Friday 29 June 2007

Meldrew is alive and well

Uh oh.

Bert's got a new campaign. He's going to eradicate parking on pavements (I think just in our road, but who knows...?).

He is rubbing his hands together with anticipation and has that evangelical glint that I recognise from the wheelie bin days (I'll come back to wheelie bins another time). He has spoken to a community police officer already and his next step is to tackle the council.

  Me: "For god's sake leave it - life is too short."
  Bert: "Life is never too short." (!)

Bert loves having something to rant about, and I think he's a little bored with other recent topics:
  • legislation/rules that are "a license for people to print money" (like 'Part P')

  • councils leaving rubbish at beauty spots (specifically dead badgers: 4 phone calls and a letter so far)

  • online banking systems who take months to open an account due to their crappy websites

  • "w*nky drivers" who run cyclists off the road

  • even w*nkier drivers who chase abusive cyclists and threaten to tear their knackers off

  • the extortionate cost of birthday cards
In the end I just said "don't do anything that makes it obvious where we live" - he was threatening to walk up and down photographing cars, and to keep a load of bags of rubble on the road to stop them parking on the pavement outside our house.

He is, and always has been, a complete Victor Meldrew. Once a friend (of mine) commented, "If he's like this now, what the hell is he going to be like when he's old and retired?"

He's just said "Don't make me sound like a f*cking Tory."

Wednesday 27 June 2007

The end is in sight

I spoke too soon. Not only has Bert visited G's osteopath, he was so impressed he has booked me in for a visit too. As he said, I need a treat.

Bert is being uncharacteristically kind this week because I had a sigmoidoscopy (if you don't know what that is, it's a camera up the bum). It was a deeply unpleasant experience. Firstly, I looked at the screen too soon and saw something no-one should ever see: their own arsehole (mine is a tad hairier than I would have hoped). And secondly, it was so incredibly painful I couldn't believe it. In the end I couldn't watch the screen any more because it was showing me that they were carrying on even though I was crying and nearly broke the nurses hand.

So when we got home, I had to go for a lie down in a somewhat traumatised state. After a while Bert crept in and asked "Is it ok if I use some power tools?".

Shame the doctor didn't ask the same question.

Monday 25 June 2007

Physical jerks

Oh dear, the garden is now well and truly stalled in its half-dug state.

Bert suggested I should take over: "You need toning up." Luckily for me, the weather is awful. And the pickaxe is vewy heavy.

Bert's shoulder is still bad, and yesterday he was complaining that he had also, somehow, pulled a muscle in his arse. I offered to kick it. Tempting, huh?

Bert's brother G is doing an Ironman in Austria soon. Bert isn't jealous. No way. He's been doing triathlons himself for years, and has nothing left to prove. So I don't know why he said,"If he drops out, I'll turn up on the day and do it myself." But G has a coach and a team of physiotherapists, chiropractors, osteopaths and witch doctors to hand, and is determined to go ahead despite an array of injuries (mostly in the groin area so let's leave it at that). One of B and G's shared characteristics is the ability to be deeply focused on their own ailments whilst oblivious to those of others (or is that just a 'man thing'?). In G's case he throws money at a host of treatments and cures, while Bert does a more macho "I'm in real pain but I don't have time for doctors who haven't got a clue anyway, so I'll just go on and on about it instead." (I call it pain transference.)

Incidentally, Bert proposed to me while he was taking part in a triathlon. He ran past and shouted, "If I make it round I'll marry you!" I didn't catch what he'd said (even though for once I had managed to turn up before he finished), but unfortunately his mother and our daughters heard it loud and clear. So there was no getting out of it, and he was running too fast for me to catch him up and trip him or something.

Monday 18 June 2007

Birthdays and Bertdays

I told Bert today that I had started a blog about him. He looked a bit puzzled. "A blob?" Bless.

Last week it was Katie's birthday and I made Bert write the card. I like to watch him struggle - it's like 'emotional gym' for him. He thought it highly appropriate to urge her to work hard over the next year (OK, I admit he added "and don't forget to enjoy yourself too").

Mind you, he finds buying cards difficult too. As it happens it is his mum's birthday the day after Katie's, so as usual I found myself in Clintons looking for 'Mother' cards. Then I thought "Hang on, it's his mum, he should do this." So I took him card shopping. He took one look at the bank of cards, picked one out and said "That'll do." But when he checked the code and worked out it was £5, he started throwing a wobbly. "£5 just for a card? That's £8 once you gross it up!". (He was talking about the tax he'd already paid on the £5.)

I think 'grossing it up' is a great way of describing most of Bert's observations.

