Thursday, 30 July 2015

The Wasp Nest

I have long since asked myself – what is the point of wasps? I haven’t got a major problem with them, I just find them a bit bothersome. I’m not a flapper when wasps come close to me, although I do have many friends who are, some who would hunt them down and kill them with all the zeal of an American dentist; people who in normal circumstances are gentle and kind. This week Ian and Raphe had a wasp problem and they were determined to deal with them in as humane a way as possible.
The issue presented itself when Raphe decided he was going to arrange to have the outside of the house painted, a large nest was clinging to the drainpipe. According to the wasp experts in the road (Reg, Tom and Ken) this was either very good luck or very bad luck, depending on your disposition. Ken felt it was good luck because it was an advantage to see your enemy face to face, Reg and Tom disagreed, it was clearly bad luck because they could dive bomb you at any time. Both factions were agreed on one thing, they had to be eradicated, and each one could recommend a poison that could be used, or a wasp exterminator that could be employed, Raphe, however, was clear on this last point, they would be dealt with naturally. The wasp experts could offer no advice on this, apart from Tom who did suggest that the pain of wasp stings could be alleviated by rubbing the inside of a banana skin onto the offending site, Raphe assured him that this top tip would not be needed.
After trawling the internet Raphe came up with three different solutions to deal with the issue in a natural way, with no pesticides, poison, or, in his view, the worst idea, fire. Although Ian was willing to pander to his partner on the subject it was clear quite early on that he would prefer to ring someone else to deal with it, but as usual Raphe wanted to try first.
His initial idea and the kindest was to construct a dummy nest to hang nearby, he had read that wasps were territorial creatures and if they felt that another colony had moved in they would be likely to decamp elsewhere. Raphe set to with a copy of the Sun he had been given free in the Spar, some glue and a couple of old coat hangers. Now I hate to be pedantic but I have never known a wasp to use any wire in the construction of their nests, I have read that they are very clever architects, but coat hangers? I couldn’t help feeling that Ian and Raphe’s wasps may spot the fake. The end result looked like a badly made Chinese lantern with images of Madonna in fishnet tights and Kate and Wills on their latest royal visit. Raphe hooked the dummy near to the real nest and waited a few days for the mass exodus, not surprisingly it didn’t come.
The next idea was to trap the wasps and to release them away from the house. Ian couldn’t hold back, he suggested that the wasps would be likely to return to their original home and perhaps it would be kinder to kill them once they were trapped. Raphe found it hard to consider the words kind and kill in the same sentence without his hands flapping at his eyes, which were filling with tears. Ian, desperate to avoid a weepy partner, agreed with Raphe that he should give it a go, although he did find it hard to keep quiet when he was told that the tuna he had bought for dinner was going to be used as bait.
‘You can’t use a sweet bait, it will trap the bees, and we love the bees’, Raphe had clearly done his research.
The lure of Waitrose best tuna did nothing to encourage the wasps to enter the green plastic bottle, Raphe was down to his last plan. The foray would be carried out at night when all the wasps were home for the evening and it involved soapy water, a hose and spray and a headscarf to protect his face from angry, albeit clean wasps.
‘I’m not happy with this Raphe, what if you get stung, you know how sensitive your skin is, we’re at a wedding on Saturday, I don’t want to go with you looking swollen and puffy.’
By this time Raphe was feeling that he was in this particular battle on his own and suggested that Ian might like to join him at this stage of the advance, however his partner was too busy himself on the internet, researching local wasp killers.
The hot soapy water was duly squirted at the nest, although how he could see through the scarf which was wound tightly round his face I will never know. The wasps, however, were ready for the onslaught and in a military style campaign swirled around Raphe’s head, with some managing to penetrate the folds of his silk Hermes scarf.
At the same time as Raphe started shouting for some banana skins Ian had emailed a recommended wasp remover, it was finally agreed that perhaps the wasp experts had been right after all.




