Jeanneke Pis Manneken Pis
WIND AND PISS
Poet on a Hill
To Begin at the Beginning…
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Leap off a Day
Leap off a day full of struggle and toil.
Pleasure-power fuels freedom's few precious
hours. Head for the cellar where solace is
found; shoulder a way through the jostling crowd.
The thicket is wild and dense by the bar,
winter-branch arms shedding autumn-leaf notes.
Barmaids flick taught-aloof tails while they flit,
ripping off balls with their sharp little tits.
Machine-gunning speakers spray punters with
rap; call for ''strong-ale!'' Leave the lager for
louts. Survey, edge away from the wankers
and drunks; she's got mad-eyes; he's pushing tabs.
Ocean of faces polluted by booze;
snatches of voices, wind-torn from the storm.
Crackhead is screaming about his bad trip;
rodents are filling his skull full of shit.
Rhythm-girls bob up and down to the beat;
silky Desire still the queen of the dance,
Aldis-lamp pants flashing codes through the gloom.
Refill my pot and slug whisky for luck.
Shouting and cursing and breaking of glass;
fun at the bar... stampeding... girls crying;
chairs swinging; fists flying; then exocet-
bottles-and-boots in an all-out attack.
Faces exploding in fountains of blood;
shatter-glass windows ice-blue-psychedel;
game-beating police rousing quarry to
flight – any brace cooks-the-books for the night.
Scatter and panic; a jam at the door
as we tear and then pull and then kick and
butt heads; now dash for the street and the sweet
inky-black safety of swallowing night.
Find the fair-maid Desire, cute little sprite
whose ignoble-knight offers vindaloo-
sauce – plan for scalding her arse and covert-
ovens-of-love – as we leap off a day.
Oxymoron? Scots zealots heckling Nigel Farage with shouts of,
“Racist scum – get back to England!”
Item On Scottish Socialist Blog.
“Smoke a cigarette and breathe out towards your protest victim.”
…Yeah – But first, inhale deeply.
Found a sky lantern in the garden.
There was a swastika on the canopy.
That’s worrying. Do the Germans know I joined UKIP?
Arguably, Mary was only 14 when she conceived Jesus.
Should we always allow for an era’s culture before condemning sex-abuse, or never?
I know that many people think they have to talk to God in a different kind of voice.
And I guess the guy can put up with the odd thee and thou.
But I just came across this on the internet...
“I dreamt I saw Jesus and. I said, ‘Lord I love u & I want 2 know u.’
That’s OK in a dream. But I know God or, at least,
I did until I decided he wasn’t there.
But when he was there he would have told this person to,
“Shut the fuck up until you can communicate
in proper English you bloody lame brain.”
If a man is not a socialist at 18, he has no heart.
If he is still a socialist at 30, he has no head (sic)...
UK Logic. Prosecute geriatric celebrates for gropes they had 50 years ago.
Tolerate aristocrats who inherit titles from robber-killer barons.
Evolution – the downside
Evolution has many negative aspects. People are getting fatter,
children rowdier, wildlife is doomed and the universe is running
out of steam. San fairy-ann. The big worry is that the British pie
and chips are following in the footsteps of the dinosaurs.
A traditional chip was one this world’s gems, finger thick,
golden brown, firm outside and fluffy within, deep-fried in
beef dripping, yet not a hint of fat. Where have they gone?
Nowadays, what passes for a chip is a long pale slither of hot
soggy spud... Even worse, is that bag of scabs, boiled in grease, that
they shovel up in burger bars and call, fries! On several occasions,
I’ve had “fries” plonked before me in the guise of “traditional fish
and chips” What?!
Chip-extinction is spreading like dry rot. Even British pubs no longer
serve real chips. OK. I grant you that some of their attempts are not
bad. Some are even quite nice. But, at best, they are frozen cuttings,
shaken out of a packet and given a quick fry-up. There’s no tender
loving care involved. Check it out.
The proof of a real genuine chip is that it does not come alone.
It comes with misshapes. In a real British chippy all the potatoes
are sliced on the spot. And no oval potato can give a set of identical pieces.
Think about it. Real chips come with scratchings – those crispy little bits
of imperfection that we fought over as kids.
This evolutionary mutation has taken place in British pies too.
The definition of a pie is “a filling, cooked in a pastry-lined dish with
a pastry lid.” But what you get in a pub these days is little more than
a plateful of stew with a bit of puff pastry floating on top, like a raft
in a sewage farm. It’s not even a dumpling or doughboy.
I reckon that anyone who charges for a pie and fobs you off with a bit
of leftover pastry should be taken up under the trade description act
and cast away with the forgers and counterfeiters. The same goes for
anyone who charges for chips and slips you a bag of scabs.
So what’s to blame for this downward spiral? Well, as far as chips are
concerned, it’s globalisation, innit? As usual, the French are at the heart
of the problem. They invented the fry, which they exported to the USA.
The Americans grabbed it because it fits in with their “get fat quick”
approach to food. The Yank multinationals then flooded the world with
grease-burger and fries. So, now, British kids think that a fat infested
splinter is a chip.
Then along came the Chinese, masters of industrial plagarism,
swarming over the planet like ants over a carcass. In the UK, the obvious
blueprint for a quick buck was the chip. So Chinese chippies mushroomed
over the land, like duck stalls in Beijing. That was the final nail in the
chip’s coffin. The Chinese can fry rice and boil noodles. But the potato
But I can’t blame immigrants for wrecking the pie. The skids went under
the pie when they assassinated cooks. Not many years ago this country
was infested with cooks. They were everywhere, hospitals, schools, pubs...
they even had cooks on ships and other weird places. Maybe that’s why they
had the “cook-cull.” There were too many of them. The plus side about cooks
was – they made damn good pies. They made meat pies, potato pies, jam pies
and apple pies. They could produce a pie out of a lump of green cheese –
and often did. Pies were the main function of a cook... pie and chips.
Then, overnight, cooks went the way of the dodos... and up popped chefs.
In evolutionary terms, it was inevitable. The same thing is happening in the
woods right now. British Red squirrels are disappearing and alien brown squirrels
are multiplying like... er... Chinese. It’s evolution, innit?
So now, like brown squirrels, we have chefs everywhere. Every pub, club and
burger bar has its own chef. But, unlike the chef’s of old, who couldn’t speak
English, smelled of garlic and specialised in microscopic unpronounceable bits of
artwork, modern chefs can’t cook. They can do little more than empty a freezer bag
and switch on a microwave.
That’s evolution for you; red squirrels and cooks, confined, like dinosaurs,
to the history books. Flick over the page for pie and chips.
“To Fight Climate Change, Sheffield Council has bannned ice-cream vans.”
During the Cold War some nutty councils declared they were “Nuclear Free Zones.”
I don’t know if the Russian bomb-aimers knew that.
But head-cases never go away.
Does prison work? The prison population has gone up 30%.
Crime has dropped 25%.
Pass the calculator.
Let’s face it: wind farms are not really farms.
You can’t milk a turbine. It milks you.
Being in the EU means that foreigners run Britain.
In the name of Human Rights our laws are overruled in Brussels
by people we did not elect. As a result the country becomes
a safe haven for foreign terrorists. At the same time,
opening our borders to all comers leads to a housing crises,
schools and hospitals stretched to breaking point and
tarmacking over England’s green and pleasant land.
This in turn leads to anger and resentment. Put another way,
if the bus is full, piling more people aboard causes discomfort,
anger and resentment and even danger for those already aboard.
In the case of a bus, the answer is, “get on the next bus.”
In the case of a country it has to be, ”go where there is more room.”
Let us have some common sense.
Nigel Farage... Cometh the moment, cometh the man!
Q: Why do the Brits like Nigel Farage?
Ans: After all the political tossers and bankers,
they think “OMG there’s another human out there.”
UKIP Followers? The sneerers call us “clowns.”
We are actually, “the great British unbrainwashed!”
When I was on my bike the other day, a ray of sunshine
revealed a forest of wind turbines covering one of our
beautiful wild hills; grotesque, like the stubble
on an old man’s chin. When the sun went in, the
turbines disappeared and I had my hill back.
That gave me another brainwave. I get lots of them.
They’re all as good as this. If they painted the turbines purple,
they would blend in with the heather and we wouldn’t
see them anymore. In the army they call it camouflage.
All we need is a few volunteers with tins of
purple paint and oilcans. They could start at the bottom,
paint their way up to the top, oil the wheels, then come
down and start all over again – forever.
Then, in one fell swoop, bingo! No more windmills,
free electricity for all – and a booming Purple Paint Industry.
I can’t join in myself. I’m too busy thinking up ideas.
