Saturday, October 13, 2007

JonnyB’s private secret diary has moved.

The new URL is

Please update your links accordingly.

Thanks, and enjoy.

Posts are archived both here and on the new domain. Posts archived here have been stuffed around with quite a bit. So going to the new domain is probably best.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Boos ring out around the Village Pub.

“What...? What...?” I ask crossly. “That is what it says here. ‘What is the largest port in Basra? Iraq. I am merely reading what it says on the sheet.”

“Basra is in Iraq!”

“Yes but for all I know, Basra could also be some – some historic regional area or something. For which Iraq is the chief port. Like in... er well there is ‘Washington’ the state and ‘Washington’ the city. And the place on Tyneside,” I add, helpfully.

There is more booing. Neil, who is wearing a suit and has therefore been drafted in to help me read the quiz, suggests we skip this question. I gesture frantically to the Foxy Barmaid for another free pint of beer. We move to a controversy about chromosomes.

“There are twenty-three pairs,” I insist. “It says so on the sheet.”

“Thirty two!”

“There are not thirty-two. I mean – I know you’re from Norfolk...”

“We’ll accept thirty-two,” concedes Neil. He is weak. The LTLP and Mrs Short Tony, who also does science, glare at us. I realise that I have drunk half of my free pint already. I wave at the Foxy Barmaid to be ready for the next one.

The next question is in French. This throws me a bit. The following one is in Italian, which I am more comfortable with as it is ‘names of pizzas’. I place my empty glass under the pump in order to be helpful.

“Thanks for your help tonight,” the Well-Spoken Barman offers at the end. I reply that I enjoyed it very much but would perhaps not want to do it every time. Somebody approaches me to play the banjo at the Church Fete next year. I might win some lawn bowls equipment".

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The door closes with a satisfying ‘thud’.

Set in to the eighteen-inch stone wall of the cottage, the safe is my insurance against the lawlessness of the modern world. We do not have a Bank in the Village, so I use my safe to store important documents, etc., such as the questions for tonight’s pub quiz.

I am the questionmaster!!! I have been especially selected from all the villagers for my natural authority and diction, plus the fact that I was quite drunk when the Well-Spoken Barman asked for volunteers. I have been thinking for a while that I should maybe do some community work, and this, coupled with being secretary of the snooker club, fits the bill nicely.

One of the problems with our modern society (apart from the lawlessness (see above)) is the fact that people do not care about their community. It is difficult to get volunteers, and when people do put their hands up it tends to be for the ‘glamour’ jobs like working with disabled children. Doing the pub quiz gets overlooked and what’s more I do not even get paid for it apart from in free beer all night.

I cannot deny that I am nervous however. I have not really been involved in a major quiz since the Nicholas Parsons debacle.

There is a knock at the door!!! It is Mrs Short Tony, visiting on a pretext.

“Have you got the questions yet?” she asks, her eyes darting around the kitchen. I know her game.

Monday, October 08, 2007

I tidy the house.

The LTLP and Toddler have been away for a few days in order to allow me to both catch up with some sleep and to get some work done. Clearly I have not done either of these things, having mainly been either playing snooker at my exclusive Snooker Club, watching the rugby at the Village Pub, or helping my friend Hetti with her Holiday Cottage Norfolk website.

There is a single portion left from yesterday’s continuing-economic-crisis meal. This time I had scraped all the mouldering stuff from the back of the fridge into a large pot, added some sausages and a packet sauce mix left over from the days when I used packet sauce mixes (best before date: March 2005, which I guess dates it two or three years earlier).

I slop the leftovers into a carton and ponder a bit before taking a felt-tip pen, scribbling ‘Casserole of Last Resort’ on the lid and chucking the whole thing in the freezer.

Truth be told, I have found the last few days on my own to be immensely fun and relaxing. I worry that this makes me a Bad Person (even more so than murdering those children). But sometimes a man needs a bit of a break from responsibilities. It has been good to be master of my own life for three days at least. It has recharged me; made me strong again.

Obviously now I need to tidy up, otherwise she will shout at me.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Cop-out Friday Post

Boooooooo... I have a horrible cold and nobody in the world is feeling worse than me. Plus I am still totally broke, and our cleaner has had to go down to three hours a week. It is Dickensian. It is worse than being one of those complaining monks in Burma.

The 'About' and 'FAQ' sections on here are looking a bit tired. I have a plan to rewrite them!!! But what should I say/answer? Please leave suggestions in the comments box. I will be grateful.

Monday, October 01, 2007

“Psssstitssasselebrity!!!” I hiss.


“Ssslebrity!!! Over there!!!” I whisper furiously.

“What celebrity?!?” replies the LTLP in a loud voice.

I make ‘keep your voice down’ gestures. Being quite at home in the world of celebrities, I am quite blasé by the famous people thing, whereas the LTLP, being a civilian, does not really know how to behave. I do not want her to embarrass herself. It would be like her, in her capacity as a renowned scientist, introducing me to one of her molecules or whatever. I would try not to be overly gushing.

TV’s Richard Park steps out of his car and gazes around the car park, no doubt looking for somebody to criticise.

I jerk my head everso gently towards TV’s Richard Park, but not so much as I look like an idiot who is impressed by meeting celebrities. Nobody approaches him, so he strides out towards the shops presumably in hope of some really bad customer service.

We do not follow him. He is just a person like you or I. I would not even bother writing about him if I did not know that you would be interested.

We wander off to buy chips. He is not in the chip shop. I expect he brought his own packed lunch. They do that sort of thing, you know.

Friday, September 28, 2007

“I guess that’s what love really is,” I ponder.

Ice forms on the telephone wire.

“So,” replies the LTLP in the calm voice that she uses to kill the ants, “getting up at two ay em to come and comfort you because you’re sitting on the toilet crying; getting up at five ay em because the Toddler is wide awake and won’t go back to sleep; taking the morning off work to take the Toddler to nursery because you’re still too pissed to drive. That is what love really is?”

Under the surface I detect a small undercurrent that implies that I am in the Dogghouse. It is not a place that I have ever found particularly comfortable. I try to think of something to say.

“I guess that it would be tactful not to go to the Village Pub tonight?” I come up with.

There is a long pause. I am not sure whether it has yet ended.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

This economising is getting me down.

We are totally broke. “I’ve tried to cut out absolutely everything but the bare, bare essentials,” I explain to Short Tony in the Village Pub. “But it’s just not working.”

One problem is the unexpected things that happen each day. Example: I decided that I would make a nourishing risotto with all the manky things left in the fridge that would otherwise be thrown away. I created a stock from an old chicken carcass (net saving: one stock cube) and we had a delicious yet economical dinner. Unfortunately, at the same time, the LTLP managed to leave the cordless phone outside in a rain storm.

Daily saving: 1 stock cube – price of 1 new telephone = (insert negative amount in here).

I picked it up from the lawn. There is a convention in cartoons whereby if somebody falls into a river, they emerge onto the bank, take their shoes off and pour a gallon of water out. They then pluck a fish from their ear. The telephone was a bit like that. I tried to look on the bright side; our phone bill will be less next month. I did not shout at her much in case she suggested that I got a proper job.

Short Tony is sympathetic. His garden renovation plans have turned into a government IT project and I suspect that we are in the same boat, viz the third-class compartment of the one heading towards the iceberg carrying a cargo of live angry sharks and some industrial magnesium.

We have a short and hopeless conversation about where all the money went, before ordering another pint.

Friday, September 21, 2007

I watch the Cricket Tournament.

Grudgingly, I admit that the new Ronald McDonald version of the game is very exciting. But mainly I am excited because I am sticking it to the man!!! Evil Rupert Murdoch has not noticed that it is being shown for free on the muslim Sky Channel 815 so you don’t need to pay him a penny!!!

Each day I watch the first game at 9am. Then I have a bit of a break before watching the second. By the time the third match is on, I am not just sticking it to the Man but I am pulling moonies at him and making fun of his cock.

They are the Sky pictures, but the commentary is in Urdu (I think), which makes it even more exciting. Admittedly the coverage is still branded all over the place with the station’s Evil Corporate Sponsor, but I do quite like Chicken Cottage although there are not many of them near the Village.

I sit in happiness in front of the TV. Imran Nazir from Pakistan misses his shot and gets hit in the knackers. I do not wish Imran Nazir any ill-will at all, but any cricketer will tell you that seeing somebody get hit in the knackers provides a huge internal conflict of horror and schoolboy joy. That is not just me being immature. I am not immature and anybody who says so is a poobum.

They show him being hit in the knackers in slow motion, then they show him being hit in the knackers from three or four other camera positions. I feel a bit sorry for the fielders. They know that they are on TV and have to remain poker-faced. ‘Hawkeye’ then demonstrates the path of the ball from the bowler’s hand into the batsman’s knackers. Imran Nazir decides to retire hurt and let another batsman have a go.

We cut to a commercial break. There are more images of fried chicken. I make myself a cup of tea.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

“Have you not seen them?!?” I enquire innocently.

Eddie follows my glance across to the saloon bar. His jaw drops, like Mr Bojangles’s dog. Beside him, Len the Fish looks up from his pint in astonishment.

“Bloody hell…” gasps Eddie.

“Quite – striking, I thought,” I say.

A couple of the other regulars notice and join in. The Well-Spoken Barman pushes past us to get to the gap in the bar. He has the leave-me-alone air of a man who has been defending haberdashery all day. We tactfully wait until he is serving other customers before resuming our discussion.

“There’s re-upholstery. And there’s re-upholstery.”

The glow from the fluorescent pink now seems to fill the room, transfixing and hypnotising all who behold it.

“It’s like… it’s like we’re in a Gay Bar…”

“No,” I correct him. “It’s like we’re in a heterosexual notion of what a gay bar might look like.”

They nod at my sage wisdom.

“Actually, most of the gay bars that I have ever been in have been horrible dives.”

