The Sewing Machine Mouse

Now, machines are notoriously grumpy. This is why the refrigerator elects to break down just before somebody’s birthday party. This is why the washing machine floods the kitchen floor on the very day you return from your holidays bearing suitcase after suitcase of unwashed smalls and sandy bathing costumes. Machines lead a boring life, on the whole, and they blame humans for this.

And this is why household appliances do not tell us that they can grant wishes. At least, selected wishes. An electric oven, for example, has the power to make it a nice sunny day for a picnic. If it chooses. It can cause a woolly blanket to wrap itself around the shoulders of an old lady who has fallen asleep on the sofa in Midwinter. If it chooses. But it will not choose very often.

A television can, if it chooses, happen to be showing your favourite soppy romantic film of all time when you are feeling particularly down and your boyfriend has just left you for some blonde floosie he happened to bump into in a supermarket car park, just by accident.

Except of course that it might not have been an accident. Cars can grant wishes, if they choose. Why, even supermarket trolleys have been known to grant wishes to passing strangers – if they happen to have woken up feeling full of beans that day. So your faithless boyfriend may just have happened to wish for a blonde floosie of some sort as he locked his Ford Fiesta with that funny little key thing that hardly ever works, or as he passed a trolley bay…

A fridge – ah, a refrigerator can only really do things to do with cold, or at any rate cooler. In a heatwave, say, it might cause a cool breeze to flutter across the heated brow of the plumber, quietly cursing under your sink to fix that awkward bit of piping. It might send a cold shiver up your spine to remind you that you have forgotten Auntie Gertie’s birthday yet again, and better get a card in the post right now.

And what can a sewing machine do? Well, sewing machines are a bit different. They do indeed grant wishes, but only to animals. Sewing machines prefer animals to human beings, you see, and I can’t say I blame them.

So when a funny little cloth mouse appeared on my sewing machine this afternoon, all crooked button eyes and wiggly stitching, with a piece of cord for a tail and ears that looked as if they might have been sewn on backwards, I knew… George, innocently asleep now in a basket of paper patterns for, of all things, aprons… George had just been dreaming of a mouse of his very own.

sewing mouse

 

Be careful what you wish for

Your local electronics store has just started selling time machines, anywhere doors, and invisibility helmets. You can only afford one. Which of these do you buy, and why?

Hmm, this is an interesting one. Revealing an imagination shortfall on my part of which I am rather ashamed. I mean, everyone’s heard of Time Machines but I must admit I had never even conceived of an Invisibility Helmet or an Anywhere Door – and I should have done, having read all those Harry Potters.

My granny used to say Be careful what you wish for (because you just might get it). At the time I didn’t understand. Later I thought it might be nice to get what I wished for at least once in my life, just to test the theory out. Still waiting.

It comes from Aesop’s Fables, I believe. The story of the Tortoise and the Eagle:

A TORTOISE, lazily basking in the sun, complained to the sea-birds of her hard fate, that no one would teach her to fly. An Eagle, hovering near, heard her lamentation and demanded what reward she would give him, if he would take her aloft and float her in the air. “I will give you,” she said, “all the riches of the Red Sea.” “I will teach you to fly then,” said the Eagle; and taking her up in his talons he carried her almost to the clouds, – when suddenly letting her go, and she fell on a lofty mountain and dashed her shell to pieces. The Tortoise exclaimed in the moment of death: “I have deserved my present fate; for what had I to do with wings and clouds, who can with difficulty move about on the earth?”

The time has come to pick a gadget, since there isn’t room to ramble on about the relative merits and demerits of all three. Hmm, how to choose. I’d dearly love all three…

I’d be a trifle wary of the Time Machine, I think. I can imagine things going wrong with dials and levers – especially with me at the helm – and ending up in the Stone Age instead of the Seventeenth Century. There is also the matter of culture shock. The past sounds fascinating and romantic to my reasonably healthy, independent, well-nourished self – and from here – my nice warm office. But remember – no doctors – someone with a jar of leaches if you’re lucky – meat and no veg a lot of the time (permanent constipation) – toothache and no dentists, just someone in a fairground or marketplace with a pair of pliers and a jeering audience. Being female I’d be subject to all manner of servitude and discrimination, for most of the past. Then there’s endless pregnancy, and midwives who didn’t know what a germ was, so didn’t wash their hands.

I do quite like the idea of an invisibility helmet. I wonder what it would look like. Probably it’d have little decorative wings, like the one Hermes wore. With that in place I could be a fly on the wall – anywhere. I could slip into number 10 in the wake of the Downing Street cat, and eavesdrop on cabinet meetings. I could be lurking unseen while people were talking about me. Which would inevitably mean finding out a lot of things I never wanted to know. The only trouble is with the Helmet – you’ve still got to get there. I mean, to get any real use from an Invisibility Helmet you’d have to spend a lot of tedious time travelling – catching the bus to your relatives or the train to London. You would be dodging the fare, of course.

Which only leaves the Anywhere Door. If I could only afford one of the three, that’s the one I’d pick. I have this secret fantasy destination – an island with white sand, a stout rope hammock slung between two palm trees (it would have to be stout if I was going to lounge in it – and so would the palm trees). Somewhere below the hammock, but within arm-reaching distance, a pile of paperback books. All the really good paperback books I haven’t had time to read yet. And every now and then some barefoot someone would pad down from a beachside bar to bring me another tall orange juice with a plastic umbrella in it. With an Anywhere Door, that would be achievable. Just one step and – aloha! No airports, no queues at customs, no time – just instant place. With an Anywhere Door I could do all the travelling I meant to do but didn’t. I could travel the world and then – one step and I’m back in the living room watching Star Trek.

