Sunday, December 2, 2012

A fence is very like a chair

The first sentence of what is, for very boring reasons, my most popular post, search-wise, reads: 'An A380 Airbus is nothing like a bumblebee'. This one should have begun with 'A fence is very like a chair' (so I'm making it the title). Have you ever painted a chair? I have, lots of times, and if you have too you'll know how large the titchiest kitchen chair is, area-wise. It's the small intestine of the furniture world. It has so many surfaces that when you're onto the second coat, it's almost impossible to keep track of which ones you've done, so that years later when upending a chair for a random bit of spring-cleaning, you'll find the bottom of a rung somewhere with the undercoat grinning through.

A fence, now, you tend to think of in just two dimensions, plus back and front. But there's so much more to it than that! And you never suspect it, until you're already embarked on what seemed at first the work of an afternoon, and then found yourself committed to a week's hard labour (which, for those of us who are differently-abled, counts double). It's also a sad fact of life that, having begun waterblasting the front fence and quite quickly tiring of it, despite the satisfaction quotient of returning black mouldy wood to freshly-sawn condition, you can't just stop and quietly drift away pretending nothing's happened. People will notice.

So, having been unwittingly sucked into what is now looming as a Major Fence-Painting Project, of course I was thinking about Tom Sawyer (whose name now irresistibly conjures up the image of Bart Simpson for me - anyone else?) and thence Mark Twain. And thence Angel's Camp in California, where we stopped en route to Lake Tahoe and had our car washed by some college students who were raising funds for new band uniforms. Twain spent a winter gold-mining nearby at Jackass Hill, and came across something in a saloon in Angel's Camp that did him much more good than finding yellow metal. He heard a yarn there that he developed into 'The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County', which became his first writing success, and we all know how that story ends.

In the town, they have an annual Jumping Frog Jubilee each May. "It's a serious business," one of the students' fathers told us as the kids cleaned our car. "The bullfrogs are bred and trained specially, and there's lots of rivalry. But anyone can enter: we have a Rent-a-Frog service," he added helpfully. Of course, we wouldn't need that.

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