I mentioned recently that Bert had started digging up the garden. This has 'ground' (sorry) to a halt. He has hurt his neck and shoulder in some strange and immobilising way but won't see the doctor and insists it is unrelated to digging up loads of solid chalk with a pickaxe and wheeling umpteen barrows of this through to our (permanently resident) skip out the front. "It's bad knees you get with gardening," he maintains. No wonder I've not got that fit doing the garden. I've obviously been doing it all wrong.

Friday 8 June 2007

Driving me crazy

Today Bert drove me to work in his car (normally I go in my own car). There was a really bad smell and Bert explained he had water running into the car because of a blocked filter. [If you're reading this, Bert, could you explain that bit again about the 'skirt' on the tube attached to the filter being such a bad design? I'm afraid I drifted off a bit at that point, but you're probably right that having a kink in the pipe instead would be much more effective. Shall I contact VW customer services and let them know?]

Bert said that the leak was causing problems with the electrics (his windows had been playing up). It was raining this morning, so we soon came across another minor electrical problem: the windscreen wipers wouldn't work. Bert was taking an 'interesting' route ('better' than the route I normally take), so I was already a little tense by now.

Bert tried the wipers again from time to time, and a couple of times accidentally sprayed soap over the screen so we were both bobbing our heads up and down to find bits of the windscreen we could actually see through. Eventually we had to stop in order to wipe the screen manually, only to find that Bert's scraper had no rubber on it. You try wiping a windscreen with a bit of scratchy plastic.

Anyway, with the help of a few old tissues lying around, Bert finally cleared the screen and we set off again. At that point the car beeped loudly and I jumped.

  "What the hell was that?"
  "Just the low fuel warning." (looks at me) "Are you not enjoying this journey, then?"

OK, I was able to laugh. After all, I've had much worse car experiences with Bert over the years. Our first ever car was a lime green Morris Ital (probably Rover's worst ever car and the cause of their downfall). The first time we took it over 50 miles per hour the bonnet flew up and completely obscured the road ahead. But I shouldn't complain; it didn't happen every time we went at that speed.

The next car was a Chrysler Alpine. This was actually a reasonable car (as you can see we're not very image conscious). However, in its later years it developed a problem whereby it would stall without warning and not start again. I remember so very well the time the car died at traffic lights while I was in the outside lane. I was on my own but it was OK because I had Bert's instructions to hand (he was in Korea at the time which is just as well):
  • Lift the Bonnet
  • Get the Hammer
  • Tap the Starter Motor
  • Get Back into the Car and Try Again
  • Repeat if Necessary
  • (Only if All This Doesn't Work) Push the Car to the Side of the Road
  • Call for Help But Don't Expect to Use a Mobile Phone Because They Haven't Been Invented Yet
I still get anxious when I replay this memory.

Tuesday 5 June 2007

Meet Bert

Bert is one of those people you love or hate. I experience both, sometimes (confusingly) at the same time. I've lived with Bert for many years (oh, hundreds) and the one thing I can say is that he's not boring. Exasperating, infuriating, mind-bogglingly bad at knowing what makes me tick - but not boring. (Well, OK, maybe every now and then.)

Why am I basing a blog on living with Bert? Because I don't see why I should be the only person on the planet who has to know what it's like. Because other people should feel the pain too, if only vicariously.

Actually, there are two other people who know what living with Bert is like: our daughters Katie (15) and Louise (12). It drives them mad too, and apart from the odd guilty moment for giving them a bonkers dad, I do feel that they are developing some fantastic life skills. If they can cope with their dad, they'll cope with pretty much anyone. Sir Alan Sugar? He's a pussycat. Tom Cruise? He needs to try much harder if he really wants to control his family.

The song 'I Was In Love With A Difficult Man' by Christine Lavin pretty much sums it up. Though I haven't actually left yet.

Recent examples of classic Bert behaviour include:
  • Two years (and counting) building and fitting our house extension ('things take longer than you think'; 'if you want a good job doing you have to do it yourself / you can't trust tradesmen'; 'quality takes time'; 'why are you hitting me?'). And don't imagine for one moment it's actually finished yet.
  • Phoning me in a panic after accidentally smashing the £1000+ brand new induction hob in the newly fitted kitchen. I asked him why he sounded so out of breath: 'I had to go for a walk'. If it had been me who had smashed it, this blog would have been called 'Not Living With Bert Any More'. And don't even ask about contents insurance and whether accidental damage is worth paying the extra for. That's an old argument. Bert won.
  • Digging up the garden just as we were at the point of being able to have a party (to celebrate 'the extension nearly being finished'). We now have a multi-level soil bath right outside our back door. The cats love it - we get a new kitchen, they get a new toilet. A big one.
  • Oh yes, the cats. We have three. Bert hates cats (see, he doesn't always win). You'll hear more about Bert and cats as we go along.
Anyway, that's about enough for one post. Looking forward to sharing more wonderful Bert moments with you all.