Thursday 25 September 2008

Lunch with a Neanderthal

No idea; 6.0 units of alcohol yesterday; 1,229 days to go; pre-history.

I realized that today was going to be a write-off the second time I was woken from a deep sleep by the distinctive sound of a cat vomiting. One such occurrence may be written off as unfortunate; but the second is clearly the cue for sitting up in bed with a computer on your lap, Googling all the invariably fatal diseases that are heralded by nocturnal nausea among allegedly domesticated felines.

It would be fair to say that the dog and I take a fairly detached view of this sort of thing, but the Less Tall Cheshire Brunette loves her kitty-cats, and one has to do one’s best to empathize. Particularly when one has a 30-odd year track record of crashed and burnt relationships, in which the fatal moment was so often blurting out, “It’s only a cat / toy poodle / horse for f***’s sake!”

I got out of bed feeling completely exhausted after my disturbed night, and somehow managed to waste the whole morning reading a newspaper. My Alzheimer’s only needs to make a little progress before I’ll be able to save 90p and a short walk (or a longish drive, when in Northumberland) by reading the same paper every day. I must remember to dig one out that will unfailingly cheer me up. Ideally one combining coverage of a Royal jubilee with a couple of hilarious obituaries – say of an eccentric hereditary peer with a long list of sexual peccadilloes, and a notable left-wing MP who had perished in a freak accident on Hampstead Heath.

At lunchtime I tottered out to the pub, and did not even have the energy to walk a couple of hundred yards up the hill to the Curmudgeon’s Arms. Well, there was another consideration, to be honest. I was in that state when only chips will do, and the Curmudgeon takes as dim a view of chips as he does of hen parties and children (though one suspects that he would be slightly more likely to eat the latter). So I went into the first pub over the bridge and ordered a pint of bitter and a plate of fish and chips.

When I asked the young barmaid if they sold pork scratchings, she affected a look of disgust such as I have not witnessed since I last asked my PA if she fancied a shag. This was a bit discouraging. So was the fact that all the best and brightest tables in the place were already occupied, two of them being taken up by a pair of grotesquely fat, male mental defectives, one of whom had a chin which jutted out exactly like a Neanderthal’s. So I sat down in a gloomy spot in the cavernous interior, where shortly afterwards I looked up on hearing a dragging sound. This proved to be the knuckles of the Neanderthal scraping along the floor as he and his companion made his way to the table directly in front of mine to consume their lunch. Meanwhile a couple of bright-looking, well-spoken young men in their 20s sat down on my other side. They started talking earnestly about mountaineering and, assuming that they knew what they were talking about, I reflected that I could now hold my own at a cocktail party at Chris Bonington’s by dropping into the conversation the fact that, of course, one could save an hour and a half of footslogging on the ascent of Ben Nevis by driving to that alternative starting point that not everyone knows about. Though unfortunately it does take an extra hour and a half to drive there.

They then moved on to current affairs, and one observed how strange it was that one never heard much about that Jade Goody any more these days. Apart, presumably, from the daily reports of her battle against cancer. Then the slightly younger one confessed that he could not find time to read the papers, but tried to hear the news as “he liked to keep in touch with what was going on.” The older one asked him, in that case, if there had been a fire in the Channel Tunnel recently, as he thought that he had heard some mention of it. Yes, said the younger one, it had caused quite a bit of damage and they had had to put everyone on ferries for a few days. And had some holiday company gone bust? “Nah, I’ve definitely not heard that. It’s banks that are going bust these days!”

My, how they laughed! The Neanderthal clearly had a much better grasp of current affairs, and could probably yet earn a place around Gordon Brown’s cabinet table. It just goes to show, once again, that I really must stop myself relying too much on appearances.

The LTCB returned from work intent on taking her ailing cat to the vet’s, but unfortunately she (the cat, not the LTCB) could see that one coming and was holed up on the kitchen roof. The LTCB managed to entice her to the edge of the roof with some cat treats and I then made use of my height advantage to mount the rickety stepladder, reach up and grab her. The cat was far from happy. I felt that I had been a bit of a hero, but recognize that I probably spoilt things a bit by volubly pointing this out.

We then drove to the Comedy Vet, where a couple of perhaps once glamorous blonde receptionists kept up a hilarious double act, with the repartee centring on the hoarding of blue ballpoint pens. Then we were seen by a vet in whose presence I struggled to keep a straight face, since he looked like the product of a bizarre experimental breeding programme involving Roy Hudd, Ken Dodd and Freddie “Mr Parrot Face” Davies. He said that he cat was not dying after all, which was a bit of a bonus, and gave her three injections and a syringe full of laxative for £25. This seemed to compare most favourably with the pricing structure adopted my own vet in Northumberland, who has never been known to charge me less than about £40, even if I have just popped in to buy a worming tablet or a tube of canine toothpaste.

Afterwards we took the dog for a walk in a Chester park where, for the first time in his life, he set eyes upon a grey squirrel. At home we have the smaller, shyer red ones, and I doubt whether he has ever actually seen one of those, either. He was utterly enchanted, and desperate to be let off his lead so that he could chase them, with a view to playfully shaking them to death. If their relentless advance into Northumberland continues, perhaps one day soon I shall feel it only right and proper to grant his wish.

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