Thursday, 29 January 2015

The Battle of the Bush

There has been an ongoing battle in the road and this week it almost turned into a full scale war. It’s been between The Ramshocks at number 12 (Margaret and Reg) and Ken at number 8.
 I probably haven’t mentioned Ken before, he’s a barber, a nice enough chap, if a little laid back. The shop is supposed to open at 6.30 on a Saturday, although why anyone would want clippers taken to their head at that time in the morning is hard to imagine and especially on a weekend, but sure enough every Saturday a small queue forms outside his door; Ken however is rarely to be seen until at least 7.15.  He doesn’t live above the shop, just keeps it for stock and occasional ‘other’ activities. I’m not sure how much stock a man’s barbers would need, those in the Saturday queue don’t look the sort who would favour a
conditioner, although many of them would certainly benefit from one. Ken seems to specialise in three styles, short, shorter and short with sides, I don’t think he’s seen as much of a threat by Vidal Sassoon.

Ken also owns the house at number 9 which he rents out, usually short term lets, so we have a steady stream of new people in the street which I think keeps it fresh. Margaret and Reg, on the other hand, beg to differ.
The people who rent at number 9 rarely have any interest in the property and certainly no leaning towards gardening, as a result the bush at the front of the house is unkempt and frequently spills over onto the pavement. It doesn’t bother me, well apart from disturbing my view on the odd occasion, Mand and the miseries show no concern about it, so you would think there would be no problem; Margaret and Reg, however, are incandescent with rage about it. I have seen that man’s head go so red when discussing the issue that it’s been hard to distinguish him from the bush.

It is highly entertaining to watch the two factions go head to head, Reg’s plump ex butchers fingers jabbing from the bush to Ken and back again, and Ken grinning broadly replying with his stock phrase to any confrontation, ‘What you worrying about man ? It’s no problem to you. You die if you worry, you die if you don’t, so, hey man – don’t’.  The first time I heard this said to Reg I thought his head would explode, as did Margaret, she was hopping from one foot to the other telling Reg to calm down and accusing Ken of being irresponsible. That’s how the argument has continued for many a year, every so often Ken does have the bush cut back but it is a rare event and hasn’t happened for a while.
This week things took a turn for the worse. I heard Margaret telling Jacinta that they could stand it no more and were going to take to the internet to name and shame Ken. Their granddaughter Polly had told them about some spat that had been played out on Facebook between two mothers after one child did not attend the other child’s party, the story had reached The Daily Mail, they felt this was definitely the way to go.  
The first indication I had that they had gone ahead with the plan was on Tuesday morning when peals of laughter rang out from Kens for a good twenty minutes, in fact when Baz went in for his regular ‘short with sides’ I heard Ken telling him he was thinking of having a poster made.

Margaret and Reg are now the proud owners of a Facebook page, however there are no pictures of the happy couple or their family, just a sentence across the screen declaring the following: ‘Calls himself a barber, have you seen his bush?’ 

I don’t know who advised them on the wording but the phrase has certainly gained some attention. I’ll be surprised if this has helped to solve the issue, but I do know one thing, it has definitely gone viral.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

In it to win it

The local Spar is owned and run by the Parry brothers, Gary and Harry, they took it over when their dad Larry and his brother Clarry retired 10 years ago. There were three brothers in that family, the other being known as Harry snr, and they had one sister – Dot, the last to be born and named as such, a message from her mother to the world that this was the end of the sentence.
It wasn’t always a Spar, for years it was just Parry’s but I think they got a better deal on dry biscuits and flat pop so they bought into the name, the family have been in residence for so long that it’s more like a community gathering house than just a shop. There is a seat in the corner by the till and Tom often sits there between 11 and 12, spreading gossip that is a concoction of a third truth, a third purposeful embellishment and the final third a result of his hearing difficulties which leads to his own interpretation of events.

Anyway, the reason I’m wittering on about this is because Gary and Harry run a local lottery syndicate and this week they won.

