Archives for posts with tag: home life

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The man from the washing machine repair service turned up today.

I was working this morning but they said they would text me a two hour window I had to be at home for.

I took a gamble and did not cancel any meetings.

They texted me last night: We estimate our engineer will arrive between 10.00 and 13.00 on Monday.

I was not sure how far to true a company that gave me a two hour window that was three hours long.

I also thought it might be nice to spend a day doing nothing.
I say nothing, I have loads of stuff to do in the house and the garden but a bit of me was also loking forward to having an excuse to sit around doing nothing and being able to write something pithy and mildly self effacing about it later.
It seemed like a good plan to me.
Like when you were off sick from school and you got to spend all day in bed reading comics and it was really boring but slightly thrilling at the same time.

I called the office to say I was not coming in.

Giving the repair team the benefit of the doubt I supposed the engineer would arrive between 10.00 and 12.00 and the extra hour was for the ‘repair’ they might have to do?

Seemed reasonable, after all if they turned up in the last couple of minute they would need time to do the job.

They turned up at 13.15.

When I asked him about this he said that he was due in by one and he had to come from the other end of Cornwall where his other jobs had been.
Seeing his job sheet with my number on and having been told that all his other work was an hour’s drive away I was naturally curious as to why he had not called me to tell me his plan.
I decided not to ask though because it’s been ten days without a washing machine and I did not want to spook him. I felt like I was holding my breath all the time he was here. All 29 minutes of it.

I was not actually holding my breath of course, I was actually taking away at the kitchen table because work never stops and we are up against a deadline at the office.
I say ‘we are up against a deadline’, in actual fact the Artists I work with are up against a deadline.
I say ‘Artists I work with’, in actual fact they do all the work, I just chat to them and gabble on about Cornwall, funding and Art.

I know a little bit about Cornwall because I read a book once, the rest I make up. Working so far.

Anyway, word got out that I was waiting for a service engineer so the morning’s bookings just relocated to my house.

Of course I was pleased about this but it did mean I had to stop stripping the paint off the stairs.

This is a job I have been putting off ever since I put my foot through the landing.
My 125 year old stairs are covered in thick layers of paint.
At some point someone really thoroughly covered absolutely everything in thick dark purple vinyl paint.
The strata seems to be Magnolia, Magnolia, White, Dark Satanic Purple, White, Whitewash.
I had half heartedly started doing this, thinking I might take a tea break later and watch a bit of daytime tv.
I have never seen Cash in the Attic and I have often wondered what all the fuss is about.
I have seen five minutes of Jeremy Kyle once but that was by accident I think.
Anyway, under extreme sufferance and with a heavy heart I was preparing to take my favourite mug and have a quiet digestive in front of the telly.

I had managed two half steps when Old Man Winter came in with Madame and sat at the Kitchen table.
We had a cup of tea.

Half an hour later Dissertation Girl arrived and joined in the talk.
I made another cup of tea.

After they left I had a phone call which I suppose turned into a ‘phone-meet’ with a community artist.
I heard this phrase once in a meeting with some smart looking people.

I have often wondered how much of a hurry you have to be in to shorten the word ‘meeting’ to ‘meet’?

It’s like my Calendar, they have shortened the word ‘June’ to ‘Jun’.
How much ink were they hoping to save?

I wandered around the kitchen while we talked, sort of playing hop scotch on the kitchen tiles and balancing on one foot a lot.
I would lean right forward to see how far I could go without falling over.
Cordless phone and no one watching, I can’t help myself.
Everyone does that, right?
Right?

Before I knew it I was boiling the kettle again.

As I hung up on them there was a knock on the door and two more artists stepped over the cat into the kitchen.
I made some more tea, including a Nettle tea which we have very little call for these days, and had a long and wide ranging talk about what it all means.

Things have shifted a tiny little bit in Cornwall this last week. You wouldn’t notice it right away but things are different.

The repair man arrived and I made another cup of tea.

The cats thought it was Christmas by the way.
Lots of visitors on a Monday, some of whom actually paid them some attention.

I tried to hide the bald one but it kept getting free.
I tried to look like the owner of a cat that had just had an operation.
No one questioned it o I can only assume I got away with it.

