Customer Services


Having worked for and with more than my fair share of Americans, it always makes my blood boil when they carp on about the poor quality of British Customer Services: No Smiles; No Have a Nice Day Now Y’All Hears; No going the extra yards; No nuthin’.

So let’s put an end to the myth that us British have no idea how to treat the customer. Here’s evidence that things are improving, at least in the British Courier community:

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Makes you feel kinda proud. Even the dog at the door can’t believe it.

Missing You Already.

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Shot Put Smuggling


The Incumbent has taken to wearing our London 2012 Olympic T-shirts down the gym each morning. This morning nearly saw a coming together of her and the local Blue Rinse Brigade rep. The elderly lady was distracted elsewhere to avoid incident.

Lots of good comments about my girlfriend’s chest, though. (I hope it was just the design of the shirt the boys were looking at.)

The T-shirts are working ! (Not to mention the chest.)

(How you getting on with Seb Coe‘s  third ballot ticketing arrangement, then?)

Only 135 Starbucks Days til Christmas


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.

Disgusting of Tunbridge Wells


My god I’m fat. I’ve got five suits hanging upstairs, none of which I can get anywhere near. Seeing my body in the bathroom mirror doesn’t make for pretty viewing. I now have my own post code. My own gravitational pull. I’m thinking of getting an all-over body tattoo of a tall, thin bloke.

It’s incredible how much weight you can put on when you spend most days five yards away from the fridge. Five months off work and the temptation of the kitchen cupboard is too great for one so weak. When you’re at work, scuttling to-and-from the tube, running around the office and jumping up and down from your desk to grab a cup of tea you presumably burn up enough calories to allow you the occasional visit to the West Cornwall Pasty Co and not pile on the blubber.

I’m one who delights in the pleasure of the odd medium chicken and vegetable, a cup of potato wedges, washed down with a couple of packs of M&S millionaires shortbread and for years I’ve managed to keep at my fighting weight of two stone heavier than I should be. I’ve never had to resort to taking the stairs instead of the lift, donning lycra and peddling into the office on a Boris Bike (just don’t, ok?) or wasting perfectly good pub time in the gym.

By the way, what is it about people (of either gender) who go to work in a suit and trainers ? If those shoes you’re carrying in that bag of yours hurt too much to walk half a mile along a pavement to your office then DON’T FUCKING BUY THEM IN THE FIRST PLACE. Suit and trainers ??? Trainers are to be worn with jeans or shorts, not your best pinstripe or sharkskin. You don’t look cool, you don’t look trendy, you look like a complete and utter berk. You’d look less ridiculous in a pair of flippers

See what I mean ?

Anyway.

Yesterday we drove down to Royal Tunbridge Wells, Georgian spa town, home of the angry Daily Telegraph reader and for one night only, venue of “An Evening with David Lloyd”, former England cricket player and coach, now Sky TV cricket commentator. He’s on tour with his ‘stand-up’ show of wit and wisdom of the great game, recounting hilarious anecdotes from his playing days, poking fun at himself and the great players of yesteryear (yes, you’re right, you’d have loved it). I’d syringed myself into one of the few remaining shirts I could actually still button up, got The Incumbent to help me into my jacket and I rolled myself out to the car, taking care not to let my thighs make too loud a swishing noise as they rubbed together. The Missus also helped me into the driver’s seat and plug in my seatbelt – I’m finding it harder and harder to bend around to either clunk or click.

Tunbridge Wells was a disappointment. A homogonised shopping centre here, a rather shabby yet still celebrated Pantiles there and a dirty great hill in between. We tried to get food in a few pubs (sidestepping the ubiquitous Wetherspoons, of course) none of which did food (after 3pm ????) and barely sold beer but did a very tempting line in teenage abusive drunks. Mmmmmmm….. vodka redbull on a monday evening. Luvverly. Having retreated to an outlet of an Italian chain of eateries, we devoured the meal placed in front of us and watched the poor sods fresh off the London or Hastings train, trudging their way up the steep slope to their homes, maybe taking in an exciting branch of H&M or Paperchase on the way.

