Monday, 9 July 2007

Disasters and Dinners

The leg fell off the ironing board. There is no alternative purpose for a monopod ironing board incapable of defying gravity, so the rickety old contraption is now propped outside in the rain, next to the recycling bin.

This happened on Sunday morning, when we were trying to leave the house for a set time. Two thick bath towels doubled over and spread across a kitchen work top proved themselves to be a serviceable stand-in to the ironing board, and we even congratulated ourselves at how smartly dressed we were as we locked the front door.

Big mistake. Five minutes later, it began to rain. Ten minutes later, despite huddling under umbrellas, we were drenched from the thighs down.

We managed to dry out during the forty-five minute bus journey. Most of the sand brushed off, too. Yes, sand; we live by the sea, remember. Each time a storm blows in from the west, it carries half of the beach with it.

Our bus arrived in Liverpool city centre at the same time as the thunder storm which had seemingly opted to keep us company. In the five minutes it took us to walk from the bus stop to the shelter of the Empire Theatre, we were saturated just as badly once again. Guess who was wearing linen. It’s relatively quick-drying properties are somewhat countered by its penchant for crinkles, so in the rear of Lee and Lynn’s car I attempted to iron myself with my hand.

Richard, of course, happily drip-dried, thus demonstrating one of the remaining gender differences. Men are casual, while women are merely bedraggled.

We drove further under the belly of the growling sky, all the way to Bickerstaffe, actually, and to an adorably picturesque ex-farmhouse which is now The Sandpiper country pub and restaurant. And a fine meal we had there, too – a traditional roast beef dinner, with Yorkshire pudding and fresh vegetables.

Hours later, we drove back through Liverpool, which is a fascinating experience in itself. Not for nothing has the area been recently described as Europe’s biggest building site, as the skyline is clustered with massive cranes. Old buildings are being torn down and new ones are emerging in their places, so much so that it’s almost disorientating as once-familiar streets become changed – for the better, in my opinion. Not everyone would agree with me. Some people decry what they see as cultural vandalism. In my view, if you want to inject new vigour into a place (or, indeed, into anything) you first have to make room for it. To do that, some stuff needs to be jettisoned. And many of the demolished buildings were eyesores anyway, which had long-since fallen into neglect and decay.

One example of the stylish new architecture emerging across the region is Birkenhead Park Pavilion. The rear of the building is shaped like a Big Top – round sides with a pointy roof. The glass front overlooks manicured flower beds which lead off into the re-generated park beyond. Inside, the foyer cafĂ© is light and airy, its uncompromising modernity softened by fronds of greenery twining its way up an interior wall. And they make a rather good cup of tea, too…..

I was there to attend the latest meeting of Wirral Writers Inc. People are now busily creating work for various projects, and there is a huge amount of enthusiasm for this joint venture. Two new musicals are being written - Wirral UDI and HMS Blair. Many other writers (including me) are more interested in the monologues and dialogues projects, and manuscripts are already being handed in. I’ve written a 2,000-word/20-minute monologue, Beautiful, specifically for this.

Tonight, the defunct ironing board was joined by the deep-fat fryer. There I was, lazily poking at a pan of peas with a wooden spoon, when a waft of burning plastic caught my attention. Were the peas off? Was a neighbour having a bonfire in the rain? Was that awful smell really getting stronger? Richard appeared, sniffing like a Bisto kid. Then a long coil of green-grey smoke coiled up from the lid of the fryer.

“Unplug it!” I yelled at Richard, who was standing right next to it.

He did. One second later it went BANG!

“Don’t lift the lid!”

But he did. Fortunately he did not get a face full of flame….

No flames at all, thank goodness. But imagine if I’d just nipped upstairs or down the garden for a minute! Disasters can happen so swiftly.

Anyway, the chips tasted fine.

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