Friday, 22 April 2011

Easter Madness

Easter Bank Holiday is upon us, and at the risk of sounding like a kill-joy, I am not in the mood.
I normally spring out of bed on Good Friday, as bright eyed and bushy tailed as the proverbial Easter Bunny, fizzing with feelings of end-of-term excitement and relishing the delicious prospect of a three day holiday. Three days! The hedonists equivalent of a three course banquet, during which one feels justified in spending 72 hours in a soporific stupor of sun bathing, drinking wine and socialising, preferably simultaneously.
Having just recovered from a nasty bout of gastroenteritis, I am in no mood for frivolities. I am feeling fragile and crotchety. If I were a horse, instead of champing at the bit with enthusiasm, I would be mulishly refusing to enter the stalls, whilst grinding my teeth and swishing my tail in a paroxysm of ill temper.
I have, thus far, managed to conceal my irritation. Jasper is so excited about drinking beer in the sun that I would rather bleach my eyeballs than pizzle on the roaring flames of his Bank Holiday Bonfire.
I grumpily went shopping yesterday for BBQ food. The Co-op was jam packed with people doing the same thing. Lily sat in her seat, gawping, as i steered the trolley through hordes of sweaty men in tight vests and weird footwear. As i trawled the aisles i wondered where said men materialize from. Do they crawl up through the man holes thrice annually? I never see them at any other time of the year except bank holidays, when they descend en masse, like a swarm of perma-tanned brill-creemed peacocks to deplete the towns beer supply. I watched them furtively, as they jostled and vaunted in front of the fridges, in their dazzling white slip on trainers. The wonderful smell of freshly baked bread that normally wafts about the store, was smothered by the cloying stench of Davidoff's Cool Water aftershave.
Lily gazed around her with an awe struck expression. Easter Eggs were piled high at the end of every aisle. A wall of golden wrapped chocolate bunnies wearing scarlet ribbons round their necks gazed down as i tried to negotiate my way around 2 trolleys stacked with booze. Lily stretched her arms towards them and looked beseechingly at me.
"Plis! Plis!" she gabbled, pointing desperately at them.
I grabbed a packet of mini eggs from a shelf, eliciting a beady look from a jobsworth shop assistant who was building a pyramid of Thomas The Tank Engine easter Eggs.
Lily spied Thomas' smiley face and shrieked with glee. My heart sank. Her infatuation with the cheery Tank Engine and his cronies began on her first birthday, when she was presented with a mini Thomas and friends train set. Since then, her fondness has morphed into a form of infant hero worship. Whilst Thomas appearing on TV is enough to make her giddy, she is utterly besotted with the Fat Controller; the sight of his poe faced, portly figure sends her into a whimpering reverie of hand wringing excitement. Her cheeks flush pink and she giggles coyly, clearly in thrall as she watches from beneath lowered eyelashes as he bustles industriously around on the platform in his top hat.
Jasper and I find her infatuation bizarre and hilarious in equal measure.
(Jasper's initial concerns were assuaged when i informed him that i had harboured a huge crush on King Rollo until i was nearly ten, and my Best Friend was tormented by inappropriate thoughts about Zippy from Rainbow until she reached puberty.)
Although Lily is progressing very well with her speech, she hasn't yet learned to say (or rather, shout) her hero's name in full. She manages the "Fat" part, but has only mastered the the first syllable of "Controller".
Confined to the privacy of our home, this unwittingly vulgar truncated version, has been met with great amusement, prompting epic giggling fits and whoops of laughter.
It didn't seem nearly as funny, standing in the middle of a crowded supermarket, hemmed in by members of the public.
Cringing, I managed to push the trolley through the gap towards the check-out. Lily, losing sight of her Top Hatted hero, let forth an ear piercing scream of rage, before bellowing
"FAT C*NT!!" at the top of her voice.
"Shhh. Lily NO !" i hissed.
She began to bounce frantically up and down in her seat, squirming and trying to head butt me in the tits, as i bashed the obstructing trolleys out of the way and try to broke into a run. There was a resounding crash as the corner of the trolley smashed into the aluminium strip of the freezer compartment.
"FAT C*NT!" Lily screeched lustily, and burst into noisy sobs.
"Ooh, look Lily, would you like a Haribo?!" i squealed in a demented sing-song voice, shoving a bag of sweets at her clenched fists. She hurled them viciously aside and kicked her legs up and down in rage. Everyone was staring. A little old lady on a mobility scooter shook her head in disgust, her face twitching like milk coming to the boil. I saw her mouth the word "shocking" to her friend, who looked equally scandalized.
A middle aged man clutching a box of beer and a fray bentos pie attempted to shuffle sideways past us. For a few seconds, he was wedged, his rippling belly pinned mercilessly by the unyielding metal rim of our trolly. He displaced a box of wotsits with his gargantuan backside as he squeezed by, panting slightly.
"FAT C*NT!" bellowed Lily, looking accusingly at him through a fug of tears.
The man turned puce.
"She doesn't mean you." i said in a strangled voice, as Lily lashed out in temper at his straining gut. `
"I'm so sorry." i cringe. "Lily, you DO NOT HIT PEOPLE!"
The man grunted and muttered something under his breath before he waddled off.
Face blazing, i made the long walk of shame to the check out, while Lily sobbed copiously and moaned "Fat C*nt" in a pitiful voice at everyone who walked past.
By the time we got to the car i was sweating slightly with horror and felt faint.