But wherever they’d been and wherever they were going one thing was clear to me: There they were in their M&S wool suits, with their backpack across their shoulders and Nike Shox on their feet, scaling the last peak of the day to their loved ones; and there I was with a dripping wedge of Pizza Rustica hanging from my mouth in between toothpicks. They were getting natural exercise and keeping trim where I wasn’t and I wasn’t. But were they happy ? Who can tell ?

I hear stories of doctors in Red China who have suggested regular exercise can lead to a fuller, healthier and even longer life. But these are the same blokes who reckon rhino horn gives you the …er… horn, right ? So opinion is divided on the matter, I reckon. If there’s anyone who knows the damage regular exercise can do to the human body, you’re reading him.

Reversing into a parking space on our return, I couldn’t twist my gut around enough to see what was behind me, so I relied on my mirrors. I promptly crunched hard into an invisible lamp post. This was getting ridiculous. My stomach was not only affecting my wardrobe and my breathing patterns, but now it was impeding my driving which, in turn, meant I was knocking lumps out of The Incumbent’s motor who would therefore soon surely start knocking lumps out of me.

So that’s it. New regime time. As soon as I get out of bed I’m going to catch a cab up to the health food shop in the village and see what they have to tempt my taste buds. I’m hoping for sugar-free M&Ms, diet pies and low fat lager, but will settle for Guinness Light. I might even put my trainers on. If they still fit.

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My Kinda Town, North Londonshire Is


Well that’s that then. Unless Baldrick comes up with a cunning plan within the very near future I’m gonna have to get shot of Railway Cuttings. The place I’ve called home since I managed to get myself 30ft of rope, a set of wire-cutters and fake passport and hopped over the fence of Stalag Marriage has to go on the market. Sell it or rent it, I dunno, but I can’t afford to keep it. One week’s work since June has dug deep into the coffers and my old chums at the bank and the mortgage company are starting to get a wee bit uppity.

So I need to spruce it up for the prospective buyer or the potential tenant. Get rid of half of the of rubbish laying around the place (The Incumbent can sell it on Ebay), give the walls a lick of paint, cut the grass and start thinking about how best to advertise the place.

It’s a nice part of London to live in (if you just ignore the previous 73 posts I’ve written slagging off the place) and very handy if you wanna get to London Bridge or the West End within 20 minutes. There’s the lovely Greenwich Park and common just around the corner, good connections to the M2 and M25 motorways and some of the local pubs now serve both ice, lemons and limes. There’s a farmers’ market, a Starbucks, more curry houses than your average small village oughta, and rather nice kitchen shop.

Non-CIA spook Terry Waite lives here, as does Matt Pritchett, the brilliant Daily Telegraph cartoonist and professional Millwall fan Danny Baker. Former residents include, highwayman Dick Turpin, cook Fanny Craddock and obnoxious git Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen. Very soon I shall be added to that list of ex-inhabitants and gits.

But I think I need something that little bit extra to pull in the punters. How can I sell the area to entice the loaded gentry to part with their cash to buy my place ? Will the attraction of The Cactus Pit – our combined Tex-Mex restaurant and ‘nightclub’ (guaranteed a punch-up or a bunk-up) be enough for Hedgefund managers to rent my little gaff for a couple of years? I suspect not.

So I was listening to the car radio this morning and heard an advert for North Londonshire – the place to move, for space to move”.
“Where?????? North Londonshire ??? There’s no such place” I found myself shouting at the dashboard.
The commercial continued. “It’s closer than you think”
“What the fuck does that mean ? Closer than you think ? Closer to where ???”

I sped home to my waiting laptop, determined to find out where this place was. I was convinced in my heart the North Londonshire was a made-up place. Certain in my own mind, but not enough to bet my house on it. I remembered once having an argument with a bloke about Hoxton, a district of London I was convinced was an invention of estate agents in the 1980s. After all, the place they now call Surrey Quays was what I grew up calling Rotherhithe until in 2002 some brilliant PR man for the local property developer or boundary commission came up with a new name.

Ok, I’d been slightly wrong about Hoxton – on investigation it turns out it was mentioned in the Doomsday Book – so I needed to get home this morning and double-check that only my South Londoner ignorance had prevented me from being aware or North Londonshire. Perhaps I’d actually been there, drank there, shopped there, without actually realising it.

It didn’t take me long to find it. It even has it’s own website (northlondonshire.co.uk). I went immediately for the menu Where is North Londonshire ? It read:

Closer than you think.

