The Cricket Umpire, By R.L.Stevenson (wkt)


From the vaults of The Sharp Single we bring you a long-forgotten passage and the original plate from a first edition of Treasure Island where the author describes a cricket match taking place outside the Admiral Benbow Inn.

(This chapter was removed from subsequent editions.)

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“He was plainly blind for he tapped before him with a stick, and wore a great green shade over his eyes and nose; and he was hunched, as if with age or weakness, and wore a huge old tattered sea-cloak with a hood, which made him appear positively deformed.

No-one knew his real name, most referring to him simply as ‘Blind Hill’. The reason for his disability had been lost in the mists of time. Some say he copped a short one to the temple on a green-top at Hove, while representing Minor Counties East. Others that a New South Wales seamer poked his eyes out during a Sheffield Shield game when, as the standing umpire, he turned down a plumb LBW.

Nowadays he trudged between the wicket and square leg, refusing to raise his finger, preferring to issue the Black Spot to any poor, unfortunate soul unlucky enough to nick off to the keeper.

Once he received the Black Spot a batsman had a mere 15 seconds to plead for his life. Clemency was infrequently shown”

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

T’was Brillig


So now that the dust has settled, now that orders in Tennants Super and Economy Toilet roll are set to go through the roof, what does it all mean ? The answer is simple: I’m shagged if I know. Gorgeous Georgie Gideon Oswald, (sorry Osborne) Our Dave and their pet Yellow Toad have decided to transform the country into a scene from to Jabberwocky, full or peasants surfs and huge piles of shit, with a 5 groat consumption charge to enter the citadel (though the Sheriff of Bonkingham decided against extending it to the west of the castle) or maybe “Oliver Twist” where former benefit claimants hold out their bowl for some more gruel to Mr Bumble (brilliantly played by Eric Pickles) who promptly tells them to “fook off”.

Personally, I’m a tad miffed that it now seems I’m to be unemployed until I’m 66, rather than 65. Oh well, you know me: mustn’t grumble. If I were French I’d be running up and down with a flare and a megaphone, knocking kepis of coppers bonces. Being British I’ll probably put the kettle on, make a nice cup of tea and see what that nice Nick Robinson has to say. It’s fair to say this former President of the Oxford University Conservative Association, ex-national chairman of the Young Conservatives, alleged Bullingdon Club member and now BBC Political Editor has done a just frankly spiffing job selling the cuts to a watching nation. And he’s hardly burst into laughter once. Well done him. When his BBC career is over he can always get himself a job on Fox News.

But however nasty Nick spins it, there’s something rotten in Denmark Hill and throughout the kingdom. The natives are revolting. Even Boris Johnson has likened the (sorry his) government’s crackdown on housing benefits for the poorest of families to ethnic cleansing. Gideon and Dave were furious. The foie gras hit the aircon but Bonkers Bonking Boris stuck to his guns. You know you’re in trouble when the Bullingdon boys start falling out. Funny, but I thought we were all in this together ? Shooting sticks and hacking jackets at twelve paces, m’lud ?

Over in Lala Land, the guvnors at The World’s Worst Airline reckon their poor passengers are getting a rotten deal. All those security checks at the airport are putting people off. Fancy asking us to take off our shoes for inspection before boarding. Whoever heard of a shoebomber ?? They’ll be asking to check our pants and printer cartridges next ! BA boss Willie Walsh also had the onion out of his handbag over the increase to Passenger Duty. “It’s unfair to our customers” was the cry. Well maybe. You could always swallow the increase, Willie.

I’d have a little more sympathy with airlines in general, and BA in particular, if their prices weren’t so high anyway, their service so shite and their guvnor such a miserable, soulless, swindling arsehole. BA have a long proud history of unfair business practice, dirty-tricks campaigns (ah! who can forget dear old Lord King?) and fisting both customers and employees whenever and however possible.

Do you get the feeling that if Willie and Louis Walsh swapped places none of us would be any the wiser? One more complete cnut on the X Factor wouldn’t notice, and think of the fun the new BA boss would have with the cabin crew during the next round of union negotiations. We’d have to throw a bucket of water over them.

