Sunday, 29 January 2012

Dog Tales

With Bofles returned to university, we must make our own entertainment in the Pad once more. Nostalgic for my own student days, I traipse to North London to visit college neighbours Libs and Diana. The journey is uneventful, though I do end up taking a fairly confusing bus. We talk slobbing and The Lives of People We Know until it feels as though we're back in Cambridge again. Ideal.

At last I summon up the courage to face the cold outside and race for the bus stop to return to Pimlico. It is so cold my nose hurts. Distracting myself, I watch as a man with a dog walks into a cheap-looking shop nearby (called Nisa - a Lidl concession perhaps).

Look! They smile
His dog, a Staffy, is limping. Staffies are nice dogs (I know this because I read it in the Sunday Times) and this one is not so ugly as most. 

I look at his dog. The dog looks at me. The man looks to see what his dog is looking at. I look away. The dog ambles up to me - as best it can. I look at the dog again. Poor dog.

'What did he do to himself?' I say.
Dog-man: 'Him? This my ex girlfriend's dog. Got it a couple of days ago. I let him sleep in my bed! Now I think he's attached….' Laughs. Awkwardly.
'But what's wrong with his paw?'
'He's got glass in it. That's what the ex said. I think. Between you and me, I don't know what to do with him. Been collecting people's numbers - trying to sell him. If no one wants him by the end of the week I'm going to give him to the RSPCA.' [I nod my agreement enthusiastically - this is not a man who should be in sole charge of a pet.]

We look at the dog. There is a pause.

Dog-man: 'So [looking at the bus stop] what you up to?'
'I'm waiting for a bus.'
'Ah! Of course! A bus. Where you off to?'
'Going home.' And then - not to be standoffish - 'Back to Victoria.'
'Yeah? Cool.'


'Oh right.'
'Visit my brother.'
'Brighton's lovely I've heard.' 

Pause. The dog commences shagging bus stop.

Dog-man: 'Bus taking a while isn't it?'
'Really is.'
'Not great travelling around when it's cold like this.'
Dog-man struggling for conversation pieces by now. He casts around for inspiration. At last he sees the dog. His relief is apparent.
'Hey, do you want a dog?'
The bus fails to arrive.

So now I have a dog.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Bofles and the Pad

And then young Bofles came to stay. Now, the arrival of any Pad guest is always cause for excitement. When he is the sofa-inhabiting, university-attending younger brother of my Belligerently Optimistic Flatmate himself, the enthusiasm reaches fever pitch. In anticipation, BOF bought the whole of Big Sains' fruit and veg section and plotted extravagant breakfasts to feed up young (six foot) Bofles. Then lights out at nine every night the week before and we were ready.

Bofles is a tremendous house guest. He maintained that the sofa was comfy: 'Oh thanks Kate, it's just the right size - no really! Ideal!' and had politely managed to secure work experience at a firm two minutes walk away. Though he was disappointed not to have the opportunity for a truly working-world commute. 

Last night, I arrived home just before midnight, after a friend's gig in Putney, to the sight of a coat fleeing down the corridor. 

'BOF?' I asked, confused. 
No answer. 
'Bofles? Hello?' Bofles' head poked out from the sitting room. 
'Ah hello Kate. Thank God you're here: I'm looking for my coat. Need someone to help me find it.'
'Your coat?'
'Yes. This is getting ridiculous! Nowhere to be seen. Have you been stealing it??'
(He is wearing it.)
'You're wearing it.'
'aHA!' Delight. Flees the room.
Bofles: let's see these shoes then

BOF appears at the sound of clattering. He is wearing new shoes.
'Oh hello Kate. Chaps - have you seen my new shoes?'
Distracted, Bofles straightens up from the mire of duvet and sheet he's wrestling.
'Yes. Look - they're new!'
'Hang on.' Bofles bends double to better assess the shoes. A pause. He sways.
'I'm terribly sorry, BOF, I can't seem to see them.'

We exchange confused looks and start giggling.
'Are you OK Bofles?'
In full drunken flight, Bofles' sentences collide and become oddly stunted. He's mad keen for us to leave but has a lot to say and can't reconcile these two things: 'Of course. Absolutely much fine. Been out at a birthday party - lovely time. Look here it's late, should really be in bed. Not very responsible. Being up this time.'

We continue to giggle, more and more like parents being embarrassing about drinking. Desperate to prove we aren't square, we start competing in stories about our own drunken exploits.

Unbreakable. The very thing
Bofles (in sudden realisation): 'Are you laughing at me? [Hurt] You are!'
BOF (conciliatory): 'What can I get you Bofles? Toast? Satsuma? Bagel? Er - apple? Water? [Holds out glass, which Bofles flails at.] Water in shatterproof mug?'

Suddenly and politely furious, Bofles leaps from the sofa ['It's true it is too small!'] and flees to the bathroom to vom.