Located midway between London and Birmingham, North Northamptonshire is central, cost effective and well-connected.
Towns like Corby, Kettering, Rushden and Wellingborough all benefit from superb connections by road and rail.
St Pancras International, home of the Eurostar, is less than 50 minutes by train meaning Paris and Brussels are just four hours away.
Air travel is equally convenient with Birmingham, East Midlands, Luton and Stansted airports all within reach in 90 minutes.

So it’s closer than you think, if you happen to be thinking in Birmingham. Very close indeed if you live in Northampton. A short stroll down the street if you’re parked 2 hours drive north of London. Just not very close at all if you happen to be in…er…London. You may find the promotional video a little misleading too. But maybe I’m missing something.

If only all the shitty London pigeons would fuck off to Northamptonshire, the capital would be a nicer place to live. However.
The video and website may well be a load of old tosh, but it gave me an idea for an advert for the New York Post:

For Rent: 2 bedroom terraced house in Manhattan suburb.

If you think you might be growing out of New York, or are just looking to make the right move, you’ll find everything you’re looking for in Blackheath. There’s highly affordable quality housing offering considerable value. There are schools and education to rival anywhere in the country (or beyond). And there are career opportunities provided by leading forces in the Bangladeshi and Nepalese service community. Some of the pubs are even open til midnight !!

Relax in our beautiful ancient parkland and quiet surroundings. Visit quaint shops and three dry-cleaners (with ample parking). All this easily accessible from the lower east or west sides, with Grand Central Station, MOMA and Ground Zero Mosque just 2 minutes away (by phone) and our excellent links to both Laguardia and JFK airports, via the Old Kent Road, M4 and Heathrow (congestion charges may apply).

So why not make your new life in Blackheath, East Manhattan. SE3 ? Just 3,471 miles around the corner. Come live where the Limeys live. It’s closer than you think.

The Sole Man


Bought a pair of shoes once. Doc Martens. Lovely they were. Then after five days the sole of one came away from the upper, under the arch. Less than happy, I popped them into a bag and walked up to the shop from where I bought them in pursuit of a replacement pair or at least a refund.

The shop wasn’t one of those swish, poncy, boutique affairs, full of little girls selling slingbacks to old ladies, but more of an emporium: a functional, no-frills sort of place which sold what my old man would call “working” shoes and clothes. No women were anywhere to be seen. I was one of the few therein not wearing overalls.

There was a bloke who I presumed to be the guvnor arranging a display of shoelaces as I approached the counter.
“Hello mate,” says I to Mr Shopkeeper “I bought these shoes here last week and, look, this one’s split at the seam,”
The bloke took my shoe in his hands, holding it at the heel and toe. He looked at it for a second, noticing the split down the side, then flexed it, looked at me inquisitively before returning his attention to my right size 9. He turned the shoe over, then flexed it again while studying the sole. Then he looked up at me again to deliver his verdict.

“You’ve been bending your feet”
” ‘scuse me?” I spluttered.
“You’ve been bending your feet when you walk” he repeated, without a glint of irony.
“Well how do you walk around, then?” I demanded to know. I walked round in a circle, lifting my knees as if I were wearing flippers. Demonstration over, I returned to meet the shoe expert eye-to-eye.

“You got any that can cope with a spot of foot-bending, then?” I enquired. But he was not playing my game. He again picked up my purchase and continued his flexing routine.
“I can have a go at mending it.” he offered ” I reckon a hot knife should do it.”
Have a go with a hot knife ???” I retorted, incredulously “These are brand new, mate. They cost me 30 quid. Each !”

He clearly didn’t get it. We argued the toss over whether the fault lay with the manufacturer or some physical deformity that I had been, up to then, blissfully unaware of. I wasn’t in the mood.
“You know the phrase ‘the customer’s always right’ ? Well I’m him ! ”

I could tell he was doing me the biggest of favours when he opened the till to refund my money. I half-thought he might offer me the money back on just one, as only one shoe had split. We hurrumphed at each other as I left the establishment, £60 back in my wallet but two shoes worse off.

The shop is, amazingly, still in business and by all accounts thriving. I walk past it every now and then, remembering not to bend my feet as I do so.

.

