Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Baaah! ... humbug!

The duties of parenthood

Malcolm evolved a number of diversions for long-distance driving with his (then, much younger) off-spring.
  • He played the famed legs game. Add up the number of legs on each pub sign to a total -- left-hand side of car versus right-hand side. So: the Bull and Butcher = 6 legs; the Carpenter's Arms = 2 legs (that's after a rules review: "It says 'arms' not legs!"). The cruncher was the Queen's Arms (see below):

So, count carefully. Eight lions and one unicorn. Nine fours are 36! Ah!, but it's the Queen's Arms, so it's necessary to add another two for 'Er Nibs! ... But you allowed the Carpenter's Arms for two! So, it's only fair ... Total score: 38! ... Game, set and match! Self-satisfied smugness on one side of the back seat; sulky silence on the other.
Don't knock it. As a piece of automotive child-care (which, after all, is the most extended father-child environment in the modern world) it worked a treat. Result: one accountant and two lawyers. However, the legs game doesn't work much south of Plymouth, or west of Anglesey.
  • Malcolm's "Mr Blob" game. Spot the most circumferentially-challenged individual, and mock him. Awards were made on a regional, national and all-time basis. This game has been subsequently ruled unacceptable under EU anti-sizist regulation.
  • The rat-wagon championship. Claim ("Bags I!") the most rusted, unroadworthy wreck observed on the journey. Points awarded for degree of oxidization, methods of disguising thereof, and -- of course -- corrosion and corrugation. Prime specimens were largely those magnificent well-rotted Citroen HY vans (see right). This activity was particularly useful while cruising along a Rue Nationale at a steady 28 mph behind such a beast. Again, points and prizes awarded on a sessional, daily and trip-wise basis. The all-time champion was recorded at the fish-market in S├Ęte, though an even more worthy observation in Versailles had to be eliminated on the grounds of permanent immobility.
  • Despite that eight-fold discriminator put into Macbeth's mouth by Bill Shakespeare, it is a well-attested fact that all dogs, particularly those seen in France on the end of strings, can be defined (on criteria of size and hirsuteness) as one of just three types: rat, rug or demi-cheval. Precise allocation into each classification can be extended into a minor family disagreement to occupy several kilometres to the next stop.
  • Malcolm claims exclusive authorship of the food-chain invariable. This involves looking out for farm animals and, as the car sweeps passed at main-road speed, insulting them with a prognostication. So, any field of sheep must be greeted with pointed fingers and cries of "Mint sauce!" Unfortunate pigs should be saluted with "Apple sauce!" Anything resembling cattle needs "Yorkshire pud and two veg!" in a rising descant. Extra points and prizes are arbitrarily awarded as a bonus for originality and alternative thinking: hence the cry of "Bells of Saint Clement's!" in passing a flock of French ducks earned an ice-cream, or, soon after a glimpse of geese, the chant of:
Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat:
Please put a penny in the old man's hat!
If you haven't got a penny, a ha'penny will do;
If you haven't got a ha'penny, God bless you!
  • One whole journey, all six hundred miles, one thousand kilometers, from Calais to the camping grounds of Languedoc, had to be done "in character". The characters were evolved from a tape of Winnie-the-Pooh. So there was the-Lady-in-Malcolm's-Life as Kanga (straight type-casting, there), Malcolm as wise (but misguided) old Wol. One daughter pre-empted the lead-role as Winnie, and the solicitor-to-be saw herself as Eyeore. The future barrister-at-law was, of course, Baby Roo.
In the course of this trip, Malcolm (observing the slow passage of the French paysage) evolved a thesis that all human types could be defined in terms of A.A. Milne's anthropomorphism. As a notion it may not stand on a par with Freud or Jung, but at least it's as valid as those medieval "humours" which occupied elongated hours of study in Malcolm's student years.

Moreover, regarding the subsequent development of his three daughters, the self-chosen character identification was curiously psychologically-prescient.

Come to the point, Malcolm!

Well, this evening's meal involved lamb cutlets.

So, on Redfellow Hovel's dining table was a container of mint sauce. It's Tuesday, for heaven's sake!, so it's straight out of the fridge, still in the jar, onto the table. Yeah, yeah: alongside the brown sauce. So, what d'you wanna make of it? Huh?

Malcolm, reaching around the bottle of (rather nice) light ersatz-Burgundy for the jar, then noticed its USP, which his eye picked out, on a yellow roundel:
Suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
The Pert Young Piece, now the Barrister-at-law (but still "Baby Roo" of two decades ago) observed this. She cast a jaundiced eye, and said:
"Why not? There's always a first time. You never would know."
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Father,

I remember the shout for cattle changed to the much briefer B.S.E in recent years. Has it altered back? You also left out the caravan game which is woefully negligent on your part. Correction as well eldest sister was piglet and you were the bear. But I hate to disagree.

P.Y.P. (aka Baby Roo)

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