Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Hello Vera

If feels as if the whole world has gone diet mad and in this street that falls into two camps, the 5:2 followers where the victims eat frugally for two days and behave like gannets the other five, or the aloe vera crowd. The aloe vera crowd are at the moment in the midst of a nine day detox with the aim of losing as much as they physically can. Catherine has become a rep for the products and she is championing the detox along with Jacinta, Mand and Rafe. They were originally joined by Ian, but each day involves the drinking of an aloe vera gel and by day two he had been sick every time he drank it, deciding that it clearly wasn’t for him.
Catherine is her usual passionate self when she starts a new project and as we are only into week two her interest is still fervent, by next week it will start to wane and by week four she will be saying ‘aloe who ?’, before swiftly moving onto the next thing. Mind you she had her work cut out trying to explain the diet to Mand, the only person on the planet who has never heard of aloe vera.

‘Why do you call her that, does she always say hello?’
‘It’s not a she Mand, it’s a plant, and it’s not hello, it hasn’t got an H.’

‘Hmm, I’m like not so sure about drinking a plant, I mean I wouldn’t drink a lettuce.’

The fact that Jacinta and Rafe were game finally persuaded her it was the right thing to do, and after day two she decided that ‘Ello Vera’ must be good for you, because it tasted so disgusting, like.

The 5:2 followers were Baz and Shirl, Ken and a late joining Ian. They had decided to meet once a week for the weigh in and to share menu ideas for the two lean days. Now I’m no Rosemary Conley but the way they are operating the diet doesn’t seem right to me, I understand the concept of two frugal days but I am sure you are not supposed to eat and drink like you are on holiday the rest of the time.
On the day of their first meet and weigh in, supervised by Garth, they had all had a reasonable weight loss of three pounds, except Shirl, the skinniest of the four who had lost five. This venerable event was followed by a four course curry dinner, with all the sides and a drinking bout that ended in a lock in and five very sore heads the following day. I shall watch the results of the next weigh in with interest.
Elsewhere in the street Reg was having a detox of his own, instigated by Margaret, who had read somewhere that too much processed food is bad for your heart.
‘I’m cutting him down to a sausage dinner every other day’, she explained to Jacinta.
‘Every other day?’ Jacinta had that shrill voice that gives it away when she doesn’t approve of something she has been told.
‘D’you think I’m being too harsh, he is struggling with it, he dreamt about sausages last night and yesterday I caught him staring at them in the Spar, he never looks at me like that.’
‘Too harsh, are you joking Margaret, I think he should give them up for a month.’

When Margaret retold this story to Reg later he went very red and after some thought suggested to his wife that she should review her friendship group.
‘I’m not sure I like you mixing with these vegetarians, I think you should definitely see less of Jacinta and that miserable one with the baby, Suzy is it ? I think they are trying to brain wash you.’
Margaret does pander to Reg a lot of the time but it was the first instance that he had tried to dictate her friends, I know she is not a vindictive woman but I have heard she has bought some vegetarian sausages, just for every other day you understand.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

May Contain Nuts

Tom has been up to his old tricks again this week. I may have mentioned that he has a nose for a bargain and will often turn up in the street with a ‘buy one get one free’ offer that he has found in the supermarket. He could not be classed as stingy with his finds, the only problem is that he will proffer the free part of the deal at a price that is only slightly reduced from the original. Luckily most people see through this strategy, although both Mand and Catherine have been caught a few times. Mand does not have an issue with this, in fact she thinks that Tom is doing her a service.
‘I don’t like want two of anything, so if he is charging me less than I would pay for one, then that’s like, good.’
A few of us have tried to point out to her that the fairest thing would be for her to pay half, but she always fights Tom’s corner stating that he has to take his time into consideration and the cost of petrol. I get too frustrated with her to remind her that Tom neither drives or has to pay for the bus but if she can’t see his faults than that’s her problem.