Spanish Stroll


Don’t you love getting sprayed with someone else’s waste product when you’re standing at a urinal ? I know I do. I was standing at the trough the other evening, resplendent in my ever-present summer shorts, when a fella came into the pub toilet to begin his business. Now I don’t know what he produced from his fly (I’m far to polite to look) but by the feel of the mist that started to cover my right leg, I suspect it was some sort of steam lance.

He was presumably in a hurry to force it out and finish quickly as he started after and finished before me then returned to the bar before I had time to zip up. I stood there, thoroughly dejected with damp leg and one moist tennis shoe. If you think it’s tough washing your shin in a pub toilet basin, try cocking that leg up to the nozzle of the hand-drier, then come up with a plausible explanation as to what you’re doing to the next bloke that comes in for a pee.

I suppose I might have pointed out the error of his ways to my urinary assailant while he was imitating a garden sprinkler, but being a lover not a fighter I didn’t want to get into a fist fight with a man who not only was a good deal larger than me (in nearly every department) and who’s fist were covered in wee.

I should have asked him what he was up to for the net week as I could do with him in my garden. We’re off for a week, taking the herberts to Spain and I need someone to water the plants while I’m away. With a natural talent such as his, my chillies, carrots and peppers would be sure to get a good watering. As it is, I am relying on my parents to pop over and administer the watering can to the veg patch, and at least that way my produce won’t have a faint lager aftertaste.

So the annual trip with the four kids has arrived and, as usual, I’m pottering around Railway Cuttings making sure I have everything I will possibly need for the holiday, and all the time taking my mind off the fact I have to get on a plane in the morning (why is there always a plane crash somewhere in the world just before I go to Gatwick?).

At the moment, the suitcase list reads (in order of importance): Medical bag; loo roll; passport; tea bags; playing cards; cribbage board; iPod; reading matter; money (if applicable); TomTom; swim shorts and clothes.

You’ll notice I have not felt the need to include a Spanish phrase book. The kids tell me that at least two of them have a working knowledge of the language, but more importantly I fear that fluent cockney, brummie and scouse are the dominant languages where we’re going. I’m less likely to use “Dos cervezas, por favor” than I will “‘scuse me mate, can you shut the fuck up?”. I’m expecting to see many more signs for Ye Olde Red Lion than I will Vino y Tapas. Fish n chips and a cup of tea are likely to be the local delicacies, rather than chorizo, paella or Rioja.

Yes, the Inglés will be there in force and I thank the little baby Jesus that we have booked a villa and pool all to ourselves so I need be nowhere near them. Last year in Italy we stumbled across very few Brits and bloody marvellous it was too. I’m not sure we’ll be so lucky this time round. So the plan (well, my plan anyway) is to spend a goodly amount of time stocking up in the local supermarket then eating and drinking ourselves stupid around the pool. Give me a German, an Italian, a Frenchman or even a Spaniard to chat to at the bar and I’ll be as happy as Larry (depending on how happy Larry is, of course), but I find it hard to embrace my compatriots as they try to Anglicise the world. Maybe I’ll pretend to be Australian ? Maybe not.

If we do find ourselves outside the confines of our villa we shall be vigilant. The first sign of a pair of Union Jack shorts on the beach and we will retreat to base camp; any Barnsley bullshit that they “don’t do a decent pint of bitter over here” will result on us leaving the premises; 18-30 holiday rep organizing foreskin-drinking contests will be kept out of sight of the children and, more importantly, me. I have very low tolerance and embarrassment levels when it comes to the English abroad and look forward to avoiding any pink, tattooed nause from Nottingham holding court in a bar and giving us his thoughts on football or motor racing.

All that aside, I’m thoroughly looking forward a week with the kids and won’t let anything detract from it. Bring on the San Miguel, the gambas pil pil and the Tortillas. Bring on the large scotches in Gatwick and bring on a smooth and scream-free flight. At least there won’t be a bloke giving me a free shower in the plane’s khazi.

Oh, Olé!

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.

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The Official Weedkiller of The England Football Team


Am I the only one not to have one ?

Driving around South-East London yesterday I became aware that I was sitting in the only car in a ten-mile radius not to have an English flag sticking out of it. World Cup fever has taken hold of the country, and in my little bit of it, there’s an epidemic of England soccer team-related merchandise threatening to turn every car,pub and terraced-house window into something which resembles BNP Headquarters.

