Thursday 14 August 2008

Heavy water and slow thinking

14st 0lb; 2.0 units of alcohol yesterday; 1,270 days left; under water, without the benefit of an instructive lecture from Jacques Cousteau.

The Less Tall Cheshire Brunette has ruined my dog. She has done this simply by living in a house without a garden. There is a tiny back yard, but it has sadly failed to meet the dog’s admittedly demanding minimum standards of spaciousness and ambience when selecting a place in which to relieve himself. So I have had to take him for several walks a day when I have been staying in Chester. Now that we have returned to Northumberland, he thinks that the same rules should apply here, too, as he made abundantly clear when I suggested that he might like to go out into the rain and raise his leg on something before I left for lunch today. At first he completely refused to get out of his bed in the conservatory, fixing me with what the LTCB calls his Paddington Bear stare. After much cajolery he did consent to take a few painfully slow steps outside, but was adamant that he was not going to oblige me any further, and continued to glare at me until I found his lead and took him out for a walk up the road. This unbudgeted delay left me with 45 minutes to complete a journey to a pub at the other end of the county, which my sat nav reckoned would take a full 32 minutes longer. I can usually shave a few minutes off such estimates, but today every elderly Rover 25 driver in the country had apparently decided that it was the ideal opportunity to go for a little footle down the A697, while the onset of truly torrential rain by the time I reached the Military Road meant that I was far too scared to try and pass the huge lorry bumbling along in front of me. I finally staggered into the pub so far behind schedule that my guest had been moved to leave a sarcastic message on my mobile enquiring whether I was waiting for him in the wrong boozer.

I had an excellent lunch with my retired pal, who told me of his future plans for exotic holidays, including a bizarre scheme to tour the well known scenic delights of Saudi Arabia in one of his classic cars, with a group of fellow Bentley owners. I asked how his wife was going to enjoy sitting in the back wearing a hijab throughout, which he seemed to think was one of my little jokes. I shall watch the news with interest to learn of the fate of all the old roués who apparently like to make these planet-destroying expeditions in the company of their “nieces”. As if his carbon footprint were not already large enough, my friend then treated me to a detailed account of his valiant, single-handed efforts on the parish council to organize some Christmas lights and associated festivities for his village. I duly made some predictably Scrooge-like remarks about the damage he was inflicting on the environment through this completely unnecessary waste of electricity.

By the time we left the monsoon had arrived in earnest, and I made very slow progress indeed along Hadrian’s Wall in the direction of Newcastle, frequently decelerating to crawl through spectacularly flooded stretches of road. Lorries coming in the opposite direction threw up walls of water to their side, like fast steam locomotives dipping into a water trough.

Finally parked in Eldon Square, I made my way to the computer department of the department store I still think of as Bainbridge’s, armed with printed instructions from my rather geeky friend in New Zealand about the Mac Book I simply must buy to replace my defunct desktop computer. Unfortunately the ghost of my mother was hovering over my shoulder as I inspected the model concerned, whispering that its white keyboard would show up the dirt something rotten. So I ended up forking out an extra £120 for one in black, which the shop assistant assured me was identical in every respect to the one I had been instructed to buy, apart from the fact that it had a larger memory and would not look quite so revolting when I decided to type a short e-mail after tending the garden or, more plausibly, reading a newspaper. Mind you, this same blonde assistant did take about 15 minutes to work out the correct price of the Microsoft for Mac software which her employers were offering at a 50% discount, so perhaps it was a bit rash of me to place any faith at all in her technical knowledge.

I drove home with my purchases, to find that the torrential downpours drowning the Tyne Valley had passed my bit of Northumberland by. The dog did his Paddington Bear routine until I took him for another walk, by which time I was too weary to take my new toy out of its box. I passed the evening instead trying to remember which bastard had borrowed my audio books of Timothy West reading Trollope’s The Warden and Barchester Towers, then failed to return them; and wondering why anyone in their right mind would conclude that Saudi Arabia was the ideal place to take a touring holiday. Then I remembered the gas guzzling nature of the cars concerned, and the country’s most famous export apart from Osama bin Laden.

As the LTCB remarks at least once a day when we are together: for an allegedly intelligent Bloke, I can sometimes be frighteningly slow on the uptake.

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