Tuesday 15 April 2008

Tyred or exhausted?

Regular readers will know that I was without my car for a very long time, thanks to Bert's insistence on using a particular mechanic that he went to school with. Bert applies this 'can't trust anyone you didn't go to school with' logic to most aspects of our lives. Plumbers, electricians, builders, the car mechanic - they all went to school either with him or his brother. It's amazing he married me really, gritty Northerner that I am.

In the end I was without my car for much longer than I blogged about it. I just got too bored with the situation and became quite adept at using public transport and walking everywhere. However, the mechanic finished his final piece of work last week - fitting a new exhaust - and once I'd paid my car tax I was off again. I've managed to get out and about and enjoy the car again, and was feeling quite pleased with the situation.

However, today I was feeling very grumpy for reasons I won't go into, but which involved contacting a counsellor so I can start to deal with Bert my issues. In the end I decided a good gym session was in order to relieve my stresses and strains. Halfway there I noticed a funny noise emanating from the back of the car, which got worse and worse and eventually couldn't be ignored. I pulled over to the side of the road and took a look round the back, immediately spotting the new exhaust floating loose. "Damn," I thought. "That's all I need." I decided that the best thing was to carry on to my destination, which wasn't much further.

The sound got worse and worse and I had to drive really slowly. Who'd have thought a loose exhaust could make so much noise? When I got there I took another look and realised that in addition one of my back tyres was completely flat. "F*ck it, f*ck it, f*ck it," I thought as I speed-dialled Bert's number. We agreed that I would need to phone the emergency repair people, and of course once I'd done that I had to stay with the car. No gym, just a packet of crisps and me lying on the back seat in despair.

Luckily they weren't too long. There was a slightly bizarre moment when the counsellor phoned me just as the repair man was asking me to move my car. "Oh yes," I said to her in a manic way, "Thanks for returning my call! I'm just in the middle of a breakdown - can I call you back?"

She seemed keen to take me on.

Wednesday 9 April 2008

Capital Letters

Bert received a cheque for £500 this morning following a dispute with our electricity company. He calls it a result - I call it a damn nuisance. Every time he 'wins' it encourages him to write even more letters of protest. Some of you may remember Bert's recent interaction with the Post Office. Feeling good after this morning's success, he decided it was time to write to the PO.

I couldn't make this up even if I wanted to (which I don't).

Dear sir/madam

It seems to me from your ‘standard’ letter that you are deliberately attempting to put people off from claiming against the Post Office for their inability to deliver letters. Do you honestly believe that anyone would go to this much trouble if the claim were not genuine? I enclose the original recorded deliver slips as requested but I charge you for the copies (5p each) plus £2.50 for my time in going to a shop to obtain these copies. I also charge you 10p for the envelope, as you did not supply one for me to return the information in. These charges are in addition to my original claim. Take it as threat if you may, but if I do not receive satisfaction over this matter then I will take the Post Office to the small claims court over what is a trivial amount of monetary loss, but a loss all the same, and will add to this my additional time and consequential costs already incurred.

May I also point out to you that your success rate in delivering recorded delivery letters, in my experience, is less than 50% and I shall be reporting you to Trading Standards as I believe that the service is fundamentally flawed and therefore improperly marketed.

Of course the question begs; will this letter actually find its way to you?

Will it be lost or will it be late?

Please be assured that its posting will be witnessed but it will not be sent by Recorded Delivery.

Yours sincerely,


Wednesday 2 April 2008

The Anti-Coach Strikes Again

As some of you may know, I recently started a Diploma in Coach-Mentoring. Bert, as you would expect, is being as supportive as he can.

I had my first proper coaching session with one of my 'coachees' today. I was quite apprehensive but it seemed to go very well. Bert asked how it went. "It was really good," I replied. "Afterwards she said that she had found it very powerful."

Guess which of the following is Bert's response:
  • Darling, that's wonderful. You're so clever and talented.
  • That's really good - you must feel pleased with yourself.
  • She probably fancies you.
No prizes I'm afraid.

Tuesday 1 April 2008

Grand Intentions

I was watching Grand Designs the other day, and it reminded me of when I once watched it with Bert in our previous house.