I arrived home to found a note on the door from our new neighbours.

Dear Jessica,
I mentioned to your Mother In Law that we would like to go to Church tomorrow for the Easter Service, and she suggested that we might go along with you. It would be nice to meet some people, and Jill thought that you could introduce us to the other villagers. We hope you don't mind us asking. Look forward to hearing from you.
Beryl and Derek Samson.

I had been planning to give Church a miss and laze in the garden with the Sunday Papers instead. I unpacked the shopping sulkily before making a batch of Easter biscuits which burnt underneath, and a Sinmel Cake which curdled and emerged from the AGA airless, dense, and sunk in the middle. When i tried to stick the mini egg "disciples" around the perimeter they all rolled into the centre.
My mood was not improved when i logged onto FaceBook and a friend appeared on chat with the words "Hello Fatty Pants." I bristled. A second message popped up.
" I meant Farty Pants. Predictive text!"
I pursed my lips sourly and went off-line.

I checked the time. I had half an hour left before Lily awoke from her midday sleep. Just enough time to have a bath. A nice hot soak would calm my shattered nerves.
I was just abut to step into the foamy water when the phone rang.

The end of the line was silent and i almost hung up , when a voice said
"Hel - hel- hello."
It was stuttering Bernard from Church Cottage.
"Hello Bernard, how are you?" i trilled through gritted teeth.
Bernard cut straight to the chase.
"Your bl-bloody d-d-d-d- dog has ma-ma-mated with my b-b-b-bitch again. They're locked to-together in the ch-ch-churchyard. You be-better come and ge-get him...."

Happy Easter everyone.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

The Bring and Buy sale

By 10am, the nieces had produced 2 mouthwatering batches of chocolate brownies, a tray of rice crispie cake and a tin of shortbread.
The kitchen resembled a bombsite. There was a fine layer of flour on every surface, Caster sugar and hundreds and thousands crunched underfoot, and the overflowing bin was spewing empty maragarine tubs and eggshells. The freshly painted ceiling was now liberally splattered with brown goo and the cat was licking the butter.
The Church Fund Raiser was due to start in under half an hour and i hadn't even changed yet. My wheedling pleas for the nieces to help clean up the mess, fell on deaf ears. They were both too busy gloating over the fruits of their labour and writing swirly labels to advertise their wares.
"Cho clit Browneys - £5 each." Abi had written in giant bright pink letters on a piece of A4 card.
"I think that might be a bit expensive for some people." i suggested,
"And erm, that's not how you spell chocolate. Here, i'll write it and you can copy it."
Abi shook her head and held the pen out of my reach.
"No, i want to keep it like it is. " she replied, cocking her head to one side and admiring her handi-work.
"It's very pretty." i agreed in a placatory tone, "but let's just change the spelling shall we?"
She looked up at me and blinked rapidly before sniffing, a sure sign of impending tears.
"Mummy says it doesn't matter about spelling as long as i try my best." she said in a small voice.
"And she's absolutely right. " i said, feeling like I'd kicked a puppy. "You're a very clever girl. Let's put it with all the other signs so we don't forget. YUM YUM!"
The door opened and Jasper came in for breakfast.
"Good gracious - you girls have been busy!" he exclaimed, admiring the delicious smelling goodies.
The girls giggled in delight as he helped himself to a piece of rice crispy cake.
"And what have we here?" he wondered aloud, pointing at a flowery tin.
"They're mine." piped up Abi proudly, handing him the placard.
I bent over the sink refusing to catch his eye.
"Hmm, they sound fascinating. What, may i ask, is the key ingredient?"
"CHOCLIT of course. Derrrrr!" sighed ABi, shaking her head.
"Ah, of course!" he tittered. "Silly old me."

