Friday, 26 February 2010

Sorry Mum. If Only I'd Known

Poor Mrs G. No time to dress
Sensible folk that we are, Mrs G and I have three kids. Three is a good number: sufficient to continue the human race, so we've done our bit; but not so many that we have to drive a ghastly people mover1, or sell body parts to buy food in embarrassing bulk quantities.

Yet we have a reasonable chance of engendering a pop star, prime minister, or oil magnate, who will keep us comfortable in our dotage. No. 1 son is now studying advanced mating habits, sleep deprivation and liver abuse at university (or 'yoony'), while the other two are working towards it. Job done.

My parents weren't so smart. I am one of seven. My childhood memories are mostly of being slapped around and told what to do by older siblings, and passing the favour on down the chain. We had to book the bathroom days ahead. My Mum couldn't remember our names, and still can't. Leaving home to go to university felt like moving on to somewhere quieter and less crowded. They didn't realise I'd left until I 'phoned home for a chat, and money.

Well, little bro' BalancedPaul is currently convalescing at home, and, kind souls that we are, we offered to host his four for a long (long!) weekend. But in a perfect storm, No. 1 son decided to grace us with his presence, since all his clothes needed washing, and MiniGrump came home from her cosmically expensive school trip to Thailand, all jetlag and jungle tales.

So we now have the 'seven kids for the weekend' badge. Blimey. I apologise for not blogging or visiting much recently, but at least now you know why.

Luckily BP's kids are a bunch of fun, with good manners and generally excellent hygiene, considering their age. The two youngest, Emma and Olivia, are twins, and sometimes leave pithy comments here. The last was 'mighty beautiful livvy the livvya livster said... bet i can do a better pose then her right every one oh please say yes and i bet you will'.

Can't argue with that.

But it's still been a stressful couple of days. I have sawed through a lock, unblocked a (very) blocked toilet, fixed two computers, driven about a thousand miles, averted several punch-ups2, switched off every light in the house at least four times, hunted endlessly for tiny electronic toys, and washedupandwashedupandwashedup, while Mrs G cookedandcookedandcookedandcooked.

Back to two teen twiglets now. Are we relieved? No. Missing 'em.

But here's what brings me up short. We've managed this for a weekend and we feel like heroes. My folks did this day in, day out, for umpteen years, without killing, maiming or losing any of us, even once. Next time I see my Mum I shall bring her flowers and a decent box of chocolates. With a big card, with my name in it, to save her the trouble of remembering it.

1 - Although we do anyway
2 - Between Mrs G and me

Monday, 22 February 2010

They're Out There

Bloody aliens. Always abducting me
The Ministry Of Defence, in its wisdom, has released details of UFO sightings from all over the UK up to 2000. We are awash in aliens, apparently, and I'm not talking about plumbers from Poland. Little green men are flying around the countryside, examining us, taking detailed pictures of our homes and streets, recording everything about us, our habits and tastes, every last byte stored forever. No, wait a minute, that's Google.

Anyway what's all the fuss about? I've been abducted heaps of times, and sometimes it's actually quite pleasant. The last occasion was about two weeks ago. I was walking briskly home from the pub at 9:30, after my modest white wine spritzer and small pack of twiglets, when a sleek, mysterious craft appeared from the western horizon, moving at incredible speed, but in utter silence, and stopped exactly above me, about 10 metres overhead, as though it knew me, and had sought me out.

I stared up. "Not again," I thought, resigned, but strangely unfrightened.

A beam of light suddenly issued from the base of the craft and enveloped me. Intensely white, humming, pulsating, warm on my skin, I felt myself lifted off my feet and drawn towards the source of the light. I was unable to move; my muscles were paralysed but completely relaxed. Slowly, inexorably, I rose into the belly of the craft.

