A couple of weeks ago, my better half came home with a bargain. He does that a lot, although our definitions of a bargain usually differ significantly. Upon entering the supermarket he will make a bee-line for the ‘reduced’ section and spent the next ten minutes rifling through the about-to-reach-its-expiry-date food or the slightly-squashed-packaging-but-sound-contents thingamy-jig that we never knew we needed, just so that he can feed his need for having got one over on Mr Sainsbury. It’s quite something to watch.
I, on the other hand, hold no truck with so called ‘bargains’. I’m not averse to saving pennies or pounds even, but inevitably to me, these treasured finds end up sitting on a shelf in the fridge for a week before I throw them out, because no-one actually likes them very much (hence the reason they were reduced in the first place probably!) Or, if they are inedible ‘steals’, they usually reside in the depths of the ‘man-cupboard’, which as Mark found to his great chagrin earlier this week, can be a very BAD thing.
On Monday he decided to give the Man Cupboard a bit of a tidy up, rationalising that it was probably time – some of our possessions have remained in boxes from before we first travelled to Hong Kong in 1992… – and a Bank holiday is just the day to embark upon such a foolhardy notion! Every ten minutes or so, he would emerge with some treasure or another, including medals won for various sporting achievements, photographs of family and friends from days gone by, my old pal ‘Coogee’ – a threadbare, blind shadow of my favourite teddy bear from childhood whom I think probably deserves a posting all his own and a box full of letters from our girls when they first went to boarding school, which also deserve a chapter to themselves. It was actually fantastic to see all these items, most of which we had forgotten existed.
It had been quiet for a short while and apart from the road noise of the A64 (which is strangely unobtrusive) all I could hear were the rumblings of my trusty sewing machine, various ornithological noises and an occasional squeal from one of the pig-neighbours. Then came an abrupt disturbance, a rather muffled crashing, as if a vehicle had run into the hedge once again (in one rainy day last November, we had seven car-sized holes in the hedge!). It took me a minute to consider the origin of the sound and I headed towards the garage to see if Mark had heard it too.
The door from the garage to the Man Cupboard (the door’s name is ‘Dave’, as the garage door holds the moniker ‘Gary’, in keeping with all of our outside doors having proper names) was ajar slightly and I had a slight inkling that all was not so well, a feeling that grew significantly when I attempted to push Dave open just a little more and peered around and into the room.
A scene of complete and utter devastation met my eyes. Everything that had lived upon the shelves on the wall until a few moments earlier was now upended onto the floor, which seemed to have risen a good three feet towards the ceiling. Imagine, if you will, the scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part II) when the young wizards and Griphook the goblin are frantically searching for Helga Hufflepuff’s Cup, one of Voldemort’s horcruxes, in Bellatrix LeStrange’s vault at Gringotts and the ‘Gemino’ curse has taken effect so that there is a growing mountain of golden gizmos popping up all over the place, creating a tidal wave of treasure that will ultimately bury them alive unless they can miraculously conjure a creative solution. That’s what lay behind Dave.
That and my dear husband of course.
I called out his name, timidly. ‘Mark?’
‘Mark, are you OK?’
‘Greggy?’ my voice is raised both in volume and pitch. There’s a slight air of panic now. The reason that Mark was doing this work alone is because there are arachnids of gargantuan proportions in this room. Bigger than my hand. Bigger than your hands put together. Huger than my son’s head, which is freakishly large at the best of times (34 hours in labour, that’s what gives me the right to say that!). If Mark is buried under all of this junk, I am going to have to dig through it all to find him and there’s going to be spiders. Urgh!
Then, thankfully, I hear a muffled ‘I’m here! I’m OK!’ from somewhere at the other end of the room. The end that’s closer to the large double doors.
And then his blessed, beautiful, very slightly balding head pops up from under the chaos. He is OK! I can see this with my own eyes! We have a problem, as the astronauts declared to Houston, as the mounds of *stuff* lie between us and I’m really not sure how he will ever be able to scramble over it all… then my practical head kicked in and I realised we simply had to open the outside doors to reach him more easily. So I rushed around and between us we unbarred the doors and hugged each other happily. He was safe!
At this point, we looked back at the Man Cupboard, no longer a place of order or uniformity. For months, on and off, he had been archiving the trappings of a lifetime of worldly wanderings. Carefully, he has opened boxes, evaluated the contents and painstakingly placed items in regulated order upon the shelves so deceptively insecurely attached to the walls. The devastation was total and complete. Short of detonating a WMD we couldn’t have created greater havoc than the scene that met our eyes.
We turned to each other and shrugged. ‘Let’s go an’ get a drink!’ we both declared simultaneously in slightly dodgy Chinese accents, a shared reminiscence of an advert on TVB in Hong Kong, which made us giggle and we staggered off towards the kitchen to recover our shattered senses. A cup of tea, hot and strong is what is needed in these situations. And cake. Of course!
It’ll take a while, but he’ll sort it all out – I was pleasantly surprised to find that he’d re-ordered a significant amount of the junk within about two hours and has decided that it’s a blessing in disguise, because now he has more room to sort everything properly as he’s utilising the double garage floor as well. I suspect we’ll be visiting a car boot sale soon.
All of this has nothing to do with the strawberry jam of course. No, that’s what the bargain was.
He managed to buy eleven boxes of strawberries, each with about five hundred grams of fruit in remarkably tip-top condition, for about forty pence a punnet. That’s pretty good going around here – even the PYO’s cost considerably more than that.
So, on this occasion, I was pleased with his bargain-hunting and promptly demanded that he venture into the man-cupboard to unearth the jars we save for just such an opportunity.
The preserving pan came out of storage and for a couple of hours we hulled strawberries, boiled them up and made sweet, sticky, ambrosial strawberry jam. I added a fair dollop of vanilla too and the resulting preserve is just delicious! I’ve got a few spare jars if anyone fancies one…!