Smokey the Magnificent

Failing the Turing Test since 1986


1. We moved house. Oof. I’d forgotten what a horrific experience it is. Specifically, revealing one’s filthy underfridge to a room full of one’s nearest and dearest. I realise that most people’s underfridges aren’t exactly pristine, but I doubt they have ecosystems of such breathtaking complexity. Speaking of which, there was a dead mouse under my desk. And a lovely older woman from church did the vacuuming for me and kept coming up to me with small bits of smeg held gingerly in her fingers, asking politely “Do you want to pack this?” So, y’know, that was fun.

On the bright side: we have a house. We are Legitimate Adult Homeowners. We could rip out walls, if we wanted. Only of course we can’t, because we’re paralysed with fear that whatever we do will introduce dry rot, constitute a fire hazard, short out the electrical work, collapse something load-bearing or melt the drywall. Which, indeed, it might. We’re not what you’d call DIY wizards. We’re not what you’d call DIY barely-competent. So for now, the rashest thing we’ve done is plant a lime tree; and even then, I’m not entirely confident we put it in the right place.

Actually I’ve planted quite a few things. The previous owners left the garden in a barren but impeccably tidy condition with a bare raised veggie bed, which are the sort of conditions which suit a Smokey, gardening-wise. I’ve put in beetroot, broad bean and cauliflower seedlings, sown dwarf peas, replaced a collection of octogenarian succulents with dwarf snapdragons in a rather attractive trug, and made a sort of potagery herb garden with rosemary, parsley, thyme, alyssum and chrysanthemums. I even bark-mulched the herb garden, which is, like, Level 4 Adulthood.

Good for the soul, gardening. Especially if it gets you out of the kitchen, which is, shall we say, quirky. Like in the fact that the pantry, which makes you go “Oh well, not much storage, but at least there’s a pantry”, is actually the water heater. And how the oven turns itself off when the timer goes off, in a spiteful “Well, if you’re not cooked by now you’ve lost your chance” sort of way. It’s not even broken – the manual states it, unemotionally, as if this is a perfectly rational thing for an oven to do. And the fact that the dishwasher now resides on the back porch. I like to think the neighbors are soothed by the nightly sloshing. Like living in their very own bilge.

2. You could write a tragic tale about a giant who tried to get the attention of his human lady-love by throwing pebbles at her window, only misjudged the scale and ended up throwing a rock *through* her window and being charged with a hate crime. I don’t plan to; but you could.

3. Sometimes I feel my children need more socialisation. Today Rowan climbed a tree to watch people playing cricket in the park next door. She watched them like they were zoo animals. She didn’t even need to climb the tree. It’s a chain-link fence. On the bright side, I think she unnerved them and they went away.

Miles is more proactive. The day after we moved in he went for a walk next door and greeted the neighbor with “Hi, I like your lawn mower!” Several minutes (and apparently a long conversation about superpowers) later, the neighbor brought him back saying “I found this”. Cue a long, serious discussion with Miles about how we live in town now and can’t just go wandering around the streets. He agreed solemnly. Two minutes later, I caught him trucking off down the driveway again.

Me: “Where are you going?!”

Miles: “I’m just going back to say hi to the neighbor again and meet his dog.”

Cue a much lengthier discussion, this time with visual aids and complex negotiations about exactly how close to the crack between the driveway and footpath Miles could put his toes, as well as the painful revelation that claiming superpowers isn’t a valid defence of unsupervised street-wandering. This time, so far, it seems to have sunk in. Miles has limited his communication with the neighbors (all three sets) to bellowing cheerfully at them over fences and across roads. Though it does seem a bit suspicious that he reports these conversations as consisting, on their part, of saying solely “I like talking to you, you should keep talking to me, you’re not being pesky.”

4. Miles enjoyed the moving process greatly. We hired a truck and a guy from church volunteered his father, who we don’t know very well, to drive it. Said fellow kindly asked Miles if he wanted to ride with him in the truck, and being a four-year-old boy, he was thrilled. Then when the truck turned up, worryingly later than expected, at the new house, he was perched way up high on the front seat chowing down on a hamburger. Turned out he’d needed to go to the loo halfway there and a McDonald’s was the most convenient. Nice work, Miles. And ten minutes later he spotted a ginger kitty in the front garden and exclaimed in tones of extreme delight “We have a CAT!” I had the sad task of persuading him it didn’t come with the house, like the stove and curtains. (Though of course, being a cat, it kind of does. The pigs have named it Pumpkin.)

5. Morris enjoyed moving also. Morris enjoys most things. We enjoy Morris. It’s a good system.