Sixties holidays

Here’s an extract of a piece written in another context.

The more I read it, the more I realise it carries a significant amount of truth. Holidays in the sixties often meant a week at a seaside resort.

“You know, like the one you remember from your first family holiday in Blackpool when all your hard-working parents could afford was a place away from the seafront run by Mrs Ramsbottom, a formidable assertive giant of a woman yet to discover the delights of under-arm deodorant.

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But it didn’t matter. Your parents were doing their best for you. Remember-first up could use the communal bathroom before everyone else added to its distinct fragrance with their morning constitutionals.

Unless of course, that vulgar, grey-suited man with the bulbous nose and the two fat daughters had been on the great white phone due to one too many Double  Diamonds at the Horse and Bucket the previous evening.

You remember your mum saying that he didn’t seem to be married. Then on the day of departure, you saw her lugging all the cases whilst he strode ahead glancing at the cleavages of the cleaning staff.

The holiday itself was memorable. You were riding the trams, going up the tower and waddling on donkeys.

Blackpool-GB

You were treated to fish, chips and ice-cream every day. And Timothy, your little brother, now transformed from a whining brat to something resembling a small sample of humanity was only sick once.

It was a spectacular sick.

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As the tram clattered towards the south pier, his poor little face turned green as he pebble-dashed the seat in front. Dad did his best with his handkerchief while mum managed to scoop most of it into a brown paper bag with her pink plastic comb.

“Don’t feed him any more shrimps love,” she suggested before realising there was a particularly shrimpy bit of vomit attached to one of her brand new shoes. Dad heroically removed it with his spare hanky.

“Since when have you carried two hankies?” Mum asked. Dad did a little boy scout salute:

“Be prepared,” he chuckled.

At the water’s edge on a blustery Tuesday afternoon, Timothy was refreshed and cleaned with handfuls of seawater:

“Don’t drink it, Timothy, else you’ll be sick again.” Dad washed his hanky, squeezed it dry and placed it back in his pocket:

“Good as new,” he said smiling at mum before opening a fresh packet of Woodbines. He sat down in the sand and looked out to sea relishing the combination of clean salty air and the smoky satisfaction of his cigarette. Despite the newly documented perils of smoking in the sixties, it just seemed good and pure. At that moment, he was a million miles from the dust and noise of the shop floor.

Image result for blackpool beach 

Mum, momentarily distracted from the perils of poor Timmy, reached across and turned over dad’s collar:

“What you doing woman?”

” Walter Talbot, did you only bring one shirt?”

Walter looked astonished.

“And where could I have put another shirt with you and your perishing vanity case?”

They laughed:

“Well, at least you could wash the collar tonight” giggled Mum.

“No,” Dad replied, “with any luck it’ll walk home by itself.”

Timothy then asked for an ice-cream. Everyone sighed.”

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Is there anybody out there?

After just over three months in La Bastille, I am finally beginning to shape my cell into some form of home. For those who may not know, La Bastille is a warden assisted complex of sixty-six flats where the minimum age is fifty-five. I have given it this faux title because my life is so shallow, I’m reduced to long-term fantasy. I’m in the east wing away from the mayhem of the main fortress.

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The thing about seventies buildings; even purpose-built retirement flats, is that no-one ever thought about wheelchair access. There’s a six-centimetre threshold for starters. Even the “accessible” communal toilet has an annoying 3cm coaming.

The doors are fire doors, stained in a rather cheap looking Mersey brown varnish. There are two laminated fire-drill signs blue-tacked on the front door. If you look down the hallway, it resembles a cheap hotel.

cun

You know, like the one you remember from your first family holiday in Blackpool when all your hard-working parents could afford was a place away from the seafront run by Mrs Ramsbottom, a formidable assertive giant of a woman yet to discover the delights of under-arm deodorant.

284439

But it didn’t matter. Your parents were doing their best for you. Remember-first up could use the communal bathroom before everyone else added to its distinct fragrance with their morning constitutionals.

