Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Sunday, July 29, 2012
- I am listening to the Mamas & the Papas; it just seemed fitting for what is probably a nice summer's day somewhere. Yesterday I had a day listening to Deep Purple. Just how disparate/eclectic is that?
- Still working my way through the Game of Incestuous and Questionable Morals, or whatever it's called. It's filled in gaps I've either developed from watching the series or were never explained.
- You know those really annoying little spots, almost microscopic, that feel as though they should be the size of a cricket ball? I have one on the rim of my nostril and it hurts like a bastard every time I rub my large proboscis - still, that's nothing to really complain about is it?
- I picked 7lb of rhubarb this morning; it would appear that One El and Roger will be eating some rhubarb medley by the week's end; we have about 40lbs of the stuff in the freezer - In fact, I'm considering buying one of those big chest freezers just to store the fruit from our garden.
- I think today will be a curry day; made with spinach (and possibly rhubarb) from my garden. Mmm, spinach and rhubarb curry...
- I am going to go out in a minute. New week, new goals and all that bollocks. I need to refill a prescription and go to the bank; you can't say that my life isn't rock and roll. Well, you can and you'd be right, but say it out of earshot of me, please.
- Andromeda and the Milky Way are having a game of tennis and there's a disputed line call. Andromeda turns to the Milky Way after being awarded the point and says, "If you say, 'you can't be Sirius' I will punch you in the face."
Saturday, July 28, 2012
Friday 9.45am - Musings from a Summer Patio
News headline running across the bottom of the screen on the BBC News Channel: The Flame is processing its way down the Thames. Processing what?
Obviously, my current obsession is being woken up at a fucking ridiculous time of the morning by inconsiderate wankers. However, this morning I got up at 8.30 because Lexy decided to bark her orange head off for some reason, so I’ve got it internally and externally; I should take a nap in the afternoon. Anyhow, I had washing to hang out and the heavy earth moving machinery over the back was limbering up for a morning of noise, when I noticed that Ness had wrapped herself around my legs like a bizarre legwarmer. I could understand why, one of the machines sounded like a retarded yodeller being squeezed through a mangle while tripping his tits off on LSD. Have the people who look after these machines never heard of oil? Anyhow an hour and a half of this alien sound stopped shortly after 9am; presumably they’re having a tea break now, or maybe have achieved what they really set out to do and piss me off.
Does the Olympic village look a little like an open air airport departure lounge or is it just me?
I have to admit that while I’m not really in the Olympic mood (I watched Team GB draw a dull match with Senegal last night and fear we’re all going to become footballed out before too long; there were four different matches on simultaneously last night!), I am sort of intrigued by the Opening Ceremony. I remember my first one in colour – Munich 1972. I watched it on Joan Pitt’s colour TV because we still had a mono set. ‘Auntie’ Joan and her husband Slim were one of the constants in my young life; a friendly couple from Birmingham (but don’t hold that against them) who, as far as I know are still going strong, despite probably being close to 80 now. I don’t think the wife is particularly thrilled though; she sat, grumpily, doing a crossword book last night while I struggled to stay asleep, I mean awake through the football (with its really strange replays). Last night would have all been different had Roger not been such a wuss.
Today, I have some hovering to do; I should go to the bank and pay in a couple of cheques I have and I need to get the place sorted because we’re going shopping later. Sometimes I can see why so many of you read this, I live such a James Bond existence sometimes.
I am also dicing with the proverbial Desmond (old joke, not worth explaining) by sitting here with the sun directly on my back. Yes, today might be the last day of summer, so I’m going to burn to remind myself of this fact!
I’m not a huge fan of Morrisons, but they do an own brand Sicilian lemonade that is to die for; it’s perfect for this weather.
The project is coming along. I hit the 7,000 word mark last night as I sat here, on the patio, until gone 11pm, writing like a frenzied wassname. I also got to a weird stage in the story. I‘ve been bridging the gap between the beginning and the moment when things get revealed; getting excited about writing the big reveal because I’ve had so many ideas going through my head I’ve been mentally salivating at the prospect. At 11.07 last night, I got to that point and froze. Actually froze is the wrong word; stalled is better. I fully expect to get on with it today, but I think I stopped because I can see this particular section as being both long and quite difficult to write and I didn’t want to start it and then look at the clock, see it had gone 2am and make myself go to bed rather than work through it. I don’t do that anymore; it’s not good for one’s health.
The BBC is still saying ‘processing’, I’m now wondering if they actually mean it.
As I said the other day, I’m reading George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones at the moment and, to be fair, it’s better than I expected. I think I was going to read a bit of above average fan fiction, so was surprised at the way it actually was written. However, I have one strangely Victorian problem with it. I accept that the world of GoT is medieval, reminiscent of the Dark Ages and has a different ‘culture’, but Martin seems slightly obsessed with pre-teen sex and nudity; or at least the inference of it. No wonder the TV series has ‘aged’ most of the young characters.
