If, like me, you're of a certain age you might remember a blurry image from those halcyon days of television before the advent of a decent bloody picture, an image of a man dressed in flannel pajama bottoms, tank top and beret leaping from a bed and straight through the floor of a hotel bedroom as his long suffering wife rued the day she'd agreed to a second honeymoon.
I watched that particular episode of Some Mother's Do 'Ave 'Em with my father. It was the first time I'd seen Mr. Crawford's wonderful portrayal of the hapless hero and, as I sat on the floor beside my dad's armchair in my own flannel pajamas, a little bit of wee came out.
I became a big fan of the show, though it was ruined for me when I went to see it on stage. There was far too much singing and why did they dress Frank in a different hat? That mask was a bit scary, too.
The trials and tribulations that Betty Spencer, the aforementioned wife, endured through the well meaning but ultimately counter productive, even destructive, actions of her perpetually bewildered spouse never failed to amaze and amuse. The simplest of tasks would develop, over the thirty minute period of quality time my father and I wasted in front of the crackling box in the parlour, into catastrophes of devastating proportions. The comedy regularly managed to be nail biting while remaining faithful to the genre, the jeopardy created by Frank's conspicuous innocence, stupidity and steadfast refusal to give up even in the face of insurmountable odds never straying toward the melancholy but remaining focused sharply on the laughs.
As each problem arose and escalated Frank would be forced to adapt his plan, invariably causing more damage and necessitating further half arsed notions be entertained and engaged. His ideas, even to the little lad with the pee-spot in his pajamas, were always obviously flawed and could never work, but the plans he came up with were the best he had to work with and so work with them Frank did. Frank was many things, but a quitter he was not.
Yesterday, I awoke slowly. I reached out for my phone and squinted at the screen to see what time it was then, suddenly aware that an hour ago I'd pressed stop rather than snooze, leapt from my stinking pit and into my trousers.
Generally, I'm an early riser. I seldom have to be, but it occurred to me years ago that time spent sleeping is time wasted, little chunks of life where we may as well be dead spread evenly throughout our existence. I have to sleep, but I make sure I sleep the bare minimum. Yesterday, for the first Saturday in a long time, rising early was a necessity.
Dickfingers was making her final, long journey to the desolate north to collect the remainder of her possessions and I still hadn't finished stitching prawns into her mattress.
First thing to be bargained away in favour of freeing up some of the rapidly dwindling time between the now that was then and the impending arrival was my ablutions, with the exception of my teeth. I engaged in a little multi-tasking and began dashing from room to room collecting bags, cases, wall hangings and boxes whilst scrubbing away with the baking soda toothpaste and looking for my other shoe.
At last, I was caught up. Now time to walk my dogs, I grabbed my coat and headed for the door. Passing my armchair I spotted, still hanging from a nail on the wall, an enormous canvas that belonged to Dickfingers and that I knew she loved. I plucked it from the wall, placed it by the front door and stepped out into the grey morn.
I heard a gentle thud as I locked the door behind me. I clearly remember hearing it but at that time I'd immediately decided it couldn't be anything important and, whatever it was, it'd still be there when I got back. Off I set, gently puffing my pipe as my dogs plodded along beside me, pausing occasionally to check their Pmail. It was a cool morning and the sky above was obscured by the heavy, dark clouds now threatening to spill their contents on the gloomy streets below.
Thirty minutes later, after an uneventful morning wander, I arrived home as the first heavy raindrop struck the sparsely insulated portion of my head. I slid the key into the door and engaged the latch as I stepped forward, smiling at how well the initially disastrous morning was turning out, and smashed my nose into the uPVC that had failed to reveal an entrance after striking an obstruction an inch or two beyond the threshold.
My eyes were screwed shut with the pain, so I didn't see the bright flash and was unaware of the breaking storm until I heard the long, low rumble of the thunder that followed and the sudden deluge of heavy, icy water that immediately began to turn my inappropriately selected jacket from a light tan colour to a deep, Ford Granada brown.
Try as I might, whatever was wedging the door closed wasn't going to budge. The rain poured from the tip of my nose and rendered me blind by virtue of it's sheer ferocity. I slipped my phone from my pocket and forced my hand through the available gap, taking a photograph of the situation indoors in an effort to come up with a plan.
The image on my phone's screen revealed how the large, well loved canvas I'd placed by the door just half an hour earlier had toppled over as I'd left. In an amazing coincidence, the exact proportions of the canvas were the exact proportions of the space on the floor between party wall, door frame and meter cupboard. The edge that lay furthest from the door was against a large, heavy box that was destined for the same destination. That box, which was heavy but not too heavy to stop my forcing entry, in turn filled the gap between the canvas and the bloody piano.
Aren't pianos heavy?
