More Christmas Repeats

One would have thought the TV companies (even one as shockingly poor as Channel 5) could have thought of something more original than Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to show over the Xmas period. Seems like they’re playing it every 1/2 hour, on the hour. Do they have nothing better to do than scare the children ?

An Evil, Nasty Character, the cause of many a nightmare and sleepless night. And the Child Catcher.

Mrs Brooks in character as The Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty… and, right, before makeup.

(Apologies to our older reader for the repeat of this joke)

5 aren’t, of course, the only culprits. T’BBC must have shares in Con Air (showing every other Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday at 7, 9 and 11pm on BBC4).  The remake is due to go into production this year, coincidentally also starring Rebekkah Brooks with Andy Coulson, with the working title Dirty Wapping Scoundrels).

Subway to Paradise

A correspondent wites:

“Dear Ed,

Whilst on missionary work in one of Cardiff’s more trendy [sic] areas, I happened upon the below establishment. I immediately thought of you and at once assumed that you had given up the Blog & T-shirt business, opting instead to make bread-based snacks in one of the needier outposts of The Empire. I then, of course, realised that opening a sandwich shop would be an act of pure lunacy, and the last act of a desperate man (as opposed to the 1st act of Henry V). 

Anyway, I thought you may be interested in the snap wot I smudged.


Chester Drawers

I also hope you’ve ditched the Yellow Pages delivery idea.”



So we’re making progress. The advert is in and the dustman are on steroids.  The house has never look tidier although, to be honest, that’s no great boast. But everything is heading in the right direction, if not quite at ramming speed, then at a very jaunty pace.

As you know, Railway Cuttings is to be put up for rent as the company,  Sharp Single International Holdings (UK Ltd) seeks to consolidate its position in the market. Last week the agent came round to assess the estate. It’s a nervous time, renting your house. Will other people see it as you do ? Will they ignore all the little imperfections and those little-jobs-you-were-going-to-get-around-to-but-never-managed-to ? The door to the barn is hanging off its hinges and the mock tudor gabling atop of the east wing still needs attention for a touch of rot, but otherwise my man was quite impressed.

The drainage in the lower field is still a problem, but only the keenest of eyes would spot it. Seven of the nine bedrooms are in excellent order, he said, and of other two he said the fact that one contains a gin distilling apparatus and the other a bowling machine with practise net shouldn’t be too off-putting to prospective tenants.

“You never know, Mr B,” he chuckled “we might find an alcoholic cricket nut?”
“I doubt if there’s another one in the area” I sighed.

The duck house was, he thought, a rather charming feature and once the moat and the gravel drive had had a little de-clagging then he couldn’t see any reason why the property shouldn’t fly off the shelf. He took a couple of snaps and left me to my chores, while he contacted Country Life to negotiate an acceptable rate for a display ad, hopefully opposite the Girl with Pearls. He’s suggested putting an advert in House and Hound but I thought that would be just a little pretentious.


So for the worst part of a week now that’s what I’ve been doing : de-clagging. I read somewhere that to make your house more attractive to buyers you should remove every third item from the shelves, bookcases and kitchen. Apparently it gives the impression of space and cleanliness, a minimalist look that’s so popular these days. Hmmm ok.  I decided that I’d remove every other item on show. I’m moving out anyway so the more I remove now the less work for me later on.

Out went the stack of old newspapers I’d been keeping “just in case” (you remember newspapers, right?). Off the walls came the hat collection, gathered from around the world and my travels on eBay, and hung on hooks to cover unsightly marks, scratches or stains. But I did need to keep something on the walls – to make it look lived-in and homely- so I left hanging my display of memorabilia from the 1947 Cup Final – Charlton Athletic 1-0 Burnely (aet)- and my framed Derek Underwood jockstrap.

