Adrian Sturrock: ‘I notice her knuckles whitening around her wine glass as she surveys the batter and flour wasteland that used to be our kitchen.’

I’ve managed to get home early from work so I’ve decided to use my time constructively by doing nothing productive whatsoever. I’m not very good at this so I’ve decided that some self-discipline is in order.

     I’ve chosen a movie, which is sitting in its case on the kitchen unit beside me, and am currently making a quick snack to go with the cup of tea that I’m about to put my feet up with. As I prepare this, I flip on the radio. The DJ is playing a retro montage of ‘70s songs. At the moment, ‘How deep is your love?’ is filling the room.

     After a few choruses, I feel compelled to confront this quite frankly disturbing line of questioning. ‘Mr Gibb,’ I say, turning to address the radio as I take the milk out of the fridge, ‘I really don’t know how to answer your question. And, more to the point, I’m really not sure I want to.’ I leave a space for the significance of my words to sink in before adding, ‘Oh, and … Hashtag: ‘Me-Too?’

     His response is not unexpected: ‘How deep is your love, your love, how deep is your love?

     I fear he’s taunting me. ‘Does your wife know that you go around pestering innocent people with your inappropriate questions?’ I ask this as I pour hot water onto the tea bag in my cup. I’ve decided that I’m not going to shy away from his harassment a moment longer.

     ‘Who are you talking to?’ asks a voice behind me.

     I jump and spin around, pouring hot water across the work surface and onto the floor. ‘I … um … I didn’t hear you come in,’ I say.

     Nat looks at me and then down at the mess I’ve made. ‘Could have been worse’, she says, ‘I could have phoned you while you were ironing.’

     I subconsciously touch my ear as I reach for a cloth to wipe up the mess.

     ‘Anyway, hello,’ she says, before repeating, ‘Who were you talking to just then?’

     ‘Barry,’ I say.

     ‘Barry?’

     ‘Gibb. Barry Gibb. Off of the Bee Gees. He seems to have taken it upon himself to start asking me unbefitting questions. Quite honestly, he was getting a little creepy just before you walked in on us. I was just letting him know that I’m not that kind of guy and that I don’t appreciate his approach.’

     Nat rolls her eyes. ‘His “approach?” You do know that it’s not all about you, right?’ She smiles at me as she takes off her shoes.

     ‘That’s the problem with celebrity,’ I whisper, covering the sides of the radio with the palms of my hands, ‘It so often goes to people’s heads. To be honest, I think he might be stalking me.’ I remove my hands and continue to dry off the last of the water on the floor.

     ‘I bet he’ll have forgotten all about you by tomorrow,’ says Nat.

     ‘I hope so,’ I say. Would you like a cup of tea?’

     ‘Did you just say wine?’ she corrects.

     ‘I think I might have,’ I say.

     Barry eventually desists, and we go into the lounge, in order to … lounge.

* * * * * * * *

‘Why are you home so early,’ I ask, realising that my movie-watching afternoon is now seriously in jeopardy.

     ‘I thought I’d take a few hours off,’ she says, ‘so that we can make pancakes together.’ She points to a small bag of ‘stuff’ that she has brought home with her.

     ‘Pancakes?’

      ‘It’s pancake day,’ she says. ‘Shrove … thingy.’

     ‘Tuesday?’

     ‘Why not.’ She replaces my tea with a glass of wine and a smile.

     ‘Thank you,’ I say, returning the smile but keeping the wine. ‘What’s a shrove?’

     ‘It’s the past tense of “to shrive”,’ she tells me.

     I pause. ‘Nope … I’ve got nothing from that,’ I say.

     ‘It’s old English. It means to confess.’

     ‘So, once a year, on a Tuesday, we all confess our … pancakes?’

     ‘Exactly that,’ she says. ‘It’s a crazy, mixed-up world, isn’t it? But, these days, the “mixed-up” comes in a handy-sized packet.’ She pulls out a batter mix sachet from her bag.

     ‘Don’t you just love convenience,’ I say, admiring the wine bottle.

* * * * * * * *

Not everything is convenient, however. Apparently, the highest ever successful pancake toss was achieved in New York, in 2010, at 9.47 metres. Unlike New York, though, our kitchen has a ceiling. This ceiling comes in at just under 3 metres, which is why, as I explain to Nat, my pancake tossing doesn’t seem to be going so well.

     In her attempt to encourage me to take a full part in our ‘shrovery’ (I just made that word up), she says nothing, though I do notice her knuckles whitening a little around her wine glass as she surveys the mess I’m making.

      ‘Um … Not a problem,’ I say as I hand her the first of the pancakes that haven’t attached themselves to light fittings or kitchen appliances. ‘Fourth time lucky?’

     ‘Apparently, in medieval times, the first three pancakes cooked were sacred and were marked with the cross before being set aside to ward off evil.’