The first person to spread the news was of course Catherine Morgan, I knew something was afoot by the speed at which she came along the road, I’ve only ever seen her move faster than that once before and that’s when she had heard that Prince Charles was visiting the street; of course as usual she got it wrong and it was in fact a man called Charles Prince from Highways to consider the need for speed bumps.
Anyway, her mac was flailing out wildly behind her as she scanned the street for someone to tell, Mrs Misery at number 11 happened to be leaving her house just at the wrong time and she was accosted by Catherine desperate to impart the big news. I haven’t seen those two in conversation before and I had to twist my body to get a better view. They would never be classed as natural companions, Catherine being big on 80’s shoulder pads and pencil skirts and Mrs Misery being big on baby sick on her shoulders and a pencil case by way of a purse. As usual Catherine’s loud tones travelled well and she was talking about millions, and how she hoped they wouldn’t be paid in euros as she wasn’t sure of the exchange rate and didn’t want to lose any money in conversion.

It was the first time I felt a hint of envy, I don’t do the lottery and quietly snigger at those who have already made mental lists of the things they will do with the money once they win. Catherine was doing exactly that now, she didn’t know where millionaires’ row is but she
would find it and bag herself a rich husband, now that she could naturally fit into that way of life; personally I think she was getting confused with death row and I don’t think she’ll find the chap she has in mind there.

I looked out every day to see if there was any more indication of the big win but it all went very quiet so I checked with Gary when I was in the Spar for my wholemeal baps. As it turned out they hadn’t won the lottery but they had got a batch of Millionaire’s Shortbread in, which Tom had said was one euro a box in the French hypermarket.

Catherine’s ability to knit a golden future from a few cast off words is beyond me, but the good news is she has realised that waiting for a lottery win is the wrong way to go about finding a partner, she has instead signed up with a dating agency called Millionaire Match. I hope she hasn’t got the wrong end of the stick, today I heard her ask Mand if she could recommend a beautician that does a heavy duty wax at a reasonable rate, apparently she has ten years of body hair to remove by next Tuesday.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

A very dry January

Catherine Morgan is training to be a hypnotherapist, as sure as I live and breathe that’s the truth, well, at least that’s what she told Raphe from number 13. He was complaining about how hard he was finding it to go ‘dry’ in January; Ian, his partner was having no trouble and is being quite smug about it, Raphe moaned for a full ten minutes about him to Catherine. If I felt kinder towards him I would have run out afterwards to warn him about revealing all to her, she’s very loose lipped and I still remember the upset if caused when she told Tom that Mand had a breast enlargement, and that’s the other trouble, she doesn’t listen that well and it wasn’t true. Tom’s eyes were on stalks every time he saw Mand for the next few weeks and in the end she had to say something to him, it was all very unpleasant and I almost had to move away from the window it was so distressing.
But as it is I don’t really trust Raphe so I didn’t say anything and if he is going to put himself at the mercy of a trainee hypnotherapist, who also happens to be a gossip, then that’s his look out.
Personally I’m a bit sick of all this ‘giving up’ for New Year. I was in the card shop the other day and the assistant made a comment about the smell of sausage rolls coming from my shopping bag, she had given up pastry and was being tormented by me, I suppose I should be grateful she didn’t ask for sponsorship. Ian, on the other hand was round at my door last night asking to me to pledge money for his ‘dry’ event, of course I turned him down, I may be old fashioned but I thought you sponsored people for doing something, not ceasing to do something, if I stop drinking cups of tea could I go around saying that I was dry and asking people to sponsor me? No, they would be more likely to give me a glass of water than money.  He wasn’t very pleasant but that’s hardly surprising when you’re dealing with someone who persuaded his partner to change his name from Ralph, the perfectly good name that his mother chose for him.
The hypnotism took place at Catherine’s house on Monday in her spare room, she’s turned it into an office come clinic but seems to have skimped on the furnishings and Raphe had to balance precariously on a zed bed which was slightly too high and he came over all dizzy. Apparently she’s very good at the actual hypnosis but gets a bit forgetful about the focus of the session, in Raphe’s case she became completely obsessed with the concept of dry, but she did only charge him half price so he didn’t complain.

