The Blog of Small Things

Little things make all the difference; this is a blog about the minutiae of life.

Friday, September 29, 2006


Last Saturday I did something insane: I went to Ikea. Going to Ikea is not (necessarily) an indication of insanity in itself, but going on a Saturday lunchtime with family in tow has, at the very least, got to put me on some kind of shortlist.

We queued, like lemmings, in the canteen to purchase fayre which, as my daughter remarked, looks like big marbles. This we ate off Ikea plates, with Ikea cutlery, whilst sitting at Ikea tables, on Ikea chairs, lit by Ikea chandeliers, looking at Ikea pictures in Ikea frames.

Now I would just like to make it clear at this point that I am not about to have a rant about Ikea. Believe it or not I actually rather like Ikea. I like the ‘style’ of their furniture and other home furnishings, which I think is incredibly good value. It’s just the “Ikea Voodoo” which perturbs me. It doesn’t matter what I go to Ikea to buy, I always come out with at least £50 of stuff I never knew I needed before I got there. If I had not gone to Ikea I would not have felt a loss at the lack of polished wooden coat hangers in my wardrobe, nor would I have been thinking I did not have enough egg cups, and I have no doubt at all that my daughter would NOT be sitting on her bed pining for a multicoloured cuddly ostrich with a jingle in its belly, but nonetheless those are a few of the things we came home with, and they are certainly not superfluous objects, they are being put to good use, but we only went to buy a toy basket!

I think it must be a combination of the way Ikea is organised; the conveyor belt type system which means you can’t go back, and the fact that everything is unbelievably cheap. I got a stainless steel and glass cafetiere for £1.25, which felt like such a bargain that pathetically, I felt like I had achieved something! When you see a clock you really like for £5, which you know would be much more expensive in other shops, and when you know you have no clocks in your house (see ‘Timepieces 3’) you just blindly put it in your trolley, because somehow, it actually feels like you’re saving money - perversely, you feel like you’re being thrifty! But all these £5 and £1.25 bargains add up to the thrifty total I least £50!

I should really put myself on a timer system the second I walk through the door to Ikea, because part of the Ikea Voodoo is that you completely lose track of time. I have lost count of the number of times it has been daylight when I got to Ikea, but dark when I re-emerged in the car park. You can lose significant portions of your life to this oversized shopping experience. Another reason I should put myself on a timer is because both my daughter and I seem to have a kind of sanity threshold which once gone beyond, there is no going back. I cannot tell you at what point this kicks in because, as I’ve said, time has no meaning in the Swedish warehouse, but suffice to say that by the time we get to the plants we have both lost the ability to speak or process information in any kind of meaningful way. This manifests itself in me by the adoption of a zombie-like dazed facial expression and a weird small grunting sound in response to any question asked. My daughter starts walking in ways reminiscent of Monty Python, making strange noises that she never makes at any other time, and only speaking with her tongue sticking out. Together we look like a postcard from Bedlam, and it doesn’t say “Wish you were here!”

We make our way to the car park (and yes, it is dark!) and I am conflicted at wanting to get into the car as quickly as possible, and not actually wanting to have to drive home; I just want to be able to press a Dr. Who style transporter button and be home. We all sit quietly in the car on the way back and there is an audible sigh of relief and relaxing of shoulders when we finally arrive outside our house. I have the urge to sit in a darkened room for some hours, but of course a short drink and a sit down, followed by the filing away of our purchases more or less sets me straight again. My daughter is exhausted and I think to myself that she should probably have a quiet day tomorrow.

Sunday morning I am woken by my shorter companion tying my hair in knots and attempting to insert a plastic tomato from her play kitchen up my nose. As I open my eyes and just about focus on her beautiful, happy, smiling face, she says “Can we go to Ikea again today Mummy?!”

Friday, September 22, 2006


They say a fool and his money are easily parted, but what about an anti-hero and his teeth?

I awoke this morning to the feeling of toothache in the furthest back top right tooth (if you see what I mean, I’m not doing a diagram). This was immediately followed by a sinking feeling in my stomach at the thought I may have to go to the dentist. Don’t get me wrong, I am not someone who is scared of the dentist, it just really annoys me that I have to go; I find it an irritating experience which induces a kind of torpor in me for the rest of the day. And I can’t stand the smell of those places.

