Day 12: Small Pleasures

Mrs Playmo enjoying the small pleasures in life with Smelly Dog, whose head appears to make a very good impromptu slide.

Mrs Playmo enjoying the small things in life with Smelly Dog, whose head appears to make a n excellent makeshift slide.

Day twelve’s walk started off quietly. Mrs Playmo and I were still shell-shocked from recent events, and the subdued, mellow sunlight bathing the vineyards seemed to echo our state of mind.

After a few hundred meters, Mrs Playmo asked why we were being so mopey. We were, she argued, wasting precious time. “Life’s there to be lived, honey-bun!” she chirped before scaling Smelly Dog’s leg. She clambered dangerously along the furry backbone, a female equivalent of Indiana Jones on the roof of a train, and hoisted herself on to Smelly Dog’s skull. Sitting between the two floppy ears, she yelled “Yeeeee- ha!” and pointed into the distance before pulling hard on them and bellowing, “Onwards, and forwards, my faithful steed. To infinity… and beyond!”

I had a sneaky feeling that she had combined John Wayne, Napoleon and Buzz Lightyear in her head. As far as I was concerned, she looked uncannily like Alice astride the Bandersnatch, with a truckload of attitude and a black corset. She attained the result she had hoped for: I laughed.

Letting go of Smelly Dog’s ears, she slid down her steed’s nose and landed neatly on her feet, her face flushed with pleasure. “Ta – daaaah!” She eyed me from head to toe, sniffed and added: “C’mon. You might have given up the rosé, but your muffin top is still drooping for Britain. Lets walk.” So we did.

For those who are new to the blog, check out this post to understand what this is all about.

Day 10: Roxanne.

Rooooxanne, you don't have to put on that red light....

Rooooxanne, you don’t have to put on the red light….

Mrs Playmo and I have been literally run off our feet over the last three days. Our apologies for not having posted earlier – Mrs P said I should lie, but I won’t. We’ve walked, and we’ve worked, and we haven’t drunk a drop of alcohol. Or rather, I haven’t. Mrs Playmo is taunting me with her bottle of rosé every night, but I’m still going strong. So here is day ten, with our apologies for a lateness most French people attribute to the SNCF.

On day ten, Bigfoot was back at the ranch. So was my workload. So by the time I’d got to the end of my working day, the sun had set and our usual stomp through the vineyards necessitated a miner’s helmet equipped with lamps. I decided to drag Smelly Dog and Mrs Playmo out for a new itinerary – along the road. Bigfoot elegantly offered to accompany me in case I met any tall, dark, handsome strangers / Kalachnikov-toting loons along the way. Within ten minutes, he was asking me to slow down and enquiring just how long this walk would be, and I couldn’t help feeling a tad smug.

That feeling didn’t last long -Smelly Dog is scared of the dark and hates walking along the street. She dragged us at top speed around the route and only slowed down when she recognized the final stretch home. This made for a top-speed power walk that quickly had Bigfoot and I completely bushed.

And what about Mrs Playmo in all this, you ask? The answer is, we left without her. Not because we didn’t want her company, but because she had disappeared. We checked below the sofa having accused the cat of using her for mouse-chasing training, to no avail. Zilch.

Half-way around our circuit, Bigfoot stopped and pointed to a small figure stood in the lamplight. She was clutching her new handbag, and pretended not to see us as a car stopped beside her. Mrs Playmo quickly opened the door and got into the passenger seat, leaving Bigfoot and I astounded.

“Mum, I don’t think she’s told you the entire story.” Bigfoot grinned and started singing “Roxanne”.  “It’s Friday night and your protégée is hanging around in a red dress under a street light? Sorry, but this looks decidedly dodgy for a blogpost about something as innocent as Playmobils.”

She has remained silent about the event ever since. We hope that it was her taxi for her pole-dancing slot at the local dive, but we can’t be sure….

If you are wondering what this is all about, check out “The Great Outdoor Playmo Challenge”.

Day Nine: The Cabbage Patch Kids

The Cabbage Patch Kids hanging about at "Ze Chou".

The Cabbage Patch Kids hanging about at “Ze Chou”.

Mrs Playmo refused to be in the picture yesterday due to events beyond her control. She did not have a good day, so I went along with her request to be absent from the picture.

She had already clipped her dress on back to front in her haste to leave the house, and had been decidedly snappy and irritable when I asked why she was in such a hurry.

