Tuesday 8 May 2007

A wet bank holiday weekend

Is there ever any other kind? It started raining on Friday afternoon, leaving no doubt as to what the weather had in store for us.

Saturday: In the morning, time for some shopping in Hemel Hempstead. I have a soft spot for Hemel shopping centre that is hard to fathom: ostensibly it's just the same as any other chewing-gum encrusted town centre you can find throughout the length and breadth of the UK; full of the same highstreet names, the same unhappy looking folks in leisure sportswear (throwing themselves like wallet-lemmings at the Next sale), the same faint uneasiness that somebody could 'go postal' at any time and start carving up the crowds with a lawn strimmer freshly purchased from Robert Dyas, etc, etc. But Hemel was the first town where I ever lived on my own, it has three decent videogame shops, it doesn't make me want to kill myself the second I get there (unlike Aylesbury), it doesn't have a carpark designed by a mentalist who hates straight lines (unlike St. Albans), I don't know of any actual stabbings that have taken place in the last few years (unlike Luton) and it's also only 5 miles away (unlike Watford or Milton Keynes) - so I've grown to like it, and I feel in some way we have adopted each other. Nini always used to hate it, but now they've built a Debenhams and there are baby geese on the lake for the girls to 'coo' at, she has softened a bit, even though the new shopping parade they've built makes it even easier to lose Amelie while she chases pigeons.

Sunday saw the shopping theme continue, with a trip to Ikea. (I know, general shopping and Ikea in one weekend, how lucky am I?) I have a kind of love/hate thing with Ikea: When you go there for something specific, it's great; easy and quite cheap. When you are just browsing to see if they have suitable furniture for a hazily defined project you haven't really started yet (in this case, a desk for a new computer), it's a nightmare: you come away with £50 of stuff you never knew you wanted but thought was a good idea when you saw if on the shelf. This trip was a complete washout, because in the course of the scramble to leave the house: ( Keys - check, wallet - check, doors locked - check, Amelie - check, Neve - check, etc) we forgot to measure the alcove where the required desk is going to be placed, rendering the whole trip useless. So we came away with a bellyful of cheap Swedish meatballs and the requisite £50 of faintly rudely named products we didn't know we needed: a jug called 'Smegtrap', a toilet brush called 'Arsflanj', etc.

And Monday was Aldbury Mayfair, so off we went for a looksee - despite my very well known and dangerously low tolerance for morris dancers. It's not that I can't stand morris dancing per se, its that I just can't understand what makes a grown man want to 'take up the hankie' and parade up and down a highstreet with bells on his legs. That's not a tradition, that's a punishment. Amelie shied away from them visibly, so hopefully she's inherited the same distrust I have of drunken bearded men (Always bearded! Why?) wearing bowler hats with flowers on.
Amelie did enjoy herself, though - the petting zoo being a highlight, where she actually got to hold a mouse and a rabbit, and feed a baby goat from a bottle - but Neve spent the afternoon ensconced in her buggy, chewing slowly on her dummy like a Mexican bandit would a cheroot, and eyeing everything with with a palpable air of disdain. In terms of the things they enjoy, it's looking like Amelie will be taking after her mother ("A country fair! Oh, how fabulous! Let's go in!") and Neve after her father ("A country fair! Oh, how fatuous! Let's go home!")...

On the Monday night, Nini and I watched a programme on 'Surrendered wives', about women who decide for the good of their relationship that they will simply comply with whatever their partner decides and leave all of the decision making - down to and including what they wear - to him. I am sure it was received in our household in exactly them same way it was in millions of homes up and down the conuntry, that is: the man nodding sagely, pointing at the TV and saying "You could learn a bit from her" and the woman seething with a barely suppressed rage, occasionally spilling over into violence. It's clear there no chance of Nini 'surrendering' anytime soon: halfway through she turned to me and demanded I make her a buttered crumpet. More fool me, I did just that - so I've only myself to blame for encouraging her.

Finally, on Tuesday , as I left for work, it stopped raining...