Every Sunday morning, Mr Parsnip and I lie in our bed, smoking (disgusting habit, I know), drinking coffee (me) and tea (him) and speculating as to whether we have actually won the National Lottery this weekend. We had a massive dreaming session about it this Sunday, which continued even in the pub where we went for lunch. We hold off checking the numbers for hours, preferring to expound at length as to what we would do with our millions, which cars we would buy, what dreams we would realise, whether we would move house, and if we would put #1 into a High Security Boarding School from which she would never escape.
Our dreams this weekend were as follows:
1. To give up work and open his own photography business. He is a budding amateur photographer and, indeed, you can see some of his work on Words and Pictures but he is rubbish at keeping it up-to-date despite my nagging him, so don't hold your breath...
2. To buy some doozy sports car (he is fast approaching the 19th anniversary of his 21st birthday, so I guess this is some mid-life crisis thing in the hope that he can pick up blonde babes with his fanny magnet)
3. To get an all-singing, all-dancing camera which does all but set up the shots, complete with dirty big lenses and what-nots.
1. To open an Eating Disorders Clinic for adults in Cheshire
2. To have a Jeep Grand Cherokee (I still miss mine from my Oman days!)
3. To have an unlimited account with Karen Millen and Red or Dead
4. To send #1 daughter to a High Security Boarding School from which she cannot escape.
Strangely, what we both then agreed upon was that we wouldn't necessarily want to up-sticks and move to some Country Pile in the Home Counties. We'd be quite happy in our 3-bed semi, complete with new conservatory...but we would do something about the shops which border the rear of our property.
The row of shops consists of: hairdresser; Post Office; hardware store; pharmacy; chip shop; off license and general grocery store. The rear of the shops, atop which sit flats, is seen from our bedroom window and it is a total eyesore. There are enormous ventilation pipes climbing up the brickwork; ugly battered outhouses with felt roofing peeling off, derelict fences, and the ubiquitous Carling Black Label cans litter the unadopted road which separates us. It is a bit of a torrid mess.
Unfortunately, where there is Carling Black Label (a very cheap lager, favoured by the IQ-challenged 'yoof' in this area), there are idiots and trouble-makers. The first summer I spent here, I was on the phone to the police that often they started dropping in for a cup of tea and a natter, on the off-chance I wasn't doing anything. One particular night was memorable whence I had just come out of the shower and had donned only my knickers. The yoof had entered my garden and were terrorising the bunnies, Lambert and Butler. I literally *hung* out of the window, topless and shameless, and squawked out a chorus of expletives and profanities, whilst threatening to castrate them. The girls were mortified. But only by the fact that I was sans bra...The final straw came when I had to call out the Fire Brigade as the rotten little pukes had decided to set fire to the rear of the hardware store where they keep the gas bottles. It took two big, burly firemen to give me a hug to stop me from crying and sobbing in frustration...I guess I put the hand-wringing hysterics on a little bit as one of them really was rather dishy! (I was wearing clothes by this stage, I hasten to add...)
So, I galvanised myself after that, and instead of leaving matters to the police, took matters into my own hands and petitioned our local MP. Actually, I bombarded him with letters of complaint. And within a week, I received a letter on House of Commons letter-headed paper (I must confess to feeling the fear of God when I first saw the portcullis and chains logo on the rear of the envelope and thought someone had finally caught up with me from my own mis-spent youth...) and our MP promised me action. And indeed, action happened, much to my relief and chuffed-ness! We received a nightly patrol, and the scum-bag element moved on to pastures new.
Only once after that was there any trouble and I unfortunately didn't witness it, but our former Post Master, Geoff, told me about it in gleeful detail. It seems a gang of snots were causing trouble on the common which fronts the shops and one of the locals reported it to the police. Within minutes, a squad car pulled up and a rather enormous officer unfolded himself from his tiny patrol vehicle. The main protagonist of the trouble, considering himself a tough guy, decided to take on the officer.
The officer spoke quietly into his walkie-talkie and minutes later, three more vehicles came whizzing round the corner. The youth decided to run for it.
Another Bad Move.
