Sunday, 29 November 2009

Jingle Balls

Being anthropomorphically predisposed, the story I am about to tell is painful for me, but one I feel I should share. Several years ago our friend, Mr Flange, gave Mrs Custard and I seceral small gifts in exchange for us making him some dinner. Amongst the fine presents he brought was a small peluche Christmas-themed penguin who 'sang' Jingle Bells when you pressed his tummy. Here's a picture of him. As you can see if you look closely, Mr Flange even bestowed a name on our furry singing chum; he charmingly called him 'Twatbollocks.'

Young master Twatbollocks has been part of our Christmas decorations ever since. He goes well with the hundred or so other pieces of penguin-related paraphenalia we have received from people over the years, the result of a penguin fixation I'm yet to fully shake off. The only problem with Twatbollocks is that he doesn't shut the fuck up. Singing Jingle Bells in December is fairly acceptable, but when the yuletide season reaches an end and young TB is popped back in the box with the tinsel, baubels and all the other penguins, he is prone to leaping into song at the slightest knock of his cardboard home. The result was that anytime we went rummaging in our hallway cupboard we could hear faint muffled verses about dashing through snow in one-horse open sleighs - something which, I might add, I doubt Mr Twatbollocks has ever actually done.

What with the recent move, the christmas decoration box has had a fair few knocks of late and yet Twatbollocks has been spookily silent. It was only last weekend when we got around to unpacking everything again that we noticed something was wrong - very wrong, with our little penguin chum. Instead of his jovial jingling bells-related jangle there was only a sickening static buzz, like the sound of someone being electrocuted after dropping a radio in the bath. What's worse, rather than clicking off after a minute, Twatbollocks just kept going, spitting out static like a drunk foul-mouthed robot tramp. Even when hidden in the depths of the spare room cupboard we could still hear his crazy-dalek babble. Eventually Mrs Custard could take no more; 'he'll have to go....'

I've been emotionally scarred before from saying goodbye to members of our furry menagerie. I'm still haunted by the memory of saying adieu to Bunny Warehouse, a fluffy white and pink rabbit we were given by Mrs Custard's uncle. We eventually put her in the Vinnie's donation bin - mostly because she was scaring us and the other toys (some of whom had unkindly taken to calling her Bunny Whorehouse). I can still remember her accusing eyes as I gave her once last shove in the face after her head got stuck in the swinging door. With this in mind I left it to Mrs Custard to send Twatbollocks on his way to his final destination... the dustbin.

So that's my story. I'm sorry if you found it upsetting, but life is sometimes cruel. I'm not proud that we got rid of Twatbollocks, but it was necessary. Tuneless, unseasonal singing is all well and good, but even my Aunty who gets inappropriately drunk at family parties knows when it's time to leave. I hope that wherever he is he understands, and takes solace that there is now a corner of the internets forever dedicated to his memory. And wherever you are on the planet, if you should hear the jolly strains of Jingle Bells over the coming weeks, please stop, take a second and think, 'here's to you Twatbollocks...'

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Cine-mattock Orchestra

Me and Mrs Custard have bought a house. As huge and difficult and scary and interesting as this has been I’ve refrained from writing about it here because I don’t wish to add one word to the culture of property porn that has insidiously wormed its way into every aspect of our society. I’m not about to start now just because we got lucky. On a personal note I am grateful not to have to deal with fuckwit real estate agents anymore, and to anyone experiencing what we’ve just been through my thoughts are with you. As Les McQueen would say, it’s a shit business.

My favourite thing about our little place so far is having a garden. We have no back garden to speak of but we do have a big space out the front that the previous owners have been using as a car park for the past two years. Regular readers will know that my gardening abilities are mostly limited to growing very small vegetables in pots but from the first time we visited the house I’ve been dreaming about how to turn that corner of dry, compacted soil and squashed weeds into a proper doing-Grandpa-proud type garden.

So, with great delusions of horticultural adequacy I eagerly turned up at Bunnings two days after we moved in and bought myself a proper spade, a garden fork, a trowel and several bags of organic poo. Game on. Or rather it would have been had our move not coincided with Melbourne’s hottest start to a November since records began. Two weeks of temperatures in the thirties with not a single drop of rain rendered our erstwhile car park dry, dusty and mostly impenetrable. Not that it stopped me trying.

Each evening after work I took to the front yard in shorts and a highly unattractive grey singlet top, trying to get my garden fork more than three inches into the soil. This was far more fun than it sounds. When you’ve been sat on your arse all day shuffling papers at ‘work’ doing a bit of work-work is actually quite invigorating. It’s also the first time since I was at school that I’ve been properly dirty and had to wash proper mud off in the shower. Things got even more fun when, on the recommendations of a sympathetic colleague, I bought a mattock. It’s a kind of flat headed pick axe perfectly suited to scalping vicious weeds from their roots and cleaving huge chunks of earth with relatively little effort. I now love my mattock as much as my laptop.

I suspect my labours were also highly entertaining for our new neighbours, each and every one of whom took turns to peak out of their curtains to watch the only madman in the street with a veggie patch in his
front yard. As the days progressed and the rains stayed away I began to feel like Gerard Depardieu in Jean de Florette – toiling in the sun under the suspicious eye of the locals. Midway through the second week of heat and without a cloud in sight I felt like standing on my newly hewn pile of dry dirt and yelling ‘Je suis bossu’” at the sky, just to see what would happen.

The neighbours, yesterday

Thankfully, what did eventually happen was the heavens opened. I mean really opened; in a handy month’s-rainfall-in-24-hours type way. Pools of water gathered in the unploughed bits of our lawn; a trench I’d dug in readiness for some planting turned into a moat. I filled two buckets, half a dustbin and a huge plastic laundry box with rainwater. Taking to it with a fork, the loosened soil came apart easily and I was able to dig about 40 centimetres down into the ground.

From that point on I was away. I staked out a veggie patch and a bed for herbs into which I mixed a 'generous helping' (a technical term favoured by real gardeners on telly which I have decided to adopt to make myself appear more knowledgeable) of manure, chicken poo, blood and bone, seaweed and mulch. A day later I found our first worm... which, frankly, is about as rock and roll as life gets. Even the neighbours have started leaning on the fence for a chat which just goes to show the power of vegetables.

Here be worms!

I'll try and articulate my failures and occasional successes in the garden on these here pages, so if you're a fan of amateurism both journalistic and horticultural, you know where to find me.