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Smallville: Delivering The Goods

Remember those EU regulations when you start to unwrap the new oven.

Peter B Farrell finds himself up to the armpits in plastic in the latest episode of his domestic adventures.

In a splash of vivid primary colours, Domestic Man - on a mission to cleanse the world of haughty cuisine - sailed effortlessly into the kitchen to prepare breakfast and greet his faithful companion.

“What’s your schedule for today Literary Woman? I see you have your copy of Readers Digest at hand.”

“The group are doing some readings from a play chosen by Tristan. A chance to explore and understand the development of the characters. The guest speaker’s Blakeney Point, a renowned, local thespian.“

A relation twice removed from Tristan no doubt. The outcome could be of a pecuniary disadvantage so ‘Hold on to your wallet,’ I mouthed.

“It should be a good introduction to English drama,“ she added. “What have you got planned?”

“Must get the oven situation sorted out. It’s arriving today.”

It needed to be on time. The Electrical people - a loose term covering anyone with a screwdriver - would be arriving tomorrow.

“Cereals and toast, or just toast?“ Because of a mishap in the kitchen, involving my being in the wrong place at the vital time, the breakfast I now served up depended only on the use of kettle and toaster, the microwave being brought into play for lunch. The knock on effect could be seen outside in the skip which was overflowing with burnt-out wiring, pots, pans and the corpse of the oven.

My wife took the easy option and within ten minutes I was planning the menu for dinner, as she retired to the make-up department prior to her drama engagement.

Much later I was disturbed by a loud hammering on the door. The delivery truck had arrived from the superstore, manned by three of their finest. I made a resolution to get the door bell fixed before the door dropped off it‘s hinges.

“What a dump, is he the local tramp?“ I’d always claimed it was designer stubble and tousled hair blown by the breeze, but my wife had never been convinced.

“Sign here Guv,” after certifying ownership and accepting all responsibility for any oil spillage, fires, floods and pestilence, I hid behind the piles of cookery books - recently acquired - during the unloading process. They did not deign to unpack the component parts of the Complete Designer Oven. Some difficulty with Health and Safety Regulations and a radiation hazard. However they were kind enough to throw me the necessary instruction manuals, printed in five different languages.

“Quick lets get out of here, there’s football on TV in half an hour.”

They had obviously noticed the lack of tea and crumpets. And my appearance had apparently given them the impression that I was an eccentric and theyshould be wary of me. They made a quick getaway, departing with a somewhat derisory toot of the horn.

The oven packaging was evidently the brainchild of the store's resident expert. He had based on his success with Nintendo and Xbox, or was that the X Files?

I thoughtfully circled the three large items, each one clothed in plastic, armed with a sharp knife. Psycho fashion circa 1960, I did a Norman Bates job, imagining the platic wrapping as a shower curtain. I frantically stabbed away until I was up to my armpits in shredded plastic. After removing this "corpse'' from the motel and dumping it in the skip I settled down to some light reading, surveying the English section of one of the manuals.

‘Congratulations on buying a Baumatic Cooker Hood. To fully enjoy using your appliance long into the future...“

Congratulations were in order when I passed my driving test. And I enjoy a pizza, a walk in the park, an episode of Columbo. But I anticipated no such pleasure in switching the oven on, or even off. I do recall though that an "artist'' won the Turner prize for an exhibit in which a room light was repeastedly switched on and off.

‘Warning,' announced the manual 'your safety is of paramount importance. Prevent potential negative consequences for human health.’

Reading on, I discovered that I had inadvertently broken the EU directive on handling waste, when disposing of the packaging.

'The defendant pleads Guilty M’Lud.'

I accepted my sentence of half-an-hour's hard labour at the skip, collecting up the shredded plastic and placing it in my car, intending to deliver it to the local council and so earn the respect of the stern but courteous waste disposal team, and in so doing keep my name out of the newspapers.

I nervously telephoned the electrical people, confirming that the Complete Oven Package was ready, and waiting to be installed. I detected an air of disappointment on their part, suspecting that it was usual for them to turn up well ahead of the game and spend the rest of the afternoon at £40 per hour checking measurements and twiddling thumbs, sustained by a regular supply of tea and biscuits. After confirming that the area within a two miles radius constituted no hazard or hindrance I gave then the necessary permission to raid my bank account. When these formalities were completed and I promised to be well out of their way when the time came, leaving the key under the doormat. I made plans to go the Local Council waste site on delivery day, dump the offending plastic and perhaps even pick up a bicycle.

Grudgingly, I had to admit that the new cookery books provided by Tristan were a boon. After seeking inspiration from Raymond Blanc, Nigella and Hugh Fearnley-Wotsisname, I was able to prepare an evening meal with skilful use of the toaster and microwave. A bed of toasted bread - wholemeal naturally - with a spread containing no hydrogenated fats, topped with baked beans of the reduced sugar and no salt variety.

“No harmful cholesterol in that,” I announced, after serving up the dish gleaned from the ‘Meal in Two Minutes Cookbook.’

“And no taste either. Quick pass the tomato sauce.” My wife had returned from the Library, following her assignment with Blakeney Point and the rest of the hopefuls from the Reading Group.

“King Lear was it?“

“No, ’An Inspector Calls.’ Excerpts, with a lot of mime expressing the words through use of the body, I did rather well and Blakeney thinks I have a feel for drama, He mentioned Stanislavski a lot. Did you know that the eye is the window of the soul?”

“No, but as long as you enjoyed yourself.”

Stanislavski. Was that a Polish name? It reminded me that we had quite a lot of plumbing work which needed to be done. Cheaply, I hoped.

Of course there was more to come. Blakeney was running a drama course on the upcoming weekend at the local Country Club, a popular rendezvous for the County set. Several members of the group, inclduing my wife, had been invited to take part in two days of workshops in dialogue, improvisation and movement. Advice on make-up would be available from the resident beautician, and this was included in the course fee. Accommodation would be extra.

“Could be quite expensive, especially the overnight stay.”

“Not really, we’ll be staying at The Lodge just across the road. It's very cheap A motel.''

I blanched.

"Be careful in the shower.”

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