“What we should do is get one of the barstools covered in that material. Then we can play forfeit games as to who has to sit on it.”

“Did you see the UFO the other day?”

“No. But I’m sure there are aliens out there somewhere,” insists Eddie. “Somewhere.”

The chairs are forgotten. We talk about extra-terrestrials for some time.

Monday, September 17, 2007

I pot the straight pink.

My opponent graciously shakes my hand; his team mates point and jeer and roll around laughing at the somewhat unexpected result. I do what I have been dying to do for the entire frame – I rush for the toilet like a charging werbeniuk.

Throwing open the door to the main part of the club I am greeted by a startling sight.

We are being raided by the police!!!

Two policewomen stand in the hallway. I screech to a halt in shock. There is a short pause whilst I work out what to say.

“Hullo,” I decide upon. “I didn’t see you come in?”

“No,” replies one of the uniformed ladies. “We sneaked in through the back entrance.”

I am one of those people who only ever thinks of funny things to say after the event. Witty rejoinders just aren’t my thing. Unfortunately, my brain picks this time, this one time, to start experimenting with this particular talent. I wish it wouldn’t do things like this.

“Ah. I’m always trying that but my other half isn’t having any of it.”

There is a long and rather pointed silence, like I’ve just been introduced to the Lubbocks at a dinner party and absent-mindedly greeted them with a cheery ‘Awright!’

“Is the owner in, please?”

Thursday, September 13, 2007

“Let me show you round the offices.”

I am thrown by this. I have psyched myself up like a hungry tiger, albeit a hungry tiger that is resigned to having to put together a short pitch and credentials demonstration in order to be awarded some freshly-dead gazelle. But my psyching-peak has arrived too soon!!! I have to look at some offices first.

Things have gone a bit pear-shaped on the money front recently, according to the LTLP who looks after those sorts of things. This has entailed some economising. She arrived home yesterday with some supermarket own-brand Weetabix, and if that is not Hogarthian degradation then I don’t know what is. Therefore I have made the reluctant decision that I should try to get a bit more work, ie some work.

I have not been into the capital city for a while. The last time, I had to go to Goodge Street, the BBC3 of underground stations, then on to Camden Town which put me off somewhat as it is full of the most awful people that there can possibly be, viz people who think that they have a sense of humour and have set up a business creating t-shirts with witty slogans. There is no justice when the good people of Basra are being exploded to death whereas the people who create ‘Adidhash’ t-shirts are left to ply their trade unmolested. But there is no oil in Camden Town eh, George?

I am shown an office. I always used to show people the offices when I had an office to show people (my private secret office in the garden shed does not count). It seemed like the polite thing to do. I had no idea that it was so intimidating an act. I examine the office, carefully.

“It’s very nice,” I comment.

My host whisks me through to another office. “Here is another office,” she announces. “And here are some people!”

I give a weak wave to the people, who are almost exclusively foxy-looking girls, although it does not seem appropriate to mention this at the time just in case it is some kind of honey trap arranged by the LTLP with all the money I thought we had. There is an everso short pause.

“Hullo,” I say, brightly.

We stand in the office, with the people. I look round, trying to think of what else to add. There are some shelves on the wall. They are good shelves, all level and not bowing in the middle. I wonder whether I should compliment them on their shelves but I decide against it. They would not have put the shelves up themselves. Their hands are too dainty.

Just as I am wondering whether to pipe up a conversation about photocopying, we move on to the next room. “And here,” I am told very proudly, “is my desk. Where I sit.”

It is a smashing desk, and there is indeed a chair planted underneath it, which backs up her story.

“Right – shall we get on then?” asks my host. I realise that my tigerness has all but dissipated. It is a trick of an Evil Corporation to do this; I have forgotten all the things that I meant to say and all my initial suave and go-getting impact has been lost.

I emerge later, with no gazelle.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

I lay some turf.

Short Tony has over-ordered; I had promised to buy the extra rolls from him. In the end there are just six. He gives them to me cheerfully.

“I’ll do that if you want,” offers the Industrious Builder. I turn him down politely. I am currently as broke as broke could possibly be and anyway it is always good to learn new skills. Having watched him turfing away, it seems a fairly simple task.

The LTLP returns just as I am finishing. Her eyes boggle as she sees the front lawn, and I can see that she is trying not to laugh. I give her a ‘this isn’t as easy as it looks’ look and she wisely shuts up.

When she has disappeared indoors, I take a step back and try to be honest with myself.

It is true that I am no stranger to performing jobs with ineptitude. I am inept at many things, and have occasionally made an art form out of it. In fact, I was briefly a consultant to the National Inept Society – they used to write to me for professional advice occasionally but unfortunately their communications never arrived (apparently they had the wrong email address). This particular job, I have to reluctantly admit, is near the top of the scale. It is truly inept. Fabulously inept.

The cuts are wonky and amateurish. There are still huge bare patches. The turfs meander up and down and up again, and whilst you could not quite drive a combine harvester through the gaps between them, a John Deere 8330 225-horsepower tractor would just about fit. I snarl at the grass in frustration, before turning the hose on it.

Booooooooo, I am useless at everything. Everything that there is, I am useless at. I gaze across the front garden one last time, open to the mockery of the Village, then stomp inside to make myself a cup of tea. It has brown scum on it.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Continued from Tuesday

The crowd appears to have grown larger. I suspect that people are reproducing at the back. That is what they do at festivals, after all. Big A is there with his family, and Eddie & Eddie – big fans of Eric’s from the previous year, and Medium-sized John, Len the Fish and the LTLP, along with loads of faces that I recognise from the Village Pub, Fish Shop etc. We weave to a sparser area, where I am introduced to a Man with a Moustache, who plays the keyboards, and a set list.

“Eric can’t make it,” informs Glen. “So we’re going to have to make do.”

“Fg?!?” I reply, with characteristic understatement.

“Probably best to just follow me on the bass.”

Ten seconds later I have him in a head lock and am smashing his face against some paving slabs screaming “other guitarists!!! There must be other guitarists here!!!”

There are no other guitarists. Nor, it transpires, is there a bloke from the Archers, player of banjos or no.

From the stage, onto which I have sleepwalked, I look out upon faces. There are faces everywhere. Faces. Faces. Some people seem to have at least eight or nine of them, all looking at me personally. There is an awful hush.

“What shall we start with, then?” says a voice.

The thing that people do not realise about guitar playing is that there is guitar playing and guitar playing, and the sort of guitar playing that I do is not the sort of guitar playing that is called for by the set list, which is full of guitar players’ songs. I would be quite happy to do some Leonard Cohen or Jake Thackray, or ‘I Will Walk 500 Miles’ or the complete works of Fairport Convention or whatever, but screaming rock soloing is just Not My Thing.

I suggest that I play some Leonard Cohen. There is dissent within the band.

“This one,” suggests the Chipper Barman, pointing out a screaming rock soloing thing. “It’s in G.”

I point out that if he’d handed me a clarinet and asked me to perform the Mozart Clarinet Concerto in A major then the helpful key-hint that Mozart dropped into the title of his piece would still not give me much of a head start in its performance.

Sometimes people talk about a dream in which they find themselves naked on a theatre stage in front of an audience of 2000 people. The current moment is very much like this, aside from the fact that there are 6000 people in this dream’s auditorium, and I am not entirely naked as I am sporting a bra and women’s shoes.

Behind me, giant video screens have been erected to project secretly-obtained footage of me frowning in concentration as I very carefully and methodically masturbate a hen.

My mother sits stony-faced in the front row.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Ray holds a music festival every year.

It is a barbecue really, although it is a bit like a music festival as there is a band, most of the Village turn up and there is only one toilet. I have not actually been before, due to prior engagements, but he is keen for me to be part of it as we sit and chat in the Village Pub.

The concept is simple. Ray is friends with a guitar player who is extremely well-renowned in the world of guitar playing. Knowing every song that has ever been written, ever, Eric (as I will call him (although his name is not really Eric (although this could be an elaborate double-bluff))) plays whatever people want to hear with incredible virtuosity, holding the whole thing together whilst other people who can play an instrument join in with whatever they can. It has worked really well for the past few years – you regularly hear people talking about when they saw Eric play.

I am always a bit doubtful about playing in public, even though I did once play a gig supporting the Sultans of Ping FC, so I have seen a slice of the big time in the past. But I am keen to play with Eric, and there will be beer there, and food supplied by Len the Fish. An additional attraction of this year’s event will be a bloke from the Archers who plays the banjo.

“I’ve not really played for ages and ages,” I explain cautiously.

Ray waves away my fears and buys me another pint of Woodfordes Doubtremover. I am comforted by this, and the next one, and the ones after that and soon we are going into a detailed plan of what we are going to do musically: mainly throw in a few odd notes and let Eric do the rest. Perhaps we will also incorporate some anecdotes from the man from the Archers who plays the banjo. Our options are endless.

Some weeks later, I am looking at a big crowd of people.

From the side, I can see my guitar propped up amongst lots of other gear in the makeshift stage/gazebo arrangement. At the back, the drummer of a major-label-signed band is fiddling with his snare. There is a sort of joyous air of expectation amongst the crowd.

Ray taps me on the shoulder.

“I need a quick word?” he says.

To be continued…

Monday, September 03, 2007

The mothership settles over Roger’s house.

I stagger sweatily into the bedroom, and hiss furiously at the LTLP. She raises her head from under the duvet, groggily.

“What time is it?!?” she whispers.

“There is a UFO!!!” I tell her. “Over Roger’s house!!!”

I rush to the window and open the curtains a tiny crack, beckoning her over. She gives me a look, as if I have just returned from a fishing expedition, pulled out a wet canvas bag, and started flinging perch.


She makes the three-foot journey from bed to window, using up all the adjectives that are synonymous with ‘grumpily’ and ‘sceptically’ in the process.


