Salad Onions

I was on my way out of the house when the second eldest of my four daughters asked where I was going; a question I answered with what I thought was perfectly good communication. ‘I am just off to the greengrocers’ I said and prepared to close the door behind me.

‘You are going to the green what?’ shouted my 18 year old offspring as if I had spoken in another language. ‘The greengrocers: the place where you buy fruit and vegetables’. She had not got a clue what I was talking about having only ever experienced the questionable joys of buying ‘greens’ at a supermarket.

Anyway I had no time to explain so I rolled my eyes, in the way that parents do when they have finally realised that they have failed to properly educate their children, and set off on my quest.

Now you need to understand that it is not my intention to confuse my children every time I open my mouth, I just can’t seem to help it. Even though I am as fully engaged with modern life as I can be, I still have a whole library full of words and phrases floating around in my head that have long since been made redundant.

I find it so much easier to say LP rather than CD or Infirmary instead of Hospital. It’s not as if I am trying to hold back time or be intentionally awkward with words and phrases. I just lapse back in to using redundant words.
The number of times I have asked for a Marathon when wanting a peanut chocolate bar only to be stared at by the bubble gum chewing youth waiting by the till.

When I arrived at the ‘greengrocers’ (actually it was a supermarket, which is what I meant all along but used the wrong word) I asked the assistant if they had any spring onions. I had thought that this would be a simple request but I was more than a little put out when she just looked at me and then nudged her teenage pal who was throwing tomatoes into a crate. I had even chosen my words carefully in order not to confuse, by avoiding the term ‘scally onion’, but they were of no help until one of them said, ‘we have salad onions, will they do?’

‘Salad Onions’? What are they trying to do to me? It’s bad enough that they have nine types of tomatoes and fourteen varieties of lettuce on offer but now they are changing the names of my favourite produce. I paid for my goods after answering a multitude of questions at the till. ‘Have you got a loyalty card?’ I was asked, ‘Why, do I need to prove that I am of good character before I can shop?’ The comment was lost on the shop worker so I returned home subdued and hungry.

As I have already protested I am trying my best to be engaged with current culture. I send emails and buy things on the net. I can set up spreadsheets and use a 5 in 1 remote control with limited success. The problem I have is that I just can’t help mixing the old with the new.

My daughters gave me an iPod for Christmas and what a wonderful sound it makes as I walk around the house talking loudly and singing every fifth word. The girls, however, think it is hilarious that I still say that I am listening to a record on my iPod. ‘Dad, they are called tracks not records’.

In a world where the phrase ‘open a window’ no longer means let some air into a room it is easy to get misunderstood. I once told my daughters that I used to score at the local cricket ground when I was a lad. They thought I was telling them a story about taking drugs.

It would seem that long gone are the days when you could buy spring onions from the local greengrocers, therefore I will endeavour to keep up with modern life and use words that are understood today. Now please excuse me because I have to fit some oilcloth in the pantry.

Woman Code

Shopping: now there’s a disaster waiting to happen. It’s ok for my wife, who seems to be able to sniff out an ideal purchase from several miles away. She is an expert shopper; not something I will freely admit in public, so please don’t tell her that I said it. She has her own tried and tested methodology that highlights the difference between us. As I try to project manage the whole operation; with questions designed to limit both the amount of precious time used and the shoe leather lost, my wife has but one phrase in response to all of my requests for answers. “I will know it when I see it”.
It makes absolutely no sense to me but I suspect it is woman-code for “I am not going to limit myself later by any of the answers I give now”.
Woman-code is amazing and it has infinite possibilities of ensuring that, whenever you think you have just begun to get a basic understand of it, there are new contexts, giving new meanings.
Take for example a seemingly simple food related question like “What flavour crisps would you like?” There is in my world a definite answer to it: Cheese and Onion.
My wife’s reply is, without exception, “anything will do”. Now you know instinctively that this is not the whole truth; it’s woman-code for “anything except prawn cocktail or beef”.
It is an answer designed to get you into a mild state of man-panic. Man-panic is the only possible response to woman-code. You know: the kind of feeling that you get when you are encouraged to embark on a shopping expedition to ‘get a couple of things’. Yes right! Now if that’s not code I don’t know what is. It is more than inevitable that another six things will be spoken loudly in your general direction as you leave the house. I am my own worst enemy in these situations: I always seem to make the same mistake of not writing a list, even though I know that I am doomed if I have to remember more than three items. To be honest I can manage up to a dozen items if I, in any sense, find them interesting. Give me two different types of batteries, four varieties of wine and half a dozen choices of chocolate and I am near perfect. Ask me for toilet roll, cleaning fluid and frozen food and I turn into a wreck. But that’s beside the point.
So it is, with foolish joy that I look towards this week’s shopping trip. Some things are as certain as running out of battery on your mobile when you have lots of credit. I know, for example, that in every clothes shop (female) I will make an immediate dash for the sales rail. I will hold up various half-priced items and wave them, across the store, at my wife in the hope of encouraging her away form the new, full priced product. She will, in return, roll her eyes towards the broken air-conditioning unit above her head at every one of my offerings, in a manner suggesting that she is normally proud of me; but not at this moment.
During the expedition I will also choose to hold her hand as we walk between shops, so that I can try to deflect her from any expensive establishments and towards anywhere selling food or electronic gadgets. On most occasions this will prove to be useless but I celebrate inwardly at every one of my victories, no matter how small.
After we have listened to in-store shopping music until we can stand it no more, we walk heavy-laden, with the worship of consumerism complete, towards the dark and hidden world of the car park. Once I have finally convinced the ticket machine to accept one of the few pound coins that remain in my pocket, we stand with all the other weary shoppers, gazing at the ocean of cars, trying to remember where we left the ours.
“Which section did we leave it in” she says, hoping that my memory has miraculously returned to the condition of my youth. “I will know it when I see it” I reply. Which in man-code translates as ‘two can play at that game’.

