Christ Almighty !
Things are definitely changing around here, and some of them not for the best.
I took off this morning on another one of what my doctor, Mr Lansley, calls “life-extending promenades” this morning. I know he means well but I’m not sure Dr Lansley understands just how far “a half hour’s walk” is. Or, come to that, if he understands anything at all about my health. Anyway, the novelty of the yomp to the post office is wearing off already so today I decide to turn the other way into the village itself. This way is a little more interesting as I pass by or through all the hustle and bustle which country life can offer.
I therefore reach the top of the lane and turn left this time, past the school with its newly installed metal detector and courtesy black maria which the children seem to find very interesting indeed. I stand to watch several of them playing a game of Hopscotch (or HopCaledonian as they are told to call it nowadays) through and around the metal detector. I started to reminisce about my time at the school and all the lovely knife-free years I enjoyed there, before I am awakened from my daydream and shooed away by a man pointing a Taser and wearing a flak jacket in school colours. I am a mixture of embarrassed and annoyed, but in any case shuffle off in the direction of the newsagent’s and the football fields beyond.
I no longer use this newsagent. I spent years gleaning from it all the info about the outside world I could. It was a lovely sight. A lovely big sign outside reading “The Village News” above the window was flanked by smaller ones of a bygone day: The News Of the World, News Shopper and even Horse&Hound were all represented in enamel signs down the sides of the shop. Proudly and efficiently run by old Mr Turnbull and his younger wife Susanna, it was a constant source of news, gossip and entertainment.
Sadly, as in everything nowadays, the shop has had a makeover, renamed itself “T’News of T’Village” and is daubed with posters for the Yorkshire Post, Salford Sentinel, and Whippet Magazine. The shop window has been widened, the counter brought closer to the door, and there’s even a space in the background for customers to enjoy a cappuccino or a flat white, run by the serial liar Mrs Kirkwood. (Amazing they haven’t pensioned her off yet.) The company has brought in a whole new staff to help out old Bill. I went in there one Sunday afternoon and found Jack Duckworth and Seth Armstrong serving. I had not a clue what they were on about and left sharply, never to return.
For your information I now pop along to Mr Humphrys who runs the paper stand on the corner. He doesn’t carry any of the tabloids or the magazines, and is only interested in the broadsheets, but at least I can understand what he’s talking about. And he and his friend Mr Naughtie (“Naughty Naughtie”, my mum calls him) do have a laugh when one of them accidentally mispronounces Mr Jeremy Hunt‘s name. The only alternative place to get my news from is Holmes’– the convenience store in the high street. But I fear that if the manager, Eamonn, doesn’t stop tucking into the pasties (“well, no-one else is buying them any more”) they’ll be no room for anyone to get into the shop to buy anything. Fat eejit, so ye are.
As I passed them, Old Bill had young Charlie helping him pile up sandbags outside the door of the shop. They looked very sad. Mrs Kirkwood had her sunglasses on, so I knew it was about to rain. I put up my brolly, upped the pace to a stroll and continued up the path.
The school football pitches lay silent, save for the rustling of Ginsters Dwarf packets being blown about in the goal netting, and old Mr Fry, the omnipresent caretaker re-marking out the lines with his trusty, squeaky wheely machine. I’m sure that’s not what it’s called and that Mr Fry would take the time to tell me, at length, what its real name is, but I intentionally don’t catch his eye. I’m getting bored of him telling me everything about everything. It seems like he’s everywhere I go. And he keeps asking me to follow him. It’s creepy, I reckon. Why he doesn’t find himself a nice wife I’ll never know.
Much excitement was to be had, apparently, up at these pitches at the weekend as two of the immigrant boys did frightfully well in their respective soccer matches. Young Fernando scored three goals. IN ONE MATCH. Putting to bed the fear had by his new PE master, Signor Baldio, that the boy needed to be fitted with calipers to sort his legs and feet out.
