Wednesday, November 30, 2005

"...which is the piece of skin between the vagina and the bumhole."

Once more I shift awkwardly in my seat. I checked my watch surreptitiously but the hands appear to be moving backwards. The midwife charges on regardless.

I am not even sure whether 'bumhole' is a generally accepted official anatomical term. As far as I am concerned, the only context in which the word 'bumhole' should really be used is something like: 'yah boo, it is a good job that it is the end of playtime otherwise I shall beat you up because you have a face like a bumhole'. I start to worry that she is not qualified and just pretending to be a midwife.

"So you'll be there on the bed, probably on all fours..."

I fix my attention to a speck on the opposite wall. It is amazing how interesting a speck can be relative to some alternatives. I speculate on its origin. It could be dust-based, or a flick of paint from the recent decoration.

If you hold your eyes on it for long enough it appears to dance about. This is presumably an optical illusion. Although it could be a genuine dancing speck. I make a mental note to check it out at a later date. It could be worth lots of money given the right management advice.

"So do you have any particular wishes, Jonny?"

"You what?"

She appears to have asked me a question. I think hard. What I would really really like to do is to stop talking about epidurals and deliveries and bumholes and perhaps have a nice cup of tea and discuss rabbits or mice or washing machines or any other of my normal conversational things.

"Well really I think how I feel is that I think I am quite happy with whatever she decides," I say assertively. I feel a glare on the side of my head.

Our hour is almost up, and it is time for me to get ready for bowls. I leave them talking about electronic pain relief systems and slip quietly out the door.

Monday, November 28, 2005

"Accept it," says the LTLP. "At some point, you are going to have to do some washing up."

Her empty threats do not scare me. I sip from my plastic cup, defiantly.

We are cosy in our new little cottage. It has comfy rooms, a nice narrow staircase, working central heating and a general aura of homeliness. But there is no space in the kitchen for a dishwasher. We are having to wash everything manually with washing up liquid and a bowl, like they do in the third world.

"Mrs Short Tony said we could use their dishwasher," I explain. "Once we get a reasonable pile of stuff I'll box it up and drive over there."

Fortunately we have not yet managed to procure a cooker. It is all very well having hot food etc., but it tends to stick to the plates a bit more and require saucepans, and it is the time of year when it is nice to have salads. Having central heating is still a wondrous new novelty for me, and I am sure that I can re-heat frozen things on the radiators if needs be.

"I'll have my cheesecake now," she orders.

I fetch her dinner, thoughtfully. As regular readers know, I do try my best to be what the style commentators call 'a new man' by cooking, ironing, organising cleaners etc., but when it comes to washing up, I'd rather dress up as a woman and attend a 'Mike and the Mechanics' gig with Jack Straw. It is something to do with the dirty greasy water that repels me.

"Here you go," I offer. "Can I have the plate after you?"

The plan is that we shall be living here for six months. I have bought some Fairy liquid but do not wish to get further than half way down the bottle.

Friday, November 25, 2005

"I've backed the Land Rover right up," says Short Tony, as I stand in the old kitchen, my bent finger covering my mouth in that particular way that has been scientifically proven to help you think. I decide that if I stare at the washing machine for long enough then it will become a bit lighter.

I have already expertly unplumbed it, removing the hot and cold water inlets and unscrewing the waste pipe from the sink outlet. I make a mental note to seal up the subsequent gap in the pipework and not to forget, which would be foolish and potentially wet. Fortunately I have an excellent memory and never forget anything ever.

We lift the washing machine.

I don't know why some people are good at lifting things and some people aren't. It must be a technique thing. It cannot be anything to do with strength. We stagger around the kitchen in the general direction of the door. I have my hands underneath it and am stooped like a fairytale character to compensate for the three-foot difference in height (estimate) between me and Short Tony.

By the time we reach the Land Rover we have given up all pretence of being careful with the appliance, and sort of hurl the thing in the back. I do some exercises to try to return my arms to their previous length.

