I Swear by Almighty God…


Well I suppose the time has come to stop moaning about how skint I am, get up off my arse and go get a job. That may sound a ludicrous idea in this day and age, but there seem to be a lot of jobs available at the moment, and I’ve been pondering their various merits. I wonder if I could find something to do part-time to supplement the millions I’m making out of designing T-shirts ?

Coronation Street actress Jenny McAlpine

By the way, if anyone from the BBC Newsnight Team is reading this, that last line was a joke. I’m not making millions out of T-shirts, I merely put that line in by way of a joke. I hope to include several more jokes in this piece, and hopefully much funnier ones. But please, if the rumour spreads across the internet that I’m worth a fortune due to my printing business, and you feel it would be a story worth airing, please call me to see if there is anything to the gossip. Back in the day when I worked in the journalism business, it used to be called fact-checking.

So there’s my first application off in the post : for the job of Newsnight Editor. There presumably isn’t one at the moment, and if there is I think I back myself to make a better fist (easy !) of it, being pretty sure as I am that a multi-collaborated story about systematic and widespread child abuse on BBC premises, covered up for over 40 years would probably be worth airing, whereas some bloke approaching me in the World Food aisle of Sainsburys, accusing a Tory peer of abusing him, adding “I’m pretty sure he looked a bit like that Lord McAlpine bloke, or someone…probably” might merit some further investigation before broadcasting it. D’you think?

The Renault Alpine

The Renault Alpine

As mentioned previously, The job as the new Arch Bishop of Canterbury has already gone. I was never really cut out for that anyway. Firstly, and most obviously, I’ve never been a treasurer for Enterprise Oil Plc- a post which, if you know your scripture as badly as I don’t, is spelt out in the book of Colin18:15 :- and Yea verrily, the Lord sayest unto me -“if you want a jobeth up here, mate, worketh you for ten plus one years (including Bankest Holidays) for a FTSE 100 listeth multinational, then I might consider you. And for My sake, shaveth off that beard – I’m not going down that route again” – amen.

So I clearly need to look elsewhere. Only to add that it’s nice to see the new ABC stamping his sandal down heavily on gay marriage right from the get-go. I certainly wouldn’t want to lead any church which welcomed all and understood the needs and differences of all HIM UPSTAIR’S flock. On the other hand, it may just be his way of ridding the church of paedophiles, because, as the Prime Minister has already said this week, there is a concern that this hunt for child abusers could turn into a gay witch hunt. 

Lord McAlpine and a Friend (unknown)

It’s taken a while to arrive, but I wondered how long it would take for someone to link child abuse with homosexuality. What a brilliant device to justify the non-outing of child abuse offenders. Hide behind a human rights statute which, given half a chance, Cameron and his mob would chuck out at the drop of a Top hat (and demand the right to bend over and pick it up). The BBC spent all week slating Philip Scofield for having the temerity to ask Cameron about the rumours, but not once did anyone pick up on the scandalous accusation that paedophilia is a product of homosexuality.

So there’s application No.2: Witch Hunter (Gay) General. Just point out all those gay witches to me and I’ll be on the case. A rather well-off bloke called Cliff, who drinks in my local pub (known to me as Fiscal Cliff – a joke only I enjoy) reckons statistically that “all poofs are perverts”. Who amongst us could argue with a beautiful, well constructed argument such as that ? He’s also a champion of the “all rag-heads are terrorists” school, and founder of the Dartford chapter of the “Illegal Immigrants Smell” society. It’s a real joy chatting to him, as you can image. (Note to BBC journalists that last paragraph was a joke too. It’s not a joy to speak to him)

As an aside, I was recently asked to be a driver and take the X-Factor Cheryl and her former husband Ashley up to St James’ Park for a charity gig. But I didn’t fancy it, so I turned it down. To me it seemed a bit like taking Coles to Newcastle.

sorry

An Undercover Paedophile

But I mustn’t be too hard on the Prime Minister. It is, after all, a well-known fact that if you let gays into the armed forces, they will be distracted from their task of fighting the enemy by their uncontrollable urge to shag the nearest NCO up the Tactical Retreat. It’s obvious that these degenerates blend in with normal folk, dressing and acting in a manner which makes it incredibly hard to tell them from us regular chaps.

What a sensational idea. To conceal the fact that you are a paedophile in a children’s home by dressing up as…. a paedophile. Who on earth could have realised what he was up to ? No wonder the PM is concerned that we will be hunting down the wrong sort or paedophile  individual , and accuse any random cabinet minister person that they were either colluding with the offenders, indulging in nefarious activities with them, or simply so incompetent that they unwittingly turned a blind eye to these crimes in a bid to be popular. I can’t see that sort of admonishable behaviour ever having happened, frankly.

Unknown Man with An Undercover Paedophile

Useless Twat with An Undercover Paedophile

If the Witch Hunter job has already gone, there’s always the job of the head of the CIA to apply for. The incumbent one, David Petraeus, has just fallen on his sword after having admitted having an extra-marital affair. It’s apparently not the done thing to have the Spook-in-Chief play away from home, in case he goes all John Profumo on you and starts pillow-talking with the opposition. Petraeus is an all-American hero and the suggestion that he may have betrayed state secrets is vigorously denied by both the US Government and his lover, Mrs Edith Taliban, Hut 5, Nad-e Ali, Helmund Province. Telephone: Afghanistan 4.  (Note to the remaining members of the CIA: That last bit was a joke also. I made up her phone number. My hat size is 6 7/8, should you want to bring a canvas bag with you when you call. I also have Aspergers. Honest).

Oh fuck it. I think I’ll apply to be a Police and Crime Commissioner. By the sounds of it you’ll only need about 5 votes to get in, such is the apathy for the upcoming UK elections. In Kent, The English Democrat candidate is the wonderfully named Steve Uncles.  Here’s the opening to his website:

“Steve Uncles Kent Police & Crime Commissioner English Democrats – “More Police Catching Criminals” Born Blackheath (Traditional Kent), child hood Bexley (Traditional Kent), adult & family life Dartford (Kent), I am an English Kentishman. I have worked within public and private sectors and for 10 years ran my own business.”

Zeig Heil

(NB: I made that last bit up.)

