Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Christmas Time is Here II

OK Agnes, you win.

So once again this year, I decided to try and engender some Christmas spirit, and also bond with step-daughters #1 & 2 by taking them Christmas Shopping at the Trafford Centre.

Agnes has nothing but hatred & disdain for these horrible shopping centres. A monument to consumerism, the Trafford Centre is a vast shopping complex on two levels, with a massive eatery in the middle. Fountains fire water jets high into the air, Christmas lights bathe all the shoppers in a happy glow as they elbow their way past each other. A brass band plays Christmas carols to those who walk by, and every single shop has Christmas music playing gently to soothe the souls of those who queue endlessly, to be served by sullen shop assistants who are fed up with Christmas and all the shenanegans of working until 11 every night for the four weeks prior to the two day celebration. (long sentence award here plz)

The bonding began in typical style, with both girls rushing in from school, excited at the prospect of a shopping trip. As we left a relieved Agnes and went to the car, then the antagonism began in earnest.

"I'm sitting in the front."
"No. I'm sitting in the front on the way there. You can sit there on the way back."

Of course, there is no need to annotate which daughter said what to whom, because it's entirely interchangeable. It doesn't matter.

Imagine the scene...
5pm (rush hour)
Heading into central Manchester
Pouring down with rain
Dank, dark and cold night
Radio 1.

I could hardly see anything through the spray of the vehicles on the road. White vans screaming down the outside lane at 90mph with visibility down to a few yards. Terrified drivers sitting in any lane at stupidly low speeds. Lorries throwing up half an ocean in their wake. Brake lights on and off, last second lane-changing, me not overly familiar with the route, and two bored girls.

I'll mention it again, because it is worth mentioning. Such noisy, talentless crap. Endless repetition of the same words "vummanizer... vummanizer... I'm a vummanizer, you're a vummanizer...." It was like those French lessons all so distant now... Je suis, tu es, il est, nous sommes... I remarked that her voice sounded like it was coming through a bucket-full of tights.

"She lost her voice," remarked #1 avidly. "She had a drug problem, lost her voice, and now she's making a comeback."

Perhaps she shouldn't have bothered, I thought, as I narrowly avoided being tossed into the side of a lorry by a nutter in a Mercedes who shot past me, only to slam his brakes on and cut across three lanes of rush hour traffic to dive down a slip road.

The radio got turned up, the girls started bouncing in their seats, and I rested my arm against the window and held my head as I continued to dodge the traffic. Christ, I was getting old. Music too loud, can't understand the youth of today... Did I sound familiar?

We hit a traffic jam with only 3 miles to the centre. I moved over into the left hand lane, as I knew I'd be pulling off soon. #1 looked at me with concern and suggested I moved out again to skip the traffic and pull in later, a tactic already being employed by half of Manchester, hence the reason we were stuck in this queue. I glared at the passing traffic and wished them all a thousand painful deaths. #1 tutted and went back to writing her letter in the dark*.

After about ten minutes of not moving, the girls got bored.
"I'm hungry"
"Are we there yet?"
"My back's hurting"
"I need the loo"
"Can I have that cushion for my back?"
"No! I'm using it as a pillow"
"But my back is really hurting!!"
"You can have it on the way back"
"When we get there, can we have something to eat first?"

I like order. The Trafford Centre is like a big long stick. John Lewis (my intended parking place) is at one end of it, and my plan was to walk up to the top on the ground floor, and back along the top, hitting all the shops we needed with military precision. There would be no time for dawdling. I knew what I wanted, and then I was getting out. Already I thought of Agnes, sat back at home, ordering everything online, and enjoying a cigarette without condemnation. Next year, I vowed. Next year.

And now The Plan was in danger of collapse. The food halls are half way up the stick. My mind went awhirl as I tried to figure out how to get to the food halls, feed the girls, do the shopping, and get back to the car without having to double back on myself and waste footsteps. I know, I know. You pity Agnes don't you?

And then, there was just one more worry.... I wanted to buy Agnes something nice. To wear under her clothes you understand. Things that step-daughters most definitely shouldn't see. Cautiously, and with great hindsight-enabled stupidity, I opened my mouth.

"Will you two be OK on your own if... well... you know... if I have to pop off for a bit?"

#1 looked up at me suspiciously. She can be terribly intelligent when the mood takes her. #2 dragged herself from her daydream, pulled her thumb out of her mouth and managed a "hmmm?"

"I need to pop off and get a few bits. Will you be OK in Boots or something?"

I caught a glance out of the corner of my eye of #1 turning this over in her mind. The penny dropped.

"Are you going to Ann Summers?"

I blanched. "Maybe. I'd like to get your mum something nice, and I might want to go into La Senza too (much more upmarket lingerie for the discerning woman)"

"What are you going to get her?" asked #1 innocently, yet veiled with impish maliciousness.

I, as usual when faced with #1's cockiness, momentarily froze. And like all of nature's victims, one second of hesitation is all it takes to prompt the attack.

A giggle came from the back seat. "Is it handcuffs?".
#1 guffawed. "Nah.. they've already got some of them." and then to me "Is it some sexy underwear?"

My face must have gone white, my hands felt slippery on the steering wheel. I wanted to vanish. I wanted to go home. I wanted Agnes to face this, not me.

"I'm thinking about getting her a nice nightie," I replied, surprising myself at the swiftness of my reply as well as the disarmingly un-interesting words. #1 immediately became bored. Thwarted, she returned to her letter, but #2 persisted in the back.

"I can help you choose it you know. I know what she likes!"
"No. It's OK thanks. I'll just bumble around on my own. Besides, I don't want you two in there poking fun at me, I'll be embarrassed enough as it is. It's just not right having you there while I buy night things for your mum."
#1 looked up, a gleam returning to her eye. "We won't poke fun at you. We'll just be there to help."
"Mum had a really nice nightie that she really loved," continued #2 from the back. "It had Eeyore on it."
I could imagine Agnes' face opening an Eeyore nightie. I remained resolute in the face of adversity.
"It's OK. Thank you. I'll be fine."

Eventually the traffic began to move, and five minutes later, we parked up.

After we'd had something to eat, which was an amusing experience whereby #2 went healthy with a Subway and #1 went unhealthy with a MacD's. After finishing her healthy option, #2 asked for a lone chip from #1's pile which was met with a venomous "NO!". I asked #2 if she wanted me to get a portion of chips and she said,  Yes please! Sometimes the smallest things can make one feel good. The look on her face as I returned with the chips was worth the queue and the clueless service. I still refuse to call chips "fries", which utterly confuses most MacDonalds workers. I remember at school once, a group of us went down to MacD's and spent ten minutes going round asking the staff what the time was, counting up the amount of furrowed eyebrows or grunted responses. Quite a shocking revalation that was. Made me study a bit harder for my O'levels... But, I digress...

We hit the shops.

So. Without regailing you with a detailed account of the ensuing fun, here are the high points.

In Shop A:
#2 pointing at an item and saying "oooh. That's nice". 
#1 responding in a voice loud enough for the shop to hear... "What?! Charlie can't afford that! It's X thousand pounds!"

In Shop B:
Me, browsing quietly and struggling to locate the Right Thing: "Can either of you two help me with this?"
#1, ignoring me "come and look at these boots I'm getting for Christmas"
#2, ignoring me "come and look at these shoes I like"
Me, repeating the question, in a sterner manner.
#1 and #2 shrugging their shoulder in unison: "Sorry, nope."

In Shop C:
I locate what I'm looking for, but lose the children. OMFG, I just lost the kids! Crap. I'm dead. For a second, I wonder whether Agnes will greet me with relief if I turn up back at the house without them, then I dismiss the fantasy and settle on the reality that I will, in fact, be dead. As a doornail.
#1 comes flouncing over with something in her hand. "Look at this! Isn't it lovely". #2 isn't far behind.
Stressed now, I come up with a Plan. 
"Look. Here's some money. Why don't you go to Shop D and get your mum something nice. Look for something for her. Yep, For her.
#1 frowns as if this is something she will need to concentrate hard on. She nods, confident of her task, and the pair of them skip out of the store.
The shop assistant smiles gently as I pay for my goods. "They seem lovely girls. Do they get on?" I consider the truth, then realise that I'm holding up the queue, and that no-one ever wants to hear the truth. 
"Yep,"I lie. I nod, smile, pay for my stuff and leave her mumbling about her sister with whom she constantly argues. 
Outside of Shop C, I realise that I cannot see shop D. My fevered brain works overtime. I was sure it was close by. I look up and down the sea of heads. Crap. I lost them again. I look over the balcony. Nope. No sign of shop D. Shop E, however, is next door to C, so I figure that they'll finish in D then come back to C by the time I'm finished in E. Still with me? OK. Re-read from "Yep".