As we approached the cabbage patch, she started looking around nervously and fiddling with her (-or should I say Amanda Shacklebottom’s-) handbag.  “Are you expecting to see someone in particular?” I enquired, thinking back to her expression the evening before on chatting with the tall, dark and decidedly handsome Eric. “Do you think he’ll let you play with his truncheon tonight?”

Mrs Playmo turned on me, furious. “How dare you! It’s nothing like that! I’m… I’m… The vicar’s wife!” Flushed with anger and embarrassment, she ran ahead of me, and stopped beneath a cabbage leaf. As she opened her mouth to add a new lie to the equation, she was soaked from head to foot. Loud laughter ensued, and four small heads peeked over the leaf above us. The cabbage patch kids are not just a myth, they really exist in Playmobilia. They are crafty little things, and Mrs Playmo hates them (she assures me that the fact that they are Amanda Shacklebottom’s offspring has absolutely nothing to do with it).

“Are you wet, Mrs Playmo? Gosh, can’t imagine how that happened”. Uncontrollable laughter ensued. Mrs Playmo angrily brushed herself off. (Being made of plastic can be an advantage – no clothes to dry and no running mascara.). She turned and looked up at the children, shaking her fist and yelling, “I’ll ‘ave yer guts for garters, yer miserable li’l toads. When I get my ‘ands on you, I’ll slap yer so ‘ard you’ll end up with yer kecks on back to front!”

I was astonished, but made a mental note to remember her rather cool expressions for my own use. I sternly reminded Mrs Playmo that she was, as she had said a few minutes earlier, the vicar’s wife. She grunted and asked me to take a picture of her aggressors for her to show to the police. I have a suspicion that she was happy to have an excuse to visit the local station….

Day Four: All Roads Lead to Roam.

"Mrs Playmo sold the incriminating evidence to the local ecologists. Marcel the mechanic was going to stop burning those tyres in the countryside sooner than he had anticipated."

“Mrs Playmo sold the incriminating evidence to the local ecologists. Marcel the mechanic was going to stop burning those tyres in the countryside sooner than he had anticipated.”

… or to Rome. Or in our case, yesterday, to roam in Roman ruins in and around Nîmes.

“One small step for Mrs Playmo, a huge step for Playmo kind, hey?” I joked as she stumbled along the Via Domitia in her little red dress. Mrs Playmo was nervous, and did not seem to appreciate the singularity of walking on a real piece of Roman road, lost in the French countryside.

“I’m not interested in visiting your Roman Papadum,” she snapped.

“It’s an Oppidum, not a Papadum, Grumpy”, I answered. “Who’s eaten your porridge this morning, anyway?”

Mrs Playmo explained with a glitter in her eye that she had a VIM (Very Important Meeting) with Laurelle Leef, President of the regional Underground Ecological Movement. By selling yesterday’s compromising snaps of Amanda Shacklebottom’s secret riverside rendez-vous, she would not only make herself a bit of extra cash, but could finally sort out the problem of drying her washing on the same day that Marcel burned the tyres behind the village garage. The chance viewing of two lovebirds in the bush had quickly become an ecologically sound way to kill two birds with one stone.

On our arrival at the meeting point, we were instructed to hide in the bushes (this explains the blurred pictures; unlike Mrs Playmo, my paparazzi skills are limited). Laurelle Leef viewed the contents of the memory card on her iStone (an ecological version of the iPhone) and paid up, satisfied that she would now be able to put a stop to the acrid fumes that Marcel sent into the air.

Mrs Playmo hooked her handbag over her shoulder and sashayed back down the Roman road, a noticeable spring in her steps. ‘Now let’s go to Nîmes and find ourselves a Roman lion tamer dressed in leather”, she chortled. “Is there a Chanel store anywhere close?” she enquired, thumbing her way through the wad of 100 euro notes and stashing them away. She patted Amanda Shacklebottom’s handbag with affection. “I want to buy myself the matching shoes”.

If you are new around here and don’t have a clue what this is all about, please read “The Great Outdoor Playmo Challenge“. Yes, I am crazy, and yes, I’m happy this way.

A Compromising Photo of a Compromising Photo

"It was with immense satisfaction that Mrs Playmo immortalized the proof of Amanda Shacklebottom's infidelity. Finally she had a means to get her hands on the pink and cream Versace handbag she had coveted for so long."

“It was with immense satisfaction that Mrs Playmo immortalized the proof of Amanda Shacklebottom’s infidelity. Finally she had a means to get her hands on the pink and cream Versace handbag she had coveted for so long.”

