Thursday, 28 May 2015

Norman the Gnome Goes Missing

In the last few months there have been a spate of garden based burglaries in the street and this week saw another one. I say spate but up until now there had only been two, but people don’t describe burglaries in terms of duos, do they? I also don’t think they are referred to as a spate when only one person has been burgled, that person being Reg.
It started with an old wheelbarrow that for some reason he’d left in his front garden overnight, it contained a few plants ready to be potted up and some manure. The burglar clearly had no need for these garden goodies and had upturned the contents onto the border and made off with the barrow. Reg was fuming, he discovered his loss the next morning as he headed off for the daily paper and his ranting and shouting woke me from my slumber.
‘Well beggar me, Margaret, come and look at this, some blighter’s had me barrow. Margaret, Margaret, can you hear me, we’ve been burgled.’
Margaret hurried to the front door, I think more to try to shut Reg up than to commiserate with his loss. The absence of a phone in her hand seemed to antagonise him more.
‘Well, have you rung the police, can’t you see we’ve been victims of crime? You need to get a move on woman the first 24 hours are crucial.’
‘The police? Do you really think that’s necessary, I mean, it was only a wheelbarrow.’
I thought his head would explode, this was causing more anguish than Ken’s bush.
‘It’s not what was taken Margaret, it’s the effect it’s had on me, look at my garden, manure and plants strewn all over, I feel violated Margaret and no mistake. I want action taken and I want compensation.’
I can report that the police had no interest whatsoever, I think mainly due to the small value of the item in question, although they did send a victim support worker a few days later to make sure Reg was ok. I felt very sorry for that poor woman, she appeared to be a well-meaning volunteer with the intention of doing her bit for society. If she’s still volunteering now I’ll be amazed, Reg sent her away with such a large flea in her ear that she would have needed the help of a vet to dislodge it.
The wheelbarrow was spotted a week or so later in someone’s garden a few streets away, being used as a hen house, Reg did knock but the owner said he had found it in a skip, and as it had a hole in the side to provide a doorway for the chickens, he decided to let it drop.
The next thing that went missing was a bra off of Margaret’s washing line, it was a pink lacy affair, not quite the underwear you’d imagine for her, but someone other than her and Reg had clearly decided it was to their liking. It had been a windy night so the surrounding gardens were searched but to no avail. Reg again had phoned the police but as previously they were not interested and with his words of anger he did add a request not to have the victim support worker appear again (I imagine she was extremely relieved).

This week it was Norman the Gnome. It stands in Regs’ front garden, a solitary figure without friends, I think it was a present from one of his grandchildren and although I have heard him claim to hate it, he is always very complimentary about it in front of them. The problem is, this is not the first time Norman has gone missing, in fact it is year three. The first year he was gone from May till July, being returned one night as mysteriously as when he disappeared, the second year he went from May till August and this time he sent a postcard of himself relaxing on a boat. The rest of the street found this highly amusing but Reg remained unmoved, this year however he was raging.
‘Is this all a joke Margaret, is someone tormenting me on purpose? And if so, why? What have I done to deserve this? D’you think its Micky the meat from the market?’

Margaret remained tight lipped on the subject and I don’t blame her, but why Micky the meat would want to get involved in rearranging Regs garden equipment is a mystery to me.

I suppose the good news to report is that the bra did finally turn up, in a tree in the churchyard, whether it had blown to its final resting place or been thrown there by a high spirited joker remains to be seen, but it has certainly been put to good use.



Thursday, 21 May 2015

Arachnophobia ? Call Madonna

It’s been a fraught week for Catherine, she had an infestation in her lounge. I feel very sorry for her because I’m quite the arachnophobe myself, so I can imagine what she’s been through.
Apparently it all started on Sunday evening during Antiques Roadshow; one of the experts was about to tell a woman that the gaudy bit of old tat that she bought at a boot fair for 50p, was actually a gold Victorian bracelet with a sapphire feature. Catherine is quite a collector of old tat herself and she was just about to spring upstairs to check in her jewellery box when an enormous spider made its way across the rug.
‘It was the size of a vole’, Tom looked as incredulous as I felt at this piece of information, ’and what’s more it didn’t scurry like they normally do, it sauntered, as if it was going for an evening stroll’.
The image of the spider was coming clearer in my mind and I started breaking out in a cold sweat.
‘It had a pouch like thing on its back, I think it was a mother.’
This did allow the spider at least 35% of my sympathy vote, especially when Catherine went onto explain that she whacked it with her slipper, not squashing it flat, she explained, but certainly sending it flying across the room. I don’t agree with killing spiders, would prefer to hoover them up, leaving them to survive on dust and toe nail clippings, like a mini health farm. Catherine wasn’t sure at that point if she had killed it so I gave her the benefit of the doubt.

