Weight Watchers

November 30, 2009

“Blimey, Switzerland has banned minarets!”, observed my Dad, as he lounged in his recently acquired lounge pants, watching the news. It says a great deal about the social activity of the area that he has chosen to buy trousers in which to ‘lounge’, unlike the days of yore when he bought items like ‘Disco Shirts’.

The Mushroom looked perplexed. “Minarets? Why?”

“I suppose the Swiss see it as a political statement or something.”, he replied.

“I don’t get it.” The Mushroom’s brow furrowed, like the time about six weeks after The Baby was born when she ventured into the kitchen, looked at the appliances, found herself putting laundry into the fridge, cried, and had to be escorted out. “How can minarets be political? Is it a sexism thing?”

My Dad turned around to look at her.

“Well, no, I don’t think so. Why would it be sexism?”

“I don’t know, maybe cos they’re dancers, but personally I’d have thought cheerleaders would have been more offensive. Have they banned those too?”

My Dad stared at her. A ball of tumbleweed rolled past the tiny, floor level window. Literally.

“Minarets, love. MINARETS. Not Majorettes.”

The Mushroom looked down. “Oh.”

There was a silence. I could tell they were both thinking about the time she thought Maris Pipers were called ‘Morris Pipers’ and were in some way connected to Morris Dancers. Neither brought this up, though. The Mushroom wouldn’t out of embarrassment. My Dad wouldn’t out of fear of having the tupperware dish within reach of The Mushroom being hurled at him.

“Anyhoo, where’s Fatty?”, asked my Dad, in a bit to change the subject and also to distract The Mushroom from the fact that they live in a place where there is, really, tumbleweed.

Hmm. I am tiring a little of the regular asides regarding my weight. I have put weight on. A bit. I have put a bit of weight on. Well, some. Quite a lot. I now weigh the same as a basset hound. Still, nobody likes to be referred to as ‘Fatty’ by one’s father, does one?

Fluffy Usurper isn’t fat. He doesn’t get called ‘Fatty’.

“How much are you feeding him?”, asked my Dad the other day, looking at the side of my bag of Iams, after another observation of my increasing girth.

“I’m just filling his bowl.”, replied The Mushroom, bin liner in hand, going in to the spare room to change my litter tray. A clue, there, my friend. A cat’s litter tray should only really need changing once a week and even then, it shouldn’t be much to write home about. My litter tray?  It looks like The Rockies in there.

“It says here a grown cat should have a cup of this a day. Would you say a cup full is a bowl full?”

There was no answer.

“How much would you say a bowl full was, then?”

I can see smugness creep into my Dad’s face. The Mushroom is Always Right in all things food related. Salt? Bad. Saturated fats? Bad. Eating chips with every meal and claiming a potato is a vegetable so it’s okay? Bad. Can I have cake for breakfast? No you frigging can’t. Feeding your cat enough to keep a St Bernard? Very Bad.

“I would say it is about five cups’ full. “, she admits.

“So we’ve been feeding Zeebs five times as much food as he needs.”

“Yes.”

There was a pause.

“Oops.”

Oops? What are you, some kind of Feeder like those people in Ohio who tube feed their wives lard to stop them running away with the newsagent  or something? Five times the amount of food I need? This is outrageous!

“Aren’t cats supposed to self-regulate what they eat, though?”, she thought to retort. Don’t try and turn this around on me, lady.  Anyway, it was a bit late, as she’d already said ‘oops’, a universally acknowledged statement of guilt.

“I think he’s been comfort eating because he’s depressed because we got a kitten.”, says my Dad.

I like your argument, Dad. Afterall, it’s nothing new. Younger, sleeker model arrives; older, less fluffy model comfort eats meaty biscuits. I’m sure it’s been happening to the Mormons for years. It has not, however, been happening here. Cos Fluffy Usurper’s popularity is on the wane.