But the best of British luck to the public spirited.
So all these people want to come and live in Britain.
Fine. But wouldn’t it make sense to check what contribution
each of them is capable of making,
and then only admitting those who can be of use.
Yes, I know Brussels would object to that.
But seeing that Brussels doesn’t make any contribution
at all, why don’t we tell them to get stuffed.
If Human Rights Laws support Abu Qatada,
and the Lib Dems support Human Rights Laws,
what does that make the Lib Dems?
UK democracy: If one political party concentrates on
35% of the electorate & ignores 65%,
it can gain a majority and form a government.
Does, having more children than you can reasonably
afford, contribute to child poverty?
In every communist country I’ve been to, everyone has a job.
But no one has any money.
I wander in the wild-wood
where Leap, my dog, would play;
rest upon some grassy bank
where I with Jenny lay.
Time you thief who stole my life,
the years go like a day.
Leap lies beneath the laurel,
my Jenny went away.
A lot of people grow designer stubble to hide warts and things.
Our neighbour has designer stubble.
Wonder if she’s got warts?
Irony: Will the doolally financial policies advocated by the Left
give rise to another Thatcher?
Is, “look like an evil baby-frightener,”
a part of an Islamic terrorist’s job description?
Irony: Will the doolally financial policies advocated by the Left
give rise to another Thatcher?
The Brits are down. Divide and rule. Wheel in the “Communities,”
Dogging, Travelling, Asian, Afro, Homo, Trans whatever –
all well persecuted… sniffs and dabs his eye.
Keep Britain happy. Mummify Savile and Thatcher.
Put him on trial at the Bailey
and her on a ducking stool in the Serpentine.
Poor Nanny State. Lead in rice, horse in beef, mercury in mussels,
sewage in prawns. Her taste buds must be ratted by now.
How does she spot the difference?
Went to church once. Suddenly they all turn and shake hands
with each other. What’s the gimmick –
being friendly with strangers? Weird.
Don’t trust anyone. My mother said,
“eat your bread crusts and you’ll have curly hair.”
I went bald.
But when I wake, they don’t rhyme. What’s that about?
I’ve got flu or something.
When I just spat out I got this slither of phlegm that went all
the way from the back of my throat to the toilet water.
I was kneeling down and it was lashing about like a halyard
in a gale. But it wouldn’t snap; kept stretching like elastic.
The funny thing is, that I was too squeamish to break it
off with my fingers, even though it was spewing out of my mouth
like Giuseppe’s spaghetti.
I find that strange.
The KGB Building had the best view in Russia.
You could see Siberia from the cellar.
The UK’s heading the same way.
Quick! Get Scargill to rally the mob and march on Downing Street.
“We’ll have the Red Flag flying here...”
These sheep,rejoicing at Maggie’s death,
never lived with the threat of annihilation.
In 11 short years she forced Russia to back down.
Thatcher inherited 27% inflation, rubbish on the streets,
bodies not buried, power cuts, union bullying – and a Cold War.
Do the party people remember those days...? Doubt it.
Uncle Sid’s dead!
He stepped out to see if the number 7 bus was coming
– it was.
Ok. Life is sacred. But these Jains are a bit over the top.
Why don’t they sell padded trousers
for men with bony arses?
I’m no Christian. I’m agnostic.
But I hate bullies!
Leave the believers alone,
Kitchen Roll. The best invention since the wheel.
Coldest spring ever.
I think these buds are just appearing out of habit.
A hospital in the USA says fiddling with the clocks
in spring triggers heart attacks...
Thank God it’s not the burgers and fries, eh.
Uckfield, Sussex, Easter Parade.
Guy acting as Christ is walking to Calvary
wearing high viz jacket for “Health and Safety.”
Maybe if Jesus had worn one...
Unemployment? Rubbish! The church needs priests;
cushy job; short week; salary and house.
They can’t prove that you don’t believe.
I switched my PC on.
It’s configuring 44031 updates.
I’m online every day.
Liz switches her PC on. No update.
Someone’s having a laugh.
Overheard: Visitor: “Why is There no plug in my
hand-basin drain-hole?” Russian hotelier:
“We don’t wash our faces in dirty water!”
Nigel Farage is the last of the true Brits.
When his generation goes, Britannia will have gone too.
You heard it here first.
Today’s wimpy young Brits
can’t face the blue mould in Stilton Cheese.
Wait till the varicose veins kick in...
A Researcher in Cardiff says that,
“If everyone in the country spoke English,
we’d save a fortune on translators.”
Research shows that 98% of the people
who criticise the Daily Mail
have seldom read the paper
Visitor: Why don’t you teach religion in Russian schools?
Russian teacher: “Which religion would we teach?”
VIP Quotes -
T Blair: “Duck! WMD are coming!”
G Brown: “British jobs for Brits!”
D Cameron: “I’ll fix the Romanian scams!”
Demos, the Left Wing think tank,
now admits that mass immigration was bad for the UK!
The man in the pub said that 15 years ago. Gits!
A scientist on tele is talking about climate change
as if it’s just started. It started 13 billion years ago
for God’s sake! Scientist?!
Woman here says, “Winning £1.8m,” ruined her life.
Bollocks! Money is inanimate.
What ruined her life was stupidity.
Life gets easier...
In a book I read, thieves carried bags marked “swag.”
Modern terrorists have glass eyes hook hands and scraggy beards.
Policework’s a doddle
Cyprus, in the 1950s, said, “Better a poor mother, Greece,
than rich stepmother, UK.
Now the choice is Uncle Putin or Auntie Merkel. Hmm...
BBC commissioning Editor says she can’t find any
Rightwing comedians to redress the balance –
never mind - the Left is full of jokers
The Way it Was
A handful of us boys shiver by the Male’s Pool in Manchester’s
Gorton Baths, wartime thin and pale as fear. It’s 1944 and I’m
10 years old. The winter wind rips off the Pennines, roars along
Hyde Road like a bomb blast, then streams through the swing
doors of the pool as an icy draught. I hate it here.
This little group are all about the same age. We’re in the same
class at school, 4b, the slow stream. We take the 11+ in June.
The older lads are in the deep end, larking about.
Some of them will be in the army next year, fighting the
Germans. Scally’s with them. He’s the wiry one with scars on
his back. He’s done borstal for robbing and GBH. He got the
birch in there. That’s what the scars are. So now he’s a kind of
hero. It’s as if he was in the war and got wounded. He says he
“owns” the deep end. You can only swim in there if he gives
permission. I’m scared of Scally. He puts the wind up everyone.
Sken-eye, the bald-headed perv, was already in the plunge when
we came in this morning, kneeling in the shallow end with just his
head above water, like that seal we saw on the school trip
to Rhyl. Judder, our woodwork teacher, says there are seals all
round the coast, watching the beaches. The Germans put cameras
in their heads and use them as spies. Judder should know.
He had his brains blown out in the last war. He keeps hitting us
on the head with lumps of wood and saying, ‘Sheep are the stupidest
animals in the world – except for boys – boys are twice as stupid.’
Smiggy, the red haired lad with no cozzie on, is already in trouble
’cos he jumped off the balcony and depth charged Sken-eye.
Tommy, the caretaker, is after him now. Tommy’s the little thin guy
with the mop of brown hair, the one in the blue overall, white
jacket and gum boots. He spends his life circling the plunge
with a scoop in one hand and a brush in the other, swilling and
brushing, swilling and brushing. He should be fighting the
Germans but he got away with it ’cos he’s not all there. That towel
he slings over his shoulder is wet through. If you do anything wrong
he drops the brush and flicks the towel at you. In a single move,
at 4 paces, he can put a wheal on your body the size
of a ten-bob note.
Smiggy’s got no cozzie ’cos his dad’s a prisoner with the Germans,
so his mam can’t afford one. The cold water’s shrunk his cock so
it looks like a jelly baby at the bottom of his belly. Sken-eye’s
always looking at him. You don’t think he is, ’cos of his squint.
You think he’s looking at you, but he’s really looking at Smiggy ’cos
he’s got nothing on. That’s why Smiggy depth charges him...
It was January-dark when I came downstairs this morning.
Gran’s house is lit by gas, and the mantles don’t give much light.
Maggie was already there, kneeling in the hearth, holding her
knickers in front of the fire, ’cos she’d pissed the bed again. She’s
grown up really, thin with ginger hair, pale skin and freckles. I get
butterflies when I look at her. Gran makes fun of her ’cos
she’s 17 and still pees the bed. Maggie says, ‘The cold does it.’
But Gran says it’s ’cos she’s scared to go outside to the toilet in the
dark – and too much of a lady to squat over a jerry.
