Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Chutes, wine, beer and jam

Joshua wasn't too impressed at first. To be fair to him he'd only just woken up not ten minutes before and had found himself surrounded by relations.
Waking up and finding yourself surrounded by grinning relations looking directly at you can't be fun, so why should we think that it would be okay for a kid?
Can you imagine waking up on your couch from an afternoon nap to find your living room filled with various Mums, Dads, Aunties and Uncles, all sitting chatting, drinking, grinning and taking photos of you? Even if your Dad did come over and try and cajole you into being sociable it would take you at least fifteen minutes to come round to any idea of putting up with it, never mind liking the sudden invasion.
Joshua remained in his Dad's arms for around fifteen minutes, taking everything in, before being lowered to the floor in the hallway. His cousins Ross and Jack were wildly running around in circles as usual, speeding through the various rooms, Morgan not far behind them. Grace and Dougie were seated in the lounge and chatting away to Steven's cousins, his brother David and his Uncle John, whilst Jillian and Colin stood chatting in the living room's doorway, Jillian a little worse for wear after a big night out, including karaoke, the previous night.
Ka and myself were late and arrived through the heavy rain of Saturday afternoon. As a birthday gift for our wee nephew we bought a big, bright, blue and green plastic slide and came up with the idea of decorating it in balloons before we arrived to give it to him. We made a brief stop at Sainsburys to buy flowers for Angela and a bag of, what turned out to be, rather disappointing, supposedly animal shaped balloons. Ka and myself sat in the car, in the middle of the rain soaked Sainsbury's car park, blowing the balloons up to stick to the plastic slide, our inanimate third passenger, stretched across the whole of the car's back seat. Unfortunately these balloons were in no way animal shaped, not to any stretch of the imagination, but refusing to go back into the shop for more rubber we begrudgingly stuck them on to the plastic slide with sellotape. They'd have to do.
After being released on to the floor Ka and myself tried to introduce him to his birthday present, now standing in the hallway, the pathetic looking balloons bobbing around pitifully at the top of it’s mighty peak, three foot up. Joshua frowned and grumpily shook his head, waddling off in another direction.
He preferred the look of his Thomas the Tank Engine, that Colin and Jillian had bought him. A push cart version of the familiar blue steam locomotive with the big, grey, grinning face and the Liverpudlian voice. Joshua ran up to the push car, taking a hold of the back, red push rail and ran off into the living room. Colin was delighted and claimed victory in buying the best birthday present. Ka and myself laughed and joked artificially, kidding on we weren't that bothered, grumbled jealously and wandered off, heads drooping despondently.
However, after around twenty minutes of waking up time, and with a little gentle encouragement from Colin, his Granpa Dougie, and myself, Joshua was soon making his way up the short ladder and sitting himself down at the top of the smooth blue plastic slide. A little unsure at first, Joshua spun a little on his first slide down and ended up banging his head as he landed at the bottom of the blue, streamlined plastic. Joshua, being Joshua, was not put off by this minor bump though and immediately got back to his feet and made his way round the side of the chute again, giving an excited wave of the arms and a squeak of approval. Before long our wee nephew was moving in circles, running round, climbing up and sliding down, avoiding any further bumps, as his chute sliding expertise improved.
He liked it.
Ka and myself could hold our heads high, even if the balloons weren't.
Over the buffet lunch I brought up the subject of the large barrel standing in the corner of the kitchen, a third full with suspicious looking liquid. A few months ago Steven had created a large batch of plum jam from the purple fruit he had collected from the tree in the back garden. He had shared the jam out among the relatives including Ka and myself (our jar is only half empty – but still sitting in the fridge if you fancy some?) and was now branching out. He was now concocting some homemade wine in the corner of the kitchen. When I asked how the wine making was coming along Steven took a glass, unscrewed the barrel's cap and lowered his hand down into the barrels innards, a look of uncertainty almost crossing his face, like that scene in 'Flash Gordon' when Timothy Dalton put his hand down the scorpion's hole. After a little movement of the wrist Steven brought the glass back up, now half full of his alcoholic potion. His cousin John was the first to taste who almost immediately grimaced, saying something about vinegar, quickly handing the glass back. After Colin took a few drinks and nodded appreciatively, I ventured a small sip and immediately tasted Steven's jam, only laced with alcohol. With the tang of Steven's plums the wine tasted a little like a foreign brandy of some sort. After only a small taste I could feel the wine travelling down my system, leaving a, not unpleasant, burning sensation at the back of the throat like the after effects from the first taste of a strong whiskey. It was certainly nicer than some of the wines I've drank in the past.
