Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Sorry about this, it got a bit lengthy but I haven't written for so long I couldn't help it. Wake up at the back.

I think you'll all be familiar with the feeling I'm describing here as I'm sure everyone must have gone through it at some stage. It's the one where you just know that what you're about to do should never even have been considered in the first place; the one you get the moment you take that first little step of commitment and realise that every second you spend considering the outcome just makes it more and more difficult to re-trace your steps and make a dignified volte-face. Why do we do these things? Is it fear of change or the unknown? Confusion or just plain laziness? Every time we pay for our actions dearly yet we never learn and we'll go to our graves sad that our lives could have been enriched by so much had we had the courage to turn away. And so it was yesterday evening.

It's not been picked up by Grazia or Heat yet so I can understand if you're not up to speed but the Eclectic Landlady and I have resumed relations. As such, I have now relocated from Kent to the picturesque western edge of Crewe. It's as if I haven't been away. Other long-term students of these meanderings will remember that S has occasional need of the good offices of the bloodletters and sawbones of Hope Hospital in Salford. Last Tuesday an emergency occurred that meant we had to go there early on Wednesday. The line through which her nourishment is imported had fractured and a repair was needed. We were there all day and only left about 8pm. Hungry and not wishing to wait until we got back to Crewe, I remembered a Chinese chippy we'd found by accident last year, rather off-puttingly in Barff Rd in Weaste. Sounds good, doesn't it. Well it was, so I found it again and we enjoyed a very nice alfresco chip supper parked up on the cobbles round the back of the local church. In fact S believed it to be the best meal of its kind she'd experienced.

Cut to Sunday night and I'm summoned rather urgently to the boudoir. Disappointment was again the order of the day as rather disturbingly the things she was holding apart were two sections of her central line (or more accurately her Broviac line), one bit in each hand. This wasn't as it should have been and it was quite obvious that the repair had not been done correctly. As the catheter enters the sub-clavian vein, this is also a serious threat to her health due to the potential for infection. Bummer, another day in Salford beckoned and this time it was raining. Not to worry, said S, a lacklustre day will be made all the more bearable by being in your adorable company going to the Chinese chippy again. (It must be noted here that she is unable to absorb any kind of nourishment whatsoever from normal food and consequently our freezer is the boy Oliver's worst nightmare). Anyway, it would be what purports to be our national day so why not celebrate it with our national dish?

And yes, we got bored (no wonder Salford spawned this lot) And as we left about 6pm a terrible thought struck: what if Salford is like Crewe? You see, in Crewe not only do the chippies all shut by 7.30, if they're Chinese they probably don't open at all on Mondays. Not to worry, I said, there was another one at the end of the street, we can go there. And as I said that, I knew I had sealed our fate. As we approached our original target, we saw to our dismay the shutters were down. Disappointment etched our brows as we pulled up outside the open Wing Yip 300 yards away. We were hungry, we'd give it a go. It was an odd moment as I walked in. You know those old Chinese take-aways, the ones with the painted menu boards that have remained unchanged for 35 years except for the prices, and those are now raised half an inch above the rest of the board through having been repainted innumerable times? This wasn't really like that, there had been little alteration at all as these prices were about 15 years old. There was an elderly couple in there who I'm guessing spoke very little English apart from the menu items which would probably explain why a portion of fish was £1.45. Every chippy in the land has reacted to the scarcity of cod by hoicking their prices accordingly and you'd be lucky to get a portion of fish and chips for less than £4. But this was a strange, time warped shop where fish quotas and mesh sizes had passed the owners by and a portion here would set you back the princely sum of £2.33.

