Thursday 5 December 2013

Wight Christmas

No amount of lipstick makes the bomb look any better, “I’m not convinced summer blush is her colour,” says Mme Roux. There are three types of people in the world; the miserable, the awful, and the dead. Mme Roux has never been happier. “Do you think perhaps tinsel would be over egging the cake?” she wants to know.
            “I prefer trifle, less stodgy after the full goose and garter belt starter. But tinsel perhaps? Or a small spray of holly?”
            Mme Roux loves Christmas. And if no one is around to celebrate it with her then she’ll just go and celebrate it alone. Only she’s not alone. She’s got me. I say dully, “Perhaps mistletoe?”
            Mme Roux has no sense of humour. She would claim otherwise having read up on it from a book. Sarcasm isn’t the lowest form of wit as we discovered with the crackers but it’s low enough to limbo under her notice. She says, “There is no mistletoe,” and she is right of course. There’s not much of anything. Every year I visit her and this year we’re about as far from anything as we can be unless you like rubble and flies. We’ve got lots of both. “Which is a shame,” she winks, and it’s just awful, because she is just awful. Mme Roux is what happens when someone is immortal. The person for whom the party never ends, still jumping around when the sun is up, and you just want your bed. I want my bed now.
            “Look it’s lovely that you think of me like this,” I say, not meaning a word of it.
            “Every year, darling.”
            “Every year, Mme Roux.”
            “And you always cook a magnificent goose.”
            I do. I can’t eat it, but I can cook it. Mme Roux can’t cook but she does like a goose. It’s still there on the table with the skin golden-dead and without any trimmings. Mme Roux loves a Christmas goose, a tradition not for spoiling by being eaten. Being immortal she can experience anything, and well before one lifetime had tired of everything. I’ve not had even the one lifetime yet. Well strictly speaking I’ve had several, just short ones. I’m not even fifty and so my immortality has only extended to not staying down from the accidental. Two weeks ago I fell down a hole. It didn’t kill me, nothing does, but I was still stuck there. I would have been there still had it not been for Christmas, and Mme Roux hunting me up to see to her goose. A world without people but she still finds a goose; and we have to have goose. Which as I say she won't and I can’t eat.
            She holds up the gravy boat, “Still feeling saucy?”
            I’m really not. Mme Roux has through the last two centuries enjoyed an army of lovers. Now there is just me. She’d like there to be more people because this year has been thin on cards. None to be precise, no people so no post. No postie either. Everyone died, a disease or some monkeys. Or computers rose up, which is more than most people did. There were no zombies and even the middle class escapees from the city that set up their idyll in a smashing country house died since much to their chagrin there were no farmers markets. But there are tins, and you can make trifle from tins, which I have. So we eat trifle.
            Of course we eat. I can’t die from hunger but I can get really very hungry. I don’t eat goose though because I get gout. How shit is that? Immortal and I suffer from gout. As the films might have said I don’t dvink vine – because a glass of red would see me in agony for a week unless I find some naproxin. Digging through the rubble of Boots is no fun at all and the labels are all rotten so it’s chuff down the menstrual pain relief and hope for the right one. So fuck goose. And fuck Mme Roux, although by preference rather not. But give it a year of nothing otherwise and even those monkeys there never were would start to look good. Mme Roux has enjoyed an army of lovers, but she believes in conscription.
            And then there’s the atom bomb.
            Lipstick and now tinsel and wrapped up in a tartan bow. There’s nothing elegant about it. No shiny faced missile of death this. It’s old and fat but it’s what there is and so at a ball for one her dance card is full. I say, “Where exactly does one find an atom bomb?”
“Santa sent it to me.”
            “Couldn’t you have just asked for socks?”
            “If I want socks,” says Mme Roux, “then I should knit them.”
            “Can you knit?”
            She can’t, but she can wire bombs. I’m not convinced you can wire up an an atom bomb with a Danger Mouse alarm clock but then what do I know?
            “Come along, darling,” she says and I do though I keep hold of the trifle. She has acquired a tandem which means she can cycle without having to pedal. And she doesn’t, but I do, and for such a long way until by nightfall we’re high on the hill and quite far away. She has port from a flask with a cigar from her hat and together we watch as the night becomes day to the mushroom blooming light over what was once Bath.
            Then we wait until it snows, because Mme Roux wants a white Christmas. Which is sweet and it’s thoughtful she shared, but you can’t make a snowman from fall out.

Wednesday 24 April 2013


They'll rob you, ravish you, and kill you. In no particular order.

