Thursday, November 30, 2006

Today's post is at Little.Red.Boat., the weblog of Anna Pickard, who is very funny and her skin is quite soft.

So you will have to go there to read it.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

My piano has returned!!!

It has been ten months.

The Piano Specialist Man supervises some men with tattoos, who heave the newly-restored instrument up the drive. Being solid wood with an iron frame it is heavier than James Joyce, and they struggle with their wheely thing on the gravel which I have spitefully laid to thwart them.

I have an urge to walk beside them, picking out comic silent film music on the keyboard to accompany. But I do not know any, and they would probably hit me and the Piano Specialist Man would push a metronome up my arse.

We reach the open French windows and I indicate the special piano-sized alcove in the room beyond. There is some debate as to whether it is actually piano-sized, or whether it is just smaller than actually piano-sized, but all is well. All the while, the Piano Specialist Man has been talking to me about the minutae of felt replacement hammer procedures and string reduction tensions. Occasionally he strokes the wood, lovingly.

The Piano Specialist Man is an enthusiast. He is a pleasure to talk to, as are all enthusiasts, with one caveat. That is, that I have mentioned repeatedly that I don't really play the piano that well, that I'm certainly not classically trained, that I don't really have a clue about the inside of pianos other than you press the white notes and the music sounds, that I hadn't noticed for thirty-five years that the soft pedal was broken as I've never used the soft pedal, that Croatian or Egyptian hammer felts are all the same to me and that really, whilst I love it as a historic instrument, I only ever use it for going 'plinky plonk' on.

Of course he has never taken any of this in, so I have politely nodded and demurred and stuff when he has asked me my opinion about various subtle adjustments he has made.

"I will just check that nothing has shifted during transit," he announces, sitting down and playing a concerto or whatever. It is very impressive and sounds terrific, and is probably by Tchaikovsky or Brahms.

"Perfect!" he whimpers. "Will you…?" he offers, vacating the stool and looking expectantly.

I have the sudden irrational urge to sit down, take a deep breath and hammer out 'Chopsticks' with the full force of my middle fingers, before leaping up and exclaiming "that's bloody lovely, that is!!!". That, or the theme from Minder.

Politeness prevails. I do not want him to do the metronome thing, or get his goons to slam my fingers in the lid. I explain in a lying fashion that my neighbour Short Tony is working next door and I do not like to disturb him. After more discourse on the sonic qualities of single strings, and the handing-over of an X-rated cheque, I am on my own with my piano.

I have written before of the instrument's history, of the many songs that were composed or arranged on it during the first half of the last century: some immediately forgotten, some popular at the time but now lost or hopelessly out of fashion, some still in the public consciousness today, such as "Sally", made famous by Gracie Fields. And now, sat at this beautiful inherited link to my family's disappearing past, thousands of pounds poorer due to the ridiculous, romantic whim of restoration, I know in my heart what the very first piece of music to pick out on it should be.

I play the theme from Minder.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Baby is teething.

Regular readers will know that I do not usually write about the Baby, except in passing or if she does a really interesting and unusual poo etc.

This is mainly because there is only one thing more boring than writing about the day-to-day minutae of looking after a cute but intellectually unadventurous Baby, and that is reading about it. Twee anecdotes about sterilising bottles are supremely Not My Bag, plus I have lots of readers in the social services and I do not want to drop myself in it.

Sooner or later, however, you find yourself in a situation akin to spotting Ann Widdecombe glaring at you from behind a pillar as you stand up to make the keynote address to the annual conference of the National Sexist Society. At some point it is inevitable that you will mention the elephant in the room.

I am not a particularly stoic person, and being woken up for attention on an hourly basis through the night is starting to get me down a little. It is a bit like when the LTLP and I first met, without all the pretending to like each other's records, but I was young then and could manage that sort of routine. Now I am old, and I am knackered.

I dropped her off at Nursery this morning, then went on to Tesco for comfort food. The peace and quiet of the aisles cushioned my soul; I found myself walking round slower and slower, savouring the solitude of breakfast cereals, jams and spreads, home baking. The fit girl on the checkout who wants to sleep with me helped pack my bags and I blinked as I emerged into the morning air.

I drove home in a daze, to make the Replacement Replacement Carpenter's breakfast.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The French arrive in town!!!

It is exciting and has been advertised in the local paper - a French market!!! I take the Baby as it is important for her to experience other cultures, plus it is illegal to leave her on her own in the house.

Oooh la la!!! We speed down les ruelles de campagne, la baby et moi, dans le voiture. I have been feeling a bit maisonbound for the past few weeks, what with having the lurgee, but am determined to make an effort to welcome our visitors.

To be honest, I am a bit disappointed, in that there are about five stalls, and two of those are selling either handbags or funny material type things that appear (according to a mannequin) to wrap around women and their breasts in lieu of a proper dress. They are not even used. I do not wish to have a wasted journey and I have spent 60p on parking so I go to the sausage stall and buy a chorizo in order that I can make an authentic risotto later on.

Then I pop into Boots to buy some Ibuprofen. But this is not French so it does not count. I briefly consider seeing if they stock plaster of Paris, or rubber johnnies. But it would not be the same.

