I’m allergic to alcohol…

Days of Wine & Roses

One of the great things about Days of Wine and Roses, the powerful 1962 Blake Edwards film starring Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick, is the way it lulls us into a false sense of security. Having got used to Jack Lemmon as the comic actor, we feel we’re about to see a romantic comedy where the main character occasionally has funny, drunken mishaps that will have us rollicking in our seats. But when Joe Clay walks into a glass door with a bunch of tulips in his hand we can almost feel his shock vibrate through our own bodies. As a lift door closes, decapitating the flowers without him noticing, we begin to understand we are on a rollercoaster ride into the horrifying world of alcoholism.

A friend of mine recently told me a humorous experience of his with a woman friend, who is part of our social circle. She arrived at the home of his girlfriend and his in a state he called – rather diplomatically, in my opinion - tired and emotional.

His girlfriend had to take their dog out for a walk leaving him to deal with the situation. No sooner was she out the door than his woman friend cast aside all her inhibitions and began chasing him around the room. Once she’d cornered him, she threw her arms about him in an attempt to cement their lips together with a generous dollop of slobber laced with strong spirit. Ducking and diving, he managed to avoid her mouth. But the chase continued. He described it as rather like being pursued by an over-friendly St Bernard mountain rescue puppy that had managed to prise to the cork from the barrel of brandy round its neck and slug the entire contents. Several pieces of beloved furniture, he managed to get between them, narrowly missed getting destroyed, but in the end he couldn’t escape both cheeks from being liberally smeared in 90° proof saliva. Luckily, his understanding girlfriend returned at that moment to save him.

My friend’s a forgiving sort of person, having thrown a tired and emotional fit himself on more than one occasion.

Nevertheless, in a phonecall a few days later he told her in strong terms not to call round the house in that condition again, and asked  if she was taking any sort of medication, as certain medications intended to tranquilize achieve exactly the opposite effect when accompanied by strong beverages. Like a lot of people with problems of a liquid nature she apologised profusely offering the excuse she suffered from an allergy without being specific, and she’d reacted badly to a couple of drinks on top of her pills.

But he’d already heard a radically different version by then. And as I’d seen her in a similar, if not quite so bad state, on more than one occasion, I knew how the real story would more or less go.

According to mutual friends, she’d been with before she came to his home, after working her way through the major portion of  a couple of bottles of wine, she started on a bottle of Jameson’s whiskey. They said she became loud, boorish and argumentative to an unacceptable level. So much so, she had to be persuaded to leave by the friend who’d driven her there. Normally, she is respectful, polite, generous and friendly. This was not an allergy in the proper medical sense of the term.

Not to be hypocritical, I’ve been more than partial to a bit of a tipple in my time, and am so allergic to large amounts of whiskey it makes me start falling all over the place and vomiting. So I try to keep the right side of drink. Not always completely succesfully, I might add. My allergy to excessive quantities of beer and wine has also led me to hugging my friends and telling them how much I love them. A few minutes later I’ve told them what’s wrong with them, and why everybody dislikes them so much, including me. Their problem is they hate to see me having fun, used to be one of my favourite lines, before weeping out of self-pity, and then telling them how much I love them again and again. One of my Norwegian uncles used to do the same. I probably get it from him.

But, although I jest, without wanting to moralise, extremely heavy drinking is a very serious problem for many people we regard as good friends, at certain times in their lives. The drink they seek solace in, as a way to solve their problems, becomes their chief problem.

I am a drinker, I like to drink and I have drank to excess on more occcasions than I care to remember. The fact I can remember, has helped me exert more control over myself than a good many other drinkers, but not always.

So how do I tell a friend it’s time to stop drinking too much? How does any of us tell someone if they keep on going the way they are they will lose their jobs, their homes and all their friends?

Though it doesn’t seem fair, there are many people who can get away with drinking too much throughout their lives without it affecting them so much they lose everything, except perhaps their good health. We have differing levels of physical tolerance and different psychological make-ups. Not a very satisfactory state of affairs for those who can never drink responsibly, admittedly. But knowing that doesn’t help solve the problem.

