Sunday, 29 November 2015

The Egg Tuck In Trial

Now that the cold weather is starting to engulf us I am spender longer and longer avoiding television programmes that have placed unknown celebrities in the jungle. Everyone in the street seems to be a fan and whenever I bump into someone they want to discuss the antics of a Lady, who eats unmentionable parts of an animal with a knife and fork whilst wearing pearls. Harry and Gary, not a pair to miss a marketing idea, have taken the opportunity to promote their new range of meats which include ostrich steaks, kangaroo sausages and wildebeest burgers. Taking inspiration from the Lady in the jungle they are offering a free plastic tiara to those buying more than one of the exotic items.
Tom could see no profit in the idea. ‘You’re mad investing in that novelty meat, no one round here will buy it, and you’ve cut down on the frozen roast dinners, not thinking of your regulars.’
Gary shot Tom a look, he had given up explaining that the Spar was not there purely to cater to his needs.
Reg was much more impressed, being a keen meat eater he was willing to try the steaks, sausages and burgers and was delighted to be able to give Margaret the tiara to wear whilst she was cooking, a move I felt may come back to haunt him.
For a vegetarian Suzy seem to take an unhealthy interest in the unusual meat, this may have been encouraged by Garth, who was standing by the freezer explaining that he had been travelling in his younger days and eaten a number of less ordinary foods.
‘I’ve eaten wild dog and alligator, both tough but quite tasty.’
Suzy, who for once had left the baby with Roger was hanging on his every word.
‘I’ve even eaten an ostrich egg, scrambled it was, kept me filled up for the whole day’.
The spell surrounding the two was broken when Tom piped up in response to this boast, ‘That’s rubbish, an ostrich egg is the size of twenty four hens eggs, two dozen, no one could eat all of that.’
Garth looked angry at being disturbed by Tom, but even more annoyed that his honesty had been called into question.
‘Look, old man, if I say I ate an ostrich egg, then I did. Just mind your own business.’
This streak of rudeness was unlike Garth and he reddened as he noticed that Suzy looked uncomfortable at the exchange; quick to diffuse any tension in the shop Gary jumped in with an idea to unite the group.
‘I know, why we don’t have a challenge, the egg tuck in trial. I’ll donate the ingredients and you two can compete, see which one of you can eat the most scrambled egg, we’ll start with twelve eggs each. The winner can chose a pack of meat from the jungle range, and a free tiara.’
Tom, as ever willing to get free food agreed immediately and spurred on by Suzy’s smile Garth also put himself forward. A quick ring round ensured that the event could be held the next day in the Short and Curlies, with Gary leading proceedings.
Word spreads like wild fire in this road and the next lunchtime saw a number of residents gathered for the trial, I went along but only as an excuse to miss the Saturday Christmas shopping crowds.
The pub smelt distinctly eggy as we waited for the two platters to be brought forward by a smiling Shirl. Gary had rang his friend at the local press, ensuring publicity for both the shop and the pub. Suzy had managed to persuade Roger to take her along for the event, although it was clear he was less than impressed and Mand, Daphne and Catherine hung around Garth, making it unclear to an onlooker which of the women partnered him.
At one o’clock, after a short speech by Gary, the pub bell rang and the two men began to eat. Tom, clearly believing that speed was the secret to success, shovelled the egg into his mouth, on the other table Garth took a more measured approach. The eating commenced for five minutes when Tom began to slow down, Garth continued at a steady pace and was announced the winner when his opponent downed his fork and rushed to the toilet. He picked the wildebeest burgers as a prize but also took the plastic tiara which he quickly unwrapped, with a big grin on his face he stepped over to Suzy and placed the plastic adornment on her head.
Roger hissed at her to take it off at once, as Daphne swept out of the pub, followed by a forlorn looking Mand. Garth looked from an angry faced Roger to the door that had banged shut, the atmosphere was almost cake like. As everyone started to look down or shuffle, the door of the pub swung open and in marched a pale looking Reg, ‘I’ve been looking for you’, he shouted at an alarmed Gary.
‘I’ve been here’, he said, ‘doing the egg tuck in trial.’
‘Trial? I’ll give you trial. Do you know what that meat has done to my stomach? And as for my Marg, she’s almost lost a stone in weight, that’s not all, that tiara has taken clumps out of her hair, she’s as bald as a coot’.
Garth used this diversion as an excuse to flee, followed by Roger dragging Suzy by her arm. At this point I was torn, follow them to see what happened or stay in the pub? The pub won, Reg was going to ring the Sun and the local reporter was taking pictures, better than any TV jungle.