Various members of the Reids used to create beer at home, and jam for that matter. My Gran’s jam was amazing. I could never believe that my Gran could make her own jam, although usually it was rhubard, and I hated rhubarb. Granpa used to eat it straight from the ground, a large growing patch out in his back garden. Dad ate it raw with a dab of sugar.
Dad used to make beer in our bathtub. I remember he used to buy the beer making kits from Boots and have a giant plastic barrel of his own, which would sit in the bathroom for a good few months, slowly brewing it's Lindsay ale, stinking the room out with it’s weird, pungent yeasty stenches.
I'm not sure what happened when it came to bath time?
We certainly never had a beer bath.
Apparently they’re quite big over in the Czech Republic and Austria. There are more than a few beer spas now open. Spas, baths, pools and even beer flavoured treatments are offered, such as facials. Apparently, beer is good for the skin. Good for cleansing, drying and relaxing in. Good for hair rejuvenation too. I should get over there! In the tub, the combination of water, beer, hops and yeast is warmed and bubbled around you, transforming it into a kind of mild Jacuzzi. A hot tub beer machine.
Unfortunately, back in Scotland, being the driver, I couldn’t partake in any of Steven’s homemade wine, much to my extreme disappointment, as I’m sure you can imagine, but made sure I had a glass of Pinot Grigio later, on the comfort of my own couch, where, thankfully, there was a distinct lack of grinning, chatting, relations.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Through the rain

Ghastly. Simply ghastly. If I was posh, that is exactly how I would describe this morning. The sky was completely smothered in threatening, thick, dark grey clouds, hanging ominously over the climb up High Common Road. It had been a rough, uneven, sleep with hail battering off the window late into the night after the stormy winds and rain from the evening had subsided briefly for a few hours. Driving into Glasgow, to drop Ka and Chris off in the late afternoon, the steering wheel was almost pulled from my grip by the horrendous gales going over the M77.
It was John Barrowman time again, and Ka and Chris were heading into town for the latest hometown gig by the singing superstar. They were meeting up with Jillian and her Mum, Jean, for dinner on Sauchiehall Street before heading down to the Armadillo.
While the girls were out on the town, I was creating a brand new website for DJ, William Rae.
William is our friend Claire's brother, just back from Puerto Rico where he, along with his wife and daughter, had been living for the past year or so. Before he had departed for sunnier shores I had designed and created his last website for his DJ'ing and, now that he was back in cloudy Scotland, fancied a redesign and a new look, especially since the last version had been very much beach party orientated.
As lovely as Ayr beach is, I can’t imagine a jostling crowd of dancers supping the cocktails and living it up down there on a balmy evening.
Just as I was making the final touches to his wondrous new website, the mobile started ringing. It was Ka insisting that they were just about to miss their last train home. They knew this even though they were standing outside the Armadillo, after a good few sherries, with at least twenty minutes before the afore said train was due. Being the gentleman, of course, I agreed to head back into town to pick them up. Thankfully the rain and storms had abated on my way in and although I got stopped by what must have been 90% of the red lights on my journey into Glasgow, I made it to the Mint Hotel, within around half an hour. As I sat parked in the bus stop immediately outside the Mint Hotel, pondering who gave the hotel this illustrious title, I spotted a shimmer of silver in my rear view mirror. A vision of silver excitedly jumping up the street. Jillian, in a silver shimmering sequins dress was running up the pavement towards the car, a massive grin on her face. The Barrowman grin. She was farting glitter with excitement, apparently.
Upon leaving my position behind the wheel Jillian gave me a big shimmery hug. Personally I think Jillian was sent out to sweeten me up as, moments later, Ka and Chris appeared at the hotel’s front entrance, looking a little meek, tired, but happy. Barrowman had worn them out with his dazzling array of sparkly suits and anthemic classics. Classics such as Manilow’s “I made it through the rain”, Gaynor’s “I am what I am” and The Village People’s “YMCA” (I think I remember dancing to that at the school formal… no wonder I didn’t get a lumber).
It wasn’t until 1am last night, after safely delivering Chris home, and leaving Ka in the living room to have a nice cup of tea, that I sent through the first draft of DJ William’s website. It was one of those jobs that I thought would take me hours but, in fact, took me days. Once again I find myself inadvertently selling myself cheap.