How can we tell those we love they will end up in the streets if they don’t stop drinking, without them becoming mortal enemies?

Please feel free to offer your opinion on this growing problem for individuals and families everywhere, as I’d love to be able to help both my friends without causing offence and making the problem worse.

Copyright © 2014 Bryan Hemming

I also cover this subject in a series of short stories that go under the title Some you never win, some you always lose. The first in the series is Enough for a Lifetime

Who is this band? ลมหายใจในวันวาน

Like many other bloggers, occasionally, my vanity urges me to see what the search engines produce when I pop in my name. Why on earth the spiders connected this great song with my name I don’t know. I know it came up with my Purple Haze short story.

However, neither do I know know what language it is, and certainly I don’t know who the band is, but I love it. Reminds me of early Bowie. I’d appreciate information from anyone who recognises the band, or the language and from where it originates. Happy Easter!

Rats, rats, big as bloomin’ cats, in the store…

There were rats, rats, big as bloomin’ cats, in the store, in the store… as the old wartime song goes. My father used to get us all to sing it on long car journeys to the sea. Despite the true tale behind it, it was a jolly little song, which my three sisters and I learned to join in with. But we could never have imagined it might come true again.

With the sensationalist media reports of super-rats up to 2ft long being found in kitchens from Uppsala through Henley to Freiburg anyone might think a new breed of rat is invading Europe. But no. Despite the conclusions of most delusionists, there is no new mutant species of super-rat. However, there does seem to be a direct correlation between the growing size of humans in the Western world, and the growing size of rats. Both appear to be related to the explosion in consumption of fatty, takeaway, fast foods.

The rats, the old war song refers to, fed on rotting corpses lying in the trenches during the First World War. And then they moved in on the quartermaster’s store to satisfy their growing appetites. The centenary of the official start of WW1, the deadliest conflict in history, falls on July 28th 2014. I won’t be putting the bunting up or getting out the flags. Nevertheless, led by David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, there is a section of British society, who seem to think the start of a war that claimed over over 60 million lives, some of whose corpses were desecrated and devoured by rats, is a cause for national celebration. Presumably they’re among the international bankers and arms dealers, who made their fortunes, while other people’s children died, or their bodies were permanently mutilated. Lest we forget.

Now the same sort of people make some of their fortunes in other controversial ways. The giant rats of today feed on casually discarded, takeaway, junk food and its packaging. In the same way grossly obese people are not superhuman, in the manner of Superman, grossly obese rats are not super-rats. They are the result of a fast food, takeaway society, which disposes of its surplus junk food by throwing it on the streets, or into open bins left unemptied too long. And the reason, as always, is to do with money and profit margins.

The detritus of fast food outlets is designed specifically to become someone else’s problem, and something else’s treat. The taxpayers pay for the clean-up, while city councils allow the multiplying rodents to do a great part of it, bringing with them infections and disease. If the people are so fat they can throw away food, it’s little wonder the rats are getting even fatter. And so are the people with the contracts to do the cleaning. Because they ain’t doing it properly.

But it still comes down to us. We, the people who eat this shit, and shove it down our children’s gullets as we plonk them in front of the telly to keep them quiet.

The problems super-rats pose, when they start looking to get even fatter by coming into our houses to raid, are not so different from the problems posed by our obese children raiding the fridge at night, or stealing from our purses to buy a packet of chips. Both end up in disease of one type or another, and are a drain on our hard-earned incomes.

They are a direct result of Burger King, McDonald’s, KFC, and their like, deciding it’s cheaper for them to have us eating outside their premises than in. They don’t have to pay people to wait on customers, or wash up, and they even expect you to clear your own tables. So it’s not surprising their takeaway customers follow the same philosophy of expecting someone else to clean their mess up after them either.

Fast food restaurants are designed to get most people to eat on the streets, or anywhere else but their premises. They don’t pay rent for the streets, and they don’t pay the amount of taxes it takes to clean them up. They don’t pay for the rat infestations, or the heavy weight literally put on over-strained health services and caused by the junk foods they serve. They don’t pay for the heart attacks, the wheelchairs, the mental anguish, and the diet psychologists. Like big pharma, and big farming, they just frack the cash fatness provides.

