Wednesday, 26 December 2007

A Real Christmas Cracker

I'd love to actually tell you that Christmas in the Mildew Household, with the addition of Charles Parnsip, was a total disaster, but, actually, it went fairly well.

Mr Parsnip is more excitable about Christmas than a bag full of monkeys on Ecstasy and so went around jumping out on me and daughters #1 and #2 shouting maniacally, 'It's Christmas Eve!!' until #1 turned to him with such disdain that he visibly withered. #2 entered into the general theme of things, though, and carried on where Mr P had left off. It became a bit of white noise to me in the end...

Christmas Eve was a family oriented evening. Mr P had devised a game of charades for us which included such beauties as 'The Muppets' Christmas Carol' [mine]; 'The Nine O'Clock News' [#2's, who suffers with mild dyslexia] and 'If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body (Would You Hold it Against Me)', [put back in the hat by #1 who was suddenly stricken with an abnormal attack of embarrassment).

We then sat down to a game of Buzz. Buzz is a family quiz game for the PS2 which has hand held buzzers, coloured option buttons and it's a game of knowledge and speed. I suffer with an excellent general knowledge of trivial facts which is a sign of a mis-spent youth in pub quizzes, playing strip Trivial Pursuit, and devising Rugby Club Charity Quizzes in my capacity as Social Secretary during my Muscat days. So, no matter how hard I try to NOT win, in order to let aforesaid daughters win, my natural instinct to get it right takes over, and +300 points comes my way...

Unfortunately, this is where the fun ends...#2 is the most competitive creature I have ever come across and takes the hump immediately, berating us vehemently if we press the right answer one millisecond before her and thus get awarded the points. It got to the point where she was so angry with me (in the lead by a long chalk, even after the other contestants were allowed to take pot-shots at me and take my hard-eared winnings) that she stalked off to her bedroom with her thumb in her mouth and hid behind my old skanky double mattress which is waiting for the Local Council to take it away...

It took cajoling and then threats from #1 for her to remove herself. And believe me, when #1 starts threatening, you don't want to be around for the fall-out.

We debated whether to walk to church for Midnight Mass, but we were all dropping, and added to this, it was heaving down with rain outside, so we decided to hit the sack fairly early...

After repeated warnings to the girls NOT to wake us before 6am, as there was NO SANTA CLAUS, I woke up at 6.30am to a quiet household. OK, I thought, I shall go and have a cuppa, see if Sir Matt Chingduvé is online and shoot the breeze with him - after all, I had prepared everything for the day: all the veggies were sorted out; the chicken was oiled and stuffed; the crap had been cleared from the dining table and the plethora of presents I had received from work had been opened so as not to cause presentism between the daughters.

Sir Matt was not around. I sat there, staring at the fairy lights around the French doors, the lights on the tree and the presents under it.

Nothing was happening.

So, I decided to clatter about a bit and turned the radio on - low, mind you - in the hope that the murmering, dulcit tones of Aled Jones would rouse somebody.

Nothing. Still.

I was starting to feel a bit like a brass knocker on a lavatory door. Where was everyone? Where was the excitement of Christmas Day?

At 8.30am, #2 daughter sleepily roused herself and plodded downstairs, thumb still in mouth, wondering what on earth was going on. 'Happy Christmas!!' I exclaimed, excitedly...'Mphmphm Harumphem,' she replied...

After ten minutes, Mr P surfaced, also bleary-eyed and tousled. #2 yelled, 'Guess What?' 'What?' we both chorused. 'It's Christmas Day!!' She had woken up, and with that yell, so did Mr P.

Well, we had to wait and wait and wait for almost teenage #1 daughter to surface from her pit. By ten o'clock, #2 was like a cat on a hot tin roof, desperate to open her presents. At this point, to stop her brains exploding from her ears and her head spinning round reminiscent of The Exorcist, I allowed her to disturb #1. This was probably a very bad move, in retrospect, as #2 returned, limping and in the wars. #1 was not a happy person being woken up from her reverie, Christmas Day or no.

And so the present unwrapping ensued. #2, who can be quite anal like my good self, put all the presents into individual piles and enforced the rule that we had to open a present in turn. It was taking forever. #1 suggested that we just get stuck in and open our gifts there and then. We agreed and a flurry of torn wrapping paper, bows, tags and ribbons quickly filled my once clean carpet.

The rest of the daylight hours were spent mainly in the kitchen for me, preparing an enormous roast dinner. I am not an especial dab hand at this meal, much preferring to do something exotic to a dead fish (as opposed to a live one), but I feel I excelled myself, particularly as #2 actually had seconds.

There was only one interlude where it all felt a bit too much for me. Whirling and dancing my way around the kitchen, bumping drawers shut, sharpening knives, regulating heat settings, I heard #1 shout me from the bathroom. 'Muuuuuum!' I heard. 'Can you come here please?' Oh flippin' 'eck, I thought, What does she want now?

She had the grace to look very sheepish...She had blocked the upstairs lavatory. With something not very pleasant, and not something one wished to see or smell prior to eating. The water was up to the rim of the bowl, and I stared in dismay, wondering how on earth I was going to sort this out, not possessing a plunger of any description. After repeatedly leaving it to settle and having another flush, and noticing an enormous lack of Mr P who had hidden in a neighbour's outhouse, I attacked the S-bend with the loo brush and plunged. My beautiful velvet dress suddenly felt wet as a sloosh of icky water shot up my arm and between my fingers. I retched uncontrollably as #1 got a fit of the giggles in between profuse apologies...

It quite put me off my dinner...

There were further, minor incidents, such as #1 troughing out on chocolate cake which, due to its ingredient of palm oil, caused her to blow up and her face to resemble a Red Snapper, and the vintage port whose cork had rotted and which had to be seived through my brand new stockings in order to remove the sediment and cork bits which were simply not palatable. A somewhat pointed question regarding my sex life which left me gasping for breath and which I refuse to divulge here, and there was also the visit from the ex who was graciously allowed into the living room to see the girls and who resembled, on Christmas Day, a tramp going to a funeral. Nice to see him make the effort for a change. Normally he just looks like a tramp in every day garb.

So, a success all round I would say! I am quite looking forward to New Year's Eve when it will all start again and by Wednesday, when I return to work proper, I shall, no doubt, be glad of the rest.

I hope your Christmasses were as uneventful as mine...

PS. I have been told to inform you all that Mr P's Yorkshire Puddings were fantastic.



Saturday, 22 December 2007

Agnes The Snob

I have to admit to both our readers to being the most terrible snob. I can turn my nose up at those whom I deem of lesser social standing to me at times, and am able to form an almost instant assessment of these characters by gauging their attitude, stance and [in]ability to string a coherent sentence together. I am unfortunate enough to live near a town in the North West of England which appears to attract the most illiterate, unwashed descendants of the apes one could ever have the misfortune to meet. Generally, I avoid this town like the plague...but I work in it, and thus work with its denizens.

Most of these people work in the warehouse sorting the medicines and toiletries. If I need to visit the warehouse for products so I can image them, the women glare at me and zoom past in their forklift trucks threatening to impale me on the tines and the men undress me with their eyes. It is rather disconcerting and although I could stay there for hours marvelling at the sight of massive stocks of shampoos, conditioners, creams and, my personal favourite, Cocodamol, I scarper as quickly as possible.

An indicator of their mentality was the 'Quit Smoking' initiative introduced by the company last year. The offer was 50% off all Nicotine Replacement Therapy items, which actually brought the prices of some patches and gums to below the price paid for an NHS prescription. Initially, it was bandied about that the NRTs could be collected from different branches upon sight of ID cards. Then the CEO realised that as they already nicked the stuff from him at the warehouse and fenced it on the streets, why should he pay carriage on the items and lose out even further?

So the point of collection remained at Head Office. The staff were then informed of the initiative...And all hell broke loose! Instead of seeing it as an incentive, these pikies decided that it was a breach of their civil liberties and all downed tools and threatened to walk out...A strike...just because they had been offered the chance to extend their lives by a few years. This has come to be known as 'The Pikey Mentality' in our neck of the woods. Po' White Trash will probably be more familiar to our American readers!

I am a smoker myself, as I have admitted on more than one occasion, and so every two hours, or whenever our web developers have left me a gibbering wreck, I stalk down the full length of the HO to the designated smoking area. The trek to get there, and the concomitant exercise sort of negates the effects of the my head at least...Most unfortunately for me, I always seem to get there at the same time as warehouse staff are on their breaks. The tiny smoking area (outside, under some corrugated plastic, next to a compressor which kicks in the minute I stand near it and makes me jump out of my skin) is then crowded with pikies.

Now, when enraged, I can swear like a trooper. I can also use big words, too, not needing to intersperse my sentence with blasphemous modifiers every ten seconds. They can't. Take a simple sentence such as 'I am going into town this evening' and suddenly from their mouths it becomes, 'F*ck, I am f*cking going into that b*stard f*cking town this f*cking evening'. Seems like an awful lot of hard work to me, actually. And knowing how lazy they are, it almost feels as though they are compensating for their dilitory work ethic by making their mouths work ultra hard.

The other day, I was standing by the bin, having the legs whipped from underneath me by the howling winds which came around the corner and warehouse were crowded into the area on their break. A huge, fat woman was eating a meat and potato pasty and talking at the top of her voice. Meaty slop and pastry flakes were spat around everywhere with each aspirated palative and expletive. I don't know how much went down her throat, but I bet she was still hungry afterwards...The sight was so ghastly that I stubbed out my cigarette forthwith and went back inside. It had not been pleasant.

I know one of the warehouse staff girls. I don't know her very well, but she has decided to make me her best friend. I don't want to be her friend as she taps me up for money the minute she sees me and like the sucker I am, I give it to her. The last time it happened, I gave her £20 which was passed to her in the toilets. I told her to fill her car up with petrol, get herself sorted out and give it back to me when she could, after her payday. As I turned to go, she grabbed me and growled, 'Give me a f*cking hug, you little f*cker'. Well, as terms of endearments go, that's right at the bottom of the list for me. And nor did I want to hug her...she had admitted previously that she hadn't had a bath for over a week and needed one. Indeed...

