Thursday, 19 May 2011
Sheila The Magic Pumpkin
I've had a lot of flatmates in my life, but possibly my favourite flatmate of all was a guy called Neal that I lived with when I was about 19. He was magnificent. We laughed, we played Super Mario together, he made me G&Ts which we enjoyed on the balcony, watching the light hit the buildings in the afternoon (it wasn't sweet vermouth on the rocks with a twist, but you can't have everything). I may be viewing this through rose-tinted glasses, but let me tell you, some of the funniest and most absurd in-jokes I've ever had the pleasure to share with anyone began in that flat, with that guy.
One great and rather ridiculous in-joke we had began when Neal played his Sheryl Crow albums at an ungodly hour in the morning. After I'd smashed through his door, bleary-eyed, hair crazily porcupining in every direction, and threatened to do a long list of increasingly violent and horrible things to him with the CD, he decided that on reflection, it was better to have a varied musical taste. He began to play a seemingly endless line of Eva Cassidy albums. To annoy him, I would sing along in a mousey falsetto, and thus began the story of Eva Cassidy-Hamster. We created her as a way to explain all those things that Someone Did, but that No One Is Prepared To Admit To, like forgetting to replace the toilet roll, or finishing the milk. We'd blame our little-seen singer-songwriter hamster for anything and everything. The joke grew to such lengths that Neal once came home from work to find me contentedly photoshopping a feather boa and some high heels onto a picture of a hamster with a microphone.
Neal: What are you doing?
Me: I'm creating an album cover for Eva's newest live performance.
Neal: Has this gone too far?
Me: Not even close.
It was somehow comforting to come home from a long day and find little passive-aggressive notes written by an invisible hamster flatmate on the fridge. I do miss those days.
However, my favourite story of all involves a pumpkin. We bought it at Tesco for Halloween, along with some other cheap and terrible plastic decorations and proudly brought it home, only to realise that neither one of us had ever carved a pumpkin before. Several hours and several G&Ts later, we'd named it Sheila and compromised by drawing a face onto it rather than starting drunken pumpkin surgery (also, I don't know if you've noticed, but after you name something it's somehow harder to scoop out its insides without feeling remorse, even if it is a vegetable). Sheila became an endearing, if slightly odd addition to the flat for the next couple of weeks. We would slip her into conversation when showing people around our home for the first time - "that's the bathroom, this is the kitchen, this is our pumpkin, the bedrooms are down the hall, we have a nice view..."
All was normal, or at least as normal as life can be living with a named pumpkin, until one night when I staggered in, pie-eyed (if you're not from the UK, this means so drunk that you've bought chips and at some point on the way home have performed the Chip Dance, which involves stumbling in zig zags down the street holding the bag aloft, eyes firmly focused on the next chip on your fork like it is the face of your deity of choice) to find that Neal had got home earlier, also apparently smashed, and had left me a large scrawling story on our kitchen whiteboard titled Sheila The Magic Pumpkin: Feed Her Vodka And She Will Tell You The Future. I stared at this for some time, letting my alcohol-soaked brain turn it over gently. I examined Sheila, who was sitting in a pool of clear liquid that on tasting proved to indeed be vodka, so he had definitely tested his scientific theory out. To this day, I still don't know what happened that fateful night.
Sheila lasted for some time after the vodka incident. Indeed she lasted for a good few months before eventually putrifying and had begun to gently but inexorably seep into my food cupboard. We didn't have the heart to throw her away, however, not after all we'd been through, although Neal and I did sometimes stand together in the kitchen and regard her with increasing despair. Eventually it had to be done, for the health and safety of us humans, but it was a sad day for everyone involved.
Rest in peace, Sheila. You truly were magical.