A Burglary

June 25th 2006

The Harris’s across the road were burgled last night. It isn’t the first burglary we’ve had on our street; in fact The Trouble and I were almost burgled ourselves a few months ago, and would have been if it hadn’t been for my prompt action. It went like this as I remember it.

“Terry!” The Trouble shook me. “Terry, are you awake?”

“I am now,” I complained. I looked at the bedside clock. 1.35 am. Why had my wife woken me at this time in the morning? For sex? A possibility because when I dropped off around eleven thirty or so she’d been engrossed in a Jilly Cooper bodice-ripper lent to her by a lady friend with the promise that it was ‘fruity beyond words'( I wonder if Jilly Cooper has ever had her bodice ripped?  If she has it was by a less choosy man than me, that’s for sure).

“Listen,” said The Trouble, cocking an ear.

I listened for a moment, wondering if listening was some new kind of foreplay I hadn’t yet heard about.

“Can’t you hear anything?” she asked.

I strained my ears but heard not a peep. “No.”

“Well I certainly can.”

This didn’t surprise me. Women have a better sense of hearing than men, especially The Trouble, who has ears a bat would be proud of. A case in point is one day when she was in the kitchen and I was in the back garden repairing the fence and I accidentally hit my thumb with the hammer. Quite naturally I said ‘Fuck!’, but through gritted teeth, and at certainly no higher a volume than the level of normal conversation. But The Trouble heard me. The back door opened. “Language,” she scolded. “They have young children next door, remember.” Yet the same night, when we were watching television and seated not a couple of yards apart, when I asked her to make us both a cup of tea she couldn’t hear me. Not even after the fourth time of asking when I got up and bellowed it in her ear.

Now, however, her ears were functioning at bat-standard plus. “Someone’s trying to get into the garden shed,” she said.

Not sex then, I thought. Unless she wants whoever is trying to get into the garden shed to join us for a three-in-a-bed session. Or a three-in-a-shed session.

I still couldn’t hear anything so I got out of bed to investigate. I drew the curtains back slightly and peered out. She was right. It was a moonlit night and I could clearly see a couple of figures outlined by the shed, and obviously up to no good. What to do? Well I wasn’t going to approach them, that much was for sure. The way things are nowadays if I were to confront them and then fail to invite them in for a drink then offer to run them home with their loot I’d probably be infringing their civil rights and end up doing six months in Strangeways.

“Ring for the police,” said The Trouble, making up my mind for me.

I rang the emergency services. The call, surprisingly, was answered immediately. They must have someone new on the job, still eager to impress.

“Emergency, which service do you require. Police Fire or Ambulance?”

“Fire,” I said. Well there seemed to be little point in asking for the Police. A couple of weeks ago Gerald Davis a few doors up the road found himself in a similar position when he woke up in the night and realised that someone was downstairs burgling his house. He phoned the police at 2.30. They arrived at 2.50. Unfortunately it was 2.50 the following afternoon. Bemoaning the loss of his TV, DVD, video and several more attractive and easily transportable articles, Gerald asked them why they had taken so long to respond to his call. The reply given, and according to Gerald without so much as the bat of an eyelid, was that it was considered to be of low priority.

If someone burgling your house is considered to be of low priority I wonder what the Police consider to be of a high priority, demolishing your front door with a chainsaw, then emptying your house of everything not nailed down whilst shouting ‘And when I’ve finished I’m going to come upstairs and shag your fourteen-year-old daughter so tell her to get her knickers off”?

The fire engine arrived exactly six minutes later. The sound of a fire engine siren is much the same as a police siren, especially to somebody in the middle of a robbery, and when the two miscreants in my garden heard it they scarpered, thankfully before managing to break into the shed. There was a knock on my front door.

“Where’s the fire?” said the fireman on the doorstep.

“What fire?” I yawned, feigning sleepiness.

“We had a call your house was on fire.”

“No fire here, must be a hoax call.”  

“Bastard!” said the fireman.

“Isn’t it,” I agreed. And it is indeed a bastard if you have to resort to calling out the fire brigade to get rid of burglars because you know full well it would be quite pointless to call the police. But what are you going to do?