I’ve never really doubted that Ed Balls is one of the least liked politicians in the country, but I thought it was because he was a bit of an arse, not because he is an extremely clever political powerhouse. I believe the best party’s in opposition are the ones that, regardless of the past, come up with the best ideas to solve problems, before the government can even consider it. It’s like a really detailed game of chess; the Tories would never adopt a Labour suggestion, so if Labour comes up with a logical solution and publicise it, it leaves the party in power having to come up with a different strategy lest give credit to the party in opposition. It doesn’t really help the economy, but it does prove that opposition parties can actually have a hand in day-to-day politics. What he needs to do now is actually come up with a workable plan that cuts budgets and also invests in infrastructure.
Next week, I’m going to do away from home stuff. I could have been away doing interesting things, but I opted against that on the grounds that I haven’t been well recently and it might have been an attempt at being young again too far. So I might be making a film (as an extra purely). I think I shall attempt to go to the pub at least twice. Might drop some old friends a line. I got to pay some money into the bank (still). I can see a week of extreme excitement ahead of me and the weekend isn’t here yet.
I have this horrible feeling this might be the last time I do this sitting on the patio writing shit for at least a week, sadly probably longer as I will be on holiday and hoping I can get through that week without worrying about the house sitter too much; his only responsibility is to let the ducks out in the morning and put them away before it gets dark… Shouldn’t be difficult, should it?
Okay, as British spectacles go the opening ceremony of the Olympics was pretty impressive, if not considerably less disciplined than Beijing. This probably had more to do with the fact that Danny Boyle couldn’t imprison anyone who stepped out of line for the rest of their lives.
To call the Opening Ceremony eccentric would be an understatement; it was full of the world-renowned British quirkiness we’ve exported since Shakespeare and at times I felt so proud to be British. Plus there were elements – such as the forging of the rings – which were inspired madness; but I couldn’t quite understand the relevance of having Great Ormond street/NHS sections – not only did they not seem to fit into the theme; they also were the most chaotic and the merging with children’s classic literature, for me, didn’t work. I was delighted to hear the opening music to the show though – Olympians by Fuck Buttons – wonderfully subversive.
But, my pride was seeing me through. However, when Seb Coe and Jacques Rogge (now, surely a famous Belgian) began the speeches; I couldn’t help but think the set looked vaguely tatty; like a bit of scrap land next to a housing estate rather than Britain’s green and pleasant lands. Instead of projecting this image of clean and serene, it sort of looked like two men in suits announcing there would be a competition, while trying not to get cow shit on their shoes.
And, then the Queen came on looking bored – as she had done throughout the ceremony. I don’t know what the three BBC commentators – Huw Edwards, Trevor Nelson and Hazel Irvine – were on but every time Liz was in shot, there they were saying she was watching avidly, while at one stage she seemed more interested in picking her finger nails than watching anything going on in front of her. Those three presenters must also have been a compromise by the Beeb; a newscaster, a sports presenter and a middle-aged black man presumably representing yoof culcha. I don’t know which of the three was most irksome, but the wife nominated Nelson, before she went to bed, as being subliminally racist.
Then the rot set in. My patriotism had begun to wane just as the part I used to relish most as a kid started – the parade of athletes. Made it to Paraguay and lost it. The next country I remember was Qatar; so I might not have missed any at all, but as I sat there, forgetting I could rewind live TV, trying to work out what countries there were between Par and Qa, I dozed off again and suddenly Venezuela were parading in front of me. I decided that perhaps I’d stay awake watching it on the PC in my office; so I waited until Team GB came out and then switched everything off and dashed upstairs for the finale and the wind had gone out of my sails by then. I watched the finale, but also took goes at Scrabble; checked emails and generally had a nose about looking at what others were thinking. My conclusion was it was held too late.
But Saturday morning has arrived and the realism of the next 16 days suddenly hit home. I was bitterly disappointed when I discovered we would have no TV for our week away; now I’m thinking it’s not going to be much different even if we had a TV, because the schedules are so full of the Olympics and repeats of shit programmes I didn’t watch first time around that might get a lot more writing and reading done in the coming days. Look, I’m glad we have them, but I’m not really that enamoured by them. I can take them or leave them and I appear to be erring on the side of leaving them. But whatever else I do, there’s a tinge of Olympicism in it all. The coverage isn’t so much blanket as smothering and the impression is those in charge are saying if you don’t want the Olympics then fuck off you miserable bastard.
The bonus is, despite the weather about to go tits up on us again as the jet stream moves south dumping more rain and cool conditions on us; today, the transition day, is proving to be glorious; possibly the most glorious day of the week so far. Hot sun, fresher feel; in my opinion the perfect summer morning. It’s a bonus sitting in the garden writing day and you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth (which is another wonderfully peculiar British saying).
I’ve just been doing something hopefully very scrummy. I’ve just put a pound of raspberries and all the gooseberries off of our two bushes into a saucepan with some sugar and have made some shortcrust pastry. I am going to make a pie. I’ve debated whether I should perhaps put some rhubarb in it too, but have opted against.
We’re off to a garden party/bbq thing later, round One El’s; that should be good if the weather stays as good as it is; last week’s bbq weather was good, but had it been any later in the week and I think we would have wanted ice cream rather than grilled food. Not that I eat much at bbqs now.
It seems, through a quick perusal of the net and TV that with the exception of my old pal Mark, I’m probably going to be in the minority regarding the Olympic opening doo-dah; even Grace Dent, who at one point seemed like the logical replacement for uber-cynic Charlie Brooker is welling up on BBC News and I’m wondering if I’m just too bloody cynical nowadays.
Thursday, July 26, 2012
Wednesday 9am - Musings from a Summer Patio
At 7.20 this morning, my smallest dog, Ness, became a stole and wrapped herself round my neck and head – it was a little like a cat curling up somewhere inappropriate. The problem was I was still asleep; I’m on holiday, I deserve something of a lay in. What set off this vicious bag of nerves was the removal of a skip from the building site behind our back garden, where a bunch of new ‘affordable homes’ have been built. Now, I‘m not quite sure if I’m right on this, but I believe you can’t make too much noise before 8am, especially the kind of racket being made about 200 feet from my bedroom window.
The noise rattled Ness so much, it set off two of the other dogs – Marley is pretty much immune to everything that freaks the other 3 out – and after prising Ness from my head, I told them all to calm down, wrapped a pillow around my head turned over and tried to fall asleep despite the cacophony. So imagine my surprise when a Jumbo jet landed at the industrial metal concert I was being subjected to…
Possibly the greatest drawback in this enforced six week holiday is the fact that Fishwife and co are also on holiday for this first two weeks (their boys, like me, also for 6 weeks) and as I don’t believe they have beds, they were up as soon as the building site mayhem started, jabbering away at a decibel level that drowned out the skip scraping along the tarmac. Jesus Harry Christ these people are the noisiest individuals ever. I said to the wife at 8am this morning, on the phone, that I am being punished, by some evil god, for belonging to the noisiest family of the 1970s. Everyone in my house, during my youth, seemed to be in competition for sound (except Steve, who always sat quietly) and we never once considered what our poor neighbours must have thought; what with my dad booming away and us all chiming in as backing boomers.
So, I was up at 7.22am; with a slight hangover from 3 pints of mildly strong ale last night (it was the Vic, I expect a muzzy head) wanting to inflict torture, violence and unspeakable acts upon several people. I grabbed the paper and went about my morning ablutions; but wait, what was that, not content with having the builders over the back and the Fishwife Collective wibbling away like some retarded Polyphonic Spree; but some cunt decides to start mowing his lawn and cutting his trees down at the same time. It sounds like the end of the fucking world out here at the moment. I might have the radio on, but I can’t hear the bloody thing, because I have re-enactments of Michael Bay’s greatest noisy films to the left, right and ahead of me.
This distraction, of course, allows me to participate in my favourite hobby – no, not whinging, but procrastinating. I spent more time farting about trying to write a mildly humorous blog entry yesterday and no time at all working on Old Man, which, I fear, is another good idea without an actual plot; but as is the way, just by persevering another idea has surfaced; or rather an old idea with a slightly new approach. That’s not to say I’ve finished with my 300 year old man story; I just think it’s likely to end up being a short story. The idea that has resurfaced is one I had about ten years ago, made an attempt at writing, shelved it when I realised that I didn’t have the necessary tools to do it justice, but now I seem to have developed those tools.
The problem is, this time last year, I was just finishing the editing of My Monthly Curse and thoroughly enjoying it and part of me is looking at the completed novel I did in 1999 and thinking I could do that. The only drawback to that plan is if I was to finish this manuscript, I‘d never, in a million years, ‘publish’ or submit it to any publisher under my name. More importantly, it would have to be set in the 1990s, because a lot of the things that are in the story would no longer be possible due to the way the internet has developed. Ironically, with the success of Facebook, much of the set up in the story is totally feasible, so should I decide to spend some time on it, it might actually be easier to update it rather than plain edit it.
But, it’s all procrastination. I’m like the bloke over the road that can always get you what you need until you actually ask him to get something. I’m, as my dear old dad used to say, all mouth and no trousers. It’s always been easier to sit here and give a commentary on my life than it is to actually sit down and work hard on getting one of my ideas, however badly executed, knocked into shape to the point where I might be happy with it. There is nothing quite like the feeling you get when you finish something like a story (when I say ‘finish’ I just mean the story in its entirety before you go about the tedious task of editing) and I need to convince myself that if I at least get something completed by the end of August, I will be able to look back and say that I achieved something other than household chores and a raspberry klafoutis.
Oddly enough, one of the reasons I have this netbook which has no net is because I wanted a portable word processor rather than something that will most likely distract me from my intentions. Neil, the brother-in-law, told me that writers recommend this because the net is too much of a distraction and the bottom line is if you are serious enough about something, you can do the piddly bits of research later. The great thing about things like Word is you can isolate text with a different colour or with other useful highlights, then come back to it when you know for sure or have to make changes. Back in the days of typewriters, I shouldn’t think people were quite as quick to get stuff on paper.
