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2009/10 blog n stuff

Image: Stig and Andy pondering some action

13-09-2010

Gittlehampton Rally

I’ve always had a take it or leave it attitude towards the old mans sailing passion, maybe because at around the age of 11 or so, we hit a gale force 9 half way across the channel in a 30 foot Sombrero yacht, Siesta of Lee, Squires second tub. They had to tie ropes around my ankles to stop me pulling myself overboard while being sick. For the next few years I’d be farmed out to relatives when the family crossed the channel, steadfastly refusing to take the chance of a repeat performance. But in fairness, I’ve only been sea sick twice in my life, and the second time was coming back from Fecamp in France after the Royal Escape race.

The fleet had been joined by HMS Pursuer, a naval training craft which I’d worked on during its construction in my boat building days at Watercraft, it was transporting some staff from the Royal Escape Hotel in Brighton, who would be serving at the yacht club bar that night. I introduced myself to the crew after we’d moored up in Fecamp, then gave them a tour of their own boat, telling which bits I’d been responsible for creating plugs and moulds for, and generally giving them a boat builders incite into. After which they invited us all over for drinks some time after 11 a.m, later that day we staggered off to a restaurant for some much needed scoff, and I too late discovered my chicken was pink inside.

Unperturbed, we all heaved onwards to the Fecamp yacht club for the evening festivities, and because we’d already got to know the bar staff earlier, we were getting preferential treatment in the serving stakes there too. Suffice to say, when we departed the yacht club in the early hours of the morning, our condition was some considerable distance further on from three sheets to the wind, and decisions made in such a state will rarely, if ever, be wise ones. And so it was that some bright spark thought it would be a good idea to set off for home, sailing straight out from Fecamp harbour into the teeth of a gale, it wasn’t long before I was acquainting myself with the porcelain, and so it continued for the next tortuous 9 hours as I hurled my ring up and quietly prayed for death.

Over the years I’ve come to love the rare trips I join them on, and thoroughly enjoy it when I make the effort to go, but I am still a lazy bastard, so often just can’t be bothered. The weekend just gone, I am happy to say I made the effort, and before we’d even got out of the lock gates I was already questioning the wisdom of the move. The wind was howling in Southwick basin, so we could be sure it would be a good deal more breezy outside of the harbour, and we had two novice sailors with us, Andy and Roshan, and just me and Stig as crew of any (limited) experience, Ma as passenger, and Squire navigating from below deck, but Ben Coe, our unflappable Lifeboat man skipper to steer us through any troubled waters.

Andy was literally beaming with anticipation, ‘I’m so excited’ he said a number of times, apparently this was something he’d hankered after doing for a long time, and now here he was, the moment of no return. But his keenness was being tested by the comments regarding the conditions awaiting us all outside of the harbour mouth, even one of the Port Authority guys that operate the locks was grinning in a ‘rather you than me’ manner as he wished us good luck out there, ‘I wish you’d all stop going on about it’ Andy bemoaned, but the smile was still glued to his boat race nonetheless.

I assumed that Roshan’s quiet demeanour was down to the fact that she would have sailed with her fella Daffyd, an unspoken confidence, rather than any concerns about what she might be letting herself in for. The fixed stare of concentration once out into open water was a look I remember well, ‘leave me alone please, I’m trying not to think about throwing up’. We had more to worry about by then I’m afraid, our lack of crew experience advertising itself from the off, with a cockpit full of mooring ropes that should have been stowed away, mixing with the ones we needed to be able to get at. Wind speed was almost double what had been forecast, so we were fighting to get a reef in the mainsail, only to find one reef wasn’t going to be enough, so with Ben instructing us what to do, unable to assist much, as he had his hands full at the wheel, we tried to thread a rope through the reefing ring to pull it down, a bit like trying to stand on a trampoline and thread a needle while someone pulls it wildly up and down and side to side as you try.

At one point Stig, Andy, and myself got thrown in to the cockpit together, each of us clattering something on our way down, legs, arms, heads and torsos mixed up like a marine version of the game Twister, with ropes wrapped around us to add to the confusion. Poor Roshan must have been wondering what the hell she’d let herself in for, sat behind Ben, trying to be ill but watching us three crashing around like the Three Stooges not exactly designed to inspire confidence. In fairness, once we knew no one was injured, we were all laughs and smiles at the situation, and shortly after that we were sailing along nicely, but by now well established at the back of the fleet.

While this was going on up top, Ma and Squire were having their own issues down below. Water was swilling around over the floor boards, the saloon table had started to come adrift from its fixings, lifting up floor boards with it, and all of this after the boat was supposed to have been repaired at great expense. We already knew Osmotec had given the old man a shocking deal, with work unfinished, and some not even started. But this short trip highlighted even further what a shabby job they’d done, and been paid well for through the insurance.

When I looked down into the saloon cabin, I figured Ma must be feeling under the weather, which was why she was clutching the saloon table, but she was in fact holding on to it just to stop it from pulling itself completely away from the hull each time the boat crashed back down into yet another big wave. And water was lapping up her and Squires feet, the poor old fella looked drained, I could see he’d rather be somewhere else, but it was too late for that. We found out later the pump wasn’t working either, which was because the boat hadn’t been cleaned through after Osmotec refixed the keel, so fibreglass residue and dust had clogged the filters. Suffice to say we were all quite relieved to be chuntering up the Littlehampton harbour entrance past the funfair rides and holidaymakers, with that trip behind us.

There’s nothing like dry land and a hostelry to put things to rights, and a few pints later at the Cob and Pen did the trick. Ma and Squire were visibly happier, Roshan thankfully recovered, while Andy maintained his coat hanger grin throughout, his buoyant enthusiasm undented. He had jumped in to every task with a willingness and smile which outshone all of the trials out there, and as soon as we were moored up, he was straight down into the bilges trying to find the problem with the bilge pump. Hopefully we can secure his services on a more regular basis in future, before someone else realises his value and poaches him!!

Unfortunately Andy, Ben, and Roshan couldn’t stay for the return trip, they had stuff to get back home for, but they stayed long enough to have a few shants before leaving, as all the boat crews had an impromptu ‘boats party’ prior to the evening shindig over at the Littlehampton Yacht Club. Ben entertained us all by taking an unscheduled dip in the river as we came back from the pub, too impatient to wait for the gate to open to the pontoon, he tried climbing around it, I just turned around in time to see him disappear under water, with his glasses sliding off his head and into the flowing river, he had to go home wearing a pair of Ma’s trousers, which looked like Sinbad shorts on him!

Saturday night we were guests of Littlehampton yacht club, ferried across the river by their taxi boatmen, and the days events became the evenings stories, washed into memory folklore by a tide of alcohol and fine food. Brother David arrived late in the evening ready to join us for the trip home next day, so we continued the drinking back on the boat.

The Sunday could hardly have been more different, mainly sunny with occasional clouds, and generally warm and pleasant, a perfect day for sailing. The race home was a whole different ball game, with Stig at the wheel, uber experienced David doing all the crew work and general sail and line tinkering, wind behind us and sun shining. Not enough experienced crew on board to stick the spinnaker up, but we still managed a creditable third over the line, before being relegated to three weeks last after the handicaps were meted out. Overall a bloody good weekend with the folks, friends, and brothers.

Image: Ma n Pa on the taxi boat that evening

09-09-2010

Trouble shooting


Just recently work has picked up after a long drought, for which I’ve been mighty grateful, but such has the work been, and the people who I’ve been doing it for, that I can’t help but wonder what the hell is going on in the building trade these days. One thing is certain, the majority of the firms I’ve been digging out of the mire lately have only one issue on their minds, get the money and screw the standards, except I won’t work that way, so every step of the way is an uphill struggle.

It began with a trussed roof on a new build along in Rustington for a mob who will remain nameless. The roof trusses turned up on a lorry for us to unload by hand, after the boss shot off rather conveniently just before. No drawings came with the roof, which they should have done, but the boss says ‘we can work it out’, which means ‘you can work it out’. First disagreement, I’m sure we all enjoy a bit of Krypton Factor once in a while, but this is a profession, a trussed roof is designed by a draughtsman, and he would have created detailed plans for his and our benefit, so to blithely suggest we get over it is to ignore the problem rather than deal with it properly, i.e- get the fekkin drawings. Needless to say he didn’t, considering it an imposition on his valuable time, so day by day as we tried to figure out how things should go, putting up, taking down, and moving, eventually the roof was formed without a drawing ever arriving on site, (while I was there at least), but viewing plans through his Blackberry/ iphone, which had me tearing my hair out at the stupidity of the situation.

The boss also jumped in hoping to move things along a bit, only for me to see that while this bloke may be bright, he shouldn’t be allowed near any tools, and as a direct result of his ‘contribution’, I wouldn’t want anyone to see that job and think I had anything to do with it. After a while you’re mindful of the fact that you’re coming across as a moaner, but the fact is actually that you’re surrounded by people that haven’t got a clue as to what they should be doing, so eventually you’ll struggle to sound like anything else in their inept company. The only reason I could see how they got any work was through the affability of the boss, which makes you wonder how easily people are taken in.

Then came the Mansard roof in London, a loft conversion for an Irish property developer, he’d been let down by his usual mob, so we were brought in to take on the construction. This guy apparently has over 200 properties across London, and been in the building business since the 70’s, so you’d think he’d know what he’s doing. Well clearly he knows about making money, but from my experience of meeting him, he knows a lot about what he may or may not be able to get away with, depending on who he’s dealing with, and uses his natural Irish charm to good effect, but I’d say he’s learnt little, if not nothing, about the actual construction side of things, mainly because he couldn’t care less, or as he so aptly put it, ‘I don’t need to know’, pound notes are his main motivation.

The building inspector for the job was a woman, (and quite pleasant on the eye, a first for me), and the governor was telling us how switched on she was, how there’d be no fooling her, so leave all the talking to him when she was on site. I tried to explain to him there was no need to keep her away from us as everything would be done properly, as that’s how we work. But anyway, building inspectors generally know little more than their rule book tells them, and almost nothing about job quality, she proved to be a fine example of this breed. If you change anything in the construction to deviate from their notes, they’re lost, so you give them the necessary info, then let them toddle off to ask someone that knows to confirm it’ll be alright. As she was quite sweet to look at I really didn’t mind how many times she’d keep coming back, but being sweet wasn’t going to blind me to the fact that I’ve forgotten more than she’ll ever know about what I do for a living.

As if I needed any further proof of whether this firm knew what they were doing or not, it came shortly after I’d altered the design by omitting an unnecessary steel in the loft roof. The steel which did go in, was propped one end in a stud wall, and the other end off a timber post loading off the load bearing spine wall of the house, or so we thought. As I walked downstairs I couldn’t help but notice a huge sag in the floor where the spine wall was, only to see that the wall beneath it on the ground floor had been taken out, but no steel put in it’s place, and we’ve just added considerably to that load. Even if there weren’t a loft conversion going up top, a steel should have been put in to take the load of the roof weight, gravity being what it is.

That was just one of many signs which made me wonder how it is that I’ll do things right and get nowhere, yet couldn’t care less blaggers make fortunes for just that reason, ‘it’ll be alright’ –(he’ll be alright), and ‘we’ll get over it’ – (you’ll get over it).

I should add that it was an enjoyable job to do, even if it may have added a few grey hairs to my ever thinning scalp. The finished job bore little resemblance to the drawings we’d been given at the beginning, we’d had to design as we went, necessity being the mother of invention, and the architect duly came along at the end to take his measurements and provide a more accurate picture of what we’d built, nothing unusual there. It still amazes me that people use architects for loft conversions, all they do is give the council a likeness of what will be built, with very little in the way of construction detail, but that’s another story.

During this time I’d been asked to quote for a loft conversion for Carole and Phil, out near Arundel, a big job, approximately double the size of an average loft space. After a few months of getting prices, speaking to engineers and the architect, I came up with a price of 48,000, but with the proviso that all other trades would be paid direct by the customer, and all materials paid by the customer direct to the suppliers, thus avoiding VAT, and I would work on a labour only basis. As I was operating on a labour only budget, which was 18,400 for three men over 8 weeks, and I was a recommendation from the customers brother, I figured I’d have a decent chance of getting the job, WRONG.

Apparently Coastal Loft Conversions undercut my overall price by 12,000, which, as I told them, I couldn’t even begin to compete with, I still don’t see how they could even do it for that price. The price for the steels and first fix timber alone came to 12,000, before any work has even been started, and this was going to be a very complex job, given that it was in an existing trussed roof construction, with 24 steels in the job. They’d been to see some of my work, and some of the jobs recommended to view by Coastal, and finally decided that 12,000 was too much difference for them to ignore, probably having already set that money aside in their heads for various other things. Once that process had begun I had no chance.

But here’s the killer, while in London on the Mansard conversion, I was telling my workmate Neil about the whole saga, and he recognised the name of Coastal Loft Conversions from a former customer of his, where I had hung some doors for him, then I recalled it too. This mob had made a howler of a job for these people, so bad that they had to get in a competent firm afterwards to re roof the job properly, and their overall experience of Coastal L C was such that they would only recommend no one go near them. So I had a conundrum, do I tell them what I know and come across as a case of sour grapes, or just keep quiet and let them find out for themselves.
I figured they weren’t going to change their minds anyway, but my conscience would at least be clear if I’ve made them aware, they are after all the family of a mate of mine. I phoned Carole to let her know, gave her the number of this client that Coastal had so badly let down, and left them to it. She told me later she hadn’t called, and nor was she going to. I hope they don’t get shafted by Coastal, but I honestly have no idea how they could possibly do that job for 36,000.

As it turned out, I landed better work paying more money than I had priced for that job, and with much less hassle involved so I was better off all round, but a part of me wants to know how a job I priced to earn only labour out of, could have been beaten by so much.

But all of these previous situations pale by comparison to the last little job I had the pleasure of putting right. With no work lined up ahead, I had a surprise call on our way back from London towards the end of the Mansard loft, it was from my mate Dez Hemsley, a roofer, he’d been asked by this guy if he knew a roofing carpenter, so gave him my number. Later that day I got the call, and arranged to meet Doug on site in Storrington, which straight away put a smile on my face, decent location!

That smile would soon be removed, roof work had been started, but it looked as though they’d used beavers to gnaw through the timbers for their cuts, everything that could be wrong was wrong, and once I’d told him what I would work for to put things right, I began quizzing him to find out how someone who blatantly knows nothing whatsoever about roof construction got this gig in the first place.

I was alerted first off by the ‘Checkatrade’ insignia on his shirt, which says nothing more than, ‘we paid x00 to have that sign’, it bears no relation to the kind of job you’ll get done. I said to Doug that obviously he wasn’t a carpenter, so was he a bricky?, ‘no man’ in his Texan accent, ‘so what do you do then?’, ‘Aam a project manager’. Stifling my giggles, I ventured that that made a nonsense of his Checkatrade sign, ‘it’s ma name awn the truck, n aa pay the in surance’. ‘But you don’t do the work, and you don’t know me, so how can the Checkatrade sign be of any relevance?’. I continued to let him know what I thought of the unbelievably shit work I kept stumbling across, and his head dropped lower through the day, at one point he said, ‘Aam not feeling the love man’, so I figured I’d go easy on him for a bit.

To give you a glimpse of this job, it’s about 18 metres long, the original roof to be raised and widened to allow rooms over the garage, it had two existing dormers to allow light into the garage, and it was trussed roof construction. two new barn ends needed to be formed, one of which would have a dormer in it, and two new dormers to be built further up the new roof line, above the original dormer positions. To get the extra width, a beam should have been put in place first for the roof plate to pitch off, leaving a cloistered walkway underneath. Because they had no idea what they were doing, they’d started the roof first, and randomly rested the new rafter ends on the scaffolding, without any effort to maintain a line for the plate. As I’m writing this I can still hardly believe we got the job done still without the plate in place, but we did, in a very roundabout manner.

When I got there, Doug said to me, ‘aah reckon you’be a cuppla days’, ‘just cut them dormers free and slide them up the roof today, and tomorrow you can fix up the barn end with dormer’, I looked at him to see if he was about to crack a smile and give away his mickey taking, no such luck, he really did believe the pure rubbish spilling from his lips. While I was tearing out one of these dormers that he wanted me to ‘slide up the roof’, he was panicking because tiles were getting broken, more alarm bells, a tinker into the bargain. Then he complained that he could have a labourer up here for fifty quid a day to do that, I told him it needed doing properly, something I doubted his firm knew much about, ‘they’re not all complete fucken idiots man’ he bleated to me, ‘from the evidence of this job that’s all you’ve had here so far’ made him go quiet again.

Towards the end of the day it began raining, and I was wondering if I really needed this grief, and how on earth was this firm getting work??!!! I called Doug to let him know he’d need to get back and tarp up, it was a big roof, and I hate tarping up, especially when it aint even my job. So he sent up Billy, his painter, a kind of Jack Russell that thinks he’s a Rottweiller, with a real chav attitude, if life worked the way these chavvy gobs talked we’d be drowning in bling. I informed him he was on his own, and I may or may not be back the next day, then left him to it.

That night apparently the tarps blew off and Doug was called out during the night because a gulley wash had run into the house, narrowly missing 25,000 worth of piano, ‘aah got in surance man’.

I really could go on and on, one horror story after another, but I’d never do justice to the incompetence I witnessed. We did however manage to rectify most of the situation, and Mark Hemsley came in to hide the worst of their lumpy roof line with some artistic roofing. One of the funniest things was when Mark told me how Doug got hold of us all in the first place, he’d seen Marks dad, Dez, in a petrol station, and because Dez was in his roofing van, he approached him to ask if he could do the roofing, and did he know any roofing chippy’s. So there you have it, Checkatrade, they’ll guarantee your work will be of the highest standard available from whoever happens to be filling up at your local garage.

Beach Dreams & World Cup Weekender
14-06-2010

Once again our local free community festival has produced the goods, and Beach Dreams brought the crowds out to enjoy the music on stage and refreshments from the marquee, not forgetting all the fun stuff for kids which was laid on, and all marshalled and managed by volunteers. As a Beach resident, you’re introduced to the event starting by the beating drums of the Beach Bateria Samba Band and Dancers who lead the procession which kicks off the weekends events. And from then on it’s a weekend long outdoor party, which thus far must have appeased the weather gods, as I can’t remember a wash out yet.

With this year being World Cup year too, Saturday was always going to be one big party leading up to what, for many of us, would be the main event, England v USA, 7.30 kick off. With that in mind, I was determined that I keep a lid on the beer intake so as to remain moderately compos mentis at least until the big match kicked off.

One of the great things about Beach Dreams is the coming together of so many friends that you wouldn’t necessarily bump into that often throughout the year. Many people got there early and laid down their blankets to secure their pitch for the day, picnic baskets, cold boxes full of booze, and bowls of Sangria, or Pimms aplenty, but living as close as I do, I prefer to take the nomadic approach and go on a semi continuous wander, joining whoever catches my eye on the way, and comfortable in the knowledge that I have a well stocked fridge full of beers at home!! It’s also one of those rare occasions when you can see all of us Ramus brothers out at the same time, if not always the same place.

As Saturdays events drew to a close at Beach Dreams, some of us were having dreams of World Cup possibilities, and the chance to bury the ignominy of not even reaching the last one. With these thoughts in mind I made my way to the Waterside full of pent up anxiety, anguish, fear of disaster, and general nervous excitement, we’re better than the Septics, on paper we should wipe the floor with them, but the game wouldn’t be played on paper, but grass. And boy do our England teams like to torture us, the best supported team in the world, able to make it like a home game for our boys anywhere on the globe, in any sport it seems, if only our results could match the support all the time.

I had indeed managed to remain sober by the time of the game, grateful that I’d just finished my pint when Gerrard put us in front after 4 minutes, at which point the pub erupted. I’ve never known so many people to be in the Waterside at one time, the atmosphere was explosive, almost as good as being on the terraces. Unfortunately the Septics were going to get a helping hand, and poor old Robert Green supplied that hand, there’s already a raft of jokes running the poor guy down, but nothing will make him feel any worse than he has done since the incident. I felt like there’d been a bereavement when that ball went in off his arms, literally sick in my stomach, the direct opposite of the earlier jubilation, the rest of the game was a bit of a blur, but an overall memory of us trying to kick down their door, but without luck.

Tomorrow is another day as they say, and with Sunday came the hangover, but also the highlights of the game, for which I was grateful. In the cold light of day it was clear that we had indeed kicked their Septic arses in all respects bar the most important one, balls in back of net. And then having witnessed the considerably lesser qualities of Algeria v Slovenia I felt much better about the whole situation, if we can’t beat them then we don’t deserve to be out there anyway. Armed with that thought I could set out for more Beach Dreams shenanigans.

Sunday is always the more laid back day of our little ‘Beachstock’, or ‘Glastonbeach’, with acoustic sets to carouse the crowds, plenty of whom were suffering from the post World Cup stress disorder induced by England’s draw, and a healthy hangover. As we all know though, the answer is to get back in the saddle, so beer o clock it is, and off we go again. Armed with a few cans of cold Guinness in my rucksack and a bottle of Magners from the marquee bar, I was ready.

As I remarked earlier, a big part of the weekend event is the bumping in to old friends, and sure enough after only a few minutes I’m chatting away to an old school friend, Sean Hawkey, from a couple of years below me at Cardinal Newman. He gained notoriety at quite an early age with a crane top protest which got his picture into the papers back in about 1983. Since then he’s been involved in humanitarian aid organisations around the world, and told me of some of the rather chilling stuff he goes out to document and report on, the latest being a trip out to Columbia to get witness statements from the families of victims that had been murdered, chopped up by chainsaw. (I’ve stuck up some links of his on my Facebook page for anyone interested). Then by contrast I find myself talking to Paul Hudson, involved in travel, but in the high end bracket of tourism, and a world away from Sean’s work. Paul was a beach child same as me, so we reminisced over the days of the egg and spoon, three legged, sack, and sprint races which made up our Beach Sports day, the forerunner to Beach Dreams, always finishing with the tug of war.

With the clouds and wind doing their level best to put a downer on the proceedings, I took a wander up to the houseboats on the riverbank overlooking the festival area, paying a visit to friends on the Fische, and having the good fortune to turn up when they have the barbecue on the go, result! They have a fantastic view of the river wetlands, Shoreham town, and the Downs, plus the added bonus of being sheltered from the worst of the winds at the time, as well as being able to hear all the music from the stage, but without the harshness of the assault on your eardrums. While on the boat, Toby and Jake treated me to a bit of their ‘Shoreham Electronic Alliance’ stuff, involving nautical equipment in their mixing, I’ll post a picture of it rather than try and explain.

At the end of the day, as everything was being cleaned up and people melting away, I headed home, but, as can so often happen on Shoreham Beach, I was waylaid. My brother David and his drinking companions Ben and Lisa convinced me that I should join them for more beer along at the Waterside, and there went Sunday, and another fantastic Beach Dreams event.

04-06-2010

Going into Battle

Having been given a call to arms from cousins Fred and Nicola over in Hastings, I took the opportunity to combine working and catching up with our rels from Ma’s side. Work not exactly overflowing this year, or last, it wasn’t a difficult decision to make, so on Tuesday I gave the vans new engine its first real test of endurance, and very nearly didn’t make it past Tesco’s.

As I was driving along the riverside towards the ‘Amsterdam’ and ‘Red Lion’ pubs, on my way to the Adur fly over, I was a tad concerned to notice some grey smoke emanating from the rear in my wing mirrors, which by the time I was on the A27 was now a filthy grey cloud enveloping anything unfortunate enough to be in my slipstream, while at the same time the van was labouring up the hill and struggling to get over 40 mph. In a state of mild distress and irritation I decided to take the Tesco roundabout turn off and head back, cursing the fact that I’d been lightened of 1200 quid to have a second hand engine fitted which appeared to be no better than the last bloody one. Steam may well have been venting from my ears as I was heading wearily back from whence I’d been only moments earlier, a metaphorical cloud over me, and a real one following.

Well this was clearly not a ‘good day to die’ for my Mercedes work horse, and it soon became apparent as I headed back along the Upper Shoreham road, that the emissions on my tail were diminishing somewhat, so I began turning over in my mind what the possibilities were, call out the guy that fitted the engine?, ring the scheisters who supplied it and vent my spleen at them?, eventually concluding that it was worth taking the old beast for another belt at the short strip of 27 between the Flyover and Tescos on the off chance that it had just been jettisoning old oil residue left in the exhaust. Oh joy! No more embarrassing cloud of smoke billowing behind me, I could continue, checking nervously for any further signs of trouble, but ultimately problem free.

Feeling quite buoyant afterwards, having risen from the deflation of potential disaster, I figured this to be a fine omen by contrast to the earlier situation, and drove eastwards with a smile, not even cursing the fact that I’d left my beloved radio behind, eejyot that I am.

Arriving in Hastings it was soon brought to my attention by cousin Fred on the dog n bone, that I was expected to be in Battle, ‘had I not got his text?’, I had, but for some bizarre reason, known not even to me, chose to blindly heave into Hastings anyway, only to need Fred to redirect me back inland another ten miles to the Court House in Battle, which was where I was meant to be. Again, fekken eejyot that I am.

Potential disasters and stupidity aside, you can’t really help but be smacked in the face by the history of both Battle, and Hastings, you know, 1066, Bill the Conk, ‘one in the eye for Harold’, and the general frenchness, or I should, more accurately, say Normandyness, of the blot on our historical copybook. Apparently old Billy boy had Battle Abbey built to thank god for his victory, while he went about slaughtering ever more indigenous foes as he rampaged through our beautiful country, permeating it with his whiff of garlic. He ought really to have built a homage to the Vikings, because without the Battle of Stamford Bridge to sidetrack Harold, he’d have kicked some Royal Norman arse. Well ha bloody ha ya Norman git, there is no god, and you became worm food the same as any other lowly creature. I salute you with my two fingers and their Welsh heritage! (it’s a bowmen thing for those of you not in on the joke).

Any road up, I digress. The Battle Court house scheme is the brain child of Fred and Nicola, and hopefully their pension in years to come, but it had a few little structural issues, which is where yours truly came in. Nothing too taxing, but the chance to catch up with my not seen enough cousins was why I was there, the work a little bonus.

I got to see quite a bit of Hastings while I stayed with Fred and Katie, not by choice, I just kept getting lost each night coming home, finding a longer, ever more circuitous route each time. It’s a bit like a mini Brighton, with a San Francisco feel to it with the steep hills and tall terraced houses, it also looks like it was being built with big ideas for the future, as if perhaps its designers expected it to rival Brighton as a destination. Unfortunately geography was not on its side, (excepting the aforementioned Norman invaders), and Hastings as a result is blighted by a shortage of tourist traffic, and high unemployment owing perhaps to the lack of revenue being generated. Either way it’s a shame as it’s a great looking place, for the most part, although I’d say it could do with quite a few more pubs on the seafront, but maybe that says more about my own shortcomings than it does about the town itself!

Our East Sussex cousins, well first off, they’re frightfully well spoken, (which we were too at an early age, but we soon lost that after joining Cardinal Newman comprehensive), but mostly you’re hit by their joy of life and enthusiasm for it, they seem to have an uplifting effect on you. I feel after a few days with them as if I’ve been away on holiday rather than working, evenings spent chatting over a bottle of wine as the sun set behind the Sycamore trees, possibly boring them with my family tree stories, but if they feigned interest, they feigned it well. During my stay we caught up properly, having time to see a conversation through to its conclusion, which you rarely get to do at family gatherings because there are so many relations to see in so little time.

And to finish things off, work concluded with time to spare, we tucked into some early evening lager in the sunshine, being joined later by another of the tribe, Hannah, and her fella, Ken, before going on to a curry house. I could see quite soon that Ken was not going to be a sobering influence, and he didn’t disappoint, that last night was a bit of a blur, making perhaps inappropriate jokes about Chinese speech issues with Katie, as she teaches them how to teach English, ‘harro, I ruv you’, mimicking as I was a fictitious student, only for her to correct me ‘rub you’, so I learned something there. Eventually arriving back at Fred and Katie’s place to be assaulted by some poisonous firewater called ‘Marc’ out of shot glasses. My resolve to avoid it weakened by the previous lagers, I was soon gulping the revolting stuff, pulling faces, and descending into a barely concealed blithering mess. I’d been Marced.

How I arose at ten to six next morning I couldn’t say, and the drive back was an endurance, but one made easier by the glorious countryside I was driving through. Let’s just say I look forward to any more ‘little jobs’ my lovely cousins may have for me in the future!




Hurrah for justice!!
20-04-10

My faith, in at least one small part of the justice system, has been bolstered. Today I attended the Brighton County Court as defendant against a claim that I negligently pulled out in front of another motorist on the Shoreham beach roundabout. This all happened just on a year ago as I was on my way to work up in Steyning on a loft conversion, and this guy basically rammed in to the back of my van at a fair lick, causing minimal damage to my old Mercedes Sprinter, while writing his estate car off in the process. He got out at the time, ranted and raved at me with a string of invective, at one point accusing me of “driving like an old lady”, and once he’d run out of steam I merely asked him how fast he thought he was going, “about 20 miles an hour” was his sheepish reply as I held back a smirk. If he’d driven in to a brick wall at 20 miles an hour he might have done that amount of damage, not when in to a moving van though.

Having swapped details, I drove off and thought nothing more of the matter as there was no major damage to my van, and in my mind it was so clearly his fault that I couldn’t envisage anyone being so brazen as to try and argue otherwise. Well imagine my surprise and irritation when, some months later, I get a court summons telling me to appear and answer the case laid by the claimant that I had in fact been the cause of the accident. A situation further aggravated by the fact that my counsel were only given the claimants witness statement 24 hours before the original hearing date, back in February, so that hearing was adjourned until today to allow for my solicitor to scrutinise their evidence. Then todays hearing has its time changed, which meant my original solicitor couldn’t attend, so I had a last minute replacement to fill in. Not an ideal start to proceedings.

I needn’t have worried. I don’t know about the rest of you, but for me, the anticipation is always the worst time with things of this nature, or indeed anything that gets the pulse racing, (for me anyway). You could stick me in a random police line up and I’d start to feel guilty after a bit. But luckily for me the accuser has to be addressed first, and after hearing him stutter and stumble through his fabricated account of the events on the day of the accident, I began to feel more at ease. After the easy ride of answering his own counsels questions, he opened my solicitors cross examination of him by calling him ‘your Honour’, apologised for that, and from then on addressed him as Sir. Throughout his cross examination, he stuttered, contradicted things he’d said in his own statement, became markedly ratty when pulled up for his contradictions, and finally slumped resignedly in his seat at the culmination of his interrogation.

I sat, not quite impassively, but studiously trying to take in all the words being uttered back and forth, and their possible implications, while simultaneously trying to keep any emotion from showing. I did let slip a brief smile at one point as I realised he was tripping himself up again, but quickly suppressed it as I noticed the Justice looking right at me. It’s fair to say that I felt sorry for James, (the claimant), until his invention of the truth began to get the old hackles up, so that by the time I was to be interrogated, with right on my side, I allowed myself to be righteously indignant, making clear what I thought of his fabrication of events. The evidence, as far as I was concerned, should stand up for itself, all that was necessary after that was straightforward common sense. This was the area of greyness which worried me, but I needn’t have been.

The only actual evidence, other than our statements, was photographic, pictures of my van and his car after the accident, as well as pictures of the roundabout from Google. And one priceless beauty which they entered in to evidence, James (the claimant), had gone back to the scene of the accident the next day and taken a picture of the road where we impacted, hoping no doubt that the debris would back up his claim. I could hardly believe my good fortune when I saw the picture, it pretty much vindicated everything I’d said, showing the point of impact and the spread forward of debris from that point afterwards. And they’d entered it in to evidence

For the conclusion, both counsels had to sum up, my guy, although appearing nervous himself at first, seemed to have warmed to his task by now, and pretty much stuck with my original statement, then punctuated the whole thing by pointing out the claimants discrepancies between his statement and what he had said today. His counsel decided to go down with his ship, and desperately nailed his colours to the mast of James hole ridden statement of events, chucking in the word ‘incredible’ a number of times in reference to my statement, presumably in the hope that the beak may be swayed by this rather childish tactic.

The Justice read through both the statements, then added her two pennies worth, and concluded that the claimants witness statement was the one that lacked credibility, in every detail apparently, before going on to state that “Mr Ramus’ account appeared not only plausible, but the far more likely of the two to be accurate”, summing up with, “all claims dismissed, and all costs to be met by the Claimants”. My smugness was desperately trying to fight its way out into the open, but let’s not get carried away with things Rami, all I’ve gained is the return of my no claims bonus, and the extra two hundred quid they’d already added on my insurance since this happened. But going by my recent run of luck with all things financial, this was a ‘WIN’ day, even if only in a very minor way. Time to check any old Lotto tickets, and mayhap to pick up a couple for 2mora!!

