Friday, March 11, 2005

Eyebrows: Fireball woe


You asked - nay, demanded - this story, and caving in like the Tottenham defence, here it is.

Ours was a deep, special, pure kind of love, and we were to be wed. Stop laughing at the back there.

We were married on Adolf Hitler's 102nd birthday in a little church next door to a nuclear weapons factory. I'm afraid I disgraced myself rather at the reception (excuse: booze, twattery) and we both woke the following morning, in a freezing hotel room the size of a shoe box rather the worse for wear.

Now, some of you, especially the men, will scowl at me for getting married at 3pm on a Saturday during the football season. And you'd be right, it was an act that went everything that I stood for and a glaring cock-up on my part. It was only the fact that Arsenal's opponents for that day - Sheffield Wednesday - were stuffing Manchester United 1-0 in the League Cup Final, saved the weekend from total disaster.

In fact, the whole wedding business meant I only missed two whole games, but I was back in circulation in time for a 6-1 win at Highbury on the last day of a championship-winning season. Good thing I had my priorities sorted out, eh?

Yet, with heads filled with concrete, we faced a 200 mile drive to South Devon for what would be a glorious, sunsoaked honeymoon, doing the tedious lovey-dovey things that young marrieds like us do. Taking little heed of the warning "You're not bringing that bloody duck with you", by way of a present, I bought her a fluffy penguin called Trevor - after Trevor Senior, Reading FC's lanky, curly-haired, gap-toothed striker who looks nothing like a penguin and is allergic to fish. And I was wondering when our first row would kick off.

It was cold there, damn cold, with a wind blowing straight off Dartmoor into our front room. And what a room! It boasted spectacular views over Brixham Harbour (venue of the World Fishermens Friend Sucking Championships 2005 - FACT!), the world's biggest sofa, a TV which could receive nearly three channels and a genuine antique gas fire.

Did I mention it was cold in there?

"Why don't you light the fire, then, penguin boy?"

On our arrival that Sunday evening, we found that we had to go out and get hold of one or two essentials that the house needed. Food. Toilet paper. That sort of stuff. And sodding difficult in a town which closes at 5pm on a Saturday and doesn't reopen until they've removed all the lepers on Monday morning. About an hour later, following a trek of several miles, I found what we needed in the only 24 hour garage in Devon, and returned in triumph. Lawks-a-lordy, we take take a dump without having to use a three-year-old edition of the Radio Times.

Alas, when it came to the gas fire, we had no matches.

But we did have the ignition on the gas cooker in the kitchen.

So, that's what I did. Only, and here comes the woe, dear reader, I did it all in the wrong order.

Gas on. Run to the kitchen. Light the gas burner. Roll up old copy of Radio Times into a makeshift wick. Light paper. Run back to the front room. Watch as paper goes out. Run back to the kitchen. Repeat steps 2-5, and lunge at gas fire with smouldering TV listings.


My entire world went blue.

Blue, the light of burning natural gas, mixed with orange, the light of burning duck.

After Mrs Duck had stamped out the flames through tears of mirth, we surveyed the damage. No eyebrows. Hair reduced to a Bobby Charlton-esque combover. My lovely new, white fisherman's-style jumper a fetching shade of charred brown. The gas fire was burning away merrily, laughing at my dice with death, Mrs Duck cursing the fact that the life insurance payout would have to wait.

Also in that week of bliss: a monkey pissed on my foot at Paignton Zoo, the exhaust fell off the car, and I was continually dive-bombed by vengeful seagulls until I looked like an accident at the Tippex factory. A romantic picnic somewhere in the South Hams led to assault-by-cow and a trip on the Dartmouth ferry resulted in a major search and rescue exercise.

It gave me the distinct impression, as I moved from my days as a feckless youth into my adult years of marriage and responsibility, that somebody up there was trying to tell me something. And it was this: "You're a cunt. And grow some eyebrows."

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