The next day, I saw her again. She was carrying a packet of cigarettes [mental note to self, £20 - £4.50 = £15.50...hmmm, that's not much petrol]. Every day, she had a new packet of fags. Obviously my money hadn't filled her car. It had filled her lungs. Two of her paydays passed, then a third, and then I got brave and asked for the return of my money. If looks could kill, I would now be six feet under. Ridiculously, I felt obliged to offer her an excuse as to why I wanted the money back, and cited Christmas, presents etc. A week after my debt was settled, she demanded to know exactly what I had bought with the money.

Is it me?

I am much more careful on my fag breaks now. I know that between quarter to the hour and the top, it is likely that one of the shifts will be there. I ensure that, desperate as I may be, I will not have a cigarette until five past the hour. It is a form of discipline to me.

And it is helping me cut down, I guess...

Monday, 17 December 2007

Lies Will Get You Nowhere

I have had the pleasure of my daughters’ company this weekend, which is always a never-ending whirl of picking up, tidying, nagging, cooking and answering difficult questions, as our two readers well know. And this weekend was no exception to the rule.

It started when Mr Parsnip was entertaining daughter #2 with the recently released DVD of Transformers on the television. As I pottered around, in a totally foul mood, having spent a day of hell at work where everything, but everything, conspired to go wrong on our website, I could hear her barrage of questions being fired at him. To his credit, he didn’t do as I do and threaten to place masking tape firmly over her mouth, but answered her calmly and informatively. She was in safe hands, so I knew that I could head off for a bath and wallow in my own self-pity, anger, and let my cares soak away with the bubbles.

The bath was idyllic. I had my candles lit, had performed all the incantations necessary to hex our dreadful web developers and was settling down to play out some confrontations in my head where I always won, got things sorted out and earned a massive pay rise. However, good things don’t always last, and I suddenly heard #1 snarl at #2, Don’t ask her! Leave her alone!

I sighed, wondering what was on its way.

#2: Mum?
Me: Yes?
#2: What is masturbation?
Me: ::thinks:: Oh Gawd, not again.
Me [after deep reflection] Well, it’s when you play around with your bits.
#2: Eeeeeewwww. That’s DISGUSTING…

It got rid of her. I discovered later that she had addressed the self-same question to Mr Parsnip who had bottled it completely and told her to ask her Mother. I guess I would have done the same if roles had been reversed, though…

Now, some of you may realise that I work for a large pharmaceutical group. We have pharmacies and depots across the UK but I work at the Head Office and am privy to all sorts of freebies, which come to the Marketing Department. We currently have a bit of a deal going on with Durex, the makers of all things mucky, who, in turn, have a deal going on with Anne Summers, which is basically a soft porn sex shop. In order to woo us, these suppliers send us samples to take home and use accordingly…

A kinky nurse’s uniform came in, replete with jaunty cap and stethoscope. It was in a size 10, and as I am the slimmest person there, and it fit, I was told to take it home and give it some use. Well, it was utterly hilarious, sent Mr Parsnip a strange shade of crimson, and a hiding place under lock and key was sought before the girls descended.

But I had forgotten to hide the cap…

As I shouted to the girls to lay the table for dinner from the kitchen, where Mr P and I were enjoying our evening banter when I annihilate him with big words, #2 came in wearing aforesaid cap and asked from where I had procured it.

After I had picked my jaw up from the floor and tried to re-pop my eyeballs back into their sockets, I stammered that it was a sample from work, out of a children’s gift set. #1, who is more on the ball than Frank Lampard, ripped the cap from #2’s head, checked it out and read the label, “Anne Summers”. Her face suddenly reflected mine [cf. eyes popping and jaw dropping]. The fact that she knew about Anne Summers disconcerted me somewhat, though, I must admit.

Me: It’s just from work, that’s all. Nothing else. Stop it. Leave me alone. I am a really nice person, honestly…
Me: Look, you know I get lots of free stuff from work, and you know that because you have just been on the receiving end of perfumes and jewellery, so give over. I was given this because there is a bit of a collaboration between Anne Summers and Durex and us. That’s all. So stop.
#2: What’s so bad, Mum?
Me: Nothing’s bad at all, darling. Erm…erm…ahem…It’s just that some couples find dressing up a bit of a turn on and things get a little…erm…fun in the bedroom, shall we say…
#2: What do you mean?
Me: Well, it’s called role-playing.
#1: Like kinky Doctors and Nurses, you div! [snarled at #2]
#2: What’s role-playing?
Me: Well, it’s when you dress up and pretend to be somebody else and act, sort of…
#2: OK. I’m Doctor Who!
Me, Mr P, #1: Raucous Laughter…

We fell about laughing. It dissipated what was one of the stickiest situations I have ever been in. #2 couldn’t really understand our hilarity, and considered if we were laughing at her meanly. We weren’t: I know from my own stand-point, that my laughter was verging on the ‘relieved hysterical’, and I’m pretty sure Mr P felt the same…

Later that evening, #2 confronted Mr P about his family, whom she has not yet met. Her own paternal grandmother fell pregnant with her father outside of wedlock and as her cousins on that side are also born out of wedlock she is very familiar with the somewhat antiquated term, ‘bastard’ and uses it as frequently as possible, in context.

Mr P informed #2 that his mother had been proposed to by his father within a week of them knowing each other [which is so romantic it makes my heart leap!]. Her father, though, would not countenance this at all, as she was very young, and denied her the marriage until her 21st birthday. Consequently, they married a week after that momentous day.

For some odd reason, the fact that Mr P’s mother had got married at a young age rang warning bells in #2’s head and she rounded on him stating:
So! You’re a Bastard, then?

Well, after he, in turn, had picked his own jaw off the ground, he rejoindered that, No, he was not ‘a bastard’, and that his parents were quite happily ensconced in a legal wedding before he had become a twinkle in his father’s eye.

She looked disappointed. She mentioned the word a few more times and gave up, knowing that she was pushing it a bit too far. She knows it is used out of context as a swear word, but also knows damned well that she can get away with it when it is used correctly. We had a very subdued #2 who would have had great pleasure referring to Mr P as well as her cousins and her father as ‘a bastard’.

I, personally, call him this anyway, when he hasn’t cleaned the bath out after him, but that’s by the by…

I realise, in retrospect, that I need to get my house in order better so that I don’t have to face these uncomfortable moments. But I also realise that, if I did, what would I have to blog about?

I hope you can both rest on your laurels knowing that it is I who takes the rap…

Friday, 14 December 2007

Young Love...

Every night, I ask my daughters how their days at school have been. #2 generally just dismisses my question with an OK, fine thanks, which is enough to satisfy me, but #1 launches into a blow-by-blow account of who has affronted her, who has fallen out with whom and who has committed the cardinal sin of looking twice at her geeky boyfriend. For a 12 year old, she is having an awful lot of trouble with this young man, whom she believes doesn't appreciate her, doesn't understand her, and puts computer games before her needs. I'd like to tell her that this is life, get used to it, but I don't want to shatter her illusions of hearts and bells and romance just yet.

To be honest, I think 12 is rather young to be 'in lurve' and exchanging gifts of over £30 in value this festive season. I know I will be lucky to get a bag of tea lights and a card from her, so for this spotty oik to be on the receiving end of some designer fragrance irks a little.

I was a rather reluctant High School girlfriend if truth be known. I would occasionally be asked out by boys, consider it briefly and then refuse resolutely, preferring to 'concentrate on my studies', being the gurlie swot that I was then. Sometimes, though, I felt obliged to bow to peer pressure and would spot a chap who appeared to be able to string a fairly coherent sentence together and get one of my friends to ask him out for me (this was the way things were done at my school).

One particular chap, Russell, was a bit of a favourite of mine at the time and indeed, only a few years ago, we did have a brief fling which was great fun while it lasted. He was witty, good looking and we attended the drama group together every night. I also did all my chemistry experiments with him in class, and as we were both as dreadful as each other, we had some rather hair-raising experiences, which seemed to me to be as good a reason as any to have him as my boyfriend. Best friend was duly despatched to ask him out on my behalf and returned to me nodding her head. I was quite chuffed. At least, for the next two hours until I got cold feet and decided this wasn't meant to be.

Best friend was nowhere to be found to dump him for me, so I bit the bullet and marched up to him.
Russ, I declared, I'm really sorry, but I don't want to go out with you any more. The look of bewilderment on his face was astounding.
But I'm not going out with you, anyway, he replied, still confused. I don't fancy you.
Ahahahahaha! I cackled. It was only a joke! I was just testing you out.
Weirdo, he responded.

Best friend got a whip-lashing for deceiving me. Her plaintive cries that she knew it wouldn't last just didn't ring true to me...

A few weeks later, Keith invited me to be his girlfriend. Keith was a very handsome older boy who was a leading light in the drama group, and I felt quite privileged that he had picked me to be his current squeeze. I accepted quite readily, thinking this would all be fairly easy - no commitment, see him at drama, and bask in the glory of having such a good-looking boyfriend.
What I didn't bank on, was that, as he was older than me, he expected me to be seen with him outside of school and do the proper boyfriend/girfriend thing. Anathaema to my soul.

He invited me to town with him on the Saturday and arranged to meet me outside the Superdrug where the bus dropped off its shoppers. I was really not a happy Agnes about this at all, and felt sick to the pit of my stomach all through the bus journey. What made it even worse was, on the return journey, he tried to kiss me, much to my extreme horror. I swerved my face as quickly as possible and heard Keith lip-smack to thin air. He didn't look pleased. He then stretched out one arm behind me as I sat next to him like a coiled spring waiting to go off. I turned to face him, caught a glimpse of his arm pit and realised that he shaved under his arms.

Oh No! No way! I was NOT going out with a lad who shaved under his arms. That was Just Not Right. At All. I still had four stops to go before my village, but that was four stops too many to sit with this person. I stood up, rung the bell, and garbled as I retreated, Sorry. Don't like you. Go away! and legged it...That was a lucky escape.

My first serious boyfriend came when I was nearly 16. Just before I was about to sit my O'level exams - you know, the ones your parents really, really want you to pass because they are the start of greater things to come? The ones which you really shouldn't screw up if you can help it? The ones my teachers anticipated I would pass with all As and Bs?