I’m hacking a chunk of bread off the loaf when Gran goes past
with a jerry full of her own pee. She keeps the jerry under the bed.
There’s a turd in it this morning. She’s gone through the lean-to
kitchen and into the yard where the toilet is. She agrees with Maggie really.
It’s too dark and scary to go out there at night; freezing cold as well.
Gran’s got terrible scars all over both arms. She told me she had tattoos
cut out. But auntie Kath told Maggie it was boiling fat from the chip-pan
that did it. Uncle Dan went to throw it over Aunt Amy but Gran dived in and
wrestled with him – so she got the lot. I stick a fork in the bread, then go
and kneel beside Maggie and shove it against the bars of the grate.
I can smell warm pee off her knickers.
‘Gran,’ she shouts, when Gran comes back in. ‘Stop him.
He keeps looking at my knickers.’
‘No I don’t!’ I shout. ‘I’m making toast. It’s my breakfast.’
But I blush ’cos I do keep looking. I can’t help it.
‘He does! He keeps looking! Look! His toast’s on fire.’
Thwack! Gran cuffs me across the back of the head. ‘Leave her
alone! Look what you’re doing!’
‘I am looking. I like it black. It’s not fair.’
I go into the backyard and feed scraps to the hens.
The yard’s tiny really, surrounded by a high wall with just enough
room for the toilet, dustbin and homemade coop.The coop’s got a
rusty mesh front and piece of old plywood for a door.
The hens are really happy here. We let them run round the flagstones
all day and they lay eggs as presents. They’re like cousins to
Maggie and me. We let them in the kitchen but Gran chases them out.
They all come clamouring when I come with scraps.
Captain Marryat always pushes to the front. She’s my favourite
– and she knows it. Gran got the hens as day old chicks. Captain Marryat
was the runt and Gran gave up on her because she thought she’d die.
But I saved her. I kept her in a shoebox in the hearth
by the fire and fed her spoonfuls of water and crumbs and things.
Now she’s the biggest and strongest. She pushes to the front when I
come out because she remembers what I did. When I call her name she
always comes scurrying. I call her Captain Marryat ’cos he’s my
favourite author. I’m going to be a sailor when
I leave school. I’ll grow a beard and get weather-beaten
and all the girls will fancy me.
This is cleaning day. Maggie’s in her flowery overall-coat with bare
legs and feet. The overall just hangs on her... but you
know that, underneath, she’s… this special shape.
She seems to be swaying and flowing all over when she walks.
It’s like she’s dancing but she isn’t… On Saturday night, when she goes
to the dance at the Alhambra where the Yanks are, she puts pale
goldie-brown paint on her legs to pretend she’s got stockings on.
I love to watch her painting her legs. She knows I do and gives little
smiles to herself. I pretend not to be watching and she pretends not to
know I’m watching. It’s like an exciting game as she pulls
up her skirt to paint above her knees. Now I’ve got butterflies again.
On Saturdays she ties a scarf round her head like a turban then
scatters last weeks wet tealeaves over the stone floor. We keep the
tealeaves in a box on the slopstone. They look like dollops of mud to me
but Gran says they soak up the dust. I ask Gran if I can go to the baths.
She says; ‘Yes. There’s threpence on the sideboard. Gerrout o’ my sight.’
I walk to the baths because I can’t afford the bus fare. None of us can.
It’s about two miles. I meet Smiggy and Sid on the way.
Sid’s the dark lad with shifty eyes. His dad’s in Burma, fighting the Japs.
You can’t trust Sid. I’ve got to watch both these two lads ’cos they bully me;
beat me up and pinch stuff out of my gasmask box, like my lunch and
marbles and bits of shrapnel I keep as souvenirs after the air raids;
depends what mood they’re in. Today’s a good day so it’s all right.
They don’t know I’ve joined the LNER boxing gym and started training.
The best bit I’ve learnt, is that punches don’t hurt till the next day.
Joe, the coach, said I could make a middleweight champ when I grow up.
I just need a bit of polishing that’s all. So the next time Sid and Smiggy
try it on I’ll tear into them...
Here in the baths, us kids are sitting in the tubs with our teeth chattering.
I spend most of every Saturday morning sitting in the tubs ’cos
the plunge is too cold. There’s no coal to heat the water.
The ships need it to go to America to bring back
food and ammo to keep us going against the Germans.
I’ll be on one of those ships one day – with a brown face, tattoos,
and rings in my ears.
The tubs are like a narrow trench with tiles along the bottom and sides.
There’s a trickle of warm water about half an inch deep, running along the
bottom. You’re supposed to come in here and wash yourself before you go
in the plunge. It’s the only warm water and bath us kids ever see.
We sit in a long line, one behind the other, knees drawn up, hugging
our legs and shivering. It’s the best moment of the week. But every now
and again Tommy goes into his office and turns the control to cold so we
are suddenly sitting in freezing water. Then he comes out flicking his wet
towel at us and driving us into the plunge like those panicking redskins
you see in cowboy films.
Worse than that is when Sken-eye comes in. You never see him coming.
He just appears. The first you know is when one of the lads gives a
yell and goes haring past towards the plunge, followed by
another and another. Then suddenly you feel his hands on your shoulders
and these skinny white thighs appear on either side of you, and you
know it’s your turn. Then you’re up and screaming, racing to leap
into the freezing water. Then, for a moment, the icy plunge, full of
shaking blue kids, seems to be the safest place in the world; until
Sken-eye’s head pops up right next to you…
On the way to the baths, in Gorton Lane, Smiggy and Sid stop
to throw stones at a cat that’s sitting on the roof of
a communal street-air-raid-shelter. I don’t join in ’cos I can’t throw
straight. The stones never go where I aim.
I had a practice session in a back alley a couple of weeks ago.
I see this cat sitting on Mrs Coxie’s backyard wall so I throw a stone at it.
But I miss and it smashes her kitchen window, a sudden crash and
shattering glass. So I leg it out of there – like I do when Sken-eye puts
his hand on my shoulder. I thought I’d got away with it. But Long Lily Holmes
was looking through her bedroom window. The stupid cow split on me and
told the other women it was me. The next day they were all shouting at me
in the street and saying I should be in borstal because Mrs Coxie’s son,
Billy, was killed at Dunkirk, and her other son, Jimmy, is missing at the
front and she still wears black. That’s not my fault. The Germans did that.
I liked Billy and Jimmy. When they were home on leave and I was small,
Billy and Jimmy used to pick me up and throw me to each other
like I was a ball. But worst of all, when I said I didn’t break the window,
the women didn’t believe me. That’s not fair. They believed Long Lily and
she’s mad. She’s about seven feet tall, with this little round head,
white face, and basin-cut hair; thin as a lamp-post with a long black skirt
that goes down to her feet. They believe her but they don’t believe me.
Florrie Ogden’s mam says I should get the birch. That’s
not fair either. Anyway, Florrie’s mam has her hair cut short like a man.
That’s weird that is. I think she’s got nits. But it’s always the same.
No one ever believes me when I say I didn’t do things.
It’s not fair. It wasn’t their cat anyway.
Eileen Hodge is in the baths today. She was going into the girl’s
pool with a rolled up towel when I was coming in here.
Eileen makes me feel funny too, like Maggie does.
She’s not as old as Maggie though. And she doesn’t sway like a flower
in the wind when she walks. But she has this bright face, smooth
and shiny like an angel’s. A lot of girls have angel’s faces.
I wonder if any of those in the pool next door
have no cozzies on – like Smiggy? There’s a connecting door between
the two baths but it’s always locked and the keyhole’s blocked.
I try looking through it every week but I never see anything.
Tommy caught me one week and flicked me with the towel.
It hurt for days. The mark was still there two weeks later.
There’s a scary thing about girls though. My cousin Jake told me
about it. When they get to Maggie’s age they get hairs on the
belly and give you diseases if you have-it-off with them.
It’s hard to believe that Maggie’s full of disease.
But she is. They all are. Jake said you get covered in boils then
go blind and mad and die. I don’t know why girls do that.
But Jake says that’s why the Yanks wear wallah-bags
when they take them up back alleys to give them nylons and a good
seeing-to. I know Jake’s right ’cos I’ve seen loads of wallah-bags
in the back alleys. Jake found one in my Gran’s back entry one day
and took it to school. He was passing it round in the
math’s lesson when Ratty Ritchie, the teacher, saw him and
flung a wooden board-duster at him. It gave Jake a massive lump in
the middle of his forehead that went all yellow and purple.
Auntie Fanny, Jake’s mam, kept asking how he got it and he kept
saying one of the senior lads threw a stone at him. He daren’t tell
her that Ratty did it ’cos he took a wallah-bag to school...
or else she’d kill him – kill Jake not Ratty. Mind you, Ratty
should be killed. He’s as mad as a cornered canal-rat.
That’s why we call him Ratty. They blew his brains out in the
last war too. All our teachers are old ’cos everyone young
is in this war. All our men-teachers went mad in the last war
and take it out on us. And the women are witches with tartan
legs and a stink of piss. They all hate me – men and women.
I don’t know why...
All the kids are crowding on the side of the plunge now,
looking across the water, gawping and sniggering.
‘What’s up?’ I shout, running to join them.
‘Sken-eye – look at ‘im,’ says Smiggy.
I look over the water at Sken-eye’s cabin. It’s just like all the
other cabins, with a half-door at the bottom and a green
canvas curtain that you can pull cross the top. When you’re
changing you close the door and leave the curtain open,
so you can see outside but other people can’t see your whatsit.
Sken-eye does it different. He draws the curtain and leaves the door
open so that you just see the bottom part of his body.
‘He’s got an ’ard on,’ says Sid.
‘I can see that but why’s it bent?’ I want to know.
‘’Cos he’s had it off with a woman,’ says Silver, one of the big lads
who’s just swum down from the deep end to have a look, and is now
in the plunge at our feet. Silver’s only got one real leg.
The other one’s a wooden peg. That’s why we call him Silver – ’cos he
has a peg leg. He lost one of his legs in the bombing.
He takes his peg off to come in the water but he’s still the best
swimmer in the baths. I wish I had a peg leg. I’d go to sea as a
cook and have tattoos and a parrot on my shoulder.
And I wouldn’t have to play football. I hate football ’cos I can’t kick.
The ball never goes where I want it to. Then all my team shout at
me and punch me. It happens every time. The teacher says I’ll always
be rubbish ’cos I don’t kick with my instep. I don’t know what he’s on about.
I don’t have insteps – only feet and boots. ‘Do girls bend your cock?’ I
ask Silver. I can feel another problem coming on.
‘They tie it in knots,’ he says.
The world suddenly feels empty. Jake said the two most beautiful people
I know, Maggie and Eileen, get hairs on their bellies, give you boils,
and send you blind. Now Silver tells me that, if I have-it-off with them,
they’ll tie my cock in a knot. I feel scared and excited at the same time.
But I’ll still do it if they ask me to.
I’m glad Sken-eye’s going home. He makes me jumpy.
He’s always grabbing kids by the arm and asking them to go back to
his house for dinner. He says he’ll give you a bag of chips and half-a-crown
if you go home with him. It sounds dead good really, chips and half-a-crown.
He asks me sometimes but I never know who he’s talking to, ‘cos of his squint.
I always think he’s talking to someone else. Then he suddenly thumps
me in the chest and tells Tommy I’m ‘bloody stupid.’ Then Tommy throws
a scoop of freezing water over me to wake me up. It’s not fair.
It’s not my fault he’s cockeyed.
For ages now, the big lads have been telling us not to go anywhere
with Sken-eye. Scally says he’ll beat us up if he sees us going outside
with him. It all started on that day when Smiggy was shouting
across to me in the plunge. Smiggy yells, ‘Hey! Sken-eye’s asked me
to go for dinner at ‘is ‘ouse.’
And I shouts, ‘Why?’
And Smiggy shouts, ‘I dunno. But he says he’ll give me a bag o’ chips and
’alf-a-crown if I go ’ome with ’im.’
And I shouts, ‘Wow. That’s worth a fortune that is.’
Scally and Silver are swimming past at the time, on their way from
the deep end to the tubs. But they hear us shouting – and stop.
‘You don’t go anywhere with him,’ says Scally, rubbing chlorine from his eyes.
‘Why?’ I ask, cringing in case he lashes out. He doesn’t like cheek.
‘’Cos he’s queer,’ says Silver, hopping on his real leg
and steadying himself with his arms in the water.
‘What do you mean – queer?’ says Smiggy, who’s just swum across to us.
‘He shoves his cock up your arse till your eyes pop out,’ says Scally,
grabbing Smiggy by the hair and forcing his head backwards in
the pool until just his mouth and nostrils are above water.
‘Eh?! How do you know?’ I gasp, throwing caution to the wind.
‘Judder told us,’ says Silver, still hopping and steadying himself.
‘He went home with him a couple of weeks back.’
‘Did he get chips and ’alf-a-crown?’ says Smiggy, bouncing up
as Scally lets go.
‘Yeah,’ says Scally, cuffing him across the head.
‘Hmmm,’ says Smiggy, with that expression he has when he’s wondering
what to pinch out of my gasmask box…
We’re all stood on the far side of the pool, still looking at
Sken-eye’s cabin when Sid says, ‘Hey, Scally’s goin’ ’ome.’
And when I look towards the swing-doors, there’s Scally standing by the
edge of the baths, fully dressed, squeezing his cozzie into the plunge.
‘He’s going with Sken-eye,’ says Silver, still in the water at our feet.
‘But he says, “Don’t do that... ’cos you’ll get a sore arse,”’ says Sid.
‘Is it for chips and ’alf-a-crown?’ says Smiggy.
‘He’ll get a lot more than that,’ says Silver, grinning up at us,
‘he’s going to beat Sken-eye up and rob his house.’
‘He’ll go back in borstal,’ says Sid.
‘And get the birch,’ I tell them.
‘He won’t,’ says Silver, nodding towards Sken-eye, who’s walking along the
other side of baths like a Lowry matchstick man in a flasher’s raincoat.
‘Sken-eye daren’t split.’
‘Why not?’ says Sid.
‘The police’ll have him,’ says Silver, ‘’cos of what he does to lads…’
Turning into Gran’s street I see Maggie sitting on the upstairs window-sill,
cleaning the glass with her back to the street and the sash window
pulled onto her thighs. Her whole body’s moving like music and she’s got this
shape that makes me stop and stare. It looks dangerous to me, hanging
out of the window. If she loses her balance she’ll crash to the ground
and be killed. Other women, in overalls and turbans, are kneeling on
the pavements sand-stoning their steps and flagstones.
They do it every Saturday. They make the pavements a clean
yellow-brown colour. I love it. It’s like sunshine coming out of the ground
in a world that’s covered in soot from the factories and houses.
Maggie’s already done Gran’s front;
she’s always the fastest and first. Gran says Maggie’s like her mother,
Sar-ran Cummins. ‘Sar-ran was a lovely girl but she had three babies,
George, Edwin and Maggie, ’cos she couldn’t say no.’
I don’t get it. No’s dead easy. You just go, ‘nnnn…oh.’ And it’s there – ‘no.’
Maggie can say no. It’s her favourite word when I ask her to do things.
Sar-ran’s first baby was George, so they put him in Style Home till he was
fourteen then sent him to sea as a cabin boy. I’m going to be like him when
I grow up. He’s in the Royal Navy now, on warships. But he got torpedoed and
swallowed oil while he was swimming in the sea. So he’s on sick leave now.
Edwin was the second baby. Then, after Maggie was born, Sar-ran died of TB.
Gran says, ‘Half of Manchester has TB and go round spitting blood.’
I spit blood sometimes – after the kids beat me up and pinch stuff out of
my box. But that’s not TB.
Anyway, when Sar-ran died, Gran was left looking after Edwin and Maggie.
But Edwin died when he was fourteen. I don’t know why he died.
Gran says, ‘He was a lovely boy… but tuppence short of the full shilling.’
Maggie’s boyfriend, Frank, is in the navy too. He’s a gunner on a warship.
In that letter that came at Christmas, he said he was the one who sank
the Scharnhorst. But Gran says that can’t be true ’cos he’s still in hospital after
that camel spat on him when he got drunk in Egypt. Gran hates him ’cos he
beats Maggie up when he’s home on leave. But Maggie says she loves him and
only goes with the Yanks to get the nylons.
Going through the front door into Gran’s lobby, I wonder if
Charlie Cummins is home yet. He’s her grandson like me.
But he’s older ‘cos his granddad was Gran’s first husband,
Dave Cummins, who died of TB. After that,
Gran married my granddad, but then she killed him.
She told me about that, one day when there was no one around and she
was feeling sad. She said that, when the last war started, he goes down
to volunteer for the army. So while he’s out she kneels down and asks
God to stop him joining-up ’cos she can’t live without him.
Suddenly the sky fills with black clouds and it goes as dark as night
and starts lashing rain. Then, during the night,
granddad comes downstairs to go for a pee. As he goes into the yard,
God throws down a lightning bolt that hits him and kills him stone dead.
Then God gives Sar-ran three babies she doesn’t want.
