Friday, December 22, 2006

JonnyB's Private Secret Diary
would like to wish all
Readers, Commenters, Linkers and Lurkers
a happy Christmas and bearable New Year.

Our Christmas Special will appear in Boxing Day's Daily Mirror
(subject to any real news happening).
UPDATE - Spiked!!! Bloody Godfathers of Soul, eh?

We will be returning early in 2007.

Should you decide to start your own Internet Web Log in 2007, the following things are likely to happen to you:

A man from Hungary will mow a tribute 'Save the Post Office' in large letters into his lawn.

Your work will be studied by generations to come.

You will get involved in a high-speed chase with Michael Flatley, Lord of the Dance.

You will receive assistance from readers RE mysterious missing ham.

You will go off at tangents.

You will summarise your entire life in a few short sentences.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

My building work has finished!!!

In time for the holiday season!!! A different holiday season than envisaged, but that is just picking hairs. I have electrics that do not electrify people, risers that actually rise, and a useful wall for hanging things on where I was originally expecting a dull old window.

Granted, the toilet situation is still causing concern and you'd see better finishing at a Charlton game, but the shower is quite acceptable and the non-working radiator in my bedroom is balanced by the fact that since the plans were drawn up the world has become two degrees warmer.

We drive home from the hospital through the dense fog. The LTLP slumps in the back, her broken leg wedged between the front seats; beside her the Baby dozes, pumped full of Pneumonia-B-Gone. I do not switch on the stereo for fear of 'Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time'.

It has been an interesting year.

Monday, December 18, 2006

My dining room table has arrived!!!

The family heirloom table has been returned to its rightful owners, to be replaced with one that I, and then eventually my children and my grandchildren, will sit and dine at, share stories at, accidentally brick into bedrooms, etc.

It is gigantic.

I attempt to help the Table Delivery Man carry it into the Cottage. It is enormously heavy – as heavy as one of those extreme metal bands, eg def leppard. My arms are built for pleasuring women, not for lifting heavy tables from vans, whereas his only job in the world is lifting heavy tables from vans – he does it several times a day and indeed probably has a degree in it from Thames Valley University. We stagger through the doorway into the kitchen. The walls seem to shake as we rest it with a gentle crash on the brick floor.

As he goes to fetch the legs, I feel a pang of conscience. I have spent several hundred pounds on a dining room table when there are children dying in the Lebinon.

I am a shameful person and will go to hell. Then I realise that without a proper dining room table you cannot have dinner parties discussing things like how bad it is that children are dying in the Lebinon, so I feel a bit better and that I have done my bit. The Table Delivery Man returns with the legs, which are like matchsticks, but on a planet where matchsticks are really really big and thick, and have metal bolts on them to attach them to tabletops.

He fits the legs.

We then attempt to turn the table the right way up, which is a fiasco. Carrying it upright was bad enough, but attempting to both lift and turn it makes me look even weedier by a factor of about seventeen. They probably share stories about this at the Table Delivery Social Club, in between chatting about van capacity and the use (or non-use) of mats. We manoeuvre it into position, which involves my end staying in exactly the same place, and his end manoeuvring.

He gives me a ‘well done’ smile, like a local newsreader reporting on the delivery of a new Sunshine Coach. Eight chairs complete the picture. I resolve to have a dinner party ASAP.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Well that was exciting wasn't it?

A sluggish start, an encouraging mid-match surge, before inspired play at the death sealed an in-the-end comfortable win for the opposition. It was very much like the recent King's Lynn vs Oldham Athletic FA Cup(TM) fixture, without the footbally bits inc. the booking of defender Charlie Defty.

We are officially the second best internet web log in the UK!!!

Booooo… but only second. And it is being first which counts. After all - everybody knows the name of Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon. But who can ever recall the second? (It was 'Buzz Aldrin').

At which point we proceed with the serious bit - you might want to skip this and come back on Monday when there will be a report about a dining table.

Serious bit begins

Of course, this isn't the second best internet web log in the UK. It's an impossible and ludicrous thing to try to judge or measure such a concept, I'd guess that the vast majority of UK sites had no idea whatsoever that nominations were going on (I certainly didn't), and I'd guess that most of these wouldn't have cared anyway. The voting system was intriguing, and the smaller sites never had a chance. I've always liked to think that this journal might be one of the better in its Ilk, but it's a fucking tiny Ilk I inhabit, I can tell you. And how do you compare an Ilk with an ilk?

So… why?

Just to remind the people that look at awards to tell them what to read, that there is a huge diversity of blogging in the UK. The 'personal sites' aren't necessarily the ones that need sit at the back like the embarrassing aunt, afraid to mix with the weightier stuff and looked down upon from the heights of punditry ("and some people just write about their cats!"). In fact lots of them are quite good.

So a creditable second can't be bad.

Those who took my initial words as 'yuk - political blogs are boring minge' got it wrong slightly. The point was that there is room enough for everyone. You'll actually find me at quite a few Places of that Persuasion, although sometimes I am hiding. In fact lots of them are quite good.

Booooo… I am revealed as Judas.

Jonny's Final Thoughts

I tend to leave the comments box unattended most of the time, but I was uncomfortable with the 'I've just read such-and-such blog!!! It's shit!!!' posts, whatever the context in which they were made. And I learnt an interesting lesson there - if I don't intervene and reply to comments that I'm not comfortable with the tone of, then they become inextricably linked with the voice of the (deep breath) JonnyB community. Shit!!! It is not my web log any more. It is ours. So I will try to be more chatty in future, unless I'm - y'know - really busy.

To the lady that left the (deleted) comment saying that she could cheat the poll: please - it's my reputation, not yours. Kids - cheating is wrong, and we don't want it here.

Thanks to my good friend Girlie Onetrack for her heavyweight support, and particularly for agreeing to remain my friend after I asked her to add a disclaimer to her endorsement post. And gratitude to everybody else who got behind an interesting campaign. I'll find you via the technorati thing and say proper thanks.

FINAL THING - and a non-negotiable. I don't have time to moderate comments. Please - no 'we should have won' sour grapes or muttered dissent etc. in the comments box. That's not my 'thing', and I'd be really pissed off. And we don't want that, seeing as I'm so important now. This weekend please use the comments box to promote the blogs you think other people might like to read. Cats, politics, political cats an' all.

Next week we get back to normal, with my important story about the table.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

"We are talking," and here, Len the Fish leant in conspiratorially, "the dirtbox."

Short Tony nodded sagely. There was an interruption from the other end of the bar.

"Excuse me yes, I am looking for ze pigfarm?"

The visitor was foreign (nb the 'ze', above, represents this) - possibly Polish or North European, a quiet, slightly hoarse voice. He wore a blue suit with a dazzling yellow tie that was just imperceptibly too wide. A man not dressed for the pigfarm.

The Angelic Barmaid blinked at him. It was her first night, and so far very standard questions like 'could I have a pint of beer please' had seemed to confuse her.


"I am looking for ze pigfarm? Apparently it is near here?"

She looked round for help. Several people were trampled in the rush.

"What pigfarm?" asked Ron. "There are pigs all over the place."

The man shrugged slightly helplessly. "Just ze pigfarm."

"Have you got a name?" demanded another regular. "You must have a name?"

Another shrug. "I do not have a name. Just ze pigfarm."

"Well what are you doing there? That would help."

"I have to meet a man."

"What man?"

"I don't know his name, I am afraid."

Ron changed tack. "Well there are loads of pigs in that direction, he offered, pointing out of the window down the road. But no pigs in that direction. Does that help?"

The man thought. "Not really. But thank you." He worked his way round the bar, asking about the pigfarm hoarsely and sheepishly. Eventually a consensus arose that he should drive to the farmhouse closest to the nearest pig field.

He thanked the bar in general. We wished him luck and he departed, yellow tie lighting the way.

Somewhere, there is a man hanging around pigfarms. Waiting for a rendezvous that may never happen.

Monday, December 11, 2006

I go to fetch food.

The LTLP is confined to the sofa with bruising, a sprained ankle and a broken leg. Despite this, she has been reasonably cheerful and positive about events, and patient with my attempts to help her. She may have had one of those head injuries that changes your personality. I will monitor this.

I drive from the Chinese Pub, a bag of delicious-smelling Chinese food on the passenger seat, the Proclaimers entertaining from the stereo. Around me, all is dark as dark can be - farmland and woodland for miles in every direction. The wipers thwip-thwap across the screen. I met no other cars on the way, I have met no other cars on my return.

There is an alarming noise!!!

The car pulls sharply, and starts dragging. Clearly a tyre has gone, quite spectacularly. The wheel rim makes an 'eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee' scream as it scrapes the rutted lane. This scream is doubly-worrying; I decide I must Do Something About It and acordingly turn up the Proclaimers. Rain blatters against the glass as my mind races.

I last changed a wheel when I was about six years old, and, thinking about it, I suspect my father was just being kind by thanking me profusely for my help. It is just not the sort of skill that I have needed to acquire. I haven't a clue where the jacking points are, although I suspect they are underneath somewhere, and I have left my mobile telephone at home so I can't call for help. Although I'm not sure I'd get a signal anyway. Or help. I am in the absolute middle of nowhere.

The wild night suddenly becomes quite threatening. I can see myself in the opening scene of a 'Jaws' spinoff, the Police Chief pausing before filling in 'possible cause of death' with his typewriter. D.E.E.R. A.T.T.A.C.K.

I could use the monosodium glutamate in the kung po chicken to fix the tyre!!! Except that the Chinese Pub is proudly MSG-free. Curse these multicultural liberals and their failure to integrate. I will not starve, however - but without Wikipedia to hand I can't tell how long I can eke out my food without poisoning myself with botulistic rice. I should eat the rice first, the kung po chicken tomorrow and perhaps the duck in aromatic sauce the next day. I can burn prawn crackers for warmth.

'eeeeeeeeeeeeeee' goes the wheel. 'eeeeeeeeeeeeeee' goes Charlie Reid.