Do you get the idea he’s from (Traditional) Kent ? I can’t read that without hearing the “We Want to be Togevva” voice in my head. I’m amazed we haven’t run over each other in the past. If I can’t beat him I might as well give up and go and make T-shirts or something.

Alpine Skiing

Alpine Skiing

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It’s Tin Hat Time


Just a couple of items raised a monobrow today. I notice my beloved Blackheath is to receive some help from a terrorist attack. Which is nice.

BBC: London 2012: Olympics missile sites considered for Blackheath and Shooters Hill


The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is considering plans to install surface-to-air missiles in Blackheath and Shooters Hill during the Olympic Games.The MoD said it had taken military advice to identify sites to base the defence systems to protect the skies over London in the event of an attack.Eltham and Plumstead MP Clive Efford said he was concerned at the “lack of consultation”.

The MoD said no final decision had been made to use the air defence systems.Mr Efford said he had now written to Defence Secretary Philip Hammond to complain about not being consulted.The Labour MP said the first he heard about the plans was when half a dozen trucks and trailers arrived at Oxleas Wood, near Shooters Hill in his constituency.

‘Alarmed at news’

“I accept there has to be security for the Olympics and inconvenience but there are proper processes to go through,” he said. “I would have expected a full briefing from the minister. This is a site of special scientific interest so I was alarmed when I heard. I have no idea of the scale of this plan and what damage might happen.”

Whether or not the local MP is a little bit naive expecting a full briefing is a moot point, but if the MOD could point their Exocets towards the heavy lorries that daily get stuck in the Blackwall Tunnel, that would help immeasurably. They’d get a perfect view from the top of Shooters Hill too.

Then there was this in The Guardian today:

As a metaphor for the London Olympics, it could hardly be more stark. The much-derided “Wenlock” Olympic mascot is now available in London Olympic stores dressed as a Metropolitan police officer. For £10.25 you, too, can own the ultimate symbol of the Games: a member of by far the biggest and most expensive security operation in recent British history packaged as tourist commodity. Eerily, his single panoptic-style eye, peering out from beneath the police helmet, is reminiscent of the all-seeing eye of God so commonly depicted at the top of Enlightenment paintings. In these, God’s eye maintained a custodial and omniscient surveillance on His unruly subjects far below on terra firma….

…Critics of the Olympics have not been slow to point out the dark ironies surrounding the police Wenlock figure. “Water cannon and steel cordon sold separately,” mocks Dan Hancox on the influential Games Monitor website. “Baton rounds may be unsuitable for small children.”

In addition to the concentration of sporting talent and global media, the London Olympics will host the biggest mobilisation of military and security forces seen in the UK since the second world war. More troops – around 13,500 – will be deployed than are currently at war in Afghanistan. The growing security force is being estimated at anything between 24,000 and 49,000 in total. Such is the secrecy that no one seems to know for sure.

During the Games an aircraft carrier will dock on the Thames. Surface-to-air missile systems will scan the skies. Unmanned drones, thankfully without lethal missiles, will loiter above the gleaming stadiums and opening and closing ceremonies. RAF Typhoon Eurofighters will fly from RAF Northolt. A thousand armed US diplomatic and FBI agents and 55 dog teams will patrol an Olympic zone partitioned off from the wider city by an 11-mile, £80m, 5,000-volt electric fence.

All this should give walking around London this summer that warm, cosy feeling. It’ll be just like a Richard Curtis movie. Especially the ones he directed starring Wesley Snipes and Liam Neeson shooting the fuck out of everything. The English Tourist Board must be loving it. And all this just to make wads of cash for Seb, Boris and their cronies. Maybe my missing out on tickets for the heats of the Individual Synchronized Swimming was a blessing in disguise after all ? Are they putting frogmen in the pool ? Buster Crabbe sitting at the bottom of the deep end, should the famous Al Qaeda Underwater swim-team decide to invade ?

I’m not sure how much concentration I could manage if I was competing in the Archery or the 1 yard Air Pistol if I could sense either a ground-to-air missile at the other end of the field, primed and ready to go; or the threat of a hooded loony’s AK47 spitting bullets all over the place.  I’d want more than a BB Gun or a bow-and-arrow to defend myself with.

The English Cricket team have got it right: They’re bad enough without going out to bat in Sniper Alley in downtown Lahore. I’m not sure I’d be able to pick a googly if I thought the mad mullahs were using my temples as target practice. So they refuse to play in Pakistan. They’d much rather be humiliated and beaten in the UAE. I wonder how long it will be before Olympic national teams decide not to visit a country marked down in the book by religious extremists as Satan’s Little Helper ?

Maybe not. That would be taken as a huge diss and insult to the Old Country. They wouldn’t dare upset old Dave.

And Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now


I think it was Nana Mouskouri who said something like “Just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean the fuckers aren’t out to get you”. It’s a mantra I pretty much live my life by. Yes, I’m fully aware I am paranoid (it comes with the communist dad and the Che Guevara posters) but I also know in my heart of hearts that they are out to get me. And they’re winning.

I  woke up this morning to the news that The Halifax Building Society is to announce a rise in interest rates, pushing up the cost of mortgages for those with variable mortgages. Have a guess who I have a mortgage with ? Yes, that’s right – The Woolwich. No, not really – The Halifax Building Society. And, in the words of Jimmy Cricket, “C’mere, there’s more”:

I’ve been on a fixed-rate deal with The Halifax for several years now, getting stuffed by playing it safe with a 5% deal when the interest rates plunged. But I always kidded myself, using that phrase all us fixed-rate bods use “I always know what’s coming out of my account every month” (e.g. just about everything). My deal finished in February. I “clinched” a new, variable rate deal last week. The letter of confirmation came through yesterday.

And tomorrow they’re putting the rate up.

If you don’t think that’s bad luck, bad timing or even sinister you might like to bear in mind I have to pay something like 3 points above the normal cos I rent my house (you’ll remember Railway Cuttings) while I skulk in the potting shed, down here in the countryside. I do this, not because I’m a property developer, but because I haven’t had a job in close to 2 years. and the rent from my house is my salary. The Halifax won’t let you just rent out your house. You have to declare it and take our a landlord’s mortgage, a “Consent to Lease Agreement”. When I came to move out and rent out, I decided to play it fair and above-board and tell the Halifax. It is much more expensive than a regular mortgage they told me. Much more. I wasn’t happy.

