Dies ist meine Topflappen.
It may be that only one or fewer of those words is proper German. No matter: it's what I say everytime I use it. The Topflappen is a nicely insulated square of material and not heat may pass through it. If Kwai Chang Cain had strapped one to the inside of each forearm, moving the temple soup of the day might well have been less troublesome.
My wife bought me the Topflappen, fed up with hearing my bleats about the endless little blisters on my hands caused by using tea towels to remove half an oxen basting in goosefat on regulo 37. Those of you more familiar with this blog may remember that I have the hands of a howler monkey many years my senior, but I still don't want to make them any more unpleasant with burn scars.
I didn't know it was called Topflappen at first but one day, for no particular reason, I looked at the little label sown into the heat resistant square and noticed that it was Made in Germany, and that it had a real name: Topflappen. From that moment every time I withdrew a hot tray, a scorching pie dish or rearranged the hot oven shelves I would feel compelled to say 'Danke meine Topflappen', for removing from my life the spectre of oven burns. It makes dragging stuff like the strawberry and rhubarb tart solely about anticipation of pleasure rather than tainted with anticipation of pain. I love my Topflappen.
Work at home for any length of time and you'll find yourself doing the odd thing that may not be find accord with the rest of society. You might not get around to brushing your teeth until 3.47pm, you'll almost certainly talk to the radio, you may even find yourself doing impersonations* out loud in the otherwise empty house. Catch yourself in the mirror and you'll likely as not have 'homeworkers hair' - different every day, but usually with more than a passing resemblance to a Walnut Whip or a Mr Whippy that's slipping imperceptibly off it's wafery foundations.
It's most likely to occur when working on a book with a challenging deadline. I'm getting to grips with the fruity version of Veg Patch which means too many days where you get up, eat, sit in the office, leave only to go to the loo or kitchen, before catching a few moments of not working and going to sleep before the next day groundhogs around again.
Spending the day with limited human communication, minor irritations can become obsessions very easily. The bloke who drives by between 2 and 2.15 who insists, every day, on beeping his carhorn as he approaches the bend is, in my mind, Pol Pot in a runaway Trabant. The toaster's slow descent from peak-toasting machine to one-sided burn-or-raw performance is, I promise, noticeable when you work at home.
Flies invade the cool of the house around now every year, not in their hundreds but a few at a time, turning their tedious patterns in the kitchen. They really piss me off. They land on stuff and buzz and do 'fly' things. Like land on the musk strawberries.
I didn't know I had musk strawberries. I had grown a load of Fragaria chiloensis, the Chilean strawberry from which many of our common strawberries have been developed. It crawls easily forming a dense ground cover, if not one overprolific in fruit. But in amongst them I found something that was strawberry but not Chilean. They hang from little green hooked arms, like lanterns, pointing the fruit back to the centre of the plant.
Larger than an alpine but quite a bit smaller than a regular strawberry, I was stumped as to what they might be. Looking closely, they have very characteristic dimples. They're also unbelieveably good to eat. We're eating them ahead of the Emily and Honeoye strawberries and even the Mignonette alpines. Turns out that they are almost certainly musk strawberries (Fragaria moschata). I really don't want to share them, neither does my 4 year old daughter. Flies that land on them are inclined to get me and my daughter quite cross.
Occasionally I take a tea towel to them. I'm a Lord at tea towel flicking. This is not a specialist practice one might part with considerable sums to experience, but the old fashioned twist-it-up-and-flick-against-someones-leg-with-a-loud-snap painful thing, much beloved of school children. Third only to the Chinese burn and the dead leg. Or maybe fourth behind the wedgey. Depends which class of school you went to.
The tea towel is all very good but even when you are a Grandmaster of Teatowelery you're unlikely to get an astonishing hit rate. I've drawn blood with a casual flick of a tea towel, turned a light on with the snap of a wet tea towel, I've even flipped a tennis ball off the ground with one. I know what the shit I'm doing with a tea towel, but catching a fly, midair, I'm thinking my hit rate is maybe 20%, going up to maybe 60% for swatting one before it leaves a wall or kitchen surface. Like fly fishing, it's often more about the sport. Says the man who's never caught anything flyfishing.
I need another tool for delivering my prey unto the afterlife. If, while making one of my many cups of tea, I spot a few flies making parallelograms in the kitchen air or, worse, alighting on a surface, I walk around the kitchen with the Topflappen in one hand, slapping it against my leg or against the other palm, as if Major Von Hapen in Where Eagles Dare with a pair of leather gloves, having noticed something that's displeased him. This usually happens only when I'm on my own, at home, working. I don't actually mean to do it, it just happens. Probably as a result of repeated days working alone working on a book.
Around the kitchen I walk, a clipped march, with the occasional quick flourish of a turn. Heels may occasionally click together. The fly in range, I speak in a voice that alternates between Major Von Hapen's bark and a slightly camp Stephen Fry voice: 'Dies ist meine kitchen, und dies (SWAT).....ist meine Topflappen....und you vill bozzer meine kitchen nein more'.
