When they were young, my sons, in common with many other little boys, enjoyed nothing better than a kick about in the back garden. Actually, that’s not strictly true, because they were also into Power Rangers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Zippy from Rainbow (though they would deny the last on the point of a sword! As for George, the gender confused pink hippo – nuff said!) Anyway, for the purposes of this blog, let’s just stick with the footie. Now, Old Jack (people often qualified this by adding ‘boots’ on the end) really put the cur in curmudgeon. His DNA was a mixture of Alf Garnett, Victor Meldrew and Attila the Hun – and that was with calm weather and a fair day. Still, the little bit of good that is in everyone, manifested itself in Jack’s green fingers, and the very fine garden that came about as a result of his working them to the bone.
Unfortunately for Jack, my kids’ football often manifested in his garden too, generally right in the middle of his prized begonias – which is when Jack would go into complete meltdown. Presaged by a roar that caused the dead to wonder if the Day of Judgment was already to hand, Jack would appear, nose over the garden fence, carving knife in one hand, football in the other, demanding answers – always to the same question. ‘How do you want it back, you little b*##!!!s sliced or diced?’
Time has rolled by and Jack has long since gone to fertilise another plot, still putting his body, if not his soul into it. My sons have grown up, grown out of football and grown into girls – though not literally. I have grown too, things horticultural, herbs, vegetables, flowers. More than that, my sympathy has grown – for Jack – may the angels help him prune his heavenly garden and sharpen his carving knife! More than that, I am proud to pick up his Alf/Victor/Attila mantle and wear it with pride. Why? Because, right next door, two ‘orrible little b*##!!!s are forever kicking their football into the middle of my prized herb garden and flattening the oregano and Greek basil (I got the last heavily discounted, much like their national debt!).
To date, I have been patient, smiled my understanding I-know-what-it’s-like-to-be-the-mother-of –ruffians smile at their apologetic, (but not apologetic enough),mother. My patience has worn thin to the point of emaciation. My carving knife is as honed as Mark Cavendish’s thighs on the final lap of the Tour de France. But, I won’t be grabbing the football. I’ll be grabbing the brats and demanding answers from their mother. ‘How do you want your little b*##!!!s back, sliced or diced?’
Footnote: Outside, there is the steady thwack thwack of a football against my garden fence. One of the timbers has already come loose and is swinging forlornly like an arm that has been wrenched out of its socket. ‘Boot it harder, you wuss,’ comes the piped instruction, from an owner whose testicles still have a long way to descend. The fear from the herb bed is palpable. On the kitchen counter the carving knife gleams dully . . .