"Ready to go?" asks Short Tony. I am as ready as I will ever be. Normally I approach a journey in his Land Rover with the same sort of confidence as I'd book up a scenic light aircraft trip with, say, Buddy Holly and Richard Reid the Shoe Bomber. But I am comforted by the thought that if the worst does happen and we break down miles from anywhere then at least I will be able to have clean clothes.

We set off at a steady 32 mph. In the event the engine only stops working once and we reach our destination without incident, if you don't classify alarming rattly and bangy noises from both engine and domestic appliance as 'incident'.

We lift the washing machine.

My new cottage is on a bit of a hill, and the extra altitude makes everything appear even heavier. Zigzagging up the path, we sort of fall in to the front room, bashing it against the doorframe as we attempt to manoeuvre it around. Of course the new kitchen is the furthest room away, and access is via a convenient step, but sweating and swearing we get it there in the end, and I do some lightning plumbing and electrical connection.

The washing machine does not work.

This is disappointing.

We methodically instigate a troubleshooting procedure - trying a different socket, checking the plug, changing the fuse etc. An hour later, this has all gone out of the window, and we are shouting and swearing at the machine whilst punching and kicking it. At this point it decides to work after all, which is wonderful, but the waste pipe is not connected up and it starts pumping dirty water into the kitchen cupboard.

Deciding that this would be best cleared up at a later date, I thank Short Tony for his help. At times like these it is good to have neighbours who one can rely on.

We return to the old cottage without event. Absentmindedly, I empty the washing-up bowl down the sink.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

There is a particular constant about moving into a new house.

That is, in the period between meeting the current owner/landlord and saying "yes, what a nice house this is, I think I will definitely buy/rent it" and actually moving in, the vendor in question will zip round making all the rooms smaller, the rooms darker, and the carpets and walls generally nastier than you remember.

In fact my top tip if you are looking around a house with a view to prospective purchase/rent is to make a very secret mark thing somewhere hidden. That way, when you eventually move in you can check that you're actually in the place that you originally saw rather than a cheaper substitute dwelling that you've been tricked into purchasing via a system of mirrors etc (which is quite easy to do).

Fortunately, Narcoleptic Dave's cottage is much as I remember it - in fact he's given it a nice lick of paint. He'd been staying there whilst his own builders finished off, and hadn't really bothered to move much furniture in, with no cooker, and mattresses slung on the floor in lieu of a bed. God knows how he got any sleep.

So thinking about it, there isn't a particular constant at all. It just happens sometimes, depending on circumstances. Like in particle physics (I think, although I am not entirely sure, not being a particle physicist. But I could look the subject up on Google and become an expert, if I had time, which I don't, but I could).

A real particular constant constant, however, is the fact that every single time I move house I say to myself "next time, I will get the professionals to do it." Hence, I have booked the bloke in the next village who owns a van, and asked Short Tony and Big A to give me a hand. There can't be much carrying to do, really.


Sunday, November 20, 2005

Apologies for the interruption in transmission.

This week I will be busy moving into Narcoleptic Dave's cottage. Here are some nice posts from this year, a bit like UK Gold only in Norfolk. And with writing instead of telly.

Sheep - Mitt - Wet - Table

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Sleepless night.

Got up, got dressed, took some breakfast to the mice.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

I entrap a mouse!!!

Looking at my watch, I realise that it is time to check the traps. There is no point in buying humane mousetraps if one leaves a mouse in there for a long time with no food or TV etc. As the man of the house, I decide to go myself.

The joists are riddled with woodworm and as soft as cheese. But being a courageous Norfolk Steve Irwin I am not afraid as I crawl across them on my knees, clutching my torch and trying not to touch the loft insulation (because it is itchy).

My trap is full of mice!!!

There are three in there. I carefully grab it and retrace my kneels, bringing my prize downstairs into the main part of the cottage. They don't appear to be making much of a bid for freedom.

"Mice!!!" I announce to the LTLP, thrusting the trap at her. She looks up in distaste from the thickie bit of the newspaper, annoyingly unimpressed with my resourcefulness at pest extermination.

I examine the trap in triumph. Two smaller mice are sort of cowering at the back, whilst the larger one sits in front, looking at me. It doesn't seem annoyed or reproachful, just a bit... sad.

I locate my shoes and carry the trap into the back garden.