Serious boyfriend threw my head into a whirl and all studies went out the window. He was 21 to my 16 and came from a very well-to-do local family: Daddy was a popular GP and Mummy was a senior sister at the local maternity hospital. It was my dream to have a doctor related to me so I could ask all sorts of interesting questions such as, Why do I have cellulite? How do I get rid of these spots on my chin? Do you recommend liposuction on teenagers?

Rob studied and lived in digs at Liverpool University, so I had my first foray into student life at quite a tender age. Spending nights in a houseful of drunken adults was a bit of an eye-opener for me and I was somewhat confused by the importance placed on building a curtain of beer cans for the living room and getting told off when I crushed my cans. Most of the time, all I wanted to do was hole up in his room and try out the latest Jackie Collins techniques on him. He was cool with that for a bit but then the lure of drinking, fishing and rugby would beckon and I would be left pent-up, frustrated and vowing to read Pasternak from thereonin.

O level results came and went. My parents refused to speak to me all summer due to the dreadful grades I 'achieved' and Rob and I split up because his mother deemed me too stupid to be his girlfriend and advised him to get rid. I was a bit cheesed off by this, knowing that she had only got a handful of qualifications during her lifetime and she was on the receiving end of a fair few hexes for many years to come. Particularly when, much to her horror, I served her in our local shop where I worked on a Saturday and purposely short-changed her. She didn't have the backbone to query her change and left rather rapidly. At least she would have been able to inform her best beloved oldest son that his former girlfriend really was thick as she couldn't give change from a pound coin correctly.

I didn't care. I bought myself a Mars bar with the money I pocketed and thoroughly enjoyed it.

So, in retrospect, I guess #1 has all this fun and games to come and even if it cannot be considered character-building, at least she might do as I do and blog about it when she is old enough to realise that there is a world outside of MSN on the computer. As she's a bit of a silly girl, though, I shan't hold my breath.

I don't know. Teenage love, eh? Excruciatingly painful at the time, but what a laugh it can afford you when you revisit it as an adult. Give me Pasternak any day...

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Dog-gone Lucky Escape...

As days go, it's not been too bad on the Mildew-madometer. Traffic was monstrous coming back from a town 13 miles from where I live and what should have taken 25 minutes took 1 1/4 hours, having negotiated 19 sets of traffic lights, all of which were on red. Desperate for the loo when I got in, I ran to my bathroom to do the necessary and, whilst in mid flow and reaching for the loo paper, a whopping spider revealed itself to me, right next to my left thigh. I let out a highly unladylike squawk, fell off the toilet in fright and just about managed to 'contain myself'. Aforesaid spider is now cruising through the Cheshire sewage system on its way to the River Mersey. Divine retribution, I say...

However, sh*t doesn't always happen to me, so sometimes my blogability dries up. I know that none of you want to know about the good things which happen to me, such as finding a tenner in a coat I was just going to throw out, or missing a huge lump of dog poo in my path, so I hold off until things decide to go belly up. But it did come to my attention that I still have a few disastrous dates to tell you about and one that sticks clearly in my memory is a double date with Brian and Wilf.

To clarify, Brian was the official date, and Wilf was his dog. He refused to go anywhere without Wilf, as Wilf was a psycho Rescue Dog and couldn't be left on his own without his personal psychiatrist, for fear of tearing the house apart.

Now, for those of you not in the know, I don't 'do' dogs. I don't like the way they are wet and 'panty'; I don't like their smell; I don't like the way they lick their genitals and then your face; and I certainly don't like the way they try to hump my leg, hip, or my youngest daughter. However, I was feeling in a charitable mood and offered to entertain Wilf as well.

To this end, I chose a pet-friendly pub as our meeting place, and agreed to wait outside in the beer garden for the two males about to make my acquaintance. Brian had informed me that he was 6'3" (Goodo! I can wear my heels again!), 52" chest, 42" waist, and built like a scrum half. This all appealled. I don't like skinny, small blokes, as to me, they just cry out 'Pathetic'. I want a Manly Man: someone to watch over me, attempt to tame me (no chance, really!) and make me feel all gurly-femme...without calling me 'cute' (another post beckons...).

So, I had really gone to town this day. I was super slim at this time: for the Kookai readers amongst you (Linda?) this meant a size 1. I was wearing my new jeans, a rather slinky psychedelic yawn top and a fantastic bright blue suede jacket I had procured for a fiver from our local TK Maxx. I felt good. Indeed, I felt really good, until this tall, fat bloke attached to a dog on a lead rounded the corner of the beer garden and introduced himself to me. At that point, I felt the life blood leaving me.

Ever the optimist, though, I introduced myself gaily, attempted to be nice to the dog, in the manner of a confirmed bachelor who despises kids but can see that the only way into the pants of his latest squeeze is to coo and goo over babies, and offered to get the round in.

He readily accepted.

We commenced our ice breaking. I learned that his limp was due to a near fatal accident when he was a World Famous dragster driver (I am not actually sure he didn't say Drag Queen, to be honest); that he had been madly in love with a gorgeous, successful blonde; that he had built his own mansion with his bare hands; and that the blonde had gone off sh*gging with another bloke and he had left her everything. But he was Not Bitter. No...

I listened attentively, as much as possible, but couldn't help my eyes dropping to the 52" waist, which hadn't defied gravity and had slipped to the belly region. I also couldn't help noticing that 6'3" was a bit on the optimistic side. Wilf was starting to look the better bet...

I was pretty hungry by 6pm and suggested that we had something to eat. For a man as large as he, he demurred, stating that he ate like a bird. Soup, then? I suggested. No, no, nothing for me. I am fine...

Well, I was getting rather bored sitting in the bitter cold beer garden, the only place where I was allowed to smoke, and so I suggested that we adjourned to my house, pre-warning him that I kept a marble rolling pin in the house in the event of any monkey business, which I was certainly not afraid to use, Wilf or no Wilf. He accepted readily and followed me back to my place.

Wilf got out of the car as we arrived and ran straight across my back garden, yelping, yapping and tearing around the rabbits' pen. For once, Lambert (Lambert & Butler, after my brand of fags) had met his match. He generally terrorises Norman and Ollie the cats, whilst his brother, Butler, mildly watches on, but this time, Lambert was petrified himself. So, I took umbrage and booted Wilf. Nobody, and no dog, terrorises my bunnies without a kicking...Luckily, Brian was still getting himself out of his Land Rover and oblivious to the carnage going on.

Upon our entrance in the house, he announced that he was ravenous and could eat a horse. This confused me. Surely, only 15 minutes ago he had said he ate like a bird and didn't want anything from the pub? As I am always a gracious hostess, I dragged out all sorts of vegetables from the fridge and set about making a Pav (pronounced Pow) Bhaji, which is a red hot Hindu vegetarian curry that I learned whilst living in Oman. Brian advised me that he liked his curries as hot as Hades, and as I have a mouth and stomach like asbestos when it comes to spices, I took him at his word, launched in two birds eye chilli peppers, replete with seeds, and an over generous dollop of pav bhaji masala. It was enough to ignite the Olympic Torch.

While we waited for the curry to cook, Brian decided that Wilf needed some exercise (to defacate, really) and set off. Hang on a minute, I thought, this is a poop scoop zone. No dog is going to leave a great big dollop of turds for me to stand in whilst pegging out my washing - Norman does that for me, any time he feels like. So, I banned them from my garden, armed them with a plastic bag, and told them not to rush back. Even though Wilf had only been in the house for ten minutes or so, I could smell dog. I could taste dog...and worst of all, he had shed all over my lovely new carpet. I was not a happy Agnes at all.

When Brian returned, I dished up, we ate up and sweated profusely, and he started to reveal that he was completely skint, hence why he hadn't bought a round nor had he wanted to eat at the pub and was looking for someone to care for him. Alarm bells started going off in my head. No wonder, during our MSN chats, he had been so keen to hear all about my work and what I did, my financial status etc. Here, I had a classic example of a sponger. And I didn't find it endearing. Not One Little Bit.

To be perfectly honest with you, it was when he started bleating that he really missed smoking proper cigarettes rather than roll-ups and asked could he try one of my L&Bs that I took the hump. Too many dates of mine have stated that they want a non-smoker, then approach me for a date - me who trumpets it quite brazenly that I am a smoker and proud of it, and then they scrounge the cigs from me. It's enough to make you want to spit! Fags are now over 20p each in the UK, which is daylight robbery as it is. But I am not having some dole-ite nicking them off me to boot!

I did what all sensible women do in a crisis. I texted a dear friend, asked them to issue a state of emergency by phone and got rid of him and his rotten hound.

The next day, during my daily MSN to Sir Matt Chingduvé, I moaned about the pong of dog in the house and how bloody miserable this rotten internet dating lark was. Sir Matt was as sympathetic as ever, and offered to stick some rotten fruit up Wilf's backside for me, but I refused. I try to avoid cruelty to dumb that ruled out Brian, too.

Brian was my last ever internet date. It put me off, physically and mentally and I withdrew from every single dating site thereonin. For that, I must thank him profusely. He preserved my sanity...

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Never Send a Man To Do A Woman's Shopping


It's a day of many flavours: some people spend the day in bed; some go out into the garden; and some wake up and decide what to do depending on their mood.

After a disappointing morning consisting of a lack of kinky boots in the post for Agnes, a lack of anything exciting in TK Maxx, an utterly wasted journey to find Stinking Bishop cheese, and getting my backside handed to me at Scrabble, things mainly got worse.

I think the turning point was the Scrabble. I could say that I had a poor run of letters. Indeed, during the first few turns I had nary a vowel to my name. Marque, Marquees and Ozone killed me off though, and I was comprehensively beaten. Agnes (like the rest of the Mildew clan) is quite competitive. Although Agnes loses to me at Scrabble more than she would like, winning today provoked such a visible euphoria in her, that I felt, all in all, it was worth it to suffer the gloating I would surely now receive.

As Agnes gave me her best grin, the finger and thumb formed an L on her forehead. "You'll have to go round like this for the rest of the day now," she proclaimed, chuckling.

