Monday, January 30, 2006

"Shhhhh!!!" I hiss. "Look like we love you. And she might not take you away."

Years ago, I did 'work experience' in a hospital. It was, by any criteria, not a happy arrangement for experiencer, institution or patients. On my first day, the lady in charge of me took me on a tour of the facilities. After several wards, laundries, administration sections and the morgue, we stepped into a room importantly marked 'Staff Only'.

Before the door was opened I could smell the cigarettes, but I was unprepared for the jaundiced murk within. Smoke clung to the ceiling, to the yellowing walls, drifting around the battered and fading furniture in a creeping fashion that was purely Dickensian. (n.b. Charles). Though my eyes were streaming, I could make out the figure of the fattest woman in the world, slumped in a far corner, half-smoking, half chewing on a Benson & H.

We fought our way through the smoke molecules to reach her. Peering at me through thick spectacles, she swilled low into her chair, as if she'd been poured into it from a big vat of something quivery and shapeless. Surrounding her were ten or eleven plastic cups, some of which contained unwanted remnants of what seemed to be the treacliest of treacle-coffee.

"Jonny," said my guide, brightly. "I'd like you to meet the Health Visitor."

That was in the 1980's, and they are different now, and look like they ought to be a friend of your mum's called 'Jean'. Plus we do not constantly take out endowment mortgages whilst listening to Kajagoogoo records.

I stand in front of the poo on the curtains so she does not think I am a bad housekeeper, and she converses with the LTLP, ignoring me studiously, as I am just a man. I like it that way, as it makes the LTLP feel important, and they can have a good heart-to-heart about women's things like feeding and indigestion and all that.

I hold Baby Servalan in the background, making the occasional 'goo' noise. She is very good, and we are allowed to keep her.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

I receive a bequest!!!

I have never received a bequest before, my relations generally not being part of the monied classes. I closely study the solicitor's letter in some shock. Obviously I can't actually understand the letter, but it mentions a figure, and has a cheque attached, so I assume it must be for real.

I pace around a bit. With money comes worries, and I do not want e.g. to be ripped off in the Village Shop by the Village Shop Man dressed as a fake sheikh. My celebrity status also brings the risk of extortion, blackmail etc by those who would forge photographs of me with prostitutes. Fortunately I think of this immediately, and am able to provide an alibi by saying here first that people might forge photographs of me with prostitutes, thus proving that any subsequent photographs of me with prostitutes will be forgeries, especially ugly ones.

I worry about the starving orphans in Africa. Obviously it would be good to help them, but actually raising awareness is much more important, so I resolve to raise some awareness by writing about them in my secret internet diary.

A glimmer of doubt crosses my mind. I look again at the letter, and worry that I might have fallen victim to a practical joke and that Short Tony and Big A will appear suddenly at the window pointing and laughing at me because they have faked the letter and cheque using a D.T.P. system. Either that or my grandmother will jump out saying 'aha!!! Fooled you, I am not actually dead!!!'

But this does not happen, and I clutch the letter not knowing what to make of things. It has been a strange, wonderful, overwhelming week and I remain at a loss for words.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Continued hiatus.

Thank you for your patience.

Just to keep things going, what do you reckon is the best barnyard animal? (Not including goat)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

My baby has arrived!!!

As regular readers know, I do not really 'do' personal stuff. A gurl, Servalan, over nine pounds, 36-inch head. Very lovely.

When you become a father your immediate blind reaction is that this is something that has happened to nobody else ever ever in the world ever, and thus you want to tell everybody you know and give them each and every smallest detail about it. So if you haven't been through it before, all I can say is that it is pretty well exactly like being issued with a parking ticket, or experiencing a sequence of minor yet inconvenient delays on the train.

It is likely that there will be a brief hiatus whilst I get my stuff together. This is, I think, what people say. I have no idea what a 'hiatus' actually is, but I would imagine that it is something pretty serious and longwinded, like bronchitis, or a hernia. I am sure I will recover from my hiatus quickly and be back here in a few days. (Bloglines is a good way of being automatically notified, if you like that sort of thing). (So is just sitting there for days on end pressing 'refresh').

Thank you to people that have left or sent good wishes, and also to those people who just thought good wishes but did not want to leave a same-old message in the comments box. I got them anyway, via my telepathic powers (which I use only for the side of good (mostly)).

Sunday, January 15, 2006

We go to the labour ward.

In the corridor on the way, there is a sign inviting people to volunteer for hospital radio. I have always wanted to be on the radio, emulating my heroes Peel and Lawley, but I don't have time to look further just now.