Knowing me, though, I’d forget where I left the door and be trapped forever in – wherever – my tropical paradise, sailing a luxury yacht in the Mediterranean or half way along the Great Wall of China.

Ah well, I can think of worse outcomes.

 

Following the White Rabbit

Apparently there are now mugs advising one to KEEP CALM AND FOLLOW THE WHITE RABBIT. I rather like all these Keep Calms though they’re a bit old hat now.

Follow the White Rabbit – I was assuming Alice in Wonderland but I gather – and this is the beauty of blogging, you find out so many totally irrelevant things – that it may also have some sort of drugs connotation, but also may refer to a scene in The Matrix (I thought I’d seen all the Matrix’s but I can’t remember this scene) where Neo is advised to follow said Rabbit and shortly thereafter is visited by a lady with a rabbit tattoo on her right shoulder. I must watch those films again… but since I can’t afford to go to the cinema, or indeed anywhere I don’t have to in my little motor car, I will have to wait until they appear on one or other of the Freeview channels. Which they will. They’re almost as regular as The Sound of Music. That was on again this Christmas and for once I actually watched it – again. And I hate it. I loathe those goody-goody children in their matching frocks and silly dungarees. I loathe Julie Andrews and I loathe Christopher Plummer… who, I have just discovered, is exactly the same age as my mother. Assuming still alive. Christopher Plummer, I mean, not my mother. I know she’s still alive.

I must have been really bored.

This prompt, Keeping up with the Joneses (or Jones’ as they insist on putting it – no one ever kept up with a Jones’) is asking me to tell you about one luxury item I wish I could afford, in as much detail as I can. I am meant to paint a picture for you.

I’m never going to manage that. I’ve never been any good at selecting one just item out of many. That would involve a decision. I’ve never been any good at decisions. The best I can do is a list.

This is the first time in a long time I have allowed myself to think about what I might want. That’s the worst of poverty – not the lack of stuff but the gradual loss of motive for daydreaming. You get to the point where you cannot want. It’s a bit like sex. I can admire Daniel Craig – his chiselled good looks, his splendid physique, those icy blue eyes – but is there even the remotest chance that he would admire me in return? No. Therefore I cannot fantasise about him.

(Every time Daniel Craig’s name is mentioned I think of Kate Bottley, a vicar who watches TV with her husband and a dog on Gogglebox, wearing enormous fluffy slippers. Kate Bottley, not the dog. She once remarked that she knew there was a Benevolent God since He had created Daniel Craig).

It’s the same with money. After a while you ditch the desire for it. It’s a way to survive. But, for the purposes of this post, I will consider – what would I really, really want, if I suddenly got my hands on some money? Well, here’s my list:

I’d like a driveway. A long, gravel driveway with a house so far down that driveway as to be invisible from the road. I would like it to crunch as I drove down. I would like the house to be large enough for lots of cats to roam about in and wreck, but discouraging to callers. Preferably surrounded by tall, glossy-leaved laurel bushes. Nothing interesting.

I’d like a beach hut. Rented would do. I love the sea. I’d love to go down to the choppy English Channel with my flask of lukewarm tea, some cheese–and-pickle sandwiches wrapped in tinfoil and a thick blanket to wrap round my shoulders (I’m guessing it gets cold in beach houses) and I’d sit there and drink it all in. View, not the sea.

I’d like a camper van. Is that a universal name, or just British? Maybe they’re called something different in America, like caravans being trailers. I’d like a van I could stuff full of tea, cheese-and-pickle sandwiches, blankets – whatever else might be needed for a week away – and I’d like to just go, pootling around the countryside like Toad in his motor-car and parking in lay-bys. I never got to travel – well, a weekend in Paris, a week in Ontario and a few assorted works outings and day-trips to forgettable destinations such as Calais, Bruges and Le Touquet. Oh, and Scotland where like most people I didn’t get to see the Loch Ness Monster. But travel. I would like to just drift… from lay-by to lay-by… stopping to look at the view, keeping some kind of journal… And it would be sunny. Sunny, for once.

On a more practical note, I’d like a white transit van capacious enough to transit a large number of cats in a large number of large pet-carriers, should I ever decide to move. Better still, one of those vans specially adapted for transporting animals, with built-in accommodation, like the RSPCA have. Although I suppose if I already had the camper van it could double up as a transit van. No room to park two large vans and my little car. Although of course if I already had the laurel-shrouded house at the end of the crunchy driveway, that would be no problem. I could day-dream a triple garage somewhere round the back. Or just park them all on the drive.

And lastly I would like approx £500 a month from some sort of Trust Fund, which will be discovered to have been set up for me by an Uncle in Tasmania I didn’t know I had. £500 a month would mean I didn’t have to think about money, ever again. I could manage on that. We could – the multi-cat-and-person-commune. Felix for all and the occasional tub of Raspberry Ripple ice-cream for me.

So what do all my ‘wants’ have in common? F.I.P. No, not Fell In Pond – as Rudyard Kipling recorded of unlucky visitors to Batemans, his beautiful house in East Sussex, but

Freedom

Independence

Privacy