The Lock-Up

I’m supposed to exercise my right tomorrow and walk up to the local school, The Paul Gadd Comprehensive, and put a cross beside the name of the individual who I want to become Kent’s first Police and Crime Commissioner. Frankly, and not for the first time in my life, I am absolutely clueless. I suppose I should have paid more attention to the election broadcasts, pamphlets and canvassers which haven’t passed my way over the past three months.

For someone like me who is known for, and occasionally criticised for, taking an active interest in politics and the police, it is shameful that I have no idea who is indeed standing for this, doubtless, very important post. I suppose I’m taking the view that if the powers-at-be aren’t interested (which seems to be the case, judging by the lack of info flying about) then I’m not either. In fact, if I hadn’t cast a cursory glance over the runners and riders for a previous post, I’d have no idea that at least one of the candidates is called Steve Uncles and he is representing the English Democrats. So at least that narrows down the field of those I might vote for, having already crossed off his name from my mental ballot.

And please don’t think I’m un- or even dis-interested in the election. Crime is at the forefront of my mind at the moment. They say tell me that four, count ’em FOUR houses in the nearby vicinity have been broken into over the past couple of weeks. This is rather unsettling and has quite rightly, worried the goolies out of The Incumbent. Measures need to be taken. Actions need to be acted upon.

I consider it a given that, no matter who gets elected as Civvy-Plod-in-Chief tomorrow, it will be asking a lot to see a dozen or so Bobbies plodding their size-nines up and down Margaret Moran Way, keeping a keen eye on the Potting Shed, making sure  that, not only me and the Incumbent are safe, but that no-one lays a latex glove on my complete set of Columbo DVDs, my Gilbert & Sullivan LP collection or, any of the 1,538 unsold T-shirts in assorted colours (get em while they’re hot, they’re lovely).

There is a porch attached to the front of our abode. It has nice double-glazed windows and double-glazed door. It’s main purpose is to house a couple of pairs of wellies, my walking stick and as a place where delivery drivers can leave parcels, should we ever be away from our posts. It has never been locked – well, not for the two years I’ve been living here it hasn’t.

More recently it is where the Gabor the milkman, a new addition to our cast of character, leaves his dairy goods and the odd loaf of bread, they having been ordered by the Missus online the night before. We never had a milkman before a few weeks ago. But a man (who we now know is named Gabor) knocked on the door a while back pleading with us to buy milk etc from him and not from “them fuckers” down at Sainsburys. “My milk might be a little bit more expensive than theirs, but it’s much fresher, and you’ll be keeping me in work” said the Magyar Milky. It was a decent enough argument (especially the “them fuckers” bit) and so we felt good with ourselves when we ordered a pint every third day, and a loaf at the weekend (we know how to push the boat out). Long live Serfdom, thought the Socialist.

Well that was a month ago. Ever since that day, every third day (and/or every Saturday) we are awoken at 3.45 am, (yes, that’s ZERO THREE FORTY-FIVE ACK EMMA) by Gabor and his ghostly gold-tops, coming down the driveway like an annoyed Panzer Division, whacking open our porch door til it nearly Houdini’s itself from its hinges, then three seconds later slamming closed the self-same door before, like a plague of rattling Stukas, Gabor and his crate of milk bottles (deficient to the tune of one), retrace their steps up the driveway and on to the next and ,up until now, slumbering household.

So today I went looking for the key to the porch, while The Incumbent firstly wrote a note to Gabor telling him he was one slam of the door away from waving our £1.80-a-week goodbye, then off she went looking for a plastic/other* box to leave outside and into which Gabor could put our orders next time he came a-calling.

3.45 am is fuckin early, even for an old insomniac like me. I have wondered if we were the only ones on his route. I can’t place where the nearest dairy is. Must be miles away. If we’re half-way along on his round, some people must get their milk before they go to bed of an evening. Probably just after Countdown.