It all gets a bit hazy from there. I remember some small silvery-skinned beings, laying me on a bed of steel and injecting my arm with a glutinous green fluid; but still I felt calm and unruffled. Somehow I knew they meant me no harm. Time passed without me sensing its passage; I later discovered four hours had elapsed until the moment I was deposited in the same spot. I was unharmed, but the fluids they had injected into me had left me unsteady on my legs. I managed to stagger home. When I told Mrs G the story, my voice was strangely slurred, my face was flushed, my eyes were bloodshot, almost as though I had drunk quite a lot of beer.

Which obviously I hadn't.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Welcome To Frqnce

It's breezy crossing the chqnnel
After lqst weekend's hard slog to Wqles, Mrs G qnd I are enjoying a Frogtastic long weekend in La Belle France. Mrs G's Mum and Dqd live in Normandy and they love to see their dqughter. As for the son-in-law, I can come provided I mow the lawn, fix the computers and keep my mouth shut. So here we qre.

Ah, The Channel Tunnel. The most extraordinary feat of engineering. We cqn breeze up to London, grab a quick tube train1, then sit back on the Eurostar to the very heart of Paris, relaxing with a glass of champqgne as the countryside rushes silently by.

We can, but we don't, because the ferry is cheaper. Also, we feel thqt unless you've come close to being sick in a bag, you haven't really travelled. So we go overnight from Portsmouth to Caen on the Nausea Express, lying in a cabin and groaning. It's exciting stuff.

We're travelling only with MicroGrump, as MiniGrump is in Thailand 'learning' and No. 1 son is at yoony, also 'learning'. Needless to say, qll this 'learning' is why we're travelling on the cheap. Micro once distinguished himself by vomiting on a cross-channel ferry before we actually left harbour. He's older and wiser now, and avoids illness by falling asleep early, and frequently equalizing bodily pressure, by farting from the top bunk.

But it's worth it. I love France. I love the people, with their high-spirited driving, and their ubiquitous yappy dogs('Je monte la garde'), which between them make for very lively jogging.

I love the booze and cheese (how do French people live so long?) I love the boulangerie, where you can buy (cheap!) bread so fresh the crust rips a hole cleqn through the roof of your mouth. And I love the pharmacy where you cqn buy any number of (expensive!) mouth ointments.

But one thing I don't love is French keyboards. You try using a PC where the A and Q are swapped. It's tqken me qbout four hours to type this. I might hqve missed q couple. Sorry.

1 - Seasoned London travellers might spot a hole in my argument here. 'Quick tube'? About as likely as 'Considerate Parisian'

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

No-one Rocks In January

Bloody roadies. Always sitting down
on the job

(Yes I know it's not January anymore. I wrote this a week ago, and besides, we've been in Wales, where it's still November).

The worst-attended gig I ever played was in January. It was 1982, at The Albany in Great Portland St, towards the end of our ill-advised and ill-fated Monday night residency. We were a four-piece and we outnumbered our audience. And that included the barman. We got four encores though.

So I was a bit worried ahead of our gig at The Phoenix in Twyford last weekend. Proper pub; good beer, rotund jolly landlord, scampi (what are scampi1?), chicken in a basket, or twiglets in batter. Darts. And skittles. For those who don't know, skittles is like bowling without the varnish, or the stupid shoes, or people in matching lurex tops whooping when they knock all the pins down.

But I'm worried. I didn't help myself by failing to e-mail around until two days before the gig. A few lame excuses came back; out of the country on business, in hospital having an operation, that sort of thing.

But the response I hate the most is 'we'll try to make it'. Eh? This is a trip to the pub, not an attempt on the North face of the Eiger. Why not just say 'I saw you before and I thought you were crap'? Or 'you old git, you can hardly carry the guitar, let alone play it?'

And the omens are bad. The afternoon of the gig, Martin, chief picker and co-crooner, mails to say he's lost his voice. My new guitar workstation dies. I bring the wrong power supply for the vox unit. During sound-check, some curmudegeonly old geezer playing dominoes yells at us; he can't hear himself think, apparently. I wonder what his excuse is the rest of the time.