At twenty-five m.p.h. I seem to be making some form of progress. I really have no idea as to whether it's a good idea to continue driving on the rims - the only experience I have in this technique is from 'America's Wildest Police Chases', where it usually ends in prison, disgrace and a patronising lecture by a silver-haired ex-sheriff. But that programme may be selectively edited. I cannot tell. I am a bit disappointed that there are no sparks, however. There are always sparks.

But I resolve to continue. It's not un-worrying, but the alternative seems to be my lifeless corpse daubed in sweet and sour being gnawed at by ferocious muntjac. I reach the lights of the village with relief, consider stopping at the Village Pub for assistance but decide against it as the regulars would laugh and steal my Chinese food.

I arrive home. Dinner is cold. There are complaints. Later I will discover the cost of buggering up a wheel rim like that. Today I drove to the hospital. A stone smashed my windscreen.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

OK - it's a dilemma isn't it?

Mr Angry's flatmate nominated me for the 2006 Weblog Awards. For which I am grateful. Mr Angry's flatmate did not nominate Mr Angry, which left Mr Angry pissed off. But I am not worried about that. He is angry. That is what he does. The clue is in the name.

So I got through to the shortlist. Which, again, I am grateful for. As well as the nomination from Mr Angry's soon-to-be-ex-flatmate, someone, somewhere has looked at this and made a judgement that it is worth putting on that list. I don't know who that person is. They might be an idiot, for all I know. I do not care. Somebody likes it - which is why I do it.

There, my interest should end, as the process from thereon is a vote (and you can vote every day - arf!!!), which is where these things always crash and burn as any sort of meaningful process.

But it doesn't. Because I am a secret psychopath who needs to win everything I am involved with otherwise I start killing children. Which is awkward socially.

Plus I would love it - love it - if all the earnest blogging new meeja paradigm types saw the results and thought: 'WTF? The best blog in the UK is some bloke going on about his village life in Norfolk? When there is serious discussion taking place about the ID card situation in the Lebanon? This is a fiasco. I had better write an earnest post about it on my web log.'

Anyway. You can vote for me here. Every day - arf!!!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

I frown as I grip the telephone receiver.

“But what about getting up in the middle of the night? If the Baby needs comforting?”

Abuse pervades the copper wires.

“Oh. Right-o.”

I leave the Baby in the capable hands of the Cheap Babysitter and set off on my mercy dash. The Fens are dark and eerie as I speed along in the moonlight.

It seems to me that if you are going to get run over, then you may as well get run over in the ambulance bay of a major hospital. The ambulance people certainly appreciated it, being able to register a 35-second response on their official govt. statistics form. This will allow them to sit around drinking tea and writing their web logs before pootling up to the next client fifteen minutes and twenty-five seconds later, still maintaining their response time average target.

Oh yes, the ambulance people would be suspects, if the authorities had not already identified an old lady brandishing a Renault Megane. But did she act alone? My mind races.

I worry that the finger of suspicion will point at me, after the falling-through-staircase/electrocution fiascos. But they were accidents, I swear. I may have to do a tearful TV appeal just to prove that it was not anything to do with me.

I pull up outside the hospital, parking illegally in a place that you are absolutely forbidden to park in, ie convenient for the door. I can see her through the glass – she looks all right enough, just a bit flatter than normal. Some bits of her are in plaster.

There is a pissed off look on her face. I wheel her to the car and pour her in.

Monday, December 04, 2006

We plan a romantic evening.

Having a Baby lying around (who I do not mention in my Private Secret Diary ever) means that we are unable to enjoy the more adult pleasures in which we previously indulged, e.g. going to the Village Pub together etc. etc. It is frustrating.

I determine to address this.

All is prepared. I have sourced a cheap babysitter, and have put my trousers on. The LTLP is due back from work at seven pee em precisely. I put several milks in the fridge. I clean my teeth. I instruct the Cheap Babysitter in everything that can possibly be instructed.

I am really looking forward to this.

I ensure I have my door keys, my mobile telephone, some money and my credit cards. I check to see that my shirt goes with my trousers and change accordingly. I put some more money in my pocket, just in case. I re-instruct the Cheap Babysitter on everything that I have previously instructed. I double-check that my shirt goes and that there are enough milks in the fridge.

Everything is in order. Nothing - nothing - can possibly go wrong.

With ten minutes to spare, I finish preparing my PowerPoint presentation: '100 Clunking Setups for Bloggers'

Later, as I am leaving the Accident and Emergency department, I reflect upon the day. In fact I reflect upon life in general. The reflection fills me with horror - I push it away and try to block it out of my mind. We drive home in silence.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Today's post is at Little.Red.Boat., the weblog of Anna Pickard, who is very funny and her skin is quite soft.

So you will have to go there to read it.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

My piano has returned!!!

It has been ten months.

The Piano Specialist Man supervises some men with tattoos, who heave the newly-restored instrument up the drive. Being solid wood with an iron frame it is heavier than James Joyce, and they struggle with their wheely thing on the gravel which I have spitefully laid to thwart them.

I have an urge to walk beside them, picking out comic silent film music on the keyboard to accompany. But I do not know any, and they would probably hit me and the Piano Specialist Man would push a metronome up my arse.

We reach the open French windows and I indicate the special piano-sized alcove in the room beyond. There is some debate as to whether it is actually piano-sized, or whether it is just smaller than actually piano-sized, but all is well. All the while, the Piano Specialist Man has been talking to me about the minutae of felt replacement hammer procedures and string reduction tensions. Occasionally he strokes the wood, lovingly.

The Piano Specialist Man is an enthusiast. He is a pleasure to talk to, as are all enthusiasts, with one caveat. That is, that I have mentioned repeatedly that I don't really play the piano that well, that I'm certainly not classically trained, that I don't really have a clue about the inside of pianos other than you press the white notes and the music sounds, that I hadn't noticed for thirty-five years that the soft pedal was broken as I've never used the soft pedal, that Croatian or Egyptian hammer felts are all the same to me and that really, whilst I love it as a historic instrument, I only ever use it for going 'plinky plonk' on.

Of course he has never taken any of this in, so I have politely nodded and demurred and stuff when he has asked me my opinion about various subtle adjustments he has made.

"I will just check that nothing has shifted during transit," he announces, sitting down and playing a concerto or whatever. It is very impressive and sounds terrific, and is probably by Tchaikovsky or Brahms.

"Perfect!" he whimpers. "Will you…?" he offers, vacating the stool and looking expectantly.

I have the sudden irrational urge to sit down, take a deep breath and hammer out 'Chopsticks' with the full force of my middle fingers, before leaping up and exclaiming "that's bloody lovely, that is!!!". That, or the theme from Minder.

Politeness prevails. I do not want him to do the metronome thing, or get his goons to slam my fingers in the lid. I explain in a lying fashion that my neighbour Short Tony is working next door and I do not like to disturb him. After more discourse on the sonic qualities of single strings, and the handing-over of an X-rated cheque, I am on my own with my piano.

I have written before of the instrument's history, of the many songs that were composed or arranged on it during the first half of the last century: some immediately forgotten, some popular at the time but now lost or hopelessly out of fashion, some still in the public consciousness today, such as "Sally", made famous by Gracie Fields. And now, sat at this beautiful inherited link to my family's disappearing past, thousands of pounds poorer due to the ridiculous, romantic whim of restoration, I know in my heart what the very first piece of music to pick out on it should be.

I play the theme from Minder.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Baby is teething.

Regular readers will know that I do not usually write about the Baby, except in passing or if she does a really interesting and unusual poo etc.

This is mainly because there is only one thing more boring than writing about the day-to-day minutae of looking after a cute but intellectually unadventurous Baby, and that is reading about it. Twee anecdotes about sterilising bottles are supremely Not My Bag, plus I have lots of readers in the social services and I do not want to drop myself in it.

Sooner or later, however, you find yourself in a situation akin to spotting Ann Widdecombe glaring at you from behind a pillar as you stand up to make the keynote address to the annual conference of the National Sexist Society. At some point it is inevitable that you will mention the elephant in the room.

I am not a particularly stoic person, and being woken up for attention on an hourly basis through the night is starting to get me down a little. It is a bit like when the LTLP and I first met, without all the pretending to like each other's records, but I was young then and could manage that sort of routine. Now I am old, and I am knackered.

I dropped her off at Nursery this morning, then went on to Tesco for comfort food. The peace and quiet of the aisles cushioned my soul; I found myself walking round slower and slower, savouring the solitude of breakfast cereals, jams and spreads, home baking. The fit girl on the checkout who wants to sleep with me helped pack my bags and I blinked as I emerged into the morning air.

I drove home in a daze, to make the Replacement Replacement Carpenter's breakfast.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The French arrive in town!!!

It is exciting and has been advertised in the local paper - a French market!!! I take the Baby as it is important for her to experience other cultures, plus it is illegal to leave her on her own in the house.

Oooh la la!!! We speed down les ruelles de campagne, la baby et moi, dans le voiture. I have been feeling a bit maisonbound for the past few weeks, what with having the lurgee, but am determined to make an effort to welcome our visitors.

To be honest, I am a bit disappointed, in that there are about five stalls, and two of those are selling either handbags or funny material type things that appear (according to a mannequin) to wrap around women and their breasts in lieu of a proper dress. They are not even used. I do not wish to have a wasted journey and I have spent 60p on parking so I go to the sausage stall and buy a chorizo in order that I can make an authentic risotto later on.

Then I pop into Boots to buy some Ibuprofen. But this is not French so it does not count. I briefly consider seeing if they stock plaster of Paris, or rubber johnnies. But it would not be the same.

I will continue to support the proper English market. Good honest local produce people, like the Duck Man who sometimes gives me a discount, or the Vegetable Delivery Man (with a beard). One day I will visit France again and visit one of their markets on their home turf. That is as it should be.

We return to the house, earlier than we'd hoped. The Baby sleeps in the car.

Monday, November 20, 2006

"It may not be from Norwich," says Nicholas Parsons. "But it is still the quiz of the week!!!"

