The Eye Test

Eye test and contact lens aftercare today, always a slightly uncomfortable situation: trapped in a very small booth with a much younger person (Colin’s Rule of all embarrassing situations – the other person is always much younger than yourself) and all I can think about is my breath.  Why did I have that curry last night?  Breathing as shallowly and slowly as possible just makes my head swim.  It is hard to focus on anything when the room is spinning… 

A piece of equipment, looking disconcertingly like a Star Wars Imperial Guard is spun towards me.  “Rest your chin on here,” says the very nice lady (VNL) who is conducting your tests, “and your forehead on here.” 
“Well sorry, but it is possible to do only one or the other.  I can only assume that the person having the tests done before me was one of Doctor Frankenstein’s creations.  Whoever it was had a face that was longer than my arm,” I think, but do not say.  I try to smile, but I sense I am grimacing.
Levers are pressed and my chin arcs up towards my forehead, lifting my backside clear of the chair.  “Is that better?” asks the VNL. 
“Yes,” I reply, trying very hard not to sound too much like Kermit the Frog with his tiny green balls caught in a mousetrap. 
“Right then,” she continues, “Look at the hot air balloon.  It will come into and out of focus.  Don’t worry about it.”  I’m not.  I’m worrying about why I can’t even see a hot air balloon either fuzzy or otherwise.  “That’s good,” she says with the remarkable absence of any sign of a sigh.  “Now you will feel a puff of air.  Don’t worry if it makes you blink… although it would be better if you could open your eyes for me now…”
“I can hear the ‘click’,” I explain “and my eyes just blink automatically.”
“Perhaps you could try to distract them…  Next we are going to take some photographs of the back of your eyes, so try not to blink at all now.” 
Have you ever tried not to blink when told not to blink?  It is like trying to convince yourself that you don’t need to wee when the toilet is broken.  I open my eyes as wide as I can.  At least if they fall out of their sockets here, I think, there should at least be somebody capable of putting them back.

“…Now, without your contact lenses or spectacles, can you read me the smallest line you can see on the chart.”
“Chart?  Without contact lenses or spectacles I can barely see the wall!”
“That’s fine, I’ll put some lenses in.  Now, what can you read now?”
“OK, we’ll come back to that.  Look at the figures on the wall.  Are they clearer on the red background or the green?”
“I’ll do it again, just say which is the clearest.  Red or green?”
“Er…  They both look the same.”
“Do they?”
“Yes, I think so.”
“What about now?”
“Really?  Are you sure?”
“Er… Not really, no…”

“I think we’d better just take a little look into your eyes.  Put your chin on here again and stare straight ahead.”
I can’t.  Why can’t I just look straight ahead?  My eyes are all over the place; I can feel them leaping around the room like they’re on a pogo stick.  I can’t stop blinking.  Why am I so… blinky?
“That’s fine,” says the smiling VNL, pulling the giant equipment, to which my chin appears to have become temporarily welded, away from me.
“I’m sorry if I looked the wrong way,” I croak.  “I’m not very good with left and right.”
“No problem,” she says.  “You did really well with the ‘up’ and ‘down’…”  Thank goodness for a VNL with a sense of humour.  “Well,” she continues, “I can see very slight signs of degeneration and early indications of cataracts forming, but don’t worry, it’s to be expected in somebody of your age…”

Amazing how quickly you can go off people…


Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on

Bowing to all manner of familial pressures we bought an Air-Fryer which my wife now worships as a God. It sits (or in my opinion lurks) in the corner of the utility room – because my wife does not like cluttered surfaces in the kitchen – and oozes contempt for the appliances that surround it. Black, sleek and sullen it sneers at the toaster and the coffee-maker. It is forced to share a worktop with the microwave for goodness sake! This is an appliance with attitude.

For the uninitiated, I should explain that the air-fryer does not fry – that would definitely be beneath it – other than the fact that it does chips I do not know how it got its name.  It is really just a mini-oven that burns stuff in half the time it takes its full-sized cousin.  You can put almost anything in at one end and pull out charcoal ten minutes later at the other.  It is a kitchen miracle!  My wife is completely in its thrall, constantly thrilling at the discovery of each new thing she can cremate in it.