The only person who is allowed to disturb The Mushroom’s sleep is The Baby. If anyone else does this, the full extent of The Mushroom’s Madness is unveiled.  If my Dad has the TV on an iota too loud, say, things will be thrown from the bedroom in his direction until he either turns it down or she is forced to leave the bedroom and cut the plug off with her bare teeth. So, thus, what you categorically do not do at three o’clock in the morning is sink your jaws into The Mushroom’s arm and try and play chase with it.

“This thing is frigging feral!”, she mutters, removing his teeth from her flesh and removing him from the room.

Poor Fluffy Usurper, I thought, as I lounged in my own lounge fur, nestled into the warmth of duvet. Exiled to the bathroom for the night for biting arms. Gutted. Tomorrow, I mused, I’ll teach you how to pull hair with your teeth.

So why am I putting on weight? I’m putting on weight because they’re putting too much food in my bowl, because I can’t really go outside cos it’s frigging freezing and there’s a cat next door who is the size of a Volvo and, recently, because I’ve discovered where they keep the Baby Iams and they are lush.

And with that thought I stretched, purring mightily. Maybe having a kitten is not so bad after all.

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Double Standards

November 24, 2009

One of the best things about the recent ban on swearing prompted by the fact that The Baby is making unintelligible sounds that The Mushroom thinks are words is the fact that my Dad and The Mushroom can’t swear at each other any more. My Dad and The Mushroom seem to have based their marriage on their ability to insult each other, in jest, they claim, all day long. This has led to the regular use of the word ‘turd’, as in, ‘You snivelling little turd’, which I rather liked, actually, although my Dad, who was on the receiving end of this phrase, seemed less keen.

Is ‘turd’ less offensive, I wonder, than its crasser counterpart, ‘shit’? My Dad made a case for keeping ‘shit’ in the family vocabulary, but he was unsuccessful.

“I was thinking, shit-”

“Stop swearing.”

“‘Shit’ isn’t a swear word.”

“Yes it is.”

“No, it isn’t.”

“Would you say it at an interview?”

My Dad pauses. “Yes.”, he answers.

The Mushroom stares at him. My Dad stares back. They want to smile. They cannot, as the first one to do so would clearly lose. “Would you say it at an interview for a job you wanted to get?”

My Dad sighs. “I like the word ‘shit’.”

“Well, I like drinking Mojitos at lunchtime, but I can’t do that anymore, so shut up, turd head.”

The ban on swearing does not, however, extend to when The Mushroom is in a bad mood like, for example, when she discovered that no shop in the nearest town sold millet or, in actual fact, had heard of millet. Then, she’s allowed to say ‘Bollocks bollocks bollocks!” very loudly.

It appears that her plan was to smash some millet up and hide them in burgers because apparently millet is  a superfood. You learn something new every day. I was fairly certain that millet was chicken feed, but I’m happy to be proved wrong. The look on my Dad’s face when he was faced with his millet-free burgers was palpable.

“And that is why we should always go shopping together”, he said, “So you can never attempt to buy millet without my knowledge.”

Well, she can hardly go shopping without you, I thought, as she doesn’t drive and the nearest supermarket is, I would wager, about a three day’s walk away.  It would appear, though, that my Dad should also never, ever go shopping without The Mushroom.

“So, I’m going to make shepherd’s pie tomorrow”, she said, still keen on thinking she can cook. (Yesterday, she made scones. You’d have thought she’d discovered time travel. ‘Look! Look! They look like scones!’, she cried, dangerously waving her oven gloves about. My Dad looked pleased. What he didn’t know, but soon found out, is that The Mushroom had tried to hide oats in them. Oats are also, it would seem, a superfood. And she also made them with the strange combination of apple and cheese. You know who loved them? Fluffy Usurper. Weirdo). “Did you get the minced lamb?”

My Dad was unpacking the groceries from his solo shop. “Kinda.”

“Oh, did you just get lamb and we have to mince it ourselves?”