So anyway, after a lot of faffing about, I found the key, then had to wait 3 hours til the long squirt of WD40 took its toll on the rusty old, seized up lock. After which the lock actually still works. The porch door now locks, keeping Gabor out, and becoming another line of defence against Dave the Burglar, and his Burglar friends. Not satisfied with that, I found in a cob-webby corner of the Potting Shed my never-been-used-successfully set of golf clubs, from which I have extracted my trusty 5 iron with which to keep under the bed, just in case I come up against an intruder in the middle of the night. Or worse, though possible a little less likely, a medium-length par 3. Let’s hope for the burglar’s sake, he has a head which looks like a golf ball. I’ll never manage to hit it.

Just Warming Up

I hate training. I always did. All that stretching off, press-ups, squat-thrusts, jogging around the pitch, unopposed drills. Yuk, awful. I suspect my lack of enthusiasm for training sessions was the one and only reason I never got my England cap. Yes, that’s definitely the reason.

Training sessions, in my limited but painful experience, are invariably held on a cold, wet Tuesday night and involve someone shouting at you for an hour and a half while you forward-roll and burpee your way around the pitch until your head thumps, or someone gives you a slap because you were either tackling too hard or not hard enough. Meanwhile all your mates who had to ‘work late’ or are ‘injured’ are in the clubhouse seeing the ‘physio’ or having ‘one’ ‘shandy’.

Actually, I was pretty good at that . There’s no more satisfying pint of beer than the one you have as you look out of the clubhouse bar at those assorted idiots on the training field going through beep tests and star jumps.

This five-minute fad of keeping fit can be quite annoying. The aforementioned lycra nazis mince around with their inexplicable air of superiority. Joggers in the street sweat past you under the impression that they own the pavement, with a self-satisfied “look at me” importance only rivalled by new mothers pushing a buggy into your shins.

That bunch who arrive back in the office at about 1.50 every afternoon, stinking, red-faced and drenched, unable to breath as they complete their lunchtime jog around the block- what’s all that about? If I came out of a pub looking like that I’d never go in one again.  I dunno if they actually expect a round of applause for their efforts but by the way they look at you, iPod in ears and water bottle in hand as they collapse over the office furniture, you’d have thought that they’d just discovered radium. FUCK OFF AND STOP DRIPPING ON MY DESK.

The Incumbent takes herself off to the local gym every morning. I dunno what she’s training for and given that every single morning she announces that it hurt, I haven’t the foggiest idea why she does it to herself. I’m unlikely to announce that I’m taking out for a 10k run at the weekend, so why does she put herself through it? My mate – let’s call him Paul (even though his real name’s Martin)- joined the local fitness club purely to watch women bounce around on the treadmill. Now that I understand, although I did point out there were cheaper ways to look at lithe, young women’s bodies (I’m typing on one now).

Having said all that, I am in preparation for the big event next week. The imminent England vrs Australia cricket series starts next Wednesday, but coverage doesn’t start til 11pm and goes on through the night.  Considering these days I like to be tucked up in bed by no later that 9.30 I need to acclimatise myself to match conditions. As I write, half the England team are in Brisbane, training in tropical conditions in readiness for the five-day match which will test all their physical and mental abilities. Nothing can prepare your body for the shock of playing sport in the extreme heat of the tropics, especially if you come from Manchester, Leeds or Nottingham, so the english bowlers have arrived a week in advance to give themselves half a chance of getting used to the sapping conditions.

My preparations will be no less calculated. My plan for Wednesday is to get myself down to the local pub for about 2pm, armed to the teeth with the daily papers. I shall order a pint and sit by a window and read every sports section available. At some stage I shall order a light lunch: steak and kidney pie or fish n chips. No more than four drinks shall be ordered (unless I have company then a sensible cut-off time will be deemed).

Late afternoon I shall waddle off down the hill to Railway Cuttings to the comfort of my bed or sofa (dependent on Columbo being on tv). Having checked carefully the last delivery time for Dominos Pizza (do they open through the night?) I shall snuggle down and sleep, hopefully for three or four hours. Alarm or no alarm, I hope to wake at around 1030, in plenty of time to enjoy the coverage of the match. Then I’ll simply repeat the above for the next five days.

