Wednesday, May 28, 2014

'Cotton and Guns'

‘So, you had guns in class?’

‘Not real guns. Just small air pistols. They were called Gat guns and we only had them at the back of the class. I scarred my hand cocking one against a desk, just here, look.....’

Maude was unimpressed with the tiny purple scar between by thumb and forefinger.

‘And you shot each other?’

‘A little bit, yes.’

‘How do you shoot someone ‘a little bit’?’

‘They didn’t shoot bullets or darts – just pellets.’

Maude was having trouble understanding an educational context in which teenage boys could fire air pistols at each other. She hadn’t been to a Mancunian comprehensive in the late seventies – especially one that came about through a merger of a rough boys’ school and a girls’ convent school. Our year was the first intake and we were taught by a mixture of bewildered nuns and short-fused ‘demob’ teachers in ‘demob suits’. The rage and frustration was palpable and the kids were pretty volatile too.

A lot of boys had air guns and some brought them into school in their sports kit bags. There was nothing high calibre – mainly Gat guns. We sometimes shot each other at the back of the class before the teacher arrived. We knew that the angry demob guys had fought in a war somewhere before they’d done a brief correspondence course to ‘teach’ inner city kids. I did hope that one of them would catch a boy toting a Gat gun and pull out a much more impressive military revolver to up the ante – a bit like ‘if....’ in reverse. Sadly that never happened.

‘And you’re thinking of investing in one of these ‘Gat guns’ to deter Celia’s cats from soiling our flowerbeds?’

‘Well I was, if they still make them. But as you say this plan back to me now, I’m not so sure.’

Maude seemed deep in thought and then thought aloud.

‘Do they come with a holster?’

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

à la prochaine

‘I’m thinking of getting a cell phone around this time next year. When I, you know, hit the big half century...’

Pierre has managed to avoid portable devices and seems quite happy to stay off radar as much as possible. Heidi insists he at least takes her mobile when he goes cross country skiing.

‘Well if I broke a leg, I would die of hypothermia, really quickly – so I can sort of see the sense in that one.’

We have an annual date with Pierre and Heidi – usually going to the same restaurant that we used to frequent before they decamped to Montreal. The waiter made quite a convincing display of remembering Pierre and Heidi when they arrived and Maude broke the ice:

‘You’ve changed your glasses Pierre! You don’t look so much like a lesbian now.’

‘I know, I got these on the internet. My prescription, postage, everything. Twenty quid.’

‘They’re too small for his head,’ Heidi observed.

‘I’m sure we did this last year,’ Maude said as we all tried on Pierre’s new glasses.

‘My optician friend Lenny reckons I’ll need glasses around this time next year’, I mentioned. I was trying to get in on the specs thing.

Heidi was squinting at the menu and grumbling. She’d forgotten her reading glasses and seemed surprised that the waitress couldn’t furnish her with a pair.

‘We were at a place in Canada and I forgot my glasses and they produced a whole box of forgotten reading glasses. I just chose a pair with my prescription.’

Maude then showed off her new glasses and I regretted not having my clear glass fake specs with me.

‘But why do you actually have fake glasses?’ asked Pierre.

‘Well,’ I said,’since you ask, they serve three important purposes:

  • They create a serious facade for the job interviews I'm not getting at the moment
  • They add the necessary gravitas when I need to really chastise the children
  • They signal that I am in PA mode and I am about to ask Maude to sign a cheque’