So, in addition to signing the scorecard indicating I "had my arse kicked", I had to go out to the
to get a pair of tights, a face pack and some wine. I added some headache tablets to the list as all of Agnes's dancing and singing was giving me motion sickness and a mild buzzing behind my eyes.

Into the car I sloped as Agnes went off to have a 'long victorious soak'.

The local village shops have always annoyed me. There is parking outside the shops, but invariably this becomes a traffic jam at busy times with people stopping to "just pop in" and causing mayhem in their wake. Apparently 3pm on a drenched Saturday afternoon is just such a busy time. Indeed, it seemed that the entire village had turned out just as I had arrived for my few essential supplies. You remember the list? Aspirin, Tights, Face pack and Wine. Good.

I found a spot to park at the very end of the parade of shops. The last spot. Gratefully, I reverse parked into the space and jumped out of the car. As I walked towards the cash machine I cast a sideways glance into the launderette. A lone man was visible through the part-steamed windows. Hugely obese, he sat with his back against the industrial dryer fishbowl windows. A baseball cap perched tenuously on the back of his head, his tattooed arms resting on his prodigious belly and shovel-sized hands supporting his chin as he stared thoughtfully into space. To what was he going home? I wondered as I hurried past, collar turned up against the foul weather. Probably a crisp butty was the later reply from a still good-humoured Agnes.

As I stood under a leaky gutter and drew out some cash from the hole-in-the-wall, I planned my visit. Pharmacist for everything except the wine, then Tesco. Back to the car, then back home to present the no doubt still-gloating Agnes with a mud face pack and a non-laddered pair of tights.

The warmth of the air-conditioned pharmacy was a welcome respite from the howling gale and torrential downpour outside, but only for a moment. It seemed as though the entire village had not only come down here to shop, but all needed the pharmacy. The queue was a mile long. The in-store radio was playing music even the Cheese Police would be offended by, and a group of spotty teenagers were crowded around the lipstick and skincare section giggling to each other as they primped and preened themselves with free makeup from the samples on display. The staff were harried and disinterested and everyone was wet and steaming, and judging by the look of them, suffering from some ailment that was, without doubt, contagious. I walked around the shop, studiously avoiding the most diseased, looking for tights. Couldn't find them. I huffed and puffed near the teenagers, looking over their shoulders at the display, searching desperately for anything looking like a face pack. No joy. I then did what every good Englishman does under these circumstances. I queued.

Time passed, my life slipped away, and idly, I listened to the voice of the bright young woman broadcasting on Pharmacy FM. What qualifications are required for this job I wondered? Doubtless she would be sat in a warm comfy studio somewhere. The lone girl behind the counter was giving an elderly gentleman loud and sagely advice on the use of an anal cream. She looked about 12 and I watched as she spoke to him in a calm and even tone, giving application advice and warning against him putting his fingers near his mouth afterwards without washing. The rest of the people in the queue were unmoved, each in their own little world. Probably hoping to God that something would strike them down so that they wouldn't have to queue any longer and listen to the dreadful George Michael singing about his Last Christmas. Oh why couldn't that just be true?

Eventually, I made it to the front of the queue. "Do you sell tights?" I asked.

"No." The answer was delivered with no apologetic look and my ire rose.

"What about face packs?" I rubbed my hands against my cheek as if that would somehow help illustrate what they were. She just looked at me with a look clearly reserved for what she believed to be idiots.


I asked for my aspirin.

"Have you ever taken these before?" the girl enquired.

I was mildly annoyed at this point, and briefly considered saying "It's f*cking aspirin. What do you think?". Instead, out of a mild and masochistic curiosity, I said "no". This is why I lose at Scrabble. I am that stupid.

So now, with the Parsnip-Anger-Meter hovering at around 4, I walked out into the rain again and went to the local supermarket. Agnes had mentioned that the Co-Op sold tights, so in I strolled. I found the tights within a few minutes and then spent a further 15 minutes wondering what a denier was, and whether 15 of them was good. White, Tan or Black? Long or Medium (no 'short' option, which I found odd...). I picked up what I thought was right, and wandered down the aisle.

Pausing at the shower gel/toothpaste/hair dye section, I had a quick look for face packs. None. However the Saturday part-timer, a snotty youth of indeterminate age, looked up and gave me some Co-Op customer care.

"Looking for anything particular mate?"

"I'm looking for face packs." I did the face rubbing thing again (big mistake - don't ever do this) and the lad grinned lasciviously, glancing at the tights in my hand.

"Oi Dave!" he yelled to his colleague at the other end of the aisle. Needless to say the entire shop was now privy to this conversation. "Do we sell face pack thingies?" His grin threatened to split his face and he nodded at me, clearly believing I was about to rush home, don a pair of 15 denier, almost black tights and cover my face in mud. Anger meter = anger meter +2, and I considered smashing my fist into his face. Were it not for the legal repercussions, I would have had no restraint.

Dave sniggered, shrugged and shook his head.

As I stood in the lengthy queue that had clearly migrated from the pharmacy to the Co-Op and as I left to walk out into the pouring rain, I decided that Tesco would be my last stop. Wine. I needed wine.

The Tesco shopping experience was much better. No face packs, but plenty of wine. The queue, however, had been following me and was now beyond the guide ropes and down one of the aisles. One of the sales assistants piped up, saying to me that the self-service tills were just as fast for those who didn't need cigarettes or contraceptives, and as I fell into neither of those categories, I hurried to the lone empty machine.

Unfortunately, Lady Luck was on the toilet, and I was underneath. One man made it to the machine before me, and I stood dutifully behind him, smiling smugly at the queue and the jealous looks being fired my way. It looked like I was going to make it home whilst still on solid food.

I was wrong.

The gent in front of me had a hand basket crammed to the handles with stuff. Slowly and ponderously, he placed his basket on the side and began to read the instructions on the screen.

"SCAN YOUR FIRST ITEM AND PLACE IT IN THE BAG". Even I could read the instructions on the screen from six feet behind him. He paused, held up a bottle of urine and asked the assistant, "What do I do with this?"

"Just scan it sir and put it in the carrier bag."

He nodded slowly and placed the bottle in the bag. I stood there and watched as the queue for the human tills went down, but not in proportion to the shopping in the basket of the man in front of me. The same assistant walked up and smiled brightly. "It might be quicker if you went over there," she said, indicating the now non-existent queue.

Anger meter = anger meter +3.

Back in the car, I glared at the tail-lights of the moron parked two inches from my front bumper, squeezing into a space that only existed in his tiny bereft-of-intelligence mind. I turned my headlights on, hoping against hope that the bull-necked, shaven-headed thug would pull forward a few inches to let me get out. I was still out of luck.

Furiously turning the steering wheel back and forth, I eventually made it out of the space, glaring at him from the safety of my car. If I had possessed a shotgun, murder would have been added to GBH for me that day. Maybe not murder though, maybe manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

As I sit here typing this now, I feel the anger has totally dissipated. Writing is definitely cathartic, and in this instance Agnes, you were right.


Naughty but Nice...

Another meme crosses my path, this time from Karen

Here are the rules:
1. Describe your earliest memory where this memory is clear, where clear means you can depict at least 3 details.
2. Give an estimate of how old you were at this age.
3. Tag 5 other bloggers with this meme.

My earliest, vivid memory revolves around a day off play school when I was about 3-4 years old due to being sick. I seemed to suffer with tonsilitis on a permanent basis as a youngster, and only got better once the rotten things were removed when I was 14.

This particular day, I was well on the road to recovery and thus, exceptionally bored. Play school was boring, too, but at least they served really nice blackcurrant juice there which my mother refused to purchase. I had retired to my bedroom upstairs armed with my dolls and simply couldn't be fagged making Tiny Tears wee so I could change her nappy again. As my brother had also shaved her head and drawn tattoos on her backside, it was difficult to feel much love for her any more - I am rather fickle with my love...

My bedroom furniture included a deep drawer dressing table. If I needed a boat or other form of transport for my dolls, the clothes would come out and a deep drawer fitted the bill perfectly. They were also watertight.

As I was sick, in my egocentric state, I assumed other things in my life weren't too chipper either. And that included the cat, Tibby. Tibby was one of the most vicious felines you could ever have the misfortune to cross, but that didn't stop me attempting to make her love me. Admittedly, I often went about it the wrong way, but my intentions were good.

So, I went on a Tibby hunt and to her great fear, found her, tucked her under my arm and manhandled her upstairs. There, she shot under my bed, hissing and growling and waiting for the next instalment in her own personal nightmare. It didn't take long...

I plodded downstairs, armed with the drawer, filled it with water and took it back upstairs. I then returned downstairs and got my medicine from the fridge and a teaspoon. If I was sick, Tibby was likely to be sick, too, and therefore required some medication.

Tibby was dragged from under the bed, bringing half the carpet with her as she embedded her claws into the pile and was unceremoniously plonked into a drawer of freezing cold water for her bath. Despite the raking she gave me, I held her down firm, and started to 'wash' her. She didn't like it, and my hands were getting a little bit sore from the gashes, bites and the blood dripping into the water. This confirmed it for me: she was definitely ill and required urgent medical treatment.

As I reached for the pseudoephedrine (great for making crystal meth, folks!) she returned to her own corner of hell under the bed and I undid the bottle cap. Back out she was dragged, clamped under my arm, and a teaspoon of bright pink medicine forced into her wailing mouth. Bad move, Tibby - keep your mouth shut around a bored child.

At this point, my mother burst in to the bedroom to spoil my fun, Tibby saw her chance of escape and a bottle of Sudafed went flying as I jumped out of my skin at the roar of, "WHAT ON EARTH ARE YOU DOING TO THAT BLOODY CAT?!". My insistence that Tibby had caught tonsilitis from me didn't wash with Mother, I got the hiding of my life and was forced to stay in my room until my father returned from work.

Not only did Mother inform my father, she also told my older brother who is a peaceable, tree-hugging, hippy animal lover if ever there was one, and he came in to give me a rare kicking. I retaliated by battering him with my vandalised Tiny Tears.