25-03-2010

Mine, and other peoples stories.

Some days I think I’m so full of ideas I should be writing them down, other days I sit stagnant in front of the computer screen and wonder what would ever give me such an insane thought that anyone might be even remotely interested in reading the stuff I knock out. It all depends on my state of mind at the time, and to a great degree, whether I went out the night before and what had found its way down my neck in that time, followed by the inevitable depression it always leaves behind.

Whilst I’ve never been aware of anything I’d want to do in life, I’ve always loved hearing other peoples stories, once told to me, they remain forever locked in my head. A ploy I used to good effect during my boat building apprenticeship at Watercraft would be, whoever I was underling to at the time, find out what they liked talking about, then I could prime them later when I fancied a break, and listen to them recount some tales of their youth. Dave Greenyer would regale me with his Teddy boy stories from the 1950’s, the sprung floor of the Regents ball room in Brighton, and how it bounced when they danced on it, and jumping off the last train from Brighton between Shoreham and Lancing because they didn’t have tickets. Keith Saville and his Mod stories from his time as a boat builder on the Thames during the sixties. Pat Brown, my favourite work mentor, telling me about how he’d seen Jimmy Hendrix play live in that same era, his art student ambitions, and the lovely story of two old gents that used to rock up to the boat yard he worked at in their Rolls Royce, pull out a giant Fortnam and Masons hamper, and potter around on their yacht, priceless.

There are a load of things I ought to have at least started by now, not least of which is the story of Watercraft, or more accurately, my time there anyway. As a piece of Shoreham beach history it’s definitely, (in my opinion), a picture worth painting for those with an interest in the past of our little peninsula, but also because Watercraft was the last in a long line of major boat builders in Shoreham, stretching back hundreds of years. In fact Shoreham was a major supplier of ships for Henry the Eighth, and was a lively port town in those days.

Also the peoples history of Shoreham beach, so many different stories of settlement here, often starting with just one visit which led to moving here for good. My next door neighbour, Allen Byford, his family brought them down here for holidays just after the war, and his mum’s family, a dynasty of Essex pub landlords, holidayed here before the war when it was known as Bungalow Town. He has a wonderful collection of photographs from this time of them, all seemingly having a ball on or around those iconic wooden breakwaters, in the sea, or just around this eclectic little village, as it was then, before being bulldozed to make way for strategic defences at the start of the Second World War. In fact, where we live now is sited on what were the tennis courts his mum and dad played on in those pre war year visits.

I’ve already penned a few Shoreham beach stories from my own childhood memories. There are plenty more I’d like to get down on paper, or cyberspace at least, but my aim would always be to make the place the star of the tale, and get across what a joy it was to grow up here. Not just Shoreham Beach, but Shoreham By Sea, it’s such an amazing place to live, and I’ve been lucky enough to have either worked with, lived among, played football, or cricket, with so many born and bred ‘Shorehamites’ during my life spent here, that I have a catalogue of their stories in my head which paint a gloriously colourful picture of this little port town set in the Adur Valley. All I really need is to get my lazy ass into action and start writing!!

15-03-10

The last few weeks since boarding in Andorra I’ve been ‘mum’, as Ma flew out to Oz the day after I returned, to stay with her Brother Jim for a while as he undergoes his chemotherapy. And within a week, having sold up his place, our youngest bro Simon has moved back in to the family home. Despite the inevitable reservations which come with returning to the fold, it all seems to be going quite smoothly so far, a few rough edges to be ironed out in the kitchen, but nothing to worry about.

I may have upset him today by not really wanting to hear his newly arrived guitar being tuned in, and on reflection it probably wouldn’t have killed me to grin and bear it, but that’s often the way it is with us brothers, jump down each others throats too easily and then immediately feel bad about it afterwards. Then later on it’s all forgotten and you move on, hopefully he’ll learn some tunes quickly and entertain us with his mastery of the strings, we’ll see.

The household duties prove no chore, and I continue to enjoy the domestic life, so maybe I’ll advertise myself as a house husband, cook, and carpenter looking for a wealthy wife in the not too distant future! Hmmm?**!

Squires health always takes a bit of a dip when Ma’s away for long, but this time with the return of Simon, and the work being done on the boat, his mind has been kept occupied enough not to dwell too much. But he’s looking forward to her being back soon, already organising their 52nd anniversary dinner at their favourite eatery in town, bless the old softie.

Meanwhile, with Ma down under with my Uncle Jim, we’ve set up a Skype account so that we can contact them for free and see them while talking to them, oh the marvels of modern technology. Well almost, we haven’t actually made contact yet and live in hope that our coordination will eventually work out, no excuse really, but we will prevail. Jims chemotherapy hasn’t laid him too low thankfully, although the lung cancer leaves him short of breath, he sounded upbeat and cheerful when we phoned them last week, thanking us for the loan of our ‘nurse’. Safety Bay in Western Australia is a beautiful part of the world, so if you’re going to recuperate somewhere, that’s as good a place as any, and only a stones throw from the beach too.

My nephew Reggie continues to impress and amuse us in equal measure at both work and home. I was talking to one of his work mates recently, who told me how Reg had taken his front tooth out during tea break, (if you follow my blog you’ll know he lost two front teeth in a push bike accident), and while he was chowing down on his lunch, one of the other lads dog snuck in and made off with Reggie’s false nasher. After chasing the hound around the site, he got his tooth back, and to horrified looks around the canteen, was set to pop it back in, “you can’t do that Reg, not after it’s been in the dogs chops”, so apparently Reggie just eyed his tooth, looked at his cup of tea, dunked the falsie in the brew then slapped it back in without batting an eyelid, to a mixture of amusement and horror in the tea room.

I don’t know how it is for the rest of you out there, but this has been the worst year of my working life, with barely a months worth of work since last September. Now I rarely take any notice of the rubbish spewing from politicians mouths, but it does irk a little to hear these know nothing idiots talk of so called ‘green shoots of recovery’. When it comes to recessions, the building trade is invariably the first to feel the effects, and the very last to benefit from the recovery. On top of that, we hear of these white collar workers bemoaning their lack of a decent pay rise, or even a pay freeze, while us self employed construction workers watch our pay slide down the scale by upwards of 25% from what we were earning just two years ago, and in many cases more than that, presuming they’re lucky enough to have some gainful employment.

In the midst of this calamitous recession, we now have to endure the electioneering of the various parties as they seek to convince us of their ability to steer us out of the worst financial crisis of our lives. Daily papers filled with meaningless, bullshit platitudes, such as:-
“promising to meet the higher and higher aspirations of people who want to reach their full potential”, and:-
“peoples homes, jobs, and aspirations will be on the ballot paper”, or:-
“a hard won recovery will be the platform for our victory”, all by Brown.

When you consider it was his party in charge throughout this mess, it’s a bit like the arsonist fireman that starts the fire, and then is on hand to help put it out. But in fairness, there’s no guarantee it wouldn’t have happened under any of the other idiots. The only thing the electorate really know about politicians is that they lie for a living, and if something goes right on their watch, regardless of whether they had a hand in it or not, they will lay claim to being responsible for it, but when things go wrong they will move mountains to convince us it wasn’t anything to do with them. Personally, I’ve joined a movement to have ‘None Of The Above’ put on the ballot paper, so that those of us that have absolutely no faith in the current system can register our disgust with a tick next to N.O.T.A.


Image: Eight amigos at the top of the hill

10-02-10

Andorra boarding

Having sorted a great deal through Co Op travel, the eight of us going were hoping for somewhat better fortune than we’d had on the last couple of trips. Last year going all the way across to Canada, only to find they’re having their worst snow in decades, at the same time as Europe was having its best dumps in over 50 years!

Our transfer rep from Toulouse airport was a Manc, James, informing us of ‘cheeky’ deals around the resort, cheeky drinks, cheeky meals, cheeky, we quickly worked out, was his catchphrase. And looking a bit like Shaun Rider, while sounding like Frank Gallagher from Shameless, he was the stereotypical Manc package.

Arriving at the Pas de la Casa resort late evening, we’d checked in and then checked out the local nightlife close by, keen to get a few slurps in to aid the first nights kip. Come the morning everyone was eager to get on the slopes, enjoying an ok start to the week on freshly groomed runs with a light dusting of powder, or clam chowder as we call it.

Clam is what it’s all about, fresh fluffy, light, and preferably deep, powder to float through without the worry of injury. Well we didn’t have fresh, or deep first day, but it was good enough for a starter, and most of us finished up early as the aches and pains of, until recently, unused muscles were letting themselves be known. Something we found out that morning, would set us up well for the rest of the week too, the resort prices. Myself, Si, Tim, and Ben, ordered drinks in a little café by the main chairlift, just a few coffee’s, orange juices, and a couple of bottles of water, when the bill came it was for 33 Euros, without thinking we rounded it up to 40, so I’d just coughed up a tenner for one cup of coffee, and a small bottle of water, ‘kin eejyot!

As a direct result of that, me and Si proposed having a shop up for groceries so we could save a small fortune by cooking for ourselves, eating much better, and not getting robbed for it. For just around 100 Euros, we bought enough food for cooked breakfasts everyday, a couple of evening meals, tea, coffee, water, and some snack stuff. Compare that to our average bill of 160 Euros when we ate out, and it’s a no brainer.

By the second day the snow had started coming in quite heavily, which meant fresh clam, but not so great visibility. Feeling pretty stoked to be having snowfall on our second day, six of us hoofed it up the main chair lift and headed out in search of untouched clam chowder, leaving Guzzi, (CD- Competitive Dad), to tutor his lad, Benn, (CDB- Competitive Dads Boy), on the junior slopes for the day. At the top of that lift there were smiles all round as we surveyed the runs below, decided where we would make for, we took off following Si and Tim, Si because that’s the way he is with a board strapped to his feet, act first, think later, and Tim because he’s the most experienced boarder in the group.

As we dropped down into the clam, feet and board lost under the snow, gliding like a magic carpet, this fleeting moment of snowboarding gold dust soon turned to annoyance when it became apparent we’d just landed in the trough of a bowl. Me and Ollie, (Sweet VV), had been following Si and Tim, but not noticed they’d stopped on a ledge above where he and I were now stuck. No one to blame but myself, so what do I do? I start cursing Si for leading us there, not his fault at all, but my irritation with the situation quickly turned to anger as I started to dig myself out and climb up out of this bowl towards the piste run above us, all the time puffing and wheezing, regretting my sorry lack of fitness.

Cursing and swearing, all the time being watched with great amusement from above by Tim and Si, “what makes it worse”, I tell VV, who’s also clambering through the 2 foot deep fluffy stuff in his skis, “is that you know Si’s up there laughing his arse off at us”, he was, they were- and rightly so too!, I would have if only the roles could have been reversed. Funny as fuck really, “all action, no brains that bloody Wilson, but look who’s digging out and who’s up there laughing like a hyena”. VV was laughing at the situation too, as much at my outbursts of frustration as anything, but, as he said after I mentioned Si would be crying with laughter at us, “you know they will be, no doubt about that”.

It’s surprising how quickly it’s all forgotten the minute you’re back in the clam. Even if the visibility wasn’t great that day, the clam made up for it ok, enough so for a few of us to get brave enough to take on a rail in the terrain park. Tim showed us the way first, it was in fairness as wide as a scaffold plank, but I nailed it first go, cleanly landing off the end, so there was a first for me to tick off. Si had said “no way I’m doing that”, but as I pulled alongside Tim I told him, “there’s no way he won’t do it now, not now I have”, and sure thing there he goes, the big fella not willing to be outdone by the littlun.

That day and the next, Tim set aside an hour to teach Guzzi’s lad Benn some moves, doubtless of far more benefit than the lessons he might have had, had the instructors not let him down. By the time we all joined back up, Tim had Benn perfecting turns, and switching direction, listening to him tutor Benn I was picking up hints and practicing them myself, soon spinning slow 360’s, everyone’s a winner. We ate in that second night, I cooked up a pasta meal, there was an air of anticipation as we surveyed the still falling snow outside, today had been good, tomorrow could be even better.

Paydirt!, this was the sort of day boarders dream of, puking down with snow all night and the previous day, right up til just before the lifts open, then bingo, the clouds part and off we head onto the slopes in glorious sunshine and heaps of fresh clam chowder beneath us. We took the first run down the slope in front of our resort, enjoying the fresh clam before it gets beaten down, then took off over the back and beyond in search of off piste freshness as we worked our way across to Soldeu to check out some of Tims old haunts from when he worked here a few years ago.

Everywhere we went it was clam central, climbing over fences to get into untouched off piste powder, dropping into natural half pipes at the bottom, chasing the unbattered clam at the sides where the pistes had been bashed down by then, falling into the soft stuff and laughing, dusting down and setting off again. Big smiles all over, even when, unbeknown to me, VV nearly took me out. We’d detoured wide, away from the piste, high up on its side banks, and with no one in front of me I was enjoying gliding through this glorious powder, when I just felt the slightest touch on my snowboard jacket, I looked round just in time to witness VV coming to a messy dismount, skis and poles everywhere. Apparently he’d come over a brow behind, heading straight towards me and had to take immediate evasive action to, in his words, “avoid killing you with a ski in your head at 400 miles an hour”, the evasive action took the form of throwing himself into the powder until he cart wheeled to a stop. All in all this was the best day of the week for boarding, and for VV and Adam on their skis too, Adam summing up a lot of our thoughts when he said, “that’s the best day in powder I’ve ever had”.

With a day like that behind us, beers were in order, so Crazy hour at Paddy’s bar it was, 1.75 Euros a pint, while watching mad snowboarders drop off suicidal mountain peaks, or the one music DVD the bar seemed to own which we fairly well knew by heart come the end of the week. However, a big day in powder took its toll on a few of us, and we were back at the apartment quite early, grateful for a good day had, and hoping for another to come. Myself, Adam, Ben, Guzzi (CD), and Benn(CDB), had the mezzanine floor, while Tim, Si, and VV were downstairs, VV and Si sharing a bunk bed. Now, when we arrived a deposit was taken from us in case of any damage to the place, but we soon noticed the gaff was falling to pieces anyway. This didn’t inspire confidence in poor Sweet VV, as his 9 ounce frame had the lower bunk, while Si’s comfy 17 stone of wild snoring flesh was above him, suffice to say VV was a tad nervous, especially so when Bens bed upstairs collapsed under him the first time he lay on it.

Adam asked me if I might not snore so much this night, just before we put our heads down, then proceeded to snore like a goodun almost from the moment he hit the pillow. For a couple of hours I lay there thinking it was probably just desserts, when in burst Si and VV from a late drinking session, VV now sporting a much coveted Golden Virginia tobacco deerstalker hat, all part of a GV promotion going on all over the resort. Hardly a minute or two later, and they’re off out again, returning quite a bit later, VV quiet as a dormouse, except for noisily crunching his way through a packet of Pringles, and Si, noisy as hell as he blundered about the place before crawling into his pit. I’d swear he hadn’t been up there more than 5 minutes when we heard a loud dull thud, Si had fallen out, so Tim checks he’s ok, then sets Si up on the pull out sofa bed, for which Si then spends the next half hour repeating how grateful he is, how great Tim is, and wanting to cuddle the poor lad. The rest of us on the mezzanine were quietly happy to be off his radar up there, and pitying Tim for bearing the brunt of the big fella’s camp drunk behaviour, “I’m not gay” he reassured Tim as he’s got him in a bear hug, rubbing his back, we could just make out the muffled reply of, “I know you’re not mate”.

After a few more lines of, “I fell out of bed”, “Tim saved me”, “this is the best bed in the world”, and “you’re great Tim”, his head hit the pillow and our worst nightmares begin. The bastard snores like a walrus, which we all knew anyway, but when he’s leathered it goes in to overdrive, this was going to be a long night.

As we headed off to the slopes next morning, leaving Si and VV behind, still fast akip, the wind was howling. By the time we got to the chairlift, it was white out pretty much all over, but we persevered and took the main lift up to the top, for what I can only describe as boarding straight into a shot blasting machine, it was horrendous. At points the wind was blowing us to a standstill as we came down, one run of that was enough.

