It was late one Sunday evening and I was having a quiet moments reflection. This quiet moments reflection was taking the form of staring out the window whilst indulging in the rather wonderful produce of the winemakers of the Loire Valley. It was Très bon! Now, I hadn’t planned to spend the day staring out the window whilst quaffing wine. What sort of chap would make a plan to waste the day like that? I had however planned to make The Cousin and I a really rather spiffing roast beef lunch with all the assorted and expected trimming; Yorkshire puddings, potatoes both mashed and roasted, glazed carrots, homemade gravy and sherry trifle with extra layers of custard and cream (the way we like it) for afters. The Cousin, who is about as welcome and as useful in the kitchen as salmonella wanted to help so he insisted on going to the store to purchase the required ingredients. I was hesitant at first but he insisted with such vigour it was hard to say no. So I wrote him a shopping list and even included a detailed map of the store so he wouldn’t get lost and also a list of substitute items just in case he ran into any difficulties in that respect.
But he hadn’t returned.
I had been sitting at the kitchen table for so long now that I hadn’t noticed the day pass to night. I was sitting in almost complete darkness save for the subdued light from the moon which highlighted the many many dirty spots on the kitchen window. I made a mental note to get the windows cleaned but then realised I was on my second bottle of vino so I popped a post it note on the fridge to that effect. I was just about to make the short, lonely and dare I say hungry walk upstairs to bed when I heard the familiar stumbling at the front door of The Cousin.
He didn’t see me sitting at the kitchen table and stumbled past me and on into the bathroom. I didn’t hear him go to the toilet but he did seem to take an age washing his hands. Still drying his hands on one of my good towels, the ones he is banned from using (and he knows why), he blundered his way back into the kitchen.
"BAH!", shrieked The Cousin as he caught the whites of my eyes from across the kitchen. I said nothing and waited for him to catch his breath. He was rather dramatically doubled over with one hand on his stomach and the other on the cooker. A performance that Sir John Gielgud himself would have been proud of.
"Fuck sake crikey, you scared the freckles off me there!”, he was still gasping for air and I assumed stalling for time.
"Indeed", came my curt reply.
"Why you sitting in the dark?"
"I’ll ask the questions if you don’t mind…." I was playing a game of Bad Cop/Brutal Cop "Now let me see if I have all the details correct here, please do stop me if I am mistaken at any point dear cousin. You volunteered to go out about seven eight hours ago to the local store, which I believe although I have never actually timed it myself, to be no more than a healthy ten minute walk from here, to purchase a small list of goods. Is that correct?”
"Yes, yes but I…."
"Ah, one moment"
"Now if memory serves me well, and I should add I have necked nearly two bottle of rather fine wine, you volunteered and as I waved you off you said, ‘pop the oven on now I’ll only be twenty minutes.’ That’s a fair summary of events is it not?"
"Yeah, yeah that’s it’s but…."
"But nothing big fella just where have you been for the last eight hungry hours?"
"Ah good, I’m glad you asked…" began the rather excited cousin. "I was on the way to the store with the list in one hand and my Visa Debit card in the other when I happened to run into my sister…”
"The Other Cousin?”
"The very one!", confirmed The Cousin.
"Well she was in a right state. It turns out mother wants rid of us children, she says we are too demanding and always wanting more food and the extra large Sky Tv package with movies and sport and that this constant demanding has driven her to distraction. So enraged by this constant neediness that she has demanded that father take us out to the forest and abandon us there. Well you can imagine how frightful this would be for me and my sister. So I went with her back to my Ma’s house and true enough within five minutes Da suggested the three if us go for a walk. Oh Crikey we must have walked ten miles or maybe more right into the thick of the forest. And Da did, as my sister suggested he would, abandon us. You know I’m not one for the outdoors so you can only imagine how frightful this was for my sister and I. But I was cunning Crikey and had lifted a big handful of the the little white stones from the front garden that Da got from B&Q and I dropped them along the way from the entrance of the forest, you know so we could find our way out again after Da had abandoned us.”
"So how’d that work out for you?"
"Pretty good actually and we made it back to my Ma’s again. But she was fucking raging man, raging that we had made it home. So again she made Da bring us back into the forest."
"And you went? Back into the forest? Despite knowing that your Ma and Da were trying to abandon you guys?"
"But this time I stuffed some bread into my pocket, you know to use for the trail home again. But you know what happened? Birds! That’s what, fucking birds ate the bread and we were fucking stuffed this time for sure! Anyhoo we stared wandering about, the sister and I, when we happened upon a house. It wasn’t an ordinary house either Crikey. It was made from…”
"Can I guess what it was made from?"
"Guess? You’ll never guess what it was made from!"
"Indulge me dear cousin."
"You wont guess it, it’s almost unbelievable"
"I’m gonna venture a guess anyway."
"Okay, but you won’t get it"
"Oh I think I might."
I was growing impatient, “Yeah, whatever….but the house was made of chocolate and candy and icing and what have you?”
"OH. MY. GOD! Have you been there too? Isn’t it just amazing?"
"Okay enough, let me stop you right there big fella, that’s the story of Hansel and Gretel made famous by the Brothers Grimm a right pair of happy chappies who published all sort of children’s stories that have stood the test of time. I have always found them a little too dark and dare I say predictable even as a child. This pitiful attempt to make this story of industrial espionage and kidnapping your own is lame, even for you. So tell me what have you really been doing?"
Looking at the floor The Cousin replied in a much more sombre voice with shame dripping from every word, “Playing red rocket with various stray dogs round the back of the Methodist Church for the amusement of the street drinkers and various gluebags and ne’er do wells.”
Shaking my head in disgust I went to bed, sort of drunk and very hungry.