Then he kills her and makes Gran struggle and weep.
Gran says God’s punished her for being selfish.
I’ve never prayed to God since I heard that. He’s just like all the rest.
As I enter the kitchen, Gran’s huddled over the slopstone tugging
at something. There’s an axe… lying on the stone at her elbow...
and something else... I rubberneck to see what it is.
Yuck… it’s a hen’s head… I move in for a closer look.
She’s plucking a bird… For a moment it doesn’t make sense then...
‘No! No!’ I yell. ‘You can’t...! Not Captain Marryat!’
I’m too stunned… too sick to cry.
‘Please! Not Captain Marryat! She’s my best friend…! My only friend…!
It is…! It’s Captain Marriott…! You’ve killed her. I hate you…
You stinkin’ old COW!’
‘Be quiet!’ shouts Gran, ‘you little mardarse. Charlie’s home.
He’s a Desert Rat; bin away three year; since before Tobruk;
chasing Rommel through the desert and Italy.
He’s off to the front agen soon; Germany this time; to kill Hitler.
So run to the shop for two pounds of potatoes.
There’s money on the table.’
‘No! No! I won’t!’
I’m really crying now.
‘I won’t do anythin’ anymore! You’ve killed my friend!
You’ve killed Captain Marryat.
I hate you! I hate you all! I hope the Germans come and
kill the fuckin’ lot of you!’
On the BBC News this morning, they said that the Government is going to
make it “compulsory for all NHS doctors to be able to speak English...”
You couldn’t make it up.
Breaking news, or wind?
Regarding Huhne pleading, “Guilty as charged,” and resigning as MP for Eastleigh.
There was a beautifully poetic paragraph in this morning’s Daily Mail. I quote...
“The South Coast seat was a Tory stronghold until 1994,
when the sitting MP Stephen Milligan was found dead in his flat
with an orange in his mouth.”
The back end of January and the snows are gone.
There’s almost continual rain and a buffeting wind.
The days are dreich and the nights are black.
Grey rag-clouds are forever scudding off the mad Atlantic.
But life’s not without pleasure.
For, just about dusk every day, thousand of starlings rise off the
woods as single bird. Up they go like a black elastic ball
that forever expands and contracts, then twists and winds.
Patterns emerge, interweave and fade in beautiful structures;
never the same twice. This is not a flock, but a single system
with a mind of its own, no leaders, no stragglers.
Suddenly, in a massive V-formation it shoots across the sky from north to south
– and disappears. Then, just as quick, it shoots back.
This time in a handful of squadrons that merge and weave.
The mystical choreography must lie deep in the annals of evolution,
and that’s magic. This may not be the world’s biggest murmuration.
But, because it’s outside my window – it’s the best.
January, and the slow cycle of the year starts over again.
I reach for a bottle of wine, already deep into my mid-winter trough.
It happens every year, this downer; has done for as long as I can remember.
Maybe everyone experiences a touch of SAD at this time of the year;
probably the anti-climax after the Christmas goodies.
For me, it starts earlier than it does for most. It comes on in the middle of
December. That’s when I start seeing the reality of Christmas, looming
ahead like a brick wall with no gate; a wall that goes on forever in every
direction. I can’t go round it, so I’ve got to get over it – a fearsome
obstacle. It’s the price I pay for a misspent youth, where the Christmas
season was a nightmare blur, peopled by misty phantoms, and I was a
derelict on the Sea of Alcohol.
Those days are gone now. I’m staid, and tamed by the ravages of time
and the rules of a good woman. The festive season is still a blur.
But now it’s the blur of domesticity, the comings and goings of family and
friends, the meals in our house and the meals in theirs. The struggle to
put faces to names and names to faces. “Who’s that?” I hiss at my wife
through the side of my mouth – like a con, touting for ganja in the
morning exercise yard – as some misty faced stranger gives us a frantic
wave and head-severing grin from the far side of a festive hall.
“It’s Gertie Gobbledegook from two doors down,” my wife mutters in
disbelief. “You see her every other day.” I force a grin and wave back at
our chameleon neighbour.“She looks distorted when she’s off piste,”
I growl, angry at the woman’s skill in natural camouflage.
I’m rubbish on the present-buying-front too. Buying big-knickers for old
women and socks for their creaking husbands is way above my IQ-score.
I could cope in the old days when I wandered round Marks and Sparks
eyeing the multi-coloured lingerie and wondering which flimsy would look
best on which of the pretty girls that my mates had purloined, while
buying coffin-nails and matches to deflect the suspicions of the men.
But those days are gone too. The cigarettes have taken their toll and
the surviving ladies are bladders of lard with drawers like bell tents.
Tension mounts as the winter-nights start ever earlier.
Torrents of grey rain sweep in off the cold Atlantic.
I trudge behind my wife through throngs of sulky December-people
who shuffle around the maze of shelves in our local supermarket.
Every now and again, Liz bumps into a friend or acquaintance...
I don’t have any. I stand, waiting, like an obedient hound,
listening to yet another rerun of the conversation that I hear repeated
half a dozen times on every shopping expedition throughout the year.
Except now, it starts with, “Are you ready for Christmas? Have you got
your presents in yet?” As always, they are ready and we aren’t.
The depression deepens.
Now we stumble into some smartarse woman, who says that she always
has... “My presents bought and wrapped the week after this Christmas,
ready for next Christmas.” Nah-nah-nah-nah-nah! I comfort myself with
the thought that, “If one of her friends drops dead, she’s wasted her money.”
Christmas morning; family are coming for dinner; the kitchen transmutes
into Hades. Elizabeth cremates a dead fowl in the oven. Roasting tins spit,
threatening to engulf us in flame. Pans hiss and rattle on hobs. Water boils.
Steam belches. Windows glaze. Fumes and smells engulf the house.
Smoke alarms scream from the landing and loft. Compost boxes spew
peelings and scrapings over surfaces and floor. Pots pile in the sink.
Freezer roars. Dishwasher trundles. Washing machine screams like a
cheap charter-jet on a desperate take-off. Overloaded fridge vibrates,
rattling knives, skewers and implements that litter the groaning table.
I’m out of my depth, staggering about blindly, wanting to help,
yet getting in the way. The doorbell rings; bloodcurdling screams as I go
headlong, cursing, over the cat. People pile into the hall and overflow into
the trembling kitchen. A dog shakes itself violently, spraying a head full
of body-fluid over the mince pies. Another wedges a massive head
between the venison and sausage-rolls, tongue slithering over the
table like a slimy red reptile.
Elizabeth barks one of her strange commands, “#@&=+!?”
“What does it look like?” I wonder, clueless, walking round in a circle,
mouth and eyes wide, like a man with a loose connection.
A stray piece in the wrong jigsaw box, I decide to make myself scarce,
“Anyone for a drink?” I ask the guests, nervously. They ignore me,
busy talking among themselves. “Help yourself,” I mutter, pouring
myself a glass of red.
“Did you get it?” Elizabeth demands.
“Get what? Where did you put it?” I blink, hopelessly. She communicates
in code when she’s under pressure, either that, or she talks to an
invisible third person. It all dates back to the years before we met.
I think she was in the Secret Service.
“I’ll get it myself,” she mutters impatiently, pushing past.
I scratch my backside...
Elizabeth started tensing a couple of weeks ago. I can tell when she’s
uptight, she continually vacuums, gives orders in code, and talks to a
third person about me. Like that day a couple of weeks back... I hear
her yelling above the din of the Miele, “The carpet’s changing colour!”
she screams. That brings me bounding downstairs, two risers to the leap,
expecting to see some devil’s work taking place before my very eyes.
I stumble down the hall and stand, gasping, in the living room doorway,
peering at the carpet. It looks the same as it always looks to me.
“What do you mean, changing colour?” I ask, baffled. “Well – look at it!”
I squint at the floor. “It’s only wine stains,” I say, comfortingly.
“Dog hair!” she yells. “It’s covered in dog hair!” Then she goes charging
after the vac, which has revved-up in anticipation and is already roaring
round the furniture. As I sit recovering from the drama, I hear her
shouting from the top of the stairs. “Someone’s left their socks on the
bathroom floor...” It’s my turn to tense. Who is she talking to? And who
is she talking about? Now she’s shouting again. “They’ve left dirty
underpants on the bed!”
“My God!” I’m racing upstairs now. There must be a flasher loose in the
building. But, when I reach the top step, I find that it’s my clothes that
she’s talking about – and she’s telling that invisible bloke from the
Secret Service about me.