It might have been Nigel who first spotted the mothership, or perhaps Mrs Big A. Either way, we had watched from the Village Pub in wonder and amazement. Rotating over towards the Estate, it was circular, several metres across, and glowed against the clouds exactly like one of those projecting circular rotating spotlights that they use to illuminate the sky at events. The fact that it was so well disguised as one of these was vaguely terrifying, but we were happy to watch whilst it was in the distance.

A couple of pints later and I had left suddenly. Not having had any dinner, there was a certain amount of nausea building up, and I felt like a walk home. But the mothership had moved!!! It seemed to be the other side of the church now. I bravely took a detour onto the pitch-black playing field in order to try to see more, but retreated quickly for fear of alien anal probe.

“Yes,” she says. “I wonder where that’s coming from?”

“WasoverestatemovedtobehindchurchanalprobenowatRoger’s,” I gibber, getting worked up again. She pats my back to calm me. “Come to bed?”

“Wait,” I order, taking control of the situation once more. I scoot down the stairs and lock the front door, trying the handle several times to ensure that the five-lever lock will keep out anything but the most advanced technology. I check the sleeping Toddler – she is still there. I retreat to bed, and pull the duvet up around me.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

“No,” I insist. “Absolutely not.”

If one is going to spend one’s Bank Holiday at the Village Children’s Sports Day rather than, say, to pick somewhere completely and utterly at random, the Pub, it would seem reasonable to have some right of veto over the Parents’ Race. As it is, people are urging me to participate. I have built a successful and fulfilling life on the basis of not participating in anything, and I have no wish to start now.

Fortunately I grew out of being susceptible to peer-pressure some years ago.

“Watch it... it can get quite competitive out there,” calls Mrs Short Tony as I trudge sulkily to the starting line. She is perceptive. There has certainly been a smattering of shouting and adrenaline-fuelled dads on the sidelines during the ‘4-7 year old’ category. I resolve that I will stand my ground and not be intimidated by these people. I even make a couple of humorous remarks to a couple of the other competitors as the starter lines us up.

Three minutes later, I am being helped off the floor by the Chipper Barman. “I’m ok,” I assure him. “I'm ok.” Dizziness swirls around my head as I wander back towards who I assume might be the LTLP.

“No, I think you’ll find that it’s pretty bad,” he replies, trotting after me anxiously. “You’d better get something to put on that eye.”


It is a well-known neurological fact that whenever a male sustains any form of minor injury, the brain’s first reaction is ‘how can I milk this?’. As it is, I am just about to adopt my ‘brave soldier’ voice when the LTLP gives me a look of horror and I realise that there is blood and stuff and no need for any milking whatsoever. My legs sit down for me.

“What happened there?!?” asks Mrs Short Tony.

It takes me a minute to collect what remains of my thoughts. I can’t feel my right wrist, and there are grazes down my leg.

“It got a bit crowded,” I begin, “and... I think they call it ‘doing a Mary Decker.’”

The under-fours potato race begins. Somebody hands me a tissue to hold against my eye. I am consoled by the fact that despite the eye thing, the sprained wrist, the bruising and the grazes, at least I went down just on the finishing line and so retained my dignity.

Much later, I discover grass stains down the entire length of my underpants and on to my thigh, indicating that at some point during the incident my trousers were not present.

Friday, August 24, 2007


“If I were in charge of A&E, I would put Charlie Chaplin films on a continuous loop. It wouldn’t matter about the sound and it would cheer everybody up.”

I wrote this only last week, and Mousie leapt into action. She is an A&E nurse, and is going to raise the issue at her next team meeting!!! (NB I am making a sexist assumption that Mousie is a female whereas this is a 21st century non-sexist world and it is quite fine for men to be nurses as well if they are unable to become doctors).

Kudos to Mousie. She is a doer.

This journal has a number of readers who work in the medical professions. Will YOU follow suit and press for Charlie Chaplin films to be shown on a continuous loop in your A&E Department? Will you? If there is some resistance you can allow Buster Keaton as well.

Remember the benefits:

- It will make people happy who are unhappy due to their medical circumstances;
- It will make people happy who are unhappy due to the fact that placing a television in the corner of a room, tuning it to a spoken-word station and then turning the sound off is beyond a fatuous use of valuable NHS funds and approaching the provocation to riot;
- The staff on the ward will all naturally work a lot faster as they are inspired by the pace of the movie;
- If there is a fight or aggravation by drunks, people will know how to avoid being hit by running round the room five times and then doing a head-over-heels through the aggressor’s legs before turning round to kick them in the bottom.

But, above all, for an infinitesimally tiny outlay in the big scheme of things, it will make the world a very slightly sunnier place.

So, if you work in the NHS, are on speaking terms with your MP, know how to set up these Facebook groups or have ever used that petition thing on the 10 Downing Street site - do something.

The ill will thank you for it.

Thus ends Campaign Week on JBPSD. It has been interesting, doing something different over the summer. Next week we shall return to stories about the Village and my exciting life in it. Enjoy your Bank Holiday weekends.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


As a sort of full stop on Post Office matters, the animation and song have now been uploaded onto the You Tube.

You can leave a comment there if you want. Clare’s original hosted version is better quality, and has the words, if you are planning to use it at a karaoke party.

When the song was originally recorded, I think most people twigged that essentially it’s less to do with Post Offices and more a silly little satire on the way that when people try to communicate with the ‘yoof’ in their own language, something genuinely risible usually results. But shorn of the original context and with the addition of Clare’s superb bunny video, I’ve seen it archived in the Centre for Political Song, (alongside Bragg, Dylan, Public Enemy et al), shown at a community film festival, linked to by militant Royal Mail staff sites and presented to the Post Office management by strategic design consultants.

And, yes, cited by an anti-Post Office closure campaign as a great example of how to get the kids involved. No link, as I’m genuinely touched by this and don’t want them to think that I’m taking the mick.

So there you go. As one campaign opens, another closes. The campaign is laid to rest; I shall wander up the road to weigh my parcels secure in the knowledge that, however unwittingly, I have Done My Bit. I need a new project to work on now. I wonder what it could be…?

Monday, August 20, 2007


Needing to recover from the Village UFO incident, and rocking from side to side still as I try to write my report of the Village Music Festival, I shall be branching out this week. It is Campaign Week!!! Here, I shall fearlessly campaign.

We shall start with Iraq. Iraq has many of the problems of this part of Norfolk, with outsiders coming in and putting a strain on the local infrastructure.

So a while back, our recruiting chap out there had a conversation with some locals. Essentially, people were trying to explode our soldiers and, whatever you think about the actual warry bit, I think it’s generally accepted that we would rather our soldiers were not exploded.

“You couldn’t give us a bit of a hand?” asked the recruiting chap.

Iraqis #1 and #2 drew deep breaths. “I’d like to help,” said Iraqi #1 finally. “The economy’s frankly gone a bit tits up here. And to be honest, being an educated human being, I would also like a situation where people didn’t explode other people all the time. I’m not really into that. Just because we are Arabs and live in this war-torn country does not mean that we conform to your simple Western stereotypes.” He turned to Iraqi#2. “Does it, Abdul?”

“No, Mohammed,” replies his friend.

“The thing is,” continued #1, “We’d be risking our lives. There are death squads. By helping you catch murderers some would consider us traitors. If we help and they catch up with us then…” he tailed off.

“Oh – don’t worry,” we British replied. “I think you’ll find that the war won’t last that long. We’ll win quite easily and then Iraq will be a lovely place. A bit like Switzerland – that is the plan.”

“But with hotter weather,” chipped in his assistant.

“After all, we’ve got loads of experience in this sort of thing,” we continued. “I really can’t envisage anything going wrong, ever.”

Iraqi #2 thought deeply. “Yes, we will help,” he concludes. “Our multilingual skills and local knowledge will be very useful to you, and will help stop your soldiers being exploded. You have convinced us. Switzerland, you say? Will there be Toblerone?”

“Oh definitely,” we replied. “Sign there. I have to pop over to Afghanistan now, where Kenneth Williams and Bernard Bresslaw are causing no end of a nuisance.”


A few months later and, unfortunately, the Swissification of Iraq has hit a few delays. In fact, it’s not going well at all. Iraqi #2’s association with us means that he is now desperate for our protection. Iraqi #1 isn’t that bothered any more – he was tortured and murdered by the death squads a couple of weeks back.

It strikes me that if you’re going to have a system of giving asylum to people who face terror and horror in their own country, then it would be a reasonable idea to start with people who face terror and horror as a consequence of helping you out. This doesn't seem to be happening. So do we address this, or do we forget the whole thing?

You can find out a bit more about this at Dan Hardie’s weblog, here.

Friday, August 17, 2007

JonnyB’s Holiday Report - #3 of 3

We go to the zoo.

I have not been to a zoo since a particularly ill-thought out double date around twenty years ago. Toddler Servalan screams with excitement at the first sight of a zebra.

Personally I am looking forward to the elephants. It strikes me that most other zoo animals are just larger or differently-coloured versions of things that you see all the time, apart from elephants, which are unusual and thus very worth making the effort for. I expect they came from space originally.

We pass the lemur enclosure. The Toddler screams with excitement. A seagull then lands in front of us. The Toddler screams with excitement and I realise that I could have saved £19 and just sat on the beach for the day watching free wildlife.

It is a paradox, but I find the look of absolute, utter delight on her face desperately sad. That condition of total happiness and wonder is something that is so fleeting; a few nanoseconds later you are an adult and you will never, ever feel like that again.

The closest thing that I can remember as an adult to that unconditional delight was a few years back on Saffron Hill, in London. A builders’ cradle and hoist had gone terribly wrong, upending a trade canister of white emulsion over a passing businessman, below. He was rooted there, totally white, paint dripping off his suit and briefcase, gesticulating furiously and shouting until the police arrived. It was, by a long chalk, the most brilliant thing that I have ever witnessed in my life. But she can get all that from a passing seagull.

We trot round the rest of the zoo. I know zoos are good at all that conservation stuff and all that, but it seems to me that there are a high proportion of non-endangered small South American mammals that are presumably quite easy to feed and house. The LTLP feeds a parrot.

