It seems I am, at the moment, destined to buy knives for The Boy as Christmas presents, only to keep them myself. I shouldn't feel too guilty about this though, because not giving them to him as originally planned could - in a very direct way - avert a horrible accident or murder of the sort that often happens at this time of year. That's what I tell myself anyway.
I have a friend who used to give his two very young sons extremely sharp knives as presents to play with and use, on the basis that 'a blunt knife is more dangerous than a sharp one'. Well, in some circumstances yes, but it all depends what you want to do with it.
I bought this latest one in Lidl yesterday and it cost £6.99 as opposed to the £80 or so it would have cost in our kitchen shop. I love the way they have patinated the blade to a gun-metal grey, the same way as they used to with WW2 Commando daggers - so your victim stands less chance of seeing you creep up on them in the dark.
It is made - somehow - using ceramic as the core material, and once you have attained a razor-edge on ceramic, it is more or less there for good - unless you try to cut through other forms of ceramic. The instruction leaflet which came with it states that it should never need sharpening, but if it ever does, it should be taken to a professional who should use wet diamond on it, very carefully.
One of the best things about it is that it comes with a hard, plastic sheath, which means I can put it away in the drawer and not have to worry about losing a couple of fingers when I am rummaging around looking for it when pissed.
Last night, H.I. and me used the French Laguinole knives for the first time, and I can now say what I wanted to say to Cro the other day, but had no proof to back me up. They rest on the side of the plate very nicely, without flipping up due to the curve on the handles - you just have to put more of the flat part of the blade against the edge of the plate, DERR. I got the impression that Cro had - once, in the distant past - suffered the humiliating experience of having his knife flip through 90 degrees at a dinner party he was hosting for someone he wanted to impress, then threw the whole set away in the bin in anger before he even bothered to wash them up.
"What's that?" H.I. asked me when she saw the new knife sitting on the table still framed in the cellophane window of the box.
"What does it look like?" was my irritating response.
When she asked why I had bought it, I said that it was for The Boy, and added that I now wished I had bought two, because it was such a bargain that I wanted one for myself. She 'reminded' me that The Boy's mother had already bought him a whole set of kitchen knives - all stuck into a wooden block for safety's sake as they are stored on a work surface near the sink or whatever.
'Good' I thought, and unwrapped it, gloated over it for a bit, then sheathed it safely and put it into the draw with its new, dull friends.
A little later, we were listening to a harrowing report about the state of the inside of the military school in Pakistan where the 130+ children were murdered by the unspeakably inhuman Taliban killers, and H.I. said in a low voice, "The bastards."
There has been a lot of stuff about trans-gender on the airwaves this week, culminating in a program about an NHS unit set up specifically to help people who feel as though they are trapped in the wrong body.
Like most people, I find it difficult to get my head round the subject, although I do understand that it has nothing to do with homosexuality or even transvestism, but I suppose the clue is in the name.
Quite often men who know they should have been born women are extremely butch to start off with (one of the people on the radio was six foot four), so that cannot help their state of mind in society. I have a friend who was a very man's man outwardly, but one day he turned up to the pub in a sleeveless Summer frock with his biceps still bulging away and his full beard still untouched on his face.
I had heard from his wife that he had suddenly - or maybe gradually - decided to outwardly take on the persona of his inner self, so I had been forewarned as to what to expect when someone told me, 'Johnny's in the garden,' but I was still a little nervous about involuntarily laughing, or generally showing a complete lack of understanding or respect. As it turned out, we had a perfectly ordinary conversation under the shadow of the enormous elephant in the room.
"How have you been keeping?" I eventually asked him.
"Oh fine," he said, "But it's been a bit of a roller-coaster over the last few months."
"I'm not surprised!" This was the only time I actually laughed.
In the 1970s, I spent a lot of time with Henry Morris, the son of Jan Morris, the well-known travel writer who famously underwent a trans-gender program chronicled in her book, 'Conundrum'.
I went into a cafe with Henry one day, and he took me over to introduce me to a well-dressed, middle-aged woman who he referred to as his father. She was very nice and polite, and we had a bit of a chat over tea. At the time, Jan lived in Bath and was a familiar figure in the social scene, at a time when Bath was probably at its most trendy.
Henry had already told me some of the more sensitive details as to how the news was broken to him that his father was now a woman, and this amounted to one simple fact of omission - the news was never broken to him.
As a very young child, he had gone downstairs for breakfast one morning to find his mother sitting at the table with another woman of the same sort of age, and it took him quite a long time to realise that this person was his father. Not a word was said about it, and he was left to his own devices to work it all out on his own.
This would have been a lot to ask of an adult, let alone a child, and - needless to say - he was still trying to work it out when I knew him.
Most other people get some sort of warning it seems, but I think in that household they must have had the notion that children are much more understanding than adults. This may well be true, but I think you should at least pay them the respect of actually talking to them about things.
We all know that domestic murders tend to peak around Christmas time, when kitchens become war-zones and family members who have not spoken to each other for a year get together again so that they can renew the declaration.
