Tis the season to be jolly, apparently. Pop down to Bluewater shopping centre and see how you feel afterwards. On the face of it, it seemed like a good idea. Since my aftershock a couple of weeks ago I’d not been out much, and not at all if you don’t count trips to the hospital or the GPs. I feel like I’m basically just one dizzy spell away from another stroke, so why encourage the old grey cells to knock buggery out of each other by me overdoing it, certainly when there’s Flog it and Countdown to watch on tv ? I have a week to wait until the promised all-revealing MRI scan and a week plonked on the couch won’t harm anyone, and may even do me some good.
But a chat I had with my father the other day changed my way of thinking. According to him, I’m likely to “pop my clogs” anyway, so I might as well enjoy myself while I can. It is, as they say, good to talk, and a chat with the old man really gives you that warm glow inside. The Season for Giving had clearly arrived, with the old fella at the front of the queue for giving out advice. So in that spirit, and being told by my dad that there was little hope of still being around when the fat bloke came down the chimney (nice trick if you can do it) I decided to go down to the shopping mall from hell, buy and give the incumbent her Christmas present early. Yes I know it’s still November, but she needed it and there’s no point her hunting around in the back of wardrobes for my gift when I’m pushing up the daisies.
There’s a knack to Bluewater. If, like me, you go there infrequently enough to be unfamiliar with it, you’ll find plenty of other like-minded individuals (mostly men) shuffling around like polar bears in Regents Park, unsure of where they are, who they are or why they are here. You can spend days down there. I’ve never been to Westworld, or whatever those malls in Shepherd’s Bush or Stratford are called, but if you have, you’ll understand what I mean. It’s enormous. Exiting Marks&Spencer alone requires the navigational skills of Ranulph Fiennes. Last week a Japanese soldier emerged from the kitchenware dept of John Lewis asking if the war was still on. There are approximately twelve branches of Starbucks, all looking identical, with identical Boys from Brazil serving (very slowly) therein. On every corner there is an extensive map showing each and every shop (sorry “outlet”) in the complex. I stopped at one and noticed a large red dot on one corner, with the words on it YOU ARE HERE written reassuringly. Except some poor sod, presumably someone who’d been walking around lost since V.E. night had scratched out the word HERE and written FUCKED over the top. I couldn’t have agreed more.
I saw one bloke simply give up hope of ever leaving the place and start writing his will on the back of a brochure given to him by the “nail bar” (they serve neither nails nor four candles. I know, I asked) next to Past Times. If I ran Past Times the shelves would be full of photos from before shopping centres, of when your local street was full of shops other than bookies and charity shops. When you could walk down the high street experiencing the warm satisfied feeling of community, not the cold stroll of terror down a desperate, desolate, derelict street, gingerly bypassing the bored, threatening hoodies and the even boreder (yes, it could be a word) chuggers on every street corner.
Anyway…After what could have only been four hours, I eventually escaped ( I was parked in Brown Squirrel G, Level 3, NOT Blue Stoat F, Level 2, as I had at first thought) and lived to tell the tale, Christmas gift in hand.
Now I don’t know if it’s because I didn’t wrap it (neither nicely nor at all) that, having opened her brand spanking new, all bells-and-whistles, all woofers-and-tweeters steam iron that she didn’t rush over to me, throwing her arms around my neck and pledging her undying love for me. I’d even go so far as to say that her reaction was rather muted. Funny creatures, women. It’s made me think twice about even buying the new kitchen apron which, in my opinion, she so desperately needs. She’ll miss me when I’m gone. About as much as my dad will, I reckon.
So, how are you feeling today ? Ok ? Good. I’ve had a pretty shitty couple of weeks, to be honest, since you ask. The medication still doesn’t seem to be doing everything the docs want it to do. Still suffering from dizzy spells, the bouts of sickness are still around. All this prevents me from attending The Shovel or any of its sister boozers. It’s rather annoying, although getting annoyed is a no-no for me at the moment. As my blood pressure is higher than a astronaut’s arse the GP is concerned I’m a strong candidate for Stroke II: The Ramipril Strikes Back, so I’m under orders to take it easy and chillax, as young persons say.
I was under a shrink, to whom I was sent in a bid to calm me down and reduce the chances of my head popping off. But this shrink started to annoy me so I’ve stopped going.