Not that I often sell myself cheap.
I’m sure someone would pay a hefty sum for me if I was on the market. I just wouldn’t get ‘Your Maneuver’ to sell me.
Anyway, I went to bed later as a result of the late night web building, making my sleep uneasy. My brain wouldn’t switch off and the volume of the living room telly hadn’t been turned down much.
I woke up around half two, dazed and vaguely confused. The other half of the bed was still empty and I could still hear the television from the other room. Crawling out of bed I went through to the living and found Ka curled up on the couch, fast asleep. The bright, vibrant colours of some form of late night childrens' television beamed from the box in the darkened living room around her, it's wild moving shapes flickering over her face as she slept.
Why childrens’ tv was on at that time of night, I’ll never know. Is childrens’ tv on 24 hours a day now?
I know it now has it’s own channels, and Ed the duck in the broom cupboard between half three and half five in the evenings is long gone, but do they have to continually operate? Can’t they be like some of those other digital channels and only operate at certain times?
It also begs the question of what had Ka been watching?
The last music I’d heard drifting in from the living room, before I fell asleep, had been the doleful melodiousness of Emmerdale. That gawd awful tune that informs you it’s now time to either gain control of the remote and change the channel or run for your god forsaken life to the nearest open window and paint the pavement down below your, hopefully, high rise flat a new colour of brain.
As I moved to switch the tv off, my foot stood on half a cornetto wrapping that had been discarded on the carpet. A half eaten crisp then crunched under my other foot as I then noticed Ka’s glass and plate lying empty on the coffee table.
The John Barrowman gig had obviously taken it's toll on the poor girl. Not only was she now curled up, having conked out on the couch but she had neglected to tidy up after herself and had even dropped a cornetto paper on the carpet and a single, rogue, crisp.
Once the tv was off I decided against interrupting Ka’s slumber, knowing full well of the repercussions, and wandered back off to bed.
She eventually fell on to the mattress at around half four, whilst the rain pelted down outside, the clock continuing it’s ticking around to the inevitable black, winter, Friday morning.
On the radio, in the car, on my way into work, there were people wishing each other ‘Happy Christmas’.
People calling in to give their relations festive wishes.
Okay, there’s only a month to go now but, come on!
Wait until you open the first door of your chocolate calendar at least.
After making this mental complaint, I then went into work and started some online Christmas shopping.
Well, you’ve got to start at some point.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Feeling guilty?

Another night of Children In Need. Upsetting, uncomfortable and difficult to watch. Three ways to describe Alan Sugar’s attempts at humorous acting and Ian Beale in a tight pink jumper and skirt, pushing a hoover around his living room to the tune of Queen’s “I want to break free”. All this uncomfortable viewing between the many short sad films about the kids of the UK that need the help and the money.
DVD Andy has always suspected me of being guilty of spending my weekly Thursday’s off just like Freddie, with the hoover, as Thursday is usually housework day. This week, however, I was waiting on plumbers coming round to give us a quotation for the installation of Gas central heating. Unfortunately, after being given the quote, we’re not sure we’ll bother. Two and a half grand they want for putting central heating into our wee one bedroom flat. A normal house costs between three and four so I think we may just stick with what we’ve got.
The good old electric.
We’d only be installing the gas heating to help sell as it seems to be the only complaint from possible buyers who’ve come round to view. Look’s like we’ll just have to wait on a non energy biased buyer.
We barely use the electric anyway. The guys in work, asked me how we usually keep warm if we don’t use it. We never need it, though with the winter just around the corner Ka and myself could, quite soon, be finding ourselves walking around with double helpings of dressing gowns. At the moment it would seem all Ka needs is Michael Buble. The wife was up dancing around the living room in her pyjamas on Thursday night as the singer started his contribution to the Children In Need Rocks Manchester concert.
Last night we had a little heat from one large solitary candle standing lit in the middle of our coffee table. We had just finished a curry for dinner though so I suspect that was lit by Ka merely to try and get rid of the stench of Indian food which was now lingering throughout the living room and kitchen. Our second curry in a week.