As we sat in the one of the coffee and croissant shops below the main chair lift, the main thought going through my mind was how bleeding lucky that Wilson’s been again, he’d gone out, got battered, kept us awake most of the night either by drunken chat or snoring, then sleeps through the worst day of the week to be out. I also knew I was going to be greeted later by his big smiling face enjoying the humour of it all, he didn’t disappoint. For the rest of the day we played cards, drank, and Tim waxed our boards in readiness for the next days fun.

Over the next couple of days we were treated to non stop sunshine as everyone seemed to be stepping up their game, trying out kicker jumps, rails, and switching, we’d covered most of the resorts runs in the week. Ben took a few tumbles as he experimented with new moves, young Benn (CDB) had come along in leaps and bounds, pretty much without complaint, if a little frustration, but for his first week the boy done good. All of us learnt something from Tim at one point or another, and on the last day he showed us what he’s really capable of, “this is my day”, he’d said first thing, meaning no hanging around. Boy was he good for his word, as I came off one lift, Tim had just set off, seconds later he was in the distance steaming along the piste just going for speed. Over at Soldeu he was in his element, leading us into red runs before hooning off out of sight in no time, unfortunately I lost everyone and ended up coming down an icy purple run, a great deal of it spent on my backside, hanging my arms back to anchor me, while digging the board in to slow me down, all the time spraying powder over me like a steam locomotive coming down this steep sided run, much to my onlooking buddies amusement.

All in all, a fantastic week away with near perfect conditions, and a great bunch of lads to spend it with. I can thoroughly endorse Andorra for its slopes, but would say be careful with your money, unless you’re dripping in it of course, because the cafes and bars are for the most part, quite the opposite of cheap. But we went mainly for the snow, so it was pretty much all good!

Image: Our balcony view

29-01-10
BLiar

So today’s the day, or so we thought, that the lying, war mongering, Catholic hypocrite, piece of filth BLiar gives evidence about how he took our country to war without justification or legality. OR SO WE THOUGHT!

Apparently he won’t be asked about secret letters he wrote to that village idiot Bush, and will not be asked about supposedly key memos which may suggest he acceded to US insistence on regime change at least a year before the war.

So there you have it, the so called ‘judgement day’ will be pretty much a waste of time. BLiar being quizzed by a neutered panel, it wouldn’t surprise me to hear he’d written what questions they’re actually allowed to ask down for them. The only hope is if they can get the slippery twat for misleading the House of Commons, something we all know he did, something about ‘weapons of mass destruction’, and the ability of them being, ‘delivered within 45 minutes’, and not forgetting that fateful line, ‘beyond all doubt’. Well for me, that last line ought to nail it even if the other fabrications didn’t, it was then, and has since been proved BEYOND ALL DOUBT to be absolute horse shit.

But surely enough evidence was around of Blairs propensity for lying from before he even became PM, part of his original election manifesto was to clean up politics after years of sleaze, spin and corruption by the Tories. He then went on to take spin to an entirely new stratosphere, ripped up the Labour rule book and became Maggies successor with a party more Tory than the Tories. Education, health services, pensions, all went down the shitter under his watch, while spending billions on them in all the wrong places, like consultants, administrators, and quangos, more and more chiefs, less and less Indians. And then when he left office what does he do next?, turns catholic, remember the line, “we don’t do God” ?, again, lying hypocrite.

And how about that middle east ‘peace envoy’ position, are you kidding?!!? Possibly the most hated man in that part of the world, with very good reason, and some bright spark thinks it’s a good idea to send the Americans Limey lap dog to try and sort things out. It defies belief.

Now he ponces around the world getting paid fortunes to spew his shyte, doubtless spinning his own doctored version of events, because after all, who would pay to hear someone lecture them on how to fuck up a country and get away with it ? Not only that, but we the tax payers get to foot the bill for his full time security, 6 fuckin’ million a year no less, and while he’s earning a mint. Make that remorseless scumbag pay his own security, if he hadn’t taken our country into an illegal war in the middle east he wouldn’t need it, and Britain would have been a much safer place as a result, without the need to watch the news for updates on how scared we ought to be each day, and also, hundreds of thousands of needless deaths could have been avoided, not to mention the ridiculous cost of that illegal war.

It sickens me to the stomach to think that when he talks abroad on these lucrative bullshitfests, his audience may actually think that slimy scum represents our people.

Tony Blair you make me sick, and one day your true legacy will be realised by all but a belligerent few of your rabid boot lickers, you lying, war mongering, self serving, treacherous scum.

Why I argue?!!? And a great recipe for Scallops with Spotted Dick

As those of you that know me well may testify, I have been known on the odd occasion, to express an opinion or two, from dishonourable members of parliament, to annoying reality TV programmes, this nanny state imposing its irritating unwanted will upon us, why milk should hit the coffee granules before the hot water, and tea the exact opposite, and once in a while, the reason I prefer margarine to butter, (nothing at all to do with taste or flavour I might add), but just because it’s a royal pain in the ‘arris to get out, then destroys whatever you’re trying to spread the goddam stuff on.

That I voice these opinions so readily, probably has a great deal to do with the family I grew up in. To this day it’s unlikely that we’ll finish a dinner together without some kind of disagreement or other, we really can’t help ourselves. Me and Anthony, (Stig), are the worst offenders, and in true spirit he will no doubt, (if he’s reading this of course), be shouting at the computer screen, “no I’m not!”, or “speak for bleedin’ yourself”. Simon would be next in line, possibly more of a thinker before jumping in with some thinly veiled spite to oppose whatever it is he’s disagreeing with, that’s the thing you see, you can’t just disagree, there has to be a put down involved, either by the withering tone of voice, or a caustic verbal aside, this is ‘how we roll’ at the Ramus trough, and pretty much anywhere in each others company, much to the amusement, or horror, of those around us at the time. We have been known, on occasion, to join in and deliver a double, or even treble barrelled barrage of sarcasm on some poor hapless victim, unfortunate enough to say something stupid in our presence, should it so amuse us.

I think it may stem back to the days of childhood, (certainly from my point of view), when you had to have a keen eye at all times around the dinner table. My elder brothers, (David and Anthony (Stig)), always finished their food first, but with their hunger seemingly insatiable, would not be averse to a pre emptive strike upon any unguarded plates in a raid for extra fodder. Our young, (myself, Lizbet, and Simon), and rightfully suspicious eyes and ears would warily be tracking our elder brothers’ progress on their plates, aware that when one or the others plate was empty, our forks would turn from eating implement, to weapon of food defence. Years later you could still see the fork imprints on the table from where attacks had been repelled, as the fork came down towards the advancing outstretched hand.

Back then the parental authority of Ma n Pa would be the last word in all circumstances, but these days there is no authority other than manners and taste, (often questionable), in fact the aged P’s are not unknown to find themselves in the firing line of a bit of mocking derision as we laugh at their expense. Time moved on and the things we ranted about changed, but the fundamental life that was the ‘Ramus family trough’ didn’t. You see, for us the dinner table was, (and often still is), a bit like our family battleground, in a funny way.

When I was about 11 or 12, our cousin Craig, (about 14), from Australia came over for a year, staying with his various cousins and going to our school. One of the things I remember well, was the fact he loved the banter that constantly went on in the house, so much so that he would set his radio tape recorder to record, without telling us, during dinner sometimes, or behind the sofa in the sitting room as we’re settled in for an evening of TV. Then he’d play it back to us later for laughs, how I’d love to hear those recordings now.

And to finish todays blog, I shall venture into, what for me is, uncharted territory- a recipe!! My cooking knowledge is almost entirely passed down from Ma, so it’s pretty much all roasts, hot pots, stews, soups, shepherds pies, ect… and variations of those dishes, not forgetting a damn fine full English brekka!!. So when my sister’s fella, Steve, gave us a bag of over 100 freshly caught scallops just before Shitmas, I greeted it with mixed emotions. First thought, “what the hell do I do with these?!!”, as in, how to shell, clean, be sure of, and lastly, cook. Well, after seeking advice from someone that knew, I spent an afternoon shelling and cleaning.

The shelling


Step one:- with a sturdy but sharp knife, hold the shell with the ‘hinge’ side in your palm, and insert the point of the blade into each side of the shell, and twist to open it a little.

Step two:- with the shell now open just a fraction, slide the knifes blade down the inside of the flat side of the shell, cutting its grip off, which then allows the shell to open up.

Step three:- now cut away all connections of scallop to shell, leaving you with a handful of snotty bits and pieces surrounding the central part that you’re after.

Step four:- you’ll have what looks like a worm wrapped around the body of the scallop, if you grab that and start unwrapping it, it should peel off without too much drama, until you get to the black sac, here you’ll need the knife to cut it away from the creamy white centre which you’re after, and for those that choose, (which I do), the yellow roe sac. You’ll need two containers during this operation, one for your shelled scallops to go in, and a somewhat bigger effort for the debris that is discarded.

Step five:- rinse your scallops out thoroughly to both clean, and remove any remaining grains of sand, which your teeth would not enjoy!

The cooking

Right, while there are obviously many different ways of cooking scallops, this recipe is a mixture of advice, suggestions, and vague memories of a TV chef cooking them aboard a fishing boat off the Isle of Man.

Ingredients:_
Half an onion
Two or three cloves of garlic
Mushrooms (however many you like)
A couple of rashers of bacon
Mashed potato (I used Smash for ease)
Mixed veg
White wine
Cream

And off we go,

1- Firstly, get the mixed veg in the steamer, or just boil in water if you prefer.

2- While the veg is cooking, get your onion, mushrooms, and garlic chopped up finely.

3- Cut the rind off the bacon with a pair of scissors, then cut the meat into small cubes or slices.

4- With your frying pan on full heat, and the oil in, (I use extra virgin olive oil, mainly because it’s healthy, but adding margarine or butter will improve the flavour), chuck in the mushrooms, garlic, onion, and bacon, and cook it through. I go by eye for this bit, you can easily see when the bacon is done, but I like my onions to be a little brown before I take them out.

5- Tip the contents of the frying pan into a warmed bowl while moving on to make the mash. At about this time, the mixed veg ought to be done, so chuck in half of the mixed veg with the mash, then add half of the cooked mushrooms, onion, garlic, and bacon, and mix it all together and form it into ‘patties’, which you then stick in the frying pan, a bit like you might with home made burgers. Now this bit was trial and error for me, I’ve heard of Spotted Dick, but never had to cook it, until now that is. Yesterday I nailed it at my third attempt, as in, it was the third time I’ve now cooked this meal and it was the best yet! Basically, leave your pattie to brown before turning it, so when it’s served up it will be brown both sides.


6- Hopefully you’ve had plates warming during this operation, so load the plates up with the Spotted Dick ‘patties’, then chuck the other half of the earlier fried mushroom, onion, garlic, and bacon, back into the still hot frying pan, get it all bubbling again, then pour in some white wine, (a glass, maybe two), and some double cream.

7- With that lot cooking away nicely, pour in your scallops and have a timer set for two minutes. When the two minutes is up you literally walk the pan to the table and add the contents to the awaiting plates with the Spotted Dick, and add the rest of the mixed veg, to give you a mouth watering, yet surprisingly quick and easy meal. The whole thing took no more than thirty minutes, not including the shelling process.

If anyone reading this tries the recipe out, I’d love to hear how you got on, next blog I’ll try and do justice to a pasta recipe that my Italian mate Oliver Manzi gave me to try years ago. At the time I lived on pot noodles and pizzas, so about the only time I ate anything remotely healthy would be when one of my housemates shared theirs with me. So before Ollie left, he wrote me out this recipe on post its which he stuck to one of the kitchen cupboards, the last, but unforgettable, line being, “get cooking you lazy cunt!”, which I still always hear in my head in an Italian accent!!

Til the next time readers, adios!


06-01-2010
Rage Against The Cowell

Coughing, sneezing, and levitating, all easing off a little now, and gentle snowfall outside, but not enough to get excited about yet. I have the snowboard at the ready should a decent amount fall, fingers crossed.

Something I meant to touch on in the last blog, was the whole Rage Against The Machine, business. Now their music aint my bag, but the message certainly was, people finally took a stand against the plague of banality which has infected our TV channels, radio airwaves, and music charts. Like a RATM band member said, “our tune was written in a dingy down town LA basement”, while the Xfactor dross was put together by a bubble gum factory of assembled writers aiming at the widest, (and most profitable to aim at), demographic market, producing middle of the road boring rubbish for an upmarket karaoke singer to trot out.

All of them made famous through the programme, while involving the public through phone votes- and making a fortune from that too- and Cowell cleans up by signing up whoever wins, and also if they don’t win as long as he’s gonna profit from them. Screw that, give us real tunes, by real bands, not TV manufactured dogshit.

And how about those twins!??!, John and Edward, but called JEdward, with their something about Mary hair styles, or as some bright spark pointed out, why couldn’t they have been Peter and Rick, then we could have rightfully called them ‘Talentless PRicks’!. (They actually sum the whole reality genre up quite well, they don’t care how they get famous, they just want to be famous. So now we have children aspiring to just be celebrities, no ability, no skills, nothing whatever to be proud of, just ‘get me on the telly’.)

So I’d say it’s a case of Rage Against The Cowell really, and with damn good reason. But it isn’t just ‘Xfactor’, or ‘Britains got Talent’, it’s also, ‘I’m a celebrity’, ‘Big Brother’, and now we have American series like ‘The Hills’, actually turning the tables, and trying to look as if it really is a reality show, and another show where they, (supposedly, but obviously unreal), follow a group of hooray Henry’s and Henrietta’s on a mountain resort, using a script that was surely written by a couple of 13 year old girls.

Another irritant for me is the fact that these programmes, along with the multitude of soap operas which choke the life out of the TV programme schedules, actually make up a daft percentage of tabloid news. You can learn all you never really wanted to know about these soaps and 'reality' shows purely by reading the daily rags, better get ready for the latest ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ lab rats taking up the red top column inches, and TV hours. A collection of nobody’s and nearly were’s gathered together to give the cackling hordes something to gossip about through texting, Twitter, and FB. Even though I have zero interest in this so called ‘reality’ TV, I know it will be difficult to avoid completely, however hard I try.




02-01-2010

New year 2010 and I’m still coughing me lungs up, levitating 2 feet off the deck every time I sneeze, and getting sticky paws from me soggy over used hankees. Admittedly part of me is quite happy to have an excuse for my ‘lazy gitness’, but perhaps without the feeling that my ribcage has been tenderised, and my skull like it’s been used by a bell ringer.

Funny thing was, coming up to Shitmas I was contemplating the fact that I’d been enjoying the rudest of health for some considerable time, HA!, take that Ramus!!

So here we are at the end of the first decade of this millennium. It’s been a strange year just gone as we witnessed the financial collapse of the banking system, the continued decline, in most areas, of the property market, and the M.P’s expenses scandal adding to the disdain already held by myself and many others towards the vermin ridden political classes. Yet amidst these calamitous events unfolding around us, life has actually been easier for any mortgage holders linked to the historically low interest rates, bargains galore in the high streets as retailers cut each others throats to attract the ever increasing bargain hunters, VAT cut by 2.5%, and by now most of us ought to be aware of the term ‘quantative easing’, or simply put, printing more money as the bank of England and Gordon Brown seek to hold back the tsunami of retribution which is surely in the post.

Now I’m loathe to be the harbinger of doom, but as a nation, under the dubious guidance of Gordon Brown, (not forgetting his scumbag predecessor BLiar), we have racked up a debt of nearly 200 billion and rising. So the big question is, ‘how the bejesus will that debt be repaid?!!?’, VAT has already returned to 17.5%, each week the news seems to have another story of wage reduction agreements, or lay offs around the country, and the biggest one for a lot of people will be when they take the foot off the brakes on interest rates. Hardly surprising that an estimated 25% of M.P’s have stated in straw polls that they wont seek re election, a poisoned chalice if ever there was one, especially on the back of their well earned public chastisement over expenses.

That’s my political rant out the way, (for now, watch this space). On the home front I’ve watched my eldest nephew, Jack, leave his teens, my niece, Hannah, turned 18, and Reggie, my sisters boy, now working full time and getting on great after a much troubled school life. I think I expected this time to be a bit scary, especially seeing them out and about in the pubs, but it’s been great, being an Uncle you get all the rewards and fun without having had to put in all the hard work on the way. It does however make you feel a bit on the ancient side!