There are no elephants. I am crushed and disappointed at this. We return to the chalet, pack, and drive home. Some mysterious cucumbers are leaning against the front door.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

JonnyB’s Holiday Report - #2 of 3.

I can think of only two advantages to driving through the night to get to Cornwall. Firstly, there is very little traffic on the road, and secondly it is dark as you go through Northamptonshire.

We spend the first part of the journey working out what we’ve forgotten to pack after the unscheduled fiasco at the hospital. The answer seems to be: ‘any form of thing to entertain us, whatever’.

As a child, I remember trips to Cornwall being relaxed, ambling affairs along picturesque minor roads. Pub lunches on the way; stopping on the moors to play with the sheep etc. These days the infrastructure has improved, and the A30 cuts through the county like a newly-sharpened cleaver through a small child’s pet.

Mile after mile, junction after junction. The LTLP and Toddler doze in the back. At one point I stop for a rest at some Motorway Services, but everything is pretty well closed apart from the horrible coffee place and the arcade driving simulation machines. I buy a horrible coffee and drink it, blinking at the distinctive fluorescent lighting that is always employed in Areas of Minimum Wage.

Somebody once said that it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive. They are an idiot. We draw into the holiday park just after five a.m., and I pull up outside the tiny, tiny chalet that we are to share for a week. My mother and father in law greet us at the door with a warm, comforting cup of tea.

Monday, August 13, 2007

JonnyB’s Holiday Report - #1 of 3.

Accident and Emergency is a bleak and joyless place.

As far as I can see, it works like this. You walk into the department with, say, an axe sticking out of your head. A lady greets you from behind bullet proof glass and leaps into action to establish your ethnic group, address and date of birth. You are then given some notes, which say something like ‘axe sticking out of head’ and record your address and date of birth. These notes are to be put in a tray.

A while later, a nurse emerges and collects your notes from the tray. Frowning, he or she studies these before calling your name. You follow the call into an ante-chamber, being careful to mind your axe on the top of the doorframe.

“What seems to be the matter?” you are asked.

You go through the axe business again, and the nurse carefully writes ‘axe sticking out of head’ on a new page in the notes. They then enquire as to your address and date of birth, before leaving you back in the main area for a bit to make contact with the axe-removal department.

The axe is probably beginning to smart a bit by now, so you amuse yourself by watching the television that’s screwed to the wall, high up in the corner. The BBC News is on. Of course, as it is a hospital, the sound is turned down completely. They have paid for a television in the corner to entertain people, but they have tuned it to a station that generally features programmes that require sound, and have turned the sound off.

Another while later, your name is called once more. It is the axe specialist, who looks at your head-addition with interest. Opening your notes at a new page, he asks you for your date of birth and address, which he records importantly. He then asks you what the matter is. You explain the business with the axe once more, and he writes ‘axe sticking out of head’ on his new page in your notes.

“Mmmm,” he says, sitting back at the end of the consultation. “You have an axe sticking out of your head.”

“I think,” he continues, “we will need to admit you to have a look at that.”

You wait for a while for a porter to arrive, so that you can follow him to the axe ward. The porter is friendly and cheerful, and follows the clearly signposted directions competently. In the axe ward, you are shown to a room with a bed and told to wait.

An auxiliary nurse arrives with your notes, in order to ask you your date of birth and address. She writes this down on a new page in your notes, so that they know where you live and how old you are. The consultant will be round in due course, and is sure to find out what’s wrong with you.

We sit in the A&E reception area, waiting to be seen. Looking on the bright side, I do not have an axe sticking out of my head, but I am otherwise pissed off at the general direction of the beginning of our holiday.

If I were in charge of A&E, I would put Charlie Chaplin films on a continuous loop. It wouldn’t matter about the sound and it would cheer everybody up. There is nothing like a Charlie Chaplin film to make the world seem sunnier, and it would be better than a mouthing Huw Edwards.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

I have gone to Cornwall!!!

It will be nice to see some out-of-the-way rural countryside, and have a relaxing holiday with no disasters whatsoever. I shall tell you about my relaxing holiday with no disasters whatsoever on my return.

Au revoir (nb that is French for laters)


Tuesday, July 31, 2007

We went to a tourist attraction.

One of the things that I have found with being the father of a demanding Toddler is that you have to go to tourist attractions at the weekend. People without children just lie in bed on Saturdays reading the newspaper and being brought coffee and having sixty niners. I envy them all, with their relaxing and unpressured lifestyles.

This time, however, I was looking forward to the trip as we were going to see the man who has built a proper miniature railway in his garden.

It is brilliant!!! I had not been there before – it is open only a couple of times a year. We walked up his drive and across the level crossing. ‘Toot toot’ went the train as it zooshed past laden with children.

The LTLP narrowed her eyes at me. “I can tell what you’re thinking,” she warned.

I shrugged off her silliness. Besides, I would have to scrap the chicken idea if I were to have one.

It being the first sunny day since the initial episode of ‘Last of the Summer Wine’, we queued for about 3 days for our go. There were children everywhere. I explained the minutiae of railway operation and history to the Toddler as the LTLP clutched her and I carried the satchel of child things and a flask of drink.

“Room for two more!!!” hollered a railway official.

We pushed our way to the front. Unfortunately when we got there the two seats weren’t together, so I had to go on my own in a wagon with another bloke and a young boy. I gave them a broad smile as I sat opposite, the satchel and drink on my lap. He pulled his child closer to him and muttered something.

The train set off. It is incredible!!! He has tunnels and viaducts and everything. I will have to knock through the wall into Short Tony’s if I am ever to do anything like it.

There are people who would say that building a railway in your garden is typical of an English Eccentric. It seems perfectly normal to me, although if you ask me it is fucking eccentric to then invite the general public in to spoil it. If/when I have one I would keep it all to myself, apart from maybe letting a few people from the Village Pub have a go on it after closing time.

I try to explain this to the LTLP on the way down the hill. She just rolls her eyes. If she is not careful she will end up being tied to the tracks.

Friday, July 27, 2007

We go to the snooker club.

The walk takes us down to the edge of the village, past places that one normally just whizzes past in the car. Short Tony carries his brand new professional snooker cue; I do not have a new cue but have four bottles of cider to compensate for this. Big A is equipped with red wine.

We are the first there, so we rack em up (nb that is what we snooker people say when we start playing) for a practice game.

The old barn is beautifully fitted out for snooker – I do not know what it was used for previously. Aside from the large table in the middle there are lots of massive couches, a dressing screen (presumably so you can get changed into your dinner jacket for important games) and various horsey stuff like whips and leather bridles hanging up on the wall. There is a small gallery above so people can watch. It is really professional and impressive.

We have been playing for about half an hour, and several balls are remaining.

“What’s the score?” I ask Short Tony.

“4-1 to me,” he replies.

I do not yet need snookers. I almost pot another red to make the score 4-2, but it misses by about eighteen inches. It is depressing. The thing about playing on a proper big table is that due to trigonometry the amount by which you miss on a proper pub table with 50p’s is magnified by a factor of exponential 10. It had simply not occurred to me that I would be rubbish.

Short Tony goes for a pot and misses by a foot. But he is only that much better than me because of his new cue, the cheat.

Later, I play Big A and beat him. He is rubbish as well.

We are all rubbish, and we have agreed to enter the league this year. We will be laughed at. Not only will we be laughed at but we will probably become an item on the local news ‘and finally’. It is not a cheerful thought.

Martin the IT Consultant arrives unexpectedly to make a foursome.

He is also rubbish. We are doomed.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

We start a snooker club.

One of the major overlooked issues that bubbles under the surface of on-the-face-of-it idyllic rural life is the lack of snooker clubs in the villages. Retirees moving in, second-home owners, local people being priced out of their own homes – all have contributed to a scenario where it is common now to find a village, or even a large hamlet, without a major snooker club. It is a shame.

Which is why we have decided to do something about it. There is no point waiting for help from central government, as they are all townies or Scottish; I would doubt very much whether Brussels would be interested. Pulling together as a community, we have secured the kind donation of a barn and a full size snooker table. It is brilliant.

Snooker is shit these days, a bit like tennis. None of the old interesting characters play any more (eg Cliff Thorburn the grinder, John Spencer (who picked his nose) and Ray Reardon (who dressed up as Dracula in the funny film)). The new players are not even fat enough to be convincing. There has to be a connection between this and the lack of snooker playing opportunities for interesting fat people in rural villages.

We aim to put an end to this unfairness. So far we have me, Short Tony, Martin the IT Consultant, Eddie and Big Andy involved, although Big Andy cannot actually play as it is on Tuesdays when his wife is at badminton. You might say that we cannot play both bowls and snooker to a high standard, well CB Fry managed it AND that was in football and cricket where you can basically rely on other people.

Tonight will be our second club meeting; I shall ensure that the world is kept abreast of events via this journal.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

I pull the LTLP towards me!!!

We lie for 3 seconds, looking into each other’s eyes. I run my hand over the soft mound of her woman’s breast; her flesh quivers like a jelly that is withdrawing from heroin use.

“Now, up,” I hiss in her ear, with all my male power.

She raises herself obediently on the bed, her knees pressing against the sheets, her bumhole right up in the air. I move behind her and give her a soft stroke using my manhood.

“Now bark,” I command her. “Like a dogg.”

I wake with a start, sweat pouring off me. The LTLP is still snoring and snorting on the other side of the bed. The clock reads 4a.m. and I have no reason to believe that this is not the time.

An email that I have received is preying on my mind. It is from a TV person, and wants to know if I would like to go on TV in my capacity as an “author of a confessional blog” to give my “insight into how you think blogs have revolutionised the way women and men are expressing themselves sexually in the 00's.”

