Friday 24 April 2009

From crash to crack, via Scratter Heaven

14st 9½lb, 4.5 units. We were rudely woken at 3 a.m. by a huge crash from downstairs, as the cat succeeded in breaking out of her new sleeping quarters in the utility room. It is remarkable how much determination such a small creature can display, and how much noise it can make while doing so. Presumably we should consider this a valuable lesson prior to the arrival of our baby.

There was a letter from some bloke in Felling in this morning’s Journal, complaining that Monday’s columnist Tom Gutteridge is always writing about television (which is a bit like reading a weekly column by the Pope and whingeing that he keeps banging on about religion) while I was taken to task for having yet another go at Gordon Brown. Apparently this is getting “very, very, very dull”. Yes, that sounds like me, though the bathetic collapse of the Brown Prime Ministership was so entirely predictable that even I managed to predict it in print, and it would take a far stronger character than mine to refrain from occasionally saying “I told you so”.

After walking the dog I went to my favourite pub for a late lunch. Although it was only 2.15 the Scratters’ Academy had already packed in for the day and the streets were awash with fat, ugly, badly dressed and stupid-looking children. It would be enough to drive anyone to drink. Walking briskly to the vet’s after my meal, in the hope of buying some canine toothpaste, I found myself passing Wilkinsons, a shop I have never visited before. Spotting some washing powder in the window reminded me that we were nearly out of the stuff and so I stepped inside. I found myself in Scratter Heaven: a sort of badly organized and appallingly merchandized bazaar like the old Woolworths, only far, far worse. How this can prosper when Woolies failed is beyond me, but the place was busy, and I wrongly assumed that this could only be because it was very, very cheap. I bought several household items on that mistaken assumption. Later on, when Mrs H was visiting Tesco, I asked her to do some price comparisons and, amazingly enough, the country’s largest and most successful retailer turned out to be cheaper. Who would have thought it?

Escaping from this hell-hole, and hurriedly stuffing their carrier bag into my own holdall so that I would not be seen with it, I paid an unsuccessful visit to the vet’s then called at a series of antique shops in an attempt to fulfil Mrs H’s commission to track down an inexpensive but serviceable sideboard to accommodate at least some of our wedding presents, and some dining chairs. While these shops contained many lovely things, including several beautifully restored long case clocks and some covetable mahogany tables, their prices were massively out of our league. What I need to find is the antiques equivalent of Wilkinsons, which these days is probably a charity shop.

The search for new dining chairs gained further impetus this evening after one of Mrs H’s friends called to see her and expressed an overwhelming urge to buy a portion of chips from the shop on the corner to accompany her drink. As I may well have remarked before, this is Britain’s most generous chip shop, with a “small” portion priced at just £1 comprising five generous scoops of chips, or about enough to feed a family of four with glandular problems who have not eaten properly for a week. The ladies sat outside scoffing these while I was watching Coronation Street, then moved into the dining room to inspect our wedding album. As soon as Mrs H’s guest attempted to sit on one of the chairs its legs snapped off with a terrific crack. We surveyed the heap of matchwood on the floor and politely blamed the chips.

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