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.