Thursday, March 06, 2014

A Little Less Conversation

Maude keeps an eye on the local property market in the hope that her dream-house exists in Rowlands Gill and has just been hiding behind some large trees.

‘Look at this one. It even has a name. Look it’s on the gatepost on an old sign. Can’t read the first word, but the second word is ‘lodge’.'
‘We could just stay here and give this house a name if you want…’

‘No we couldn't. It’s semi-detached. A house has to be detached to merit a name of its own. There are semi-detached people around here who have indulged: one of them is claiming that their house is a ‘cottage’ and that couple with the Qashqai  have come up with a combination of their first names that reads like a character from ‘The Hobbit’. ‘

I was at a loss as to which couple Maude meant, as every other household in the neighbourhood has a Qashqai.

‘It does have a great outbuilding,’ I observed.

‘You see, you’d love that. You could spend lots of time in there. Writing, or whatever it is you do….You like small spaces. ‘

I couldn’t disagree with this. I do like a room in which I can see everything I own and, ideally, reach it all from the bed.

‘You were never happier than when you lived in that bedsit next door to Archie.....until I moved in….’

‘You were just the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle darling.’

That flat wasn’t ideal, though. The upstairs neighbour was a big Elvis fan and liked to share this love when he wasn’t ‘KP-ing’. I had to ask what ‘KP-ing’ was:

‘It’s Kitchen Portering.’ He said this as though I was an imbecile.

My neighbour was short, balding and middle-aged. His name was Ian, but he was such an admirer of The King that he preferred to be addressed as ‘Elvis’.

I preferred to call him Ian.

In his efforts to unwind after a hard ‘KP-ing’ shift Ian was in the habit of playing the live version of ‘American Trilogy’ or ‘In the Ghetto’, or anything else he could get his hands on from the King’s portly Vegas years. I suspect that he identified best with the Elvis of that era. I also suspected that he dressed the part and I could hear some of his moves on the floor above as he sang along.

Maude and I liked to play music too. We’d laugh and talk and play selections from our newly merged cd collection into the small hours. Ian would knock on his floor/our ceiling on occasion - sometimes when we were just talking. With the thoughtlessness of young love we would forget that Ian’s shifts began before breakfast, when porters were most obviously needed in kitchens. I reminded Maude that ‘Elvis’ was alive and well in 1993 and lived upstairs from us.

‘Oh, that nutter. Didn’t he burst in with a knife one night when he thought we were making too much noise?’

‘Technically yes, but it was only a butter knife. The worst he could have inflicted would have been a nasty spread.’

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Where are you?

‘I’m outside Asda’

‘Brilliant, get me some of that fish in the chilpottle sauce – I haven’t seen it anywhere else and I enjoy wafting the smell around the staff room’

‘Well I would, but they’re telling me that my custom is no longer welcome at this branch.’

‘What did you do?’

Maude’s tone had changed.

‘Well, I got a bit stressed when I was taking a short cut through the ‘fizzy drinks’ aisle. Some rather large people got in my way.’


‘I just said something quite loudly to get their attention, so that they might move.’

‘That sounds fair enough. Just be a hero and sneak back in for my special fish will you?’

‘OK. I’ll change. I’ve got a hoodie in the boot.’

Maude was giggling and seemed quite impressed by my willingness to dodge the security men on a mission to get her favourite tinned fish.

‘My hero! Have to go now Darling, I’m giving a spoken grammar presentation to the support staff…. and not before time. By the way, what did you say to get the attention of the large people?’

‘I might have said something along the lines of ‘Exterminate all the Brutes!’’

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Don't Call Us...

‘Never mind. You were too good for them.’

‘Thanks DarIing. It was the closest I’ve ever been, though, to being ‘headhunted’.’

‘Or maybe you were too tall for them. Remember when we sold the house in Ryton? I did all the viewings because you made the place feel small. No offence, you just did. Were you moving your arms around a lot and gesticulating?’

‘I was quite expressive, yes.’

‘That’s it then. Small room, three normal-sized people and you - flapping about. They probably felt like they were trapped indoors with some kind of large flightless bird.’

‘Well that certainly sheds light on why I might not have got the job. Thanks for your input.’

‘So, what now?’

‘Plan B.’

‘I wasn’t aware there was really a Plan A, as such. But what, then, is plan B?’

‘Writing a bit more.’

‘Not the blog, I hope. That’s pretty pointless.’

‘No, not the blog. A screenplay actually. It’s inspired by that new Steve McQueen film.’