Forty minutes later, we had loaded the trestle tables and cakes into the car and after collecting the eggs and topping up the geeses water, we set off. It was a beautiful day; the lane was flanked with wild daffodils whose vibrant heads swung merrily in the sun, and everywhere you looked, the trees and hedges were blossoming with the first signs of spring.
"Can you slow down a bit? My pen keeps slipping." said Abi, who was labelling the eggs with black felt tip "£2.50 per egg. Bargin!"
The village hall was bustling with activity when we arrived. The Organiser, Bunty Bealing, came scurrying over when she saw us arrive, clutching her pearls dramatically and fanning herself with her clip board.
"Jessica! I thought you'd never come!" she cried, looking at her watch.
"Now, off you go and set up, there's a dear. You're there next to the Tombola." she said bossily, propelling me across the hall with a firm shove.
The Colonel was already manning his table and taking furtive sips of gin from a perspex pint glass when he thought no one was looking, whilst half heartedly trying to prize open the rusty latch of the antiquated tombola with a screw driver.
He smiled fulsomely and waggled his moustache when he saw me approach.
"Morning Mrs Miller! How fortuitous to be pitched next to you and your goodies! What culinary delights have you made today?" he boomed, peering at the various tins and tupperware through his pince-nez.
"RICE CRISPIE CAKES!" he bellowed.
"FARM HOUSE SHORTBREAD - my favourite!"
I whipped the brownies out of sight just in the nick of time.
Twenty minutes later the doors opened to admit the public. There was the usual rugby scrum as people rushed at the tables to grab any bargains, avoiding eye contact as they used their elbows to joust each other out of the way. There was a minor altercation involving two elderly ladies and a pair of hideous floral cushions from the nearly new stall. Neither lady had realised that that the cushions were for sale as a pair, until they both attempted to buy them singly, at the same time, whereupon Bernard, the stall holder, a timid looking man afflicted with Tourettes , apologetically informed them of his mistake. The two old ladies eyeballed each other over the trestle table. Had they not been separated by a mound of bric-a-brac, there is little doubt that there would have been a scuffle. Gone were the sweet, stoop-backed misty-eyed old dears. It was clear from their puckered mouths, flared nostrils and clenched fists, that neither was leaving without the others cushion. I pitied poor Bernard, whose condition was compounded by stressful situations. His head was now twitching violently every few seconds, each spasm accompanied by a low keening sound.