It was the episode when they converted an old waterworks, and my brother and his wife were also watching with us. At one point, the couple on TV were sanding the very large ceiling in their lounge, using just a small sanding device. The ceiling was in very poor repair and it was clear that this was a mammoth task. Bert couldn't resist adding his two penn'orth. "Why the hell are they doing it by hand? It's going to be a crap finish. Personally I could never live with a ceiling that wasn't perfect."

The rest of us looked at Bert, then at each other, and then at the rather large hole in our living room ceiling that had been there for three years. We all burst out laughing, but Bert couldn't see what he'd said that was funny.

You can just about see the hole in the background of this picture, with the purple balloon dangling from it. It isn't very clear but it's the best I could find.

Bert created the hole so he could investigate a leak that had damaged the ceiling and was coming from the balcony at the front of the house. He couldn't track it down and kept making the hole bigger in order to get a better look. (That's Bert in the foreground by the way. He's probably saying, "It's weird, it's only when there's a strong north-easterly wind with driving rain.")

Bert wasn't prepared to repair the ceiling until he had sorted the problem, and in the end it only got done when we moved house. But at least it was perfect for someone.

Thursday 20 March 2008

Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner's Daughter

Bert is currently upsetting our younger daughter (L).

Most weekday mornings Bert starts his day with a cycle ride (of sorts: I think I may post on that next time), or a long run around the neighbourhood. He has done this for many years, and the girls have always found it highly embarrassing. We live just up the road from their old primary school, and around the corner from their current secondary school. They have had numerous comments over the years from teachers and schoolfriends along the lines of "Was that your dad I saw...?"

So what's new?

Until recently Bert set off on his run or bike ride at about 7.30, and was back home before school started. But now, in encroaching middle age (it's alright - he doesn't read this blog so I can say that), he gets going later and sets off just around the time they go to school. Now L. is finding lots of her friends saying "Is that your dad? What is he wearing?". The answer is a pair of skimpy little old-fashioned shorts, and a very raggy old triathlon top.

L. asked him if he would consider stopping, or at least changing his route and / or his shorts (it might not have been that polite - she is 13). He thought about it momentarily: "No chance!". She asked me to intervene and I said to him, "She's got a point - couldn't you go a different way, or set off a bit later?". "B*llocks," he said. "I've been doing this for years and I'm not going to change my routine now."

We argued a bit more about it. His final point was that if L's friends commented on my grey hair, would I dye it just so as not to embarrass her? I said that would be different. Well it would, wouldn't it?

(And this on a day when I've got a lovely new haircut and colour.)

The current state of play is that L. is 'ignoring' Bert. She keeps forgetting, and halfway through talking to him she suddenly shrieks "Oh Dad!" and stomps off.

I can see this one will run and run.

Monday 17 March 2008

Hot stuff

I have another course workshop coming up in May, and today I was investigating accommodation options. I was a bit horrified at how expensive everywhere seems to be. Bert's suggestions were helpful, as always:
  • Ask the barrister if she will pay half of your hotel fee. (See my previous post)
  • How about camping? That's your other option.
Bert seems to think that because the person I crashed into is a barrister with a Porsche means I (we) shouldn't have to cough up for the damage.

Anyway, in my last post I was so taken up with the Porsche incident I clean forgot to tell you about the fireman.

When I first arrived at the hotel for the last workshop, I was highly stressed because I'd got lost in the Oxford countryside and spent over one and a half hours driving around an area of about three square miles. So I quickly dumped my bags in my room and headed straight for the bar.

I soon spotted someone reading the text book for my course. I introduced myself and we had a nice chat getting to know each other. Then all of a sudden she jumped up muttering something about expecting a phone call, and left. I was really taken aback and thought I must have said something to offend her.

Then a guy who had just come in to the bar started talking to me and before I could respond he'd sat down next to me: "D'you mind if I sit here? Just say if you mind." He then regaled me with his life history, especially the fact that his wife had left him, that he had a house of his own, that he was ready to meet someone again, that he was there to learn how to drive the fire engine, what an amazing effect his uniform had on women, etc. etc. After a while, I made sure to make frequent mentions of my husband and children, my Catholic upbringing, my utter belief in monogamy, and my phobia of fire-related paraphernalia.