Big King, Kentucky, Whopper McRat is not an accident of evolution, he is the result of a commercial ploy to take advantage of the free market and the taxpayer by passing on the real cost of highly-addictive, salt-loaded and sugar-cut, takeaway food to a gullible public.

Copyright © 2014 Bryan Hemming

Click on A plague of orphan, baby rats –  for a short story on rats


Mr Scrubbly’s lucky, five pound note

Mr Scrubbly set his big brass alarm clock for two o’ clock in the morning. A time he knew Mrs Grubbly would be fast asleep and snoring like a big, fat porker with a heavy cold and flappy rubber nostrils. It would take a gigantic herd of very cross hephalumps – as she called them – to come stampeding through her bedroom banging big iron saucepans to wake her up at that time of night. And even then she wouldn’t get out of bed. Even for the Queen of Sheba. Then Mr Scrubbly set his TeasMaid for four minutes past ten, just to make sure he’d be up in time to carry out his deviously clever, secret plan to catch Mrs Grubbly at it. Only he put coffee in the pot instead of tea, for a nice change.

Even though he knew it would be very dark, and a bit scary at that time of the morning, he had a deviously clever, secret plan that nobody knew about. Except Mrs Dumply the postmistress. He’d let it out to Mrs Dumply in all his excitement, while feeding stale breadcrumbs to the ducks on the pond in Never Ditchwood Public Park next to the separate, enclosed, recreation facility for children under ten accompanied by adults. He made her swear not to tell anybody, and cross her heart and hope to die if she did. But even if she did tell, he hoped she wouldn’t die really, even though it wouldn’t be his fault. And he would tell Sergeant Strickly of the Never Ditchwood Constabulary exactly that if he came round with a few questions to ask. That was if Mrs Dumply did tell someone, and got hit by a double decker bus while crossing the road without looking. Which would serve her right in any case for telling.

Mr Scrubbly’s deviously clever, secret plan was to get up as soon as the alarm went off, and put his favourite, green Christmas dressing gown over his stripy blue pyjamas with the hole in one elbow, and creep downstairs in his fluffy slippers with the Roland Rat heads, which were a bit matted since the steaming hot cocoa incident, and sit on his spindly, hard wood chair, sipping his cup of coffee, waiting.

Waiting for Mrs Grubbly to appear. Because Mr Scrubbly was almost absolutely, practically one hundred per cent, nearly certain, that Mrs Grubbly was getting up to her tricks again. Not even that, because Mr Scrubbly was definitely, no-doubt-about-it, almost absolutely, one hundred and one per cent, nearly certain – and you can’t be any more nearly certain than that – that Mrs Grubbly was getting up in the middle of the night to move his glasses, and other things, round the house to different places, other than where he had put them so he would remember exactly where they were. But they weren’t.

And then Mr Scrubbly got into bed. He switched off the bedside lamp with the curly wood stick that you could run your finger down like a helter-skelter. Round and round, you could run it, from top to bottom without hitting a knobbly bit even though it looked very knobbly. Five minutes later, Mr Scrubbly switched on his bedside lamp and got out of bed. He looked very worried indeed. As worried as the day Mr Slivvery, the ratcatcher had sent Mrs Grubbly an unsolicited, anonymous Valentine’s card out of the blue without telling him until it was too late.

He wasn’t at all sure whether it was allowed to put coffee in the TeasMaid. After all, it wasn’t called a TeasandCoffeeMaid. He looked in his bedside drawer for the book of instructions. And then remembered that he had lent it to Mrs Dumply, the postmistress, to wedge in her wardrobe door, which kept opening, until she got something more permanent. He had done it as a very special favour so she wouldn’t let on to Mrs Grubbly about the deviously clever, secret plan he slipped out by mistake while feeding the ducks on the pond in the park with stale breadcrumbs. He would have to put a teabag in his TeasMaid to make sure not to get into trouble with the manufacturing company, and not to fret about it. He sighed. Mr Scrubbly had been looking forward to a mug of steaming hot coffee.