It certainly wasn’t the thought of being analyzed that phased me. A life-long Woody Allen fan, it’s always been a dream of mine to go see a headshrinker (and to play clarinet with him at Michael’s on a Monday). I fancied myself as a bit of Tony Soprano, sitting there in my triple-breasted suit, the tassles on my loafers gleaming and my hair greased back over my ever-expanding pate. But it didn’t do it for me and it didn’t last. My quack was no Lorraine Bracco. He was a bloke for a start. No, you gotta feel comfortable in front of these guys, I reckon, and I just wasn’t. Probably a personality clash. Closing my eyes and chanting OM while listening to a tape of a whale’s sphincter was enough for me, so I left.
So, without the aid of a safety pint, and without Sigmund Freud‘s help I’m supposed to let go all the things that at some stage along the line would have made me, shall we say, a tad tetchy.
I may be no Tony Soprano, but try telling that to my girth. Not walking to the station in the morning, being barred from virtually all physical exercise, and the supreme boredom of having no work coming in has led me to nibble on anything within my chubby arms reach and to me becoming rather portly. My armpits have started to chafe and the soap isn’t going as far as it used to, even though I can no longer reach half of me in the shower. The kids are gonna by me Jacamo vouchers for Christmas and The Incumbent seems keen to rotate the mattress more often than usual.
The fledgeling business seems like it desperately wants to get back into it’s shell. Hours spent tickling-up the website and mailing clubs and associations have brought very little response. Well, that’s not true. I have had plenty of responses, just very little work. I’ve had several “Where did you get my email address from ??” replies. A few “Nothing I cannot do myself” answers, and lots of “Please strike me from your mailing list, we do not associate ourselves with tradesmen” emails. You’d have thought I was selling them anthrax.
In days gone by I may well have reeled off an abusive note telling them to to fvck themselves and wishing them good luck in the recession. But the now the new me simply thanks them for their time, apologises for disrupting their mailbox and promises to delete them from any further mailouts I may or may not do.
There was one bloke, the Chairman or Chief Poohbar of the Lions of Warrington or Wilmington or Wigan or somewhere who wrote to me in such an insulting and supercilious manner, complaining that I had actually used his public email address to try to earn a couple of quid via his club members that I did indeed tell him to go fvck himself and enjoy the recession. But that was a one-off example. Honest.
Having told him, in between expletives, what and why I was doing what I was doing and that there was nothing either coorperate nor sinister about it, and that I was just an ailing old man striving to put food on the table for Tiny Tim and his frail mother, the man backtracked and wondered if, when my business got on it’s feet I might consider joining his association. I suspect this was a genuine re-assessment of the situation on his part, feeling embarrassed at his original high-handedness with me.
I told him to go fvck himself again. So maybe we should call it a two-off example. I don’t know why I haven’t tried a life in Sales before.
There are things you just know.
During your lifetime you pick up knowledge. Stuff that is just true and there’s no row about it. You know it’s true because, not only did mum and dad tell you, your teachers told you, the tv news told you and even Hollywood told you. Stuff like “all scousers are funny”; “all cockneys are the salt of the earth (they only slaughter their own)”; “all trombone players wear sandals”; and of course “all welshmen can sing and would never ever intend to break your neck on the rugby field because they’re nice blokes and just not like that”.
These are the sort of rules, the kind of guiding principles which allow you to steer your ship of life between the shifting sands of the Bay of Uncertainty and the hard, jagged rocks of the inlet of Oh Fuck it’s Really Happening. It’s now 47 years since people started telling me stuff. I stopped listening to most of them some years ago. Like Homer, there’s only so much I can fit into my brain before something else gets pushed out. The ravages of age, a stroke, and a life of heavy drinking, along with the distraction of the oncoming steam train of certain Alzheimer’s severely limits the amount of new information I can take on board. Or as Terry Pratchett might put it, I’m fucked in the ‘ead.
So imagine the confusion it causes one so fragile as me, when stuff you just know is fact turns out to be untrue, at least for the sake of selling a few books at Christmas time.
Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun didn’t take their own lives, shortly after making a few dodgy videos for YouTube. Not according to the new book Grey Wolf: The Escape of Adolf Hitler they didn’t. No, they fled to Argentina, aided and abetted by the Yanks in exchange for Nazi rocket scientists and the information within. According to a report in this week’s The Daily Mail (and who among us could argue with them ?) Mr& Mrs Hitler legged it through Europe and escaped across the sea to South America, presumably free to go on the piss with their chums Josef Mengele, Adolf Eichmann and countless other Nazis we let get away after 1945. The couple brought up their two kids, at some stage divorced, and Mr Hilter (as he then was) finally threw a seven in 1962 at the grand old age of 73.
