Saturday 27 September 2008

Cutting down the rain forest

14st 9lb (on the disputed Chester scale); 12.0 units of alcohol yesterday; 1,227 days left; The Jungle.

One of the more unusual features of the LTCB’s modest Chester terraced house is the fact that it has a chunk of tropical rain forest for a back garden. Or at least that was what I thought it was, until she announced that our task for the day was going to be “tidying up the back yard”. I looked up hopefully, as the dog does when the LTCB makes her cats their breakfasts, vaguely hoping that this might be a euphemism for some sort of sexual activity. But, sadly, not. It proved to be exactly what it said on the tin. Standing on a dodgy pair of stepladders, wielding some blunt secateurs as I gamely tried to hack back a Triffid-like creeper which had migrated from next door, and coiled itself around just about everything in sight. One of its advance parties had even sneaked through the frame of the back door and attempted to strangle the LTCB’s gas boiler. I could swear that I looked down at one point and saw it winding itself around my cutting arm like a living, green tourniquet.

I then took an executive decision to cut up and dispose of a three quarters dead superannuated Christmas tree in a pot, even though the LTCB claimed to feel a continuing attachment to it on the grounds that it was “still alive”. On the one hand I could not help thinking that her attitude on this contrasted markedly with her robust willingness to dispose of a large number of things from my house, including some of the less appealing conservatory plants. On the other hand, it probably augurs reasonably well for the day when the home advises her to withdraw my feeding and up my dose of morphine.

Things deteriorated markedly after this, into a completely hellish couple of hours of thoroughly filthy tidying and cleaning. We worked our way down through several archaeological layers of dead autumn leaves and chip papers slung over the fence by the scratters from the local comprehensive. Then, shortly before five, we drove to the municipal tip and gleefully disposed of the lot. I can’t remember when I was last so glad to see the back of something. Not even Tony Blair could compete.

The LTCB had invited a French lady friend to supper, and my Border terrier fell madly in love with her as soon as she walked through the door. He was most put out when I suggested that we go for a walk so that they could have some time on their own to talk about girlie things, and insisted on leading me at an unnaturally high speed on the very shortest of his regular walks. He then spent the rest of the evening gazing adoringly at his object of desire, occasionally placing a paw on her thigh. An approach he has clearly picked up from his master.

The LTCB had made a real effort to make her refurbished back yard into a beautiful spot to enjoy an outdoor supper on a mildish early autumn evening. She had lit a small stove to counteract any chill in the air, and lit numerous candles for decoration as well as illumination. The only snag was that her guest proved to be an arachnophobe of truly epic proportions, who sat constantly on the edge of her chair, keeping track of the movements of the large local spider population. Eventually she spotted one that really did look like it had stepped out of a David Attenborough documentary, and we had no alternative but to go back indoors. Perhaps it was not so fanciful to view the back yard as a chunk of the rain forest after all.

So that was half a day invested for a return of approximately ten minutes drinking wine and eating olives outside, during which 33.3% of the participants had been terrified out of their wits. Even I have managed to do better than that with most of my punts on the stock market. I did mention, as we went back indoors for delicious home-made lasagne, that there is a spider residing in the LTCB’s gas meter cupboard which is about the size of a soup plate, has legs like a Romanian weight-lifter, and can easily be mistaken for a lobster when it makes one of its periodic forays into the sitting room. I was doing my imitation of David Attenborough saying “F*** me, will you take a look at the size of that!” when the LTCB caught my eye, and I had to spend the rest of the evening pretending that I was only joking.

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