Winter Continued…

February 18, 2010

I haven’t mentioned the weather recently. There’s a reason I haven’t mentioned it. It doesn’t change. I think there was a day of misty fog back in December or something but, as a rule, the sky is clear and blue so as to con you when you first look out the window (‘What a beautiful day! Hoorah!’, etc) and then you look down and see not only snow, but, on the bits of ground someone has scraped snow off, what appears to be permafrost.  I haven’t been outside since the beginning of October, and even then I think it was -7. That’s not warm.

During this season of winter, a season that appears to last seven or eight months of the year, the people of the Prairies appear to do a lot of ‘Winter Sports’. Respect. This is an impressive way of distracting themselves from the fact that they are always cold. My Dad had suggested these to The Mushroom, but the overall consensus appears to be that my Dad and The Mushroom don’t do Winter Sports, even if The Baby was up for it.  They are, still, English, and winter for the English mostly involves Staying In and Eating Soup.

“Curling?” suggested my Dad, presumably not seriously.


“Downhill skiing?”





“I think it’s kind of malevolent.”

There is a lull in the conversation whilst my Dad considered this.

“What?” he eventually queried.

“The blacked out helmets. It’s a bit creepy. So no.”

My Dad braces himself to continue. “Toboganning?”


“Cross country skiing?”

“I could walk quicker.”

“Ice hockey?”

“Seriously, it’s not even a sport.”

“Ice fishing?”

The Mushroom just looked at him.

“Ice skating?”

“Ice skating hurts. It hurts my calves.”

My Dad sighed. “Well, The Baby’s too young for any of it anyway. Maybe next year.”

The Mushroom looked worried.

However, it’s half-term, so everyone else has gone ice fishing/skiing/snowboarding etc, including Enthusiastic Teacher, who has left his kitten, ‘Bijou’, from the same litter as Fluffy Usurper, in the trusty care of my Dad for the week. ‘Bijou’ is very small, and brown and cream and fluffy all over. And I can tell you this: Fluffy Usurper isn’t the Anti-Christ. His sister is. I have never known a more ridiculous name for a kitten that is blatantly Satan in a furry jumpsuit than ‘Bijou’, unless ‘Bijou’ is actually short for ‘Beelzebub’. Fluffy Usurper looks like someone has poured boiling water over his ears as a result of ‘Bijou’ beating the shite out of him for twelve hours without a break.  At least he’s left me alone, simply cos he’s too frigging knackered from protecting his head/torso/gonads to even contemplating jumping on my head. So I quite like ‘Bijou’, as it goes.

“How are you staying sane?” asked Dancer From Manchester on Skype, when she was told about the sheer longevity of Winter (you can’t tell on Skype that she’s a dancer – she doesn’t do a high kick mid sentence or anything – but I’ve met her before, and she is, and thus is called, at least in my head, Dancer From Manchester). There was a pause. The Baby looked quizzically at The Mushroom. Perhaps she doesn’t yet know the difference between sane and not, but a clue might lie in the fact that her mother has taken to singing nursery rhymes in the style of The Fine Young Cannibals and finishes each with jazz hands.

The Mushroom looked shifty. “I’m listening to a lot of music. I’m fine. Anyway, Spring will soon be here.”

Perhaps it’s just me, but directly quoting Phil Collins does not seem like a good sign. At least she’s not singing it. If she launched into a Phil Collins number everytime anyone mentioned that Spring, allegedly, will soon be here, she’d be singing from the Collins canon about seven times a day (she has form for this; when Gordon Brown became Prime Minister, everytime he was mentioned on the news she thought it would be funny to then sing, ‘Golden Brown’. It might have been funny once. She only stopped when my Dad said he’d stove her head in with a shovel if she didn’t). In any case, the statement is a load of utter bollocks. Spring will not, Mr Collins, soon be here. Spring will be here in May.