“You do know, don’t you” I inquired of them “that I’m the only bloke I know who actually declares that they’re renting out their house? That I’m being punished for being honest ?” This fell on deaf eyes. Even as I was telling them, I imagined limos full of Halifax Henchmen descending on me to force me to spit out the names of these others who were not declaring their lease.

When my 4 year old fixed-rate ended (you can imagine what I paid on a deal taken out in pre-crash 2007), because of the higher payments demanded of an obvious property magnate like me, my monthly payment actually went up. (There’s a longer version to this story where I was informed by Dartford Branch that my payments would go down but apparentlywhoevertoldmethatwasmisinformedandyourpaymentswillactuallybegoingupMrBealingandwe’resorry-youweregiventhewronginformationandhere’s70quidtosaysorryeventhoughwedontadmittoanywrongdoingonourpart)

But we won’t go there. Cos I get angry about it.

SEVENTY QUID !!!

cvnts

So the small salary I get from my house lets me stretch to about a couple of packets of biscuits and a pint of milk each month. From tomorrow I’ll be deficient in the Bourbon department to the tune of one.

The author and one of his his little "runarounds".

Petrol has hit a new high too. Unleaded (I’m told, cos I never bother looking at the pumps any more) is now 137p or more per litre. It now costs nearly £80 to fill up The Incumbent’s motor. So we don’t bother any more. The 17yr old of the house has just passed his driving test too, so from 3 weeks ago were filling 2 motors. (and before you start, tree-huggers: Fuck Off.)

In an effort to boost (Ha!, boost) the sales of T-shirts from our fledgling Generic Logo Company, I have spent 3 weeks (yes honestly) on the phone and email trying to set up credit card payments. I’ve been regularly on to the host website called, I kid you not Mr Site, who are in Delhi or Mumbai or similar. I have also been on to some mob called Cardinal Commerce who are part of the Mastercard verification process and are in Ohio, USA. And I have been talking at length to Paypal, who are in Dublin. Whatever is supposed to be happening isn’t. Paypal blame Cardinal, blame Mr Site. I DON’T CARE. It’s probably me who has input something wrong. I JUST WANT IT WORKING. I have asked them all to pretend this is the first time I’ve ever set up a credit card verification arrangement across 3 continents and 13 time zones, and to pretend that this is what they do every day. No-one seemed to get my inference.

So we’re back to where we started and until these three titans of the business world get their collective arse in gear, T-shirts can only be bought if you have a Paypal account. I know this will come as a blow to most of you who had just fished-out your VISA or Mastercard from your handbags and were about to buy a rude tee from us, but you’ll need a Palpal account now. I know, it’s gutting.

But I’m not holding my breath. The contract on that pad in Cap Ferrat remains unsigned until the “business” actually sells anything.

So, in short, I’m skint (all of my spare cash having been invested in unsold t-shirts); petrol is at a record high and I need twice as much of it as I did before; and my mortgage costs 100 quid-a-month more than it did before Christmas.

But through all this I am considering voting Tory. Or LibDem. Or both, if I can.

I know.

Why? Well, it’s simple. Someone called Johnny Marr says he and the Smiths (and one can only presume this includes the Morrissey) will reform if the coalition steps down. According to the Guardian:

Johnny Marr has offered to reform the Smiths, on just one tiny condition: David Cameron‘s coalition government steps down. “How’s that?” he quipped at the NME awards. “I think the country’d be better off, don’t you?”

Now if that isn’t a good enough reason to support David Cameron, Gideon Osborn, Toady Clegg and this wonderful government’s fiscal policies, I don’t know what is.

What’s the Bleeding Time ?*


“If you give us the name of your GP, Mr Bealing, we’ll write directly to him”
“I don’t have a GP.”  That was on Tuesday.

Wednesday: “What we’ll do is release you from hospital into the hands of your GP. Let us have his name and we’ll pass on your notes to him.”
“I don’t have a GP.”

Thursday: “What’s the name of your GP, Mr Bealing ?”
“I don’t have a GP.”
“What do you mean you don’t have a GP? General Practitioner ? Your local doctor ?”
“I’m a bloke: I don’t have a GP. I’ve never needed a GP”

Just three of several conversations had with doctors and nurses at both Darenth Valley and Kings College Hospitals last week. Most of them with female members of staff, all of them with an incredulous look on their face. “What do you meeeeaaaaan ??  You don’t have a GP ???” I might as well said I didn’t have a cellphone.


GPs, as any bloke will tell you, are a last resort. We don’t go to the GP unless something really ‘orrid ‘appens which prevents you from either a) going to work; b) going down the pub; c) playing sport or: d) all 3 of the above. For women, a GP is like a hairdresser – someone to go see once a fortnight for a chat. Blokes just aren’t made that way.

Boots the chemist is very much the same. Ever popped into Boots or Superdrug  and bumped into a bloke ? No, of course you haven’t. And if you have he’s either waiting at the door for his missus, or has been sent down for a packet of tampons or one of those individual, gender-specific packets of tissues for his wife while she’s at the hairdressers or the GP. Blokes don’t go to the chemist on their own accord. We buy our toothpaste at the supermarket and our headache tablets from the garage. Our deodorant at Millets

I’ve had GPs in the past but only when I needed them. Last one I had was in Blackheath when I needed to get my back and knee fixed (my poorly knee stopped me playing cricket and my bad back prevented me standing at the bar). So I registered with the GP with the sole intention of being referred to someone else.

When I moved to Dartford, finding a new GP wasn’t on top of my list. It was down there with finding a local french polisher and a nearby locksmith. But having been stuck down at the tender age of 46 by some ‘heart attack of the brain’, it’s clear I needed to find my own local doc. And if I didn’t realise that, there were hundreds of doctors and nurses on hand at the hospital to remind me I did.