(I might not have tried so hard to repel him if he'd looked anything like this. But he looked more like this.)

The next day I said to my earlier companion, "I got chatted up by a fireman after you left last night." "Oh yes," she replied. "That happened to me too before you arrived!" Oh well thanks for the tip-off, I thought. Later that day it transpired that at least one of the other women on the course had also come in for the 'want to try my fireman's pole?' treatment. That we know of.

After I hurried back to my room, I texted Bert to tell him I'd been chatted up by a sad and lonely fireman. "Ah," he replied,"the perils of not having me there".

Thursday 13 March 2008

A dent in my reputation

I've just been away for a couple of days, starting a coach-mentoring course. I figure that if I can't get Bert to change his ways, I can at least do my bit to help others change theirs.

The workshop was amazing: very intensive (and exhausting), a fantastic learning experience, and an unexpectedly enjoyable social event. My fellow learners are open, friendly, relaxed and very interesting to talk with - just as you might expect from coaches and coaches-to-be. I left on a really high note.

It didn't last long. As I was leaving the hotel car park, I reversed into another car.

I was just about to turn right to get on to the main road, when I noticed a sign to the left with the name of the place I wanted to go - the 'country lane' route. Without looking or thinking (the car may have been in gear but my brain obviously wasn't), I reversed just a little teensy bit so I could change direction. CRUNCH. F*ck! B*llocks! Sh*t! etc. I got out of my car and realised that the driver was one of the women off the course.

Thankfully she was very decent about it, not aggressive or unpleasant (well, it was pretty clear-cut that it was my fault). She did say a little plaintively, "I've only just got the car." Then while I was falling over myself apologising and feeling absolutely mortified she said, "Of course it had to be a Porsche, didn't it?". I drew a sharp breath. I'd vaguely noticed that it was a nice silver sporty type of car. And new, and shiny. But why did it have to be a Porsche?

As I eventually drove off (in the wrong direction as it happens), I felt sick. How was I going to tell Bert? I realised I was actually quite shaken, so after a few miles I pulled into a service station. I knew that I had to tell Bert before I could start to feel better, so I took my courage into my hands and ... texted him: 'I'm afraid I just reversed into a Porsche'.

My phone rang instantly. "That's a joke, right?" (Sadly that is the sort of thing I do. There's probably a moral there somewhere.) I assured him it wasn't a joke but Bert surprised me by being more like this than this. Even though - I forgot to mention this little detail - I was driving his car at the time. Well, mine is in a bit of a state after being off the road so long. (Maybe there's a moral in that too.)


Later in the evening I got a text from my pal H congratulating me on my bump. I texted back saying I was surprised she'd heard so quickly, and how amazed I was at Bert's (lack of) reaction. She responded: 'Yep. Think he quite proud actually. Be diff if you'd pranged a mini'. Then she sent me another text: 'He mentioned had thirty years no claims but he impressed no damage to his car'. Ah. I gave him a story.

Sunday 9 March 2008

Really small talk

I often complain that Bert doesn't have the knack of pleasant chit-chat. It is my belief that he only speaks when necessary (and that's according to his definition of necessary, not anyone else's). Yesterday I decided to prove this, and started to record everything he said to me. This is a complete transcript of the first couple of hours (after that I told him what I was doing and then we had an argument about whether he'd said these things quite like this - reader, he did).

1. You needed to get that Magpie [recycling] box out earlier.

2. You should have opened this [steamy bathroom] window.

3. We need to go, like now.

4. Do you know how much electricity your PC uses per year, being on standby?

5. You need to book a day to cut down brambles with me.

6. You need to set time aside for pointing, and it needs to be at 5 o'clock.

In that last one, Bert didn't mean that I would be pointing at him, saying "You never say anything nice!" or something like that. No, he meant cleaning up the pointing on his brickwork that he was about to do. You have to clean it up before it sets hard, otherwise it looks messy. He couldn't do it himself, because after laying the bricks he was off out for an all-day bender.

Later today we are off for a naming ceremony for our friends' new baby Grover. I am deeply honoured to have been asked to be her guide parent (hey - I'm a GP!). I'm almost certain they're not following the trend to acquire 'trophy' god/guide parents.

