Over There


Mr Horrible (left) prepares for his first rant on French/German soil. 1 minute into the campaign.

Can’t stop long, this morning. Gotta get moving:  6:30 Ack Emma I shall wake The Incumbent with a cup of cha, hurry her into her fatigues and we’ll be off down the road, Folkestone bound. From there we’ll plonk the jalopy onto a chuff chuff, cross the channel, hang a right and be off on our trip down into Normandy and to memory lane, just like Generals Montgomery and Bradley before. To confuse the Hun (sorry – the French) we’ll be landing in the Pas de Calais (they won’t be expecting that this time) rather than the more direct approach of our fivefathers, we will travel under the cover of sunlight (well, rainlight) and hope soon to be liaising with our two most trusted men out there.

Agents Plastered of Paris and Monsieur Horrible (A better names for a couple of Twits I’ve yet to hear) are well-known to readers of The Sharp Single and who form what we like to know as The Malaise Pocket. However, their Anglo-Saxon insight into all things garlic and Gallic has been invaluable over the past couple of years, and by way of thanks The Incumbent and I will be touring the area, handing out hilarious, quality T-shirts (at very competitive rates) and drinking as much of their booze as is possible.

If Mrs B is very lucky, she’ll get a couple more tours of D-Day beaches and war graves thrown into the mix. What a Lucky girl.

Agent Plastered blends in. With what we are unsure.

So pip pip !  See you on the other side. Just as long as my head, foot, arse and knees hold up I should be back in a week.

If not, talk amongst yourselves.

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If it Wasn’t for the Holympics Inbetween


Cockney singer and comedian, Gus Elen (below) made this little ditty famous at the end of the 19th Century. It’s a bitter-sweet number, lamenting the loss of the beautiful English countryside and the advent of the slums as London sprawled out over the South East in the name of progress and industrialisation.

A little over a century later, the urban streets, factories and gasworks which Elen mocked have been pulled down and swept away, but not to be replaced by the original green fields, but with Millennium Tents, Olympic Towers, Aquatic Centres and Velodromes. It’s hailed by some as progress, by others and the rape and destruction of our heritage. By others again as a fantastic money-making opportunity for a few lucky people at the expense of some of the poorest in society.

When reciting this one, the trick is to hone your cockney accent (and I know many of you have been practicing hard to perfect yours, yearning to be able to speak proper) just like Gus did when he first performed this on stage to East Enders (no, not that lot – the real ones) and sang to them as one of their own.

Once more I am indebted to The Talented Mr Rapley for reminding me of this one.

(This ain’t Gus singing , but it’ll give you an idea of how the tune goes)


http://www.victorianweb.org/mt/musichall/2.html

If it Wasn’t for the Houses Inbetween

If you saw my little backyard, “Wot a pretty spot!” you’d cry,
It’s a picture on a sunny summer day;
Wiv the turnip tops and cabbages wot peoples doesn’t buy
I makes it on a Sunday look all gay.
The neighhours finks I grow ’em and you’d fancy you’re in Kent,
Or at Epsom if you gaze into the mews.
It’s a wonder as the landlord doesn’t want to raise the rent,
Because we’ve got such nobby distant views.

CHORUS:
Oh it really is a wery pretty garden
And Chingford to the eastward could be seen;
Wiv a ladder and some glasses,
You could see to ‘Ackney Marshes,
If it wasn’t for the ‘ouses in between.

We’re as countrified as can be wiv a clothes prop for a tree,
The tub-stool makes a rustic little stile;
Ev’ry time the bloomin’ clock strikes there’s a cuckoo sings to me,
And I’ve painted up “To Leather Lane a mile.”
Wiv tomatoes and wiv radishes wot ‘adn’t any sale,
The backyard looks a puffick mass o’ bloom;
And I’ve made a little beehive wiv some beetles in a pail,
And a pitchfork wiv a handle of a broom.

CHORUS:
Oh it really is a wery pretty garden,
And Rye ‘ouse from the cock-loft could be seen:
Where the chickweed man undresses,
To bathe ‘mong the watercresses,
If it wasn’t for the ‘ouses in between.

There’s the bunny shares ‘is egg box wiv the cross-eyed cock and hen
Though they ‘as got the pip and him the morf;
In a dog’s ‘ouse on the line-post there was pigeons nine or ten,
Till someone took a brick and knocked it orf.
The dustcart though it seldom comes, is just like ‘arvest ‘ome
And we mean to rig a dairy up some’ow;
Put the donkey in the washouse wiv some imitation ‘orns,
For we’re teaching ‘im to moo just like a cah.

