Wednesday, 31 January 2007

The Name Game

As it happens English Heritage is inviting claims to the throne, to celebrate the opening of a new exhibition centre at Battle, and of course I am staking my claim to be queen. I like the idea of naming places after what happened there. After decades of holiday journeys across Britain - first as, and subsequently with, children - our journeys should be punctuated by places named 'Tea', 'Potty' and 'Sick'.

In Northumberland last summer we were impressed by the laconic accuracy of this sign. Someone suggested local inbreeding might explain such explicit guidance, but my roots are close by, and I prefer to think it shows a wry, existential wit. One feels the practice might usefully be extended to other objects. Tree, car, etc.

My cousin Helen grew up in a house named 'West House'. It had a gateway with stone gateposts. On one was carved 'West', and on the other, 'House'. She says that on one occasion a friend, who had only read the post on the right, arrived deeply impressed that she lived in a house named 'House'.

Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Extreme sports: cleaning the cooker

Reports are coming in about my brother-in-law's attempt to clean the oven today. The cooker is a new one, and is supposed to self clean if it is switched to 300 degrees and left on for several hours. Bro-in-law set this up, but began to worry about how hot it was getting, and prudently decided - in case the situation became critical - to make sure the kitchen fire extinguisher was working.

Unfortunately the extinguisher was not a multi-shot type. When bro-in-law squeezed the trigger the thing burst into life, instantly covering him and the kitchen in white powder and showing every sign of continuing to do so indefinitely. Bro-in-law managed to stagger into the garden and, after creating the effect of a spookily localised snowfall on the lawn, found that he could stem the flow by holding his thumb over the nozzle.

This is how his wife found him when she returned some time later; cold, caked in powder and heroically holding the extinguisher like a primed grenade. When she had stopped laughing he communicated the plan he had hatched in the time he had spent alone. Following instructions, she lifted the manhole cover over a long disused cesspit, and he dropped the extinguisher in. There was a final blizzard of powder, followed by a dull explosion.

Moral; if you can't stand the heat, spray out of the kitchen.....

You and who else?

In 'Anagrams' the writer Lorrie Moore floats the idea that there are only a few hundred people in the world, who presumably swap costumes and contexts, playing different roles. She may well be right. By a certain age everyone we come across resembles someone we know or knew. We describe folk by who (whom?) they remind us of. 'Doesn't he look like George, with a little bit of Dave thrown in?'. Most of them don't appear to make enough to fund their several lives lavishly, but they must have the edge on you and me, who are excluded from the multiple personality game, possibly as being too incompetent.
I seldom seem to have enough to fund one life comfortably, but I have done the sensible thing and shortened it through various kinds of substance abuse. I'm going to work up to obesity next, but I don't suppose the government will show much appreciation for the years of pension support and health care I will be saving it. Let alone celebrate that there's only one of me.