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Monday, 28 September 2009

Spiced Rum

All quietish on the Eastern Front at the moment, as we ramp up for a new term. Both have been away, in my case working again at the dreaded NEC, a place that makes the most barren strip mall in Sarnia, London, Missisauga or Hamilon look like a rainforest of variation. RHB has been in Bangor on work related matters, then , after a short stop back in Hull for an evening, headed down to London's glittering West End to take in a play, a museum and an art gallery. She returned, bearing a much more artistic demeanor than when she left, stuffed to the gills with culture, and in possession of a bum fountain, or at least the beginnings of one. Travelling by train, she was scheduled to return on Saturday evening at 19.15, hop in the shower and walk the short distance with me to a friend's birthday party, but naturally, the train was delayed so she arrived at Jerry's birthday party just in time to see him blowing out the candles.

Jerry is a legend at Large Mansions. I met him in the depths of Concretia, evil Empress of the back yard. He was visiting the place to assess some plastering work we needed doing: work I actually did myself in the end, but should have used Jerry, as my post on "The Calumny of Plastering" makes evident.

To recap on Concretia, I had hired a crew headed by Cheap Steve to demolish the two foot thick, twelve foot long concrete monstrosity that had provided totally unsuitable foundations for the property's existing extension. The episode broke Cheap Steve . The week after he hadnt demolished the thing, Steve left Hull, intent on travelling the world for 10 months. The full story of Cheap Steve can be obtained by searching this Blog. Just insert "Cheap Steve" or "Concretia". The true story of the demise of the thing though, was not fully reported at the time on YWNA. Probably because I wanted to claim credit for myself. The truth involves Jerry, and can now be exclusively revealed.

Our (me,Darren, JJ, Cheap Steve, Cheap Steve's mate 'Highway Robber', Nel, John from next door, Steve employees and two full construction gangs) collective failure to remove Concretia still left me with the problem that I could'nt start work on my new extension until the wicked carbuncle was gone. Failure had been massive. The whole affair had become a debacle and neighbours were queueing up to offer advice, then watching as their advice too, bounced off Concretia like a moth bouncing off a window-pane.Of clear back-lit glass. Anyway, to continue.....

.....Desperate, but after much thought, I set about digging under the 6ft by 12ft raft of concrete, reasoning that I could then drill small holes through it to weaken it. The possibilities I was considering for breaking it up after weakening it included fire, more pneumatic drills, brimstone, magic, genetically modified mice with diamond tipped teeth and plastic explosive. It had become an obsession. Jerry walked into this mess, as I was spelunking my nemesis, and was introduced by our mutual friend JJ. I explained to Jerry, more as a by-the-by than anything else, what I was about. The great man sized up the situation shrewdly, then said, quietly:

"Let me give it a little hit?"

I handed him my remaining sledgehammer, raising a sceptical eyebrow at JJ, who had been attacking Concretia with me the previous day. JJ smirked back knowingly. Our endeavours had made so little impression on Concretia that we began to doubt our heritage, specifically our forefather's legend's about how the Irish had dug the English' canals. Either stonebreaking was not genetic, which meant that our forefathers had lied to us, or, if it was, our Irish genes were diluted. Which also meant our forefathers had lied to us.

JJ and Nel at Jerry's Birthday Party. [Note; it is possible that posting this entirely unflattering picture will be my last mortal act. In my defence, and for the record, may I say that I only posted it because the facial expressions are funny, and the image in no way is a true representation of either of these individuals, who, as we all know, are stunningly good looking. If, however, RHB does enact on my person a hideous revenge, I hereby bequeath my entire "Mexico 70" album to JJ].

Jerry hefted the sledgehammer, testing the weight. It was a cheap thing, as the sledgehammer budget has been completely blown the previous week. Jerry looked thoughtfully at the immovable object polluting my backyard. Feet slightly apart, he gave one long swing, towards a region of the malevolence I had been relentlessly, ineffectually, bashing for most of the previous day. The next few seconds were in slow motion, etched into my brain like Steven Gerrard's header in the Istanbul 2005 Champion's League Final, as the hammer head hit, then cracks spread, Concretia sagged, crumbled and broke. JJ, , stepped backward, astonished:

"Jesus, Jerry!!" he declared in his broad Dublin accent "You're a horse of a man!"

I too exclaimed, but as with most Liverpudlians, my voice raises several octaves when excited, amazed or scared, so all anyone would have witnessed of my own visage was an open mouth. In the distance, dogs barked.

Genetically, JJ and I needed a cup of tea and sipping it comfortably, we asked Jerry how," in the name of God", he had accomplished his feat. Accents are a curious thing, but there's something about the Jamaican accent that enables it to deliver the deepest wisdom, simply. Jerry just looked modest.

" Hit it were it come. That's all. You gotta hit it were it come."

Over a year later, we're sitting in Jerry and Sarah's back yard, eating the delicious trout that Jerry, Shaka, and JJ caught that day, and sipping spiced rum. The males are telling stories and the females are commenting on how the males "embellish" these oft told tales. JJ and I concur with theopinion that there's no story thats so good it cant get a little bit better. Even so, I refrain, on this occasion, from referring to Concretia, as RHB has had a hard day's travel, and heard the story before.

Our own back yard is now much improved from the days of Concretia, although not quite ready for numbers of visitors yet, although, thanks to Jerry (and everyone else who helped) it soon will be. Last week, I promised to post a picture. Below are two pictures, the yard as it was, and the yard as it is. It feels good to look at them :

Close examination of the above picture will reveal a particularly satisfied, pinkish cat. Concretia, Evil Empress of the BAck Yard has been replaced by Toshack, Canadian Barn Cat and Sun King.

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