In the meantime Bert has just gone out to retrieve his mobile phone that he left in the pub last night. As he set off he was moaning that what with that and the baby naming, he wasn't going to get any bricklaying done today.

Wednesday 5 March 2008

Stamp of (dis)approval

Bert had an altercation with the Post Office today. He has sent a number of recorded delivery letters recently, all of which have failed to arrive.

I hardly need tell you that these are letters of complaint. He is writing to the electricity board to complain about them digging up his (our) garden to lay their cables without consent.

Hmmm - maybe he sent my Valentine card by recorded delivery, as that failed to arrive too.

Anyway, today he phoned up to complain about the non-arrival of his mail. They said there is nothing they can do to trace the letters. "But what about using the tracking numbers I was given when I sent the letters recorded delivery?" he asked. "No. Tracking numbers are no good. We can only track a letter using its tracking number once it has been received and signed for."

"Hang on," Bert said. "What, then, is the point of a tracking number?" "Well sir, once a letter has been signed for, we use the tracking number to ascertain whether the letter was delivered late or not. But until it has been signed for, the tracking number has no significance whatsoever. Indeed, it does not even appear in our system. We keep no record of tracking numbers."

"Okay," said Bert. "So what about my letters which appear to have disappeared? Do I get compensation for those?" "Well that depends," they replied. "We offer £10 compensation for letters that are delivered, i.e. signed for, more than 15 days late. But if the letter is lost, i.e. never signed for, then we offer a book of stamps in compensation. To claim this, you need to send in the original ticket with the tracking number." "So hang on," said Bert, "I send in the original ticket - using a stamp - and then you send me a book of stamps in return?" "Exactly." "So when is a letter lost, and when is it late?" asked Bert. "A letter is lost if it is not delivered, i.e. signed for, within 30 days," replied the Post Office.

They went on to explain that recorded delivery letters are far more likely to end up 'lost' than your average first or second class letter. This is because recorded delivery letters are sent in batches, and big companies receive a batch but do not sign for the individual letters. Often the letters do arrive, but the Post Office doesn't know about it.

The long and short of it was that the PO was prepared to compensate Bert for his last letter, which was officially late (i.e. more than 15 but less than 30 days late). "But what about my earlier letters?" "No, they're not late any more. They're missing. We don't compensate for missing letters." Which takes us back to the book of stamps. "A book of stamps? Is that it?" Bert asked incredulously. "Well, they are first class," pointed out the PO. "Oh come on," he remonstrated. "Would you consider - instead - compensating me with the monetary value of a book of stamps? I can at least go out for a pint then and feel like I've achieved something with this phone call." They laughed. But no, stamps were as far as they were prepared to go.

As Bert pointed out, a book of stamps represented twelve more opportunities for the Post Office to lose his mail.

Wednesday 27 February 2008


I'm seeing a career transition coach at the moment. Every time we meet, I come away feeling hugely positive and capable of doing anything I want to do. I think I'd like to be a coach and make people feel good, too.

For anyone else out there who is thinking about coaching, you might want to try my little quiz first.

So you want to be a coach?

1. Someone you know says that they would like to become a coach. You say:

A) That sounds very interesting. Have you investigated how you might achieve that goal?
B) How are you going to pay for that?
C) No-one is going to pay you to do coaching at your age

2. The same person tells you that one way of becoming a coach is to do an MA. You respond:

A) That sounds great, and is it the best way of enabling you to fulfil your goals? What alternatives are there?
B) Do you have the money to pay for that?
C) Is it really worth paying for that at your age?

3. When you are simply trying to be helpful, the person you are talking to accuses you of being negative. You respond by saying:

A) I'm sorry you don't find my comments helpful. How could I be more supportive?
B) It's not good for you if I just agree all the time.
C) I'm just being devil's advocate. Someone's got to point out the pitfalls.

4. The same person indicates that their coach makes them feel better, whereas you seem to make them feel worse. How do you respond?

A) We could explore why I am making you feel worse, or perhaps it would be better if you find a different coach.
B) You're not paying me to make you feel better.
C) You know what I'm like. You shouldn't ask me about stuff if you don't like the answer.