(She has, however, discovered ‘Wayne FM!’, better than ‘The Goat FM!’ in that they do not play Def Leppard or Miley Cyrus, but worse in many ways too. Wayne FM has three jingles: 1. ‘Wayne FM – playing all kinds of stuff!’,  2. ‘Wayne FM – we may not play your request immediately, but we’ll get round to it!’ and my personal favourite, 3. ‘What do you get when you mix an ipod with a load of amps? Your own radio station!’ I like number 3 because it is literally true. I fail to see how else they could play Men At Work and Dexy’s Midnight Runners every single day, without someone in middle management at Wayne FM having a word. One wouldn’t think there would be a huge posse of ex pat Australians living in Saskatchewan demanding ‘Land Down Under’ every day.)

The Mushroom has also started this week – it being Winter, and she being vaguely English –  her new hobby: the making of rustic soups.

“Hello!” calls my Dad on his return from the gym. He pauses in the task of taking off his many coats. “Why does the house smell of farts?”

“It doesn’t, it smells of leeks.” The Mushroom replied.

“Same thing, love. Why, then, does it smell of leeks?”

The Mushroom proudly presented a large tupperware dish of beigy mush. “I made leek and potato soup!”

He peered into the bowl. “What are those red bits?”

“Mashed kidney beans.”

“And those little ball things?”

“Chickpeas. The Baby loves it! She ate a whole bowl full for lunch!”

A little trumpetting sound was heard from The Baby, who was greeting my Dad with a leg hug.

“Sweetheart, you’ve just fed The Baby with a bowl full of pure wind.”

Whilst the soup may have had its repercussions, I think everybody was glad to see the back of the scones. Only Fluffy Usurper and The Baby liked them anyway, but Fluffy Usurper will eat anything (including, it would seem, crayons) and The Baby liked them cos they had half a pinch of sugar in them and that’s the nearest she’s allowed to a cake. Goodness knows what will happen when someone finally gives that child a hobnob. Her pupils will probably go all dilated and she’ll run around for three hours like she’s on speed.

One hopes that the eventual advent of Spring will put pay to a) The Mushroom’s cooking endeavours, b) her experimental delivery of nursery rhymes and c) Wayne frigging FM. It is simply wrong that a cat born in the 90’s should know all the words to ‘Come On Eileen’.

Spring will soon be here.


American Idiom

February 9, 2010

“Love, do I talk entirely in obscure English idioms?” asked The Mushroom after a day at playgroup.

My Dad was sitting on the sofa, clearly trying to think of an obscure English idiom to use in reply, but was far too tired from spending the day trying to persuade his pupils that saying ‘Hitler was a great leader’ is not the same as saying, ‘I love, Hitler, me. I think he was great.’

My Dad has a bit of a problem with some of his pupils insomuch as they take everything he says literally, and pretty much everything my Dad says is sarcastic. So far, the main beliefs held about him by his pupils are:

1. That he wants to be a table.

2. That the character of ‘Maverick’ in ‘Top Gun’ was based on him.

3. That the character of Hans Solo was also based on him.

4. That when he has a load of essays due in, he gets so excited he can’t sleep.

5. That he loves Adolf Hitler.

Now, not even Kev From The Haworth, who collects Nazi memorabilia, has some suspect tattoos and probably votes BNP actually loves Adolf Hitler. Okay, maybe Kev From The Haworth isn’t the best example as on second thoughts perhaps he does love him a bit, but in general, as a rule, people think Adolf Hitler was a bit nasty. Wikipedia is certainly quite harsh about him.

“Yeah.” he sighed. “Why?”

“Because people kept looking at me blankly, and then asking me what I meant.”

“What did you say?”

“Much of a muchness.”


“Swings and roundabouts.”

“Anything else?”

“I think I referred to someone as ‘spitting feathers’. Oh, and a little boy was being silly and I said he would be hoisted by his own petard. And I think I might have used ‘all talk and no trousers’. And ‘plain as a pikestaff’. Oh, and the use of Lysol spray to clean the playroom was good cos an ounce of prevention was worth a pound of cure.”

“Love, were you auditioning for a role as a teacher on ‘Grange Hill’? Did you refer to anyone as ‘my boy’?”