Over on another pitch, little Adolf Suarez also scored three times, even though parents were assured at christmas that he was to be expelled for calling some of the other boys “Schwartzers”. His coach, Mr Kenneth Gorbals (pronounced Goebbels), sadly now blind in both eyes, did offer something by way of excuse, but no-one understood him. And on Pitch 3 John the School Bully amazed everyone by staying on the pitch for the whole of the match, and without abusing or maiming anyone. He got rather excited when he scored a goal, but his dad rushed on to the field of play and administered some pills, which he’d secreted in a little baggie down his sock. After the match ‘Bully’ was seen talking to the nurse, Mrs Bridge who seemed to be backing in to him. A lot.
It’s sad to think that in a matter of weeks the pitches and the ancient trees that surround them will be dug up and tarmacked over for use as an Olympic car park. Oh well, we all have to do our bit, I suppose. What’s hundreds of years of history and a few old Oaks when compared to ensuring the success of a
corporate carve-up sports tournament ?
The school’s newly-appointed Temporary Chief Coach, Mr W.O.T. Wovers (Cantab) said that he was “wery happy with all the boys he’d seen in twaining” and that he was confident in their ability to do well in the tournament this summer “especially against fwance and the Ukwaine”.
On the far side of the football pitches I could see the SBS training in the village pond. Their activity was only hampered by having to steer their boats around the Astute-class nuclear submarine which the Royal Navy have parked, sorry moored in our pond, much to the annoyance of both the ducks and the local flasher. Sadly, since the local ARP warden, Mr Johnson, announced that our village was a prime Al Qaeda target this summer, the whole place has been a hive of activity, with varying degrees of success and popularity.
The site for the gun emplacement – originally destined to be on top of the Conservative Club – has been moved (thank the Lord) and will stand proudly, perched on top of the ICU building at the local Hospital. Mr Johnson tells us that, not only will this deter the “Mad Raghead Mullahs” from bombing our NHS hospital, but it will ensure the general security and safety of all those waiting hours in corridors to be seen by the woefully short-handed staff”. I can certainly see that no right-minded burglar would want to break into the hospital now.
As I turned for home, I paused for a moment and removed my cap as a funeral cortege passed by. They were burying old Mrs Blears who died suddenly and horribly in a freak razor-wire accident. She was wrapping the aforementioned wire around her chimney in an effort to dissuade the Taliban from mounting an attack on her home, when she slipped and fell through the wire to the ground. Only the wire catching her across the neck and in her mop of lovely ginger hair saved her fall. Sadly she died from the injuries sustained. Had she been rescued in time she may have lived. Apparently she hung there for four weeks before anyone noticed she’d gone. One neighbour said “I’m so relieved she’s dead: I thought I’d gone deaf”. Another was quoted as saying “Let’s just remember what she did for us and for herself and enjoy the peace and silence now she’s gone”.
I buy my paper from Mr Humphry’s I see that they’ve decided to allow drug users to represent the village in the summer sports day. That’s good. It’ll give School Bully something to do in the closed season. I did see his dad and Mr Chambers having a good old chin-wag earlier (which is strange, given Mr Chambers’ colour), but I’m sure whatever was said could be easily taken out of context.
Ok, gotta go now. Have to buy one of Mr Coe’s lottery tickets for a place in the Air Raid shelter. S’funny, I always thought there’d be a place for all of us in the shelter when the time finally came, given all the taxes we’ve paid over the years and how long we’ve lived here. Not to mention that many of us had to move out of home to allow Mr Coe to build that big bunker of his. But apparently some seats have to be reserved for special friends of Mr Coe, and their friends and their families. Which is only right, I suppose.
Ah, those were the days. When we used to have a kick-about in the street outside my house, there would invariably be someone who wanted to be Peter Osgood, one who’d play as Peter Lorimer or Georgie Best or even Derek Hales (well I had to look up to someone, didn’t I ? and I reckoned I was better than Killer was, anyway.) We didn’t have anyone who was hard enough to pretend to be Dave McKay.