I dash inside, believing like some sort of SETI fanatic, that this shop won't be busy. It's rammed to the gills. I snatch what I want, and rush to the counter. God is smiling on me as the queue all but evaporates and I move to the empty assistant station. He smiles at me.
I clear my throat, fumbling for my mobile phone in my pocket and pulling out a pack of cigarettes which I rest on the counter. "I don't suppose you know where Shop D is do you?" I enquire.
He merely glares at the cigs and points to the warning on the packet which shows a mouth cancer victim in all its horrible glory. "That's 'orrible, that is." he states. 
I wait. I look into his glassy eyes. There is no sign of movement.
"I said... Do you know where Shop D is please?"
He furrows his brow. Jesus, I think. How hard can this be to figure out? It can't be that far away.
"Sorry mate, dunno. Is this a Christmas present?"
I nod absently. He's asking because he's going to give me a gift receipt. Agnes can take it back if it's wrong, but more pressingly, if I don't find the girls, none of this will matter, because I'll be dead.
"Lucky you." he states, and my mind stops dead. The words don't compute. What the f*ck is he on about? I look up at him and he is sadly picking the price tag off.
"What do you mean?" I enquire patiently.
"No-one's gonna get me nuthin' this year" he replies.

I consider telling him that if he doesn't shut up, he won't need to worry about it because my murder of him will be inconsequential to what happens to me when Agnes finds out that I have LOST HER CHILDREN. Life will be meaningless without testicles.

#1 saunters up to me as I leave the shop. They found Shop D without me, bought what they needed, then came back to find me. Good girls. I should never have doubted them. the panic subsides, but my head throbs.

After this, the visits to shop F,  G and H, things go relatively smoothly. Even the visit to Ann Summers goes without a hitch as the girls are too engrossed in getting their respective boyfriends something nice to notice what I'm up to.

#2 was in the front on the way home*, which meant Rock FM, which was infinitely preferable to that commercial sh*t they play on Radio1. Although, having said that, even this so called "independant" radio station was pretty commercial.

Next year.

* Another story...

Christmas Time is Here!

I am getting excited. Only 15 days to go until Chrimbo (as us Scousers call it) and I have now spent a small fortune of money which I don't really have. Therefore, I will probably have to go cleaning posh people's houses, write a book or prostitute myself to pay off the credit card bill which will land with an almighty thump on 2 January 2009. That day when you feel a hell of a lot better than the day before when your head is pounding with ten elephant ballerinas and somebody has emptied a cannister of CO2 into your guts...You wake up realising that you haven't died. You got through New Year's Day and only had to spend 2.5 hours in the bathroom, which wasn't that bad as they were showing Only Fools & Horses: that episode where Rodney 'hilariously' (and I use that term very, very loosely and if it drips with much more sarcasm, it is liable to wash away...) gets called a plonker for the millionth time by Del Boy, and The Wizard of Oz on the telly. Again.

Then the postman arrives and your world caves in. Ah me...Why do I like this time of year so very much?

Well, I shall let you into a secret. I love giving presents to people. I get much more of a kick out of giving them than receiving them, (Mr P, please don't take this statement too much to heart. Eternity Rings are an exception to this rule...) and I am like a cat on a hot tin roof, desperate for the recipients to play my guessing games as to what they are about to receive (and for that they should be truly thankful...Amen). For example, I have bought Mr P a *******/****/********** for Christmas and I cannot wait to give it to him. So I pester him to play the guessing game with him, promising him that if he does guess it, I won't tell him if he's right or not. He doesn't like this game, and refuses to play for some considerable time until I have made his ears bleed with my incessant nagging.

So, this morning, he wearily acquiesced, I promised faithfully not to give anything away and he asked, Is it anything to do with photography?



 I clapped my hand over my mouth in shock at my utterance, blushed unbearably red at my error and then squawked at myself, loudly, for being completely incapable of keeping a secret. I couldn't believe that my mouth was in Top Gear when my brain was still strolling down a pretty country lane...

Last year, whilst very distracted by a telephone conversation at work, I noticed, vaguely, that my colleagues were whispering amongst themselves. As soon as I put the phone down, one of them asked, Who did you get for Secret Santa, then? I automatically told them and was screeched out of the department for being a 'gob-sh*te' and incapable of holding my water.

This year, I thought I was being slightly more clever in ordering everything on-line and adjusting delivery dates to just before Christmas. So I wouldn't be tempted to hand everything out, you understand? I ordered this digital tablet thingummy for Charles, about which I knew nothing and then fretted. Was this what he wanted? It looked more like a hot-plate for warming pans than something with which you could do whizzy digital photography things. By 10pm, I had showed him the reviews, the tech specs, and groaned because he didn't think he had the USB port it required. 

Two weeks ago, I bought him three photography books. One evening, he was a bit down in the dumps, so I gave them to him to cheer him up.

So that's now four presents of which he has knowledge.

(Aside: I keep smelling blue cheese in here...I wonder what's wrong with my nose?)

He's got to have some surprises for Christmas Day, so yesterday, I returned to eBay, armed with my Flexible Friend and, eyes shut very tightly, heart beating wildly, I hit the 'Buy This Now!' button. I do hate being bossed around by an e-commerce site, but they are bullies and I am a weakling at times...

I also had a winning bid on the most amazing, brand new, Nicole Farhi silk and cashmere jumper for him. Every hour, I checked 'My eBay', just in case, and with only 23 minutes to go until the bid ended, I got up to prepare dinner for my beloved family. And lost the bloody jumper. I was spitting hell, fire and brimstone. They can buy their own chips next time...

Despite what he says, Mr P finds it very difficult to hold his water, too. By 2pm yesterday, two of my presents were in my grubby hands and that was without a single, ingle word of cajoling or nagging. I hadn't even mentioned his shopping trip to him - and 'trip' is the operative word by all accounts, when the girls got to him about going within a five mile radius of Anne Summers. (Actually, as another aside, I have a blog to write about the Anne Summers' catalogue. To say I was lost for words and almost hysterical is NOT an understatement...then again, perhaps Mr P should write this for a change...hint, hint) Not once. I am actually really good like that. I don't root in hiding places, I don't ask what I am getting, I just stay very quiet and wish, with everything crossed, that I am getting an Eternity Ring, with dirty big, square-cut diamonds. If I stay really, really still and don't breathe for about 45 seconds, it might just come true...

So, 15 days to go. Actually, Mr P and I are spending Christmas alone this year. #s 1 and 2 daughters are off to the ex's house for six days. Although he has magnanimously allowed them to come here for a 'few hours' on Christmas Day itself. And I wouldn't mind betting it will be either over the lunchtime, so I have to get cooking as from first light, or when the Christmas Rugby Special is showing over on BBC2 wherein the Barbarians drub the living daylights out of England. As usual...

We will be celebrating Christmas for the girls on New Year's Day. A sort of BOGOF deal (Buy One, Get One Free) for them. So, Mr P has agreed to eat salmon with me on 25th December - no petrified turkeys in this house, this year. And we shall probably open a nice bottle of vin rouge or two, maybe stroll down to the local to walk off the mince pies and enjoy the ambience of the Hanging Gate's two bar electric fire.

I simply cannot wait!!

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

A Dirty Welsh Weekend

So, off we go to Bodysgallen Hall Hotel for a mucky weekend, since Mr P had finally sold his house, there were a few, spare quid knocking about; #s 1 and 2 were at their father's house and we needed a break from household chores.

Mr P had a mad, final dash at work, meaning that he was unable to help me pack, load up the car, sort out the animals, wash-up or even make himself a cup of tea. It must be a nightmare replying to an email, mustn't it? #1, after a blazing row, wherein I threatened to stunt her growth for evermore, finally acquiesced to minding her sister and taking her to the cinema and so by midday, I was almost ready to leave the house. Bunnies fed? Check. Cat fed? Check. Doors and windows locked? Check. Handcuffs packed? What? What are they in your suitcase for, Mum?

I was sitting on the toilet at the time, reading a book, 'dropping off some timber', as my eldest so quaintly terms it and my brow furrowed in consternation wondering how I was going to get out of this one...

-They're to secure something in the car.
-Are you sure they're not for kinky stuff**?
-Positive. I swear to you. On my life. Really...

Bodysgallen Hall is an enormous country house hotel. Very snooty, very up-market and a bit better than the Holiday Inns I am used to. You even dress for dinner, which appeals to my vanity immensely - there is nothing better, for me, than putting on a slinky frock, 'boofing' up my hair, plastering on the make-up and getting out one of my hundreds of pairs of 6" stilettoes. Unfortunately, Mr P was unable to procure a room for us within the main body of the hall and so we were farmed out to the boondocks to stay in The Engine Room, a converted farm building in the form of a luxury cottage. It was fantastic, but the walk up the hillside to the Hall, in -6 degC temperatures, on ice and shale, in aforesaid 6" heels made the North Face of the Eiger look inviting. It was so bloody cold that over slinky frocks I had to wear a jumper, fleece, scarf, gloves and heavy overcoat. And I was still cold. And the hood from my fleece made me look like some dubious crack dealer.

