I can't write this any longer.
Thanks for reading.
Well, not toxic, exactly... maybe just a little bit rank. But in a nice way. With a garnish.
I sprint to the water's edge, hiding my beer belly behind my Mermaid Body Board.
Actually, it is important to note that this is not, in fact, my Mermaid Body Board. It is LittleImpA's Body Board. My choice consisted of either that, or LittleImpB's Bambi Body Board.
I think this kind of decision is called being 'between a Disney Body Board and the deep blue sea'.
We both (Mermaid Body Board and I) crash into the sea.
It is freezing!
We both crash back again, whimpering, before realising complete immersion to the neck is necessary in order for me to conceal my portliness and thus pose as a Beach Babe.
Gasping, I wade deeper, Mermaid Body Board in tow.
"Bloody'ell,bloody'ell,bloody'ell", I wheeze, wetly. The goosebumps I am sporting are creating increased drag and therefore cause me to burn off an extra 5 or 6 calories. Silver lining duly noted.
I can see Imp a long way off, relaxing in a beach chair, reading a novel and not looking at all impressed by my Beach Babeness. That was not part of the deal! She is supposed to stand on the beach and watch me at all times, waving enthusiastically at me whenever I look in her direction and shouting encouragement. How selfish of her to think only of herself while guarding my clothes and belongings.
Speaking of waves, I turn around and look for one, ready to begin my Body Boarding Experience.
There aren't any waves!
The sea is almost completely still. How curious! I am surrounded by loads and loads of no waves. Bloody-mindedly, the sea (powerful, terrifying, untamed by Man or Canute alike) continues to lap gently upon the shoreline.
Every face on the beach seems to be turned my way, scrutinising me in fascination, wondering what I am planning to do with my Mermaid Body Board. I notice that not a single other person in the sea has a board. They are all watching me too. The entire half-mile of beach falls strangely silent.
Imp turns a page, noisily.
I clutch my Mermaid Body Board and try to look cool.
AB: “Yes, it’s clear that she had consumed a pint of beer and a bag of Frazzles approximately 58 minutes before swimming, whereas Everybody Knows you should wait a full hour after food before getting into the water. Therefore I deduce that this (unidentified) person died from food-before-swimming-syndrome, has the beginnings of a beer belly and, given the evidence, in my opinion Deserved.To.Die”.These reasons are enough to keep me strictly clear of water of any depth greater than would necessitate me to reveal more than my ankles, but, I accidentally bought a wetsuit, thinking it would make me thin and now I am on a beach…
The detective on duty (probably Bergerac) would, horrified, scribble notes frantically and plan his next talk to Primary School kids.
(Don’t play on railway lines, don’t stick your fingers into toasters, don’t swim for an hour after eating).
AB: “Oh, and by the curious markings on the backs of her knees, I conclude that this (unidentified) lived in Wales, once ate 12 doughnuts in one day and, hated spaghetti hoops”
I have run out of unread books!
It is time for me to do the charity shop circuit. Charity shops are the best thing since sliced bread (and fitted sheets) (although to be honest, I am happy to slice my own bread) because it means that I can feed my habit for an average of about 75p, plus, I get to have a bet with myself about how many 'Peter Benchley - Jaws' versus 'Virginia Andrews - Flowers in the Attic' I will see.*
I am very lucky, because, within about 100 metres from my front door is the beginning of The Circuit. Imp and I do it when we are too fat/thin for our clothes, depending on how many pizzas we eat.**
At the moment I am wearing MediumPieMuncher clothes, which means that I can spend all my money on books.
I head on down to the PDSA, full of hope.
Not a sausage.
Next, Tenovus. No good books, but I am tempted by a boomerang. However, the last time I almost bought a boomerang, Imp gave me a Scowl. With a Capital S.
Checked by that particular chilling thought I hurry out the door.
British Heart Foundation. Chick lit. And not a single book under £2. Outrageous! I leave.
My feet are getting tired now. For some reason, Charity Shop Shopping is more tiring than mountain walking. I think it is the air, which I suspect that it is laced with some form of airborne-tranquiliser that is designed to hit you as you enter and, dull your senses to the extent that you are prepared to start buying brass dogs, old ashtrays and a dead old lady's dribble-stained thermal vest.
This is not a problem to me as I am a professional. I am like a highly trained killer - I dart in, head straight for the books, scan, and leave without inhaling more than twice.
I expect I could give Andy McNabb a run for his money, if ever we should meet in a Charity Shop Shopping Contest.
I make a mental note to write to him. He probably won't open the letter, though, unless I draw bullets on the envelope.
I make a mental note to draw bullets on the envelope. And a tank.