Handlebar’s Water Music


(The story so far: Mike has had a stroke at the tender age of 48, and many tests ensue)

I’d had enough of this falling over shit. My Doctor had had enough of me moaning about this “I’m dizzy” bollocks. It was time for my MRI scan. What was going on up there in that alleged brain of mine ? Why did my head keep exploding, which resulted in me sitting on my arse, blinded by the light, revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night.

I washed and shaved early, trying out the Honda handlebar moustache for the for the first time. Shoehorned my ample frame into one of the few pair of trousers which I both own and still fit me. Thank Allah that my appointment came when it did – any later and they may have had to grease me up to slide me into that scanner.

The literature which the hospital had sent along with the appointment told me to leave all metal bits n pieces behind. Phones, watches, keys, belt buckles (haven’t needed one of those for a while) plates in my head and piercings in my nipples, none of these would be allowed within a UNISON picket line of the MRI scanner.

When the day came, we (I was ably accompanied by The Incumbent) arrived at the hospital, took advantage of the Costa Coffee in the foyer, then headed off for the MRI dept. We entered, gave my name and, virtually free of metallic objects, sat in the waiting room. The silence was broken after just a few minutes.

“Mr Bealing?”
“Er…yes, here” I even put my hand up like a boy at the back of the class.
The nurse looked me up and down. “Those trousers got a metal button?”
“Er, yes. yes I think they have” I replied (well after all, I had paid over fifteen quid for them at Sainsbury’s. No rubbish here, mate).
“Well they’ll have to come off. You can’t wear them in the scanner. Come with me you can change in there [points to room up the corridor], then you can come back, give your trousers to your wife (sic) and wait to be called.”

I went white. A cold sweat came over me. Although I was still able, unaided, to have put my Sainsbury’s trousers on, wearing underpants underneath them had become a bit of a luxury. My burgeoning waistline and arseline leave no room for boxer shorts. Jockeys or Y-fronts are a distant memory and so I had arrived at my local hospital a la Commando. Sans trolleys. Born Free. Without knickers.

The thought of the nurse handing me a gown to get into and me having to walk back to the waiting room with my bare arse hanging out for my fellow patients’ entertainment and enjoyment filled me with fear and dread. I shared my fears with The Incumbent who nearly imploded with laughter. I wasn’t laughing.

I followed the nurse to the changing room and was relieved to see a pair of sky blue cotton drawstring trousers hanging there. They were huge, fortunately, and I managed to slide into them. Indeed so big were they that the drawstring didn’t pull tight enough to hold them up. I had to clench wads of material with one hand, and keep my thighs and buttocks together to ensure they stayed up at a decent level, sparing my blushes.

I rolled up my own, now discarded strides under my arm and left the room to return to the missus in the waiting area. On the way I noticed a handily-placed WC and thought this would be a good opportunity to get rid of the tepid Primo Latte which Costa had provided me with earlier. I was due to be in the scanner for 90 minutes and I didn’t want to be caught short while I was in there. In my half-clenched, bent-over state I shuffled my way over to have a pee, carefully ensuring my arse didn’t take a peek out the back of my slacks.

There is a type of cotton (cheap chinos are made of it) which, no matter how hard, how vigorous or how many times you shake your willy after urinating, will soak up every little speck, each and every drop of pee it can and show the evidence of this so-called “willy drip” to one and all in the form of a huge dark patch around your goolie region.

I have to tell you now that these hospital trousers were made of this very same material. And I wasn’t wearing pants.

There is nothing one can do about it. 2 tiny drips had hit the cotton and were now joined together and were spreading, leaving a dark blue patch the size of a CD in the general area of my penis. Can you imagine how mortified I was ? I left the loo. Picture the scene of me, hunched up, buttocks and knees together, one hand holding the flystring of my newly-acquired blue leg ware, the other holding a perfectly good pair of Sainsburys drills in front of a big blotch of wee. With my new face fuzz I must have looked like a balding, fat Fu Manchu with a bladder complaint. Oh happy days.

As luck would have it, I was called in to be scanned way before the patch dried. I had to pass my old trousers to the still-giggling Incumbent and resorted to hiding my moist nether regions with the front tails of my shirt. I entered the scanning room.

The nurse greeted me and said the scan would be in three stages.
“And Once in Evening Dress ?” I offered, trying to be witty. And titter came there none.
“No. Head, neck and then blood flow” she informed me sternly.
“Oh, ok then”.

She then explained that I’d be in the scanner for well over an hour and it’s a really boring experience, when you “must MUST” keep your neck and head still throughout. She went on that also, as brilliant as this technology is, it’s really very noisy as the scan goes through its phases, so she popped a pair of headphones on me which act as both ear mufflers and through which they would talk to me and play music throughout the procedure- to give me something to take my mind off it.
“Is there any music you don’t want us to play ?” she asked.
“Rap or anything by Morrissey” I replied, quick as a flash (it’s a knee-jerk reaction).
A blank look came across her face. “I don’t think we’ve got anything like that anyway” she said. “What about anything you’d really like to hear?” she asked.