“Nope.”, he fished inside one of the bags, and, with a flourish, proudly presented her with a cellophaned packet of meat. “I got you minced BISON.”

The Baby stopped stacking her bricks. Fluffy Usurper looked up from his game of ‘hide from The Baby’. The Mushroom looked aghast. My Dad continued to grin.

“Bison? Bison? As in, Buffalo?”

“Yes!”

“Buffalo? Minced Buffalo? In a pie? With mashed potato on top?”

“It is apparently, a very lean meat.”

“It’s not a frigging shepherd’s’ pie, though, is it. It’s a cowboy pie.”

“Strictly speaking, love, that would be beef, which would be a Cottage Pie-”

“Oh shut up. Bison. Bison pie. Blimey.”

“I bought you a scarf, though!”

And a very nice scarf it is too.

Surely Bison Pie is no worse than Millet Burgers? (I remember the first time The Mushroom cooked for my Dad. They had not been together that long. She made burgers then, too. She was, however, quite drunk, and the bulb in the kitchen had gone, so when she put in ‘a pinch’ of Montreal steak seasoning, she actually put in about 250 grams. Montreal steak seasoning is made mostly of salt. My Dad really wanted to marry her, though, so he ate them. And then he was a little bit unwell.) The rules for my Dad are different from the rules for The Mushroom. If my Dad leaves his dirty shirts anywhere other than inside the washing machine, The Mushroom explodes like he’s smeared excrement around the kitchen. If my Dad mentions that it might be nice to open the laptop and not find smeared banana all over the keyboard, The Mushroom snaps something about ‘being really busy’ and ‘not having the time to do everything’, slams a few drawers and then makes a massive deal out of cleaning it. How can someone be too busy to either a) eat a banana AWAY from the laptop, b) wash their hands after eating said banana or c) just give it a quick wipe? How about this for a suggestion, Mushroom – PUT THE BABY DOWN. Just for, like, a minute. She can walk. She can entertain herself. She has all the plastic in Saskatchewan on the living room floor. Let her pick up Fluffy Usurper by the tongue or something, and just give that laptop a quick clean. This affects me, you see. It gets on my paws and the only way I can get it off is by licking them, and I frigging hate the taste of banana.

I’m going to have to think of a way of making Fluffy Usurper lick my paws clean. There have to be some benefits to having a kitten in the house. He keeps following me around, making his, ‘Look! Look at ME! I’m a kitten all fluffy and cute! Look at ME!’ face. I do look at him. I look at him, and then I slap him. And he still follows me around.

Ooh, I think I can smell bison cooking…

Oh, for frig’s sake. I still cannot believe what has happened. Out of the blue. With no apparent warning.

The bastards have bought The Baby a frigging kitten.

This is an OUTRAGE.

Eleven years, I’ve been with my Dad. Eleven long years. Through thick and thin. Through that awful period living at That Bastard Dave’s. Through the times he lived entirely off kebabs. Through those months living with Smokey Joe. And then, just because The Baby looked mildly interested in Enthusiastic Teacher’s kitten, they get her one as ‘a belated birthday present’. And it really was mild interest. She looked at it, stroked it, then wandered off. She does that to chairs. And why, why does she need another birthday present? She has all the birthday presents. In the world. I live in a Basement Suite I simply couldn’t swing in if I were a swinging kind of cat because it’s full of crappy bits of battery operated plastic; what does she need another moving toy for? A moving toy that frigging URINATES IN CORNERS. (Incidentally, one of her crappy bits of battery operated plastic, the Tow Truck, not only shouts out that it is ‘a Tow Truck!’ in a very loud, enthusiastic voice, it also plays a variety of songs when you press buttons on the side, one of which sounds remarkably like ‘Mein Herr’ from ‘Cabaret’. What gives there?)