Am I sounding more miserable than usual ? Well maybe. Times are tough at the moment. My regular reader in Cheltenham will realise the pictures are coming down in Railway Cuttings as the long process of making the place habitable for others begins. Calculations and ruminations over how and how much to rent out HQ will continue all week. Walls will be painted, the garden given a tidy and that suspicious-looking patch on the wall will have to be covered up. Furnished or unfurnished is just one of many questions I need to ask myself. It’d be great just to walk out and leave everything where it is. It’s gonna be a pain shipping out all the junk one collects over a few years. If I could be arsed I’d put my dvd collection on eBay. If I could be arsed. The booze collection will come with me, what’s left of it, as will the many, many unread books on the shelves.

Once the place looks vaguely decent I’ll need to decide whether to use an estate agent or go it alone. As appalling as my business acumen is, as disorganised as I am and no matter how little I know about renting out a house I can’t bring myself to deal with estate agents. I’ve not had that much luck with them in the past. I once offered to insert a FOR SALE placard into one bloke who I caught trying to drive the sign into my lawn after I’d agreed to let him sell it for me. On another occasion fisticuffs nearly broke out over a penthouse flat in Deptford. We had differed over the description of the flat he was trying to sell me. It was somewhere between “Immaculate”, as described in his literature, and a “Shit Pit” as described by me. So I’m gonna have a go on my own and see how I get on. Lots of pals who’ve been down this route are offering help and advice, so what could possibly go wrong?

So excuse the absence of my usual joie de vivre at the moment, I’ve just got a few things on my mind. Everyone has their off-days/weeks/months and this happens to be one of mine.

Mind you, compared to Ian Holloway I’m positively brimming with hilarity. You’ll know Mr Holloway is a firm favourite around here, responsible for some of the more memorable and hilarious footy quotes of recent times. But last week during the Wayne Rooney saga, things had obviously started to get on top of the normally jovial Mr Holloway.

I hope my house doesn’t toddle-off and do what it likes. I own it !! HOW WRONG IS THAT ?????

Reader’s Indigestion


According to Pink Floyd it’s the route of all evil today. Liza Minnelli said it made the world go round. Apparently it can’t buy you love, but the Pet Shop Boys wanted to make lots of it. I suppose it must by funny in a rich man’s world, but I’m unlikely experience that. I’m skint and I need a cunning plan. And I ain’t really got one.

I was thinking of writing my memoirs: A no-hold bars account of my life so far, explaining my angst over all the bad things I’ve done in my life and the lies I’ve told, justifying some, defending others, but apologizing for none. I could include a chapter explicitly detailing the sex life with my wife, and throughout the book I could pepper it with references to my closest colleague who took over from me after I left the job. I could then reveal to the world that I always thought he was an idiot, unsuitable for the job, unstable and with a violent temper. I could distance myself from all the cock-ups he made and the disasters that befell the office after I’d stood down from my post. They were, after all, nothing to do with me.

The book would be a best-seller, I’d make millions (I’d ensure it was immediately marked down as half-price in Waterstones and on Amazon, just so even more would be tempted to buy it), and I could travel the country, nay the world giving interviews to the BBC, selling extracts to TIME Magazine and the like. I might even give book-signing sessions in popular stores in big cities.

But what if some of the unenlightened electorate, a section of the great unwashed take umbrage over what I’ve done and start heckling me, or worse start throwing shoes and shit at me. I wouldn’t like that. I want to be loved. I’d have to run and hide, and that wouldn’t look very good, would it? No, perhaps I need to come up with a better plan to make my fortune.