Yesterday Mrs Playmo and I decided to bite the bulllet, and stepped out for a five kilometer hike. On our journey, Mrs Playmo heard mumbling behind the rocks and beckoned to me. Creeping up through the bushes, we spotted two inhabitants of Playmo Street doing their best to hold hands as they watched the waters of the Hérault river tumble past their feet.

“Wait for me here!” Mrs Playmo hissed. “Nobody believed me when I said that Amanda Shacklebottom wasn’t as chaste as her name implies!” She pointed a manicured claw at the couple, sitting on a blanket on the rocky shore. The man was fast discovering that offering flowers to a woman on a bent knee is only something that happens in films in Playmobilia.

“It’s Marcel, the village garage mechanic!” Mrs Playmo gabbled, her eyes wide with incredulity.  “I don’t understand what she sees in him. For lack of a better word, the man’s a complete tool.”

She rummaged in her lurid green handbag and pulled out her camera. Then she was off, creeping up behind them to immortalise the moment on her camera. She returned through the grasses and hauled herself to her feet. “At last. A means of persuasion. See that cream and pink Versace handbag? I’ve been after it for months.”

I made a mental note to confiscate her camera in case she knows any human journalists on the local rag. I am starting to discover the darker side to Mrs Playmo. Under the presentable red dress and string of pearls lies an extortionist and a contortionist. And it’s only day three of the challenge …

If you are new around here and don’t have a clue what this is all about, please read “The Great Outdoor Playmo Challenge”. Yes, I am crazy, and yes, I’m happy this way. 

Day Two: Open-Air Pole Dancing

"Open air pole dancing"

“Open-air pole dancing.”

It is somewhat paradoxical that the outdoor exercise part of my dry January Challenge takes Mrs Playmo and I through numerous local vineyards. Mrs Playmo asked me to hold her dog’s lead then stripped off, placed a feathered hat at a rakish angle on her head and proceeded to practice her pole-dancing techniques on a vine shoot, singing an off-key “You can keep your hat on” that would make Joe Cocker turn in his grave.

She confided on the way home that she sneaks off on Friday nights whilst Mr Playmo is asleep to work in the sleazy joint down the road. It pays for her Tupperware party addiction and her (equally secret) rosé consumption. But don’t tell anyone, or she’ll be struck off the board at the local WI.

 

The Morning After the Night Before…

IMG_7361

“When she woke up on the beach the following morning, Mrs Playmo couldn’t remember much of the New Year’s Eve party. It was, she admitted, as good a time as any to sign up for Dry January.”

As promised, here is Mrs Playmo on day one of my January Challenge. A compromising photo of Mrs Playmo in the great outdoors will be posted every day until the end of January.

 

The Fear Factor: Surviving Parent-Teacher Evenings.

In December I have a parent-teacher evening to attend at the local comp. The word “unenthusiastic” would be an understatement: I am now contemplating the acquisition of a survival bag, brandy flask and stock of cookies for the occasion.

These marathons generally take up to three hours, and use up all my annual stock of British calm. The system is simple: each teacher sits in a room alone. Parents are instructed to write their names on a list outside the rooms for each teacher they want to see, without leaving any lines free. Meetings last five minutes – it’s a bit like speed-dating, but without the romance. The only saving grace for most mothers is getting to see the sports teacher, who is generally fit in every sense of the word.

MM, Ready to join the fray. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

MM, Ready to join the fray. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

If parent-teacher evenings were a TV show, they would be a combination of Benny Hill and Fear Factor. The doors open at the designated time, and parents flood in as if it was Black Friday at Harrod’s. The sooner you are on the lists, the sooner you can get home, and all the parents know it. You chase through the rabbit warren of corridors on different floors to find all the rooms, and when you have written your name on the relevant lists, you pelt back to your first appointment with thirty seconds to spare, only to discover that your name has been struck through because you were not there. This leaves you with a mile-long list of names before the next availability – close to breakfast time. So you chase on to your next appointment, and see that the parent before you has not turned up, so you have been struck off the list again. Get the gist? Bis repetita, ad nauseam, all evening.

Parents share their strategies in hushed whispers. I have tried several. None of them work, and after calculation my mean average time after eight years in comprehensive school corridors is still closer to three hours than two, whatever the strategy used.

This year I observed a new trend in parental strategy: teamwork. Organized couples arrived at five o’clock sharp, equipped with back packs, sports shoes and mobile phones. They shared the list of teachers out equally, pecked each other lovingly on the lips then checked their watches and shot off in separate directions. I suspect that they also had detailed maps, army rations, hydration packs and walkie-talkie wrist watches gleaned from their kids’ cereal packets. Yet three hours later they hadn’t seen the physics teacher, either.