We settle back into the sofas in high excitement. I am not really 'up' on modern video games and in fact I did not know at all that you could do them on a DVD player.

Nicholas Parsons explains the rules. The DVD player is quite slow, so at the end of this bit his face freezes for some seconds whilst the next bit gets ready. It is disconcerting. Or it might not be the DVD player. I have not met Nicholas Parsons since the debacle a few years ago; he might be like that now in real life, with his face freezing at the end of each sentence. I do not know.

"Congratulations! That's right!" [Freeze].

"Now it is the turn of Player Two." [Freeze].

An hour passes. Short Tony and I match each other question for question.

'Correct!' - a graphic zooms into view and sits there for a few seconds.

"Now it's time for Round Two!" [Freeze].

"This time you'll be answering questions on - Where in the World?" [Freeze].

Several days pass. Nicholas Parsons's strange face-freezing disease gets no better. The 'correct' and 'bad luck' graphics become part of our lives. By November 2025 we are on round four and so have answered (as far as I can remember) fifteen questions each. By November 2502, our descendants have reached the 'quickfire round', which lasts until the millennium celebrations in 2999. Worryingly, medical scientists still haven't found a cure for the face-freezing disease, which bodes ill for cancer, alzheimers etc. I win the quickfire round and take the spoils!!!

"Congratulations!" says Nicholas Parsons. "The winner is," [freeze] "player one!" [freeze].

"If you've enjoyed this, why not treat yourself to another game?"

Nicholas Parsons's face freezes one last time. The screen reads 'Press Select to start'.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

I hit the LTLP in the face with a ladder!!!

She staggered back, shouting ‘ow’ a lot.

It was her own fault. I had left the ladder there, being heartily sick of all things laddery after the early ‘box of records’ incident, and reasoning that I could carry it downstairs and outside later on. I had then gone to the Village Pub. The Chipper Barman, sympathetic both to my earlier trauma and my head cold, had poured me several large rums as medication.

Now I was bladdered. And she was laddered.

“You are trying to kill me!” she gasped.

I apologised and tried again to get it through the bedroom door and out of the way so I could check if she was OK. But somebody had attached big magnetic things to the ends of the ladder, which made it veer about alarmingly as I attempted to turn around to explain this. I gave up the turning round bit and headed for the stairs, being very very careful to miss the large light fitting on the landing, but not missing the large light fitting on the landing.

Later, I looked at myself in the mirror. Perhaps I AM trying to kill her!!! There is something in my deep subconscious that is causing this. There have been stranger defences in a court of law. But I didn’t shoot the deputy.

I am very fond of her, the old rungface, but I am concerned that I am turning into a psychopath.

Monday, November 13, 2006

"Are you trying to kill me?"

Her voice is cold, like steel that has been kept in the fridge. In many ways it is not an improvement on the running around yelling and holding her head from a few moments earlier.

Meanwhile, I clutch the ladder and gibber.

"First the stairs collapse under me."

My head is swimming and I realise that my hands are shaking. I am not good on ladders, or with heights, or on high ladders. I am especially not good when I almost fall off them. Around me, the loft seems to shimmy from side to side.

"I…" I explain.

"Then you arrange to have me electrocuted."

With the insulation finally laid, we have been stuffing the loft with heavy Stuff. It was having some of this Stuff handed to me - a large cardboard box full of LPs - which had caused my loss of balance. Thinking fast, even amidst my panic attack, I had realised that the only possible way to stop myself falling through the hatch would be to release the box, heaving it as far as possible in an arc over the LTLP standing below.

With all my might, I had dropped the box almost exactly vertically onto her head.

"Is it for some insurance thing or something?!?"

The loft stops shimmying and starts hokey-cokeying in and out in front of my eyes. I clutch the ladder harder. Looking down, there are records spread all over the floor below. Fortunately, none seem to be broken. A couple of joists move in and out, before shaking it all about.


My vision starts clearing, but I still can't let go of my rung. I try to continue my scientific explanation based on thrust and momentum and balance and stuff.

"You ARE trying to kill me, aren't you?"

The words chill me. She does not see it as a threat. She sees it as a competition.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I perform some wiring.

Since the disappearance of the Methodical Electrician (who subsequently reappeared, to be told that he should disappear again or be disappeared) (I sounded quite fucking stern, I can tell you, it is amazing how fierce I can be when angry) (via text message) I have been doing my own wiring.

I place the loft ladder in position.

Climbing up the ladder, I stop halfway and push the over-heavy loft-hatch to one side. That way, I can descend the ladder and extend it fully in order to ascend back into the loft.

I climb the ladder step-by-step and pull myself up through the opening. The floor is boarded over for a few feet on either side - I stoop to walk across this before dropping to my knees to get under a rafter. Clambering across beams and careful not to fall through the ceiling into the Baby's room below, I have to duck low to miss the large cross-beam that clearly supports something important. At the same time I am forced to shimmy over a huge rafter on the floor - all whilst clutching my knife and pliers.

I arrive at the wiring location.

There is a bellow from one story below.


I sigh in a resigned fashion, like Mary, Queen of Scots. I pick up my knife and pliers and scuttle back across the rafters like Golem, if he had a popular and successful internet web log. I duck low to miss the large cross-beam and shimmy over the huge rafter. I then walk across the boarded area and drop down through the hatch. My feet hit the rungs of the metal ladder, and I climb down the steps, one by one.

I follow the source of the voice into the room that has the computer in it. The LTLP is on the internet banking thing. She asks me what a particular cheque was for. I suggest that the cheque book stubs might reveal all. They are located in the kitchen drawer. I am sent to get them.

I walk out of the door that has the computer in it, down the (completed) staircase to the drawer in the kitchen. I collect the cheque book stubs. I walk up the (completed) staircase and into the room with the computer in it, obediently presenting the cheque book stubs.

"Oh yes," she says, examining the particular stub. "Thanks."

I slip out of the room that has the computer in it, and back to the foot of the ladder. I take the rungs of the ladder one by one, and pull myself up through the loft hatch. Walking across the boarded bit, I duck to miss the large cross-beam and shimmy over the huge rafter. I then worm my way across the beams to my wiring location.

I begin my wiring.

Monday, November 06, 2006

I go to a 40th birthday party.

"Here you go," I offer, handing over my present and wishing that I'd made a bit more of an effort. The host takes my gift with enthusiasm.

"It's some kipper pate," he exclaims, maintaining a front of delight and excitement, in a very professional way, like a prostitute.

"It is Norfolk kipper pate," I admonish. This is important, as preceding any noun with the name of a county instantly transforms it from just a common or garden 'thing' to a more impressive 'locally sourced top-end product'.

"Yes," he says.

"I got it from the Village Shop," I explain, truncating the story of its origin to omit the period during which it had sat in my fridge waiting to be eaten, only to be rediscovered during an emergency "fuck, I haven't got a present' session. "The eat by date is quite soon."

"Although," I add thoughtfully, "to be honest it has been in my pocket all morning, so you might want to use it up pretty well straight away."

He mutters some grateful thanks, and disappears to do some important mingling.

I am not on top form at the party. I am a bit down that I am at a time in my life when I am invited to 40th birthday parties at all. I have always thought of myself as very young and reckless at heart, e.g. I have a fan assisted oven and not only do not adjust the heating time according to the manufacturer's instructions, but have actually thrown the instructions away.

I strike up some conversations, despite the fact that I do not drive a Volvo or own any Mike and the Mechanics CD's. I have a nice chat about house prices, and get very drunk.

Friday, November 03, 2006

“We’ve got to make sure that this is not just pub talk,” demands Eddie, talking in the Village Pub.

We nod in determined nod-dom. I sip my pint aggressively. Big A sways slightly; later on he will be accused by Mrs Big A of accidentally attempting to wee on her.

In fact we are all quite drunk.

“What shall we do first?” asks Short Tony.

There is a bit of a lull whilst we think of a suitable opener for the newly-formed Village Society for Extremely Dangerous Sports and Leisure Pursuits.

“You know what I’ve always fancied?” muses Eddie. “That paragliding stuff. I think it’s paragliding. Just up there, with a lawnmower engine strapped to you. Like a bird. Not a plane. A bird.”

Poo eases out from its holding pattern and begins its gentle descent towards my pants.

“Don’t forget I’ve got a bad leg,” interjects Big A. “I can’t do anything that would risk my leg.”

“Yes, he has a bad leg. Good point,” I add.

“How about one of those Boxing Day swims? Like they do every year when there’s nothing else to put on the local news?”

“That sounds great,” I enthuse. “But I can’t swim. So it can’t be swimming or swimming-related. Or anything that might endanger his leg.”


“Golf? A round of golf. We never play golf.”

“We could all go bowling one night.”

“But it’s not just pub talk. We’ve got to DO this.”

We shake hands. The Society is formed.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

“Are you sure you can’t come to the Pub?” asks Short Tony.

There is a note of desperation in his voice, like me talking to some girls. I feel truly sorry for him, but my mother and father are visiting and I have no window of opportunity in which to fit in enjoying myself.

“Well I’m going on my own then,” he mutters darkly.

Later, I am sitting in the living room with my family. There is loud shrieking from next door.

My father emerges from behind the Times crossword, blinking like a woodland creature interrupted from its hibernation by Jehovah’s Witnesses.

“Sounds like they’re having fun?” he comments, above the howl of shrill feminist laughter.

“It is the Village Book Group,” I explain. “They are meeting at Short Tony’s place tonight. Talking about books and things.”


I send Short Tony a text message, on the telephone. “DO NOT RETURN FOR FORESEEABLE FUTURE”. It takes me ages to write ‘foreseeable’, but that is the sort of neighbour that I am.

Monday, October 30, 2006

The clocks go back!!!

At least that is what it said on the news. My immediate problem is that the Baby does not seem to have realised, and so rather than enjoying an extra hour in bed (as the cliché goes) I am tireder than ‘Extras’. Frankly, if anybody should ask me again if I enjoyed my extra hour in bed then I will kick them hard in the GMT’s. At present I am an energyless mass of blob.

