Monday, 14 November 2011

Polite, helpful, friendly shopkeepers? No; Bernice

The other Friday, I wanted some sweeties, so I went to the shop. It was lunch time, so myself and a very dear friend of mine made the short journey to the shops. It all looked like being a very enjoyable period of my life; all good friends and jolly good company 'n' all that. We made pleasant chit chat on our little afternoon constitutional, ranging from the very idle (the virtues of cheesy chips over classic salt and vinegar, which, when balanced with the fact that they charge an extra 30p to melt some pretend cheese onto your chips, are precious few) to the slightly more deep (God stuff- you don't wanna know). That's just the way we are.

So we walked along the relative calm of the road that goes to the shops, taking care to avoid the puddles, the sweaty men emerging from the gym in the midst of a mid life crisis and realisation that they are no longer very attractive to the opposite sex, and middle class, Range Rover driving, Aga owning, mumsnet-using women dropping off PE kit that their little daaaaarlings have managed to forget and need for show-jumping that afternoon at the posh Preparatory School. 'Oh you aaaare so forgetful Henry! Don't forget to give Lucas and Oscar a kiss from mummy. And make sure Tabitha has her Cayenne Pepper, or her Brined Roast Pheasant Outdoor Wisconsin Style she's making in Food Technology won't be nearly so Wisconsin Style will it? There's a good boy. Kiss for mummy. Mwah! Okay goodbye my daaaaarling. Mwah mwah.'
You know the sort.

Anyhoo, we walked past them before hearing the dull roar of the main road that the shops are on, and our brief period of quietness was over. Sam (he's the dear friend) had decided he would go to the chip shop, so we parted ways whilst I went into a store of an un-named multi-national shopping corporation. For the purposes of law and stuff, I shall not use their real name. I shall call them the No-op. So I went in, and a very strange atmosphere greeted me. There was nobody in there, save for an ample looking woman stacking the shelves, which is unusual for a shop in such a prime location. Nevertheless, I pressed on.
Now this woman, her name badge revealed, was called Bernice... I know, I thought it was weird too. Now Bernice and I may never have had our paths cross to such an extent, but for the fact that she was stood in the sweetie aisle (where I wanted to be), stacking bars of Snickers. On account of Bernice's girth, combined with No-op's narrow aisles, I had no way of bypassing her, and getting to the Kinder Happy Hippo I desired.
In this situation, one would have expected Bernice to perhaps stand up or breathe in or something to let me past. After all, it's not as if there was much rush for those Snickers. But no, Bernice did not, so we stood there awkwardly, each aware of the others' presence but unable to do anything about it. Well the awkwardness became too much for me, so I decided I would make a light-hearted, polite comment to relax the situation, whilst reminding Bernice that I was in fact there to buy stuff. 'I probably should have decided what to get before I got in your way.' was my best effort. I was under pressure! Had I been Bernice, the minimum I would have done here is let out one of those little snorts that says 'that's not funny, but you spoke to me in a light hearted way so I shall acknowledge it with this noise and a small forced smirk in your direction'. If we still lived in the old days of Arkwright, G-G-G-Granville etc., Bernice would have suggested some of their finest confectionery, and knocked threpence off the price as reward for my politeness.
Given the usually high standards of the No-op, I expected Bernice's reaction to be towards the Arkwright end of that scale. It was not. It was not even on that scale. Bernice didn't even acknowledge me. No look up. No smirk. No snort. No nothing. Bernice carried on stacking Snickers without even recognising my existence. I was livid. I considered- no, seriously considered- leaving. Only a glance into the eyes of the Happy Hippo, longing to be bought and eaten, convinced me to stay. So I stayed and silently fumed in the direction of Bernice. (I just realised, that sounds like I farted. Oh how immature I am!)
Eventually, Bernice stopped stacking Snickers and, still without looking at me, ambled over to the till, allowing me to get to my Hippo. As I went to pay, I had resolved to give Bernice a second chance. I decided that I would make a mess of finding the correct change, so I could apologise to Bernice, and give Bernice chance to tell me it was fine. Perhaps to snort, perhaps to tell me not to worry, perhaps to smile, perhaps to apologise for her past sins. Phase 1 went well, it took me forever to find my 39p. Phase 2 went well, I did one of those giggling embarrassed apologies. Phase 3, Bernice's bit, was a disaster. Bernice did react this time, but only by sticking Bernice's hand out, and continuing to gaze out of the window and chew Bernice's gum. I could have hit her. Instead, I paid and left without my usual word of entirely gratuitous but polite thanks. It seemed such a concept did not exist there.

