The Fire in Pudding Lane

I'm having a day of vague and wandering thoughts ... an after effect no doubt of this rotten cold virus that I've had , and which I'm sure many of you have had , are having , or will be starting with at the exact moment you are reading these words .
And what else would I do with my mental debris but share it with you?

What you have ever done to deserve it I don't know , but I'm sure that at some point in your life you have done something bad enough to warrant this , my secondhand retribution .
And if you can say hand on heart that you haven't , then if I were you I would dream up one doozie of a sin to commit just to make this reading worthwhile .
I felt well enough this morning to partake in a little retail therapy , and as I dawdled along in the sunshine on my way between the sacred twin portals of Debenhams and House of Fraser , a song from my childhood shot into my mind .

Possibly a misfire somewhere in the grey matter caused by my penchant for Night Nurse tablets washed down with Baileys of an evening , but nonetheless a truly unexpected blast from the past .
You are probably not anywhere near old enough to remember it , but the song was called " Little Boxes " .
It went ..
Little boxes on a hillside
Little boxes made of ticky tacky
Little boxes , little boxes , little boxes in a row
There's a pink one and a green one , a blue one and a yellow one
And they're all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same .

Now , for some reason , at the tender age of six I just assumed that these " little boxes " were coffins .
Maybe it was the bit about them being on a hillside that did it ... that impression of being away from everything .. Sort of wild and lonely .
I don't know .
What I do know is that I didn't have an evil nanny or a wicked stepmother who put that rather odd image into my immature brain , so I guess it's just that my mind has always leaned towards the slightly strange and macabre .
And as for the " ticky tacky " .... I decided that was a probably a bit like papier mache .... cheap to make , a bit rough , knobbly and a quite reasonably appropriate material to use in the construction of these lonely little hillside coffins .

And every time I heard the song I changed my mind about which colour I would like for my eventual " ticky tacky box " .
One day I would be dead set on the pink ( so to speak ) , and would give firm instructions to my ever so slightly worried mother not to order me anything else .
But the next time I heard it I would find myself beginning to lean more towards the green ... after all , it would blend in far better with the whole hillside scenario .

Now , if you played me the same song today I would probably see the little boxes as houses .
" Why ? " is just as relevant a question , as I have yet to see a row of houses on a hillside in that particular blend of shades , and the only thing that " ticky tacky " brings to my mind is that blue gummy stuff that kids stick their posters to the walls with .
And my point is ??
Simply how your perception of things changes with age .

Or perhaps as adults we just don't admit to being individual enough to see or do anything any differently to anyone else .
Now me .... I see it as a positive bonus .

I air my psychedelic thoughts on a regular basis , and have been known to share my rather unconventional ideas at the drop of a hat .
I am totally immune to the curious glances that pass between people as I ramble to my conclusions , and positively take delight in their confused expressions as they attempt to make sense of my reasoning .
I believe firmly in challenging the boundaries ... of taking the more unexplored options and then trying to find my way back to reality .

I was the pupil who , when presented with diagrams of molecular structure , atoms , polarity , and the spaces in between that form a solid mass , decided that our planet and the stars which form our known galaxy looked very similar in their structure .
And I proceeded to put to the stunned biology tutor the theory that this world which we inhabit may be simply an atom floating in a space with millions of other atoms that may actually , in the infinite view of things , make up a tiny part of some gigantic chair leg in another , much larger universe .
I was credited with " radical and imaginative thinking " on my school report , but found that afterwards most members of staff avoided catching my eye during discussions of anything more intricate or open to interpretation than simple addition .

I was also the pupil who , when instructed by the science master to mix the blue crystals with the white powder over the Bunsen burner , thought it much more interesting to see if the blue crystals mixed with the red crystals would produce a much less predictable shade of purple .
The answer to this question is still unknown as the science block was swiftly evacuated and remained closed for several days .
I still catch glimpses of these odd tendencies in my children .
Neither of my girls has ever conformed to the realms of what is considered to be normal behaviour , and neither has ever been shy of asking a question however strange it may seem to outsiders .

In fact , just this morning my younger daughter ( who also has this cold , and who was my accomplice on the retail therapy trip ) asked me quite calmly " When you've got a cold and you're sick of blowing your nose , if you're on your own do you ever just let it run . You know ... right down to your chin . ? "
To which I replied " Of course . Doesn't everybody ? "
I took as a " No " the sound of the woman at the table behind us in Starbucks choking on her Skinny caramel macchiato .

I can only imagine how shocked said woman would have been had she been at our house last Christmas Day .
It was that natural break between huge Christmas dinner and pudding , and we had all been steadily consuming the wine since the cooking process begun .
I decided that it might be best to serve up the traditional Xmas pud while everyone was still conscious and able to chew , and made my way into the kitchen .
Daughter followed , clearing the table , as I removed the pudding from its wrapper .
This year I had decided on a supermarket " Best of " range , and gone for the sticky toffee version which I hadn't seen before .

I stood before the microwave , pudding pot in hand , and peered at the instructions , but as the words were slightly blurred I thought it best to treat it as any other pudding and just shove it in the machine for two and a half minutes .
Job done , I turned to speak to daughter who was still trudging to and fro with plates and glasses , just in time to catch the full force of her scream in my face .
I turned in the direction of her wildly gesturing hands and encountered a funnel of flames within the microwave , which was growing higher and fiercer as the turntable spun steadily on .

I grabbed a pair of oven gloves and wrenched open the door , snatched the flaming dessert from its smoky confines , ran out of the kitchen door and dumped it unceremoniously onto the wooden patio table .
Somewhere on the boundaries of my hearing I recall the word " toilet " being uttered with some urgency , but I was a little distracted as the fresh outdoor air had only served to increase the inferno which raged within its burgundy plastic container .
Dark red melted matter dripped between the slats of the table .
Onto the cat who had followed me out of the house by force of curiosity .

I flapped my oven gloves , firstly at the pudding , then at the cat who's fur was beginning to send up a spiral of smoke , twisting gently in the late afternoon breeze .
Through the patio doors I could see my husband who had dawdled over and draped himself across the sofa to watch the scenario unfold ( with little apparent concern for me , the pudding or the cat ) and as I flapped away I heard his deep toned voice raised in song .... " Happy Birthday to you , Happy Birthday to you .... " as my pudding continued to blaze on the table before me .

At this point I collapsed in laughter , slinging the singed oven gloves across the garden , and through my hilarity all I could hear was my daughter in the bathroom above groaning " Oh no . Oh no ... "
She came downstairs a few minutes later with her knickers in a pedal bin bag .

It seems that she had known that she needed the loo while she was clearing the table , but had decided to finish the job first .
Then the sight of me flapping my oven gloves inanely at the still closed door of the microwave oven had just tickled her sense of humour , reducing her to sufficiently strong gales of laughter to precipitate a piddle .
And of course , like Magnus Magnusson , she had started and so she had had to finish .
All the way through the hall and halfway up the stairs .
So , cleaned up , washed and changed , did she feel a bit of an idiot ?
Was she embarrassed that it had happened in front of the entire family congregation ?
No .

She remains to this day extremely proud that at the age of 28 she had at last found something sufficiently funny to actually cause her to pee her pants laughing .
And I have learned to always read the label. Learned that instructions are important .
Especially the one that says " remove foil lid before heating " .

J xx


The End

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