To her constant – and evident – disgust, I have the habit of falling back onto what I know and trust – the hob, the oven, the microwave – when ruining perfectly good ingredients.  I can read the pain on her face when she looks down at what I serve and, disappointment rippled through her every feature, she asks “Why didn’t you use the Air-Fryer?”

We now shop for the bloody thing, deliberately choosing foodstuffs that we can just ‘bung in’.  “I really fancy this,” I say, looking at a recipe that is longer than ‘The Book of the Dead’.  “It looks awesome.”
“I’ve bought burgers,” she replies, “We can bang them in the Air-Fryer with some oven chips.”  Oh goody!  I cannot overstate my contempt for oven chips.  If my wife could find a way of making risotto in the black beast (the only dish I am truly proficient in making) she would be a happy woman.

When I stumble through into the utility in the morning to prime the life-preserving coffee-maker, I always expect to see the Air-Fryer. with its hands around the throat of the toaster, sneering “As soon as she realises I can make toast, you’re done for.”  I swear I can hear it chuckling – Blofeld-like – every time the toaster cremates the morning bread.  I tell the microwave not to worry, there is always a place for porridge in my day, but it appears unconvinced.

We have a cupboard in the garage filled with such culinary gewgaws – the yoghurt maker, the ice-cream maker, the soup maker, the juicer – all lightly used before being summarily ‘filed’ and forgotten.  They each temporarily held sway over the utility counters, but only long enough to discover they were a complete waste of money, that shop-bought is both easier, cheaper and infinitely better, at which point they were condemned to the ‘cupboard from which there is no escape’ and an area of worktop was cleared in preparation for the latest non-essential, waste-of-space piece of electrical gadgetry.

As things stand, I think that I am more likely to end up in the cupboard than the Air-Fryer.  We will, in time, reach an agreement – the kitchen dark lord and myself: I will allow it to incinerate my dinner from time to time and it will not oversee my expulsion from the house.  Currently I am still able to do things that it cannot – although, admittedly, few of them useful – but I will be in serious trouble if it ever learns to Hoover, and if it refines the art of the perfect gin & tonic, my days are definitely numbered…

A Touch of Keratin

Photo by Frans van Heerden on

My toenail has turned a funny colour and is showing definite signs of wanting to disassociate itself from the rest of my toe.  The cause?  I do not know.  I would like to claim that it is as a result of me doing something heroic – frostbite suffered during a barefoot attempt on Everest perhaps – but it’s probably more likely that my socks are too tight.  Maybe toenails have memory and it has just recalled the Winkle-Pickers I wore in the Sixties.  I am ashamed to admit that I am blithely unaware of the life cycle of a toenail, but I do understand that they are made from the same substance as hair, so if it does fall off I will give it to my uncle Kevin, who is going bald.  It stands alone on my otherwise pristine foot, utterly conspicuous, like a straight man at a Kylie Minogue concert.  It does not hurt, it just sits there, shrouded in sock and quietly thickening.  Should I try to cut it, I would require bolt-croppers.  I could probably sell it in China as rhino horn.  (Odd that rhino horn is considered an aphrodisiac whilst my toenail is as far away from that as it is possible to be.)

I can’t help but wonder why certain things get the reputation for having aphrodisiac properties.  I suppose that many of them gain notoriety simply because they are phallic in shape (Watch out ladies, I’ve just eaten a cucumber!) but for others, oysters for instance, I can offer no explanation.  Looking at a freshly-shucked oyster, I would think ‘expectorant’ rather than sexual athletics.  (My wife always insists on bringing a hurdle to bed with her.)  People claim that green M&M’s do the trick for them and I would certainly (should I ever feel the need) be inclined to try those rather than the Bull’s Testicle Soup that a subsequent Google Search has just suggested.  (Just searching for a friend!)  Apparently okra is renowned for its concupiscent properties because it contains magnesium, a natural relaxant (?) although personally I think I’d probably sooner eat a bull’s danglers.