     ‘I’d clearly make a good Christian,’ I reply, ‘though other religions are available.’ I say this as another piece of pancake slips past us from above, and lands limply on the floor for the cat to survey. This is the point at which I realise that I will probably have to forego any idea of relaxing with a movie, in favour of cleaning up the batter and flour wasteland that used to be our kitchen.

     Behind us, through the radio, the familiar voice of Barry Gibb continues to harass me: ‘If I can’t have you, I don’t want nobody, baby, If I can’t have you …’

    ‘See,’ I say, ‘Absolutely relentless. He just won’t take no for an answer.’

* * * * * * * *

 

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Adrian Sturrock: ‘Nothing messes with your Friday more than finding out it’s Tuesday’

We’ve both had exhausting days in the land of work and noise. We’re now at home, beached on the sofa, too tired to move anything other than our finely tuned wine-pouring limbs. It’s a lazy evening. Nat has clicked her way through every TV channel we have before tutting loudly, conceding defeat and handing the buttons to me in the hope that I might find something that she’s missed. ‘Not even the idiot’s lantern is coming to my rescue this evening,’ she complains.

     I’m pleased to find that we are both able to agree that The One Show deserves an even faster click-past than the majority of cheap shots that currently fill our screens. We have both, at different times, described The One Show as ‘the place where journalism goes to die’.

     I can’t find anything interesting either; it’s mostly programs about other people doing their day jobs, which neither of us considers an acceptable proposition upon which to base a television programme – or an argument for the continued existence of a TV license … or a TV. ‘Whoever would have guessed that a documentary series about an environmental health inspector would one day make it to prime time television?’ I say. ‘Can you imagine the discussion at the scheduling meeting:

                        ‘So, what have you got for us?’

                        ‘Well, we’ve got a series on wheel clamping, a six part season based around 
                        two women cleaning other people’s houses, and a fly-on-the-wall, mostly
                        camcorder, thing about a guy who works for the council and catches vermin
                        …’

                        ‘Really? Is that it? We need something to slot between the news and Jeremy
                        Kyle’s ‘My uncle slept with my dog’ episode.’

                        ‘Umm, we do have this thing based in a tent where questionable celebrities
                        make cakes for no valid reason? I know what you’re going to say but we ran
                        out of budget after ‘Britain’s fattest People, and …’

                        ‘(Sighs) … My God! … Well, desperate times and all that … OK, let’s do the cake
                        thing, and … that thing about vermin – I loved Ratatouille when I took my
                        niece to the cinema that time. Rats can be rather cute … when they’re not
                        popping up from inside your toilet bowl, of course.’

                       ‘Well, this guy’s job is to kill them …’

                       ‘Oh. Well … throw it in the mix; I’m sure it ends well.’’

     Nat’s not listening.

     I continue clicking the remote. I’m on my second cycle of the thing now. Eventually, I give up; ‘Ah! What’s the point?’ I say, switching the TV off.

     ‘Is there anything interesting on our ‘saved’ list?’ she asks.

     ‘We’ve watched them all.’ I say. ‘Some of them twice.

     She picks up a magazine while I switch on the music system.

     I don’t like it when we don’t chat.  ‘… My gran used to knit for the mafia,’ I say.

     ‘No. Please don’t …’

     ‘She was known as scarf face.’

     Nat reaches across me for the TV buttons. ‘… There must be something on.’

* * * * * * * *

Do you ever get to that point where you’re too tired to actually make your own entertainment, but your overactive mind still needs something to occupy it? It’s a harsh realisation when it dawns on you that you’re this exhausted and the week isn’t even fully underway yet. Nothing messes with your Friday more than finding out it’s Tuesday.

     I’m bored, but even conversation is appearing a struggle this evening. We sit in silence for a few minutes longer …

      ‘… Turns out that humans can only distinguish between around 30 shades of grey,’ I say.

     ‘Uh-huh,’ says Nat. (I can tell that she’s not listening.)

     ‘That means that up to 20 shades are wasted every time.’

     ‘OK,’ she says. 

     ‘… I guess the trick is to figure out which twenty. I mean, I wouldn’t want to discard the wrong ones … you know, run out of stamina before I get to the shades that matter …?’

     Silence.

     ‘I’m just white noise to you, aren’t I,’ I say.

     ‘Uh-huh,’ she says, turning the page of her magazine.

     ‘… Of course, with this grey thing, the amount of nuances experienced can change, depending on things like lighting conditions and surface texture …’

     ‘Ask me what my favourite letter is,’ she says, not looking up from what she’s reading.

     ‘Why?’

     ‘Go on.’

     I ask her.

     ‘Tea.’ She says. ‘It’s tea.’

     I sigh to myself. ‘Would you like a cup of …’

     ‘Ooh. Yes please.’ She continues to not look up but points to the cup she’d earlier left on the side.

     I leave the room. ‘Every time,’ I say to myself. ‘I fall for it every time.’

* * * * * * * *

Supplementary (24-03-2019)

– this issue continues: