Friday, June 30, 2006

My new recycling bin has arrived!!!

I awake to find that the Council has delivered big green wheeled bins for recycling. They are to replace the previous plastic boxes, which we are to throw away.

It sits there in the front garden, the sun rising over its looming chunkiness like a big green version of the eerie monolith from the film "2001: A Space Odyssey". I briefly consider whether to put on some weird spacey choral music, don a monkey suit and go and dance round it before picking a fight with other monkeys. But none live in the street, so I am thwarted.

A leaflet pokes out the top with a long list of 'don'ts'. The monkey suit thing is probably listed there, so it is a doubly good job I hadn't hired one especially. It is typical of a culture of local government totally out of touch with the people. And they wonder why people do not vote for them.

I stick the kettle on and go to try and find some recycling for my new toy.

We try to be a 'green' household, and personally I think that stuff should be recycled if possible. So, for example, I always take an egg box to the Village Shop so that they can fill it with eggs and not use a new egg box. There is an empty plastic milk bottle in the kitchen. I take it to the bin - but hesitate. It is so unsullied and clean inside, and once I throw some recycling refuse in there it will be soiled for ever. I will never be able to climb in and make dalek noises.

I put the milk bottle in the recycling bin. I have christened it!!!

Returning inside, I make myself a cup of tea. As the scum rises to the surface, I search for an image of the Prophet Mohammed in the mug. Boooooo - there is no image of the Prophet Mohammed. I will not be an Ebay multimillionaire today. I just have scummy tea.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

"So did you have a good day then?" I asked..

Truth be told, I was feeling a bit like a louse and a worm. There I was, feeling sorry for myself at having to stay at home looking after a baby. I had spared her not a thought - returning to her high-powered job worried that people will have forgotten about her, stolen her desk, changed her screensaver etc.

Above all, despite all the legislation from Europe that says that they are just as good as us, sometimes women who have fallen pregnant or borne children do not progress in their career because their (sexualist male) bosses think they do not have their mind on the job and thus do not take them seriously. I knew the LTLP had been very keen to make an impression on her first day back.

"I locked myself in the bike shed on the way in," she explained. "I had to shout for help. Eventually some passers-by heard me and went to the Facilities Department, who sent someone over to get me out." She poured herself a large glass of wine.


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

I reassess my life.

On the whole, this is an exercise that should generally be avoided, like buying 'Jethro' tapes at the motorway services or sneaking away from the guided tour of the petrochemical works, spotting a small hole in the housing of the liquid butane boiling refiner and thinking: "that is an interesting hole. I wonder what would happen if I put my penis in it?" It generally doesn't lead to anything particularly constructive, although I suppose there is sometimes an exception, and butane is often quite nicely tingly. I walk into the kitchen and put the kettle on.

I arrived at the Cottage with the - honest, honest - intention of tapping in to the peace and serenity of the place to give myself a working environment in which I could do Magnificent Things. Actually, I stared at the screen a lot and watched the rabbits in the garden. The plan was also for the LTLP to arrive home from work to find braised guinea fowl with celeriac mash (or suchlike) simmering invitingly on the hob. As it was, notes such as "in Village Pub - reheat manky stuff in back of fridge" became more frequent, as did the closing-time necessity for her to remove Short Tony from the roof with a long pole.

Then we decamped to Narcoleptic Dave's place whilst the Methodical Builder used the Cottage to practice his NVQ Building (Level 1). I am led to believe that this work is almost finished. He has removed my family heirloom table from its bedroom tomb. Along with the bedroom door and some of the frame. Today I need to argue about some electrical things.

I make the tea. As the scum rises to the surface, I search for an image of the Prophet Mohammed in the mug. Boooooo - there is no image of the Prophet Mohammed. I will not be an Ebay multimillionaire today. I just have scummy tea.

The LTLP returns to work today. She has been home on maternity leave for six months, and we haven't killed each other, which I think is a good achievement (especially after what happened to the other ones). But for all my Magnificent Thing plans, my good culinary intentions and my general wish for peace and serenity and all that, what has been the outcome?

I am about to become a man who stays at home looking after a baby.

She does some final makeuppy things whilst I have my morning poo. I am just finishing my wipe when she comes in to kiss me goodbye.

"Don't forget to feed her," she says. She is joking.

"I won't," I say. I am joking.

"I'll see you later then," she says.

I hear the front door close and she is gone. In the lounge, the baby sits in her bouncy chair, her face bearing a look of the utmost alarm.

Friday, June 23, 2006

"Hargreaves. What fucking use is he?"

"Come aaaaaahhhhnnnn!!!"

"He fucking headbutted me first."

"Leave it."