Or perhaps I don’t need to make millions? After all, work is bound to come my way sooner or later, right? Perhaps I just need a cash-injection ? I keep seeing those loan companies advertising on the tv. They offer short-term loans for a modest interest rate. One of the adverts says they offer “typical APR 2689%”. Not sure what’s typical about 2689%, but then again I’m not very good at money. I reckon £20,000 might tie me over til I get myself square. Hopefully that wouldn’t take too long, say a year. If I borrowed it at the typical rate I need only repay £79,565.39. Hmmm…

I’m 46 next month and creeping ever-nearer to the age when I can apply for one of those “Over 50 plans” which Michael Parkinson is always flogging on telly. But life insurance is no good to me, is it? Unless I can get third party.

My complete and utter confidence in my winning the lottery is beginning to wane a little. I haven’t had a sniff of even a tenner for weeks. I dunno what’s going wrong. In the first draft of my autobiography I have blamed The Incumbent for buying the wrong tickets. It definitely isn’t my fault, and I’ll make sue the world knows it. Unless we win tomorrow night then I shall amend the draft to ensure my genius is well documented.

I sought out a dodgy bookie to see if we might work out some way of spot fixing during my next cricket match. He came along to watch the game I was playing in at the weekend. He suggested, having seen me play before, that we might run a book on which part of my body would drop off or explode at any given time during the match. We agreed that on the third ball of the fifth over my right ankle would collapse from under me, leaving me to hobble around in agony. During the 7th over I would make a disastrous attempt of fielding the ball, allowing it to run under my body to the boundary and thus giving the opposition four runs. Finally, before the 2nd ball of the 20th over I would collapse in a heap in the outfield, having gone temporarily blind, and in need of re-hydration. For this I would be handsomely rewarded.

I would have made a fortune if I’d have remembered it was my right ankle that was to give way.Everything else went to plan. Inspector Smellie of the Yard wants to see me, once I have recovered.

But there is a chink of light, a glimmer of hope. There’s a knight in shining armour on the horizon. The 7th Cavalry have arrived and they’ve brought shedloads of cash with ’em. There’s a letter on my dining table which says that Reader’s Digest are going to give me, give me £100,000. All I have to do is wait for a big orange envelope to pop through my letterbox and post back my lucky prize winning numbers. I dunno what I’ve been worried about all along. No bookies needed, no publisher required. Just good, honest, old fashioned, non-intrusive Reader’s Digest. The Milky Bars are on me. Break out the purple quilted smoking jacket and johdpurs.

How many lottery tickets can you buy with £100,000?

Turned Out Nice Again, ‘Int It?


Well, this is a bit more like it. The start of the third week of my freelance, er, career, and the sun has decided to join us. The BBC’s Rob McElwee tells me it’s gonna last all week “The summer is a-coming” he announced with less enthusiasm than you’d hope for. Rob is the longest serving of the BBC weather men, and I always think he takes sadistic glee when informing us of impending floods/hurricanes/blizzards. No, I don’t get the impression Rob’s favourite season is the summer, and he’d much rather it was a-going than a-coming.

But I can’t help liking the bloke. There’s a sort of Milliganness about him. His eyes alost merge into one, and the tuft of hair atop of his forehead is reminiscent of some character from Puckoon. I half expect, when he speaks, that his jaw will stay were it is and the top of his head will go up and down. But that’s probably just me. Long may he rain. (see what I did there?)

So here I sit, in the garden, cup of tea by my side, Norah Jones warbling in my ear and nothing to break the tranquility of it all, save the drip, drip, drip of my oxters as the temperature reaches 25 degrees, and it’s only 11 o’clock. The Incumbent asked if it was odd yet, whether I’d gotten used to being off work yet? To be honest, no I haven’t, but that’s not to say it’s all bad, or even all good. It’s just all different. Example: Isn’t Sainsbury’s empty at 9.30 on a Monday morning? I was in and out of there this morning like a French football team at a World Cup (and without the arguments).

I reckon there were about 20 shoppers in the whole supermarket, mostly mums having done the school-run, a few pensioners and me. The booze section was completely deserted, up until I arrived at least. Being without an income gives one pause, of course. With a week of England vrs Aussie cricket to watch, Tennis to avoid and then Wednesday’s soccer match to endure, I knew I’d need something to numb the pain but, at the moment, bottles of malt whisky are a bit of a luxury.