Of all the trials that attend to living in Tolly Maw one of the most onerous is having to participate in the hunting. Now I don’t object to hunting per se. I eat meat after all, and if I have eaten what I’ve killed then a few rabbits as a youth probably doesn’t balance out the fact the mostly I get it from the butcher. In Shrewton many years back Billy the Butcher even provided it from under the counter. Even though he was as the name suggests - a butcher. He would wink when he did it. I tried hard not to watch certain bits of League of Gentlemen at the time.
            No, what is so tiresome is that in Tolly Maw then inevitably what they hunt are people. You know the score. You break down on a lonely road, there is a mist, there are hillbillies and what people in cities know about hillbillies is that they eat people. Or get the stuff from Billy from under the counter. As an aside, if you find a signet ring in a sausage apparently you get to keep it. But I digress. If only a little.
            At least in Tolly Maw they don’t hunt down screaming teenage girls. Partly because that would be viewed as just plain wrong. Mostly because teenage girls just tut and roll their eyes to cover their own embarrassment, whilst texting. More on that in a moment. But no, here in Tolly Maw they chase down middle aged men, and Michael Praed from the post office is even learning the banjo. It’s usually after watching too much Southern Comfort, or drinking it, or one of the two but involving it by the pint in any case. And frankly I can’t be asked. So just to fit in I have to sit there, on a stump, until I hear one coming and then amble across their path in order to point them in the wrong direction. Mostly I show them which way is out – which is nowhere, but I try. It’s the blubbing I can’t stand, but no amount of manly punches on the shoulder and demands to cowboy up ever seem to help.
            Of course this was all a lot easier before smartphones. Or indeed any phone that didn’t have at the very least a car attached to the other end. Now there are a hundred apps that could possibly help, Usually though a surprisingly effective (for such a badly made) arrow spears them at the point they’ve called up whatever app is likely to help. I don’t get involved. Well you don’t, do you?
            What I tend to do then during the evenings of this current hunting season is text.
            You can pick yourselves up now if you know me. Alan, text? He’ll be hanging around bus shelters next. Which I do. In order to catch the bus. I’m a late comer to texting I admit. And my phone is so old you still have to pound the keys three or four times to get the right letter. But what I like about it is that you can do it whilst doing everything else. Fantastic. Not like the phone at all, which whilst I clearly have one I never, not ever, use to phone anybody. So I can talk to people whilst doing whatever else I’m doing. So I can read, have the radio on, even watch television have I the mind to (which I don’t) and can have perfectly normal, usually, conversations. It’s a bit like email but without the neediness of email. And by the by, ‘lol’ is perfectly acceptable phrase to use. In context. To indicate a light heart, or that you appreciate what is said. It is still not punctuation however, nor is it used by default. My problem with texting is that I have to steel myself so much to be efficient, to say r u ok rather than spell the damn words out that it takes me longer than actually doing it long hand. Or properly, as you prefer. What I’m not good at is multiple texting. It seems rude. So if I’m talking to one person for a few hours, then I’ll just say ‘busy’ to anyone else. I know, I know, I’m just not awful enough any more. Oh, and I can do it whilst the sproutling is in the same room and she won’t know. So nice as I am, I also get to be sneaky. So still a bit awful. Which is nice.
            Best of all (and I’m no great hand at technology so I couldn’t say why) texting works wherever I am. Which is jolly handy since as you might know I have a wretched habit of slipping about the years like a drunk confusing anecdotes, on ice skates, with a bag on my head.
            But I have to go now someone is approaching in a panicky fashion.

Tuesday 16 April 2013

There And Back Again

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.     