Hidden from sight was the, now I come to look at it, worrying-looking collection of exotic, once opened booze bottles – the type that you have a crack at late on Boxing Day when there’s nothing else left (and then hurriedly replace the stopper): Greek gin, Spanish vodka and Japanese scotch, Pink Cloves, Jamaican ouzo and grappa. Some of it donated to the cause over the years, and some collected by myself at some time, somewhere and in a some heightened state of optimism that it’d taste just as delicious as it did when that dodgy waiter served it to me during that summer holiday all those years ago. No, the bottles definitely had to be put away. Not disposed of, you understand, just hidden. Well, you never know, do you?

Some of this stuff MUST be drinkable

The first swoop through the house was pretty successful, if a little tiresome and depressing. Thanks to staying up all hours to watch the Ashes cricket in Australia (you knew I’d get to it in the end, didn’t you ?) I’ve been suffering from sleep deprivation and there are early signs of exhaustion. Usually the English are so piss-poor that after the first match I could ignore the rest of the series, but it seems that the Aussies are rather less than average this time out so I fear I shall feel like this for the next 6 weeks.

So I wasn’t in the best of condition to lug dirty great bags of rubbish to-and-from the attic to the rubbish bin outside. Poor bloody dustmen. I trudged through the house carrying two bin-liners: one for stuff for the tip, the other for eBay (they’re pretty much interchangeable), in my semi-conscious state dreaming of Australian wickets to the soundtrack of Fiddler on the Roof. I snapped myself out of my malaise. It’s not as if the Tsar’s Cossacks are running me out of my little dwelling but the Tossacks from Natwest surely will if I don’t make other arrangements soon, so moving out before the bailiffs move in is by far the best plan of action.

But nevertheless I can’t say it made for happy work. When you systematically go through each and every item in your home you find yourself dwelling over the history of it and the enjoying memories for several minutes, before stuffing it into one bag or the other. Most bits you find, of course, turn out to be complete crap and something you haven’t thought about, let alone looked at for several years. It’s a time for that good clear-out you always promised yourself, but it’s still a less-than satisfying thing to do, if for no other reason that you realise just how much useless shite you’ve accumulated over the years.

The exciting news, of course, is that the new property is taking shape. The Incumbent is, as I write, overseeing work on The Sharp Single’s new HQ down in the pretty little hamlet of Dartford. Unfortunately somehow we managed to hire the firm of Hamza and Hawking to carry out the refurbishments of the new offices and they are less than perfect. If you poke your head out of the window and listen hard you may be able to hear the squeals of pain as The Incumbent inserts a spirit level into Mr Hawking.  The Incumbent doesn’t suffer fools gladly (she makes allowances for me, bless her) and these cowboy builders obviously didn’t realise there was a new Sheriff in town. If by the end of the day they’re not strung up by their plumb-lines I shall be very surprised.

For those of you who don’t know it, Dartford is in the heart of the county of Kent in the South East of England. Set amid rolling hills of fabulous English countryside, it is famous for The Peasants’ Revolt (tick), hop fields (tick tick) and for being the main escape route out of Essex (tickety tick tick).

Inshallah,  the 2011 Sharp Single will be published from its new premises, a huge purpose-built, neo-Georgian villa complete with billiards room, a nine-hole putting green and bar. From my desk (I’ve been allocated the potting shed) I shall enjoy the grand vistas of the oast houses, apple orchards and cement works of the surrounding area which some critics aren’t already calling the most exiting and up-and-coming town east of Erith. There is, of course, ample parking.

So now I sit and I wait for the phone to ring. I imagine in a week or two there will be a long queue forming outside of people eager to rent this undes-res. I envisage scenes akin to Shallow Grave as I carefully select my first tenants. It might be fun. It could be tortuous. It will be another story.

One For The Ladies

It’s been pointed out to me that there’s too much blokey stuff on these pages. I’m told the girls don’t wanna read about sport, politics or lemons all the time. So I’ve found this little beauty. Sit back girls, indulge yourselves.

Oh, you might want to have a pen and paper at the ready.

Vodpod videos no longer available.


The Lost Weekend

It had to happen eventually. This morning I woke up to no phone, no tv and no internet. You can imagine my mood.