I needed something just below prescription strength but to suit the budget of the unemployed. Being the day before that bastard Osborne delivers the budget, I guessed that this time tomorrow anything except Bollinger was gonna reach gold-standard prices, so I needed to stock-up fast. Moving swiftly past the Diamond White (I do have some standards) I toyed with the idea of treating myself to a plastic ‘barrel’ of ‘draught’ Grolsch before plumping for a case of bottles of the same, for a mere ten of your english pounds. Not bad, I thought, and if I could chomp through half of them before kick-off, the match vrs Slovenia might just be bearable.

Of course, I could have bought a couple of cases, had it not been for an incident on my doorstep last Friday. No-one ever calls at my door. I don’t really know why I paid good money for a door-bell a couple of years ago. For all the use it gets I may have well bought a hang-glider or an exercise bike. Nevertheless, there I was on my sofa on Friday lunchtime, preparing myself for an evening of cheering on England and their inevitable victory against Algeria, when the bell did indeed ring.

Remembering to put some trousers on first, I went and opened the door. On my doorstep was a fella of about 50, with a cigarette hanging at a jaunty angle from his bottom lip, a mobile phone in one hand, and a spiral-bound notepad in the other, leaning against the door frame.

“Oh ! You’re in !” exclaimed the stranger.
“Evidently”
“No, it’s just that you’re never normally in when I call” he said by way of explanation for his opening gambit.
Still not knowing who this bloke was, I nonetheless found myself justifying why I was at home.
“Well I’m usually at work, I suppose”. Even as I said it I wondered why I was having this conversation at all.
“Ah, day off for the footy, is it?” He said in that nudge-nudge, wink-wink, you-lazy-bastard sort of tone.
“NO” I barked, “I’m out of work”
“Oh sorry, pal, I didn’t know”
“It’s ok, why would you?” I said with mock grief. Was this bloke a door-to-door counsellor, a freelance gloater, or just some nosy neighbour whom I’d been, up to then, blissfully unaware of.

He segwayed.

“You want your windows done?”
“Pardon?” his change of tack had caught me flat-footed.
“Want your windows cleaned? We do all the others around here and I wondered if you want yours done? A fiver for the front, a tenner for front and back.”
“erm…”
“did you get our card through your door ?”
“Er, no” I was struggling to keep up with the pace of this dialogue.
“oh fuckin’ ‘ell !. He told me he’d done this road.” With a slight shake of his head, my new acquaintance wrote something in his notepad.

“So what do reckon about tonight then?” We were back to the football.
“Oh they should be alright, don’t you think?” I offered, pretending I knew about football.
“Those Algerians ain’t as bad as people think, you know” he retorted
“Well, no..no, you could be right” I said, not wanting to start an argument.
“So do you want your windows done or not, mate?” he asked, clearly having had enough of footy-talk.
“Oh yes..why not? Er, hang on, I’ll get some money”
“Tenner mate, please” he called after me as I retreated to the sanctuary of my house.

I only had a 20 quid note in my wallet.
“Have you got a tenner?” I asked
“I’ve got bundles, mate”. I knew he would have. “Here you are then”

The financial exchange completed, he told me I was paid-up til August- something I didn’t quite understand but ignored.
“Right, we should be back here about 4 o’clock. If you’re not in, just make sure your windows are shut and locked.”
I knew I wouldn’t be in at 4 o’clock as I’d be nestled somewhere in front of a pub TV ready for the big match (well, you can never get there too early). As he turned on his heels, my tenner in his pocket and his mobile in his ear, I knew it was a bit extravagant doshing out tenners to unknown men to do I job I should be doing myself. I was also fully aware (and slightly ashamed) I’d been bullied into having my windows washed against my will, and that I’d panicked and crumbled in the face of stronger and faster opposition. But, hey, it keeps the local economy going and, anyway, my mum would be pleased with me having sparkly-clean windies. I started to muse about becoming a window cleaner knowing that, for a nosey parker it’s an interesting job. But I soon decided that that way a plagiarism suit lies.