Having said this, the last time I went to the dentist I was scared. My fear was because of the impending root canal work which was about to take place, combined with the knowledge that local aneasthetic has absolutely no effect on me, and that no matter how hard I tried to explain this to my dentist in my previous appointment, for some reason he just refused to believe me. In the end I became resolved to it and commented that I had given birth to my daughter a few months earlier with no pain relief, so if I could do that I could have root canal work without anaesthetic. The dentist looked at me and huffed in a patronising fashion “No” he said “This is much worse than childbirth; no one could go through this without pain relief.”
I tried to explain to him again that the aneasthetic doesn’t appear to work on me, but he wasn’t having any of it and asked me to explain why it works on everyone else but not on me, what’s so special about me?! He took my inability to explain myself as a scientific oddity as proof that I was wrong. So, there I was, watching him polishing his drill whilst he waited for the anaesthetic to take effect on my mouth and, as I felt the cold feeling flirt with my lips and then decide to disappear, I felt scared.

It hurt. In fact it hurt rather a lot, for days, but the dentist (who was male) was completely incorrect about his comparison with childbirth. The root canal work was very painful, and I have to admit, “Marathon Man” did go through my head more than once during the experience, but at no time did I think my head was going to split in two, and I was very ‘present’ in my body at all times. As far as I am concerned, the word ‘pain’ is a completely inadequate word when it comes to having a baby but very accurately describes having a thirteen stone man taking out his aggression on your tusks via an enthusiastic electrical device.

Anyway, this doesn’t make me want to run back to my dentist for assistance now I have toothache, but the trouble is, I can’t just go elsewhere because I can’t afford to ‘go private’ and he is the only NHS dentist in a fifty mile radius. This means I will probably just hope it goes away, but will no doubt end up going to the dentist next year to be told I need to have root canal work done on that tooth because I left it so long!

When I was eighteen years old I had my wisdom teeth removed - all four of them, at once. Thankfully this dentist was very nice and seemed to understand that local anaesthetic has no effect on me, and removed them in an operating theatre under general anaesthetic (I was the one under general anaesthetic, not him). Only one of my wisdom teeth had actually come through, but the other three were threatening, so he said he might as well “whip them all out” while he was there. To do this he had to cut open my gums and pull them out from underneath. Before he did this though he had to get me to sign a consent form to say it was fine with me if things went wrong. I asked him what constituted “going wrong” and listened as, calm as you like, he explained there was a possibiility he would accidentally sever a nerve which would make one side of my face permanently look like I’d had a stroke. Marvellous. I asked him what the chances were of this happening and he said “Well, if you were my sister I wouldn’t let you go near that operating theatre.” He sensed my shock. “But it’ll probably be ok.” he said. For reasons I am unable to fathom to this day, I signed the form. Thankfully my face was ok, apart from the considerable bruising, swelling, inability to eat for a fortnight etc.., but all of this passed in time.

For many years my father had some sort of false teeth to replace the two middle ones on his bottom row, which had been knocked out at some point in an accident. I always remember one summer when we were on holiday in Devon and he got out of the swimming pool and smiled to reveal a large gap in his bottom row! He had lost his two faux-fangs at the bottom of the pool when he was swimming underwater. He quickly closed his mouth and dived back in to retrieve his gnashers. I think he has done rather well with his teeth actually, only acquiring a full set of false teeth in his 70’s. He has had problems (sorry!)...with these though. The bottom set in particular have caused him some irritation and became so loose it took him about an hour to eat a sandwich. A couple of weeks ago this situation became intolerable and he returned to the dentist who informed him they would have to ‘borrow’ his teeth in order to get them fixed. It would only be for a couple of days and they would call him when they were ready.

My mother refused to let him out of the house. A sociable man, my father was naturally perturbed by this and when I spoke to his gummy self on the phone, knowing I had seen him without his teeth in before he asked “It doesn’t look that bad does it?!!” Well, what was I supposed to say? I did manage to avoid saying the word ‘Steptoe’ though, and was quite pleased at my self-restraint. All that was keeping him going was the thought he would be released from his quarantine by the weekend, but then the bad news came; the teeth would not be ready until Monday morning. I received an email from my mother saying she was keeping him “out of the public eye” (like he’s Salman Rushdie or something) over the weekend. On the Monday I received a jubilent email, informing me he now had his teeth back and so was allowed to resume normal duties, which included taking the dog to the vet, which seemed to me a sadly inauspicious re-introduction to society, but there you are!