MM prepared twin rockets to send Wondeure Woomane into space, should she be unwise enough to attempt jumping the queue.

MM prepared twin rockets to send Wondeure Woomane into space, should she be unwise enough to attempt jumping the queue. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Then there is the bolder strategy of queue pushing. The most wily queue-pusher is my nemesis, Wondeure Woomane (aka WW). She generally has a file under her arm, and strides purposefully down the corridor like she’s lived there all her life. This confuses everyone long enough for her to sashay into the room and take a seat, whether or not it is her turn. Taking twice the allotted time, she briefs the teacher on how to get the best out of her over-achieving genius. When she finally breezes past the growling posse of parents at the door, their faces betray their hope that her homemade salt dough pendant will swing twice round her neck and throttle her on her way down the corridor.

I should have learned by now, though. I have been attending school meetings with Wondeure Woomane for 15 years. By the time my third contribution to the Franco-British entente cordiale hit infant school, I had become one of those war-scarred veterans who sat in the corner muttering Yoda-like incantations as WW machine-gunned the teacher with her desiderata. Were the school dinners organic? Would the parent whose child had a headlouse breeding facility on his head please put him into quarantine? Oh, and could the  child who had permanently borrowed her offspring’s Himalayan yack wool gloves please return them? She would then get stuck into suggesting everything from vegetable plots to edible paint, class visits to the swimming pool and library, and the organisation of week-long school trips to learn how to build teepees and name an insect at fifty paces.

Wondeure Woomane making suggestions at the PTA.

Wondeure Woomane making suggestions at the PTA meeting. Image: Wikipedia commons.

However, the enthusiasm that Wondeure Woomane showed at school meetings mysteriously waned when the teacher came up trumps with activities for our offspring and asked for helping hands a few weeks later. The excuses she came up with were lamer than Napoleon attempting a handstand. I learned to grit my teeth as she whined that she couldn’t make herself available for the very school outings she had demanded, casting a condescending eye over the other mums then simpering « I’m sorry, I can’t come… I work… » as she gazed flirtatiously up at the teacher though lowered eyelashes. This left we lesser maternal mortals the privilege of accompanying a busload of three year-olds to the swimming pool in the depths of winter. The only exception she ever made was for the end of school trip to meet professional fire fighters. I can’t imagine why.

So wish me luck, guys… and if you read something in the paper about a pedant who choked on her pendant, it wasn’t me. Honest.

Minimalist: The Real Story of Prince Charming.

"Take the money, leave the Prince" - Cinderella, a minimalist feminist.

“Take the money, leave the Prince” – Cinderella, minimalist feminist.

Cinders, the minimalist

Was a mere opportunist.

This girl had already got the gist:

Get money. Disappear in mist.

 

When this story first began

Prince Charming was a fine young man,

But after Cindy R he ran –

And let his life go down the pan.

 

Queen Mother warned of many woes:

« Miss Cinderella picks her nose!

She wears black laddered panty hose,

And on her legs a forest grows! »

 

But Charming yearned to have a whirl

With this obnoxious, haughty girl…

Whilst Cinderella dreamed of pearls

To tangle in her fake blonde curls.

 

He was rich and hot to trot,

So Cinderella hatched a plot

To snare her prince and grab the lot.

She said « yes » quick, and tied the knot.

 

Bright and early the next morning,

Cinders woke as light was dawning.

Scratching her armpits and yawning,

She hid beneath the palace awning.

 

« Time for some fun! » young Cindy said

When Charming staggered out of bed.

Bang! bang! bang! She shot him dead…

and on the floor poor Charming bled.

 

Jumping up and down with glee,

Cindy grabbed the cash to flee.

« Yippee-doo! It’s clear to see

That where there’s muck, there’s brass – for me! »

 

Cindy said, « I have to say

A life of crime does seem to pay.

Hip-hip hurray! Kaloo! Kalay!

I think I’ll do this every day ».

 

This post was inspired by this week’s photo challenge, “Minimalist”. 

Random Reflections on Hair Dye Marketing.

When I sidle up to the hair dye aisle at our local supermarket, it is more by necessity than an overwhelming desire to transform myself into Jessica Rabbit. I’m there because I’m starting to look like a sheepdog that has been put through the tumble drier, and I need functional products that cut the crap and deliver the goods. Cosmetics marketing teams seem to consider my demand to be far too modest for my own good, and I am increasingly flummoxed by their crusade to depict dyeing my hair as an elegant and sensual experience – light years from the reality of squirting a bottle full of chemicals on my head in the family bathroom.

