Survival of the fittest

It is a constant battle between Dog and Husband. Husband wants to eat his dinner. Dog, too, wants to eat Husband’s dinner. Husband is not having the bitch have it her way (yes, the dog is actually a bitch, or to put it nicely, she is a girl-dog). So the battle of wills commences…

At first Dog approaches Husband in a casual manner.

Dog:’Daddy, why don’t we share your dinner?’

Husband: ‘I don’t think so.’

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Then it becomes more forceful. Dog: ‘Come Dad, don’t be selfish! Look at me, you bugger!’

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Slowly it transforms into blatant begging. ‘Daddy, daddy, spare me a chunk of beef! Pleeeeaaase… I’ll love you forever!’

Husband: ‘Go away, Dog! It’s MY dinner!’ As an only-child, Husband is unfamiliar with the idea of sharing his property.

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Finally Dog adopts a new approach. She begins to look rather faint and dizzy.

Dog: ‘Daddy, I fear I may faint … I’m starving… If I don’t make it, Daddy, you can have my toy bone. If only I got a morsel off your plate, I could just make it…’

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Husband won’t surrender his dinner. It’s a matter of life or death for him. For both of them. But that’s only until the last crumb is polished off the pate. Then they are friends all over again.

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The Forty Minute Flood

Fighting the elements today! As we were playing Crossing the River in the hall, a real-life Niagra Waterfall poured in from blocked drains outside. I grabbed a broom and braved the waves. Mrs H soon joined in with a mop in hand. Two mums rolled up their sleeves and waded in. Head rolled in with sandbags (Headteacher that is!). Mrs W evacuated children to a higher – dry land.

We would have all perished in that flood of the century had it not been for Mrs G who offered to make us a lovely cup of tea. From then on there was no stopping up. School saved!

 

What a treat!

A heart-melting review of The Quite Contrary Colin Pluck by a 10-year-old girl, complete with a portrait of the main character! How good is that?

Home and About

Interview with a Vampire, a short film

Watch with caution. This is a would-be horror story. It was recorded as I dragged myself out of a hole full of deadly colds and flu, and then through a hedge backwards. Although no animals were harmed in the process of making this film, some may be harmed in the process of watching it.

Drudgery

What follows is a story about Bryn. But Bryn could well be me. I understand him well. We have similar heroes. Hercule Poirot is one of them. And we have similar obsessions. Though perhaps I am more outgoing than Bryn. Anyway, this isn’t about me. The story is about Bryn.

DRUDGERY

For the past nineteen years Bryn took the 8:21 bus to work and the 15:42 one back home. Even though everyone else drove a car, Bryn had stuck to his guns. Bus was a superior mode of transport – there was an air of reliability about it. Bryn appreciated the peace of mind buses offered. From the heights of his bus seat he would look down on the hapless, mad-eyed car drivers, and smile.

Then the new manager came to the branch and made changes.

The predictability of Bryn’s daily bus commute had been thrown up in the air like a pack of cards. Sometimes he would start after lunch and work till five. That meant catching the 17:12 bus. He had also been made to work every other Saturday. Working on the weekend wasn’t a problem – since his mother died four years ago Bryn had no weekend commitments to speak of. He lived alone. He shopped on Thursdays. He did chores on Friday after work. Working on Saturdays wouldn’t put him off that much if it weren’t for the big, gaping hole it had created in his life: a midweek day off. Bryn was distraught.

He’d started watching daytime TV but soon found he couldn’t cope with the unpredictable human factor of reality shows. He promptly switched to ITV3 where the looping repeats of Agatha Christie’s Poirot had at last put his mind at ease. This was his world. Hercule Poirot was his kind of man: organised, punctual, particular. It was like looking in the mirror, and nodding with approval. Bryn understood Hercule’s idiosyncrasies. Not only did he understand them – he lived them: the starching of his collars, the aligning of his shoes on the rack, the squeezing of his toothpaste starting from the bottom end, the sleeping on his back with the duvet drawn up to his chin and his fingers pinned neatly on top. It was such a relief knowing that there was someone out there just like him, for even though Poirot was a fictional character, Christie must have come across his prototype in real life. How else would she know him in such minute detail?