Ginseng, which apparently means ‘Man’s Root’ (according to the internet, because it looks like one, although if it looks like yours I can only recommend that you seek medical help at the earliest opportunity) is probably the best known lickerish additive as it can, apparently, be used in many drink recipes.  I’m not sure that a Man’s Root Cocktail appeals if I’m honest.  When did two pancake rolls and a single tub of Sweet & Sour sauce to dip them in cease to work?  What’s wrong with Barry White on the stereo and a shared bottle of lukewarm Woodpecker Cider?  According to Wales Online (I have no idea why) ginger is in fact all you need, so who’d have guessed it, I am myself an aphrodisiac!  No wonder my toenail has gone a bit funny…

Should you have even the slightest interest, you can find out about a previous bout of keratin angst ‘The Issue of My Splitting Fingernail’ here.

Frankie & Benny #8 – Barry

“…Well, I’m pleased we went.”
“Yes, me too, I’m pleased we went.”
“I’m sure he appreciated it.”
“…Do you think he knew who we were?”
“He thought you were one of the staff; that’s why he asked you to empty his commode.  He wouldn’t have done that if he’d remembered who you were, now would he?”
“I wouldn’t put it past him.  He always had a strange sense of humour, Barry, I think that’s why nobody liked him… Would you visit me if I was in one of those places?”
“Of course.  You owe me money.”
“Do I?”
“You don’t remember?  Maybe we ought to go straight back and sign you in.  Where do you keep your Will?”
“I don’t have a Will.  I don’t have anything to leave – unless you want the Crinoline Lady off my spare toilet roll.”
“You have a spare toilet roll?”
“Anyway, I don’t owe you money, do I?”
“Have you got any?”
“On me?  No.”
“Let’s hope we can find a pub that gives credit then, because it’s your round.”
“Francis, my dear friend, I always ensure that I maintain the pecuniary wherewithal to finance your sad alcohol dependence.  I have my debit card in my wallet, an emergency ten pound note sewn into the hem of my trousers and, should all else fail, a lead-lined cosh in my pocket.  Do not worry my friend, you shall not want for a tipple.  And anyway, when have I ever missed my round?”
“What about last week?”
“Frankie, I was in bed with flu.  You came round to mine and drank all four of the cans I had in the fridge and you ate all of my Blue Ribands.”
“I brought tea to your bedside.”
“Call that tea?  It was like warm pish.”
“Honey and lemon, very good for you – at least, it would have been if you’d had any honey in…”
“…Or lemon…”
“…Or lemon.”
“So, what was it then?”
“Golden syrup and Oxo.  I had to improvise.”
“You thought that you’d cure me with sweetened gravy?”
“At least I came to see you.”
“And you ate all my sausages!”
“They were going off.”
“I’d only bought them the day before.”
“Well you should have taken them back, they were horrible.”
“Really?  What was the sell-by date on them?”
“Who looks at sell-by dates?  You can smell if things are going off.”
“So they weren’t off then?  Otherwise you wouldn’t have eaten them.”
“No, not off, just horrible.  Where did you get them?”
“The corner shop.”
“You’ve been in Derek’s Bargain Bin again haven’t you?  I told you, he just puts the crap out of his own fridge in there.  No wonder you’ve been ill, eating all that stuff.”
“I didn’t eat it, did I?  You did.”
“Yes, well I’ve always had a stronger constitution than you haven’t I?  Even when we were kids, you were always the weakling.”
“I was not!”
“You were.  You were never at school.  Always wrapped up at home in bed, in your muffler.”
“My mum was just a bit over-cautious, what with my dad and everything.”
“Your dad?”
“Yes, and his chest.”
“Benny, there was nothing wrong with your dad’s chest.  He was on the sick from 1955 to 1985 and I never once heard him cough.  ‘Work-shy Wilf’ my dad used to call him.  The only time he ever broke sweat was when he had to go and sign on.”
“He gave his life to that foundry.  All that smoke got onto his chest, that’s what killed him.”
