Sunday, 24 August 2008

The limpics

Now that Britain has done so well in the 2008 Limpic Games, everyone is looking forward with hope in their eyes and vigour in their trainers to the London Limpics in 2012. I kind of understand this sporting euphoria as I, too, have been quietly chuffed whilst watching the Team GBs victories (Team GB? What's all that about? It's a very annoying turn of phrase. What's wrong with 'The British Team' , that's what I want to know?) But then anything where we beat the French is okay with me.

I'd like to suggest a couple of new sports for 2012 and I shall be championing their inclusion for, oh, at least the next week or two, or until I get fed up and move on to something more interesting. The first is 'Whinge Surfing'. Now, our success in this will very much depend on the weather. If the forecasts are for bright, sunny days where everyone can get outside, go to the beach and barbecue, we won't do very well. (And neither will the Aussies!) But, if the weather is typically British and changeable - rain, sleet, sun, snow, plague of frogs all on the same day, then we can employ our native ability to whinge about the weather and should win gold, silver and bronze hands down!

The second is 'R'cycling'. Granted, we aren't very good at this at the moment , but we have been improving of late, especially since following the Daily Mail training programme. This involves heavy weights being placed in your rubbish bin by government spies aka bin cleansing operatives, when you aren't looking and the first thing you know about it is when you get an additional council tax bill because the weight of your bin suggests you are disposing of a small elephant every week and it's playing havoc with the dustcart suspension. This encourages the skill of spreading your load over a variety of individually colour coded receptacles which improves hand/eye co-ordination - glass in green , unless it's brown or clear, tins in brown, paper in blue and card in yellow. Food waste into compost bins which helps build the muscles as you wield a broom to kill the rats that will invade your garden. And finally, plastic avoidance at the supermarket when you attempt to outrun the manager having just left a load of excess packaging at aisle 9 for them to clear up.

I don't like sport, myself. I'll watch Wimbledon, provided there isn't too much grunting and I'll tolerate anything vaguely artistic like gymnastics and diving. I'd probably watch line dancing, too, if that was a Limpic option. But generally speaking, I think way too much fuss is made about flinging yourself around and getting hot and sweaty. And it's a well known fact that PE teachers have only just stopped dragging their knuckles along the ground and discovered speech - although not coherent speech , but give them space and evolution and I'm sure it will happen some time in the next couple of hundred years.

I'm off to practise the lesser form of 'Whinge Surfing' - the kind where you lose internet connection for no good reason in the middle of writing a really good blog entry (not this one, obviously). And we say 'Oh, it'll be the weather, or something.' Because Team GB are good at that.

Friday, 22 August 2008

North and South

Andy is from up North which means he pronounces words like 'bath', 'grass' and 'castle' funny. Denise is from down South, which means she pronounces words like 'bath', 'grass' and 'castle' correctly.Obviously, Andy and Denise have many discussions about what is 'right' and 'wrong' when it comes to pronunciation but Denise reckons she is winning Andy round gradually. He does suffer from bees in his ears which means progress can be slow - but overall his linguistic training programme is moving at a satisfactory pace.
Andy maintains, also, that people from down South all look the same. There is a 'Kentish' look apparently, which he can't quite put his finger on. Denise has tried prompting him - seven toes on each foot maybe? Purple hair? A tendency to laugh uncontrollably at DIY SOS? No, she discovers last night, it is ears. People from Kent, according to Andy, all have an 'extra' ear inside their 'normal' ear ('normal' in this case refers to the up North standard.) So to prove a point, Andy takes photos of his ear, then Denise's ear as Denise hasn't got a clue what Andy is on about. To be honest, she thinks it's a bit rich coming from someone who has bees in his ears. Comparing the two photos, Denise has to concede that, yes, she can see that the ridge inside her ear could potentially collect more water than Andy's if they were both lying in the garden on their sides during a monsoon. And now she is paranoid about her ears which, up to last night, had been one of the favourite and least troublesome parts of her body i.e they've never been fat.

However, Denise supposes things could be worse for her in the ear stakes. Apparently, Davey Crocket had a wild front ear. Bet that was difficult to cover up with a hair do.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

In the Jungle

I don't know. You turn your back for six months and when you look again, the garden has morphed into a jungle. Both gardens. Back and front. Undergrowth, vines, pumas, tarantulas, snakes, toucans, they're all there keeping the neighbours awake at night with hooting and howling and excessive growing habits. Actually, the back garden isn't too bad - Mrs Bennett and Mrs Miggins indulge in a spot of gardening when the weather is fine, but there's only so much two chickens can do with their little secateurs as they wander about the borders cutting a few delphiniums and stocks for their sideboard.

'I'll just trim back that bit of undergrowth by the compost bin,' Denise says to herself, as she mooches around the jungle, er... garden, yesterday morning. Five (yes, count 'em) hours later, the garden is devoid of shrubbery and a huge pile of ex-shrubbery has appeared in the middle of the lawn that was once there before the chickens dug it up. 'That's better,' Denise says, still to herself (she leads a lonely existence during the day, except for the company of the cats who, let's face it, aren't great conversationalists). 'Look at the space, look at the light, that has burst upon the homestead, now I have freed it from its jungular constraints!' (Shakespeare made up his own words; considering the precedent, Denise feels entitled to do the same - one of her favourites so far is 'tulipine' - so that's at least two new words for her dictionary project).