At 1.45ish the repair man left and the Artists got up as well.

I put a load of washing on.

I ran over to the office and caught up with the Rockfather in the cafe.
He had coffee, I had tea.

Suddenly with ten minutes before I had to leave to collect the Proles I was given a complicated data base problem to solve.
Actually, it was not a complicated problem at all but I use the Access Database so rarely I have to relearn how to do it every single time.
It’s only been four and a half years.

I suddenly realised I had not been to the loo for ages.

All that tea…

Arrived at the school just in time and met the Proles.

Prole2: Why are we running?

Me: Just run…

We got home and I put a load of washing on and I went to the loo.

We bundled into the car and we did a quick shop in the super market and I went to the loo.

When we got back we unpacked, Prole1 fed the cats, Prole2 broke his helicopter again and I went to the loo.

I put a wash on and there was a knock at the door.

Old Man Winter arrived again and went to talk to Prole1 about serious Company business, Prole1’s career is going slightly better than his father’s.
Then Fannie and Fox arrived with all the Proles’ artwork from their gallery show and it was all so lovely and exciting I went to the loo again.

Suddenly the house was empty, the Proles went to bed and I came down here.

I still have not seen Cash in the Attic.

 

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I can’t post today.
It is too late and the wrestling has started.

Honestly, Kurt Angle is about to wrestle Rockstar Spud, I don’t have time for anything right now.

It got late somehow.

Someone said they were coming round for a Chinese and suddenly I had to tidy because it’s been a while, you know when you  forget to clean up that stain in the kitchen and suddenly it take fifteen minutes of soaking in bleach to get it off? Only you can’t find the floor bleach so you have to use toilet cleaner because time is short.

The Proles were no use at all because they had been given tiny little remote control helicopters to fly and they kept flying them into me and when I saw one of them, and here I am not joking, land one in the toaster they had to be sent to the hallway for an hour to play.

The hallway was fine but in a long thin enclosed space with two small boys and two remote controlled helicopters things were never going to end well.

At least Prole1 was wearing protective glasses.

Later on Prole1 decided to fly his helicopter in the trampoline because the protective net around the outside would protect it and keep it safe. Sadly he gave it full throttle and it climbed about thirty feet into the air, got caught by a light breeze and flew away over the fence.

It must be the 21st Century when a small boy knocks on your door and says “Excuse me, can I have my remote controlled helicopter back please?”

Anyway, I had a Chinese meal for the first time in ages and the wrestling is on and I have to re-glue the tail on a helicopter for tomorrow.

Good night.

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Me: We all know the rules. No swallowing. Right?

Prole1: Right, I am so going to win.

Prole2: Right!

Silence.

They giggle.

I reach to the bowl in the middle of the table.

I take a marshmallow.

I put the marshmallow in my mouth.

Me: Fluffy Bunny.

Prole1 puts a marshmallow in his mouth.

Prole1: Fluffy Bunny.

Prole2 puts a Marshmallow in his mouth.

Prole2: Fluffy Bunny.

They giggle.

I put a marshmallow in my mouth.

Me: Fluffy Bunny.

Prole1 puts a marshmallow in his mouth.

Prole1: Fluffy Bunny.

Prole2 puts a Marshmallow in his mouth.

Prole2: Fluffy Bunny.

I put a marshmallow in my mouth.

Me: Fluffy Bunny.

Prole1 looks serious, Prole2 looks like a crazy hamster.

Prole1 puts a marshmallow in his mouth.

Prole1: Thif if filly.

Me: You in or out?

Prole1: Fluffy Buffy.

Me: What?

Prole1: Fluffy…ang on…Fluffy Bunny.

Prole2 puts a Marshmallow in his mouth.

Prole2: Fluffy Bunny.

I put a marshmallow in my mouth.

Me: Fluffy Bunny.

Prole1 puts a marshmallow in his mouth.

Proel1: Thif if filly, I gone an a goo if.

Me: Sorry? What did you say?

Prole2 giggles.

Prole1: Fluh-ee Wuh-ee.

Prole2: Wha?

Prole1: Fluh-ee…fluh-ee…wuh…fluh…

Prole1 spits four soggy marshmallows out into his hand

Prole1: Fluffy Bunny. This is silly. One of you can win.