Tibby and I never saw eye to eye after this incident and to get her own back, she took to lying in wait for me as I walked past her and raking me with her claws. She was always too fast for me to catch again so I just hexed her in my head.

They say only the good die young. Tibby was 17 when she snuffed it...

I shan't tag anyone for this meme, but be my guest to continue it should you wish.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Bored to Tears...

I stumbled across a strange little website (it's probably massive, actually) called Jyte this morning whilst attempting some research. (I honestly wasn't trying to find the website Matt and I encountered once where a white woman was taken by two black men from both ends. That research was over and done with long ago...) Jyte appears to be a type of polling/claim forum where one uploads a statement and waits for visitors to agree (thumbs up) or disagree (thumbs down). This particular statement claimed that people who say they are bored are, in themselves, boring. I have heard this many a time from the ex who fires it at daughters #1 and 2 when they want him to entertain them and he wants to watch the rugby; thus I have always deemed it to be of the ex's making.

However, to find that somebody else thinks this, too, was a bit disconcerting. You see, I have a terribly low boredom threshold at times. And the trouble is, when I am bored, I become either very constructive, or very destructive, depending on my mood. Many a time, the ex would return from one of his boozy nights out and I would have mooched around the villa, wondering what to do with myself (no TV, only pirate videos, and dark at 7pm) and suddenly the paint on the walls in the living room had changed colour (constructive); the furniture had altered position to become more symmetrical with the marble pattern on the floor (constructive); or his underpants and socks had been cleared out (destructive).

I am actually able to tell when my boredom limits are about to be reached. I become a bit restless, narky and then suddenly, as if a switch has been flicked on, I am completely disinterested from thereonin. This happened to me quite vividly whilst studying for an accountancy A level at night school, and continued whilst studying for the professional Taxation exams through a former employer, years ago. I have claimed ever since that accountants must have had either a charisma bypass or a frontal labotomy in order to do their job.

Charles Parsnip asked me one night if I felt that my life was fulfilling, and I replied that, yes, I found it very full and very exciting. And that was sort of true. But it's the little things in life which I can find unutterably dull, such as explaining for the nth time to daughter #2 who has interrupted a film 200 times in the first five minutes wanting to know the ending that I have never seen the film either, So. I. Just. Don't. Know. Please. Shut. Up. (She is now on her guard that when I tell her to be quiet through gritted teeth, the masking tape is about to come out. And she really doesn't want that...)

When these things happen, the switch flicks instantly. And I am then officially bored.

I think a lot of people without a technological bent would find my job very boring - indeed, my work colleagues have now labelled me the Geeky Freak which came about because I knew how to create é by pressing ALT 0233. And I was only trying to help one of them write Michael Boublé for her Secret Santa list. Ingrates...So, whenever a techie question comes up, there's a piping chorus of Ask The Boring Geek! Thankfully, I am pretty quick with the acerbic come-backs so they are left in no doubt that, boring my job may be, when it comes to put-downs, I leave my geekery far behind!

I do, however, find many minor aspects of my day deadly boring. Such as when my work colleagues analyse the latest goings-on in a dreadful soap opera called Hollyoaks, or when they are discussing which Z-list celebrity has got herself knocked up with another equally untalented Z-list celebrity. I also found, yesterday, talk of how the Secret Santa presents would not be recognised by putting the present in a bag, within a bag, in a black bin liner, with printed labels (so nobody could recognise anyone's handwriting), left in the stock room and the boss alerted by secure transmitter via Interpol deadly dull...At the time, I was attempting to run some link checks on our website in the hope of finding massive errors so we could leave these particular web developers and take our business elsewhere. Listening to the cackling, giggling, whining and Carol singing left me so distracted and drained my IQ so rapidly that I stalked out of the office for an illegal cigarette. I say illegal because I had only put one out about 15 minutes previous and a second in that space of time was taking the p*ss somewhat. Well, the boss wasn't in...

Other things which bore me are receiving credit card bills, final demands, and cold calls from salesmen desperate for me to change my internet service provider. Because they bore me so much, I decide to have a bit of fun with the latter and feign interest, let them run right through their spiel, making encouraging Ooh-ing noises to them and then inform them right at the end that I don't possess a PC. This really angers them and some, you can tell, if they were in front of me at that point, would probably give me a couple of black eyes. Ah well, such is life.

Conversations I have endured which have made my eyes glaze over have generally happened on internet dates and which I have shared with you on many an occasion. However, my mother can talk a glass eye to sleep, too, when she gets on to her favourite topic of What Are We Having For Dinner? This starts just before breakfast, continues through the muesli and toast, onto elevenses and right up to lunch when the decision is finally made, the meat brought out from the freezer and left to defrost on the work top. The debate then focusses on which vegetables can accompany aforesaid meat, what time dinner will be served, and will it be ready on time. Let me just put you in the picture here: this little scenario happens every day. And it happens even more when she has decided that I need some company so she is stopping with me for a few days. I generally feel the life blood slipping away from me and inform her that I will be eating Ryvita as I am on a diet and she can therefore help herself to whatever is in the house.

So, does my low boredom threshold make me a boring person? I'd like to think not and consider that I simply find the mundane doesn't fire off my synapses like it does for others.

Well, if I am being honest with you, outlining all these dull, ghastly things has now bored me. So, I shall head off and go and do something less boring instead. Like rearrange my collection of empty cat food cans or watch some paint dry. Don't let yourself get bored and become destructive like I do. Telephone a car showroom and ask for the specs on all the sports cars, arrange lots of test drives and then reveal that you are only 16 and haven't yet passed your driving test. It'll set you up for the day...

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Stormy Weather

Some of you may have realised that, once upon a time, I lived in the Middle East. I spent almost eight years there, happy as an animal (not a pig: it was a Muslim country) in poo. That was, until the ex decided he preferred my best friend to me and felt I had to clear off as I was cramping his style.

The expatriate lifestyle in Oman is such that you are fortunate enough to meet many new people, from all walks of life and can engender such friendships that last a lifetime. Your social circle is not just quality, but also quantity, and great fun can be had on a daily basis...

The ex worked as a Design Manager for a large construction company, building palaces for the Sultan (who collected them like I collect credit card bills) and came into contact with many sub-contractors with whom we ended up socialising and becoming good friends.

One such couple, Chris and Dave, were firm favourites of ours and we were thrilled to be invited to their wedding, to be held at the British Embassy. It was a small gathering, with only a handful of guests allowed to come and I felt very privileged to have been invited.

Chris had selected the two young daughters of a work colleague to be her bridesmaids and they looked beautiful carrying their posies aloft and attempting to carry Chris's train as she hobbled up the steps in too-tight shoes and a definitely too-tight skirt. My own #1 daughter was in a foul mood because she hadn't been asked to be bridesmaid, but as she was only about six at the time, and a bit daft, I think Chris made the right decision.

As is the bride's prerogative, she was late. So late, in fact, that Dave (Hobbsy) told us we might as well all clear off to the pub and have a skinful as he 'wasn't waiting around for any bloody woman'. He proceeded to chat up all the other women in attendance, liberally poured the Moet & Chandon into any empty glass and started singing Oasis songs. I think he was somewhat disappointed when Chris did finally show in a vintage Rolls Royce as he was having such a good time. Where Hobbsy got that Roller from is still a mystery, but he was a wheeler-dealer if ever there was one - if you needed anything in Oman, Hobbsy was your man...

The ceremony was lovely and we all traipsed outside for the obligatory photographs. Hobbsy didn't want anything formal, and ended up lying on the grass with me hovering over him, my right foot holding him firmly to the ground by his neck. In retrospect, this may have been because he wanted to see up the women's skirts as he had been rather flirtatious all day...Chris's photographs consisted of her in the arms of pretty much every bloke in attendance, and then they all carried her à la Madonna's Material Girl which really tickled her fancy.

The reception, unbeknownst to all of us, was to be held on a dhow, which is an old, galleon-like vessel, and which would set sail for the afternoon with all of us on board, getting more and more drunk as the day wore on.

Well, let me put this question to our two dear readers. When you think of Middle Eastern weather, I am sure the image which is conjured up is one of glorious sunshine, clear, limpid blue skies and searing heat. started off that way...but the minute the last guest had got on board the dhow and we had cleared the marina, the clouds closed in...

Dressed in all my finery, and getting merrier and merrier with each bottle of Corona I imbibed, I briefly wondered whether my unsteadiness was due to the ever-increasing, wind-whipped waves (God, my alliteration improves with each blog, doesn't it?), or my ever-increasing inebriation. My balance was starting to go, somewhat, and in order to cover it up, I decided to put on an impromptu line-dancing display, having put myself through a crash course by DVD so I could help a friend out and teach 10 nine year olds the basic steps at a birthday party. The rocking helped me to look almost professional until I tripped and fell heavily into the mainstay mast where I decided that it would be easier to cling on for dear life than attempt any more Fuzzy Duck.

I felt nice and safe holding on to the mast. Unfortunately, other people started to feel the same insecurity as I was feeling, and after a few minutes, there were four of us fighting for the same piece of pole.

Buffet was announced and I considered that if I was going to be sick, I should at least attempt to have something other than Corona with which to feed the fishes. I ladled myself out a large portion of Prawn Cocktail and attempted to eat it. I felt sicker and sicker - so much so that when Hobbsy saw that I didn't have a beer in my hand, was shocked at my request for 'some water, please'.

I felt a trip to the lavatory might be prudent at this stage, but was summarily informed that there was a queue. My only port of call (pardon the nautical pun) was to get to the side of the boat, pronto. I moved as far from the bulk of the guests as was possible, but there's always some bleeding heart liberalist who deems himself your saviour and feels he should be mopping your fevered brow as your rectum hits the back of your throat, isn't there? My 'saviour' was Simon - one of the most handsome, lovely men in Muscat, and I really, really didn't want him there as he watched technicolour yawn after technicolour yawn come hurtling from my guts.

'Urghoahgggoooo aaarghway, Ssimmon!' I growled at him through retching.
'No, no, you need someone here with you, you poor thing,' he replied. 'Where's Anal (this is an anagram of the ex's name, by the way - work it out for yourselves)?'
'Urghodunnnnoooo, anna don currrr, gooo awayyy, pleeeeeeasasse, urghoahghghh!!'
'Oh dear, this isn't good. No, this isn't good at all. Stay there, I'll get something sorted out right now.'

