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.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

A shadow darkens the window.

I look up from our game of ‘trying to put one brick on top of another’. The Baby frowns at me in irritation. There is something big parked in the road outside.

It is a removal van!!!

Somebody seems to have abandoned a massive removal van outside my house. There is nobody at the wheel, and no sign of any removal people with flat caps and long arms. I study the scene carefully from my vantage point at the nursery window.

The van does not seem to belong to the people over the road who have suddenly decided to move house. Or the other people over the road who have been trying to move house for ages. The LTLP is at work, and it is unlikely that she would move out without telling me or, indeed, getting me to do all the heavy lifting etc., and perhaps dictating a note.

I give the matter some thought. The Short Tonies are away at present. Perhaps some burglars are stealing all their possessions under the guise of being legitimate removal men. I would be a bit embarrassed if this was the case and I did nothing, so I gather up the Baby and sneak next door, through the secret gate that joins the front gardens. If there are burglars then I will hit them with an angry Baby and get her to wee in their eye. Then DNA evidence will be able to track them down.

There are no burglars next door, just a hungry rabbit who I have forgotten to feed. I wander back to the front of the house and look up and down the road.

The people next-door-but-one are moving house!!!

I am now extremely paranoid about this. Of all the houses within a 200-yard radius of mine, approximately 66 per cent of them are either for sale or currently in the actual process of moving out. I resolve to be extra-nice to my remaining neighbours in future, otherwise I will end up in a deserted urban wasteland, just like in the song by the Specials.

Concerned, I retreat indoors to continue the brick game.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

“Excuse me?”

There is a voice. I turn from the post box to locate its source.

A man is ambling over from a small jeep. The engine still runs. He is clearly the source of the “excuse me.” I allow my letter to fall from my hands into the post box’s cluttered womb, easing my wrist from its slot and giving him my full attention.

Grey-haired, he is wearing immaculate cream slacks. Retirement bling.

“I don’t suppose you know where these agents are based?” He gesticulates towards the ‘For Sale’ sign on the bungalow over the road.

A number of houses around mine are for sale – I do not know whether to take this personally or not. This particular one right opposite has been on the market since about Wednesday March 14th, and I am excited that I might be meeting a potential new neighbour. New people!!! I study him closely so I can report back to everybody.

I give him the information he requires. He asks me what living in the Village is like, and I offer him long examples of how we all know what each other is doing and just pop in to each others’ houses to say hello at any time of day or night, sometimes when we have been drinking. It is a neighbourly community like that. He looks a bit less friendly after this, and looks over his shoulder several times as he retreats to his car before driving off at some speed, doubtless to catch the estate agents before lunch.

He seemed like a pleasant chap, and I am determined to stick to my parting words to him, which were offering him a hand with moving in.

I make sure to take the number of his car. He is not from round here, after all, and he could have been looking at houses for sale with a view to committing some crime.

There is no more excitement. I return back over the road to the cottage, to tell all to the LTLP.

Monday, April 02, 2007

The Village Pub goes momentarily dark.

There is a man standing in the doorway. In fact he’s not standing, he’s looming. He blinks slightly before adjusting his loom and striding up to the bar.

“I come to do your security,” he booms from his loom. The accent is Russian, or Ukranian, or from one of the scarier –stans.

“My name is Igor,” he adds, with magnificent cliché.

The New Barman gazes up at him, flabbergasted. The man is built, if not exactly like a brick shithouse, like a shithouse of a particularly solid wooden-frame construction. He stares down at the New Barman querulously.

There is no indication as to whether he is making an offer or a threat. We do not have much experience of protection rackets here in the Village. Sizing the situation up, I decide that it would be better not to try to help. Short Tony and Big A seem to have the same idea, as does everybody else in the bar, and there is an immediate wave of shoe-studying.

“I’ll get the boss,” squeaks the New Barman.

The Well-Spoken Barman ambles through.

“I do your security,” our visitor repeats to him.

“Ah. I’m not sure we really need anybody on security,” replies the Well-spoken Barman in his disarmingly amiable way. “I don’t think. Do we?” he turns to us for some help.

“That is a particularly interesting shoe,” I say to Short Tony. “And so is that one.”

“Here,” demands the visitor. “On my piece of paper. It says ‘Village Pub.’”

“Ah. Well ‘Village Pub’ is quite a common name for a pub,” counters the Well-Spoken Barman with impressive bravery. “Look. ‘Village Pub, Wisbech’ it says.”

“Where is Wisbech?”

“In Cambridgeshire.”


The room dims once more as he steps out through the doorway. We resume our pints and are very careful not to even smile.