The Food Thing

On my last visit to the hair dye shelf, I twigged that food is one of the main strategies manufacturers use to sell hair dye. My first-world problem of choosing between brown and brown was played out to the music of my stomach, noisily duetting with my neighbour’s rumbling tummy. We made our choices. For MM, “Frosted Chestnut”, finally won the battle with the outsider, “Chocolate Fudge”. My neighbour picked a shade of black called “Blackcurrant” that would probably leave her looking like Morticia Addams dipped headfirst into a vat of Ribena.

No wonder we were hungry: the majority of the colour names referred to food. Licorice, plum, cherry, chilli, paprika or hot chocolate … welcome to a world where you don’t just eat chocolate brownies, you put a liquid imitation of them in your hair and instantly become good enough to eat. The idea of food had simply woken up my happy hormones and titillated my consumer taste buds, making the most inedible of products look appetizing. I will never shop for hair dye before lunch again, because reading about hazelnuts, mango, caramel, burgundy and honey makes me want to dump my basket and run off to raid the cake display.

Gladys always had a brandy to celebrate her

Gladys always had a brandy to celebrate her “me time” before she redecorated the bathroom with hair dye. She’d let the kids out of the garden shed later.  (Source: Wikimedia commons)

Polly Pout and the Instructions Leaflet

I’m always bemused by the glossy instructions sheet. It stars Polly Pout, a sultry seductress sporting red lipstick and a sulfurous gaze. She is delicate enough to fit both hands and feet into the dwarf-sized rubber gloves, and does not have a single grey hair in her impeccably styled mane. Yep, she looks just like we all do before we dye our hair.

She is also far too young for her hair-dyeing equation to include one child staging a sit-down protest outside the bathroom door and another that has climbed on to the toilet seat and is eyeing you suspiciously, pants around his ankles, waiting for the crucial moment when your hands are covered in gunk to utter those fateful words: “Muuummy, I’ve fiiiinished”.

The marketing message here appears to be that an hour in the bathroom dying our hair is all we need to free the Polly Pout hiding deep inside us. I wouldn’t recommend it, though. Although she could star as Bruce Willis’ sidekick in a parody action thriller called “Dye Hard”, Miss Pout will never make it to James Bond girl status as she appears to be all beauty and no brain. Although the instructions clearly state that you should cover your shoulders with a towel before applying the dye, Miss Pout has not only forgotten the towel, but also her clothing. So follow the pictures without reading first at your peril, and don’t forget to lock the front door.

For those who think I'm exaggerating, here is a photo of Polly Pout illustrating points 7 and 8 my instructions leaflet.

For those who think I’m exaggerating, here is a photo I took of Polly Pout illustrating points 7 and 8 in my instructions leaflet.

Glamour and Glove Love

Uber-sexy accessories are the final touch to seduce customers. Back in the noughties, the  rustling pair of transparent gloves stuck to the back of the instructions leaflet were roomy enough to house twin udders. Then the manufacturers down-sized the gloves and put them in a plastic recipient that made your five-year-old go into instant melt-down when he concluded that mummy had stolen his Kinder egg.

Recently, some bright soul down-sized the gloves again and sealed them inside a bag that resists all attempts to be opened (just like its evil counterpart, the sachet of Bee Sweat Extract & Lotus Blossom conditioner). The sleek jet-black gloves it contains are the ideal size for a pre-schooler, and getting my paws into them was like trying to fit Muhammad Ali into Paris Hilton’s swimsuit. So please wake up and smell the peroxide, guys: hands, like other appendages, come in different sizes. I’d hate to have to stain my pristine, unused housework gloves because yours are too small.

The effort to add a bit of sensuality to the mundane experience of hair dye application is much appreciated, but the slippery combination of a satin-feel bottle and undersized, silk-feel gloves was as practical as wearing a sheath dress and high heels to climb the Mont Blanc. The bottle was harder to grasp than French politics, and slipped through my fingers like a two-year-old covered in poster paint.

Thumbs up for the 30 minute wait for the product to work its miracle, though. It gave me ample time to clean up the collateral damage of suspicious brown stains splattered across the bathroom and explain to Little My that although Mummy was swearing like a trooper, had brown ears and was bursting out of her black gloves like Popeye on steroids, with a slap of red lipstick she would be as appetizing as a bowl of frosted chestnuts just in time for Papa’s return from work. Just like Polly Pout.