On Monday morning the screams coming from Catherine’s house did confirm that whether the spider had died or not, she had certainly been a mother and her offspring had taken up residence on the sofa. A few men from the street rushed out to see what all the fuss was about, Reg even ventured into her home to ascertain the size of the problem and to come up with a remedy.
The vacuum cleaner was chosen as the best course of action as none of the men could face going in and removing them by hand, Catherine was still in a state of hysteria so Jacinta offered to do the hovering and to empty the dust bag into the garden, thus giving the poor creatures some semblance of a future. Reg advised also putting conkers in the corners of the room, this he assured Catherine, would keep any rogue babies away. Again Jacinta came to the rescue, stealing some of the conkers that her son had kept from the previous season.
On Tuesday Catherine was in floods of tears as she explained to Ian that rather than repel them, the conkers appeared to have encouraged another onset of spiders, in fact two were sitting on top of one, many more had formed a circle around, ‘it’s like Stone Henge on Solstice day  ’, said an increasingly dramatic Catherine.
There was much discussion in the Spar about the best way to deal with the infestation, Tom was of the view that she should put either a bird in the room or a couple of toads, he felt that turning to nature would be the best way forward.
Harry came up with the idea that releasing a large number of flies would send the spiders into a frenzy of excitement and that they would die of exhaustion. Although this was clearly the most ludicrous idea, it was my favourite and I hoped that Catherine would give it a go, sadly she had instead bought an insect killing spray, which she intended to flood the room with that evening.
The next morning Catherine looked like she was close to breaking point as she stumbled along the road, her hair unkempt and looking like she hadn’t slept for several nights. The spray had no effect on the spiders, in fact if anything there appeared to be more. Ken came across her as he was opening up for the day and took her in, offering a cup of coffee and a shoulder to cry on. As with most things Ken told Catherine not to worry, he felt he could offer a solution that was sure to work.
Leaving a while later with a portable record player and some Madonna records, Catherine headed home. My heart went out to her, I had no idea what his ploy was, but if she had fallen for one of Ken’s plans than she must be in a worst state than any of us could imagine.
That night ‘Like A Virgin’, ‘Holiday’ and ‘Papa Don’t Preach’ rang out from Catherine’s house, whilst she sat in the pub having a quiet drink with Ken. The next day looking like a weight had been lifted from her shoulders Catherine reported that the spiders had gone, and as she said to Jacinta, ‘Well they do say that music is power’.

I don’t think anyone does say this, but if she thinks it works then I am very pleased for her, I just hope the spiders haven’t defected to my house, I’m not sure that Kate Bush would have the same effect.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

The Allotment

It was like a blood bath for the male opposition leaders in politics last week, likewise, in the street, the politics of the people were at the heart of an incident that can only be described as mole gate.
A few streets away, just off Dorothy Drive there are a group of allotments that are tended by a good number of people including Reg and Margaret, Tom, Prithpal and Jacinta. This year an enthusiastic Raphe joined them.
As usual when trying a new idea Raphe was not supported by Ian, ‘What’s the point?’
‘Fresh food, exercise and bonding with the neighbours, and it’s a perfect outlet after the stress of my job.’
As Raphe worked as an activities adviser at a private nursing home, Ian struggled to see the stress that his partner was under, but his views on the allotment were clear.
‘Muddy boots in my hall, vegetables with insects in them and I bet you fall out with Reg.’
Undeterred Raphe took a day off work to start digging his new plot, so that by the weekend he could hold his head up high with the neighbours.
On Saturday morning I did hear him complain to Ian about how much his body ached but I was impressed by the fact that this did not prevent him turning up at the allotment by 10.30, where he was greeted by an angry looking Reg who was pointing to a small mound in the middle of his carrots.
‘I think this may be your doing!’
Raphe looked from the earth to his own allotment and then back to Reg, ‘No, I don’t think so, any earth I dug up stayed on this plot.’
‘It’s not earth you twerp, it’s a mole, a mole attracted by the worms you’ve disturbed. You’re going to have to deal with it.’
Although slightly annoyed by being labelled as a twerp by Reg, Raphe was nevertheless excited to be attracting new wild life at such an early stage in his foray with nature, but the smile on his face was soon wiped off as Reg continued.
‘They are little blighters to get rid of but you can trap them, a swift bop on the head with a shovel will do the trick. You’ll have to be quick though, they may be blind but they can’t half shift’.
Raphe stopped listening after the word ‘blind’ and mumbling his excuses to Reg he swiftly left for home. When Ian returned from shopping with his pre washed, pre sliced, insect free vegetables he found his partner in floods of tears in front of the laptop.
‘I give to Guide Dogs for the Blind, how can I hit one of their community over the head with a shovel?’
Ian finally gave up consoling Raphe in the late afternoon, by which time the book of Toad of Toad Hall had been located and wrapped up as a gift for Reg.
‘Perhaps if he reads about Mole he may have a different view’.
 Although unconvinced Ian was pleased that the sobbing had finally given way to action. The next morning a sharp knocking on the door at 11am revealed a very angry looking Reg, Raphe cowered behind Ian who tried to muster up an equally confrontational stance.
‘You’ve smashed a pane in my greenhouse, I told you yesterday, you’ll have to trap the blighter, not throw stones at it, you nincompoop.’
The noise drew me to the window and I could see that at last Ian was going to make a stand in support of Raphe, ‘Now look here Reg, I won’t have you coming round here making false accusations…’
At that point Tom passed by the house, ‘Ah Reg, I’m glad I caught you, I’m afraid I broke a window in your green house, some blooming crow was after my seeds. I’m a bit off target with my stone throwing I’m afraid, I’ll pay for the damage.’
The sight of Reg deflating like a burst balloon was something I’ve waited a long time to see, after a few minutes contemplation he turned to offer Raphe both an apology and help in expunging the offending moles.
‘No thank you Reg, I will be resigning from the allotment, but I will help to catch the moles in a humane trap, and then they are more than welcome to live out a rich and rewarding life here, in our small garden’.
Ian didn’t seem enamoured with the idea but for once he did not say a word of complaint or indeed, ‘I told you so’, meanwhile a very bemused looking Reg walked back in the direction of the allotments with Tom.
‘They’ll regret that tunnelling, and no mistake.’