So that was Friday. It’s Monday afternoon now. Haven’t seen him again. No ladder has been parked up against my wall, no soapy waters or squeegee has touched my glass. My tenner, like Nicolas Anelka, has buggered off, never to be seen again. I’ve been deficient in the chamois leather department to the tune of one. Like one of those old biddies on the local news, I’ve been had over by a local ‘rogue trader’. I’m ten pounds lighter, but not in the way I’d prefer. I should put it all behind me and clean them myself. But, true to Rob McElwee’s word, it’s about to rain. That’ll keep him happy.

.

And Where Were The Germans?


Oh for Christ’s sake ! When is this competition gonna liven up ? They’re doing it on purpose, you know. The only sodding World Cup since 1974 that I have any chance of seeing most of, and it’s been a mixture of dullness, mediocrity and monotony. I mean, did you watch Portugal vrs The Ivory Coast? It had everything I love about soccer: Millionaire show-ponies, falling over, feigning injury and trying to cheat their way to a victory. In the end they cheated their way into a 0-0 draw. Anyway, when Drogba and Ronaldo are on the pitch, what did I really expect? Fair play?? Well, actually I did think I was in for at least a goal. Or at least an attempt on goal. Nope, all I watched was some poor ref trying to keep the lid on a particularly niggly, nasty little affair as they pulled shirts, flicked heels and rolled around like they’d been shot. Boo! You’re rubbish ! Get off !!

The more I see of these matches the less painfully woeful Eng vrs USA seems (or is that the beer talking again ?). Brazil have just taken the field against North Korea and one can only hope for either a) Brazil win by a cricket score or b) N Korea nick a shock point, or even better a win. Some hope. Brazil will probably get a last minute penalty and come out 1-0 winners. GOD this is dull. I can’t quite believe that the only side that look like they’re worth watching is The Germans (though, as I write, N Korea look like they want some).I never thought I’d write this, but Germany looked slick, fast and exciting. THE GERMANS!!!! Mind you, they were playing The Strines, who having won the toss and elected to bat, then realised,half way through the second half that they were in fact playing footy, not cricket. By the time the back four had taken their pads off it was too late. They were all out, and were lucky not to asked to follow-on.

I digress (and The North Koreans are getting better and better -32 mins gone)

I thank the gods at Virgin Media for ESPN Classic who all fortnight have been showing classic World Cup encounters from year gone by. This morning’s was 1982 Brazil vrs Italy. remember that one ? Paulo Rossi hat-trick? Zico, Falcao, Socrates? Huge beards and or haircuts, shorts cutting them in half? You must remember ! Earlier I’d watched a recent interview with Socrates who’s still alive, though you’d hardly know it to look at him. I was reminded that the Brazil Captain from that 1982 tournament smoked 40 cigarettes-a-day back then, and by the look of him, he smoked most of them though his eyes.

Ever a thinking footballer, Socrates is now a doctor of both medicine and philosophy. I can’t imagine Wayne, Christiano or Kaka following in his footsteps, or maybe they will. I neither know or care. All I care about is England look dull/crap (delete where or if applicable), Germany look exciting and talented, and to cap it all, Der Kaiser Beckenbauer has been on air telling anyone who cares to listen that English football is going backwards. And he maybe right. Can you imagine this English lot being level at 0-0 with these current Brazilians at half time, as North Korea are ? No, nor can I.

Beckenbauer. Fucking Beckenbauer! Of course he’s right, but he can still fuck off. I was racking my brain to think of an example when a German team was dull, one-paced and were drubbed. I can ‘t bring myself to watch 1966 yet again, and the Berlin 1-5 debacle is too funny to watch at my time of life. But finally, I found one. And it’ll probably be the best match I watch all week.

And it has Socrates in it too. Just not that one.

There’s a Tray of Bread Pudding in the Post


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
Railway Cuttings

BLACKHEATH
ANGLETERRE

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

What’s My Motivation for This?