January the 1st finds us dog-sitting for Dougal, the labradoodle,
seven super-charged stone of solid muscle. “He needs exercise,” Liz decides,
“we’ll walk to the field and throw his ball.” Exercise, for Dougal,
does not mean taking doggie for walkies. Exercise for Dougal entails
a cocktail of weightlifting and all-in wrestling for any human involved.
This dog is the epitome of the binary mind in action. Thought deed
thought deed thought... Liz carries the launcher in one hand and the
ball in her pocket. The binary mind goes – ball get ball get...
My arm shoots across the pavement, me following, as the beast
launches himself at Liz and rams his nose in her pocket. “Sit!” I scream.
The binary mind goes – sit arse... Dougal’s backside hits the deck and
he freezes. After several attempts, I come up with the solution.
“You go ahead,” I tell Liz, “and we’ll follow.” Liz moves reluctantly away.
Master and dog wait. I want to put distance between us, so that the
ball no longer dominates the binary mind. But I have not allowed for Liz.
She comes to a pedestrian crossing, which we must cross to get to the
field. Years of training in the Secret Service abandon her. She becomes
indecisive and stands on the edge of the kerb by the crossing, waving
her arms frantically as she wonders what to do next. Cars, heading in
both directions, slow down and stop, their drivers bemused by a
gesticulating woman. No one wants breathalysing on New Year’s Day
for zapping someone on a pedestrian crossing. Other cars pull up behind.
Then more cars... I panic. I’ve read stories about road rage. Mad drivers
splatter people on the pavement with baseball bats. I have visions of
Dougal, bolting for home with a driver’s leg in his mouth. “Get across!
Get across!” I yell at Liz. She crosses, then stands gesticulating on the
far side of the road. More cars stop. I give up. “We’ll have to join her! Go!”
I scream. The binary mind thinks, ball... I fly behind like a kite as Dougal
shoots over the road and rams his nose in Liz’s pocket...
Like I say, the blues come early for me. But I’m lucky with it, for spring
starts early too. Spring arrives when the first buds appear on the bushes
and trees – in early February. So, while many people are still moaning
about the winter weather, I see nature waking from her slumbers.
And there are signs already. Two or three years ago, our garden became
part of the territory of a distinctive blackbird. He was distinctive because
he had a white spot on his throat. We called him Patch and got quite
attached to him; saw him claim the territory; fight off the opposition;
watched him try to mate, and fail; then, finally, saw him find a mate
and rear a family. Twice, I rescued one of his brood from a cat.
Last year, Patch disappeared off the scene. Liz and I missed him.
But this month, one of his offspring, a handsome young blood with a
white feather on either side of his neck, has taken over the family home;
and, with him, has come a plump young female.
Life goes on.
Lang may their lum reek!
And a Good New Year to all my readers!
Our Year 2012
Every year until now I’ve moaned about my Christmas lights
tangling themselves in knots while just sitting in a box in the
loft. Seems kind of impossible to me. In the past I’ve sought
all kinds of reasons for it; pixies? or the final proof that God
exists, and has sent me this sign? or the fact that I was under
the influence when I put them away last year. However, I now
have the answer. I was watching a physics programme on tele
the other week, and some scientist or something said that it
is a law of physics that wool and wire and things will
automatically tie themselves in knots if you leave them alone.
So it’s a natural phenomenon – and I’ve got the living proof here,
lying on the kitchen floor. I’m kinda pleased about the knots now.
They make me feel like... like a scientist.
Every year, everybody says that Christmas this year arrived
quicker than the one the year before. I’m no different. I always
say it. However, this year I’ve been doing a bit of experimenting.
I’ve got this exercise bike upstairs; and I sit on it 4 times a
week and burn off a few calories. To pass the time I vary
the exercises a bit. Sometimes I switch between peddling
fast and then peddling slow, aiming to do the exact same
time on each speed; and I’ve noticed that when I peddle fast,
time goes faster than when I peddle slow. No kidding. It’s a proven
fact. I know because I try to judge the time that I spend on each
speed, then check it on the clock; and I always overrun when I’m
going fast; then end up gawping at the clock impatiently, before time,
when I’m going slow. I think I’ll write to the Nobel Prize people
in Stockholm about that. After all, It’s every bit as impressive as
the guy who discovered that a piece of thread can tie reef knots.
And the silly sods did award a Peace Prize to the EU when its
ablaze with riots.
I’ve always had this fascination with time; ‘cos my old granny
used to say that people change every 7 years. I don’t know if that’s
true or not, except that most kids are bigger when they are 14 than
they were when they were 7. Even so, the voices in my head have
always told me to move on every 20 years or so; so I did. After 20
odd years as a radio officer, they told me to move on; so I did. Then,
after 20 years as a marine surveyor, they told me to move on again;
so I did. In 2 years time I will have spent 20 years in retirement –
so I suppose the voices tell me... hmmm.
All this talk about time, reminds me, some guy has forecast that
the world will end this week; but I bet it doesn’t. Politicians and
preachers are always making promises, but nothing ever happens.
Be a pity if it ends just now – before I get my prize for this time thingy.
Still, just my luck.
Personally, this has been my quietest year in living memory.
The main reason being that, way back in October last year, I started
getting pains in my gut. Then I noticed that, when I got this pain, a big
lump appeared alongside my belly button. So I thought, “My God I’m going
to burst,” and headed down to the surgery, like you do.
But by the time I got to see the quack the balloon had gone down.
Fair doos, the doctor gave me a thorough examination – then concluded
that I hadn’t got a rupture and there was nothing else wrong. This happened
three times with three different doctors. But things were getting worse,
so I demanded a recount. By now, it was December 2011.
Fortunately, I’m in this Friendly Society that coughs-up cash on
occasions like this. So I went ‘private’ to see a consultant.
After examining me for about a minute he said,
“You’ve got a retractable rupture.”
Now, I’m not criticising the doctors... much. But, even if they didn’t see
the actual lump, you’d think they would suspect a rupture.
OK, so it was retractable, which means that it pops in and out.
But surely, on £100,000 a year, they must have heard of a
retractable rupture. After all, I have heard of it... now.
Anyway, this consultant gave me the option of going ‘private;’
which is code for, “Slip me a few thousand coin-of-the-realm
and I’ll fix you tomorrow; or going NHS, which is code for,
“You tight bastard! Sweat it out!” Now, me being a ‘tight so and so,’
and having paid National “Insurance” all my working life, I asked how long
I would wait on the NHS. He said, “Three months.” So I said,
“I’ll settle for that.” He then said, “If you haven’t heard anything by
that time, phone my secretary.” So, being a simple soul, I thought,
“Job done; three months – and I’m sorted.”
At the end of 3 months, I phoned his secretary. “Are you
private or NHS?” she wants to know. “NHS,” I tell her. “It’s a 6 month
waiting list,” says she, “you are not due until the end of May.”
You can’t argue with that. After all, 6 months is the
official Government Guideline. “Thank you,” says I,
“and God bless you ma’am.”
Comes the end of May and I still haven’t heard anything.
Then comes the end of June – 7 months awaiting.
So I goes back to the surgery and sees a doctor, a lady this time,
and asks her if the NHS measures time in metric or yards-feet-and-inches.
So she phones the hospital and asks how long the waiting time is.
“Six months,” they tell her. “But my patient has been waiting
7 months,” she tells them. “We are 6 weeks behind schedule,” they tell her.
OK. I’ll hold my hand up here. Mathematics is a challenge.
But, just counting on my fingers, 6 months, over-running 6 weeks,
is 7½ months. I think the hospital abacus is missing a few beads.
They finally fixed it in the middle of August – 8½ months as
the crow flies. They still insist it’s a 6-month waiting list.
Glad I’m not ill.
Talking of afflictions, reminds me. Liz and I have this
communications problem. I shout up the stairs,
“Do you want coffee?” or something. But she ignores me.
She says she answers. But she doesn’t. “You move your mouth,
but nothing comes out,” I tell her. Then I heard this story about
a bloke who thought his wife was going deaf. She insisted that she wasn’t.
So this bloke goes to the doctor and asks for advice.
The doctor says, “Give her this simple test. Stand 10 paces away and
ask her what she wants for tea. If she doesn’t answer, try 5,
then 4, then 2 paces. If you are still unhappy, tell me the results
and I’ll take it from there.” So the bloke tries this from 10 paces...
silence... 5 paces... silence...4 paces... silence... 2 paces...
“For the fourth time! Fish and chips!” she yells.
Like I say, this has been my quietest year ever.
I haven’t been on holiday or anything. Liz was up in Scotland
in November, visiting all her surviving friends and relations.
She went in a camper-van with Jon and Sylvia, along with
granddaughter Saga, and Ulf the old English sheepdog. I didn’t go.