Ian’s not happy though, he was telling Margaret today, Raphe is still drinking the same amount of alcohol as before but he now gets a bit emotional about water, they tried to watch an old film on ITV the other day, the one where Daryl Hannah is a mermaid, Raphe got himself in such a state that Ian had to give him a brandy to calm him down. Margaret was considering talking to Catherine about Reg’s sausage obsession but now she’s having second thoughts, I don’t blame her, who knows where that could lead, and they do have to be careful, what with her heart condition.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Speed Dating at the Short and Curlies

On Sunday evening they had a speed dating event at the Short and Curlies, I would have had to research what speed dating is , but the floosy at number 7 (Mandy, Amanda, Mand I’m not really sure) was very forthcoming on the subject when discussing it with Jacinta. I can’t tell you exactly what she said because she talked for ages and had too many ‘likes’ in her sentences, it just brings me out in a hot flush. In summary, the women sit behind a desk and the men talk to them for five minutes and then move onto the next woman when someone rings a bell. It sounds dreadful and personally I think it’s too early in the year to be trying to promote romance, that’s February’s job.
I would have told Baz (the landlord of the Short and Curlies), when I saw him coming out of the Spar, but he seemed to be in quite a rush so I didn’t get the chance.
Of course it wasn’t always called the Short and Curlies, it was originally The Pavers Arms, and was a lovely little pub when Bryan and Daphne had it, but once his piles took hold they had to sell up. Baz came in with fancy ideas about a name change and themed nights, there’s rarely an evening goes by when there is not a quiz, a band, a séance, or suchlike.
Anyway, Mand was definitely going and was trying to encourage Jacinta to join her, this completely confused me, as I think it did Jacinta, she has been married to Prithpal for years, they have 3 children and I’ve never seen any sign of marital strife, now if you were talking about the miseries at number 11, well that would be a completely different kettle of fish.

I watched her leave for the pub on Sunday night, she was wearing a red cocktail dress which matched her lipstick, and far too much jewellery for the occasion. It seemed strange to be so dressed up for a night at the local, especially when the men circling her will be from
three streets away, who she sees regularly in the Spar and at the chippy, but as she said to Jacinta, ‘I’ve had my heart broken like, and 2015 is like, the year I’m going to find love, like.’
Well, as it turned out she may have come close, according to Tom, who also attended the event, which was a shock in itself; he’s 79, if he’s a day, and always looks to me as if he may be storing the best part of last week’s dinner down the front of his jumper. If the bell rang when he was coming towards me I would be heading for the exit. Apparently Mand got chatting to a man from the Clubman Estate, a slightly overweight plumber by the name of Anton. Anton is already married but as Mand said, ‘It’s alright, like, because he’s like, one of them Mormons’.

I do know Anton, and his wife Steph, because she does a shampoo and set for my Aunty Betty every other week, I must ask her next time I see her, when precisely he became a Mormon and more importantly, if he could get me Donny Osmond’s autograph.


Thursday, 1 January 2015

Not a dead body after all

Well, there was certainly a hoo-ha going on at number 12 last night, at first I thought it was an animal protesting about the fireworks, there were certainly enough of them to protest about, not so much a celebration as an audio tribute to a war zone.

It wasn’t an animal, it was Margaret Ramshock arriving home with her husband Reg, they had been at the club and seemed a little worse for wear; not that I could see that well, I hung back a bit from the curtain in case they thought I was snooping. She tripped over
something and initially let loose a swear word or two, but then she started screaming, ‘It’s a body, a skeleton, Reg call the police, it’s dead.’
I stayed in the house but I noticed that the floozy from number 7, the old man Tom from number 16 and the miseries from number 11 all appeared at their doors to get a better view; some people are so brazen.

I watched until about 3 am, when the police finally left after removing the body, by which time I had a rick in my neck of epic proportions, I must invest in a comfier chair in the New Year.
Luckily Margaret Ramshock has a booming voice that carries well, so I didn’t even have to get out of bed to hear her relaying the incident to Catherine Morgan, who she met in the road today. According to Reg, who used to work in a butchers so knows a lot about bodies, it was the pelvis and legs of a woman, no age was given, but I was impressed with that level of detail, especially after a night out at the club. They will have to wait a few days before the police can confirm anything but the general view seems to be that a cat probably dug the bones up when going about its business, which is why it has suddenly been found.

The papers today are full of new year resolutions, diets and the best way to stick to your targets, people make things so complicated, personally I’ll be happy if I manage to get a fitted sheet for the bed in the spare room, try at least one of Paul Hollywood’s bread recipes and cut my toenails - before they get to the pinching stage.

As it turns out they didn’t have to wait for a result on the body, apparently it was the skeleton of a foxes head with a bit of flesh hanging off it.

Margaret is very relieved, personally I’m more concerned about her own body, a foxes head is really quite pointy, if Reg is using her pelvis as a yardstick for skeletal identification…well goodness only knows where she finds knickers with a gusset to meet her needs.