“Benny, he smoked sixty a day.  I never once saw him without a fag on.”
“Can’t have helped, I’ll grant you…”
“Staying at home in bed, in the room directly above your dad had to be more unhealthy than going to school.  Maybe you missed out on headlice, threadworm, measles, chickenpox and mumps, but laid up there, I’m surprised you didn’t turn into some kind of a kipper.”
“Well that’s as maybe, but I didn’t miss out on mumps did I?”
“Oh no, I forgot you caught that when you were eighteen didn’t you?  You had a ball-bag like a bull elephant.  You had to lie flat on your back for weeks.  Your mam could never balance the breakfast tray on your bed…”
“Yes, well I’m pleased you find it amusing Frankie.  It was a scary time.”
“Of course my friend, of course I understand.  The fear of not being able to have children…”
“I don’t think that ever bothered me.  I was worried that I would never be able to wear the new flares I had just bought.  They had a button fly and very little in the way of non-essential space.”
“Yes, you always did like a tight trouser, didn’t you?”
“It was the fashion.”
“It might well have been the fashion, but I don’t think I ever saw you sit down for about six years.”
“Yes, well I’ve got over it now.”
“You certainly have.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Well, your trousers are exceedingly… accommodating these days, aren’t they?”
“I buy for comfort now.”
“Yes, you look as comfortable as a man twice your size.”
“Well, thank you for your sartorial input, Mr Versace…  You didn’t answer me earlier.  Would you visit me if I was in one of those places?”
“What makes you think that it won’t be you visiting me?”
“Well, granted that you’ve got a bit less ground to cover before you get there than me, but let’s just suppose…”
“Maybe we could both go ga-ga together.”
“Maybe we already have.”
“Why do you think that?”
“Well ok, take this bus, why are we sitting upstairs and why are we right at the front?”
“It’s what we always do.”
“Yes, but why?”
“I don’t know.  Do we have to have a reason?  It’s just what we always do isn’t it.”
“We used to come upstairs to smoke, like everybody else back then, nobody under fifty ever sat downstairs, I remember that, but why did we start sitting at the front?  I don’t remember Frankie, do you?”
“No Benny, I don’t, but I don’t think that means we’re going senile either.  Nobody remembers exactly why they do everything they do.  It isn’t practical.  Why do you always wipe your chin with a hankie before you eat?”
“I don’t…  Do I?  I didn’t even realise I did that.”
“My point is, Benny, you get to our age and it’s much more important that we remember what we have to do today than why we started doing something else God-knows-when.”
“And you think that’s all it is: knowing where we are and why we’re there?”
“As long as I can remember that it’s your round, I’ll be happy.”
“But what if it isn’t?”
“Then I’ll have to hope that you’ve forgotten.”
“…Do you remember when you realised that Barry wasn’t quite right?”
“Barry was never quite right.”
“Yes, I admit he was always a little bit… adjacent… I’ll give you that, but we didn’t notice when he started to change, did we?”
“Change?  The thing is, we all change all the time don’t we.
“Because it happens so slowly, you just don’t see it.”
“Like you reaching into your pocket at the bar?”
“Or you stumping up for a fish supper when it’s your turn of a Friday.”
“He kept forgetting names though didn’t he?  Then he kept forgetting where he lived.  Do you think we should have noticed sooner?”
“We all thought he’d had too much to drink.”
“To be fair, he normally had.”
“Yes, and if I’m honest, if I’d lived where he lived, I’d probably try to forget it too.”
“Not the best of housekeepers was he?”
“Generally speaking, flood did a better job.”
“Anyway, I’m pleased we went to see him.”
“Yes, me too.”
“We should raise a glass to him later.”
“Providing we remember…”
“Do you know whether this bus turns round at the end of the route?”
“We’ve missed our stop, haven’t we?”