Moreover, although it was actually fairly clean, it had obviously seen no redecoration, modernisation or indeed any changes whatsoever since it was first opened. Nearly every tile on the floor and walls was cracked and the once pristine white melamine and shiny stainless steel surfaces had faded and dulled. The counter was bowed where years of leaned upon elbows had taken their toll and the newest things in the place were the large page-a-day calendar and the shiny paperbacks they were both reading. You could see that the place was just getting beyond them now and I couldn't really see it turning much by way of profit. As I walked in, the smell of "oil on the point of needing to be changed" hit my nostrils and I knew I should have turned back there and then. My brain's capacity for remembered smells recalled a place on the Lower Road in Belvedere, Kent where I used to live many years ago called "Peter's" that had an even worse reek, and he couldn't cook if his life depended on it. But I'd seen a pile of pale, thickly cut chips in the warmer that promised much if they were going to be re-heated and my resolution faltered. The old boy's eyes lit up as I asked for two fish. "Fish? Fish?" Yes please, and he scurried off upstairs, came back and whacked two large portions into a bubbling wok and his wife fired up the fryer, presumably to re-fry the chips. I looked around for some encouraging signs but there weren't. What was worse, Mrs came back with new chips and slung them in the fryer instead of the par-cooked ones. Oh dear. Some local kids came in and asked for a portion of chips and didn't seem unduly fussed so maybe this was an undiscovered gem after all.

But the best was yet to come. The old fella came out of the back with his two actually rather decent looking pieces of fish. but then spoilt it by getting a portion of those wan chips to put under each one. "Ah...ssa'a'vi?" Sprinkle, splurt (just two splurts, nowhere near enough is it, especially when the chips look like victoria sponge) and then he attempted to wrap the meal; in just one sheet of newsprint, with none of the skill often associated with the usually dexterous Oriental in evidence. For those unfamiliar with the great British take-away, it's oily if it's just been cooked and one sheet of paper is about as useful as a container as a tissue paper bucket. I parted with my £4.66 and we found our parking spot. Strangely, the fish was just edible. The batter had an unusual taste. Quite light and obviously home made but it was so yellow as to be off-putting. And something alien had been fried in that oil, possibly flies. I tried a chip but immediately had to do an impression of my Dad after having rather too enthusiastically siphoned petrol for the lawn-mower from the car with only a piece of thin tubing. I just managed to get the window open. Oddly, S thought the meal tolerable but I'd seen it prepared and been in the shop for far too long, so couldn't face it.

There is no post script. It was just the story of a drab day in a drab town with drab weather and an even drabb(i)er meal. Makes you appreciate what you've got, though.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


To some people I very much miss seeing around these pages. Hopefully they'll know who they are but please - there's no need to speculate in the comments!

I think I've worked it out. I fear you may have taken a barb aimed at far less worthy people than your fine selves rather too personally. A while back, one of you inadvertently provided the ideal germ to sum up my mood that particular day and that led to me writing something about seeing places I love despoiled by a certain type of people who believe they hold dominion over something because of their lifestyle. My ire is boundless in these situations and the unwary protagonist may have misread my signals. If this is indeed the case then I can assure you that there was nothing personal intended whatsoever and I apologise most hugely and unreservedly. Put it this way, every complete tosser in the world breathes but being able to breathe doesn't make you a complete tosser, or rather, just because you admire something on its own merits doesn't automatically imbue you with a set of characteristics normally associated with the sheep running their lives according to the style columns of a particular newspaper.

I'm making myself really clear, aren't I.

Monday, April 16, 2007


I wanted to write something funny today. Pointless, absolutely pointless as the lunatics are still running the asylum. XTC's Andy Partridge said it far better than I ever could 25 years ago:

Melt The Guns

programmes of violence as entertainment
brings the disease into your room
we know the germ which is man-made in metal
is really a key to your own tomb
prevention is better than cure
bad apples affecting the pure
you'll gather your senses I'm sure, then agree to
melt the guns melt the guns
melt the guns and never more to fire them
melt the guns melt the guns
melt the guns and never more desire them
children will want them mothers supply them
as long as your killers are heroes.
and all the media will fiddle while Rome burns
acting like modern-time Neros.
prevention is better than cure
bad apples affecting the pure
you'll gather your senses I'm sure then agree to
melt the guns melt the guns
melt the guns and never more to fire them
melt the guns melt the guns
melt the guns and never more to desire them.

