Monday, 31 January 2011

Fight Club

Our kitchen cupboard...
We acquired picture hooks. We decorated the flat. Economising with mood lighting, I draped fairy lights wantonly, oblivious to the passing of Christmas. BOF, meanwhile, has spent increasing amounts of time browsing the protein shakes in our local Holland and Barratt. (Odd quirk this - not sure what to make of it. Perhaps he's hoping to compete with my solo wardrobe-manoeuvring - or perhaps he's toughening up to counteract the flat's femininity. Thoughts below please.)

On the advice of a proper Pimlico local, I've joined a gym down the road. No protein shake plans yet though.

Snooping hopefully around the squash courts on my first visit, I came across a bunch of middle-aged chaps engaged in friendly Saturday morning squash. As this age-group represents that of the whole squash-playing community, I tried to look interested, middle-aged and squash competent - in hopes of finding someone to play.

And this is how I came to be there the following week. Fragile and sleep-deprived and clutching a borrowed squash racquet, chivvied on court by aged enthusiasts, I stumbled about ineptly. My first opponent - we'll call him 'The Bully' - seemed delighted. Attired in football shorts and a rugby shirt, he had the poise and charm of Silvio Berlusconi on a particularly wild night out.

Silvio on a particularly wild night out
'Heavy night ey?' he gurned, winking roguishly. 'Don't worry, I'll go easy on you.'

The following point, scurrying forward to pick up a short ball, I found myself shunted to the floor when TB flung his substantial self at me. As I stumbled wearily away, fearing my spine fractured, he laughed gleefully - 'sorry didn't see you there' - and honoured me with another wink. 

Having witnessed my defeat (-argh-) at the hands of such an oaf, the fat and decrepit immediately summoned me on court themselves.

The next, wider than he was tall, spent several minutes expressing his concern about TB's brutal and ungentlemanlike behaviour. He took the task of comforting me into his own hands - moving only so as to be close enough to pat my bottom at the end of each point. No mean feat for a man who could barely stand, let alone walk.

He was followed by an aged Aussie, who, he informed me with pride, used to smoke 120 cigarettes a day. An impractical number, I observed.

'Yes, yes mate, but you see I gave up thirty years ago - else I wouldn't be the immaculate physical specimen you see before you now....'

Feet away, things were kicking off. The Bully had been pitched against a fifty-year-old chap of delicate build ('The Scrawn'), and a tussle had ensued during a particularly tricksy point. Now muffled shouting was filtering down the corridor.

The squash court opened and out rushed The Scrawn. He sat down on the floor:

'No I won't. I'm not playing him any more. He's not being fair! He's not playing by the rules! I'm not playing.'

Withdrawing discreetly I left them to fight it out. I'll be back next week, don't worry. I can hardly wait.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Housing Crisis Over

And so, dear reader, we were housed. Galling as it was that BOF found his belligerent optimism validated, that was the only drawback in the happy conclusion to our flat-hunting woes (apart from council tax. Who knew that adopting a salary could be so expensive?).

As I pack for the newly discovered Pimlico Pad, MD occasionally comes in to see how I'm getting on, bearing impractical pans ('This paella pan will come in handy') and nearly-out-of-date packets of expensive biscuits. She seems to believe that she is equipping me against starvation with these choice items. I, in an attempt to take things in hand, start frantically compiling lists.

Told ‘Kate, don’t worry about buying things – we’ve got everything you could possibly need in the garage’, some hours later I've efficiently extracted six wineglasses, and am clingfilming part of the acre of uneaten gammon in the fridge.
‘You can’t take that, I hardly ever eat meat,’ offers MD, bafflingly.
I put it down.
‘And you can’t take those wine glasses.’
‘I might need them.’
‘Did you know we've got almost a hundred others in the garage?’
‘I might have a party.’
I could not argue. Having participated in the ravages of MD’s festive party schedule, the chances of her gathering together a hundred friends (or two hundred, face it - they could probably share) at short notice no longer seems particularly unlikely.

Later, Pimlico-arrived and caffeine-enthused, I move wardrobes, then move them back. The flat's previous owner was evicted for non-payment of rent. She has left behind some slightly sinister baby-accoutrements. I feel guilty - it is Christmas after all, poor homeless single mother. But efficient unpacking assuages this surprisingly fast.