Prole2 is giggling a lot.

Prole2 puts a Marshmallow in his mouth.

Prole2: Flupy Buh-ee.

Me: Pardon?

Prole2 pokes his index finger into his mouth and rummages around.

Prole1: Stop! Stop! Stop! Stop! No swallowing, why is he allowed to do that?

Prole2: Fluffy Bunny.

Prole1: That is not fair. I am going to read a book.

He stamps off and can be heard treading on lego with bare feet on the landing.
Me and Prole2 eyeball each other.

Me: Four marshmallows now? You must really want this.

Prole2: Wha?

Having a chat with four marshmallows in your mouth is not easy so I decide not to pursue the trash talk.

Me: Nothing.

I put a marshmallow in my mouth.

Me: Fluffy Bunny.

Prole2 tries to smile and drools a little. He is still making giggling noises but can barely keep his mouth shut. He has never gone above four.

Prole2 puts a Marshmallow in his mouth.

Prole2: Fluh-ee Buh-ee.

Me: What? I can’t understand.

Prole2: Fluh…fluh….fluh…

Me: Fluh? What’s a fluh? Why are you saying fluh?

Prole2 starts to giggle louder.

Five marshmallows.

He goes bright red with silent laughing.

Me: You are drooling on the table. No drooling. Stop drooling and stop saying fluh.

Prole2 laughs out loud, inhales a marshmallow and spits five wet sticky marshmallows across the room and the table.
Some of the fall out sprays the bowl of marshmallows in the middle of the table.
He turns in his seat, still laughing and vomits gently into the top of the radiator.

Prole2: You…you…you…win….

I look at the mess.

I am still the champion at Fluffy Bunny in my house.

Why don’t I feel like a winner?

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Back to work after a couple of weeks away today.

Sort of comfy and yet horrible as the wave of emails and messages broke over the desk and the telephone started to warm up.

The van I used to drive when I worked in theatre parked up outside my office window.
I worked in and around Theatre for twenty years before I took the job I now have and there were two theatre companies rehearsing in the spaces around the office today.

I took my first paid job in theatre in 1989 and left my last one in 2009.

The first was a few quid for shifting and loading things in a van but within a year I was touring up and down the Welsh Valleys doing lights and sound for a theatre company that paid badly in cash but well in beer and all the Ginsters Pasties they could hilariously buy me.
At every petrol station.
At every shop.
No matter what I asked for.
Always.
This would happen after Lectures had finished for the day and by the end of my time at Drama College I was working in most of the venues in Cardiff, even depping as Duty Technician in one of the larger studio theatres.

I was never exactly encouraged to work in theatre at school.
I was definitely encouraged to ‘get a trade’ before trying anything so ethereal as the performing arts.

I think I hold myself back from encouraging or discouraging the Proles from doing anything because of this.
The one thing that would leap to the front of my head whenever anyone asked what I wanted to be when I grew up was something I had been told was near impossible to make a living in.
When I actually started working it slowly dawned on me that as long as you turned up five minutes early, worked hard, didn’t complain and weren’t insane you could probably work anywhere you wanted to.
Actors, I was always told, spend 80% of their time unemployed but I worked for at least five years straight through without a holiday.

I say no holiday, of course I would make sure I had Flora day off.
I have only missed it once in the last thirty years.
I think priorities are important.

I was not entirely happy all the time.
I had my doubts about theatre which I think is important in life.
There are things you must wrestle with.
The problems were encapsulated in that song “There Is No Business Like Show Business” the one Ethel Murman used to sing.
I used to believe that song, I used to believe those lyrics.

“There’s no business like show business
Like no business I know
Everything about it is appealing
Everything the traffic will allow
No where could you have that happy feeling
When you aren’t stealing that extra bow
There’s no people like show people
They smile when they are low”

The problem occurs when I started working in theatre and realised the lyrics are not about joy and magic, they are all about vanity and self service.
They are all about the pursuit of fame over happiness.
They do not deal with the aspiration of the human should to better itself, only the aspiration towards ‘stardom’.

And that line about no people being like show people and them smiling when they are low, isn’t that just a blatant admission that they are all liars and not to be trusted, physically or emotionally?

