Friday, 3 April 2009

Buy my house, for pity's sake

14st 12lb, 6.2 units. So far so good on the weight front. Last year I lost an impressive two stone in just over three months, most of which was down to a bet with my fellow columnist Tom Gutteridge, who kicked the whole thing off by writing at the start of the year that he intended to lose 21lb by Easter (and sadly, for him, overlooked the fact that Easter 2008 was scheduled to arrive about a month earlier than he had anticipated). He didn’t do it; I did. Yesterday he announced that he was back up to 212lb (he clearly spent too long living in LA) and needed to lose 12lb by the time of his marriage at the end of August. I vowed to do at least as well, and we shook hands on some sort of bet, without (so far as I can recall) specifying the sum of money involved or the intended beneficiary. So that’s two incentives to lose weight, remembering the giant bag of pork scratchings that Mrs H has pledged to buy me if I get down to 13st 7lb by the time that Charlie is born in July. Maybe Bowers the butchers will be able to harvest them by shooting down the flying pig that will doubtless herald my achievement.

Still, on last year’s form, 12lb in five months seems eminently achievable. And I got off to a good start as a result of my main course choice at yesterday’s lunch of crispy pork belly. It was utterly delicious, but Tom laughingly drew my attention to the high fat content and, on closer examination, 95% of it did indeed comprise a slab of pure, white, quivering pork fat, with a wafer-thin layer of grey meat at its base and another wafer-thin layer of crackling on top. The more I thought about it, the queasier I felt. I could not face supper. By bedtime I was feeling positively ill, and decided to have a medicinal glass of whisky and ginger wine to help me to sleep. Only there proved to be no ginger wine in the usual cupboard. It is most unlike me (Mr Anal Stockpiler of the Year, 1972 – 81, after which I was disqualified to give the other entrants a chance) not to have a reserve supply of anything, and I duly began searching in all the likely places. And there indeed they were: two bottles of ginger wine perched on a high shelf at the very back of the cloak cupboard. I should have got some stepladders to reach them, but it was late and I was tired, so I just reached out my fingertips towards one, thereby upsetting a stash of plastic bottles of water I did not know I had (why would someone who has spring water coming out of his taps ever have bought those?) With horrible inevitably, one of these set off on a slow motion, tumbling descent, bounced off the bottled beer on the shelf beneath and sent 500ml of McEwan’s Champion Ale smashing onto the tiled floor below. I should have embarked on a thorough clean-up right away. But, as previously mentioned, it was late and I was tired, so I just mopped up the worst of the spillage and toddled off to bed, clutching my nightcap.

I woke this morning to an overpowering smell of stale beer, such as you might find in a Cambridge pub after the last day of the Mays, when much ale has been drunk and not a little thrown. However, an extensive programme of works involving hot water, Flash and floral disinfectant meant that by the time I left after lunch the place merely smelt like a 300-year-old brewery that had been tarted up a bit in anticipation of a visit by minor royalty. Not very appealing to viewers of the property, but then luckily there has only been one of those since I put the place on the market in February – and he pitched up before it was even advertised. Since then there has been Mr Benn, who made an appointment to look around but never bothered to turn up (well, the agent did warn me that he was “very rude”). And, er, that’s it. It would not bother me too much but for the fact that I have a son due to arrive at the beginning of July and I would rather like to have a stable home (not in the Biblical nativity sense) to bring him up in. Ideally, that would be somewhere in Cheshire, where Mrs H has a ready-made support network of family and friends of her own age, most of whom seem to be also pregnant and / or in the process of bringing up young children. However, I can see my Plan B of bringing the lad up in the middle of nowhere in Northumberland inching to the fore.

What I would like above all is a bit of certainty, so I thought I would take the opportunity to urge you to buy my house. It really is quite nice, if I say so myself, and in an absolutely stunning location, with views of the Simonside Hills from the south-facing windows and a truly wonderful prospect of the Cheviots to the rear. If you are a believer in the James Lovelock school of climate change doom-mongering, it is on a hilltop that will keep you well clear of rising sea levels, exposed to enough of a breeze to turn a modest wind turbine, and comes with enough land for you to keep chickens and a couple of goats for milk, and to grow your own vegetables.

I realize that advertising the place on my blog may seem a bit of a long shot, but then it has already got me a beautiful, funny, young wife, so clearly more or less anything is possible. Feel free to take a look at the estate agent’s particulars on or the even fuller spiel from the Newcastle Journal homemaker at

Then make me an offer.


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