The Russians claim they captured what was left of the Hitlers from a bunker in Berlin in 1945. What they apparently have are the charred remains of a early version of a McDonalds Breakfast Wrap (Another Fact: These are horrible. Keep away from them and go for the Double Sausage McMuffin.)
It’s a good job Vincent Van Gogh isn’t alive today. He’d be forced to go to Gateshead (up in the frozen North somewhere) where this year’s The Emperor’s New Clothes Prize has been moved to. Presumably Londoners have finally given up pretending that “Pile of Shite in Aspic” is art, and the organisers have decided to move to the Third World in search of new mugs to jump on the “oh-but-you-dont-understand-what-art-is” bandwagon. Howay.
The aforementioned Vincent is no longer with us, of course, having topped himself in a wheat field in 1890 in northern France.
The Kirk Douglas look-a-like was shot by a couple of brothers in a dispute over a stolen pistol. We know this from the new book imaginatively entitled Van Gogh: The Life (available at all good bookshops, makes the perfect gift). In their book the two American authors trash the widely-held belief that the absinthe-riddled, ginger paintist, having reached the end of his tether with a lack of sales and Anthony Quinn’s acting, took himself off and fell on his own pallet knife. (Sadly for me they make no mention of the time Gauguin asked Vincent if he’d like another canvas. “No thanks, I’ve got one ear” Van Gogh replied. As the book doesn’t mention this, I now know it to be true.)
The fact that he was shot by a young boy, and didn’t just succumb to the inner-demons of the mad genius that he was has not only rocked the art world, with the sky-high prices of Van Gogh’s work potentially under threat (nutcases sell for more) but worse, Don McLean is having to rewrite one of his songs.
This morning the descendents of Robert Falcon Scott‘s fateful expedition to the South Pole have joined in the campaign to diss everything I thought I knew about everything. There’s a new exhibition in town showing many images, some not seen before, by the trip’s snapper Herbert Ponting (not to be confused with the Ricky Ponting, the Patron Saint of Lost Causes) which for a century have graphically shown the anguish and despair the Brits felt by narrowingly losing out to the Norwegian group led by Roald Amundsen (who’d already seen off the plucky West Germans in the semi-final). The downhearted and disheartened Limeys finally gave up their attempt to return home and were swallowed up by the icy wilderness. Amundsen and his Scandinavians went home to a heroes welcome and a recording contract.
But wait a minute, according to the British ancestors, Scott’s men were not the least bit disappointed to lose. There was, in fact, no race to the pole. There’s was a purely scientific expedition to gain knowledge of the surrounding area for King and Country, with no-one giving a toss whether Amundsen won or not. Ponting set up the most southerly branch of Pront-a-Print, charging a farthing for a photo of the pole and pony on a tee-shirt; Captain Oates left the tent and was never seen again. He is oft quoted as saying “I am just going outside and may be some time”. The end of his sentence was lost in the chill wind. What he really said was “I am just going outside and may be some time. I’ve got all this bunting and balloons to erect for when we see the Norwegians again”. In truth, Scott should not have been played on screen by John Mills but by Norman Wisdom.
So there you have it. Hitler died in 1962, just missing out missing Ronnie Biggs. Van Gogh covered up his own murder and his relationship with young boys and, just like the retreating soldiers at Dunkirk, Scott of Antarctic had nothing to be sad about. It’s a pity they didn’t make it back because The Titanic was waiting for them just off Antarctica to take them home on her second voyage.
99 years later, a ship was moored off the coast of Libya, waiting for President Muammar Gaddafi who was due to escape on her . However, the ever-popular Dictator would not make it on board nor never get to feel the warm embrace of his old mate Tony Blair again as he died of the multiple bullet wounds he received to the back of the head while resisting arrest.
Honestly. It’s a fact !!!
Just after the war, 1947 I think it was, my father was arrested trying to place a bet for his then future father-in-law. Clutching a filthy little tanner in his filthy little hands (cos he was one of the boys), Jerry (for that is my dad’s name)walked smack bang into a police raid on an illegal betting shop above a grocers in Erith, Kent. Dad spent 4 hours in a cell before being let off to get a bollocking from his mum. Bill, the father-in-law saw neither his half-crown nor a betting slip. Dad’s always been a kind of hero to me for that. I bet he shit himself at the time. Even moreso when my nan got hold of him.