He did go through quite a vindictive phase after Roger told him off for leaning against his wall and smoking, he would regularly turn up at the house when Suzy was on her own, forcing livers and kidneys onto her. She was quite vulnerable at the time and would pay the pound that he requested for the items, never daring to tell him that she was a vegetarian and Roger detested offal. Tom knew all along that their culinary taste didn’t extend to these foods but he was determined to get revenge for the reprimand.
This week Jacinta had given a bag of cobnuts to Garth, her sister had five cobnut trees in her garden and couldn’t get rid of the nuts for love nor money. She had collected several bags and had hung them on her fence with a notice stating, ‘Free to anyone that wants them’.
Nuts that you self crack are an annoying reminder of Christmas for me and the cobnut influx at the start of Autumn is too much to bear, so I wasn’t interested in this freebie. Garth passed on the news of his gift to Ken who in turn told Tom, who had an unusual level of interest for a man whose teeth look like they couldn’t chew their way through a blancmange, let alone a nut.
The next day I heard Jacinta telling Ken that all of the nuts hanging outside her sister’s house had gone overnight, she was delighted because there were several more bags to be gathered and up until now the take up had been slim. The following few days the nuts disappeared overnight and they were beginning to think that they were in the clasp of an overzealous squirrel.
It’s market day on Tuesday in the town and I was woken up early that morning by the sound of wheels being dragged up the path, on closer inspection I could see Tom wrestling with a shopping trolley which was bulging with its contents and had a box balanced precariously on top. He was wearing thick clothing, fingerless gloves and there was a money belt tied around his waist, I thought nothing more of it and returned to my bed.
Later that day I could hear the outrage in Jacinta’s voice as she complained to Ken about the sight she had seen in the market. ‘Local cob nuts, he was shouting, local cob nuts at knockdown prices. He was charging two pound for a bag. He even tried to sell some to my sister, the cheek of the man.’
Ken as usual had a very laid back attitude to the news, ‘you can’t blame the man for making the best of an opportunity, I think you should stop worrying.’
‘But he’s leading people astray, part of his sales pitch is the tale he tells about risking his life climbing the tree to gather the nuts.’

Ken’s howls of laughter could be heard clearly in my house at this news and finally Jacinta saw the funny side of it. That evening when Tom arrived home there was a notice pinned to his front door, he didn't know who had put it there but the message was clear, ‘May contain nuts!’


Friday, 11 September 2015

A Week of Celebration

Who would have thought that in the week that we had National Bacon Day (one of my favourite days ever, only to be topped by International Crisp Week or National Green Handbag Day) we would have so many other celebrations? Dear Queenie became the longest serving monarch, I’m not surprised she wanted to keep it low key, all those tedious programmes about the comparisons with Queen Victoria! Wayne Rooney become the country’s leading goal scorer with fifty goals to his name, a real achievement that I am sure we all celebrated (although at this point I personally was still on bacon day), and Reg and Margaret reached their thirty sixth anniversary.

I am aware that the rest of the national has not had much interest in this particular event but it has been the talk of the street, namely because Margaret has gone on about it so much, after Reg revealed that he had bought her a very special present. Every few years he goes against his normal personality traits and buys her a gift that is associated for the year, this Margaret has admitted, is very thoughtful of him. However she has not always been impressed with the presents that are given to her. The year that coincided with stationery he bought her a giant pad for shopping lists and a pack of ten BIC pens.
‘I didn’t really understand it, I love beautiful writing paper and I always use an ink pen, it’s almost as if he got it wrong on purpose’. Jacinta and Suzy nodded in sympathy.
‘That’s nothing’, said Jacinta, ‘For my thirtieth birthday Prithpal bought me a salad spinner and a pair of secateurs, he’s very lucky I didn’t cut a piece of his vital statistics and spin it for him.’
‘Roger once bought me a fly swat and a double pack of walnut whip’, before Suzy’s friends could comment on the thoughtfulness of the sweet aspect of the gift she added, ‘Seven years we’d been together and he still hadn’t realised that I’m allergic to nuts.’
Margaret seemed determined to switch the focus back to her, after their twenty fourth anniversary when Reg had bought her a ukulele, because he had read somewhere that the gift should be a musical instrument, they had a heart to heart, the outcome being that any future gift would be purchased with the knowledge that it would be relevant to Margaret in some way.
‘I did keep the ukulele but I smashed it up when my present the following year was a special sausage he had made, which he named after me. In fact I think the ukulele played a key role in the barbeque on which the sausages were cooked.’
Jacinta and Suzy looked at each other knowing that Margaret had won the ‘most rubbish presents’ competition, they also privately wondered why she had such high hopes for this year.
The reason for Margaret’s anticipation was Reg himself. He had confided in Ken, who had confided in Catherine, who had told Margaret, that for the thirty sixth year he was looking at the gifts that would be given on the thirtieth and sixth year and combining the two. Reg would not reveal the actual present but was happy to state that he’d had it engraved with both of their names and a heart.
When Catherine told her, and also revealed that it must be a combination of wood and diamond, Margaret was beside herself, her face lit up with joy.
‘Engraved you say? This is it, he’s finally got it right. After all those years, putting up with his tempers and the sausages, his outrageous opinions and the….sausages. At last the reward I’ve been longing for.’
I could see that Catherine was concerned that she had raised Margaret’s hopes too high. ‘I don’t want you to expect too much, and I’m not being disrespectful in any way, but this is Reg we are talking about.’
‘No, I must be right, don’t you see, it’s a diamond ring in a wooden box, he’s had it engraved, it must be that, what else would it be, what else would he have engraved?’
Catherine wracked her brains, a tankard, an identity bracelet, a dog tag, there were so many things you could have engraved, but none of them wooden or diamond, perhaps Margaret was right, maybe it was time for the diamond ring in a wooden box.
I know their house is next door to me so I probably hear more than most, but I’m sure the whole street could hear the shouting early the next morning, I say shouting, it was more of a high pitched screech.
‘Marg heart Reg! On a rolling pin! Who would do that?’
‘Well, clearly I did, it’s for us, to celebrate our life together.’
‘On a rolling pin’, Margaret’s voice had become dangerously steely, 'and where, might I, ask is the diamond.’
‘Now’, said Reg, sounding decidedly uncertain, ‘that’s the clever part, it’s the name of the person who did the engraving, I found him on the internet, Lennie Diamond, he’s done a good job, hasn’t he?’
Reg’s voice trailed off at this point and I can only imagine that he ducked, because rather than hit him, the rolling pin flew through the window into the road. I have a feeling any sausages left in the house may be soon to follow.





