It was Saturday morning and I was on light duties. Actually, given the paucity of work secured by my recently-founded media start-up, I had been on light duties for some months now (qv. ‘audacious corporate buccaneering’). However, aside from the monthly anxiety as the mortgage payment fell due, I have to say, this was a lifestyle that I was growing pleasantly accustomed to. For the last twenty minutes, I had been reading W.E. Fairbairn’s, Get Tough!, a WW2 commando training manual that I’d found in the Cancer Research shop. Having carefully followed the intricate line drawings, I reckoned my hand was now a deadly weapon. At least it would be if it weren’t presently fumbling for the lavatory paper. I parked the manual on the edge of the bath, did the necessary and rose with difficulty from the toilet. My leg had gone dead. Ironically, I’d been reading about how to inflict just such an incapacitating blow on a Nazi storm trooper. If they’d known this unforeseen side-effect back in 1941, they could have just air-dropped the literature straight into the German latrines and spared our boys the commando course. Still, it’s all hindsight…
Luckily for me, there were no Nazi storm troopers in this placid quarter of South East England. My only foes in an otherwise benign environment were the HMRC and, more especially, my neighbours, Mr and Mrs Scumbag (qv. The Metaphorical Zulus of Calamity (Part One…)). Between myself and the Scumbag gang there was unfinished business. Bad blood, if you will… Mrs Scumbag, the sort of Ma Baker figure of the clan, had recently inflicted a cruel humiliation upon yours truly, cutting an explicit (yet somewhat primitive) image into the back of my head with her hair clippers. This in response to my having denounced her squalid refuse tip of a garden to the council. Unbeknown to me, however, Mr Scumbag clearly had allies amongst the municipal apparatchiks, and had been tipped off as to his accuser… Since then, things had gone from bad to worse and we were now pitted against one another in an un-neighbourly Cold War.
A pile of pink refuse bags and a discarded bathtub formed the original casus belli. They still remained in the garden, marring the view from my bay window. However, having warmed enthusiastically to the conflict, the Scumbags had apparently re-arranged the refuse sack under cover of darkness… As I took a long refreshing gulp of tea, I looked soberly down onto their creation. The pink refuse bags had been arranged into two neat heaps and standing upright between them – erect, if you will – was the discarded bath tub… Naturally, it was angled toward my overlooking window, designed to inflict the maximum insult. It had succeeded.
As I surveyed the scene, their massive, witless status dog galloped out through their French windows; it sniffed, cocked its leg and peed into the discarded bathtub, unconsciously rubbing salt into the wound.
Since I rarely encountered Mr or Mrs Scumbag in person, merely observing them and their augean habitat from afar, I was unlikely to have the opportunity to karate chop either of them in the throat, as per Major Fairbairn’s direction… This was a matter of regret, but vengeance would surely be mine. The insoluble question was, how and when I would know its delicious savour…?
As Mrs Disappointed departed with the child for dance class, I ascended to the roof of our venerable homestead to try to make a more enduring repair to a split in the lead flashing. I’d promised to address it properly last weekend after we’d awoken to find a little torrent gushing through the light socket. In the darkness at 05.45, playing my torch across the ceiling as the drips rained down, it had been very much like Das Boot, which lent a sort of invigorating drama to the calamity, and I’d definitely enjoyed the event much more than my wife and daughter. Maybe that’s why I hadn’t quite got round to fixing it properly.
Once aloft, the sun was shining, and the valley of the roof, with its ancient graffitoed lead and its warm terracotta tiles, seemed a cosy little eyrie from which to survey the world. Had this been the town’s last redoubt back in Major Fairbairn’s time, it occurred to me that with a PIAT at one end of the valley, I could command the entrance into town, knocking out Hun panzers as they crawled ominously forward like iron armadillos. From the other end of the roof, a redoubtable Vickers would dominate the High Street of my picture postcard home.
Even now, said High Street was being infiltrated by early Summer’s first wave of latter day invaders: [Vichy] French school children were honking their way forward in undisciplined knots. Depressing the imaginary barrel of the Vickers, I gave them a long, sweeping burst that would undoubtedly have sent them reeling back to the coach park in a cloud of garlicky flatus… The busload of Japanese would be harder to deal with, of course. I imagined them scrambling up the drainpipe or bounding across the rooftops howling “Banzai!” whilst swinging their Nikons round their heads. I’d quickly traverse the Vickers back round to dispatch the first wave coming up through the loft hatch – budda-budda-budda!! But as I struggled to feed in another belt of .303, they’d undoubtedly overwhelm me in a jaundiced wave of Oriental mayhem… After that, it would be hand to tiny hand, and I’d need every single one of Major Fairbairn’s deadly ‘Defendu’ moves to survive… As I mentally chopped, thrusted and parried at the deadly little men of Nippon, Mrs D hollered up to me from within:
“Have you fixed it?”
Still alert from the fantasy fray, without missing a beat, I paused for effect as if I were otherwise engaged. I gave a little dramatic groan of exertion and responded, “I think I need to go to the DIY shop. I’m just coming down.”
“OK. You’ve got a parcel down here.”
A parcel? What could it be? Something from Ebay, of course, but what was it?
“I’ll leave it at the bottom of the ladder, I’m popping out to the shop!”
I tore down the ladder and located the unassuming parcel. Tearing it open, I remembered. Successive doggy encounters on my weekly death runs along the river had convinced me to take radical action. I turned the article over in my hand, testing the smooth action of trigger mechanism, raising it to eye level and panning it across the landing, taking aim at a pile of laundry… It weighed well in the hand… The “Mutt-Away”. Only £29.99 for complete canine confidence… It was a shame about the big orange trumpet-like protrusion on the end, which spoiled an otherwise pleasingly gun-like appearance, but if this sub-sonic dog repeller worked, it made no odds… In fact, it helped even the odds. Make my day…
Placing the Mutt-Away in my pocket I returned to the roof to tinker. Whilst up there, I paused to survey the Scumbag’s gypsy encampment from a fresh perspective. From this angle, I could see a rusting cement mixer and an old washing machine I’d not previously noticed. Out came Mrs Scumbag for a Benson and Hedges. She was accompanied by the dog, which started nosing round the detritus, apparently working up to its morning constitutional.
It was at that point that I wondered… Peering over the apex of the roof down into the Scumbag cantonment, I pondered on the range of the Mutt-Away. There was only one way to find out, but for maximum effect, timing would be crucial… As Mrs Scumbag drew deeply on a gasper, utterly unabashed by the priapic totem towering beside her, I levelled the Mutt-Away. From my ‘grassy knoll’, I waited: poised, unseen, devoid of mercy… The moment drew nigh. The dog squatted and began to extrude a great Cumberland sausage onto the patio close to the French doors. ‘My God’, I thought, ‘What do they feed that thing?’ (Chips probably…) My finger curled around the trigger and at the optimum moment, squeezed…
At my end, nothing happened, not a sound. But approximately 25 yards below, a sub-sonic blast from the Mutt-Away had triggered a deliciously explosive spectacle. Mrs Scumbag shrieked and dropped her coffee as the great oaf-dog bounded past her into the house, trailing the stub of a second tail. She leaped after the dog, trying to drag it back into the garden before it clenched. I squeezed the trigger again and the dog reared and lunged back into the house, dragging Mrs Scumbag off her feet. Hysterical shouting and the tinkling of glass could be heard. I pointed the Mutt-Away skyward and blasted off a little sub-sonic feu de joie… A seagull squawked.
Taste my wrath, Mrs Scumbag…