An expensive phone call on my blackberry to those chaps at Virgin Media revealed that they, like me, hadn’t a clue what the problem is.

At 50p a minute (no freephone here, of course) I waded and through and waited on several automatic message machines.

“Press 1 for a fault with your phone; if you have a problem with your TV press
2; or if you want to report a fault with your broadband press 3.”

Not being given the option of being able to press all three, I pressed ‘3’ and waited. Melinda picked up the call.

“Could you confirm your, name, account number and the first line of your address for me, please ?”

Through some stroke of luck my answer tallied with the info she had. I wasn’t actually reporting a fault using someone elses ID.

“Ok Sir, could you turn the wireless modem off, wait for 30 seconds and then turn it on again? That will reset it”

“Did that this morning, Melinda. Still doesn’t work”

“Oh. Ok Mr Bealing, I shall just check to see if there’s been a fault reported in your area.”

75p went by.

“Mr. Bealing ?”
“Yes” (who else was it gonne be?)
“There doesn’t seem to be a problem in your area so I’m going to put you through to my colleague who will be able to book an engineer for you.”

Pause for about £2.25.

Gareth (wouldn’t you know it?) picked up the phone.

“Good morning sir. Could you just confirm your, name, account number and the first line of your address for me, please ?”

Hmmm….Ok, I stood for it and spouted off my details again, and confirmed I’d already performed the turnyoffandon routine, much to Gareth’s surprise.

“There doesn’t seem to have been a problem reported in your area”

“Well I’m reporting it now” I offered.

“Ok” said Gareth, ignoring my tetchiness “the earliest we can get someone out to you is Monday, between 12 and 4pm”

“Do you not come out at weekends?” I asked, already realising the futility of the question.

“We do, but we have so many bookings this weekend that there’s no engineer near you available .”

“Perhaps there’s a fault in my area?” I wondered aloud.

Gareth paused for about 17p.

“I tell you what, Mr Bealing” I think the penny had dropped “if it turns out that a general fault in the area is reported we’ll call you and either address it here remotely or I’ll try to get someone to you this weekend.”

“Ok, you have my mobile number?”

“Er, no…?” He said, wondering why he would have that on record.

“Well how are you going to call me then ? My landline’s down.”

We parted company, Gareth and I. He with my mobile number, me with the raving hump.

So here I sit. Texting a blog on my mobile. The house is silent. No telly, not tv, no phone. No contact with the outside world, no entertainment. Might as well be in Cardiff.

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.


Bada Bing, Bada Bank

One Saturday afternoon recently, I was sitting on the sofa, happily watching an old episode of The Sopranos (you know the one: the episode in which Carmella cooks something, Christopher and Paulie Walnuts shoot someone, and Tony shags his mistress). We’re wading thru the box set which The Incumbent gave me for Christmas, and we were engrossed. However, my enjoyable afternoon of gratuitous sex, Mafia hitmen and Italian home cooking was soon interrupted.

Ring Ring, Ring Ring (that’s my telephone impression)

“Hello, Mr Bealing?”
“It’s Malcolm, your account manager from the bank”
My heart sank. He’d been trying to get hold of me for weeks, and I’d been evading him. He was new to the branch, and therefore to me, and so I’d agreed to go down to the bank to meet him. Two things I learned during that meeting: 1) All my financial worries would be gone if I made a few simple adjustments to my lifestyle and account; 2) Malcolm was about 16 years old (or at least looked it) and with all the enthusiasm for life that I had when I was that age (yes, honest).
I knew what this phone call was about. He wanted to talk to me about my mortgage.
“I’d like to talk about your mortgage, Mr Bealing” (told you).
“Ah, ok Malcolm, but I first want to let you know that for training purposes this call may be recorded”.
That confused him.
“Pardon !?”
“Now,” I continued, “Can you tell me your date of birth and your mother’s maiden name?”.
“Er…no, Mr Bealing,” he laughed, a little nervously “I’m supposed to ask you that”.
“Oh, Ok then” I said in mock indignation. “Does seem a little odd, though: I’m trusting you with my money and I have to prove my identity to you ! You see what I mean? Arse-about-face, isn’t it?”
“, not really, Mr Bealing.”he snapped.
‘Hmmmm…big mouth for a little bloke’ I thought to myself. ‘He may pay for that snap.’