Frankie & Benny #8 – A Prelude

Those of you who are familiar with me will have undoubtedly seen it coming.  I plant a seed in my own head and I’m stuck with it until it starts to blossom through my ears.  In my post of a couple of weeks ago, The List, I mentioned the sit-com ‘Still Game’, how the attitude of the two main characters had influenced my own creation of Frankie & Benny and, despite stating (not for the first time I must admit) that I was done with ‘Little Fictions’ I decided that I really would like to drop in on the two old friends again.  I don’t have to write these two, I just have to find somewhere to put them and then listen in.  I know that if I put them at the seaside, they will sit on a seafront bench and eat ice cream even if it is pouring with rain.  If I put them at a funeral, they will giggle and they will blame one another.  If I put them in the library, they will whisper – but very loudly.  They will squeeze every last drop of enjoyment they can out of it.  And they’ll bicker – boy will they bicker – but they’ll squeeze all the joy they can from that as well.  They make me smile.

As I write this little prelude, I have absolutely no idea where episode eight will take us.  I’ll just have to find somewhere to put them and then I’ll see what they’ve got to say…

If you haven’t met up with Frankie & Benny before, or you would like to reacquaint yourself with them before Episode Eight (probably tomorrow) you can find previous conversations below:
Episode 1
Episode 2 – Goodbyes
Episode 3 – The Night Before
Episode 4 – The Birthday
Episode 5 – Trick or Treat
Episode 6 – Christmas
Episode 7 – The Cold


In case, dear reader, you were notified of another post this evening that almost immediately disappeared, do not worry. It appeared because I was trying to schedule it and I am useless. It did not disappear absolutely immediately because I was trying to delete it and I am useless. Unless, however, I have completely screwed it up, it will appear eventually. I think…

If, of course, you were not notified of such a post, well, there you go then, all is well.

As you were…

On Short Time

On occasions I feel that time passes differently for me.  Whenever I am given a list of tasks to be completed within an allotted time-span e.g. before death or tea, whichever is the sooner, time begins to fly and I begin to feel the familiar stress of ‘how am I going to fit it all in?’  The more I rush, the faster time goes and the threat of reaching the end of the day with more unfinished jobs on my list that at the start of it grows.  I have no idea why this should be.  Everybody else seems to just glide through the day: they are the elegant, stately top-of-swan whilst I am its knackered legs, paddling furiously against the flow, getting precisely nowhere.  Try as I might, I cannot make sense of it.  I presume my hour is the same length as everybody else’s, so why can I fit so much less into it?  I fear it will be the same with my life.  Other people of my age have achieved things, done things, won things: me, I’ve got the world’s biggest repository of unused manuscripts, a black-belt in coulda-woulda-shoulda and teeth that fall out with greater regularity than the Royal Family.

When I set out on a journey, I always know that it is going to take me longer than anybody else.  Why?  I do not drive more slowly than they do, I do not take a different route, yet they always get there before me.  Even my Sat-Nav adds ten minutes on.  What happens to this time?

If time can pass at different speeds for different people, then surely light must do the same, otherwise my dawn would be happening at tea time.  If the speed of light is not finite, then our entire concept of the Universe is flawed.  (I say ‘our’, I mean ‘your’: my own concept is somewhat simpler than that of most astrophysicists e.g. the cosmos is very big indeed and if I decided to take a trip to the far end of it, my tea would be very cold by the time I got there.)  I feel responsible: Newton, Einstein, Hawking all find their life and work devalued by the simple fact that they did not allow for me in their calculations.  I am Dark Matter.  (My existence is proved, but nobody of any import can find me.  I am the one thing that stops everything else from adding up.  I am not dark and I don’t matter.)

If I am wrong (a not entirely unlikely scenario) and time does not pass more quickly for me than for everybody else, then I must conclude that I was born with some of it missing e.g. my day has less hours in it and somebody spends a whole chunk of their own night time hours resetting my clocks when I am less inclined to notice it.  It would explain, I suppose, why I never feel as though I have had enough sleep, also my overwhelming desire to order the All Day Breakfast whenever I am in an airport, although that doesn’t explain where my daytime hours go, does it?  Why they have a smaller capacity than everybody else’s.  Perhaps they (Who?) are simply sneaking odd minutes out from every daytime hour after all. 

You know that odd feeling you get sometimes when you blink, that everything else has stopped?  No?  Just me?  Well, I suppose that must prove it.

Still, there’s no point in worrying about it is there?  Every dog has its day, they say.  My time will come…

If time really is a circle, we may have been here before in ‘Dog Years’ and ‘Making Up for Lost Time’ (from which I have borrowed today’s picture) amongst others.


Photo by Noelle Otto on

I am trying to work out how long, on average, I spend staring through this window per week.  I sit at my computer and, lost for anything to relate, idly stare into the distance – most particularly these days stewing over the loss of that particular utility – whilst I grope around in my brain in order to find a path to follow.  Today I sit perched upon the very sharpest tip of a horn of a dilemma: the combination of Weed & Feed, seasonal showers and rising temperatures means that my lawns are growing faster than my general disillusionment and in the distance I can see the rainclouds gathering.  How long can I decently sit here, watching the ingress of the gathering nimbostratus whilst ignoring the grass which is now peeping out above the first-floor windowsill?

