Hello, Faithful Followers! Lifestyle Support Guru here after a long absence. Have you missed me? Such wonderful news – today, I went out on a ‘social occasion’ and met up with not one, but two – yes, TWO –acquaintances! However, please keep it to yourselves that we were a ‘ménage à trois’ (so to speak), since we are only supposed to meet one other person, and in a public space, but we were in a garden, so not technically a ‘public’ space, but it was in the open air, so we felt that we were staying within the rules – more or less.
And what was the reason for this ‘social occasion’? An exchange of alcoholic beverages and literary works – in other words, swapping bottles of wine and books. I swapped a bottle of Sardinian white wine and a book about ‘cork dorks’ (wine nerds) for a bottle of Provençal rosé and a book written by an anti-fascist about his exile in a remote region of southern Italy. I think this says a lot about our differing literary tastes and intellectual capacities – I leave it up you to decide who is the ‘lightweight’.
We had a jolly chinwag as Bazza, the Friendly Geordie, (BFG), who has appeared in my stories before, and the LSG sat at the garden table, wrapped up warmly, while her paramour, BSG (Bazza’s Shy Geordie), sat just inside the kitchen door, so should the riot police come charging into the garden, they would find no one breaking any rules. We are a law-abiding lot, even though we compared speeding offences during our conversation!
(It was lucky that it wasn’t a warm spring day, otherwise I would have had to remove my jacket and thus shown that the (new) jumper I was wearing was in sore need of ironing, having not long been taken out of its wrapper, but that is now a secret I can take to my grave.)
Having swapped our various items, including a bottle of out-of-date beer, which happened to be lying around in the LSG’s kitchen, BFG suddenly asked – apropos of nothing – if I liked hummus! ‘Yes,’ I replied with great enthusiasm. ‘Oh good. Would you like to take some home with you?’ ‘Yes, please.’ I said, thinking that perhaps they had purchased too much on a recent shopping trip and were trying to fob the LSG off with some out-of-date hummus in exchange for the out-of-date beer, knowing that the LSG has the constitution of an ox and would laugh at the idea of wasting something simply because of its ‘use by’ date – this is someone who, only a week ago, safely consumed a packet of microwave rice that was seven years past its ‘best before’ date! (Yes, YEARS!)
But I digress – this hummus was not out of date, but homemade! HOMEMADE! Who knew there was such a thing! I thought Sainsbury’s and M&S had cornered the market in hummus! HOMEMADE! And so a tub packed to its brim with hummus – HOMEMADE! – was duly put into the LSG’s bag along with the rosé and the anti-fascist book – oh, and a book about an Italian detective.
But this was not the end of the surprises at this very convivial social occasion – oh no! BSG then said that, when cutting BFG’s hair in the garden yesterday, he had missed a few bits, so he thought he might get at them while she was outdoors, at which point BFG asked if I would like to stay and watch! I was overcome! Such a personal invitation! And I was told that I could take photos if I wished! There is no end to this couple’s generosity! And to prove how enjoyable this event was, I have attached a small number of photos from the Sweeney Todd Barber Shop (Mickleover branch). I turned down the offer of having my own locks trimmed – I was anxious to get home and taste the hummus – HOMEMADE! – but I am expecting a delivery of meat pies next week
A very good evening from the Lifestyle Support Guru! I realise that it is a little while since I offered any advice on coping with everything that life can throw at you, whether it be avoiding the World Cup or dealing with weeds on the garden path (it’s always a good idea to keep your garden path clear in case anyone ever tries to lead you down it).
Avoiding the World Cup is quite difficult, as I’m sure many of you are probably finding, but it can be done:
1. You can settle down at home with a good book and a glass of wine.
2. You can find a pub without a television and settle down with a good book and a glass of wine.
3. You can download a good book on your Kindle and settle down with a glass of wine.
4. Forget the books and just settle down with a glass of wine.
Clearing the garden path is very easy – all you need is a sibling (or some other family member), some weed killer and a few black bin bags.
