Sunday, 31 May 2009

No sniggering at the back, please.

The naturalists among us were no doubt excited to hear of the recent re-introduction of beavers to the Scottish countryside, after a 400-year absence.

Headline writers and 14-year-olds were probably quite pleased, too. It must be like having all your birthdays and Christmases fall at once. I am going to resist all temptations to write any beaver puns. No, really.

In any case, it was this detail that concerned me:
Overnight three families of European beaver, 11 animals in all, were released into this landscape, which forms a natural enclosure of hill and rugged coast.
11 animals? Surely that's going to cause all sorts of issues? Before you know it, they'll have split into five happy beaver couples, all enjoying productive beaver lives.

But the 11th beaver is going to be left out on his own.

Imagine the awkwardness. Oh, sure, the others will put of a front of civility. But once the weeks turn into months, it's just going to be harder and harder.

"We just can't invite Barry to the dinner party darling, we can't. He'll end up sitting on his own and being miserable. Then he'll move onto the drinks cabinet, like last time. I wouldn't mind, but he gnawed his way through the door to get at the Amaretto."

And so let us picture Barry the beaver in his solitude. Alone he sits, in his lodge, after a hard day's damming, heating up his ready-meals for one. "Sod 'em all," he mutters to himself. "I'm happy as I am."

But I can see him going rapidly downhill. Drinking from a bottle in a brown paper bag, Barry spends his days listlessly surfing the Internet for anything beaver-related.

And that's not going to end well, is it?

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

A niche market. Just the wrong niche market.

At the weekend Katie and I went to Birmingham Pride Festival. We've been doing this every weekend for the last few years. We could say that it's because we have some gay friends and family and it's a way of showing solidarity with the cause. Of course, the fact that it's a good day out and you get to drink beer in the sunshine might have something to do with it.

The sun shone, the drag queens were outrageous, the crowds were happy and, well, gay. The market stalls were, in the main, doing a roaring trade. Slogan T-shirts - for the boys, "I'm not gay, but my boyfriend is" and for the girls, "Yes we are. No you can't watch."

But there was one stall that was quiet. I think they'd made a tactical error. It looked lovely, it really did. All stripped pine and antique-y fittings. Another time, another place, and it'd be beating off the customers with sticks.

But it was, perhaps, too much to expect a hot chocolate stall to go down well in the middle of a gay festival during the May Bank Holiday.

For starters, it was into the high twenties, temperature-wise. And you've got to be pretty dedicated to want hot chocolate - marshmallows or not - when you're building up a sweat. Even though some of the potential clientele were wearing not-very-much-at-all, there were never going to be many takers.

Then there's the demographic. Brother no. 2 and his partner were up from the weekend from Brighton to see how other cities do Pride. And he was beside himself. He actually took a picture of the hot chocolate stall. "They'll never believe this back home," he muttered. "WKD Blue, Red Bull perhaps. Vodka would be a cert. But hot chocolate? With this crowd?"

They're here. They drink beer. Get used to it.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

One day like this

It's not every day you get one of these through the post:

An invitation to see the next Lord Mayor of your city being installed is a rare thing indeed.

Mind you, it's not every day that the new Lord Mayor of your city - the second city of the UK, by the way* - happens to be your uncle. I know. Scary, isn't it?

So 4pm yesterday found us - my brothers and cousins, with partners - stood outside Birmingham Council House:

"That's some council house," someone said, "wonder what the monthly rent is on it?"
"Where's your dad right now?" I asked one of his sons.
"He's probably meeting up with the current Lord Mayor for a handover."
"I see. Handing over the nuclear codes and all that stuff."
"You've been watching too many episodes of The West Wing."

We were ushered in to meet the Lord Mayor-elect and Lady Mayoress-to be. Or Mick and Viv, as I've called them for much of the last 30-odd years.

Then into the Council Chamber where the business of several hundred AQIP (Actually Quite Important People) was going on. A fanfare of trumpets, ceremonial mace-carrier, and the current Lord Mayor came in. Apparently this happens all the time, if you're a civic leader.

"If Mick gets this treatment every time he walks into a room," someone whispered, "he's not going to be too popular down at the library."

After the speeches, proposals seconded and voted, the nuts and bolts of committee, family and friends were gently led back out again so the AQIPs could carry on.

Drinks reception at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery next door. Dignitaries, string quartets, but other than that, the place had hardly changed since the last time I was there. Sure, there were fewer gloomy school-visit teenagers, but otherwise identical.

And then to the Banqueting Suite. Over the years, the freedom of the city has been granted to various units of the armed forces. So there was a smattering of uniformed personnel around. Certainly not the sort of people I bump into when pushing a trolley around Aldi, that's for sure. My sister-in-law now precedes everything with, "As I was remarking to the Colonel the other day...."

What this photo from the dinner doesn't show is the new Lady Mayoress having to employ two telephone directories under her feet as she couldn't reach the ground while she was in this chair. I sincerely hope they were Birmingham telephone directories.