It's horribly cold outside. I shiver as I step out into the rapidly gathering frost. We hunters are used to harsh conditions, but it really is very peaky.

A small remorse nags at me.

My torch lights the way into the woodshed. It is very slightly warmer in there. Placing the trap down gently, I release the catch. The mice do not emerge. I give it a slight tap. The mice still do not emerge. I say something like "Here, mousey mousey!!!" and emergentless remain the mice.

They seem perfectly alive and well in there, but unwilling to leave for whatever reason. I am not sure whether I have traumatised them or whether it's just that it is warmer where they are. I try various ploys to get them to be on their way, but to no avail.

I wrap some sacking over the trap to keep it cosy, and plod back indoors to fetch them a snack.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Two disturbed nights later and I am resolved to get rid of the little bastard.

(Note to readers who missed yesterday's post: I am talking about a mouse in the attic. The LTLP has not given birth yet).

It now seems to be purposely jumping up and down on the bit of ceiling right above my head, presumably as some kind of dare. But when I stick my head up into the loft and try to surprise it with a torch, it is hiding. It is a very juvenile creature.

I purchase some traps.

Acting on advice, I buy two 'humane' mousetraps. They are cunning devices - once the animals get in they cannot get out again, like a rodentine direct debit arrangement with a large mail-order book club. I bait them with a generous chunk of nice malty bread, which should lure them in unless I have found one with gluten intolerance. I then climb stealthily up into the loft, like a Norfolk Steve Irwin.

Having set my ambush, I retreat stealthily downstairs, chuckling slightly.

Monday, November 14, 2005

A mice invasion occurs.

I lie awake, listening to the echo of their scratchy feet above the ceiling. This is annoying. I try not to listen. I can't not listen. It is amazing the volume of noise one small mouse will generate given the dead silence of the small hours and some thin resonant plasterboard. Either that or it's actually a huge great three-foot long mouse who has mutated (via chemicals etc) and has somehow slipped into the attic to plan how to satisfy its craving for human flesh.

This seems unlikely. But it is best not to take any chances.

The mouse problem taxes me. Of all creatures, I have very little against mice. They are small and furry, reasonably cute, enjoy cheese and have provided entertaining cartoon characters. It's also likely to be a wood mouse rather than its smellier house mouse cousin. However, its continued tap dancing escapades are becoming annoying and I don't want it to eat the stored clothing up there. The natural order of things must be restored, i.e. humans in charge (unless it is a big huge mutated flesh eating mouse, in which case it is welcome to stay and I will move).

I am a bit concerned about trying to shoot it in an enclosed space.

I resolve to buy a trap.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The LTLP inspects the envelope suspiciously.

"Open it!!! Open it!!!" I am excited.

She raises half an eyebrow.

"This had better," she states, pursing her lips, "not be another Blake's Seven one."

We have joined a DVD club. It is really good. You pay them a small amount per month and the post lady brings you DVDs that you have put on a list, using the Internet. Then you watch them and wander over the road and pop them into the GPO box set into the stone wall. We joined because the LTLP is very pregnant and needs to sit down a lot and watch DVDs whilst I get her things. Apparently.

"I'm sure it isn't."

"You open it."

"Can I?"

I slit open the envelope eagerly.

"What is it then?"


"I don't believe it!" she cries, snatching the disc from my hand. I step back slightly out of harm's way.

"All I want," she continues, "is to watch a nice fucking film. One of the ones that I put on the list. And every time we get something it's Blake's fucking Seven. I can't believe you - you must have moved my choices down on the list."

She is being unfair. "I didn't, honest," I plead, thinking about it for a bit. "It was probably Orac. He can control any computer, you know."

I do not know what the LTLP has against Blake's Seven, which was an excellent programme from the 1980s set in space. I think it is due to peer pressure that females pretend not to like things set in space, which reinforces gender stereotypes just as much as blokes not liking things about knitting and dollies.

It is either that or she is secretly jealous because she thinks I fancy Jenna (played by Sally Knyvette). I have the last laugh however as I only pretend to fancy Jenna whereas really I fancy Cally (Jan Chappell) who is the non-Agnetha one, and quite cute and vulnerable and also she is telepathic so you wouldn't need to go through the embarrassment of asking her to dress as Kirstie Allsopp.