Then Mr Scrubbly had another dilemma. He looked down at his stripy blue pyjamas and noticed they were creased. And after he had ironed specially for the occasion. He tried to smooth them with his hands. And then he stretched them down till his chin was on his knees to hook the bottoms over his big toes. His pyjama legs looked very smooth then. As smooth as sailing boat sails. He imagined them full of wind sailing on the ocean waves. All that lovely water at the seaside. And then he wanted to go to the toilet to empty his bladder.

Mr Scrubbly came back from the toilet and got back into bed. And then he remembered he had forgotten to pull the chain. Mr Scrubbly went back to the toilet to pull the chain. It was a good job he remembered, he thought, as he climbed into bed a third time. And then he remembered he’d forgotten to wash his hands. He was almost not going to bother when he remembered about germs, and how unhygenic they were, even though you couldn’t see them. And then he thought that he’d better wash his hands, just to be sure, in case he got a bad case of germs. Mr Scrubbly was almost asleep when he remembered the guarantee.

The guarantee for the TeasMaid came separate from the instruction book, and he hadn’t lent that to Mrs Dumply to keep her other wardrobe door closed because, luckily for him, the wardrobe only had one door. Mr Scrubbly smiled craftily. You had to get up early in the morning to catch a Scrubbly out, his mother had always told him. And she was right.

It was sure to say on the guarantee whether it was allowed to put coffee in the TeasMaid, or even hot milky drinks. Not that he wanted a hot milky drink, but he might next time. All he had to do was remember where he’d put it. He knew that it would be in a safe hiding place, and that gave him loads of comfort. But where was that safe hiding place? The safest hiding place in the house used to be in the flowery teapot with the cracked lid and leaky spout that stood on the windowsill beneath the stained glass window, with the picture of a galleon on the high seas, downstairs by the front door.

That was right up until Mrs Grubbly made a pot of tea in it after the brown pot with the blue stripe broke in an unavoidable Maunday Thursday accident when the vicar called and gave her such a fright. He had come round to ask whose bike it was leaning against the vicarage gate, when he noticed his shoelace had come undone. After bending down to tie his shoelace he bent up just as Mrs Grubbly opened the door holding the steaming hot, brown teapot, with the blue stripe, in one hand. As the vicar’s head hit it, it knocked off his beret, and the boiling tea went all over the place. His scalp was scalded and they had to telephone for the ambulance. What a kerfuffle that was. The brown teapot with the blue stripe broke into so many pieces it would be impossible to glue them together again. That teapot was Mr Scrubbly’s favourite. He liked it even more than the Elvis Presley teapot that was a souvenir from Las Vegas he bought at a secondhand shop in Brighton. It was the worst Maunday Thursday Mr Scrubbly could remember since the one when his grandad told him about how the Ttitanic sank and all those people died. He didn’t sleep properly that night for the nightmares he suffered and woke on Good Friday morning with enough of a headache to warrant a junior aspirin with half a tumbler of water.

Anyway, Mrs Grubbly went to make a pot of tea to calm the vicar down in the flowery teapot with the cracked lid and leaky spout, forgetting that was the secret hiding place where Mr Scrubbly kept his special birthday, lucky five-pound-note, which got soaked with the hot, Assam tea, they kept for really important visitors on special occasions. And as the vicar didn’t visit so often, this was one such, despite the unfortunate circumstances that had prompted the occasion to come to pass.

After that Mr Scrubbly had to think about a new, safest hiding place that not even Mrs Grubbly would know about. Somewhere she wouldn’t think to make hot tea. Something nobody never, ever used, in somewhere nobody never, ever went. Immediately, all the fluff and dust under Mrs Grubbly’s bed came to mind. She was far to plump and round to get under there so never, ever did. It was the last place anybody would look.

The ancient chamber pot under Mrs Grubbly’s bed had never been used for as long as anyone could remember. Not that Mr Scrubbly was going to ask, for fear of giving things away. But things don’t always work out quite as well as Mr Scrubbly would expect them to. And, as not expected, things didn’t work out quite as well as expected that very first night after Mr Scrubbly chose the chamber pot under Mrs Grubbly’s bed  for the secret hiding place for his special, birthday, lucky five-pound-note. What with all the excitement of the vicar’s surprise, unannounced visit, and the misfortune that had accompanied it, as luck would have it, for the very first time ever in history, Mrs Grubbly had an emergency, and Mr Scrubbly’s special birthday, lucky five-pound note received another severe soaking.