This year has also been possibly the best year the family has enjoyed for sailing, not me, but the old man, (Squire), my brothers, and their mates/crew, I don’t think I can remember them getting out as much as they have this year. The highlight being a very creditable 93rd over the line, (out of 1800 entrants), in the Round the Island race, around the Isle of Wight. Unfortunately there was a sour end to the season, as when the boat came out of the water it became apparent that serious damage had been done to the keel. They’d ran aground during one of the races, and without going in to technical detail, the repair bill may run in to tens of thousands. So for now we’re sweating on whether the insurance will cover it, and that’s a worry Squire could do without at 82 years old. Fingers crossed for some long awaited good luck for my aged P.

For Christmas dinner our cousin Susan joined us this year, her father, our Uncle David, passed away back in February, so we invited her to our ‘trough’. She kept me company in the kitchen while I cooked, taste checking the lamb as I carved, and once sat down, remarking how, much like it used to for her at home, we finish off a lot of Squires stories. Stories we’ve heard many times down the years, memorised, and retold ourselves, or started off in the hope that he’ll jump in and continue for someone elses benefit. Towards the end of the meal I noticed something was different, there were no party hats, or Christmas crackers, “excellent” I said, “we got away with it”. No one noticed Squire sneak out momentarily, only to return with a box of chrimbo crackers which were soon enough being handed out, and I was reminded of a TV programme on earlier that week, where celebrities were slating the whole Christmas cracker, bad joke, crap toy scenario. And as the crackers were being pulled around the table, the silly paper hats going on, dreadful joked being told, and crap toys being figured out, all with smiles and laughs and occasional hoots as the noise toys are being tested, I knew then that the Christmas cracker cynics would never have their way. It’s the very daftness of it all which makes it so great, we like a bit of silliness at our table, not that it lacks it any other time mind you!

I’m sure there’s plenty more in the tank for me to blog on about, but I worry whether I’m boring any of you, that’s presuming you even got this far before tuning out.

So for now, I hope you all have a fantastic 2010, or at least, not too disastrous anyway!!

P.S- On a really sad note, just found out that our Uncle Jim in Australia has been diagnosed with lung cancer, so our thoughts are very much with him and his family right now.

Letter to a moron
01-11-09


For quite a while I’ve watched with mild amusement to cringing disbelief at some of the outpourings posted on facebook as people air the dirty laundry of their personal lives on this very public domain, played out like our very own soap opera. What often starts as a genuine broken heart, can so quickly turn into a battleground of hatred and spiteful vindictiveness through status updates and comments as each side seeks to make their point known to all, and, it would seem, the more vitriolic the abuse, the more illiterate the author appears to be, ‘your’ and ‘you’re’ are not the same bloody thing, yet you’d hardly know it as you scroll through the facebook status updates and comments. Funny how I managed to leave the education system without a single qualification to my name, but don’t struggle with my English, and yet some Uni graduates of today can’t even spell, but that’s another story.

Rarely does a week go by without one of these split relationships cyber warfare spilling on to the FB newsfeed, but recently I noticed one such situation take a rather more sinister turn when one of my friends was delivered an actual threat of violence from a moron yet to be named.

So, not knowing the name of this faceless bully, here’s an open letter to him, which may or may not reach him.

Dear Moron,
it’s sad enough when any relationship breaks down, and sadder still when nippers are involved, as one is here, without some unwanted malevolent halfwit sticking his oar in. What follows is pure supposition, not speculation, one can only assume, (as I will attempt to do from here on in),what that third party’s (you/ the moron), motives for this are, trying to worm your way into her knickers?, or in them already perhaps. Maybe while in her clutches, as you’re sweating and groaning over her, as she gently breathes her poison into your ears, infecting further your already warped mind while she has her legs wrapped around you, clenching you tighter to emphasise each vicious demand or invented truth, think then about when it’s your turn to be the object of that venom.

Think also, about when you’ve carried out your threats, you’re clearly not that bright, (though doubtless delude yourself that you are), so will be easy to find out about, and the army of friends you will have mightily pissed off. But I’m not interested in an eye for an eye, I’d want much more than that, by legal means. Lose your liberty so you can dwell over your shortcomings while in the company of like minded morons, with your face pressed against the cell walls while you’re being butt raped by a rather large inmate who likes to be called ‘Big Bubba’.

Think also about the person you’re threatening, I’ve never known him to take a swing in anger in all the years we've been friends, he’s one of life’s comedians, a happy go lucky fella, entertaining company, and not a harmful bone in his body. So if you were to carry out these unwarranted threats, then you would be a bully too, which in turn means you would be a gutless coward, as all bullies are.

But really and truly, the most important factor has to be that there is a child involved, so leave it to the parents to sort out on their own, don’t try currying favour by dishing out malicious threats in return for sexual favours, or whatever else your reason is for getting involved in affairs that don’t concern you.

I hope this does reach you, and that you will have enough sense to see the light and drop the threats, but I’m not holding my breath. Of course it could just be that you’re full of hot air, which is not an unreasonable assumption, so I’ll finish with one of those classic FB status updates which so often follow a tirade aimed at some ‘ex’ or another,
“YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE”
P.S-(Although if you're as dumb as I think you are, then you could quite feasibly read this and still not have a clue)

Blog action day

15-10-09

So, apparently it’s ‘blog action day’ all over the world on 15th October, an effort inspired by climate change campaigners to raise awareness of the ‘alleged’ impending doom befalling our supposedly stricken planet. I have to say, straight off the bat, I’ve long considered humans to be the worst disease this planet has to combat, so I’m tempted to view this whole climate change battle as more of a, ‘shit, what’s gonna happen to us’ debate really, while having the opinion that anything which wipes out the human race would, on the whole, be better for all other living creatures residing here.

The situation the human race now finds itself in is entirely man made, and while we’d all like to be able to point the finger, screaming with some kind of righteous indignation at the corporate super powers of industry, like British Petroleum, Tesco’s, Mac Donalds, Aviation industries, or even Starbucks, we conveniently neglect to mention that they’re all operated by human beings in the very ‘dog eat dog’ world of business.

So let’s consider that perhaps the millions of farm reared cattle can actually fart us out of existence, or that the billions of cars, trains, planes, motor bikes, and power stations will poison our air, land, and seas, so that the jet streams can then deliver these deadly toxins around the planet, or the Gulf stream ceases to flow, bringing on another ice age, maybe the opposite and global warming baking half of us to death in waves of ‘nucleur summers’. This planet has already had the global warming and ice age scenarios, before even we came along, and there’s a reasonable chance they’ll happen again, with or without our assistance.

One of the biggest problems we as a race have had to confront has been as a direct result of our so called ‘progress’. Going from a nomadic existence, where you lived off an area without decimating it, moving on to greener pastures, and allowing that area to recover, to a heavily populated city/town society based around industry and mass production to satiate all the needs of that ever increasing population.

Somewhere down the line it might occur to enough governments to send out the message not to have so many bloody children, and that some places on this planet were never supposed to have been populated in the first place. You can bet your boots that the nomadic African tribes, pre European interference, wouldn’t be hanging around during drought times, or floods. Much like the American plains Indians knew when to move on, and where best to go, before they were all but wiped out by the plague of Europeans ‘settling’ with their own style of population, shortly followed by industry. And think about the kind of people most likely to succeed in industry, opportunist, cut throat, self serving, and mainly avaricious

I don’t consider myself to be the problem, but I can’t escape the fact that, as a human being, I’m at least a part of it, so ought to try in my own way to limit what damage I do during my time here. And if that alone was the message for others, to just ‘do what you can’, then those that follow that way of thinking could at least sleep with a slightly easier conscience, whether it made a difference or not.

As it happens I have a ‘rant’ I’d written about this subject a few years back, so here it is below:-


Pay the price (written 02-11-2K)

Global warming’s cast its vote
So ditch the car and get a boat
Heed the warnings, read the signs
Of Mother earths new worry lines

Petty quarrels, status quo
You just won’t let your comforts go
Mudslides, floods, trees on the line
See it now, things aint just fine

Cars and chimneys billow smoke
And make this ailing planet choke
Then think about when we’re not here
As earth recovers year by year

From the human made disease
Which poisons air, and land, and seas
We’re the ones earth doesn’t need
Our self indulgent endless greed

We’ve turned into a selfish race
The natives now all but replaced
Once knew nomads how to live
And how much Mother earth could give

Take for need and not for greed
Reap then sow another seed
We’ve had our time but if we’ve failed
Get ready next to learn to SAIL


07-10-09
Furies

My year, as anyone following this blog will know, has been lurching from one potential disaster to another, with actual nightmares, lucky near misses, occasional beacons of light, and wet fish slaps in the face followed by Monty Python size boots stamping me into the dirt.

A brief summary:- first four months, only 6 days of work, then beloved Uncle David passed away, family pet, Aero, put down riddled with cancer, dick head runs into the back of my van on the way to work, nail gun explodes, lend ten grand to a mate only for the bank to close his business down as soon as he put the money in his business account, book contract terminated, which had cost me 11,5000 to make happen in the first place, being made to constantly wait for money I’d earned to be paid, and now the latest knife in the throat, I’ve just been summoned with a court order to pay over a grand to the twat that ran into the back of my van back in April. Suffice to say I’ve been dribbling with fury just lately, my head’s a shed, and not a well kept, everything in its place, shed, but more of a, where the bloody hell is anything, type shed, like my life currently, a bloody awful mess.

It aint meant to be like this, but I’ve been working on turning things around, in my head at least. If you tell yourself you don’t actually need something, you can put it behind you and focus ahead, don’t get me wrong, you can’t bring back the dead, but you can be happy you knew them and remember all the good stuff. With the book, well, I made it happen, and now it’s generating funds for the RNLI, and the hospitals League of Friends shops too, plus it’s being read which is the main purpose of any book I guess. Money I’m owed, no point worrying about this, just do what you can, keep on the right side of those that owe you, don’t want to get there backs up and make it easy for them to fuck you off because you’re not mates any more, make them feel bad that they’re doing it to an actual friend, one that showed enough trust in them to wait for what’s owed.

I’ve got my health, though I don’t think I’d want to see my blood pressure right now, as usual I have no ‘involvement’, but have had glimpses of potential on the odd occasion, so trust that situation at least has possibilities and keep faith that I’m not some wasp chewing bulldog that frightens them off at first sight. And I have this blog, which is my vent from which I may spew my steam. Basically, however shyte life appears to be, if you can sit back and take stock for long enough, you’ll calm down and begin to see, what our dickhead politicians might call, ‘the green shoots of recovery’, or even better, the things that are already around you that make you smile everyday. I wasn’t expecting this last paragraph when I started typing, having had no intention of allowing the current ‘mild hump’ I’ve had to escape anytime soon.

All events referred to in this blog have been blogged about earlier, so can be referenced below this one somewhere. Presently laid low by a dreaded lurgy too, but there has been one completely unexpected, and pleasant surprise today, www.wolf-e-boy.com got a new record of 535 hits yesterday!, I don’t get any revenue for that, but it’s nice to see it attracting a decent amount of attention anyway

06-10-09

Mugged again

Once more I’ve been made a mug of by someone who’s supposed to be a friend, after over two years of patience, waiting for money owed, now apparently I’m the nuisance for wanting the money that I earned, but he spent on holidays for his family. And because he’s now supposedly skint, while I’m not, I should show some understanding for him spending money that was never his to spend in the first place.

This isn’t an uncommon scenario for us self employed workers, you soon discover that there are plenty of people out there that will consider you a nuisance for wanting what is actually yours, as if we ought to be grateful for the underpaid amount they coughed up late, and consider ourselves lucky we got anything at all. While then enduring their irritation as we have the audacity to want paying for services rendered. It’s bad enough when it’s a customer trying to stiff you, but it’s a fuck sight worse when it’s for someone who’s been paid for your work and then keeps it for themselves.

So after having my texts and phone calls illicit no response for weeks on end, (two years down the line mind you), I decided to text him and suggest that perhaps I should call his wife instead if he didn’t want to respond to my messages or calls, and bingo, surprise, surprise, I get a message, which reads-

“I’m not ignoring u and u can ask (his wife) she hasn’t got any money. I’m skint your not so give me a break u will get it probably in instalments. I would appreciate a little understanding and trust. I have had a bad year and will get it to u. cheers”

I’d say having waited two years for money he’d already been paid, for work I’d done, was pretty understanding, and showed a fair degree of trust too. As for being skint, well maybe don’t have two or three family holidays abroad a year, send your kids to private school, and drive flash 4 by 4 motors, while owing people money might be an idea. And having a bad year, yep, I tick that box too, but because I don’t spend what I can’t afford to, I’m not skint, so according to you mate I should help look after you. Remember, you’ve already spent what wasn’t yours to spend, and yes, you were ignoring me, for ages. So I replied by text-

“All you had to do was not ignore me (name), and not spend other blokes wages in the first place!”

To which he came back with-

“You entitled to your opinion. I have been bumped for 12 grand mate so I owing u three days out of a whole years work is not bad considering”

How many of you would be happy for the person you’ve been working for to say, “ok, you’ve worked for a long while for me, so I’m gonna hold back a few days pay for a couple of years so the wife and kids can live above the normal standard”

This is someone I like, (which is why no names), but I choose my own charities, I don’t want them chosen on my behalf. I know I’ll be lucky if I see any of the money now, which is why I’m pissed off enough to write this blog after over two years of having been mugged off. But this isn’t a lone incident, so when you read about rogue builders, remember there are rogue clients too, (customers and companies alike), who want something for nothing.

05-10-09

Flash forward

I’ve never written a review before, so for this blog, I thought I’d give one a go, as a result of being so impressed by the first episode of Flash forward last night. The premise needs to be taken with a hefty dose of salt, but if Lost could get away with churning out such a long series while stuck on an island, this at least has the benefit of being global.

It begins by showing a variety of different characters, loosely connected by events later, going about their daily business. FBI agents chasing terrorists, a young Doctor contemplating suicide, (with gun to throat), on Venice pier in LA, one of the FBI agents’ (Joseph Fiennes), baby sitter shagging her boyfriend while baby sitting, and then black out, followed by ‘cut to’ shots, fade in and outs, blurred shots, and general mayhem as everyone, (or so it seems), in the world passes out for two minutes and 17 seconds. As they come to, you can use your imagination to figure out what kind of chaos would ensue were such an event to occur, cars and planes figuring prominently, like 9/11 one hundred thousand times over.

And here’s where the fun starts, as one by one, they realise they’ve had what looks like a glimpse of their own futures, more specifically, at a set date in time 6 months hence, April 29/30th at 10 o clock on the 30th LA time, and everywhere else at their coordinating times around the world. So this is where it gets interesting, as people find things out they may not have wanted to either know or believe, and it isn’t too long before the first signs of proof start showing up, thus putting wind well and truly up some of the characters, whilst for some it was taken as a life affirming sign from that fictitious father of the beardy geezer who has his birthday on the 25th December.

As the characters search for answers, the viewers are dropped little visual clues which inter connect various ‘Flash forwards’, confirming these are not random visions or dreams, but seemingly actual life experiences which just haven’t happened yet. This series looks like a good one for those out there that like to let their imagination go with things, and right at the end of episode one, pan over to a sports stadium with the whole crowd passed out, only to spot a lone figure in long coat walking calmly along and out of one of the exits. Who will this person turn out to be?

The pace, film work, and screen play, are of a high calibre judging by episode one, if it carries on ticking the boxes like that throughout then I’ll be glued to it for the next 21 episodes, check it out.


Many Gits

Lazy Git first, no excuses, but I just seem to be the laziest git when it comes to motivational things, fine when I get started, (well sometimes anyway), but the flimsiest of reasons and I’m procrastinating again. And writing gets the worst end of my laziness, can’t remember the last time I blogged, could check I suppose, but I’m here now and can’t be bothered, Lazy Git.

Work this year has been a bit disastrous, weaving between bugger all and a faint trickle, forced to take on the little tasks I hate the most, but chipping away at those slowly, (rather too slowly, Lazy Git). And in between putting everything else off, I’ve actually managed to get something worthwhile moving with the book, Bangkok to BC, now being punted around town in the pubs, and Carats café over the lock gates on Southwick beach, all for just a donation to the RNLI. So if any of you reading this would like a copy, then get your selves down to either the Bridge, Waterside, or Buckingham Arms pubs in Shoreham By Sea.

We had a Shoreham Herald photo shoot yesterday, myself and two of Shoreham’s Lifeboat crew, Ben Coe, and Dave Tanner, outside the Waterside pub on Shoreham Beach, so hopefully that will raise awareness and shift copies, thus filling the RNLI coffers a little more. It all went well, but unfortunately put me a tad behind for our Waltons with swearing Monday night dinner, and as a result I was transformed into the Stressed Git mode, and in no short amount of time, Stroppy Git, and almost Ramsey style ‘F’ word lunacy, in fact a fekkin eejot, but I survived, dribbling, deranged mess though I may have appeared. Everyone politely claimed it was all fine, perhaps worried I might otherwise go and boil the goldfish by sticking my overheated head in the pond to cool down.