It is exciting, but also a bit daunting. Notwithstanding the fact that I actually write a private secret diary and not a blog (blogs are full of people wittering on about trivial matters), I am worried that I am not fully researched in this area. Normally it is cheating to ask questions of your readership just to get comments, but it is important that I have the full picture. So: do you (and/or) your partner use this journal as erotica? Do you read it e.g. on a laptop in bed? Are there any of the characters within it that you have used within your fantasies and/or dressed up as?

I am happy if you want to leave anonymous comments if there is really personal stuff (note that I will have your IP address though, plus I would rather the really personal stuff was only left by females.)

Thank you in advance for your help.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

We go to the bowls club fun day.

The LTLP, Mrs Short Tony and Mrs Eddie have been told to make sandwiches etc; later on they will get a chance to have a go at bowls!!! It will be funny to watch the LTLP try it in the all-comers event – she is not as naturally athletic as I am, but I am keen to give her every opportunity to realise her potential. Meanwhile, I enjoy a relaxing pint whilst I show them around.

“This is the TOMBOLA,” I explain to Baby Servalan. It is important to increase her vocabulary and get her to know useful words.

“It’s one pound for five goes,” says the nice lady who is running the attraction. Across the trestle table there are a selection of soft toys, games and foodstuffs. I point the Baby towards the box of tickets and she grabs one in a sticky fist.

“130,” reads the lady. “That’s a prize… here… it’s some… mint travel sweets. Would you like to swap those for a little toy?”

“No, I quite like those,” I insist.

The Baby draws another ticket.

“85! Another prize! It’s over here… it’s a… bottle of vodka. Would…?”

“Brilliant!” I say, putting the vodka in the Baby’s little bag.

I am in a good mood all day, and acquire from the raffle an additional bottle of wine and an eight-inch high china model of some cute Victorian urchin children with red rosy cheeks. I plan to give it to the Short Tonies for their new lavatory.

Right at the end, the LTLP is presented with her prize for winning the bowls. She always has to spoil things for me, always, ever.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

There is a commotion.

Glancing through the window of my private secret garden shed office lair I can see some activity at the front door. I hasten to investigate. Mrs Short Tony is there, with the LTLP.

The LTLP turns and looks at me with a face like thunder on its period.

“She’s brought round some books for you from the library.”

As soon as I see the titles, I step back guiltily. I had been meaning to mention something about it, but recently all my energies have been diverted elsewhere into concentrating on not mentioning it.

“So this is what you’ve been getting the Builder to do.” She brandishes the books one by one. “'Practical Chicken-Keeping’, ‘Choosing and Keeping Chickens’. ‘Hen and the Art of Chicken Maintenance.’

“I had been meaning to mention…”

“This is another one of your plans, isn’t it?” she demands. She doesn’t actually use the phrase ‘hare-brained scheme’, but I can see her contemplating it tattooed on my face.

“I thought it would be really nice for little Servalan to have some chickens…”

She explodes, like a tin of out-of-date exasperation that has been left in the sun. “Let’s get this straight. I am NOT spending my weekends cleaning out chickens. I am NOT spending my weekends feeding them, or watering them, or doing whatever it is you need to do with chickens. HAVE YOU GOT THAT?”

I gaze weakly at Mrs Short Tony for some support. But I gaze in vain. By rights she should be looking sheepish or guilty for her role in creating this unpleasant scene. But, as with all women, all compassion is set aside under the instinct to show solidarity with another female. If men had that sort of pack mentality then we would have ruled the world for thousands of years.

The LTLP slams the books down on the kitchen table. I retreat back in to the shed.

Monday, July 09, 2007

The sun emerges!!!

This is a cause of much celebration, so after breakfast at the market and afternoon tea at the Village Fete, Big A and I take two cars over to Narcoleptic Dave’s house to watch the ‘Live Earth’ concert.

Despite the weather, it has been a good summer to watch live music on the television, with the Glastonbury festival and the Diana thing as well, and it makes me feel a bit guilty that my own guitar is so under-used at the moment despite me once supporting the well-known Sultans of Ping on one date of their UK tour (which I do not want to boast about but I did). It is depressing. I dream that one day I will still make it to Wembley and Prince Harry will be reading my name out hesitantly from a badly-hidden cue card.

Narcoleptic Dave has two barbecues going, and we sit and watch the ‘Live Earth’ show on his outdoor big screen projection thing; later on the patio heater takes the edge off the cool evening air. We discuss music and Big A asks my opinion about lots of things as I am younger and know more about it (although I have never mentioned to him about the Sultans of Ping thing as I do not want to make him feel inferior).

I have not played a gig since the ‘just after accidentally exposing myself at a party’ fiasco of two years ago and the urge calls me again. Plus I now play the banjo so am officially a multi-instrumentalist like Stevies Wonder, Winwood etc., so the audience would get double value for money.

Being a creative artiste I have a strong inner urge to express myself like a penguin who needs to get up the beach. I resolve to address this. I will get my guitar out once again and see if the old magic is still there.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

“It’s off.”

“It’s off.”


“It’s off.”

A succession of players pass us with the news that it is off. This is not entirely unexpected.

“What now?” asks Big Andy, leaning on the door that leads in to the bar.

“Don’t know really,” I reply, looking through the glass at the welcoming pumps and optics.

“We could pop in for a pint while we’re here?” offers Eddie. Nobody likes to say ‘no’ to him. We should not have let him join our gang. He is a bad influence.

Three pints later and we are still gazing out onto the monsoon swamping down upon the bowling green. There is a nagging sense unease coming from somewhere. The rain drives and flurries, it sweeps down, it churns. It pounds away like an Abi Titmuss, wet, relentless and everywhere.

“There will come a point,” I observe, “when the LTLP will cease to believe that we have been playing bowls.”

The others nod worriedly. We order a fourth pint to consider this.

After a while I realise what is bothering me. We are sat in a busy Social Club, and nobody is smoking. It seems all wrong. And I haven’t smoked for years, since when it was cool.

Big Andy is twice his normal immense size, due to all the patches he has on under his shirt. Eddie, meanwhile, looks just weird without his cigar. He has the air of a man who has gone to the pub without his trousers on, and fidgets like one who's just sat on a colony of beetles.

Short Tony gamely drinks coca cola, having given up alcohol in solidarity.

Across the room, other people look odd; out of place. An immense social change has taken place, and one day Baby Servalan will ask me what it was like.

The rain pours down. And pours. And pours.

Monday, July 02, 2007

It has been a tough month.

The LTLP has been working away from home, leaving me alone to care for a subversive and truculent Baby and merely popping in for the odd weekend in order to make helpful and constructive suggestions. Exhausted and stir-crazy, I was desperate for her return.

There is always a bit of a dilemma in situations like this – after a long time apart it is great to see somebody and spend some quality time with them, etc. Conversely, being stuck on your own within four baby-prison walls means that as soon as relief arrives there’s a strong urge to get out and see some daylight. As it was, she had foreseen this and been to an Asian supermarket in London and got loads of stuff to make a delicious Thai curry for the Friday night.

I explained all this to Big A in the Village Pub, who nodded sympathetically at my predicament. “It’s a shame,” I added. “It looked really tasty.”

I think I understand now how tough it must be being a single parent. I know there are right wing people who say that single mothers are prostitutes and deserve all they get, but this is not always the case.

As it is, I have tasted single fatherdom which is even more difficult due to genetics. It is a state which I would not wish on anybody.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

“My necklace!!! It’s gone!!!”

We halt abruptly at this high drama. Mrs Short Tony is alternately clutching her neck and peering into the midnight blackness. “It fell off. I could feel it fall off. I can’t see it anywhere.”

There is a pause and then a hubbub. Mrs Big A sways from side to side, after too many birthday drinks. Her husband and I, being sober and sensible, take charge of the situation.

“We should look for it,” suggests Big A.

“What we’ll do,” I offer, “is to walk up and down on the pavement with our feet splayed very wide. If we walk beside each other then we’ll have the whole pavement covered. And as soon as we feel a lumpy thing underfoot with perhaps a crunch of glass then we’ll have found your necklace.”

Big A and I start hobbling around awkwardly, like men with canoes on their feet. But even after much tramping there is nothing to be felt.

Next to us, a light goes on in the cottage!!!

Eddie lives with his wife, Eddie, half way down the hill from the Village Pub. This has occasionally been useful to service users. Now there is a silhouette of somebody at the window.

“We could ask to borrow a torch?” says Mrs Short Tony, practically.

“It’s a bit late?”

“No, it’s a good idea.”

“Hello!!!” we cry. “Hellohellohello!!! Woohoo!!! Wooooohooooooo!!!”

“They can’t hear us.”

Mrs Big A strides up and bangs on the window. The silhouette leaps around ten feet in the air.

“Woohooo!!! Eddie! Eddie!”

Eddie’s face appears at the window, before disappearing once more and emerging from the side door, accompanied by her arms, legs and torso.

“I don’t suppose we could borrow a torch?”

“Hello! It’s you lot. Would you like to come in for a coffee?”

At this point, I should explain to overseas readers that there are stock meaningless phrases in English English that are only ever used in the context of being polite and are never meant to be taken as anything other than a matter of etiquette in the circumstances. Things like ‘how are you?’ and ‘it’s a nice day!’ and ‘oh God oh God that feels so big!’ The coffee thing is one of these.

“Oh go on then,” accepts Mrs Big A, leading the four of us past Eddie and into the kitchen. “Do you have any wine?”

“Hullo Eddie,” I greet Eddie, who appears from the living room.

“They’ve just popped in for a glass of wine,” explains Eddie. “Will you excuse us both for a minute?”

We settle down in their comfortable and hospitable kitchen. The two Eddies disappear to change out of their nightclothes.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

“…but she’s still shitting brown water,” I explain over the telephone.

There is a pause whilst the Doctor considers his diagnosis. “Yuk,” he concludes.

“I’ve just been feeding her bread. And to be honest, if I give her any more bread then I wouldn’t be surprised if she turns into a loaf of bread. If that’s medically possible,” I add doubtfully.