When I was a child my grandmother used to come and stay with us for a fortnight during the summer holidays. I used to stand and stare in fascination at the row of gum and teeth submerged in liquid in a glass on a shelf in the bathroom. I found it bizarre there was a ‘body part’ apparently existing in a different room whilst its owner slept in our spare bed.

I always find it surprising the lack of emotional attachment people seem to have to their false teeth. When my father was in hospital last year and was moved wards after surgery, we had some problems tracking down all of his possessions and, for about twenty-four hours his teeth had disappeared into the hospital Bermuda triangle. When we finally retrieved them, we couldn’t be 100% sure it was his teeth we had found, but no one appeared that bothered really, including my father. As long as they seemed to fit, everyone was happy. I found this incredible. Maybe I will change my opinion when the time comes for me to have false teeth fitted, but I cannot imagine even contemplating ‘trying’ a set of teeth to see if they were mine or not because, what if they’re not?! Added to which, where had they been during those twenty-four hours? They could have been anywhere, doing anything! Again, no one appeared bothered and everyone seemed happy as long as the teeth were just given a quite rinse under the tap.

Maybe I should take this as a lesson about my own teeth. I do my best to look after my teeth, flossing, brushing and mouthwashing twice a day, eating very little sugar and avoiding fizzy drinks, and there is a part of me which must be to do with my relative youth (!) that refuses to believe I will ever have false teeth, even though it seems it is just one of those things that happens to everyone some time after pensionable age. But then I remember the brace I had on my upper row of teeth when I was fourteen and what it felt like to put that in and take it out of my mouth. Whenever I see someone ‘put their teeth in’ it reminds me of that because the action is so similar. So, maybe, forty years hence I too will be sitting in a hospital bed being handed a set of teeth which have just been rinsed under the tap and will be quite happy to test them in my mouth to see if they are mine, and maybe I too will then look up at my daughter and beam at her in that way that people who have just put their teeth in do, sigh and grin and say “Ah, that’s better.”

Wednesday, September 20, 2006



There are not enough clocks in my house. Don’t get me wrong, I love clocks. Both the appearance and the sound of them are pleasures I find reassuring and calming. On some unconscious level though I must be avoiding them, because I never have enough. In fact, at the moment I have just one clock in the house. This is so woefully far away from my “clock need” that I actually have to take this clock with me around the house, carrying it from room to room.

It is partly a question of reliability. I once bought a clock to hang on the wall; it was cheap and worked via two AA batteries inserted in the back, but I was smug because I thought it looked both attractive and expensive. In the end though my aesthetic sensibilities proved impractical for the real world yet again, as a mere three months after hanging it above my desk, one of the hands developed a kind of impotence, just managing to climb it’s way up to twelve, only to suddenly and all at once descend to six, with a kind of limp despair. This happened approximately twelve years ago and I have to admit I have only bought one clock since; the “travel” clock mentioned above. This is an unattractive digital alarm clock which I bought six years ago for £7.50, to replace my previous unattractive digital alarm clock (every home should have one) and is still running on its original battery. It is useful because it is relatively small, and as well as informing me of the time, it tells me the month, day and year, should I forget them (which I do, frequently).

For no real reason, I have a preference for the 24-hour clock. There is a 24-hour clock on the dashboard of my car. It is an hour behind because I didn’t adjust it when the clocks changed in March. I keep meaning to, and every time I get into the car I am aware that I haven’t got enough time to correct the clock right at that moment, but that I must do it later. This has been happening since March, and now it is September, so there’s not really any point in doing it now, because the clocks will change again next month anyway! I like the clock in my car though; it is green (my favourite colour) and amuses me when on long journeys, as I look at the clock, then at the speedo and then back to the clock, attempting to work out those ‘problems’ we were always given in maths lessons all those years ago. Alas, I still don’t know what Henry’s average speed was when he drove to Birmingham in three hours, stopping for twenty minutes at some services for a cup of tea. Who is this Henry person anyway? And why can’t he work out his own average speed?! The clock on my mobile phone is correct, but no doubt as my car clock becomes correct in its timekeeping, my mobile-phone clock will lose an hour and I will spend the following six months thinking that I really must get round to correcting it.

I know I should have bought more clocks, but on the other hand, I already know there aren’t enough hours in the day to achieve everything I would like to, so do I really need the constant reminder staring down at me from my magnolia walls, ticking at me, rushing me along my life?