The first was last Saturday when we went through to Tom and Linda’s in Barassie, Troon. As my Uncle Tom is in the middle of rebuilding his kitchen, we had hit upon the idea, a while back, at my cousin’s son’s baptism, of a curry night. So after arriving early evening on Saturday, just after the sun had set on the cold, Firth of Clyde horizon, Tom and Linda informed us that they were taking us along to their favourite curry house, the Maharani. The maharani was a small, but cosy, Indian restaurant just a short walk from the front on West Portland Street where we ate some fantastic food, mine being a giant portion of Chicken Tikka Tandoori, which arrived sizzling on a long black plate perched on a pile of hot, flavoured onions. Tom had also ordered a Tandoori, a ginger chicken, but refrained from eating all of his massive portion, instead opting to keep some for Sally and Jake, the dogs back home. For a brief few moments I also considered politely putting some of my chicken aside for the dogs’ supper but only for a brief few moments. I then thought better of it and demolished the rest of my plate. Feeling rather full afterwards, and slightly guilty about the hungry dogs back at the house, we then ambled over to the Lido bar where we joined Troon’s Saturday night elite for a few drinks.
Lido is a stylish cafĂ© like bar, owned by the same bar and restaurant outfit that runs the harbour restaurant in the same town, Scott’s and Elliots in Prestwick. The brasserie sits on the quiet street, among the other, older bars and seaside shops, it’s modern face a little out of place. With polished dark wood furniture and decorated cushion seats and walls inside, circling a decorative bar and open kitchen, it’s obviously drawing inspiration from some of the swankier places in town making it a great alternative for the folks of Troon, to some of the other, more traditional settings. It was busy, lively and comfortable and just as we were leaving to head back to the house the DJ was setting up his decks on the large, rectangular table alongside us, casting some smokers’ drinks and scarves to the side. These smokers had thought it acceptable to keep their interior seats whilst they sat out at the tables in the outside front, framed by neatly trimmed hedges. As long at their scarves were still slung over their inside chairs and their glasses of water were still in place on the table they considered themselves able to come back and forth whenever they pleased. They left their inside table to head outside for a cigarette and made themselves comfortable on one of the round tables outside, safe in the knowledge their table inside was guarded by the scarves and water. For at least forty minutes, they lounged around outside, before frowning through the window as the DJ turned up with his various laptops and control panels, quickly casting their scarves aside after asking if they had belonged to us.
Why should smokers’ unattended tables be kept for them in a busy bar area? If they decide to leave their table empty, in order to feed their nicotine cravings then giving up the comfy indoors table should be a sacrafice they should be willing to take. Why should others, in a busy bar, be made to stand, by a scarf slung over the back of a chair?
Ka and myself have actually nicked smokers’ tables before. One of the last times being in the Theatre Royal Bar in Edinburgh when we innocently nabbed what we thought was an empty table, considering the one jacket left over one of the chairs to have been long abandoned, and made ourselves comfortable with a few glasses of wine before the david Byrne gig next door. After a good half an hour of sitting enjoying ourselves the smoking couple (they weren’t that good looking) turned up looking for their place. As it turned out they were actually very nice about it and pulled up another chair on the opposite side of the table and started chatting away. They were an older couple, the bearded bloke perhaps around forty odd in age, the woman looking a bit older. Before we knew it they were spitting at the ground with the sheer mention of trams, telling us where they lived, how they’d met and about when they’d last seen the Talking heads in concert. When the time came to go and take our places in the theatre next door, Ka and myself apologised once more for taking up half of their table uninvited and left them in the lively bar.
Upon entering the Playhouse, Ka and myself split up for a quick toilet visit and as I was standing at the male trough doing my business somebody ambled up and took the place next to me.
“Oh, hello again!” the bearded man smiled from my side. After another short conversation, very short, as conversation over urinals are always a bit awkward, I headed out and found Ka through the busy throng of the Edinburgh Playhouse. Upon meeting each other we decided to get a wee drink from the bar, rolling out the barrel, as it were, as it’s not every week you go to the theatre or a gig. So as I joined the bustling crowd at the ridiculously small theatre bar I slowly made my way to the front of the crowd as slowly but surely the people before me obtained their various beverages from the choice of two bottles beers at triple the usual price or three kinds of wine, white, red, or rose. Upon finally reaching the bar I planted my elbows down on to the bar and turned to find the bearded smoker standing at my side again. I think he gave me the same look I gave him. The ‘not you again’ look. The pleasant surprise and nod of the ‘how are you’ look followed by the ‘look away at something, anything, that’ll enable me to not make conversation’ look. After getting my drinks I half expected Ka and myself to get into the theatre and find the two smokers sitting in the next seats along from us.