But then it's time to play and things are looking up! About twenty of our lot have actually turned up, adding to a decent crowd in the pub. My good mate Alan has brought his daughter Lucy who luckily is professionally trained, as well as gorgeous, and gives us a vocal assist here and there. MiniGrump has brought a half-dozen mates, and they all dance, making us old rockers feel very special. What's more, the skittles alley is occupied by the Tone-Deaf Society of Hampshire, who love a good knees-up, and aren't too fussy.

Best song? 'Sex on fire'. (Even though no. 1 son hates it). Mini and her mates go nuts, and Mrs G puts her hands over her ears, so I know we're in the zone. Worst song? Don't be silly. They're all good.

Want to see some pictures? Go to the state-of-the-art Hot Rabbit web-site, click on 'Gigs galore', then select the first entry. Or just go here. Natty t-shirts eh? Well, I didn't say we were cool.

1 - And while we're on the subject, what do you call one scampi? Is it a scampo?

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Mini's Big Surprise

A lick of paint, a trip to Ikea and we'll be sorted
UberGrumpy is on vacation. Wales again. The house, and the blog, are under the care of MiniGrump for a week or so. Thanks Min.

Dear Papa UG,

First of all, I hope you are having a lovely holiday with Mama UG and MicroGrump. I am missing you a lot. You said you'd check the blog often, so I thought this was a great way to tell you my wonderful news - I met somebody!

We met online. Isn't Facebook wonderful? He is very lovely and I can't wait for you to meet. His name is Utbah. He's a little older than me but is very handsome.

He flew over straight away, just to meet me. Well I thought that since he came all this way, the least I could do would be to let him buy me a coffee! Although we have only known each other for a week, he has swept me off my feet. Don't be cross but - we are getting married! He proposed (over that coffee - amazing huh?) and of course, I just had to said yes, which was lucky, since he had nowhere to stay.

I wasn't sure at first, but he said we shouldn't wait, so we will be man and wife by the time you are home- isn't that fantastic? I won't be his first wife - he's a bit coy but apparently has several already. So he's well able to look after me, since he has plenty of experience.

But don't worry. We won't be a burden on you, he has a house in Saudi Arabia where we will be moving to soon. He wants to be closer to his children- he has 12, isn't that nice? You'll have 12 instant grandchildren who you can visit any time you like. If you can get a visa.

I have quit college already, you don't have to worry about that! Utbah has said he will provide for me, he also told me that he never went to school so I don't need to either. And apparently women don't need qualifications where he lives. I thought that was a very fair point, so I dropped out yesterday.

I can't wait for you to meet him. However, the flight we booked to Saudi Arabia is the day before you get back from your holiday, he thought it would be easier for me to leave without any tearful goodbyes (I know how you get) -so I probably won't get time to see you until the Summer. Or Ramadan.

So, I love you Papa UG, and goodbye- see you in a couple of months. You never know, the baby may be showing by then.

Lots of love, The MiniGrump Xx

P.S. None of the above is true, but I had a party and someone spilt IrnBru on the new beige carpet upstairs. Sorry.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Ikea Rocks

Cool, maybe, but is it comfortable?

So. Vegetable Assassin threw down the gauntlet. Ikea rocks, she said; nothing you can say will change my mind.

I love a challenge.

Well, Vege, I know Ikea rocks. I've tried beer mats, rolled up wads of paper, my foot, wedges, beer cans, dead cats, but it's no good. In fact everything I ever bought from them rocked, apart from the OOMSKORTEN rocking chair for £19.99, which just wobbles. But that's not the point.

The key thing is the brain-numbing Ikea shopping experience.

They opened a new store in Southampton recently. It's been a while, but naturally we head down with the hordes. It's huge! We park up and shuffle in, wide-eyed. It takes a while to get our bearings. Everything is strange, and foreign. We squint at the labels.

Who names this stuff? Is that sofa really called EKTORP? Surely that's a medical condition. There's a shelf called BODO. Wasn't he a hobbit? Do I want a light called RUTBO1? A bookcase called BILLY2? DO I want to sit on a POANG? Are they messing with us?

Plus what's with the food? We try a hot dog. It's actual dog, on stale bread. We try Ikea coke which tastes like brake fluid. The french fries have apparently been cooked in France. Sometime last year. I don't even want to think about the provenance of the meatballs.