A great day for all concerned. And, to be honest, after the events of December any family get-together that doesn't involve a visit to a crematorium is a bonus.

With everything else on their minds (this is a Very Big Thing Indeed, after all) the fact that my aunt and uncle thought to invite us nephews along was really quite amazing. Before they jumped on the express train that is the Mayoralty, I know they used to read this, so in May 2010 when things revert to normal they'll hopefully catch up and see me saying "Thanks".

I suspect there should be a 'Right Worshipful' in there at some point.

*(As you were, Manchester, as you were.)

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Self awareness

This evening I watched a fantastic sunset.

The sun, a golden orb, settled low down on the horizon. Streaks of clouds stretched across, like wispy quartz backdropped against the heavens.

The sky was a deep azure, fading to a deep velveteen black.

A flock of geese swung across the sky, almost as if in awe of the backdrop themselves. There was a silence that was magnificent in its profundity.

I settled back and regarded this majesty unfolding before me. The best free show on the planet.

And I thought to myself, "How insignificant I am."

Mind you, I thought that yesterday too, and it was raining.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Allium sativum

Last night Katie made a rustic pizza-ish sort of thing for us for dinner. Lots of very nice tomatoes, the ones they sell on the vine like some sort of organic Airfix model, some blue cheese, Parma ham, the full monty.

And garlic.

"Mmm. This is a bit garlicky," I said as I tucked in.

"It is a bit, isn't it? I only used two raw cloves, though."

As I retired for my ballistic reverie last night, I was still feeling the effects. "Sweet baby Jesus and the saints, Katie, my breath could strip plate steel," I commented, "and I have to say, light of my life, you're not exactly fragrant yourself." It's this sort of honesty that is the foundation of every strong marriage, I believe. Although I did get a kick in the shins for my pains.

Listerine was employed to the fullest extent possible. It barely dulled the onslaught.

Six hours of sleep later and I was now expelling garlic through every pore. Showering set it back a little bit, but it was still there.

"Stop complaining," said Katie, "I've got it too. And in any case, it's meant to be a great cure for the common cold."

"Yes, because no bugger's going to get close enough to pass one on to me. Have they started crossing garlic with uranium, or something? This has a bloody half-life."

I drove 25 vampire-free miles to work, doing that 'bent-hand-in-front-of-the-mouth' thing all the way down the M6. It's a look.

This afternoon I got a text from Katie:

Still suffering here. Are you still garlicky as well?

it said. I replied:

My mouth feels like there's a Frenchman living in it.

We're just living the dream, folks.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Yeah, like what she just said

The more fervent Make Lard History followers will have noticed a disturbing drop-off on the posting quantity (and quality, let's be brutal) of late.

It's true. I have been visited by the writers' block fairy. Instead of taking away a molar in exchange for a nice shiny bit of hard currency, this particular existential creature takes away all your desire, willingness or ability to write sparking prose.

And you don't even get 20p in return. Bummer.

Anyway, the muse hasn't yet returned. But it's good to know I'm not alone. My friend Dory also writes a blog, and she's been suffering too. However, she appears to have got it back. You have to read her account of how it happened.

But be warned. She's officially as Mad as a Badger.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Prime Mover

I've had enough. I need to come clean. The constant rumours are getting too much. It's only fair that I make this statement now, and publicly. For my sake, and the sake of the country.

I have no intention of becoming the next Prime Minister.

I can see how the story got started. After all, the current incumbent is having some 'leadership issues' at the moment. When it's not the economy, it's the spin doctors. When it's not the spin doctors, it's the expenses. And when it's not the expenses, it's rock-hard blokes with big knives.

It's enough to make you want to reconsider your career options, I know.

But I wanted to be the latest to make it clear that I don't want the job. After all, the news has been full of other potential candidates running away from the prospect as fast as their legs will carry them; I thought it only fair to add my name to "Thanks But No Thanks" list.

I can't say I wasn't tempted. After all, apparently you get this fancy place in SW1A. You can probably get a bit of a discount on the home insurance with all that Plod standing around. There doesn't appear to be too much to do, either. I mean, you get to stand up in Westminster every Wednesday lunchtime and play that old parlour game "Answer a question with another question" for some unknown reason, but other than that the rest of your time appears to be pretty much your own.

And it's not as if I hadn't had some ideas for my Premiership, either. I'm a serious man, with serious ideas. When I walk down the street, people look up to me. Well, those that are 5'7" or lower, anyway. But when I learned that the PM doesn't actually have the power to demand reruns of Black Books on the telly, the whole thing lost its appeal for me.

So it's with regret that I must inform the nation that I shall not be throwing my hat into the ring. Please try to curb your natural disappointment at this news. I am sure the right candidate is out there somewhere.

Actually, has anyone checked to see if Stephen Fry is available?


Related Posts with Thumbnails