This morning I made a start on sorting and scanning 20 years of random film negatives. The first strip was not my own. It was taken in January 1984 by John Gordon, a friend of my sister Elizabeth. This shot featured in the Southampton Daily Echo. Sponsored in aid of Hilldene, her son Adam Keenan’s day nursery, I (701) was taking part in a ten mile race. ‘Race’ simply describes the event. No way was I in contention. I was merely happy to beat my own personal best. This one was completed in 64 minutes, and was a new best time, probably because it was snowing when we began. That does tend to make one rather nippy. I felt rather smug when Elizabeth told me that the photographer had said it would be a comparatively easy task to run alongside me for the pictures, and found it wasn’t. The reason long distance runners look much slower than they really are is the heel/toe action which requires the heels to land first in the stride.
Today was twelfth night, and therefore time to take the Christmas decorations down. First their storage boxes had to be removed from the garage. Carrying the stack of containers through the kitchen, I walked into a metal chair and bruised my shins. The stack rose above my eye line, and I hadn’t thought about it in advance.
My running days are over now, but what promises to be the longest running joke of all time continues to surprise. As Jackie stripped the Christmas tree she let out a cry that must have been heard in Emsworth. It was even louder than mine when I clouted the chair.
Perhaps three years ago now, Jackie and I took Becky and Flo for a meal at Frankie & Benny’s in Ampere Way, Purley. Our granddaughter, as is her wont, drank apple juice. The container bore a green sticker. As we parted company in the car park, Flo slapped the passenger side front window and ran off smartish. There, adhering to my window pane was the apple juice label. Naturally, when someone plays such a prank, one must retaliate. About a month later, Becky found the item on a part of her car that I do not remember. Backwards and forwards went this transitional object, returned in the most devious of ways. The gaps between the transfers were gradually extended. This was essential because you had to give your victim time to have forgotten about it.
Have you, dear reader, remembered that Jackie was stripping the Christmas tree? Well, you know what she found hidden among the artificial foliage, don’t you?
Given that we last hid the offending article in Flo’s Christmas present in 2012, one has to admire her patience. Yes, Flo, we had forgotten about it. But we’ll get you back. In the immortal words of Vera Lynn, ‘Don’t know where, don’t know when’. You do know that, don’t you? (Vera Lynn, known as ‘The Forces’ Sweetheart’, raised innumerable spirits during World War II with, among others, her rendering of ‘We’ll meet again’, which can be found on Youtube).
Adam Keenan grew up to be a skilled and much sought after animatronics creator. Three years ago he made a realistic mechanically animated dragon for Flo’s birthday. One of its joints became dislocated. This necessitated a spell in my nephew’s hospital. I well remember my tube journey back to Morden on the day I collected the cured lifelike creature. I took great pleasure sitting in a crowded tube train surreptitiously pulling levers which made its eyes open and shut; its head turn and its tail sweep; and watching the faces opposite me.
At that time Jackie and I were holders of the drink sticker. So, of course, when Flo opened the box containing the repaired treasured animal, it had a suitable label round its neck.
Far too much rain for the forest and its environs to cope with continued to fall as, this afternoon, we drove to Totton for a mega post-Christmas provisions shop. Reminiscent of last year, brown water flowed from the overfilled drains in the gutters across the centre of the main road into this suburb of Southampton. We followed a petrol tanker most of the way, feeling rather grateful that we were not one of those cars, waiting to turn out of side roads, that got the benefit of the bow waves as the large wheeled lozenge sped past. As Jackie said, there would not be much point in having a car wash at the moment.
On our return someone played ducks and drakes with huge hailstones bouncing from the water-bound tarmac to the car windows and vice versa.
Two fallen beeches in the road from London Minstead to the A337 bear the legend:
Each is too long to fill the frame of one photograph. This had us speculating that the purchasers may have been wood-carvers, for craft fairs, after the great storm of 1987, were filled with the work of those who had benefited from the trees that fell throughout the South of England.
This evening we dined on beef hotpot and cabbage, followed by the last of our Christmas pudding. I drank La Serrana tempranillo 2012, whilst Jackie drank Hoegaarden.
P.S. In her Facebook comment on this post, my daughter Becky has corrected a few details concerning the label. Firstly the restaurant was Frankie and Benny’s. She reminds me that the game began when, during the meal, Flo stuck the object on the back of my hand and I left it there all evening. That amused our granddaughter. As we were leaving I placed it on the back of her hand and dashed away. Plonking it on our window was her retaliation. But that didn’t take place immediately, Jackie now remembers. We left the restaurant in convoy. When stopped at traffic lights Flo emerged from the gloom and planted it on the driver’s window, not mine. Our last transfer took place a little more than a year ago when we hid it in a kitchen canister.
Now, had this all taken place when I was Flo’s age I probably would have needed no memory jogging. On the other hand, it couldn’t have, could it?