Anyhow, I’ve just finished mowing my own lawn, at a respectable 10am. It was still slightly boggy.
Have I told you this before? Maybe I haven’t. Is this the latest urban legend or something a little weirder? Judge for yourself.
I was told this story a few weeks ago and being a fan of mystery it appealed to me. It was the summer of 1979 and a young couple were snatching some private moments by a tree at the top end of Eastfield Park in Pubtown (when it was Shoesville) when they saw and heard a man coming their way. He had seemingly just emerged from the mist and was heading straight towards them. What was unusual about the man was he was talking into something held to the side of his head; like a mobile phone, but they were 20 years away from being like Star Trek tricorders. The man, continuing what appeared to be one side of a conversation, walked straight past the couple, completely oblivious to their presence and then disappeared amongst the trees by the side of Booth Lane.
32 years later, telling his son from a marriage to another woman, the man decided to contact through Facebook his old girlfriend and she remembered the event clearly; reminding her ex-boyfriend that the reason they were both so taken by it was the way the man was talking. There’s probably a totally logical explanation for it; an escaped loony or perhaps someone who thinks he’s Captain James Kirk, oh, another loony then… To be fair, it has all the pointlessness of being an urban legend.
I’ve been privy to an interesting conversation for the last 10 minutes or so, but it wasn’t until about three minutes into it that I noticed what it was about. Sadly, I lost the conversation when someone decided to make more noise; but the upshot is Fuckwit, who has been on InCap for the last half century has been told he has to get a job, so he’s got a DSS assessor visiting and she will determine whether he is fit to work. I have never heard such bullshit in my life; complete and utter bare-faced lies. He’s been telling this woman that he can barely walk to the shops any longer and that everyday tasks, such as putting clothes on have become really difficult. Intrigued by this and needing the loo, I had a gander out of the window and sure enough, there he was, sitting on his patio complete with walking stick, looking feeble. Jesus, I wanted to stick my head out of the window and tell the woman that he’s a lying sack of shit and that I‘ve seen him doing all manner of things; because I have. He’s less fucking disabled than me.
She’s gone now and I reckon he’s going to get away with it. I’d shop the bastard if that was in my nature. Anyhow, my patio is like a conveyor belt of human wastage. Fuckwit has disappeared, probably to eat his lunch out of a trough while having his back shaved by his fat slave; but fishwife has re-emerged with wife, wearing a little too little for my liking, and two unbelievably noisy children. Plus they will insist on talking to me when I’m trying to get on with procrastinating…
The ambient temperature on the patio is 33 degrees; it’s not 11am yet. At 8.30 it was really pleasant out here; now it’s getting pretty sticky. It’s the kind of weather where fat birds can lose a stone just by having sex for an hour.
Thursday 10.45am - Musings from a Summer Patio
Last night, I did something orgasmically heavenly. I took nearly a pound of raspberries and put them in a saucepan with two tablespoons of sugar and simmered them for about an hour until the juice had reduced to a thick syrup. I then sieved this gooey red mess into a bowl and had a reasonable amount of homemade raspberry something.
Then I took 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream and half a pint of milk; put them both in a mixer and added half of the raspberry mixture. I did this twice and produced two pints of the most gorgeous raspberry milkshake you will ever have in your life! The wife reckons my banana milkshakes, made using a whole overripe banana is also worth a mention in dispatches.
Yesterday afternoon, I shelved one project and got on with another and spent best part of the evening working on it; 3500 words so far and it’s shaping up really nicely. I’m really concentrating on it (but I’ve done that before and failed) and even though it’s an old idea of mine that failed once, I’ve put an entirely new twist on it, which has, fortunately, given me an interesting story and a way to tell it and the one that runs parallel with it. Imagine It’s A Wonderful Life crossed with elements of The Sopranos with a smattering of Peggy Sue Got Married, it’s a kind of what would you do in this situation story. The exciting thing for me is I know where it’s going; it’s just going to be really interesting filling in the blanks.
So, the Olympics haven’t even started yet and we’ve already upset the North Koreans (well, the jocks have). Augurs well for the next couple of weeks.
Well, that was a triumph for the common man. I was sitting here thinking about what else I was going to write about when the phone rang. I thought it was t’wife, but instead it turned out to be a scam. Alarm bells should have rang louder, because on hindsight he didn’t know what my name was, just asked if I was the main user of the Windows computer in my house. He had a thick Indian accent and I had to get him to repeat himself a number of times, all the while keeping slightly sceptical. Anyhow to cut a long story shorter, I went to my computer and did the things he asked me and sure enough I was awash with error and warning messages, but even this wasn’t convincing me I was talking to someone from Microsoft Support – who he claimed he was from.
