Sunday, 23 February 2014

Laurel and Hardy

I’m not somebody who sits and watches television.  During the day I’m working.  In the evening, I write.  And somewhere in between, I look after my family.  I catch glimpses of television when, say, cooking dinner in our open plan kitchen and Mr V is watching football.  I can tell you the cast of Manchester United, but not of Coronation Street.  I catch glimpses of reality programmes when I venture into my daughter’s bedroom to pick up a mountain of clothes and clean.  I see snippets of programmes about fat people who want to be thinner, and thin people who want to be fatter; or people who have inked almost every part of their skin and are now begging for laser removal treatment.  But it’s all very fragmented.  This is probably why I love a good film.
          When Saturday night rolls around, and it’s time to relax, there’s nothing better than to be seated at the local cinema, popcorn in hand while you watch the latest heartthrob chasing baddies, or Jennifer Aniston in a funny chick flick.  Although we don’t see too many of her films as Mr V prefers Cameron Diaz.  Our taste in films is not usually one that is mutual.  Generally he prefers films like Saw.  And Saw 2, and Saw 3, and Saw 4…you get the picture (no pun intended).  I watched the first one and was so disturbed that the first thing I did when I got home was to search the inside of every wardrobe and under every bed for hidden lunatics.
          Nor am I a great fan of alien moves.  Unless you count ET.  Mr V persuaded me to watch ‘The Fourth Kind’.  For weeks afterwards I was a nervous wreck at bedtime, convinced that an alien would creep into the house the moment we were all asleep.
          Give me something silly and farcical to watch and I’m in my element.  Which is why I was surprised when Mr V said he liked Laurel and Hardy.  How can you be married to somebody for years and years and then discover, quite by chance, that you like their films?!  We watched ‘Pardon Me.’  What a pleasure to watch.  Not a single swear word in order to raise a laugh (I’m still puzzled why today’s comedians and film directors think swearing is funny) and absolutely no political correctness nonsense either.  When the lads escaped from prison and hid with the cotton pickers and blacked themselves up to blend in, I’ll bet nobody shrieked about being offended.  It was innocent and incredibly funny.  I can’t remember the last time I laughed at a film until my stomach


Desk Sergeant:      What's your name?
Stanley:                 Stanley Laurel.
Desk Sergeant:      Say “Sir" when you're addressing me. Now what's your name?
Stanley:                 Sir Stanley Laurel.

And from another:


OLLIE:       What did she say?
STAN:         She said we can't go out tonight, that we have to go right home.
OLLIE:       Why?
STAN:         ’Cause she's got a surprise for you.

OLLIE:       What else did she say?
STAN:         She told me not to tell you she had a surprise.
OLLIE:       Well don't tell me.
STAN:         I won't, I can keep a secret.


Which is more than I can.  Which reminds me.  Did you hear about the butter’s secret?  No, no, I mustn’t tell you, in case it spreads… 


Sunday, 16 February 2014

Roses are red (and half dead)

So did you have a nice Valentine’s Day?  My own was...predictable!  On the eve of Valentine’s Day, Mr V came home from work with a freshly licked down scarlet envelope and half a dozen red roses in cellophane.
          ‘I’ve got to be up early tomorrow morning,’ he said, ‘so have these now.’
          ‘Gosh, thanks!’ I took the roses and waited for three little words to be delivered.
          ‘Nice, eh?’
          Only two words.
          ‘Red roses.’
          Still only two words.
          ‘Yes, I can see that.
          Luxury red roses.’
          Okay, that was three words.  But not quite the three words I was waiting for.’
          ‘So why are they luxury roses?’ I asked, running scissors along the cellophane.’
          ‘Because it says so here,’ Mr V pointed, ‘see?  Luxury red roses.’
          I peeled back the cellophane and pulled out the thorny stems.  A flurry of petals and leaves fell at my feet.
          ‘Careful!’ cautioned Mr V.  He wasn’t worried about the thorns on my fingers, you understand, only the depletion of petals from the roses.  Duty done, he edged towards the television.  ‘Soprano night,’ he explained.
          I found a vase and popped the already drooping roses into water.  Viva la romance!
          Meanwhile my daughter and her friends had had a visitor to their college on Valentine’s Day – an NHS van offering free chlamydia tests.  How romantic.  Not.   And, as a thank you to every female agreeing to be tested, there was the offer of a free pair of Valentine boxer shorts smothered in hearts.  The girls dithered.  Did they want to do the test?  No.  Did they want the boxers?  Yes!  So they all trooped into the examination room, took the long-stemmed cotton tip, went behind the curtain…and ran the cotton tip around their mouths.  They then accepted the boxer shorts and skipped off.  I’m not quite sure what results the NHS will get, but you have to admire the girls’ strategic thinking.  I’ll bet there were an awful lot of lads in Dartford getting boxer shorts as their Valentine gifts.
          My son’s partner, however, knew how to celebrate in style.
          ‘I’m taking you to the most romantic restaurant in London.  But I’m not telling you the name.  It’s a surprise.’
          I instantly hit the internet and Googled most romantic restaurant in London.  And up came the answer.  I nearly fell off my computer chair.  Now that was indeed a romantic restaurant.  I shall keep the number and drop lots of hints to Mr V for next Valentine’s Day.
          Which reminds me.  Why did the banana go out with the prune?  Because it couldn’t get a date…