Take a look at one of the great sports photos of the 70s. There’s old Dave about to throttle that little-shit-of-little-shits, Billy Bremner – no softie himself. But where Bremner – like Ron Harris, Nobby Stiles and anyone who put a Leeds Utd shirt on – was a kind of slide-my-studs-down-your-calf-and-into-your-achilles-when-ref-isn’t-looking-sorta-bloke, Big Dave was a sort of snap both your shinbones in two if you try to get past me, in front of the ref, the linesmen, the opposition bench, the BBC TV camera and four JPs and still argue the toss that I played the ball first-sorta-bloke. A very very tough bloke. A great photo.
McKay is reported to be in poor health. It will be a shame to lose another character of my childhood. A reminder of when football was a contact sport, professional players could be built like Fannie Lee and still get picked for the side, and Alan Rough and Derek Hales were in gainful employment, somehow.
Wishing Dave McKay all the very best. Let’s hope the today’s millionaire show-ponies spend a little less time crying and rolling around on the grass this weekend. Big Dave would have given them something to cry about.
The only time those two names will ever follow each other in a sentence.
Here’s another chance to hear the best bit of sports commentary ever, For those very few of you who haven’t heard this, treat yourself to a listen of a speech by Bjørge Lillelien, a commentator for the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. His boys (the Norwegian football team) had just beaten the ‘mighty’ England in a world cup match in 1981. Purists will note that, since then, no-one in the world is remotely surprised when any team at any sport beats the mighty England team at any port whatsoever. And never will again.
But at the time our Bjørge got a little excited.
…and now back to you in the studio.
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.
“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.
“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.”
“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.
Ok, I had better start planning. As much as I’m enjoying a rare three-day weekend (somehow they’ve given me Bank Holiday Monday off), there’s no getting away from the fact that, come Friday, I’m gonna be unemployed…er, I mean freelance. Things have gotta change, and they’ve gotta change fast. The Incumbent is busy going through the house and sticking half of it up for sale on eBay, and I’ve started cutting down on essential items.
I reckon if I cut down on luxuries, such as food, I can still afford beer and cable tv. There is, after all, a World Cup and a couple of Test series to watch this summer. The veg and herb patch is coming along nicely, but it’ll be a few weeks off before I can start harvesting the beetroot, onions, and chillies, so I’ll have to make do with what’s already in the cupboards.
When we went to the supermarket yesterday for what could be the last monthly shop for a long time, try as I might, I couldn’t bring myself to put in the trolley ‘value mince’ or ‘economy sausages’. Lord alone knows what goes into such products, but I’d rather starve than find myself sucking on the toenails and nostrils or some generic beast the next time I make a chilli. I have a crown which has come loose in the back of my mouth. I’ve been holding out in the hope that it gets..er..better.. but you can bet your life that chewing on an economy banger is a one-way ticket to the dentist, at best. At worst it’ll end up in me sitting in trap one waiting for nature to take it’s course. I’ll then, of course, have to go through the motions.
The booze cupboard has been subject to more scrutiny than usual. There are bottles of stuff in there which I’ve been given or picked up over the years and which, in normal circumstances, I wouldn’t touch with yours. However, with a month of footy upcoming, and funds bound to be a bit squeaky, that bottle of Ouzo is looking quite appetising, as is the Bols. Have asked The Incumbent to remove the litre of Absynth lest I get a taste and start imagining England can actually win the competition.
As I write this, our fine boys are struggling to beat the titans of Japan. We’ve seen it all before. The billionaires of the English league, being shown how to play by men a lot poorer than they , and a good deal shorter to boot. Ferdinand suffering from occasional bouts of consciousness, John Terry looking like his mind’s elsewhere (probably wondering where he left his underpants) and Wayne’s getting a bit niggly with the oppo. Again.
Even Fabio is picking a fight with the Japanese manager, though in which language I know not. Young Frank has missed a penalty, and the Japanese have gifted us two own goals, one of them a brilliant header by the defender who flew in like a Zero pilot with a death wish. The crowd is comatose and I don’t blame them. I can’t watch this bag of shite for a month. It’s like pulling teeth — even loose false ones.
Oh god, now he’s brought on Heskey.
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.
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.