I trudge into Barnados. If I don't find a good book now, I will have to cross the road and the shops Across The Road take a higher level of shopping skill as, they have people who are too tall/thin/small (or have a milky eye) and who pounce and shake collecting tins at you.
Bingo! A book I have never read!
Just as I am about to pay, I spot (with my highly trained Charity Shop Shopper's eyes (read this and weep, Andy)) a Mr.Man mug and it is only 50p!
I pay, trying not to get grumpy at the old lady who wants me to wrap the mug in two carrier bags and who can't see the buttons on the cash till but, no problem. I am untouchable because, today I am the proud owner of a Mr.Lazy mug.
Imp will be so impressed.
*Jaws - 8; Flowers in the Attic - 13
**Me - 2; Imp - 2 slices
I am going to the cinema with Ickle Bro!
We walk through town.
This is not as simple as it sounds.
Ickle bro, who is younger than me, should Rightfully-As-A-Result-Of-Logic-And-The-Laws-Of-Science, be shorter than me. I'm sure it says somewhere in the Bible that I should be the tallest.
Unfortunately something went horribly wrong and I was robbed! I think this might have been a result of the council building a road past our village when I was 10. I expect I inhaled some dangerous pollutants and stopped growing.
Thinking about it, Ickle Bro should really be called Freakily Tall Bro and, I should be called Half An Inch Below Average FT. But that would be a stupid name. And anyway, I don't like to dwell on it.
I make a mental note to write a letter of complaint to the council
So we walk through town.
I walk Very VERY quickly and my legs move quicker than the speed of light. In fact, my legs move so quickly that to other people it might look as if they are moving backwards, like that weirdy optical illusion that happens to car wheels when you watch a Ferrari bombing around Brands Hatch.
Even so, every fifth pace, I have to do a little skip.
This is not becoming for a woman of 34.
“OY! Slow down!” I gasp. My legs are now making that really-quick humming noise that bicycle tyres make when you are cycling downhill at more than 40 miles per hour.
“Sorry!” says Ickle Bro, glancing down from somewhere up in the sky, looking surprised. He moves into Matrix-style slow motion, loping along as if in zero gravity. But still quicker than me. Bastard.
I wipe away the sweat from my chin and skip along behind him, in a way that I hope emphasises the fact that I am older and, therefore, still The Boss.
We have decided to go to the National Botanic Gardens of Wales, to cheer ourselves up. It is a scorcher of a day and it would be criminal to stay indoors.
I spend a while choosing which hoodie I should wear, as the gardens will be full of old people and I wouldn't want to scare them. I wear hoodies all the time and must surely have a Day-Out-to-the-Country Hoodie. We are young, and vibrant, and full of life and I want my hoodie to reflect that, without looking like a drug-dealer.
I expect we will be the only young people there.
We boil a kettle so that we can make a flask of coffee. This is NOT a Granny thing to do, it is just that I need caffeine in order to stay awake for such a long journey, as it might take more than an hour. I take a moment to spike my hair, as I am Young and Funky.
“Aaaargh!” Imp yells from the kitchen.
She has burned her hand with boiling water! She is not having much luck at the moment.
We climb into the car. Imp has to be careful because of her whiplash injuries and, because she has been holding her hand under cold running water for the last 15 minutes.
“Oooowwwww!” she yelps. “The sun's burning my hand!”. The temperature inside the car is about 3,482,800,0000000000 million degrees. This is what it must be like to live in Torquay.
I run back into the house and soak a bundle of kitchen towel in cold water, so that she can wrap her hand in it. We strap her special neck-collar into place. She is very fragile at the moment.
We pull away.
“How's your hand?” I ask, anxious. I indicate, to drive around a leaf.
“Still burning”. She looks really depressed.
I open the sunroof. “Stick your hand out the sunroof, the wind will keep your hand cold!”
I am a genius. I am surprised that Alan Sugar hasn't rung me yet. I expect he is waiting for his current assistant to fail miserably so that he won't get sued for violating Equal Ops, or something.
“I can't!” Imp looks apologetic. “I can't lift my arms above my head because of my neck”.
I press the opening-window button. That idea doesn't work either, because Imp burned the wrong hand.
I close all the windows and the sunroof and put the air conditioning on.
Imp's phone bleeps. It's a text! I hope that it is her ex-husband so that we can complain about him a bit.
Imp is having trouble pressing the buttons on her phone, because her hand is swathed in soggy kitchen towel. I am getting impatient.
“Who is it?” I ask, casually-yet-nosily.
“Dunno”. She rummages around in her bag. “I can't see it, without my reading glasses”.
We continue, in this manner. Young, vibrant.
Imp has been assaulted!
There is Good News and Bad News.
The Good News is that there were about 50 witnesses.