Was I really working in an industry that shallow?

I could wrestle with Ethel Murman as often as I liked though, I kept on getting work, much against the odds my careers advisor had laid down.

If anything the Theatre stuff was a bit overwhelming.
I left college and set my sights on working for the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Within three years I had finished my second run of shows with them as crew and had just turned down a full time contract as RSC Stage Management.
They were nice people, it was a horrible machine.
Devoid of an un-attainable goal to drive me forward I decided that if I could work at the Globe Theatre, which was being built at the time in London, then I could leave theatre happy.
Within a year I was hired as the Globe Theatre’s first Stage Manager.

I didn’t even do anything. I just carried on working at a theatre down the road and it sort of happened.

It frightened the life out of me.

For several years after I did set myself the goal of winning the Lottery but so far no dice, power of positive thinking has it’s limits.

I don’t go to the theatre willingly any more.
It was my one great love and passion, I absolutely adored it, I really did.

I read about it, I thought about it, I dreamed about it, I talked about it and I lived it every day.
It was everything I did and everywhere I went.

It is a brilliant, versatile, unknowable art form and way of life and it was a privilege to have been involved with it for as long as I was.

I actually start getting panicked if I go and see a show these days.
It was always something I contributed to.
Now I just sit there feeling nervous and useless.

It starts when I pick up my coat to leave the house and continues, getting louder and louder until I can leave the theatre and by the time I get home it has calmed right down again.

I can still look a show over and see the mechanics of it and appreciate the hard work involved but I cannot go any where near it as a punter any more.

So the cafe being full of Theatre types was a little nerve wracking today.

I had my hand on the door handle and nearly, nearly did not go in.

If I had been in London I probably would not have done it.

Fortunately this being Cornwall and all it was actually quite lovely to see them.

Two companies I had watched perform when I was still at school.

And of course I could not escape the lovely stories I attribute to all of them in that room.

 

Theatre is not all flowers and air kisses.
When you get inside it’s guts it is as dangerous and horrible as every other aspect of human existence.

But like everything else in human existence, there is joy there too.

What I liked about the people I saw today was that my history with them went right back to before I started working in theatre, it was touched by them through out that time and carries on now I have finished.

I may not enjoy seeing Theatre but I take great joy in seeing it’s people.

I may not be part of that world any more but I still feel supported by it.

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The washing machine broke.
It just stopped working.

This time I had splashed out on an extended warrantee.

I called the warrantee people but they wanted the receipt.

I called the firm I bought the machine from and they emailed me the receipt.

I called the warrantee people and sent them the receipt and they said fine, get someone to mend it, you pay up front and send us the invoice and we will pay thou back.
Or the warrantee people could sort it out for me but that would take five days.

I said I could do it and I found someone local.

He could come round today.

I asked when he might be here and he said he did not like being tied down while he had things on.

I was just checking I was calling the right number when he volunteered he could be here between two and four today.

Brilliant.

He arrived at ten to four.

He took one look at the machine and said he thought I should just call the manufacturer.

All these machines have electronics he said.

They all have them these days.

I explained that he had to mend it or the warrantee people would not pay me to pay him.

He looked surprised that I should want him to mend the machine and took it apart a bit more.

Then he borrowed my computer and made a phone call.

He told me it would be silly money to get it fixed.

I said I did not mind because I was getting the money back.

He pulled a circuit board out of the machine, looked at it gloomily and told me I should call the manufacturer.

Electronics he explained.

It’s the electronics.

One day he might get his card for electronics but it’s hardly worth it for the amount he sees.

I paid him TWENTY POUNDS for telling me the washing machine was broken and he got a free coffee.
Milk no sugar.

I called the manufacturer.

They put me through to a department.

They could not find details of my warrantee so I explained it was not with them.

They explained they were unable to help and would put me through to the right department.

They took my details and opened an ‘account’ for me which they said would help when they put me through to the next department.

They put me through to the main switchboard.

The main switchboard had no idea who I was, what my account number meant or anything I was talking about.

They put me through to a department.

They took my account number and then asked me all the details on it to ‘verify’ who I was.

They could not find details of my warrantee so I explained it was not with them.

They explained they were unable to help and would put me through to the right department.