Thursday, 3 September 2015

A girly night

We seem to have jumped into Autumn without so much as a goodbye or apology about the poor weather from Summer, still I do like this season, people know what to wear and the trees both smell and look glorious.

In Pavers Place the residents have also got into gear for the new season. Daphne is back from visiting her relatives and therefore Garth has returned to wearing the hideous jelly shoes, Ian and Raphe are back from their extended cruise and whilst Ian is sporting a lovely tan, Raphe has been overrun with freckles.  Gary and Harry are talking about putting the ice cream freezer back into the shed and replacing it with the Christmas card stand (always a bleak sign for me) and Catherine has the latest prospectus for adult education. She is considering which courses to try out this year, snail farming, hair extensions and wicker basket weaving all seem to be in the running for the term ahead.
Catherine was discussing her choices with Daphne and Jacinta in the street, she was probably trying to persuade one of them to join her, as she did me the year she tried belly dancing. I was moderately keen until I realised that you had to let people see your own stomach, the appeal went out of it after that and I gave up my place, in the end I think Raphe went with her, that man is game for anything.
Daphne was telling them, in rather a loud voice, that she was a trained beautician, she had let it slip since she went to work at the chicken factory but felt that her skills were still as finely tuned as they used to be. I have met Daphne close up on a couple of occasions now and although I found her quite friendly she is one of those people who speaks her mind and has no fear in calling a spade a spade.
‘I have a wonderful idea, why don’t we have a girly night, I’m sure Garth won’t mind, we can hold it at his house. I could do all your nails and it would be great to do something with your roots.’
The roots in question were Jacinta’s and she looked alarmed at this statement, as did Catherine who was more than a little taken aback.  
‘I don’t think Jacinta colours her hair, do you, I mean, there doesn’t seem to be any roots.’ It was unusual for Jacinta to be speechless but she just nodded in agreement with Catherine.
Daphne laughed at this, ‘If you insist dearie, but I could certainly intervene if you did decide a colour would help to offset your face.’
I was up close to the window by now, eager to see the look on both Catherine and Jacinta’s faces, but Daphne appeared to be the type of person who did not recognise offence when she caused it and she carried on regardless.
‘Never mind, we can still do the nails, both fingers and toes if you like. Let’s say Thursday, you bring some Labrini and I’ll do some nibbles, and ask that skinny lass, the one who says like a lot, calls herself Man’.
Daphne swept away towards the Spar leaving the other two looking red and annoyed, but as they had not actually said no it appeared that Thursday night was a date, although I could not imagine that Mand would be in attendance.
On Thursday evening equipped with one bottle of bubbly per person Catherine, Jacinta, Suzy and Margaret made their way to Garth’s house; they were joined by Ian and Raphe, who were seeking a manicure and Mand, who wanted to see for herself the destruction that Daphne had wrought on her precious Garthy’s house.   
‘I don’t like the woman, but I do need my nails doing and I like need to see for myself that he’s alright, like.’

If a girly evening is supposed to be a bonding experience it would be safe to say that this one failed on every level. Mand fell out with Jacinta after agreeing that her hair could do with being a shade lighter, Daphne was upset with Suzy because she had heard about the embrace with Garth the previous week, which also upset Mand. Raphe was annoyed with Ian because he didn’t help to defend him against Daphne when she suggested he needed a spray tan to hide, ‘those ugly freckles’. Catherine got into a rage with Ian when he suggested that she couldn’t hypnotise a snake from a basket, let alone a person seeking help and Margaret sat in a mood all night after Daphne referred to her more than once as Mrs Sausage. Thank goodness I didn’t go.

Catherine summed up the evening to Ken the next day when he was sitting outside the barbers, ‘I think that woman would manage to upset the corpse at a funeral, but she does do a lovely set of falsies.’ Praise indeed.