Mostly A: Wow. With the right training you could become a coach.
Mostly B: Wow. With the right training you could become Bert.
Mostly C: Oh no! Bert isn't just the devil's advocate, he's the Anti-coach.

Sunday 10 February 2008

Spot the oxymoron

We visited our pals the Scouse Gits yesterday.

At one point, Bert started debating the nature of empathy. (Yeah, you're right. We had started drinking by this time.)

In order to illustrate his point, Bert turned to the Gits' 19 year old daughter.

"Hey [beautiful daughter of very close friends], you'd piss on me if I was on fire, wouldn't you?"

"Of course!" she replied politely.

Bert, suddenly empathising with how this might sound to parental ears, sought to correct any potential misunderstandings.

"Only if I'm on fire, though."

Saturday 2 February 2008

Is that a banana in your pocket?

"Can I have your banana?"

The woman behind the counter didn't know quite how to respond to Bert's strange request. "Er...what?," she replied.

Let me explain. Yesterday Bert had an appointment in the dermatology department of our local hospital. This has nothing whatsoever to do with his recent elbow / hand injuries. Amongst his many other complaints**, Bert suffers with lichen planus in his mouth (yes, I know you didn't really want to know that).

Anyway, when Bert turned up at the hospital the conversation went like this:

Bert: "I've got an appointment with [Mr. X] the dermatologist."
Recep (to her colleague): "Oh, it's another one of those letters. That's four now"

[We think she meant one of those letters that told people they had an appointment.]

Recep: "I'm sorry, but [Mr. X] isn't here today."
Bert: "What do you mean, he's not here? Is he ill?"
Recep: "He just isn't here."
Bert: "Oh, you mean he's off doing 'private practice'."
Recep: "I can only confirm that [Mr. X] is not here. I'm sorry you've had a wasted journey."
Bert: "Well, can I have your banana?"
Recep (looking a little upset): "Er...what? Why?"
Bert: "Well, I've just walked here and it took me an hour. Now I'm starving."

He came away with a new appointment but sadly no banana. Whatever is the NHS coming to?

**A doctor friend of ours once quipped that Bert was a doctor's worst nightmare: a hypochondriac who does actually have a lot wrong with him.

Friday 25 January 2008

Bad Hair Day

A while ago I complained that Bert never notices when I've had my hair done. Today he noticed straight away. And here's why:

Yes, I'm a ginger nut!

Over the past few months I've let my hair revert to its natural grey (to match my mood) and today I decided that I should brighten it up (to match my new mood). Why today in particular? Well, tonight I have a 'big night out', and I didn't want to feel self-conscious about my 'old lady' hair. And I guess I won't be feeling self-conscious about that.

The shade is called 'Sandy'. But whereas the model's hair on the box looks kind of 'golden-beach-sandy', mine appears to be more 'brick-sandy'. It is supposed to wash out in 6 - 8 washes but having spent all day washing my hair, clearly those washes have to be spread out on different days.

I frequently embarrass my daughters, but I don't think I've ever made their mouths fall open before.

Good job it's Burns Night tonight. I can always pretend I was too cheap to buy one of these.

Sunday 20 January 2008

Bad Carma

I'm so lucky.

To have Bert, that is.

He has such concern for my health and wellbeing he is making it impossible for me to take the easy option. You know how we all moan about how much thinner / fitter / better off we were before we were foolish enough to acquire a car? And, notwithstanding this, how impossible it is not to jump in the car every time you need to pop out for the least thing?

Here's my car. It has been without rear wheels over 4 months.

If you don't believe me, just look at that rust.

And there are some interesting new life forms. (Actually, to be honest the moss was there before. Bert doesn't believe in paying for car washes, and apparently they ruin the paintwork which means that the car won't necessarily look its best).