At one point, I had to tell him that I had had a computer 20 years and knew my way around it, but when all these error message were displayed, he had the temerity to suggest that perhaps I didn’t know that much about PCs after all. This got my back up, but I remained courteous if a little distant. Then, of course, he said they could fix it and I asked what that was likely to cost me. He assured me that it would not cost me anything, so I carried on humouring him. Then he asked me to go to a specific website www.ammyy.com and instead of typing that into my browser, I typed it into Google and discovered all kinds of negative things about them and nothing, nada, zero positive. They are being investigated by the FBI and that bell what was ringing in the back of my head about the ‘event viewer’ he wanted me to pay special attention to was confirmed when he was asking me to look at a .log file; something that registers everything you do on your PC all and every day you use it. Error messages relate to things like trying to play a song through Media player that has been moved to another directory. It is a harmless event log and bares no relation to how your computer runs.
He then began to tell me that I needed to click on something to allow him remote access to my computer so they could do a scan and tell me exactly what needs fixing. He had been talking to me for a number of seconds but I was reading about how evil his company was. He also said that if they had to fix it there would be a £50 administration charge. Surprise, surprise.
“Tell me, before we click on this button, is your company still being investigated by the FBI?”
“The FBI – the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in the United States.”
“That is Microsoft’s US division, sir,” and then said something I couldn’t understand.
“But you don’t work for Microsoft. It says here on one of Microsoft’s pages that the company has no association with ammyy at all. This other website says that the event viewer you hold so much trust in is just a log file and records everything a person does on his computer; it does not show errors in the hardware or software. Oh and one other thing, what’s my name?”
The sad thing is I’m naturally suspicious of anyone, but I’m probably the exception to the rule, especially when the person on the other end of the phone sounds so sure of himself and can make you think something completely harmless is something to be terrified of. Humans, we’re great, eh?
I’ve given up on Radio6 and have gone back to Radio 2.
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
More Musings from a Summer Patio
It was Noel Coward, wasn’t it? Who said, ‘Mad Dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.’ Even I’m being sensible enough to sit under the parasol, but Marley is sprawled in the direct sunlight on a patio, that is a suntrap, that is currently sitting at 32 degrees ambient. It is absolutely wonderful; it’s just a shame I’m not by a beach, in a bar, that sells Inferno or Kingston Topaz. Jesus, that would be bliss at the moment.
I’ve set my stall out, so to speak. I am not going to be stymied by my own reluctance, I’m going to get out there and do stuff. So, this morning, I did just that. I went over to Daventry, Daventry, Daventry (so good they named it thrice) to see my niece who has just started a tattooing business and while I don’t like tattoos, I’m dead proud of her. If you need a tattoo in the Daventry, Daventry, Daventry (so good they named it thrice) area – ooh-er missus – then look out for Dist-Ink-Tion (I preferred Inky & Scratchy, but what do I know, I had a shop called Squonk, etc etc etc.). Where she lives doesn’t have a back garden; it has a small leisure village.
I like the drive to and from Daventry, Daventry, Daventry (so good they named it thrice), it reminds me of when I was a kid, having lived there between 1969 and 1974 and having nieces, great nieces and nephews, an ex-sister-in-law and some friends living there. On a day like today it was the sole reason why anyone would want to live in this country; it’s sometimes overwhelming natural beauty. The back road to Daventry, Daventry, Daventry (so good they named it thrice) isn’t spectacular, it just shows you why Northamptonshire is such a lovely place, especially if you could get rid of the towns.
Which reminds me; while I was driving over to Daventry, Daventry, Daventry (so good they named it thrice) I thought about ill and Andy’s visit at the weekend; they’ve been here before I think, even if it was just passing through, but I wonder what some people who have never been here would think of Shoesville or Pubtown as it has recently become known as; or for that matter the other (heh) major towns in this county that generally scores low on county questions on Pointless. So, here’s my guide to Northants (I warn you it is purely subjective and unless you are me some of it will undoubtedly go so far over your head someone on a Jumbo jet will wonder what hit them):
Brackley: Yes, Brackley is in Northants and it does exist. I’ve been there three times in 50 years. It wasn’t a bit like I remembered it, so perhaps I was somewhere else and have only been there once. Brackley, I can tell you with confidence, didn’t even register on the county’s youth crime figures, but I’m not sure if that was because they didn’t include it in results. It has a really impressive by-pass, possibly one of the few I’ve ever been on that is shorter than the original route.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: If you should find yourself here, it’s really easy to get out. Maudlin College is an academy, not some posh private school, don’t be tempted to find it.
Towcester: Roman. Long and thin. Old. Dull. It gives the impression it has more to offer, but it doesn’t. It’s not far from a place called Foster’s Booth, which makes me chuckle, but not for the reasons you think. It has obvious connections to Silverstone and therefore suffers every time the British GP is on. There’s money in this town all the same, even if you wouldn’t want someone you don’t like to die there.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: It has a racecourse, which probably won’t be on while you’re lost.