"He fucking headbutted me!"

"Fight! Out the front, you cunt!"

A tide of people surged towards the back of the pub.

"Naaah. Out the back, mate. Come on, then. Come on!"

The tide instantly changed its mind and desurged towards the front of the pub. The fight commenced at the back of the pub. The tide then decided that it actually wasn't in immediate physical danger itself, so would be better placed in its original position at the back of the pub, in order to get a better view. I began to feel sea-sick.

We leant on the bar. Inger-land type chanting surrounded us as we gazed up at the big screen.

"This is a midlife crisis thing, isn't it?" pondered Short Tony.

I had to agree. But we all try to recapture our youth at some point, and for Big A this had meant organising us into the town centre of King's Lynn to watch the football match with the proletariat. I have nothing against the proletariat as such, and in fact can be a bit proletariaty myself on occasions, but there is proletariat and proletariater, and we were in the proletariatist pub in town.

Big A stood at the bar, enraptured by the surroundings. "Roooooney!" he shouted.

"Rooooooney!!!" shouted everybody, except me, who said "a pint of bitter, please."

They was no bitter, so I had a Guinness instead. I really only usually drink in the Village Pub, and this place didn't really seem to have much to recommend it in comparison, apart from it had a really big screen showing the football, the beer was cheaper, there were lots of fit women in there, there was a pool table and the barmaids were better looking and more likely to sleep with you than the Chipper Barman would, even if he had been drinking heavily or you offered him some chips.

A bemulleted youth, draped in a St George's flag and with an England top hat, leapt around all over the place, unable to contain himself. "England!!! England!!!". He approached a man who was standing quietly, watching intently. "Come on!!! Come on, give us some chanting!!! You gotta have passion."

"Fuck off."

I continued my beer, reflecting that there is no better sight in life than that of a crestfallen twat.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

More heat!!!

Broiling me with the feverishness of its hellish warmth!!!

The curtains hang perfectly still (due to the fact that there is no wind (making it hotter)). I watch them like a viewer of BBC3's 'Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps', desperately seeking any sign of life.

Beside me performs Jumbo's Amazing Animal Band.

The neighbours' car alarm goes off. Woooeeeeeooooeeeeooooeeeoooeeee!!! (I hope I've spelt that right). They have one of those car alarms that sounds periodically to reassure the owner that the vehicle hasn't been stolen. Thirty seconds later it cuts back into silence, as going on for any longer would cause a disturbance.

I take a sip of water. For the 234724th time I discover that this doesn't provide the cool tidal wave of zinging refreshment that I anticipate. Instead the heat seems to become even more heaty as my head returns to the pillow.

Next door's dog starts barking.

I listen to this for some time, before deciding to throw some poisoned meat out of the window for it. I try to remember what I have available. There is nothing in the fridge. There is a large rib roast in the freezer, which would seem a bit of a waste on poisoning an annoying dog. Plus it would take ages to defrost in the microwave. If I was really accurate, I could throw it whilst still frozen, stun the dog, then retrieve the meat and return it to the freezer.

This seems to be a bit of a long shot.

Brahms's lullaby starts playing from the other room. Baby Servalan has a musical carrot that plays Brahms's lullaby when you pull the green bit. I am not sure that this was what Brahms had in mind when he wrote it.

I lie, sticky, sweaty and stupefied, listening to the distant sound of a musical carrot.

I do not drift off to sleep.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


Insomnifying me with its remorseless hotness!!!

I lie, sticky in my own sweat, approaching desperation. When I can't sleep I tend to get all annoyed and cross that I can't sleep, which then makes it difficult to sleep. I keep my eyes closed determinedly, my annoyed and cross state (see above) causing my heart to beat faster and faster. It is the only sound in the room, filling my ears with its smug atrial taunt.


The LTLP starts to snore gently. She always starts gently, before reaching her usual state, which is like an elephant with a slight cold attempting to master the euphonium.

I let out a deep, deep sigh. The 'gentle' stage of snoring passes quickly. My heart gets upset with the aural competition and notches up a notch. Bodomm-bodomm-bodomm-BODOMM.

A particularly loud snort causes my patience to snap. I gather up some things and make for the spare room. The bed, as I had forgotten, is piled high with bags and cases that I have no possibility of relocating. Miserably, crossly and hotly, I return to the master bedroom.

"Why are you walking around with your bear?" hisses a voice from the bed.

"I am TRYING," I reply, in capital letters, "to find somewhere to sleep."

"Well just be a bit more quiet. You are keeping me awake."

The heat becomes hotter. I lie and swelter beside the duvet, praying for the release of sleep.

Continued tomorrow.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

I receive an email!!!