It was my previous mobile phone actually which inadvertantly caused a moment of self-realisation. I was meeting a friend in town at three o clock in the afternoon. My mobile phone, which was a dreadful pay-as-you-go about as heavy as the average house brick and looked like it had come from a toyshop, had decided to eliminate the clock feature from its display. As I did not wear a watch at the time (see Timepieces (1)), it was my phone on which I used to depend when out of the house, so this left me in a bit of a spot. I was about to leave the house and was as usual, running late, when I realised this predicament. The obvious solution to me was to grab the alarm clock which I carry round the house with me, throw it into my bag, get my car keys and go. By my logic, this was a perfectly sensible solution, and it wasn’t until I found myself waiting for my friend and I pulled out my alarm clock in the middle of a crowded street, that I stopped and thought to myself “I wonder if this is the kind of thing people mean when they say I’m eccentric.”

Sunday, September 17, 2006


Mickey Mouse and his watch.

After a friend of mine read my blog post on this site about watches, he felt the need to email me with some points of interest. These he thinly veiled as questions, but were in fact his way of telling me I had “got my facts wrong” as he found himself unable to stop himself from saying later on, being unable to veil his delight with any kind of thinness at all!

To quote myself, when I was discussing my cartoon character watch, I offered the following explanation:

“These became popular some years back as a kind of joke about the
phrase “Mickey Mouse watch”. Somebody clearly thought they were
being hilarious by making a watch which actually had a picture of Mickey Mouse on it.”

I am usually big on research in the majority of things I write, but I must confess that on this particular occasion I did not think there was any need, and the reason I did not think there was any need was, rather embarrassingly, because it did not occur to me that I was wrong! Well, here I will admit - I was wrong (ouch!)! I honestly thought that the phrase ‘Mickey Mouse watch’ had come from the idea of a watch which didn’t work or was unreliable, and was related to Mickey Mouse because he was the original cartoon character and was therefore the ultimate symbol of something ‘pretend’ or not what it purported to be.

My good friend however (who I suspect was jumping up and down with glee by this point) said he was sure Mickey Mouse watches (ie, watches with Mickey Mouse on them) had been around for many many years, and followed that up with:
“Ingersoll 1933 springs to mind, just 6 years after Mickey first appeared to the world!”
Further research revealed that as it turns out, it was the Mickey Mouse watch that saved Walt Disney. Mickey Mouse was appearing in short films which Disney was renting out to small movie theaters for a small weekly charge. Disney was making so little money he was close to going out of business, when he was approached and asked if he would allow some toys and accessories to be made featuring the Mickey Mouse character. He agreed and the products were launched a short while later in a large Chicago department store. The Mickey Mouse watches (which as my trusty pedant correctly pointed out, were made by Ingersoll in 1933), sold in their thousands, and were so popular that the revenue Walt Disney collected effectively saved his business and gave him the funds to make the next film featuring Mickey Mouse. The watches continued to sell well during the 1930s and eventually provided enough money for Disney to make his first major feature film, Snow White.

So, there we have it, I stand humbly corrected and am actually grateful to (you know who you are!) for pointing this out, as because even though I like being right, I like to think I am the first to admit - and admit gallantly - when I am wrong. Further, pedantry is a personality trait which I find oddly endearing, as is the confidence to tell me I am wrong so, consider my respect for said friend significantly increased.

The story does not end there however. The next time I saw him we were talking about my blog and he said he ended up feeling very sorry for me about my lost (STOLEN!! Oh, the grief!!) beloved Gucci olive green watch, as well as my current watchless situation. He then produced from about his person a watch which he immediately admitted he had received free with a magazine subscription. I looked at it and became excited as I saw it ticked all my boxes: leather strap rather than metal, tick. Silver rather than gaudy gold surround, tick. Enough holes in the strap so that it will fit snuggly around my thin little wrists, tick. Things on the face to indicate numbers, tick (in this case roman numerals - nice)! “That’s nice.” I said.
“Well, it says ‘ladies watch’ on the box.” he said “But I don’t know any ladies, so I thought you might like it instead.”

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


We live at the beginning of a cul-de-sac in an end-of-terrace house, which means we only have a next-door neighbour on one side of us. They consist of a man in his twenties (whom for the purposes of this I shall call Ruffian), his wife (Mrs Ruffian), her son from a previous relationship (Step-Ruffian) and their new baby (Baby Ruffian).