‘Oh, I thought he was dead. Have they recreated him as one of those hologram things – like they do with Elvis?’

‘Not that Steve McQueen. Anyway, it’s a moving narrative and I think it's got potential.’

‘Well go on then, pitch it to me.'

‘OK. It's the about a free man sold into childcare and it's called 'Two Years a Mammy'.’

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

What's in a name?

One of the best things about having a successful namesake is that interesting and successful people with unusual names approach me, in error, on LinkedIn. I get a vicarious sense of the life of my successful namesake and a clear idea of the respect he appears to command in the mining business. The most recent visitor from that intriguing other world was a young American man with the splendid first name of ‘Chase’. 

Chase is an ‘Underground Geologist’ and in his profile picture he gilds the lily a little by being photographed quite literally underground. I then realised that this is the norm in Chase’s field. Most of the people who have endorsed his skills - from ‘logging’ and ’mining’ through to the more prosaic ‘Microsoft Office’ – are posed in bracing outdoor situations in very robust workwear. Most of the people who endorse my rugged skills – from ‘event management’ to ‘newsletters’ – are looking into the distance and trying to look ‘arty’. 

I am toying with the idea of approaching my successful namesake and offering to fill in for him if needs be. I am thoroughly available if, for instance, a luxury hotel and business class travel were booked in his/our name and he couldn’t make it on account of an urgent outdoor/underground meeting with Chase or another expert in the field. It would be a terrible shame to disappoint all of those service staff waiting to attend to the every need of someone bearing his/my name. 

I could, alternatively, relieve the stress of such a high-achiever by simply swapping lives with him for a fortnight. I’m sure I could deliver a prepared presentation or two to mining symposia – as long as the podium was quite a distance from the delegates. There may still be some consternation:

‘My, how he’s changed. Quite grey now and, is it me, or is he a foot taller?’

I think, though, what I would most delight in would be the chance to catch up with Chase in person and to see him in action. He looks so dynamic but, at the same time, quite garrulous. I’m sure I could learn a lot by just hanging out with him - probably underground. I suspect my fitness levels would also be enhanced.

As for my namesake – I’m sure he’d rise to the challenge of Project Managing 3 school runs a day (the youngest is only in for half days this year) and chatting on with the other mothers about school trips and whether it’s really worth hanging the washing out at all at this time of year. My youngest could fully brief him on arrival. She hit the nail on the head just the other day as she assumed the position for me to wipe her bottom after she’d clearly monopolised the fruit bowl at nursery:

‘You get all the best jobs don’t you Dad?!’ 

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

‘Qu'est-ce qu'il y a?’

‘They’ve actually spelled it with a ‘w’ on the end in the classified ad:
‘Lovely mirrow for sale…..’’

Maude almost laughed, but she was still cross. She stood over the bed and pIumped the pillows menacingly.  I persevered and trawled through a recent copy of the Newcastle Evening Chronicle for titbits to amuse her and distract her from the origin of her displeasure.

(I get the Chronicle on a Thursday more out of habit than anything else. It’s the jobs day in the paper, but gone are the days when it would boast ‘800 JOBS!’ on the front cover. It’s now much less precise and flags up ‘Pages of Jobs!’. I await the week when it trumpets ‘JOB!’.)

‘Look at this in The Family Notices. ‘Our Little Treasure, Jade, is 21’, but look at the picture they’ve put in….’

‘Stop trying to change the subject.’

‘…. she’s clearly drunk and look at that dress she’s nearly wearing….’

‘I can’t believe you made me watch that film on Christmas Eve – into the first precious minutes of Christmas day. The most depressing film I think I have ever seen - ever. What was it called again? I need to know, so that I can encourage all right-thinking people to avoid it. ’

‘It was called ‘Amour’. You have to admit that it was intense.’

‘That’s one way to describe it.’

Perhaps Michael Haneke’s tale of an elderly French couple struggling with and failing to manage life with dementia wasn’t the best choice of film for the festive season. I kept a close eye on my wife as she started to plump an already plumped pillow beside me.

‘It’s great to have Netflix on the new TV though isn’t it?’

‘Yes, I can be thoroughly depressed by a big screen, rather than the i-pad.’

‘Apparently, some people in the North East say ‘mirrow’ rather than mirror because they are trying to sound posh:
‘I say ‘winda’, I should say ‘window’. I say ‘shadda’, I should say shadow etc…’

Maude replaced the pillow and turned out my reading light.

‘I knew that already. It’s no longer hilarious.’