The old ladies turned and glared at him expectantly as he jerked helplessly from side to side. They looked as though they were waiting for the punch line.
He stared back at them for a few seconds, growing redder and redder, before opening his mouth and bellowing "BUMSANDCOCKS!!" at the top of his voice.
There was a stunned silence. Hollie and Abi's were open mouthed as they turned to gauge my reaction.
The day was saved by the Vicar, who strode forward smiling broadly, and guided the chuntering old dears to the safety of the Home Produce Stall, on the pretext of enlisting their help to judge the Best Cake Competition. Within seconds, all thoughts of cushions had been forgotten. The noise and chatter resumed, and Bernard slumped on a stool mopping his sweating brow with a piece of kitchen roll whilst kindly old Mrs Holloway from Church cottage plied him with sweet tea and Garibaldi's.
The nieces finished laying out plates of cakes and biscuits on the gingham table cloth, and waited for the punters. Within five minutes, and to Abi's great delight, a friendly young couple had handed over a fiver for two of the "Bargin" eggs. Having persuaded her to drop the price of the brownies, she sold the lot within half an hour, accumulating a grand total of £15. Having counted it carefully into her Hello Kitty wallet, she toddled off to the Toy Stall to spend her loot.
The Fund raiser was a record breaking success. All morning, people called in, to spend money and donate things to sell. A constant stream of people turned up bearing cakes and biscuits for the table. No sooner had a cake been put on display, before it was sold.
By 2pm, things were starting to quieten down. I was counting up, when an angelic looking toddler with blonde ringlets ran up and gazed hungrily at the remaining batch of pink iced fairy cakes. I smiled and pushed the plate towards him.
"Would you like one?"
"Thankyou." He whispered shyly, and reached out to take one with an awestruck expression.
The cake was halfway to his open mouth when a short dark haired woman wearing a stetson appeared in the doorway. She stood on the threshold looking around with a supercilious expression, until she spotted the little boy.
"CRISPIN! " she squawked. Her Cow Boy boots clunked noisily against the wooden floorboards as she strode towards us, mean little eyes ablaze with anger.
"How dare you run off like that! Oh my GOD - Is that a cake?"
As little Crispin watched her approach, his crestfallen face suddenly assumed a look of defiance. He looked like an escaped convict cornered by the Police. He hesitated for a milli-second, before ramming the whole thing into his mouth. His cheeks bulged and crumbs spewed as he tried to chew.
The Mother looked aghast. From her reaction, you would have thought that her son was chomping on a fresh dog turd.
"NAY! NAY!" she squawked. "What have i told you about Junk food? BAD BAD BAD!"
Crispin swallowed and looked unrepentant.
I stepped forward, cringing slightly.
"I'm so sorry, it was my fault."
She threw me a brief, appraising glance, a faint but unmistakeable sneer playing at the corner of her mouth as she took in my scruffy ensemble ( faded jeans and battered jodpur boots), and mentally consigned me as non-PLU. (PEOPLE LIKE US)
I smiled and offered her a glass of squash. I certainly wasn't about to take offence at some jumped up short-arse dressed as a barrel racer.
At that moment, Mr Wilmot, the Church Warden, appeared and introduced himself.
"Hello! You must be the lady who has just moved into the Old Rectory." he beamed.
"Yup, that's me." she replied, briefly twitching the corners of her mouth into a smile which didn't reach her cold fishy eyes.
"Mummy, i'm hungry." whined little Crispin. He was gazing at Lily's Rice Crispy Cake, like a dickensian waif drooling over a suckling Pig.
"Alright sweedy. Hang on a sec." drawled CowBoy Woman. After a brief rummage in her Gucci tote, she produced a small tupperware box full of chopped raw veg.
Crispin stared balefully at the unappetizing contents, before nibbling dutifully on a carrot baton.
A harassed looking woman in her late forties entered the hall, pushing a pram with a sleeping new born baby. She waved at CBW and came over, fanning herself with the parish magazine.
"That's my little sister!" said Crispin proudly, pointing into the pram and tickling the baby under the chin.
"She's a pretty girl. How old is she?" i asked.
"Eight days." he replied, kicking a piece of raw broccoli under the table when his mother wasn't looking.
"Mummy and Daddy are going on holiday tomorrow for nearly three weeks" he continued.
"How exciting! Very brave of you to go abroad with such a young baby." i smiled at CBW.
"Erm, it's supposed to be a holiday?" sneered CBW.
I looked at her, confused.
"As in, Crispin and the Baby are staying here, with Nanny." she said slowly, as though explaining something to a cretin.
"Oh. Right." I didn't know what else to say.
"Nanny is going to London next week to see her brother, so Tracy is going to look after us for three days." said Crispin, stuffing a handful of spinach leaves down his underpants. His Mother had her back turned and was fiddling with her mobile phone.
"Tracey is the new cleaner." volunteered The Nanny as she undid the baby's sleepsuit to change the nappy.
"Oh. Right." i said again.
The baby began to scream.
CBW dropped her phone back in her bag and turned to the Nanny, who was soothing the wailing infant with one hand, and trying to prepare a bottle with the other. CBW yawned loudly and checked the angle of her stetson in a compact mirror.
"Right, you can walk back with the pram Nanny, it does the baby good to get some fresh air, and i'm so exhausted at the moment. I need to get home and have a long relaxing bath before James gets back tonight."
I looked down at Nannys worn slip-ons, and the blisters forming on her heels. The Rectory was two miles away, mostly up hill. She looked worn out, but she nodded wearily and slung the heavy changing bag over her shoulder, preparing for the long trudge home.
CBW didn't bother to say goodbye. She was halfway to the door when she turned back to Nanny and called
"By the way, we'll have lamb tonight. There's a leg in the fridge and plenty of veg in the garden. You'll need to go into town when you get home because there's a case of wine to be collected from Majestic, and we're out of red currant jelly and a few other things. I'll leave a list on the table. Oh, and Nanny, please don't burn the roast potatoes again..."

