Boom. Boomaboom. WHEEEEEeeeeeeee pip, pip, SQZPPLXX ! Chainsaw Lemming, The Psychopathlc Multicoloured Cucumber, Proletarian Sponges, and Jagged Stave wish you a Squeezckly Christmas and Boomful New Year. Yes, Owen has been busy forming bands - backed by his bass guitar. If one can really say 'backed' of an instrument that's clearly trying to drown the rest of the band, or at least to get it very wet.
But we'll come back to that. This was really the year of The Creation (from scratch, as those choir people keep saying). Created by Inigo Jo and Capability Green - or by Hugh, Dusty, Mike, and James, depending on where you were standing. At last we have a pitched roof over our heads and enough rooms to lose things in properly, so that we rush up and down stairs for hours. (Stairs, yes. Hmm. "Ready this week for sure, guv.") At last we have a built-in airing cupboard, three lavatories, and a room divider to hold the VCR. At last we have GEORGIAN FIRE DOORS!! And we have a fine selection of photographs of our builders, bless them, doing the most unlikely things in precari ous places (possibly because of no stairs?). Talk about pigeons doing it on one leg ......
Naturally The Creation was followed by the Junior Design Age. "Could I have my room black all over?" says Owen. Much temporisation. "Well, okay, not the lampshade, then." A trip to ACAS and at last we settled on two white walls, two black, black carpet, and one red red lightswitch. A bit gloomy, but that's neo- Gothic for you. Did it matter? Not a bit. The whole thing's covered in posters for WHEEEEEeeeeeeee plp, plp, SQZPPLXX! and other well-known groups. Oh, and a hammock.
As for the Juniorer Designer, what flights did he not soar to! We agreed on a floor-level chessboard (carpet tiles: the chessmen are wine bottles) but more was needed. The most popular idea seemed to be a liftable wooden construction occupying most of the bedroom floorspace, essentially a drawbridge lifted on both sides at once, needing merely the addition of flying buttresses and some chains from the Clifton Suspension Bridge to bring it to heel. Being shy retiring folk we backed away from it (visions of a cover illustration on Civil Engineering for the Householder Weekly) and tried a ploy ....
What causes a fine tilth of horn blocks, dead frogs1, rubberised horsehair, drops of solder and a scale model of a Victorian Gents? Yes, you have it: the ploy was, how about a model railway instead. And the next question was, how can we choose a location that combines a Norman castle, a Spanish station, a coal staith (e?), a group of Morris dancers, and a canal? Easy. Take away your traditional model railways, your bits of Somerset and the GWR, your Swiss mountain railways with chamois-proof windows. We have the Galapagos and Canary Railway. The mines (run by K. Solomon) deliver coal to the staithes (prop.: Old King). Excursions by Tortours, the Firm That Doesn't Rush You. Parts of it actually exist now, although the trains do tend to make unscheduled stops at Deep Cursing Halt. And some of us are now getting to be experts on How To Make Things Look Weather-beaten.
In this year, anniversary of the Birth of Democracy (or not, if you're M. Thatcher),we have had much French influence. Owen went to spend a week of his holiday with a French friend-of-a-friend. How I wish I had been there when he discovered that in France it wasn't holidays and he'd have to go to school for a week. In French. (Later he reported airily that he "put the English teacher right on one or two things", and told us about French cuisine: "a pizza Hut THIS big!". How glad I was, after all, not to have been there.) The B. of D. registered as discovering Tom Paine and the Rights of Man; now he cites anarchist principles at us, when the moment suits. Martin's Frenchification, via school history trip, took him to Fontainebleu. Guess who got the prize for correctly counting the number of statues of "long-necked naked women". To celebrate the B. of D. he and rest of school orchestra played the Marseillaise at Open Day. Brits, typically, couldn't remember the words. And Thos has joined a French Journal: they hold editorial meetings in French and kindly explain all the long words. lnterestingly, the long words are usually the same in both languages. It's the short ones that aren't. Afterwards they restore him with goat's cheese sorbet. Did the B. of D. affect him? Of course not, democratic already. (No, too old. Ed.)
Jo avoided the whole issue by becoming famous. She is now down as "appeared on Breakfast Television (cancelled)" and doesn't have time for minor issues like the B. of D. Fortunately she did have time to phone about the stairs. ("Ready this week. mum.") Also made guest appearance at Oddest Conference of the Year, opened by go-go dancers singing 'I Want To Get Laid'. Theme? 'The Free Woman.' In Amsterdam (of course).
We managed a long-standing ambition this year: a week in the West Country. T's father's village (Roman camp now a cowfield. GWR station ditto), Hay-on-Wye bookshops, etc. Main target was Kilpeck church with famous grotesques. Arrived with an armoury of long-focus lenses to find they were so close we could almost touch them. Staggered back home with boxes of books, etc. Good heavens - the stairs had come!
Regrettably, our slinky grey cat Freya died early this year. Her place has been taken by two brothers, Jones (Bustopher) and Smith (Harmonious Black-) who are rather a lot larger and more vigorous than little Freya. In the morning after pushing Thos out of bed they trot down to the kitchen one each side of him: was it Baldur the Beautiful who was attended by a brace of black panthers? Of course the kitchen is a longer journey now (two flights instead of one) and they like to be rewarded for their trouble in clearing the way.
And finally, a small note on natural history. Looking back at previous years, stick insects seem to have come out strong. Well, now we can reveal a little-known fact. Did you know those damn things are immortal?
Boom. Boomaboom. WHEEEEEeeeeeeee plp, plp, SSQZPPPLXX! Did I mention that Owen has a bass guitar? Well, have a good SQZPPPLXmas and be careful on the stairs.
1This is a Technical Term with no reference to nefarious activities.