Daventry, Daventry, Daventry (so good they named it thrice): says it all really. However, if you think Corby is going to be Neanderthal, Daventry, Daventry, Daventry (so good they named it thrice) is prehistoric, especially because it is now officially a mongrel town and worse still, of all Northants towns, it and the aforementioned Corby are likely to be places lost Olympic tourists might venture to either out of choice or because of weird rail connections. Of course, they might find Long Buckby, which I believe could die in the next 100 years, like Flaxwell did at the end of the 18th century. Daventry, Daventry, Daventry (so good they named it thrice) is a heady mix of Birmingham overspill, Northants yokels who baint be quite sure if they’re in Thamptonshire or Warkshire. It was, once upon a time, just a place that wasn’t too far from the A5; now it’s this fucking awful town that isn’t far from a road that isn’t that important any more.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: um… it used to have a cinema called the Regal that was so small my mum used to call it the wriggle. I learned how to scrump in this place, but the orchards have all disappeared. It has a country park, but even that’s wanky compared to others in the county.
Market Harborough: isn’t in the county, honest. But I wish it was because people from Market Harborough call it Markey Tar Bra and that is dead funny.
Corby: has an Olympic training camp for swimmists. Has a brand new town centre that hasn’t been blighted by waste needles, yet. It is quite an ugly place (I’m being careful, I have friends who are fiercely loyal to this shit stain on the north of the county). I’ve had to work there several times in the last 30 years and frankly I love it, but only in an anthropological kind of way. It is changing again and in a few years it will no longer have any stigma attached to it; it will become just this oddly Scottish part of the most remote part of the county; which seems fitting.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: swimmists. But, honestly, Mr and Mrs Japanese Tourist, don’t think, ‘ah Corby, we’ll go there and see the pool’, it would be really nice if the pool was in, I dunno, Damascus.
Oundle: Woof. Woof woof. You want sexy Northants town, oozing with history, grand architecture and a couple of splendid pubs. You are looking at my favourite town in the county and even it’s a bit shit. You see the area is jam-packed with colloquial Conservatives; it is obscenely expensive once you get out of certain places we’re getting to and the people who live there know it. But, I’d fucking rather live there if I could live anywhere in the county.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: Just go and look; it won’t take you all day, but it will give you an idea why this country is pretty special, especially with its architecture and stonemasonry.
Thrapston: the upstart town, the place that probably isn’t a town, but they’re going to call it a town and they’ll punch you if you argue (but not as much as the people in Raunds village) and it has the East Northants Council based there, so it must be a town, Towcester has a council area it runs, so fuck you matey, Thrapston is a town. Thrapston is twinned with Daventry, Daventry, Daventry (so good they named it thrice); that’s how exciting it is!!! It is also the first place I’ve ever been to that sort of peters out rather than end; you think you’ve left the place about a mile before you actually have because there was once this shanty town of Morlocks living along the edges, scratching a living eating bored locals; but they’ve since gone back to the future and there’s an engineering company there now.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: you can see it from the A14, don’t stop.
Raunds (Village): I like Raunds, but it’s a touch parochial and is like the retirement village for the county. I’m thinking it probably has the highest teenage suicide rate, especially if you take in the villages of Ringstead (where Thatcher’s ancestors came from), Stanwick and that other place that’s too scary to go near. Paint drying is an Olympian sport in this part of the county where the recreation tends to be fishing, walking and wanking. Incest was prevalent in the 60s, 70s and 80s so that is why you get the occasional Cyclops or people with the Christian name Genghis.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: there’s a MacDonalds on the roundabout on the way out.
Higham Ferrers: now, there’s one thing wrong with Higham that is obvious, but we’re coming to that next. It’s got the look of a chavvy Oundle in places but away from the exterior (or in this case the high street) it’s not terribly pleasant. There are three ways out of Higham, the fourth goes straight to hell.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: if you’re standing outside an Asda, you have gone too far and are in hell.
Rushden: the crime capital of the county and thoroughly unpleasant place to live, unless of course you live there then it’s a case of ‘mustn’t grumble’. Well, why not? The place is fucking horrible and now it has the A6 by-pass there less reason to visit the place than there is Thrapston. It has a nice park. It is also stuck to Higham like a Siamese twin.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: it has a nice park.
Wellingborough: or home as I called it for nearly 13 years. Lots of parks, taxis, pubs (mostly crap, bar 3) and closet Tories. Had a zoo once; not a good zoo, but a zoo all the same. I think they kept sheep, badgers, foxes, rats and an elephant, all indigenous species. Home to some strange people. A mate who grew up in a village called Wellingborough ‘the big city’. Residents are strangely loyal. There’s a house I’d quite happily take a shit in. Had a great shop once, but that was an age ago, yadda yadda yadda.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: Pooja, but don’t expect good service or hygiene, but the food, oh god the food…
Kettering: most famous for the being the word to describe the pattern a wicker chair leaves on your bottom after you’ve sat on it for too long. If you were transported into the centre of Kettering you’d think, ‘hm, this is nice,’ but then you’d notice that every other shop is closed and the yoofs only come out after dark. It’s a pleasant town that has Wickstead Park, nuff said.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: the hospital is really considerably better than NGH so if you get ill while in the county, go there, you might live.
Rothwell: scraping the bottom of the barrel a bit here, but it has bones.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: it has bones, go look.