Four strapping policemen rugby-tackled him, laid him flat, sat on his head and made him promise To Stop Being A Bad Lad...The funniest part, according to Geoff, who had experienced it all, was how the lad had to take a pushchair, replete with his own child, and stalk off home. Big Man: teaching his child all she needs to know in life. I didn't think that was especially funny, although I could see the irony. I found it sad that ill-breeding breeds ill-breeding. Why aren't there sterilisation programmes for people like this?
So, we would buy out the off-license, and while we are at it, we would get rid of the chippy, as that is almost as magnetic for the yoof. There's nothing better (and more nutritious - to them) than a tray of chips with curry sauce and eight cans of Carling. That's a gor-may meal, innit?
In their place, we would install a traditional butcher and a traditional fishmonger. We would offer the girls who work in the off-license (who all, embarrassingly, know me by name and know exactly what I am going in for *ahem*) any jobs, with training, if they so wish. Mr P reckons Cheryl, who probably clocks in at around 22 stone, would be great as the butcher. She's dry as the desert, plain-speaking and doesn't suffer fools. She could cart sides of cow round as though they were feather pillows, believe me. I have seen her man-handle trouble-makers from the shop as though they were naughty toddlers.
Kerry, who has a smile and a chat for everyone - and actually manages to talk to the yoof sensibly and amiably, would probably be great serving behind the counter. She'd have the old dears flocking in for their 1/2lb of silverside and 'nice bit of fillet for me tea'.
Trish could be the fishmonger. I like Trish - a lot! She rarely smiles, is always sardonic, never has a good word to say for anyone, but makes me roar laughing with her tales, always delivered totally deadpan. I could just imagine her whalloping a dead haddock onto the slab and gutting it in front of me, bearing a face of total disdain...
The only girl I would find difficult to place is Diane, who always looks so sad, talks in such a quiet voice it is difficult to know what she is saying, and has too many tales of woe for one her age. I think I would just give her a few thousand and tell her to treat herself, pay off her mortgage and get rid of the spongeing control freak she is living with.
Having a decent butcher would probably annoy Eddie, our grocer/general store owner. He offers local bacon, ham, sausages and black pudding which he sells for exorbitant prices. He's a curmudgeon is Eddie, and I get the feeling he's a wee bit sweet on me! He was moaning and miserable the other week, so I told him I would bring him in some of my fresh baking to cheer him up. I returned, replete with coffee cake and lemon sponge. He turned pale, called me to the rear of the shop, and took it from me as though I was passing him a parcel of heroin. I then realised that he was as terrified of his scowling wife as I am...Since then, he has hinted more than once, that it is 'a good job we are both married, as I am having all sorts of thoughts now...'. He actually had me blushing dreadfully two days ago, so flirtatious was he. And unfortunately, Agnes Mildew is a shocking blusher and I give myself away so easily. The blushing was picked up on immediately. I think he took it as compliance that I felt the same - but I just felt uncomfortable. I looked at him plaintively and said, 'Stop making me blush. It was only a piece of bloody cake...'
I got out of the shop fairly sharpish and later, told Mr P what had happened, who suddenly became My Hero (he's pretty good at that, you know!) and next day, despite him being in agony with the dreadful dentistry work he had just undergone, he accompanied me to Eddie's where I needed to purchase two sticks of butter. Eddie looked a bit askance and kept giving me sly looks to which I refused to respond. Later that afternoon, I was driving past his shop to access the rear of our house and he came out of his shop. "Oi, yer bugger!" he exclaimed. "Yer brought yer bloody 'usband in fer back-up this morning, didn't you?"
"Yes, I did!" I retorted, and continued on my way...
Daft old bugger! He's about 15 years older than me and is married to a woman whose looks can kill at ten paces. Even #2 told me last night she doesn't think she has ever seen her smile once in the three years we have patronised her shop! I just think Eddie leads a frustrated life and likes to dream, such as Mr Parsnip and I do. At least he has his two Jaguars, though - a modern and a Vintage. It seems you can predict the weather by which one he is driving. If he is in the Vintage, the sun will shine all day as he is too scared to let raindrops fall on it. If the weather be inclement, he'll be in the modern one.
Village life, eh?
I wouldn't exchange it for a win on the Lottery.
Damn! Yes, I would!
PS. We didn't win this weekend, either...