But dads sure can be an embarrassment. Snooker star Ronnie O’Sullivan‘s old man, for example. Ronnie Senior spent 17 years in jail for the racist attack and murder of a bloke in a club in the King’s Road, Chelsea. Cor!, eh ? How embarrassing ! I’m sure his son’s nice, though.
Then there was the case of the father of England soccer captain John Terry who was filmed by a former newspaper dealing cocaine. Dear old Edward Terry passed three wraps of cocaine to a News of the World (remember that?) reporter in a bar in exchange for £120 per wrap, presumably to pay for his wife’s (John’s mum – do keep up) shoplifting habit. What a lovely family they make ? Christmas lunch must be a real treat around their house with Edward free-basing, Mrs Terry in her oversize coat , and John with somebody else’s wife, all sitting down for a festive lunch.. Merry Christmas, one and all – I know John loves a good Dickens. Who doesn’t ?
Now we read of dear old Wayne Rooney‘s pater. Wayne Senior (not to be confused with Ronnie Senior) was arrested along with 8 other men (including his brother Richie) regarding suspicious betting patterns during a Motherwell vrs Hearts match. Apparently the police’s suspicions were aroused when they were alerted that 9 people were actually watching a Scottish football match in the first place. Never in the history of Scotch sport have 9 people offered money on the match outcome. They must have stood out like the Archbishop of Golders Green.
I don’t know if this sort of behaviour is confined to the parents of famous sporting stars, or whether all our mums and dads have the potential to make us hang our heads in shame. My mate Mark was a fantastically gifted rugby and cricket player, though strictly amateur. When he died at an uncommonly early age his dad ran off with all the money Mark had bequeathed to his nephews. Go figure. Must be the pressure of being a dad. Or perhaps he’s just a thieving cvnt.
I regularly try to, and often succeed in embarrassing my kids. They think I dress like an old bloke (check), am fat like an old bloke (yup) and tell all the same jokes all the time, that weren’t funny in the first place (got me again). My stroke has slowed me down a bit, emphasising just really old I am, in their eyes at least. My youngest has already made it known that she expects the lion’s share of whatever is in my will (what will?). You can hear her totting up the cash every time I have a slight relapse.
But it’s all in good fun (he hopes). Dad’s main function is to embarrass the kids. If I partake in a spot of old-man dancing, listen to too much Status Quo or emit nauseous gases every so often when standing up, or sitting down… or just sitting still, come to think of it, then that is part of dad’s prerogative. I haven’t killed anyone in a racist frenzy with a six-inch knife, like Mr O’Sullivan (senior), or contributed to the drug cartels’ coffers like Mr Terry (senior, of course) or even fucked off to Ramsgate with the family money like my mate Mark’s dad.
Wayne senior’s crimes seem small-fry compared to these, and he will doubtless blame his abberation on the embarrassment he feels when watching his son arse about on the football field like he did last night against Mesopotamia. Wayne may still blame Wayne, of course (in any order you like) for the headlines regarding the hair transplant/manky old prostitute/betting shop anomaly (delete where or if applicable).
So let’s leave Wayne’s dad alone. It must take some doing, living under the enormous shadow of his son, Shrek, and the circus that follows him and his frightful missus around. I’d be prone to rash decision and dubious actions, just like the ‘Motherwell 9’ if I were in that position. If my kids ever find out I actually bet a fiver on England winning the Rugby World Cup they’d disown me for life. Like the England Rugby team, the whole Rooney family is an embarrassment to each other. At least they bloody well should be. Dad Wayne should be left merely to receive a bollocking from his mum and a cash award from the SPL for bringing Scottish Football to the attention of the world for the first time since Archie Gemmill danced his way through the Dutch defence (as easy as a Bosnian Serb strolling past a Dutch roadblock).
Vive la France.
Bloody Christmas. It’ll be the death of me. Even allowing for the size of me in the run-up, following a week of a pretty-much non-stop eating and drinking fest I am – if I do say so myself- a big unit. It’s not that I’ve been painting the town red – or any other colour come to think of it. I’ve been confined to barracks for the duration, with only occasional trips to Sainsbury’s to break up the monotony of yet another tin of Roses washed down with a nice peppery Shiraz.