Brixworth: not quite within the confines of the town like Moulton, this is another large village now by-passed by a nice road. It does have Pitsford reservoir nearby, so you’ll never run out of water or naughty couples shagging in the long grass.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: pate.
Flore: like weedon but smaller.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: the bend.
Irchester: the thing is, it’s like Long Buckby in that you actually have to go and look for it, it doesn’t just pop out and grab you and once you’re there, you wondered why you bothered.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: it isn’t going to happen; you’d have to be blind, deaf and retarded to find your way down the maze of B roads that lead to it.
Irthlingborough: or Artleknott as the locals claim it was once called. You can see it from a trunk road, that’s more than enough.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: you can see it from a trunk road, there’s swamps.
Braunstone: thought it was in Warwickshire for centuries, therefore there’s a general feeling of despondency about the place; nice bit of canal though.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: it’s not far from 3 prisons.
Wollaston: banished from Birmingham in the 17th century it has a water tower and a road called Bell End.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: Bell End. Honest.
Kislingbury: odd place, possibly far chavvier than you would think. Dodgy pubs.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: a brewery.
Byfield: played football there once in the snow. Seemed big enough to count at the time. I was 11.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: it’s not far from Banbury, which is famous for naked horse riding.
Blisworth: doesn’t do pate and it sort of like expensive without being anything too impressive. Close to Milton Malsor and Collingtree, both considerably more upmarket. Tiffield is nearby; that would have worried you 25 years ago.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: don’t be too underwhelmed.
Guilsborough: scored 4 goals there once, in one match. There’s an interesting pub/brewery and it isn’t far from Naseby which is worth visiting for the pub alone.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: Twinned with Long Buckby.
Bugbrooke: is literally full of Jesus cult freaks – avoid unless you are devoutly religious.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: is devoutly religious.
The Bramptons: yeah.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: money.
The Bringtons: okay yar.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: royalty.
The Heyfords: ‘ou gotta loight boi?
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: grain.
The Benefields: och aye the noo.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: it’s also not Corby.
Desborough: doesn’t have bones. It doesn’t have much else. A sports centre, but that might not be there now. I could tell you a funny story about Desborough ports Centre, but I won’t.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: is quite close to markey tar bra.
Yardley Hastings: isn’t a cologne or a spy but held a campaign not to build the 7th London airport there an eternity ago.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: nice garden centre, but it closes on a Thursday; apparently the fish and chip shop is run by an Italian. Could be the cosmopolitan village in the county and it’s close to Olney, which isn’t in the county, but is worth visiting.
Roade: has one, well several, but only one that leads out of it. Had a pub once, that’s a pile of rubble now and the train line goes through the middle making a lot of noise.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: not far from Stoke Bruerne, but that’s a bit overhyped.
Gretton: dunno, went through it once and thought it was too small to mention.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: it’s not Corby.
Weedon: look, if I’m including Gretton and not Long Buckby, which is bigger than both, then I’ll include Weedon because there’s more to do there than the other two and it’s not far from Dav…
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: antiques, canals, nice looking one horse village.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: the train to Birmingham goes through it, so you might see a bit of it.
Then you start getting into the little villages and nice places; anything not on this list is probably worth visiting. Although I’d stear clear of Scaldwell, Maidwell, Wooton, Hardingstone, Harpole and Crow Hill, which might be part of Irthlingborough, but might have declared UDI several years ago.
Then, of course, there’s Northampton.
Friday, July 20, 2012
The morning was bright and warm and augured well for the rest of the day; I pottered about until 12.45 when me and the wife ventured into town to meet Will Vigar and his partner Andy. I first ‘met’ Will on the old Comics International Yahoo Group back in 1998 and he slotted into the organised chaos extremely quickly. Illness prevented him from being an active part of the group for a year or so, but when he recovered, he was back in full pelt, nerding it up with the rest of us geeks. Will began to meet the rest of the gang, but I rarely ventured far from the confines of Shoesville and even when I did, circumstance seemed to get in the way of this meeting, that seemed like it was never actually going to happen.
Three years ago, while I was working with a kid who was in a prison in Leeds and while Will was living in what is probably his spiritual home, doing a fine arts degree. I had a day up in Leeds and it seemed logical to meet up; but the fates conspired to prevent it. I got lost, totally through my own stupidity; completely missed the window of opportunity to meet him and felt so bad about it, I neglected to let him know. Then he moved back down to Southampton and the distance was just as problematic. We hoped they’d make it up for our 25th anniversary party last year, especially as so many of the small and select group from that CI group were still very much in touch, via other social networking media. But illness got in the way again. Was it ever going to happen?
So, when we pulled up outside the Ibis hotel in sunny Pubtown at 1pm, I recognised him immediately – we’d shared so many photos over the years, it would have been terribly amiss of me to have not recognised him. We did our greetings and got up to the local pub as quick as we could. Had some lunch and sat around chatting, laughing and acting like we see each other every week. Even Andy, who I’d heard was notoriously quiet, was in the thick of funny anecdotes and stories from our pasts. It was a great lunch, spoiled by some mediocre food (well, that was the wife’s opinion of the food, but…).