The hotel is classed as a Spa: it has 'therapy and treatment rooms'; an indoor swimming pool; sauna; steam room; whirlpool and gymnasium. And it was for the gym I headed.

Many years ago, when living in Oman, I was a total gym-head. I couldn't get enough of the place, working out for two hours a day, almost every day, unless the ex took umbrage at the fact that I hadn't fed him fresh grapes for a few days. Since repatriation, I hadn't exercised in any way, shape or form and had become quite comfortably indolent and blasé about toning up or making my heart beat faster than at resting moment. So I packed my Nikes, my Bridget Jones knickers which look like gym shorts but are really my secret weapon, and a few skanky T-shirts to pong up.

I enjoyed it immensely, and I have to admit that the exercise bug has bitten me hard on the backside. I haven't been able to get to a gym since our return and I miss it like my right arm has been chopped off. I may just sneak off to LA Fitness tomorrow while Mr P is messing on his Photoshop, pretending to be busy...

On my third visit, I had arrived long before Mr P, who was only using the pool, and after our reunion in the steam room, and a big fat sweat in there, we were ready to clear off and head back home via TK Maxx, wherein I found the most fantastic pair of dirty designer shoes (at £10.00!), a pair of sunglasses (as mine have recently snapped and now make me look like Long John Silver with only one lens) and a box of crackers for Christmas.

Whilst doing some weight training, I had found a teeny-bopper CD and turned up the volume. It was all stuff that our girls love and force me to listen to on a regular basis. Artists like J-Zed, 50 percentage, know, those very trendy chappies. What happened to regular band names like The Grateful Dead, Ozric Tentacles and Black Lace? Unfortunately, after three songs in, and me pounding away like a mad woman, a sweet old dear limped in wearing her little black leotard, black tights, pumps and a horrified expression at the demonic sounds blurting from the sound system. Being the polite person I am, and always deferring to my elders, I asked her if she wanted to reduce the volume.

She switched channels to Classic FM wherein I then performed tricep dips to Vivaldi's 4 seasons in the 'A-Z of Composers'. I sort of lost my momentum.

Thankfully, her own work-out consisted of ten minutes of bouncing on the trampette and then stretching. She effusively thanked me for my consideration and then buggered off to the pool from where she waved at me before dipping her toe in the water. I cracked on until I saw the glint of Mr P's bald patch rising above the water during his breast stroke. I finished off, changed, and met him in the whirlpool.

After ten minutes of playing with his inflated swimming shorts, squeezing the air out of his herniated groin and cackling loudly, echoing around the building, we decided to remove ourselves and get ready to depart the hotel (boo, hiss!).

I retired to the ladies' and there found my 'Old Dear', stark naked, parading around as though she had the nubile body of a 16-year old. I was frankly quite startled at how the body sags in the late 60s. I averted my eyes as much as possible, but had it confirmed to me that,'Yes, it does go grey down there!'

As I padded around, grabbing my clothes and sorting out my changing room, she kept looking over at me and smiling. So when I emerged, fully dressed, and needing to dry off my hair, I suspected I now had a friend for life and would soon be learning a few things about this lady. Sure enough, she began with how 'utterly marvellous' Bodysgallen is and did I have membership?

-Er no. I am just here for the weekend.
-Ooooh. You're staying here. Well, how simply marvellous. We come here all the time. The food is marvellous (she did like that word) and do you know what I like about it? doesn't come in a bucket?
-The portion sizes. Nice and small. I cannot abide large portion sizes.

This was actually my only bugbear about the grub - portions were tiny. You can't get stuck in to a bit of nosebag if the meal is more about presentation than satiation.

-So where is your nearest Spa Hotel?
-We don't have any near us, really. There's a Spa up the road from where I live but it's not residential.
-It's name?
-Whitley Day Spa...(and I did feel a bit daft telling her this. Whenever we mention it in this house, it is always said with a broad Geordie accent.)
-No. Not heard of that one. My daughter is going to Hawkscross in the new year. Are you familiar with it?

Then she got chatting to me about her exercise plan which 'James' had devised for her. James is a veritable miracle man. He has reversed the stages of osteoporosis in one woman, reduced another man's hypertension and last week, he walked on the water of the swimming pool, chucking loaves and fishes to the visiting Germans. She proceeded to tell me all about her recent hip operation and how much better she now felt...

-I don't believe in operations, you know (why? I've seen them happen on 'I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Some Plastic Boobs'). No, I always tell people, If you don't need an operation, don't have it done.
Makes sense, I thought. I wouldn't book myself in for a spot of disembowelling if it wasn't necessary. I'd much prefer to visit the charity shops in Northwich and pick up a bargain.

-So, what I always say is, Beware!

Beware? Beware of what? Baddies? Spiders? Loan Sharks? Who? What?

She was obviously batty. I had been trying, for the past ten minutes, to leave and meet Mr P who would, by now, be on his tenth game of telephone Sudoku and wondering what the hell had happened to me. I took my leave and met him as arranged.

-Coo. Sorry. Couldn't get away from the old duck in the changing room. Do you know, she spent £35 to come here to watch eight minutes of fireworks. And I had to work-out to bloody Vivaldi...

-What? What's up?

Mr P was looking a bit green around the gills: The published room rate prices didn't include VAT.

I gulped. A further 17.5% to pay. And the muckiness of our weekend had pretty much extended to me almost slipping flat on my backside into a puddle. Now was not the time to ask for £400 to join LA Fitness in our local town.

-Ooh. Not nice. Are you OK? Do you want me to drive us home?

Mr P grimaced, gritted his teeth and said, with bitterness, Even the food allowance didn't cover the wine we ordered. You were right. (And I bet that hurt more than anything, having to admit that I was right for a change!).

-Ah well, at least we enjoyed it, eh?

-Yes. I think we should think about another break away, this time with the girls.

So we are camping at the bottom of our garden in a few weeks time, when the wood has dried out, we can have a bonfire and I can sling some jacket potatoes into the embers. Quality dining, quality accommodation. It'll even be en suite as I have a toilet in the outhouses and an outside tap. And I am not VAT registered...

**They never got used, honestly. Mr P crocked his back and the idea of tickling him with a feather around his armpits and being unable to fend me off just didn't cut the mustard, so we watched Schindler's List instead...

Monday, 17 November 2008

Hex My Pets

This post was reputedly going to be written by Mr Parsnip, considering he was the one who flew into high dudgeon over the event, but as per usual, he is all mouth and no trousers and his photography priorities come high above such quality literature as you read on HexMyEx.

As our regular reader may know, we have taken possession of a black and white, male kitten. I have had cats (as befits a witch of my calibre) since I was knee-high to a grasshopper but unfortunately, over the last 20-odd years, haven't had much luck with them.

'Tom #1' snuffed it of a heart attack just shy of his first birthday, so along came 'Lucky', a rescue cat whose fate wasn't that lucky if you care to read the link. Lucky was the last cat I owned at my parents' house and upon moving in with the ex, I obtained 'Scroff', short for Scrofulous, meaning TB-ridden. She was lovely. She got knocked down by a car within eight months of us owning her. 'Poirot' came along to replace her and we later had to donate him to the mother-in-law upon our expatriation to Oman. 'Sid' (short for Sidr, which was the Garden Court upon which we lived - and I thought 'she' was a 'he') adopted us from a bin when we lived in Muscat. She was a scraggy stray who wobbled from the bin into our house, ate my sausages and didn't leave. She was then taken on by another family upon my departure. Repatriation brought 'Tom #2' who now resides with the ex and is the size of a small pouffe upon which you can rest your weary feet; 'Holly', in my own house, was donated to a friend whose daughter longed for a pet and since I was living alone and out at work 12 hours each day it was deemed kinder; then 'Ollie' and 'Norman' have been here and since done a runner, having found that living on the other side of the main road, where there are many foxy Tabbies is infinitely preferable to living on this side of the road where there is little but Carling Black Label cans, smelly old dogs and too many curious children for their liking.

After a short gap and a resolution NEVER to get another cat, I got all starry-eyed for a kitten one afternoon in the local hostelry having read the Mid-Cheshire Buy-Sell free paper in which there were plenty of scrawny runts for sale at exorbitant prices.

-Mr P? Can I have a kitten, please?

-Err...Yes. I guess so. If you want.


Ten minutes later, I have a postcode, a time to collect the remaining male of the litter and suddenly, Mr P is more excitable than a bag full of monkeys. I learned that he had never had a pet from scratch, never named anything (apart from his City of Heroes' villains) and thus, I decided to 'give' the kitten to him, to love, cherish, feed, clean out its litter tray and leave the kicking and abuse to me.

'Oscar' came to our abode at the end of August, when #1 and #2 daughters holidayed in Spain. He was pampered, fussed over, molly-coddled and generally treated like a piece of precious porcelain by Mr Parsnip who even, at one point, suggested that he slept in our bedroom with us!