Sunday, 22 November 2015

Casually Clod Hopping at the Short & Curlies

Ever since Baz and Shirl moved into the Short and Curlies the function room at the back of the pub has been a space given over to clutter. A selection of mismatched chairs and tables sit alongside the walls, surrounded by old bingo balls from a machine long defunct, shabby curtains, a few reams of bunting and a no longer shiny glitter ball. This year however the room was given a makeover and the inaugural opening event was a fish and chip supper, followed by a ballroom class and dance; although why anyone would want to trip the light fantastic on top of a greasy dinner is beyond me.
Shirl was beside herself with excitement, not only would she get to wear a low cut, slashed to the thigh dress, but she would be Pavers Place very own Tess Daly/Darcy Bussell. Shane the vicar had been roped in to join Shirl to judge the most improved dancer of the evening, the prize being a glamour makeover at the hands of Daphne for the lady and a new haircut by Ken for the man.
Everyone in the street had been persuaded to pay the five pounds and join in the fun for the evening, even I had succumbed to a ticket. Gary and Harry had donated a few gifts for a raffle and many teachers and parents from the school were also going to be in attendance.
On the morning of the dance Reg was boasting to Catherine about his prowess on the dance floor, he and Margaret had won a dance competition at Butlins in 1984 and he felt that they would have lost none of their skill. Roger stopped to join in the conversation, Suzy had persuaded him to go along for the evening, much against his wishes, but he was more concerned if he won. He already had hair that could best be described as wayward, Ken’s hands on it could lead to all sorts of problems, and after all, he had a responsible job to hold down. Reg reassured him that there was little chance of that happening.
The makeover of the function room had been impressive, the walls were newly whitewashed and bright pictures adorned them, picking out the colours of the curtains at the windows. My own description would extend to the word gaudy, but it was definitely an improvement. Shirl and Baz had decided to keep the mismatched furniture telling everyone on arrival that ‘shabby chic’ was very 'in'. Reg failed in his attempt at whispering, ‘Shabby’s about right’ to Margaret, who rewarded his tactlessness with a jab in the ribs.
Once the fish and chips had been consumed Shirl took to the microphone to announce the start of the evening’s entertainment. There would be a dance lesson led by a local teacher, Elaine Preeps, after this there would be an intermission during which time there would be an exhibition dance by two local champions. At this point I could see Reg go very red and become suddenly animated, he grinned at Margaret who looked terrified; as Shirl said nothing further they got up with everyone else to take the dance lesson. After a swift waltz and a few basic cha cha steps the dancers spent some time practicing, before the dance off later in the evening.
Everyone sat down and Shirl picked up the microphone, as she did so Reg started to stand, straightening his tie and adjusting his jacket. Margaret was desperately pulling at his arm, trying to get him to sit down, then Shirl made the announcement.
‘We are delighted this evening to welcome to the dance floor, our very own championship dancers that also live in Pavers Place; performing the samba, followed by the jive, please welcome Ian and Raphe.’
Gliding across the floor they effortlessly performed the two dances. I say this, however I did spend a considerable amount of time watching Reg, whose mouth seemed to be moving but no words were coming out. He was redder than I have ever seen him and although Margaret was still tugging at his arm he actually slumped into the chair.
At the end of the dance the applause was rapturous and I wasn’t the only person who stood to show my appreciation. Reg had recovered his composure and did join in with the clapping. As the noise died down I could see Daphne lean over to Garth and give him her view on proceedings.

‘It’s a shame that Raphe is too good to win the prize, I could certainly do something with that skin.’ I can only hope that she keeps that particular gem to herself.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

We are thinking of them

As with many other people these days the residents in Pavers Place have been playing out their issues with each other, in full view of the rest of the public, on Facebook. I confess to being confused by this particular social medium, it can bring such joy; announcements made by those you love, uplifting photos and often funny images, and then suddenly a few people get annoyed with each other and there it is for all to see.
This particular spat in the street revolved around Armistice day. There was a ceremony in the town on Remembrance Sunday which most people attended, standing in reverent silence, deep in thought. On Wednesday, the eleventh of November, Gary and Harry had decided that at eleven o’clock the tills would stop ringing, people would no longer be served and the shop would stand in contemplative silence with the rest of the country. There had been some discussion between the brothers about the phrase remembrance, Harry having some difficulty with the fact that he couldn’t remember something he didn’t witness, but Shane the vicar, who had been privy to this conversation, came to the rescue, suggesting that Harry should just focus on thinking about all those who had given their lives.
At eleven o’clock, although the Spar had no customers, Harry and Gary did fall quiet, somewhat strangely the people walking in the street also stopped and stood in silence. Ken emerged from the barbers and stood with his head bowed next to Reg, Margaret and Catherine who did the same, and Jacinta came out of her house to join them. I watched from the street, it was a strange spectacle and I had to pull my eyes away in order to focus on thinking about those who had died.
It would appear that Mand had not received the message about the silence, about thirty seconds into the two minutes she emerged from her house and saw her friends stood like statues.
‘You lot alright? What you like doing?’
Jacinta gave her a harsh look and made a zipping motion across her mouth, this had the effect of making Mand more vocal.
‘Alright Jacinta, don’t be narky, why ain’t you talking, has something happened, is it my Garthy?’
Jacinta’s eyes rolled heavenward and she looked towards the others for support, Reg jabbed at the poppy that was attached to his jacket and then pointed to the one that was pinned to Mand’s coat. This seemed to confuse her further and she looked down at the paper flower.
‘Has someone declared another war?’ Her voice had become small and she took on the expression of a frightened child.
The two minutes came to an end and in unison the group berated Mand for forgetting to be quiet and show her respect. She was clearly upset, ‘I’m sorry alright, I just forgot, it don’t mean I don’t respect them like’, and with that she stormed off.
The whole discussion should have ended there but Reg took to Facebook to proudly proclaim that he and Marg had observed the two minutes silence in the street, unlike some people. Catherine and Jacinta added a thumbs up to this comment and then made further snipes of their own. The messages continued to build up for some time, with words from people who neither lived in the road nor knew Mand. In the end the nasty comments were brought to an abrupt end by Ken, who announced that the people of the two world wars did not die so that people could berate each other on a computer, and that we should be trying to live in peace in their name. He posted this with an image of a white poppy, which received many thumbs up signs.
On Friday night the evening news burst into life with terrible images of atrocities committed in Paris, against people simply enjoying a night out. Mand, who had not been seen since Wednesday, posted a message on Facebook, ‘Those poor people in Paris, I’d like to think of them’. One by one the residents gathered in the streets, they stood together in a small group, Reg holding Mand’s hand as they bowed their heads. Ken initiated two minutes silence with the words, ‘We are thinking of them’, and the positive power that can be Facebook finally took its hold.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Fireworks Fortnight