Friday, 24 July 2015

The Sosij Taste Test

There has been much talk in the news lately of the fall in popularity of the Great British sausage, apparently, as a nation, we are turning our backs on a banger in favour of healthier options.
This news was met with upset, verging on grief, by Reg, a man obsessed with this particular food. I don’t think I’ve seen him this distressed since losing the title for his Cumberland Ring, a few years back.
My own view on the demise of the sausage is the fact that we are more aware of their contents and the effect on our already clogged arteries, but Reg has other opinions, in fact he blames this particular national issue on one man.
‘It’s that Micky the meat from the market, I knew he would wreak havoc on the butchers’ trade.’
Margaret made a brave attempt at defending her husband’s sworn enemy by reminding him that Micky only worked in one small part of the country.
‘It’s not the area he works in Margaret, it’s the mindset, spreads like wildfire, look at Hitler.’
‘Now Reg, I don’t think you can compare Micky the meat to…’
She had no time to finish her sentence as Reg began to list the ingredients he believed Micky commonly used.
‘Four parts rusk to one part lard, if there’s any meat in there I’d like to see it, of course you may get the odd woodworm for protein, did I tell you Margaret, he bulks out the rusk with saw dust’.
Margaret had indeed heard this tale many times before, as had I, although it still turns my stomach slightly and I was glad I had opted for fish that evening.
Reg managed to be diverted by Tom who was back from the supermarket and was touting a deal on some scourers that he’d got on a buy one get one free offer, however the subject was raised again that evening at the pub.
Bolstered by two pints of cider and black Reg was back to his favourite subject, Margaret had stayed in to watch Celebrity Masterchef so it was Tom and Garth who took the full brunt of his tirade. As Reg was buying the drinks Tom agreed with everything he said, nodding and smiling in all the right places, Garth on the other hand was willing to make a challenge.
‘If you are so convinced your sausages are better than Micky’s, why don’t you take part in a blind taste test?’
‘Ok I will’, came the immediate reply and the plan was hatched. Baz was forthcoming in offering the pub as a venue and it was left to Garth to make contact with Micky, as he and Reg were no longer on speaking terms.
Baz is very good at advertising any events he holds at the pub and the ‘Sosij Taste Test’ was organized for Wednesday evening. I nearly had to refuse to attend due to his butchering of the English language, however I secretly looked forward to Reg being made to eat his words, so I turned a blind eye.
On the day, Micky’s supporters were wondering around the street wearing sweatshirts with the slogan ‘Micky the Meat’ on the back of them, a worried looking Reg persuaded Margaret to get out her sewing box and embroider ‘No Veg Reg’ onto his jumper, things were getting serious.
Both contestants brought their sausages to the two gas fires that Baz had set up in the garden of the pub, the rules had been clear, pork only, no embellishments other than the normal ingredients. I was a tad concerned about the woodworm issue in Micky’s recipe, but as it was a blind taste test there was little I could do. Margaret had refused to try the sausages, she was far too concerned that she may not choose those made by Reg, no one else held back though and the pub was more packed than usual, Baz was beaming.
By 8.30 the sausages had been cooked and eaten and there was a palpable air of competition in the pub, I think I had a taste of what it was like to be at the Sharks and Jets altercation in West Side Story, I was only grateful that no one could sing.
It was left to Shirl to announce the winner, thankfully as she opened her mouth to make the pronouncement the vicar's dog Joe felt it was an opportune time to make a move on the leftover sausages. The noise of Shane the vicar, and several other punters, shouting at the dog to drop the tasty pork treats drowned out the words that Margaret had been dreading,
‘And the winner is, Micky the meat’.
As he lifted the gold coloured plastic cup I swear I saw a small tear appear in Reg’s eye, although he did manage to shake Micky’s hand.
I saw Margaret and Reg skulk towards the door and then the winner spoke those immortal words, ‘the drinks are on me’. In a U-turn quicker than any politician could manage Reg headed towards the bar, where he ordered a triple whisky for himself and a brandy and Babycham ‘for my Margaret’, as he said, ’No point ruining the whole evening’.


Sunday, 19 July 2015

The Aquarium

The mood in Pavers Place this week has been one of disquiet, I can think of no better word for it, which is not in itself shocking, but unusually it is the women who have fallen out.
Catherine is still on the hunt for the ideal pet but has finally decided that she needs something low maintenance to care for, and is not concerned at all if it will care about her in return. As the owner of a cat who sees me as a warm cushion who provides food I recommended a kitten or an older rescue cat, but she feels this is still far too much responsibility and has settled on a water based creature.
I heard her discussing it with Jacinta and Susie in the street last week and like them I had assumed that she would be going for a large bowl with some small goldfish in it, nothing too difficult to manage, like a starter kit for pet owners. Catherine’s own views were that she was looking for something much more exotic and was researching the possibility of a seahorse. The outrage from her two friends was evident on their faces.  
‘Keeping a seahorse as a prisoner in the house, how could you even think it?’ As usual Jacinta was holding nothing back.
‘I wasn’t actually thinking about a prison, I’m going to buy a tank, a proper one with breathing apparatus and everything.’
I couldn’t help thinking that Catherine either had the wrong terminology, or she had some skewed idea about the setup of an aquarium, however Susie’s worries were much more basic.
‘A seahorse, do they actually exist? And if they do aren’t their needs more specific, can you even get water proof hay?’
I think she may have been spending far too long with Mand, the conversation ended quite abruptly soon after with Jacinta declaring that as a vegetarian, she disapproved of animals being kept in enclosures that were too small for them. Susie, a fellow vegetarian, did agree with her but I’m sure her mind was imagining a waterproof paddock and a jockey with breathing equipment and flippers.
The next day Jacinta and Susie met in the street and their conversation was still focussed on Catherine, she had been seen talking to Tom about her plans, a sure sign she was going ahead with them, he would tell everyone he knew, and quite a few he didn’t, so it would be hard to go back on the decision.
‘I think she said something about a mini octopus, a bit like one of those micro pigs, it’s all so upsetting’. Susie looked completely alarmed and once home told Roger that she was thinking of ringing the environmental health, if there were to be dangerous animals in the road, of any variety, she wanted the authorities to be informed.
The three women avoided each other for the next few days, which is quite difficult in our street, I did see Susie send Roger out to check up and down the road before she ventured out and Catherine peered out of her window almost as much as me.
On Thursday Catherine arrived home with a large tank and a number of plastic bags, I could see no sign of breathing equipment, or for that matter a carrier for water based creatures. In the afternoon she issued invitations to Jacinta, Susie and Tom to see her new installation.