Tuesday 9 April 2013

Fun Size Mars Bar

It comes as something that on a blog you can’t say what you’ve been doing. Which I shan’t, so there. You’ll have to speculate. Yeah, there you go*.
            But I’ve been nudged and today outright told that if current events now don’t see me commenting then nothing will. Previously I had to take down a selection of articles. The first the latest in the ever popular history-in-800 words concerning the rise and fall of Goths across the centuries. One regarding Robert Smith. And the other about the Clash which whilst entirely flattering is still now a hate crime. Frankly I’m stuffed since not being able to take the piss out of Goths leaves me with a big, gaping hole in my conversation. Ugly bastard buildings.
            The matter at hand of course is that descendant of straw-roofing artisans, the now late Baroness Thatcher. And who doesn’t miss Danger Mouse? Now I’m sure that many would suspect that I’d be here to rant and rail and throw stale buns at her memory. I’m not because as I’ve witnessed across the net her legacy lives on, indeed benefits us all today. Because Thatcher has reminded us once again of proper politics. Once more people are on one side or the other. They get heated, they loath those who say or think otherwise. The lines are drawn. Everyone is us, and all of them are crypto-wankers or reactionary-gobshites. And that’s swearing that is.
            For too long we’ve all sort of muddied our way through a series of Tony Blairs. First there was Tony Blair. Now there’s Tony Cameron, put in power by a lot of people who voted for Tony Clegg. The last is hilarious. It really is. A lot of people who would never, ever vote Tory did do. And they always will have. Ha, ha, ha. No skin off my custard you understand. I just want you to vote. Always. Just don’t bang on about it afterwards. 
            So we’ve been swimming in the non-Newtonian fluid of many Tonys all chasing the same sort of votes and all looking quite alike and really with very few exceptions sort of muddling along somewhere in the middle like Goths at a black lace theme night at the roller disco. Shit, did it again.  Here we were until yesterday with the Tonys only told apart by Tony Cameron looking a bit pissed off, Tony Clegg looking resigned and weary, and Tony Milliband being the restaurant at the end of the universe. But not now. Now once again there are lines.
            Yes, for the next few days at least everyone is either a boil-in-the-bag fascist barely a short hop from bovver boots and a hairdo to strike matches off, or an unshaven commie who never did a day’s work in their life with a silly beard, that has trouble filling up their petrol tank for all the milk bottles they’re topping up first. The one demands we remember the 70s, the other the 80s. I remember both. The first had Action Man in it and the second Kajagoogoo. If you don’t remember them or Flock of Seagulls then you don’t really have an opinion on the matter anyway. They were both rubbish bands. Unlike those in the 70s which hindsight has pruned of all the crap in the charts then too to leave only Led Zeppelin at number one every week even though they never released singles.
            So delight in it. Revel in your awakening. The lines are drawn, politics is back.
            And the word ‘Falklands’, ‘Miners’, and 80s chart music are the new Godwyn for the laws on internet debate. The last one I added. Really it was bloody awful. Unlike in the 70s when Jethro Tull were on Top Of The Pops every week and Punk and Disco were never around at the same time at all.
            Especially roller disco. With Goths in the middle like a pack of Tonys.

*Also, gout.

Thursday 28 March 2013

Sleep Scroungers

I thought I’d escaped the bedroom tax what with not being in receipt of any housing benefit but it appears not – since I discovered today that the tax is to be applied to bedrooms, full stop.
            I rang and discovered through a young chap, clearly much harried, that sleep has been pinned down as being one of the singularly largest drains on the country, being unproductive and indeed the preserve of people simply lying around. Already plans are being made to demonise sleepers who could be out there working. This all seems a little unfair, at least to me personally, as I would happily not sleep at all if I could seeing as how there is just so much stuff to do. I will get a decent sort of rebate on the tax since one third of the bedrooms in my house are actually being used for work, but that all rebounds as one of the remainder is occupied by my daughter. Children are likewise seen as a drain on the country’s resources and are (I was quietly told) to be phased out entirely over the next ten years.
            It’s not like this week hasn’t been the busiest since... ever. What with the end of term today needing three days of cake making and decorating (fortunately the sprout won first prize), her birthday, her party to organise, the upcoming Brownie camp, Easter – oh, and work, with today yet more forms arriving needing to be urgently filled in. But whilst I explained all this it was pointed out that if I hadn’t insisted on spending five or six hours just lying around of a night then the whole thing could have been made to go away.
            I had to concede the point.

Wednesday 27 March 2013

Bus Wankers!

