I’ve been wandering of late, difficult as it is, with such internet as can be managed handily made possible by my internet provider – Paul. You notice the difference in my old and reliable portable typewriter and it’s more modern equivalent when you’ve got to cram it in the bottom of a backpack. But the places I’ve been aren’t reliable when it comes to paper-thin laptops and pads, and whilst the world conspires against it I do have to work. Distance conversely is not such a problem since if Tolly Maw is good for anything it is just great at being down the road from any number of places somewhat stranger than it. The ‘Maw (as the locals call it with something like affection, but that something being more commonly resigned horror) lies on the road to anywhere – even if most certainly not everywhere.
Grasper for example I can get to in an hour when the wind is in the right direction. I rarely wish to but the road chooses and up with the lark and the sproutling in school then if I hurry I can be there – when it’s there – fairly quickly and work with speed and a particular obsession with getting everything absolutely right. I don’t need to re-write so much but it’s rather the point of what I do that I want it to be just that. And it was sunny in Grasper, and to be fair no one was going to tell me off for working there. Albeit to the minds of none of them is what I do to be considered work. Grasper as you might very well know is a place very much dedicated to fun. Admittedly to the identification of it and summary disapproval once pinned to the butterfly board after the judicious application of net and killing jar. The people of Grasper having for various reasons missed being young entirely see no reason why the same should not be the case for everyone. Since they were rather shy, nervous even of a good time, as the years go by they increasingly loath those who see things otherwise. Young people mostly, obviously.
Mencken said that Puritanism was the haunting fear that someone somewhere may be happy. There is of course likewise the myth amongst certain of our cousins that their own founding fathers came to their shores to escape religious persecution (in fact it was because to their minds there wasn’t enough of it back home). And golly, the people of Grasper are puritans. Not religious you understand, but they hate it when people do anything other than town-sanctioned fun. It’s sadder still to see not the giddy baby-louts being chased away from flat surfaces for having skateboards as much as their peers who do the chasing. They wait until they too turn middle aged – somewhere about twenty six if the hair things nice and early – whereupon they can with the benefit of a few grey years under their belts roundly curse the kids in bus shelters. The kids would almost certainly be elsewhere but where do you go when you’re in your teens? The pub not only serves little more than a range of brackish ales, but serves that by the half pint and never more than one an hour. And it only opens for three hours on a Wednesday for quiz night (and event whereupon people can social without talking to each other) and Sundays for lunchtime for the sort of colossal roasts that nonetheless conspire to be deconstructed to such an extent that the only thing that comes near to any association with roasting is the name. Children obviously aren’t allowed in at either time. Children are hidden away until old enough to be noticed, whereupon they are left in the bus shelter for the night. You are allowed out of hours if willing to sit on the bench outside as a local character. Which was me for the now.
I learn all this from the most-boring-man-in-Grasper (which is saying something).
‘I blame television,’ he tells me over the half-pint of Cromwell he would nurse if not for the possible allusion to breasts that might entail. And he does, he really does, at length. ‘Reality television and those talent shows.’
‘Like we had with Opportunity Knocks?’
He blinks, but hearing only his own opinions presses on, ‘Everyone just wants to be famous nowadays. Famous for being famous, no talent at all.’
I would have thought that a talent show would have been ideal in that case, but again he doesn’t hear me. He also doesn’t like the arts, sports personalities, popular science or celebrity chefs. Presumably because anyone involved might be famous for having some talent. He tells me that everyone is overpaid, almost certainly more than him, which is of course the rub of it. He doesn’t mind if people don’t do proper work as long as they don’t enjoy anything like the sort of car he can afford.
He must love writers then.
Grasper has a cricketing green but no team, and after some visitor played darts in the pub they had to get a new board. The most-boring-man-in-Grasper also dislikes cyclists who, I learn, ride about taking up the roads that were paid for by his tax disc. Since the road here was laid in the 1920s over the dusty track that preceded it this seems somewhat doubtful. I suspect that what he really dislikes is the fact that middle-age people on bicycles throw aspersions upon his own perfect-heterosexual figure. They’ll probably live longer too; they almost certainly enjoy it. At heart he doubtless thinks anybody on a bike should either be a dotty woman suitable for solving quaint murders, the postman, or the sort of policeman mostly seen in old episodes of The Avengers (useful for moving people along in case they poke their noses into a little rural Satanisn, and being surprisingly strong when they do).
When I rise to leave he withers when he sees my backpack.
‘Aren’t you the local tramp?’ he demands to know.
‘Not local, no,’ with which I establish an awful local music festival and prevent a new motorway being built. Or I would but I have to pick up the sprouting up from school.