No bloody chance!

I have had one infestation of cat fleas in the house, many, many years ago and it was nightmarish waking up itching all over and as spotty as if I was suffering with wasn't even my fault for being a tardy pet-owner - the ex refused to give me any money to get some Bob Martin's; Tom #2 went a-wandering; obviously got in with a dirty woman cat and brought back his own version of VD to infect the manky carpets in the ex's house. Despite my constant complaining of flea bites, he refused to allow me to do anything other than scrub everything with bleach. It was only when #1 threw the Mount Etna of temper tantrums at the bites bedecking her legs, arms, hands and torso that he submitted and I was allowed to bring the disinfestation guys in. But only downstairs...

I had to use all my feminine guiles to get that disinfestation bloke into my bedroom...and I shall leave the rest to your imagination...!

So, while Oscar is a very cute kitten, with a gregarious nature, he seems to prefer to crap inside the house than outside. He has a vast expanse of garden, including a soft, squishy compost heap but, no, he will go outside, pretend he is 'hard' in front of rabbits Lambert and Butler, and then yowl to come back in for a dump. It is tedious. There were a number of accidents at one point, after we had gradually edged the litter tray outside and Mr P would frequently be seen with his head resting on the kitchen floor, spreading his hands out, doing a reccy for cat pee. With the dim lights in the kitchen, his hands would often slide right through Oscar's latest offering, smear it even further and then an outburst of filthy, filthy language would colour the air blue, offend my sensitive nature and the cat would suddenly learn how to fly. Invariably, I end up cleaning the mess.

It is Mr P's duty to empty the litter tray. If he complains, the girls and I chorus to him: He's YOUR cat! I suspect he has now sussed that the small matter of the naming ceremony, and presenting the kitten to him, as his very own, had a few hidden agendas on my part...

Anyway, on Saturday night, there we were, dressed in all our finery, ready for a night out from which we blobbed and decided to cook at home instead and Mr Parsnip hears the plaintive meowing of his darling kitten from the outhouse passageway, raises his voice an octave and gently coos, Oscar! Ozzie, Come on, Come on inside out of the cold. Aaah. Look at you, you're all soggy like a drowned rat...

Oscar stalks in, looking most disgruntled from his bath to which I subjected him after he came down from the loft with blue legs, belly and face; skinny and matted, scowls as only a cat can, and sniffs in the corner of the kitchen, six inches from his litter tray. 

There was then a moment of intense concentration. It was as if time stood still as Mr Parsnip stared at the cat; the cat stared back and suddenly, Mr P squawked, Is he having a sh*t? Another moment of stillness and then Mr P launched himself at the moggy, picked him up by the scruff of his neck, revealing a steaming, curled turd on the floor and suddenly had to arch himself backwards. The cat, all four limbs stuck out at odd angles had decided that his bowels weren't quite empty and continued to evacuate them mid-air. Cat poo splattered across the skirting board, the kitchen floor and the door mat.

The air became quite blue, the door was flung open and the kitten was flung out.

Dirty little F*cker! Dirty, Dirty Little F*cker!! That's just disgusting! Dirty, dirty Sod! Six inches from his litter tray. Six Inches!! 

While this tirade continued to rage, I did the practical thing: got some toilet paper from the bathroom, started picking up the mess in between gipping sessions, and then disinfected the areas. It was all sorted out within a few minutes and Oscar suddenly had a much cleaner litter tray to use after Mr P galvanised himself to pitch the used kitty-lit.

Later in bed, the tirade resumed.

MY kitten. Oh yes. MY BLOODY KITTEN, isn't he? 'Here you are, YOU can name him. He's yours now'. Oh I fell for that one, didn't I? I'm never listening to you get all starry-eyed in the pub again. Never. It was a bloody trap.

But I clean up his accidents, I responded, mildly. And I feed him.

We ALL bloody feed him. That's why he sh*ts so bloody much. He never stops eating. I have to clean his bloody litter tray out. He goes outside, and then comes back in TO SH*T!!

And then I got hysterical. Mr P, when in high dudgeon, is one of the funniest sights known to man. It took me about 20 minutes to contain myself. I laughed so hard, I didn't need to remove my make-up as the tears had done it for me. Upon my return from the toilet, Mr P levelled a scowl so hard at me, that if looks could kill, I'd now be six feet under the clay.

What's that look for?

I'm writing my blog, he said, ominously...

Obviously not...

Monday, 3 November 2008

Hexing on YOUR Behalf...Ingrates! Tsk...

Right. Since putting up the Hallowe'en Hex post, I have been positively inundated with requests to Hex people (well, I think three of you asked, anyway...). So, as I am a very biddable person and always keen to assist, I shall attempt forthwith. Trouble is, you haven't really told me any of the whys and wherefores, such as names, dates, incidents. Rubbish, aren't you? Therefore, it is up to me to guess.  

Here goes.

Karen: You asked me to hex some of your exes. I'll hex two of them for you (a sort of BOGOF deal - and in case you don't have that irritating mnemonic in the States, it means, Buy One Get One Free. When the noxious git who coined the phrase comes on the telly, squawking it at the camera in order to sell bloody double glazing, I have to mute the sound and hide behind a cushion. He is ghastly. So a hex on him while I'm at it, too...)

Ex #1. Let's call him Oswald. Oswald was a big, fat, slobbery chap with enormous rubbery lips. He was a terrible kisser and used to leave slaver all over your face. You didn't like this at all and asked him to stop making you feel as though you had been licked to death by a Labrador with halitosis. He wouldn't. This made you very cross. You also didn't like the way he would rub your cats' fur up the wrong way, thus making them very disgruntled. You don't like it when your cats are miserable. To top it all, every night, when you wanted to get jiggy in bed (as long as there was no kissing), he would bring up a plate of cheese and pickled onion butties, rest them on his big fat belly, and not offer you any. That was the height of bad manners to you. And then he dumped you. So you've never got over that ignominy. Thus, a Hex on Oswald. May his pickled onions chemically react with his slobber and his bottom explode...

Ex #2. Let's call this chap Norbert. Norbert was very, very mean with his money. He wouldn't allow you any spends and you would have to cut the NY Post up into strips for toilet paper. For six months, you lived on cardboard and beans, which unfortunately for you, was highly calorific, so you put on heaps of weight and became a right lard-arse. And you didn't like that in the slightest, did you? His meanness even extended to 'Belly-Button fluff farming'. Terrible. Each week, you and the girls had to line up while he extracted the fluff from your navels. Then he would force you to spin it into yarn and knit your jumpers for the winter. They were always grey-blue. After six years of this misery, he left you for a life in a Scottish croft with a woman he had met on a self-sufficiency website forum. They then wrote a book together, advising people on how to make money playing the stock markets and are now multi-millionaires and very happy since their marriage. What a cad, eh? Thus, a Hex on Norbert. May the tax man locate him, throw him in prison where he is too scared to bend down for the soap in the showers because he is a very pretty boy, isn't he? May he have difficulty going to the toilet for the rest of his life. And I know how awful that can be, so that really is a vicious Hex...

Ok, you're done. Next up is Keli who wants me to hex 3-4 people. No. You can have two like Karen. Stop being greedy. You don't give me any indication of who these people are...tsk! So, I will use my powers of clair-whatsit, and reckon that one is your husband's second cousin twice removed - Sandra; and the other is that bloke down at the Post Office - Ezekial.

Sandra. Well, what can I say? She really is a vituperous, malfeasant little vixen, isn't she? Do you remember that time you told her you were allergic to nuts, and during Thanksgiving dinner, she announced that since she had become vegetarian, you were having Nut Loaf as your main course? And as you are severely diabetic, you just had to eat it and blew up like a barrage balloon. Terrible. You've still got the swelling on your ear lobes to prove it, haven't you? She also sends Christmas cards addressed to your husband, 'Basil', the boys, 'Charlie and Chuckie' and 'her'. Not nice at all. In fact, she just doesn't like you because she sends me lovely Christmas presents like ornamental frying pans to hang on the wall. My favourite contains a chicken hatching an egg**. Thus, a Hex on Sandra. May the non-stick coating on her Teflon pans wear away so she can no longer prepare dinners and has to eat raw meat for the rest of her life (she's not really vegetarian, you know - she was lying...) which clogs up her colon and makes going to the toilet difficult. (As you may have gathered, this is a problem which is forefront in my mind at the moment and I cannot seem to get rid of it.)

Ezekial. Well, not only is his name rather daft and difficult to keep on typing, he keeps telling you to go to different windows at the Post Office when you want to tax your car, open a savings account, purchase some bonds, withdraw cash or buy a Lottery ticket. And, he short-changes you, every time, gawps at you when you correct him, calls everyone to witness what he is being accused of and makes you feel a right trouble-maker. From all this change he has creamed off you, he has bought a yacht which he sails in the Florida Keys (my geography is a bit crap - is that a watery place?). Thus, a Hex on Ezekial. May his main-stay mast get dry rot, and may he be forcefully beset about by Seaman Staines (say it out loud...) and Master Bates (again, say it out loud...).