I am a bit concerned that the Baby is a simpleton. She can’t work out the clocks, she eats the newspaper instead of reading it and she is still amused by my impression of Rosco P. Coltrane from the Dukes of Hazzard (although admittedly it is rather good). She will never grow up to be a nuclear physicist at this rate, not even in one of the lesser branches of nuclear physics that they teach at polytechnics.

In fact it is the LTLP who would prefer the Baby to be a nuclear physicist, whereas I would quite like her to be a drummer, as I was never allowed to have some drums when I was a kid. Truly I endured social deprivation as you wouldn’t believe. We didn’t have a video either, or electric windows until much later.

The best solution would probably be for her to be a drumming nuclear physicist. She could do equations between paradiddles (or whatever they are called, I was not allowed to know). Then she could form a band with Stephen Hawking on bass and Francis Crick on saxophone. They could do functions.

But it will not work if she has a brain the size of a molecule.

I am tired; I am listless. Mechanically, I dress her and plonk her on the floor to play whilst I wait for the Replacement Carpenter to arrive.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

It is the little things that get you down.

I poke my head through the loft hatch, waiting patiently for the Replacement Carpenter to finish some important hammering.

"When you've got a minute…"

"No hurry at all, but…"

"It's just that…"

"It's just that… you seem to have nailed the dishwasher shut."

He looks at me, querulously.

"And… I'd quite like to make some tea, you see. But I can't get the dishwasher open. And the mugs are inside."

"Sorry," I add, in the time honoured fashion of English Crapness at apologising for things that cause one massive inconvenience and are the total and unarguable fault of the recipient of the apology.

I do not like to tell him that I can no longer close the bathroom door, resolving to keep that one for tomorrow.

Monday, October 23, 2006

I hurry to the pork pie shop.

I'm not in a particular rush; no more so than anybody would be who hadn't got a pork pie about their person but was in the vicinity of a shop that sold them. The rain teems wetly, swelling the minor brook that cleaves the village, and I stride piewards with a spring in my step.

Beside me, a doddery old fool in a silver car drives blatantly front-first into the river.

I am a bit taken aback by this, so much so that I continue my walk thinking 'how odd' before I find myself in the pork pie shop feeling a bit guilty about not stopping to offer some assistance. I absent-mindedly order my pie, and the pork pie lady absent-mindedly serves me, both enthralled by the cruel spectacle of an elderly man climbing unsteadily up the banks of a wet stream before looking at his handiwork in some dismay.

Truly I will go to Hell. Already I can almost feel the heat of the fires and the opening theme to 'Heartbeat'.

I have always feared a car accident or breakdown, but my morbid fear is having one of these in embarrassing circumstances. With people hooting, or pointing and laughing, or simply shaking their heads in bemusement from within a pork pie shop. Sympathy wells up inside me for this chap. He has been sent by some higher power to show me the error of something, like in 'A Christmas Carol' by Dickens (Charles). He is me!!! I am shocked by this revelation.

It is clear that some form of tractor and hoist is required; instead two fishmongers run out from their shop to try to push. But the angle is too steep, and their hands are probably slippy, what with the fish an' that. Now he has a broken car stuck in a small river with fishy handprints on the bonnet.

At this point I take my pork pie and leave. I have no wish to see myself reflected further in the misery of his circumstance.

Friday, October 20, 2006

We discuss the Secret Book Group.

"It's proving a very popular idea," says Mrs Short Tony, proudly.

I ask her who has joined. She reels off a list with enthusiasm.

"There's me, there's Mrs Eddie, Mrs Len the Fish, Mrs Martin the IT Consultant, Mrs The Chipper Barman, Mrs Woman That Lives Over The Road From The Village Pub, three ladies from my previous book group, and you."

I sensationally resign from the book group.

Truth be told, I am a little uncomfortable about being in a book group that had books about having sex in space (as alarmingly revealed in the comments to the post previously discussing this). And I am so pressed for time at the moment, what with looking after the Baby, fucking around on the PC etc. But the thought of all the female hormones charging around the room, especially whilst discussing having sex in space with all sorts of zero gravity positions and stuff, is proving the most stressful.

Mrs Short Tony takes my resignation in good grace. I am pleased that her all-female group is a success, it is very brave of them to go it alone and they will be discussing their books in a non-threatening atmosphere of the Village Pub.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The LTLP is electrocuted!!!

A short cry followed by silence from the scullery announces this fact. I look up from the TV with interest.

"Would you come here a minute?" demands a voice in a weaker-than-usual timbre.

I pick up the Baby and head for the voice.

"Do not bring the Baby."

I replace the Baby. We meet in the connecting corridor. She explains that she has received a large shock from the sink. I push past her and poke my head round the door. The sink is there, an innocuous look on its face.

The short cry was real enough. I realise that I will have to perform some tests. Not having much electricians' gear in the shed, I am nevertheless able to locate a diagnostic tool which consists of five long strips of bone, each sleeved in a layer of skin, connected to the end of my arm.

The sink smiles coyly at me.

I place my hand about an inch from its metal surface, slowly moving it closer, millimetre by millimetre. Everybody knows that things hurt less if you do it like this - it is probably the mix of metric and imperial units. I touch the sink and nothing happens. I grin, reassured.

Recklessly, I remove my shoes and do the same.


There is a sort of noise, which I take to be the insolent laughter of a domestic fitting.

Bough's Law states that when something surprising or unexpected happens as a consequence of a repeatable action then you shall mindlessly repeat the action, no matter how unpleasant the previous consequence.


"The sink is live," I carefully explain to the LTLP. I have an idea, and switch off the lights in the sunroom, which have been behaving oddly. I return to the scullery and touch the sink again. It is pitifully impotent.

"That is interesting," I muse. "When the lights in the other room are switched off the sink is normal. But when they're switched on, it gets all electric."

There is a silence. "That could be useful," I continue.

The LTLP glares at me. I pick up the telephone to call the Methodical Builder.

Monday, October 16, 2006

There is a noise in the kitchen.

I turn to investigate. Mrs Short Tony has appeared, like the shopkeeper in the Mr Benn cartoons.

"I've brought the list for you," she announces.

I am nonplussed by this. I have a slight hangover, and am not functioning at my usual 85% capacity. She clearly notices my vacant look.

"The list. For the Village Book Group."

I have joined a book group!!!

There is a dim memory of a conversation about this in the Village Pub. It had seemed an extremely good idea - I do not get much intellectual stimulation at present what with looking after the baby, not having a satellite dish etc. I go to take the list, only to find it snatched away.

"You are not," she states, "allowed to join if you are only planning to write sarcastic things about it on the Internet."

I am genuinely stung by this, and protest some protestations. In fact I am a bit insulted. After extensive negotiations it is agreed that I am allowed to join the book group if I impose a strict news blackout of its activities. I assent to this, shamefully capitulating to the petty tyranny of Blair's fascist id card state.

She hands me the list and tells me to choose a book. On close examination, I haven't read any of them, which is a bit of an unexpected hurdle. In the end I pass on the Robbie Williams and Dan Brown ones and settle on one called 'The Time Traveller's Wife', as it is most probably about space, and I particularly like books set in space.

She takes my choice to put in her important book group file. I am pleased with my new position amongst the literati, notwithstanding the frustration that I will never be able to talk about it.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

There is a scrunch of gravel!!!

I sprint down the secret path that leads to Short Tony's house, arriving breathless as he is getting out of his car.

"Did you get many geese then?" I blurt, casually.

His face falls like shares in a factory making plastic Chris Langhams for cereal packets. "It was a fiasco," he bemoans, rather than just moans, as it sounds moanier.

"No geese?" I ask, aghast.

"Not even one," he confirms.

I cannot believe that his long-awaited wild goose hunt has turned out to be a wild goose hunt. The bitter irony hangs in the air like a malignant helium balloon. I mutter some words of consolation and turn to slope back home.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The fire whooshes away in the ingle-nook.

"To be honest," concludes Short Tony, "I was embarrassed for him. I mean - it says something that I wet myself and was sick over Keith's car, and still wasn't the person who emerged with the least dignity."

We nod in appalled recollection of an evening many months ago. I sink back into the sofa. The impromptu re-opening of the Short Man, the pub in Short Tony's dining room, has been a measurable success. Short Tony pours me more wine, which I will later fling over his carpet via the wrong end of a pool cue.

We have neglected this aspect of our culture recently. The Short Man opened when the Village Pub was closed for a period of time; we used it regularly, being proud to be such a part of a locals' establishment. But - on my part - babies, family life and bowls intervened; others drifted away similarly; the snooker table lay unused and the dartboard grew cobwebs.

Now, to my great joy, I find that the baby monitor thing just has enough range to reach the lounge bar area.

It is time to resurrect my social life.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

There is an outbreak of fleas!!!

Short Tony’s dogg is in disgrace. It has had to be given a bath. Meanwhile, Mrs Short Tony has mixed emotions that her unusual rash has proved not to be shingles.

I meet Short Tony out in his front garden. An emergency stairs crisis paracarpenter has descended on me from Cambridgeshire, and I am keen to leave him to get on with it.

We discuss the fleas issue.

“She’s got a much bigger rash now,” he explains. “All down one side.”

“It would explain about the LTLP’s breasts,” I reply thoughtfully. “They are dotted with spots. It is all the fault of your dogg.”

“You’ve not got any bites?”


“Me neither.”

We nod in satisfaction at our good fortune.

“We could always talk about this at the Village Pub?” he asks.

I sigh. “Sorry. I have to pick up Baby Servalan in an hour or so, and I have fucking Tread Adair working in my kitchen. Another time.”

He disappears inside to spread flea chemicals. There will be another time.

Monday, October 02, 2006

'Krrrikkwhoshhhhhhttt!!!' explodes the Alarming Noise.

I tie my shoelaces hurriedly. The LTLP has clearly fallen through the stairs.