However clearly there is a disagreement between us.

"I will make sure that your women's films are at the top of the list," I promise. "Just as soon as I turn the PC on."

We settle down to watch the episode.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

"Didn't you tell them?"

"No - I thought you told them."

"Well - I sort of told them. That sounds like them now."

The scrunch of Ford on gravel announces the arrival of our Sophisticated Essex Friends (SEF's). SEF (male) and I shake hands in that matey-yet-slightly-awkward type way that blokes do when they haven't seen each other for ages. SEF (female) and the LTLP kiss in that this-is-what-we-do-being-females-in-our-thirties type way. SEF (male) and the LTLP kiss in a naturally-delighted-to-see-you type way. SEF (female) and I kiss in an I'm-not-really-comfortable-with-all-this-kissing-business-so-I'll-do-it-in-a-very-exaggeratedly-effusive-way-to-try-to-hide-the-fact type way. No tongues (although I would).

They start unloading piles of jumpers and warm coats and boots from the car. "All set for the Village bonfire night then?" asks my friend, in eager anticipation.

"What did you tell them?" hisses the LTLP.

Where we grew up, our town's bonfire night was the best in the area. There was thousands of pounds worth of fireworks and food and recorded music by J.M. Jarre.

We go next door to Short Tony's.

The spectacular is in full swing by the time we arrive. Short Tony, Big A and Narcoleptic Dave have set up the pyrotechnics from the box obtained from the local Morrison's Supermarket, and are already sending rockets into the stratosphere.

We take shelter in the carport from the driving rain, so we can't actually see them exploding above us, but the first ten feet or so of their ascent is jolly impressive.

Fireworks are to autumn what barbeques are to summer. For some reason blokes abandon their horror of entertaining a crowd of small children/cooking a meal for all the family and throw themselves into the task safe in the knowledge that it won't lead to their masculinity being questioned. I introduce the SEFs to the local characters.

"Would you like some pie and peas?" asks Mrs Short Tony, proffering a dish resembling a forfeit on Saturday morning children's television.

"Er... thank you," replies SEF (male).

"Yes - er - we didn't really think about getting any food in for later," I admit, worried about our hospitality. "No - I'll pass thanks, Mrs Short Tony."

"It looks delicious," maintains SEF (male).

By this point the fireworks have been exhausted, and we retire indoors for a game of darts in Short Tony's front room pub. I sell everybody a raffle ticket for the Church bazaar.

It is good to introduce outsiders to our village events, to show them that we can do them at least as good as in London etc. I know that they will be talking about this for months to come.

By nine o'clock the LTLP is tired, but Narcoleptic Dave is hogging the sofa, so we retire back home for an early night.

Monday, November 07, 2005

'No Smoking beyond this point'.

I stared at the new sign, impressed by its authoritarianness.

"How excitingly 2006!!!" I remarked to the Well-Spoken Barman.

"We're trying to get ahead of legislation," he replied.

I took my usual seat at the bar. The Village Pub (smoking side) was packed. The Village Pub (non-smoking side) was sparsely populated. I sipped my pint, reflecting on the momentous import of the new sign. It was just like being in Germany after the war. An accident of residency had found my seat in the freedom-loving smoking quarter; I could just have easily been trapped under the authoritarian jackboot of Communism (except with smoking rules).

"I think it's good," said Big A, puffing on a Marlboro contentedly. "It'll definitely help me to stop."

I am a non-smoker myself apart from occasionally when I am drunk and want to look cool, but I am uneasy about these new rules. The Village Pub is a private building, owned by the landlord. If he wants to let people smoke then it is should be his business. Nobody ever suggests that he shouldn't serve pints in non-standard measures, block the fire exits, mix up the chopping boards or hire a twelve-piece folk band to sing in the corner. I don't see why people should single out smoking.

Friday, November 04, 2005

"Do you really have to milk that suspense so much?" asked Short Tony from behind his pint.

"What do you mean? They love it really."

"Can't you just tell them that you're only moving out temporarily whilst the builders work?"

