Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Why is everyone having more fun than me?

It's now just over two years since I walked out of my police station for the last time, and into 'retirement'. A good deal of choppy water has passed under the bridge since then, I can tell you. Protracted negotiations to buy the house of our desires, a family bereavement, the death of a close friend, a couple of job interviews that didn't result in a job, a shed load of work on the house to get it shipshape, and the seemingly endless search for a bottle of Briannas blue cheese dressing. The latter was eventually run to ground in Waitrose, Eastbourne, by the way.

One of the most difficult aspects of retirement for me is, potentially, being under Mrs. H's feet all day. When I had a full time job I'd sail off to work, leaving her at home to do whatever it was she did whilst...um...I was working. Now, of course, I'm there all day, leaving teacups unwashed next to the sink, messing up the sofas by sitting on them, and basically just getting in the way and making the place look untidy by my mere presence. But I've found a novel way of combating this. I just go out of my way to find things to do around the house. Only small things, mind; a bit of painting here, some wallpapering there, a set of door handles to replace, a new mirror to put up. If there's nothing to do, I'll stride around the house with a purposeful air, toolbox in hand, whistling some tuneless ditty as I pretend to tighten screws or tap recalcitrant nails back into the floorboards. Mrs. H. thinks I'm doing something useful, I get to survey my dominion; we're both happy. Inevitably, however, there are times when even someone as inventive as I can run out of imaginary jobs. On days like these, Mrs. H. will signify that it is her wish to go Shopping. With a capital S. I recently had one such day. And I started it by making a child cry.

Mrs. H. and I had compiled a list of the things we needed. A new roller blind for the breakfast room; a light switch for the living room; a couple of pots of paint to replace the stuff I've been using this week. So, off we wended to Eastbourne, to an emporium of household accoutrements entitled Dunelm Mill. The first couple of aisles were taken up with bed linen - sheets, duvet covers, pillow cases. Curiously, pillow cases are divided into two distinct types; 'Oxford' and 'Housewife'. I have often idly wondered, just before dropping off to sleep at night, why this should be so. Were 'Oxford' pillowcases designed in Oxford? Did they originate in the colleges of that seat of learning in the fourteenth century? Or is there some other, more sinister explanation? And why 'Housewife'? Isn't that rather a pejorative term in these more enlightened days? Shouldn't they be called 'Non-gender Specific Homemaker' pillow cases? I said as much to Mrs. H. She told me to button it.

I left Mrs. H. to browse the linen aisles whilst I made a whistle-stop tour of the entire ten acre site that composed the rest of the store. Despite the size of this emporium, I had no fears that I would have any difficulty finding Mrs. H. thereafter. I was confident that I would find her exactly where I had left her, minutely examining the Egyptian cotton valances with the painstaking thoroughness of a forensic scientist. And I was proved right. When I eventually persuaded her away from the Percale duvet covers (whatever they might be) we hied us to the portion of the shop that sells inexpensive art. Now, I'm not sure why this is, but why does inexpensive art these days seem to consist mainly of black and white photographs of the Eiffel Tower and the Manhattan skyline? How relevant would these be if you lived in a house in Eastbourne? I wonder what Parisians and New Yorkers have on their walls? A monochrome picture of Eastbourne Pier, perhaps? Or maybe a print of Beachy Head lighthouse? Somehow I think not.

As I mused this great muse, I found we had wandered into Faux Flower Land. A vast array of pretend petunias, fake foxgloves and imitation irises bloomed all around us and, through the false foliage, I saw a shopping trolley containing a small child. This solemn child was watching me intently, as young children are wont to do, so, dear bloggy friend, I did what I am wont to do, and smiled. A sudden change came over the child. He burst instantly into a flood of bitter tears. His mother rushed to comfort him, wiping away his copious tears and asking him what was wrong. I said, 'I think that might be my fault. I smiled at him.' Well, of course, she laughed politely, and said something about the possibility he was 'coming down' with chickenpox, having recently attended a party with another child who had been subsequently struck down by said affliction. But secretly, I think she would have wanted to snatch up a bunch of those imitation blooms, and beat me about the head with them. I'm fairly sure the child would have laughed at that.