1. Persuade your sibling/other family member that your arthritis is really playing you up – limp heavily and often – and say in a pathetic voice that you wish you could bend to clear the garden path (this is actually a downright lie, but needs must…).
2. Sibling/other family member will get so fed up of your pathetic whining that he/she will ask where the weed killer is, which he/she will then spray liberally over the said weeds.
3. You, meanwhile, will be tasked with the dangerous job of keeping the cat indoors, which is best done with a good book and a glass of wine (or was that the World Cup? So easy to get confused.).
4. Once the weeds have been sprayed, sibling/other family member will cover the area with black bin liners, stating that they will remain in place for the foreseeable future because they will block the sun, thus discouraging the weeds from daring to show their faces ever again. You accept this as the absolute truth because you have imbibed so much wine that you no longer care that the garden path now looks like the aftermath of a rock festival, bin liners fluttering gently in the breeze, held down by an assortment of garden items ranging from garden chairs to rotting plastic watering cans, and part of a hydraulic jack which has been a feature of the garden since you moved in and which you haven’t thrown away because you’re sure you can make it a ‘proper’ garden feature, maybe even a postmodern water feature, with a gentle stream of water trickling softly over the side. Or maybe just wait for it to rain …
And there you have it – football and gardening sorted, providing you have a good book, a sibling/other family member, weed killer, bin liners, a cat and, of course, a plentiful supply of wine …
I will finish by saying that I may adopt an ancient Roman habit of those in high places – to employ a slave to whisper in your ear that you are only human. (The slave should also be able to pour a glass of wine without spilling a drop…)
Sleep well, adoring acolytes!
What could I do?
I have been considering a career change.
I have thought about:
1. being an actress. I believe that my forte would be in the adverts you see on afternoon television and so I have been practising getting up out of my armchair and walking across the room with a fixed smile on my face to show how pleased I am with my levitating armchair; however, I worry that the mechanism might go wrong and I would be flung across the room, so I have also been practising my mournful face for those adverts for specialist lawyers – injuries4u, I think, which always sounds vaguely threatening, as if they are going to send ‘the boys’ round to make sure you DO have an injury which will necessitate you employing them.
2. advising on horticulture and conservation. My garden is a haven for wildlife and would shelter anything from a baby elephant downwards. I like to think that I am helping to save bees and butterflies at this time of year, because they love dandelions for their early spring nectar after a long winter. The long grass is also an excellent place for Molly, my lucky black cat, to hone her hunting skills. So far she has caught three dead leaves, a broken peg and several particularly savage pieces of very long grass. She’s coming on a treat.
3. becoming a film critic. I’m sure you’ll have read some of my film reviews in earlier posts – incisive, apt, truthful, all designed to help you decide whether or not you want to see a film. However, I have decided against this job after listening to the BFG (Bazza the Friendly Geordie, mentioned in a previous post) when we had been to see a particularly unpleasant – but fascinating, nevertheless – French film called ‘Elle’. (We needed a reviving bottle of wine after that one, I can tell you!) I couldn’t better this review: ‘The violence was very violent.’ It says it all.
4. becoming a professional fraudster, even though I’m not from Nigeria. This results from a successful impersonation of DOT (Dai of Turkey) when his bank called about some possible fraudulent activity on his debit card. The call was an automated one and required a return call to an anonymous automaton who simply asked me to press certain buttons in answer to a range of questions. After acquiring the necessary details from DOT, I was able to satisfy the automaton that I was my brother and that the transactions were genuine. I now have all the details I need for further activity on DOT’s debit card…
5. becoming a wine critic. This came under consideration for all of a Nano-second, for how could I criticise something so close to my heart… unless it has a two-word name, such as Blossom Leaves or Turning Hill, and is from California (these wines do not exist, to the best of my knowledge, although there may be wines with similar names, but I don’t want to get hit with a libel charge and have to employ some dodgy television lawyers).