He left me in peace to dry-retch with tears streaming down my face, my hair covered in all sorts of nasty stuff, and feeling very sorry for myself. I pathetically brought my head up to view the horizon where I saw forked and sheet lightning scudding across the skyline, heard the rolling thunder, saw the roller coaster waves and wondered what I had done to deserve this.

We were way out to sea, but on the other side of the dhow, land was still in sight, in the form of Marina Banda al Rhowda, slap-bang in the middle of nowhere.

Simon returned...

'Right, we are putting you off on the outboard. One of the crew will take you to the Marina and you can wait for us there. OK? You can't carry on like this.'

Relief - I was eternally grateful to my saviour. He helped me stagger across the deck - Christ knows where the ex was at this stage - and gently assisted me down the ladder into the waiting inflatable outboard.

I climbed aboard and the guests gathered at the side of the dhow, cheering, jeering, making vomiting gestures and calling me lots of rude things. As we set sail, the sun came out, the wind died down for a few minutes, and a fantastic rainbow appeared in the sky...In the half mile journey, I lay across the sides of the dinghy and vomited while the young Omani sailor stared at me with distaste. At least he didn't charge me five rials for soiling his transport, though.

Suddenly, he stopped.

'You get out now,' he stated.
'But the marina is over there,' I stated rather obviously, at a distant speck.
'No. I cannot get any further up to the beach. You will have to swim now.'

I stared at him, askance, pleaded with him; offered him my wet, vomit-stained body; was refused; and thus walked the plank...

I landed in icy cold, choppy water, wearing some of the most expensive shoes I have ever owned, a Oui Set dress which had cost me my last pay-packet, and a beautiful pure wool jacket. Remembering my Swimming Certificates from Primary School, I trod water and removed the shoes, buckled them together, clamped them firmly between my teeth, and swam for safety, being unable to touch the sandy bottom of the sea. I have never swum in tights before and I must say, I do not recommend it to any of you, male or female.

Ten minutes later, I reached the safety of the beach, and crawled up it, exhausted, still hearing the jeers coming from the dhow which had stayed moored in order to watch me arrive safely...or was it basically to video me for viewing at the party later? I have my own suspicions...

I was bitterly cold. My clothes clung to me and the biting wind made my extremities turn waxy blue and white. The Marina's café was deserted, and I plaintively knocked on the locked door until a waiter showed his face...

'I have no money, but I can open a tab, and when they come to collect me, I will settle up with you. Can I have a black coffee, please?' I begged forlornly, looking like something the cat had dragged in.
'Yes, ma'am. No problem, but you will have to stay outside as we have Pest Control in at the moment and the buildings are off-limits, hence why the café is shut.'

So, I sat by the beautifully-lit swimming pool as the sun set, soaked to the skin, shivering with the icy wind, sipping my coffee and choking as the DDT fumes were pumped all over the premises, inside and out, to eradicate Malarial Mosquito.

With a spirit of adventure, I wrote this event up for the happily married couple, who actually managed to consummate their vows on board without regard for their guests, and published it for them using Microsoft Publisher. I framed it and presented it to them a few weeks later.

What's the bets it's now hanging on their toilet door?

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Charles Parsnip Presents : An Evening With Agnes

One of my greatest failings as an ex, was to sit back and put my feet up as the lovely Agnes went about her daily chores of gutting fish, analysing psychopaths, and trying to maintain decorum in a house of screaming children. Yesterday morning, I felt moved to correct that mistake by offering to take up some of the household chores myself.

Now I must confess at this juncture, that I have lived in comfortable solitude for some time now, so moving back into the realms of shared responsibility would be something that needed careful planning. Agnes has a sharp eye for detail, and I was sure that any attempts to do household tasks with my usual carefree attitude would be met with a critical eye from the Wicked Witch Of The North.

So I offered to do the ironing.

There was a slight pause. Disbelief hovered over her features as the dawning realisation that one of her least favourite jobs was soon to be removed, and then slowly began to manifest itself as a twinkle in her eye.

"Sounds fair to me."

Later that evening, I began to realise just what I was in for. The Parsnip household has one person in it. Me. Ironing is something that occurs with the television on, preferably an amusing movie, and more time spent watching the box than what I'm doing with the hot electrical device filled with water in my hands. Creases build character, and by the time I have commuted to the office, the stress and tension built up from manoevering past maniacs and lunatics on the M1 have added a good few dozen more creases to whatever I'm wearing. Add to this, the fact that I work occasionally from home (negating the need to get dressed), and the fact that most of the people in the office wear T-Shirts and jeans (shorts and flip-flops in the summer), you begin to build a picture of someone that neither sees the point, or enjoys ironing; hence doesn't bother to do it too well.

I was informed of the best place to iron (out of the way, in a corner, behind the sofa and next to the broomstick) and the correct method for assembling the ironing board. As the iron heated up, I looked at the small pile of clothes with some trepidation. Agnes was perched on the sofa, sipping her coffee and pretending to be interested in the movie, seemingly suffering from some nervous twitch. As I plucked a simple black top from the pile and stretched out a sleeve I discovered that in fact, the nervous twitching was a subterfugal attempt to see precisely what and how I was performing.

"Are you all right?"
"Yes, yes, I'm fine."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes... Well... If there's anything too... complicated in there, just leave it for me to do."

I arched a curious eyebrow. "Do you really want me to do this?"

Her shoulders dropped, and relief gushed out of her. "You just do your stuff, ok?"

I nodded. So be it. Two shirts and a pair of trousers. No problem.

I got on with the shirt, Agnes relaxed back into the sofa and I chuckled. Out of my peripheral vision, I saw her Raven Beauty dyed locks begin to jiggle as she turned her head once again.

"Hmm?" I looked up to see her regarding me with a look of exasperation.
"What are you faffing about at?"
I looked down at the iron in my hands, the shirt stretched out on the ironing board, and for a brief second I considered answering her with the truth. I was ironing a shirt. Seeing the look in her eyes though, honesty was unlikely to be the best policy. I decided to feign stupidity. I looked at the shirt, then at her, then put on my best confused look. The one reserved for when women ask you what at first glance appears to be an obvious question, but is in fact a subtle trap designed to draw you into something that will assuredly make you distinctly uncomfortable.

Agnes was watching me as if I were a small child playing with adult toys "I never bother to iron the collar."

"How do you do it then?"

This was her cue. She jumped up off the sofa and came to the ironing board. I stepped away and watched as she picked up the material with practiced grace and began to rotate it on the board. Deftly hefting the iron she began to press the material slowly and with precision. I watched. Awestruck.

After my lesson, Agnes allowed my to try my hand at her cloak. She moved back to the sofa and settled down as I pulled a top out of the way, pausing to try and turn it the right way out. Straps got tangled, and as I frowned, trying to master the technique of untangling women's strappy clothes, Agnes' hand appeared.

"Give it to me."

The cloak was ironed... Eventually...

Eight Random Facts Meme...

Keli over at Counterfeit Humans tagged me for this meme, which greeted me in my message box this morning. Mark over at the Uncanny Broadcasting Brain Blog also tagged me for it some time ago, but as it was my first time, I was a bit thick, didn't really know what I had to do and then felt a bit bad for passing it on...I think this was around the time I had received about ten threatening chain emails advising me that if I didn't forward them, the fleas of a thousand camels would infest my armpits or somesuch fate worse than death.

So, eight random facts about me:

1. When I first got engaged and babies filled my empty head, I determined to call my first born daughter Lorelei Fleur (this was the 80s). #1 daughter has got away with an infinitely more sensible name.

2. I love Marmite. I can eat it straight out of the jar and frequently do. Forget your cream cakes, chocolates, biscuits: Marmite on toast is my comfort food and I can't get enough of it. "Man cannot live on bread alone, but Agnes Mildew can survive forever on Marmite on toast".

3. I despise 'Sunday Drivers' - the ones who drive 30 mph in a 60 zone and hold up the traffic. They make me very, very cross which leads me to swear quite profusely no matter who is sitting in the car with me. I am a firm believer that these types of people are more dangerous on the roads than terminal speeders. My theory behind this is that so many people get irate and impatient to overtake that they take more risks thus leading to more accidents. That's my personal experience, anyway.

4. I once owned a cat called Scrofulous - Scroff for short. She was fantastic and used to go for long walks with me on the trading estate in the woods. There, she would attack rabbits in front of me and drag these huge bucks home with her where she would sling them over the cross-strut of a table and systematically eat every part of them apart from their stomachs. She was incredibly tough, but with a fantastic nature. Unfortunately, she tried to wrestle a 4WD one day and came off worse.

5. I have only ever cried at three films (although I have been marginally choked by others). These were Schindler's List, Moulin Rouge and Edward Scissorhands. That's a bit of an embarrassing one to admit, actually!

6. I am petrified of underground travel. I hate it more than Sunday Drivers. I have to go to London in the New Year and I am already fretting about how I will be expected to get around and about. As I will be with my boss, a Northern Pie-Eating man who calls a spade a shovel, I don't anticipate much sympathy for my plight.

7. I have been on TV once, when I was 17. We were invited to a Young Conservatives meeting for a friend of my (then) boyfriend to give him some support. None of us were political in any way, but we were promised free beer all night if we pretended that we were going to vote Jeff in. I was directly behind the camera view of Jeff and behaved rather rudely in retrospect. My (then) boyfriend appeared to enjoy himself, though.

8. A Victorian relative of mine, on my mother's side, was a besom-maker. A besom-maker, for those of you not in the know, makes broomsticks. Quite fitting, don't you think?

OK, that's all the random facts you are getting. In turn, I should like to ask Hope, Linda and Death Sweeper to have a go, too, if they have the time!

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Christmas with the Mildews...

Have you ever felt as though the weeks pass by without you being able to catch up on yourself? I am sure at least one of our two dear readers does. This year has flown by with much event - my mother has sent me to Coventry at least five times; I have had three jobs; hexed my ex three times and got engaged once. I'm quite a busy bee, wouldn't you say?