The Bad News is that she has got whiplash injuries, which means that we can no longer play squash, which means that I will get fat and become so big that I will have to be hoisted by crane from my first-floor window into a truck in order to be transported to hospital, where they will all mutter and stroke their chins while scraping the dying flesh from the folds in my ankles. Then I will die from obesity and will have to be buried in a specially-constructed coffin with cantilever supports.
But anyway, it's not about me.
Imp has got to wear a special collar! It is to hold her head up so that she can carry on working.
“I look like a nob”, she says, sadly.
“You look gorgeous!” I lie, hastily. If she had bigger teeth she would look like Smashie, of Smashie and Nicey fame. With purple hair.
I decide not to tell her this.
She stares gloomily out the window.
I think she can read my mind.
I have designed a fool-proof system for holding the door open!
My flat has got a very determined fire-hingey-thing to ensure that the door stays closed in case of fire, effectively making it harder for me to get out and therefore making it necessary for me to leap from the bedroom window, thus breaking both my ankles.
All fire doors are installed with this in mind, which is why firemen get to climb up ladders and carry people and look heroic.
Normally I can get out of the door okay (when there isn't a fire) and as along as I remember to hurl myself through, it doesn't get me. I would estimate my Getting-Through-The-Door-Without-Personal-Injury (henceforth referred to as GTTDWPI) rate to be about 85%.
However when I am wheeling my push-bike, the GTTDWPI odds drop to approximately 40% for me and, 0%x3 for my bike.
Now I have a weapon. A bungee cord... which stretches from the back of the door, to the bathroom door handle. I simply stretch the cord, hook it over the door handle... and the fire-hingey-thing is foiled (Aha!), allowing me to wheel my bike out without even moderate-to-severe bruising/denting to the shins/forks.
I am in a rush!
I put my rucksack and helmet on (I do not look at all like an Anorak) and prepare my GTTDWPI device. Checking that the bungee cord is hooked safely over Doorhandle1, I stretch it, straining, towards Doorhandle2.
Now. The obvious danger here is that the bungee cord will slip from Doorhandle1 while I am stretching it towards Doorhandle2, twanging back at great speed and hitting me full force in the arm, bringing tears to my eyes and unsavoury words to my lips.
But it won't, because I have performed this many times before with crowd-cheering success.
I carry on straining, confidently.
My eyes water and I swear. Expertly.
My GTTDWPI device has failed!
Bastard! I can feel my arm bruising and the blood pooling, as I yelp.
I am a Failure. Even more so than Clive Sinclair! At least his crap inventions don't hurt him.
I struggle through the door, repeatedly being bashed in the shins/shoulder/arm/forks/back wheel and limp down the stairs - bashing my shins on the pedals for good measure - with my best Bad Mood face on.
I am accosted by a woman who wants me to play Lesbian Badminton!
I back off, hurriedly.
We are attending a meeting, Imp and I, to plan things for the Cardiff Mardi Gras. I have never been to a Mardi Gras meeting before and have no idea what to expect but, I am feeling Very Important.
I expect I have been asked to go because I am not only (i) gay and, (ii) have extraordinary administration abilities, but I also am (iii) very good at nodding in an agreeable way.
Imp worries aloud if she will be the only Lipstick Lesbian there.
“Ha!” (I say, with my plethora of no past Mardi Gras meetings to fall back on).
“Or course you won't, Imp”, I add, knowledgeably. “I'm sure there'll be loads of 'em”.
She looks relieved and slaps a bit more lippy on.
Things are looking interesting.
We have arrived but there are no Lipstick Lesbians to be seen! This is very worrying as they are very nice to look at, even if they are not as intelligent as normal dykes*.
I edge through the door and stare, worried, through the people milling around drinking coffee and chatting. They all look like they have turned up for a recording of Gardeners' Question Time.
The women nearest me have beards and, groundwards, stripy socks peeping out from under their half-mast burgundy cords. Even the blokes have less body hair than the women! I gulp.
Now, I would never abandon Imp as she is The Boss and I might get told off later but, I seriously consider leaving her momentarily to face them alone, while I sprint across the road for a quicker-than-the-blink-of-an-eye pint. I turn around.
Too late! I am whisked up by a woman who must surely have cats and definitely has verbal diarrhoea and, I'm deposited in front of two more must-have-cats women. I whimper. Imp, somehow has escaped and is near the refreshments table**. Damn her.
“Have you been here before?” Cat-Lady asks.
“Do you go to the group at all, the one upstairs?” she bulldozes merrily along.
“Wh...?” The other women join in, nodding enquiringly.
“Above Ikon, the meeting upstairs, for Lesbians”. Unaware, she nails the coffin lid on that one.
“N..” I protest.
“Would you like to play Lesbian Badminton?” She continues. The nodding women again resume their nodding.