At times it is clear that the clouds are going to arrive within a timescale that would make the opening of the shed futile, but at other times it is obvious that the failure to do so will inevitably lead to accusations of incipient laziness.  It is a fine balance.  If I decide against the gardening, placing my chips defiantly on ‘precipitation’, will I be able to write or will I have to devote my time to concocting a reasonable explanation for my torpor, in the certain knowledge that, however logical it sounds to me, it will not cut the mustard as far as my wife is concerned?  If I opt to write, then what about; cutting mustard?  Who cuts mustard anyway?  (Apparently, since you ask, and since answering takes me away from the mowing dilemma for a few precious moments, in days of yore the East Anglian mustard crops grew to a height of six feet and were harvested with scythes which, when blunt, were ineffectual as they did not cut the mustard.)  It requires a decision and such things do not come easily to me.

So I stare.  For forty years past I have stared out on fields and buzzards, hares and peewits, deer and foxes, but now I stare out on JCB’s and dumpsters, mud and aggregate, bricks and mortar (of the walloping great housing estate as described by the ubiquitous Mr Underfelt.)  Should I opt for mowing, we (my little mower and I) will be looked down upon by a leviathan digger and a man in a fluorescent gilet.  I will wave in greeting as I always do and will be roundly ignored by the hi-viz driver.  (I have learned that these drivers never respond, not even to the grandkids, not even during breaks.  Perhaps there are a few hundred words to be eked out on the psychology of small men in giant machines.)  Soon, presumably, I will be in a position to stare, Rear Window-like, down upon a neighbour’s back garden and my imagination will be triggered by what it sees there (until, presumably, the police put a stop to it).

Of course, I am not fully certain of the configuration of the new-builds – plans are about as useful to me as gauntlets for Braille readers – and it may well be that I will actually stare out only to see another face staring back at me, separated by just the distance of my scant few metres of un-cut lawn.  What sort of impression would that give?

And so, finally, the decision becomes an easy one.  Such a shame that it’s started to rain…

Episode One – A Brief Synopsis

It was the morning of Fabergé’s wedding to Claudio.  Her mother and father were beside themselves with excitement – so much so that, as soon as they had left their respective lover’s bed (they shared the same one) they sat together for breakfast, she toying with the carving knife and he wondering whether he could asphyxiate her by filling her nose with peanut butter.  Fabergé was also beside herself (that’s part of the problem with split-personality) but Claudio was somewhere else entirely.  Claudio’s mother did not approve of Fabergé or her step-foster parents (Derek and Doreen Clench) because she felt they were beneath her family (as they lived in the coal cellar) but Claudio loved Fab (as he called her – which really annoyed her mother who much preferred ‘Ergé’) and would do anything for her, other than change his name to Ethel.

It was ‘The Wedding of the Year’ on The Close (Formerly Archibald’s Close before it was discovered that Lord Archibald had once shared a bed with a yak and Royal Mail had objected to the fact that he was not, in fact, close) and the street was festooned with brightly coloured bunting and light emitting festive orbs (formally known as Fairy Lights, until the council decided the term was offensive).  Everyone was in a state of high excitement and good will abounded.  Nobody had been pushed up a wall and threatened for hours.  Dave’s ‘Sausage In A Bap’ van (formerly Hot Dog van before somebody pointed out that it didn’t serve dogs and what it did serve was at best lukewarm) was parked up in front of the local pub and ready to go.  Surely there could be no problem associated with a van containing two ersatz propane tanks, each having cheap Taiwanese fittings, twenty gallons of cooking fat and a fuel tank filled with something made from reclaimed vegetable oil, bath-tub gin and illegally imported nail-varnish remover being positioned exactly where everybody threw their fag-ends.