The noise of a woman falling through some stairs is one of those unmistakable sounds. It's something totally and utterly distinctive, like a Routemaster bus, for instance, or a vicar falling out of a tree.

I rush into the kitchen. She is sat on the floor amidst a pile of wood, a bemused look etched into her features. "Fuck!" she comments.

We are due at Short Tony's for dinner, so I pull her up and send her next door for a stiff drink. I then commence my Accident Investigator's role, before carpenting some temporary stairs by balancing a plank on top of a wooden crate. This will allow us to reach the top half of the flight (currently still standing) with a bit of effort.

The saga of my stairs is becoming tiresome. We have joked before that we are likely to become the subjects of some form of 'cowboy builder' type TV documentary; little did I realise that Channel 4 might one day be interested for 'Bodyshock: The Woman with a Riser up her Arse'.

I double-check that the plank is holding reasonably well, then scoot next door for some roast beef.

Friday, September 29, 2006

I grow a beard.

I have normally quite fresh faced good looks, and the addition of a beard adds a bit more Hollywood ruggedness I feel. As if I have been stuck on a desert island for ages, but with a camera crew.

"You look like a fucking hobo," remonstrates the LTLP. She pretends not to like my new rough and tough image. She will not be complaining tonight when I drag her to bed by her hair.

"It is a kind of protest," I confide to Eddie, as we sit later on at the bar in the Village Pub.

"Against what?"

I stroke my beard thoughtfully. "I have pledged not to shave until I have a bathroom environment suitable to do so. You know - with a proper mirror, and a floor, and space to lay out your stuff. The idea is that every day the builders will see me with my beard, and be reminded guiltily of the fact that I have no proper bathroom."

He nods, appreciatively.

"It is a bit like setting myself on fire," I continue. "But without the hurty burny bit."

"Have they noticed yet then?"

"Not yet."

The Foxy Barlady sidles up and asks if I am coming to the next quiz night. My combination of rough edges and the spiritual, almost Buddhist, protesting dimension to my beard is clearly a winner. She has become my bitch (although I do not say that as it would be rude).

Thursday, September 28, 2006

I reach a Low Ebb.

"I'm around all day if you need a coffee and a chat," offers Short Tony, kindly.

I mutter some words of ingratitude and return to my Ebb.

Later on, I have taken him up on his offer and sit morosely in his lounge. He asks me if I fancy a pint one night, and puts on his wide-screen television for Mr Blair's speech, but nothing seems to cheer me up. The fact is that Ebbs are by definition reasonably low, so my specifically low one is an especial downer.

My builders are still building. They have been building for ten months now. I am bored of their building. I am living out of boxes. The bloke that's been working in the kitchen has been there so long that it's ceased to be a commercial transaction and has morphed into some kind of hostage situation. And the stairs have disappeared again.

I had possessed some temporary stairs, which I had been using to travel from the ground floor to the first floor, and back again. They were to be replaced with more permanent ones, which would hopefully allow me to make that journey for years to come. This was to happen whilst I was away at my in-laws. But, of course, only the ripping out bit occurred, and I am now the owner of Norfolk's most inappropriate atrium.

Woe. Is. Me. As the kids say in America.

It is the 'sharing personal space' bit that is most distressing: I am a natural loner and like to keep myself to myself (nb if you have arrived here from the policeman blog this does not mean that I am a serial killer but if you want to send one of your horny honeytrap WPCs to check like you did with Colin then that is ok as it is important to eliminate me from your enquiries) (plus I have bought a spray from the internet that eliminates dna from sperm). When it comes down to it, I absolutely refuse to share my personal space, unless I have to go into a small space with some people.

Hence my Ebb.

It is a hard and fast rule here that we try to avoid anything approaching self-indulgence. But occasionally I must lapse, and this message has perhaps been the diary equivalent of an Arts Council-funded multimedia version of Jack Kerouac's On the Road performed in Gaelic to the crofters of Uid by blacked-up ex-members of Marillion. But the Internet marches on and march on with it we must; tomorrow I hope to be back with a vaguely amusing anecdote about a beard.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The lights go out!!!

I fumble my way to the bedroom window. It is not just the cottage – the whole village is pitch black. Even the street light is off.

“It’s a power cut,” I whisper, darkly.

The LTLP gives me a look (probably).

I crawl back into bed. Nothing happens, and continues to not happen for some time. We drift off to sleep.

There have been no developments by the morning. No lights, no heat, no freezer, no digital clock radio. Fortunately, although mains gas doesn’t run here, we have our own tanks and a gas hob.

I have a bright idea.

“I will take the Short Tonies a cup of tea,” I explain. “There is nothing worse than wanting a cup of tea if you can’t have a cup of tea. They will be really grateful.”

I am delighted with my neighbourly idea, and trot next door in the morning air.

“I just thought you might fancy a cup of tea,” I offer, goosely.

Short Tony does indeed fancy a cup of tea. In fact he looks extremely grateful for this. I win!!!

I scuttle back to the cottage to make tea. I realise that I have no milk. I have to return to Short Tony’s to borrow some milk. We are quits again.


Monday, September 18, 2006

"Here we go," I say, cheerfully handing over the bowl of delicious sloes.

Mrs Short Tony thanks me profusely. There is, after all, no more neighbourly act than giving people some sloes. If councils would only plant sloe trees on the estates then there would be less gun crime, especially in Birmingham. It stands to reason. But they will not plant sloe trees on the estates, due to 'health and safety'. It would save lives but they still will not do it. That is our so-called liberal government for you. It is political correctness gone mentally less able.

I go to return to the cottage, happy with my generous gesture.

"Hang on," calls Short Tony. "Do you want some apples?"

He begins picking apples. This is annoying. His goose shoot is coming up, and my hope was that by bringing him a bowl of delicious sloes then he will be in my debt and thus will have to give me a goose. Being given apples muddies that particular water.

I take the fruit with a magnanimous air. After all, I reason, the apple tree is on his property, and all he'd needed was to grab a long picky thing in order to get to them. I had had to walk at least half a mile, and it was a bit uphill and there was some dog shit. I am sure he will see that the debt is not remotely repaid.

Later there is a knock at the door!!!

It is Short Tony.

"Me and Len the Fish have just been out. I've brought something for you."

He hands over a big bowl of mussels and razor clams. I thank him politely. This is how things escalate. One minute you are offering people a bowl of sloes, the next minute you are insisting on your right to possess nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

We walk to the Village Pub and aggressively compete to buy each other pints of beer. But I am now several uranium rods down on the deal.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I telephone the Cheerful Builder.

There is some awkward small talk. I am not much good at small talk, and worry about this. I am constantly concerned that people will think me rude if I do not do small talk properly. A typical conversation of mine might go like this:

Person answering telephone: “Hello? Emer…”

Me (JonnyB): “Hullo!!! How are you these days?”

PaT (Person answering telephone (see above)): “Er – I’m quite well, thank you.”

Me: “Good." (Pauses for thought). "It’s absolutely chucking it down here in Norfolk – has been for hours.”

PaT: “Really?”

Me: “Yes – although they say it will clear up later.”

PaT: “Look – do you want fire, police or ambulance?”

Me: “Oh. Ambulance please. And fire.”

The Cheerful Builder engages in my small talk dutifully. But he knows very well why I have rung. I ask if he is generally free to do any building work in the near future. He hummms and hawwws and sounds generally regretful that he is busy until April 2035.

“Oh that’s a shame,” I hear myself saying. “I just thought I’d give you a call first – thought it would be fun working together again, you know – drinking coffee together… talking about music…”

I tail off. In a minute I will be asking him if we can still be friends, or if we can continue to sleep together with no commitment on either side. More small talk and the conversation is over. The lads on site continue their work; the project plods on like a glacier with depression.

Monday, September 11, 2006

I lost my temper.

It's fair to say that I am normally a placid sort of person. But I have been under great stress recently: I am living on a building site with an eight month-old baby and no proper facilities for watching television.

I gazed at the bricks. They were clearly the wrong bricks. I am not a bricklayer or other brick expert, but I know the difference between pink bricks and red bricks, and these are pink bricks and the rest of the wall is red bricks, and not only will they not match but I refuse to allow any wall on my property to be finished with effeminate materials.

At which point I rang the Methodical Builder and lost my temper. I screamed and shouted and used the objectionable f-word, then I used the objectionable f-word some more times, then called him a cunt before putting the phone down on him. Then I realised that I didn't feel that much better than before, so I called him again and used the objectional f-word several more times.

The Health Visitor appeared. It was the day of Baby Servalan's periodic checkup, where they establish whether she is living in a good home environment with stable parents. I used some more objectionable f-words and put the phone down again.

We walked through the kitchen past the official HM Gas Inspector, who was using words like 'unbelievable' and 'disgraceful' and taking photographs of the work done so far in order to send a report to the authorities. Short of three roadies for the Stereophonics appearing and starting to set up equipment in my back garden, it's safe to say that the day had reached a nadir.

We passed the baby inspection with flying colours. You clearly have to be living in a wet cardboard box next to a nuclear power plant with three drug dealers and Maxine Carr in order to get a negative report from these people. It is worrying. Had it been my decision I would have had her taken immediately into care.

Friday, September 08, 2006

“Weaaarrghhhhh!!!” concludes the Baby.

“She has been like this for days,” I explain to the LTLP. “Crying a lot and impossible to deal with. I think,” I reflect, drawing on all my medical knowledge, “that she might be teething.”

“Are you sure she’s not hungry?”

“Definitely not. She had a milk only earlier.”

The LTLP gives the Baby a milk. The Baby quietens and looks content. I am crestfallen. I have been in charge for only one week and I have almost killed her through malnutrition.

“We went to the Village Pub yesterday,” I offer, in my defence. “She had some of my chips.”

The conversation sort of peters out for a bit.

“Did you miss me, at all?” she asks finally.

“Of course I did!” I reply, stung by the question. “Did you bring me a present?”

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Lunchtime at the Village Pub.

I am in a particularly good mood, because a) it is lunchtime and b) I am in the Village Pub. For a moment I cast aside the raven-black shadow of my abandonment.