"Ah yes," you say, "But you still have Bert's car to get around in." Well, that was certainly true. With Bert's broken elbow I've been able to use his car so long as I drive him wherever he needs to go. Oh what fun. Bert is such a backseat driver. For example, when the traffic lights change to 'go', he cries "You're going! You're going! You're going!". Apparently I accelerate too quickly when driving off (even when Bert's not shouting instructions), and on the other hand I rev too low when driving along. Generally I pride myself on my parking (once I parked in a spot so tight that I literally couldn't get out of any door of the car and had to drive off again). But with Bert it's "Left hand down, turn, turn! Now right hand down, turn, turn!" His constant instructions are all delivered in the same frantic way. You can imagine what that does for the quality of my driving and parking, and how smug Bert feels once he's proved his point by reducing me to a nervous wreck.

But I digress.

Luckily Bert, though not fully recovered, is able to drive again. Just so long as it isn't raining. See the wipers on Bert's car? They've been stuck in that position for, ooh, over a week now. (Non-Brits: the weather here in the UK has been awful. Rain, wind, hail.)

Don't worry. Bert's told his mechanic about it.

Thursday 17 January 2008

Better late than never

Bert's Belated New Year Resolutions:

  • I will be much nicer to my wife and show affection in a frequent, spontaneous and unprompted manner. Furthermore, I will be prepared to do this in front of family, friends and other associates.

  • I will stop haranguing my wife with my worries about the kids' schoolwork and (lack of) fitness, and I will refrain from making her always be the 'bad cop' by issuing my dictats as if they were hers.

  • I will stop haranguing my wife with worries about my broken elbow and any other miscellaneous health issues that arise from time to time. I will also try not to assume that these are more interesting or more serious than her own ailments, of which I understand there are quite a few. I cannot recall what they are exactly, as I have clearly paid insufficient attention.

  • I will stop haranguing my wife with my rants about all manner of things such as wheelie bins, cars parked on pavements, Dixons, Natwest Customer Service, stiletto heels on my newly laid floor, cats scratching my furniture, my wife's family causing excessive 'wear and tear' to said floor and furniture, and so on and so forth. Or at least I will endeavour to make them mini-rants, and perhaps confine them to one per day.

  • I will stop spending money willy-nilly on myself whilst querying every item of my wife's (generally modest) expenditure. With regard to said expenditure, I will remove my new turbo trainer from our newly set up dining room to the garage. I will stop referring to it as unobtrusive, and accept that it wasn't part of the original decorative scheme.

  • I will fix our Internet connection so that other members of the family can have as much access to it as I have.

  • I will finally arrange for my wife's car to be fixed now that it has been on blocks for 4 months.

  • I will personally 'valet' her car now that it is covered internally with mould, having been on blocks for 4 months.

  • I will stop insisting that we use the mechanic that I went to school with, and I will accept that reliability is as important as a cheap deal.

  • I will be more supportive to my wife's new situation vis-à-vis taking voluntary redundancy from her job, and I will appreciate that the difficulties she experienced over the past year were very stressful. I will remember to praise her abilities to cope, and I will stop making unhelpful remarks like the one I made the other day to our accountant when I asked, "Did you hear that she's been given the boot?"

That is the first time I have had to make anything up on this blog! I asked Bert what his resolutions would really be, were he to make any. He came up with:

  • get back on the bike [top of the list]

  • dig the garden

Oh yeah - I forgot the garden!

Wednesday 9 January 2008

Easy as Riding a Bike

Another word-for-word document from Bert. This time it's an email he sent to a friend. Bert should really write this blog himself to save me 'telling tales', but naturally he is far too busy doing Important Things.

To jack-knife a bike simply follow the instructions below:

1. Get out of the saddle and apply power to the legs
2. When at maximum output call on God to throw the chain off the top ring without it landing on the bottom ring
3. The right side of your body will dip dramatically as resistance goes from high to zero
4. When the steering turns with your body, compensate by turning the other way
5. Repeat this a few times over correcting as you go
6. Once the front wheel is at 90 degrees to the bike launch yourself over it
7. Remember to outstretch the arm you wish to break and try to ensure that the helmet hits before the face as this can hurt quite a lot
8. When all of the stationary vehicle drivers have composed themselves from their hysterical laughter and given up saying things like "it serves you right" one of them, normally an old person will stroll over to assist
9. Remember to tell them to keep their fu**ing hands off your broken arm as this hurts more than breaking it in the first instance
10. Get yourself to your feet and remember to fall straight back down again
11. Repeat 9 as by this time laughter has set back in and they have forgotten what has been said
12. Finally tell everyone to piss off as you are quite capable of managing on your own
13. Post accident management requires complaining in a rather long letter to the NHS for employing a bunch of tossers who seem it better to arrive at a prognosis by looking at x-rays taken 6 months earlier, but that's OK because they will respond by saying that the person who look at your x-rays was not a consultant of sufficient standing to make a correct prognosis in any case

I trust at this point you are not also in a state of hilarity....and if you are.....remember I am at home and you are at work.