We look at each other. Lairy behaviour in the Pad is this? At last! We must have him over again soon.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

So this is January

Resolutions are the latest Pad fad. As January Fever sweeps the nation and its trendsetters, my Belligerently Optimistic Flatmate - though peppering discussions with resolution chat - remains curiously resolution-free. But then, 2011 was a big year of resolve for BOF. He deserves a year off. And frankly he doesn't need any more resolution-based knowledge. Everyone knows that all New Year's Resolutions are useful for is making conversation in January. Come February, the idea of resolve is long gone. No one cares.

In fact, BOF is the only person I know whose resolutions have ever succeeded. Last year he gave up smoking. Fully. It was such a success that it's almost an anti-climax: he now has to begin sentences with the phrase 'As a non-smoker...' and 'The other day when I was not smoking,' to remind others of his achievement. I think there have also been other resolutions involving sports, which might explain the Bikram addiction - though I'm not sure it justifies it.

My own resolutions are not so strenuous. The first was To Give Up Swearing. Now, this may be hard for readers of a child-friendly blog like Kate in the Countryside to believe, but in real life I am a bit of a potty-mouth. Old ladies faint. Rebellious teenagers give me looks on the Tube that say 'Blimey, that's a bit much'. 

I'd like to take a moment here to blame my parents. Ever since I first learnt those words that have no place in a blog with its sights on Radio 4 serialisation, any approach towards swearing was met by Daddy Mason and Mother Dearest with horror:

KITC (drops pan): Oh balls.
DM (gasps): Kate Mason!

And so forth.

Anyway, the upshot of this has been that any opportunity to showcase the hilarious aptness and virile fortitude of a swearword, I seize with glee. This is true in workplace, street or Pad. BOF finds me offensive, a fact I find faintly amusing. His pained look makes me feel as though I'm home with the Rents.

So when I announced my plan to give up swearing this year he was supportive and - er - belligerently optimistic. For my failure I have only myself to blame. The enthusiasm with which I discuss swearing (two weeks into January) may have implied that I am not as committed as I'd hoped. And yes, on the second day - blessed relief - I dropped the S-bomb.

Over supper last night I explain to BOF the necessity of trimming the limits of my ambition so that I come up with an achievable and self-improving resolution, but BOF The Resolution Inquisitor is not in agreement.

'No!' he pronounces, with manic fervour, 'Kate! You have to give up completely! That's how it works. Or it's a slippery slope. [Here he charades 'slippery'] NO HALF MEASURES. None! Impossible! No "Oh I'll just have one cigarette now - that'll be nice I don't really need one": next thing you know you've smoked four packs and eaten a cigar.' Breathing deeply he finally puts his knife down. Verdi's Requiem starts inexplicably playing in the background.

So we're going for one swear a day. Don't want to overtax myself.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Sports and Sabotage

I was concerned to learn what a festive sports bout was planned for Christmas this year. True, the Christmas Day Run with Daddy Mason (DM) has long been a fixture in Kate in the Countryside festivities, but I could not have known that Mother Dearest (MD) would be adding to the sporting burden. The rents, it seems, cared little that such dashing about would interrupt the murder mystery watching and compulsive eating that really ought to characterise Christmas

Footie: days of yore
Of late a rabidly enthusiastic football fan, MD has taken her support for 'The Wolves' to the level of kick-about participation. So I was surprised to learn on my return home that Boxing Day was to be football day in The Countryside. Some public-spirited teacher had arranged a scurry of teams (largely composed of tiny children and old-ish women) for a high-stakes tournament. 

Team MD was a motley crew. Though Mother Dearest had cannily kidnapped two chaps to uphold our footballing honour, Dogface the dog was not allowed to participate. As a result, these almost adolescent ringers were fairly vital: the rest of the team comprised a non-moving man in goal as well as three tiny children. Though enthusiastic, the children frequently disappeared off the pitch whenever Dogface (mascot) was being particularly entertaining. 

'I shall be captain,' announced the younger of the two kidnapped children, Harry, adorned in full Premiership football fan attire. 
'But, Ced, I want to be captain!'
Tale as old as time itself
'No you won't!' said MD, ruffling his hair so as not to appear patronising. 
The captaincy was to go to our other ringer: blonder, charming and older. The Cedric to our Harry. Harry became sullen. So much for team bonding. 

The first match began. It wasn't long before all such tiffs were forgotten at the sight of MD moving with miraculous speed towards one of our (tiny) opponents. There was a clash that drew gasps and - seconds later - a yowling infant hit the deck. Amazed at the (for her) unusual experience of being the taller, MD raced on triumphantly, ball in possession.

Our second game saw Team MD extend our dominance. MD's assassination tactics on those half her size continued contentious. When a girl with pigtails scuttled towards me - her body almost concealed behind the ball, so small was she - I was terrified of going anywhere near her. Not so MD. 

Another child was floored, and the ref had had enough: 'Yellow Card! MD! If I see that again - you'll be off.' 

That was the end of MD's star footballing career I'm afraid. Fearful of the Red Card, she managed to stay out of trouble, but the aggressive flair was gone. However, Team MD won the tournament, so a managerial career might be more her style.