So it transpires I’m a poof. It seems an odd way to come out of the closet I admit. It surprised me too let me tell you as I’d never before thought that such involved me reading on a bus. But there it is. Despite two children and the majority of my life quietly dedicated to going to bed with women the fact that I read a book on the bus means that I’m gay. I was told so. So it must be true.
            It’s been said across the net that homophobia is the fear by certain people that gay men will treat them exactly the same way as they treat women. Equally I’d add that like a lot of middle age men (who typically glance at the odd book or two as well) that I’m homophile. Or to be more exact, are of the sure and certain belief that being straight and with kids every gay man I know, have met, or will ever meet is having a much, much better time of it than I am. All that fun just out there, and not for us. Yes, it’s jealousy. And jealousy isn’t nice. But then middle age men aren’t always very nice especially when it’s just a veneer learned through self examination. Which mine is, oh yes.
            I swore to myself I would not moan on this blog, nor express hate of anything from the way weetabix dries in the bowl to meercats. I’ve done that. I used to have a web column back in the last century and it was called Hate! I stopped that but the internet has picked up that baton and run with it to the extent that bile drips from my very monitor in some places. Not I, the web is too important for that, but elsewhere. I mean to say, I don’t much care for My Little Pony so I won’t often be found on a fansite dedicated to them. And if I were I would not then find time so heavy on my hands that I would then attack those on that self same site for whom Rainbow Blossom  is a subject of considerably, even abiding interest. Likewise whenever faced with a customer down the years that cared to slate me I can smile back, or when reading nonsense likewise chuckle and live content in the happy realisation that life is too short to listen to idiots. Though if you said it, I know you said it, and I’ll remember.
            So on this bus I’m reading. A book, not a newspaper. And two fat men of about my age stare at me. And one says to the other, ‘What’s he doing?’ To which his witty friend replied, ‘Reading, what a poof.’
            Now naturally what should happen is that I would ignore them, seethe a little, and then come up with some witty rejoinder later. That I should like the bullied 1st year know my place. Sadly, that is not I. People forget that under this charming and jolly nice exterior I am still Alan. Alan who indeed won the cun t-of-the-year competition in the 80s against some very stiff competition. Indeed, Alan that knew the sort of people amongst whom we would actually go through and judge such an award. So for all those of you who would turn the other fearful cheek, I was there for you. 
            Although to be fair all I came up with on the spur was, ‘If you’re looking for a three-way I don’t fuck fat twats’.
            I should add here that their weight was not an issue. Cope knows I was there myself for quite some time. But such were the weapons offered.
            ‘You what?’
            ‘You fucking heard.’
            ‘Fuck off.’
            ‘Off the bus? Or just generally fuck off?’
            To which I was told to watch it. To which I laughed. Then they got off the bus and when in motion again made motions with their fists.
            All of which made me feel jolly young again.
It was just like the 80s.
Presumably I’d better look out at closing time in case they and their half dozen mates fancy teaching me a good lesson when they decide on a little idle gay-bashing. Which would be terribly unfair as I’d get the hiding without all the benefits. You know, all that fun I’m absolutely certain 100% I’m completely missing out on.

Sunday 24 March 2013

We Miss You James Herbert

Just the other day I saw James Herbert’s new novel in the supermarket at a cut down, end of aisle price. So I walked round the corner to the proper bookshop and bought it there. For the sake of a couple of quid I’d rather have the bookshop. Quite aside from anything else they host the book group I try and get to, and they have nice cake. Not that I can eat cake but I appreciate the gesture. I could eat cake, but having hit eleven stone now cake and I are undergoing a trial separation.
            So I read it and like nearly everything Herbert it was very readable. And then just hours later I find out James Herbert had died. And I felt sad, and I still do.
            I’ve muttered before about how I dislike the terms young-adult and teen-fiction. Teenagers that genuinely do read, read books. I did. And when I was a middling teen I read James Herbert. I also read Zelazny, Moorcock, Dick and any number of others but as a teenager I definitely read Herbert – and so too did many of us. His heroes were pretty much alike and the attractive foil for the hero likewise so that the inevitable sex scenes were identical between them. Ever thrown into sharp relief from the purity of the identical perfect first-fuck by the host of grubby perverts also in the book that would get eaten, or beaten, or just always killed. We know this because Herbert always showed, rarely told. He had the knack for spending a chapter going through the topsy-turvy, usually perverse, lives of someone only for them to get eaten by rats, ghosts, or killed by someone that has three chapters of their lives before suffering the same. He showed us what was so terrible by showing what happened. No nameless body on a beach with a bit of exposition to paint the eyes and mouth on a cardboard face here. And he was brilliant at it. I’ve read some snidey stuff about Herbert’s work recently. This is exactly what you’d expect since he sold millions. \But the thing is, absolutely everyone that met him describes what a great bloke he was. So I say good for him - and thanks for all the scary nights.
            He was in many ways the English Stephen King, by time and success. But I don’t know what Maine looks like and Herbert had less characters that were writers. But I do or afterwards did know what Aldgate was like (Rats), what Wiltshire, Bournemouth and the Elephant were (Fog) – and so on . Domain got me fascinated with London under London and my Granda Bill then told me more. The last struck a chord too since nuclear war was not for we teens of the 80s unlikely, it was almost inevitable. It was.
            And as I say James Herbert was readable. He told his tales with a fast pace, with chapters that made you read the next. With wonderful and realised passing supporting characters (that as I’ve said would then die). He was a British horror writer and he wrote for us. We read them when we were teenagers. And when we were teenagers the darkness never sparkled.
            RIP James Herbert. You were great. Your work was important. We’ll miss you.