Monthly Archives: May 2012

Smash! Crash! Bash!

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“Taxi to the Ritz. And step on it.”

There is a destructive element to my personality that I never realised was there. Who knew that watching old bangers pile into each other at high speed around a dusty tarmac track could be SO MUCH FUN? Stock car racing is a world away from U8 tennis. To participate, you will need:

  • A mullet, preferably of the Eastern European variety.
  • At least two limbs covered in tattoos.
  • Sunburn.
  • A chequered flag to wave at the flies attempting to land on your Magnum.
  • A spectacularly loud finger whistle.
  • Destiny’s Child lyrics to “I’m a Survivor“.

“Heyelp! Heyelp! It’s the DVLA!”


Furthermore:

  • Indulge the urge to scream “COME ON, PLONKER!!!!” at a Penelope Pitstop-style car with said moniker in pink spray paint on its buckled bonnet.
  • Feel free to cheer at smash-ups that would make you weep if witnessed on a motorway.
  • Nothing wet or faintly maternal must show as you watch 8-year-olds zoom by at 60mph in souped-up toboggans covered in chicken wire and sponsorship from Kitchins R Us (“We use child labour to install our lamminit worktops!”).
  • On no account must your feet smell because you are on stands where there is no distinction between seats and footrests and you may end up with your toes near the nostrils of a large lady in frightening shorts.
  • Be prepared to get hot and doused in the heady scent of engine oil.

And finally, when all the bangers have been smashed to bits and everyone is heading home with smiles on their diesel-streaked faces, do not squeal your shiny, undented, deeply middle-class and frankly dull car out of the car park and straight into a handbrake turn on the roundabout near the Aldershot Tesco. However grave the temptation.

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Nastase Was Nothing

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Where shall I start? How about Rude Tennis Dad?

“Hello!” I say brightly. “I’m–”

“I THOUGHT THE MATCH WAS 2 FOR 2.15 NOT 3! OH MY GOD [Nameless Unfortunate Daughter] YOU ARE  BEING SO ANNOYING TODAY!”

7-year-old NUD is dreaming of Claire’s Accessories and thunderous at the absence of hair furniture in the Raynes Park David Lloyd shop. Rude Tennis Dad storms off to warm NUD up, possibly by grilling her over the barbecue facilities.

Younger Son only served overarm for the first time last week. Match One starts shakily but he sets his teeth and blasts Grim Opponent in Pink through the air vents 10-7. GOP takes it well and adjusts her macrame hairband. NUD observes with barely concealed fury.

Match Two is versus a burly youngster recruited moments earlier. “He was wearing sandals five minutes ago,” observes Chilled Canadian Dad as the winning ball sneaks past Younger Son’s ear. 7-10.

Match Three against the Milky Bar Kid whistles by as fast as a large sponge tennis ball can: 2-10. Younger Son kicks off his trainers and indulges in sock-rallying with the victor until his final opponent completes his own Match Three.

A fractious tie-break challenge.

Tiny Japanese Boy is clad in luminous yellow and comes up to my ankles. We watch as he crouches over ball and racket to serve his last Match Three ball. We keep watching. We watch some more. We check our pulses. Fifteen seconds of silent thought-gathering. He uncoils all twenty-two centimetres of himself and belts the ball across the net. It’s out.

I’ve never seen such a marvellous tantrum in my life. He’s so furious that he almost melts the astro-carpet. “Believe in yourself and you can win!” the Milky Bar Kid shouts through the netting. When Tiny Japanese Boy is finally persuaded to start Match Four, we are treated to more living-statue serve preparation. Younger Son yawns pointedly. Tiny Japanese Boy storms off in a blaze of miniature rage, forfeiting the match.

Younger Son’s team wins. We celebrate with orange squash, jammy dodgers and muted arm-pumping. It’s been an education, people.

Hot Smokin’ Rubber

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Crumble’s life is very simple. She sleeps, she eats, she scratches anyone idiotic enough to stroke her in That Certain Way (this has never accurately been gauged), she sleeps again. Most of the above is done in a manner best described as baleful.

Now picture Crumble, her malevolence towards humankind miraculously suspended. This evening she has found a rubber band, and hell of a different kind has broken loose.

KILL. KILL the rubber band. MASSACRE the rubber band. The rubber band is MY ENEMY and I shall MURDER—crikey, my bum stinks. I must stop a while and give it a seeing-to. My tongue is somewhat prickly tonight. Now. Where was I. AHA! That EVIL RUBBER BAND has returned to TAUNT me. Resist! Resist! Whoo, that was one hot funky salsa move, back legs going like Ola Jordan on a good day, the rubber band is DYING, it cannot possibly survive the onslaught! I have conquered! *evil cat laugh*

I shall now stare timelessly into space. The rubber band will assume that I have forgotten it. How wrong it is. How very– Any food in this place? What kind of a hotel is this anyway? What are you staring at? My life is littered with the carcasses of fools.

Jolly Japes and Jackanapes

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Jackanapes. 
A conceited or impertinent person. It is uncertain whether the -napes is connected originally with the ape or with Naples, Jackanapes being a Jack (monkey) of (imported from) Naples, just as fustian-a-napes was fustian from Naples. By the 16th century, Jackanapes was in use as a proper name for a tame ape.

