Wednesday, 22 December 2010

The Holly and the Ivy and the Artful Dodger

The last couple of days I've mostly been stealing holly. That's the thing with British culture - Dickens is the default setting. Mind you, the Head of Animal Care, an honest woman, did part with ready money, and got a lovely couple of bunches of fresh holly for three quid odd at the Women's Institute market. I too have been honestly to the shops for vegetables, vanilla essence, more beer, and the the like. But - apologies - sod the angelorum, the ox, the ass and that. What I want is dark greenery with blood berries, the spiky woodland by the barrow load, in the house. And the only ways to get the good stuff are a bit dodgy.

This means I've been in the lost lanes behind the supermarket with secateurs (and was rumbled by a spaniel), and sneaking into the allotments (with my own key - I'm not a complete felon). The weather suits a hood. Who questions a wheelbarrow or a rucksack? What a polite man whoever that winterthief was. And as I've been about my sometimes perfectly upright business this last couple of days (I did go literally arse over elbow on the ice yesterday morning), I have seen some stranger things than myself.

One was a girl who was dressed for the weather from the waist up, but otherwise was wearing just black tights. As fashion it was odd. Would you go swimming in the Mediterranean in August in a balaclava? Another thing is all that black stuff in the road. I know it's snow mixed with dirt, but it looks as if a Slush Puppy factory had burst doing liquorice flavour. It's one of the things that makes everything very black and white at the moment.

When I went to the allotment, I was unsurprisingly the only person there. I was however not the only creature in evidence. There were tracks everywhere: foxes, cats, crows and magpies - which are about as black and white as you get. One bird had been in a circle where our potatoes once were. A fox had walked across the garlic.

On my way back a hearse went by. There were flowers in the big window and a lightwood box. I knew it was a Rolls Royce from the flying lady on a radiator grill like a headstone. The deceased was accompanied by black clad gentlemen in tall hats up the white road. He or she was followed by two more big long rollers, black as liquorice, with two rows of seats stuffed with mourners in smart black coats.

It seems distinctly possible that crime might be a sensible move after employment in the public sector, and the Artful Dodger would, I'm sure have plenty to say about the opportunities emerging from the present political scene. In fact I think I passed Charles Dickens too - anyway someone who was mumbling in a big coat that was dark against the mucky snow as I went by with the holly.

God bless us, everyone!

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