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.

OK...it 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 welcoming...so 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 house...to 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'...