They told me to have my account number ready, which would help me when they put me through to the next department.

They put me through to the main switchboard.

The main switchboard had no idea who I was, what my account number meant or anything I was talking about.

They put me through to a department.

They took my account number and then asked me all the details on it to ‘verify’ who I was.

They could not find details of my warrantee so I explained it was not with them.

They explained they were unable to help and would put me through to the right department.

They told me to have my account number ready, which would help me when they put me through to the next department.

I said hello to the main switchboard again and said in as clear a voice as I could manage “I want to pay someone money to come to my house and fix my washing machine. I want to pay them money’.

They put me through to a department.

I gave them the details of my account and all the verification details as well.

The person on the other end of the line was annoyed because I had answered all the security questions before they had a chance to ask them and they needed to ask three questions before they could log me in to my account.

I asked if answering the questions before they asked them was a problem.

Apparently they have to ask me three direct questions but I had exhausted all the facts on the system.

I suggested they pretend I had not said anything and they said they might just have to do that.
We settled on the first three answers I gave and we pretended we had not been talking.

They could not find details of my warrantee so I explained it was not with them.

They asked who it was with so I told them.

They said I probably wanted option one then.

I asked what option one was.

They said option one was where I paid them money and someone came round to my house and fixed my washing machine.

I said that sounded good but they stopped me and said they had not finished because they had to read all the terms and conditions out.

Then they read out all the terms and conditions and asked if I wanted option one.

I asked how many options there were.

Three options they said.

I should have kept my fat mouth shut.

I asked what option two was.

They explained that in order to access option two they needed to know how old the machine was.

I said it was just over a year.

They asked when I bought it.

January, I replied.

They told me since it was over a year old it was outside it’s warrantee.

I agreed, they really seemed to be getting under the skin of the issue.

They asked where I got it.

I told them it was brand new from an Ebay store.

They explained that just because I got it in January that did not mean it was brand new when I got it.

I said it was brand new when I got it.

They asked how I knew it was brand new when I got it.

I said I knew it was new because I bought it new.

They said that just because I bought it new did not mean that it was new to the people who sold it to me and they needed to know when it had been new new.

I explained that it came from a named high street store in Yorkshire with an Ebay section.
I went on to explain that when it arrived there was plastic, and polystyrene and restraining bolts and those plastic strap things you can use to break into cars wrapped round it.

They asked how I knew it was new.

I said it was new, new from a shop and everything.

They said they were only trying to help.

I asked what option two was.

They explained that option two was where I took out a warrantee with them before they did the work and I kept on paying for some months.

I said I was not sure about that.

They asked if they could carry on reading the terms and conditions.

I said that would be very helpful.

They read the terms and conditions and asked if I liked option two.

I said I would go with option one.

They asked why I did not like option two.

I said it was because I already had a warrantee.

They said I didn’t.

I said I did, just not with them.

They asked who it was with.

I told them again.

They agreed that was not with them and asked if I wanted to hear about option three.

I said I had found option two a little upsetting and was just having a cup of tea to calm me down so perhaps option one was best.

They were quiet for a moment and then agreed.

I asked when an engineer might come round and they said I was getting ahead of the system again.

I apologised and decided to have a digestive.

They took me through the process.

They asked for the upfront payment and asks if I wanted to pay by card.

I said yes please.

They said they were just getting ready to process that.

There was a long pause.

I could hear the office in the back ground.

It got a little uncomfortable.

They asked if I was still there.

I said yes.

They said they were waiting for me to speak.

I asked what they wanted me to say.

They said they wanted my account number.

I started to give it.

They stopped me and asked me for my full name.

I gave them my full name for the third time, then the number, security code and so on.

They seemed pleased.

I asked when the engineer might come round.

They said they were checking.

They were checking.

They were checking.

They said the engineer would come round in eight days time but would text me the day before to let me know the ‘three hour window’ they would be at my house.

They asked if this was convenient.

I was not honest.

I said it was.

They asked if there was anything else they could help me with and did I want to buy any cleaning products from them.

I looked at the clock. This had all taken some time.

They went on to say that if I did not they would understand because their shift was about to finish.

I said I felt my shift was finishing too and so no there was no further assistance they could be and I would not like any of their cleaning products and we stopped the conversation.