“How is she in herself?”

“She’s pretty distressed, to be honest.”

“Hallo! Hallo! Hallo!” the Baby interjects, in a voice of extreme cute and cheerfulness. I round on her. “This isn’t fucking Petite Anglaise, you know.”

I am worried that my last diary entry implied that I was critical of the NHS, which is not the case as everybody knows that our NHS is the envy of the world, like our football league, national stadium, system of democracy, Post Offices, national broadcaster etc. etc. But some people slag it off quicker than Jimmy Carr’s agent on his way to the Embassy Club, Manchester.

The Doctor gives me some good advice, which is basically to ignore it and it will go away anyway. Which happens, and I am grateful as ever.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Continued from yesterday...

The Pathology Lab is closed!!!

Oh! Such unforeseen twists and turns in plot I give you!

There is a sign up, with the opening hours. The opening hours do not include Saturday morning. A small window in the door reveals a dark and deserted waiting area.

Except clearly the Pathology Lab is not REALLY closed. The common bacterium does not keep a nine to five day. It works round the clock, seeking to disfigure and disrupt our immune systems. Thus the Lab must be available, to help the Intensive Care people and everybody. There will be Pathologists in there!!! They are hiding, forced by hospital managers to work in the dark, away from the public eye!!! I hammer on the door in frustration.

No Pathologist breaks cover, and I beat a retreat across football pitches back to the reception area.

“I have this,” I explain to the lady, “to hand in to the Pathology Lab.” I brandish the turd by means of explanation. “But the Pathology Lab is closed, despite my ringing in advance and being assured it was open.” I do not mention that the Pathologists are working clandestinely in the dark. I do not know if she is party to this.

“Take it next door and hand it in at A&E,” she replies.

“Thank you.”

I leave the Hospital entrance, and walk along the pavement to A&E. Passing a bored ambulanceman, I present myself at reception. There is nobody there. I wait for a bit before a Reception Lady appears.

“Who’s next?” asks the Reception Lady.

There is confusion. Another client is also waiting. She is a harrassed mother with a clearly unwell eight-year old. I am a slightly out-of-breath but otherwise healthy man carrying turd in a clear plastic jar.

“After you!” offers the harrassed mother, politely.

“No – please – you go first,” I insist.

“No – go on – you were here first.”

The Reception Lady looks impatiently at us. I agree to go first to avoid further delay. “I’ll be no time, anyway,” I reassure the mother.

“I have this,” I demonstrate, “to hand in. I called first to ascertain that the Pathology Lab would be open, but it is not open.” (Again, I did not grass up the Pathologists, as it was not their fault that I was given wrong information. I do not want them to fear reprisals.) “So I went back to reception and they told me to come here and hand it to you.”

“They shouldn’t have said that.”


“We don’t take samples in. You’ll have to go back to main reception.”

“But they told me to come here. Because they wouldn’t take it.”

“But they shouldn’t have said that.”

At this point I lose my temper. I talk about taking responsibility for things, and giving people proper information, and performing a service to the public and all that, and I go a bit red in the face and wave my turd. She seems unimpressed and I run out of steam.

“Give it here,” she says abruptly. “I’ll take it back to main reception.”

“But it needs to go to the Pathology Lab.”

“I’ll take it to Main Reception. They can organise it. They shouldn’t have told you to bring it here. They need to be told.”

She disappears down the corridor with the turd. I give a weak smile of apology to the waiting mother. Her son coughs feebly. I leave them alone in the empty room.

Monday, June 18, 2007

“So it is definitely open on Saturday morning, then?”

The Doctor’s Receptionist nods, replacing the receiver having checked the information that I need with the Hospital. My morale plummets like a dead starling; it is an incontrovertible law of time and space that the chances of any Hospital facility being open on Saturday mornings is in inverse proportion to the information that you are given by the Hospital about their Saturday morning opening hours.

“Definitely,” she assures me. “From nine until twelve, they say.”

I return home to prepare a sample.

It turns out that there is one thing more unpleasant than cleaning up a diarrhoea-ridden Baby. It is cleaning up a diarrhoea-ridden Baby whilst trying also to scrape some of the diarrhoea off the Baby with a lolly stick and from thence into a sample jar. I cough and gag as I perform this operation. After a process that I am considering writing an article about for ‘Debacle – the quarterly journal of the British Fiasco Society’, I am the proud possessor of some turd in a clear plastic jar.

I wash my hands and then wash my hands again. After leaving the Baby in the care of the LTLP, I wash my hands and drive speedily through the poppy-strewn country lanes to the Hospital.

The car park is a short walk from the main entrance; the distance from the main entrance to the Pathology Lab is equivalent to eighteen football pitches laid end to end, plus three and a half metres. I arrive clutching my turd, slightly out of breath from hurrying.

Continued tomorrow...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Baby is yakking up!!!

Normal service will be resumed, ect ect.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

I step back and let out a deep sigh of bliss.

To an Englishman, owning a pristine lawn is the most satisfying experience in the world that doesn’t involve trumping somebody in an argument in the pub about road directions. The grass is the greenest shade of green, wafting slightly in the wind, and the cracks between the strips of turf are now almost invisible. Truly I am finally Lord of my own Manor.

I resolve to ring the Turf Man and thank him once more. It is a great feeling when you find a new tradesman who’s friendly and helpful, who gives you an absolute bargain and who delivers on time. The Industrious Builders as well. They laid it expertly, and the younger one even called me ‘Boss’ without making me feel like he was taking the piss. A bird chirrups somewhere up in the Scots Pine.

Each blade seems somehow right. The carpet of turf sweeps towards the carrstone wall, a soft and verdant contrast to the –

There is a weed in my lawn!!!

I glare at it from the gravel path. It is definitely a foreign object. Insulting the virginity of green with its sullen weedness.

I am a bit stumped as to what to do, as nobody is allowed to walk on the new turf. In the end I lie flat and sort of stretch out face down on the lawn, spreading my weight as I reach and grab the intruder.

“That’s not a weed,” explains my Mother, who has appeared behind me like the Creeping Death. “It looks like a potato.”

“It is a potato,” she concludes, after examination. “Look at the leaves. They’re quite sturdy and…”

But I am not listening. I can see another one slightly further from me. I try to think what to say, but I am nonplussed. There are potatoes growing in my new lawn. My back garden is a potato field.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The day goes further downhill the moment he hits me in the face with a hammer.

Even under such circumstances, one has time to reflect. So far in the day I have discovered rainwater dripping through the bedroom ceiling, and been subjected to the new self-service till machine at Tesco, which appears to be about as much use to mankind as a budgerigar with a degree in Media Studies.

He hits me in the face again.

At some point, I tell myself, I should say something. He seems pretty competent, and I get on with the chap reasonably well (although perhaps less so now, seeing that he is hitting me in the face with a hammer), but truth be told it is an unpleasant experience and I would like him to stop.

“Diss crown is priddy impossible to shift,” he explains (note I have used the words ‘diss’ and ‘priddy’ to represent the fact that my dentist is South African and speaks in a South African voice – this is a technique used by us writers to avoid unnecessary explanations that would spoil the flow of the text). “I hev tried wiggling it. Now I am hitting it with diss hemmer.”

He hits my tooth with his hammer once more, to emphasise the point.

Randy Newman wails from my MP3 player. Unfortunately I pressed the wrong button just before he started in my mouth and instead of uplifting and distracting cheerful pop music my head is filled with mournful minor-key reflections on losers and low-life tragedies in the medium of the blues, whilst I am being hit in the face with a hammer.

Meanwhile the anaesthetic seems to have made my face swell up, as if somebody has pushed a marble into my mouth and under my top lip. They may well have done. Or perhaps it is a snooker ball. It could be a penis, for all I know. I have my eyes firmly shut. I do not wish to open them as the hammer is unpleasant enough as it is. I do not think it is a penis, as he would not be hammering it so hard if so.

The only really good thing about a dentist putting his penis in your mouth and starting to hit it wildly with a hammer whilst you are under local anaesthetic and have your eyes firmly shut and are listening to mournful Randy Newman songs is at least you know that you will get offered some mouthwash afterwards.

“It’s coming,” he explains, not entirely reassuringly.

A few more goes with the pliers and my old artificial tooth thing is no more, and I have a huge gap in my mouth that is dripping pus and blood along with an unidentified fragment of metal that appears to have been left in there by the other dentist. We take a two minute break before he starts to clean out the abscess. Randy croons dolefully in my ears.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

I expect an important telephone call.

I gaze at the telephone in anticipation. It sits there, not ringing. This is frustrating, as I don’t really want to do anything until I receive my important telephone call.

I check my watch. It is 7.20am. It strikes me that businesses in London might not yet be open. But I do not want to go out, as if I go out then the important telephone call will happen just after that point. I make myself some toast instead, ensuring that I remain within hearing distance of the phone.

The phone does not ring.

9.01am. The phone is still dead and silent. There was some talk of a meeting, before the telephone call. I would imagine that this might have started at, say, eight. Allowing for a few wafflings and goings off at tangents and wonderings what the HR implications are ect ect ect then surely it should be time for them to call. I wonder if 9.01am is too early for me to call them and demand to know why they haven’t called me.

I make a cup of tea. The telephone sits there, smirking. I drink my tea. I decide that I need to go to the toilet, but I know that if I go to the toilet then the call will immediately arrive and I will have to rush out mid-stream and talk to them covered in wee. I take the cordless phone into the toilet with me.

The phone does not ring.

10.30. I am now worried. The meeting has clearly over-run, or did not start until late. Or London is on a different time to the Village.

Noon. If the meeting has gone on until now, then they will probably go for lunch directly afterwards, being in London and all that. I should rush out and get some milk. Except if I do that then they will decide to eat at their desks with take-away pasta salads and cappuccinos, being in London and all that. That would be an ideal time for them to make important calls.

I stay in and stare at the phone. It remains stubbornly devoid of trill.