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

It was such a beautiful day on Sunday, that i decided to make the most of the spring sunshine and clean out the animals.
I was out of bed at cock crow, and after a quick coffee i set off to muck out the pigs. I gathered my wheelbarrow and loaded it with shovels and brushes, and a bucket of milk and leftovers (the porcine equivalent of a three course banquet) and trundled along the moss dappled path to the piggery, breathing in the fresh morning scent of damp earth , and watching the first fiery rays of the sun shining brilliant red through the dark slumbering outline of whitmore coppice. Such enchanting scenes always fill me with an irrepressible sense of joie de vivre, and i stood for a moment or two, gazing at the wreaths of mists rising from the fields, listening to the chorus of bird song, and relishing the solitude.
The rest of the village was still asleep; i was entirely alone. I sighed happily and carried on my journey. Euphoria was short lived however. Rounding the corner to the pig sty, i gasped in horror, to behold an empty pen. Porgy and Bess had escaped!
I clambered over the fence and rushed into the spacious brick outhouse which comprises their living quarters. It was deserted. Closer inspection confirmed my suspicion that they had managed to wriggle through an opening in the back wall. It was a surprisingly small space and must have required considerable time and effort to squeeze themselves through. A small pile of dung lay on the floor in such a position as to suggest that Porgy, the fatter of the two, had become wedged in the gap and remained there for some time, stuck fast like a cork in a bottle, until managing to work herself free.
I glanced around in a state of panic. Where to start looking? Bulbarrow hill lay in the distance, its ridge shrouded in mist. Could they have possibly got that far? I didn't think so.
I faced east towards Sturminster, and had a surreal vision of them trotting into the Co-OP to buy the Sunday Papers.
I turned again and looked across the village. A wisp of smoke was curling from the chimney of the In-Laws cottage next door. Feeling giddy with horror, i rushed to the garden fence, bracing myself for a wreckage of uprooted shrubs, ransacked borders and an erstwhile immaculate lawn, pitted with snout shaped holes and strewn with pig poo.
My knees wobbled with relief to discover that everything looked normal in their garden; and there was nothing to suggest that the fugitives had paid a visit.
l retraced my steps and climbed the fence into the apple orchard. I was debating whether to call the Police, when i heard the umistakable sound of porcine grunting. The mist parted, to reveal the pigs. They were standing less than five yards away, rocking rhythymically back and forth as they scratched their hairy pink sides against the trunk of an apple tree. They grinned broadly when they caught sight of me and came belting over to say hello, wedging their fat faces into the feed bucket and slurping noisily as they guzzled the warm milky slops.
I heard a low whinny, and the muffled thud of approaching hoof beats. Tilly and Billy came bustling around the corner to investigate. Bestowed with remarkably social dispositions, Porgy and Bess stopped stuffing their faces and ran towards them to make friends. Billy, who had never seen a pig before in his life, snorted in horror, before turning tail and bolting out of sight.
Roused from his twilight sleep by the oinking, grunting and neighing, Bandit, Jasper's deviant Spaniel, appeared through the gloaming, beaming like the village idiot.
Pigs are his fetish - he finds them unbearably arousing, so the sight of them skipping and slurping prompted an instantaneous erection. He skilfully dodged the bucket that i hurled at him, before attempting to resume his debauched efforts of the previous Sunday, ( before he was interrupted by the Colonel's wife).
By the time i had restrained Bandit, secured Porgy and Bess, and tracked down Billy (who had leapt the paddock fence in a pig induced panic), Lily was calling me from her nursery and my nieces had arrived to make chocolate brownies for the Village Bring and Buy Sale that afternoon.
And i still hadn't cleaned the pigs out....