Anyway, it gets worse. I am black. I am proud to be black. I am a black short-haired, neutered cat. Fluffy Usurper? He’s white. He’s white and he’s fluffy and he very much still has his testicles. This smacks of racism, or, at the very least, some type of testicle-based bigotry. Am I not good enough? Do I need to be replaced by some blue-eyed, fluffy white kitty? Yes, yes maybe I have put on some weight recently. There might be a few grey hairs sprouting on my chest. But I’m still sleek. I can still climb trees. Honestly, what were they thinking? The Mushroom better watch herself.  She’s the only other dark-haired person here. Before you know it, my Dad will bring some blue-eyed, blonde, fluffy lady in and we’ll see how she feels about that. Shit. That’s how she’ll feel. There’d be no belly tickling or chin scratching then. Oh, I am LIVID.

I have spent the last twenty-four hours, thus, under the bed in the spare room. As an aside, I really wish The Mushroom would dust in here. It’s minging. If I wasn’t so very cross, I’d sulk somewhere else. And if it wasn’t so very cold and full of coyotes, I’d sulk outside and give them a scare. As it stands, though, my underbelly is now covered in fluff and bits of The Mushroom’s hair, which can be found everywhere she goes, like some sort of weird, hairy, calling card. Urghgh.

Now, I know that he’s only a kitten, a baby cat, blah di blah, but it just isn’t fair. It isn’t fair that The Mushroom’s facebook page is now full of photos of Fluffy Usurper and comments about how ‘cute’ and ‘adorable’ he is. It isn’t fair that Fluffy Usurper can wee on the floor and not be told off for it. It’s not fair that Fluffy Usurper can leave a Code Brown on their bed and for them to just laughingly clear it up. And most of all, it isn’t fair that he’s IN MY HOUSE.

I can hear my Dad and The Mushroom talking about how I’ll get used to it. How Fluffy Usurper will look up to me. How I can take care of him. Bollocks to that. Fluffy Usurper is just another in a long line of contenders for my frigging Iams.

The only ray of light in this otherwise dismal, dark day is the fact that I have, in my glimpses into the living room, seen The Baby pick Fluffy Usurper up by his tail about three times, and twice by one of his ears. That must hurt. Aha. Ahahahahaha. Ha.

Bastards.

Racists.

Speaking of racists, the other day my Dad has a Parents’ Evening at school, from which he didn’t come back until 10.45 pm.

“Why in the name of cheese are you back so late?”, asked The Mushroom as she stroked my ears, in the days before the Fluffy Usurper.

My Dad sighed. “I was accused of being racist.”

“What? Why?”

My Dad sighed again and removed his tie. “Because I have a picture of Adolf Hitler in my classroom.”

The Mushroom stared at him.

“And a parent thought having a picture of Adolf Hitler up in my classroom must mean that I loved Adolf Hitler.”

“Did you try to explain”, said The Mushroom as she placed me back on the floor, “That you’re a history teacher?”

“Yes.”

“And that Hitler is quite a key figure in history?”

“Yes.”

“Don’t you also have a picture of Mussolini? And Stalin?”, The Mushroom asked.

My Dad eased himself into a chair. “Yes. I love all dictators.”

” And, come to think of it, don’t you have a picture of Amy Johnson?”

“Yes. I love all dictators and lady pilots. Now please give me some beer.”

She did.

I sidled up to him to comfort him. That’s what I do. Or did. In the days before the Fluffy Usurper.

Humph.

Cooking Up A Storm

November 15, 2009

“Why is my brother on TV?”, The Mushroom asked, looking startled.

My Dad raised his head from his school reports to look. “Unless your brother has changed his name to ‘Jacques’ and is now presenting the Weather report for Manitoba, he isn’t, love. Anyway, what are you doing?”

The Mushroom was at the table, poised with pad and pen.

“I am writing our weekly menu.”, she said proudly. My Dad, wisely, left her to it.