Men’s Complaints

June 24th 2006

 

When God gave women pre-menstrual tension and other ‘women’s complaints’ he certainly redressed the balance by giving men the prostate gland. I can just see Him now, up in heaven, working it out. “Let’s see now, menstruation, PMT, sore nipples, hysterectomies, cellulite, labour pains, post-natal depression, over-sized breasts, under-sized breasts, I shall need something very nasty indeed with which to lumber man to make up for that little lot…….I know, I’ll give him a prostate gland!”
 

I suffer with God’s gift of the prostate gland as much as anyone. Women may scoff at the very idea but I’d gladly swap my prostate problem for a monthly period and a bout of pre-menstrual tension any time, and you could throw in sore nipples, a session of post-natal depression and a couple of yards of cellulite too. Ten times I had to get out of bed to go to the bathroom last night. And that’s nothing out of the ordinary, that’s the norm. An average night’s peeing.
 

I wouldn’t mind so much if I had a proper pee when I got there but I only pee about an egg cupful. Then fifty minutes or so later I’m back again, peeing another egg cupful. And on and on throughout the night, releasing my urine bit by bit, like a measure of whisky being released through an optic into a glass, and about the same volume, with not even a double now and then to give me a little more shuteye before the next time I have to get up to eke out another egg cupful.
 

And of course when I get out of bed to go to the lavatory I’m not allowed to put on the bedroom light in case I should disturb The Trouble from her slumbers, so for my pains I often get a stubbed toe as I try to negotiate my way in the dark, which of course adds to my pains.
 

A bottle of wine is my saviour. If I have the benefit of a bottle of wine inside me before I go to bed it has the effect of drugging me until about three-o-clock in the morning, so I don’t start peeing until then. But that only applies on the rare occasions I happen to be sleeping alone. For most of the time I sleep with The Trouble and apparently, or so she claims, whenever I have a bottle of wine before going to bed I snore, and when I do snore The Trouble pummels me into wakefulness in order to stop me, and once I’m awake I have to go for a pee. Even so I get a lot more sleep as evidently it takes a lot of pummelling to wake me up after I’ve had a bottle of wine. Not enough though.
 

One might think that the answer to the problem would be for me to sleep in another bedroom, which would allow The Trouble her full quota of beauty sleep, whereas I, drugged by a bottle of wine, would not have to start my nocturnal treks to the bathroom until about three in the morning. Not so. We tried this, me sleeping in the spare bedroom, but apparently my snoring is of such a loud volume it can be heard even from there, and The Trouble not only had to pummel me to stop me snoring but had to get out of bed and make her way to the spare bedroom in order to do the pummelling.
 

A long time ago we reached a compromise. I have a bottle of wine every other night. This means that every other night one of us gets a reasonable night’s sleep. On such compromises are happy marriages made.
 

Hot Food, Cold Food

June 23rd  2006

It took me longer at the garden centre than I had bargained for, it had got way past my lunchtime, and driving home from Chesterfield to New Mills I began to feel decidedly peckish. This countryside route is not short of hostelries offering pub grub, a Chef & Brewer, a Beefeater and a Happy Eater amongst them, but these places invariably promise more than they deliver, as I’ve found to my cost in the past. Apart from that it always seems to take for ever for your food to arrive and I wanted a quick fix (a tip – avoid like the plague any pub that advertises ‘fayre’. If they can’t spell the word ‘fare’ there’s a very good chance they can’t cook either).

Getting hungrier by the minute I was almost tempted to turn round and try a Happy Eater I’d just passed, even though I suspected that if it had been called an Unhappy Eater instead my expectations of it would be much more likely to be fulfilled, when I saw a sign at the side of the road, ‘100 yards ahead, Hot Food, Cold Food’. I slowed down. It was a mobile snack bar parked up at a lay-by, the sort of thing that lorries pull up at, although none had pulled up there at the moment. Just the ticket, I thought, and pulled in.

The proprietor was at the hatch, and not scratching his belly or picking his nose or anything, always a good sign. There was no menu so I asked him what he had to offer.

“Bacon barmcake, egg barmcake, sausage barmcake, bacon, egg and sausage barmcake.”

“I was looking for something cold,” I ventured.