Mars: Again, you wanted the exes, didn't you. Well, OK, one of them was my ex who you snogged at the Dubai Rugby 7s in 2002. I know. I saw you on the big screen. I have Hexed the Ex repeatedly in this blog so I can't think of much more to say about him at the moment as he has been rather quiet just recently. But it serves you right. You snog him, you get what you deserve. I know I certainly did. By gum, I must have been a bad bugger in a former life...Karma...that's what they say, isn't it? Am I rambling?

Linda: Now, thank you. Everyone!! Take note. At least Linda gives me something to work on. Blimey. She even gives names and vague incidents. So, first up, Maxine. Well, she was the golden girl, wasn't she? Everyone fancied her. And didn't she know it? And whenever she was on milk monitor duty, she'd always make you wait until last so you got the warm milk, didn't she? Not nice. Warm milk in the Australian heat. It was almost sour cream by the time you got your lips round that milk bottle. (I have a story about milk bottles, actually, but I don't know if it would fit in here as it is rather rude and it happened when my friend Andrew and I were very naughty teenagers and used to make crank calls to Gay Switchboard. We didn't know any better. We were horrible...). Fatty and ugly? You? Well, a Hex on Maxine. May her blubber be mistaken for a whale's when she is swimming off the coast of Tokyo; she is harpooned in her backside and can no longer go to the toilet properly. Rotten old faggot...

Your maths teacher. Mr Hiscock. His first name was Aaron. (Say it out loud, please, otherwise none of my excellent, subtle jokes will work. And I try ever so hard with them. Just ask Mr Parsnip...I told him a joke I had made up yesterday morning. It took him ages to work it out and I had to tell him the whole plot of Macbeth before he got it. Tsk! Sometimes I wonder what I am doing in this life...). So, back to Mr Hiscock. He knew, deep down, that you were related to Albert Einstein, a whizz at maths and thus had 'algebra-envy'. He made your life living hell, repeatedly dragged you out to the front of the class and forced you to deconstruct the Theory of Relativity, which he had learned off by heart and was waiting for you to write ♥=π + Ω / 2dy (∞ + 46 (Σ 1 + ½)) instead of ß = π + Ω / 2dy (∞ + 46 (Σ 1 + ½)). Bastard. (I hope you realise how long it took me to write out that sodding equation using all the flipping Alt keys...Ages...). So, may the fleas of a thousand camels infest his armpits, may his quadratic equations crumble to dust and may he be constipated for the rest of his life.

Bugger. I have just realised. Your maths teacher was a woman. Oh well, let's just pretend, eh?

Mr Charles Inigo Parsnip: You asked me to Hex cheeky kids. Well, I vividly remember that time Masher Malloy and Grebo Toerag threw cheese slices at you when you went to the chippy for your fried steak and kidney pie, mushy peas and fried rice. You were very shaken upon your return, weren't you? You also looked reminiscent of a McDonald's Bic Mac. But without the gherkins. I personally feel it is just zestful youth - an outlet for their angst and pain. To throw cheese slices at you isn't that bad, but, well...we can all be affected by trauma in our lives. So, a Hex on Cheeky Kids. May their pocket money dry up so they can no longer purchase cigs, Carling Black Label and WKD. May their tongues harden so they cannot speak and their bottoms cease to function normally so they feel sluggish and tend to stay indoors to watch Blue Peter where they can learn how to bake scones and apple pie. 

Right, I am spent. This has taken it out of me, I hope you realise! Eight massive Hexes in just one morning. I've got nothing left for the cat now, who is presently humping a furry toy sheepdog Mr P purchased for #2 daughter on one of our mucky sojourns to Wales a few months ago. Thank goodness his testicles haven't yet dropped...the cat's, not Mr P's, if you need clarification.

Donations for Hexes are always welcome. In GB pounds, please - none of your silly money over in the States, Oz and Dubai. Or cheques. As long as you write your card details on the back. Just make them payable to 'Agnes Mildew' as I haven't yet changed the name on my bank account to 'Agnes Mildew-Parsnip'. Let's work it out as 50p/word.

Perhaps I should 'pad' those Hexes out a bit more...

**The ornamental frying pan. I genuinely did receive this gift once from the ex's step-mother. And it did have a chicken in it, hatching an egg. I was utterly confounded by what I was supposed to do with it. So I donated it to the Charity Shop. I wonder who bought it?

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Curry Munching and Death by Grouse

I am an ardent curry lover. I can eat curry until it comes out of my ears, as well as other places (which is why a roll of toilet paper sits in our fridge). Whilst living in Oman, I was in Curry Heaven and it was The Real Thing! None of this wishy-washy 'hot' gravy stuff which seems to come out of every small town corner curry house in the UK.

Whilst pregnant with #2, I abused the rights of pregnant women and decided to feign cravings for curry and thus gorged myself on Pav (pronounced 'pow') Bhaji for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Every day. As they were the cheapest curries in the whole world, being made purely from potato, tomato, peas, chilli and onion, (some put cauliflower into it, but that is revolting and we won't go there...) it saved the ex a fortune on food bills, so his only complaint was having to drop into the 'pow barjee caff' each night on his way home from work. Unfortunately, what I saved on food, I lost on Gaviscon, as those curries certainly made their presence felt in the early hours of the mornings...

My very first curry was in the 80s when a group of us staggered from a seedy nightclub in St Helens, called Sindy's, decided we were hungry, and couldn't find a Donner Kebab van anywhere (which is a blessing in disguise when you consider that gunge aside →, from which they SHAVE meat into a warm pitta bread. It's reputedly lamb. I don't think it has ever baaa'ed in its life. Squeaked, maybe. Possibly even gnawed a few electric wires in someone's attic. But never baaa'ed).

So, into Tarik's we went. Being a nube, yet not wanting to appear a gurlie-wuss, as I was out with a group of rufty-tufty blokes who had been strutting their stuff on the dance floor to Mel & Kim and Wham!, I went for the chicken korma. A curry, but a mild one with coconut and mango. Sounded good. Unfortunately, my virgin tastebuds had never managed anything hotter than a Spicy Beanburger from Wimpy. The sweat oozed from every pore, I panted like an ageing incontinent Labrador, swigged back a few gallons of water and used every napkin on the table to mop up my tears. What a Girl! 

Yet, there was something about those exotic spices which addicted me. And I persevered and toughened up. Every week, I would attempt a curry after Sindy's, and when the sweating and tears started to abate, I moved up a spice notch and tried the next one. 

So, by the time I hit Oman, I was a Vindaloo Virtuoso and thus the whole menu had opened up to me and by gum, I hit the ground wonder I ballooned at one point, what with all that ghee and coconut milk!

One summer, when most of the expat wives had fled the scorching heat of Muscat for the cool, wet climes of the UK, I was asked to write a "Challenge the Chef" article for Living in the Gulf magazine in Dubai. So, it was time to collar the bachelors. Those poor saps whose wives had abandoned them, who were living on shish kebabs, samosas and schwarmas, and teach them how to cook. So, what was the best thing to teach them? Yup, how to make a curry. I visited the restaurant, Passage to India, collared the manager, explained that it would be excellent publicity for them, being a brand new restaurant, blagged a free meal for four out of him for that night, and set the date up with their chef, Sanjay. And so, The Curry Munchers' Club was borne from that night.

Dave (the bachelor hosting the challenge) and I went to the shop with Sanjay and gave him carte blanche on what to buy with 20 rials (our budget to feed four starving bachelors, me and the photographer, Richard). All manner of odd-looking vegetables went into our basket which I couldn't name now if you paid me as well as chicken, fish and loads and loads of firey chilli peppers. We sped back to his house where the other three bachelors, which included my ex, who had whinged at me so hard about being left out that he had to come, were well stuck in to their Millers. Richard and I set the shots up, dragged the lads away from the footie on Dave's 42" telly and got them to work. To be honest with you, the lads were so drunk by this stage, they couldn't have opened a packet of crisps, let alone made a Korma, and so Sanjay and I did most of the work.

The food was utterly fantastic, the atmosphere was buzzing and we were all having a whale of a time. Until Dave got his 3-litre bottle of Famous Grouse whiskey out (1 litre left) and started pouring out the drinks. This was around 1am and Sanjay was long tucked up in his bed. I demurred and asked for a Miller Lite instead. But Dave set up a chant of obnoxious insults, to which the others joined in and suddenly my hi-ball was a third full of Famous Grouse. Then it was a case of "Down in One or Show us Yer Bum!". And, always one to accept my own challenges, I acquiesced...time, and again...