Conclusive proof, then, that the age of the friendly corner shop owner, of the Arkwrightian and G-G-G-Granvillian ilk, is over. Instead, Bernice and her breed of rude, unhelpful, unpleasant little people have taken over the world of shops. Next they'll take over the world, mark my words.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Oh, there's a bird perched on the shower curtain rail

Last Saturday morning, I was running late. I had a driving lesson at 10 o'clock, a foolish arrangement, I know, and by 5 past 10, I had only to brush my teeth and I would be ready (however, this can be quite an ordeal when one has braces to negotiate). I stepped into the bathroom, and my eyes deceived me. They, specifically the corner of them, told me that there was a bird perched on the shower curtain rail. Needless to say, they were talking nonsense, birds do not live in bathrooms, therefore there could not be a bird perched on the shower curtain rail, and I should continue on my bearing towards the sink, and live my life without worrying for the presence of birds perched on the shower curtain rail. So reasoned my partially awake brain.

About 0.64 seconds later, it became apparent that my eyes had not being lying. A bird, disturbed by my intended use of its new home, dislodged itself from the shower curtain rail, and decided that it would assassinate me. It flapped at me and squawked, and generally did everything in its birdy power to kill me. A daring kamikaze dive-bomb attempt saw it zoom past my face and hit the mirror a little harder than looked comfortable. Rather than stand and fight, I decided my best move was to take the Ross Kemp course of action, so I got out of there... FAST! Once I had slammed the door shut behind me, I paused, breathing heavily, before deciding that I should call in re-enforcements. I ran down the stairs, trying to look normal as I passed my ornithophobic (fear of birds) mother, before entering into the lounge and dramatically shutting the door. In my best hushed-because-something-ground-breaking-and-unusual-is-happening-which-you-must-take-seriously-but-mother-must-not-find-out-about voice, I told him 'There's a bird perched on the shower curtain rail'.

To my sheer delight, he believed me! His first response was, as Basil Fawlty would say, to state the 'bleedin' obvious': 'Don't let your mother find out'. At that moment, she walked in, and her spidey sense was tingling. She asked what was going on. 'Nothing!', my Dad, brother and I replied in unison. That is man speak for 'something important that I don't want you to know about.' By the look on her face, she had already translated, and she wanted answers. It was I who broke the painful silent stand-off which ensued. 'There's a bird perched on the shower curtain rail.'
Panic. All hell broke loose. She flew into a terrible flap (pun very much intended), and reeled off her plan of how we were going to solve the problem. 'MARK! GET RID OF IT!'
Simple, but effective.

Now readers, you know me by now, and you know that I would not hesitate to remove the thing in place of my father, vendetta against me or no vendetta. But you see, the bird-perched-on-the-shower-curtain-rail had already crossed swords with me. It knew my moves, the way I liked to parry its blows, and how I shifted my weight in attack. So I decided the noble, brave, gallant, heroic thing to do... would be to let my Dad get rid of it.

Instead, I took on the 'Q' (out of James Bond) role, and supplied him with weapons. My recommendation was a tennis racquet and a bin, but apparently that was nonsense and a tea towel was far preferable.

So in he went, like a black country Rambo. My brothers and I gathered by the door and listened to his Attenborough style commentary, which opened with the words 'Oh, there's a bird perched on the shower curtain rail', but as he got more and more into it, became less wordy and more promising. 'Come on, you little git' being typical.
Eventually, he emerged with a tiny, thrashing bundle of tea towel. Despite my abstention from this battle, I took it upon myself to open the back door to let the bird go free. And off it went, having survived its brush with civilisation, more or less free from harm.

So there we are, a brave attempt from nature to colonise the Skidmore household is beaten back by its residents. The subsequent investigation has still not revealed how the bird got in, but I will let you know when we work it out. Any suggestions are welcome.
Finally, my Dad reckons it was a Blue tit (no giggling at the back please), but I think he's wrong. I think it was an eagle. Or maybe a Pterodactyl.