Saturday, June 21, 2008

Happy Anniversary

It's two years to the day since I took the picture I use as my avatar. Such a lot has happened in those two years, not all of it fun. That day I was fishing on my friend Andy's lake and I've not been since. I still have the hat, I still wear the shirt. The sun appears to have died as does my beard although that does make periodic appearances, mainly due to the inability of Wilkinson Sword to make a decent razor blade that doesn't cag up after one sweep (emergency buy. Don't. It's a wonder Britain ever managed to accumulate an empire using their weapons technology).

Update on the Equita thing below. I had a letter from Bexley Council this morning explaining their decision to cancel their arrangement with Equita, their appointed collections agency. Apparently Equita have covered their costs so Bexley have called them off (I dare say they got a bollocking but the council won't give me the pleasure of knowing that) and in the light of my current financial and personal predicament, the council have given me 8 weeks grace, which is good of them. Then they went on to mention the outstanding amount - an amount £5 more than it should be, presumably because Equita have not informed Bexley that they'd cashed the cheque for £5 I sent them a couple of weeks ago to get them off my back. Equita neither acknowledged the fact I'd sent them this cheque nor informed me that they would be cashing it. They now have the dubious accolade of being thieving bastards to add to their impressive status as bullies and obnoxious lying arseholes. The nice thing about all this is that I've been right all along. I have some more letters to write.

Bloke 2, Bastards 0

I'm now off to dance naked around the war memorial as the sun sets.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Since my return to Crewe a few months back I've noticed something rather peculiar, they haven't a clue what I'm on about. For some of my readers, especially those who've met me in the flesh or indeed who have lived in the Gateway to the North itself, this will probably come as no surprise. It certainly is to me.
When I first moved here in 2002 I had no problems making myself understood and after a few months I'd even effected a bit of a local accent. I'd say "arright love" quite a bit (although I've never said "midook" down the hill in Stoke as that's pushing things a bit too far). I was and am though, despite my best efforts, quite distinctly from the cheaper end of the home counties. This never seemed to bother people before, nobody ever asked and they understood everything I said. Let's face it, the local accent isn't strong - Crewe is a "new" town founded in the mid 19th century with economic migrants from all over the country wanting a job on the railways. They brought their local accents and dialects with them and what resulted from the melting pot was pretty non-descript; recognisably north-west but nowhere near as harsh as Merseyside or Mancunian. The huge number of non-conformist churches and chapels in the town is a legacy of the original social mix.
I don't know what has been the tipping point for the locals, maybe it's the influx of Eastern Europeans over the last 5 years that's made everyone double take every time they hear something slightly different. In the last three or four weeks I've been told that I'm "not from round 'ere" more times than in the previous 6 years. One even went as far as to ask whether I was a criminal, presumably on a witness protection scheme but she was absolutely rat-arsed and had also just asked whether I'd make her a brew (another localism) or give her a glass for her wine (which I presumed to be of the tonic variety rather than a nice chablis). The other evening I was in my favourite local Indian takeaway and was joking with their English delivery driver and the lad behind the desk that "we probably all sound the same to you anyway", a remark that elicited gales of knowing laughter from both parties.
This morning was the worst though. I'd just bought some petrol in Morrison's and realised I'd left my chequecard in the Co-Op the previous evening. I was attempting to leave my address. Anyone familiar with Marjorie Dawes from Little Britain's Fatfighters will understand.
"Mount Pleasant"
"No, Pleasant"
"Pleasant. Pee"
"Ah, Pleasant. Is that in Crewe?"
Anyone for choglud?

Friday, June 13, 2008

I win

Yes. Apologies for that rather horrible bit at the end of yesterday's post. Spur of the moment and not warranted. Removed.

Elsewhere, I have beaten the bullies and I am pleased, especially as my pen was mightier than the threat of their swords. They are bloodied and bruised. Good, they are liars and cheats and as such, deserve nothing less.

Six years ago I left the London Borough of Bexley with a tiny council tax debt (of about £50 if memory serves). In the confusion surrounding my move north, getting a job, Sharon's subsequent illness, it got forgotten about. Last year just before Christmas while I was in Kent a collections company called Equita started sending letters to Sharon's address. She was ill and they didn't get forwarded, not her fault. When I did finally get one just after Christmas I was surprised to see this debt as I it had all but disappeared from my memory. However it was now £150 and they were threatening everything bar violence to get it back.

I emailed them telling them of my situation and that I would do my best to pay it off. They emailed back and told me in no uncertain terms to get my arse in gear. I took exception to this. They'd waited over 5 years for it, a few months wouldn't hurt. I sent them £50. Then my circumstances changed and I ended up back in Crewe without a job and on benefits. I'd phoned them but they'd been extremely unsympathetic, rude and all but threatened me if I didn't pay. They were obnoxious. They screwed another £50 out of me, money I could barely afford. I'd offered a payment plan but they'd refused. Then something happened. I found all their old letters as Sharon hadn't thrown any of my old mail away.