A Christmas at home can in certain circumstances, I am almost sure, be fun. But the lurgy put paid to most of our plans, with several members of my nearest and dearest (including my most dearest: me) coming down with the latest bout of cold/flu which has been doing the rounds. The Incumbent and I have had to introduce a strict latrine rota, lest we bump into each other in the smallest room in the house, both of my daughters were laid low for the majority of the festivities and the rest of us have been giving everyone who is a potential carrier a wide berth.
None of this, of course has affected my appetite. I find shite tv schedules the perfect solution to a rumbly in my tumbly. Pringles, peanuts, After Eights, pickled eggs, mince pies, christmas cake, Quality Street and more peanuts have been shoved down my gullet as I gorge myself on re-runs, repeats and rank tv shows in the the name of Happy Birthday Jesus.
Moving is becoming a problem. Thank god for the elasticated waistband on my new pyjamas. My ankles still haven’t healed from last season and it takes a good ten minutes for me to loosen up before I can waddle around the house in comfort. As the days pass, getting up the stairs is becoming more and more exhausting, to such an extent that I may have to consider using the sink in emergencies.
Thankfully I don’t have to get myself fit for next cricket season. I fear it would be a pointless task. In the state I’m in I’d struggle to put on my jockstrap, let alone bowl anything like a straight ball in the vague direction of a batsman. On the other hand, watching the shocking display by the Aussie bowlers in Melbourne gives me pause to think that maybe, just maybe, my chance of an international career is not quite over. Dare I consider applying for Oz Citizenship ? Surely I’m better that Mitchell Johnson ? – even in my shape !
Lucky for the Australian cricketers few of their countrymen witnessed how bloody awful they really were. Aussie fans tend to bugger off home if there’s the slightest chance of their team not winning. I never thought I’d feel sorry for Ricky Ponting, but it must be tough playing on your home turf, against stronger opposition, when your own personal form is shot to pieces and your home supporters won’t even hang around to shout for you. What a bunch of wankers.
The Barmy Army may be full of fat, annoying, boring, neanderthal racists (it is, believe me) but at least they stick behind the team through thick and thin. This bunch of fair-weather Ozzie ‘fans’ head for the beaches or the barbies the minute their opening pair are back in the hutch (or after the opening 12 balls, if that makes it simpler for you). And this from the country that brought the world the phrase “whingeing poms”. WHINGEING ?!?! How would we ever know if you lot are whinging? You’ve all fucked off !
Of course, you all stayed put when we took our eyes off the prize and you won in Perth. OF COURSE YOU DID. WATCHING A WINNING TEAM IS GREAT. But a few days later and your batsmen couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a banjo or your bowlers couldn’t hit 12 stumps and you lot are no-where to be seen after the opening exchanges. Why not stick around and cheer on your team in the hour of their greatest need ? No ? Only sing when you’re winning ? Sports fans my big fat 46 year old arse. Enjoying winning and enduring losing (in our case a LOT of losing) are all part of being a fan. Some of us are fans of both English Cricket AND Charlton Athletic Football Club. We know a little bit about losing.
If you can’t take losing, don’t buy a ticket to the raffle. But having watched first your rugby union side and now your cricket team under-perform this winter can I suggest that you’d better start getting used to watching your sides take a drubbing? It won’t hurt you, we’ve been doing it for years, and after this little blip this winter we’ll doubtless be doing it for years to come too.
You could do worse than read Peter Lalor, below, in The Australian. He’s wittier and immeasurably less one-eyed then his boss, Malcom Conn, and he might just teach you how to take losing with a tad more humour and a shed-load more dignity.
Peter Lalor in The Australian (27.12.10)
HOW many of the new toys of Christmas morn lie motionless and broken within 24 hours? Their shiny promise a forlorn memory recorded only in the improbable picture on the package?
A wheel gone here, a switch broken there, a light that flashed for a moment and dimmed, a leg detached or a circuit shortened. Australia’s performance in Perth was the cheap Chinese gift that never made it to Boxing Day. A glittering, but poorly engineered work that shone for a moment.
The minute the Christmas paper was off the MCG pitch things began to fall apart. There were tears by lunch (4-58) and despair by tea (10-98). You can fish around all sorts of ways to paint the picture.
The scorer announced they had lost 6-40 from 18.2 overs, somebody else pointed out they had lost 9-61 after Shane Watson departed and so on and so forth….