But let’s get things into perspective: I can have no complaints whatsoever about the NHS. They were quite brilliant to me. During the week I spent with them the service and treatment was first class. Now at home (though still technically under their care) they have followed it up with regular visits, calls, prescriptions and injections. Pop over to The States and ask for free regular home health visits and see how far you get before being labelled a communist. And they don’t even mean it as a compliment.

It wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have a row now and then while I was up there. The main one was with the consultant who wondered why I was so aggressive and angsty: it only being 3am and I’d had my stroke 2 days ago. Silly me, I should have known better than to worry. However, her apart, the medical staff were wonderful, wonderful, people and fit to marry my sister any day. If I had one.However the less said about yer average auxiliary staff:- the jobsworths on the front desk, the sub-contractors slopping out the …er…slop, the better.

The Doctor and the Medics sent me home probably 3 days sooner than I would have done so, given that I could neither walk, write or constantly open my…erm…parts, but it now seems to have been not just some cynical ploy just to get their bed back (as some of your rotters have suggested) but a measure which would see my health improve daily. And that has proven to be the case. Progress is good, the balance/walking seems to be coming along wonderfully, largely due to the “Standing Up Straight” lessons I’m receiving as part of the home visits. I tried to crack a couple of Kenneth More jokes buy my physio is far to young to understand.

The successful function of my lower regions seems to improve when I take a weighty tome into trap one with me to take my mind off it. Only the typing is still troublesome. I seem to have emerged from my medical traumas with dyslexic fingers. Every paragraph gives me problems, sometimes misspelling every other word, sometimes typing in completely the wrong washing machine. Only an avid re-reading of that which I’ve last typed prevents me publishing complete lawnmowers.

So onward and upwards. Time for another course of the 53 pills I need to take three times-a-day, just before The Incumbent injects me with some blood-thinner or other.  Or at least that’s what she says it is. The minute she reaches for the ‘saline solution’ I shall limp down the road as fast as my wobbly legs will take me.

*  “Ten past ten sir”

The Slaughtered Lamb


Fancy a pint ? Yes ? Come on then, I’ll take you down to a little pub I know. It’s just down the road.

Two weeks into my self-imposed exile, we decided last night to take a stroll round the leafy lanes, avenues and alleyways and see what Dartford on a Friday night had to offer. Our route was not a particularly ambitious one. A short couple of miles which would take us by (or rather to) 5 boozers, all of which I’d visited before down the years, some more frequently than others, and being the five closest inns from the Potting Shed each of them stood a decent chance of becoming my new local.

First up: the former local. I’d spent most of my formative years getting ever-so-slightly elephants in a particular pub on the top of the hill, just outside town. Ernie’s had been scientifically chosen, it being the closest one to the school gates and you get still get served wearing your uniform. Many of my happiest memories are from those 15 short years from the age of 16 onwards getting smashed out of my face in one of the less-trendy nightspots in Dartford (and that’s going some). Birthdays, weddings (not mine), funerals (ditto), births, divorces and Ryder Cup triumphs were all celebrated within those walls overseen by the hilariously miserable Mancunian eponymous landlord who scared off as many customers as he attracted with his sledgehammer wit and pungent bodily functions.He’s long-gone now, gone off to live in Spain with his pockets bulging with my hard-earned cash, so I was intrigued to see how the old place was, fifteen years after I’d last set thirsty foot in it.

Within 12 yards of the door my worst fears were realised. Through the several plate-glass windows I saw a pub transformed from the traditional boozer it once was. Where once a horseshoe bar wound its way round the room, manned permanently by assorted punters, postmen and pissheads, there seemed to be a selection of coffee tables and banquettes. Low-slung chaise-longues occupied by even lower-slung shell-suits sat there in deathly silence. I counted eight people in there. And none of them were having fun. The bar had been rebuilt and stood in all its magnificent gloss-white glory along one side of the room. Two of the uglier members from the cast of Glee stood silently behind it, re-arranging the bottles of WKD. The strains of Tiny Talent could be heard emanating from the music system.

“Nope” I announced to The Incumbent who, if the speed by which she changed direction was anything to go by, had already made up her mind that it looked like a shit hole. Fortunately, there’s a pub right opposite Ernie’s so we headed across the road and, without stopping to check it out, ploughed through the door.

Imagine walking one of those shack-cum-bars in Mississippi or Alabama. Where the KKK‘s U19 Soccer team have just held their AGM. And all the bright ones have gone home for their tea. And it’s been free beer for six hours. And the town has just elected a black mayor. And he’s gay. Got that image in your brain ? Well that’s the kind of scene we encountered there in that pub.

Two or three of the knuckle-draggers who still had control of their movements looked up looked us up and down, suspecting that we were either coppers or neurosurgeons. Being neither, but not wanting to have to prove it, I decided on the only course of action open to us.

“Nope” I exclaimed again and we beat a hasty retreat out of the Berchtesgaden Arms back to the now strangely enticing Ernie’s. In the 14 seconds we’d been across the road, three of the customers I’d seen through the window had left, leaving three young asian blokes, slumped at half-mast on their leatherette armchairs, staring wistfully and listlessly at two imaginatively-clad girls sat near the toilets, knocking a decent-sized hole in a bottle of Rose. These were very odd fellows indeed. I ordered myself a pint and a gin for the missus, partly for old times’ sake and partly cos I never like not having a drink in two pubs in a row.

Our drinks didn’t touch the sides. We left. Depressed.

No matter, onwards and upwards. Next up, the previously mentioned Goat and Masturbator which, as the glass bottle flies round here, is the closest to the Potting Shed. It would have been some time during the mid 1980’s when I was last here and it wasn’t that brilliant then.  Now it’s a Harvester. One of those eateries with all the atmosphere of a Hosni Mubarak cabinet meeting. A few groups of half-drunk, fully-fed  20-somethings were placed carefully between plates of rotten and rotting food. The smell of barbeque ribs and Red Bull was quite overpowering.

“Nope!” yelled The Incumbent over the din of an iTunes playlist. We left smartly, missing the chance to indulge in a baked potato with the topping of our choice, washed down with one of two Australian lagers on tap.