“That special birthday five pound note will bring you luck one day. Mark my words,” Mrs Grubbly pronounced as she watched Mr Scrubbly hanging it out on the washing line to dry a second time. But it hadn’t so far. “You’ve got to give it time,” Mrs Grubbly kept reassuring him.

Suddenly, Mr Scrubbly was hit by a massive brainwave, and he sat up in bed. It would in the biscuit tin, with the Victorian Mail Coach on the lid, that’s where the TeasMaid guarantee would be. Mr Scrubbly had finally managed to get his mind onto other more cheerful things. That was the second-most safest hiding place after Mrs Grubbly’s chamber pot had turned out not to be so safe after all.

Along with the perished elastic bands and odd buttons that were bound to come in handy one day, there was the Belgian franc he was going to start his foreign coin collection with, when he got round to it, and the French stamp Aunty May had sent on a postcard while on a day trip abroad. “They really do drive on the wrong side of the road on purpose,” she reported when she got back. “I’m surprised we didn’t have more accidents.”

The biscuit tin with the Victorian mail coach on the lid stood on the windowsill beneath the window with the stained glass picture of a galleon on the high seas downstairs, next to the flowery teapot with the cracked lid and leaky spout, which, among other household items, Mr Scrubbly was trying to erase from his memory. Mr Scrubbly got out of bed and crept downstairs as quiet as a mouse wearing woolly bootees.

At the same time as he crept, Mr Scrubbly tried very hard not to think of bogeymen creeping about in the dark downstairs. But the trouble with trying very hard not to think of bogeymen creeping about in the dark downstairs sets you to thinking about bogeymen creeping about in the dark downstairs. Mr Scrubbly was thinking very hard about bogeymen creeping about in the dark downstairs, when he thought he heard a bogeyman creeping about in the dark downstairs. He switched the electric light on because he knew that made them disappear. There was Mrs Grubbly with a torch looking in the biscuit tin with the Victorian mail coach on its lid.

“What are you doing at this time of night?” he asked Mrs Grubbly.”You almost gave me the fright of my life.”

“I’m looking for biscuits,” said Mrs Grubbly. “And all I can find is elastic bands and useless bits of paper.”

“I hope you haven’t thrown anything away,” said Mr Scrubbly. And even by the torchlight he could see Mrs Grubbly going bright red.

Copyright © 2014  Bryan Hemming

George Bush insults art and artists


Conrad by Angelica Westerhoff. I refuse to illustrate any of George Bush’s ‘work’

Having lived with portrait painter Angelica Westerhoff for ten years, I find it little short of disgusting the attention George Bush receives from the world’s press for what can only be described as his childish daubings of world leaders.

The fact he doesn’t realise just how terrible he is, only goes to show how deluded and vain he has always been. Yet the world press, slavish as ever – even though much of it is tongue and cheek – gives more column inches to the dopey doodles of a man, who is regarded by many international lawyers as a war criminal, than it does to professional artists. Bush cannot even be described as a talented amateur.

Even worse, New York Times art commentator Roberta Smith actually takes the works seriously, bringing her own qualifications into question. Her remarks demonstrate how low some critics in the media are willing sink to curry favour with the rich and powerful.

Would we hear opera critics pour praise on him if Bush sang in the Metropolitan Opera House? Or if he picked up a violin and began to saw out Tchaikovsky? Would sports writers applaud him insisting on playing in a match for the New York Giants? Or would you welcome him practising open heart surgery on your body?

Well, artists, art lovers and students of art don’t like to see Bush parading his ‘work’ as representative of the contemporary art scene either. With far too many hobbyists splashing paint about here and there already, life as an artist has become hard enough. The last thing needed is frauds like the ex-president of the USA bringing real art into further disrepute.

If you want to see how bad he is look here: George Revealed George Bush’s art of leadership as ex-President paints former and current world leaders. And if you want to see how good Angelica Westerhoff is, by comparison, click here and scroll down.