All of that I put down to the copious amounts necked over the weekend, Drunken Git, which always puts a demented twist to my outlook, at least until Tuesday, by which time the poison has been driven out and sense returns along with a degree of feeling human again. Also swimming a kilometre each morning goes some way to sorting me out, me and the Old Man have been back on that for a month now after a five year absence, Fit Git, (ISH!), and Old Git (not bad for 82).

I’ve also been made aware that old mates are checking up on this site from afar, and not impressed that I’ve been in Lazy Git mode for so long. Shirl, in Spain, Ben, in Oz, Nick, in not so far away Goring, plus a few gentle prods while out in town. That’s the problem with aspiring to be thought of as a writer, people expect to see something they can read every now and again, this is where Pressured Git starts to feel hemmed in just before transforming back into Lazy Git.

Well Lazy Git is about to be tested, because a couple of potential loft conversions have just appeared over the horizon, so me and Beau will be in ‘price mode’, which means lots of poring over drawings, making cutting lists, getting prices, organising trades, and then just hoping our prices are acceptable so that the work wasn’t for nought!! And of course should we get the jobs, then it’s full on Grafting Git mode for the short term foreseeable future, which I love, and can’t wait to get back into, (hopefully!!).

Right now I seem to have achieved calmness, so perhaps Contented Git is the current mode, just had an FB message from one of my old ‘Homies’ Row, his world seems to be coming good for him and his little fella, so, “word up to you nigga n your fellow ‘hoodsters’ from the Southwick ghettoes, keepin’ it real”.

I know there were other things I wanted to tackle in this blog, but this’ll do for a start to get back in the swing, but Hi to all of you that do bother to read these scribes, be you on FB, Twitter, or following me on wolf-e-boy.com . Please donate for a book, or get someone else to, the RNLI is a great cause, especially for us beach dwellers.

Blogging off

Git

P.S:- on the off chance that a certain person (N) is reading this, please do get in touch.

Low life Lloyds, a bank that deserved to go bust

16-06-09

I don’t know about you lot, but I don’t generally look at the news and expect it to have much of an effect on me at a personal level, I mean, Swine flu is all over the place in the media, and I realise a few months down the line I will have an increased likelihood of contracting it, possibly, but I’m not losing sleep over it, yet. Banks, well they’ve been largely bailed out by public funds after years of greed finally caught up with them, but not really affecting me unduly, not directly anyway, til now!

I like to think I’d help someone if I could, a little job here or there, an errand, lend a few bob, or just be there at some point. So when my mate of 30 odd years tells me his bank wouldn’t lend him money to keep his business going, I didn’t think too long before offering to help him out, to the tune of ten grand. Now first off, when it comes to money, never, ever, follow my lead, if you’ve read my Scam page you’ll know that my bro Stig labelled me a liability from a young age regarding my ability, or lack of it, to hang on to money. Then came my first house purchase in 1988, put 20,000 worth of work into it just as the property market crashed, and have it valued 18 months later at 5,000 less than we’d paid for it, then 13 years later, with the house finished to perfection, manage to sell it just before the biggest price hike in history. With what I’d made I decided to invest some in an ISA before I shot off travelling the world, only for the investment markets to crash at the same time. It’s fairly safe to say me and money are not really destined to spend much time together.

Well the latest kick in the teeth has, indirectly, come from my mates bank, Lloyds, he paid the money I loaned him into his business account, and they promptly said thanks very much and closed his account on the spot, putting him out of business. Bear in mind this is a bank which has been bailed out to an unbelievable level by public funds, and expressly on the condition that they free up lending, especially to small business, to help get the economy going again. I’m currently a mixture of, seething with anger, and sick to my stomach as I take this all in. I’ve known Eddie all his working life, he’s never been anything other than a hard working earner, and an excellent kitchen fitter. So when he set up his own company it made perfect sense, even in the current climate he still had over 60,000 worth of work on his books, but as with many small businesses, struggled with cash flow, the bank wouldn’t lend, ok, they don’t know him personally, I can kind of see that. But when they see him inject 10,000 into his bank account, surely that’s a fairly decent sign that he’s prepared to back himself, or someone is at least. All I can think is how Lloyds spineless bankers have no right to have been saved, they as a business were entirely responsible for their own downfall, but do they extend the same assistance, that they clearly never deserved, to a small business that, though struggling in the short term, at least produce something, give something to the community, and most importantly have orders on the books, no they don’t !!, and I can’t properly express how I feel towards them.

I wanted to have an upbeat blog this time, but I can’t find it in me for this one.
If you’re reading this, please forward it and let as many others know as possible just what these low life invertebrate bankers are doing to small business, because you can be sure this isn’t an isolated case.

As a result of their actions, Eddie is now unemployed with a wife and three children to feed, and a perfectly decent business flushed down the toilet for no good reason, as well as the 10,000 that Lloyds just hoovered up rather than have a bit of patience with a small business and help it see out the current economical turmoil.

17-05-09

MP’s expenses, hospital hygiene standards, education standards, global recession, Absent Elk.

Oh what a time of it for the press right now! How do you get your heads round it all?

MP’s, most of whom the public have long since lost what little faith we ever had in them in the first place, now seem to have sealed their own fate with their grubby fat fingers trapped firmly in the closing till of the taxpayer funded coffers. But somewhere down the line they must have been encouraged to believe this was their right, perhaps to make up for, what they consider to be, their woefully inadequate wage of just over 64,000! With the expenses limit of around 22,000 per year bringing their wage up to 86,000 ish, nice work(?) if you can get it, no wonder they tried to stop these records from reaching the electorates eyes. They also get to vote on their own wages, always upwards, never the reverse, (remember Gordon Brown tried to get the House to accept a wage freeze, they voted him down), whilst informing all other public bodies to display restraint, police, teachers, nurses, all of whom are of far more use to us than any politician. Yet all these professions are also poisoned by the interference of the political class.

I see it as no coincidence that since tuition fees for universities were introduced, the education system has been continually dumbed down year on year, ever more pupils achieving the highest grades possible in the new system, (while still managing to leave only semi literate in many cases), so that even more ‘customers’ can be accepted into the cash cow of university life, this is trying to follow the US system of ‘everything must pay for itself’, lower the quality, increase the revenue. Bear in mind that the tuition fees were introduced by a house full of MP’s that had available to them, an entirely free higher education at their disposal. And so this week some bright spark speaks up and mentions that the quality of education in this country has declined in recent years, NO SHIT SHERLOCK! But it makes money now though, eh Gordon!

Apparently now in the USA, they’re using our Health service as a stick to beat Obama with as he seeks to extend their own free health care to the many that can’t afford health insurance. Well the only reason our NHS is going to shit is, once again, because of political interference, and actually trying to copy the morally bankrupt American system. Since the Tories, first under Thatcher, then Major, and later by the most Tory of all, Blair, we have seen millions pumped into administration, managers, trusts, outsourcing, and worst of all, think tanks and consultants, all in an effort to push the NHS in to private hands eventually, nothing whatsoever to do with improving the system for the public (and therefore owners), and everything to do with palming off one more public expense. One more family heirloom hawked down at the pawnbrokers.

And let’s not forget the ‘Bankers’, for want of a better word. It’s always bemused me that, while I couldn’t get a loan because I don’t have a debt history, someone who, clearly has plenty of it, can. So a bad risk is their best bet? Sub Prime, you’ve all heard of it, but how many of us really know what it means?, well apparently it means you fall below the normal criteria for someone who should normally be lent money to, or as one pundit succinctly put it, ‘as long as they’ve got a pulse, give em a loan’. Then they wrap up this loan in unintelligible jargon, stick it with other, above board, deals, and whack a ‘triple A’ grading on it ready to sell to the markets as a no lose money maker, all on the premise that house prices would never go down, except, get this, THEY DO! And now the very same people that presided over this fiasco expect us to believe they have a clue as to how we should get out of it. Borrow and spend got us into this shit, so guess what their idea for getting us out of it is? Borrow and spend more! If you’d tried to write this as a political satire just a couple of years back, people would have rolled in the aisles, while saying ‘great writing, but that could never happen’, well it did, and all under the careful guidance of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Nice legacy!

On a lighter note, Absent Elk, our Shoreham boys, (plus Elk), have their single, ‘Sun and Water’ released this week, available to download on itunes for 59p, so please get downloading and help the lads get off the ground. They’ve toured with the Script, Hoosiers, Das Pop, and Girls Aloud, all around Britain this year and last, with their own tour coming up, so let’s get Shoreham on the map and see if we can’t get them up the charts and on to the national radio airwaves!


10-05-2009
The dream is over

This weeks post has been really quite upbeat, two certificates, one a death certificate which cleared up the long running mystery re- one of my Great Grandma’s, father, the other a marriage certificate which just firmed up what I already knew re- one of my Great Great Grandpa’s sons. The family tree business is a continuing detective story, and as I’ve found, very addictive, so far I’ve turned up a long lost half brother of my dear old Pa, traced the family back to Holland in 1752, with the strong likelihood they were part of a Jewish Diaspora from Spain, (yet to be properly confirmed), and even linked us to a famous author that shares the same name as my eldest brother, David Ramus. Even with the coincidence that where our family paths meet up, it’s with Symon Ramos 1789-1846 (Amsterdam, our ancestor), and brother David Ramos 1782-1862 (Amsterdam, the famous authors ancestor), the names of my eldest and youngest brothers.

Of course life aint always peaches and cream, so the National Insurance bill, followed by the accountants reminder that last years tax bill is ‘in the post’ brought me squarely back down to earth. I also had a call from an ambulance chaser telling me I could claim up to three grand for that shunt I got on my way to work a couple of weeks back, scumbags, that’s just one of the many things going wrong in this country, following the American way of the ‘blame culture’, ‘where there’s blame, there’s a claim’, what an absolute rubbish way to think, but don’t get me started on that right now.

Joanna Lumley, old ‘Comely Lumley’ is about to find out who the real actors are, these politicians ‘acting’ as our representatives are often much like my nephew Reggie, just saying what they think you want to hear, without even the remotest intention of doing what they were elected to do in the first place, but Reggie's only 16 years old, you expect it from a teenager. So she had a meeting with Brown, who, less of a snake than his predecessor Blair (the anagrammatical B(illy) Liar) , still had enough in his slippery repertoire to mesmerise her into believing his bullshit in the hope of assisting him to weather his latest media shitstorm. We’ll see how that one runs in the weeks to come.

And now to the sad business of my glorious failure in the literary world. A few years back, fed up with the whole ‘rat race’ business of life in this country, I sold my house and buggered off around the world, keeping a journal of the experiences as I travelled.
After I arrived I started typing it up on the computer, and with a few other bits of writing, set up a website to stick it all on, there was born www.wolf-e-boy.com , which I thought was fine.

Well the site soon started getting thousands of hits a month, and encouraged me enough to think the journal might even be worth publishing, which I eventually went ahead with through The Book Guild publishers. It’s very hard to say from my point of view whether it was a sane or worthy thing to do, (it cost me 11,500 over two years to make it happen), but I do look back and wonder at the wisdom of it. But that said, it looks fine from the outside, a handful of people have told me they liked it, and it is quite a nice feeling to think I’ve done it, however badly received it’s been, sales wise.
The dreaded letter from the publishers hit the doormat this week, telling me that ‘as two years have passed since the publication of the above book’, ‘the contract between us is now terminated’, so I have the ignominy of 400 books being returned to my doorstep, (for which I also have to pay carriage on all but 50), I just became a real life Alan Partridge. It never really got any decent promotion, but of the 130 copies that were sold, 30 were returned, so I have to be a realist and accept it wasn’t good enough to make it, which the pessimist in me always suspected, but the optimist and dreamer that I am, decided to plough on regardless. Overall I’m quite happy to be honest, I’ll have 400 copies of my book to either give away, or sell cheaply, but no longer keep looking at the Amazon for my latest kick in the teeth by the literary ratings world.
If you are going to fail, then why not fail gloriously, for now I’ll stick to short froms of writing such as this blog, which is better for me anyway, as I’m a lazy git all told, and a master of unfinished business, so even when I have what I consider to be great ideas, I rarely see them through, a blog can finish wheresoever I want it to. Right here, right now!

Image: End of day Saturday, 2nd May, two weeks start to finish. Ready for the roofers.

Working hard and getting leathered

03-05-09

Two weeks, a loft conversion and Birthday later, and I’m feeling somewhat shagged out, mercy me, I’m getting too old for this drinking malarkey! The conversion cracked on with me, Shirl, and Beau putting in a few late shifts up at Bramber to get the job done in time, despite the shocking state of some of the timber we had to deal with, proper banana shapes, some of it you could stick a string on and call it a bow!, a delaminated sheet of ply, and an exploding Paslode nail gun to boot, never a dull moment with us lot!

Feeling particularly ruined on Monday, mainly because I didn’t get back from the Absent Elk/ Girls Aloud gig at the O2 until about 2 in the morning, I think it’s fair to say Beau and Shirl may well have carried me on occasions this week. Nonetheless we got the structure formed and ready for the roofers to come in and get it properly weathered. Not without a drama or two mind you, it was my Birthday on Thursday, so I thought I’d just nip down to the Waterside for a couple of ‘after workers’, come back for scoff then get an early night. That’s not quite the way things turned out.

I got the first drink, I remember that much, but my hand didn’t have to go back in my pockets again after that, I also share my Birthday with the Landlord, Dean, so there was a party atmos going on while my table never seemed to run out of Guinness. I don’t remember getting home that night. Work the next day was a trial at first, but when you get to stand on a roof looking out across to the lush green Steyning Bowl one way, and the tree swamped Bramber Castle the other side, and appreciate how bloody gorgeous the Sussex Downs really are, well life aint so bad now is it.

Come Friday we realise we’re gonna have to work Saturday too to get the conversion buttoned up and ready for the roofer, he turned up and bemoaned the fact it wasn’t all ready for him then and there. There was plenty he could have done but it seemed pretty clear he wasn’t interested in hanging around “for bits and pieces” as he put it, so after talking us half to death, imparting his views on customers, other roofers, his potted life history of roofing, and how he “gave a couple of hidings” to our usual flat roofer, he unloaded some materials for the job, told us he’d be back tomorrow (Saturday) to get the first layer on the flat roof,and shot off. In the words of Shania Twain, he didn’t ‘impressa me much’. Suffice to say me and Beau won’t be employing his services on our own jobs.

Him buggering off also meant we’d have to weather in again, which we hadn’t counted on, so there we were until 7 o clock on a Friday night tarping up a roof before we could go home, and one of my Paslode nail guns packed up, so Beaker was gonna take a look and see what might be done for it. Well I felt I’d earned a crafty slurp after that, so I headed directly to the Waterside for a couple of ‘after workers’ again, me and Stig both agreeing that the second Guinness would be our last, when in walk Carrot, Dawsy, and Gazza, all old mates from a long way back. Stig mentions it was my birthday the day before, then drops my book into the convo, and what can I say?. Then Si Wils and the old Crown Road crew turn up and once again I’ve got a table full of beer in front of me, Stig’s got the keys to my van, there’s a singer (Lewis) knocking out old Ska tunes in the saloon bar, and one more bleary, raucous, and entertaining night passes by.

Saturday morning was venom, I turned up a tad late and feeling like a camel had crapped in my mouth, just in time to see Beau and Beaker kneeling on the front lawn frowning over my Paslode. “Did you pick up that timber?”, Beau asked me, “oh shit” answered his question, then Beaker shows me a rogue loose fixing in the Paslode, puts it back where it belongs, then with the gun only semi assembled, asks, “shall I try it out as it is?” to which Beau says “yeah”. It was like a blur really, one minute I’m standing over what I think is my repaired Paslode nail gun, then after a huge bang and a visibly shaken Beaker, I’m now staring at the same gun in pieces on the lawn. I was still fairly well anaesthetised so just looked and shrugged my shoulders, “shit happens” I said, but unbelievably, we stuck it back together and it bloody well worked, although it now sounds like a noisy hoover when the fan goes after every shot. Fun and games.

