I answered the door the other night to find the young lad from number four standing there, holding a bottle of blackcurrant cordial.
“Can you open this, my dad’s gone out, mum can’t do it, and Greg at number five’s not in?” he said.
I chortled slightly and said ‘course I can’, resisting the urge to stoop and ruffle the lad’s hair in a patronising show of superior masculinity.
He handed me the bottle and I tried to open it. It wouldn’t budge. I tried a little harder. Nothing.
‘Bit tight this isn’t it?’ I said, wheezing slightly from the effort. ‘I’ll just go and get a wet cloth, make it easier to get off’.
The advantage of this was it took me into the kitchen at the back of the house, therefore out of sight.
The next 20 minutes are difficult to describe other than to say they were spent in a variety of positions as I tried, with increasing desperation, to get the top off the damn bottle. At one stage I put on Mrs Canavan’s marigolds for better grip and wedged myself between the kitchen table and the ironing board to give extra leverage. It would not budge.
Finally, when the lad, sounding slightly concerned, called ‘are you OK in there?’ I realised it was time to accept defeat.
I staggered back into the hallway, sweat trickling from my brow and with a blister, an actual blister, on the palm of my hand.
‘No, it’s not right that,’ I said, shaking my head solemnly as if a close relation had unexpectedly passed away. ‘It’s a malfunction in the design. That isn’t going to come off, you’ll have to take it back to the shop.’
Just at that moment, my next door neighbour emerged from his house.
‘You OK?’ he asked. The young lad explained the situation, my neighbour took the bottle and, expanding all the energy of a man opening a bag of crisps, unscrewed the lid with one twist. It took him approximately 1.7 seconds.
Ignoring my feeble cry of ‘I must have loosened it’, the young lad shook my neighbour’s hand, turned briefly to shoot me a look halfway between sympathy and ‘you loser’, and trotted home to have his drink and tell his mum about the weakling at number two.
I headed inside to put a plaster on my blister and scribble a note saying ‘things to do tomorrow: join gym’.
* Interviewed Russell Watson the other day and he came out with a nice line.
Telling me he’d been to the Illuminations recently, he said: “I took the kids but we didn’t get there till quite late – my daughter’s a teenager now so she had to have a bath and stick her fake tan on before she’d leave the house.”
The joys of parenthood.
French fancy too far
It has been a difficult week, mainly because I have betrayed Mrs Canavan and had a romantic liaison with an attractive 40-year-old Frenchwoman.
Let me explain.
I was in London earlier in the week and walking from Euston Station to my hotel, when a lady tripped on a kerb and fell face first on to the pavement.
Nobody, and I mean not a single person, stopped to help. Naturally, as any other Northerner worth their salt would have done, I raced over, picked up her and her bags and generally checked she was OK.
The woman thanked me profusely, explained she was over from Paris on a business trip, and insisted on writing her name, telephone number and email address on a card. ‘Email me, I want to say thank you,’ she said, then departed.
Now working on the theory she was a millionaire and might respond to the email of the kind stranger who had helped her by depositing thousands of pounds into his bank account, I kept the card with her details on.
The next day I returned home and was unpacking my bags when Mrs Canavan spied the card.
Within five minutes she had become convinced I had been unfaithful and was embroiled in a passionate affair with a dusky French maiden.
I have since had to cook the tea and wash up, hoover, decorate the lounge, and bring her a nightly cocoa complete with digestive biscuit on a small plate.
We won’t be going to Paris any time soon.