It’s the little things in life that really get up my nose.

People who step onto a train (or into a lift) before you are able to get off. Wouldn’t it be easier for me to get out first, thus creating room on the train? Never mind common courtesy! Then there are those others who, when you’re waiting for a lift having pressed the button and made it light up, come along in front of you and press that button very same button again- as if you hadn’t thought of doing that. “IT’S ALREADY LIT YOU CABBAGE !! I ALREADY PRESSED IT!!”

They are right up there with people who, while you’re stood holding a door open for them, say nothing and just saunter through. Not a thank you, kiss-your-arse, NOTHING. Or worse, they walk through the open door not even bothering to take their hands out of their pockets to take the door from you. Bastards.

Short people using umbrellas in public places. They are a danger to my eyesight. I’ll go blind soon enough, thank you very much, and don’t need any help from you attacking my retinas with your steely spikey spokey pokey brolly. Then again, I really despise those who take something from you, whether a cup of tea, a pencil or whatever and who not only don’t say thank you, they don’t even look at you by way of acknowledgment. Grrrrr…

While none of these annoyances, taken individually, would force you to unleash the forces of hell, imagine how you would feel if all of the above happened to you in the space of one morning?

Well , welcome to my world.

My bad morning had started early, (as early as last night, in fact) as I’d lost my glasses. This was the first time it’d happened to me in the six weeks since I’d been viewing the world in glorious HD. I was worried, and it irked me. I’d either left them at work, or in the pub, or on the train, or somewhere. Bugger. Still, I was so knackered last night, couldn’t be arsed to worry about them, so I decided to sleep on it.

I woke up this morning and immediately started to worry about them. Bugger. And Charlton had lost again.

With my spare pair of specs (£9.99 Foster Grants from Sainsburys) in my top pocket, I set off for work by my usual train. I don’t like my spare pair. Ok, so they’re approximately £337.21 cheaper than my lost pair, but they do look every bit of that. Ill-fitting, cheap-looking plastic frames and, in all honesty, I can’t see out of them. Dunno why I bothered really.

Having squinted my way through the morning’s reading matter, the train started to pull in to my stop. I made myself ready by the door, the train came to a halt and I pushed the button to open the door. I hadn’t even time to put my worst foot forward across the threshold when a 50-something, short, fat woman pushed her way through the doorway ARSE FIRST, while she closed and shook her umbrella dry. As she try to push her way in, I gave her the gentlest of knees in the sphincter. She stood bolt upright. “Oops, sorry!” I lied, as I squeezed through the rather small gap between her and the doorframe. I didn’t bother looking around to see the look on her face, I have a decent enough imagination on me. I stomped off to work.

In reception, the queue for the coffee bar was too long to worry about so I headed straight for the lift. One of the three lifts had been out of action for weeks so the wait for one of the other two can be irritatingly long. I pressed the button. Nothing happened for a while. Then it did. A youngish bloke holding a grande latte walked in front of me and pushed the button again. I assume he must have been able to hear me snorting behind him. Then he pressed it again, and then taptap…taptaptap, like he was sending morse code. Amazingly, after only seventeen presses of the button, the lift arrived. I said nothing, I just ticked.

Up to the second floor and as the doors opened a girl from the features desk made a feint to get in before I got out. I can only assume the black look on my face, resplendently framed in cheap plastic glasses, put her off. Only a nutcase would wear them, surely. She made a tactical retreat. “Thank you” I barked, forcing a smile.

Down the corridor I huffed, to the door at the end. I could hear footsteps behind me and as I reached for the door and I turned to see a young, suited bloke about ten yards away coming towards me. I pushed the door open, went though and then waited, holding the door for him to take. He walked straight through the gap, saying nothing, leeaving me holding the door as he walked past, like I was his sodding doorman.
“My pleasure” I called after him. He looked over his shoulder and smirked.
“Pig” I added.

I can’t tell you.