As the day progressed and no sign of the roofer, me and Beau were weighing up the possibility of a ‘no show’ and us weathering back in again, so Beaker makes a call, only to be greeted by a tirade of effing and blinding about how this guy’s under pressure, complaining that we weren’t even ready for him, blah, blah, blah.
Fortunately Beaker kept his cool, asked him not to swear quite so much, and enquired if he needed to get someone else in. Let’s just hope he doesn’t live to regret taking this character on, after all, the cheapest quote can often (but not always) be reflected in the standard of work.

Beaker and Jo were having friends round for dinner that night, I don’t think they’ll lack for subjects to chat about somehow. No prizes for guessing where I ended up on Saturday night!. We start a new job on Tuesday, so now for a rest up, and maybe blog tomorrow on some of the shit hitting the fan in the merdia (that was a misprint but seemed quite apt so I left it in). Til then readers, bon jour!

Image: Later that day, Beau and Shirl in shot

28-04-09
A day out with Absent Elk

Absent Elk at the O2 Arena London were superb, as we knew they would be. The journey up was a circuitous route via Littlehampton as the tracks were being taken up outside Brighton. No great downer really, on a beautifully sunny Sunday afternoon, passing the River Arun at high tide, also Arundel, and Amberley Castles en route as we coursed through the Sussex Downs before heading north to ‘The Smoke’ on our super cheap ‘Ranger’ ticket, five quid each for four of us (return!), I didn’t think deals like that existed any more.

There’s something about arriving in London by train, crossing the great railway bridges over the Thames, even after all these years it’s still bloody impressive. Outside of Victoria Station the smokers chugged on their gaspers like it was a fix of oxygen, a whole hour since their last chug at the change over at Littlehampton, then after being pointed in the right direction we headed off down Victoria Street towards the Thames Embankment, passing the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben at Westminster on the way. We were held up for a minute by a Neanderthal yob in uniform as we tried to by pass a demo by Sri Lankan Tamil supporters, but fortunately there was a more polite and helpful member of the Met on hand to guide us through, best not get started on the knuckle grazer.

I’d been advised that the best way to go to the O2 was by boat, which was why we were heading to the Embankment, the boat leaves just along from the London Eye, and takes you to the O2 for five quid !, bargain. They also do a 12 ‘Roamer’ ticket which allows you to get on and off as many stops as you want all day, I’m defo going back for that one sometime. Next to the ‘Eye’ there’s an eat all you want food hall for 7.99, Si wasn’t missing out on that, or his Dad Bob, as I sat there stuffed after half a plateful, the big fella filled and emptied his plate a few times before his gut was sated, one of the very rare places in London where you could get a bargain, appetite permitting. Then it was outside once more to smoke the crafty sleeves before boarding the clipper up the Thames.

Can’t shout it up too much really, must be the best way to travel in London as it winds it’s way through the capital, for just a fiver, another bargain. I’d already been cursing my stupidity for not bringing a camera from as far back as Arundel Castle, by the time we’d wound along the Thames to the O2, I was gutted, another reason to repeat this journey.

Well the Arena has to be the biggest tent I’ve ever seen, housing a fairly decent sized venue inside, it seemed hard to believe we were here to see Shoreham lads playing in front of a 22,000 seater gig, but there we were, with what seemed like half of Shoreham Beach around us. The weird thing is, the tickets had been ordered individually online, yet we were all sitting within spitting distance of each other, how mad is that? My only guess would be that they base your seat positions on post codes through the computer.

And on came Absent Elk, kicking off with their Loving Kind cover before easing in to their own tunes, Shoreham stood and cheered every song, alternately marvelling at the sight of our mates up on the massive screens to the side of the stage, this I imagine is what the lads have always been dreaming of, and they certainly didn’t seem phased by the experience, quite at home in fact. The set culminated with Sun and Water, followed be a new tune I’ve not heard before, which went down a storm and was already being talked up as ‘the next single’ by some loyal followers nearby. All in all a cracking performance by the Elksters, next stop, single release May17th (Sun and Water), hoon it up the charts, then headline their own gigs. Anyone reading this that’s unaware of Absent Elk, look them up on Myspace, you wont be disappointed.

I should point out, somewhat smugly, that the band I recently saw supporting The Enemy, and raved about despite the protestations of Stv, Twisted Wheel's new album is record of the week on ‘I tunes’, so check them out too, you’ll be hearing a lot more of them.


Image: Ridge steel in and joist hangered, Tuesday 28th April

26-04-09

This weeks blog

Another week slips by and not without event, having set up on Monday on the loft conversion we’ve started this week, unloading all the steels and timber for the two week window we have to complete the first stage structure, a few forgotten muscles were letting themselves be known to this ageing body. It’s been a while since our last one, so the old bod’s gotten a tad out of shape for all this ‘manual’ labour!.

Straight from Mondays slog to home and cooking the family roast for 8, nothing like easing yourself into the week eh?!!, but it all went perfectly and the ‘Waltons with swearing’ round the dinner table was it’s usual success. Tuesday however had an unwelcome start, leaving Shoreham Beach in the morning I was greeted by a horn blasting at me after hitting the roundabout (not literally), looked in my wing mirror to see an estate car coming up very quick, with the driver waving his fist at me, followed by a shudder and bang which propelled me forward in my seat. Pulling in at the Shoreham airport turn off, the first thing to notice was this guys car was a mess, front near side wrecked, radiator spilling its contents into the kerb, and the driver screaming at me for driving ‘like an old lady’.
I listened to him blow his fuse for a bit, then just asked him how fast he thought he might be going?’, this stopped him to think for a second, ‘bout 20 miles an hour’, we both then looked at his trashed car as I suppressed a smile, then he seemed to calm down, and even extended his hand to shake while apologising for losing his rag. The thing is, my Merc Sprinter was virtually undamaged, just the plastic rear corner trim smashed off, I don’t think he could have hit me in a worse place from his point of view. Driving fast didn’t get him to work this time.

Getting the steels in for the loft conversion proved to be a bit more taxing than usual, with 11 steels in this one, welded joins, bolted splice joins, steels supporting more steels, and then onto the joisting, lots of bending over, ducking under, and general awkwardness in the roof space before we could cut out the offending binders to allow us standing room throughout.

Wednesday evening we spread our dear departed Aero’s ashes under the bird feeder, where she’d always sniff around for any cast offs, everyone spread a little ash, said a word or two, and we remembered her and blessed her memory on a fine and sunny April evening.

Thursday and Friday the conversion pushed along, with us limboing under the spreaders, hopping from joist to joist, and praying for no feet through any ceilings!
It was an awkward first week, but with all the steels in and most of the joisting done, we thought we’d have an easy Saturday tying things up for Monday. The best laid plans eh?, apparently I now have a hip problem!, felt a couple of twinges driving home Friday, thought nothing of it, but come Saturday, bang and it’s going almost every turn I take.

So now I’m dosed up to the eyeballs with painkillers and anti inflammatories, waiting to go up to the O2 arena to see our mates in Absent Elk supporting Girls Aloud, who’d have thought it?, 4 Shoreham boys playing one of the countries biggest gig venues, so I can’t be missing that now can I ! Hip, be fine I say !!, pills in pocket, fingers crossed. I’ll let you all know how it went, and upload pics from the week gone a bit later on, laters folks.

Image: Timber and steels on site

09-04-2009

Twitter revisited, Police rough justice, reviews

Firstly, just a couple of points to add to the ‘Twitter, what’s it all about?’ blog I posted. A glaring omission, was the supposed constraints of only being able to use 140 characters in each update, but after a while you see how the users begin adapting and creating a shorthand way of communicating, much like many of us already do when texting on our mobiles, such as ‘m8’ for mate, using letters, ‘c u’ for ‘see you’, and capitalising letters to get ‘BTW’ for ‘by the way’, and many more inventive ways in which the Twitterers are coming up with to get their points across in as short a hand as is possible. Of course some don’t bother to abridge their message, but just continue into another update, each to their own.

Another use for Twitter which I’ve been trying to get over to upcoming band Absent Elk, was its ability to bring their fans closer, giving them an insider view of their favourite group, backstage pictures uploaded on to Twitpic, updates on where they are, where their next gig will be, anything they think the fans will want to know, and all in real time. I fully expect many bands will use it for just that purpose, and not be disappointed.

Also to add, especially after the recent G20 summit and protests, would be the ‘real time’ aspect of Twitters updates. A prime example was the picture, taken by a Twitterer on his phone, of the airliner which ditched into the Hudson River in New York, as well as numerous reports from other Twitterers explaining what was going on, all in real time. There were also reports of the Mumbai terrorists using Twitter to communicate with each other as they carried out there attack on the hotel, as well as witness reports of the situation as it was played out. Most recently were the G20 protests, which I followed through quite a few Twitterers, giving their own accounts of the events, whilst simultaneously uploading photos on Twitpic for any followers to see. Newspapers even sent out ‘on the spot’ Twitterers to cover the occasion, thus showing their grasp of its possible value to media reporting.

All which brings me neatly to a disturbing matter concerning our ‘riot’ police, all caught on camera by someone in the right place at the right time (obviously not as far as the constabulary are concerned). Ian Tomlinson, unemployed, had been helping his mate Barry Smith selling papers on a news stand, but they’d sold out early so Barry said to go. A fateful moment for poor Ian, as the video evidence will prove beyond any doubt, he was hit in the legs from behind with a police baton, then the same officer charged into his back throwing him to the floor, all of this while Ian had his hands in his pockets. Half an hour later he was dead, having suffered a heart attack.

The real problem as I see it is this, where do these police officers get the idea that they have the right to behave in this manner? Are they not supposed to be public servants? Clearly, on the face of such evidence, some don’t think so. I’ve had cause to cross paths in similar situations with the police at football matches, and when things get a bit tense the long arm of the law can be quite unnecessarily forceful. Now I don’t want be too sweeping of the police force as a whole, but the fact is, with any organisation of that size, and given its duties, it will always attract a certain kind of person to its ranks, someone keen to be put in a position of having power over others. Maybe was bullied at school and wants some payback, or was a bully and wants the chance to carry on, neither reason is a good one, but how do you identify them?, well I believe the video evidence of Ian Tomlinsons ‘aggressor’ identifies at least one such bad apple which could do with being rooted out, and hopefully punished in just the same way as if the roles were reversed.

On a lighter note, I went to see, (or hear really), the The Enemy playing at the Dome, Brighton last night, a band I’ve heard about before, but not actually heard until I Googled them yesterday and was pleasantly surprised. I read an article about these lads from the Midlands being compared in some way to The Jam, now in my books that can only be a good thing, so I got online and booked my ticket. Well before I get to the Enemy, I have to tell you about the band on before them, Twisted Wheel, not since I last saw the Prodigy have I witnessed such raw energy combined with fast paced, punk fashioned, get in the mosh pit and pogo your sweaty tits off, abso bleedin’ lutely cracking a performance as I saw last night. With their blistered fingers guitar playing at full throttle, completely matched by the drummer, I stood there mesmerised and loving every sweet moment of their set, my favourite song being ‘Let them have it all’. They put me in mind a little, of Stiff Little Fingers from the punk era of the 70’s, Twisted Wheel would have gone down a storm back then, and so should they now, how I’d love to see them back at the Dome as headliners, so they could get the crowd reaction their music really deserves, rather than someone else’s fans, but their time in the sun can’t be far away. And they have great song titles too, ‘She’s a weapon’, ‘Smash it up’, and ‘Let them have it all’, may soon be much better known across these isles if what I saw last night was anything to go by.

And on to The Enemy, feeling a little worn out (very happily so) after the Twisted Wheel, I settled into listening for this band that had been likened in some way to The Jam, and also to witness the crowd reaction to them. It wasn’t a full house, but the standing auditorium was heaving, and soon throbbing in time with the lads as they delivered their tunes to an excited and appreciative audience. I was up in the Gods looking down on the whole show, and one thing I should mention here, is that the Dome is a fantastic gig venue, were I 20 years younger I’d defo want to be down at the front, but from up there you get to enjoy watching the crowd as well as the band. The pulse of the heads going up and down to the beats was confined at first to perhaps a quarter of the standing area, gradually increasing as the better known tunes were played, until, ‘Away from here’, and ‘Live and die in this town’, were banging out, by which time the whole standing area was a huge seething mass of barnets going ape in time with their heroes. ‘Live and die’ was the tune that reminded me of the Jam, the guitar play very similar to that on ‘That’s Entertainment’, with a bit of ‘Town called malice’ thrown in for good measure, clearly they’ve been influenced to a degree by the Modsters, and that’s no bad thing as far as I’m concerned. They even took the time to wish one of their roadies a happy birthday on stage, and then get the crowd to sing the loudest ‘Happy Birthday to you’ I’ve ever witnessed. I left the gig feeling like Id had my birthday present early.


05-04-09

Twittering, what’s it all about?
I was introduced to the world of Twitter by my mate Tim, who is known to his Twitter friends as Trekkygeek, so I thought I’d check it out and see for myself. I wasn’t sure what to make of it really, but as I’m currently unemployed and have been for a while, there’s been plenty of time to indulge the internet, upload my blogs, and make friends (or followers I should say) in the Twitterverse.

There seem to be a lot of column inches recently devoted to the question of what exactly the ‘end game’ of Twitter is, whether it has a business model, or plain speaking, ‘how is this thing going to make money?’ Clearly it’s had a lot of help raising its profile through some of the celebrities using it, Stephen Fry being one of the most prominent in the UK at least. But there are plenty of Twitterers that seem somewhat irked by this new found fame in what they appear to have hoped was there exclusive ‘Geekdom’, a kind of Twitter snobbery, eg:- ‘Chris Moyles is on here now, NOOOOO!’.

I have to say, a great deal of my activity on the cyber highways is geared to creating awareness of my writing, my book, and the website that I post it all on, after all, you can’t sell a secret. And although some of the less well known celebrities have Twittered that they don’t do it for self promotion, they more often than not have a link to their own website, My space page, Facebook account, or blog, which is their vehicle specifically set up to do just that. And I see nothing wrong with any of that, it’s a fine idea, as long as you can make yourself interesting enough to be followed in the first place. For it must be said, there is an awful lot of completely inane drivel that you can come across, which is probably inevitable given the huge unrestricted following Twitter is gathering.

When first arriving at this new medium, it came across as being very much the domain of the Geek world, much emphasis on the technology required to enhance the whole experience, with such applications as Tweet deck, Twitterfon, I Phones, and plenty more, none of which I have I’m afraid. All of my Twittering happens through the good old PC while I dabble with the other weapons in my awareness creating arsenal (my space, facebook, wordpress, www.wolf-e-boy.com etc).

Things have progressed rapidly in a very short period of time, the latest estimate I saw was that Twitter had increased its following by 1000% this year alone, and the followers cover just about every conceivable field of interest. This, I think, is where it all starts to get more interesting, the beast is evolving so quickly that no one can be quite sure what its limits are going to be. From a personal point of view, I look for like minded users, interesting updates, useful links to stuff I’m into, reviews, latest news, travel tips, drinking, eating, gigs, and I’m sure loads more I haven’t mentioned.

There seem to be unwritten rules that you’re supposed to find out for yourself too, such as accreditation for a useful Tweet, which I think is ‘Re Tweeting’, not just usurping the idea and Tweeting it on as your own, and not being too overt in any self promotion, which I probably have been guilty of on occasion. Doubtless there are many other ‘secret handshake’ rules to which I am not yet privy, but perhaps as time moves on I’ll become aware of them and be spared future embarrassment.

Already there are stories pre empting the demise of Twitter as just another passing fad, soon to be consigned to the ever expanding ‘cyber graveyard’, citing the dotcom bubble and burst as the first in what they expect to become the web version of a war cemetery. Time alone will be the judge of that, but I think the Twitter world has a fair way to go yet before it even realises its full potential, especially when you think about how many people now own mobile phones and how easy it is to use.

If anyone reading this is a Twitterer, (and consider it worth reading by anyone else), would you mind Tweeting the link to this blog please, as I don’t have many followers, I enjoy writing, but it’s far more enjoyable if you know it your effort wasn’t for nought. Likewise, any links are always appreciated, and would be happily reciprocated.

25-03-2009

Why do we write?