I'm speaking to the justice league of America
the U.S of A, hey you, yes you in particular!
when it comes to - the judgement day
and you're stood at the gates with your weaponry
you dare clasp your hands in prayer
and start quoting me’ cos we say....
our father we've managed to contain the epidemic
in one place now
let's hope they shoot themselves instead of others
help to sterilize the race now.
we've trapped the cause of the plague
in the land of the free and the home of the brave
if we listen quietly we can hear them shooting
from grave to grave.
you ought to melt the guns melt the guns
melt the guns and never more to fire them
melt the guns melt the guns
melt the guns and never more desire them.

I just want to add a postscript, if I may. Terrorists trade on the fear of the unknown, it's their greatest weapon. One or two major incidents and whole nations go on the back foot, fearing all and trusting nobody. Yet one country's constitution allows terrorists to live in every one of its streets unhindered. And the biggest terrorists of all are the lawmakers who continue to allow this situation to continue. Where you going to point your guns now, George?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Home is where the heart is. I'm going home.

Abnormal service will be resumed shortly.

Sunday, April 08, 2007


Another beautiful day so I went and dressed like a crazy (shorts, big wellies and the sunhat as worn in the avatar) and tramped round the woods opposite with a metal detector and a vicious looking piece of gardening toolage. I'm broke, I didn't win the rollover yesterday so I'm looking for treasure if that's OK. And I found some! Yip, and indeed, pee.

My booty amounted to some old bits of horseshoe, probably from one of my sister's ponies circa 1974, some rusty nails, small bits of motorcycle and a decimal ha'penny. But the thing that stirred the big kid in me was the ammo. Yes, I dug up bits of bullets. And a live cannon shell. I think.

It is not unknown for young lads in the country to play around with guns. Every now and then one goes off and relieves the gene pool of something unnecessary and gets the protagonist a mention in the Darwin Awards. Part of what I found though was the kind of stuff you see nutters in Montana loosing off in those documentaries about the right to bear arms (of course, every man should have the right to man his own anti-aircraft battery in his back garden just in case the gummint dun git uppity. US readers, please correct my condescension there). There were a couple of what looked like small bore cartridge cases - not uncommon - and there was a .303 case. There isn't anything to hunt in the woods though and closer examination revealed it was dated 1939 and had the War Department symbol on. But the big prize was this:

"Eeuurr. What have you got a poo in your hand for?" puzzled Luke, my nephew. And indeed yes, it did look like a jobby but metal detectors generally have a problem uncovering anything faecal. It also looked like an incredibly corroded something else. Something else that fleetingly crossed my mind and made me think twice as I went to show my mother. Although were those kinds of things ever made of anything but plastic? The shape was a giveaway though, you could make out the conical nose and the flattened end, making it out to be one of this lineup, probably the fourth from the left, a 20mm Hispano cannon shell. Although it could be any of the 20mm ones of course but there's a certain amount of romance to be had here for any 46 year old schoolboy brought up in Battle of Britain country and Hispanos were fitted to allied planes so this had to come from a Spitfire. Didn't it of course. * Also, it had stuff in. Stuff that my dad wanted to play with, so he did. Oohh...fun! He scraped a little bit out and got a magnifying glass. And set fire to the stuff, which went phhhssss and then flared a little bit. Good game, good game, which I tried a couple of times, too. It didn't smell and is obviously not particularly volatile. Whatever. I'll meander down to the museum in Brenzett tomorrow and see what they think. How many places nowadays can you legitimately walk into with several ounces of degraded high explosive in a Tesco bag and ask them to have look? What is the world coming to? **

*Doh! I know what you're all thinking. Hispano cannon weren't fitted in planes during the Battle of Britain, except for two Spifire MkIBs, and they weren't any good because they had to be side-mounted. No, all allied planes fired rifle rounds, .303s at that point.

**Paul Woodward. At primary school one day, Paul came in with something very rusty and was showing a group of us in the playground. He said he'd been dropping it out of his bedroom window. Mr Crossley, the headmaster, came over to see what we were talking about so we showed him. At which point we were all evacuated to the furthest classroom and the bomb disposal squad were called in to perform a controlled explosion on the severely corroded live 14" mortar shell we'd all been farting around with.