…If you were out Christmas night in Melbourne, you could have been forgiven for thinking you were somewhere in the UK. Those pubs and takeaway places that were open in the otherwise deserted streets were lousy with English accents and song.
While the locals were at home trying to piece together broken toys, the visitors – and there are thousands upon thousands of them – were out in force. At 2.37pm yesterday, as the centre wicket began to take the appearance of a mass grave, a song rose from the Southern Stand.
It was as loud and as rousing an anthem as you have ever heard at this proud sporting stadium.
It was the Barmy Army singing “God save your gracious Queen”.
Now that’s a proper movie trailer ! You can’t beat a good western. 40 years ago every Bank Holiday you could be sure one of the three tv stations would show The Magnificent 7 or High Noon. Alias Smith and Jones was the most popular tv show in our house (mainly cos my mum fancied Pete Duel) and The High Chaparral was high in the ratings, even though my dad reckoned it was a poor man’s Bonanza . “Saturday Morning Pictures” at the local cinema always showed Champion the Wonder Horse. It was fantastic.
As a spotty herbert growing up in south east London, me and my equally spotty mates would mosey on down to the Ponderosa, armed to the teeth with cap guns and plastic bowie knives, pretending to be Gary Cooper, Clint Eastwood or even Alan Ladd (the cowboy of choice for the shorter 6 yr old). Cum Christmas time everyone asked for a cowboy outfit, long before that phrase became synonymous with Virgin Media or the FA.
But few parents shied away in buying their offspring fake Smith & Wessons, dads happily made their sons bows n arrows and no one thought for one minute that they were nurturing little Johnny into the next mass murderer or serial killer. At the time of writing I have never shot, stabbed or scalped a single person who didn’t deserve it, even though as a kid I had every weapon the local toy shop could offer, (I regularly watched Tom & Jerry too).
Kids played in the streets for hours and hours, filling the air with “piow, piow” sounds and “woo woo woo woo” noises as the cowboys chased the injuns around the houses, up the avenues and down the alleyways until our mums called us all in for our tea. If you walked down my road during any school holiday you couldn’t escape the smell of sulphur from the hundreds of cap gun shots fired that day. You’d probably find the the odd sucker-tipped arrow in your garden, next to the empty Jubbly cartons and Jamboree Bags (cowboys and injuns ate on the go).
I remember one afternoon me and my mate Alan Martin were hiding behind Mrs Baker’s garden wall, waiting to ambush some redskins who were creeping up the road, baying for white man’s blood, using the Unigate Dairies’ milk float as cover. These braves lived in the block of flats at the top of the road and we knew they’d soon be off home to watch Pinky n Perky and Mrs Baker’s garden was the perfect spot to cut them off at the pass. I checked my holster string was tight around my thigh, I pulled my neckerchief (my mum’s paisley scarf) up over my nose and mouth and checked I had a full reel of caps in my gun.
As I did so a warm feeling overcame me. Alan must have had one Jubbly too many that day cos in the excitement he decided to relieve himself down the back of my leg. The unmistakable sensation of someone else’s tepid urine saturating my jeans caused me to leap out of my hidey-hole and my cover was blown. I turned to remonstrate with my once partner, probably should have pistol-whipped him, but chose to burst into tears instead. As the woo woo woos started up and the arrows rained down on on us, Alan ran away and I stood there in a puddle of piss, not caring if the injuns scalped me, skinned me or strung me up by my nipples. I squelched home, ignoring the cries of “you’re dead, Bealing, you’re dead !”. I was steaming. Literally.
Things were never the same after that. I went off being a cowboy and took up cricket instead, though I always refused to go into bat if Alan was wicket keeping. When I eventually got to see True Grit a couple of years later I absolutely loved it. Never having been a huge fan of “Da Duke”, this was the best thing I’d ever seen him in. He was funny, he was horrible and for once wasn’t taking himself too seriously. I wanted to go out and buy myself an eye-patch, and if it wasn’t for the spector of my mate’s weak bladder I probably would have.
Westerns were changing. The old white hat/black hat world of Gary Cooper was over. Even Clint, who was slick and sleek in Rawhide, was still the goody but was now unshaven, mean and moody. I wasn’t allowed to watch most of these nasty, bloodthirsty movies, and I had to wait some time before I could find out for myself if there was indeed any spaghetti in them.