There was room for me, but I opted out. Jon and Sylvia organised it.
He was doing the driving and Sylvia the navigating. From experience,
I know that more competent souls than me would do everything else.
That would relegate me to ‘a spare part.’ It’s not my scene.
They had a good trip though, with a few little adventures thrown in.
But that’s their story.
In January, I was up in Manchester at my cousin Vince’s funeral.
His sudden death, aged 64, was one of those rare, unbelievable
shocks that you can’t take in. He was the kind of enthusiastic,
larger than life character, that you expect to go on forever.
I suppose you would call him an academic; a Dr of Chemistry.
He retired from the harness of employment years ago.
But he had a franchise to restore valuable oil paintings,
which he carried out from his beautiful, secluded home,
where he lived with his wife, Lynda, in the mountains of Snowdonia.
Even in death, he was a character. Lynda and he were on their
way to a holiday in India. They broke their journey in Dubai
to stay a few days with their son Simon and his wife,
when Vince takes, what appears to be a heart attack, and dies.
But the authorities don’t mess about in these foreign parts.
Sudden death! The police confiscate the body to check it for foul play.
They find no evidence of a dirty deed; so you’ve got to cremate
him – pronto. There’s no post-mortem. You are either dead or alive;
and, if you are dead, they must burn you, because it’s hot,
and there’s nowhere to bury you. There are no Brit undertakers
out there. The only people to cremate you are the Hindus.
So that’s what happened to Vince. They burnt his body
on an open funeral pyre. And Lynda brought his ashes
home on her knee in an urn.
But that’s not the end of it. In July, Simon and his family came
over to the UK. Then Lynda, siblings, grandchildren and
wider family and friends, etc, met up in the hamlet of Nant Mor
in Snowdonia to commit Vince’s remains to a stream
in the forest where he used to wander. It was very moving,
and an appropriate farewell, as his ashes floated down the water
followed dozens of lighted candles... with us peering down from the
bridge. I couldn’t help but wonder if, round that bend in the stream,
there was a family of losers camping by the edge of the woods.
In my mind ’s eye, I visualised dad, in his vest and braces,
showing off to the kids, striding manfully down to the stream
to fill the family’s water bottles, before herding them off on
their morning walk...
Liz is still perpetually busy; child minding;
secretary of the local WI; church; Parish Council;
sewing and tapestry and generally sorting us all out.
Nonetheless, we still have plenty of worthwhile time together,
plus meals-out and an evening in the pub every week.
That sums up the year, really. Liz and I had a couple of weekends
in Diz’n’Dan’s cottage in West Wales. On the first occasion,
we were there with Diz and our grandchildren, Charlie and Isobel.
That was a few days after my operation. They took us out to the
Devil’s Bridge, in the hills behind Aberystwyth. I climbed up and down
the gorge, with the help of a stick, which I thought was a
good way of testing the surgeon’s stitching skills. The second time
in West Wales was to collect damsons from two ancient trees
in the cottage grounds. We got enough to make 13 pots
of damson jam. It’s good stuff. So we’ll call that a success story.
This week we were down in Plymouth.
Granddaughter Katie is the head girl in Plymouth College
and was making a speech at the Christmas prize giving.
It’s the first time that I’ve seen the inner workings of a
British Independent School, and it’s quite impressive.
It reminded me of that old black and white movie,
Goodbye Mr Chips. Ever since I left home and ventured
out in the world, I have worked alongside men with a public
school background. They always seemed to be a hundred yards
ahead in life; well spoken, well educated,
confident and good at sport. Now I know why.
To the best of my knowledge, everything seems fine
on all fronts with the rest of the family. Diz’n’Dan appear to be
forging ahead in their respective fields. Charlie and Isobel are
doing good at school and are into a host of activities,
including musical instruments and drama. Jon and Sylvia are
well into the good-life up at the top end of the Rhondda valley;
walking the mountains with their sheepdog, Ulf, bounding around
them and baby Saga papoosed on one of their backs.
Saga’s over a year now, and coming on fine.
David is still in the navy after 26 years, and still on HMS Scott,
a survey ship. Penny is a manager at a hospice in Plymouth,
and is still going up the ladder. And I’ve already mentioned Katie.
That’s about it for this Year. So, bottoms up.
Here’s wishing tout le monde a Merry Christmas
and Health and Happiness in the New Year!
Billy’s Daddy and Uncle Tommy took him to see the Christmas pantomime.
When they got home, Billy’s mammy asked him how he enjoyed the show.
“It was brilliant,” Billy told her. “But do those dancing girls really pull to pieces?”
“Don’t be silly,” said his Mammy, “what made you ask such a daft question?”
“Because,” said Billy, “Daddy told Uncle Tommy that
he screwed the arse of the one on the end.”
We don’t go into town much these days, maybe once a month.
On one of our trips the other day, it took just a couple of hours
to see how the country has changed in the last few years.
OK. So the BBC is forever filling our heads with the heart-tugging
news that many parents on benefits have to do without food in
order to feed their children.
On our trip through the city, the bus passed through an area
where a high percentage of residents are on benefit. Then it went
through a more affluent area, where I would class the people as
being quite well to do.
The mothers, waiting for their kids outside the school in the posh
area were all as thin as rakes. The crowd outside the school in
the poor area were all big fat women, smoking cigarettes.
Not a BBC camera in sight.
More heartbreak in town. There’s this Romanian Gypsy woman
selling The Big Issue – a job reserved for the penniless homeless.
When she opened her mouth, the inside of her head was a solid
mass of gold teeth.
Call me naive, but I don’t get it. Where does she get the gold to
buy the gold? And why does she come so far from home to be
It’s not over yet. A woman on an invalid trike comes hurtling
through Hamlyn’s toy store and runs aground on a carpet. Before
anyone can help, she leaps off the contraption, skips round the
back, yanks the machine clear, bends down, snatches up the carpet
and flings it away, with a cry of, “That has no right to be lying
Then she leaps on the trike and zooms away, leaving the carpet in
a heap for the teeming masses to trip over...
Outside the store, one of these No Win No Fee creatures has set
up a stall, yelling, “Have you had an accident that wasn’t your fault?”
Can’t help wondering if the carpet-trap woman is an accomplice.
Ever since the Jimmy Savile fiasco, every bloke over the age of 60,
with a few bob in the bank, is awaiting that knock on the door before
they march him off to the local nick and accuse him of being a sexual
predator. I don’t know if these blokes are innocent or guilty. To be
honest, I don’t care.
But I do know that values were different in the 1960s and 70s.
I am also convinced that, given their heads, the PC witch-hunters
won’t rest until they have disinterred Lewis Carol for being a paedo; then
reburied him in unconsecrated ground, before burning all known copies
of Alice in Wonderland.
When I say that values were different way back then, I mean attitudes
to sex. I remember the 1960s when they granted independence to one
of the smaller African countries. The Brits sent out a team of civil
servants to observe the new regime’s method of administering justice.
A guide met them and assured them that his government handled the
process of law in exactly the same way as they did back in the UK.
Then he took them to a courtroom to see justice in action.
The trial was going well, and exactly as they would have expected, when,
suddenly, a clerk jumps up from his chair in the observation pit and runs
round the court, tweaking the womens’ breasts: jury, witnesses, observers
and press alike. He did this several times during trial.
When it was all over, the British civil servants challenged the guide and told
him that they were disgusted with what they had seen. But he insisted that
it was in order, and identical to the way things were done back in the UK.
“Rubbish!” cried the Brits.
At that, the guide produced a cutting, taken from the British press. And there
it was, in black and white...
“Whenever the judge made one of his witticisms, a titter ran round the court.”
You Need a Punch Line.
Comedians don’t seem capable of telling jokes anymore.
They just stand there and bellyache.
Maybe it’s my age, but I love a good joke.
Here’s a couple by George Roper,
a Liverpool comedian, who used to tour the club
scene in Manchester in days of yore.
Murphy got a job on a building site as a hod carrier.
His job was to supply bricks and mortar to bricklayers who
were building a block of high-rise flats in Salford.
The building rose higher and higher.
Murphy was running up and down shaky ladders all day long with
a hod full of bricks or mortar over his shoulder.
Higher and higher the building rose.
Further and faster did Murphy run; more bricks more mortar; never ending.
One day, in the pub, one of his mates asked him,
‘Don’t you ever get sick and tired of that job, Murphy,
carrying all those bricks and mortar to the top of the high-rise every day?’
‘Not at all,’ says Murphy. ‘It’s the easiest job in the world.
I just take the stuff up... two fellahs at the top do all the work.’
When Murphy steps back to admire the fruit of his labours
he falls off the top ladder and lands on the ground... splat! dead!