Also:

Jack-a-Napes. The nickname of William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk (1396-1450), who was beheaded at sea (off Dover), possibly at the instigation of the Duke of York. The name arose from his badge, the clog and chain of an ape, which also gave rise to his name ‘Ape-clogge’.

I was actually looking for “japes” in Brewer’s today, not jackanapes, but these definitions were too marvellous to pass up.

So to my original purpose: the concept of japes as in ‘jolly japes’, supposedly enjoyed by those at boarding school. Also known as larks. What were they? Were they fun? Are they worth writing about in an interesting and modern way, perhaps with an unexpected twist that might turn a few brains inside-out? My gut says yes. My head whispers that writing about boarding school is elitist old tripe. It’s been done to death by writers far superior to me. It’s irrelevant to today’s readers, hopelessly off the pulse and utterly unrealistic. Rather like magic, Greek gods and vampires.

*wanders off to consider old diaries with thoughtful expression on face*

So How Do You Know the Bride?

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 I’m sure there are plenty of you out there with wedding anniversaries today, it being May and all. Congratulations all round. But for those of you at the maybe-getting-engaged stage: if you live in Britain, think VERY hard before getting married in May.

May is hopelessly unpredictable. Of course, every month in Britain is unpredictable, but May is particularly bad because it’s full of such promise, making the disappointment all the crueller – particularly if this year is anything to go by. If your dress doesn’t blow over your head, your shoes will sink into the mud and no one will concentrate on the service because they are all so cold and cursing their sleeveless dresses and 5-denier tights and desperate weather-optimism. I have of course been to some lovely May weddings when all that truly mattered was the bride and groom and the whereabouts of the wine, but I can’t help looking out of the window today and thinking: well, THIS was a sure thing.

She stood all alone at the wedding

And toyed with her celery pate

She felt rather sick of the prawn on a stick

That she’d dolloped too deep in the satay.

She’d suffered a social disaster

She wanted to curl up and die

The truffle-wrapped grape she’d called a canape

To the horror of waiters nearby.

On the subject of canapés, they are officially my  favourite food. They are like a magnificent banquet, of the sort enjoyed by a miniaturised Peter the Great. If I could eat canapés all day every day then I would, especially the prawny ones, though one can have too much tapenade.

The postage-stamp soupçons of sausage

Were hurriedly handed her way,

And men gathered round her, so glad they had found her

To while the reception away.

“I’m sure that we met at the polo!”

Cried Dickie, or Jono, or Rupe,

“The spring point-to-pointing was most disappointing,

The damp gave the labradors croup.”

Conversations at weddings are often rather dull unless you know everyone in the room extremely well. I would love it if someone came up to me at a wedding and instead of saying, “So how do you know Lisa / Chewbacca / Winnebago?” they said, “I got married in May. A cow ate my shoe and I lost my bride in a large puddle.”

Six years ago I was lying in Frimley Hospital clutching son number 2 and thinking how peculiar he smelled. The sun was blazing outside. Seven years prior to that, FA Cup Final Day was a warm and drunken first date in Soho with my future husband. If excitement’s your thing, go for a May wedding. If you want a little certainty, opt for January and fleece-lined underwear. Me? I went for a full-out thunderstorm in July.

So after a while she decided

The guests were all dull and verbose

The fatuous braying and territory-spraying

Began to get right up her nose.

She sped down the drive in her Escort

Delighted she’d been so astute,

Quite failing to see the Polo (reg-P)

And Jonno in hopeful pursuit.

Koala Crazy

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Koalas are surprisingly difficult to write about. They are extremely cute, notably in the ear department, and their noses will forever remind me of the smooth black plastic on the face of a toy koala, rather disturbingly made from real fur, which I once owned. But they aren’t under threat, they sleep 75% of the time and they barely make a noise. We have some old film of my grandfather holding a koala, presumably in Australia, but the thing I tend to remember about that footage is me thinking: “WOW! His nose was MASSIVE! He just turned sideways and nearly took the photographer’s eye out! Mine’s a total peewit compared to that!”

Koalas do fight, however, as proved in the video below.

 

After watching this in the name of research, I felt decidedly peculiar. As Taya put it in Wild #4: Koala Crazy: “It was like discovering your favourite teddy bear had just sprouted fangs.” (Incidentally, a koala is not a bear. Bet you didn’t know that.)

Seriously? A koala can actually cause injury, beyond making your heart explode with fluffiness? The answer, my friends, is YES. Not much, admittedly – we’re not talking Grizzly Great White standards here – but they are more dangerous than you think. And therein hung a plot line for my book. That, an idiotic rap star, a confused kangaroo and a very small crocodile. (Read the book. I promise it makes sense.)

However, this threat from a koala’s teeth and claws has recently paled into insignificance before an entirely different koala fact. I did refer to chlamydia in the book, it being the main problem koalas face, though I confess that it was just in passing. Little did I know the mileage that was to come. Thanks to a splendid bit of pop reportage, all the most interesting things about koalas have now koalesced (see what I did there?) into One Stupendous Fact For Which People Will Forever Remember Koalas (And Maybe One Direction): 

Their wee is poisonous.

I hope Harry Styles and the rest of the 1D boys didn’t contract chlamydia when that koala widdled on them. Chlamydia is a very nasty and practically invisible disease which can make you infertile. But I thank them for hurtling the sweet, unassuming koala to the top of the Interesting Animals list. When I get a reprint, I’ll suggest a credit.