Ruffian has only been there about a year. Before that the father of Step-Ruffian lived there, then suddenly we didn’t see him for a while, and Ruffian moved in. Shortly afterwards, Mrs Ruffian started to develop a swelling in her stomach area, and it wasn’t from eating too many pies!

Then one Saturday afternoon we were returning from visiting a local National Trust place when their car pulled up outside their house and out clambered Mrs. Ruffian who, it appears, had become Mrs. Ruffian that very day. Out of the car she hauled herself, resplendent in white nylon with baby shouting its imminence from her belly, the vision complete with cigarette in one hand and can of strong lager in the other. As she made her way to the door, Ruffian called after her, “Hang on Babe.”
“What?!” she delicately asked.
“Well I’m gonna carry you over the threshold.”
“No you ain’t.”
“Oh Mrs. Ruffian, why not?!”
“No, f*ck off you stupid b***ard!” and with that post-wedding, pre-partum poetical exchange, they began their married life.

Standing by our open back door I can hear them chatting to one another whilst they sit on their patio. They once had a very earnest conversation about how Coca-Cola used to come in 500ml cans, questioning why these were no longer available. Mrs. Ruffian, being younger than Ruffian, did not believe that this extraordinary idea was possible and at first simply refused to believe him, until he came back at her with the justification that he always used to buy one of these 500ml cans, along with a packet of Wheat Crunchies (crisps) on his way to school every morning. This seemed to her to be convincing anecdotal evidence.

Routinely they swear at Step-Ruffian and will raise their voices as soon as breathing. In the summer months Ruffian walks around without wearing a top of any kind. Step-Ruffian, who is approximately four years old, is allowed out of the house to the local shop by himself. When Baby Ruffian was born they named him after a pop star. Ruffian and Mrs Ruffian are rarely seen without accompanying cigarettes and I have often seen Ruffian holding a baby bottle in Baby Ruffian’s mouth whilst holding his cigarette in the same hand. Many a morning I am awoken by the dulcet tones of Ruffian attempting to extricate enough tar from his lungs to surface the average driveway, and as far as I can gather, they regularly indulge in ‘recreational’ stimulants. Ruffian also has some ‘anger issues’ which, from many an eavesdropped conversation (God, I really do need to get a life!) I think is to do with his father, possibly his absence and the general problem of him being a ‘w**ker’.

One morning I was disturbed in my work by a loud and repetitive clicking sound outside. I realised it was coming from the garden next door, so went upstairs to look out of the window to see what they were doing. Ruffian and Step-Ruffian were chasing each other around the garden, shooting at each other with cap guns, much to their mutual delight. Now, with my namby-pamby, left-wing, Guardian-reading, Bohemian sensibilities, I was of course faintly horrified at the use of mock firearms around a small child, but then I found myself torn, because Step-Ruffian was clearly having so much fun, and there are many fathers who do not spend ‘quality time’ with their children, trying to make them happy, and probably even fewer stepfathers who do so, and it has always been obvious how hard Ruffian tries.

Another day I heard Ruffian and Step-Ruffian having dinner together in their garden. Everything was apparently going swimmingly, until Step-Ruffian remarked “I don’t like these peas.” and quick as a flash - much to my consternation - Ruffian shouted back “Well don’t f***ing eat them then!”

Early evening a few days ago I was lying on my bed reading when I heard through my open window, Ruffian and Baby Ruffian coming out of their house. Ruffian’s mother had been visiting for the afternoon and was now leaving. She said her gooey goodbyes to Baby Ruffian and then, to my utter amazement, said her gooey goodbyes to her son! As she started to drive away he shouted after her “Love you Mum!” which, as a middle-class woman expert in my own repression, I found rather touching. I smiled and thought how nice that was, expecting him to then return inside his house, but I was then further stunned and amazed by the sound of Ruffian - who evidently thought he was unseen and unheard - singing to Baby Ruffian in the gentlest way you could possibly imagine. I was compelled to observe from the window, and watched him cradling his child, periodically kissing his head and smiling at him as he amused him with lyrical strains of “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.” I was transfixed; it was magical. Complicated things, people!