6. being employed to shut people up. There is almost nothing more guaranteed to engage someone else’s interest than to sit reading a book in a pub, as I found out earlier (and on many previous occasions). The conversation will go something like this:
Bloke: Good book?
You: Yes, very good.
B: You like reading, then?
Y (vaguely sarcastically): When I can, yes.
B: Lot of pages.
Avoid the temptation at this point to say that that’s the trouble with books – they have lots of pages.
B: What’s it called?
B: What’s it about?
Y: Cicero, the roman philosopher and orator.
Complete and utter silence…
(I’d just like to say that the book really IS fascinating. It’s by Robert Harris and is well worth reading [as are all his novels] – history made into a good story.)
Enjoy the rest of this sunny weekend before we return to arctic conditions next week.
In light of the sad demise of Malcolm-the-strangely-named-cat-from-Australia, I felt that the Lifestyle Support Guru needed to shine a little beacon of light and fluffiness into your lives – that is my reason for existing, of course, so I wish to tell you a story of another cat from faraway places. I make no apologies to the non-cat-lovers among you, since I hope you will find this tale sadly amusing (or amusingly sad) as well.
Strangely enough, this other cat, like Malcolm, was ‘bequeathed’ to me by my youngest sibling, known as TOFU (Trefor OF ‘Ull), when he returned from a lengthy stay in South Africa and brought Tubs, a semi-long-haired ball of black fluff and a loud voice, back with him. I make no comment on the names that TOFU chooses for his cats – I simply put it down to some defect suffered at birth – but it did make for interesting looks at the vet’s when they would call out ‘Tubs?’ and I stood up.
Tubs lived a long and happy life as the only black South African in my neck of the woods in Derby, until he took to his sick bed. Late one Sunday evening it was obvious that he was distressed, so I wrapped him in a blanket and lay next to him downstairs to keep him company until I could get him to the vet the next day (yes, for any non-animal-lovers, the LSG has human feelings too); however, at about 3 am he got worse and he suddenly died. Take it from me that there is very little one can do with a dead cat at 3 o’clock on a Monday morning, so I took myself off to bed and rang TOFU early the next morning to tell him the sad news. TOFU said he would come down from ‘Ull that evening and help me dispose of the body.
The next morning, I had French A Level oral exams to do, so I took myself off to work, finding out later that my A Level students thought my haggard face denoted a sleepless night worrying about the exams rather than a nearly-sleepless night worrying about a dead cat. Luckily, the orals went well (the students got the good grades they deserved) and I girded up my loins to go home after school and face the walk into a house with a dead cat wrapped in a blanket lying in the back room.
TOFU arrived not long afterwards and looked only mildly surprised to find Tubs lying in the back room, merely asking why I hadn’t put him out in the garden rather than leaving him in the house. ‘But it’s been raining,’ I replied with perfect logic, or so it seemed to me. My brains may have been a little addled by now, through tiredness, exams and, probably, a low-ability Year 9 French class.
Anyway, the rain having stopped, TOFU dug a deep hole in the flowerbed into which we put Tubs with all due ceremony. TOFU explained that the hole needed to be deep so that any subsequent owners of the house wouldn’t come across a pile of bones should they decide to replant the flowerbed. I have to say that the plant that marks the spot goes from strength to strength (which is not something you can say about most of the other plants in my garden, although the dandelions seem to do rather well). And then we went off to the pub to drink Tubs’s health.
This morning, I rang TOFU to tell him of Malcolm’s trip to that great scratching post in the sky. I later got a text asking what had been done with his body and I replied that he had been cremated and I assumed that he didn’t want the ashes back in a tasteful little urn to adorn the mantelpiece. ‘Thank goodness,’ came the reply. ‘I’m still traumatised by the memory of burying Tubs and was worried you’d want to do the same for Malcolm.’ And on that note, I shall pour a glass in honour of Malcolm, saying only that I shall miss him following me to the bathroom in the morning or lying across my neck when I’m having my afternoon siesta.
Enjoy using those long claws in Cat Paradise, Malcolm – you’ve earned it!