Monday, February 27, 2006

Football at Sir Benny's

My friend Benny lives in one of the neighbouring villages and he generously invites me around whenever there’s a big game on SKY Sports. Benny lives in a terrace house with a fine view over the Tyne Valley. The best advice I can give to visitors is to keep their eyes fixed on the view or on the television – as the eye can catch some scary sights around Benny’s interior.

Firstly, Benny has a vast array of DIY materials, tools and manuals (Maude and I bought him a large toolkit last Christmas). However, he seems to lack the will or initiative to do anything with them. His toilet seat is perched – not attached – to his lime green convenience. His fireback and fireplace both lean against the wall in the vicinity of the chimney-breast and a telephone wire trails right through the house from the main phone to the extension. The bare, unvarnished floorboards upstairs give the place the look of a safe house for fugitives and the curtains hang as in the aftermath of a bomb blast.

Another, more jarring, assault on the eyes is frequently provided by Benny himself. Benny is in need of a belt. The slightest bend – to throw a teabag into the pedal bin or to turn up the thermostat on the Calorgas heater which keeps him alive – reveals enough hairy cleft in which to park a bicycle. In his defence, he has now been living in a cold house for a long time and doesn’t seem to feel the cold – at least not around the rump.

We sat and enjoyed an emphatic win in the Carling Cup final for Manchester United – or rather I enjoyed it. Benny was magnanimous – being as he is a Manchester City fan. We then discussed who we might knight if given control of the honours list. I suggested Sir Mark Hughes and Sir Stephen Patrick Morrissey. Benny looked crestfallen.

‘Would you not knight me?’ he asked.

‘Of course I would’, I reassured him, ‘… for services to DIY.’

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Valentine's is just pants

Nothing lights up Maude’s face more than a present, nothing is more like music to her ears than the rustle of wrapping paper.

‘Is that for me?’ she exclaimed, as I handed over the small parcel of lingerie.

There is something reassuring about being clichéd. I stood in the queue at Marks and Spencer behind three other men clutching bra and pants ensembles as Valentine’s Day gifts. M & S had been shrewd enough to post a male floorwalker in the lingerie section for the evening – giving advice and reassurance to men whose only experience of lingerie was taking it off their partners' bodies. I could be jumping to conclusions – they might all have been transvestites (including the assistant). The guy behind me in the line was caressing his chosen gusset with a faraway look in his eye – this could have been lust in advance, or a 'Weekend Wendy' checking on chafing potential.

The man ahead of me had asked for some slow and elaborate gift-wrapping and turned to his brothers in ‘romance’:

‘Sorry chaps!’ He said, with a shrug of camaraderie.

I ignored him. The assistant then asked him if he wanted cashback on his purchase. I half-expected the customer to reply along the lines:

‘I’m hoping for more than cashback from that little purchase!’, complete with nudges and winks to the rest of the queue.

He let me down – he was only half the cliché I took him for……