If the people at playgroup are anything like my Dad’s pupils, they will, thus, think The Mushroom was talking about someone who likes to eat birds whilst going on fairground rides, half naked, talking a lot. The other idioms she used would just have sounded like nonsense. Seriously, what does ‘much of a muchness’ even mean? And who uses it? If it doesn’t mean anything, why say it? Is it just a filler, like talking about the weather (a short conversation here. ‘It’s frigging freezing.’, ‘Yes, yes it is.’  The End)?  The thing is, The Mushroom uses them all the time. In fact, she uses bits of idioms, often followed by ‘et cetera’, (‘Oooh, well, when the scales fall, et cetera…’, ‘OOh, you know, beard the lion, etc…’, ‘Ooh, well, run it up the flagpole et cetera, eh?’ – and these are all taken from one overheard Skype conversation between The Mushroom and her mother, who possibly uses even more idioms than she does. It’s like a secret code which only the two of them understand. I’ve also just realised that perhaps The Mushroom is also excessive in her use of the sound ‘Oooh!’, but she doesn’t get out much, so I’m not going to judge). I’m sure speaking like this would be grand if you were, shall we say, a minor character in ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’, like one of those country wenches or something but, if you’re a Canadian playgroup supervisor, it might leave you stumped.

Whilst my Dad’s pupils may commit the crime of being too literal, The Mushroom commits the crime of never, ever simply saying what she means. I don’t know if this is a human thing, or an English thing, or a lady human thing, or an English lady human thing or, indeed, if it is just The Mushroom.

“Can I get away with this?” she asks my Dad, emerging from the bedroom wearing a pair of leggings purchased via the wonder that is Ebay.

My Dad looks trapped. “In what way, ‘get away with’?”

She glares.

“It’s a simple enough question. Can I get away with this?”

My Dad takes a deep breath. “If you mean, ‘Can I get away with this, or do I look fat?’, then the answer is yes, you can get away with it and no, you do not look fat. If you, however, mean, ‘Can I get away with this, or do I look like Max Wall?’, then the answer is no, you cannot get away with it, and yes, you do look like Max Wall.” He breathes out. “Okay?”

Women are odd. The Mushroom is totally okay with this, even though, in a wonderfully English, roundabout way, my Dad just said that the new leggings make her look like a tit. He didn’t, however, say she looked fat, so that’s all fine then.

Can I just add that, from a furry mammal’s perspective, leggings are one of the oddest sartorial choices a person can make. The only thing odder is high heels. I have noticed that The Mushroom hasn’t put on a pair of high heels since she got here, and I suspect this is because she, too, checked Wikipedia and is wearing flat shoes so she can run when she sees a cougar. High heels make the person wearing them stick their bottom out at an unatural angle and then totter. It makes them look a bit like they want a poo. Perhaps this is the point, and I have missed this aspect of the human mating ritual.

On an entirely different note, Fluffy Usurper has double jointed back legs. Freak.

Live or Let Drive

February 7, 2010

The Mushroom is learning to drive.

I mean this in the loosest possible sense.

It would probably be more accurate to say that The Mushroom has promised she will learn to drive, has been offered driving lessons by no less than three people, and has yet to actually look at, let alone take, the theory test necessary in order for her legally to sit behind the wheel of a car in Canada.

I think The Mushroom might be scared of driving. I don’t entirely blame her; cars are useful for sitting on when it’s warm, sitting under when it’s wet, and avoiding when they’re in motion, but otherwise, I’m not a massive fan myself.

“Have you looked at the theory test yet?” asked my Dad, again.

The Mushroom looked about her for a diversion. The Baby was building a tower. Fluffy Usurper was eating my food. There was nothing else. It’s a very small flat.

“There really isn’t any point.” she eventually said.

“Why? ”

“Because I can’t see over the steering wheel of the Jeep so we’d have to get another car first.”

“Or I could buy you a cushion.”