Then for years the genre (yes, I used it) went missing. They went out of favour, certainly in Hollywood, with just the odd European oddity making it to cult status. The late 70’s and 80’s were littered with cheesey cobblers like The Long Riders or Young Guns. But when Lonesome Dove came along in 1989 there was some hope that somewhere, someone was thinking along the right lines. Dances with Wolves quickly followed, then came The Unforgiven, many people’s favourite “cowboy” of all time. Things were really warming up. Wyatt Earp, Tombstone, and Ned Kelly were all thoroughly enjoyable romps and Brokeback Mountain evoked memories of the time when men were men and other men were glad of their company.
But when No Country for Old Men was released in 2007, closely followed by The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford I could have happily have died with my boots on there and then. Surely it couldn’t get any better than this ? They looked beautiful and felt good. These were adult movies like they started making in the 60’s and the 70’s before they forgot how to. We were back to Little Big Man, The Wild Bunch and A Man Called Horse. That’s worth a Yee-Harr in anyone’s language.
Now, just when I was thinking it couldn’t get any better, look what they’ve gone and done. Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn and Matt Damon as, er, Glen Campbell. I’m in heaven ! I don’t need my old mate any more – I’m nearly wetting myself with excitement, waiting for the movie to open early next year. As I should have said to Alan on that fateful, moist afternoon: “Fill Your Hands, You Son of a Bitch”.
Remember getting letters through your door? I don’t mean fliers from double glazing companies, or threatening letters from the bank, or even new curry house menus (though they can be very exciting indeed), but letters. Real, genuine, hand-written letters. Someone three weeks previously had sat down in Kuala Lumpur or Ulaanbaatar and scribbled a off a note saying how much they missed you, how the weather had been and could you send them some money? Remember that warm glow you felt that someone, who may well have died in the 6 weeks the letter took to reach you, had taken time out from their gap year, or their 6 months on the run from the Rozzers to actually write, in their own hand, to you, on paper that they could have quite easily used for loo roll.
It took thought and kindness. It meant someone had put aside their own time to sit down and compose a note, when they could have quite easily been putting another shrimp on the barbie, then seeking out an envelope, a stamp and a post office , then walking unaided down to post it. Takes some commitment, that.
I remember the first parcel I ever received. Now that was exciting. It was 1974 and I’d been saving up for weeks (ok, who am I kidding? my mum gave me the money) to send off for my first calculator. We’d been given permission to use in class this revolution in arithmetic science, and my parents weren’t gonna let their little lad be the only one in school without one.
The wait seemed like an age. I think it took three weeks to arrive (though it could have been three days, ten year old boys finding the space-time-continuum concept something of a bugger to grasp), but when the postman finally arrived with it BOY what a feeling! I opened the parcel on the dining table and pulled out this brown and cream monument to modern technology: The Rockwell LED Calculator, 18R. If the 18R stood for ’18th attempt’, or probably ’18th Rockwell’ (WD40 standing for ‘Water Displacement, 40th attempt’), then Christ knows how basic the other 17 must have been.
But to me it was the most exciting and exotic thing I’d ever seen. Weighing no more than a couple of pounds, it would fit into any schoolboy’s large satchel or GOLA bag. It had all of the number ‘1’-‘9’, with ‘0’ thrown in for free. Not only did it have buttons for ‘plus’, ‘minus’, ‘multiply’ (‘times’ in our house), ‘divide’ and ‘equals’, it ALSO had a ‘percentage’ button. WOW ! There were a couple of other buttons I never got to grips with, something about storage, but I didn’t care: 18 buttons were plenty for me to be getting on with. They all made a hi-tech ‘click when you pressed them and ,when dad wasn’t looking, you could turn the box upside down and write rude words with the number. You can see it left it’s mark on me.
35 year later and where are we? No one writes letters any more since we have the wonder of email (which still impresses me.) Friends write daily from New Zealand or San Diego and we pick up their missives instantly. I’m not saying a note from afar means less than one did all those years ago, it’s just that we get so many more of them they somehow don’t arrive with the same fanfare they once did. It doesn’t now have to be a fully composed letter either. Twitter has brought us the age of the 140 character letter. 140 characters ? I couldn’t write the alphabet in 140 characters ( you may have noticed), let alone ask how the weather was.
