Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Brimstone Protocol

Your Mission, Brimstone (should you choose to accept it), is to leap into the void suspended only by silken strand, aiming for that scrotty Poinsettia on the table down there (obviously decided to make this one last two Christmases…). 

Now – you`ve fulfilled the first part of your caterpillar duties admirably – your eating-and-eating has been unsurpassable and now it`s time to glue your enormous self to a branch and pupate for a while. You`ll be fine – just pretend to be a leaf. 

I have to tell you though, Brimstone, that when you emerge you might see some changes... perhaps most noticeably, Wings – this is perfectly normal. And you must use these to Take Off and find yourself a mate, because binge Eating, Brimstone, is no longer your duty; as a butterfly your duty is to Multiply.

Well, my work is done now, and I will self-destruct in thirty seconds. Turn away, lad – it won`t be pretty.

I Accept my mission, Captain, and I`m ready to do my best. Oh Yuck! He wasn`t joking… Oh well:

Wheeeeee! Out of the way - Here I co-! Oh sod it…

And so it was that a couple of weeks ago a green and wiggly thing abseiled past my ear, missed the poinsettia and stopped half way past. 

A moment`s ponder, then it started gently swinging till it manoeuvred itself onto one of the leaves. Then looped its way over the edge and disappeared.

Next day after in-depth Googling, I recognised a Strange New Leaf stuck to the stem.  `Twas surely a Brimstone Butterfly Pupa! (Don`t like to think he`s a Moth – we have curtains we care about…)

The thing is, How did he get to the ceiling, and right above our poinsettia, thereby avoiding myriad deathly kitchen landings: the white-hot-plates of the cooker, the bottomless evil waters of the sink and oh lord! the disgusting piles of fester in the cat bowl…

One could postulate that, nibbling contentedly on nearby clematis, he was carried away by a moonlight shadow and whisked through the window to the ceiling on a fierce updraught.

He`d made it by whatever magic, and I monitored his progress (of staying stuck to stem) for Two Weeks. Between two and four weeks I knew he`d Burst Forth, so with careful surveillance I would see him briefly in full flutter then urge him outside to fulfil his destiny.

Nooooooh! He`s Gone. This morning he wasn`t stuck to his stem; nor was he in the pot, on the table or in the cat fester. ( And SpartaCat no longer has the oomph to catch a Brimstone with or without wings).

I never imagined I`d be So Devastated by his disappearance.  Is he coping; how are his wings; will we ever see him again…?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Cut and Thrust of the Garden

"What`s that blasted noise Angela? I`m trying to read the paper!"

"I think someone`s mowing again, Denis."

"And one of those petrol-driven jobbies, I`ll wager – completely thoughtless, some people!"

Sound familiar? If You suffer from Noisy Gardeners, you`re not alone. Earlier this month residents of a north London suburb found themselves driven to the End of their Tethers by this – the constant, pitiless Tumult of their neighbours` gardening...

 Sadly, as with so much anti-social behaviour, it seems to be a growing problem. Particularly at weekends, when everyone else is trying so hard to Relax.

Reduced to desperate measures, these residents have been forced to Form a Committee. Because it`s not only lawnmowers, but also hedge-trimmers, chain saws... and those appalling leaf-blowers - surely the worst! 

(Actually, what do they do, apart from blow all your leaves next door)?

These machines are often gigantic and ridiculously Noisy not to say Dangerous in the wrong hands! 

Why can`t everyone, is the cry, go back to using those lovely old-fashioned manual gardening tools - So much more satisfying; so much more Considerate.

The longer this menace goes on, of course, the more likely is the possibility of retaliation.  There has already been talk of Red and Yellow Cards for serial culprits - what if that`s Just Not Enough? 

There Will be Squabbles...

YET are we not all guilty in our own way?  Is it possible my own whistling-a-happy-tune out there could irritate...?!  My muttering, swearing, snarling, startling yelps when pottering `twixt our shrubs - might someone hear all that?

So let`s all make an effort; let`s keep jolly quiet in our gardens...

And then we can begin to think about Noisy Neighbours Indoors...  Did I mention George has bought me a bongo drum? 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

We can Rebuild...

We meet beautifully synchronised at the pub. "Well," says Molly, coming to a gentle halt and checking her wrist appliance, "I`ve done four and a half million steps and burnt more calories than I`ll eat in a week."

"Yeah, me too," say I, with an understanding sigh of exhaustion.

And a suspicion that my ten-minute saunter from home used a sprout`s worth of calories in about 47 steps.

But how can I really know? If only I had one of those Personal Fitness Gadgets!

These seem hugely popular at the moment. Employers are even urging their staff to use Pedometers, Trackers and the like to monitor their fitness and Get Healthy - a healthy workforce is surely a more productive workforce. 

(I say that but speaking personally, I tend to think a happy chocolate-filled workforce is productive enough). 

It is of course sensible to be as fit as possible, and these new dazzling accoutrements are made to encourage us Excitingly - so many Styles and Colourways… so many things to count!
Who`d have imagined, for example, that the Fasterfitband attached to your wrist like a mere watch measures not only your steps but also heart rate, temperature and quality of sleep!  (Applied with comfy fit and superglue for round the clock efficiency).
Some devices connect to your PC or iphone, or  "can communicate your stats to the cloud". 
(I thought the cloud was where all your finished ebooks go – obviously there is so much more)..