I get the ‘look away at something, anything, that’ll enable me to not make conversation’ look quite a lot. There was a girl in high school that I used to fancy who used to find lamp posts or brick walls extraordinarily interesting to look at whenever I approached.
During the week I was wondering up Cadzow Street in the morning, on my way to work, when the Head honcho woman from our Estate Agents, (let’s call them ‘Your Maneuver’ again), seen me walking up towards her as she made her way to the ‘Your Maneuver’ office. I’d spoke to her for around an hour, not more than four or five weeks ago, and I know she recognised me, but, for whatever reason, decided to suddenly give the passing shop windows at her side and the passing pavestones under her feet, her full, uninterrupted, attention.
Guilt at having failed to sell our beautiful flat. That's what I reckon it was.
Guilt. Terrible thing.
That’s probably what makes Children in Need such uncomfortable viewing. If you don’t donate you must, and should, feel guilty.
It doesn’t take a lot to make me feel guilty.
Hopefully Sally and Jake will forgive me for eating all my Tandoori.

Friday, 11 November 2011

David and his watermelons

“Michael, we’re not selling the buses!” Ka informed me, after our viewer left, her Mum and Dad in tow.
“What do you mean?” I frowned, as Ka moved to finally put dinner on. Apparently during my “flat selling” speech I started rabbiting on about how handy we were for the Number 20 and the number 66 buses, perfect for those bus trips further into East Kilbride or a day out in the city.
It’s a good selling point, I pointed out to Ka. Being close to a decent bus stop would be a great advantage to some people. The viewer may have a tight monetary situation and may not be able to afford the luxury of cars and taxis everywhere. The bus could be their one form of transport, for all we know. The bus is always handy for us when we fancy going into town for a wee pint, so why not to a potential buyer?
The rather unimpressed, bored looking viewer had brought her Mum and Dad along and left after only five minutes in our humble abode. She walked in through the hallway into the living room and commenced her long tour of the flat from there, seeing the kitchen, the living room again, back out into the hallway to the bathroom, out into the hallway before hitting the bedroom, back to the hallway where she took a quick look into the utility cupboard, the hallway again and then the living room again. On her way out she walked through the hallway again. Our home of six years overviewed within the space of five minutes.
The girl who was the main viewer was one of these girls not happy in the skin they're in.
Her big eyes stared, white in a face of browny orange. One of these strange people that, not being happy about the skin they are born with, like to artificially colour their skin by lying in plastic beds of luminous tubes or stand in those plastic portaloos that have no loos but have spray guns in their walls instead. The people that use these devices actually pay for that weird orange/brown colour with which they use to go out on a special occasions. What possesses these people to believe that a special occasion of any kind requires you to colour your almost naked self up in a strange sh**ty brown colour. I’ll never understand that.
Yes, okay, I understand a slight tan. Something to enhance the complexion or contrasts of the skin, get away, be it momentarily, from the Scottish peely wally tones. But that weird overly orange/browny colour? Why?
If it was some kind of camouflage, then yes, I would understand. If these girls, and blokes (yep, blokes do do it as well don’t they) were going paintballing or something then yes, the reasons for painting yourself browny orange would be fairly understandable. You could dive about the forest and probably have some success in hiding out in the foliage. In fact, judging by some of the spray tans I’ve seen in the past, you might be better off simply walking about a paintball site naked to get a bit of colour about you.
I just don’t get it. Why would you want to go out on the town or walk down the aisle with the skin colour of an Oompa lumpa?
The three visitors were pretty hard going. Ka and myself done our best to chat and inform, but the three of them didn’t say too much.
The Mum did seem to like it whereas the Dad looked bored, as if he’d been forced to attend by a firm look from the wife or an arm twisted up his back.
It’s always so difficult to tell whether these potential buyers like what they see. We’ve always had positive feedback from the estate agency after the viewers have reported back but it’s never been so positive that they’ve bothered to put an offer in for our wee home.
We’ve only had a grand total of four viewers the whole time we’ve been on the market. The estate agents, that seem to have only recently really started doing anything for us, (let’s call them ‘Your Maneuver’), gave us a quick phone today to tell us the viewer was taking her interest no further for the not wholly unreasonable excuse of a lack of gas central heating in our flat. Apparently somebody had told her that the underfloor heating that was built into these flats is expensive to run. Someone had also told her that a flat further down the street had sold for a slightly lower price and that that particular property had been recently refaced. All the while, I sat on the other end of the phone, listening to what the someone had told this girl, wondering who this ‘someone’ was. I bet it was her Dad.
