Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Pea Shingle - the Critic Speaks

A few months ago I purchased some bags of pea shingle from a well known purveyor of household materials. I paid, they delivered and I assumed that was the end of the transaction. But no. This morning I received the following electronic missive and, as a leading writer and commentator, found myself impelled to respond with all the seriousness that it deserves.
A review about pea shingle! What would Charles Dickens have written - the Old Curiously Shaped bit of Gravel? Would Hazlitt leap into a hansom cab at Westminster and shout "To the quarry"? George Orwell might have contrasted the many colours to the many oppressed races in the British Empire. Graham Greene might have had his subversive, flyblown yet spiritually optimistic whisky priest squatting on some gravel and letting it run through his fingers. But what of those masters of short satiric pieces - Michael Frayn, Alan Coren and the guv'nor himself, Paul Jennings, the man who once wrote an article entitled "A Load of Hoggin", a piece suffused with the joy of receiving a lorry load of the said stuff - how would they have faced this daunting literary challenge? Is there a prize for the most penetrating review? If I venture to the very heart of what pea shingle is about, will my insights stir the soul of the judges and lead quickly to a book deal and a West End Musical? Will they make One Foot in the Gravel? [I had a horrible feeling that was coming: Ed]

OK, I've had some coffee, I am at my desk, the house is quiet. Time to focus the mind. Gravel. What does one say in a review of it? Funny word, gravel. A bit like grovel and a bit like gavel. Shingles is a nasty disease and a case of Pea Shingles sounds vile. What are the, ah, good and bad points of the bag of these little miniature pebbles? They are hard. They make a satisfying rattle if you rub a few together in your hand. They are undeniably a great boon to those of us who must, from time to time, erupt from the house to confront a goldfish-poaching cat; nothing moves faster than a moggy with a handful of stones converging at speed on his rear end. They make a crunchy noise when walked on - anyone trespassing nefariously onto my land at night will have to walk with exceeding care if they don't want to wake up the neighbourhood.

No, that's it. I've had a good think and now I'm bored. I can't be bothered to review this bag (or any of the 19 other bags purchased at the same time). It's Pea Shingle, it does what it would say on the tin if it came in a tin, and it's millions of years older than I am. Maybe dinosaurs walked over the cliffs that became the rocks that became the pebbles the sea pounded into little bits that Messrs. Wickes harvested for my benefit. Perhaps some of the bits once made up a rock lobbed by an ancestor at a woolly mammoth. There's plenty of romance in the bag, if you want to look for it, but I think I've had enough.

So nul points for the bag of shingle, no "like", no "followers". Don't go rushing off to the Wickes web site because there won't be any stars against this little chap from me. And there aren't any for the nails, bags of cement and other stuff I've bought over the years. I really don't care.

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