“No!” I manage a whole word!
“Or Lesbian Cycling?”
“We do walking, as well”, Cat-Lady informs me. There is more agreement in the form of nods.
“I don't want to join a Lesbian Group” I manage to say. "Or play Lesbian Sports".
The three women step back in unison, puzzled and astonished.
“Do you belong to any other Lesbian Groups?” one of the nodding women asks.
“No, I don't know any groups”.
They are stunned.
“I play Normal Badminton and anyway, I don't like the word Lesbian” I say quickly, desperately trying to catch Imp's eye so that she will come and rescue me.
We all stand in silence, nothing whatsoever in common at all.
I study my Gay Trainers and scratch my beard.
*Imp, of course, is much more intelligent than me. She is the exception to the rule.
I am shovelling shit!
It is pig shit, which is a particularly pungent variety of shit, but not as bad a dog poo. Anyway, I secretly like anything to do with poo, as long as it doesn't involve my face.
It is a stunning day for doing a bit of farm work and I hop over the fence and battle my way through the pigs. They are not being very helpful with the shovelling and, seem to be more interested in eating the shovel handle than standing politely aside while I bustle. (They are boy-pigs, which I think you will agree, makes all the difference).
The young people I am working with stay firmly on the pig-free side of the fence. I am surprised that they don't want to join in! I always jump at any excuse to get muddy – it is a scientific fact that muddy people are healthy people (or something).
This is what is wrong with society today, I think. People don't want to get covered in pig shit. Crazy! I must remember to pass on my thoughts to the Welsh Assembly.
I wrestle what's left of the broom from a hungry pig and sweep frantically, avoiding snouts and teeth. It is a bit like playing Pac Man, but smellier and with straw.
I am good at Bustling. It can be achieved much better with a broom or spade in your hand but, all the same, it takes a special kind of person to Bustle successfully. I am now at an advanced level as, I can Bustle in a pig pen.
I stop for a moment to consider this. (The pigs take this as an invitation to begin chomping on the fronts of my trainers.)The pigs move on to the bottoms of my jeans. This is not in my contract.
“It bloody stinks in here!”
A scary-looking five-year-old wrinkles up his nose and glares at me. I ignore him.
“So what toxic substances can you see in the picture?” I ask. Two rows of tiny faces look up at me. They have climbed into the back of the Drugs Bus and want to be Entertained, with a capital 'E'.
“Heck, it's minging!”
I avoid eye contact and continue to instruct. “You can all have a special free pen and I want you to find six dangerous things”. I pass out activity sheets and pens.
The five-year-old is looking daggers at me, furiously. “You smell of SHIT!”
“Oooooh, Pooey-pong!” another tiny kid joins in, pinching his nostrils.
It is impossible to ignore the accusations any more.
“I know, I know! I smell of pig poo, BIG DEAL!” I counter, cleverly. I have been fully trained in Motivational Interviewing and my communication skills are the envy of many.
“Eeeeeeeeeeeewww!” erupts a wall of squeaky voices. “Get out! You SMELL!”
“It's not that bad”, I point out.
“Oh.My.God. It's SOOOOOOO stinky in here!”. A very cross-looking girl is giving me Evils. She is scarier than my Mum.
I have been evicted! From my own van! By a load of five-year-olds!
Defeated, I exit to exaggerated gasps and mimes of excruciating suffocation and stand, pongy, on my own out the back.
“If you give me your details, I'll pass them on to him when he gets back”, I say in a fake-jaunty phone-voice.
I was unlucky enough to be closest to the phone when it rang. My colleagues, I notice, all seemed to be very VERY Busy, suddenly.
I write the message into the Message Book, eyes watering somewhat.
“AAAAaaaaaaaaaaaarrrgh!”, I think to myself, sneaking a quick scratch with the clicky-end of my pen.
“No problem. Is there anything else I can do to help?”, I chirp, threateningly.
I learned this particular Telephone-Voice from the Customer Services Desk at Asda, where they manage to say all the right things but, with a professionally-developed scornful top lip glaring challengingly at you. I think it is the law that you have to be able do this lip-thing before you can be placed in any position of responsibility. They do it at hotel receptions, too.
“Bugger off!”, I think, frantically. “Go.Away.Go.Away.Go.Away.Bugger.Off”
Not that I'm accepting any responsibility, but I was involved in a terrible hair-removal accident a couple of days ago, in a sensitive area*.
*Note. The hair-removal was in a sensitive area on my body, not in a sensitive area like in the Central Command Post of MI5 or in say, a WI meeting in Afghanistan.
I slam the phone down and sprint quicker than the eye can see, to the kitchen where I pretend to wipe surfaces, scratching furiously as I go.