The Mushroom looked a bit panicky. “I don’t really think a new driver could drive confidently on a cushion. What if I needed to reach the pedals really quickly? I’d be further up if I were on a cushion. I might not be able to reach the pedals at all. See?”

“Love,” said my Dad, beginning to look a little bit strained, “Short people do drive. Short people even drive Jeeps.”

She was beginning to babble now. “But I’m really really short.  Almost freakishly, some might say. I’m sure when Jeep were designing their Jeeps they didn’t think about how short some people could be and the whole, do I see over the steering wheel or do I reach the pedals dilemma that being very short can result in. In a Jeep.”

My Dad looked down and shook his head. “You promised.”

The Mushroom gave a little grunt of defeat. “Alright, I’ll look at it tonight.”

“And then I’ll take you out on the road.”

He had won up to that point. The Mushroom will never allow my Dad to teach her to drive. She nearly killed him when he tried to teach her to make an omelette (“Are you patronising me?”, “No, all I’m saying is that egg shell doesn’t go in an omelette.”, “Don’t frigging patronize me, I know what goes in an omelette.”, “Then why did you ask me to teach you how to make an omelette?”, “Are you patronising me?” etc), and it was a very frightening time the week he tried to be her running coach (“Why did you laugh when I was sick? What’s funny about being sick?”, “Everything’s funny about being sick”, “And why did you have to run up the hill backwards when I was being sick?”, “I was being supportive, by watching you being sick.”, “And laughing.”, “And laughing a bit.”, “I hate you.”, “I know.”), so teaching her to drive, a much bigger thing with many more ramifications than omelets or running, would be a nightmare.

“Or maybe not. Maybe Tracy will.” he added in a moment of wisdom.

I have some serious concerns regarding The Mushroom learning to drive. I am at a loss as to why my Dad is encouraging her.

1. The Mushroom cannot concentrate on more than one thing at any given time. This is probably why she can’t cook. She focuses so hard on one aspect of the meal, let’s say, what’s in the oven (you’d think it wouldn’t need concentration. It doesn’t. You put it in, it cooks, you keep an eye on the time, you take it out. I could do it, if they bought me little kitty oven gloves, and a stool, and some sort of brace for my back so I could take the weight of a baking tray. But The Mushroom seems to believe that the cooking is an act of will, so stares through the glass panel at whatever is in the oven, magicking the meat brown with her eyes) that she entirely forgets to put any water in the pan to steam vegetables, burns the pan and sets off the smoke alarm. As driving seems to require you to concentrate on at least two things (what’s behind you and what’s in front of you, and probably some other things that I am simply unaware as, whenever I’ve been in a car, I’ve never paid that much attention knowing, as I do, that the likelihood of any Ford Dealership ever handing over to me the keys to a vehicle is slim), she’s buggered.

2. The Mushroom is the clumsiest person I know. She has broken her toes, so far, seven times. Six of those times, it was by walking into furniture. Once, it was by dropping a tin of Heinz ‘Big Soup’ on her foot, thus causing a hairline fracture on her big toe. Her phone call to work was brilliant.

“So I won’t be in today, cos I’ve got to go to hospital. Yeah, yeah, no, I’m okay, I’ve broken my toe. My big toe. Yeah, yeah, it does hurt. Erm, well, I dropped something on it. Sorry? Oh, erm, a tin of soup. Heinz Big Soup. [Pause.] Yeah, they are heavy. [Pause.] Yes, yes, must be all the potato chunks.”

3. She has no spatial awareness. At all. See number 2.

Now, if The Mushroom cannot safely negotiate her way around a basement, or round a tin of Heinz ‘Big Soup’, I would hazard a guess getting a 4×4 out of the driveway and onto Route 16 to Lloydminster would be a tad tricky. At least here the roads are straight, I can’t even begin to imagine the trauma she’d go through trying to negotiate a mini-roundabout.

She hasn’t started looking at the theory test yet, anyhoo. She was last seen nibbling a Hershey bar and browsing the Topshop website, mumbling something about jumpers. The roads are Mushroom free for a while yet.