Seasons in the Sun by Terry Jacks or Old Shep by Elvis” I quipped. But by the stoney look I received, my joke had, again, fallen on deaf ears. “Classical will do” I told her. Christ, she was a tough crowd.

I climbed onto the machine bed, and lay back onto the head rest. She brought down a plastic grid over my face, and put wedges either side to prevent movement. I knew how Hannibal Lecter felt at that airport. As the bench slid half way into the machine, I lay head and shoulders inside, torso and legs al fresco. I half expected to hear John Mills or Hardy Kruger to shout “Fire One” and I’d shoot off out of the scanner, in the general direction of Orpington.

Nursey explained she needed to inject me with some chemical or other (thankfully my words not hers) in order to track my blood flow. As I lay there, wedged into in my cage I felt her pull a tourniquet around my bicep, then grab my hand in readiness for the injection.

It then dawned on me, as a chirpy Strauss waltz drifted across the airwaves, that if she was leaning down to spot a nice bulging vein in the back of my hand, her head would be a matter of inches away from my urine-soaked winkle.

“Now you might feel a little prick” she announced.

Did I ever.

An Old Kentish Custom


Ah! the fresh country air. As I drew back the curtains this morning I was greeted, not as I usually am with the gentle chuff chuff chuff of Network Southeast trains struggling against the wrong sort of air, but the twittering of birdies in apple trees and the sight of a milky sun gentle rising over the rolling hills of the Garden of England.

Yes, we have finally moved offices from the urban sprawl of SE London down to the leafy lanes and rural bliss of the Kent countryside. As I write I can see in the distance two shire horses being hooked up to a farmy thing as they are prepared for a long days tilling or furrowing or ploughing or whatever shirehorses do when they’re not delivering beer.

From the field just to the left of ours I hear the sounds of countryfolk mangling their wurzles or wittling their fetlocks or somesuch. In the copse to the right I assume they are engaged in clay pigeon shooting, as I can make out two men, one crouched over something while the other shouts “pull” at regular intervals.

Wandering around the lanes last evening was such a different experience to that of a stroll around the ‘smoke’ of Blackheath: The sirens of the Black Maria have been replaced by the screech of rutting animals. Or teenagers, it’s difficult to tell. The whiff of Chicken Chilli Masala oozing from the kitchens of The Saffron Club curry house have been replaced by the subtle aromas of animal dung, crop fires and regurgitated cider and kebabs on the pavement by the horse trough outside the local pub, The Goat and Masturbator.

By way of a welcome the locals even staged an attempted murder, just to make me feel at home. I shall do my best to fit in. This morning I am off to the local tack shop to get kitted out in their best Jilly Cooper outfit (I already have the teeth) and this afternoon I start labrador lessons. This evening I may even venture up to the pub to try their mead, pork scratchings and see if I can’t start an argument about lemons.

In between all this I need to inform my various suppliers and business contacts of our change of address. I also need to redirect my mail, but as the odds of actually being able to logon to the Royal Mail website are about as good as being able to enjoy a Nick Cage movie I shall simply list it below. That, at least, will enable my two readers in Paris to send their ritual abuse to the correct address.

Single (Sharp) Media (UK) Ltd
The Potting Shed Behind the Haywain,
The West Orchard
Dartford
Kentshire.
D1C H3D
Tel: Southeast 14.

Anatevka


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.

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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.

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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Shockin’ down in Kent


My sad, silly old mate Dave Sapsted once wrote, “Bealing grew up in the part of Kent which everyone else calls South London”. Well he was half right—which is 50% more than he usually is. I was born in the London Borough of Bexley but went to school in Dartford, which was and still is in Kent. Not so much the Garden of England, more the Allotment. Apart from the Warbler, England fast bowler, Graham Dilley, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, I’m the only thing of note which has come out of this rather unremarkable town. If you do want to come out of it it’ll cost you 30 bob to use the Dartford Tunnel, and you wouldn’t wanna do that cos it’ll take you into Essex. For 59 quid you can hop on the Eurostar at the nearby and romantically-named Ebbsfleet Inernational Railway Station and lose yourself in Paris or Brussels. Or you can do what most Dartfordians do instead and lose yourself in Bluewater shopping centre (and if you can get out of there alive without spending 59 quid you’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din). All once-remembered links to Chaucer’s Pilgrims or Watt Tyler‘s Peasants have been washed away by that massive lump of concrete hell, sitting in a disused chalk quarry a couple of miles east. “Oh you come from Dartford? Where Bluewater is?” Yes, I do. Fuck off.