Fabergé looked at the photograph of her Equally Viable and Non-Dependent Other-to-be (formerly fiancé before somebody decided that owing to discriminatory spelling the word was demeaning) and sighed.  She would tell him about the sex-change at the reception.  Mo Cringe, mother of Derek, step-foster grandmother of Fabergé, secret lover of Claudio and family matriarch, was trying on her hat.  “Do you think that black is really the right colour grandma?” said Dirk, her youngest half-step grandson-in-law.
“It’s a dark day,” she said with her now familiar perma-scowl.
“Why?” asked Dirk.
“I think it’s something to do with the cloud cover,” she said.  “Is she ready yet?”
“Who else?”  Dirk swallowed slightly.  “Erm, nearly,” he said.  “She’s having a bit of trouble fastening her dress.  She bought it before she… you know…”
“…Got herself pregnant with that brush salesman’s lovechild.” she said.
“But,” asked Dirk “isn’t it Claudio’s baby?”
Mo laughed out loud and catapulted her dentures across the room.  “Him?  He can’t have children.  Not since the incident with the Hen Party from Grimsby and the over-inflated sheep.”
“Does Fab know?”
“He might have mentioned it to her during the course of ante-natal classes…”

One by one the residents of The Crescent readied themselves for The Wedding of the Year (which, by The Close tradition, generally took place about three weeks before the Acrimonious Divorce of the Year) finalising their plans to use this best of opportunities to settle past scores with neighbours, friends and family.  Claudio climbed out of bed and having woken both of the bridesmaids, sent them home to get their dresses on, smiling evilly as he watched them scurry away.  But not as evilly as the maid of honour for whom the antibiotics had still not worked…

Now read on…

This Spring

Photo by Kostiantyn Stupak on

It was one of those days when I went from the garden to the shed about a hundred times and remembered why I was there about twice.  The sun was shining and it was time to set about the Spring gardening tasks.  It went like this: I’ll cut the grass.  I’ll need the lawnmower.  The lawnmower is in the shed.  Why did I come into the shed?  I’ve no idea.  Oh well, there’s a spade over there, I’ll take that back out with me.  Mm, why have I got this spade?  Was I going to dig that old bush up?  I think I ought to mow the lawns first.  I’ll need the lawnmower.  The lawnmower is in the shed etc etc etc…  If I’m honest, I don’t need to mow it now as I have worn most of it away tramping backwards and forwards to the shed.

Somehow I did manage to get a handful of jobs done, but I have no idea whether they were the jobs I set out to do.  I refilled the water-feature, rewired it and stacked up the pebbles around it with no greater injury than a split fingernail.  I turned it on.  The water tinkled, the lights twinkled and, amazingly, nothing blew up in the house: there was no bang, there was no smoke.  I re-grouted the slabs on the patio successfully and without incident, and I patched up the broken concrete on the drive – although it being by then in full sun, the patches have already started to crack like the ‘Do Not Microwave’ dish I used to heat up the yesterday’s dinner.  Oh, and somehow I split my fingernail.

It is odd to look out on our little ocean of green, fenced off from the Somme-like scenery that borders us and the muck and racket makes the toil of preserving our own quiet little corner even more onerous to me (the rabid non-gardener) than ever.  It is hard to maintain enthusiasm for the upkeep of our mini-oasis when a yellow-hatted man in a machine that dwarfs our house is staring down whilst picking his nose and scoop by scoop turning our green and pleasant view into mulch.  The house building has now reached our very fence and the footings are dug in preparation for building the properties that will eventually be occupied by our new neighbours.  Yesterday the digger hit the concrete floor of the old farm buildings that our houses are built on and nearly turned itself over.  When I think back to the battles I have had with the bloody thing armed just with a spade, it somehow made me feel better to know that it proved a match for the giant JCB.  It has taken me four decades to dig up the segment that lies under my garden lump by lump, and I now quite enjoy the fact that almost every single chunk of it has been dumped exactly where the digger is now toiling.  Take that progress!

I love the garden, whilst my wife loves to garden.  She is happy to toil away her days clipping, pruning, digging and weeding whilst I am happy to sit in it and drink gin.  Perhaps by next summer we will have returned to the quiet, peaceful existence we have known for the last four decades – even if the trees in the distance will be hidden by walls and roofs – and I almost certainly will have fully retired from work, so I will be able to spend more of my time out there – even if I’ve no idea why…