The Mushroom has decided to become a cook. Not in the professional sense, you understand, because she is apparently still too busy holding The Baby to work (and this is nonsense. The Baby can walk. Surely this means The Baby can go to school now?).  No, she has decided to become a cook in the ‘Doing Something To Chicken Other Than Just Grilling It. Again’ sense. About time. Frankly, my Iams look more interesting than a lot of the meals she presents to my Dad. And I really don’t want any one else stealing my frigging Iams.

“Right!”, she exclaims proudly, brandishing her pad and pen and looking slightly like a squirrel. “I have written our shopping list. I have planned our menu for the week. I have our recipes. I am good to go!”

My Dad sits up, and puts on his supportive face. He knows that this could get messy, quickly. Every now and again, The Mushroom decides to try something new. Generally, she tries it once, realises she is crap at it, cries, and never does it again. Sometimes this reaction is reasonable, like the time she decided to trial for the England Hockey Team based on the fact that she was ‘really good at hockey at uni’, forgot to wear a sports bra, and apparently spent the entire game feeling very scared and jumping out of the way of the puck. Other times, I can’t help but feel it shows a lack of stamina, like the decision to learn Italian which stumbled at the realisation that many of the words were ‘different’.

This new venture, however, affects my Dad in an integral way. He needs her to be good at this.

“So, what’s on our list then, my beloved?”

“Chickpeas. Millet -”

“Do what?”, he interjects.

“Millet.”

“Light of my darkness”, he says, still smiling his supportive smile, “Millet?”

“Yes. Millet.”

“Why do we need millet?”

The Mushroom consults her list.

“For one of the recipes. It says millet.”

“Do you know what millet is, love?”, he queries, supportive smile fading slightly.

“Yes of course I frigging know what millet is.”, The Mushroom growls, losing most of her squirrel-ish enthusiasm and turning round. My Dad can’t see her face. I can. She has no idea what millet is.

“Right, that’s brilliant!”, my Dad says, panicking slightly, “It’ll be lovely! What else?”

“Quinoa. Flax.Kidney Beans. Lentils – ”

“Is this all for the same dish?”

“No.” The Mushroom’s face filled with self-doubt. “Should it be? ”

“You’re in charge, petal. I’m sure it will all be lovely.  Brilliant. Well done. It will be wonderful. Am very excited.” There is a pause. He’s overdone it slightly. They both know this. They don’t acknowledge it, as that would make it worse.

The Mushroom sighs. She was not cut out for domesticity. From what I can gather, it requires traits such as patience, forward planning, economizing and a general sense of cleanliness to be successful as a housefrau. She is, thus, pretty screwed, as she has none of these. So why, you may be pondering, is she making this zealous effort to be successful as one? I have a theory. This theory is based on the fact that yesterday she went to the post office not once, not twice, but thrice. The Mushroom, I believe, is maybe going a bit mad.

“I wonder where we can get millet from?”, she ponders out loud whilst passing a ball to The Baby who, oddly, is wearing a yellow top and red trousers and thus appears to be dressed as Spain.

“Pet shop?”, replies my Dad. The Mushroom quietly begins to cry.

“I was only joking, love! No, no, don’t get upset!”, my Dad starts to stutter. It goes against the rules for her to cry before she has even tried her new venture.

“I don’t know what millet is.”, she whispered.

My Dad puts his arms around her. The Baby happily throws her ball. I slink out of the room.

Party Time

November 8, 2009

Border Collies, it would appear, are the most thick skinned of dogs.

“Let’s introduce Dweezil to Zeebs!”, shouts my Dad. The border collie’s name is Dweezil? Dweezil? What kind of name is that to give a female animal? It’s perfectly clear that ‘Dweezil’ is a boys’ name.

Why, you may be wondering, would my Dad want to introduce a border collie to me? I’ll tell you why. So that I’ll fluff up like a microphone head with eyes, that’s why. This unavoidable phenomenon causes much amusement for him, despite the fact that it leaves me skulking away, nursing a nervous tick and feeling a tad embarrassed. For a man who claims to love me enough to spend a small fortune shipping me over here, he has an odd way of showing it. But I was not to be mastered. Never again will I let some hound eat my Iams. I, this time, was here first.

