I’m often surprised at some of the random things we get up to; some are planned, others come out of nowhere and others, well, others, just happen.
Little did I realise last year that when we upsticks and moved Impossimal HQ after living for eighteen years in the same place that life in general would become tinged excitement and danger on such a regular basis that we now feel lucky if we make it through a day alive.
Ok,ok,it all sounds a bit dramatic so I’d probably better explain. Life used to be gas fires, central heating, double glazing, flushing toilets. potted plants and the occasional cat wandering into the garden to bury a large turd. Driving anywhere involved at least a hundred sets of traffic lights, shopping was done in one place for almost everything and nobody hardly spoke to each other on the same street. The drone of traffic used to remain until well into the evening broken occasionally by the sound of sirens whilst machine gun fire and the screams of the damned issued forth from down town Mansfield. I jest of course, Mansfield is not like that, it was pistol fire and the screams were from the tortured souls, not the damned.
The studio was once hit by a small whirlwind that shook me about inside like an egg in a tin box, we once had 36” of snow in two days, over the first few years at our old house I recovered 26 golf balls from an unknown golfer and a hot air balloon shaped like a ladybird gracefully flew over our house at a low altitude only to crash into a chimney pot a few houses away before rising with a distant ‘oh, s**t! sorry!’ being shouted from the basket underneath. Yes, it was really made to look like a ladybird and the sight of a fifty foot ladybird attacking a house still bothers me so much that I cannot look at a ladybird without slightly panicking.
But that was then, this is now.
Most of this has now been replaced by open fires, loose oil, managing your own sewerage, badgers, dead birds of one sort or another, sharp implements, finger removing petrol driven tools, badgers, strange insects that bite / sting / look weird, shopping in fifty places, badgers and garden foliage that either blind, burn or kill depending on how you wash you hands and prepare food, did I mention badgers? All this came to me with a sudden realisation as I was walking down the garden holding on to the feet of a pigeon I needed to dispose of after it died and dropped from one of the trees nearly knocking me out. I don’t know if any of you have been hit by a falling pigeon but I can vouch that it feels like a cushion filled with cement. Soft when it hits then the shear weight buckles you to the ground and you look down expecting a building brick. Rubber legged and bandy armed I stood disbelieving it was indeed a silly pigeon. Of all the places to expire it does it directly above my head.
In October last year I walked through the dining room one early morning with the lights off and trod on something soft and squelchy that sprayed me with juice and whipped my slippers from underneath me depositing my ample bottom on the floor. It was a large black slug looking very much like a stick of liquorice or a comedy moustache. Another time a slug (again!) dropped from the velux window into my hair as I went upstairs, in the bathroom a spider did the same aim for a soft landing and wriggled into my pyjamas. I whipped them off and jumped up and down on them naked until I was sure it had expired, Jayne as usual has had to get used to a lot of this kind of stuff but this is small fry compared to the garden.
As if to prove just how dangerous the new garden is it supplied a stunning example about a month after we moved. Jayne, no stranger to gardening, was helping me clear out an old drainage ditch of weeds. Nothing really apparently dangerous, just a hedge trim and a spot of physical work, the only difference really was the scale. Our garden tools seemed a bit puny and the hedges seemed especially tough and pretty overgrown so it’s no surprise that after some vigorous trimming Jayne stopped suddenly after seeing a flash of light over her shoulder as the power cable was sliced in two after leapfrogging up a tough branch and into the slicing jaws of the hedge cutter. Luckily we had just installed a circuit breaker the week before or it could have been goodnight Vienna before we had even started to seriously try and kill ourselves in the vegetation. Jayne did that a few minutes later.
As she walked up and down the ditch she noticed part of the floor under a tree was a little spongy, curious she did a few test stamps and walked away after nothing happened. Only something did happen, she had riled a very large and angry wasp nest with one or two of them ready to fight. A few paces later I heard a yowl of pain from Jayne and turned just in time to see her frantically dropping her jeans with urgency. ‘Not here!’ I shouted, ‘We have a perfectly good toilet inside! Think of the neighbours!’ I had visions of the semi-naked newcomers frolicking in the ditch being the subject of some juicy gossip in the future so was quite insistent that she removed no more clothes. Unfortunately this just exposed a little more flesh for the wasps and gave them a more viable bottom shaped target so again they attacked.
Jayne shouted in pain and ran (shuffled with speed) with her trousers round her ankles, I followed in bewilderment pleading for her not to remove her pants as well when the penny dropped and another wasp swooped down. I wrestled her to the ground and started to hoist up her jeans getting my own zip caught in the back of her trousers at the same time. I was shouting ‘quick! quick!’ she was screaming in pain and shouting ‘no! no! Get off me!’ when two people who we have never met since walked by with their dog. I suppose from a distance it looked like a bit of random humping, from their point of view we were visible from the waist up, Jayne almost crying and me tugging hard with a red face half of my belt in my hand whilst holding onto her waist so if you are reading this I apologise for the mental scars as you hurried away and I hope your dog eventually stopped whimpering.