As talented artists struggle to scrape by, newspapers think it’s a joke to give this evil joker ill-deserved, free publicity. The real art world consists of hard-working individuals devoted to their work while earning scant reward. However good that work may be, the majority will never receive much recogntion during their entire lives, if any at all.

Art is a vocation, and certainly not a viable business for most artists. Yet, whether in local public galleries, newpapers or museums, they are usually judged by amateurs, who can’t even draw. Normally, these amateurs have no training in art whatsoever, and very little understanding of it. Like the man in the street ‘they know what they like’. However, for knowing what they like, they make far more money than the artists, who do all the work. Meanwhle, the few artists, who do manage to make a good living, are often made to sacrifice their integrity on the altar of commercialism in ways no other professional would stand for. But just as many are mere charlatans, hitching a ride on the bandwagon of fashion.

The parasites, who leech off the art world by hyping up the flavour of the month, include journalists, auctioneers and art dealers. Not one can give you an adequate explanation as to why art goes ‘out of fashion’ or why it comes in. Not one will be able to tell you why Van Gogh never sold a painting during his entire life, yet now his paintings are amongst the most sought after in the world. I can. It’s because of them, and the people like them, who preceded them. The unqualified spongers; the self-appointed judges of taste, who decreed Van Gogh’s paintings were no good when they were painted in the 19th century. And people believed them. Only for another generation of similarly self-appointed bloodsuckers to pronounce them some of the best paintings in the world less than a century later. And people believed them. The paintings were exactly the same. Nothing had changed. Except for ‘expert’ opinion, which dictated a Van Gogh worth nothing in the second half of the 19th century, was worth the equivalent of almost $150 million in 1990. No painting is worth that. Not one artist received a cent from the sale. The painter had been dead for almost exactly one hundred years.

The art world has been treated like a joke for far too long by journalists describing themselves as critics pushing forward the latest fad. Too fearful of being labelled philistines they lend their names to pseudos, posing as leading lights, when they often have no idea whether a piece of art is a can of shit, or a masterpiece. Literally. In 2007 a can of shit entitled Merda de Artista (Artist’s shit) by Piero Manzoni sold for €124,000 at a Sotheby’s sale, read here. To resort to the vernacular, somebody has to be be taking the piss.

George Bush certainly is, and if he isn’t, he’s having the piss taken out of him. But the real victims here are art and artists.

Sol WP

Angelica Westerhoff self-portrait

While Angelica Westerhoff struggles to make a living, despite working seven days a week, often till late in the night, George Bush swaggers into a gallery pretending to be a sensitive artist, and the mainstream media queue up to add their own “fuck you!” to artists everywhere.

It is not only demeaning to art, it’s demeaning to all the poor of the world, when grovelling lickspittles tell billionaires in which paintings they should invest their plundered wealth. It’s an insult to those who can’t afford to feed their children, and it’s an insult to everybody’s intelligence.

No doubt thousands will turn up to view Bush’s turdishly amateur daubings to proclaim the talent he has been hiding under the…well, under the bush that should’ve been burned.

But Bush isn’t putting these paintings up to be judged, he’s so supremely arrogant he’s already told us he’s so good he deserves an exhibition. And so have his arse-licking toadies. He’s a graduate of the contemporary ‘anyone can draw’ school, whose adherents have no idea of what art is at all. He paints the type of decadent and degenerate images that heralded the fall of the Roman Empire. And as then, the Emperor has no clothes. He didn’t have any when he was president, and he doesn’t have any now he’s morphed into a painter.

Copyright © 2014 Bryan Hemming

I will be devoting a future post to the work of Angelica Westerhoff with a short biography of her life as an aritist.

Mr Scrubbly’s glasses go missing

Mr Scrubbly couldn’t find his glasses. He looked and looked and looked, and kept on looking but still couldn’t find them. He looked on the table by the side of his bed, and they weren’t there. He looked under the bed, and they weren’t there either. He even asked Mrs Grubbly if she could see them on his face.