We dropped them off, took the dogs out for a walk, got home and geared up for the BBQ round at RnB’s. The weather was still perfect for an outside do and by the time I got there – a while after the wife – it was pretty much in the swing. There was the obligatory 45 minutes of pyromaniac japes; but I think for the first time ever, nothing was burned to a crisp. I expect no one will be suffering from dodgy BBQ food this morning. As the evening wore down, we retired to Roger’s veranda, where the res of us chewed the fat, talked music, drugs, food, lasers and whatever came out in the course of the conversation and we were never short of something to comment on.
I had a poignant moment with a very old and dear friend and I think we both got a little choked up about the way the last few years have gone and she surprised me so unbelievably (but really happily) by her devotion to something I would never have expected of her – a dog. Her dog.
Will and Andy poured themselves into a taxi at midnight and we scrounged a lift home from Mammary Lass, mainly because the wife was as pissed as a fart. My final thought of Will was that it would be a travesty if we didn’t hook up again inside the next 15 years.
Sunday, Part One
I didn’t get drunk, so I didn’t have a hangover. I got up just after 9 and sorted a few things out. During the morning yesterday, I took a call from my brother. Those of you that know Steve will know that he has two modes – the most common one being silent and stoic and the other being the ability to incessantly talk to the level where he makes me seem quite reserved. He started to tell me about his new dog and 35 minutes later, I had to tell him to shut up. I could have given him the appropriate advice and told him most of what he told me in a few minutes – which I eventually did – and as a result, today at 4pm, our motley crew of hounds will meet his two Weimaraners or however you spell them. His boy – Bailey – has been with them since he was a pup and is as good as gold; but Roxy (which was Lexy’s name when we got her) is a rehome and she is currently in a state of limbo as to what he position is within her new pack; she’s also displaying aggression to other dogs and Steve would really prefer, as I do with mine, for his dog to get on well with all other dogs.
So my mission, Jim, for this afternoon is to use my newly discovered Cesar Milan ability to be alpha male/dog. I fully expect a fight between Roxy and Marley; however, I also rank the chances of my bully backing down pretty quickly in the face of a bigger, potentially more violent, bitch. Plus, this new dog has only recently been spayed and it’ll take a few weeks more for her hormones to get in balance. I’ve yet to meet the dog, but I suspect that he’s going to have a far easier job with his two than we did with our four. More on this later.
Also today, I’ve been making a start to the idea that seems to have become my writing project for the summer by default. Under the working title of Old Man, it’s a story about a 300 year old man. I’ve thrown down about 1300 words this morning. Then I wrote this, also on the netbook, on the patio, and now I’m going to pick some more raspberries. Part two to follow…
Sunday, Part Two
Well, I can honestly say I didn’t expect that. To say we were both proud of Marley yesterday would be an understatement. Essentially Roxy is an ickle kitten who’s a bit insecure; Marley put her in her place pretty quickly and as they are roughly the same size (amazingly), Roxy was following her new role model around. There were a few snarls, but essentially Marley behaved completely out of character and acted as the responsible dog. I don’t think Steve will have any problems as she settles in.
Adam Scott threw away the Open in almost spectacular fashion; but strangely, because this weekend has been so jam-packed, I’ve barely had an hour in front of the telly. The lure of golf has waned over the last few years.
Bradley Sideburns won the cycle jaunt round France and is now being called a National Sporting Great; and probably justifiably, especially as he doesn’t do drugs. I expect a number of extra National Sporting Greats to emerge over the next few weeks.
I got too much sun in the wrong places. Today, or to be specific this morning, I am in the shade with just my white legs on show. It’s 10.50 and the temperature on the patio is already 24 degrees. If you saw me and were of a certain age, you would think a knotted handkerchief and a Hitler moustache would make me look just like Monty Python’s Gumby. I like singlets…
I was up at 7.55am; the washing was out by 8.30; hovering, emptying of washing machine and dishwasher and cleaning the ducks out have all been done and I now have a vast expanse of time ahead of me.
- I have been listening to PiL; BUH; Bowie; Triple S as background muzak; and at the moment Radio 6 Music; which continues to underwhelm me. Is there even a point to Lauren Laverne?
- The raspberry count so far this summer? 7½lbs. Number of plums and apricots on the trees? Zero. Apples? Far too many again. Rhubarb – Triffid-like.
- I was wrong at least three times on Saturday.
- Thwaites do a beer called Triple ‘C’.
- Did you know that HP sauce has tamarinds in it? They collect up a group of these little monkeys before making a batch and then put them in an olive oil press and squeeze tamarind juice out of them. Apparently they have to give the manufacturers a letter of consent.
- I had a proper Cuban cigar; I felt like J. Jonah Jameson and barked some orders that were completely misunderstood by non-geeks.
- As if being called Clarence is bad enough; do they have to shorten it to Clarry?
- Monster trunks.