Mrs. H. eventually made a few purchases and we went home. Whilst she was pottering about the garden, I decided to log into the Hey! Everyone Here's Having More Fun Than You! microblogging site, otherwise known as Twitter. Now, we've spoken about Twitter before, so you know how it works. Sometimes, I vouchsafe my innermost thoughts to my 'followers' in 140 characters or less; at other times, I just see what everyone else is saying and doing. And this is when I discover they're having more fun than me. 'They' always seem to have just signed a book deal (every other person on Twitter describes him/herself as an author, artist, illustrator or similar), just that minute arranged a holiday in Tahiti (leaving in two hours!), be hanging out in an exclusive caviar and champagne bar in Knightsbridge, or are trying to get everyone to sign up to some noble cause (Free the Temperance Seven!) when the rest of us non-academic, stop-at-home non-caviar-consuming sans-champagne apolitical herberts just want to play word games involving the deletion of the word 'love' and insertion of the word 'bum' into the titles of as many 1960s songs as we can remember...

I think I need a little lie down. I'm hoping the next post will be entitled 'Why I'm having more fun than everyone else'.

14 comments:

She Means Well... said...

Actually, as an exile from the great British South, I would rather like an arty monochrome photo of Eastbourne pier on my wall...

Chris Hale said...

SMW - Good for you! May I politely ask from which bit of the south you originate?

Ivy Black said...

Ah, Chris, I'm glad it's not just me who's given to these meanderings as I walk around the Palace of Eveything that is Dunhelm. Dunhelm is my mum's idea of a morning well spent, and when I visit her in Wales, we always go. I silently give up the will to live after about two aisles and it's only her joy at finding linen goods that keeps me going. We` have been known to go from there to The Range, then to Matalan, where I join in and buy a cardigan or socks or something and then we finish off in Ikea. I too can make children cry just by looking at them, but I have a theory that they have a heightened sense of intuition and can actually see my face as it really is after three hours in Ikea. Think Tim Curry in Legend and your almost there!
x

Chris Hale said...

Ivy - Three hours? How on earth do you manage to escape from Ikea in three hours? I think you and I need to sit down for a chat...

Ivy Black said...

Chris, go to the foodmarket bit and start lobbing meatballs around. You'll soon be out of there...

Stevyn Colgan said...

Sing with me! 'I stand accused ... of bum in the first degree ...'

slim_cop said...

Prolonged and painstaking investigation (well, a quick butcher's at Wikipedia) reveals that 'Oxford' refers to a pillow case with a valance (aka frilly bit round the edge) and 'Housewife' refers to one with that sort of flap on the inside that you tuck the pillow itself under.

Just thought you'd like to know.

Chris Hale said...

Ivy - I'm on it! A video of me juggling with Ikea meatballs will shortly be available on YouTube (TM).

Stevyn - Indeed! In the words of the Beatles, 'All you need is Bum'.

Slim Cop - Thank you for that. I'm guessing you're a detective...

Derrick said...

Hope you've begun enjoying yourself a little more by now, Chris? On the subject of art, we've got pictures of flowers and stuff, in colour(!), should you feel inclined to adorn your walls with something rather less geographical.

Chris Hale said...

Hi Derrick, and sorry for the delay in replying. Yep, I'm having a bit more fun now. I feel a new blog post coming on...

Rallentanda said...

I haven't been here for a while.
Sounds like fun to me all that
dilly dallying about,examining the finer points of pillow cases etc.
You were probabling examining things for fingerprints and looking for clues, a habit of a lifetime, I suppose.
You look a bit like Inspector Wexford, come to think of it.

Chris Hale said...

Rall - Hi! And thanks for the poem. Not sure about the Inspector Wexford bit, though. I mean, have you seen my Twitter avatar?

Raph G. Neckmann said...

Good to see that you're still having plenty of fun, O Wordsmith of Middenshire! :)

I've found that the best place to keep out of the way is to read the newspaper in the ensuite - particularly useful if endeavouring to avoid mowing the lawns.

Chris Hale said...

Raph - Hello! Good to have you back. Today I'm keeping out of the way of the double glazers as they remove some decrepit windows and doors to replace them with shiny new ones. Pity they're doing it on one of the chilliest and wettest days of the autumn so far!