It's not a good idea to eat firey curries, drink a load of lager and then toss back treble whiskies as though they are Dandelion and Burdock. It's also not a good idea to be the only woman in a group of hardened drinkers who have taken you to their bosoms and decided to make you an honorary bloke for the night.

I wasn't very well the next day. I had an article to write up, photographs to develop, two children to care for and another interview to set up. I just went back to bed and died a thousand deaths.

At 3pm, Dave called me to see how I was. I simply groaned. He sounded lighter than air; all fresh and fun. Reckoned the spices had given him a few grumbles in the night, but had really enjoyed himself, thanks very much and all that. I gently put the receiver back on its hook and covered my throbbing head with the duvet.

There is a saying in the UK that the only way to kill a Vindaloo is with a lager. Take heed of that, fellow curry munchers. Because the only way to kill yourself is with a Vindaloo and many treble whiskies.

The curry I partook of last night (as we have finally found a superb curry house in Northwich) was accompanied by Adam's Ale. Aqua Vita. Water. 

Hence why I am awake at 6.30am, writing this drivel, and feeling tickety-boo.

Learn from my research. That's why I do it. For you...

Friday, 31 October 2008

Hallowe'en Hexing

For some strange reason, my hand looks a bit abnormal on this photo. I can guarantee, it is not a penis at the side of my head...

Considering this blog was originally started to Hex my Ex and cast all sorts of curses and incantations on those who have thwarted me over the years, I'm not doing very well on the Hallowe'en front, bearing in mind it's the one night of the year that evil witches like me can get on their broomsticks and legitimately hex all and sundry.

So, out of respect for this day, I am going to provide a top ten list of those people and things which I would (still) hex with impunity. Although my conscience is generally quite alert, today, it can bugger off while I flex my talons, search inside the knife drawer for the sharpest tools, and rip forth with the most barbed remarks I can possibly make about the following damnèd irritations of which I have/had the misfortune to experience.

10. Lisa Tickle. The Head Girl at our High School. She beat me to it by one vote and so I never got to take home the plastic shield all Head Girls were offered for a grand total of eight months. She also claimed that being size 14 was enormous (that was my size at the time), yet when I peeked into the skirt she had taken off before PE, I saw that the label read size 16. AND she snogged Paul Speed after I did and ended up going out with him for six months. I think that is what makes me want to hex her the most. I snogged him first, he told me my brown eyes were as beautiful as a Jersey Cow's (was that a compliment, do you think?) and that he wouldn't mind getting into my pants. I declined that offer, I must admit. Knowing her, though, I bet she didn't...

9. Mrs Brown, our 4th year Junior school mistress. She sported a bosom upon which you could have set a row of pint pots with whiskey chasers and wore a conical bra long before Gaultier even thought of bedecking Madonna in his gold creation. One day, I snuck my maths text book home to ask my brother to give me a hand with some complicated work (this was punishable by death in Mrs Brown's book) and intended to surreptitiously slide it back into my desk the following day. Unfortunately for me, I fell ill with tonsilitis that night and couldn't return to the school for a few days. Mrs Brown decided to do a spot check for desk tidiness during my absence, and thus noticed the concomitant absence of my Alpha-Beta book. Upon my return to school, I was warned that I was 'in for it'. Sure enough, I was hauled up to the front of the class, bawled out and then the hand went back for an almighty wallop across the back of the legs.
I moved out of the way, just in time, and she clattered her arm right across the hard metal corner of her desk. I legged it, the Headmaster entered to speak to her, and I was saved...for once!

8. Mindy Hammond. This just says it all.

7. Mario, my former boss. What a lech. This egocentric, rotund, smelly South African decided that whenever his skeletal, equally smelly wife (who picked her ear wax and ate it) was out of the office, he would try it on with me. It got to the stage where I used to simply laugh at him. But he didn't like that at all. It was when he clicked that I was winding him up, asking him to regale us all with tales of his days in a band, when women threw their underwear at him, and I asked if they also threw their white sticks, that I got the sack. I can't stand people without a sense of humour...

6. Another boss, Bernard. Just a little upstart, really. Told me that I was desperate for him but he would have to fend me off, 'unfortunately' for me. Used to sneak up behind me and tickle me hard in the ribs, getting me screaming abuse loudly, at which he would then take umbrage and interrupt me constantly when I was trying to get work done. Never used to pay me on time, either, so that one Bank Holiday weekend, once again without a monthly salary, I had no money to buy cigs, fill my car up with petrol or buy any food. It was the lack of cigarettes which grated the most...

5. Trinny and Susannah. These self-appointed TV fashionistas are obsessed by boobs. On men or women. They grope, analyse, critique and denegrate every breast which comes into their line of vision (they would have had a field day with Mrs Brown, above). They are rude, obnoxious, sport the most dreadful dress sense (the picture aside is the only one I could find which makes them look well-dressed, actually) and purport to be able to tell us peasants how to dress our best. I have had the misfortune to watch their programme, Undress the Nation, once, and vowed, Never Again. Banal, puerile tripe for people who don't know how to make an appointment for a hair-cut; don't realise that Charity Shops sell the best designer gear for a fraction of the prices you pay in the High Street, and are generally gormless, slavering morons. 'Nuff said.

4. Steve Wright. A BBC Radio 2 DJ who is the most sycophantic little tosser one could ever have the misfortune to listen to. He invites guests onto his 2-5pm show, purports to have read their books/listened to their latest CDs/had them over for dinner and positively gushes over their every word. His laughter is that of a gurgling drain, belching over raw sewage: stinking, foetid and not pleasant to witness. He refers to celebrities as his 'great mates' (even if he has never met them previously...or perhaps they asked him directions to the toilet at some BBC awards ceremony) and his nose is so dark from 'brown-nosing' that you might suspect he has severe circulation problems in his extremities.

3. Air musicians. Anybody who plays the air-guitar, air drums, air-saxophone, air-sackbut. I don't care. Whatever they 'air-play' deserves a very extreme hexing in my book. Now, I am a classically trained organist (no jokes, please) and will, in deep reverie, mildly tap out tunes on the arm of the settee, or atop my leg - with only one hand, I will have you note - but I DO NOT close my eyes as I am doing it, I DO NOT simulate orgasms while I am doing it, I DO NOT pout and jut my head back and forth in a manner reminiscent of Mick Jagger,  and I DO NOT think I look cool. It is a very private affair between me and the sofa. People, (and particularly men) who decide that virtual scratching of their privates, whilst pretending to pluck a bass guitar are just sad. Sad, lonely and need to get some outside interests such as toad-sexing. Anything but air-playing...

2. Sunday League Cyclists. If you live in a rural, or semi-rural area as I do, every Sunday the country lanes are plagued by these be-lycra'ed human-insects. They don all sorts of bright colours to stand out (and thus make fair sport for me to attempt to knock them down if I am out and about in my car), ride two or three abreast, gob everywhere as they are cycling and basically look abnormal. They also slow me down. And I only want to be slowed down in my car if I choose. Last time Sunday League cyclists slowed me down, I crawled behind them for about 200 metres then blasted on my horn so loudly that they wobbled dangerously, hit the kerb and I overtook, shouting the Highway Code at them (ergo: Thou shalt not cycle more than one abreast on a road. Particularly if Agnes Mildew is abroad).

1. Yes, it's the one you've all been waiting for. Well, possibly two of you have been, if you haven't dozed off yet. It's the Pick of the Pops (and you really ought to listen to this music, as it is seminal for us 30-somethings in the UK who listened to the Radio 1 charts!).

The Ex!

How could I write a blog called HexMyEx without mentioning that little malodorous junket of crap? Big Nose; Tosser; Knob-end...ah, my terms of endearment go ever on. If you want to know why I hex him, read the blog. If it's a case of TL;DR, well, your loss. Don't come crying to me when you can't follow what's going on...

Happy Hallowe'en, Hexers!

Monday, 27 October 2008

Hedgerows & Agnes's Hegemony

Mr P was 'my bitch' for all of one hour last night. I did ask for a sex slave for the rest of my life, but he wouldn't go along with that, much to my chagrin, claiming that he would like a turn from time to time.

After working for around three hours making Sunday Roast (which was chicken, not rabbit) and spectacularly spitting my dummy out when #1 complained that I had poured fresh cream on to her lemon cheesecake, Mr P decided to get me out of the house to calm down and cool off - it was certainly the right temperature outside to do this, I can assure you: it was bitterly cold; at one point I could hardly see through the driving rain and the gales were whipping down the collar of my coat, freezing me to the bone marrow. But nary one word of complaint came out of me. Probably because I had to grit my teeth together so forcefully in case the chattering dislodged some important brain cells.