Somehow, and I have no idea how, I am twenty pounds down having actually had a real life person in the room with a screwdriver and a washing machine repair van outside my house AND I still managed to spend an hour on the phone AND I still have to wait more than a week for someone to come and look at my washing machine.

 

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Today was beautiful again.

We went swimming in the morning but as the day wore on it got nicer and nicer and by the time we came out of the pool it was gorgeous.
Sadly we had to go shopping for food, the cupboards were very bare for breakfast following our return to the house.

An hour in Falmouth’s finest monster supermarket gave us the necessary supplies and me the infuriated irritation that meant we would not have to go back for another week.
People.
Shopping trollies.
I mean, really.

We arrived home after lunch.
There was still work to do on the insect house after yesterday’s foiled attempts to re home the invertebrate population of Redruth.
I also felt like today was the day to unpick the compostable nappy question.
The compost bins stand like sentinels of doom at the end of the garden, visible from my chair as I have breakfast.
I used to see them as pillars of hope, slowly but surely churning vegetation into compost.
Since they were utilised to process the organic nappies and results of Prole2’s digestive system the delicate balance of the four compost bins has been ruined and now they just stand there, on rainy days they leak an oozy jelly like substance.

The compost bins need solving.

I decided to dig a big hole and use the old pallets we had made the insect house out of to shutter round it.
I emptied the contents of three of the bins into this new space and then covered over with topsoil and a couple of handfuls of grass seed.
Then I stacked the remaining pallets by the hawthorn tree and got the Proles to fit them out as an insect house again.

I made that sound quite breezy but of course when mankind tries to get close to nature it never goes quite to plan.

The Man Who Digs The Garden ‘borrowed’ my wheel barrow about four years ago.
He is bringing it back.
He tells me he is so it must be true.
For now I know it is in another friend’s garden in Truro.
I sometimes go and visit it.

Without a wheel barrow I was forced to use a laundry tub to shift Prole2’s produce from the old compost bins to the new resting place.
The fork would pick them up but would not let them go again so in the end the simplest way to get the elderly nappies into the tub was to kneel down and pull them out by hand.

Kneeling in the remains of a compost bin and knowing that the compost had been created by worms digesting what my son had previously digested was a little too close to nature for my liking.
The process took about forty five minutes but it seemed…well I was a different person by the end.

The Proles had been encouraged to help in the garden.

Prole1 had been convinced that the garden was a good place but was ‘a little tired from swimming to do any work’.

Prole2 whole heartedly agreed with his brother.

They were no averse to being outside and they made it very clear they fully supported my decision to work in the garden and if at any point they could offer moral support or advice they were more than happy to do so.

I reckoned that being outside on a glorious day was better than inside so I kept on picking and shovelling while Prole2 built a lego car and Prole1 read Tin Tin.

Close to nature is better than away from nature I suppose.

After an hour or so when everything looked like it might be coming together I was just wondering if the Proles might like to come and help when there was an explosion of pigeons from next door’s garden.

The cats had been mooching about all day, occasionally proving that their digestive systems could make a contribution to the garden eco system as well and I assumed it was one of them causing trouble.
A couple of weeks ago it would have been my tabby cat but since she went bald she does not go out much.
I say bald. Bald in places.
I thought the bird scare could have come from the big black tom but he has difficulty jumping onto the washing machine since The Man Who Digs The Garden fed him last week.

The birds flapped and thwacked away over head, right over where I was standing.
I was just turning to see if the Proles had taken any notice of this display of wildlife when the air in front of me became a tangle of wings and flying feathers.
It was over in a second, a flapping white dove pinned to the ground beside my shovel.
A sleek brown shadow above it.
I saw the hawk at about the moment it saw me and we both realised how close we were.

The hawk and the dove leapt away skywards again and the dove fought up with the last of the pigeon flock.
The hawk peeled away and swept low past the garden and was gone across the houses.

I was breathless and disorientated, it had been fast and close, I had adrenaline in my mouth.
There were a scattering of white downey feathers and one large white flight feather landed, twisting in the grass.

I looked across to the Proles.

Prole1 was looking at me.

Prole1: Dad!

Me: Yes?