Unless of course, that vulgar, grey-suited man with the bulbous nose and the two fat daughters had been on the great white phone due to one too many Double  Diamonds at the Horse and Bucket the previous evening.

You remember your mum saying that he didn’t seem to be married. Then on the day of departure, you saw her lugging all the cases whilst he strode ahead glancing at the cleavages of the cleaning staff.

The holiday itself was memorable. You were riding the trams, going up the tower and waddling on donkeys.

Blackpool-GB

You were treated to fish, chips and ice-cream every day. And Timothy, your little brother, now transformed from a whining brat to something resembling a small sample of humanity was only sick once.

It was a spectacular sick.

original

As the tram clattered towards the south pier, his poor little face turned green as he pebble-dashed the seat in front. Dad did his best with his handkerchief while mum managed to scoop most of it into a brown paper bag with her pink plastic comb.

“Don’t feed him any more shrimps love,” she suggested before realising there was a particularly shrimpy bit of vomit attached to one of her brand new shoes. Dad heroically removed it with his spare hanky.

“Since when have you carried two hankies?” Mum asked. Dad did a little boy scout salute:

“Be prepared,” he chuckled.

At the water’s edge on a blustery Tuesday afternoon, Timothy was refreshed and cleaned with handfuls of seawater:

“Don’t drink it, Timothy, else you’ll be sick again.” Dad washed his hanky, squeezed it dry and placed it back in his pocket:

“Good as new,” he said smiling at mum before opening a fresh packet of Woodbines. He sat down in the sand and looked out to sea relishing the combination of clean salty air and the smoky satisfaction of his cigarette. Despite the newly documented perils of smoking in the sixties, it just seemed good and pure. At that moment, he was a million miles from the dust and noise of the shop floor.

Image result for blackpool beach 

Mum, momentarily distracted from the perils of poor Timmy, reached across and turned over dad’s collar:

“What you doing woman?”

” Walter Talbot, did you only bring one shirt?”

Walter looked astonished.

“And where could I have put another shirt with you and your perishing vanity case?”

They laughed:

“Well, at least you could wash the collar tonight” giggled Mum.

“No,” Dad replied, “with any luck it’ll walk home by itself.”

Timothy then asked for an ice-cream. Everyone sighed.

Happy days.

Well OK, the flat’s not in Blackpool but it has a sort of shabby utilitarian seventies chic. Some cells have french windows. So many have done their best to transform the uniformity of the exterior into something far more glam, with hundreds of plants and garden ornaments. And a very fine job they’ve done too.

The grounds are quite magnificent.

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Every so often I see the friendly gardener, strapped into his leaf blower with his little Jack Russell yapping happily at his heels. I know he has pride in his work. It’s one of those things which make this a bit more special. We’re not a bunch of oldies shoved into cell blocks to eke out the final years of our miserable existence. That gardener bloke who comes every week with the roaring machines, the early morning milkman and the drivers, turning up to whisk people away all care about us. Cool.

It has taken all these months to realise that I’m not living in a holiday flat (or a cheap hotel). The novelty of being close to town is now a reality. I can get to places without the tedious trawl up the main road before I even sniff the nearest shop.

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Hardly a pavement is it?

And here I am. King of Morrisons, Lord of Lidl and the occasional visitor to the royal borough of Waitrose. They sell this Duchy Organic stuff. It’s outrageously overpriced but it does carry an association with Prince Charles. This naturally gives them the right to rip off everyone with the price of their tomatoes and every type of nut and seed.

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And the Waitrose tomatoes aren’t even on the vine. (Shocking)

I go there for their own-brand teabags. I am a tea snob. The black pudding is quite nice too.

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Naturally, I am an online Tesco fanatic. It saves carrying crates of ale back from Jarvis Brook. I’m quite resourceful with carrying excess baggage (now you’re thinking fatso) but crates of Amstel are impossible. Can you imagine me getting through the main door laden with continental lager?

Having negotiated the sloping pavements, crossing the road and innocent passers-by, I would have to squeeze myself through that narrow hole. The door opens for fifteen seconds alone. And there will often be a couple of guards sitting calmy there, waiting for something to gossip about.

The path to my cell is also long and twisting. I wouldn’t want to drop anything and damage the walls now, would I? For I only know one speed in the corridors. That’ll be maximum. No. I don’t do screaming tyres when I turn the corner. Not all the time anyway.

Mind you, the lift foyer under Morrisons lets my wheels scream. Oh the looks I get!

tjgf

So that is life so far in the new flat. And the reason for the title?

Well it’s blowing a bit of a hoolie out there and it has introduced a whole new dimension of strange echoing sounds.

This confirms the legend status of La Bastille as a huge historic fortress and exemplifies how my mind wanders like a tiny mad balloon in the madness of the wee small hours.

Thank you for reading. 

Turkey burgers

Cooking for friends is cool. I did it on Thursday. I do like a good plan and one had been formulated. There was to be antipasti with ciabatta, followed by pesto linguini, mozzarella tomato salad with turkey burgers and fig and goats cheese tart.

For someone who has found avoiding dairy beneficial, I had thrown myself into the “who cares” abyss.

The bread was made the day before. What a sloppy mess making ciabatta is. The secret is a food mixer with a kneading hook and wet hands. An abundance of semolina also helps. Just clear up as you go along and have seventy rolls of kitchen towel with a bin the size of the Albert Hall. The following day was planned.

Oh dear. I didn’t emerge until 3.30 PM. I needed to be rescued by an ambulance crew at 7 in the morning.

It was four hours of constant kitchen slavery and this is where the dairy-free diet has helped. I didn’t even think of stopping for a break. In fact, I opened a bottle of beer and cracked on.

Pesto linguini is deliciously simple. Just use a processor or blender. Be generous with the big flavours. The turkey burgers needed some thinking however. Here we go……….

Ingredients:

1kg minced turkey-breast or thigh or both

1 tbs dried oregano

As much fresh basil as you can be bothered to pluck and chop

3 tbs stale breadcrumbs

A generous pinch of sea salt and ground pepper.

Diced mozzarella

Some runny honey

Pinches of paprika

Method:

Mix the turkey, oregano, basil, breadcrumbs and seasoning into a bowl.

Make 9 rough patties and place on a well-oiled baking tray.

On top of each burger, put a cube of cheese with a pinch of paprika and a squirt of honey.

Neaten their shape with a small chef’s ring and place the peripheral excess on top of the cheese to seal it in. They ended up quite thick but there was that little delicious surprise in the middle.

Rest in the fridge.

Grill or bake on medium until the turkey is cooked and slightly crispy brown on the outside.

Keep an eye on them and turn them over after 12/15 minutes.

Use a good quality cheese so it melts well into the turkey.

I served it with a salad.

Time pressures meant a less organised operation.

The kitchen suffered.

ertyuikol

Thank you for reading.

Voices part 2-that’s enough

Or should I say THAT’S ENOUGH! I’m not going to hold back here.

In 1996, when I was on holiday in Turkey, my morning walk for the paper (yesterday’s) would be interrupted by mingy little scrotes trying to give me leaflets for disco type things. I was 40 for bollock’s sake. Why would I want to go into a dark noisy room packed with drunken adolescents screaming and slobbering all over each other?

After seeing me cross the road (dirt track) for a few day days, they would challenge my resolve with inane infantile utterances.

On the fifth day, I approached them directly:

“You may go back with a tan but next February, you’ll be hanging around the corners of Corby in a hoody, unemployed and smoking rollies.”

All hell broke loose:

“I’m not from Corby.”

“You should be!” His mates surrounded me:

“Leave him alone, he’s only doing his job.” This was followed by the usual sad loser exclamations as I walked off.

On my return, there was silence.

We are now subject to this sort of defensive futile rhetoric from charity collectors. I’m not talking about gentlefolk in high vis, smiling and rattling tins. I mean the approachers. They will come up to you and as you walk past there will be some vociferous questioning of conscience:

“Don’t you care about starving children then?”

It’s probably the same half-wits trying to give me free introductory drinks voucher for Bubbles Disco Oludeniz. (Have the time of your life. Free Raki if you want to spend the next day on the great white phone.)  Have you tasted Raki? It’s like ouzo but without the class. I know.

The NSPCC started a campaign years ago. It depicted young, telegenic children with big dark eyes grovelling for scraps or sitting on filthy beds in a darkened room.

Image result for nspcc advert

The cause is truly gallant and the thought of any child being mistreated leaves me sick. The NSPCC is a worthy charity. But it is a wealthy charity. They pay an agency. The agency creates a mini-epic pastiche in order to inveigle us into a financial commitment.

So many other charities have tumbled into action via the same modus operandi. Dogs, cats, donkeys, polar bears and naturally, the big players like Oxfam jumped on the cloying pleading conscience-jogging voice-overs.

Charities are charities. For starters, I have issues with what they pay their directors. Secondly, they are not without some sordid little secrets themselves. Charity workers in Haiti taking sexual advantage of impoverished individuals in return for an extra kilo of rice is now beginning to come to light.

Two more recent examples of what I mean:

Eddie Izard pleading for the children of Yemen. Izard’s endless charity work is well documented. He is well-liked by friends and family and can amuse thousands with his gently mocking humour. He’s an all-round good egg. The cause is more than worthy. But come on: It’s yet another cloying smoultzy plea in an already over-crowded sea of sentimental self-indulgent public persuasion.

Then there’s WaterAid. It’s a fine charity. It uses simple affordable solutions to long-standing life-threatening problems. I often put my hand in my pocket for them. I cannot for the life of me however, see the point of staging a mock-up of a child collecting water. There is enough real-life coverage of this.

Image result for wateraid advert

If they are genuine images, I stand corrected but the voice-overs are hideously nauseous, giving these poor children a currently popular or cute name. Is this what the relationship between charities and the generous public has come to?

For Live-Aid in 1985, Real BBC footage was used of starvation in Ethiopia. Children in need and comic relief have successfully followed the pattern of a whole day devoted to fund-raising.

I wonder how much the celebrities themselves donate? Perhaps they see it as a platform for self-promotion. But Dara  O’Briain, how much did you give, you big fat duck? (Is that a typo? d is next to the f.) I think TV is now becoming dominated by talent-starved over ambitious non-entities. Other non-entities are also available:

Most of them are devoid of personality. Most of them exude that little hint of avaricious greed when the camera passes over their big fat faces. None of them is engaging.

On TV in the sixties, we were subject to plummy BBC accents. In the decades after it morphed into neutral assertive declamation. Now it’s regional hey ho. It all seems a bit pointed.

I wrote the first blog about voices, stating that I was avoiding adverts. But I could not avoid it. This has intruded into everyone’s life. 

Advertising agencies, the companies who produce what we see on the screen, are the ones responsible for my visceral disgust. They have scoured every inch of the social platforms and market research databases to find out what might possibly grab us.

I’ve talked about pleading voices but worse than that are the upbeat voices. They proclaim their adoration in slow reverent happy tones as if they are in the presence of something approaching religious supremacy. It will start with:

“The new album by Snotty chops.” To be followed by a burst of the music. Gabby the unpaid intern would have been up all night finding an extract to match the high-octane blue sky thinking innuendoes of the voice-over, only to be rejected and ridiculed by Kelly, the production manager who chose the bit that she liked.

It started with pathetic little ads on Spotify but has now spread beyond music. Like a nasty little rash, these false slimy voices are all over anything promoting “more time for you” and “live your life the way you want to.”

Oh yes, our ever so busy lives need someone or something else to help us realise the bleeding obvious; at a price, natch. “It’s your choice.”

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“It does exactly what it says on the tin!” That’ll be the annoying no-nonsense “what’s all the fuss about” uppity bloke on the Ronseal adverts.

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I neither know nor care how long this has been running for but that fatuous phrase has filtered into everything.

Someone once suggested to me that the majority of British creativity and talent now works in marketing. It’s probably true. But by merely twisting their emphasis to more emotion-based predation, they are making subtle claims of superiority.