“Am I wearing my spectacles?” he asked. Mrs Grubbly examined each of his eyes very closely with a serious look on own her face. Then she laughed.

“Don’t be a silly old billy!” she laughed. “If they were on your face you could feel them with your hand,” she said. Mr Scrubbly felt his face and they weren’t there. Even though he knew that she was right, and he was a silly old billy, he didn’t want to let her win.

“Not necessarily,” he said mysteriously, and left it at that.

Mrs Grubbly thought he was the silliest old billy she had ever known, but didn’t say so. And then she thought it would be a good joke to say that Mr Scrubbly was making a spectacle of himself. She was about to say it when she stopped herself because his sensibilities might get hurt.

Mr Scrubbly began to think that Mrs Grubbly might getting up to her old tricks again, so he went upstairs to the bathroom secretly and looked into the mirror to make doubly sure he wasn’t wearing his glasses. He looked and looked, and even though it was hard to see without his glasses, he knew that they weren’t there. He was a silly old billy all right, but a silly old billy with hurt sensibilities.

Mr Scrubbly searched the house high and low and everywhere for his glasses. He searched the nooks and crannies, and all the cubby-holes, he searched in cracks and under things. It was a hard job with everything higgeldy-piggeldy, topsy-turvey and all over the place, and what with Mrs Grubbly’s bits and bobs and who-knows-what lying here and there, so you couldn’t see for all the stuff, especially without his glasses.

He put his hand right down the back of the sofa until his knuckles went white and his hand went red. He put it so far down that it hurt and swelled up. He put it down even further. And then, with one final shove, he put it down so far it got stuck and he couldn’t get it out it was so swollen. So swollen and stuck, he thought he might have to call the fire brigade. But he couldn’t reach the telephone and didn’t want Mrs Grubbly to know. He remembered all the embarrassment the last time it happened, when he thought he’d lost his very important Vice Chairman of Nether Ditchwood Elvis Presley Musical Appreciation Society badge. And what a to-do that had been with the siren making such a mighty racket so all the neighbours came out to see the big red  fire engine with all its flashing lights.

And even when the firemen did come. After breaking down the front door, he had only  just painted a month ago (would you believe?) with their axes, they told him the badge was pinned to his jacket lapel. To top it all they said the only way they could get his hand out was to chop up the sofa with their axes as well. Or chop off his hand at the wrist. After thinking for a minute or two Mr Scrubbly said there would be no more chopping round here today. And then they told him it was a joke. So one fireman telephoned for an ambulance. Mr Scrubbly told him to put a ten-pence piece in the box by the phone, if it was a local call, and a twenty-pence piece if it was further away.  But none of the firemen had any change. Mr Scrubbly grumbled that they were supposed to be prepared for emergencies, and he would send a bill to the fire department, if they kindly wrote the address in clear letters on the notepad next to the telephone, which was specially put there for such occurrences.

When the ambulance came there was even more of a to-do with more sirens and flashing lights, so that the neighbours from the next street came to stare. The ambulance man told him the best thing would be to wait a couple of hours till the swelling went down, and then pull his hand out. Mr Grubbly got very red and cross because he would miss the six o’ clock news on the telly. The Prime Minister might be on, or even the Queen. With his bottom up in the air, facing the screen, it could easily cause a rumpus all over the village if anyone peeked through the window. Especially, Mr Slivvery the ratcatcher, He was the sort of nosey parker, who always peeked through windows to try and catch Mrs Grubbly in her voluminous knickers. Raising your bottom at the Queen was very disrespectful and probably unlawful. Even if it was only her face on the telly. Mr Grubbly shouted out loud that having his hand extracted from down the back of the sofa was what he paid his taxes for, and even said he was going to write a letter to the Queen on his typewriter as soon as his hand got better. Without mentioning the bit about his bottom, of course. But he couldn’t really, because the ‘Q’ wouldn’t function properly, ever since Mrs Grubbly spilt some thick, hot gravy down in the workings, which had congealed, and was now too stubborn to remove.