Pub number four just had to be better. And, in truth it was. The Liniment and Poultice had never been a favourite of mine back when I had hair, but da word on da street recently was that it’s been taken over, was full of old gits and had gone all boring. Perfect. Well almost. A medium-sized establishment, the first thing you notice that it has both a pool table and a dartboard (both of which are sadly lacking in Blackheath boozers). There were twenty-or-so people drinking inside, most over 30 years old, some over 50, all of them huddled along the bar leaving wide open spaces of emptiness in the lounge. You could have played a game of football on the carpeted area and not bothered anyone, but try to get near the bar and you encountered a sea of elbows, builder’s bums and handbags.Nevertheless, all seemed quite friendly, and the guv’nor poured a decent pint of Stella, and a perfect gin.

Now I know on such announcements economies can boom or bust,  so I have to tell you now that there is goodly supply of both limes and lemons in Dartford. Not only that but on the evidence of last night the bottle of tonic is placed on the bar un-decanted beside the glass of gin, and it is left to you, yourself, to administer the correct measure of mixer. You should have seen my little face light up.

And that would have been that. I would have happily settled on The Liniment to serve as my local for the duration of my stay here in NW Kent, however long that may be. But we still had one more pub to visit on our way home. Which, after a few more pints in The Poultice is exactly what we did.

If you didn’t know The Shovel was there you’d easily pass it in your rush to get to Dartford town centre. (In truth you still don’t know its there, or its real name but, like a Danish cartoonist, The Shovel’s exact and whereabouts need to be kept a closely guarded secret.) This is a teeny tiny little pub. Barely bigger than your average terraced house. When we entered there were 12 people in the bar, all middle-aged (or older) men, one barmaid behind the jump. It was busy. If a half-laden Ford Galaxy emptied it’s passengers into the pub it’d be standing room only. And some of these old blokes couldn’t stand for long.

From the door we took three steps and arrived at the bar. There were three hand-pumps, none of them marked. One Guinness pump, one Fosters and one serving Dark Mild. I’ll type that again: one serving Dark Mild.

“What’s in the hand pumps, love?”  I asked the barmaid, going all Richard Keys on her.
“Courage Best” she smiled.
“What, in all of em?” I asked
“Yep, all of them”

I looked around to see who was having what elsewhere in the pub. Two blokes had pints of stout in their hands. Always worth checking.
“I’ll have a Guinness then, please.” says I, “Oh and a gin and tonic as well please” remembering my manners.

As I waited for my stout to settle I looked around the pub. Behind the bar, beneath the optics, were unrefrigerated shelves of bottled beer: Stouts, Brown Ales, Light Ales, Barley Wines and the like of which you just don’t see anymore. Mainly because no-one drinks them, but all the same… And unrefrigerated. Warm beer. You could ask for a Light & Bitter and not only would it arrive at room temperature but, by the look of the barmaid she’d know exactly how to pour it.

Up above, where the line of optics ended was a calendar. The photo was of a naked girl standing under a palm tree on a beach, sporting an enormous bush. She had big hair on her head too and a lovely big grin. She smiled out at us barflies as she and girls like her used to smile out at us from The Big D peanut cards back in the 70s and 80s, before pictures of naked women in pubs and garages were Andy Grayed into touch. This was the 2011 and she looked completely out-of-place. Pleasant, but out-of-place.

At least I thought it was 2011 but I kept spotting things which told me otherwise. To the right of my naked new friend was a small wooden cabinet containing three piles of assorted 10-packs of cigarettes, a couple of half-ounces of Golden Virginia and a dozen boxes of matches. No cigarette machine here, just a wooden box behind the bar. Come to think of it, there was no jukebox or fruit machine either. The punters entertained themselves by talking to each other (everyone truly knew everyone else and everyone was within ear-trumpet range of each other) or, for the more adventurous, a game of crib was in full-flow. It nearly kicked off when one bloke had 16 in his box and pegged-out, almost literally.

I took stock of the situation:  A quiet friendly pub, with no herberts or wankers; no jukebox or one-armed bandit; a pleasant knowledgeable barmaid; light ale; photos of naked girls; a crib board and Dark Mild.

Admittedly the Guinness was fucking awful, but such was my euphoria at finding such a wonderful little time-capsule that I forgot to complain. Even after my fourth pint.

I was home.

So what do you reckon ? Fancy a stroll down there ? You’re a bitter man, right ? I hope you like Courage Best.  And you don’t mind if I blindfold you, do you ? Can’t have everyone knowing where it is. There’s very little room at this Inn.

The Field Trip


They once took us on a school field trip to Greenwich Park to look at the observatory. Thirty 12-year-old kids bored out of our minds with the solar system, although excited to think we were lightyears away from home, when in reality it was more like 10 miles. Looking back on it we must have learnt something, and we must have behaved ourselves because next year we went to London Zoo.

We had a food fight in the Zoo’s lecture theatre and the school was banned from ever returning. Why would you take 13 year-olds to a zoo an stick them in a lecture theatre ? You wouldn’t wanna take them to see the lions of the gorillas or anything, would you ?

Fortunately for them, Kendall wasn’t on that trip. He was busy in a  Montgomery County, Alabama. The bloke’s a natural. Or rather he’s unprocessed and raw.

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An Old Kentish Custom


Ah! the fresh country air. As I drew back the curtains this morning I was greeted, not as I usually am with the gentle chuff chuff chuff of Network Southeast trains struggling against the wrong sort of air, but the twittering of birdies in apple trees and the sight of a milky sun gentle rising over the rolling hills of the Garden of England.

Yes, we have finally moved offices from the urban sprawl of SE London down to the leafy lanes and rural bliss of the Kent countryside. As I write I can see in the distance two shire horses being hooked up to a farmy thing as they are prepared for a long days tilling or furrowing or ploughing or whatever shirehorses do when they’re not delivering beer.

From the field just to the left of ours I hear the sounds of countryfolk mangling their wurzles or wittling their fetlocks or somesuch. In the copse to the right I assume they are engaged in clay pigeon shooting, as I can make out two men, one crouched over something while the other shouts “pull” at regular intervals.

Wandering around the lanes last evening was such a different experience to that of a stroll around the ‘smoke’ of Blackheath: The sirens of the Black Maria have been replaced by the screech of rutting animals. Or teenagers, it’s difficult to tell. The whiff of Chicken Chilli Masala oozing from the kitchens of The Saffron Club curry house have been replaced by the subtle aromas of animal dung, crop fires and regurgitated cider and kebabs on the pavement by the horse trough outside the local pub, The Goat and Masturbator.

