Monthly Archives: March 2014

Welcome to the jungle

The daily prompt for today is “Never Surrender”.  I think that this just about qualifies.

I mentioned here about the vegetable patch at the bottom of my garden.   The plot isn’t actually part of the garden but a piece of land to which nobody seems to have claim.  As the land is only accessible by the neighbours and myself and as some of the less renovated dwellings have a garage opening on to this land, we all sort of assume that it is a communal place to do with as we will.

It is quite a sizeable area to be unclaimed.  Adjacent to it is the car park of a church and the church people (with rather unchristian desire) covet our patch of land.    The last invasion attempt involved a couple of cars accidentally reversing into the bordering fence and continuing onwards and backwards towards the rather fine apple trees that somebody planted decades ago.   The apple trees completely outwitted the cars by not falling over and then we residents (in a show of unity not since since the blitz) assembled one Sunday morning and built a sturdier fence that will resist the attacks of the Baptists.   Much like some of the smaller European countries will shall resist our land being annexed.

Back to the vegetable patch.    It is quite large.   I suspect that it is one of the few vegetable patches in West London that can be seen unaided from space.     After 12 months of neglect whilst I was deep in the bowels of Little Project it had become rather overgrown.   Waking at the weekend to the curious sight of no rain I decided to tackle the brambles and the weeds.    If I could only find a medicinal use for blackberry vine and bind weed then I could easily give up on the intoning board and spend my life in luxury.   By Sunday afternoon though I was in a situation where I could sow some seed.

There’s an advert on UK television at the moment for Diet Coke.   It may well be showing world wide.    It features a handsome and muscular gardening chappy pushing a lawn mower.    Several young ladies are watching our hunky hero grafting and one of the beauties rolls a can of Diet Coke down the hill to him.    On opening the can the poor chap is drenched by fizzy soda and so has to remove his shirt and reveal the sort of stomach that can only be gained by hours in the gym (or pushing a lawn mower).   The girls swoon and everybody rushes out to purchase more root beer.

I spent a pleasant hour or so carefully planting seeds into little containers and transporting them to the flimsy lean-to that I laughingly call a greenhouse (it is at least green, mostly from mildew).   There is a water butt that is balanced precariously near to it.  Useful for dipping a watering can in.   The water butt is understandably full to overflowing at the moment.

I approached the water butt, watering implements in hand with the thought of filling.   At this moment the two little cherubs who live next door (aged 6 and 4) approached with some excitement.   “Have you seen the dead fox?”.

Because I was distracted by the little angels, I didn’t pay attention to where I placed my feet.   A quick stumble and I was embracing the water butt in a manner not dissimilar to a fellow cast adrift in a rough sea with only a barrel to keep him afloat.  As I keeled backwards the water butt came with me.    The (full) water butt contains 210 litres (that’s 46 gallons to my colonial cousins) or, to put it another way, roughly four times the amount of fluid it takes me to drive 500 miles in my car.

It was no contest really.   Once it had decided it was going to get me it got me.   The gentle lapping over the side became a torrent as we slowly tumbled backwards.    The girls squealed with delight, this was far more interesting than a dead fox.   Butt and I ended up in a position that would probably be described by my churchy neighbours as “reverse missionary”.    Having disgorged  208 litres of water, Butt then decided that whilst down it would also ejaculate the 2 litres of sludge that had gradually settled at the base of the butt over the last few years.

Wet through and smelling of the stuff that makes roses grow I stood.  Two little girls were rolling on the floor with mirth.

Nobody offered me a Diet Coke.

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You know Gail Baker down the road?

The daily prompt asks what traditions we have.   Oh goodness, where to start.

It would be fair to say that I come from a family of repeaters.   A single phrase can last for generations.   The title of this post relates to the distraction tactic my sister used to avoid bedtime.    The slightest hint that it was getting around the time that a young girl should be heading for the stairs was met with “You know Gail Baker up the road?”.   Legend has it that this was generally followed with a suitably interesting comment designed to provoke conversation and avoid the inevitable.   The most frequently repeated phrase has to be “well she’s got three pimples on her nose”.     Poor Gail Baker.    I wonder if she is aware that for the last half of a century her name has been mentioned on a weekly basis in various households around the country.

I believe it was our father who initiated these rituals.  Certainly it was he who had a stock set of comments that covered every single occasion.    One only had to clear the throat to be advised “It ain’t the cough that carries you off it’s the coffin they carry you off in” and impending rain was invariably greeted with “It’s looking black over the back of Bill’s mothers”.    For many years I assumed that somewhere in direct line of sight of our front window lived Bill’s mum and the weather always came in from that direction.

Packing for a trip required (and still does require) a breathy little monologue of “VestsPantsShirtsShoesSocksTowelSoap”, just to ensure that nothing was forgotten.   I have considered modifying this to take into account the myriad electrical items that accompany us on our journey these days but it just doesn’t sound right.

By the age of 5 it was almost law that we could recite (without reference) The Green Eye of the Little Yellow God, mostly thanks to grandfather reeling it off at every possible opportunity.    I have met a couple of people in the intervening years with the surname of Carew and I always gaze at them with sadness and wonder if they would be willing to risk everything to pilfer the eye of the god for the love of the Colonel’s daughter.

The strangest one though, the most curious ongoing bit of speech requires at least two people.    I have searched in vain for where it comes from.  It may be from a play or a book, I don’t know.  If you can enlighten me then I and the rest of the family will be in your debt.    In alternate voices it goes like this…

“Have you head the news?”

“What news?”

“The Squire’s daughter has been foully murdered!”

“Murdered?  And who has been accused of the crime.”

“The Squire”

The Squire?”

And on it went (and on and on and on).    I’m pleased to report that these oral traditions are all alive and well and under no threat of extinction in the near future.   I recently heard my son say “I doubt it”, followed by “said the lady as she peed on the fire” and within the last week mother’s facebook status was “You’ll never guess who I saw up the road” to which several people (not all family) replied “Was it Gail Baker?”.

We do carry one non-verbal tradition with us.  It is called “The Day After Boxing Day”.   On this day family and friends gather at the ancestral home and just after lunch the conversation drops and the menfolk start removing shoes, wallets, belts and anything else that can be discarded whilst keeping dignity intact.   A set of ancient scales are produced and every male present is weighed.   Weights are carefully recorded in a black ledger that goes back around 35 years and the heaviest person present is awarded the Pink Pig of Fatness and a Nil by Mouth sign to hang around their neck.    It’s a curious thing to do and it causes disruption from about September onwards as one starts to think “Oh crikey, I don’t want the pig, I better start dieting”.

Traditions.  Don’t you love them.    Clicking on the link at the top of the post will take you to other tales of tradition far more interesting than mine.

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