Prole1: Tin Tin’s dog can talk to him, well it comes out in speech bubbles, but Tin Tin can’t understand him.

Me: Did you see the birds?

Prole1 looks back at his book and then back at me.

Prole1: Which story are they in?

 

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We pulled the insect house apart today.

It was a lovely day so I imagined it would be good to do something outside as a family.
Also I had some unpacking to do and it had just got to the part where everything looks really messy, just before it all gets tidy again, and I had completely lost interest in folding pants.
I know it has to be done. It will be done.
But the sun was out, the last of the Daffs was nodding away, a cat was chasing a butterfly and the fedge (Stupid word) has begun to sprout.
What was I to do?

I like the insect house but I have to say it is a remarkably inactive thing.
The  Man Who Digs The Garden is never drawn to comment on it which means he probably feels it is a waste of space.

The Man Who Digs The Garden is actually downright rude about my compost bins, I could almost take offence but when I see how industrially he deals with his own composting I can see his point.

Anyway The Man Who Digs The Garden has not been doing anything in my garden for a while, which is sort of good because setting him to work in my tiny green patch is a little like that scene in Fantasia when Mickey mouse is the Magician’s Apprentice and sets the broom going and it all goes wrong. I asked The Man Who Digs The Garden’s opinion about moving and pruning apple trees and when I came back with the tea he had moved and pruned two trees. Two trees. I did two teas and half a dozen Digestives on a plate and he dug up two apple trees, dug new holes for them, replanted them and was dragging the hose out to water them in by the time I got back.

The cats love The Man Who Digs The Garden, probably because he smells of moss and the sea, partly because he occasionally feeds them but mostly because often when he comes round he digs in the garden which means they have somewhere new and exciting to defecate.
If he does not actually dig the soil over they generally just urinate near him.

I get The Man Who Digs The Garden to feed the cats when I am away.
He is more reliable than The Girl From The Circus but they do look quite tubby if I am away for more than a week.

The move of the insect house was prompted by the discovery of Australian Flatworms at it’s base.

Australian Flatworms are, if one were to read the Daily Mail, a new menace that will soon irradiate the native earthworm and thus kill all gardens, everywhere, totally dead, soon.
Or they may have been around since the 1960s and, along with the NewZealand Flatworm, now populate most of Britain, which may indicate that native and invasive populations of worms have struck some kind of equilibrium.

Whatever belief system you favour, a kind of worm that wraps itself round another worm, oozes digestive slime all over it and digests it whole from the outside is a thing of particular horror.
I wanted to see how bad the problem might be so looking under the insect house was the only way really.

I imagined we would strip down the layers of the insect house, finding woodlice, spiders, slugs and snails.
I imagined setting the Proles tasks like carrying the solitary bee nesting sites to a safe place or gathering up the pine cones into a bucket.
I imagined having a break half way through and having a snack and a drink in the sunshine.
I imagined finding a nest of Australian Flatworms and discussing with the Proles the morals of what to do with them.
I imagined a glorious re build, an insect house 4.0, redux, Mark II, a super space for invertebrates, created by us all.

I imagined a lot of things.

I took the house apart, Prole2 danced to Radio Six in the kitchen and Prole1 practiced magic tricks in his bedroom.

Prole1 would occasionally come into the garden and show me a particularly unimpressive rendering of a Magic Circle classic.
Prole2 banged his head on the kitchen table twice and needed immediate soothing and a cuddle.

Every time they distracted me like this one of the cats would sneak past and urinate or defecate on whatever I had just been working on.
I swear the inhabitants of my house have disproportionately huge digestive systems which are primed to kick in whenever I relax.

The Proles were, in short, utterly useless and stopped me doing what I was doing.

I did not finish the job.
The rebuild is still an hour of digging away.
The Australian Flatworm nest was not the seething mass of carnivorous slime-vermin I was imagining either.
Two worms, sticky and strangely beautifully coloured.
I squished them.
Prole1 was not around to discuss the morals of this which I think serves him right.
He will be no use to GreenPeace if he is not on the frontline fighting the cause. No one from the Rainbow Warrior ever go arrested for practising magic tricks.

I left the pieces of the house scattered around the garden to get the Proles ready to go out.