Of course I will drop off to sleep again eventually, but this is the best plan I can come up with without reverting to chemical help to keep me awake. I’m so excited about the series I may just explode if I was to come within a nostril hair of any stimulants. No jogging kit will be donned, no sweatband worn. No hamstrings will be pulled, and even my dodgy achilles tendons can stand up to rigours of walking to the pub.

I’ll be ready. And so will the English team. Hopefully.

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High Life, Low Life


A few years ago someone I was then related to asked me if I’d like to take the trip to Mount Everest Base Camp with her. She’d done it a couple of times previously and wanted to show me the experience first hand. I looked in my diary and noticed I was busy for the foreseeable future so had to turn her down. I’m not sure if she believed me. You will be well aware of my sporting prowess and my enthusiasm for breaking sweat over anything more vigorous than opening a bottle of port, so climbing up a mountain, albeit a little bit of one, didn’t seem like fun to me. But at one stage in my life I would have actually considered such a trip.

You see I always imagined Base Camp to do exactly what it says on the tin: it would be at the base— at the foot of the mountain, somewhere you could get a cab or a bus to. How glad I am that I’d learned my mistake before I took up the invitation: Base Camp is at an altitude of 17,600 ft. When I’m at that height I traditionally expect to be tucking onto my fourth scotch and settling down to a movie. 17,600 ft, as far as I’m concerned is for the birds and crimpelene-clad stewardesses. She said that to reach Base Camp you set off and ascend 3,000 ft but then descend 1,000 to avoid altitude sickness, go to sleep, then wake up and do it all again—up 3,000, down 1,000. Yeah right, I’m gonna do that. I tell you what, I’ll go down the pub and pour away a third of each pint I buy to avoid getting drunk.

No, I shall leave all that and much, much more to stone-cold, certified nutcases such as Ranulph Fiennes who, at the age of 65, has become the oldest Briton to conquer Everest. That’d be the whole mountain—not just Base Camp. You really do have to raise a glass to him (just don’t pour any away). One of the last great Brit eccentrics and one of the last true loonies in the world, Fiennes is a Boy’s Own Hero, complete with the SAS training, but not with a full compliment of toes, thanks to frost-bite. Makes me whingeing about bowling two overs of dross on Saturday seem a little silly. (Read any of Fiennes’ books— they’re just sensational).

A severe bout of frost-bite seemed to be running rampant through the West Indies Cricket team last week as the cold, geordie winds nibbled about their vitals as they succumbed to a drubbing by an England XI. The poor sods, resplendent in seven jumpers each, must have thought Montego Bay was a very long way away (it is). They looked as happy to be in Durham I would in a tent half-way up a mountain. Each to their own, I say. Caribbean Cricketers are at home in the heat of Antigua or Barbados, no the sub-zero temperatures of Northern England, any more than the Poms can stand the heat of the tropics of Port of Spain, or Columbo, Malaya or Bombay (yes, I know, stop it).

I wonder if anyone will feel out of place at that Buckingham Place Garden Party? Reports suggest the guest-list will include a couple of kamerads from the BNP. It’ll be nice for Phil the Greek to have someone who he can speak to on his own terms, and I’m sure there will be lots of tutonic twittering about the Fatherland between Nick Griffin and Der Saxe-Coburg-Gothas. Oh what fun it will be. I wonder what Harry will wear?

Anyway, I need to get into the garden and clean the duck-house. Lend us a fiver, would you?


Just One More Question, Sir…

So I’m sitting in my garden, soaking up the rays while flicking through the papers, when I’m stopped in my tracks by an advert on page 12 of The Times. Dunno why, as I’ve always felt I don’t look at adverts. As any fule no, adverts are just there to make photos smaller in papers and magazines, or to give you something to doodle on while in morning conference. In these dark days of credit crunch and the collapse of the advertising industry, I suppose we should all thank Evans for small Murphys (some more than others) and embrace whatever adverts actually make it into print, and thus keeping us in the poverty to which we’ve so readily become accustomed, but I do fluctuate between annoyance and agnosticism when I see a dirty great Halfords or Waitrose ad where a perfectly good story, or even better, a photo should be.