And if you haul your stats down from the cloud, they can be displayed on a screen of your choice – Bring out the pringles!

But `Wearable technology` doesn`t stop at wrists and ears – should you want your cadence measuring or your pelvic rotation, there are shorts packed with the Very
Sensors… sensors that can provide Realtime Feedback into headphones! 

(Your headphones unless otherwise indicated). 

There are also smart glasses, clever leggings, and shirts that fiendishly change colour at the surge of a hot muscle, pinpointing precisely which muscle! (That one may take some time with the less vigorous among us).
So you`re hurtling around, gadgets monitoring everything except whether you want to  Please STOP soon and you feel just like a Spook-spy – "this Sweatband contains a hidden transmitter; it also acts as a tracking device"

How reassuring that HQ could transmit inspirational training songs, or instructions if you start to flag  - Lift those knees! and... Keep Lifting those knees!
And in case of trauma they will have the means to find you: "Come in Alpha 1!  Hang on we`ve lost him.  OK – triangulating now. There he is, in the isosceles quadrant!" 
(Don`t know what Triangulating is, but they did it a lot on Spooks for searching purposes). 
Anyway,  I got to Deep Thinking about all this thrilling stuff, and decided it would indeed be a good idea to revitalise.  And the doctor was in total agreement: 


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

It`s All in The Hat

"You know you can have the bumpers up, don`t you?" says the maintenance man on his way back from beyond the pins.

"No need, thank you!" say I brightly, hoping he gets hit by a twenty-pounder.

I look up at the score board defiantly. We`ve just finished our first game and out of a maximum of 300, I`ve managed to score 28.

A dazzling record of which I`m proud - no-one else has come Near!

I might point out here that we haven`t touched a bowling ball for two months… during summer school holidays the alleys are best left to zillions of gifted and hyper-excited children. (Particularly since they added LaserThwackBattleFun to the superbowl centre). (With Lasers).

Of course we four have missed the thrill; we`ve been playing together for two years now and our enthusiasm has brought us very close; though it`s usually me winning The Flaming Ball, the simple hilarity of the game means it`s always a Fun and Good-Natured test of skill.

What a delight it was to push open those gleaming doors again and enter the reception, misty-eyed as we gazed once more upon the table football tables, the virtual car rides and the YouCanBe-Rambo Experience.

Aah, those Mechanical Arm machines where you can win a ghastly Thing of Plastic (or a fluffy Meerkat for the dextrous). The place pulsates!

We go through to the lanes clutching our vouchers for a free non-alcoholic beverage at half-time... Then begins the FindaBall ritual.

George likes a Fourteen-pounder despite semi-dislocation of shoulder. Bill and Ella both take a Ten-pounder, (having gone so far as to acquire their own), and I wander despondently about the racks searching for an Eight.

Which are usually orange and taken by a child who should be back at School, or by a fleet of regulars whose championship started three minutes ago and whose aisles are lined with all the orange balls.

The first fling is Thrilling – will the ball make it all the way down the lane or will it smash into the floor and just stop three feet away; will it ricochet from bumper to bumper and finally have a touch and go tussle with one pin…

(Not that we often bumper-up of course) - we win or lose by Pure Skill.

Is it gaining this sporty new skill that makes Bowling so beam-inducing?  Yes... but there`s
the camaraderie too, the gleeful collective astonishment of an actual Strike and above all, with the autumn chill drawing hordes of lunchtime spectators, nothing beats the Roar of the Crowd from the gallery.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

I`m Not taking this Lying Down

"I saw that!" said George.

"It was a skim," I snarled, "A Very Delicate skim!"

We did some glaring. This New Bed doesn`t seem to be having quite the promised effect on our well-being.

Of course it`s a huge adjustment... our other had been with us for many-many decades and it really was time to phone the WeTakeAnyCrott man and wave goodbye. (Fond memories…)

Choosing the replacement was hard - so many to bounce upon and so much these days for the kind and Determined salesman to explain: fillings and toppings and memory, tension and support…

But as soon as we spotted the Mesmeros Siren double bed with Balthasar headboard and two-drawer divan set in chocolate weave we Just Knew. (And I`m so glad we plumped for the optional Fish Tank).

It was delivered with a surprising bundle of leaflets. Modern beds, You Know, come with instructions. (or were they just for us…).

For instance, how often do You turn your mattress? I don`t think I wish to say… having read the Instructions. From now on though, we must rotate and turn the mattress Constantly to encourage upholstery fillings to settle more evenly
. Sounds vaguely reasonable…

Except that they mean Every Week for the first three months, and thereafter with the change of season. The procedure (with diagrams) involves a 90 degree Turn and Flip and Repeat Turn (to other corner) and Flip-again and Breathe and Sit Down and have a nice cup of tea.

We can cope with that (in fact George finds my help superfluous). It`s with the
Leaflet of Many Rules that we struggle, particularly the Do NOT Sit on the edge of the bed. Rule.