Thurrock, sir? First shithole on your right

Thurrock, sir? First shithole on your right

Shunning the obvious delights of Dartford, some years ago I made my way 10 miles up the A2 to the last bastion of civilization left in SE London: Blackheath. Civilization, however, is suspended on Friday and Saturday eves as the Eltham Nazis take over the village bars and restaurants, and we now have a black maria which circles the small one-way system in almost perpetual motion, picking-up the knuckle-draggers as it goes. We do get 5 days of relative peace and calm, where you can get a pint and a curry and have a more-than-decent chance of making it home with as many limbs as you came out with. But I do hear often from friends “Oh, Blackheath! Lovely down there, isn’t it?” It’s lovely in the way that Basra is lovelier than Baghdad.

 

Anyway, back to Baghdad…er Dartford. I always keep half an eye on Dartford— my kids live there for starters, as does The Incumbent, and there are still a few of the lads who never made it over the wire, so I return there every-so-often. But like a favourite testicle after too long in the bath, it has shrunken and shrivelled over the years since I was a schoolboy more than 25 years ago. The streets are shorter, the shops smaller, pubs grubbier and girls uglier (present Mrs B aside, you understand). The town planners seem to have been influenced by Jackson Pollock or Magnus Pyke, the semi-deserted streets (Bluewater sucks the life out of the town on weekends) are the domain of small herds of herberts in hoods, grazing on MaccyDs in forests of triffid traffic signs. It’s an all-too familiar story if you know towns like Barnet, Orpington, St Albans or any of a number dotted around the M25 corridor.

Locals point the best way out of town

Locals point the best way out of town

As a young man I used to ply my medium-pacers for Wilmington CC, a village team just up the road. Wilmington was a leafy little dingly-dell, away from the bustle of the Dartford ‘metrolopis’, with a couple of proper boozers, a local park with a decent cricket square (complete with licensed pavilion), a couple of schools and lots of tree-lined lanes where on a clear night you could witness fleets of Escort Mark I’s bouncing up and down to the rhythm of young couples at it. Nowadays those same lanes are the natural habitat for middle-aged men taking themselves on long, lonely strolls in the hope of meeting other middle-aged men on long, lonely strolls in the hope that they can have some fun together.

If you go down on someone in the woods today...

If you go down in the woods today, you

Wilmington made a news-item this week. Not for it’s cottage industry, nor for the cricket team’s tight match vrs local rivals Swanley but because of the antics of the headmistress of the local school. At Wilmington Enterprise College the head mistress, Belinda Langley-Bliss (I kid you not) sent 61 pupils home from lessons in one day. Go back and read that again. IN ONE DAY.
Now what, you may well ask, happened on that day? A mass riot? Did the upper-sixth set fire to the science block? Were the school leopard and the caretaker’s water cannon set loose on a noisy session of the Chess Club ? Nope. apparently 46 were sent home for wearing trainers or ‘extreme fashions’ and a further 15 for not having the correct equipment. Sounds like a Daily Mail report, doesn’t it? Sadly this story is true. According to the PA report: “Pupils were also required to arrive at college each day with a pencil case containing a calculator, two pens, two pencils, a planner, a ruler, eraser and notebook to prevent time being wasted in lessons.” The Incumbent tell me that one of her friend’s son was sent home for not having a pencil sharpener. Yup.
You know what I’d do? instead of sending the kids away, I’d get the parents IN. Pin them down and ask them why little Jordan or Wayne have turned up without the required uniform? See if you can help in an installment-plan for a pencil sharpener. Failing that, baseball bats and bricks usually do the trick. Tell you what you DON’T do is give the kids the day off. How many kids do you know would think that a punishment? I’d have turned up with no trousers if I thought I’d have been sent away again (tried that at The Telegraph once—didn’t work). In an ever-depressed economy, where your average school-leaver’s chances of getting a job are dwindling away, why not help parents kit-out the kids in an acceptable manner, with what kit and clothing is readily affordable to non-working families? And if it’s just the case of little Johnny cocking-a-snoop at the school rules and dress like he’s going clubbing, then scare the bejeezus out of him. A bollocking from the old man usually focussed my mind. Ms Langley-Bliss has taken the option of filling up the street corners and KFCs of her local town with teenagers who think they’ve won the lottery. Others will be sitting at home in bits on the sofa because they forgot to take a pencil to school, waiting for dad to come home and rip into them. Is that how to encourage decent 14 year olds? Dartford is depressing enough. It doesn’t need arse-head strategies like this, Miss Bliss.