“Joe public can be fooled by appealing to their sinful and guilty sides.” And thus, our weaker sides are being pummelled through every possible media channel, by forces of an infinitely higher intelligence.

Image result for intelligent man

Betting adverts are perhaps the worst culprits. They aim low. They dazzle us with bright lights or witty little scenarios. Then they play the default get-out card: “When the fun stops, stop!”

When you next see a charity advert, think carefully about what you would like to put your hand in your pocket for. For me, it is a personal thing. I tend to research the salaries of the chief executives and weigh it up with what I really care about.

I support The Bridge Trust. It is a local charity building bridges for the homeless back into accommodation and work.

Thank you for reading.  

Some days, some people

Yesterday was a meeting of the kindred souls. Our ladies that lunch group had lunch. We all have some physical limitations but we are determined to just deal with it. What we give to each other is endless empathy and humour. In a bleak year of misfortune, hassle and tragedy, this is the star that stands out, putting everything else into the shade.

The people I now describe are the ordinary members of Joe Public.

They fall into certain categories.

Greeters, starers and blankers. Helpers, chatters and grunters. Then there are the idiot parkers.

Greeters:

Crowborough is not a town known for its expanses of well-maintained even pavements. In a wheelchair, there has to be some consideration for passers-by and slow-coaches ahead.

poiujh

Standing to one side, rolling to one side and using driveways as passing areas is common. I say hello and thank you. It usually gets a response. Fine and dandy. I often just bid people a cheery good morning.

Starers:

I’ll admit, these are mostly young children. I smile back or if feeling like stirring it, I’ll engage them with a teacher’s look.

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It took me ages to develop that look

Hopefully, no child has gone home traumatised by some hairy monster on their eye level in a four-wheeled magic chariot giving them a Paddington style hard stare.

But grown-ups, often sitting on passing busses do it too. You don’t have to be a brilliant lip-reader to understand “what the f**k are you looking at?” 

Image result for brighton bus 29
This is said bus

Blankers:

No excuse. Think of an appropriate rhyming word for these cowardly bubble people.

Helpers:

I have many knights in shining armour. It’s usually fellow shoppers and shop workers fetching stuff from the top shelf. Not the gentlemen’s top shelf of course. I mean a packet of rice flour or a jar of tahini. (Food porn rules.)

Image result for supermarket wheelchair problems

I’ve even been helped on and off trains when the ramp has been in absentia. A group of drunken race-goers, flush from a day out at wherever offered to carry me off at T. Wells. I politely suggested summoning the guard; if he could make any sense of their slurred entreaties. Train staff are always helpers.

Chatters:

These can be split into two categories:

When I crack a joke or display a friendly air, a person can show a mixture of relief as they can see I’m normal. Their hidden guilt, sympathy, sanctimony or whatever fear is inside them, simply washes away.

Then others just like to chat. Fine and dandy. As long as they don’t hark back to the good old days. We live in a fluid society. The immense force and rapidity of change fuelled by the industrial revolution pales into a gentle canter compared with today.

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Grunters:

It’s not just pigs and teenagers. UUHHHH! Wevs.

Image result for fat pigs

Idiot parkers:

They will usually have a full airing on my social media platforms. Some even receive a rude note on their wipers.

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Yesterday’s bell end

I include wheelie bins in this category. They will be pushed out into the road. I like the irony of blocking the road. And no, I do not do it recklessly. If your average Jolly motorist can avoid people they can avoid a wheelie bin.

Image result for fallen wheelie bins

The other month, the people over the road left a full bin out on the narrow pavement. For three days it stood there. After alighting from the bus I had to negotiate my way past it but there was a car parked up too close to squeeze past. I kindly returned their bin the garden path. Oh dear, I’d forgotten about the two steep steps. The bin fell and decorated the nice red brick paving.

All these things happen on a daily basis. Some days can be more grunty or chatty. Some days I will be acerbic and cynical. Some deserve a huge dose of sarcasm.

Yes, I can multi-task. I can display a parallel Jekyll and Hyde demeanour.