This is always exciting, as it allows me to stop work, read the email, think about the email, reply to the email, then do another little bit of work until the next email arrives. I scrutinise it with interest.

Later, I am chatting to Short Tony.

"Did you know," I ask him, "that on the twenty-first of December 2004 you perpetrated a contextually affected shared joke?"

He looks at me in some bewilderment.

"That means in essay language that you shouted at the Cheerful Builder when he was on the roof. My Private Secret Diary is being studied by some students as part of their mock A-level exams."

"You what?"

"They are writing essays about us."

"You're kidding."

"No. I received an email from a boy called Zach. He got an A-minus, you know," I added, proud of my new friend's achievement in a fatherly type way, and conscious of my responsibilities as a role model. "I have already replied to him to advise not to take knives into school."

"And they say A-levels are dumbing down."

I am very pleased with my new status as a literary figure in the classroom. I have always regarded myself as a bit akin to people like Wilfred Owen and William Golding (without all that stuff about the flies), and now my work is regarded by one of the government's official English teachers as being just as good as them and Shakespeare etc.

I exchange a couple of emails about this with my new friend Zach. But am a bit careful as there is a fine line between 'engaging in email conversations with people still at school' and 'grooming' and I would not like people to get the wrong idea - although I am hardly one of those dodgy people who hides behind a fictitious identity and is coy about giving out their real age.

It is a bit of an odd experience to be studied. But it is quite nice, and if it carries on then it will make it very easy to help Baby Servalan with her homework. I did not do very well in my own exams at school, and I am proud that by going to the Village Pub, playing bowls etc. I am helping to educate the youth of Great Britain.

Monday, June 12, 2006

"It's very kind of you to ask us to stay," I thanked Short Tony, having turned up at his house with a six-pack of beer and a hungry expression. "Are there any cold ones? I'll just sit down there, in the shade, out of the way."

Short Tony sighed. "I'll dig out the barbeque charcoal."

"We could actually do with using up some food," commented Mrs Short Tony. "My fridge-freezer is full of rook."

I stared at her, wondering whether this was some form of password. Or a euphemism. The LTLP and I are close to the Short Tonies, but we are not into that sort of thing at all.

"Yessss?" I reply.

"Len the Fish brought it round," she added, explaining all. "I was trying to work out how to cook it. But then Len mentioned he didn't eat it, and frankly if Len doesn't eat it then..." She left the sentence unfinished.

"I'm not sure I fancy it," she continued, finishing the sentence.

"Oh, I'd be up for a bit of rook, I'm sure," I said. "Rook pie? Isn't that how you normally cook it?" I asked, coining a new definition of the word 'normal'. "Whatever."

We sat in the garden in the uncomfortable heat. 42357 hours later, the barbeque was ready. I helped myself to the home-made burgers, premium sausages and chicken pieces.

"This is delicious chicken," I complimented Mrs Short Tony. "I can't place the taste. How did you make it?"

"Oh that was Short Tony," she replied, averting her eyes and changing the subject.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The table is, in many senses, unremarkable.

A dining room table is a dining room table. It would live in the dining room. One would dine at it. It has a certain post-war English style about it; I study it casually, taking in the craftsmanship and its history, but my mind is elsewhere.

The LTLP's mother and father purchased it when they got married. It was - I guess - some financial undertaking for them. By no means well-off, they could easily have done with trays on the lap, sat in the lounge in front of the space where the telly would one day be introduced. But a decent dining room table was more than a piece of wood for eating on. With its purchase, they bought an object considered to be the heart of family life. An English dining room table. Respectability.

Decades later - a couple of years back - they gave it to us. Passed it on, down a generation.

We haven't yet used it as a dining room table, not having a dining room an' that. But its time is almost nigh. The farmhousey kitchen is almost complete - a space to chat, cook and dine whilst looking out on lupins and hollyhocks across the eighteen-inch windowsills. First dinner guests will, I guess, be the LTLP's parents. Life is cruel like that.

The teak is smothered in dust from the building work, but there are no scratches to speak of. This is down to my bright idea of keeping it in the bedroom, safely away from the dripping plaster and flailing chisels of the Methodical Builder. Safe it has been, and safe it is.

I stand on the new area of floor, where the stairs previously wound their way up into the room at the foot of our bed. Now the staircase has been demolished and moved elsewhere; the narrow and ancient sub-five-foot high doorway on the bedroom's South wall is the only means of access.

The Methodical Builder watches me as I hold my head in my hands, rocking slightly from side to side.

The table is safe. Because I have bricked it up in the bedroom.

