Friday, 24 August 2012

No golds for literature, I'm afraid

The day after our splendid repast at Backaskaill, if you remember, we had an appointment to keep. I duly packed the acoustic bass into the back of the car and drove up the road, (the weather was abysmal), to Heather and Tony’s house, avec cake. We chatted together for quite a while and things were indeed going quite swimmingly until the time came for the gentlemen to retire to the studio (garage). Apart from being very self-conscious in such esteemed company it was an amazing experience to hear my host play the keyboard. For example, he explained that, as a jazz musician, it’s pretty much ‘anything goes’ so long as it gets back on track before the do hits the fan. As well as advocating that “if you don’t make mistakes then you’re clearly not trying hard enough”, he stated a penchant for dropping a few bars of a different song into the proceedings just for the hell of it. Now that’s the sort of confidence in one’s ability that so frustrates those of us that can only dream of emulating it. All that I could reply with was to play him a short riff that somebody with talent had taught me. I clearly have some homework to do. He did take the time to share his passion for the songs and musical stylings of Tom Lehrer. We enjoyed a little sing-a-long to ‘The Masochism Tango’ and ‘Poisoning Pigeons in the Park’. Now I have to go through all his songs on i-tunes to find a favourite. Then it’ll be a case of breaking out my bass chord book and my copy of ‘Bass Guitar for Dummies’, which I fully expect was very much written with me in mind.

Back in the garden, I continue to be an angel of death of horticulture. Our first tomato plant was becoming pot-bound and given that the pot it was in was practically a small skip, it needed to go outside. Now it’s dead. Miraculously, we have peas, not from the tomato plant, obviously, but all the varieties of beans that had flowered so promisingly have since taken a chronic turn for the worse. But the most frustrating of our ‘children’, is the squash plant. There is a creeping vine from which beautiful, yellow rosette flowers blossom at regular intervals. At the base of each bloom, a fruit swells. However, it is a cascade of disappointment. Each young squash seems to prosper until the moment the next flower along opens up. Then it seems that all the plants energy is focused on the new fruit and the old one withers and rots on the stalk. I had trusted Neil in ‘The Young Ones’ who asserted it was all a case of “we sow the seed, nature grows the seed and we eat the seed.” He at no point intimated that nature is a fickle bitch who will tease you with rampant swathes of inedible flora all around but kick you in the ‘happy-sacks’ if you try to grow anything useful. I used to be an advocate of organic food but if it takes shit loads of chemicals to get the selfish bitch to allow us to feed ourselves then she’s the one responsible for massacring my green credentials.

On a lighter note, I scored my first birdy on the Sanday links. But it’s a golf story and you don’t want to hear it. I told Gail and it garnered the same response as Rimmer got from relating his ‘Risk’ story. Fair enough. It’s not as if it had gotten me into Irkutsk.

Bifrost in all its glory. Shame someone's getting wet.
As well as the weekly good walk ruined, I’m still trying to get some proper exercise. I don’t like it when Gail is feeling a bit poorly, but whenever she’s not up to joining me at the pool it does mean that I get the chance to leave the car at home. I’d think about trying out all of the triathlon disciplines but running is for masochists and fortunately I don’t have the knees for it. (Running, not masochism.) Last Friday, I jumped on the bike, rode five miles, swam another mile in the pool and then rode six miles home. I should perhaps stress that the house hadn’t moved further away but that I had just taken a circuitous route home that meant that I could buy some eggs on the way. My weather predicting hasn’t improved. I thought that the rain-bearing clouds on the horizon wouldn’t reach me before I got home. I thought wrong. The only positive to be had from the inconvenience was that two showers in one day meant that I don’t have to have another one now until Hallowe’en.

I have to confess that the Olympic Games had me utterly transfixed for seventeen days. It made me proud to be a human being and I don’t very often feel that about my species. There are times when it all got a little too jingoistic and the mingling with the crowds and sticking microphones in the athlete’s faces I found incredibly annoying, but the endeavour and spectacle was beyond reproach. I feel obliged to compliment the well-recompensed organisers and offer my congratulations to those policing the circus for not murdering anyone as I was pretty certain they would. Bugger me if the nation didn’t do a better than half-arsed job at something for a change. As an idealist I like to think that the whole world was overcome with the Olympic spirit and that, primarily, is why the thing went off without a hitch but part of me can’t help thinking that there are warehouses around the country full to the brim of ne’er-do-wells that G4 have been sitting on for a month. If there are, do you think it possible to persuade them to keep them there for a while longer?

The new Skoda is short on hp but more fun
The first weekend in August was when the Sanday Industrial (sic) and Agricultural Show took place. I suppose farming is an industry so I’ll let them off. There are not very many farms on the island and consequently some of the livestock classes were thinly contested. It needs to be respected that the value of the livestock is largely dependent upon the rosettes awarded so it is hardly just a ‘butterfly’ competition. For added drama, I was stood beside a qualified butcher who was very excited about what cuts he’d like to take from each animal. The lad was positively salivating! Our main interest however was in the horse and pony arena. It certainly got me thinking about the time when I could finally turn my back on the despised internal combustion engine. Most of you know by now that, in my opinion, the word ‘progress’ is just a term  to describe a new way we’ve found to screw the planet up and that I openly confess to being a Luddite of evangelical proportions. After the showground events, it was inside for the arts and crafts exhibits. Fortunately, one does not need to be talented to recognise it in others and conclude that competition promotes quality. The lace work was as exquisite as it was baffling. Not to my personal taste but very beautiful. The art and photographs were good too. A more cynical individual might suspect that the winters are long and boring. Having been forced to dance at the last shindig, needless to say that, this time, we gave the evening knees-up that followed a miss.

The climax of the show was a fishing competition the next day. It’s not much of a spectator event but a large crowd did gather at Kettletoft pier for the weigh-in afterwards. Our friend Andy had gone out on a boat that morning and was rather chuffed with his 68lb of mackerel and coalfish (Pollock). As it was barely a week after his hernia operation, I made sure that I was on hand to carry his catch to his van. He let me help myself to a couple of the smaller fish so that I could test Gail, who had previously assured me that she could gut them. Having donated the remainder, those that he had neither time, freezer space nor inclination to fillet, to the open-air barbecue, he headed off and I took my little beauties home with me. Alas! While Gail was indeed up to gutting and filleting, her dislike of being stared at by her food meant that the removing of the heads was my domain. As we are yet to discover where the chef’s knife was packed, the chore had to be performed with a breadknife, which necessitated a sawing action. It all looked and sounded very gory and I had no idea that the little critters had so much blood in them. We had to wait until the advent of amnesia before we had the courage to cook and eat them. Preparing the chips was far less of a drama.

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