The surprisingly sturdy frame of the canvas was impossible to break or to move through either the X or the Y axis, it would have to be lifted, however the gap was far too narrow to get my arm through. Unless I removed my coat.
I removed my coat.
Getting colder and more sodden by the second, I slipped my arm through the gap at the top where I could force the door an extra inch or so open and began moving it closer to the ground, employing a sawing action as I pushed the plastic inward with my shoulder until, sat on my arse in the pissing rain, I finally managed to get stuck fast.
I wriggled, pushed and panicked but all to no avail. Further hindered by having two large dogs attached to my right arm by leads (dogs who, given the inclement conditions, were exceptionally eager to get inside) I began searching my mind for a way out of this predicament in which I now found myself. Then, like the seventh cavalry charging into view, help arrived.
A local chap, having seen me sitting on my doorstep in a tee-shirt during a thunderstorm, had become concerned and had come to help me. I was so grateful.
The big dog, however, was not. He can be somewhat protective and had assessed the situation, that being me out of action and on the floor whilst a potential threat approached, and decided to act unilaterally. As the chap approached the gate he called out, having to shout above the wind and storm, and the big dog took this as an indication that the point in which to spring into action had arrived. Baring his teeth and flattening his ears, he sprang.
Fifty kilograms of German canine muscle being launched skywards by four powerful legs, as it turns out, produces the exact amount of energy required to free a man of my proportions from a uPVC door, at the expense of my watch strap, six inches of forearm meat and the iPhone that I'd still been holding. As I wrestled back control of my hounds and watched the cavalry flee back the way he had come I came to believe it all pointless, that this was a conundrum with no answer, a riddle with no solution...
...and that I was fucked.
My time living in this grotty, ramshackle shithole has seen me have to break in, for one reason or another, on several occasions. On each occasion I have, once back inside, taken steps to prevent anyone else using the same method to ever again gain entry to my humble Horwich hovel. Yesterday, I realised what a great job I'd done. The place is a veritable fortress.
Resigned to the fact that there was no other option I elected to break a kitchen window. This meant securing the dogs to a wheelie bin whilst I climbed the back yard wall, unlocking the gate, untying the dogs, standing the wheelie bin back up and refilling it with the shit now strewn all around before, finally, selecting a broken brick from the smorgasbord of detritus that lies half hidden in the weeds flourishing unchallenged beside a long established and inappropriate traffic cone.
I approached the back window, masonry in hand and preparing to deliver a satisfying though fiscally devastating blow, when I heard a click.
Through the window before which I stood I spied the big dog plod into the middle of the kitchen floor (beneath the ceiling maiden that contained the clean bedding I was looking forward to enjoying that night) and begin shaking vigorously, soon to be joined by his substantially smaller, though apparently no less absorbent nor shaky, fellow pack member.
The big dog has long since taught himself to operate levers and latches. I think I've seen him trying to master fire. I fear for the future.
It was this ability that had allowed him to gain entry through the unlocked back door to Fortress Two Hats. I'd not thought to try the handle.
I retrieved my phone from behind the barricaded door and checked the time. Ten minutes before she'd said she'd arrive. Perfect. Dickfingers has never been on time for a single thing in her life, I had time for a shit.
As I relaxed into my movement I phoned her.
"Hiya, how far off are you?" I asked, expecting the answer "Birmingham".
"We're just turning the van around outside." The revelation came at the same moment that my arse exploded, emitting a sound similar to that made by a swarm of bats leaving their cave at dusk. She was not only not late, she was a little bit early. Talk about turning over a new leaf.
A frantic session of lifting and carrying and an awkward goodbye later and the deed was done. It wasn't a task I'd particularly wanted to carry out but one that we were both eager to complete as quickly and as easily as possible. Of course, easy isn't always possible. In those cases, easiest is all that's available. And easiest isn't necessarily easy.
Shit happens, wall hangings topple over, doors get left unlocked and forearm skin grows back, sort of. Oh, and bedroom doors get opened by annoyingly smart and stinkingly wet German Shepherds eager to gain access to the bed that contains the only set of bedding you own that doesn't already smell like wet dog and making it smell like wet dog.
All that could have made the morning any more Spencer-esque would have been for the dog to have done a woopsie while he was on there.
Whatever needs doing needs be done. If it needs be done it'll be done even if a dog has to take control of the situation. Most of us won't ever have to stay up all night to flush a mattress down a hotel toilet, but sometimes we'll all feel like that's exactly what were doing, so desperate to escape the consequences of a situation that we undertake increasingly difficult, damaging and destructive acts until we achieve the outcome we desire or else achieve the knowledge that we failed and can move on.
Either way, given enough time, the tale of your valiant/futile struggle will one day be no more than a funny story to tell your wife on your second honeymoon.
Stick at it.
Be more Frank.