Hello again. As you can see, this was the year Thos discovered desktop publishing. Sorry about that.
Scenes from Provincial Life, 1988 edItion, starts with a long shot of a family acting in concert. "All together now," and to the sound of an old Fenland Thing-moving shanty (chorus: Dammit, mind my feet!!) we grunted the freezer out of the way. Yes, there were more tadpoles behind it. The little aquarium, once knocked over, had shed its load across a huge expanse of kitchen. On the hi-fi we had a nice bit of Boyce, in the living room Owen was practising improvisation on the sax, under the fridge the crickets screeched. and three of us were spooning tadpoles into basins .... Did tadpoles hatch in kitchens, we wondered? Screeches under the fridge, croaks under the freezer? The cricket in the hearth and the frog in the throat?
The livestock, indeed, has been well in evidence. Avid followers of this column (both of them) will remember that last year Thos built a stick insect cage, and that he built it strong enough to take demented hens before discovering that the population would be two tiny little Things.
Well, they grew. They bred, too. We now have a countable near-infinity of stick insects, available in a wide variety of sizes from pin-size to nearly pencil-size but apparently only in one sex (we hadn't realised they were parthenogenic - who needs men anyway?). Going free or nearest offer to any home good or bad.
Cycling in Jersey at Easter - J, M, and T (see below for 0). Stayed in 'Gros Puits', a delightful little guest house, pronounced Grope We. Steep hills, good fish dishes, lovely wooded valleys where the streams fall though the springing spray of light green leaves. Not to mention, of course, the Jersey Wildlife Trust's Zoo, where we admitted photons to the surface of a very large number of pieces of celluloid, just like everyone else in sight was doing in every square inch of the place, while the animals did their stuff: tamarins hanging by one arm and flamingos posing on one leg. The only unbeclicked cage was the battery (as it were) where they batted themselves to and fro in the near dark squeaking gleefully and tourists ground their teeth at flashlessness. Jersey was M's longest-yet cycling holiday, and he ground his way manfuI]y up the hills to be rewarded by a swoop down at breakneck speed with the slipstream whipping the words from the mouth if we tried to call to each other. Lucky shave for T: who went out with a brand new bike? And guess whose saddle fell off? He could have been roaring downhill at the time, and collected quite startling injuries. But he wasn't and he didn't and we all enjoyed Jersey tremendously, though we missed the annual ceremony where they repaint the cows with sun-tan lotion.
Owen was enjoying Paris at the time, learning the French for 'fleshpot' (which, as every schoolboy knows. is 'glacé'). He returned with wonderful tales of the glories of French cuisine - "... and they have a Macdonalds THIS big!" Last Christmas he was desperately trying to change schools: he had a lovely New Year surprise, admission to the school of his choice - and he loves it. This year M has joined him, and they swap scurrilous gossip over their tea. 0 has decided to base his GCSE curriculum on the Awful Jokes syllabus, starting with the school production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (featuring Owen as a blueberry pip, of all things). The awful joke? Well, they wanted a pre-show warmer, what they used to call an overture, so Owen produced a chocolate factory rap - and called his group the Sweet Rappers .... Heavy metal has been having a boom time in 0's life this year (such bands as "Iron Mitten and The Mega-Blasting Ear-Blammers" 1) with an occasional lapse into hard rock. So we Crumblies are told, anyway. "Owen, how can I learn to recognise hard rock from heavy metal?" "Well, if you can hear the words it certainly isn't heavy metal." Ah.
Quote of the year, Now-We-Have-a-Teenager Department: "Dad. can I have a pound for my orgy?" 2
The sax, already mentioned, has been coming along nicely, but even more impressive has been the boys' improvement on the piano. Ever since we all stopped having piano lessons, they have been working away at one tune after another. (Lazy old Thos hasn't touched it.) M has a piano accordion and has been well in evidence with it, with hopes of going busking next year, while 0 hopes to be joining his first rock group soon. And as for Jo, the local altos grow more rampant each term, putting away Masses of Requiems. Her choir sang so well that a local composer is writing them a piece specially - trouble is, everybody loathed the last thing of his they sang. Still, the Poulenc Gloria makes up for it.
Scenes from Provincial 1ife continues with shouts of "God for Harry, England, and St George, not to mention the doctor!" To finish his life at primary school Martin and friends put on a mumming play for the end-of-year school fete. Innumerable corny jokes ("But doctor who?" - "Yes, Doctor Who!"). We all enjoyed writing it - and Thos hacked up a version on the desktop publishing kit (we did warn you earlier) complete with reproductions of woodcuts. For only a few pounds you too can read the script, mount the play, and suffer calumny and opprobium from those you'd thought were friends as they recover from corns on their ears. (While we're thinking of this, Jo remarks that her choir still has copies of their record available.) (Remaindered.)
Jo finished her current employment this year. Last year's report on work practices in maternity wards was called The Division of Labour; this year's report on the mother's experiences was not called The Labour of Multiplication, alas, but Great Expectations. She has written an awful lot of words, she says, most of which will never be read by anybody, she says, although the number of midwives who hammer on the door for extra copies belies her words. (I notice that this year we have no Christmas presents from her hospitals though. - Ed.) To everyone's relief her grant application has been accepted and she will be in employment for another three years.
Highlight of Thos's work year has been running a European conference in Cambridge, with a gargoyle motif, guided tours, dinner in olde worlde barns, pub crawls, etc. Someone said afterwards that it was a great meeting except that the papers were so boring.
We must record a few other highlights of the year. M turning out at dawn to go pond-dipping with 'Watch', a children's branch of the National Wildlife Trust, keen on monitoring pond pollution, watching owls, recycling cans, hunting fossils (22 The Green, Nettleham, Lincoln, for details). On May Day T and M turned out even earlier, at 5.30, to dance the dawn in. Both 0 and M spent a fortnight at Woodcraft International camp, with 0's French friend Matyas, and 0 met Steve Bell there (who does the IF comic strip). A definite highlight for a budding artist and keen IF fan. And Jo has been plotting, scheming, planning and finagling a whole new upper storey for our little house.
Happy Christmas and New Year,
from all the Greens, incl. Freya (meow)
and Ollie the lizard
and all the stick insects.
1 This band is pureley fictitious & bears no relatoinship to REAL bands like Slayer, Anthrax & Iron Maiden (as well as numerous other bands) IRON MITTEN & CO Do NOT EXIST. By the all knowing WISE great green one. (OWEN)
2 All quite respectable really. Just part of a history lesson. Or so they told the Crumblies.