But perhaps there's an exotic ingredient in the hot dog, because we're being won over. They've got whole houses in there! 20m2 living rooms! Supercool eco-kitchens! Dining rooms bristling with awesome fold-away cleverness! Everything's in primary colours and metric measurements. It's cool, it's chic, it's tomorrow3.

We get carried away. We grab our little Ikea pencil and Ikea list and start to write down part numbers. It's easy! Just pick 'em up on the way out. First though, you must descend through the labyrinthine martketplace, having traded your little yellow bag for a shopping trolley the size of a small car. My advice? Keep your head down and grit your teeth. Do we need a set of eight RAMBO cheese graters? No. Or 100 TWIGLET candles. Or a clever SPILPOO toilet paper dispenser. Or ELEKTROKUT plastic bedside lamps.

At last, time to pick up the big stuff. And now the day falls apart. If you want to buy a Billy bookcase, it's on aisle 34, section 7. Apart from the shelves which are on aisle 92, section 16. The feet? Aisle 4, section 22. Hang on; these are black. We wanted oak. Start again. It's out of stock. Black then? If we must.

It takes hours.

And you're almost guaranteed to get it wrong.

Don't bother asking for help. If you do, you encounter the mysterious dichotomy between Ikea the company (efficient, clever, fresh and bright) and Ikea the employee (officious, stupid, stale and dull). The answer to every question is 'If it ain't on the shelf, we ain't got none', which is a bit strange when you're asking where the toilets are.

What's more, it's not that cheap. Look around the checkouts when you finally get to them; everyone is staring wide-eyed at their receipts. Surely the KLAPTORP wasn't that much? No it wasn't, but those GOTCHA cushions mount up. Sly bastards. And then they charge you extra for using a credit card. And parking. And bags.

The final insult; you get home and it's in pieces! I thought the boxes were a bit small. Hours of screwing later (ooh-err missus) and you have half a sofa-bed and a three-legged bookcase. In blue. And boy, does it rock.

1 - Yes. We buy four
2 - And a whole wallful of these
2 - This isn't a footnote, it means 'square meters'. Come on, shape up.
3 - It's chipboard, but nobody's looking too closely.

And the answer to the crossword clue in the last post was 'spent a penny'. Bumper pack of Twiglets to anyone who can tell me why.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Tagged! Phew

Tea and boob cake. My favourite
Thank you to the incomparable JenJen for tagging me, and relieving me of writer's block. 'Tagging' is a new American thing, which means you answer terrifically intimate questions about yourself, then tag some other poor sods.

I beefed up the list a bit.

1. What is your current obsession?
15 across: 'Nasty, nasty authors cut through weed' (5,1,5)1

2. What are you wearing today?
Carpet slippers and a floppy hat and nothing else. Well, it's Sunday. Or at least it was last time I looked

3. What do you think about the person who tagged you?
JenJen! Toppest of the top bananas.

4. If you could have a house totally paid for, fully furnished anywhere in the world, where would you like it to be?
Is the furniture from Ikea? If so, no thanks.

5. What's your favorite quote?
", closely followed by '

6. Who do you want to meet right now?
Nobody. Neither would you if you were wearing carpet slippers and a floppy hat

7. What's your favorite magazine?
The Economist, but I tuck in a copy of 'Jugs 3D' on long train journeys. You can't tell

8. What do your friends call you most commonly?

9. Would you prefer coffee or tea?
Oh! Tea please. I think I'd like one of those lesbian jobs, like ginseng and jojoba, or aloe vera and euphonium. No sugar.

10. What makes you go wild?

11. Who's your favourite deep sea diver?
Jacques Cousteau

12. Is that a twiglet in your pocket or are you glad to see me?
It's a twiglet

14. Are you superstitious?
Certainly not

Today I'm tagging M's. That's MiMi, Mme DeFarge, Marla, Magda, mo, and Moooooooooog. Fill your boots, team

1 - Come on, work it out... answer next post