Clearing out the Plastic Cupboard

We have a special place at home that we call the ‘plastic cupboard’. It is so named because this is where we keep all the tubs and containers that we have yet failed to throw away. I am not sure what it is about plastic but it seems to have a life of its own. The knives and forks are obedient as they sit waiting in the cutlery draw. The plates and dishes follow all the rules and stay where they are put. The plastic items seem to wait for any opportunity to dash for freedom as soon as the door is opened.

On occasions when it happens I mutter under my breath and blame the children for not caring when they put things away, but I know that my complaint is irrational. ‘Nothing is put away properly in this house’ I say, exaggerating beyond all proportion.

This one day I decided to complain no long. It was time to clear out the cupboard and start things over afresh. With Jonathon Ross for company on the radio I sat down and pulled out all the items separating them into neat piles of similar product.

Soon, through a clearing in the synthetic material, I spied what I was later to understand as the cause of our cupboard problems. Here lay, as if awaiting a special fate, all of the items that we have bought over the years and only used a few times. You know what I am talking about! There was a clean white bread maker that had served us well with the production of a fine brown loaf that we ate hot with melted butter. The problem was that after consumption we were all too tired to clean up the flour and yeast mess that remained. There was an ice crusher, a smoothie maker and slow cooker that all had a similar fate. I swear I even saw Davy Jones’ locker but it slipped out of my hands at the last moment.

I displayed my treasure on the kitchen table along with a Tupperware cake stand, an electric corkscrew and a vegetable slicer with two detachable blades. Calling the whole family in I told them all to take one last look at these precious items before they were relocated to the thrift shop down the road.

With excited noises they examined and remembered. When our youngest daughter suggested we had one last go with the bread maker I reminded her of how the kitchen looked like a scene from Narnia after we had used it last time. She soon retreated back to watch Americas Next Top Modelling Idol or whatever it is called.

‘Why do we keep buying items like this’ I asked my wife hoping that she knew the answers to such profound mysteries. ‘We have more money than sense and we haven’t got a lot of either’ she said as she went to join the girls engrossed in unreality TV.

I recall the day that my wife bought the aforementioned cake stand. Now, you have to remember we had a household of six and often would feed eight or nine at meal times, if you include visitors. My wife returned from the Tupperware party without giving any details of the items that she ordered. It was only a few days later that the goods arrived and she opened the packet to reveal a yellow and green article for the storage and display of all manner of patisserie. ‘But we are lucky if cake last 5 minutes in this house, let alone long enough to keep and display any of it’ I exclaimed. We dutifully used it once and then it was hidden away. After that I seemed to see one at every car boot sale that I visited giving me comfort that we weren’t the only family to fall for such marketing.

I boxed the offending articles ready for transportation to their new home and carefully placed all the plastic items back in the cupboard. With amazement I saw that I had reduced the cupboard load by half leaving plenty of room for the toasted sandwich maker we would no doubt buy on our next shopping expedition.

Big Yellow Taxi

Having four daughters it was necessary for us to purchase a fine vehicle for transportation purposes. In the early days before we could afford a purpose built MPV we had to make do with an old but loveable yellow transit. It was in the days before the girls had developed a sense of embarrassment. Back then they would happily hold my hand as we walked down the street. They would run out of the school gates and great both parents with a hug and a kiss. Well before high school days arrived, however, they had discovered that whenever they saw their parents a rush of blood would fill their faces and they would blush with a high summer redness.

Our yellow people carrier, for that is what we called it in an attempt at making it sound posh, was fitted with all that we needed. Seatbelts on every seat, tow-bar for trailer or caravan, radio cassette for travelling entertainment and even a 12-volt kettle for refreshments on longer trips. A couple of chickens and a goat would have given us new-age traveller status in most counties.

In an attempt to remove the need for the customary shouts of ‘I need the toilet’ we took with us, on most journeys, a potty that we kept under one of the seats. I insisted on calling it a guzunder because it is a funny word and I wanted the girls to know some of the words that my mother had taught me.

