Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Where I demonstrate yet another slight involving a cat.

I am standing in the shed-meets-workshop-meets-random-room-at-the-bottom-of-the-garden that exists in my shared house. For brevity's sake we shall now forever more refer to it as "the den" because this is the shorthand the house declared long before I moved in. Next to me is my newest housemate, The East Ender. We are standing in silence contemplating the enormity of what we are going to do.

"I don't know where to start" The East Ender says.


If you are wondering here about my tone on voice it is distinctly high pitched, fuelled with the sort of panic that goes straight to my voice. For, it is clear, we are going to have to clear the den. Which sounds like an innocuous enough sentence until you realise that the den contains not only spiders the size of my head but also the remnants of The Great Snail Infestation of September 2011 and enough general life stuff to fill our four bedroom house all over again.

There is a long story (and one not without its dramatic/ comic merits) as to why The East Ender and I are clearing the den at this moment, rather than, I don't know, leaving it until the third decade of this century but I'm saving the story for i)telling everyone I meet in real life ii)the novel I am going to write about it and iii) THERAPY. Needless to say, post Edinburgh in our Brockley household has been eventful. Eventful in the same way that The Shining is eventful, but eventful nonetheless. Now though - we are going to tidy!

Here for illustration (and not pride) is one of the nicer sections of the den (I have numbered the offending items and everything):
1. The hot pink '80s dress I wore for Prom Night in the Guilty Pleasures Tent at Latitude 2009. 2. The homemade scythe from The Perils of Love and Gravity. 3. An over-large (and ugly) mirror that once resided in the house itself. 4. A doll who is, for reasons I have not quite fathomed, the son of Arsenal Fan. 5. A bin belonging to The Housemate Who Shall Not Be Named. 6. Faux art and, possibly more importantly, the home to two of those Bigger Than My Head spiders. 7. Cycle helmet, owner unknown. (It is a quirk of fate which means that in a house with one cyclist we have ended up with four cycle helmets. This is safety conscious even beyond my wildest dreams). 8. Pointless photo frames. 9. Possibly broken heater. Possibly because it is so caked in dust that if we were to attempt to test it we would all instantly die from lung disease. 10. An empty beer can courtesy of The East Ender's last band practice. 11. Hundreds of paper tags left over from The Wall of Change during The Brixton Project.

(As much as anything that list probably points to why you shouldn't live with people who make theatre. They acquire stuff)

Please remember: that is one of the nice sections in as much as it does not contain: something ridiculously heavy, something broken, a pile of unmarked boxes which will fall on you and kill you or something which smells really bad.

Having spent at least five minutes starring and talking in a high pitched voice (me)/ increasingly East London accent (him) we decide that clearing may actually involve moving touching the stuff. And y'know what? It doesn't start too badly, we get a clearing system working and I devise storage areas and we fill bin bags and The East Ender lifts stuff and I poke spiders.

That is until The East Ender discovers the box of cat food.

Now, despite the fact that I have an inordinate number of cat people in my life (for clarity: people who like cats as opposed to Cat People, though the latter might be the cooler), my general non-plussed attitude to this particular species is well known in the same way that my love of baked goods, dresses and David Tennant's hair is well known. And whilst I'm sure that cats have to eat and tins of cat food most likely don't smell, it remains: old packets of cat food smell really, really bad.

The East Ender has gone a shade of green that isn't particularly inspiring. I, meanwhile, have already resolved that I would rather have my hands eaten by the spiders than touch the cat food.

We share a look which says: maybe we could just lock the den and inform everyone that no one is allowed to enter it again until at least The End of Days.

Then, just when I'm thinking that this might actually be workable, the reality sets in. The reality being: my entire writing archive is in a box in this den and I'll need all that bumph when I write the memoirs.

"We should..."


Some how we manage to get the box into the garden so, at least, we aren't in a confined space with the fumes. The East Ender holds open a plastic bag and I start to pour the contents of the box in, making sure I don't do anything stupid like inhale.

Just when I think we've got this bit cracked I notice that the bag has ripped (most likely through coming in contact with a toxic substance) and the food is leaking out on to The East Ender's foot. I can't lie: this is simultaneously the most horrific and the funniest thing that has happened this week.

"There's a hole!" I exclaim, though, if I were accurately depicting that sound it would go something like: "Haa..urggh...haaa..a..HOOOOOLE!"

The East Ender discovers what is happening. Undoubtedly in some sort of shock, he doesn't move. And then:


Five minutes later, after I've stopped convulsing and we've both disinfected our hands with bleach and are back in the den, The East Ender accidentally knocks down one of the strip lights. Falling at the perfect trajectory it manages to spear my left arm and I concede he might well have a point.

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