The next twelve minutes went relatively well. My mood was much improved by the discovery of my glasses, in their case on the desk where I had indeed left them the night before. Hurrah! All was again well in the world, so I went to buy a round of coffees. Returning to the office, I passed them around to the chaps, and all but one thanked me and offered me the cash. The last bloke, never took his eyes off his pc, just held out his hand for me to give him his cup. Having grabbed it from me, he slurped it and set it down on the desk, eyes still focussing on the screen.
“Oh, don’t mention it, Phil” I squarked.

He didn’t.

I walked over to my desk and booted the waste bin 8ft across the room. Another colleague sniggered, sensing my well-disguised exasperation.
“Well, Mike, if you didn’t wanna work with clowns, you shouldn’t have joined the circus”

And it was still only 10.30.

KimAd.

Catching 40 Winks in the Rye


I wasn’t going to write about the death of J.D.Salinger. Surely enough has been written? (and he never bothered to leave a comment on these pages). But then I thought I could perform a great service for anyone tempted to read him for the first time following the acres of copy written after his demise. Mr Salinger was a renowned American author, though for many of us, perhaps moreso on this side of the pond, I suspect his name first came into our consciousness via the reported antics of juvenile assassins and teenage mass-murderers.

When I was but a surly youth it seemed that you couldn’t turn on the evening news without someone having been shot down by the NYPD or similar for killing some celebrity such as Lennon or McCartney (well,you can dream) or instigating the massacre of a whole commune of cultish (spellcheck please) and religious nutcases somewhere in the Great American Midwest. Time and time again it seemed that the doers of these dreadful deeds appeared to have read Salinger’s novel The Catcher in the Rye before they decided to pull the trigger.

A conveyor belt of judges and jurors were subjected to the flimsy defence of surviving adolescent would-be murderers, blaming Rye for tipping them over the edge, such was it’s subject matter. It’s touted as a book with “themes of teenage confusion, angst, alienation and rebellion”.Read this book, so the theory went, and you’d immediately develop a hatred of tutors, teachers and authority figures everywhere.

“That sounds the very thing for me!” thought a young me, who had already started grooming his black puppy. So I bought myself a copy of the book, fully expecting to turn into an axe-wielding homicidal maniac. There were a few teachers at school who deserved to be vapourised, and this sounded like the very accelerant I needed.

My targets, however, were saved by one small yet important fact : The Catcher in the Rye is a bag of old shite. It is THE dullest collection of self-important ramblings ever written (and I’ve read The Daily Mail). It IS , honest. There I was, aching for an excuse to end it all, and as far as I’m concerned it’s a cure from insomnia. The only people I wanted to kill after reading it were Salinger, his agent and his publisher. I may be wrong about this, but I doubt it. Feel free to tell me otherwise.

If you really want to get angry or depressed, or dabble in a spot of murder why not ingest a tome by Elizabeth Gilbert? Her brand of sickly shit chick-lit has already landed her a movie contract for the dramatisation of her first great work Eat Love Pray, a piece of celluloid sewage soon to be at a movie theatre far away from me, and starring Julia Roberts (shame on you). It’s another example of the creeping crud that is blighting all our lives. Let’s strangle this bollocks at birth.

If on the other hand you don’t live your life through Desperate Housewives or Bridget Jones, and would like to rebel against this post-feminist, Spice Girl/Anna Wintour/Alpha Female fuckfest which is infesting our arts and media (and would enjoy having a wee titter along the way) can I suggest you look no further than the magnificent drinkcursehate.wordpress.com. It’s a website written by three blokes who want to live as blokes in the world they thought they were growing up into during the 70’s, not as the cowering, emasculated sheep which a diet of Sex in the City, Strictly Come Shopping or Eat Love Pray would have them be. It hopes to be the antidote to Marie Claire and the Mail on Sunday. You might like it. Especially if you happen to be a fella.

Finally, a little self-congrats: Happy 1st Anniversary, The Sharp Single. Who said it’d never last? Tell your friends, tell your enemies, tell anyone with money who might want to pay me money to write this kind of rubbish.

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