It is smothered in dust, there are no scratches to speak of - but I now have to saw its legs off to get it out. Or eat dinner in the bedroom. But I would like to fit a bed in there at some point. I let out a long, long sigh; the table has survived recessions, conflict, removal men and builders, but has finally been defeated by the forces of fuckwitdom.

"Well it can stay there for now," comments the Methodical Builder.

I stomp from the room and compose some words with which to break the news to the LTLP.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

"See you later. I'll be back when it arrives," I wave to the LTLP.

"If it does arrive," I add, with a note of doubt based on years of experience of expecting things to arrive.

"It had better," she states. "Or I'll be posting dog shit through their letterbox."

I perform a double-take as she closes the front door. The LTLP is an internationally-respected scientist, and I had always taken her for a decent sort of human being. Now I find that she is the sort of person who posts dog shit through people's letterboxes if she is cross with them. Where does this leave me?

Thoroughly alarmed, I drive to the cottage.

We do not even have a dog. She would have to borrow Short Tony's. That would be going to quite a lot of trouble. Posting dog shit seems to be really rather more effort than it's worth - you have to find a dog, wait for it to go to the toilet, pick up the result and put it in your envelope or jiffy bag, lick the envelope, find a stamp and take it to the Post Office.

Either that or you would have to go to the door yourself, under cover of darkness, and stuff the dog shit through the letterbox yourself, with your fingers - and even then the recipient might have one of those basket things so you would end up covered in dog shit whereas they would just see the dog shit in the basket and say 'aha! Somebody has sent me another dog shit. I will just put it straight in the bin with the others'.

It occurs to me that I share a letterbox with the LTLP, so am likely to be safe for now. I am more reassured by the time I reach the cottage.

My kitchen has arrived!!!

Richie the Kitchen Man is installing it at double quick time. It is brilliant!!! It is wooden and cottagey and has drawers that close with a satisfying 'thunk'. We exchange a laugh and a joke as he works, him having little idea how close he might have come to a dogshitting.

"She'll be dead chuffed with this," I tell him, knowing that she will be. "I might even get a shag tonight. But I'm playing bowls."

I drive back to Narcoleptic Dave's, mulling over that last sentence and how it encapsulates my life.

Monday, June 05, 2006

It seems unlikely that we will come to an agreement.

“We are not,” she states with an admittedly factual basis, “living in the nineteen-seventies.”

This is true, I have to concede. However I have never bought a carpet before. And I cannot seem to rid my mind of the desire that I had when I was about seven years old to have a thick, thick, shaggy carpet – one which you have to hack your way through like Livingstone (Dr) in the jungle.

“What about these?” she demands, gesticulating at some bits of carpet that look exactly like the previous bits of carpet she showed me. Apparently the carpets that are fashionable at the moment are thin and tastefully beige, looking and feeling like by-products from the factory that makes Tesco ‘Value’ sackcloth – ‘suitable for all your Puritan needs’.

“They’re just so… well that is to say… they’re all right but.” I try to articulate my argument convincingly. “They’re not something that would be really cosy to roll around on the floor on.” I make a mental note to get on the PC when we get home to update the Wikipedia entry for the word ‘lame’.

“You are XX years old!!!” she storms. (NB she did not say ‘XX’, she said the number of my age, which I do not reveal for confidentiality reasons, plus it is irrelevant to this story and would just distract you from the point of it by sending you off onto a tangent). “You don’t play with trains any more. It is not the nineteen-seventies. We are NOT having anything like that.”

We look at some more beige, harsh, scratchy looking carpets. I decide to tackle her on her own ground and attempt a more adult argument.

“I am only thinking of your knees,” I offer.

She gives me a withering look.

“Can I help you at all?” asks a slimy assistant.

We wave away the slimy assistant and move on to the next aisle of thin beige scratchiness.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

We sit together on the sofa, eating peanuts.

I put a handful into my mouth. She puts a handful into her mouth.

I put a handful into my mouth.

Even though it is switched off, we are still somehow glued to the blank black screen of the television. The light reflects on to it from the open kitchen door. She puts another handful of peanuts into her mouth.

"There must be millions of peanut trees in the world," I reflect. "How many peanuts do you get from a peanut tree?"

"Loads," she replies, shovelling another load of peanuts into her mouth.

I put a handful into my mouth. Time passes. I read the wrapper, for light entertainment.

"Allergy advice: contains nuts," I point out. How amusing! Because, you see, they are nuts!

She puts a handful into her mouth.

"If you look at the ingredients," I say, "it is only 95% nuts. The rest is oil and salt." I put a handful into my mouth.

She puts a handful into her mouth.

"You said that the last time we ate peanuts," she remarks. "Your peanut conversation is getting boring."


I put a handful into my mouth.