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.