Sunday, 9 February 2014

21 Years a Mum

Next Tuesday my son celebrates his 21st birthday.  However, because he will be at university, we celebrated the event a little earlier – rather noisily it has to be said.  A visit to our favourite Italian restaurant, bottles of wine, good food, birthday cake and raucous singing.  My daughter took lots of pictures, and moments were turned into picture memories to be mulled over at some point in the future.  Twenty-one is a blissful age.  You are truly an adult.  People take you more seriously.  You have your looks, youth and a bit of wisdom in your back pocket.  There is a feeling that the world is literally your oyster and that the future is yours to carve out as you desire.
          Well, that’s how it seems to me when I look back with rose-tinted specs on being twenty-one.  The actual reality is that you are usually broke!  My son is a dental student.  He lives on a tight budget in digs with other students, and budgets his social life via Wowcher deals.  Unlike my son, I didn’t go to university.  I was working, but still broke.  This is because I’d bought my first home – a one bedroomed apartment, and a greater proportion of my salary went on a mortgage and putting petrol in an ancient Morris Minor.  Back then my social life would revolve around a neighbour having an Avon party and wondering if enough money could be scraped together to order a red nail polish.  It’s only now, so many years on, that I look back on that time and realize they were such happy, carefree days.  I am sure my son too will one day look back on his student days in exactly the same way.
          ‘Believe you me, Mum, I won’t,’ said Robbie.  ‘I can’t wait to be able to afford a place without a resident mouse, damp on the walls, and a plonker in the flat below playing his base at three in the morning.’
          My son and his flat mates were very tired after listening to the last musical session.  Mr Plonker had finally hit the pillow at six in the morning.  As Robbie and his pals wearily filed past the downstairs apartment, one of the students paused.
          ‘Hang on a minute, there’s something we should do.’
          With a great deal of whispers, giggles and snorts, revenge took place by taking it in turns to lean on Mr Plonker’s doorbell.  There then followed a mad scramble out the main door before they were caught.
          And THAT is the very sort of my memory my son will one day hazily recall with great fondness and say, ‘Do you remember…?’
          Which reminds me.  There was a Scottish student, Donald McDonald, who went to study at an English university.  He lived in the halls of residence with the other students.  After a month, his mother came to visit.  ‘How are you finding the English students, Donald?’ she asked.  ‘Mother,’ he replied, ‘they are such terrible, noisy people.  The one on that side keeps banging his head on the wall and won’t stop. The one on the other side screams and screams all night.’  ‘Oh, Donald!  You poor thing!  How do you manage to put up with your awful English neighbours?’  ‘Mother, I do nothing.  I just ignore them.  I just stay here quietly, playing my bagpipes.’