Talking of multi-tasking, It is now the norm to attribute this fine ability to the female gender whilst disclaiming and right of a man to function accordingly.

Excuse me; I have a diploma which proves I can read two lines at once, operate two hands independently and intervene with some footwork as well. This is piano playing. Remember our hands are opposites and to be a successful reader/player you need to view the music both vertically and horizontally.

And on that sharp note, I will end.

Image result for f sharp note

Thank you for reading. 

Ball of confusion

There is a point when I stop following things as they become really (really really really) dull. I haven’t watched the news for some weeks as it falls into this category.

What is the source of my confusion?

I’m confused by the insistence of people clinging to their vanity. I’m confused why politicians insist they know the way. I’m confused by the obduracy of blind insistence. Why are people beating up the NHS and education? It’s a football. They see it as a route to the justification of existence as a viable political entity. Education is being poisoned from the top downwards. Miserable little egos have been pouring their own brand of insidious stinking filth into the once glorious bottles of our fine institutions.

 

Image result for the cabinet theresa may
Other political parties full of glory hunting egotists are also available

Yet what do I hear? A raft of determined noises from the foot soldiers battling for the integrity and decency of their beloved professions. In the darkened corridors of modern education, invaders lie in wait with baseball bats, ready to swing out at falling percentages.

Image result for gang with baseball bats

Lower ability children are written off and neglected in order to raise the progress of the masses to something they will never need. I see the relevance of our core subjects. I have taught their relevance. I see the relevance of all subjects.

Interventions for special needs are little more than paper exercises. I speak from experience and knowledge gained from all sorts of schools but I must point out that some of the staff I have worked with have been brilliant.

In my earlier days, I was at a school where the paperwork was immaculate but a third of the year sixes still couldn’t bloody read. This school has since been transformed. I like to think that I had a part in that.

These days, it’s called intervention.

When the class are preparing to do something nice and arty crafty, along comes Miss Bartholemew to take Billy and Joshua out for extra literacy work.Image result for bored schoolchildren

Billy likes art; he has the opportunity to chat as an equal because that there fancy nancy who’s brilliant at everything else is rather rubbish at art.

The intervention may be meticulously recorded but these guys are destined for lives in a more practical field; if they can ever get over having FAILURE stamped all over their forehead.

I can’t really speak for the NHS other than what doctors have told me. By all accounts, it seems everyone is stretched to breaking point in the practices of our land.

We have adverts for private healthcare rammed down our throats.

Image result for bupa advert

Smiling people with white teeth are shown doing happy things while the general inference is a great big slap of against our “tired outdated free health service.”

The great eight o’clock scramble for a same-day appointment is a result of the great jackboots of the financially orientated administrators. 

Image result for health secretary

So when I see the current health secretary claiming that health needs an injection of 500 million, followed by the claims of so many billions being set aside for the NHS, I become totally confused.

The annual warning of the winter bed crisis is apparently the cause of the 500 million but old May chops has been throwing the 6 billion ball around for some time.

Then there is brexit.

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Text it, sext it, flex it and deck it. Dave the rave went for the referendum but spat his dummy out when he lost. This is the man of the big society where it’s every citizen’s duty to stand up and be counted. As for the current negotiations: 

Image may contain: text(Taken from a FB page dedicated to brexit problems.)

The brexit vote may have been a bit of a surprise but it was done with due democratic procedure. It was quickly followed with mass protests by remainers. Democracy is a wonderful thing. But only if it goes the way you want it to. More confusion.

How about another vote? 

Image result for laughingI’m sorry but are those who voted out going to change their mind? Will more remainers actually go and vote?

I’m now boring myself. I’m not going to go on with this. Instead, let me tell you about other confusions.

Now, what can I mention?

Changing phones. Dull.

The attitudes of snotty people. Old news.

Parking on pavements. Still dull.

Morrisons changing their shelves around. Yawn.

Supermarkets selling mince pies in September. Zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

I’m looking forward to a ladies wot lunch date on Tuesday. It’s only up the road. A couple hours of relaxed wicked humour.