The Chipper Barman pours me a pint of Wherry, my usual beer of choice.

"Wherry!!!" I sing delightedly, in the manner of US pop star Ray Lamontagne. "Wherry wherry wherry wherry wherry."

There is stunned silence at my little joke - many people in the Village Pub are unaware that I am able to sing.

"I've been… serrrrrrrvved by a wooomannn," I continue. The Chipper Barman looks a bit pissed off at this, and slopes off to deal with another customer.

"Stop singing please," instructs Short Tony in a sharper tone than I would have thought necessary. He then starts recounting some minor anecdote of the 'you really had to be there' variety. These are never very satisfactory, so I turn to the newspaper instead.

Monday, September 04, 2006

I become a single parent.

In many ways is a shame that society has such double standards. It looks upon fathers who bring up their children alone as sort of loveable floppy-haired Hugh-Grant type chaps, making time in their busy schedule for outings to the cinema, football etc., whilst being endearingly shambolic at changing nappies, shopping for baby clothes and forgetting important school events (but turning up in the nick of time, just when the kid is starting to cry with disappointment).

Whereas single mothers are seen as little more than feckless public sector funded common prostitutes, wheeling their prams around council estates in between getting ASBOs and watching the Jeremy Kyle show.

I do not necessarily endorse this view. It is just the way it is. Some things will never change.

What is important is that people avoid saying things that might reinforce negative stereotypes.

Anyway, so the LTLP has decided to work abroad for a bit.

She claims that she will be back on Wednesday morning, but then she said she’d take up my cricket trousers and that was two years ago, so I see no reason why she should be trusted this time. Even as I write this she is probably waltzing into a new life like selfish feminist icon Shirley Valentine with some foreign man who does not wash enough. It is a tragedy, as there is a baby involved, but I have moved the kettle to where I originally wanted it and bought some things in Tesco that I am Not Normally Allowed, so perhaps it is for the best after all. I wish her well for the future.

Mrs Short Tony has been cooking me my tea; it is reassuring to know that there are still women in the world with a sense of responsibility.

I will attempt to keep my private secret diary updated as I settle in to my new routine. It will be difficult, as I am extremely busy with my responsibilities, but I see no reason why the LTLP should spoil your enjoyment of the internet, as well as my entire life and that of an innocent babe.

The baby lolls in her chair, a dummy in her mouth. I settle down to watch the Brazil/Argentina match.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A car pulls up outside the Village Pub.

“Isn’t that…?” wonders Short Tony, a look of recognition alighting on his face.

Being a person with a leading web log, I am well up on the modern media. “It is the man from ‘Vicar of Dibley’ who goes ‘no no no no yes,’” I confirm.

“It is!”

A celebrity!!! Visiting our humble Village Pub!!! The news spreads. A frisson runs through the bar. (I actually have no idea what a frisson is aside from the fact that one usually appears at times like this – I imagine it is small and scuttles, like a weasel). As the door opens, everybody adopts a forced nonchalance so as not to make our guest feel awkward. Some people have such a forced nonchalance that they rush up to him, presumably to ask if he is the man that goes ‘no no no no yes’ from ‘Vicar of Dibley’, just to make sure.

It seems unnecessary. I know there are people (like Michael Jackson the King of Pop) who have changed their face to look like other people (Liz Taylor), but I think it would be an unusual fetish indeed to repeatedly visit shady plastic surgeons in order to gradually reshape your features so that you look exactly like the man who goes ‘no no no no yes’ from ‘Vicar of Dibley’.

It is ascertained that he is indeed the man that goes ‘no no no no yes’ from ‘Vicar of Dibley’ and not an impostor. He stands, waylaid, at the door to the main bar.

“I’d really like to talk to him,” I whisper. “Just to check an anecdote. An old friend of mine always told this story that he was on jury service with him, and the other eleven elected him foreman just so that when the judge asked if…”

“Another pint?” interjects the Chipper Barman.

“Definitely,” I reply. In a low voice: “Do you see who that is?”

“It’s the bloke from the Vicar of Dibley. Who goes ‘no no no yes’. He was in here earlier.”

“Oh,” I say, a bit disappointed.

“I’ve got my camera phone,” whispers Short Tony. “Do you think I could get a picture without anybody noticing?”

We experiment with different techniques, pretending to take a picture of me but holding the phone the wrong way round, taking a photo of the big mirror at the end of the bar, etc. But we can’t get the angle. Short Tony puts his camera away in disappointment and frustration. The man who goes ‘no no no no yes’ from ‘Vicar of Dibley’ finally frees himself, and wanders through to the back of the Pub towards the restaurant.

Mrs Short Tony arrives in the bar, fresh from the Chinese Pub, our takeaway waiting in the car.

“But there’s a celebrity in here!” I protest.


Short Tony narrows his eyes and lowers his voice. “It’s… Cruise,” he hisses.

Mrs Short Tony is momentarily flustered and bewildered.

“Not really,” he reveals. “It is the bloke from ‘Vicar of Dibley’ who goes ‘no no no no yes.’”

“Come on home then. The food’s getting cold.”

Friday, August 25, 2006

“I’ve got a good idea for that doorway,” I muse.

The LTLP scrutinises me, adopting the expression that she uses to wither the ground elder. “I can already tell,” she drawls, “that this is going to be the most ridiculous thing that you’ve ever suggested in your life.”

I am stung by her barbed comment. “That’s a bit unfair,” I protest.

“Go on then. Tell me your good idea.”

The doorway into our bedroom is square and chunky, and only around five foot tall. In fact it’s less a doorway than an opening. It aspires to doorway status.

“I was thinking about the fact that I haven’t got a Scooby Doo bookcase any more,” I explain. (I used to have a bookcase that opened out on hinges to reveal a secret room beyond, like in the Scooby Doo cartoons. It was the best thing ever.) “So I was thinking…”


“Well, if I got some wardrobe doors, I could sort of build a wardrobe-looking thing in the doorway. But it wouldn’t really be a wardrobe. It would be our bedroom. So to get into our bedroom you would walk through the wardrobe.”

She gives a sharp intake of breath.

“Like in Narnia,” I add, by way of explanation.

“Then,” I continue, “when people came to stay and we showed them round, we could pretend that it is just a wardrobe. And when we went to bed they would think ‘why are they climbing into the wardrobe?’ and we would say ‘aha!’ and they would be amazed and astonished when they discovered there was a whole room beyond.”

“Like in Narnia,” I add, to fill the endless silence that follows.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Stealthily I let myself in to Short Tony's house.

As they are on holiday, it is my job to feed the rabbits, pick up the post, check for intruders etc. I have my own key and the run of the house!!! But I am trustworthy and do not abuse this privilege.

The kitchen has flooded!!!

It is a flood not just of biblical proportions, but of biblical proportions if you are thinking of a really big bible, say one in hardback with illustrations of the miracles, exoduses etc and perhaps large print for the bad eyesight people. I splotch across the tiles, very concerned.

Water is dripping through a light fitting in the ceiling.

This seems bad. I am not a qualified electrician, but I know that putting water with electricity makes it explode. I wonder what to do.

By rights, I should switch the electricity off. However this is not as simple as it sounds. For a start I would have to empty the freezer. Short Tony is going on a goose shoot next month, and my plan was to buy lots of cheap fish fingers in order to fill up his freezer so that when he got home with his haul, he would have nowhere to put it. He would then be forced to offer me a goose or, better still, geese. This would impress my mum and dad no end, whopping out a goose (or geese) for Christmas dinner.

Considering this, I decide that he will be unlikely to offer me a goose/geese if I allow this to override my electrical caution and his house subsequently burns down. At a later date I will have to think up some way of dropping hints that it would be good to have one if he has a spare.

I reach a compromise and switch the light off. For safety reasons I then tape a bit of paper across the switch and write 'DO NOT TURN ON' in large letters, adding as an afterthought 'By Order, New Orleans Police Department'. I then pull out my cell phone to call Short Tony.

Trying very hard to draw a balance between factual reportage and not being too alarming, I detail the situation. What I actually hear my mouth saying, however, is something like: "Your house is flooded and it's all really shit!!!" Short Tony, however, is relatively unperturbed.

"Don't worry. We're actually on our way home now. We'll be there very shortly."

This is unexpected. It is a good job that I have not dressed in Mrs Short Tony's clothes. I splotch upstairs to find the cause of the cataclysm. It is a small leaky tap, which I de-leak.

It feels good, being able to be a good neighbour. I do some token mopping up. The rabbit food is unaffected; I take supper to its recipients.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Continued from yesterday.

There is a scrunch of gravel!!!

I zip over to the previously-prepared camera. But it is only the Postman. I am glad I checked; I would not want to shoot the Postman in the goolies after all I have done to safeguard his job. He looks curiously at the video equipment but does not say anything non postal service-related.

I wait some more. By now I am tense.

I appear to be doing a lot of waiting. I think journalists are a bit less keen to harass Norfolk folk these days, after the Tony Martin affair. It is a bit like how they are always being public spirited and ‘exposing security lapses’ at royal parties etc., but never black up, stick some wires under a bulky jacket and vault the gates at Stockwell tube to see whether terrorist recognition techniques have improved.

There is a scrunch of gravel!!!

It is the Methodical Builder moving some plasterboard. I settle down again.

It suddenly occurs to me that it is now 2006 and the journalist might be a woman. If that is the case then I would have to shoot her in the foo foo. I am a bit old-fashioned and slightly uneasy about this. Shooting a lady reporter in the foo foo is not as funny as shooting a male reporter in the goolies, and I think the readers of ‘You Tube’ will probably not be impressed. I do not want comments like ‘WTF u shot this woman you sicko?’ Or: ‘dude u rock!!! i got tons of clips like this u wanna swap?’

I mull this over.

If it is a female reporter from the London media the likelihood is that she will be quite fit. The best thing would be to invite her in and then seduce her. She would then be exposed as a trollop, thus negating the entire angle of her story, especially if I could get her to do unusual stuff like doggy. This seems to be a good contingency plan.