Parcels are two-a-penny. Amazon, Ebay and their like are emptying the shops and filling the bandwidths of the Web. Even this old luddite has for the last two Christmas seasons refused the pleasures of the high street or shopping mall and bought each and every present online. During November and December there’s a seemingly never-ending stream of parcels large and small arriving at my door. I’m never there, of course, but at least the thought is there. Twice a week I make my way to the local Post Office to claim my packets. Maybe this year will be different ? If I’m still in-between employers I may be at home to catch the postie as he arrives at the crack of 4pm to deliver my goods. On the other hand, if I’m still not picking up work by then, my pressie-buying activities will be severely curtailed.
Yesterday I made my way up to the village to collect a mystery parcel. I hadn’t ordered any books or movies online recently, and doubted that it would be that set of golf clubs I’d asked for as a leaving gift from The Times, but nevertheless the postman had left a card saying he’d tried to deliver a package to me on Thursday which was too big to fit thought the letter-box. As court summonses tend not to be that size, and hoping the National Lottery actually do pay-up in wads of cash, I took my little legs off to collect my prize from the good folk at the GPO.
Although I was disappointed not to be handed a suitcase with crisp oncers from Camelot, I was very happy and intrigued to take possession of a thick white jiffy bag addressed to:
Mr M.P.BEALING, DSO + BAR
‘Angleterre‘! Written in ink! (or at least biro) How exciting! It really took me back. It was an unsolicited Red Cross parcel from ‘Plastered of Paris’, a good friend of these pages and one who appears regularly every time I feel the need to verbally attack drunk Welshman. Realising that I may be about to have some time on my hands, this giant of a man (no, he really is) took the trouble to bundle me up some comedy reading, Bill Bryson in fact, to help me while away those hours on the loo when I can’t get to my PS3 or watch the World Cup. What a very thoughtful gift ? Thanks Terv. Bill Bryson, a very talented journalist who took to writing about the places he’d lived, the countries he’d visited and the occasional mishap along the way with hilarious results. Bryson and I differ in just two key respects.
Anyway, I can’t sit here all day talking to you. I have two books to read, a letter to write (to the council again, Lewisham Council only deal in letters) and then I’m gonna go up onto the heath where the hot weather never fails to bring out a marvellous array of young lovelies and their talents. Or in Rockwell 18R calculator-speak BOOBIES
Whilst trying not to get carried away with the whole marketing con-fest of Valentines Day, the Incumbent and I did exchange gifts on the day, as token of our affection for each other. I bought her a pair of socks and she, in an obvious bid for another term in office, bought me a bottle of Lagavulin. Seemed like a fair swap to me. It’s my favourite brand of whisky, and she gets cold feet. And never underestimate the aphrodisiac properties of a good pair of thermal socks. Or is that overestimate?.
One thing I’ve leaned over the years: whatever I buy her for Christmas, Birthday or other occasions, she will always best me in the forking-out department. They do that to you, women. Clever bastards.
As chuffed as I was with a bottle of Scotland’s finest malt, I felt a bit deflated. What I really wanted was one of those chairs. You know the ones I mean. The Mogul Chairs. You must have seen them this weekend when watching the yawnathon that is the Vancouver Winter Olympics ? Competitors in the Freestyle Skiing event, get to the bottom of the hill and if they are in a medal position they get to sit in one of three huge comfy chairs and watch the rest of the field come in. If someone then comes in and posts a faster time, he or she then gets to rest his bum in the apposite seat, while the previous holder of that position either moves one seat down or buggers off into non-comfy-chair anonymity.
This is proving to be much more entertaining than the ‘sport’ itself. Just watch the devastated faces of those who were holding onto the bronze medal, only for someone to come in with a better time. “ I don’t wanna get up! I’ve just got settled”
I’m not sure if all the events at the Olympics have comfy chairs at the end of course. The luge organisers have surely got to come up with an alternative to their original idea of scaffolding poles, broken glass and razor wire at the bottom of the run. Someone could hurt themselves on that! But it’ll obviously be their own fault if they do.
Hold on for a moment… … … sorry… … … ahem … … excuse me … … it’s very hard to remain composed when I watch Jacques Rogge (a right Belgium Count) get his onion out of his handbag and mock-blub at that news conference the other day. Sweet baby Jesus, what is the world coming to. Alastair Campbell , Gordon Brown, now Jacques Rogge CRYING !!! Who’s next? Sepp Blatter? That really would be a full set of crying crooked Counts.