Sunday, September 10, 2006


Reasons to eat cheese:

1. Other foods with holes in (doughnuts and polo-mints for example) are not as nice with wine and crackers.
2. It comes in a variety of colours.
3. The moon is made of cheese (no really, it is).
4. Cheeses have beautiful names: Dolce Latte, Gorgonzola, Port Salut, Stilton (such a good word, say it with me..’Stilton.’ See?), Gruyere, Roquefort, Brie, Camembert, Ricotta, Mozzerella, Mascarpone, Caerphilly etc..etc...
5. It’s the only mouldy food it is acceptable to have in your fridge.
6. Buying cheese can be a wonderful experience: cheese shops are lovely, smell fantastic and often sell other exciting foody things.
7. Cheese paraphenalia, such as cheese knives, cheeseboards and cheese-cutters are nice weighty items for your kitchen.
8. Because it has a double vowel, “cheese” is a very satisfying word to say, and can be elongated at will.
9. Cheese is a prominent prefix in the dictionary: cheeseboard, cheesecake, cheesecloth, cheesemonger, cheesewood, cheesy, cheese-fly, cheese-cutter etc.., so it must be important.
10. It has a high calcium content, and so is good for your teeth, bones, skin, hair and nails.
11. Macaroni Cheese and Cauliflower Cheese would just be some pasta and a vegetable without it.
12. I used to have a boyfriend who once put a lovely piece of brie on the table and left the room to get some grapes. There were three of us dining and my boyfriend had told us remaining two not to wait for his return in order to start. I duly cut myself a modest piece of brie. On his return he took one look at the cheese, raised an eyebrow and in all seriousness said “Who cut the nose off the cheese?” and stared at me, accusingly. Clearly I had just rendered the remaining cheese beyond contempt. He had set me a test and I had failed. He seemed to think this was rather important. What offended me though was the clear insinuation that I was somehow unaware of dining etiquette - the fact of the matter was that it was a very thin piece of brie and we had just eaten Pizza in a house shared by students (of which he was one) so I didn’t really think following Debretts was that necessary! I often like to cut noses off cheeses in honour of him.

Reasons not to eat cheese:

1. It can be quite smelly.
2. It clogs your arteries and gives you heart attacks (I will admit, this is quite a big reason!)
3. It can give you nightmares...
4....and headaches.
5. It can irritate and inflame allergies.
6. If you are lactose-intolerant, you will be violently ill.
7. If you have irritable bowel syndrome, it can make it worse.
8. Lots of it will make you fat.
9. Soft cheeses can contain Listeria (because they are not pasteurised), which can give you Listeriosis, symptoms of which include fever, vomiting, headache, malaise, body aches, cough, diarrhoea, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance and convulsions. Eeek!

On conclusion....if you eat cheese you might die!! Having said that, things like Listeriosis are very rare indeed and anyway, what’s life without risk?! Cheese....mmmm.....

Friday, September 08, 2006


On the way down the stairs from putting our daughter to bed, my husband is stopped in his tracks by the sight of me. Now, you may understandably think this is because of my arresting yet enigmatic beauty, my dazzling smile or simply the extraordinary air of wonder and creativity my mere presence provides, but I fear I have to disappoint you.
“Do you see now?” he says, waving his hands in despair. “Do you see why EVERYONE, everyone KNOWS you’re eccentric?!!”
“What?!!” I ask mystified, because I never have any idea what people mean when they tell me I am eccentric, but maybe that’s the point!
“Look at yourself! What are you doing Woman?!” (calling me “Woman” is an indication of his ultimate exasperation with my behaviour) “How can you not think there’s something at least a bit bizarre about what you’re doing?!”
Now, I ask you, is it really that strange to be creeping around the living room, clad in dressing gown and socks (well, the evenings are getting nippy now,) with my spectacles on my head (I’d been reading), holding a rolled up tv guide in one hand and a can of furniture polish in the other, whilst tiptoeing sideways towards a fly to try and out-wit it? “Shhhh. This one thinks he’s really clever; he’s got a really arrogant buzz?!”
My husband comes down the rest of the stairs, shaking his head in despair; I know it’s despair because he goes off to do something helpful in the kitchen. What he doesn’t know though is that earlier in the day - after a long summer of intolerable levels of taunting by my two-winged enemies - I finally declared war on the multi-eyed little blighters.

