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Loafing about

I have a problem with bakeries.

Coming from Lurgan, where there is a bakery every third shop, my problem is ever so slightly exacerbated.

It’s not a problem that stops me going into them, it’s just whenever I do I get starstruck by the variety of delights on offer. For example I’ll see some lovely looking buns laden with sprinkles and jam and chocolate or a particularly attractive loaf with what looks like nuts and seeds baked through it, but because I don’t know the exact names for the products I’ll play it safe and ask for one, or possibly two, sausage rolls.

If I do pluck up the courage to be a bit more adventurous it’s like being on holidays. I’ll point at what I want, hold up the requisite number of fingers to indicate the quantity, then say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ in the dialect of the region.

I remember being in awe of my Granny Elsie who was a loyal customer of Helena’s in William Street. She could speak ‘bakery’ with consummate ease and always had the correct change in hand before the lady behind the counter had even begun her calculations.

I should be more comfortable in bakeries given those circumstances and the fact my wife Karen used to work in a bakery. While working in Knott’s in Newtownards she once received a tip in the form of two pieces of potato bread.

I love the notion of someone who works in a bakery being offered bread as a tip. I suppose plenty of barmaids have been bought a drink in lieu of a tip and in the hope of a little bit more, so maybe it’s not that odd. I tried to apply the same rules when tipping the person who cleans the public toilets but it all got a bit messy.

Occasionally Karen will try to educate me in the ways of bread, cakes and pastries. Though try as I might I don’t think I’ll ever get my head round a world containing bloomers and batch loafs, donkey’s lugs and coconut fingers, gravy rings and hot crossed buns, German biscuits and French fancies.

It doesn’t help that bakers like to bend the rules when it comes to quantities. For everyone else a dozen means 12, but bakers have to go one better. You wouldn’t catch the other two members of the famous triumvirate at that game. Could you imagine 51 sausages making up a ‘Butcher’s Half Century’? Or a candlestick maker claiming that a pair of candles meant three.

I hope I haven’t got on the wrong side of any bakers with this week’s column. I once had an unholy row with a baker. Thankfully it soon blew over and we were back on speaking terms. It was a case of ‘yeast said soonest mended’.

A laborious joke

A farmer phones the doctor to tell him his wife has gone into labour.

“Where is she now?” asks the doctor. The farmer tells the doctor his wife is in the barn. The doctor says he’ll be right over.

When he gets there the farmer is waiting for him outside the barn. They go inside but it’s pitch black.

“If I’m going to deliver this baby you’ll need to fetch a torch,” says the doctor.

The farmer goes into the farmhouse and comes back with a torch. They find the farmer’s wife in the barn and the doctor gets to work by torchlight.

“OK,” says the doctor. “Hold the torch nice and close so I can see.” There’s a slap and squeal and the doctor announces the arrival of a baby.

“Hold on,” he says. “Hold the torch close again.” The farmer does so, there’s another slap and a squeal and the doctor says, “It’s twins.”

The farmer is overjoyed. He tells the doctor he’s going into the farmhouse to fetch some moonshine for a toast.

“Not so fast,” says the doctor. “Hold the torch this way again.” The farmer hears another slap and a squeal and the doctor announces, “By Jove, it’s triplets.”

The farmer is champing at the bit to fetch the moonshine, but the doctor stops him again.

“Can you hold the torch over here again?” he asks. A slap and a squeal soon follow. “Bless my cotton socks, it’s quadruplets,” he announces.

“I don’t mean to tell you your job,” says the farmer. “But you don’t think that maybe it’s the light that’s attracting them?”

Weekly teaser

The answer to last week’s teaser was: rollerskates

Here’s this week’s: a man died on July 1 and was buried on June 30. Why the premature burial?