Friday 4 January 2008

Ducking and Driving

I warn you: this tale is definitely not for the squeamish.

One of our cats came in with a live bird the other day. Bert managed to get the bird away from the cat, but with only one hand was unable to catch it (the bird) and required some assistance. Being at his beck and call is nothing particularly new to me, as Bert has always regarded me as his PA/gopher. However, since he got his broken elbow [current diagnosis] he has hit new heights (depths?) of 'requiring-assistanceness'.

So, there we were, chasing a bird under and around a large christmas tree, using tea towels to direct it and then trap it. We soon realised that it was badly injured on one wing and Bert decided to put it out of its misery. Being temporarily one-handed, he required me to hold it while he did the deed. Feeling sickened by the task, I didn't manage to hold it firmly enough for him to break its neck so he then used his foot to hold it still while he twisted. "Do you think it is dead yet?" he asked. "Well, you've actually pulled it's head off, so I would think so," I replied.


But do you know, this is only one of many such tales of putting things out of their misery on Bert's part. We have a very similar story about a rabbit that we found dying on the Downs. And then there's the bonfire we lit to dispose of the dead fox we found in the garden (Bert's idea: we had a battle of wills over a few days but finally the stench and the thought of me having to dispose of it in some other way made me give in). But the classic story is that of The Duck and the Rubber Torch. (Do I actually have to say any more? Oh, ok then.)

Once upon a time long, long ago, Bert was driving to work along the coast road in his nice brown Chrysler Alpine. It was a busy-worky time of the morning with blue sky and floaty clouds and lots and lots of cars. All of a sudden, the driver of the car in front of Bert slammed his brakes on. The driver sat in his stationary car for quite a while for no obvious reason, but just as Bert was wondering what the f*ck was going on, the car moved on. Just as Bert was about to follow suit, he realised why the first car had stopped.

There was a duck flapping about in the road in a not-very-well sort of way.

Bert got out of his car to inspect more closely, and as he turned the duck over, a huge jet of blood sprayed up. Realising that the duck was soon to be a 'goner', Bert decided it was kinder to put it out of its misery rather than leave it to die in a slow, thrashy-but-lingering kind of way. He thought for a minute. How was he going to do it? The spurting blood meant that he didn't particularly want to handle the duck. He went to his car and looked in the boot. What luck - an old t-shirt. That'll do to wrap the duck up. And ... foot pump? No. Old pair of shoes? No. Large rubber torch? It would have to do.

Bert returned to the flapping duck. Meanwhile all the cars that had been forced to stop behind him were tooting their horns and waving fists out of windows (well, you can just imagine). Bert wrapped the t-shirt around the duck's head and struck it a few times with the rubber torch. He took a peep. Blood spurt. Flap flap. Wrap. Bludgeon. Peep. Spurt. Repeat.

Finally, another peep ascertained that there were no further spurts of blood or indeed any other signs of enduring duck life. Peep from Bert, no peep from the duck.

Bert considered his rubber torch. It would never shine again.

In order to maintain historical accuracy for this tale, I just asked Bert to remind me what he had done with the duck in the end. "Skip." "You threw it in a skip?" " I placed it in a skip."

And so back to the bird that the cat caught. Bert decided to put it out of its misery because it had an injured wing. Wing? Arm? What's the difference?

Can someone put me out of my misery?

Tuesday 1 January 2008

A snippet

New Year's Eve: a group of us (at a party) were talking about my blog but not everyone had heard of it. Then I overheard this snippet:

S: "What's it called?"
K: "Living with Bert."
S: "Who's Bert?"
K: "Knobhead over there."

My job is done.