The foreman says, ‘This is terrible. We’ll have to let his family know at once.’
He scribbles some details on a piece of paper.
‘Here,’ he says, handing it to Paddy, another Irishman,
‘Run to this address, and tell his wife the news. But for God’s sake break it
gently. Don’t make it any worse for the poor woman.’
‘You can trust me, sir,’ says Paddy, heading off at a sprint,
‘he was good workmate. I’ll be the king of discretion.’
Paddy runs to the house and knocks on the door.
‘Ah, ma’am,’ he says, when a woman opens it,
‘would you be the Widow Murphy?’
The buggers are muttering about putting the brakes on windfarms.
About bloody time! Biggest con since the one about,
“Mass immigration is good for the economy.”
We Really Must Go!
The headlines in some of the papers the other day blared,
The Majority of Voters want Britain to leave the EU.
That would be 100% of French voters, 99% of German voters,
98% of Spanish voters, 97% Italian voters, 96%...
It’s funny how things trigger odd memories.
When I was on the toilet just now, I saw a tumbler sitting on the washbasin.
It reminded me of the time when I had to have a medical before
going on the Hull trawlers, way back in the ’50s.
They sent me to see this old quack who had a surgery somewhere off the Anlaby Road.
He hands me a specimen jar and says, ‘Go behind that curtain and pee in this.’
Which I did.
Job done, I happened to glance round while pulling up my zip –
and found myself standing in a bay window, on view to the passing throng.
I remember holding up the jar and saying, ‘Cheers,’
to no one in particular before disappearing back through the curtain.
That reminds of a time in Scotland when I worked alongside a MacDonald and a Campbell.
If your travels ever took you through the sinister beauty of Glencoe,
you will know the story of how the MacDonalds gave a band of Campbells
accommodation and hospitality as they journeyed through the Highlands.
The Campbells returned the favour by slaughtering the MacDonalds while they slept.
So, traditionally, the MacDonalds despise the Campbells.
But these two guys were the best of mates.
Now, as it happened, this MacDonald wanted to get on to the Cableship Rota.
That meant having a medical check-up,
which included taking a urine specimen round to the local surgery.
But he was a sickly lad. And he knew that his urine would never get through the test.
So he got the Campbell to pee in the bottle for him.
That did the trick and he came on the rota.
So we had a MacDonald who went to sea on a Campbell’s pee.
That reminds of a different guy, who had to take a specimen to the same surgery.
He had no other option than to ask his landlady if she had something he could pee in.
So she gave him an empty bottle that had once contained Johnny Walker whisky.
He did the deed, then set the bottle to one side until he had time to make the journey.
But when the time came, the bottle had disappeared.
Now it so happened that in those digs there was an alcoholic called Tom Macbeth.
And later that same day the landlady found an empty Johnny Walker bottle lying beside his bed...
How Far is a Long Way?
Sitting in the car at Cold Knap in Barry in South Wales a couple of days back
I had a fine view of the English coast – in-between showers.
In fact, I could see Devon for as far as Ilfracombe and Bull Point.
Better still, I could see Lundy Island, which is about 60 miles from the Knap.
The car park is about 12 metres, around 40 feet, above sea level,
and Lundy varies in height between about 60 and 330 feet.
At a guess I could see the whole length of the island stretched across my line of sight.
That’s impressive enough, but it falls far short of my own personal best,
which a sighting of Norway from my garden in Broadhaven, Wick, Caithness.
That was 40-odd years ago, on a September afternoon.
I looked up from my digging and there, on the horizon, was a cluster of
deep purple mountains – land, not cloud.
They were there for a good two hours before disappearing under a shroud of mist.
My garden was about 80-odd feet above sea level and the mountains beyond Stavanger rise
to around 3,300 feet – with Geschaft and the like. The distance is 315 miles plus...
I have heard locals say that you can see Lundy from the Knap,
but in 35 years this was my first sighting. As for Norway...
well an old fisherman once told me that you could see Norway from Wick,
but I pooh poohed him and told him to lay off the whisky. By the time I saw it for myself,
he was dead. So that’s another slice of humble pie. On the other hand,
many Norwegians know that you can see Scotland from some of their mountains.
STAR LETTER – RECEIVED BY E-MAIL.
My unspecified prize for the week’s most stimulating letter goes to
Miss Emma Royd of Webington, who writes...
Can any of your readers suggest a quick solution
to my irrational fear of spiders?
I offered this missive to my (limited) readership in the hope that it would stimulate some debate.
I was delighted with the response.
After much deliberation, I feel that the following two letters offer the best solutions to Emma’s problem.
I publish them here in the hope that they might also help other readers who have similar phobias.
The following extract is from the letter sent by Jack Ittin.
It is, I feel, a heart-rending account of how one man
stumbled on a neat solution to the problem after being let down by the medical profession.
For this, Jack also qualifies for an unspecified prize.
My answer is, Attack!
... I had the same irrational fear of spiders as Emma Royd.
So, after some very expensive consultations with my local shrink,
I came to the conclusion that the best defence against marauding spiders was attack!
Being terrified of the beasts, I didn’t want to tackle them at close quarters.
So I opted for a long-range strategy.
Cunningly, I decided to overpower them from a distance
by spraying them with my wife’s hairspray.
Then came the day of my first confrontation with a real life spider.
The beast suddenly appears before me while I am sitting in my armchair
reading the latest copy of the Watchtower.
I whip the canister from the holster that my wife
has crocheted with the wool rescued from granny’s Cashmere.
(The London to Swansea Express ruined the shawl
when the old lady failed to make it across the line
while taking a short cut on her way home from Tesco.)
I take aim and give the spider a blast of spray.
The beast panics and gallops across the carpet, I follow with the gas.
All fear has gone. The killer instinct is in charge. I’m invincible!
The swine runs across the space in front of the log fire.
The gas ignites. The can explodes. There’s a searing scald to my hand.
I drop the spray and flee to the kitchen where I ram my hand
under the coldwater tap. Oh joy. Relief...
My wife, fresh from the bedroom to investigate the commotion, screams uncontrollably.
I dash back to the living room. The place is a mass of flame and smoke.
We flee to the garden and stand, helpless,
watching from behind the wheelie bin as the blaze engulfs our home.
At some stage I see a spider scurrying along the path and
disappearing into the long grass of the lawn – and wonder if...
My fear of spiders disappeared overnight but I now have an irrational fear
of women who wear hairspray and have divorced my wife. Can any reader offer advice on...
OK Jack. Well done. And thanks for that little peep into a fascinating episode in your life.
An unspecified prize also goes to
Ms Donna Givadam for her equally inspiring solution to the spider problem.
Charlie, my answer is, Courage!
Courage...? Oh yes... About spiders? The spider’s letter.
That’s it, spiders. I can remember as clear as day, how I learnt the secret
of overcoming my fear of spiders. Oh yes.
Courage... that’s what I’m saying.
It only takes a little bit of courage to overcome anyon... spiders.
And do you know who told me that? Well it was my granny told me that.
And she was a wise woman, my granny. Very wise.
She used to drink meths laced with ethanol,
which she bought off a bloke who worked in the chemical works.
And she wasn’t scared of spiders... nor was the bloke from the chemical works.
Anyway... what was I saying... oh yes... ethanol... no... spiders.
Well it takes courage doesn’t it. And I get my courage from gin.
Gin’s full of courage. I have a little tipple before I get out of bed in the morning.
Then I have little tipples at regular intervals all through the day.
And I’m not afraid of spiders. I’m like my granny, I am.
She was a wise woman, my granny. She used to drink meths laced with etha...
Nope! We’re not afraid of spiders... me and granny. Granny’s not scared of anyone.
Smatter of fact I keep spiders as pets. I’ve got millions of them.
Millions and millions and millions.
They’re all over the floor... and walls... and windows... all different colours.
The world is a big rainbow, made of spiders... Lovely spiders...
And elephants... all these different coloured elephants...
What was I saying? Oh yes... gin...
gin takes away the fear of granny... eh...? Wassat...?
OK Donna. We get the gist.
So there are your answers folks.
If you have an irrational fear of spiders just follow the
advice given by our two unspecified prizewinners, Donna and Jack.
Wick Marine Radio Station, Caithness, Scotland, GKR
While you’re passing why not pop inside and see the actual staff demonstrating
how they react when they intercept a distress call from a ship.
The film was made in the 1960s, the era of my two true stories Fated and Sailing with Hunters.
I’m the guy who talks to the French ship. Grab a glass of something and come inside by clicking HERE
Time to get back to the present day rat race.
TIMES SQUARE NEW YORK
Click HERE to join the fun.