Besides, hospital radio has its problems. It is all very well turning up with your cutting edge Cardiacs and Proclaimers stuff but much of it is taking requests from old people to play Phil Collins records. But the main problem is the restraints on what is or what is not appropriate on grounds of sensitivity. You are not allowed to play 'Light My Fire' for instance, in case you upset people in the burns unit. Or 'Don't go Breaking my Heart' out of respect to the cardiology patients. Or anything by Gary Numan in case there is anybody who has lost an index finger in a synthesizer accident.

Normally I would just laugh and say something like 'haha, it is political correctness gone mad,' but in truth I am a bit stressed by our impending parenthood and do appreciate the hospital making an effort to be so sensitive to patients' worries.

I settle the LTLP down in her maternity bed, and switch on the 'Patientline' bedside TV to relax us.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Evening. Dark early. Silence inside and out. Nothing on the television.

The LTLP out. Sudoku complete. A rented house in my new village. Bored and lonely, I don't seem to have ventured outdoors for several months. Waiting, waiting, waiting. The well of geographical isolation wrapping itself around me like a bespectacled accounts girl with low self-esteem who's just heard the DJ announce the last record at the office party.

There is a knock at the door!!!

I sprint towards it eagerly, almost falling out of my slippers in anticipation at the prospect of a MYSTERY VISITOR.

"You fancy going down the pub?" asks Big A.

I almost fall at his feet with sobs of gratitude. But I think he will probably find this embarrassing, so I invite him in whilst I get my coat.

There is a knock at the door!!!

I shove Big A to one side in my haste. Throwing open the door reveals a couple of familiar faces.

"We just wondered how you were?" enquire Mr and Mrs Short Tony.

I maintain my composure, but my voice wobbles as I see my old friends on the doorstep. Exile from the village has been harder than I imagined. I explain that I am just about to go to the local pub with Big A. Mr and Mrs Short Tony look extremely enthusiastic. We set off for the local pub.

The local pub is closed.

We put a brave face on this. There is (oddly enough) an upmarket health and fitness club further on up the lane. Somebody suggests going to the bar there. This seems like a reasonable suggestion, and we head off in that direction. I am excited, as this is a new experience for me.

Despite the pumps on the bar, I am informed that they only serve canned beer. This seems ridiculous. I don't know how they expect people to attend their health and fitness club if they do not serve a range of proper beers. I order a lager. Big A has a small lager as he has to drive back to the village. Mr and Mrs Short Tony have coffee as they also need to drive later.

We chat for a short while, and watch people engaged in various health and/or fitness practises.

"Well, I'd better be off," says Big A, looking at his watch. "Do you want a lift back?"

I glance at Mr and Mrs Short Tony, who are finishing off their drinks.

"Thanks," I reply.

"Are we meeting for a pint later on then?" asks Short Tony to Big A. "In the Village Pub?"

"Love to. Eightish?"

"See you in there."

I pull on my coat and returned to a darkened house.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

My baby is late!!!

A clearly slothful and indolent infant. We sit in the lounge at Big A's, discussing the situation. The whole thing is a bit inconvenient - I haven't really been able to go to the Village Pub recently, and the LTLP is having difficulty doing simple things like the washing up, which is causing her terrible backache. It will be five or so months before we can get a dishwasher in order that she can have some help.

Narcoleptic Dave pipes up from the comfy chair. "Have you tried pineapple? That's meant to work."

I baulk at this. Pineapples are huge and have very sharp pointy leaves, and I am really not sure whether I could get one up there without causing injury. I take the small sip of wine that I am allowed and ask for more sensible suggestions.

All sorts of old wives tales are discussed, before the conversation comes round to the benefits of having it off. I am not particularly comfortable about discussing the topic with the neighbours, particularly as there are ladies present, so I change the subject.

Also it is very difficult to feel sexually attracted to somebody who has basically let their figure go to pot and who weighs about 183743 stone more than they used to.

That is what the LTLP claims anyway, and she is the boss.

I sigh and have another minuscule siplet of wine. The subject is changed. We decide to play 'Risk', but Narcoleptic Dave keeps falling asleep during key battles for Africa, so we scoot off early back to the cottage and the braindeadary of 'Gems TV'.

Monday, January 09, 2006

There is a tap on the window!!!

I am sitting in the driver's seat, waiting for the LTLP to return. Outside, a blur of Christmas shoppers swarm round the town square car park. A face peers through at me from the cold. I am not expecting a window-bound tap followed by a face peering at me in the privacy of my own car, and it catches me a little by surprise.

It is a good job that I am not masturbating.

An old lady stands there, slightly dishevelled, mouthing words at me through the glass. I try to catch her drift, but my lip reading skills are not up to it. She tries again. I scrabble for the keys and switch the ignition on, in order to lower the window.

Kids these days do not realise how impressive that would have once been. It is a shame.