By way of a welcome the locals even staged an attempted murder, just to make me feel at home. I shall do my best to fit in. This morning I am off to the local tack shop to get kitted out in their best Jilly Cooper outfit (I already have the teeth) and this afternoon I start labrador lessons. This evening I may even venture up to the pub to try their mead, pork scratchings and see if I can’t start an argument about lemons.

In between all this I need to inform my various suppliers and business contacts of our change of address. I also need to redirect my mail, but as the odds of actually being able to logon to the Royal Mail website are about as good as being able to enjoy a Nick Cage movie I shall simply list it below. That, at least, will enable my two readers in Paris to send their ritual abuse to the correct address.

Single (Sharp) Media (UK) Ltd
The Potting Shed Behind the Haywain,
The West Orchard
Dartford
Kentshire.
D1C H3D
Tel: Southeast 14.

A Short Moving Tale


This one is true.

My main preoccupation over the past few weeks has been knocking Railway Cuttings into shape in preparation for viewings by prospective tenants. The floors have been scrubbed, the electrics have been fixed, checked and double-checked and anything that needed mending, sticking or nailing down has been mended, stuck and nailed down. Short of a once-over with the roller and whitewash the old place is looking as near as damn it perfect. I’d rent it myself, if I didn’t already own it. Shame really, but them’s the breaks. Times are tough and needs must etc etc. The Potting Shed awaits and with the fiscal climate the way it is, moving home is the best way forward.  And as my mates Dave, Nick and Gideon never tire of telling me: We’re all in this together.

This photo has nothing to do with this story. It’s merely to remind you of your enemy. (Osborne is 2nd from right)

Thus far I’ve had 3 couples come to look at the property. The first people were very pleasant indeed. An Asian (possibly Indian) couple who looked over the place, upstairs and down, asked all the right questions, smiled, left and were never heard of again. A little bit of me wanted them to be the ones who rented my house, but I suppose I was just being a little optimistic to rent it out to the first people to come along. And anyway (I told myself later) if the first viewers had said they wanted it I would have kicked myself cos I was obviously asking far too little in rent. It’s like putting a treasured item on eBay, spending an angst-ridden hour deciding carefully on the reserve, then some git swoops in and buys it for the price you asked for. Shit.

Anyway. For a week or two no-one else rang to express any interest in my little place and so now I’m thinking I’m asking too much for the place. Shit shit. I looked online to see what the going rate for a Railway Cutting was, but it seems I’m in a bit of a niche market. It seemed that whatever the price, too high or too low, I wasn’t getting out of here in a hurry.

Then, just before Christmas, some good news. My letting agent told me that he had a couple who really liked what they saw in the ad and wanted to come by and see it the following day. Great ! It was the last business day before the holiday, but that was no problem. The place had a nice Christmassy feel about it. I had a quick hoover round, made myself a cup of coffee (they tell me the smell of fresh coffee is attractive to home-seekers) and settled down in front of Film4 to wait for the potentials to arrive. An hour or so later the doorbell rang. Up I jumped and went to the door to let them in.
“Hello, we’ve come to see the house. The letting agent sent us”
“Oh…..er…hi”. I was blushing. “Just give me two secs will you?”
I sprinted back into the lounge in search of the tv remote. I’d been watching Tora Tora Tora which in a snap judgement I decided wasn’t going to go down well with the two Japanese people on my doorstep. Remote found, crisis averted. They were very nice people too. Though they spent less than ten minutes looking around, and I pretty much knew the house wasn’t for them. But I was content in the knowledge at least I hadn’t upset them with my tv viewing habits. (And before you ask, yes I may be ignorant enough to misjudge their ethnicity but I wasn’t taking any chances.)

Christmas came and went and I was fretting about changing the price of the rent (either up or down) when today, out of the blue, the phone went. It was the agent telling me they had a couple in the office who wanted to come round right away to look at the house. I ran a duster and the mop and bucket around as well as I could, but within minutes the new viewers were at my door.

As I greeted them on the threshold they shook my hand and introduced themselves.
“Hello, I’m Tomas” he said in a thick european accent. “Hi there, I’m Mike”
“Hello I’m Christianne” said the woman”
“Mike. Please, go on through”. Hmmm… Germans, I thought, how very cosmopolitan of me.

We walked through to the lounge, and only then did I remember what I’d been watching on telly. There in full view of all three of us was a particularly lavish battle scene from The Longest Day, blaring out of my tv in the corner of the room. I gave an internal shriek and bounded between them to push the off button on the remote. I’m not sure how much they saw, and I don’t even know if they cared. But I did and I do.

Tomas and Christianne were very nice indeed, and I hope I hear from them again. I have another couple coming round tomorrow. Before they arrive I’ll just ensure ITV isn’t showing The Last of the Mohicans. Well you never know do you?

.

KimAd

The Taking of Eltham 132


I was all over the place this morning, in every sense. I don’t suppose staying awake for most of the night to watch the latest demolition of the Aussie cricket team will have helped with my fuzziness, though one would have thought having watched our brave lads once again stuff it up em would have brightened my mood immeasurably. Even so, as I left Railway Cuttings around 12.30 this lunchtime I was aware that I was a particularly tired and miserable old Hector.

I needed to pick up something down in North Greenwich at the O2. The Dome. The Millennium Bivouac or whatever it’s called this week. Then from there I needed to go to Eltham to deposit a cheque into my good friends Nathaniel Westminster & Co. It was cold and damp as I trudged up to the village to catch the first of the buses I needed to use to navigate my way around SE London. After twelve steps along the road it started raining with feeling. My mood didn’t improve much.

As I yomped by the infants school on the way, the teachers were yelling at the kids to get inside out of the rain. I don’t remember my schoolmasters calling us in out of the playground to get dry. I’m sure we ended up huddled under a tree in the corner, fatties on the inside, skinnies on the outer (sorry, the phone lines for this week’s quiz question “Where did Bealing stand?” have been closed).