And then, in true English weather-style, the sun shone brightly, the wind died down and I was able to thaw out. And then I spotted the wild mushrooms growing on the Alder trees. In Britain, there is a variety of wild mushroom called the Jew's Ear. They are not a pretty sight when they cluster together in a bit of a creepy, Uriah Heep-type way, and they have a rather gelatinous quality to them. But, if you first soak them in boiling water and then add a pinch of salt, they'll rival any Truffle rutted up by a pig in Provençale. I had no bag with me, so I stuffed handfuls into my coat pockets. Then my gourmet imagination got to work and I picked handfuls of young nettles. I requested that Mr P found me a stray plastic bag and he spotted one which he suspected had originally been designated for dog poo and blanched slightly. But it was clean (and would only have added to the flavour anyway) and into the bag went my mushrooms and nettles.

-Mmm! Wild mushroom and nettle soup, eh? What do you reckon?

Mr P's face looked like a bulldog licking urine off a thistle.

-It'll be fantastic! This is what we said we'd do - go foraging; live the Good Life. Be Tom and Barbara!

Mr P's face remained bulldog-like.

-Honest! Full of iron, goodness, taste. It'll taste fabulous, believe me. All I need is some butter, white wine and creme fraiche.

-And if I don't like it, I don't have to eat it, do I? And you won't get cross with me? I am warning you, you know.

-Listen, if you don't like it, I'll eat raw nettles. If you do like it, you'll be my sex slave forever. OK?

Mr P declined to respond...

Well, I set to work, chopping, soaking, brewing up, having a wee nip of wine as I went along and the most wonderful smells started to emanate from that pan on hob. And Mr P started to look more and more uncomfortable.

After an hour of simmering, I blended my brew and the most wonderful mushroom-coloured broth emerged. Mr P gingerly stuck his nose into the pot and looked puzzled.

-It smells bloody lovely, actually, he confessed.

-Yup! Try it! It is lovely.

-You have washed everything haven't you? A dog won't have peed on this stuff?

-Oh, come on! How can a dog cock its leg four feet up a tree?

-Might have been a big dog...

He gingerly tasted the soup. And then had another spoonful. And another.

-That's really, really nice!

-Mwahahahaha! Told you, didn't I?

#2 was in the kitchen with us at the time. She was shocked out of her skin to see Mr P go down on both knees and beg forgiveness from me.

-Please forgive me. I am sorry for doubting your culinary expertise. I am sorry. *kiss, kiss, grovel, grovel*

-OK. So you are now my sex slave forever?

-No. I want a turn from time to time, too.

-OK. You can be my bitch, then.

-Alright. I can go along with that. Can I have a bowl later, please?

And so, the Battle Of The Hedgerows was Agnes Mildew (1) - Charles Parsnip (0). A big fat, round Zero!

And off he has toddled to work this morning armed with the chicken legs from yesterday's roast, some home-made biscuits, and Hedgerow Soup.

What more could a man ask for?

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Cheap and Nasty...

I appear to come from a long line of bargain-hunters. It must be in the blood; a twist in my DNA which was created when first I was just a twinkle in a boiler-house fitter's eye. My mother is the most repugnant bargain-hunter: belligerent; rude; arrogant and embarrassing. I mean to say, one simply doesn't haggle the undies down in a charity shop, does one?

However, I am a watered-down version of her when it comes to bargains and the 'reduced' aisle in our local supermarkets. Only today, I informed Mr P that I was going to the Co-op for milk and prawns. I returned with a bag filled with miniature cheeses - those ones which are very poncey, look great on the dinner table and make you bankrupt (reduced from £2.19 to 40p); a lemon cheesecake (reduced from £3.29 to 60p); six organic, free-range eggs (reduced from £1.75 to 75p) and Scotch eggs (reduced from £1.99 to 99p).

I forgot to get the prawns.

I am always seduced by the reduced...

I shop at charity shops and second hand shops most of the time - eBay is my best friend. I don't mind wearing other people's cast-offs in the slightest. I have even been known to make 45 minute drives over to Wilmslow, home of the Manchester United players, whose wives and girlfriends (WAGs) donate their Armani, Gucci, Versace and D&G to the local Oxfam, British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research shops. It's the place to pick up a designer bargain most of the time. 

On one of my trips, I got chatting to a fellow bargain hunter who told me only that morning he had purchased a Hugo Boss suit, pure wool, still with tags for £25.00. It had been donated literally minutes ago by footballer, Roy Keane. Colleen Rooney (Wayne Rooney's new wife, little Scouse bundle of fluff and £££s that she is) makes a point of donating all her cast-offs to the charity shops in Wilmslow. And women fall on them like ravening wolves. Particularly as she doesn't fit the usual WAG stereotype of being rake thin and shapeless. She is 'all vumman'! And therefore, half of Unposh Cheshire, those of us filled with Pies and Prejudice [apologies, Stuart Maconie] (that's where I live) cannot wait for her to have a jolly good clear-out. And I don't mean on the toilet...

Now, my bargain hunting doesn't always turn out for the best, I have to be honest. I have risked 'sell-by dates', forgotten about them, having stored said items in the fridge, and returned to find a green, furry mass of seething cures for the diseases of the Third World. I have also bought items of clothing from eBay, claiming to be such and such a size, got them for £3.50 plus P&P and the discovered that they are size 8, but only if you are a midget with anorexia. I even, much to my utter dismay, bought the most fantastic Karen Millen dress the other month from eBay for £40 when it should have been £200. It was on the kinky side, I must admit - all black, fitted satin; bondage style zips and just quite dirty, really. I bust the side zip, trying to pour myself into it in a very ungainly manner. I had to actually be cut out of the damned thing. Mr P got his pliers and broke the zip so I could breathe again. I decided to take it to a seamstress to have it let out slightly and have the zip mended, but I left it on a pile of books designated for donation to Oxfam before doing so. 

And the dress went with the books...

I was extremely, very, awfully, very, exceptionally upset...

Now, we are attempting to tighten our belts at the moment and save money where necessary as we are in a rather precarious financial situation, waiting for Mr P's house down south to sell. So, I have been bargain hunting in ways which I know would make #1's and #2's stomachs turn were they to ever read their mother's blog...which they refuse to, because IT'S BORING!!! 

So, they will never, ever know that last night, their 'chicken casserole' was actually 'bunny brew'...A whole bunny for three quid! I can't even buy one decent sized chicken breast for that amount! It was a pretty grotesque thing to behold, I must admit. It was vacuum-sealed in plastic from our local Master Butcher and had this bit of absorbent 'paper' upon which it lay, and which appeared to be speckled with the detritus from a hairy man's razor blades. It turned my stomach and I had to ask Mr P to take it from the plastic, give it a wash and make it slightly more presentable before I could attack it.

Although my best intentions were to carve the uncooked meat first and then casserole it, I simply couldn't do it. Outside, gambolling in their run, were Lambert and Butler, our two Netherland Dwarf rabbits. I felt evil; a turncoat; a pariah of virtue.

Then I snapped its spine and popped it in with the leeks, carrots, garlic, shallots, cider and stock...

Mr P reckoned the smell emanating from the oven was fantastic. It did smell pretty good, I must admit, but I was starting to sweat profusely. It was six hours before the girls returned from school. Would they suss? Would there be a row? How could I blag my way through this one? I have never, ever managed to pass fish off as chicken, but an esteemed cookery website informed me that 'young rabbit tastes just like chicken'. I just hoped my rabbit hadn't been drawing its pension...

'What's for tea?' said #1.
'Chicken casserole,' I replied.
'Oh Yum! Great!...What's this? Is this fish?'
No. It's not fish. What I did was, I didn't have any chicken breasts, so I bunged a whole chicken into the casserole pot, cooked it up, then pulled the meat off. That's why it looks like your meat from a Sunday Roast.'
'It's fish, isn't it?'
'No, I swear to you. It isn't fish.'
'It's not fish, Rosie' [from #2] 'Look at it, fish doesn't look like that. You've never eaten fish like I have, so you wouldn't know.'
'OK. I want to see the bones'
*thinks* Oh Gawd. They are in the outhouse. The cat has cleaned them dry. They don't look chicken-like any more. At all...

'I didn't know chickens had such prominent spines...'
'Yeah. That's because we clean up after the Roast Dinners.'

They both ate their Bunny Brew. Even complimented it. You will never, ever understand the sigh of relief I released when I washed up later on.

Trouble is, my conscience is pricking me dreadfully. I cooked Thumper. I may as well have killed Bambi's Mum. I feel sick to my stomach. £3.00 or not, to feed three people.

I have bought a kilo of tomatoes to make tomato and roast pepper soup. Nobody cares when a tomato screams...

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

A Hex on the Sexes

I am in a state of bewilderment. And if there are any male bloggers out there who would care to enlighten me, I'd be very grateful as I get nowhere fast with my own Caveman.

I realise that women have the most inordinate amount of daft foibles, such as nicking all the miniature toiletries from hotel rooms, including the shower cap, which we wouldn't be seen dead in; saving plastic bags 'because they always come in handy'; recycling old T-shirts for dusters; and promising to make chicken soup from the Sunday Roast carcass (which generally sits there until it gathers the cure for HIV in our kitchen).

