Thursday, October 25, 2007

Union Jack

I chat with my new chum, [English] as opposed to 'pal,' [American] via Facebook. We debate our respective artistic talents, or lack thereof.

She has created a damned fine Jack-o-Latern, which she describes as a pumpkin. I forgive her foolish English ways because I have the advantage, since I am an American in October. In October in America, everything is orange, as we are in the Halloween month. Silly English people do not know that Halloween is not a day’s holiday, but 31 days of cats, bats and spiders. Globalization will ensure that during the course of the next decade Britannia will no longer be red, but a violent shade of neon orange.

Her nifty little digits manipulate the computer keyboard to create a virtual cheery faced carved pumpkin, whereas my stubby little thumbs and wilting brain, are not up to the task. I applaud chum’s efforts and excuse my own. Chum makes reference to art classes when we were smaller and clad in school uniforms. This thought prods me to remember my own creations in papier mache and chicken wire, the mesh variety. I distinctly remember fashioning a creature with a head and tail, a bulbous body and four stumpy legs. As I painted slimy orange varnish over the purple and green paint, I worried that the end result would be less than pleasing. The end result was so fantabulous it deserved a spot in the Tate, on it’s very own pedestal: ‘Dinosaurish Dragon’ by Carol the Barrel aged 9.

To say that I was proud of mache mess would be an understatement. I honoured him with the name of Fred, the best name in the whole wide world ever.

These days, I reserve my talents for the real thing, hacksaw and flesh, of the pumpkin variety.

A little while back, I was beguiled by my eldest daughter, to buy a pumpkin carving kit and a 10 lb pumpkin to carve. Her request was hard to resist. The supermarkets were full of both these items and as newly arrived aliens, we were still trying hard to fit in, get with the programme and assimilate. I quickly discovered that the leather hide of a pumpkin, is resistant to little plastic carving tools. Whilst I had a fully equipped kitchen, I found that I had never had cause to purchase a maschete.

If truth be told our first attempts were pretty feeble, another steep learning curve to be tackled.

It is only now that I am old and mold that I remember when Fred fell out of favour. It was during the dreaded teen years of course. Although I was a teenager in years, I was way behind my cool peers, even though the words ‘cool’ and ‘peers’ did not exist, except in the chilly hallowed corridors of the House of Lords. Fred and other treasures were displayed on the top of my chest of drawers, so that everyone could admire my creations. The odd pop poster had begun to appear on my walls, but they were mainly my older sister’s cast offs, rather than a positive choice of my own. They were merely for ‘show.’

One day, my parents had guests around to visit. Their guests had children. The children were approximately our age. It surprised me to learn that whilst our parents had fun with their friends, we were expected to entertain their friends’s off-spring. I knew I was on uncertain ground, because the manners that were ingrained in us were appropriate for interaction with adults. “How do you do?” and “very well thank you,” wasn’t going to get us very far with other children of our own age. We were each assigned a ‘child’ to accompany, a bit like the buddy system so prevalent in America currently. I took mine to my bedroom, and my siblings did likewise. My ‘child’ was a boy. My ‘child’ was a boy and a couple of years younger that me, which meant he slotted neatly into the same category as my younger brother. Younger brothers are easy to entertain and fun to be with, even though there were no handy trees to climb in my bedroom. Girls were more tricky. I did have dolls and dressing up clothes, but my preference was for ‘nasty little messes’ or monkey bars.

The best thing to do with younger brothers is to attempt Lego, or play cowboys and Indians or search for insects. Since we were inside the house, insects were likely to be a bit thin on the ground. I was sufficiently aware that the beloved Hobby Horse was a non starter for unfamiliar children, as the boy would be contemptuous of his ravaged state of tattiness coupled with a severe case of mange. We couldn’t play cowboys and Indians anyway, because we’d used up all the caps for the gun and the arrow had snapped. This left Lego.
“Do you like playing Lego?” I beamed as I hauled out a suitcase of plastic from under the bed. The boy wandered around my tiny bedroom touching things.
“Lego?” [there is no plural in England] He peered at things.
“Yes, you know, stick all the bricks together and make something super fun.”
“Super fun?” Clearly he was a very intelligent and observant child.
“Yes, everything you make with Lego is super fun.” Whilst I struggled with the catches on the suitcase lid, he leaned against the dresser.
“What the hell is all this rubbish? Is this your room or is there another baby?” I looked up from my position on the floor, legs stuck out from my itchy but smart tartan kilt.
“Are there three of you, or four of you? Is there another brother or sister?” The word ‘sibling’ has only recently achieved popular usage in Britain.
“Er, no. There’s me, my big sister and my little brother.”
“Is this yours?” He asked pointing at Fred. I got it! My face did not turn purple and green as I grew up several light years to tell a bare faced lie, “no, it’s my brothers.”
“Ha! Good coz it’s worse than a pile of dog pooh.”

I have no recall as to Fred’s ultimate place of rest. But I do know that far from being a pile of dog pooh, some forward thinking pioneer rescued him, Americanized and televised him. I know my bias is obvious, but if Barney had a British accent and a healthy dose of sarcasm he might still win me over.


Hammer said...

Hell I played with stuffed animals and tea sets until I was way too old for it to be considered healthy.

As for barney he is the devil...

Linda said...

This post brought back fond memories of a papier mache covered balloon that I made in 5th grade that I thought was just the coolest thing ever (you covered an inflated balloon with papier mache and then deflated the balloon and removed it once everything was dry and set). It looked like the face of an old man (rather like one of the old duffs who sat in the balcony on The Muppet Show and made snarky comments) and I added cotton hair, painted on a face, and thought it was a work of art worthy of display at the Louvre! Not sure whatever happened to the old guy but when your Dad is military and you move around a lot, you lost a lot of things.

As for carving pumpkins you want to know what works the best? A Dremmel tool! You can make some amazing works of art with one of those babies let me tell you. Unfortunately, the ex got the Dremmel Tool when we split to if I'm going to carve a pumpkin it's done the old-fashioned way - with a knife!

whitenoise said...

Yes, sometimes we give the critics too much power over our lives...

Barney, though... Thankfully, all three of my kids are past that

whitenoise said...

...stage. ;-)

(I have no idea how this post was truncated...)