Monday, May 18, 2009


“Wow!” gasped George, “Come and look at this!”

“Oo, what is it?” said I, rushing to share his amazement … “Are you still watching that dolphin programme?”

“No!” he breathed, “Mega-Marquee!”

For George had accidentally landed upon a Shopping Channel, and was now unable to switch off.

Have you ever seen one, or perhaps dipped into a website? Do Not, if you are susceptible to persuasion because instantly, everything there becomes indispensable. For instance, if George and I didn’t buy their Mega-Marquee (assembled in 60 seconds!), how would we survive the unreliable summer with our picnic guests constantly and soddenly rushing in for shelter?

And, what better way of putting up these guestly hordes, than on a Handy-Bed? - the size of a (quite big) suitcase, this steel-framed bed inflates and deflates itself at the press of a button! (Quite terrifying to watch…)

I can’t help agreeing that this would indeed be Handy and Yes, our foot-pumpable airbed is but an exhausting and pitiful imitation. Plus, there are special offers to augment one’s shopping pleasure – why not combine a Double Handy-Bed with a half-price Perfect Painter Spray? Guests will then have something to sleep on in a newly-decorated spare room! (or landing, in our case).

The brilliant ideas were countless… On the subject of visiting friends, are any of yours troubled by thinning or receding hair? What could be more thoughtful than presenting them with a tin of Restore-It-Quick? They’ll be delighted at this instant and revolutionary fibrous solution (“don’t forget to select a colour!!”).

Or if the problem is too much hair, DO try Scrape-it-Away! Removes unwanted growth from all over the place while exfoliating, massaging and vibrating at the same time! So much more fun than blunted razors or molten wax…

What else took our fancy… Well, while George went off to get wine and nibbles, I discovered the FantastiBag; Constructed on Tardis principles, this outwardly compact shoulder bag can store the contents of a Small Hotel in an instantly retrievable manner and (miraculously) without permanent damage to your shoulder or unguarded passers-by.

And something I jolly wish I’d had today for a torn hem – GlueItUp! This magical tin can repair all your clothes, even (puzzlingly) in “the places hard to reach with needle and thread”. Why not, they suggest, collect scraps of your old clothes and GlueItUp them together for a dazzling new wardrobe! There’s even a handbag size for those embarrassing emergencies! (Hah! If you’d bought an AmaziBag, you wouldn’t be troubled by piffling concerns of size).

We did eventually manage to switch off – rather like someone pulling the plug when you’re being electrocuted – and we collapsed into a dazed heap, heads crammed with ideas that will Change Our Lives.

Did we actually buy anything? No, in fact. But we know where this Shopping Channel lives…

(All these items are (more or less) real; only the Names have been changed…)

Friday, May 1, 2009

Tales of the Dump

Do you enjoy a jolly good Clear-Out? Do you like to plunge occasionally into the festering depths of your cupboards, your cellars, your garage; to gather it all up into an explosive pile and whisk it off it to The Tip?

Of course, anything with a modicum of use left in it can be charity-shopped or sold at the next village Brocante (second-hand market), but today I refer to the contents of our ancient garden shed. We finally decided that it needed the Clear-Out.

What treasures might lurk within, abandoned and ignored for aeons by us and all those who roamed this land before us… (Excitingly, we did last year unearth a bucket of 1943 German rifle cartridges! But that was under the sink in the cellar, and now they live wherever the Police sent them).

The Shed content is more humdrum: a medley of paint and varnish tins dating back several decades, mucky and broken bricks, shattered plant pots, a collection of greasy old chicken feathers, an electric pump for our well that never worked, and a really disgusting brush on the end of a long bendy pole. George actually wanted to keep that, just in case it came in handy...

Poking beyond the outer crust disturbed something small and scuttly that mercifully escaped, plus two plastic containers bedecked with Skull & Crossbones. God knows what was (or still is) in those, and certain Rubbish Tips may well stick you in the Bastille for even trying to deposit them…

For, Going to the Tip (or Déchetterie) in France is not the Roll Up, Chuck in skip that I remember in the UK.

Here, you must be issued with a Tip ID Card by your local Mairie. Ours gives us a generous choice of six Tips in the Department, and these adhere to strict timetables – around two and a half days a week, and certainly not lunchtimes!

The nearest is a ten minute drive; followed by a forty minute queue to be allowed through the gates by the extremely surly and unhelpful sod In Charge. (Many of the locals, in fact, make the most of this time by getting out of their cars and animatedly catching up on gossip).

Once you make it inside the Compound, the Director of Ops watches through narrowed eyes as you drive up the slope to the Chucking Area; he demands your ID and inspects you for suspicious twitches, then scribbles angrily on a clipboard. Once I went alone; he glowered as I pantingly heaved a sack of something into the skip, then inspected the Something to make sure it was Rubbish of an Acceptable Kind before Heavily Sighing me on my way.

Fortunately we can drive an extra ten minutes for the joy of a smiling Operative; one who waves you into the roomy parking area, proffers his sleeve to shake (in lieu of handful of tip microbes - polite and considerate), cheerily asks your ID no if he remembers and gives assistance if needed, all the while engaging in jolly banter. I love him very much.

As for the Skips, well, the Greenery skip is always popular at this time of year... Then there’s the Tatty Old Cardboard Box skip; the Any Old Iron skip for all unwanted railings and the like; and the exciting “Tout-Venant” (all & sundry). Last time this was overflowing with old settees, mattresses, DIY leftovers, and a motley and rather poignant collection of stockings draped over a broken bench. The Tales this skip could tell, eh…

One thing I haven’t noticed here is people rescuing stuff from the tip. The usual recyling containers are there for glass, paper and whatnot, but some bits in the mountainous skip piles must be useful too. No doubt there are schemes...

I shall recognise those stockings, though, if I see them at the Brocante!