As The Incumbent and I wandered around the supermarket yesterday it became more and more evident that, not only was the World Cup but two weeks away, but that we would be shirking our responsibilities by not purchasing some tacky item adorned with Cross of St George and therefore damaging our team’s chances of winning the whole bang shoot.

England Mars Bars, England CocaCola, England lager, England deckchairs, England flags, England cups, England mugs, England spoons, England dishwasher salt, England loft-lagging. I think it’s getting a little much, don’t you?

I like to think of myself as a patriot (though actually typing that feels strange) and proud of my country. Back in the 80s and early 90s I used to envy the Dutch, Scotch, Irish and the like who felt no embarrassment wearing their colours, donning the badge or flying the flag for their homeland. Us English had a problem with all that (at least us decent English did). Our flag had been stolen by the nazis.

The National Front, a collection of neo nazis, dullards and skinheads, had during the 70s somehow stolen our flag and national emblems. Back then, flying the English flag was tantamount to shouting Seig Heil and goosestepping down the high street. Euro 96 changed all that for good, thank goodness and since then English Football fans, the Barmy Army cricket followers and Shake ‘n’ Vac producers have been able to wear the colours with renewed pride and bandwagonjumpiness.

But why can’t we show a little class or decorum? There’s something rather elegant about the way a lone Stars n Stripes flutters outside American schoolhouses or government buildings. There’s nothing classy about two flags sticking out of your car, one plastered onto the bonnet, and your ugly fat missus having the Cross of St George plastered over her white, flabby back. Very sexy, I’m sure, love.

So we resisted the temptation to buy England flags, England shovels or England house insurance, much to the disappointment of the official check-out girl to the England Football Team. Money’s getting a little tight in Railway Cuttings and if I do have to sell up or rent out the place, I think I might improve my chances of getting a fair price by not putting a flashing “Come on Ingerland” sign in the window.

During the election I didn’t place a VOTE LABOUR poster in my widow either, for similar reasons but I kinda now wish I had. I take no great pleasure in seeing the fledgling QuisCon Coalition beginning to unravel….no, no who am I kidding? Of course I take great pleasure in it. Uncle Vince is looking as guilty as a puppy sitting next to a pile of poo, and he has the face of someone who deep inside is screaming “What have I done? What have I done?”. Suddenly all that Liberal support has disappeared like Saddam’s Republican Guard. Where did they bugger off too? There was Storming Gordon bracing himself for the mother of all fights, and when it came to it, it was all a mirage. Still, scheisters that they are, they ‘shocked’ everyone by getting into bed with the other lot, promising ‘new politics’ and a ‘new style of government’.

Well stone me ! You’ll never guess what ? One of our brave new leaders has been a naughty boy. David Laws has been up to the old tricks of paying loved ones for accommodation, and then claiming for it. No, no, no, Mr laws, that’s not right. That’s the sort of underhand behaviour which you and Nick the Rat (The London Olympic’s 3rd Mascot) were forever accusing the ‘old’ political parties of dealing in.

Take Him Down

What’s that? You were trying to keep your private life private? Oh ok: all in favour of that. I know it must be tough to be an MP and gay, or gay in any profession in this homophobic, bigoted country of ours. But, sorry, what’s that got to do with nicking £40,000 from the British taxpayer: to wit: me. Give me my money back and fuck off out of it. This has nothing to do with your sexual preferences, but everything to do with you being as bent as a nine-bob note, where the word ‘bent’ means crooked. You’ve been caught out having an extra-marital affair, and funding it with my cash. There are MPs on trial at the moment for their part in the expenses scandal (though we can’t read about them until the court orders are lifted) and YOU, Mr Outside-the-Laws can bleeding well line up behind them.

October 14th, mark my words: go down to Mr Coral and get yer money on the date for the next general election. This shower of shite will show themselves up to be what we all knew, as reliable as the England back four, as straight as a welsh put-in to the scrum, as trustworthy as Billy Bowden‘s light meter. Stay tuned for Cameron and Clegg poncing about in England shirts, playing keepy-uppy during PMQ’s. Meanwhile, I’m gonna start producing “BRING BACK GORDON” t-shirts.