BOF appears with boxes and boxes of thing. I have been calling him every hour with instructions as to domestic necessities.  

Not just books - also furniture
He looks a bit awkward. Turns out, Parents BOF have seized the news of his departure with wanton enthusiasm and have put most of his possessions in storage. As a result, what we have instead of useful pictures and the occasional rug are … books.

Many books.
'Well that's … useful,' I mumble, bit disappointed. You can't hang books on walls. Neither do they make comfy sofa throws. Or good cutlery.
BOF seems to be thinking along the same lines.
'But how practical,' he riffs, optimistically, 'who needs wikipedia with this lot? And see, we can line them up along this wall and you get … instant homeliness.'

Into this pitiful scene walks BOF's brother Bofles. You know you're ill-equipped for life in the real world when your flatmate's younger brother starts spontaneously explaining utilities bills to you and you realise that the slightly condescending tone he's adopted is perfectly justified. The same attitude is applied towards our relentless obsessing about the coffee machine I was given for Christmas [-Thanks MD]. Apparently normal people sort out useful things like the internet before they embark on the finer points of middle-class entertaining. But damn can we make good cappuccinos. The internet can wait - we've got a pretty fine library after all.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Escape to the Countryside (Festive Episode)

Mutual adoration
At Christmas, Oundle is riddled with festivities. I trekked back to my Kate in the Countryside homestead on a snowy eve, dug out some glittery clothing (first outfit Mother Dearest vetoed 'not Christmassy enough') and scurried out.

Dogface has not had much of a time over the festive period. In such demand is MD that she's been attending bashes by the dozen. I'm told that Dogface is not an eligible enough escort, so has been left at home with only our Angry Cat (whom he fears) for company.

The first bash we discover, too late, is dog-friendly. A competitor to Dogface's village mascot status skips jauntily about the room, reaping adorers, young Dogface all but forgotten. Moments in, this pretender is defined 'the loveliest dog ever' by some ill-informed enthusiast. At this point, the little chap chose to relieve himself in the corner, dance excitedly at the sight of so many witnesses, then pass out (from booze?) beside his stool. Now I know that house-training isn't competitive, but still....

Later that week, over a glutton of meat joints (MD's vegetarianism fortunately forgotten), small-town tensions surface.

MD - making polite dog conversation - finds herself thronged by wronged locals. Scandalously, a local dog-training venue has been shut down by the council. It has asbestos. They say.

Paul the Trainer isn't so sure. He has the dogs' best interests at heart. He smells conspiracy:

'They say it's because of (inverted commas) "health and safety". Health and Safety gone mad, I say. The dogs don't care do they, eh ... eh, they don't care about forms do they? (Reflective pause.) They're dogs.

(Wisely, the room is unwilling to offer an opinion. Paul seems encouraged.)

'My dad was the head trainer of the queen's dogs. Of the corgis, yes. So I do know what I'm talking about actually. All I want (mournfully) is to be able to train dogs. I know what they're up to ... (whispers) The Council ... they're gonna sell it off. Make a mint.'

In the facing corner is a man who will fight for the council: for the right of authority to form whatever toxic material-based decisions it deems fit. Cracking knuckles, shifting, frowning, rubbing his brow: this is a man suffering from all the pangs of righteous indignation. For he is on the council. Or knows someone who was once on the council, same thing. Point is - he has the inside track. How dare this dog-trainer's son cast aspersions?

He interrupts (stiffly). And treats us to an extended and deeply boring monologue about the benefits of health and safety and the trauma and soul-searching each and every member of the council went through before deciding to close down the training and so forth. And so on. Strictly speaking. He uses such phrases to imply a wealth of knowledge behind his words that we would struggle to properly understand. We're enthralled. Such a showdown has not been seen in Oundle since the great pub quiz debate of 2001.

Sun-reading superstar Paul submits with unprecedented speed. Deferring to pomposity with feudal inevitability - 'But hey what do I know? You know all about it mate - of course.' - he returns to his meat.

The Council celebrates 'HAWhawhaw' and order in Oundle is preserved.