"De ya wanna boi sam o'moi lucky eather?" she asks (note that is in an Irish accent, not me spelling things wrong).

I am a bit thrown by this and ask her to repeat herself, which she does, adding the phrase "genuine Romany it is".

I decline the lucky heather.

"Will ya hev yer fortune red then?"

I decline a fortune reading.

The old lady scowls at me and mutters something as she takes her leave. She approaches no more cars. I shake my head in some bewilderment. My plan earlier had been to get up, buy some vegetables and perhaps a hotdog, and go home for a lazy day.

Instead I have had a curse put on me, which was not an expected thing to happen in Fakenham town centre.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

We shop for baby clothes.

I realise that this opening sentence is likely to enthuse the punters about as much as a BBC announcer's "and now, starring Ross Kemp..." but I'm afraid non about-to-have-a-baby people will just have to get used to it.

I also realise that I have used that Ross Kemp analogy before, in relation to pram shopping. You see? It's not just the TV shows that he is involved with that are all merely the same idea just reworked over and over again. It is even the sentences.

"How about this one?" asks the LTLP, indicating a rabbit outfit.

I give it a look of the utmost disapproval. Whilst the all-in-one sleep costume things are clearly practical and snug and warm and all that, I just cannot get my head round the idea that they have to have extra 'cute' built in.

"I am not," I inform her, "dressing my child as a rabbit."

I am determined that the poor thing will go through life with some gravitas and dignity, i.e. follow in the footsteps of its father. We pass some that have been created like a Father Christmas outfit. These are heavily reduced, having had an original RRP, according to the lying discount outlet, of nine grillion pounds. Quite apart from the once-again unnecessary and nauseating cutesy-cuteness, having a Santa outfit is clearly last month's fashion, which is something kids immediately pick up on. I do not want it to be bullied in the delivery suite.

In fact there seems nothing that does not have some form of yeukky pictorial thing on it. Pooh Bear is the worst offender. He gets everywhere. As regular readers will have worked out, Pooh Bear has been a great influence on me over the years. But this is not Real Pooh Bear. It is the twisted, honey-coated Disney travesty version. Insurgent Pooh Bear. His image graces everything from clothes to bibs to baths to nappies. I wish to poke him in the eye and then vivesect him.

Meanwhile, Real Pooh Bear lives without any major marketing deal, probably eking out an existence back in the Hundred Acre Wood with Continuity Piglet and the breakaway paramilitary wing of Rabbit's Friends and Relations.

We leave the baby clothes shop. I buy myself a shirt.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

It's January!!!

That means the annual loss-of-dignity that is pointing people towards the "Bloggies" nomination form with, er, no particular reason in mind.

Bit busy - back tomorrow. I was going to get my hair cut today, but chickened out after watching BBC1's new 'Sweeney Todd' last night. Frankly it was a bit disappointing - they had changed the setting completely and it didn't include John Thaw or Dennis Waterman or any of the original characters.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

I buy a turkey.

Not a particularly unusual action for the late-December period, but this is on December 28th. I stare at the frozen bird, alone in the Tesco freezer, eight-and-a-half kilograms for a fiver.

This provides me with a dilemma. Having dined in the Village Pub on Christmas Day, I am in the odd and unprecedented position of not having the ingredients for a nice turkey sandwich over the New Year. A fiver is a ridiculous ridiculous price to pay for what could be dinner for the next few days. I wrestle with my conscience.

I don't like factory farming, and the factory farming of turkey is particularly evil. Nevertheless, it is only a fiver. This will save me money, which I could give to a turkey charity if I wanted to. So really I would be performing a moral act by purchasing the bird.

This is almost moral relativism, which is a proper philosophy featuring in books. I take the turkey to the checkout, confident that Jean-Paul Sartre would have done the same. If I have a subsequent crisis of conscience I can always just defrost it then release it back into the wild.

Plus it is a Bernard Matthews bird, and I like to support local producers.

Back at the cottage, I check the packaging. There is an 'ingredients' list on the back. I had kind of hoped that the 'ingredients' list would read something like 'ingredients: a turkey', but there are several other useful and tasty things in there as well, and at least the 'turkey' part of the ingredients comes first, and is followed by a reassuring 95% number. This means that all the other soya oil, flavouring etc. weighs only about 425 grammes (which is less than a pound, for American readers) (and Tesco is a big supermarket). This seems reasonable.

I am pleased with my purchase. Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a home-cooked bird to munch on - it is as traditional as disappointing crackers and wondering why one bothered to purchase a newspaper on Boxing Day. Some home-made bread and piccalilli completes the picture. 2006 approaches, the snow falls in a picturesque fashion and James Blunt is not on the radio. A happy and wonderful New Year to you all.