I wait some more.

No reporters appear. Boooooo I am clearly not important enough to be doorstepped by the tabloids. A small part of me is disappointed, although frankly it is a very small part. The LTLP arrives home from work. I film her as she walks in.

Monday, August 21, 2006

I receive an alarming telephone call!!!

"There are photographers in my front garden," states an upset voice, "and reporters are harassing my family and badgering my friends for stories about me."


"I thought I'd better warn you. They might be on your case."


I replace the receiver, thoughtfully. (Actually there was a bit more conversation after this, but you get the gist.) I have always assumed that I would get drawn in to the Masturgate Affair to one extent or the other, but did not expect a crisis situation like this.

I have a bit of a ponder. Should I be doorstepped by the Daily Mail or Sunday Times then there may be unpleasantness. I think the Methodical Carpenter would be quite good in a scuffle, but he is still limping slightly and it would be unfair to involve him. I need a plan.

The kitchen window looks out down the drive onto the road, enabling me to easily spot an approaching tabloid reporter, who would give the game away with their London clothes.

An excellent idea occurs to me. I grab my video camera and set it up so it covers the doorway. Consequently, when I am doorstepped, I will be able to switch on the camera, establish that the journalist is from the Sunday Times or the Daily Mail and about to cause unpleasantness, then shoot them in the goolies with an air gun.

I can then send the resulting footage to the website 'You Tube', who will be bound to print it. There is nothing funnier than seeing a film of a man saying "hello I am from the Sunday Times/Daily Mail and our readers would very much like to know about - " and then getting shot in the goolies and hopping around shouting "ow ow ow! Fuck! You have shot me! In the goolies!" I will easily get loads of comments against it saying things like 'dude u rock!!!'

It seems an excellent plan, despite nagging doubts about subsequent implications of shooting people from major newspapers in the goolies.

I settle down to lie in wait.

Continued tomorrow…

Friday, August 18, 2006

One of the things about being disabled is that you want people to draw a balance.

You'd like to be treated exactly the same as everybody else - but obviously you also need people to make allowances when needed.

That was Granddad's view anyway (he had fewer than the usual amount of legs). Although on reflection he was really quite happy just with the 'making allowances' bit - demanding to be wheeled to the pub at opening time with instructions to pick him up on the sound of 'last orders'. He didn't even bother having one of those turquoise three-wheelers that disabled people used to use to get from A to B whilst flaunting their status.

But I thought of him - and more relevantly this balance of treatment - as I contemplated the pile of tiles. The LTLP and I had spent ages choosing a mix of subtle green hues, in order to create an intricate and tasteful pattern in the shower.

"What do you mean you're fucking colourblind???" I screamed at the Tiler, losing my rag like I've done with the other builders and thus treating him with the dignity and respect he deserved as a less abled person.

He shrugged. "I just can't distinguish some colours very well."

I grit my teeth and go through each box with him, explaining which is which.

The Methodical Builder has promised me that his men will be gone in three weeks. But, like space travel, he has promised so much. Conditions here are, in fact, a bit like on the Mir Space Station, and I feel it is time to get tough.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A tree blocks my path!!!

I pull the car over in excitement. The tree is not exactly blocking my path - it is just in the road a bit. But I have always been quite into this 'living in the countryside' thing, and spend my life convincing myself that I have the sort of rugged rural existence epitomised by fallen oak trees cutting me off from civilisation.

On closer examination, it is not quite a whole tree. It is a huge branch.

It seems a good idea to move it and clear the road. There might be a combine harvester along at any minute. The easiest way would be to quickly grab the chainsaw, lop off the thick trunky bit and chuck it in the back of the Land Rover.

I think about this carefully. The plan would be practical if I had a chainsaw, or a Land Rover. I could probably fit some of the wood in the car boot, but then I will not have room for much shopping when I get to Waitrose.

The only solution is to simply drag it on to the verge. Flushed with a 'doing my bit for society' rush, I grab the trunk with both hands. It is all wet and slimy. I give it a good heave. It is heavy.

About seven hours later another car comes along. I give the driver a winning 'I have only just started trying to move this tree and don't really need any help' smile. He gets out of his car and moves the tree. I thank him for his contribution.

Monday, August 14, 2006

"It's all right in here, isn't it?" said Micky.

Big A's cousin Micky was staying. Not being from Norfolk, we regarded him as a bit of a yokel and had debated where we should take him in order that he could get a tiny taste of life in the fast lane.

We had settled on the village pub.

"Is it normally this busy?" he asked, in a semi-shout. I looked around the bar. A massive party was in full swing, featuring the cream of Norfolk well-to-do society and a hog roast. I considered this against the usual sparse and scabby collection of foul-smelling regulars with whom (grammar) I normally mingle of an evening.

"Yes," I lied.

An enormous plate of grilled cheese and roasted vegetables arrived in front of him.

"What's this?" he asked in surprise.

"You said you were a vegetarian, so I got the guys to knock something up," explained the Chef.

"For me?"



Later on I was quite drunk, having enjoyed a long and expansive chat about historical buildings with Len the Fish's son. But I could still overhear the conversation between Micky and a lady at the bar, who was slurring at him in a posh drawl.

"Yes, because I'm bisexual you see. My thing is that I like taking other girls home with me and being watched. Would you like to come to a party at the weekend?"


We wandered home together after the second bell, Big A, Micky and I. The sound of car doors slamming, of people kissing goodbye, of the annoying yappy dog in the house opposite. Micky was strangely quiet.

Friday, August 11, 2006

I have grown a breast!!!

I have been bitten by something gnatty, in the left nipple area. Overnight it has sort of ballooned up in a wide circle and gone very red and glowy. This seems a bit worrying.

I do not usually react to insect bites. The LTLP knows about infections and stuff, so I ask her opinion.

“It had probably just trod in some shit or something,” she shrugs.

I will not ask her opinion again.

The lump is warm and smooth. I give it a bit of a feel. If I could capture another gnat and dip its feet in some shit (or recapture the first one as long as it had not washed its feet) then I could arrange for a bit more symmetry. But I might then have to start wearing the LTLP’s bras, especially the red soft one.

The best thing to do is probably to put some antihistamine on it. There are other creams etc, but the baby has antihistamines so they are free. I smear it on liberally.

The breast does not disappear, so I put on a bulky coat to go to the Village Shop. The baby looks at me hungrily.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

First there was an atmosphere.

Then a few short words. Looks. Then some vigorous chest-poking.

"Go fuck yourself." The words cut through the air.

I (one of several others) put my head down, ashamed at my cowardly unwillingness to get involved.

I discussed this and the subsequent events with Len the Fish in the Village Pub later on. "That wasn't the sort of thing I really expected," he mused, "when you persuaded me to take up playing bowls."

"I'm still not clear how it all kicked off," I shrugged.

Len the Fish launched in to a long explanation that didn't make things measurably clearer. His dog listened dutifully; beside me, Eddie perched on a stool, supped his beer and laughed.

Gaps appeared behind the bar, where the Well-Spoken Barman and the Unfeasibly Tall Barman used to stand. They had left during my absence from the village, like traitors and worms. The conversation moved on to the weekend's big village party, which I'd missed due to removal duties and not being entirely sure whether I was invited. Everybody had had a good time without me.

I wondered whether to stay for another pint. It seemed that I had been away for so long - eight months going on fifteen years. There were some faces in the bar that I did not recognise. New chairs and décor had appeared.

The pint appeared in front of me anyway, via the Chipper Barman's automatic pint system. Four more, and I was strolling down the road, gazing in wonder at the stars.

Past the memorial, past Eddie's and Tall Alf's, down towards the cottage, walking in the middle of the road because it's more fun that way. The air entered my lungs, like air should. I took it in with deep happy breaths.

Wherever you go in the world, there is never, ever, ever, anything better than being at home (unless you live somewhere really shit).

Monday, August 07, 2006

I have moved in!!!

Back to the cottage, back to the village. Back next door to Short Tony. Back to the rabbits, back to the village pub.

The lounge is still a building site, but I have a kitchen, bedrooms, an office and a toilet. Admittedly the office is up the road at the village pub and the toilet is next door at Short Tony's, but beggars can't be choosers. We have some stairs, which appear to have been constructed by Stan Laurel.

Many thanks for your patience over the past few days. Normal service shall be resumed ASAP, etc. Until then, if friends and readers could continue to be the subject of newspaper exposes, perhaps on a rota basis, then that will keep the sitemeter ticking over.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Methodical Carpenter sensationally returned!!!

"I wouldn't have left you in the lurch," he explained. "I'll finish off your job here then go my own way."

I was glad, and not just because his absence had threatened to make us homeless. Despite his spiky character, I liked the chap, and was fond of his carpentry. He buzzed away at his saw, only occasionally wincing at the electrical burns on his hands.

I left the site, all well with the world.

Less than twenty-four hours later Short Tony was on the phone to me.

"I thought you might like to know," he began, in that tone of voice that inevitably precedes information that one would like not to know, "there is an ambulance and a paramedic's car outside your cottage."

I knew who the casualty would be. My stomach experienced that horrible, desperate sinking feeling, like when you get out of the bath all beautifully clean and fresh ready for your date with sexy TV actress Zoe Telford only to realise that you really, really need a poo and it is likely to be a smeary one. I got in the car and sped over there.

The Methodical Carpenter had been hospitalised after a horrible testicular accident. He would not be returning to work.

Really homeless this time.

Monday, July 31, 2006

The M42 is a godawful place.

Let's face it, most motorways are. But at least some actually take you somewhere interesting. You know - London. Or Leeds. Or the junction with the road that goes to Norfolk.

The M42 just seems to go from motorway to motorway. Granted, you can use it to take you away from the Birmingham region, but it doesn't even do that very well what with all the congestion. It is utterly pointless in the big scheme of things. It has no interesting features and only exists because otherwise there would be a big white gap on the map. We edge along this Bedfordshire of motorways - Baby Servalan and I - stop, start, stop, start.