3pm. Lunch must be over. The Industrious Builder asks for my opinion on some paving slab work. I take the cordless phone with me, explaining that I am awaiting an important call. He is impressed.

The telephone ri – I answer the telephone.

Booooooo. It is not my important callee. It is only my mother. I explain that I am awaiting an important telephone call. She is not at all impressed. I ring off anyway.

3.30pm. I realise with alarm that the important call probably arrived whilst I was on the phone to my mother. I hurriedly dial 1571, to see if this is the case and if they have left a message. There are no messages. Boooooo again.

3.32pm. I realise with alarm that the important call probably arrived whilst I was on the phone to the 1571 service. I hurriedly dial 1571 again, to see if this was the case. There are still no messages. I am downhearted, especially given that I am now locked into a Sisyphean nightmare of recurrent 1571 consultations.

5pm. I give up, and send a stroppy email. I have no important call. I have no milk.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

“Well played, Skip,” I offered, strolling down the green to shake his hand.

“Loserloserloserloserloserloser,” I continued smugly, in my head. Although I have been known to think that I am saying something in my head when actually I am speaking out loud. I am fairly sure I did not say this out loud, as he did not hit me in the face with his stick.

We retired to the Village Pub for a celebration.

“The thing is,” I explained to Nigel after my initial euphoria had gone down like an erection, “the winning and losing thing just doesn’t seem to balance out.”

Victory or defeat – it is like splitting up with a beautiful woman. Dumping should give you a better feeling than being dumped gives you a bad one, but it rarely works like that in my experience. Which, thinking about it, is non-existent in this particular analogy. At this point I realised I needed to ask somebody if this was indeed the case, but I was still trying to work it out in my mind whilst talking to Nigel. He looked at me as if I were barking mad.

Big A offered some additional encouragement. “You were only fifty percent consistently bad tonight,” he said, which was high praise indeed from the master. It is but May and a whole bowls season lies ahead – I shall aim to get it down to thirty or twenty percent.

An hour later I realised that I had already got through four pints, and so insisted that I needed to go home for reasons of self-preservation. I walked down the hill with Big A; unlike last time I did not fall face first into the grass verge outside Len the Fish’s. Improvement is possible, if one strives for it; it is a weak man who accepts his own rubbishness unquestioned.

Monday, May 21, 2007

My despondent lips take a mouthful of beer.

We sit in silence for a moment. Outside, the drizzle descends on one of the prettiest village bowling greens in England; a place to which you would be honour-bound to take American tourist friends, once you had shown them Durham Cathedral and Barney’s snack bar on the A148.

“Well,” observes Big A at length.

“What I can’t work out,” I ruminate, “is how I’m so consistently bad. I mean, I’m nowhere near where I’m meant to be, but I’m consistently nowhere near.” I take another slurp. “I’m sure there’s a positive in there somewhere.”

Bowls is a cruel mistress. One evening she is fun to be with and you can do no wrong; the next you are being savagely beaten and humiliated and being mocked for putting in a short wood. But you keep going back for more. It is an addiction, like turkey.

Through the smoke, the jovial atmosphere in the small club is palpable. Our opponents are the cream of local bowls; we sense that we are already heading for a relegation battle. I carry the glasses back to the bar; Big A takes the wheel and we drive home in the rain.

Friday, May 18, 2007

I write a notice.

It is on lined paper, using big black felt-tip pen.


But I hesitate and do not take it outside to sellotape up in front of the crowd. They are entitled to their ghoulish excitement at my misery. Not much else has been going on here recently aside from the new retaining wall at the bowling green.

The van driver waits in silence for his boss to arrive to assess his handywork. Hopefully his boss is Sir Alan Sugar or Nicholas van Hoogstraten etc. I do not offer him another coffee. That will show him!!! Stan drives past, slowing as he catches sight of the scene. I shoo him away.

I meander round to Short Tony’s. It transpires that he was on the telephone so did not hear the accident. I invite him to have a look; instead of gawping he gives me some reassuring words. Good karma will surely come his way.

Hours later he appears at the front door. A bus has driven into the back of his car. Mrs Short Tony is shaken. I consider establishing a support group.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

I gaze in distress at my flat car.

It will clearly require some work at the Kwik-Fit place. Bits of it are strewn in the street, and the front wheels don’t seem to be facing in the same direction. It is probably my fault for parking it directly above the bit where ‘SLOW’ is painted in the road.

A crowd gathers.

From the cab of the delivery van that is embedded in my neighbour’s verge, emerges a sheepish-looking man.

“Are you all right?” I ask him gently.

In situations like this, it is always important to ascertain immediately whether the other party is injured or is suffering from shock, as it is considered unsporting to take somebody with such a condition and administer a savage beating.

“Fffffftthhhggg,” he replies.

This does not get me anywhere. I pick up a few pieces of car from the road. “Are you OK?” I repeat. He is staring at the front of his van, which is now the middle of his van.

“Hbbbblllllbbb,” he continues.

I sigh and disappear indoors to make strong coffee. The younger Industrious Builder wanders out with his cameraphone thing in order to perform citizen journalism. Kettle boiled, I leap into action by telephoning the police and emailing a barrister friend who advises me that I am unlikely to have whiplash simply from turning my head sharply to watch my car sail through the air.

“Here you go,” I say to the man, who has a suspiciously Lincolnshire air about him.

“Sorry ‘bout that,” he mutters softly.

Monday, May 14, 2007

I settle down to get things done.

Despite my recent general state of non-workingness, I still have odd bits and pieces floating around that I absolutely totally really really must get on with and finish. My vantage point at the PC in my new private secret office lair looks out across the garden; the Industrious Builders beaver away before me.

I like the Industrious Builders. Requested to sort out the drainage and build some walls and level some ground and generally Make Things Nice, they have turned up and sorted out the drainage, built some walls, levelled some ground and Made Things Nice.

I am sure there must be a catch somewhere, as in my recent experience builders do not behave like this. But in the meantime things are hunky dory and the LTLP returns home each night and smiles broadly and does not shout at me, unlike when we had the Methodical Builder who will burn in hell with forks in his eyes. Big forks, that I have previously dipped in lemon juice.

Something is amiss.

The elder Industrious Builder is leaping up and down and waving at me in some agitation, like a nuclear Michael Flatley signalling a four. I can’t make out the point of his shouts through the double glazing, so I leave Spider Solitaire and wander outside to ascertain the cause of his distress. I hope that I have not hung the washing in front of his cement mixer again.

“…the fuck at that!!!” he roars.

My eyes follow the direction of his gestures. On the road at the end of the drive, a full fifteen yards from where it had previously been sitting doing nobody any harm, lies the mangled and squashed remains of my car.

Friday, May 11, 2007

I go to the big city.

Feeling low, in the later stages of tooth abscess, I decide to do some shopping. I park my car in the heart of Norwich and go hit the boutiques.

I find clothes shopping alternately fun and traumatic. The shops bit I like, the shoppers bit I am less keen on. I flit from store to store like a butterfly with a credit card who needs new trousers.

Many of the stores I leave immediately. I have an absolute hard and fast rule that I will never give my custom to a shop in which one is not quite sure whether one is looking at the men’s or the women’s items. So I tend to stick to large department stores, where the floors are clearly labelled.

It is a beautiful day – hot and sunny. I need to purchase some sunglasses. Every year, I buy a pair of cheap sunglasses, knowing that by about September I will have sat on them/scratched them/broken one of the arms off, etc. I find a pair that I like and pay the assistant. “You’ll need those outside today,” she flirts, as I hand over the money. The whore. I shall report her to Head Office. But she is right. Spring is in the air!!! Outside the shop I take the sunglasses out of their case and don them, increasing my cool factor by about 100000000.

I wander around town for a bit more, doing nothing in particular, enjoying my new sunglasses, strutting my funky stuff. People look at me, impressed.

More people are arriving and I decide to head for home. In the car-park I decide that I will take the roof off the car. It is that nice a day, plus I have new sunglasses. I zoosh out onto the dual carriageway, weaving around in my sunglasses in my open-topped car. I put some music on.

After a while, I realise that I should have cleaned the sunglasses before putting them on – they are slightly blurry. I reach a set of traffic lights and pull up in one of the lanes, smiling at the cars beside me and their non-sunglassed occupants. I take off my sunglasses to give them a wipe.

From the middle of the left-hand lens I remove a big sticker that says ‘protection level: medium’.

The lights turn green. I drive off.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

There is a knock at the door!!!

Even with my tooth abscess and associated medication I am determined to lead as normal a life as possible, so I hurry downstairs to investigate.

It is Short Tony!!!

“Hello!” he says.

“Hullo,” I say.

The Chipper Barman pokes his head out from around the corner. “Hello!” he says.

“Hullo,” I say.

With all my strong antibiotic treatments it is an effort to hold down a complex conversation like this, but I persevere.

“We’ve been to the pub,” offers Short Tony. His eyes are so glazed that I half expect Ted Moult to turn up with his feather.

The Chipper Barman ducks behind Short Tony, then pokes his head out again. “Hello!” he says.

“And we were just headed next door to play darts.”

I am a bit cross at this tactlessness in the face of my brave struggle. “I…” I begin.

“And wondered if you fancied a game?”

“It would be nice, but because I am on these STRONG ANTIBIOTICS I am not allowed to DRINK ANYTHING,” I explain, as if to a small child but without the hitting.

“Ah. Yes.”

The Chipper Barman grins wildly at me. “Can I use your toilet?” he suddenly begs.

I am a bit nonplussed that in a journey from the Village Pub (distance from my house: 500 yards) to Short Tony’s house (distance from my house: 10 yards) it should be necessary to divert to mine for a toilet break. But it seems simpler to agree. Short Tony stands awkwardly in my kitchen whilst the Chipper Barman performs a noisy toilet.

“Now shoo,” I tell them, when he has re-emerged.

They leave without fuss. I lock the front door and disappear upstairs to resume my suffering.

