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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Curse of Crinkley

Christmas joy filled the Merry household with the whole family gathered together and all was fun and laughter, warmth and jollity! Then came the second hour and things were getting a bit tricky, so we turned to our favourite board game, Rapidough, where you model an object in Play-Doh from a word on a card. Of course, like any other family activity, this simple pleasure can lead to bickering, sulks, and hours of resentment, but also some highs: how fondly we all remember Non-Pony-Sis’s recreation of Trafalgar Square, two inches high in pink, not to mention RPD’s storming ‘Scott’s Last Expedition’, complete with little dead doh bodies in a chilly landscape – though as we pointed out, the polar bear added to give us a clue was not geographically accurate.

It was Pony-girl’s turn and a long thick pink sausage was rapidly forming from her ball of dough. “This is quite hard to model,” said she frowningly, “But you should be able to guess it - Daddy’s got one. Or, at least, he used to have…...” pony-mum and Non-Pony-Sis’ eyes met in an unworthy snigger at this point - “But I haven’t seen it for a long time…,,” The sausage was upended and fixed to the mat in upright postion, upon which it immediately began to droop to the left. By now even RPD’s eyes were flicking back and forth in alarm, while NPS and I were behaving disgracefully, holding each other up, shoulders shaking. Pony-girl glared at us. “Why are you all being so silly?” With a scalpel she began delicately to etch a tiny hole at the end of the bulbous pink knob, holding the floppy thing up with one hand. By now we were on the floor. She fixed us with a stare – a long, long cold one. Scrabbling desperately for composure, we tried out a few half-hearted guesses, “sausage!” “hosepipe!” “Vesuvius!” though it was difficult with only one thing on all our minds, especially when a wobbly pendulous sphere joined the sausage at the base, shaped by PG’s innocent young hands. “Balloon animal!” I choked desperately, “Clyde!” usually a good guess when PG is modelling, but that was an unfortunate guess in this case and now we were all helpless with laughter, even under PG’s icy glare, which could have frozen Scott to death a whole lot faster than any mere Antarctic chill. “I don’t know why you are all being so annoying!” she gritted in fury, tyring to set the wobbly column upright, “Can’t you see what it is?” Alas we could not, not until a tiny doh handle appeared, animated (strictly against the rules) in a brisk circular motion by PG’s angry hand and RPD arrived with great relief at ‘a hand-held drill’.

So much cooking to do at Christmas! and mine is always a dodgy business – while my lemon iceream tart with a gingernut crust was a triumph (the one which didn’t have to be scraped off the floor) but my chocolate Yule cake must henceforth be known as the Log of Gloom. Solid, wet, brown and heavy, it sat on the table for three days with RPD gamely sawing off little tiny hunks for tea – one bite would strike him dumb for ages as he chewed his way through it with bulging cheeks and madly working jaw. I put it to rest on the third day in the bin, and soon after saw RPD staggering outdoors with it, bent double under the weight.

I should have asked Ethel Crinkley, our local byword for all that is superb in cookery, how to make one. Got a favourite cake recipe? Mrs Crinkley already knows it and hers will be better. It will be more scrumptious, a finer colour, and it will rise more. Do not set out your cakes beside Mrs C’s at a bake sale, for a measly price will be slapped onto yours, and yours it will be that doesn’t sell. I once asked her for a recipe for her cheese-and-walnut sables as they melted in the mouth and were so scrummy I could easily have polished off the plateful, and planned to make some at home and eat the whole lot. Either she was having a laugh when she rattled off the recipe to me or my skills are not up to the task – I could barely believe the trayful of greasy yellow crumbs I pulled out of my oven and spent some time searching down the back of the oven shelf to see if the real biscuits had slipped off. Cooking? Some got it and some ain’t.

We are back to competing on Sunday – Clyde jumped a three-foot spread tonight with a contemptuous flick of his whisked-up heels. There is a new class at Blade’s Hill – the Gold Cup Class – which has real money prizes! We had better dust off his Jumping Shoes and stick a firework under his tail.

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