With arms ripped to shreds by thorns the size of tiger claws, an infected viper bite on her ankle and a particulary difficult gibbon demanding to be rehoused in five star accommodation immediately, Denise reflects on her jungle adventure. And then she spares a thought or eight for two of her dearest friends who have just moved to their own jungle project near the French Pyranees. Vera, Lester, if you're reading this - 'respec'!'

This episode of Ginnungagaps was brought to you by 'Parrot Zone - For All Your Jungle Cleaning Needs.'

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

The Interloper

When Denise and Andy announced their chicken keeping intentions, people said either one of two things. 'They'll get massacred by foxes' was one 'you'll get up one morning and find them lying dead in the garden with their heads ripped off.' 'You'll get a plague of rats' was the other, 'if Britain descends into another plague ridden hell, we'll be knocking on your door with the bill for the antibiotics, make no mistake.' Denise and Andy know a lot of doom mongers.

However, whilst gazing dreamily from the kitchen window yesterday morning, Denise thinks she sees a squirrel by the compost bin, nibbling its nuts. 'Aahh, look at the cute squirrel nibbling its nuts,' she says. 'I love squirrels. They are soooooo cute!' But then the icy hand of doom grips her heart and gives it a squeeze. 'That might not be a squirrel,' the icy hand of doom says (okay, hands don't generally talk; Thing in the Adams Family is my case in point - very much a mime artist, but bear with me) 'it might be a RAT!'

Denise tries hard not to run around the kitchen shrieking 'Vermin! Vermin!' at the top of her voice. Instead, she rushes outside armed with a bottle of Morning Fresh and a rubber glove (they were the first things to come to hand) shrieking 'Vermin! Vermin!'. 'What's up with her?' askes Mrs Bennett, pausing in her vicious savaging of a slug. 'I think she may have just seen Bernard,' says Mrs Miggins. 'Aah,' says Mrs Bennett. 'And please don't talk with your beak full,' reprimands Mrs Miggins.

As Denise runs screaming towards the compost bin, the so-called 'squirrel' turns and legs it up the garden, revealing in its wake not a cute fluffy tail that looks like a question mark but a thick, furless monstrosity that looks like a worm on steroids wearing a condom.

Reporting the sighting to Andy that evening, Denise clings to the hope that the interloper might be a squirrel with a very thin tail that is suffering from alopecia. But Andy, being a vet and thus VERY WISE about these things, diagnoses species Rattus Rattus (that's one rat, not two).

The evening is spent trawling the DIY stores for a rat trap. Denise and Andy really know how to enjoy themselves.

'It's only Bernard,' sighs Mrs Bennett, as she and Mrs Miggins settle for an evening in front of the telly. 'I know,' agrees Mrs Miggins, taking up the antimacassar she is crocheting, 'but you do have to admit, he isn't a great house guest. Such a temper when he loses at Scrabble.'Quite,' says Mrs Bennett.

Monday, 18 August 2008

We've got an allotment! Nyah, na na na nyah na!!

A couple of years ago - or was it in a previous lifetime? - a book on allotment keeping flung itself at Denise whilst she was perusing the shelves in her local bookshop. 'That's funny,' she thought. 'I hate gardening.' But she purchased it, nonetheless and took it home to show Andy. 'That's funny,' he said. 'You hate gardening.' 'I already said that,' said Denise. 'Sorry,' said Andy.

Not one to spend good money on a book (and a hardback at that) and not read it, Denise settled to improve her learning curve of allotments. And as she read, she felt herself thinking, 'Hmmm, maybe this isn't such a silly purchase after all. And one can purchase very nice floral wellies these days.' What Denise didn't realise was that she had caught the zeitgeist. She had heard the word, of course - Andy said it all the time - but she'd never bothered looking it up and just nodded like she knew what it meant every time Andy used it. Anyway, the upshot was that Denise and Andy acquired an allotment and have been ploughing their furrows ever since (furrows are the things underneath the weeds. They're where you grow veg and stuff.)

And now, of course, everyone wants an allotment. There are waiting lists as long as bindweed. People are beating each other to death in the streets with shovels in order to get closer to the front of the allotment queue. Denise and Andy feel smug at having got there first.

'Isn't it satisfying looking at your dinner plate in the evening and saying 'We grew that,' says Denise. 'Not the sausages of course, although we did make them ourselves with our new sausage machine. It's a pity you hate vegetables, isn't it darling?' ' Well yes, they are PARTICULARLY POISONOUS to us Northerners,' Andy agrees. 'But as long as you disguise them in the form of, say, curry or chilli or pies, then I'll eat them.' Andy parks his whippet in the bike rack outside and hangs his flat cap on the coat rack then sits down for tea - courgette curry. And sausages.