We untangled and Jayne now sobbing uncontrollably got closer to the house until another direct hit made her stagger and the jeans were nearly dropped again. I dragged her into the house a blubbering wreck. Wasp stings, especially one after another are not pleasant to receive. Electrocution and insect attack in one day, awesome!
A few weeks later a badger discovered the wasp nest and smashed it all up eating the contents, something I found very satisfying but the wasps had the last laugh for you see they had not only made a nest underground but it had penetrated a 35 foot willow tree too turning it into a rather unstable piece of garden fauna just waiting for that right moment. A month later it came one stormy night when after a bang on the front door and a dash outside we confronted the entire tree as it had toppled onto three power lines bending them down to head height. If you have ever stood in a raging storm under a thirty five foot brute of a tree held a foot above your head by cables carrying enough power to turn you into ash then you know what I mean when I say not only did my sphincter clap but it also made a little toot too.
See, it really is lethal.
Yesterday we found possible deadly hemlock in abundance mixed in with the lovely wild garlic we had picked to eat, had we done so then we would have looked forward to ‘a violent emetic and convulsive, causing paralysis of the central and peripheral nervous system. Death is usually the result.’ Not the best way to spend a Monday night.
Other plants we have found include one we have to destroy upon discovery as any sap from the stems if exposed to sunlight burn the skin, recovery is three to seven years for any skin damage. Three to seven years of scars just for picking a flower! Bloody hell! Not to worry, I have already skewed myself on a branch, nearly smashed my knackers on a log I was splitting and Jayne got a lovely bruise on her forehead after a small tree fell on her. Last year I suffered mild concussion after a cooking apple knocked me to the ground (it felt lighter than the pigeon) and last week I nearly shattered my kneecaps and hands.
It was an easy job, repair a Summerhouse that had fell into such disrepair that we didn’t even realise it had windows until we started to strip away the ivy. To do the job right we ordered lots of plywood and OSB board (very heavy and very big 2.4×1.8) which we stacked rather neatly against the back wall of the Summerhouse. I in my infinite wisdom decided to count all the boards and work out my saw cuts whilst Jayne prepared tea.
Well, pulling the first board forward was easy, the second was too, the third a little harder as it was getting heavy but the fourth, fifth, sixth and all the way up to thirteenth came at me like a stack of dominoes. I caught them all, then staggered, then buckled when the boards fell towards me my arms trapped in front until they pulled me down with a yelp and landed on my knees locking me in an out of breath squatting position with my fingers trapped between the boards and kneecaps.
Jayne was out of earshot, I was pinned down in a sitting down going to the toilet kind of stance totally unable to move. I pondered my position for a while, it was only the angle of the bones in my legs and the fingers than now resembled squashed sausages that was holding the weight of a baby elephant and I imagined I could feel everything slowly squishing under the pressure. ‘Well, this is a bit of a pickle!’ I thought to myself, or rather that’s what I should of thought instead of thinking ‘Oh sh**! Oh my god! I’m going to die! I’ll never see X-Factor again! Yay!’ so I came up with a cunning plan. Use the last bit of energy before I expire to drop to the floor and try to leap away at the last minute which is like saying ‘Go on, slam that car door on my fingers and let me see if I can get them out of the way in time.’
I held my breath, I braced myself, I farted. More out of fright than need before launching into action.
Everything happened at once, I went down as I was forced into a praying position, I pulled away quickly and I had a little chance to kiss my own arse goodbye before whipping out my finger ends as the boards grazed the tips, glanced off my kneecaps and landed with a thud. Unfortunately so did I, gravity and the force dropped me rather hard and I landed on my chin, which is incredibly tricky to do. You try it, try and throw yourself onto your chin. I doubt if many people apart from Brucie could do it but I managed it and got a perfect ten as it nearly knocked my teeth out too.
I staggered into the kitchen, bruised, battered but at least I had my trousers on.
‘Been in the garden?’ said Jayne
‘Yes’ I replied.
Jayne just nodded, she understood perfectly.
(It obviously all makes Impossimals a sound investment; this time tomorrow you could be flicking through a local newspaper only to chuckle at an article ‘Artist Of Little Repute Dies In Freak Garden Accident Involving Badgers’ which then goes on to describe that Peter aged 75 and co-creator of the Imposibeellls stabbed himself 26 times with his paintbrush after painting under a tree when a badger fell on him, his last cryptic words were ‘Surprisingly it’s not as heavy as a pigeon’)