To cut a long story just a tiny bit shorter, we arranged to meet at my home (yes, that’s what I thought) at my home the following week, one night after school. That night soon arrived:
“Ding dong” (see, I do all of them) I opened the door and was confronted my young Malcolm and someone I presumed was his dad. It looked like “Chris and Paulie- The Early Years”. But it wasn’t Malcolm’s dad, it was my “Financial Adviser”.
“I didn’t know I had one”I said
“Well I’m the financial adviser for the branch”came the reply. “ Malcolm thought there might be a few services you could benefit from.” This was turning into an organised hit.

For the next two hours (count ‘em, TWO hours) I was told my account was in a mess, my loan was killing me, I was paying too much for my mortgage, I had no insurance in case of sickness, no Will in case of death and my coffee was shit. None of this was a problem, apparently: I’d remortgage for a larger amount, including the money I would pay my current mortgage-lender as the early-release penalty fee. Apparently I’d save that in interest within two years. All that means I’d be about 300 quid-a-month better off. Bada Bing!! Bye Bye overdraft!!!

But, (and aye, here’s the rub), they recommended I took out sickness insurance to protect that mortgage and other bills (£117) up my contents insurance (£60) and use their Will-writing service at a fee of 100 of your British Pounds.

Two hours came and went, in which time I’d read reams and reams of paperwork and forms (my very favourite), listened to lots of chat I didn’t understand, and agreed to sign up to Mr Walnut’s various insurance schemes. I would, I was told, be getting calls from the mortgage dept, the will dept and a nurse from the insurance company. They left, off to find a decent cup of Kenco no doubt.

SHARPSINGLEPIEADI took a call from the nurse at 9 am Saturday morning:

Pause. (I had the phone on silent)

We went thru a rather probing medical questionnaire which took 45 minutes to complete, and I answered as honestly as I could. I couldn’t remember if I went for a jog 3 or 4 times-a-week so I said 5; Only drank mineral water  — that sort of thing. You get the picture.
No sooner had I replaced the receiver when the mortgage girl (named Kelly) called me. This call took an hour, either side of a 45 minute interval when her computer crashed. More bankspeak which I didn’t understand, but we got there in the end. It was all over by noon and she said she’d call me early the following week and send out the offer toute-de-suite.
The Will people called yesterday. Took the girl at the other end 20 minutes to tell me she was sending me a form.

This morning at work I received a call from Kelly, the mortgage girl. Having established my D.O.B., password and favourite pet’s middle name she told me my application for a mortgage had been rejected.
“What????”I blurted, café latte dribbling down my chin.
“I’m afraid your account has not had sufficient funds in it several times over the last quarter” she said
“I know that” I spluttered “that’s because I’m paying too much for my current mortgage”
“ I will let Malcolm know, I’m sure he’ll call you”
“But this was his idea!! He came to ME and suggested the whole thing!” I was winding up.
“hmmm… oh well, that’s a shame. But we won’t grant mortgages to those who go over their limit within the last three months”
“but he has my account. He handles my account. He knew I’d been overdrawn. I’ve spent hours with him and his mate and this was their plan to get me out of trouble. I’ve answered all your questions, most of which I didn’t understand. You’ve wasted Hours of my life!!!”
“I’m sorry about that, Mr Bealing” said Kelly “ but the bank doesn..”
CLUNK. That’s my impression of me slamming the phone down on poor Kelly.
Two minutes later I picked up the receiver and called the insurance company nurse and suggested a few anatomically impossible acts which he might like to perform with his questionnaire. Then, after I threatened to cut his hands off, he agreed not to make me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

Then I booked an appointment with my therapist.

But waddya gonna do?