I will continue to support the proper English market. Good honest local produce people, like the Duck Man who sometimes gives me a discount, or the Vegetable Delivery Man (with a beard). One day I will visit France again and visit one of their markets on their home turf. That is as it should be.

We return to the house, earlier than we'd hoped. The Baby sleeps in the car.

Monday, November 20, 2006

"It may not be from Norwich," says Nicholas Parsons. "But it is still the quiz of the week!!!"

We settle back into the sofas in high excitement. I am not really 'up' on modern video games and in fact I did not know at all that you could do them on a DVD player.

Nicholas Parsons explains the rules. The DVD player is quite slow, so at the end of this bit his face freezes for some seconds whilst the next bit gets ready. It is disconcerting. Or it might not be the DVD player. I have not met Nicholas Parsons since the debacle a few years ago; he might be like that now in real life, with his face freezing at the end of each sentence. I do not know.

"Congratulations! That's right!" [Freeze].

"Now it is the turn of Player Two." [Freeze].

An hour passes. Short Tony and I match each other question for question.

'Correct!' - a graphic zooms into view and sits there for a few seconds.

"Now it's time for Round Two!" [Freeze].

"This time you'll be answering questions on - Where in the World?" [Freeze].

Several days pass. Nicholas Parsons's strange face-freezing disease gets no better. The 'correct' and 'bad luck' graphics become part of our lives. By November 2025 we are on round four and so have answered (as far as I can remember) fifteen questions each. By November 2502, our descendants have reached the 'quickfire round', which lasts until the millennium celebrations in 2999. Worryingly, medical scientists still haven't found a cure for the face-freezing disease, which bodes ill for cancer, alzheimers etc. I win the quickfire round and take the spoils!!!

"Congratulations!" says Nicholas Parsons. "The winner is," [freeze] "player one!" [freeze].

"If you've enjoyed this, why not treat yourself to another game?"

Nicholas Parsons's face freezes one last time. The screen reads 'Press Select to start'.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

I hit the LTLP in the face with a ladder!!!

She staggered back, shouting ‘ow’ a lot.

It was her own fault. I had left the ladder there, being heartily sick of all things laddery after the early ‘box of records’ incident, and reasoning that I could carry it downstairs and outside later on. I had then gone to the Village Pub. The Chipper Barman, sympathetic both to my earlier trauma and my head cold, had poured me several large rums as medication.

Now I was bladdered. And she was laddered.

“You are trying to kill me!” she gasped.

I apologised and tried again to get it through the bedroom door and out of the way so I could check if she was OK. But somebody had attached big magnetic things to the ends of the ladder, which made it veer about alarmingly as I attempted to turn around to explain this. I gave up the turning round bit and headed for the stairs, being very very careful to miss the large light fitting on the landing, but not missing the large light fitting on the landing.

Later, I looked at myself in the mirror. Perhaps I AM trying to kill her!!! There is something in my deep subconscious that is causing this. There have been stranger defences in a court of law. But I didn’t shoot the deputy.

I am very fond of her, the old rungface, but I am concerned that I am turning into a psychopath.

Monday, November 13, 2006

"Are you trying to kill me?"

Her voice is cold, like steel that has been kept in the fridge. In many ways it is not an improvement on the running around yelling and holding her head from a few moments earlier.

Meanwhile, I clutch the ladder and gibber.

"First the stairs collapse under me."

My head is swimming and I realise that my hands are shaking. I am not good on ladders, or with heights, or on high ladders. I am especially not good when I almost fall off them. Around me, the loft seems to shimmy from side to side.

"I…" I explain.

"Then you arrange to have me electrocuted."

With the insulation finally laid, we have been stuffing the loft with heavy Stuff. It was having some of this Stuff handed to me - a large cardboard box full of LPs - which had caused my loss of balance. Thinking fast, even amidst my panic attack, I had realised that the only possible way to stop myself falling through the hatch would be to release the box, heaving it as far as possible in an arc over the LTLP standing below.

With all my might, I had dropped the box almost exactly vertically onto her head.

"Is it for some insurance thing or something?!?"

The loft stops shimmying and starts hokey-cokeying in and out in front of my eyes. I clutch the ladder harder. Looking down, there are records spread all over the floor below. Fortunately, none seem to be broken. A couple of joists move in and out, before shaking it all about.


My vision starts clearing, but I still can't let go of my rung. I try to continue my scientific explanation based on thrust and momentum and balance and stuff.

"You ARE trying to kill me, aren't you?"

The words chill me. She does not see it as a threat. She sees it as a competition.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I perform some wiring.

Since the disappearance of the Methodical Electrician (who subsequently reappeared, to be told that he should disappear again or be disappeared) (I sounded quite fucking stern, I can tell you, it is amazing how fierce I can be when angry) (via text message) I have been doing my own wiring.

I place the loft ladder in position.

Climbing up the ladder, I stop halfway and push the over-heavy loft-hatch to one side. That way, I can descend the ladder and extend it fully in order to ascend back into the loft.