Oh the joy of being an animal owner on Guy Fawkes Night, or firework fortnight as it seems to be known in this area. I’m not even sure that many people have bonfires, they seem to just spend hundreds of pounds on fireworks and let them off willy nilly between now and Christmas. When I was growing up it was all about the fire work code, everything being kept in a tin with a tight lid, never returning to a lit firework and other sensible statements. I have my own code but I must admit it is not exactly firework friendly!
In Pavers Place Baz is annoyed that he couldn't put on a firework display, Mrs Parks at Pavers Primary got there first. Shirl was not annoyed, she was absolutely fuming.
‘Typical, the one chance we had to make a bit of money and she gets there first, and don’t think that nonsense about being ambassador for the school will wash either, I am not donating anything.’
Baz looked extremely sheepish, he had already agreed to supply the soft drinks and had said that he would help set up the whole event, which meant that Shirl would also have to cover the early shift at the pub, something that he would normally do.
Elsewhere in the street the history behind the reason for the event was completely lost on some of the residents, Mand had a vague link in her mind between the Houses of Parliament and Guy Fawkes, but her interpretation involved him putting on the first fireworks display in history.
Jacinta’s youngest daughter Sharonjeet was also confused, ‘Mum, what’s forks got to do with fireworks?’
Jacinta looked at Prithpal, who was equally bemused by the question, but rather than delve further they replied in the most simple way they could, ‘Nothing.’
‘Well why didn’t they call him Guy Forks Fireworks, especially if he invented both?’
The mystery behind the question solved, Jacinta decided to have a word with Mrs Parks, ‘I mean fancy holding a fireworks display but not telling the children the history behind it. Whatever next?’
When Shirl found out that Baz had donated both drinks and his time to the school she was even angrier than previously, privately vowing to make her husband sorry for what she considered to be his weakness.
‘That woman says jump and you say how high, and just so you can say you’re an ambassador. Goodness only knows what you would do if anybody gave you a role of real importance.’
Later that day Shirl bumped into Catherine who loved Guy Fawkes Night and always got involved in whatever local event was being organised, this year she had been charged with making the Guy.
‘I’ve got an old suit that I will sew together and stuff, and I’ll pad out the legs of some tights for his head. I can’t wait, and I’m donating some Catherine Wheels, when you have something named after you it’s important to celebrate’.
The conversation with Catherine gave Shirl food for thought and later that day she was back at her friend’s door with a contribution of her own.
The evening of the event was a bit chaotic in the pub, Shirl had managed to get one of her regular staff to cover the early shift but Baz was running late so was rushing around. ‘Have you seen my hat love, I’m sure I left it on the stand but I can’t find it.’ Shirl chose not to answer her husband and he assumed she was still in a mood with him.
The display was well attended, Margaret and Reg were in charge of food and Baz was on the drinks stall. Catherine, Mand and Shell were dressed in warm clothing ready to enjoy the spectacle. Before the fire was lit the Guy was paraded around for all to see, two children from the school pushing it in an old pram before it was tied to the post for the burning. Baz had a queue so only glanced up as it passed by, but there was definitely something familiar about it, Shirl was pleased to see him do a double take.
Finally the Guy was tied to the post and the Chair of Governors proudly lit the base of the fire, it had been built for maximum effect and flames quickly leapt into the sky, causing the spectators to let out a whoop of surprise. Baz looked up at the vigorous burning fire and then let out a cry, ‘He’s got my hat on, stop the fire, the Guy, he’s got my bloody hat on.’
Shirl had a huge grin on her face, ‘Language darling, and anyway, I thought you’d be pleased, I know how you love to donate.’