I am 100% convinced that it will be Christmas Tree-putting-up-time soon. I always try to hold off until the very last, as I tend to put all the chocolate decorations on the tree and then worry about them melting, so I eat them within 24 hours. But this year, I am resolved to be a bit more stalwart.

The week before last, as I was driving home, listening, as is my wont, to Radio 2, Chris Evans was interviewing a chap from Fortnum and Mason, about their £20,000 hamper. The interview itself was just a load of blah, but I was rather disgusted that Mr Evans proceeded to play a Christmas song and banged on about what a 'marvellous time of the year' it was. No. It was bloody November. Just after Bonfire Night: nothing going on. IT IS NOT A MARVELLOUS TIME OF THE YEAR...

Everywhere I go, I am being bombarded with Christmas. As I am one of the most disorganised people you could ever have the misfortune to meet, I find it rather offensive that I am having reminders of Christmas stuffed down my neck.

Christmas in the Mouldsworth B.M. (Before Marriage) household, was a very sedate affair. I can't remember the tree ever going up (if at all) before 20th December, and there were never any presents or cards left under the tree. This lack of tradition engendered in me an impatience and inability to maintain a surprise which still lives with me today: for example, four weeks ago, I went out with the view to attempting to organise presents - I bought stacks...then I gave them all out the following weekend. Rubbish...

I have to be honest and say that, on the whole, my Christmas Days are a total wash-out. I have this ridiculous notion that they will be romantic, snowy, sparkly and wit-filled, and in reality, they are boring, damp, grey and twit-filled. Last year, I spent Christmas alone, excepting a bottle of Toilet Duck and the bog brush - and I was in my element! I had been to church; made a sarcastic comment to the priest about Church Service +1 (having attended Christmas Eve, too, and discovering a repeat), eaten a bit of smoked cod and brocolli, and girded my loins for the presence of an ex who was most unwanted, but had begged an audience to personally present me with a Christmas card on his own miserable Christmas Day. It was unutterably dull, and had I had the opportunity to work, I would have done.

My first Christmas with the ex was a very excitable affair as he liked real trees, whereas I was used to plastic naff ones. I smoked myself into oblivion, as the trend, in 1992, was for sparkly parcels dangling from the tree, which were exorbitantly priced. Each joyfully smoked packet of 10 or 20 B & H was wrapped in purple or gold spangly paper, tied with a bit of gold string, and suspended from the branches of the tree. I saved us a fortune in decorations, (but not in fags) which appealled greatly to the ex's frugal Yorkshire mentality.

In order to save even more money that Christmas, the ex went out shooting and bagged a couple of hares. I had frozen loads of blackberries from the autumn hedgerows and blanched plenty of organic (read, covered in caterpillars and grubs) vegetables and planned a Christmas lunch fit for a poor, young couple, living in sin.

Having marinaded the hare in left-over lager from the night before, and glazed it with honey and blackberries, the ex and I decided to cycle up to the local pub for a cup of cheer while the hare roasted. The weather was foul: sleeting, bitterly cold, icy wind, and the roaring fire in The Hare and Hounds was most much so, that we got stuck in to a fair number of pints of Old Scrotum before I realised, with a start, that I had a hare to care for.

We precariously cycled back, wobbling more than was quite safe on an extremely fast country lane, and fell into the be met by a wall of black smoke.

The hare had shrunk to the size of a small guinea pig and was totally unsalvageable - apart from giving it to the cat. The ex and I looked at each other in dismay, and, ever one to make light of a situation, I rifled through our tiny freezer compartment and rustled up some chicken nuggets to go with the carrots and broccoli. It wasn't actually a bad meal, all things considered, and the cat thoroughly enjoyed his offerings. It took until New Year for the smell of smoke to vanish from the kitchen, even though I kept the back door open as much as was possible with the bitter cold - then again, the gap under the stable door was so enormous, allowing mice to walk through upright if they so wished, that it didn't make that much difference.

So this year, I vowed that the girls and I would be going out for Christmas Lunch and there would be little, if no, palava. However, all the best laid plans go to waste with me, I have left it way too late to book anywhere, and I now have another mouth to feed in the shape of Charles Parsnip. I am considering how to complain enough to get out of doing it - if it was just the girls and myself, no doubt there would be three different meals to cook: I would be on my fish or seafood, #1 would be on the chicken, and #2 would pick at bread and Nutella. However, Mr P appears to like his traditional meal with all the trimmings as has been evinced by mention of joints, roasts, Yorkshire pudding, sausages wrapped in bacon etc. and I am starting to get frown lines above my nose from thinking too hard.

It's a pity the chippy isn't open...

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Hex The Boss

Now, some of you may remember that I wrote an educational post under a similar name a few months ago, but this post is to try to illustrate why I wish certain bosses would be hexed, as I have had a fair few clots in my time. The ones who spring to mind immediately are the crème de la crème of berks and I am sure that our two readers will be able to empathise with me in my descriptions of them.

My last boss, Bernard, was a jumped up, arrogant, little toe-rag who claimed that any woman (including me) fancied him, and that he had to ‘beat the women off with a stick’. Probably using their white canes, as a matter of fact.
It wasn’t just the fact that he didn’t have a clue about my job and would thus attempt to humiliate me in front of clients that makes me want to hex him; nor was it his turbulent, manic-depressive temper which made the other staff go into a huddle and try to work out if the temper was ready to explode or would just rumble away for a few more days.
It wasn’t even his constant boast that he attended an Oasis gig, needed to pee, urinated into a burst beach ball and lobbed it into the crowd where it drenched a young girl.

No, it was the fact that I rarely got any money out of him…

Salaries were never paid on time…Expenses? Don’t make me laugh. He still owes me around £100 for fees, petrol and bank charges for when he didn’t put my salary in to my account.

The first time I didn’t get paid on time, I was rather horrified to receive two snotty letters from my bank, charging me £60 for the privilege of having two direct debits bounce. When I diplomatically broached the subject of being paid on time with him, he took great umbrage, made me out to be a liar and gave me hell for the rest of the day.
The second time my salary wasn’t paid on time, I was left stranded over a long Bank Holiday weekend, penniless, with no response from him to my increasingly urgent voice mails which culminated in the question, ‘Where’s my f*cking salary?’ The next day, I didn’t even have enough money to fill my car up with petrol to get to work. It was only when I didn’t turn in that he decided to answer my calls. I had that day off deducted from my holiday entitlement…

A female boss of my acquaintance – let’s call her Bridget, because that is her name, and a nastier woman you could never meet - possessed the most revolting personal habits known to man. Everybody knows someone who picks their nose and eats it, but have you ever watched someone, in deep concentration, hook a whopping piece of earwax from their ear and chew on that? I felt my jaw seize up with the shivers when I caught her at it. She would adjourn to the Ladies, perform her ablutions, and leave, without ever washing her hands…When she had a cold, she found it hilarious to sneeze all over my predecessor’s work station – poor old Lou, who had suffered with an immuno-deficiency virus in her earlier years, was constantly off sick with colds and stomach upsets. When Lou decided she had had enough putting up with the Muppet Show and left without a job to go to, Bridget’s reference to potential employers made a major point of her sick leave, and Lou left each interview jobless…

Bridget’s husband, Mario, was equally as nasty. An egotistical, jumped up little oik, who claimed to have killed a King Cobra with his bare hands: he informed me on a number of occasions that he was ‘available’. After the third occasion, when I quite firmly told him that he was way too married for my liking, the atmosphere in the office suddenly became quite frosty.

Non-contractual demands were soon made of me, which I was totally unable to fulfil, and warnings of sackings dished out left, right and centre. I attempted to beat them at their own game, and succeeded in passing an exam with flying colours, despite not having studied for it in the stipulated minimum of 90 days – taking it after 44. This still wasn’t good enough and at the end of my probation, I was told that I didn’t quite cut the mustard. I did what all good Hexers do: bunged a load of laxatives into their drinks and breezed out and off to home where I proceeded to apply for every job advertised and was back in work within two weeks. For the next two weeks, they sat on the toilet, groaning…

One boss became a bit of a fling. I have mentioned him before in the excommunicated priest guise. For some very odd reason, I fancied him like mad, despite the massive age difference, and obviously, being a single 40-something, he was quite taken by the attentions of a 19 year old. When I realised he was interested, I stupidly, and mercilessly, dumped my stalwart boyfriend, who was heartbroken and called my mother every day, begging her to dissuade me from my actions. Her response was to tell me what I HAD to do: I did the opposite, so she sent me to Coventry (for our American reader, this means you don’t speak) for weeks. After meeting the boss (another Bernard) in Birkenhead Shopping Centre where he had attempted to look ‘trendy’ by wearing trainers (always a no-no in Agnes’s book), a sweatshirt and tight jeans, I knew this was not the Man For Me…particularly when he proceeded to compare the shape of my legs against former girlfriends…

When I quite gently told him that I didn’t think I wanted this to go any further (dear reader, it ventured no further than a furtive grope and lots of Confession), he got rather spiteful and reduced my lunch hour, denied me my study leave, and generally made my life hell. He fell very ill, and during his hospitalisation, I found another job and left without a trace. I was, however, rather sad to learn, two years ago, that he had actually died of the same condition…so he shall, despite his bitterness, remain unhexed.

My current boss is a broad Yorkshireman who says what he thinks, without any allusions to grandeur. He is shorter than me, standing at around 5’ 7”, whereas I am 5’ 7.5” (and that extra ½ inch is very precious to me!). He probably also weighs twice my weight. He is foul-mouthed, but finds it hilarious in that he has met his match with me. He brings out the worst in me – and I love it!

I think I may have found the boss of my dreams!

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Fireworks and Sparklers...

November 5th, for those of you not in the know, is Bonfire Night in the UK - or 'Bonny Night' if you are from the North West like me. It is there to celebrate Guy Fawkes attempting to blow up the Houses of Parliament and overthrow the government of that day. He failed parlously, unfortunately, and obviously there are no takers to try it again, as we still have a crap Labour government running the country (into the ground...).