Anyway, I digress. So the offending item this time is a Samsung colour half-page ad for mobile phones. An attractive young couple grapple with each other next to insets of two mobiles, underneath the legend “Ourselves. Together” whatever that means. But something struck me about those words—they felt rather familiar. So off I popped to the wonderful web world of Wikipedia. Something in the back of my pickled mind led me to believe that Sinn Féin was a translation of just that: Ourselves Together. Was this electronics giant really a front for Irish Republicanism ? Would Chelsea soon be playing their matches in shirts emblazoned with Gerry Adams’ hairy boat ? As I should have known only too well after the week at work I’ve had, the answer was no. I was wrong. But only just.

Here’s the entry:
Sinn Féin:…The name is Irish for “ourselves” or “we ourselves”,[3][4] although it is frequently mistranslated[5] as “ourselves alone”.

Now given that around 64% of what’s on Wikipedia is a load of old cobblers, I still could be right. Wikipedia is about as reliable as a Jacqui Smith expense claim or an Ant n Dec phone-poll, so perhaps my memory has served me better than I think. Maybe not.

But where did I glean this little nugget of half-truth? Well I knew all those hours on the sofa would pay off in the end: It came to me that there’s an episode of Columbo where he investigates a murder of an Oirish (you should hear the accents in the show) republican sympathiser. The episode was full of begorrahs and to be sure, to be sures and ginger-haired young men, drinking whiskey and stout, wearing aran sweaters. The do-er is an Oirish wroiter who is undone by the fact he inscribes the inside cover of a book at a signing with Together Ourselves (I thought). There, I’ve gone and ruined the ending for you now, haven’t I? No matter— as it’s the wont of the series, you always know who the killer is during the opening credits and the fun is to be had by the in-jokes liberally sprinkled through each episode: his signature whistle of knick-knack-paddy-wack; his endearing habit of ‘just one more question, sir”; his battered Peugeot and the fact that Mrs Columbo is never ever seen on screen. Often she was mentioned in dispatches but the producers occasionally had fun with us by dangling the carrot in front of us that she was about to appear— but she never did. Mrs Columbo is one of man tv spouses who remain unseen: Dad’s Army‘s, Mrs Mainwaring; Rumpole‘s She Who Must be Obeyed; Arthur Daly‘s Er Indoors; Porrige‘s Mrs Barraclough to name a few. What a lovely way to be married— to an anonymous, faceless woman who’s never around. Perhaps that’s where I went wrong?

This old man, he played one...

This old man, he played one...

Peter Falk’s shambolic detective never carried a gun, didn’t even have a truncheon (night stick, y’all) and always showed his badge as identification. Remember those days? The Wire it weren’t. If it wasn’t for his willingness to identify himself, and his lack of violent tendencies Columbo could have joined the Met.
It’s a chilling thought that had Big Crosby not turned down the part when he was offered it, the famous mac might have been replaced by a straw trilby and a pipe, and each case would have revolved around a golf course. Falk, of course, eventually made the part his own (it had been played by 2 other actors in the 60’s) and he became tv’s highest-paid actor for a while. Like Grandpa Simpson and his MacGyver I’ve been addicted to the show for years and was stunned to see one on tv the other day which not only hadn’t I seen before but in which the killer was neither Patrick McGoohan nor Robert Vaughn. McGoohan and Falk were best mates and not only did the former star of The Prisoner win two Emmys for his roles, he also directed quite a few shows. I know there are those who are horrified that USTV has remade The Prisoner starring something called a Jim Caviezel as No.6 and Dame Serena McKellen as either No. 2 or a number 2, it’s not clear. Why do they insist on doing this ? I’m not great fan of the original, but some things surely are sacrosanct ? I’m sure somewhere in managerial meetings within HBO or ABC there’ll be plans to remake Ice Cold in Alex starring Hugh Jackman, or Casablanca with Cate Blanchett as Rick Blaine. If I get a whiff that they’re tee-ing up Owen Wilson to don a scruffy raincoat and play LAPD‘s favourite homicide detective in something called Columbo: the Party-on Years I shall invite you all to join me in a violent bout of civil unrest. Together. Ourselves.


l-r: Hanks, Aniston,  Jackman and Ferrell

l-r: Hanks, Aniston, Jackman and Ferrell