I reckon my swat-to-kill rate is now about 80%. Thanks to meine Topflappen. Impressive stats homepestbotherers, I think you'll agree.
*Loyd Grossman and the original Churchill dog, if you must know.
Thursday, June 24, 2010 at 10:55 AM
Dies ist meine Topflappen.
James A-S said...
I am impressed by your topfflapen although I fear it might actually be a flappentof and you are horribly misusing it, poor thing.
I am the master of the dead fly and am able to despatch them using any number of weapons including tea towels and assorted periodicals. In my experience a copy of the Spectator or The Week are top notch. The top level of this sport involves swatting fly on the ceiling while bouncing naked on the bed.Without transferring printers' ink to the paintwork.
I can also kill them by clapping just above them.
I am truly the Lord of the Flies.
What I actually said was:
In her comment to a recent post of mine the very famous Lia 'Blog of the Week at Dobbies' Leendertz said that I had 'totally lost it'. After reading this post I have no hesitation in inviting you to become Honorary President of the Totally Lost It Society.
PS Thanks to you and JAS I know understand my poor fly kill rate - I use a fly swat. Silly me.
I'm a bit alarmed by the number of flies some people seem to have in their houses. Have you left something unpleasant rotting under the sideboard? Or is it just The Countryside?
I keep sane on big projects by endlessly changing hairstyles and singing the songs from The Sound of Music at top volume.
Lia Leendertz - Midnight brambling, Current holder, Dobbies Blog of the Week
Gilly - A schoolgirl error, really...a flyswat?!
PG - I really do need to get out more, if only to put that JAS in his rightful place in the flyswatting pecking order
JAS - if I didn't know better I'd swear I just heard the sound of a gaunlet being thrown down. Fortunately I know you well enough to know that it couldn't have been a gauntlet as you prefer to sport a leatherette driving glove.
Lia -I suspect a finger of fudge in the tall boy may be the culprit.
Sounds like a 'Three Men went to Mow' and D'Artagnan Diacono fly swatting special might be needed.
Something like the Miss World competition crossed with the decathlon where you could destroy a selection of flying pests with a range of weapons whilst wearing a selection of outfits...
particularly if the jumping up and down nude on the bed waving a magazine replaced the swimsuit section... ;-o
One of my favourite Otter Farm Blogs ever.... Sat in a bar in Guffey Colorado being looked at strangely as I piss myself laughing reading this!!
Oh and the photography is just edible!
Glad "Where Eagles Dare" got a mention, top war film of all time!
Ms B said...
Up to your usual high standards of writing & pictures.
I would like to recommend the vacuum cleaner as a potential fly dispatcher. Perhaps a little over the top for a solitary fly but if you have an outbreak of fruit flies or other flying critters the tube makes an excellent eliminator.
Mark D said...
Thank you MsB, v kind....but I feel abit uncomfortable about employing the services of technology and machinery in my hand-to-hand battle with flies. And what might become of my then redundant Topflappen?
Thank you Stuart, you're v easily pleased Im happy to say
Anonymous - Im alikey your idea, maybe we could throw in a touch of Its A Knockout, have a joker to play etc. I feel a pitch to the production companies coming on....
Martyn Cox said...
Working from home for so many years has resulted in me talking to the cats, and then answering back for them - Poppy sounds like a gruff Sgt major, while Purdy is more of a Charles Hawtrey style voice.Nurse, Mr Cox has escaped again.
Talking of flies. After filming Eggheads in Glasgow recently I took opportunity to wandering around Glasgow School of Art, where degree students were putting on their shows. One had made a lamp out of dead flies and had even made dead fly jewellry.
JAS your skills are clearly outstanding. However I have witnessed Mark D jumping up and down naked on the bed swatting flies with his underpants. It was a good hit rate I think.
I got two flies with one swipe of the topfflapen yesterday. They were 'in flagrante' and not paying as much attention as they should have. Fair play?
James A-S said...
My dear Mrs MD
You are right,of course, my skills are outstanding, thank you.
I am pleased that I have never witnessed Mark swatting flies with his pants (nor am ever likely to - unless fate is very unkind) . I leave that vision to haunt your dreams for ever. Personally I feel a little queasy at the idea of all that flapping about.
Opinion is divided about killing flies while they are coitally preoccupied. Are you intruding unnecessarily on a private moment? Is it their own fault for committing public indecency? (although instant dispatch is a harsh punishment for such a misdemeanour) or is all fair in love and war?
In few areas of human endeavour has debate been so heated.
In 72BC there was a small war between the Roman province of Bithynia and its neighbour. The legend has it that a pair of flies settled on the bare shoulder of the visiting Phrygian ambassador. Seeing this the outraged Captain of the guard swatted them with such vigour that the Ambassador dropped dead.
This lead to a brief but vigorous battle just outside Chalcedon. The dispute was settled when it was generally agreed that the Ambassador was a ghastly fellow with no morals, a propensity for unnatural relations with poultry,a treacherous nature and really smelly feet and they were much better off without him.