"It wouldn't be so much fun. Besides, shhhh, people will hear us talking about the secret internet thing."

"I think I might order a burger."

Thank you for your comments over the last couple of days - I've been a bit busy doing Important Things so haven't been able to reply to clarify matters.

I shall indeed soon be indulging in a complete change of scene. I am moving to an old cottage in a small Norfolk village a couple of miles down the road. Just temporarily, you understand. Narcoleptic Dave has kindly let us stay there whilst building work is being done.

Normal service will continue here, perhaps with a few new characters in a different location. It will be like Joey (the hilarious spin-off from Friends not the man on Blue Peter).

It is now the weekend almost, and I need to do some shopping for the Village Bonfire Party. Have a good one, and there are some good things to read here.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The cottage is the second-oldest in the Village.

Starting life in the 1700s both probably and appropriately as some form of animal piggery place, it seems to have been converted into human accommodation soon afterwards. It was then split into three dwellings, before the gradual gentrification into hovel status that caused such ill-feeling amongst local peasants struggling to get onto the housing ladder.

In the 1800s some enterprising builder raised the roof, to provide a proper 'upstairs', and added a small kitchen and extra bedroom. You still had to go outside for a wee wee, though.

Frank Spencer lived here at some point in the 1970s and carried out some more additions. A small back room and conservatory. Roofing using the latest asbestos technology, he declined to use non-environmentally-friendly concrete for the foundations, relying instead on a natural earth base, reinforced with motorbike tyres.

But you no longer have to go outside for a wee wee at night: simply duck through the five-foot-one doorway into the second bedroom, totter down the narrow flight of stairs, through the lounge, through a short mysterious corridor, through the larder and you get to an indoor bathroom. If you've remembered to switch the hot water on you're able to have a shower as well, although the ceiling's not high enough to actually stand under it.

In the early twenty-first century, I engaged the Cheerful Builder. Strictly speaking a renovator, rather than a builder (although still very cheerful), the Cheerful Builder and his brother, the Cheerful Decorator, made the living area of the house beautiful and lovely and warm and cosy. Granted, there were a few false starts, particularly with regards to the chimney, but nothing a bit of work and the GNP of Portugal couldn't fix.

But now there will be three of us.

Continued tomorrow...

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

"Are you sure you don't want any money for it?"

Len the Fish shook his head firmly. "Naah... don't be stupid."

Accepting joints off men in pubs is not something I do that often. But it was a Sunday lunchtime, and Len the Fish is a kind and generous man, and I was not about to turn him down.

"Get him a pint," I mouthed at the Well-Spoken Barman, who had read my mind with his secret barman powers. I munched on a bit of pork crackling from the bowl on the bar, peckish already.

"Thanks. I've had a bit of a rubbish morning, actually," I revealed.

Having spent much of the early hours waiting around to meet the cricket team in order to do a bit of groundwork, I'd thrown a strop and called one of them asking where the fuck they were. Slipping dramatically on a discarded banana skin; accidentally getting handcuffed to somebody you don't like; forgetting that the clocks change - they're all staples of comedy that never actually happen to anybody. Except, it appears, me. Apart from the banana skin/handcuff thing. So far.

"When are you going to have that then?" he asked, making appreciative 'this is nice beer' faces.

"Not today. Tuesday night, I think. It'll last us a couple of days." I was acutely aware that my dinner-cooking responsibilities had suffered recently. A roast topside with all the trimmings, or even just a few trimmings, might remedy that.

"I'm sorry I couldn't take the half a cow off you in the end," I said. "It's just that we're running the freezer down now, for when we move away, out of the Village at the end of the month."

I had a dim and nagging doubt at the back of my mind that there were some people I'd meant to mention this to.

"Ahh, don't worry," he reassured. "You'll still be able to pop in here occasionally, won't you?"

"Oh I'm sure I will."

"Your table's ready, Jonny." The Unfeasibly Tall Barman had appeared from nowhere, like the shopkeeper in the Mr Benn cartoons.

The LTLP and I walked through to the restaurant. I kept a sharp eye out for discarded fruit peelings on the floor.