Sunday, 2 February 2014

An Afternoon in Greenwich

Weekends are precious.  After a week of working hard, and often being short on sleep, we welcome the arrival of a weekend with open arms.  Oh, the bliss of a lay in!  Although usually this doesn’t come off because my brain is mistakenly running a week-day wake up call, or else the dog and cat have barged into the bedroom demanding breakfast at an unearthly hour.  But the idea of a lay in is wonderful.  And of course I live in hope that this weekend might be the one where a lay in actually proves successful.
          I also love a weekend because it means I can dawdle over breakfast, have time for that second cup of tea, catch up with my Scrabble moves on Facebook, chat on Facebook, and generally start to waste the day.  Mr V, thrilled to bits at his wife being occupied elsewhere in the house, usually jumps onto the sofa, reaches for the remote control and then assumes a horizontal position.  In recent months this has become a pattern.  And before you know it, a precious Saturday has been frittered away.  Three weeks ago, I decided to tackle the issue.
          ‘We should be enjoying our weekends,’ I waggled a finger at Mr V, ‘and do something.’
          ‘I am doing something,’ my husband replied, ‘I’m watching football.  And rugby.  And racing.  And golf.’
          ‘I’m talking doing something together.  Other couples go jogging.  Or have a day out with each other visiting places of interest.’
          My husband looked alarmed.  ‘Why?’
          ‘Because that’s what other couples do!’
          Mr V heaved himself off the sofa.  ‘Okay, okay,’ he put his hands up in surrender, ‘I can take a hint.  You want me to go to the supermarket with you.  Not a problem.’
          ‘I’m talking about getting out and having fun.’
          Which is how we found ourselves in Leeds last weekend enjoying a colleague’s leaving ‘do’ with a curry and a club.
          This weekend we were meant to be going to Knole Park in Sevenoaks.  I’ve never been there, and yet it’s a place that’s virtually on our doorstep.  The idea of a winter’s walk and feeding the deer appealed immensely.  However, the relentless rain and flooding of the last few weeks literally reduced this whim to a wash-out.  Mr V looked secretly relieved.
          ‘Not a problem,’ I said, ‘we’ll go in the other direction instead and stroll around Greenwich Park.’
          ‘As long as we’re back in time to watch the Six Nations, and also Man U are playing–’
          ‘Yes, yes, yes,’ I flapped a hand, ‘come on, let’s go.’
          ‘Are we taking the dog?’
          ‘Yes, I think her legs are up for it if we just stroll.’  I reached into the cupboard for our pooch’s doggy coat.
          ‘She won’t need that.  It’s eight degrees out there!’
          ‘Uh-huh.  Eight degrees.  Not eighty degrees.  And although the sun is shining, there is a stiff breeze blowing.  Greenwich Park is very open, so the wind chill factor will make it seem colder.’
          ‘Well I’m not wrapping up,’ said Mr V, slipping on a lightweight jacket over a short-sleeved tee, ‘I don’t think it’s chilly.’
          ‘It is.’
          ‘It isn’t.’
          ‘Isn’t.  And anyway, I’d rather look cool than resemble a marshmallow.’
          The marshmallow reference was in relation to one of my ski jackets, a billowing white padded affair.  Underneath I was dressed in fleece-lined sweatpants and matching sweatshirt.  Over the top of the marshmallow jacket was a soft fluffy scarf and matching bobble hat.  Mr V, on the other hand, was dressed in thin Boss jeans, and an Armani jacket.  Fashion is all.
          On arrival at Greenwich Park, the hunt was on for a parking space.  Spotting one, I headed towards it.  Mr V instantly did what every other man on this planet does.  I frequently wonder if it is genetically impossible for a man to sit quietly while his wife parallel parks.
          Locking the car up, the pooch and I snuggled into our coats and set off.  Mr V pulled his jacket’s collar up and stuffed his hands in his pockets.
          ‘Are you warm enough?’ I asked cheerily.
          ‘Yes,’ said my husband through gritted teeth.
          ‘Well at least you look good,’ I quipped, ‘very cool.’
          Two hours later my husband wasn’t so much cool as totally frozen.
          ‘I’m cold,’ he bleated.
          ‘Well you should have listened to me and wrapped up warmly.’  Sometimes I feel like my husband’s mother, instead of a wife.  ‘Come on,’ I sighed, ‘we’ll go home.’
          Meanwhile the pooch and I are planning what sort of day out to do with Mr V next weekend.  Which reminds me.
          What’s the difference between a new husband and a new dog?  After a year, the dog is still excited to see you…