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.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

"The thing is," explains Short Tony, "that I have injured my toe. I can hardly walk."

I make sympathetic noises at him, down the telephone. "Ahhhhhh; ohhhhh."

"Another time, maybe," he offers.

I have a different idea. "Do you fancy a game of tennis?" I ask.


This is disappointing. Short Tony usually beats me at tennis, but I am feeling particularly fit and lively this morning. It is a shame that he sees fit to bottle my challenge.

We discuss his injury. To my disgust as a sportsman it is not a hairline fracture of the metatarsal, but a small amount of mankiness exacerbated by wearing deck shoes dipped in Norfolk Broad all weekend.

"Or gout," says Short Tony. "Apparently it's a bit like the first signs of gout."

I reassure him that gout traditionally affects only old men who play bowls, are a bit overweight and unfit, and eat and drink too much.

"Speaking of which, you couldn't fill in for me tonight?"

I agree to take his place in the bowls team. I make more sympathetic noises, and we ring off. He hobbles away from the telephone in a comical fashion. (NB I do not actually see this as I am at the other end of the line but it probably happened, it is called writers' license, or something).

Later on, I park at the pub next to the bowling green. His block will be very pleased to have an excellent substitute. Grabbing my things from the boot, I hear a familiar voice from the car opposite mine.

"Hullo. What are you doing here?!?"

Wallace emerges from the driver's seat!!!

Monday, July 10, 2006

We go for a walk!!!

Leaving the car the abandoned side of parked, we head off down the grassy track, towards the large metal gate and the downs. Pushing the three-wheeled baby buggy, I pretend that I am driving a rally car. I do not tell the LTLP this.

We encounter a grey-haired lady at the gate. A scrawny dog scampers by her side; we let them through the gap before us.

"Beautiful day, isn't it?" I say.

"Oh, it's wonderful isn't it?" she replies.

"Bit of a black cloud up ahead though," I caution.

She heads off into the distance, our conversation about the weather complete. Below me, sat in her imaginary Audi Quattro, I know the baby is absorbing this. Soon she will be able to make pleasantries about the weather also, and thus be admitted into English Society.

Further up the path, a couple cycle tentatively towards us. On our right, a small field is enclosed within a wire fence. Its grass is a deep, deep green - lush - almost artificially so in comparison with the rest of the meadowland. I feel that I ought to say something about it. It is truly remarkable.

"Lovely day," I remark.

"Beautiful!" replies one of the cyclists.

I do not mention the grass. It would be somehow wrong. They would consider me odd. We walk on.

Round the corner, some cows are meandering around a hilly bit. There are probably only six or seven - a herdlet - mooching the day away on grass. They are, I realise, perfect cows. Spotless, friendly-looking and black-and-white, they are the epitome of cow. If you were commissioned to photograph a cover shot for the front page of 'Cow World' then you would come here and select one of these ones. Pristine cows. Hollywood cows.

"Lovely and sunny now, isn't it?" I remark to the middle-aged couple who pass us at this point. I do not mention the cows. If I start talking about perfect cows, they will probably call the police. Best stick with weather. That is what We Do.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The doctor stares at his screen in some bafflement. "Have you any idea what to press?" he asks.

I do not. Neither does the baby. "I'll get my secretary," he mutters.

I am impressed by this. I had no idea doctors had secretaries. A lady materialises and clicks a few links.

"Good oh. Right. Yes - I remember this bit. Now. Prepare yourself for patient choice. Would you like a hospital: down the road in King's Lynn; over in Peterborough; down in Suffolk - Bury St Edmonds; or a nice trip to Norwich?"

He pauses. "It wasn't really designed for areas like this, was it?"

"I think I'll have… down the road in King's Lynn," I informedly choose.

"No no no," he scolds. The next thing you say is: 'which one would you recommend, doctor?' That's what everybody says."

"Ah. Which one would you recommend?"

"Down the road in King's Lynn, of course. You'd have to be bloody mad to go to any of the others."


The secretary does some more IT work. Truly she is earning her salary. A extensive list of an appointment date appears.

"One appointment available all year. October. That's nonsense. I'll ring them up - they'll be able to see you next week."

This seems a far happier arrangement for all concerned. "I haven't actually got my diary with me though," I confess.

The doctor raises his eyebrows. "Like you have much to do during the day."

I resolve to report him to the General Medical Council for his insolence. The secretary arranges an appointment. We leave the surgery to buy fish.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Continued from yesterday

Staring at me from beneath the sheet and within a cracked frame smothered in dust and what looked like mouse droppings: a watercolour painting of Fred Trueman's cricket boots, signed by Fred Trueman.

I'd forgotten I had it; hadn't seen it for years. And I'd just come from the Village Shop, in which I'd purchased a newspaper, the front page announcing that Fred Trueman had just died.

This seemed like a bit of a coincidence.

The picture had been stashed away since - well - the turn of the century, I guess. Nothing against Fred Trueman or Fred Trueman's boots, but I'd never really fancied the thing on my wall. There are houses in which I'm sure it would sit excellently with the décor, but I've always been a bit conservative-English in my taste in art - Constable, Lowry, girl tennis players scratching their arses, etc. Pictures of cricket boots would come a reasonable way down my personal list, just above male nudes and crayon drawings by other people's children. So I'd stuck it in the loft and forgotten about it.

Yet here it was, having reappeared on the day Fred Trueman's death was announced.

(Incidentally, for those readers not from England or the colonies, I should explain that Fred Trueman was sort of the Abi Titmus of the game of cricket, having the undeserved misfortune to be known by many not for his achievements in the early years but for subsequent loud moaning onscreen.)

I replaced my painting thoughtfully. If I am going to have spooky haunted coincidentally-appearing Fred Trueman boot paintings then I would rather just leave them be than start prodding about with them.

I do not want lots of alien Fred Truemans appearing from the divide in order to go on about how our fast bowlers aren't as good as those in their dimension.

Monday, July 03, 2006

I inspect my building work.

I tend to do this at the weekends, when the builders are not there. If I go during the week, I have to be complimentary about bits of carpentry, plumbing work etc., whereas at weekends I have a bit more leeway to drop to my knees in horror and let out long, long primal screams of rage and despair.

This time, I am particularly worried about the radiators. Some of the pipes have not yet been connected. I have been watching a lot of Doctor Who recently, and I am worried about things crossing over from the divide. This seems to happen quite a lot, almost every week in fact, and regardless of whatever bad economic or social situation there is on the other side, I would prefer the things to stay there and tough it out rather than using my pipework to flood in to this world.

There is no evidence that this has happened so far. But I will talk to the plumber. You cannot be too careful. We cannot afford to send out the message that this dimension is an easy touch.

In the lounge there is a pile of my stuff, heaped underneath the most ineffectual dust-sheet in the world (and probably in other worlds as well. I do not know. I am too courteous to spend my life migrating between dimensions). I originated this pile, stacking it with the heavy things at the bottom; it has been moved several times since. Looking for a particular light fitting I need, I remove the covers and rootle around.

I find something I haven't seen for some time.

Continued tomorrow.