I climb the ladder step-by-step and pull myself up through the opening. The floor is boarded over for a few feet on either side - I stoop to walk across this before dropping to my knees to get under a rafter. Clambering across beams and careful not to fall through the ceiling into the Baby's room below, I have to duck low to miss the large cross-beam that clearly supports something important. At the same time I am forced to shimmy over a huge rafter on the floor - all whilst clutching my knife and pliers.

I arrive at the wiring location.

There is a bellow from one story below.


I sigh in a resigned fashion, like Mary, Queen of Scots. I pick up my knife and pliers and scuttle back across the rafters like Golem, if he had a popular and successful internet web log. I duck low to miss the large cross-beam and shimmy over the huge rafter. I then walk across the boarded area and drop down through the hatch. My feet hit the rungs of the metal ladder, and I climb down the steps, one by one.

I follow the source of the voice into the room that has the computer in it. The LTLP is on the internet banking thing. She asks me what a particular cheque was for. I suggest that the cheque book stubs might reveal all. They are located in the kitchen drawer. I am sent to get them.

I walk out of the door that has the computer in it, down the (completed) staircase to the drawer in the kitchen. I collect the cheque book stubs. I walk up the (completed) staircase and into the room with the computer in it, obediently presenting the cheque book stubs.

"Oh yes," she says, examining the particular stub. "Thanks."

I slip out of the room that has the computer in it, and back to the foot of the ladder. I take the rungs of the ladder one by one, and pull myself up through the loft hatch. Walking across the boarded bit, I duck to miss the large cross-beam and shimmy over the huge rafter. I then worm my way across the beams to my wiring location.

I begin my wiring.

Monday, November 06, 2006

I go to a 40th birthday party.

"Here you go," I offer, handing over my present and wishing that I'd made a bit more of an effort. The host takes my gift with enthusiasm.

"It's some kipper pate," he exclaims, maintaining a front of delight and excitement, in a very professional way, like a prostitute.

"It is Norfolk kipper pate," I admonish. This is important, as preceding any noun with the name of a county instantly transforms it from just a common or garden 'thing' to a more impressive 'locally sourced top-end product'.

"Yes," he says.

"I got it from the Village Shop," I explain, truncating the story of its origin to omit the period during which it had sat in my fridge waiting to be eaten, only to be rediscovered during an emergency "fuck, I haven't got a present' session. "The eat by date is quite soon."

"Although," I add thoughtfully, "to be honest it has been in my pocket all morning, so you might want to use it up pretty well straight away."

He mutters some grateful thanks, and disappears to do some important mingling.

I am not on top form at the party. I am a bit down that I am at a time in my life when I am invited to 40th birthday parties at all. I have always thought of myself as very young and reckless at heart, e.g. I have a fan assisted oven and not only do not adjust the heating time according to the manufacturer's instructions, but have actually thrown the instructions away.

I strike up some conversations, despite the fact that I do not drive a Volvo or own any Mike and the Mechanics CD's. I have a nice chat about house prices, and get very drunk.

Friday, November 03, 2006

“We’ve got to make sure that this is not just pub talk,” demands Eddie, talking in the Village Pub.

We nod in determined nod-dom. I sip my pint aggressively. Big A sways slightly; later on he will be accused by Mrs Big A of accidentally attempting to wee on her.

In fact we are all quite drunk.

“What shall we do first?” asks Short Tony.

There is a bit of a lull whilst we think of a suitable opener for the newly-formed Village Society for Extremely Dangerous Sports and Leisure Pursuits.

“You know what I’ve always fancied?” muses Eddie. “That paragliding stuff. I think it’s paragliding. Just up there, with a lawnmower engine strapped to you. Like a bird. Not a plane. A bird.”

Poo eases out from its holding pattern and begins its gentle descent towards my pants.

“Don’t forget I’ve got a bad leg,” interjects Big A. “I can’t do anything that would risk my leg.”

“Yes, he has a bad leg. Good point,” I add.

“How about one of those Boxing Day swims? Like they do every year when there’s nothing else to put on the local news?”

“That sounds great,” I enthuse. “But I can’t swim. So it can’t be swimming or swimming-related. Or anything that might endanger his leg.”


“Golf? A round of golf. We never play golf.”

“We could all go bowling one night.”

“But it’s not just pub talk. We’ve got to DO this.”

We shake hands. The Society is formed.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

“Are you sure you can’t come to the Pub?” asks Short Tony.

There is a note of desperation in his voice, like me talking to some girls. I feel truly sorry for him, but my mother and father are visiting and I have no window of opportunity in which to fit in enjoying myself.

“Well I’m going on my own then,” he mutters darkly.

Later, I am sitting in the living room with my family. There is loud shrieking from next door.

My father emerges from behind the Times crossword, blinking like a woodland creature interrupted from its hibernation by Jehovah’s Witnesses.

“Sounds like they’re having fun?” he comments, above the howl of shrill feminist laughter.

“It is the Village Book Group,” I explain. “They are meeting at Short Tony’s place tonight. Talking about books and things.”


I send Short Tony a text message, on the telephone. “DO NOT RETURN FOR FORESEEABLE FUTURE”. It takes me ages to write ‘foreseeable’, but that is the sort of neighbour that I am.