Bryn belonged at last! He acted and thought like Poirot. He even looked like him: rather small, corpulent and balding. He was also so self-effacingly polite that he was widely ignored, or at least, underestimated.
Bryn was remarkably inconspicuous. People never remembered him, or his name, or who he was. He could be anyone. A middle aged, ordinary, square man, he blended with the background like a blur – he was a non-entity. And that was what was eating him alive. He could do better than that. He could demonstrate his genius. Not to the world, but to himself. If only he could get into the mind of a criminal…

This morning Bryn was on the 8:21 bus. A yellow Mini, with a woman dropping her mobile and searching for it frantically with her head between her knees, zoomed by to its certain tragic end. Bryn bound his hands and kept them neatly in his lap. He was smiling rather beatifically. The 8:21 was like a home to him. His second home. He had taken it yesterday, too. It had been his day off, but he took the 8:21 to town and the 15:42 back home nevertheless. He did that often. The routine gave him a sense of purpose. And yesterday had been Wednesday – the market day. It was as good a reason as any to be in town, but not the only one.

As soon as he walked into the bank he could feel the electricity in the air. He resented it. He had twenty minutes for tea, which he would normally have with a biscuit, before pinning his name tag to the lapel of his suit and taking his place at the counter by the front window. There was no chance of that today.

Angela’s face was burning with excitement. She accosted Bryn by the door, “Did you hear?”
“Did I?”

“Armed robbery!” she shrieked. “We had a robbery! Yesterday! The guy had a gun, held Sandra at gunpoint. Surely you’d have heard?”
“Can’t say I did, sorry,” he looked at her, contrite.

“God! Where were you!” she gasped. “Sandra’s off. Too traumatic… She’ll be off sick, I imagine, for weeks.”

“I guess we’ll have to cover her shifts,” Bryn offered hopefully. Angela gawked at him with disbelief, and then exchanged a meaningful glance with Tracey.

Tracey was a part-timer and worked only afternoons, but she was in today, evidently standing in for the traumatised Sandra. She had a long, scrawny neck, like a turkey, and it shook when she spoke, “He got away with five grand.”

“Neat sum,” Bryn raised an eyebrow and cocked his head, trying to appear bemused.

“He put the gun straight into Sandra’s face. It was that or the money.”

“Did they arrest him?” Bryn was wondering if there was still time for his tea. Would it be rude if he stole a glance at his watch?

“They’re still looking… He vanished into the thin air. Sandra gave the cops his description – well, what she could remember, under the circumstances… Black coat, black balaclava… He was carrying a bag – black, with a zip and a white logo. He was tall. Big man! Didn’t say anything, just pointed the gun in her face. I was in the toilet, missed the whole thing. It took seconds,” Angela seemed disappointed.

“Let’s hope they find him,” Bryn concluded, aiming to sound definitive. He smiled apologetically and looked at his watch. It was ten to nine. “Well, I’ll… What a day! I think I’ll have a cuppa on that note,” he said and retreated awkwardly to the kitchen.

“He didn’t take it in,” Angela whispered, shaking her head with pity. “As if he doesn’t care. I’m not sure if he’s heard me…”

“He just looks… through you. I say he’s got that syndrome-” Tracey wobbled her neck with agitation. “What do you call it? I forget. But he has it and don’t tell me otherwise.”

The 15:42 was two minutes late. That disturbed Bryn. He didn’t like surprises. Then it got even worse – there was a diversion. The police had cordoned off part of The Street between the bank and Market Square.