As it turned out, once she was in the shop Catherine had become completely enamoured by the number of lovely plastic ornaments she could fit into a tank, it was like being a child again but with legitimacy, she was setting up a home. The creature itself was the smallest orange goldfish you have ever seen, completely dwarfed by its plastic mermaid companion and overwhelmed by its ruined castle, Catherine however, was delighted. Jacinta and Susie agreed that their friend had chosen a setting fit for any goldfish and the newfound peace was cemented with a glass of sherry as they all stared at the overcrowded tank.




Thursday, 9 July 2015

Anyone for tennis


I’d be lying if I said I was a big fan of sport, I’m not, I do understand how other people get enthusiastic about the events on television, but I don’t understand why they then feel the need to have a go. In April, around the time of the London marathon, we seem to have more joggers running along Pavers Place than any other time of the year. This week everywhere you look there are women in short white dresses and men in any colour of shorts with pristine trainers.
At the Spar Gary and Harry were celebrating Wimbledon with luxury strawberries and cream, the price they are charging you would think they had been prepared by Sue Barker, with the cream churned by Boris Becker. Many people in the street had boycotted the Spar strawberries and one of the outspoken lobbyists had been Reg, who was outraged at the price.

‘Those strawberries will be eaten by members of my family, over my dead body’, had been the actual words he used, which I thought was a tad extreme, but that’s Reg for you.
In fact him and Margaret were two people in Pavers Place who had taken up the tennis mantle along with Ian and Raphe. No one would chose to see Reg in shorts for any occasion, his varicose veins do a fine impression of an ordnance survey map, and his stomach escapes from the bottom of his tee shirt revealing a cavernous belly button. It’s enough to put you off your strawberries and cream. Raphe and Ian are always dressed pristinely for any event that they undertake and their outfits this week have been no different.
After the run in over the allotment I would expect these two couples to avoid each other over the net of a tennis court, but apparently they were practising at the Pavers Rec at the same time and decided to go for a game of mixed doubles.
It was an unusual combination to behold, Reg in his grubby tee shirt and shorts and Ian and Raphe looking like Andy Murray could ask them for style tips. Margaret was very nervous about the game, and reminded Reg many times before the first serve to be nice to their opponents.
‘I’m always nice’, came Reg’s gruff reply, but everyone else on the court knew this not to be strictly true, Raphe was still reliving the time he had been told by Reg, in no uncertain terms, to kill the mole he had uncovered at the allotment.
The game started well, the four being reasonably successful at maintaining rallies, and there was a definite flow to proceedings. Margaret and Raphe in particular were enjoying the match, but neither of them predicted the sudden turn in events when Ian lost a couple of points to Reg, and was suddenly overcome with a burning need to, ‘thrash the sausage loving pain into the ground’. Raphe’s face took on a glow of admiration and fear as he witnessed this unseen side to his partner, Margaret on the other hand was in abject terror, she had long suffered the results of her husband’s competitive spirit and was in no mood to cope with it now.
The pair meandered feebly around at the back of the court in their respective ends, giving Reg and Ian the chance to battle it out between them.  Ian had previously revealed to Raphe that he intended to hold back to ‘give the old couple’ a chance, but the spirit of gamesmanship had been lost along with the last two points, he was, as he was wont to shout out, ‘back in the zone’.
Reg’s face grew increasingly red as he ran around to meet Ian’s aggressive shots, losing point after point. Unfortunately rather than blame himself for his lack of skill he focused on Margaret, who by this time was cowering in the corner.
‘Come on woman’, he screeched, ‘hit the ball, hit the ball.’
Things reached fever point when Reg lost another point and surrendered the game; losing all semblance of control he threw the racquet down at the ground cursing Ian, Raphe, Margaret and the net itself. Margaret rushed towards Reg to console him at the same time as the racquet rebounded from the pitch covered court, landing with full force on her head.
I watched the forlorn couple walk back towards the house, Margaret is a pretty woman who would have been the focus of much male attention when she was younger, but still I was surprised to see her wearing a red and pink coloured adornment in her hair. As they neared the house I could see that the decoration was in fact a large bump which was turning from pink to red and would soon be a lovely shade of purple, she had tears running down her face and for the first time ever I could see that Reg was looking ashamed.
‘Perhaps I could cook you up some nice sausages for your tea?’
Margaret was having none of it, ‘No, you won’t Reg, I want strawberries and cream, and what’s more I want them now and I want them from the Spar.’
Through her tears I could see that revenge for Margaret was very sweet indeed.