Well here's a handy tip for defusing any situation which looks as though it's going to get physical - put a pair of rubber gloves on your feet and walk around talking in a very serious tone about whatever has sparked off the dispute.
I defy anyone who is not on the extreme side of the sociopathic spectrum to keep a straight face for any longer than two seconds when someone - in this case, Green-Eyes - dons the Marigolds.
I know I said I only have to finish two jobs before I ice the cake, but thanks to my very unglamorous assistant, I think it is going to be one. Words cannot express the feeling of fury and frustration he has caused in me over the last few weeks, for simply not finishing the only job which stands between me and the Workhouse this Christmas, and what a complete and utter tit I feel for ever believing that he would.
He attempted to deliver the carved urn to me in the dark last night, muttering that there is 'a little cleaning up' to be done to it, but even in the half light of the back of his car I could tell the the cabbages scratched into its side which are supposed to represent roses, bore no resemblance to the ones on the urn he is supposed to be copying.
I had better not say any more for the sake of my blood pressure, but there were some scenes on the road in public last night when I shocked the neighbours by shouting to him that he was a complete waste of FUCKING time. Suffice to say that I am picking up the bloody thing today no matter what state it is in, and if I have to spend the three days finishing it off myself as I suspect I will, then I will be picking up the keys to my workshop at the same time.
I took a few deep breaths, then returned home to tell H.I. the latest news about it, and she helpfully said something like, "I told you so", so I went to the computer to check my emails only to find she had painted the area around it where I naturally rest my hands to type, with a paint which takes about 5 days to dry, especially in the winter. I stick to it as I write this.
It reminded me of how once - when I lived in the country - I returned home to my dark cottage to discover that someone had painted the black doorknob blacker, using a similar paint which takes days to dry. That was somewhere either side of Christmas as well - I know that, because the place was deep in snow.
H.I. - being a Northerner - works herself up into a cleaning frenzy on a regular basis. I, on the other hand - being a slovenly, male Southerner - follow the Quentin Crisp school of household management by sleeping in filthy linen, surrounded by thick layers of slut's wool.
If we had a sandstone doorstep, then H.I. would be out there on her hands and knees, scrubbing it with a brush every Monday, like they used to do in Coronation Street before East Enders was invented.
Despite the fact that only the kids are coming on the 24th, she is starting to behave as if the Queen were popping round for a cup of tea, having given two weeks notice so we can prepare for it.
She told me to get some decent knives and forks for The Boy and his girlfriend, as they are lacking good cutlery, so I took a stroll round the Saturday Market, coming home with the above knives and the wolf skull.
These knives are the posh version of a famous French folding-knife made by a company called Laguiole, and have been made for many years. I spotted them and asked the stall holder how much, and he thought for about a minute before saying £8.
When I took them home, H.I.'s eyes lit up and she picked one up to fondle it. I looked them up on the net and found out two things - that the handles are made of a natural, metamorphosed kaolin rock called Nacrite (and not plastic as I first thought), and that they retail at about £200 for six.
That was that. The Boy and his girl will have to have something else, because these knives are going in our drawer. They can use them for the dinner I am cooking on Christmas Eve, though. We're quite generous like that.
Two phrases (or descriptions, before any of you pedants jump on me) floated into my head this morning - 'Brilliant Cut' for diamonds, and 'Herding Cats' for what I will be doing as Project Manager for the next round of improvements to our pub.
I have two jobs to finish this week before I can get down to the serious work of icing the cake.
A friend of mine's son was wading around in a stream in the Peak District when he found this - what he thought to be a dog's skull - and he brought it home with him.
Research showed it to be a Wolf's skull.
Further research still showed it to be a medieval Wolf's skull, because Wolves - apparently - died out there in the 15th century.
I know the last British Wolf to be shot in Britain was killed in Scotland somewhere around the mid-nineteenth century, but I don't think that this one wandered down as far as Derbyshire, though they can wander quite far on a cold, snowy night. Usually, around a hundred mile round-trip in deep snow is their maximum when really hungry.
It is now in my custody, and that involves doing further research still, so I can sell it at best price in order to help finance my friend's son's passage through university.
If it is - as everything indicates - a remarkably well preserved Wolf's skull dating from late 1400s England, then this is a rare thing indeed.
I am looking forward to getting to know it over the next month or two.
I've just had an email from a friend of mine who tells me that his beloved Land Rover Defender has been stolen from right outside his house last night, at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac.
Even worse, it was full of his tools (he is a metal worker) including angle-grinders, welders, hammers, etc. He is now stuffed as far as getting to work and earning a living goes, and he is not a wealthy person, but a hard worker.
That's him, his dog Dolly and the Landy, when he delivered a large lump of marble to one of my clients for me a few years ago. All the client's cars are fitted with hidden satellite trackers, but he wouldn't have thought that necessary. The number-plates are probably off already, but I have a running search for the same model on eBay now, in case the thieves are stupid enough to put it up there. It happens.
I had an uncle who used to say that 'stealing a man's tools' was one of the lowest things you could do as a human being - meaning that you leave him without a livelihood, rather than just taking money which has already been earned.
He keeps his vehicles for a long time - his previous van was on the road for about 40 years.