Friday, 23 July 2010

Nightmare on Town Street

 Quaker. By Pepsico.

My eighty-two year old uncle bounced into the kitchen at one minute to eight.

“Where’s my breakfast?” he demands with the innocent and radiant beam of one who has already been up for an hour contemplating the latest volume of his guru’s teachings.

“And what would you like for breakfast, Lance?” Mrs M and the boys all have excellent hearing, nurtured in the tranquility of Mandallay. However, as they are all elsewhere in their temples of service or pleasure, I am free to unleash my diaphragm so that Uncle Lance gets the full 80 decibels.

Lance lives alone. He likes solitude. Sometimes, when he feels quite alone, he works on a very big landscape painting. Every year he sends his family a card with a miniature of a recent picture on it. Mrs M’s late mother kept them all in a shoe box.

Living alone, he has little use for his howling, banging, hearing aid, so he left it behind. “Accidentally,” he says. “Accidentally on purpose,” I shout back. “No, just porridge please,” he grins, exposing an impressively preserved mouthful of tombstones, gaily painted by half a century of tobacco and wine, both of which he now eschews.

“Water please, not milk. If it’s not too much trouble.” I remind myself that I am delighted to offer this small hospitality to Uncle L, for he has given me gentle refuge since I was 16. After all, even I can make porridge, provided we have oats in the cupboard.


“We seem to have run out. I’ll just nip to the shop.”
In the words of the ditty adopted by la famille Mandall on a particularly challenging summer holiday to Foreign Parts:

I spin backwards out of Mandallay, avoiding both the Harrytown School Bus and another round of “if it’s not too much trouble."

I know too well how it goes from there.

If it’s not too much trouble” ... “I could have toast perhaps” ... “I’m not sure about that”... 

“I always have porridge at home” ...

and finally

“I think that porridge would be best really” ...


Then [da capo] (what's that, asks M3? Take it from the top. Or, if you prefer, chop his head off.)

“If it’s not too much trouble” ...

Oats? So Simple. Then I remembered that Mrs M had said something about Town Street Stores being closed, and conjectured whether that was for refurbishment, or perhaps for selling too much C2H5OH to the younger members of the Mandall family. I really must pay attention.

Perhaps for old times' sake, they haven’t taken down the signs offering Red Stripe and Barcadi, but behind them is now a neatly fitted layer of newspaper. I was delighted to see a small notice for a meeting of MESS, which stands for the Marple, Marple Bridge and Mellor Energy Saving Scheme or similar, on or around June 18th. Would that be 2009? I had the impression that the planet is somewhat "last year", but I promise to look further into this MESS, when the opportunity arises.

Losing the Spar, as we still refer to Town Bridge Stores, is a bit like discovering that the Bridge has lost a tooth. You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. They paved paradise and put up a parking lot. The old lays are the best, as we knights say. Mind you, a few more parking spaces in Marple Bridge might have given Town Street Stores a better chance.

The new Post Mistress has been quick to find the pulse of the Bridge. She has pushed aside a whole row of Jiffy Bags and geometry sets to make room for eggs, instant coffee and Fruit’n’Fibre. But, alas, there are no Oats  on offer. Still, they manage to give me today’s Guardian for Uncle L, and I order one for tomorrow, for delivery with our Beano. Tomorrow’s Guardian is just about the only other thing that the Post Office doesn't stock.

I finally get home by 8.45 with Lance’s Quaker Oats - “oh, Quaker, my favourite!” - and a bogof of biscuits from the Cooperative (Good with Hoob Noobs) which I shall hide from the boys and from myself. Fortunately Mrs M usually guesses where to find them for us.

* * *

By nine o’clock Uncle Lance is in deep contemplation with the Vedas, and the porridge has landed heavily where my diaphragm was before.

I steel myself for an ordinary day in Daddy's Study. Visor down. Still, I'll get out and shake a leg, when the Quaker allows.There's not much to report from the Bridge, or up in the wilds of Mellor today.

Except for a dancer in a pink tutu on that garden gate? I turn around but he’s gone. I’m imagining it. Maybe they cut some Shakers into the Quakers.


Take it easy now, Tom. This isn’t what we're used to on Longhurst Lane. I shouldn't have changed the pills.

I'm not sure I like the way she’s looking at me either. Doesn’t she normally do Vestry Group with that old rocker chap?

That's him! One should not demean people just because they are old, especially in a place like the Bridge, especially when one's own kit is running low on 3-in-1. A gentleman of advanced years may still strum his lute pleasingly...

... but I can't help thinking that this trio means trouble, even without their vuvuzelas.

Perhaps they were downgraded on the way back from Joburg.

Is that why they closed Town Street Stores? It must be the Oats!

Dangling feet tend to make a freelance uneasy, particularly in black and white.


Oh My Three Letter Acronym

How long has he been hanging on?

They didn’t need to do that to her.

Soft! What beating wing or cape
Delights my thrumming ear?

Is it a crow? Can it be?


He went that-a-way!

No this-a-way! 


"I may be a confused stereotype but you badly need the diversity."

* * *

Anyone for tennis?

The Mellor Show is at Mellor Primary School on Saturday 24th July.  

There's even a hop and skip over the hills to Smithy Lane Farm for any freelancers with a flickering residue of the competitive flame. 12 noon: three quid on the day at Mellor Sports Club.


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