Now, Bonfire Night is my favourite night of the year. Yes, Christmas Eve is jolly nice and I do like going out on birthdays, but November 5th is the ultimate night for me. I think it appeals to the arsonist tendencies in me (see post on Fear). It has always been my romantic ideal to spend the night with the man of my dreams, get all snuggly and warm, sip at a hot toddy/coffee/bottle of rum in a brown paper bag, and coo 'oooh' and 'aaaahh' at the beautiful fireworks exploding all over the sky.

Whilst attacking my garden for the winter a few weeks ago, I decided to save all the old wood, leaves and detritus to have our own bonfire. I had carefully tarpaulined it so the old rhododendron bushes would dry out, and thus crackle and spit like my Mother on a bad day. However, after the high winds we had two weeks ago, and due to my dilitory attitude, the tarp blew off and I couldn't be fagged re-jigging it. When I went to buy some fireworks, I was informed that they had sold out (this from the shop which couldn't give them away last year) and was offered three poxy packs of sparklers. Boo!

Armed with a small can of lighter fuel and some cardboard for kindling (Norman wouldn't be a sport and allow me to use his tail) we attempted to get the fire lit. It wasn't really a massive success to be honest, and now there is a huge pile of rotting wood stuck in the middle of my lawn, which I have no doubt will be there until Spring 2010. The sparklers were OK, admittedly, but I only managed to write Agnes twice in the air before they burned out.

#1 took the hump with me because a small spark of ash went sailing right down her low-cut top and hit the bullseye on the cleavage and I laughed. #2 was just concerned in case we ended up baking some hedgehogs which had hibernated in the leaves for the winter.

Yet, one of my ideals did come true last night, actually. I spent the evening with The Man of My Dreams, who presented me with my very own sparkler. OK, you can't write with it - although you could certainly take someone's eye out with it - and if all the blurb is to be believed, it is forever, unlike the handhelds which fizzled out after 30 seconds!

In a very ironic twist of fate, aforesaid Man of Dreams is an ex who has realised what a jolly good thing he was missing out on, how utterly fantastic I am, and a much richer person than I was 12 months ago, due to Job of Dreams, and asked me to marry him. So for all of you thinking I have lied about my singleton status, I'm afraid I haven't - he only contacted me again two weeks ago.

So, there you have it. The blogsite name will stay the same, but there will be a certain ex who won't be being blogged about any more!

PS. For reasons of a professional standing, my name will remain Mildew. His surname is Parsnip.

PPS. Charles Parsnip has asked me to verify my answer to any of you who really couldn't read between the lines...

I said, YES!

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Bless me Father, for I have sinned...time and again...

On Saturday night, I experienced one of the most gut-achingly hilarious conversations I have encountered for a while...and once again, it involved daughters, so for anyone feeling I am becoming a Mumsy Blog, I apologise forthwith, but please, read on...

The talk that night was of church and Catholicism. Earlier this year, I became a member of the Roman Catholic church which, to be perfectly frank, was to ensure that my daughters got the best education this council area can offer. I am far from being a God-Botherer, preferring to keep my faith very quiet and internal, and so changing religions didn't rail against my personal beliefs in any way.

Daughters #1 and #2 have embraced Catholicism in totally different ways. #1 sees it as a chore. She has no time for Mass, sacrements or any of that 'nonsense', and views the school Chapel as purely a place for her and her friends to hook up with their respective boyfriends for a furtive snog, when they are supposed to be dusting it, which is quite appalling. #2 daughter, however, is set to become Soeur Sourire, I fancy. I am quite prepared to watch her erupt with 'Dominique a-nique nique nique' in the very near future.

So, how we got onto the subject of sinning on Saturday night is beyond my ken, but #1 exclaimed that she was a sinner of the first order, not, ironically enough, due to the gropes in the Chapel, but because she had partaken of the Eucharist without being confirmed. #2 santimoniously informed us that she thoroughly enjoyed eating the bread as it tasted scrummy and wondered what it was made of. I replied that I was pretty certain it was just rice paper, and agreed that it was jolly tasty.

#1 'eeewed' at us both and proceeded to divulge that the 'Holy Bread' was made by the schoolkids in Food Tech. At this, I went into peals of laughter. I was utterly gobsmacked that a load of spotty oiks could be entrusted to make 'Holy Bread', knowing that their food hygeine would be way below par, that they would have arrived at that lesson having just snuck off for a crafty fag behind the bike sheds, a quick fumble with the girl of the moment, and possibly a detour to the toilets for a furtive zit pick. #1 couldn't understand my tears of laughter and proceeded to protest that it was made just like normal bread but with Holy Water and Holy Flour...this made me even worse. What the hell is Holy Flour?

And when the priest blesses it, does he realise the school have been cutting corners and using child labour to make his bread? Or is he in on it, and he and the Headmaster are divvying up the savings to place on the 12.30 from Kempton? Knowing this particular priest, and how he nods off during #2's Masses, I would guess he probably spends his cut on a few crates of Jim Beam.

I used to date an ex-communicated priest, as a matter of fact - he got kicked out for forgetting his vow of celibacy and became my manager when I started work at a firm of accountants many years ago. I was 19 and he was 41. He was a bit of a nutter, really, and told me that one of the most boring tasks he had to perform was hearing Confession. Because he couldn't be seen, he would take in magazines to read, and at one point, took up knitting to pass the time. This particular past-time had to be curtailed when he dropped his ball of wool and it rolled out from under the cubicle door and across the floor of the church...

I have been appalling and not ventured inside a church since #2 was baptised at Easter. Every Sunday I tell myself I will go to the 11am Mass and every Sunday I seem to find myself otherwise engaged at that time.

Well, perhaps I will find myself in a church again in the not too distant future...and on that note, I shall sign out and leave you to ponder!

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Trouser Saga #2...

So, in continuance of the Trouser Saga, today, for the very first time, I decided that we would head off to The Trafford Centre in Manchester to locate some new trousers for Agnes. It was to be my mission for the day as I despise shopping and would rather sit at home and read a book, knit fog or batter my head repeatedly against a brick wall.

The Trafford Centre is a large shopping mall in the north of England and, according to the voice-over as I was having my enormous frothy coffee, the safest shopping mall in the UK. I had to ponder how they'd arrived at this statement and wondered if they interviewed hoodies as they walked in to ask if they were a) into bag-snatching (1 point) b) pick-pocketing (2 points) c) glassing an unwitting shopper in the face for his money (3 points) or d) just giving an old person a jolly good kicking for the hell of it (10 points). With an average score of less than 3, could they thus claim 'safety'? When I vocalised my musings, I was informed that this information was probably returned by the lack of reported crime. Quite simple really, but I was in a reflective mood...

#1 daughter dragged us immediately to Selfridges - a large department store where everything is exorbitantly priced and gives me whole body shakes. As we walked in, I was immediately captivated by the Star Wars light sabres on display and decided to take the shop assistant up on his offer to 'have a go'. I was Yoda, I think - he was one of the Darths. It was very reminiscent of penis envy, in some ways, in that he had to have the biggest and heaviest: he was a very small chap, and I towered over him in my heels. He thrashed me...

Anyway, I had a task to perform and off I toddled to the Kookai concession in Selfridges, where I spotted my dream trousers retailing at £59.00 which is a far cry from the prices I pay for the kecks I normally buy from the charity shops for about a fiver.

I explained to the pushy shop assistant what size I needed. Unfortunately, my size simply wasn't there. So, she told me to try a 36 and a 40. But I'm 38, I explained. My old trousers are 38 and they fit me like a glove. What's the point? Just try them, she told me. I half expected her to tag on, 'For me. Please...'

No, there was no point going through the ignominy of hauling my thighs into a 36, and I knew the 40s would hang off me. In desperation, she checked the trousers on the mannequin. 'Got 'em!' she declared triumphantly. 'Here's your 38s. Try them on!' As ordered, off I went to the changing rooms with #1 daughter.

Well, the changing rooms were the most bizarre in which I have ever stripped in all my born days. Four canvas 'pods' which looked like caterpillar cocoons were freestanding in a carefully lit room. I was shown into a pod and looked around for somewhere to hang my clothes: #1 daughter's head came in handy. Attempting to balance and remove my boots, I toppled and reflexively reached out to steady myself. My hand fell onto the canvas, which had no support, and over I went with a small yelp. #1 and I exchanged glances. Above me, in the pod's 'breathing hole', a spotlight burned down on me with the intensity of the Arabian sun. I was starting to get hot and bothered, and was not a happy Agnes at all. So, I started to curse. Loudly. Exclaiming to any other person within earshot that these pods had "obviously been designed by a bloody bloke!" who had no idea of all the 'foundation garments' us 30-something ladies need to wear in order to snare a member of the opposite sex. I had actually taken a posh Karen Millen frock in to try, too, but I was buggered if I was going to continue this battle any longer. They could have lost a sale of £250.00 due to those pods. Then again, I would probably have gone onto eBay and bought the same frock for a fraction of the price...After five more minutes of wrestling with the hangers I had suspended from one of the ribs in the pod's frame which nearly took my eye out, I managed to get dressed and stalked out of the pod with as much decorum I could muster.

I am ashamed to say that I launched an attack on the young Saturday girl shop assistant who had obviously heard the pod's profanities and due to her kind nature and training, empathised with me immediately. The wind was somewhat taken out of my sails as it wasn't her fault, and I was just being a grumpy bitch, really. The girl obviously felt for me as I moaned that I wasn't a human chrysalis. #1 told me to shut up as I was embarassing her.

Well, the trousers fit. I bought them - and their wrapping was almost as complicated as trying them on. I watched with amazement as tissue was flourished, tape stuck down and two shop assistants in almost perfect choreography danced round each other, attempting to alleviate the pain on my credit card by distracting me from my mental financial calculations.

So, I don't have to suffer cold legs now and have the warehouse blokes gawping at my legs when I sneak out for a fag at work, and passing comments that I could do with getting some thermal drawers on. And that's my shopping done for a while. Under no circumstances am I heading off to any shopping mall in the near future, Christmas or no. Presents will be purchased online or not at all. Shopping involves crowds of stupid people, ingratiating shop assistants, fast food and slow queues.

It was obviously invented by a 'bloody bloke'...