Come to think of it, when we were their age we were never issued sun hats in the summer nor reflective vests when we went on school trips, but the hats seem to be de rigueur whenever the sun peeps through and my train to London is often full of little yellow herberts looking like an Oompa Loompa chain gang. When we went out on school trips we were pretty much left to our own devices. They counted us out and counted us in, rounding up any odd numbers. Or down – no two teachers ever counted us in the same way. We once lost thirteen kids on a trip to London Zoo. Five of them are still missing, presumed eaten.

But I digress.

Up to the bus stop, my coat sopping wet by now, to join the end of a queue of five or six other poor sodden sods. The electronic sign on the bus shelter said the 108 bus to North Greenwich would be 7 minutes. Sure enough, 11 minutes later it arrived. The people ahead of me filed onto the bus, one by one, until it was my turn to take the step up on board. Just as I was about to do so, and with military precision some young, complete cabbage, replete with man-bag and ipod ran up the hill towards us and with one bound leapt in front of me onto the footplate and got on board ahead of me. I was shocked and stunned, and not a little amazed. However, true to form, I kept my feelings of deep resentment and savage anger to myself. My only concession to my fury was to bark at the middle of my voice “Jesus! there are a lot of rude bastards around”. But the object of my disaffections had long since moved along the bus, and anyway his earphones were clamped to his lugholes so he was deaf to my rantings (thank christ: he was a big unit).

Alighting at the Dome, I quickly went about my business and after no more than fifteen minutes I found myself in another queue, this time waiting for the 132 bus to Eltham which, as if to catch us all by surprise, arrived on time. There wasn’t a seat to be had, so me and this rather plump, elderly woman (almost indistinguishable nowadays) carrying numerous heavy shopping bags stood rather closely together in the well usually reserved for baby buggies and wheelchairs. I would have happily sat in either if they were available. The old girl looked knackered and I wasn’t sure she’d make the trip.

Facing us, virtually touching the old lady’s knees, sat a thirty-something couple. He had an accent – either American or Canadian (to my shame I still can’t differentiate one from the other) – and had clearly been in the country a lot longer than his partner as he was going through his shopping bags, minutely detailing and explaining the buys therein. Clearly both the food and toy Departments of Tescos in nearby Bow had taken a bit of a pounding.

“This is Clue” he bellowed at a rather irritating volume “but for some reason they call it ClueDO over here”. She was sitting right next to him. Why was he shouting? “I can’t figure why they’d wanna change the name.”

He pulled out the next item from his jamboree bag. “And see ? They have Peanut Butter Cups here. I didn’t think they had them over here. I looked for them for weeks. But now it turns out they totally do. So I bought some. Awesome. It’s so tough to find anything over here that you really need.”

“Wow!” said the girl, looking as if she was feigning both interest and consciousness. I felt a touch of the Basil Fawltys coming over me. (“I’m sorry if the road wasn’t wide enough, a lot of English cars have steering wheels”)

If it wasn’t for the wilting poor cow next to me, I could have put up with this loud, irritating twat. As it was, I was getting a little concerned that the old girl was buckling. Eventually, remembering my annoyance at the queue-jumper earlier, added to my irritation at this boring git in front of me, I could no longer help myself.

“Scuse me for butting-in, mate,” I was leaning in close to him so as not to make too much of a scene “but you might be interested in another couple of strange things we do over here ?”

“Oh yeah?  Like what ?”. He seemed genuinely interested.

“Well,” I continued “For starters, when we see an old lady nearly collapsing in front of us, we often get up and offer her our seat. We also use phrases like ‘oh I’m sorry’ and ‘excuse me, would you like to sit down?’ ”

He looked embarrassed, as did his girlfriend. He jumped to his feet and hurried the old biddy into the seat. “Sorry, man, I didn’t realise” he offered.

“Don’t apologise to me, mate” I retorted, “apologise to that lady, you ignorant fucker”. I think that one broke down any language barrier ok.

For the remainder of the trip I buried  my head into my phone messages, my work here being done. The rude and boring Canuks/Yanks got off soon after our exchange. The old lady and I swapped knowing glances. Her my Damsel in Distress, me her Shite in Whining Armour. Or is that armor?

I had finally woken up. I was on a roll. And just in time to visit the bank. That was bound to cheer me up.

 

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MOVEMBERADVERT

The Birds and the Wasps


This weekend found us visiting friends in the Leicestershire countryside. I’d been to Leicester only once before, as a schoolboy to play rugby, and found myself ruminating on just what I knew of the area. I knew it was another one of those odd English words which foreigners struggled to pronounce (for any of my overseas readers it’s Ly-cester-shyre). No not really. But it turns out I knew very little else, it being one of those little bits of England that attracts scant attention or publicity, a bit like Wiltshire, Stephen Fry or Scotland.

My cricketing hero David Gower used to play for Leicestershire, and who could forget Leicester City‘s Keith Weller ? (oh, you have). Rugby legend Martin Johnson was, of course, for a long-time at Leicester Tigers, then there’s red leicester cheese, the deaf midget tax-fiddling horse jockey Leicester Piglet, Leicester Square and the Leicester Shuffle (if you throw two playing cards onto the floor you get less ta shuffle). Clearly I was clutching at straws.

So it came to pass that on Saturday morning I was zipping around mile after mile of beautiful rolling hills and lanes, past box hedges, magnificent oaks and dinky thatched stone cottages. Past signposts which could have been lifted from the script of American Werewolf. Signs for Tugby and Queniborough sped by, for Houghton on the Hill and Skeffington, even Ratcliffe on the Wreake (which sounds to me like Harry Potter on a vodka binge). I looked for signs to North Londonshire but could see none.

It was beautiful. The trees cascaded with Autumnal colour, the pale November sun washed over the copse and ploughed fields and everywhere was teeming with wildlife. Not just sheep and cows, horses in fields and chickens in coops, but pheasants and eagles, buzzards soaring and hawks hunting. Even the roadkill was exotic – badgers and deer where, at home, I’d see foxes and hedgehogs clogging-up the roadside gutters. Ah! the countryside is great. I’ve always been a committed townie, always preferring the smell of exhaust fumes, the sound of a police sirens or a bus’s airbreaks to the smell of dung, the twittering of the birdies or the clip clop, clip clop of farmers throwing horse shoes at boisterous cockerels.

