Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Birthdays and unbirthdays

Before I start, I should warn readers that this post includes some relatively bad language. I could, of course, clear it up, but it’s the duty of the historian to record events as they truly happened. How can he do that if he applies his own moralising filter to the record he is keeping?

The immediate cause of these events was my wife Danielle’s birthday. Now Danielle is difficult to buy presents for. Ask her what she’d like, and her immediate response is always ‘nothing’. So either you surprise her or you push her and prompt her to come up with a suitable present.

‘How about something for your allotment?’ I asked.

Danielle keeps a colossal market garden with a friend, thanks to which we are kept in excellent fresh fruit and vegetables for pretty much half the year. It involves a level of effort I find it exhausting merely to contemplate, but it seems the two of them enjoy it. While I wouldn’t enjoy the work, I certainly enjoy the produce, so we’re all happy about it.

Clearing the allotment:
work has remained backbreaking ever since
‘Ah, yes,’ she said, reflectively. ‘We could do with some horseshit.’

Well, I’m a former marketing man so my specialty is bullshit, but I suppose I could, at a stretch, have fulfilled that wish. But then she astonished me.

‘Actually, what I really need is a ho.’

A ho? That wasn’t the kind of language I expected my wife to use. Nor the kind of need I expected her to have.

Then she confused me still further.

‘You know – like the one they stole from the allotment.’

Surely this would have been something I’d have read about in the papers?

‘An African ho,’ she added in what was obviously intended to be an explanation but only left things as murky as ever for me.

‘it’s the only kind,’ she continued, ‘that seems to break up the earth well. You know, the soil’s so heavy in clay. That broad blade and the long handle, they just break the clods up like a bomb had hit them.’

A hoe! I’d been missing an ‘e’. Amazing the difference a single letter can make.

An African hoe. Not to be confused with an African ho
So she got her hoe. She’s apparently delighted with it. Though to me it just looks like another source of backbreaking work. Still, one should judge other peoples tastes by ones own.

In any case, as Lewis Carroll points out in Alice in Wonderland, unbirthday presents make much more sense that birthday ones. We have, after all, a great many more unbirthdays every year than we have birthdays. So I’m grateful to Danielle for getting me an unbirthday present at the same time as I got her the hoe. A far more expensive gift, as it happens: a pair of walking boots.

Very comfortable they are too. Or eventually became. When I put the first one on, I was surprise to feel how tight it was over the top of my foot – pressing down and even quite painful in the way it rubbed.

‘Oh, well,’ I thought, ‘perhaps if I just walk them in a bit they’ll be quite snug.’

Then I tried to put the other one on. My toes were immediately met by an obstacle preventing my foot sliding in. I took a look. There was a piece of cardboard, the shape of the front part of the upper of the shoe, jammed in the front.

I’m glad to say that it didn’t take me long to work out that if there was a card in one shoe, there might have been one in the other. That somehow I’d managed to get my foot into that shoe despite the card. And that it was its presence that was making the shoe feel tight and painful.

So it turned out. I took the first shoe off. I extracted the card. Thereafter both shoes fitted beautifully.

Result? We’re both pleased with our birthday and unbirthday presents. No bullshit. And no hos.

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