Bryn got home outside his usual schedule. There was no point watching Poirot sixteen minutes into the episode. Instead, he took his replica pistol out of the table kitchen drawer. He had chiselled it with great attention to detail and painted it metallic black. Angela was excused for taking it for the real thing. It amused Bryn that she had conjured him as a big man. Women always exaggerate.

He wondered who had found the money. Someone had. They had not handed it in. That hadn’t gone to plan. Bryn had abandoned the bag by the cheese stall. If he’d found it, he would’ve taken it to the police. People were dishonest – more than he had given them credit for. Still, he knew how the criminal mind worked. But it was only a petty criminal. He was yet to find out what made a murderer tick.

Celebrating in style

There were times when my birthday would pass by unnoticed. Mainly by me, but everyone else was equally complicit. Let’s face it: I can’t remember. I can’t remember anything about the day I was born. It’s hazy. The event doesn’t spring to mind every 2nd of December, so it is pretty forgotten. And if I can’t remember, how can I expect anyone else to?

My brother doesn’t remember. He continues in the proud tradition of my parents who never remembered. (Except once, when I was 12, my mother baked cookies for my birthday, but my brother had them all before I got home. I didn’t know about the cookies so I wasn’t in a hurry to get home from the frozen school pond.) I am beginning to think that the memory lapses in my family are genetic. Which is fair. We don’t remember one another’s birthdays so nobody sulks, and if they do, they keep it to themselves. Plus, at this stage, it may be complicated for my parents to communicate birthday wishes from Beyond…

Haley didn’t remember, but then again, how could she? She wasn’t even there when I was born all those millenia ago, was she? She, herself, was only born 9 years ago. Her dad remembered last minute as the birthday card drawn on a recycled shopping list indicates. I also got Spa and Bath set. For men… Must have been recycled too from last year’s Christmas sock.

Steve remembered. Steve remembered big time. The Victorian winter coat – gorgeous! “The Double” in the Bath’s Theatre Royal (even if it meant terrible suffering for him – just the struggle to stay awake until the interval, and thereafter) – captivating! Still, he did it! For me! He even whipped his son into submission, and a birthday card arrived, alongside a few Christmas cards, a few days after my “special” day. His mum remembered to apologise on the phone for… not remembering. Ah, my brilliant husband, he must have been working his backside off to get all his family members to come to the party. Though there wasn’t a party to come to so I can, sort of, understand their reluctance. I must say they did better than my own family by any stretch of imagination. His daughter remembered without having to be reminded! I must remember to give her an extra-special treat for Christmas. Oh yes, I will be biased. Why not?

Other than that, it was an ordinary week if I don’t mention nearly getting arrested for speeding by a dilligent policeman who was hiding behind a rubbish bin of an isolated pub in a village of no visible dwellings where the speed limit had suddenly been brought down to 30mph when I wasn’t looking so that that very policeman could capture me. I was kept at the back of his car and read the rites of “anything you say may be used in evidence…” My skin crawled, my eyes stung, my daughter sat wide-eyed in my car wondering if mummy was ever coming home for Christmas. I had flushes of chill going down my spine. The policeman must have thought I wasn’t taking it seriously enough for he reread the rites for me again, by which point I was wishing the Armaggedon predicted for 2012 should have, after all, been true!

If that, and a fine of £60 (goodbye Christmas turkey!), wasn’t enough, I had to deliver the paper counterpart of my driving licence to the nearest police station. Easier said than done! The nearest police station was shut. There was a telephone by the door. I called and a lady somewhere in Scotland informed me of the REAL nearest police stations that could deal with my documentation. So I went on a wild goose chase around the county, searching. By that time my daughter was in tears, blaming herself for all my misfortunes, we nearly had an accident as I swerved to the right side of the road to save an adventurous cat’s life only to find myself in the path of a honking lorry, and once again – believe it or not – once again we were observed by a policeman with a speedometer in hand. It wasn’t the same policeman though and we were driving -20mph by then. So there, wish me a happy birthday!

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