My replacement chair is far more powerful than my old one and I’m still waiting to hear about my new NHS chair.

Oh poo, I mentioned the NHS again.

Who is on the football? 

Image result for footballers fighting handbags

Thank you for reading.  

How much?

Yes. How much did I eat? I had no idea I could eat that much. What a three days. Let me give you the list:

Wednesday.

12.45. Bubble and squeak brunch. Virgin west coast. 17.55. Mixed grill with extra black pudding. Wetherspoons Liscard.

11.15. Packet of crisps. Premier Inn Greasby.

Thursday.

13.30. Pulled pork wrap and chips. Goodwins-the pub attached to the Premier Inn.

9.30. The full bifters at a curry house in Seabank Road.

11.45. Packet of crisps. Premier Inn.

Friday.

10.50. Two eggs, two sausages and toast. Chez MacLeod.

13.25. Fruit salad. Virgin West Coast.

22.50. Fish finger butty. The Bastille.

Yes, that’s how much I’ve eaten. It may not seem a lot but for me, It’s a month’s rations. (Slight exaggeration.) Pray what is the reason for such quantities?

Glutonny, natch!

Equally natch is the amount of drink.

Well, that’s all a bit dull. A bit too factual.

To chart any phase of one’s life through the tedium of vacuous tabulation would send any soul with the fortitude to even attempt to read such soporific nonsense into spasms of life questioning desperation.

How did I feel?

I felt like another packet of crisps. The travel was a truly great achievement. It was all done on public transport. I sat there, basking in the temperate gentle breeze in Sir Thomas Street, Liverpool. The world was flapping around me as I waited for the cross-river bus. The street was narrow but maniacally busy. The air was heaving with the rich thick drawl of the famous Liverpool accent. I wondered about mine. Mine had been diluted into some bland, slightly twangy nondescript excuse of a fading northerner. But I have worked for twenty-eight years in the south. I had to gerra grip or spend forever repeating myself slowly and loudly. I arrived in the hubbub that was Wallasey Road.

Oh where were the once ubiquitous bastiens of our commercial centre? Strothers, The Army and Navy, Bookland, Julian Swift and Manweb were now skeletal shadows, transformed into the achingly bland facades of betting shops, fast food chains and their shuttered neighbours. Even Safeway had gone. But I wheeled in there. It’s now Wetherspoons, rapidly becoming a twenty-first-century institution in its own right.

It was full of the great idle poor; ready to chat to anyone and show the great warmth of passing friendship unique to this great town. I was greeted warmly by old friends. Our Tom even turned up. That extended the evening. I took the taxi to the hotel where, once again, I was treated like an old friend. My new hometown is a laid back friendly sort of place but there’s nothing like the reassurance of the sounds of childhood and formative years. Yes, the accent does it. When i was in my teens, I had fantastic mates. We were bold and adventurous. We were full of bravado and fun. In Wetherspoons on Wednesday the 5th of September, we recaptured that in an old buggerish reflective way. It’s clear why we were friends because we’re still friends, laughing at our own silly misfortunes. The following day, my old friend Julie met me in the pub next to the hotel. I was sitting in the bar, nose in phone, looking at something or other when two warm arms enveloped my top half. It was a warm affectionate greeting from a dear person who has been pivotal in my own development and musical education. We have such amazing history. It was two gorgeous hours looking forward and back to our exciting lives. Julie now has Colin. They are so well matched. She deserves it. In the evening it was Pete and Jean time. In a dimly lit curry house in New Brighton, we giggled about the nonsense of ageing and the deals life was leaving us. And yes, I had eaten tons. So what. The company was worth it. in the meantime, those two lovely people had sorted out tickets for Steely Dan next February and a new charger for my chair. Then if that wasn’t enough, I was fed breakfast before having a lift to the train back home. Now I know some of you may identify with this; my requests for breakfast were quite modest; two eggs, two sausages and toast. After all the food I’d had? I could have eaten a bloody horse. I topped up on the train.

What an absolutely fantastic time that was. 

I couldn’t wish for better friends.