‘Because it guz under the bed’ I would reply whenever asked and laugh as if I had never heard the joke before. I think it must be a genetic disposition that causes Dad’s to tell, repeat and continually laugh at the same bad jokes over and over again.

Because the bus was so long the children had to learn hand signals in order to get my attention in the front seats. This would mostly concern the need for a toilet break. On one such trip across the Pennines one of the girls had, having signalled, dutifully filled the receptacle with recycled Vimto and my wife was pleading with me to find a safe place to stop so that she could empty the contents. This being the Snake Pass there was very little chance of that happening for several miles, so I gave instructions for her to keep the guzunder steady for another twenty minutes.

She was not happy with this reply and decided to take the matter into her own hands on this sunny Saturday morning. Sliding open a side window she readied herself to empty the potty. Seeing what she was doing in the rear view mirror I shouted for her to stop because I knew that nothing good could come from this episode.

‘It’s ok’ she said ‘I will hold it low so that non of it will come back into the minibus’. My bride had mistaken the meaning of my outburst, for what she had failed to see was a gleaming open top car directly behind us. The driver and passenger enjoying the summer wind blowing through their hair as they travelled through the beautiful peak scenery.

Ignoring all of my garbled protestations my wife emptied the guzunder and, needless to say, the contents moved from our possession to the smiling faces of the couple behind.

When I informed my wife of the kindness that she had shown to the following strangers she ducked out of sight and screamed ‘go faster’. I informed her that Ford had not fitted this model of 2-litre diesel with go-faster stripes therefore I could not travel any quicker, especially as we were going up hill.

I know that I should have pulled over as soon as the road would allow so that we could apologise but you could have fried an egg on my face at the embarrassment of it all.

It wasn’t long before the open top sports car overtook our big yellow minibus and the driver and his companion showed their appreciation by teaching our children several hand signals that were not to be found in the Highway Code.


My wife is a Putoffologist, she likes to putt off leaving the house whenever we are going out. Today she will have to do between 6 and 11 things before we leave for the cinema.

‘Are you ready yet?’ I offer in a gentle but firm voice, as I jangle my car keys knowing that saying anything more is to invite certain pain.

‘I have just got to do one thing before I leave the house’ she says, so I follow her and watch as she moves a cushion from the armchair to the sofa. A cushion! I ask you! I have been waiting for ages and then we are delayed even more because a cushion is not in the right place.

She faffs with another few items; the tea towel needs to be straight on the cooker handle, a plant has to be facing the other way round on the window sill and, this is the biggy, the TV needs changing over to another channel before it is turned off.
It is all part of what you might call the journey to the journey.

Then as I look at my watch as if to mime ‘what time do you call this?’ she responds with ‘I hardly call 2 minutes late, late!’
Well I have looked in the dictionary and it offers this as a meaning for the word ‘Late’: ‘occurring, coming, or being after the usual or proper time’
It doesn’t say: ‘occurring, coming, or being 2 minutes after the usual or proper time’
For good measure my wife drops her contact lens when trying to fit them near the mirror in the kitchen. After searching every nook and cranny I eventually spot it stuck to her cheek. You always look down on these occasions.

We get in the car and my wife turns into a DJ at the request of our offspring, none of whom can agree on which music is suitable for such a short trip. With a look of desperation she presses all the buttons she can find on the car CD player. We now have random tracks interrupted by traffic reports even though we are only travelling 6 miles. She has the same propensity to press buttons when using the computer. If it doesn’t respond at the first click of the mouse she continues to press until she sounds like a Spanish dancer playing maracas.
I Jokingly flick the interior light on and off and ask the girls if that feels more like a disco now. As usually they are less than amused. I am comforted by that fact that it is actually law that Dad’s jokes should not be funny. It is the same legislation that insists on parents being embarrassing when they go to any event with their teenaged children.

We arrive, on time, at our destination with all the female members of the party arguing over who most needs the toilet. ‘See! I told you we weren’t late’ says my bride in victory. I try to argue that it is only the skill of the driver that has made us punctual but no one is listening.
They have departed leaving windows down, doors open and bags left on seats. A few minutes later I join them in the foyer desperately trying to stash the drink and sweets into my pockets like a smuggler at airport security.

Then begins the discussion on which film we are going to watch. I try to steer the conversation away from sugar and toward anything with guns, cars and a story but I know that even before I open my mouth I am defeated.

We join the other cinema goers and, once we have changed seats for the third time, I begin the steady task of collecting popcorn on my T-shirt. I have the advantage of a nicely shaped stomach that produces a convenient ledge when I am seated.

All that is left is for me to meet my own personal challenge and eat all my chocolates and sweets in the first couple of minutes. ‘I can’t believe how fast you have eaten your food!’ exclaims my wife.
‘I hardly call two minutes, fast!’ I say as I settle down for a well deserved snooze.