I’m off work today looking after a sick and curled-up-on-the-sofa Frankie, a labour of unconditional love that has so far involved:
- Taking in half a dozen episodes of ‘Horrible Histories’ on the I-player (quite informative, actually: who knew that for the first several months of World War Two precisely nothing happened because all the soldiers were hiding on either side of something called the Magenot line, a state of affairs which continued until the Germans sneaked round the side with a load of tanks and it all kicked off good and royally?; or that King Henry VII kept two little princes named ‘The Two Little Princes’ in the Tower of London for twenty years to stop either of them making a rightful claim to his possibly illbegotten throne?; or that a fierce Welsh gentleman in a garish tunic named Owen Glendwr (I mean the man was named Owen Glendwr, not his tunic; his tunic was named Rhys Williams) is revered to this day the length and breadth of the Principality on account of having rallied sometime in the mid-distant past a small army of likeminded fierce Welsh gentlemen in garish tunics (whose names I am ignorant of, you’d have to consult the textbooks) to chase invading English noblemen through the forests of Brecon atop stallions? Oh, lots of you knew? All of it? Fair enough then.)
- Taking in snatches of a feature film version of Oliver Twist (it’s a book, by a fellow named Charles Dickens, don’t you know) which we were (I was) very excited to discover on our Amazon Prime video thingy in the belief that it was the jolly technicolour singalong ‘Got to Pick a Pocket or Two’ version so reminiscent of my own faraway youth, only to realise a full hour in that it was a much more ancient and true-to-life black and white version, in which the characters call each other things like ‘you avaricious old fitch, you’ and the grimefaced street urchins are altogether too busy being alternately starved and beaten half to death in the workhouses and backstreets of Dickensian England to be bothering their bony arses enough to lighten the mood on a chilly December morning by bursting into a jolly street urchin singalong for us for a couple of minutes, the miserable little bastards that they are/were. Frankie’s verdict from the sofa: ‘I liked it and everything, but I didn’t really understand what was going on’. (And we subsequently found the modern technicolour version on the search menu behind an Amazon paywall, and briefly considered the shelling out of £2.99 on the credit card to load it up as an immediate and much-needed pick-us-up, but, avaricious little fitches that we are we decided against it. And turned to:
- Gazing out of the kitchen window at the backgarden furniture being blown repeatedly against the brick walls by some sort of hideous suburban mini-tornado (the rolling news reckons, possibly overexcitedly, that there’s a ‘weatherbomb’ on the way, not that the rolling news is given to any sort of terror-inducing hyperbole) until the cabin fever got the better of us entirely and we ventured out in fourteen layers of wool into the eye of the storm, otherwise known as the innocent parade of local establishments which formed the subject matter of our previous post. Time being unequivocally on our hands, we paraded the length of the parade not once but twice, taking care to stop at each of the three charity shop windows, where Frankie (the fresh air and the absence of Dickensian workhorse governors beating small Frankie-sized children to half to death having caused him to perk up somewhat) amused us both by making increasingly unsuitable suggestions for £5 secondhand presents that I might consider regaling the Director of Localities with on the occasion of our impending works ‘Secret Santa’ ceremonies, namely:
--A white metal zimmer frame (slightly rust-damaged)
--A DVD of Christmas Recipes edited by the televisual catering phenomenon Jamie Oliver (in 2005 or thereabouts, judging by the youthful frontcover look of his unmistakable jowls)
--A seasonal mantelpiece amusement featuring a pair of robins (possibly real ones, stuffed) atop equally lifelike twigs
--A china dog of no discernible purpose, ornamental or otherwise
--A pint-sized and singularly masculine-shaped beerglass, adorned with a dated ‘Stella Artois’ logo.
Any one of which, as I am sure you discerning people will agree, would have constituted serviceable talking points at the Christmas team lunch next Tuesday (and God knows the Christmas team lunch is an annual event historically so devoid of serviceable talking points that fleetfooted inter-course escape into the streets of the Westside via the locked windows of the Gentlemen’s convenience and with the aid of a stainless steel nutcracker gifted by the Manager of the Community Spaces Subdivision is an option that has been considered seriously on more than one occasion) , but, wary of being labelled, I don’t know, an avaricious little finch shall we say, by my colleagues and in particular by the Director of Localities (a half-mad and powercrazed eminence, like a modernday Henry VII except in a tasteful midlength suede jacket and high heels) we made our excuses and headed onwards and indeed inwards, into the welcoming bosom of the independent café at the end of the strip (which thankfully seems to have survived the commercial onslaught of the automatic Costa Coffee machine in the now-open Flagship Spar store, and was doing a roaring trade in mid-afternoon ladies, by which I mean it was full of ladies, not that it was selling them, heaven forfend, I know there is a poundshop opening where the sports shop used to be but the neighbourhood hasn’t gone entirely to the dogs, not yet).
And then- Frankie having been duly fortified by a hot chocolate of quality the Costacoffee machine could only dream of (and which came along with free-of-charge sympathy for his evidently pale and wan plight from the kindly countergirl) we were back at home, where it was still only 3:45PM or in other words a full three hours earlier than the time I normally emerge over the familial hearth, world-weary and with overtasked cogs of the brain still whirring painfully from another day spent in chilly committee rooms and overheated offices, drinking too much coffee, trying not to overhear the smalltalk (which has, for the last eight weeks, mostly concerned the arrangements for ‘Secret Santa’) and generally doing the ever-changing bidding of the Westside Community and Voluntary Sector’s answer to King Henry VII.
I think I’ll get her some kind of scented soap from Boots the Chemist. Unless, of course, you know of anywhere on the High Street I can pick up (and for no more than a fiver) an attractively-boxed giftset featuring Instruments Of Torture Through The Ages? Do let me know if you do, I need all the help I can get here, I really do.