Thursday, 13 February 2014

Hannah The Hired Hyundai

I was listening to an article on the radio the other day discussing the latest fundraising idea for these cash-strapped times: hiring out your car.  Yes, once we took in lodgers, then we started renting out our drives, now we can hire out our cars.  Sounds great, but the ensuing discussion concluded that as people treat hire cars very badly, trashing the gearbox in particular, it's a very bad idea.  I sat cringing. Not that anyone would want to borrow the 'Tales-mobile' with its ankle deep detritus of half-eaten chips, Christmas tree needles and ancient receipts, but when it comes to the treatment of hire cars, guilty as charged mi'lud.  Ahem.

You see, last week the Tales-mobile came off worse after an argument with a particularly belligerent pothole.  Turning up the radio didn't drown out the metallic grinding sound coming from the front wheels, so it was off to the garage with my funky green golf.  Now, a country gal can't live without her wheels, so I hired a car.

Son-the-elder took one look and christened it 'Hannah the hired Hyundai' in an attempt to make the silvery grey car sound more exciting than it looked.  I took one look at its pristine paintwork, immaculate interior and minuscule mileage, and promptly handed over extra insurance money.  I drove home like a mouse creeping through a cat jamboree, apologising to the car every time we hit an unavoidable puddle, and going to great lengths to avoid potholes.  I was being so careful - so far, so good.

But, and this is a huge 'but' - the Tales-mobile boasts an automatic gearbox, and Hannah the hired Hyundai was most definitely, squareishly manual.  And yes, while I surprised myself at how easily I made the transition from automatic to manual, there were some real howlers.

I stalled it more times than I care to admit.  Hitting speed along the dual carriageway, it was some miles until I realised that screaming sound wasn't a particularly unusual backing track on the radio,
but what happens if you hit 60 in second gear.  "Is it meant to do that?" son-the-elder vocalised both boys' concerns as it broke Olympic long jump records, kangarooing up the drive as I tried to start it having forgotten I'd left it in gear.

I gave my most charming smile as the man at the hire garage asked if I'd had any problems.  "No, not at all," I breezed.  What I meant was I'd probably caused all sort of damage, but no way I was going to admit to it.

So no, in case you were thinking hiring out your car is a good idea, it isn't.  You might get someone like me driving it.  She whom the garage ask without fail every time I ring them "what have you done this time?"  Some of us shouldn't be allowed to hire cars.  But don't tell anyone.  After all, a country gal needs her wheels.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Chicken Tikka and a Slice of Humble Pie

Our grand old lady, the last of our hens died a couple of weeks ago.  Chicken Tikka, despite being dubbed ‘the immortal chicken’ hopped off to the great scratching ground in the sky.  She was ten years old, and the feistiest old bird you could imagine.  She wasn’t afraid of anything.  Dog, cats, kids: they all received a ferocious peck if they got too close.  She used to stand on the grass and watch as I thundered towards her with the petrol mower.  You could imagine her spitting baccy as I approached; it was me and the mower who’d have to change course.

Son-the-elder was philosophical; she’d had a good life.  He asked if we’d be getting more hens, but when I mentioned the great mite disaster, he was disappointed but accepting of my declaration we were never keeping chickens again.  Not so son-the younger.

At first he was indignant.  “Why?”  He asked when I told him Tikka had died, followed by “can we get a new one?”  No way, I said.


He protested all evening.  “Why?  It’s not fair.  I want a new chicken  Chickens are cute.” (his current obsession is with all things ’cute’)

I was a rock in the face of this barrage, hard and unyielding. No, I said.  No more chickens.  No no no.

And to prove my point, I gave away the henhouse.  Yeah, I said to friends and neighbours, anyone who would listen, it’s free to a good home.  But I felt really sad the day it went, when I cleaned it out and rounded up all things chicken for its new owners.

You see, I miss Tikka.  I miss her strutting around.  I miss seeing her running down the garden to see if I’ve got food.  I miss hearing her coming in through the back door clucking for titbits.  I miss the host of wild birds, the pheasants, pigeons and magpies who used to visit the garden to pinch her food; even the sparrows seem to be shunning us now.  There is a yawning space where she used to live at the bottom of the garden.  And when I spent yesterday gardening, there was a chicken-shaped gap - no one scuffling around me looking for bugs and worms.

No more chickens, I said.  But I could kick myself now for being so adamant, so quick to give away the henhouse, so hasty to broadcast the end of my chicken-rearing days.  Because I can see I’m going to have to eat a large slice of humble pie.  I know I’m going to wind up getting more hens.  But there's one more thing I'm going to have to do besides save up for a new henhouse.

I'm going to have to find a way to stop son-the-younger thinking pester-power wins the day!

Not the best picture, but she was a gorgeous old bird.  And no, she hadn't just laid a football...

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