Either him or her boss, Willy Wonka.
I thought she may have been informed of the lack of central heating before attending a viewing, by our wonderful estate agents. Ka and myself have survived without gas central heating for six years, using only the old, underfloor heating in the deepest, darkest depths of winter and we’ve comfortably survived. We’ve certainly never had to sit and watch X-Factor with frosted glasses and icicles hanging from our nostrils. Our flat’s always seemed pretty cosy in actual fact, and rarely feels cold in anyway (even in X-Factor conditions).
We’ve certainly never had any complaints from any visitors. It’s probably all the hot air.
Saying that, I did notice, the last time they were here, that some of Ka’s pals’ kept their jackets on. In fact, Ka and her pals’ teeth were also chittering in between talk (between talk is very brief, wondrous moment and you have to be very quick of the eye to notice such an instant. We once got a phonecall from David Attenborough at the BBC to film such behaviour. Women with their mouths closed. Amazing. Unfortunately Mr Attenborough couldn’t find a camera with a high enough shutter speed).
Still, at least I was allowed in the flat last night.
Everyone in work was having great delight in making me feel extremely paranoid and slightly guilty yesterday after I rushed Ka off the phone when she called on the mobile mid morning.
“I really can’t talk just now. I’m busy. I’ll call you later!” or something of the kind, I said rather urgently down the phone, before wishing her a hurried goodbye.
Apparently Ka thought she’d upset me by the tone of one of my texts five or ten minutes before when she hadn’t at all. I’d sent an abrupt text back to her in response to one of her messages which she’d sent at one of the busiest periods of the week, when all our Ayrshire property adverts were being sent to print. I had been, in fact, winding her up about the excited babble she was producing the night before about David and his watermelons.
Ka had arrived home from the theatre on Tuesday night, chatting away excitedly about this David and his watermelons. It was ten past eleven, I was tired and, as a result, couldn’t be bothered with her. The excitable chat was something to do with ‘Dirty Dancing’, the stage production she’d just been to see with Pauline at the Kings theatre. As it was late I wasn’t really in the mood for watermelon talk and left it for the morning, at which point I text her asking about David and his fruit.
As it turned out, it wasn’t David at all anyway. It was Johnny. Johnny and his watermelons. I’m still no clearer and suspect I’d have to watch ‘Dirty Dancing’ in all it’s musical glory to understand, but that’ll not happen any time soon. I’ll just have to struggle on through life in blissful ignorance regarding Johnny’s watermelons.
Anyway, as a result of Ka’s call at work, I was sure I’d upset her and everyone in the work, led by DVD Andy and Dave, were sure I was sleeping on the couch that night, if Ka allowed me into the flat at all.
Sitting in work I was pretty confident though. There was no way Ka could give the sales pitch all by herself. We done our best, for the fourth time, but to no avail. I may need to consider re-evaluating the sales pitch.
I don’t know. Perhaps try not to look nervous when the neighbours are mentioned, attempt to draw my eyes away from any inflamed skinwork and maybe even reduce the amount of the No. 20 mentions. Either that or just install some gas central heating.
That viewer obviously likes heat.
And the sun. Be it the artificial spray gun version.
There’s a professional tanning salon in the Village. You could easily jump on a No. 66 from here to get there. It’s just five minutes down the road. Hmmm, I’ll maybe write that into my next sales pitch.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Fireworks, flowers and frisbees

It was half past five on a dark, breezy, autumn Saturday evening. The branches of the nearby trees on the side of the hill, shuffled and shook in the bitter, cold wind as leaves spun through the air around them. Ka and myself found ourselves running around a graveyard, dispensing flowers out between three different graves in our shorts and T-shirts like a pair of lunatic flower children spreading peace and love in a Hammer Horror setting.
We had just come out from the gym and after a quick visit up to see Mum and Dad in Chapelton, and a brief stop off at the local Morrisons, we were visiting the grave of our daughter, my Gran and Granpa and Maureen, my Aunt who had been laid to rest just over a week ago.
A year ago I would have never thought that I would be spending my Saturday evenings in such a way.
For the past ten months we have been buying bouquets and sharing them between Lucy and my Gran and Granpa. Now that my Aunt Maureen rests in the next lane along we’re going to have to start buying more flowers.