Dweezil is brought downstairs. I am ready for her. My back is arched. My tail is in the upright position. My fur is fluffed.

“Woof!”, says Dweezil.

I hiss. I spit. I make the slightly creepy, low meowing sound that people who hate cats really get frightened by. And Dweezil? She LICKS MY EAR.

Right.

Oh well then, as long as she keeps well away from my meaty biscuits, fair play to her.

It was the new neighbours’ – Band Man and Enthusiastic Teacher –  first Friday in the house. My Dad, The Mushroom and The Baby went up to say hello, and came back at a reasonable hour to have dinner like normal folk. This serial killer’s basement suite, however, is not sound proofed, and it was clear that much merriment was being had. My Dad, occasionally, made slightly yearning glances toward he ceiling, which The Mushroom steadfastly ignored.

It was an evening in which I feel I learned much about the human race.

I now know, for example, that the difference between an enthusiastic, polite 23-year-old French Teacher from Saskatoon and a man who very loudly raps along to the work of 50 Cent is about three-quarters of a bottle of Glenfiddich.

I know that at some point in an evening of drinking, it becomes acceptable to throw nuts.

I know that there also comes a point when people stop caring that the dog is licking their sour cream dip.

I had forgotten about things like this. I do, now that I think about it, recall an evening some Christmases ago when my Dad decided that it would be an effective time-saving device to simply drink pints of Gin and Tonic, thus avoiding having to return to the kitchen quite so regularly, and that HP Sauce and After Eight mints went together nicely as an after dinner snack. I think it was also this same evening that The Mushroom made one of their guests a cup of Bisto instead of coffee by accident, and the guest in question either put so much sugar in it that he didn’t notice or was simply too polite to say. On nights like these I hid under the TV. They are, now, a thing of the past and I am guessing this is connected to The Baby, and I for one do not miss them. Trust me, there is nothing fun about some booze-addled stranger spotting you on the way back from the toilet and rubbing their face into yours, exposing you to their whisky-soaked, Bisto-laced breath and telling you that you are a ‘beautiful pussy cat, yes you are, yes you are!’ repeatedly, and then falling asleep on the floor with their head pressed against your rib-cage.

In the meantime, it was an interesting trip down Memory Lane to listen, again, to such shenanigans, until The Mushroom got so sick of hearing 50 Cent complaining in no uncertain terms about something or other that she turned on the only radio station available in this neck of the Prairies, a station called ‘The Goat’, which seems to only play Def Leppard and Miley Cyrus. I’m not altogether sure which was worse. It was, however, almost instantly effective, with 50 Cent cut off mid instruction to ‘Tear the roof off this Motherfu-‘ whilst Miley was, apparently, ‘nodding her head like yeah’.

I sat in the shape of a ball and pondered upon The Mushroom’s patience and practically willed this to happen again, if only to see The Mushroom go upstairs in her bedraggled pyjamas and scary hair and see what happens then.

A Touch of Frost

November 4, 2009

When I saw my Dad and The Mushroom laden with bags on their return from Saskatoon, my spirits soared. Surely there would be a bit of catnip for me? No. There were, instead, nine bags of toys for The Baby, all of which, it would appear, require batteries and make a lot of noise when anyone goes within a three foot radius of them. This is unfortunate when one lives in a small ‘basement suite’ with three humans and a cat. One bright orange contraption thus announces that it is a ‘Little Tow Truck! Going round a corner! Honk honk! Watch out! I’m on my way!’ seemingly all day long. Turn it off, Mushroom. TURN. IT. OFF. I have never known anything or anyone enjoy their work as much as this frigging Tow Truck. ‘Here Come The Cars!’, it cries. ‘I’m a Little Tow Truck!’. We know. WE KNOW.

There’s also a train/lorry type contraption which I and, it would appear, The Mushroom – who presumably bought it – were somewhat confused by.