My list of enigmas surrounding the less-fair sex include the following:
  • Not getting your hair cut
  • Not shaving and thinking snogging 3-day old stubble is a turn-on (when really it just ribbons your chin)
  • Not clearing out your skanky underpants which are full of holes and splits
  • Ditto with socks
  • Never finishing a DIY job which they have set about with great enthusiasm and then walked away from for a cup of tea, never to return...
So, let's take point 1. Getting the hair cut. My husband is currently trialling a brand product for me called Fast Hair. Prior to this, he trialled Nisim. We are having great success with both products as, previously a rather follicly challenged individual, he is now giving Fabio a run for his money. Unfortunately, Mr P's golden tresses don't lend themselves to the GHDs like Fabio's (not that I would want them to, either, I hasten to add); they tend to sort of 'spiral' out at odd angles. Over the last two weeks he has been called anything from Samson, to Tintin, to, this morning, #1 accused him of sporting a jaunty Afro. Mr P claims she doesn't know what one is. I put him straight...

After repeated nagging, and threats this morning to cut it for him...even going so far as to get the comb, kitchen scissors and a towel out, when he called my bluff (and you really don't want to do that, as I will always rise to the bait), he realised It Was Time. It took a grand total of 20 minutes and he was back. Not too hard, was it?

Point 2. Now, I must admit, a bit of stubble can sort of 'do it' for me from time to time (unless it is ginger and then I would rather view raw offal: Viking heritage and virility, or not). And so this is a bit of a mealy-mouthed complaint. It looks good on certain chaps, but it doesn't feel good on my face. I vividly recall the first snog I had after having been in the wilderness for a few months last year. He hadn't shaved and nearly ripped my delicate skin off. For three days, I sported scabby scratches down my chin which itched and caused me to pick incessantly (I am a dreadful spot-picker). So, while it looks good, it feels awful and I prefer babies' bums to bristly bears' arses...

Point 3. Not getting rid of your skanky pants. Why? Why is it such a comfort to have your testicles poking through an unfeasibly small hole, which strangulates the scrotum, wrecks chances of fertility, looks like a turkey's neck and must be uncomfortable? Surely? I have never known a man to get rid of his undies. I have had to do it for him...albeit very surreptitiously, under cover of darkness, wearing a disguise and bolstering my side of the bed with pillows and a dark wig. There are then the inevitable questions:

Where are my pants? 
Which ones? 
You know, those black ones. 
What, the ones with the dirty big holes in the crotch? 
They're not holes, they're ventilation shafts...
Check under the kitchen sink. I think I used them to wipe up the last dose of cat pee from the kitchen floor.

Point 4. Socks. I don't even pretend with these. I just tear them up in front of any man and tell them they are not Robin - 'Holy Socks, Batman!' It just befuddles me. 
Now, admittedly, I have socks from years and years ago, which are still doing me proud...but "I iz vumman". I wear stockings, hold-ups, tights etc most of the time, so my socks don't get a daily wear and tear...thus they can last me for years...unlike aforesaid nylons which only seem to grace my legs for an hour and then they are laddered. As my clear nail polish has gone hard, I cannot really dab the 'ladder' with chocamocha and walk round with what look like carcinogenic melanoma all over my legs...

Point 5. Never finishing a DIY job. The amount of times I have had to stalk through the house bearing arms such as hammers, Phillips screwdrivers, hacksaws and nails is beyond comprehension. And this has gone on since time immemorial, so don't think I am Parnsip-baiting here. 
But just a little bit of Parnsip-baiting for you Parnsip-baiter fans...he took the side of the bath off about 8 months ago to get at the taps. The screw covers have never been replaced and are shoved, in a margarine tub, behind the bathroom door...
It took three months for the shower power point to be sealed up - after he had removed it, and left the wires hanging freely, he walked away and got cracking on something else instead.

Yet, he put up the best fence panelling known to man! He and a friend, Phil, got cracking one Saturday, tore down the kindling which was our boundary fence, dug the holes, inserted the concrete posts, and erected 16 panels of Waney Lap. They were both crocked by the end of it, admittedly, and could hardly stand. But during the most recent high winds, they have stood firm and fast, like the Old Man of Hoy. So, I am not moaning there, either...

Is it the League of Gentlemen? Does a Caveman need another Caveman in order to show off his prowess to complete something? Not exactly 'penis-envy'. Fence-envy? Nah...that doesn't work, either...

Anyway, I am still as flummoxed as ever, so I would appreciate some guidance in these matters. Once I am enlightened, I can nip out with my club and pummell a passing dog to spit-roast for my very own Mr. Ug.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Hex on Health & Safety

So, a bright and shiny day on Saturday and a perfect opportunity for Mr P to get out into the fresh air together with his trusty camera and get some material for his portfolio which is required for college.

I had a remit: find him somewhere 'different'; with atmosphere and spirit; standing as solitary as possible; few people about and interesting. I considered the local pub before opening hours, but that wasn't quite what he had in mind.

Picture of Bunbury Graveyard courtesy of Mr Parsnip, Photography for Fun

So, after some thorough research which took me about 0.8 minutes, I found Peckforton Castle which is about 30 minutes drive away and also on the way to St Boniface's Church in a village called Bunbury, which has some rather creepy gravestones and gargoyles.

A wedding was taking place at the castle (indeed, there were two that day, and grand events they looked to be) and I saw a woman walking around with a flower arrangement of lilies, spleenwort, roses and all sorts of paraphenalia for the next hour. She wouldn't put it down. Everywhere she went, she held the arrangement in front of her. I wondered, idly, if she was a gate-crasher and if it might be acting as camouflage, but the thought seemed too ridiculous really considering she was also dressed like a peacock. I suggested to Mr P that he removed his wedding ring (I was wearing gloves) and we pretended to be newly affianced and seeking a wedding venue. Then we might get access to the battlements and turrets for better photo-opportunities. He did so for a grand total of 60 seconds and then I snapped at him to put it back on as there was no point lying. I don't see why he should get chat-up opportunities and I can't...

As it stood, nobody is allowed on the battlements for 'Health & Safety' reasons. 'Health & Safety' in the UK is the biggest single kill-joy known to man. Children are no longer allowed to play 'conkers' at school in the autumn; office chair racing is banned; lunchtime drinking is banned in most places of work; bonfire night, in certain parishes has been banned in case sparks fly from the bonfire and burn a passing kitten or old lady...and the list goes ever on. I believe H & S's Top Secret remit is to turn us into lifeless imbeciles who sit in front of the telly (but not with it on in case we get some form of radiation sickness) and never budge outside our front doors. They really are the biggest bunch of jobsworths the Government has ever seen fit to create and we should all stage an uprising against them.

Latest scandals to come out of the Bureaucracy of Berks led to the patron of a pub being forced to sign a disclaimer when she took her leftovers home for the dog. In the event that the dog got ill, the pub's chef would not be held responsible. And then a nutter who wanted to cut down all the palm trees in Torquay due to the falling palm fronds..."They're like tigers," he was quoted as saying, "Beautiful to look at, but you wouldn't want them wandering the streets. 

Can anybody tell me where this chap got his whacky baccy from? When was the last time you saw a palm frond stalk its prey, leap atop its back, attack the jugular and disembowel it slowly and with great pleasure? No, I can't remember, either, and I really have wracked my brains.

So, chances are, there will be a number of people on November 5 this year having to watch a large screen TV in the freezing cold showing images of a roaring, crackling bonfire. That's what happened in Ilfracombe, North Devon in 2006. 

In the 1970s, when I attended Junior School in our village, we had a concrete playground, 'monkey bars', an open drainage ditch which was fed by the effluent from the large sewerage works a mile away, British Bulldog was positively encouraged (where kids smash through a chain of hands using anything short of a hacksaw) and the autumn conker championships saw the teachers running a book with best odds on Warbie's vinegared and baked prize winners. Last time I visited the school, in passing (as I never did return my Mental Maths book), I noticed that all the concrete had gone (that silly rubbery stuff now), no monkey bars, the stream had run dry due to the closure of the sewerage works with the rill itself cordoned off and there were no conker trees in sight for miles around.

And people complain that all their kids do is sit indoors and watch telly or play video games?

What else is there to do? Every bit of fun is taken away. A makeshift swing only has to be roped up to the branch of a tree and some do-gooder comes along and cuts it down. All children must apply their own sunscreen at school in case a teacher is accused of abuse...and I am so glad #2 is old enough to apply it herself now as in the past, she would definitely have squirted it onto her crackers and eaten it.

A turn-up for the books, though - our local off-license has the Remembrance Day poppies in today. And we have pins again - hurray! Last year, Health & Safety decreed that poppies could not be held on your lapel with a pin - in case someone 'poked their eye out' (has this ever happened to anyone?). So we all went round with poppies stuck in our zips. Which made for some interesting flies on the men at our office...

At least Health & Safety couldn't complain about that...