But wandering around this area I could see the appeal, and it became clear to me why at some point in many lives, city dwellers up-stumps and seek out and claim for themselves that little bit of an English field that shall be forever foreign. And smelly. Yes this was it, I thought. I let my mind wander, daydreaming of buying a labrador, wax jacket and wellies, and perchance an Austin Healey. Of doing nothing more strenuous than grow a beard or taking myself for a spin from village to village, working up a thirst before I parked myself on a bar stool down at the local pub, supping endless pints of Thruxton’s Old Dirigible through my grey whiskers, brushing off the pickled egg debris from my corduroys.

Our friends, Julia and Stuart, had moved up from town a couple years ago and I could see in their eyes that this was the sort of lifestyle they were shaping up to enjoy, if they weren’t doing so already. They’d thought ahead and brought their labrador, Oscar, up with them from the smoke of the South East. I liked Oscar. An old boy, he didn’t so much bark as cough. When you entered the room he approached you making the sort of flegmy noises that my old pipe-smoking landlord used to make as I walked into his pub (though Oscar wagged his tail slightly more and scratched himself slightly less than old Jack did). I wanted an Oscar when I moved up here.

No sooner had we arrived at their home than we were whisked off by Julia and Stuart to a nearby pub for the proverbial lunchtime pie and a pint. What perfect hosts. It was a charming, warm country affair with a fine selections of ales and spirits and a decent wine list. They even had lemons. Their daughter worked behind the bar and we were served immediately. It was wonderful ! We supped, we nibbled and we supped again. This was lovely. I could have stayed there all day. Happy days. As we’d come in I’d noticed there was a twee little white cottage next door which had a For Sale board outside. I started dreaming again. Hmmm…….

And then a bell rang and woke me up. “Time gentlemen please” bellowed the landlady.

Eh…? what…? Wassappening ???? I looked at my watch. It was 3pm. OF COURSE. Bloody country hours. Strangers to these shores may be unaware that up until ten years-or-so ago, pubs in England would close every day at 3pm (2pm on Sundays) and not re-open until 6pm (7 o’clock on Sundays). Legend has it that this haitus in available alcohol purchasing time was introduced during WWI to encourage the factory workers back to the production lines. As 20-somethings we didn’t give a monkeys about the history, all we knew was that our formative years of beer-swilling were punctuated by daily and very annoying periods during each afternoon when landlords would throw us out of perfectly good drinking holes. Pah.

Thankfully, the lawmakers of this country came to their senses and the laws were changed to allow beer to be served pretty much all day. Reason had prevailed and one could happily go missing in action in a saloon bar for a goodly amount of time. But, of course, we lived in London, where every opportunity to screw a few more pence out of the spending public was seized upon. Everything was open at every hour, every day. Pubs, restaurants and shops seemed never to close (though, perversely, police stations and hospitals and nursery schools started to close or operate restricted hours- go figure). Folk out in the sticks, however, liked things as they’d always been and the half-day closing practices continued.

So now, here in the middle of the English countryside and for the first time in yonks, I was being asked to leave a pub before 11pm for reasons other than foul language. And I tell you something: It felt perfectly fine. A sudden bout of nostalgia overcame me. I was transported back to those long, beerless afternoons of the 1980s, when I and legions of other thirsty herberts traipsed the streets trying to come up with something, anything to do while the pub was shut.

A smile passed my lips, this was a good thing. It was civilised, I could handle this. I was too long in the tooth to still feel the need to spend every waking hour in a hostelry. This is how adults behaved: you had a couple of quiet pints at lunchtime then made your way home to your loved ones. Spiffing. Adulthood, that which I vowed never to have anything to do with – like the Liberal Democrats, Strictly Come Dancing or anal tucks – had barged its way into my life and I felt comfortable letting it in.

We strolled back to the car. “That was great” I offered as convincingly as I might. “Very civilised indeed. Haven’t done that for years”.
“Yeah, it’s like the old days back in London, isn’t it?” agreed Stuart. We all nodded and manoeuvred our sensible middle-aged frames back into the car. I almost felt smug with myself. Stuart started the car then added,
“And on Mondays the pubs don’t open at all !”

!?!?

“Beg your pardon ?” I felt a cold chill run down my back. “Not open on Mondays. AT ALL???” I was a tad quieter on the drive back to the house.

The rest of the weekend was spent chomping a quaffing our way through Julia and Stuart’s wine cellar and food cupboards. Bloody fine it was too. Great company, smashing grub and a very fine selection of vin rouge kept us very happy indeed. We ventured out again on Sunday afternoon for a short tour of the area, stopping off at another pub for a pit stop. I wasn’t entirely convinced it was going to be open at all, given the shocking revelation of the day before. Thankfully I needn’t have fretted.

Just before we got our things together for our return trip home, a winter wasp (presumably another quirk of the countryside) flew up my trouser leg and stung me, thankfully only on the shin. Little bastard.

So we retraced our route back to the motorway en route to London, through the same lanes as the day before, now covered in jet blackness. Every so often we’d see a pair of unkown creature’s eyes illuminated in the headlights, or the flap of an owls wings as it swooped across the road in front of us.

It was all very different and all very lovely, but I decided that, as it turned out, I no longer wanted to live in the country. I’d gladly trade the smell of horses for the smell of a kebab house (often a strangely similar smell), I certainly could do without November wasps and I’ve never been all that keen on long country walks.

Back home now in Railway Cuttings, the rain is pouring down the window on a miserable, cold, November Monday afternoon. I’m looking out at bluetits on my nuts and squirrels burying theirs, not Owls hooting or badgers badgering. When I get bored of watching my more mundane urban wildlife I may just take myself off up to the village where there are five or six pubs with varying levels of charm. Some offer less-than-mediocre service, nearly all possess truly shocking toilets. In some the pipes won’t have been cleaned and there will be more barflies than customers (though I’ve yet to be bitten on the shin by a barfly). Being a Monday someone will have forgotten to order the lemons or re-stock the ice bucket.

But whatever the state of our local boozers down here in our little part of London they will be open. And that’s the way I like em.