I opened one and in it they said they knew I still lived in Crewe because they'd checked the electoral roll so they would now send the boys round to recover goods. Result!! The letter was dated February and this was now May - during the Crewe and Nantwich by-election which, unless you lived in a cave on Staffa, was on the news a bit. On my return to Crewe I'd checked my eligibility to vote in the council elections on 1st May and wasn't on the roll. I knew I wasn't, Sharon had told me she'd not put me on the canvass the previous October. I still couldn't get on the roll in time to vote in the by-election. I was livid, the bastards at Equita had told a barefaced lie and I wrote and told them. "Tough" they wrote back, mistake, you still owe us. "Piss off" I wrote back, as I simultaneously wrote a letter to the Chief Executive of Bexley Council telling him that Equita were nasty liars.

This morning I got a letter from Equita saying the account had been cancelled by Bexley.

Bloke 1, Bastards 0.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Smug again

Five years ago yesterday, I gave up smoking. I have not smoked since and although I still like the smell of tobacco, I haven't been tempted. I am often a smug, self-righteous bastard when it comes to smoking, and with good reason: I had seen the person I love more than anything else in the world laying for ten days with tubes sticking out of her, barely alive, her recently excised intestines laying festering in a bucket in a path lab. After the experience of being told the news that she'd nearly died but that she'd had to undergo drastic surgery to stay alive, I'd had to break the self-same news to her parents, her children and her friends, all of whom I barely knew. It is an experience I've never forgotten. 13 years previously I'd killed someone in a road accident and never felt a thing except anger that the drunk never gave me chance to avoid him when he walked out in front of my car; now I was confronted by emotions I'd never expected to feel for years. Smoking is the one thing that arouses me to near apoplexy I'm afraid. It's a vile, foul habit and it steals lives, not only of the victims of its effects, but of everyone connected. Our lives since have been a series of stop-start kangaroo hops and an increasing number of concessions made in order to maintain some kind of order.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


I am vexed. I am also perturbed and very slightly annoyed. I am being taken advantage of.

The other day I opened my front door (actually, my door. It's on the side and it's the only one I have but "front door" sounds so much more proper) to be greeted by the sight of a discarded child's pushbike laying by my fine collection of bins. Its chain was rusty and had come off the sprocket, nevertheless, it was gone when I got back from my walk into town. The other morning I heard a clunk and when I went to put some rubbish in the bin there was a large plastic tub in it, the kind you get muffins and chocolate chip cookies in from Morrisons. I can't afford such fine fare, it was not mine. When I went to put my bin out last night there was a white bin bag in it, full of rubbish. Again, not mine. This morning I lifted the lid only to find my bin was now full to the brim because someone had very kindly put a large black bin bag in it overnight.

You may well ask why I'm complaining (Vicus, you don't have to actually ask). I do my level best to minimise my rubbish. I live on my own now and in two weeks I'll be going some to get my bin even halfway full. When I get the garden sorted, I'll have a composter out there as well (in fact, I've got my eye on next door's one which seems to be doing nothing stood out on the drive empty) and that will cut it down even more. I try and cut down on packaging and recycle when I can. I don't want the waste re-allocation operative or whatever they're called nowadays thinking I'm a lazy arse who can't be bothered. Moreover, if you have the full set of normal recycling bins you're liable to end up with a criminal record if some sharp-eyed jobsworth spots a plastic bottle or a copy of the Independent in your household waste.

Yes, that last point. I have narrowly avoided getting my name in the local paper for having the wrong kind of rubbish. The first person to take advantage of my empty bins last week decided to dump his stash of gentleman's leisure periodicals in the black bin. Tut-tut. they go in the green one. And if you're going to dump soft pr0n in my bin, at least make it classier than some of Dirty Dickie Desmond's behind the bike-sheds newspaper spin-offs full of blurry frames nicked from straight to landfill C movies and non-subscription interweb sites. I ask you.

Friday, June 06, 2008


Having difficulty sleeping? Found the airwaves are a little too congested with the kind of crap that passes for news and/or entertainment nowadays? Listen to commercial radio or Heart FM and are losing the will to live? Search your DAB dial for Birdsong, crack open a bottle of favourite tipple and shut your eyes.

Monday, June 02, 2008


Now that the behemoth that is Friendsreunited has gone totally free, the woodwork is yielding somewhat. People I messaged years ago while I still paid a suscription to the thing before it went ever so over the top commercial, have been replying in their droves. What it is to be so popular!

One of these people has been this gentleman, Chris Daynes. He was one of my art teachers at secondary school and I will say without fear of embarrassing him, that he was a top chap and was probably the single most influential teacher I studied under. It wasn't his teaching that was of particular note, for I can remember very little of it seeping in directly, but his general approach. He let us get on with it encouraging us with a gentle benevolence. I can remember him getting annoyed on one or two occasions but if you were subject to his ire, you'd genuinely earned it. He also used to take us fishing which went down exceedingly well. What I didn't realise at the time was that he was actually a very very fine painter. Please visit his archive (but ignore the spelling).