“She loves her fire engine, doesn’t she?”, asked The Mushroom as The Baby clambered onto this thing.

“She doesn’t have a fire engine, sweetness.” my Dad replied.

They both watched The Baby ride around on the ‘fire engine’.

“What the frig is that thing, then?”

‘Roll up, roll up!’ the thing shouted in an unfeasibly excited American accented voice.

“I don’t know.”, answered my Dad. “But I think it has something to do with a circus. It has a lion on it. That’s my best guess.”

The Baby loves it. She has spent the last few days running around the ‘basement suite’ pressing buttons and riding her Circus thing with a maniacal grin plastered on her face, to the sound track of, ‘I’m a little tow truck!’ ‘Roll up, roll up!’ ‘Honk honk!’ ‘Number 3!’ ‘Red!’ ‘Blue!’ ‘Roll up, roll up!’ ‘I’m a little tow truck, going round a corner…’ Can you imagine what this is like for me? It is beyond all experience. Come on, people. Her birthday was days ago. She’s got to play with them all for a good while, so put them away until next year and let her loose on the cupboards again.

I have a feeling, however, that the cupboards are a thing of yesterday, of a simpler time, of an age before the tow truck.

I am also far too traumatized by the cacophony of noise and American accents to even think about going on Wikipedia and finding out what in the name of arse a ‘tow truck’ is.

However, I did manage to pop onto Wikipedia the other day to find out what this is: ‘Curling’. I needed to find out, because The Mushroom came back from the daily excitement of her trip to the Post Office to inform my Dad that some woman had invited her to join her ‘curling team’, and this piece of information caused my Dad to have some sort of fit which caused his tea to come out of his nose.

According to Wikipedia, in ‘Curling’: ‘Teams take turns sliding heavy, polished granite stones down a carefully prepared ice rink towards the target (called the house). Two sweepers with brooms accompany each rock and use timing, equipment and their best judgment, along with direction from their teammates, to help direct the stones to their final position.’

You what? WHAT? Who thought of that? Under what circumstances did this sport evolve?

‘Right’, says Fictional Canadian From Olden Times, ‘I want that stone, over there. Hmm. I could just pick it up. But it’s a bit icy. I could fall and dent my bonnet. Oh well. I’ll just, erm, use this broom to sweep this, I don’t know, dust from the ice outside my hut/log cabin. Oooh! The sweeping of the ice makes the stone move! Maude? MAUDE! Come look at this sport I’ve just invented! It’s much better than that ski-ing shit you were wittering on about!’

In other news, the neighbours, Band Man and Enthusiastic Teacher, have moved in upstairs. I have yet to meet the accompanying dog but I have been reliably informed that the dog is from an easily frightened breed, so I’m not too worried. I am, however, getting increasingly worried about the Winter.

‘So, how cold does it get in the UK?’, asked Enthusiastic Teacher of The Mushroom as he collected his key which had been in her safekeeping.

“The coldest I ever remember it being is -7. That was frigging cold.”

Enthusiastic Teacher looked at her with a combination of confusion and pity.

“You know it gets a lot colder than that here, don’t you?”, he asked, “Like, by another forty degrees or so?”

“Yes, yes, I know,” answered The Mushroom, somewhat flippantly. There was a pause. “So, erm, what does -47 , you know, actually feel like?”

“It hurts.”, replied Enthusiastic Teacher.

“Could I go out for a walk?”

“No.”

“No?”

“No. Your skin would freeze off. In minutes.”

“So I couldn’t go out to play in the snow?”

“We get several feet of snow”, he answered, “So even if it wasn’t so cold that you’d lose your nose, you would get lost in it. So, er, no. Not really.”

“Oh.”

Oh. So, to summarize, in about six weeks, the snow will come and we won’t be able to see out of the windows, and we won’t be able to go out cos it will be too cold. Excellent.

Curling, anyone?