Thursday, 7 May 2015

The May Fair

What a busy week, the royal baby was finally born and Baz and Shirl had a May Fair at the Short and Curlies.
It was Rafe who won the guess the name of the new princess competition that Barry and Harry held at the Spar, he managed to guess both Charlotte and Elizabeth. Of course Reg was straight in with his conspiracy theory, spreading the rumour that Rafe had inside knowledge because his cousin, twice removed, worked as a potato peeler in the kitchens at Balmoral. I find it hard to believe that a vegetable preparer in Scotland would be informed of the baby’s name before the queen but Reg loves a conspiracy theory.  He still thinks the cake thrown in the bin in last year’s Bake Off was a set up by the Hairy Bikers, and I hadn’t even heard that rumour before he mentioned it.
The May fair was held on Monday and I hate to be so British about this but we were really lucky with the weather. The fair varied only little from the Easter Egg Hunt that Baz and Shirl had hosted last month. The face painter was the same, the food was just as brown, although they had made the effort with some spit roast chicken (also brown), and the participants were the usual suspects from the street.
Mrs Parks from Pavers Primary had asked if some of the children from the school could demonstrate the Maypole dance that they had been practising in PE and as Baz thought this might bring in more custom due to accompanying parents, he readily agreed. Well, you can imagine Reg’s reaction when he heard that this was described as physical exercise, I think he managed to start at least five sentences with the words, ‘Back in my day... ’
The Maypole dancers were not the only new people to attend the event, Catherine had brought along the new vicar from St Michael’s church, which is just around the corner. I hadn’t known up to this point that she was a church goer, but she clearly intended to get well acquainted with the new incumbent because she was stuck beside him like glue, especially when she introduced him to Mand, who for some unknown reason curtsied.
He was what Reg would describe as a new-fangled vicar, insisting on being called by his first name, Shane, and he had the most angelic looking dog with him which he called Joe.
Unbeknown to Baz, when Mrs Parks had asked to hold the Maypole dance at the fair she had assumed that he would be providing the pole, I did agree with him that this was above and beyond the call of duty, but he managed to rig up a make shift post which he stuck in a hole in the ground that was far too big. Tom volunteered to steady the pole while the children skipped around it, which was going to be a bit bizarre to say the least, but health and safety dictated that something needed to be done to avoid any accidents.
At 3pm Tom took his station beside the pole and the children stood holding their ribbons. Mrs Parks had reassured both Tom and Baz that the children were not vigorous dancers and that the ribbons would be wound round him for a few minutes and unwound again as the children reversed their dance, everyone was happy.
Shane had agreed that he would say a few words of congratulations on the completion of the dance, the tape recording was set to play and off they went. I was surprised that ‘Down to Margate’ was the tune of choice for an apparently genteel dance, but it is a jaunty number so perhaps it helped with the timing. The children did indeed wrap the ribbons around the pole and Tom, then as planned unwound them as they reversed the dance. Everyone was beaming as they finished and there was much clapping.
 Shane seemed to be swept along with his first public event and finished the words of praise with a request for a rerun. Everyone seemed keen, even Tom, who had a slightly red face after the ribbon wrapping. Chas and Dave struck up once again and off the children went, as before perfectly winding the ribbon around Tom and the pole.
At this point, out of the corner of his eye Shane spotted that Joe had come loose from his lead and was making a bee line for the spit roast chicken, rather than run quietly after him he decided to shout at the top of his voice, ‘Joe, down boy, leave the chicken’.
Chas and Dave had no chance against this bellowing command and all the children stopped in their tracks, one by one dropping the ribbon and giving chase after both Shane and the dog.
There was such a cacophony of noise that it took a while before anyone noticed Tom, he was still managing to stand upright but was wrapped to the post by a swath of ribbon. As he was unwound by a distressed Mrs Parks and a worried Baz he managed to speak, ‘I thought I was a gonna’.
I couldn’t help but consider how interesting that death certificate would have been.