When I got in Prole2 showed me The Jiggling Bottom Dance, which to my great relief was performed fully clothed.

Prole2: Do you like it Dad?

Me: Yes, I think so. Do you think you will do it in public?

Prole2: What?

Me: Will you do it in front of other people?

Prole2: No. I made it just for you.

Me: Oh good. Lovely. Good.

Prole1 made some rabbits appear from nowhere, or quite obviously from his other hand.
He actually stopped talking to do the swap from hand to hand.

Prole1: Did I fool you?

Me: No.

Prole1: Oh.

Me: But I loved the patter, I loved the way there was one rabbit at the start and then it’s family turned up. It’s just I might have just seen a bit of a hand swap at one point.

Prole1: Yes that’s the tricky bit.

Me: Yes, tricky.

Prole1: I hope the audience don’t look like you do.

Me: Pardon?

Prole1: I hope they don’t look. At the trick. Like you do.

Me: Oh, yes. I see. No.

Prole1: Thanks for being a great audience, I really must go and practice some more.

The house is a wreck, the garden is a wreck.
As mornings go I could not really fault it.

 

 

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The Smurfs are a bit of fun aren’t they?

I am not talking about the films.
I have not watched the films on principle.
I have watched almost all the “Winnie The Pooh” films and I am the lesser for it.

I don’t want the films to spoil the Smurfs for me.

Unfortunately my view of the world of the Smurfs is being shaken.

I am pretty sure they are still the cute little guys I remember.
They might be.

The Smurfs might also be the most sexist series of books I have ever read.

It is only reading it now that I wonder.

In fairness to Peyo, who wrote them, I have not read them all.

On the other hand, Peyo was writing the Smurfs in fifties and sixties France, about a village of one hundred males and one female and if stereo types of the time are anything to go by there is slim chance things are going to improve.

If the stereo types are anything to go by.

Which is the point unfortunately.

To write off Peyo (who, up until now in my memory of children’s books, was a towering hero) as a stereo type is to fall utterly and completely into the trap.
Supposing I start making dour and downbeat remarks about one of France’s best loved publishing giants only to have some future person expose my biased and mildly xenophobic remarks?

I mean, I could be right.

“The Smurfette” might be indicative of, and an early advocate of, popular body modification trends in the early twentieth century.
Smurfette herself may be a key signifier of all that is wrong with the portrayal of female characters in popular culture.
She may be an inverted role model, a sort of less gobby Spice Girls.
Media oppression and objectification of femininity dressed up as “a bit of fun’ or ‘strong character’.

This may be the first spoon feeding of ‘cute’ negative role models that the Proles have fully absorbed.

I say fully absorbed because Prole1 is currently translating the whole of the Smurf Anthology volume 1 and 2 for Prole2.
They have been through the books about seven times each.

But I am hoist by my own liberal petard.

Because on the other hand….

It may just be a bit of fun.
The Proles might not take it seriously.

The illustrations are brilliant.
Some of the jokes are very good.
The stories are very funny.

So in order to find out the truth of the question “Is Peyo’s Opus valid reading for the twenty first century?” we probably have to read to the end of the series to find out.

Just to be sure.

You have to get to the bottom of the Honey jar, just to make sure it’s not cheese, right?

After all, as a friend pointed out the other day, you have to wade through quite a lot of early Herge racism before you get to the Tin Tin classics….

 

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I am tucking the Proles into bed.

Prole2: Good night Dad. You can sleep in my bed if you want.

Me: No. You are too wriggly. Good night I love you.

Prole2: I love you more. What ever you love me I love you one more. I got in a space ship and went zooming miles and can’t measure how much I love you.

Me: Funny boy.

Prole2: Funny Dad.

Prole1 is reading a book.
He puts it down and gives me a big hug.
He kisses my cheek.

Me: Good night Bigman.

Prole1 snuggles into my jumper.
He pushes his face behind my ear and cuddles close.
He gently rubs his face against my right ear.

This goes on for some time.

Me: Oi. are you wiping your nose on me?

Prole1: Oh. Yes. Sorry Dad. I forgot. Goodnight.

Me: Yes. Goodnight.

Five minutes in the bathroom just checking the side of my head….