whimpered, “Us! He means us! That’s Florian’s Daddy said that?”
“Yes,” I said, “Big Tum.”
“Oh, is that his name, I always call him Florian’s Daddy.”
“I think he was a Chief Inspector,” I said.
“Well. My. And he called us all hooligans?”
“Not us, so much as you,” I said. I thought back, “Yes, he definitely said, “the hooligans” and not “the other hooligans”.”
“Well I don’t know if we like that very much, do we, Pompom?” said Mrs Lovely carefully.

Mrs Rich, who inhabits one of the smartest houses in the county, looked stunned. Even her lavatories have fireplaces, they have cornices and take a stride to cross. Rife with Tena Lady potential for the slow to plan. There are three staircases from ground to first and the kitchen is 70’ long. Not one to breed a yob. She glanced around for her hooligan, Lacey, who boasts a Cath Kidston bed (chewed) in her custom-built crate (“Yes, we kitted it out in advance beautifully. Such a shame, really, when the dog herself turned up, you know, when we brought her home and it spoiled things so”) and a raised day bed from Oka (£150+. Also chewed). We'd bought Lolly a new bed in the week. £15 grudgingly spent, already not the fragrant thing it was. Lacey was to be found face-deep in a pile of horse manure, someone else’s play stick held firm under her paw.
"But they have such fun," she said. "No harm's done. It's personality, isn't it? Only playing."

There was a lusty splashing in the river. It’s not a river, it’s as if someone left a tap on for ten minutes and made a bit of a puddle, but we call it the river. Pompom came crashing through, soaked and muddy, a beady look in his eye. In the distance a speck of fur had revealed itself. It was the JewishPrincessFootStool dog. An elderly cavalier spaniel of generous proportions and little retaliation. In a trice, Pompom had made it up the hill and was on JPFS’s back.
Mrs Lovely set off at a cumbersome lick, cooing hopelessly, “Pompom! Pompom!” She rattled a little bag of scraps enticingly.
Pompom, more Errol Flynn than cuddly toy, despite his rampant curls and wild fluff, was not going to be lured by some rubbishy old chicken in a bag, not when the JewishPrincessFootStool dog was at paw.
Within seconds he had mounted her and was rocking away in true happy hooligan style.

“Pompom!” Mrs Lovely wailed, “Don’t!”

The stout and tardy figure of JPFS’s owner lurched into view. A woman upholstered like a sofa, clad all in chintz; presumed a long-term virgin. She looked on somewhat enviously, as Pompom had his wild way with her dog. Dreaming of her very own gentleman callers, a Cuthbert perhaps, or Ron, she gazed wistfully, lost in vicarious daydream.
The JewishPrincessFootStool dog is always available for Pompom. She splays her legs and lowers her rear quarters, “C’mon, Pompom, do your worst.”

Mrs Lovely was red in the face with shame.
Pompom!” she hissed, “How could you!”
Quite easily, thought Pompom gripping harder and pumping wildly – if ineffectively since he’s been ‘done.’

The owner licked her lips. Her dog, her daughter, the beauty of the family, albeit slightly dim, like an obedient but simple girl, easy of virtue and guilelessly taking off her knickers and doing as 'he' wants. The slut. The lucky, lucky slut.
“Think nothing of it,” she trilled, her voice slightly higher than might originally have been planned.

We went our merry ways. Mothers of hooligans.
“First the twins, now the dog,” wailed Mrs Lovely, her frisky children brought to mind, "It's not what I thought it was going to be, any of it."
“You must have been very, very bad in your previous life,” I said.
“I do hope so,” said she. "Really, I do."