Saturday, 17 March 2012

Email Squash

It was with foreboding that I opened my email last week to find a message from a Sarah Loughton entitled 'Squash'. An innocuous title, you might think. Wrongly.

An in-joke I'm afraid.
Hint: moustache
Keen followers of Kate in the Countryside (all others please consult glossary here) will know of my enthusiasm for squash. These days, the only other fans of the game are aged gents. They played when Jonah Barrington (squash player) was almost a celebrity and flares were in. Squash back then was a cool game, or so Daddy Mason likes to tell me. But then he does have a moustache. 

Opportunities for squash games down at my local Pimlico gym are numerous. Saturday's Fight Club, where we tough things out on the squash court to make up for the indignities of office work, is one example. But Sarah Loughton's email relates to the squash league. It's a friendly league for those who like to indulge in the odd gentle game.

Ah, Sarah. She doesn't play squash. At least, I've never actually met the girl but I sense it to be true. Ms Loughton is the diligent PA of Bob, one of my opponents in the league. And she takes her duties very seriously indeed.

Dear Kate

Bob would like to set up his game with you for this month. He is free on Monday 4th, Wednesday 6th, Saturday 9th, Tuesdays 12th and 19th but not Tuesdays 5th or 26th. Thursdays are usually not best. Please respond as soon as possible with your availability.


I already spend much of my life replying to emails. And not all of them about squash. Receiving an email like this usually makes me retreat to my room where I can put on Harry Potter tapes very loud and sit in a corner humming madly to myself. But Sarah does not like to be ignored:

Dear Kate,

Bob is no longer available on the Tuesdays as advised, but will be free on the 5th. Sunday 10th and Thursday 14th or Friday 15th….

Bob would like to play his games in the second week of the month this time. Tuesday 17th 3rd or Sunday 30th (not Saturday) may be best. Wednesday….

Please detail your availability at your earliest convenience. Bob's mother has….

It becomes a game. I send back impossible chains of numbers to which Sarah replies with one liners. We get nowhere. I don't even want to play this man. He wears a DT teacher's visor on court and last time we played he ran into me so hard that I was winded. Twice.

Then, last week, she strikes:

Since you never seem to reply we ['we?' What is this? Are we going for two-on-one here? Surely unfair] will be claiming a walkover if you do not get in touch.

Imagine this in email form
I spend the next two days crafting an email of such impenetrable niceness that it can surely lead to no more conflict. I can't take this any more. I have a full time job!

Next day: a forwarded email to accompany Sarah's helpful scribings. She has spoken to the League Master and he has obligingly agreed to remove me from the league. 

A sad day.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Pimlico Social Scene

Much as we worry that Pimlico is the new Clapham, Belligerently Optimistic Flatmate and I are still overexcited each time we learn of a new local university chum. Boris-Biking back from Tesco the other day (we're branching out from Sains), I nearly ran over an old friend crossing the road. 

'Whoopsy!' I cried (too jovially) - 'Gosh good to see you, old chap! It's like Cambridge all over again isn't it?' Passing youths eyed me pityingly until I, embarrassed, veered into the path of an oncoming zimmerframe. Not an edifying sight.

Another burger? Anyone?
One great thing about the influx of old university friends is that the Pimlico Social Scene is expanding into an (almost) real scene. When sunshine broke through the other day, we were summoned to an optimistic barbecue down the road. It wasn't long until the barbecue plans were canned - occasional bursts of smoke have no impact on raw burgers - but happily the meat feast continued in the kitchen. There, the quantities consumed would have made Henry VIII feel a bit awkward.

One of the girls (a hottie from Netball Crew no less) had brought 'Banana Ketchup' back from her hols. She enthused about it until people dared try it. Some were kind ('just the sort of thing I bet would taste perfect on a sunny beach'); some less so ('It looks like snot').

Holiday ketchup soon came in useful later however. Then, rendered incapacitated by meat we could only slob about flicking it at one another. 

'Let's play charades!' suggested one inexplicably lively [perhaps vegetarian?] member of the group.

I wasn't too enthused by this plan - I hate games I never win - but it soon fell out of favour. The table was held hostage to something else...

'I have a fact,' Bilbo (one of our hosts) proclaimed. 'I shall tell it. Ahem. More than ten people a year are killed by vending machines.'

There was a silence, which Bilbo took for approval.

'Also - wait for it - the world's oldest piece of chewing gum is over 9000 years old!'

Few could have guessed that the dissemination of choice facts would prove so contentious. Suddenly others were fighting for the floor. Avid Tweeting Medic (ATM) spoke first: 'I've got one! I've got one it's: Seven lions are ... no wait - that's wrong. Seven tigers are... Hang on.'

ATM's girlfriend tried helpfully to cover the hiatus: 'I've got one!'
ATM: 'No you don't.'
'Yes I do.'
'No you don't.' By this point he had discreetly found on his iPhone under the table. 'HA! Right - I've got one: The average female IQ is marginally higher than the male IQ.' 


'That's not a very good fact!' observed Bilbo delightedly. 'An American urologist once bought Napoleon's penis for $40,000.'

'I've got a fact about Banana Ketchup!' ventured another. And the evening descended into chaos.