Friday, May 04, 2007

I stumble out of the surgery in some dull state of shock, his words ringing in my ears.

The road outside is noisy; traffic passing each way, a brewery lorry unloading. But I hear nothing. I just walk, my eyes fixed to some random point in the far distance, my mind blanker than it has ever been. I wonder how to tell the LTLP.

Granddad was a double amputee; Uncle Ernie had polio. Great Uncle Ray was a prisoner of the Japanese. Now I have been diagnosed with tooth abscess.

I cross the mini roundabout and lurch towards the pharmacy. The Baby will not understand – will she ever understand? I am fortunate in that I have friends, family and virtual internet readers who I know will support me in my brave fight against tooth abscess, but sometimes you can have hundreds of people around you yet still be alone. With shock I realise that I am already sinking into negative thoughts just ten minutes into my battle.

I resolve to write to the Observer. If I can face tooth abscess with wit, good-humour and poignant humanity then they will probably give me a column in their magazine. Being the person who brings the ‘TA’ word out of the dark and into an environment where people are not afraid to talk might be my crowning achievement in life, aside from once starting a conversation with Tony Hadley in a lavatory.

The pharmacist takes ages. It transpires that the antibiotics prescribed are the ones with which you absolutely totally and utterly must not touch alcohol. A new blow. It is too early to let it go and take the inevitable decision that the cure is worse than the disease itself; I will bear the treatment for now and know I can rely on the support of my neighbours to help me through this.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

“Chicken gizzards?”

There is a pause.

“They’re very popular in Norwich,” offers the Duck Lady hopefully.

I pass on the opportunity. I don’t think anybody could call me greatly squeamish in the matter of what I put in my mouth, but I can’t imagine that the LTLP would thank me for this particular purchase. I settle for a boring old duck; the Baby and I move on to the next stall.

There is the sound of a commotion!!!

It takes me a minute to ascertain what is going on. Politicians are pouring into the town square, like daleks springing a trap. They wear suits and brandish big rosettes. Not just politicians. Cliched politicians.

I gaze around, wildly, clutching my Baby to my bosom. She has got over teething, temperatures, nappy rash, vomiting, pneumonia, licking the toilet and having her fingers shut in the door – I am damned if I will allow her to be traumatised for life by some kissing politician. Especially one with a moustache, who is hastening in our direction.

I get on with our local MP reasonably well, or have done in the times we’ve met anyway. He seems to be harmless enough and not want to cause trouble by actually doing anything, which is all one can ask for in a politician. Granted, if he thought a photographer from the local paper would be there then he’d be happy to attend the opening of a new browser window, but it keeps him out of trouble and that is important in this day and age. These politicians are different. They are scuttling around the market, attempting to engage with people.

Hurrying across the street, I resolve to pretend to be a non-voting Estonian illegal immigrant should we be cornered. The worst that can happen is that I get deported or sold into illegal sex slavery, and at least I will get to see a bit of the world and get lots of shags. I tell the Baby to say nothing if approached.

Friday, April 27, 2007

“So what are the rules again?” I ask.

It transpires that I am the only person in the entire world who has not played table football before, ever. I grip my grippy things tentatively as the ball goes into play.

“So…” I continue.

“Gooooaaaaalllll!!!” Big A has launched a punt from one of his back metal men (defender?), which has shot through all my metal men and gone in my goal. “Then I move one of my counters across like this,” he explains helpfully.

We have invited ourselves round to Martin the IT Consultant’s house to watch the big match. Martin’s popularity is soaring since it was discovered that he had both Sky TV and a big table football table, whereas we only have pikey free TV and a shove ha’penny board (and Big A does not even have one of those).

“Right – let’s try again,” says Martin, who is my partner in this doubles game. He puts the ball into play.

“Goooooooaaaallll!!!” This time it appears to be Big A’s goalkeeper who has fired something unstoppable the length of the table. He moves another counter. The problem appears to be my left hand, which I do not normally really use for much and which is struggling limply with both the force and dexterity required to make a model footballer stop a ping pong ball. And my right hand.

“Have you met the New People yet?” asks Big A in passing.

“Well there were vans there at 10.53,” I report, “and I walked past there again at about four minutes past three. But I haven’t actually seen anybody yet.”


“But they have a nice car; it’s bla…”


I am suspicious that Big A does not go to work all day, as he claims, but in fact sits at home all day practising on a private secret table football table that he keeps hidden from the Village. I know that not being able to play table football very well does not make me literally gay (there are other factors involved), but I feel that I return to the television for the second half having acquired diminished manliness.

Much later, having drunk lots of red wine, we are walking home past the New People’s house.

“Do you think we should pop in and introduce ourselves?” I ask.

“Better not.”

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

I am made unemployed!!!

I read the email in annoyance. I have been sacked by email!!! This is not a good start to the day, plus there is no bread with which to make toast. My life is falling apart.

It was always going to be a tall order, maintaining the odd bit of worky work whilst looking after a psychotic and sabotaging Baby. I give her a hard ‘this is your fault’ stare, but she is busy tearing up the paper cases that the LTLP uses to make fairy cakes. That is typical. Suddenly I am one of Maggie’s millions and nobody cares about me.

In a way, I feel that my new oneintenness might be a bit empowering. In fact it is a bit like being at a crossroads in life. You can either turn left, or you can turn right, or you can go straight on (being careful to give way to traffic coming from the left or right (unless you are on the major road and have priority)). But if you dither at the junction the cars behind you will start hooting, and perhaps a van driver will get out and come and hit you in the face.

So I have decided to be positive, and look upon this as an opportunity. I am determined not to use my newly-enforced leisure time to just do more fucking about on the Internet and stuff. For a start, I can go out and buy some bread. And then I will think of Something to Do.

Monday, April 23, 2007

I arrived out of breath from hurrying up the hill.

“The LTLP’s not well,” I explained. “She was fine, then had a really funny turn and felt all faint and had to lie down in the dark. You couldn’t pop in on her, could you?”

“I suppose so,” replied Mrs Short Tony, who had her coat on to walk back home.

“That’s great. She could probably do with a bit of company.” I turned to the Well-Spoken Barman and ordered a pint. The bar was packed on Saturday night but I found a slot between Eddie and Short Tony and we discussed the bowls situation.

This year my loyalties are being shared between two clubs which, given my bowls ability, is a bit like two underground cocaine and S&M parlours competing to secure the services of Sister Wendy Beckett.

The ‘I’ll only play if you’re really really really really short’ conversation that I’d had with Nigel from the Friday night league had turned into a request for ten pounds for my subscription by the time that particular match had ended. And on Sunday morning we were due a try-out for the Village team itself – a club with the twin advantages of a) being just a very very short walk away and b) having a bar.

There are a few people who I don’t know in the Village team, and whilst they all seem extremely nice and pleasant people, we agreed that it was very important to give a good first impression, and perhaps not arrive with a stinking hangover, bleary-eyed and reeking of stale beer.

I always try not to be too predictable when I write this thing, so I think I’ll probably just tail off there. It was terribly nice weather at the weekend, wasn't it?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Screams echo around the room.

It is incredibly exciting. A horse that may or may not be the one on my betting slip is almost being caught up by another horse that may or may not be the one on my betting slip. Unfortunately it is so exciting that our yells of excitement drown out the commentary, and the jockeys will not keep their arms still for long enough to compare their outfits with the diagrams in the Daily Mail.

My horse wins!!!

We goggle at the television pictures. I am normally rubbish at the Grand National, but this time I have nailed it with my cunning bet. I wave my slip around my head in thrilldom.

“That’s my horse!” says Big A.

The fact that he has very flukily also picked the winner does not diminish my euphoric mood. I scoot back to the cottage with an equine spring in my step.

On the way I take a small diversion through Short Tony’s front garden. I wave the betting slip at them and jump up and down making ‘champions!!!’ gestures.

“We had that as well,” calls out Mrs Short Tony.

I am a bit annoyed by her smug tone, rubbing her good fortune in my face. I pretend to be pleased for them.

Later, I am sitting in the front garden. There is a shout from across the road. Martin the IT Consultant and his wife are on their way to the Village Pub to spend their winnings from the Grand National. I am barely civil at their unkind attempt to render my achievement less unique, and stomp off inside to piss around on the internet.

On the internet, it transpires that this was the most popular rank outsider in the world. In fact, this horse turns out to have been had by more people than the one in Animal Farm (the straight-to-video one, not the film of the book about the pigs that invade Iraq or whatever (I have not read it for ages)).

At the bookies, I join a queue of people who are picking up their winnings. There is probably a bloody Facebook community for people who chose 'Silver Birch'. But there are a couple of old men in there who clearly go in every day, who don’t bet on the National and who look very resentful of having their gambling retreat invaded by idiots once a year. I conjure up my smuggest look as I hand over the slip.

Friday, April 13, 2007

“I’ve got really bad wind tonight,” I complain.

There is a cold silence from the bed beside me, followed by the whooshing of an approaching tirade.

“Will you just STOP IT???” she demands.

I am taken aback. “What?” I ask.

“It’s all you talk about! I don’t want to know! Why, why on Earth, do you think that I might be possibly interested?”


“The very first thing that you said to me this morning,” she states, “was ‘I’m just going to try to squeeze one out.’ The very first thing! ‘I’m just going to try to squeeze one out.’ It’s your entire conversation!”

“I didn’t mean…”

“Bodily functions! I’m sick of it! It’s just a bloody running commentary all the time on your bodily functions! You can’t just go to the toilet like anybody else; you have to announce the fact beforehand and then do an in-depth run down of what you’ve left in the bowl. You can’t just say that you want a drink because you’re thirsty; you have to have a drink because you’re dehydrated and your wee is ‘looking a bit cloudy.’ The very first words I heard this morning! ‘I’m just going to try to squeeze one out.’”


“Since we first met,” she concludes, “your conversation has gone downhill.”

I say nothing, a little crestfallen.