At the height of temperatures this summer, the bin men (or ‘Refuse Operatives’, as I understand they now like to be called) in our area decided to go on strike, or, as I prefer to call it, to the beach. To the flies, Christmas had come early and they set about breeding like....well, like flies, until everywhere we turned there were flies and we had no doubts there must have been some sort of maggoty situation inside our wheelie bin. It was utterly revolting. In my quest to rid our house and garden of them, I gradually became a kind of fly-ninja and could usually flatten and kill a fly at the first attempt. To give you an idea of how frequently I had to kill flies, it got to the point where my daughter immediately sensed when I was about to pick up a newspaper to roll up and would giggle and say “Squish it Mummy!” I’m sure both the RSPCA and NSPCC would have something to say about this, but there you go!

Then, a couple of weeks ago - probably partly due to a drop in temperature - they all seemed to disappear. At the end of July I saw a fascinating piece at the White Cube gallery in London which looked like a large piece of black textured rubber hanging on the wall, until closer inspection revealed hundreds - nay, thousands - of flies varnished together in various inelegant positions of “squish”, and I like to think that the flies which resided here thought they could contribute more to life and went off to volunteer for such an art work. So, my ninja skills largely redundant for the last fortnight or so, I readily forgot about flys, maggots and all things insectoid. Then, a few days ago, the biggest, buzziest, stropiest fly you could ever imagine flew in to our sitting room. This one had attitude. This one thought he could easily come and live here, maybe turf us out and have the run of the whole house, invite all his fly friends over for steak tartare. Ha! Not on my watch octo-eyes! I grabbed the arts section of the Guardian, waited until Mr. Buzz settled on the windowsill, and in one mighty thump, splatted him all over the woodwork, much to the delight of my applauding daughter. Feeling a worrying level of satisfaction I sauntered into the kitchen to fetch some kitchen roll with which to clean up the domestic roadkill. I could not have predicted what I would find on my return however. Now, I’m no biologist, but I think I must have killed the Mother of all flies (quite literally) because it seems my swift semi-flattening of this particular fly had released a pregnant belly of mini maggots. The dead mother was being moved around the windowsill by its hundreds of erupting offspring - baby maggots no less, which were approximately 3mm in length - which then proceeded to start eating their host!! I stood rigid, repulsed and yet unable to not look as more and more of these maggots massed from the stomach of the dead fly. I do not understand how there was room for so many in there - flies must be rather like the tardis - and I was racked by the knowledge that I must do something about this situation but also that if I come within three feet of maggots, I vomit due to sheer disgust.

I was reminded of a time when my cousin (who, funnily enough, is a biologist!) and I were teenagers and I arrived at his house on the day he returned from Army Cadet camp. We went to his bedroom to play with his hamster, only to discover it had expired in his absence and now had - how can I put it - squatters! With this in mind, I knew I had to act now before the maggots got too comfortable. That was when I struck upon the idea of spraying them with furniture polish! This would kill them all, I thought, and stop any more surfacing. I sprayed them with the thick solution of ‘Summer Meadow” until they were still, and I went to get more kitchen roll. When I got back though I was stunned to see some of the maggots actually crawling out of the polish! So I quickly sprayed them a bit more and picked them up with the extra thick wad of Bounty in my hand. If furniture polish doesn’t do it, I thought, there was no other option but to drown them, so I threw the kitchen towel containing the maggoty mound, into the sink and turned the tap to wash them away. At this point though not only was I revolted, but started to feel slightly scared as I witnessed the maggots not only surviving what must be a tidal wave to them, but actually swimming! Yes, that’s right, SWIMMING!!!! Maggots can swim! Who knew?!! I was astounded, but this strengthened my resolve and I turned on both taps, the force of which their boneless invertebrate selves could not fight, and off they swirled, down the plughole. Just in case they managed to slink back up and hatch some kind of plan of revenge, I put the plug in. As I started walking away though I imagined them beligerantly standing on each others shoulders (I use the term ‘shoulders’ very loosely here) and pushing the plug out, so I returned and placed a copper based saucepan on top of the plug. Of course, they did get their revenge because I spent the remainder of the day twitching like a nervous eel, supposedly feeling them crawling up the back of my neck or in my ears.

On telling my husband about this incident a pained expression of disgust - partly directed towards the flies, partly directed towards my irrational and compulsive behaviour - revealed itself on his face. Last night, returning downstairs from his relaxing bath, he observed me on my knees, furtively looking under my desk, Sunday supplement rolled up in my hand. “I’ll get the polish.” he said, as he sighed.