And then said he was sorry. So the ambulance man forgave him and put the plastic Sunday tablecloth, with the flowery border, over the telly screen to calm him, and asked if he would like an aspirin. Mr Grubbly didn’t want the telly turned off just in case somebody important said something important. But said he didn’t mind just listening to the sound for just that once. And then he said, no, he wouldn’t like an aspirin.

Mr Scrubbly didn’t want to cause a brouha like that again with all the racket of the sirens and flashing lights, let alone have his new front door chopped down, he decided to wait a couple of hours until the swelling went down. He reluctantly called out for Mrs Grubbly to make him a pot of tea.

“Lordy, lordy,” Mrs Grubbly tittered, “You’ve only gone and done it again! I’ll have to call the fireman’s bridge aid.” She was ambling cheerfully across to the telephone when Mr Scrubbly shouted out:

“No, don’t do that! Whatever you do.”

“Why on earth not?” smiled Mrs Grubbly, even though she really knew.  “They can chop the door down again and telphone the ambulance, man. I like him. He reminds me of Mr Slivvery.”

Mr Scrubbly had to put on his thinking cap.

“No, don’t do that because I don’t want you to waste the ten-pence piece you’ll have to put in the box by the telephone, if it’s a local call, and twenty-pence if it’s outside the area.”

“I don’t mind if it’s an emergent testy,” Mrs Grubbly said, “Besides I’d like to see the ambulance man that looks like Mr Slivvery again.”

“We don’t want him round here with all his bandages and antiseptic,” Mr Grubbly protested. “Just be a petal, put the kettle on and make a nice pot of tea. I can hold the cup with my left hand, because I took the safety precaution of not putting that one down there.”

“All right,” said Mrs Grubbly, “but you can’t switch the telly on, just in case the Prime mysterious or the Queen comes on to say something important, and your bottom is facing the screen. Besides, your can’t reach the knob with hand down the back of the sofa. And that reminds me, can you fiddle about with your fingers to see if the knob to my old transistor radio is down there?”

Whe the swelling had gone down and Mr Scrubbly could pull his hand out, he hadn’t found his glasses, or Mrs Grubbly’s knob, but he did find the one and sixpence ha’penny in old money that he lost in 1965. And he also found a pink plastic comb with some teeth missing along with lots of fluff and hair and breadcrumbs. He put the fluff and the hair and the breadcrumbs back.

“Look at this,” he said to Mrs Grubbly. “I’ve found the one and sixpence ha’penny I thought was in the grey trousers you sent to the cleaners in 1965. To think I thought that the cleaning lady had nicked it.”

“What’s one and sixpence ha’penny when it’s at home?” Mrs Grubbly asked.

“Don’t you remember the old money before decimalisation?” he asked.

“Is that when they changed the railways?” Mrs Grubbly chuckled like strawberries with lashings of cream.

“Don’t you remember anything?” Mr Scrubbly asked.

“I don’t remember silly old billy things like dustbinisation,” Mrs Grubbly grinned.

“Not dustbinisation,” Mr Scrubbly said, “Decimalisation, when everything went metric.”

“I remember that,” Mrs Grubbly said, “Decrimblisiation,It was because of the emelectric, you couldn’t get a loaf of bread anywhere, and the telly and the lights wouldn’t work.”

“What are you going on about?” Mr Scrubbly asked. “I’m talking about metrication.”

“Meflication, Mellycation, Jellycation, I know you are, it’s when the tube trains went on strike in London, and you couldn’t get on the buses for the crowds. I heard it on my transistor radio. That was when it still had a knob so I could turn it on.”

“You’ve got a memory as bad as a sieve with holes in it,” Mr Scrubbly said. “And I mean big holes that come from constant overusage.”

“Well at least I can remember where I put things last night,” Mrs Grubbly said.

“What things?” Mr Scrubbly asked absent-mindedly. He was thinking he should go to the cleaners to apologise. He hadn’t been there ever since October the 22nd 1965 when the one and sixpence ha’penny had gone missing. He had used the other cleaners on the far side of Nether Ditchwood even though it was very inconvenient. Or was it October the 21st? He’d have to look at the receipt he kept in a shoe box on top of the wardrobe. He always knew it’d come in handy one day. And he was right.

Copyright © 2014 Bryan Hemming