I spot a small gap to sneak into. Unfortunately, so does somebody else and there is almost a little bit of an accident. I pull back in time, the startled face of Michael Flatley, Lord of the Dance, gawking at me from the driver's seat of the other car.

"That is Michael Flatley, Lord of the Dance," I explain to Baby Servalan. "It is not often that you meet a major celebrity on the M42."

The black mercedes of Michael Flatley, Lord of the Dance, surges forward as the traffic eases slightly.

"We should follow him," I decide. "To make sure that he is not up to something."

I zip in to a space a few cars behind him, to the annoyance of a lorry driver who is presumably on the same mission.

The traffic slows slightly again, having reached that annoying stage where every single car is in the outside lane. Michael Flatley, Lord of the Dance, is now quite a way ahead. He is escaping!!!

I contemplate doing some overtaking on the inside in order to narrow the gap. Road safety concerns win out, and I hang back like in all the good cop shows, concentrating on maintaining my pursuit.

We all speed up. This stop/start method of driving probably suits the way his feet use the pedals. A couple of cars pull over into the middle lane, and now there is only one between us and Michael Flatley, Lord of the Dance. I can afford to ease off a bit now, his F14TLY number plate inadvertently signposting his identity from some distance.

We continue in this manner for some miles, Baby Servalan and I, and Michael Flatley, Lord of the Dance. I have to admit that he does not appear to be up to no good. But I maintain my vigilance.

He suddenly pulls off at the M40 junction. I continue on to the M5, cursing the fact that I do not have a CB radio and thus cannot appeal for lorry drivers to continue the chase. Michael Flatley, Lord of the Dance, disappears into the concrete distance, no doubt satisfied at having eluded me.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Temporary absence.

Attending my sister RonnieB's wedding.

Please talk amongst yourselves.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Methodical Carpenter's sensational resignation has hit me hard.

On the first floor of the cottage, work is almost finished. The painters are done, the shower is working and Carpetright have been engaged. It is a lovely first floor.

The ground floor is less complete, but still encouraging. A kitchen. A bathroom. One of those outside lights that goes on and off in the middle of the night when an ant wanders past.

So I am reasonably happy with the ground floor.

My issue, as far as I can establish, is getting from one floor to the other. This is an activity that, even with rationing myself, I am likely to want to do several times a day. Being unable to do so, I realise, makes the cottage unsustainable as living accommodation for a family with a young baby. And, having to move out of Narcoleptic Dave's fully stair-equipped cottage at the end of next week, it suddenly hits me that we will be homeless.


'Homeless'. It is not a word that I have ever really thought about. There is no such thing, I reflect, as 'The Homeless' - only 'People Without Homes'. And I appear to have joined their ranks. I have only ever really thought about homelessness in an abstract context: 'it's terrible the amount of homeless on the Strand. They quite spoilt my enjoyment of the opera.' But now…

'Homeless'. From the Latin 'Homus' (a place to live) and the Anglo-Saxon 'Less' (I have not got one). Homeless.

Homeless. There are many famous and successful homeless people I can take comfort from, like the lady in the van in the Alan Bennett story, and the Littlest Hobo, and Gary Glitter. Although thinking about it, the lady in the van did have a home (a van). But I admit I do not have the problems Gary Glitter has, what with glam rock being very out of fashion in the early twenty-first century.


Monday, July 24, 2006


A small block.


Some wedges.

I stood back, utterly alarmed. A confrontation between builders is a frightening experience. The Methodical Carpenter was clearly extremely upset and angry, and the wood was flying.

In front of me, the Methodical Builder tried vainly to calm things down.

"I'm taking my fucking tools!!!"

Crash!!! More wedges.

I did consider some form of intervention along the lines of: 'Excuse me? This is my cottage. Please stop throwing wood and shouting "fuck" in front of my baby. I'm sure if we all sit down, perhaps with a cup of tea, we can come to some form of amicable arrangement.'

'Or I will speak to the Syrians, and they will stop this shit'.

But my sense of self-preservation kicked in - the one that constantly prevents me from poking my penis into the food processor.

I'd walked in too late to see the first spark of the argument. But as far as I could work out, the Methodical Carpenter and the Methodical Electrician had been engaging in some form of simmering feud, which had reached a head the previous evening with the electrocution of the Methodical Carpenter. The Methodical Builder, whilst nominally in charge, appeared to have a totally ineffective set of HR policies and procedures to deal with this sort of event, and things had escalated.

Drawing myself up to my full height, and determined to take charge of the situation, I decided to quietly leave, after handing the Methodical Builder his usual cheque for thousands of pounds.

"Don't worry. It'll be sorted," he hissed, in a miserable voice that was almost Shakespearian in its unconvincingness.

I got in the car and drove off. The cottage is almost completed, anyway. Except the stairs, doors, cupboards, wooden floors, skirting boards and everything else remotely related to wood.

Friday, July 21, 2006

I travel to an Important Meeting.

Particularly good timing, I curse, as I wait on the platform for my underground train on the hottest day in the world, ever. It takes five minutes to arrive!!! Reeling from my tube hell misery, I step out into the streets of the big city.

As I have some extra time, I decide to have my hair cut. I have lived in Norfolk for some years now, and still have not quite managed to appoint a local barber with whom (grammar) I am comfortable. Instead, I tend to wait until I visit the big city, and then I go to the place to which I have always been, where the people do not scare me. This is not an ideal arrangement for one who wishes to remain at the cutting edge of style.

I wander down the road, a haystack perched atop my head.

I do not think that women realise how traumatic it is for a man to change barbers. Whilst women tend to choose a hairdresser for facile reasons (quality of hairdressing skills, mutual chemistry etc.), for a bloke the important factor is that they will not laugh at you when you walk in, will not suggest any other possible form of haircut than the one you have already and certainly - certainly - will not attempt any form of conversation whatsoever.

Plus mine employs girls with sort of jiggly breasts, which is also good, although not a factor in my continued enthusiasm in travelling over a hundred miles in order to get a simple wash and trim.

I sit and reflect, as her smooth and dextrous Slovakian fingers softly massage shampoo into my compliant scalp.

The situation is not sustainable, and I know it. I need to bite the bullet. Of strolling in through a shop door to find that the average age of the other customers is double mine. Of realising three minutes into a cut that I will be walking out of there with a basin cut and being able to do nothing about it. Of the conversation about holidays.

Of the conversation about holidays.

This troubles me for the rest of the day. I drop in to stay with my mum and dad on the way home. Being old people, they have the central heating on.

Monday, July 17, 2006

I promised to update people on the POST 8 Save the Post Office campaign.

It has been just over a year since it started, and valued commenter Ric Locke mentioned that he 'hadn't seen me make much of politics' via Haloscan a while back. But he was wrong!!! The Village Post Office has not closed!!! What's more, Mr Blair and Mr Crozier haven't even mentioned that they were thinking of closing it.

This is a famous victory for us political bloggers. It was an issue that was not even touched by the so-called 'MSM Media' who cosy up to politicians from the Parish Council upwards via the discredited lobby system, existing in a mutual interdependency that is unsustainable in the internet age. Meanwhile, a handful of influential bloggers such as myself have developed a new communications paradigm, bypassing the timidity of the institutionalised and biased print and broadcast media.

Oh Andrew Neil, Neil, Orange Peel!!!

I am therefore very pleased to announce that the campaign, and JonnyB's Private Secret Diary, has been officially endorsed by the UK Independence Party (scroll down to the foot of the page).

This official endorsement by a major political party is excellent news, and can only help in the quest to draw attention to the impact on our communities of the politicians' sinister plans.

(Link via Claire)

Friday, July 14, 2006

"When did you say you're moving back to the cottage?"

"Hopefully the end of the month."

"Well I'm going to break your windows," he hissed. "And then I'm going to park my caravan across your drive, so you can't ever return."

I threw a consoling arm around his shoulder.

"Hard lines, Wallace," I said. "You had some bad luck there."

Thursday, July 13, 2006

"Well, well, well."

It had been a year since we first challenged Wallace to a game of bowls.

At Mrs Big A's birthday party. We had been drinking. He had scoffed at our taking-up-bowling status. "You?!? Get out of here! You'd be rubbish!"

So we had challenged him. To a duel, like they did in the olden days (but with bowls).

It had seemed like a good idea at the time. We mocked each other, drinking further. And as we both left the party we were pointing at each other: 'you wait!!!'

Wallace is very, very, extremely good at bowls. He plays most days, for many of the local clubs. But we would teach him a lesson and beat him to within an inch of his life (with bowls).

Plans hatched over a lot to drink tend to go one of two ways. Either they get completely forgotten and never mentioned again, or they sort of take on a life of their own in an alarming sort of way, and the next thing you're doing is waking up on the Aberdeen sleeper/arranging to set up a windsurfing school in Finland with two mates from school/setting up a national register of ID cards, etc.

Our plan kind of fell between these two stools. So actually plans hatched over a lot to drink tend to go one of three ways. Three. Nobody forgot about it. There was a lot of banter over the garden hedge. This banter tended to consist of Wallace saying 'so come on then, when are you going to arrange this match then, boys?' and Short Tony or I saying 'oh yes, soon, definitely soon, we will arrange it, oh yes, we are not scared of you, nono.' And soon it got to a point when I was disguising myself in women's clothes and wearing a bag over my head every time I walked past his house just in case he jumped out with a date and a venue all arranged.

But then the challenge was gradually forgotten, as happens.

"Well, well, well," repeated Wallace. "Fancy you playing for this lot."

I cursed Short Tony and his allegedly sore toe. I ought to have twigged that you can still play bowls with a sore toe. He must have received insider information. Sure enough, he had been drawn against Wallace. So I, as his replacement, had my fate sealed.

What goes around comes around. I trudged on to the green knowing that I was going to be stuffed, humiliated; I was going to be ground into the ground; I would get a good kicking; dogshite was going to be rubbed into my face and my pants were going to be pulled up into my arse crack.

But with bowls.