With the exception of our running around a graveyard in bitter cold winds and another trip to the cinema on Sunday to see Justin Timerlake’s latest cinematic effort, ‘In Time’, it was a pretty uneventful weekend. Ka and myself spent Saturday lying on the couch, watching The Sopranos season one, (we’ve borrowed the series 1-6 boxset off Kenny while he’s off in Oz). A movie night with a few beers, Morgan’s spiced and eating ice cream as fireworks exploded around us. As bangs, cracks and whirrs of various sizes and loudness erupted directly outside our windows for the majority of the night, it was almost as if the good people of Calderwood were aiming their fireworks directly at us. It’s a pity we can’t go out on to our roof as it would have been a fantastic fireworks display. Either that, or a terrifying version of that scene from ‘Mary Poppins’, when Admiral Boom attacked the chimney sweeps with rockets. Not that I’d be dancing at a rooftop fireworks display… not much anyway.
We’d had quite enough of fireworks by the time we went to bed. The last time Ka and myself had seen and heard fireworks was before the beginning of November was Hogmanay. The night we arrived home from the hospital.
Before Saturday’s Sopranos night, we’d been to Morgan, Angela and Steven’s annual fireworks family party on the Friday evening.
We rang the bell at the large black door of ‘Roxburgh House’ and stood back waiting. Moments later the door clicked and slowly opened. The door seemed to inch open of it’s own accord as a small figure was slowly revealed, standing in the light emanating from the hallway behind.
“Eh!” Joshua welcomed us with his usual noises and wide eyed curiosity before Steven poked his head round from behind the now fully opened door.
After five minutes of talking in the hallway Joshua took it upon himself to act as chief coat taker and after pulling at the corners of our coats for more than a few minutes as we stood chatting, the two year old took our coats from us in the hallway and cleaned Angela's laminate flooring on his way back to the porch where he dumped them over his buggy after finding he was four foot too short to reach the coat hooks.
Steven had disappeared by this point, out into the back garden where he was straining his arm muscles sawing up wood for his small bonfire. He’d lit up the BBQ and set up a buffet under the intermittent light of the backyard lamp with the dodgy motion sensor under which seemed to only activate when someone danced below it (we should have tried the Chimney Sweep dance). Candles of various sizes lit up the large buffet Steven, Angela and Morgan had prepared. Burgers, sausages and Steven’s famous Chicken tikka were all hot off the BBQ were all served up. Morgan had also prepared her own chocolate plastered marshmallows and chocolate fingers both decorated with hundreds and thousands along with a second dish of marshmallows on kebab sticks prepared for the purpose of roasting over the small blue bonfire. Ka and myself were the only ones with five marshmallows on our kebab sticks because, as Morgan explained, Ka is her favourite auntie and I’m her second favourite Uncle (and no, she doesn’t only have two uncles!).
After eating the BBQ dinner in our coats and scarves and Steven’s fireworks display of many colours, in which he still can’t get a Catherine wheel to work, it was roasting time and we gathered around the small cauldron of coloured flames in the middle of the dark garden. The small blue and purple flames, created by strange chemical colourants in among the wood, flickered and lapped at the short wooden logs as we held our marshmallows over them. My five marshmallows got slightly burnt in their proximity to the violet flames but I ate them all the same. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d ate roasted marshmallows. Perhaps some long ago and distant family camping trip.
After the marshmallows Steven and Morgan announced we were then to play Frisbee around in the front garden. As we all frowned up at the pair of them Steven flicked a switch of the back of the toy and the disc lit up with UFO like colours.
At this point I would have been quite happy to head indoors but Frisbee it was to be and before we knew it we had walked through the dark, around the house and were tossing the lit up, glowing plastic disc at one another. Some literally throwing it as one of Grace’s frisbees belted off the right side of my body, Morgan almost hit my car which was parked safely, or where I thought was safe, out on the street and Joshua got a hefty bang on the top of the head. Expecting tears, Ka and myself were surprised, as Joshua merely turned around with a frown, decided he’d had enough outdoors and waddled up to the front door, mumbling and unfastening his coat as he went. At which point I thought, I couldn’t agree more, and Ka, Angela and I followed him inside for a cuppa. The games didn’t end there thought as Morgan soon brought out more in the form of Snakes and Ladders and Guess Who? before Ka and myself finally headed home, fireworks continuing to colour the sky around us.