I mean, the salesman had indeed stressed the very wonder of Reinforced Edging in a mattress. It holds its shape against all mishap - never again would we find ourselves sliding unstoppably to the carpet down a slope of Weedy-edged mattress.

But it`s remarkable how hard it is not to sit on the edge of your bed. You`re wandering round the bedroom taking your shoes off… maybe changing your vest or pondering things… you naturally sit on the edge of the bed.

And how on Earth is one supposed to get in or out of bed if not with a mid-way sit?

Well, when I remember I try the old Back Flip manoeuvre but frankly, it had been a while…

But it turns out I can fling some fish-food in the tank at the same time – so they had thought of everything.

Now, which page was that Stop-a-Snore button on…

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Scent of a Cat

Has he elegance? Has he fragrance?

Not remotely. He isn`t Mary Archer, he`s a raggy-arsed nineteen-year-old (at least 8000 in cat) who`s begun to smell like the corpses of all the tiny critters he`s despatched over the years.


He always used to groom fastidiously and constantly; he`s still bendy and suffers no arthritic achings...  But these days he`ll have an occasional swipe of face and front paws, then go for a nice lie down.  

Naturally (isn`t it?) he`s always exuded the fumes of hell when he`s breathed on you (from your knee or from the end of the garden); now he reeketh from every pore. Most Unnaturally.

We are what we eat, it is said, and as he plunges further into decrepitude, what he eats becomes ever more unsettling.

Not for Spartapus (guess George`s favourite film) the bowl of Kitty-splatt and those treats with the meeelting centre. He`ll have Tinned Tuna in Sunflower-oil-not-Brine… maybe a couple of thin slices of Sandwich Beef or some spicy Polish Sausage

After one minute at these delicacies, he stops shovelling and starts Yowling.  He`s not hungry - he`s The Devil.  

"Look in your bowls, evil cat" (we cry) – "you`ve got eight kinds of flesh and some of my Greek yoghurt – we have nothing else to give you!"

He stares unblinking as we sit down to tea and his message is clear: OK - I`ll have what you`re having

So we sacrifice chunks of our chicken and he graciously nibbles at them. Briefly.

I pander to his every whim because I feel his pain of downsizing to a tiny garden, and then of losing his twin sister last year. (Though Honestly - they were hardly speaking towards the end…). 

Anyway, if treating the eating is hopeless, can we at least cure his sulphurous aroma that is now seeping from the very walls!

The pet-shop man suggested a Dry Shampoo for wet-averse cats.  I was as thrilled as when they invented Shake n` Vac – would this work as well on the cat as it did back then on my T-shirts?
Acquainted with his claws, George and I plunged positively into the fray wearing ski-gear and protective head-buckets.  Back-comb his fur, the nice man at the pet-shop had said, and rub the powder in with your fingertips. 

I gingerly waved the bottle of powder under Spartapus`s nose, expecting retaliation.  Instead he seemed to inhale, taking a moment to savour it with a look of Hmm, Not Bad...

So we showered him liberally and drily, rubbed it all over and mopped it off with a warm damp cloth.  And he looked FAB.

Had he Fragrance?

Not really.  But we`ve managed three more successful applications and we`re optimistic about the future if we stick to his treatment. 

Silly as it sounds, though, we are slightly concerned now about some kind of contagion...

The other night we popped into The Two Heads and were greeted with, "There you are - a pint and a Pinot Grigio, and - Bloody Hell! - what have you two been eating?"

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

No One Word can describe...

We didn`t bother watching the latest Public Information Film… After all, every week there was a different one, warning us pointlessly about misuse of zebra crossings, the dangers of ladders or how to keep your microbes to yourself with a handkerchief...

Why should this one be any more important?

We were wrong.

Little did we know back in those halcyon days that we were being watched, watched and studied by creatures with brains unimaginably greater than ours, with technology far beyond our own feeble capabilities and with plans… plans for us and for our planet.

"Man as the dominant species of life on earth will be extinct within a year" whispered the government rumours. And we laughed.

We snorted with derision when they urged us to stay in our homes for this would be a "...grim battle for survival!"

George and his comrades didn`t listen – should we think them brave, or merely foolhardy?

To the group it was just another walk… another chance to roam beautiful countryside, to revel in the glories of Nature. But nature can be
red in tooth and claw if you stray over Certain Boundaries.

How could they have known? An ordinary fence, a stile like any other – no-one noticed they were being followed...

Until the creatures started getting restless:

In fact anyone can see these beasts were quite hysterical - the unfortunate white-head brutally shouldered in the crush; the black-head driven wild by some fiendish marking on her brow (the significance of which one dare not guess at); the brown-head with staring, frenzied eyes, scrabbling to keep up.

Next time they looked back they thought there was… something… different but they didn`t understand the effects of interplanetary spores, didn`t realise that the Nameless Horror could transmute!

It would get worse, the Nameless not only transmuting but also multiplying until these innocent walkers would be Infested by swarms of nightmare creatures.

We have no word from those bold walkers.  But there`s talk of a new Public Information Film having been released and this time, We`ll Watch It.