Thursday, 2 July 2015

Heatwave - it's official


As most of you know, yesterday in Britain we had a heatwave. We know it was a heatwave because it’s was declared as such on the news, a classification given by the Met office. The way it was announced you would think none of us knew, even though across the country people were bathing in any piece of water they could get near to, from fountains to broken water pipes. Travel on public transport was said to be worse than being lost in the desert, although I would hazard a guess that there would be a lot less odorous armpits and a distinct lack of music leaking from noisy headphones.
In Pavers Place the heat brought its own set of concerns to each of the inhabitants, but the businesses seemed to have the most issues. In the Spar, Barry and Harry had chosen this week to launch a new range of ice cream, it had been pushed on them by a local producer who had the gift of the gab and an effective line in ‘You’ve got to love local’.
Nicey icey came in a number of flavours and was, according to the producer, sure to hit the big time soon. Harry, the less cautious of the brothers, had already suffered sleepless nights over the new product and watched with dismay on Tuesday as the temperature rose and the freezers started to struggle. He had looked at the vanilla batch far too often for Gary’s liking, by the end of the day it was suggested that it was the heat from his brother’s breath that was melting the sweet dessert, not the sun.
Matters came to a head for Harry on Tuesday night when either due to the heat, or as a result of a hallucinatory episode, he had a dream that a man was surfing in the tub of melting ice cream. The image had been so vivid that at 4 o’clock on Wednesday morning he found himself in the shop, in his pyjamas staring down at the freezer cabinet. The next morning several large fans were purchased to encourage the air flow and hopefully to calm the whole situation down.
Over at Kens the normal busy flow of clients had dried up completely, after two days of no customers he was trying to think of new ways to drum up trade. It was unusual for the hairdresser to take any approach other than ‘No worries’ and this caused consternation amongst the other residents.

Ian offered to circulate leaflets advertising Ken’s business, but it was a fruitless idea, mainly because Ken had no leaflets. Raphe put himself forward as a model, this was quickly dismissed because his main audience were the inmates at a residential home and the vast majority sported a blue, permed rinse.
Reg suggested a free sausage with every cut, even offering to produce a special range, the ‘short pork and sides’, but even this was turned down. The only idea that brought a smile to Ken’s face was Catherine’s, she thought he ought to offer an ice and slice, a cold cube down the back while he sliced into the hair.
I thought these were all ingenious ideas, well apart from Reg, how can that man associate a sausage with almost any subject. I was disappointed that none of the suggestions helped to lift Ken’s spirits, instead he took to the seat outside his shop and spent a good hour sorting through his beloved records, falling asleep clutching them to him; things were clearly looking grim.

Over at the Spar the whirling fans had seemed to cool the air quite considerably but the ribbons that had been tied to them by Gary, in an attempt to make them fit into the ‘funky feel of the shop’, had resulted in a lethal weapon. Suzy and Mand had been lashed in the face and Tom was declaring that he was going to sue for the weals that he now sported on his face.
The commotion at the Spar had nothing on the noise coming from Ken when he awoke from his deep sleep. During the day the heat had become more intense and as the time had moved the on, the shady spot where he had fallen asleep was now in the full blaze of the sun. The heat was no problem to this man who bathed in the warmth but it was a very different story for the LPs that now lay at his feet, Bob Marley had started out the day accompanied by his Wailers, now they could only be described as the warpers.

There was no consoling Ken, he shut up shop and went home; later that night the talk at the Short & Curlies focussed around the suggestion that the residents would help Ken to restock his record collection. I feared for his mental wellbeing in the morning, as far as I can gather so far they had collected the best of Terry Wogan, a single by Katie Price and the birdy song.