And what is the biggest lesson Andy and Denise have learned in their last two years of heroic allotmenteering? Well, there are two actually -1) Don't ever grow more than two courgette plants. The fruit they produce is inflatable and they will haunt you the whole year by supplying you with unnaturally monstrous amounts of courgettes and you'll end up making courgette wine (still waiting for the explosion from the attic), courgette fritters, courgette jam, courgette brickettes, courgette insulating material and courgette socks and 2) weeds will always grow faster than anything you plant deliberately. And very few of them are edible. Denise knows. She's tried.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Chicken Out? Chickens in...

Traumatised by the Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall 'Chicken Out' series of programmes broadcast over the New Year, Denise and Andy decided that, having been brave new allotmenteers for the previous year, the obvious next step in their 'How green can we go?' campaign was to become chicken guardians. 'Guardian' being the operative word. You might think that you own the chickens, but they, like cats, have other ideas.

In order to fund the chicken project, one of the two family cars had to go. 'Get rid of the Fiat,' says Denise. 'I'll walk to and from work. It's only a couple of miles. I'll improve my fitness, too.' The cats snigger behind their paws in the face of her bravado. 'Are you sure?' asks Andy, knowing how quickly Denise can turn from the Cookie Monster to Oscar the Grouch when she's soaked with rain. 'Oh, yes,' replies Denise, blithely waving her hand and muttering about umbrellas, buses, lifts from charitable work colleagues etc etc.

Denise realises now, from grim experience, the discomfort of walking home in a long skirt, after getting caught in a monsoon and completing a two mile hike with wet fabric flapping around her legs. And don't even mention the soaking undies. then it was TOO LATE. The car is sold, the chicken house, run and feed purchased and guest accommodation is open. First enquiry is from Mrs Bennett and Mrs Miggins, genteel ladies, both seeking laying position in domestic environment. 'Shall this position suit our requirements, Mrs Miggins?' enquires Mrs Bennett of her travelling companion. 'As long as there are pies available,' replies Mrs Miggins. (Fans of Blackadder will grasp this intertextual allusion immediately; non-fans have some research to do. Denise shall be checking you've done your homework next blog.)

Misses' Bennett and Miggins have been in residence for four months now. 'How does it suit us?' Mrs Bennett enquires of Mrs Miggins this very morning as they undulate gracefully back and forth on the garden swing. 'Well, Mrs Bennett, we have wrecked the borders, ransacked the greenhouse, played many a game of velociraptor on what is left of the lawn and they feed us grapes and sunflower seeds. I think, ' she says, dropping a big poop through the swing onto the patio, 'it suits us very well. Despite the lack of pies.'

Saturday, 16 August 2008

And so it comes to this. 4 years wedded and Denise gives Andy a sausage making machine as an anniversary present. Andy, to his credit, is wildly excited and it's off to the supermarket toute suite to purchase sausage making ingredients. But it is late in the evening and, like Old Mother Hubbard's cupboard, the shelves are bare. Sausage making is put on hold for a day.

The night is restless as visions of Cumberlands dance in their heads...

Early next morning, Andy is dispatched to work and Denise is dispatched to town in search of a PROPER BUTCHER. She locates one with relative ease and watches in horror as a huge amount of dead pig is hacked from dead pig skeleton. 'Would madam like the bones?' No, madam would not, thank you kindly. What is madam supposed to do with pig bones? Make glue??

Denise texts Andy that half a dead pig now resides in the fridge, a-waiting (tra la) to be magicked into sausages. Andy arrives home from work barely able to contain his excitement. A quick visit to the batch of wine bubbling merrily in the attic (waiting for the explosion - oooohh, the anticipation is quite, quite thrilling!) and it's sausages a go-go!

Denise is relocated to living room with reassurances that Andy knows exactly what he is doing. And not to worry her pretty little head about a thing. Denise worries. She listens to noises from kitchen that suggest Andy has dispensed with instruction booklet and is, in common parlance, 'winging it.' Andy appears and asks advice from Denise regarding fine/medium/coarse texture grinding plates. Denise suggests Andy reads instruction booklet. Andy pouts. 'Okay - coarse, then', says Denise. 'Are you sure?' asks Andy. Denise throws DVD from at Andy and suggests he insert it in his hard drive.

Tybalt the cat clings to carpet in fear as war zone noises from kitchen build to a frenzied crescendo. Denise shuts door so she can properly enjoy Gok Wan's instructions on how to turn a lampshade into a hi-fashion mini skirt (despite not having the legs for it; even less so if a lot of sausage consumption is afoot over the next week or five.) Andy reappears. It seems that sausage construction is a two person operation.

Denise is supplied with an instrument that wouldn't look out of place in a doctor's surgery and instructed to stand up the stuffing end. 'Just push the meat into that hole there.' Oo-er missus!!Carry On Sausage Construction starring Pig James and Charles Porktrey. Andy assumes the position up the business end. Denise wants to film comedy sausage moment when machine runs too fast and a string of sausages is flung wildly out of control across the kitchen into the far distance. A stern look from Andy keeps her firmly in her place.

More war zone noises, a lot of pushing and shoving - 'Ooooh, the casing's slipped off. Oh no, now it's split. Faster than that. No, too fast, slow down...' and......the first string of sausage is born!! Aawww, sweet!!

Happy Anniversary!!