“Sorry, I haven’t got anything cold.”

“Your sign says ‘Hot Food, Cold Food'” I pointed out.

“Yeh, ham barmcake, cheese barmcake, cheese and ham barmcake, but I’ve run out. The bacon, egg and sausage barmcake is very nice,” he added, temptingly.  

“I don’t doubt it is,” I said, “But it isn’t cold, is it.”

“You can wait for it to go cold,” he suggested.

What enterprise! What ingenuity! I certainly wouldn’t have got such a response if a branch of Chef & Brewer had run out of cold food. “Sorry sir, there’s nothing I can do about it” would have been the very best I could have expected, but more probably I’d have got a silent and disinterested shrug of the shoulders. Not from this man though. His entrepreneurial skills had kicked in immediately the problem had presented itself, and he had overcome it with ease. Britain could do with more men like this, I said to myself, they were people to be encouraged. I encouraged him. “A bacon, egg and sausage barmcake, please.”

Not a second over two minutes later he slid a fried egg onto the bacon and sausage he had already placed on the bottom half of the barmcake, then joined the two halves together. Two minutes, mind. It would have taken at least half-an-hour at a Happy Eater.
“Don’t blow on it,” I admonished him.

“I was helping it to go cold,” he explained, a little hurt.

Helping it to go cold! Surely we have another
Richard Branson or Alan Sugar in the making here!
“That’s all right, I’ll have it hot,” I said.

It was quite delicious too.

Flogiteers

Along with Atkins Down The Road I now help out at one of the local charity shops every Thursday morning and have been doing so for the last three weeks. It was Atkins who saw the note in their window asking for volunteer counter staff and recognised it as the golden opportunity it represented, for we now get first pick of all the clothes that are donated rather than have to take our chances with the rest of the shop’s clientele. Not only is this useful for kitting ourselves out in fine style but it will be an absolute boon when it comes to  dressing our inflatable rubber women, once we get our artificial car passenger scheme up and running. So, it must be admitted, our reasons for helping out at the charity shop are not entirely charitable. 

When we volunteered our services to the manageress, Mrs Peasegood, she wanted us to work on separate days. However we explained to her that we come as a team. “Like Ant and Dec then,” she said. If Atkins hadn’t been anxious for us to get the jobs I swear he would have hit her as his opinion of Ant and Dec is lower than mine, if that’s possible, but he just managed to restrain himself. Anyway the upshot was that Mrs Peasegood moved one of the Thursday ladies to Tuesday to accommodate our wishes.

It was Atkins who first identified what Mrs Peasegood subsequently told us were known to the charity shop staff as ‘Flogiteers’. These are apparently people who nowadays frequent charity shops in ever increasing numbers and who are devotees of the TV antiques programme ‘Flog It!’ And what they are seeking is a bargain. “They very rarely buy anything,” explained Mrs Peasegood, “They just go through all the bric-a-brac like a dose of salts and leave it in a right mess, they’re a dashed nuisance.”

A dashed nuisance was not the expression used by Atkins about the Flogiteer who had him get all the items of pottery out of both front windows so he could give them a closer inspection. The windows are about six feet deep and to remove any pottery at the front involves getting in the window on your hands and knees and negotiating your way through an assault course of silver teapots and cut glass decanters and suchlike to get at the said pottery, then making your way back with it item by item until the window is cleared of pottery. You can take it that by the end of his exertions Atkins was not best pleased.

The Flogiteer’s idea of a closer inspection was simply to turn the piece upside down and look for a manufacturer’s name. I know a bit about pottery, being an occasional viewer of Flog It myself, and the names he would have been looking for are Clarice Cliffe, Moorcroft, Troika, Coalport, and others currently in vogue.

The very same Flogiteer called in the following Thursday morning too, last Thursday in fact. This time it fell upon me to get all the pottery out of both windows for his perusal. I was about as pleased as Atkins had been. Again the Flogiteer went through his routine and bought nothing, leaving me to put all the pieces of pottery back in the windows. Mrs Peasegood said he comes in most Thursday mornings, has been doing so for over a year, and has yet to buy a single thing.

Something will have to be done about it if he continues with this behaviour.

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