The first thing I actually remember writing was a poem, if you could call it that. All I’d done was change the lyrics to a Mud song, ‘Tiger Feet’ and put it down on paper, but I was only about ten years old and quite happy with my efforts as far as I can recall. The only other piece I’d had any kind of remark on at school was a short story where I’d started with the end, a car accident, and then went back and worked up to the finale to explain it, I was about 13 or 14 then, and picked out for mention by Miss Konzotis, our olive skinned, gorgeous looking, Greek descent English teacher, with longish black curly hair. Most of us boys looked forward to her lessons. Unfortunately that was a rare moment in the sun for this troublesome lad, and after yet another week on report, our enmity was cemented when I threw my briefcase at her, missing my target as the bag sailed past her and hit poor Shereen Whiteside smack in the mouth in the corridor.

It was a Friday, last lesson of the week, and I had a clean report card for the week, had kept in check (I thought) for her lesson, and she stuck ‘NS’ (not satisfactory) on my card at the end of the day, which meant I’d have to go back on report for another week. I don’t remember much thought process going on, just the words “fucking bitch” being broadcast by me as I launched my school bag across the room at her. That got me an audience with the Deputy Head, Mr Feeley, who proceeded to put the fear of Christ into this by now petrified 3rd year student, followed by being sentenced to the Work Centre for 2 weeks, which meant being segregated from the rest of the school with all the other ‘undesirables’. It was just a doss really, we did what we wanted but weren’t allowed to mix with anyone, I just remember it being tediously boring.

Reading and spelling were my strong point at this time, but no hint of any real creativity. Completely unexpectedly I found myself on an exchange trip to Germany, I’d dropped the school letter about it on the kitchen table one day and thought nothing more of it, knowing the parents couldn’t afford such a trip for me (or any of us). Then they hit me with the surprise that they’d find the cash as a reward for me finishing in the top quarter for most of my exams the previous year (also the only reason I was even offered the chance to do German and go:- French exam 77%). We had to keep a diary of our time over there, which I pretty much filled in on the last day, ‘went here, did this’, all very dull to read back. The reality of that trip was quite different from my account anyway, and resulted in my being banned from all further school trips abroad, along with Howard Davies my best mate then, and back on report as soon as we returned home to school.

It was a long time before I’d put pen to paper for anything other than school or college work again. Watching and playing football, combined with joining the workplace, and pub life, took centre stage creating memories that 20 years later I’d start trying to document while still able to recall with any clarity. Mostly I just penned short rhymes about things I’d been doing, but not with any thought that writing might be something I could do, and still think now to an extent really.

It wasn’t until 1997 that I came to the conclusion that I really wasn’t happy for the rest of my life to be spent on building sites, so I enrolled on a fast track media course at Northbrook college, involving film, video, photography, and script writing. Most of all I just enjoyed the whole experience of being at college again, this time as a mature student, but having writing challenges in the shape of essays was something I relished. And while researching, writing, and re writing the various drafts, I’d be penning little or big odes, more like spoken word rants, and loving it. I’d say it was at that time I began to realise I’m more interested in having something to say, than just writing flowery drivel just because it sounds good to hear back, hence I hate pretty much all poetry, (but not quite all).

Like my entire family, (we’re never short of a story of unusual events or mishaps), I’m rarely far from some kind of calamity, and one more of these ‘events’ had me staring down the barrel of a custodial sentence for six months, thus curtailing that years course. For that story, check out Saturday Night Sunday Morning Gone Fishing at www.wolf-e-boy.com , my first proper effort at actually writing a story, or short story as the college librarian Alistair said, he reckoned it wouldn’t be out of place in something like ‘Children of the Albion Rovers’ book of short stories. But there was no fiction in ‘Saturday Night S M G F’, just a well recollected and re told account of events, and therein lies my strength in writing, (I think anyway), my ability to put the reader there, painting a picture while writing as if I’m talking to them.

Please feel free to comment, e mail me at wolf_e_boy@hotmail.com
I appreciate all feedback, or even just to know that what I write is being read!

.....

24-03-2009

West Ham v Warnock

Right, time for a well earned rant at the football authorities, and at Sheffield United and Neil Warnock in particular. Firstly Mr Warnock, your team were relegated because they deserved to be, the league tables don’t tell lies, your team were clearly not good enough, your managerial skills simply not up to the task, so you, like so many other second rate managers, choose to blame everyone but yourself for your own shortcomings.

Normally I wouldn’t care a hoot about the drivel that weekly spills from various ‘football authorities’ mouths, but this time it’s ended up costing West Ham United a cool 20 million because Sheffield United and Neil Warnock just couldn’t accept it was their own all too obvious deficiencies which got them relegated. They cite Carlos Tevez as saving West Ham from relegation, well firstly, West Ham were doing fine before Tevez and Mascharano were foisted upon the manager Pardew, and in fact their results only began going downhill after the arrival of these two signings. West Ham’s record for the season showed that they did significantly better when the Argentineans were not in the side, so no they didn’t keep West Ham up, they very nearly did the opposite, only towards the end of the season having more of an impact.

The other thing I find intensely annoying is that both the players were brought in under the eyes of the world through the media, it was there for everyone to read about how their contracts were owned by this Joorchabian character, if this was meant to be a secret then it was surely the worst attempt at a cover up in the history of football. So I suggest if any particular body should have been accountable, then it would be the Premier League itself, for it all happened with great fanfare across all forms of media and right under the E.P.L’s noses. If they knew then that third party ownership wasn’t allowable then they should have stopped it going ahead and at a stroke West Ham’s season would have been saved there and then, possibly continuing their good run at the time, and finishing light years ahead of the Steel City losers, somewhere near the heady heights of mid table.

So Mr Warnock, forget your ridiculous idea of pursuing the Academy of football through the courts in chase of your own little ‘Lottery win’, and accept your position in football as being one that you well and truly deserve, you’ve earned your place in the lower divisions, and I for one do not begrudge you the chance to one day grace Wembley stadium in a play off final, and perhaps the chance to get relegated once again.

.....

22-03-2009

Sails,vermin, life, loss, and insurance

Do you sometimes just feel swamped by events going on around you? I mentioned ‘compassion fatigue’ recently, relating to the banking crisis currently trashing the world’s economies, but this week has been truly awful. I consider myself an empathic kind of person, wearing my heart on my sleeve much of the time and feeling other peoples pain and suffering perhaps a little too much. I’m sure there are others like me, and they’ll understand when I say it’s not something you actually have control over, but equally, it isn’t something you’re sorry about either.

Having had to have our beloved dog Aero put down earlier this week, completely unexpected, I couldn’t help but feel a deep pang of grief for what Liam Neeson and his family must be going through at the moment. Like a whirlwind of horrors just swept through their lives and has left the world a very dark and lonely place in what seems like the bat of an eyelid. Such a vibrant spirit, so full of life and with so much more to look forward to, on holiday with one of her sons and learning to ski, doubtless thinking this would be just the first of many such holidays that eventually would involve the whole family out on the slopes together, and then BANG, and that world has been taken away without any warning.

And then Jade Goody finally loses her fight against cancer, and her not so ‘ordinary life’ under the spotlight has drawn to a close. While I’ve never been a fan of the whole Big Brother ‘celebrity’ business, I’ve come to admire her resolve since being diagnosed with her illness, and her dignity in dying. I’ve been texted some pretty grim jokes throughout my time of owning a mobile phone, and Jade Goody didn’t get missed out there, nobody is immune from that cruel, (and often very funny it must be said), mode of satire. But I had the misfortune to stumble across some vitriolic poison aimed at her through the medium of Twitter, a witch under the username of Celebe62 Tweets her bile in such stunningly vicious hatred, you might imagine Jade was some kind of mass murderer, even going so far as to suggest her cancer was just a scam to con money out of deluded well wishers, truly incredible.

Amidst all of this ‘external’ sadness, and coming to terms with our own pet loss, I walked into the kitchen Saturday morning to see sails spread all across the back garden, and more bad news unfurled itself. My eldest brother David had come round to fetch them from the garage ready for the new season of racing, only to find to his horror that mice had made their home in the sail bags and either damaged or destroyed beyond repair thousands of pounds worth of kit. The spinnaker is completely ruined, that alone is about 3000’s worth, then on inspection of the insurance it turns out in the small print that vermin damage isn’t covered. Now yachting has been a passion of the Old Man’s since we were kids, working his way up from a little 22 foot Hurley bilge keeler called Tina, to his last boat which was a beautiful Beneteau First 48, Crazy Daisy. Finances meant he had to part with Crazy and downsize, but you couldn’t have picked a worse time to try and sell as now, so he had to drop the price so far that it almost amounted to losing 30 thousand quid on the trade. I can imagine this being read by some with a sneer, but my Old Man is 82, he’s worked and saved through his life for these boats, and there’s never been any money in our family other than the wages we’ve earned. He’s a tough old bugger though, but thank heavens for Mothers Day today, a reason to smile and celebrate our dear Ma, forgetting the woes for a while, a meal followed by a few beers at the Sussex yacht club overlooking the River Adur, and the sun is shining. It’s not all bad, it just feels like it sometimes, but that’s life for you, perhaps we just need the optimist in us get the better of the pessimist which stalks us. I’ve got loads more I want to say, but that’ll have to be a ‘part 2’ as I have that Mothers Day engagement to attend now.
Happy Ma’s Day to any Mums reading this

Image: Aero, our little Princess

Aero

16-03-2009

On Monday morning I was chatting to Allen next door after walking Aero down on the beach, it was another gloriously sunny day and she laid out on the warm driveway looking serenely comfortable, her nose continually twitching as she picked up the scents in the air around. I remarked to Allen that I’d like to come back as a dog, or at least one that gets to live like Aero, Allen said he’d been happy as a human, the general vein really was that on days such as these, everything is fine in the world and we’re happy with our lot.

Aero’s been suffering stomach issues just lately, which we hoped her change of diet would sort out in time. On the vets advice we’ve been feeding her chicken and rice rather than her dog food, a bland diet, easy to digest and not too hard on her system apparently, we’ve had this problem before and the chicken and rice sorted it out then. Unfortunately the problem persisted so their next advice was to change to egg and rice after starving her for 24 hours and then bring her in on Monday afternoon for a check up. Although I knew she wasn’t right, I didn’t overly worry as she just seemed under the weather, maybe a virus which could be treated with anti biotics.

Simon came round sometime after lunch and whisked her off for a walk over on the recreation ground by the river where, true to form she sniffed out biscuits in other dog walkers pockets and got a free feed, then jumped into the river water by the Floodarch bridge, as she likes to do, and on return got a towel down, which she also loves. I wish I could stop the clocks at that moment, that innocent time before you know.

Lizbet had turned up and was sitting in the porch with Ma having a smoke in the warmth of the afternoon sunshine, waiting for Simon and Aero to return to whisk her off to the vets. Getting her into the van, Aero went straight for the bin between the seats, it had the empty bag that had earlier contained some barbecue chicken, well worth investigation, and off they went.

The first thing that struck me when I heard Lizbet and Aero back was, ‘that was quick, must’ve got the wrong day’, so I wandered down the hall to the kitchen where one look at Lizbets tearful face breaking down, and I remember hearing her heart breaking words, “cancer, they said she’s riddled with it, they were going to put her down there and then, but I wanted to bring her back first to say goodbye”, at which point I pretty much crumbled myself and just managed to ask through the tears and my face turning to uncontrollable jelly, “can I take her for a walk?”.

I stuck a big pair of sunglasses on to cover the tears and took our lovely Brown Bomber to the beach, letting her sniff whatever she wanted and go wherever she pleased. All the time thinking, ‘right, we know so let’s make her last moments good ones’, it was our Monday night family dinner, so she could be with everyone for one last night, lick all the plates she’d been denied since her illness, because it couldn’t hurt her anymore now, and tomorrow take her down to her favourite place, Widewater lagoon so she could jump in, chase birds, and roll in anything that stinks, this is what I wanted to say, but when the time came as I walked back through the door, I opened my mouth but couldn’t speak, my face disintegrating into tears, so I just spurted out, “bollocks” out of annoyance and frustration, and went down the hall to let myself go in the computer room.

Squire (Da) came along to give a few words of comfort and tell me it’s for her own good as I wept like a child, I knew all that, and just managed to get my point across, ‘how many people get to know this is their last moment?, and have the chance to make it the best possible last moment, I just want her to do all the things she loves before we take her in’, I’d thought it all through while on the beach earlier, and it almost didn’t happen because I couldn’t speak.

Bear in mind here, mine wasn’t the only heart breaking, but maybe grief is selfish on some level, when I’m that crushed I just want solitude and to not be seen. With that in mind, I now knew I couldn’t face that ‘last dinner’, it was all prepared and on the go, I just couldn’t do it so off I trudged into the evening in my sunglasses. Apparently the meal went fine, and Aero licked every plate clean and got thoroughly spoilt, finally being picked up by Lizbet so they could have her for one last night, sleeping on the bed with them and playing games.

I should mention that Aero was Lizbet and Reggie’s dog, but through circumstances had being staying with us, firstly part time, eventually becoming full time, much to our delight, she was a true family dog.

Well Reggie, poor lad, arrived at our door first thing (6.45a.m ish) Tuesday morning wanting to say goodbye before being picked up for work, she’d been his dog since 4 years old, and he’ll soon be 17, and this would be his first bereavement. Holding back his tears he said his goodbye in hugs and kisses as Aero enjoyed all this attention being lavished on her until he had to break away and catch his lift, Aero’s stare following him all the way down the road, ears up and wondering why he wasn’t coming with us.

The vet was booked for 8.15a.m, so me and Lizbet set off at 7 to take our pup on her last walk down at Widewater lagoon, where she did do all those things she loves most, she galloped around the wild lawns, sniffing at everything, she jumped in the lagoon twice, rolled in some fox poo, which absolutely reeked on her, rolling around as we laughed at her, she’d stop for a second to look at us, as if to say, ‘how come you’re not stopping me?’, and then she rolled some more, not wanting to miss out on this rare opportunity. Revelling in this liberty she bounded towards the waddling swans to gee them up a bit, then caught another scent and changed direction as she is oft wont to do, her nose always being her main guide.

We had a towel with us to rub her down, but the aroma wasn’t moving so she got another wash down at home followed by one last rub down with a clean towel, this also was always something of a game for Aero as she wriggled through the towel, stepped on it, or rolled over in it.

Aero seemed reluctant at first to get into the van, eventually drawn by the barbecue chicken smell from the bin, and we left. She walked happily up to the vets door and in, “she always does” Lizbet told me, and then we’re given the spiel about payment methods, not very tactful and somewhat annoying, I just wanted the receptionist to shut up. Aero seemed oblivious to it all, nose in the air sniffing around, back legs slipping on the shiny floor and she’d readjust her position, and then, payment made, the vet comes through and says, “ready now”. I felt sick inside, and then I looked at Aero, she sat rooted with a look of fear on her face, Lizbet put her lead on but she just dropped on all fours to the floor, her face saying, ‘please don’t do this’, she definitely knew what was going on. I had to pick her up and carry her into the surgery, tears already rolling down my cheek. The vet telling us there would be no pain, it wouldn’t take long, and Lizbet held our pup’s head in her hands while the injection was administered while I cuddled her limp warm body as the effects took hold. She went so quietly, resigned to her fate, while Lizbet and I sobbed over her.

I’ve been trying to keep all those last moments in my head, desperate not to forget anything, but it’s the little things around the house, not seeing her nose pressed to the glass pane of the kitchen door as I come out of my bedroom, not having her follow me everywhere until I put her lead on and take her out, watching her nose up in the air sniffing whatever scents were lingering inside or out, no more rolling about on the carpet or grass to scratch an itch, no more of her dog food alarm clock as she nudged us to remind us it’s her feeding time, no more the feel of her lovely soft coat, cold wet nose, loud slurping as she ate, or just being sat at your feet because that’s all she really wanted, to love and be loved back, which she was.

.....


09-03-'09

It’s been an odd year so far, and sad too. My Uncle David passed away on the 4th February after a short illness, and I hope not too much discomfort. I managed to see him while in the hospital, and typically of the lovely man he was, all he wanted was to ask how everyone in the family was. I’d recently been tracing our family tree and David had been on the trail for some years so pretty much did all the work on his side and happily talked me through it all over a number of visits between his place and ours. During these visits I’d take notes of the little snippets he’d give us of his memories, pre war, and post war. One time during the war while he was involved with the local home guard in Lancing as he awaited call up (I think), he told me how he had to leg it towards Lancing railway station for the cover of a stairway because a German bomber was following the tracks strafing bullets as it went, and the plane went on to unload its bombs on Mitchells in Worthing (a bakery I think), as often such things would happen along the south coast in WW2.

The last time I saw him prior to the hospital visit was when I picked him up from his place in Clapham village to come over to ours at Shoreham. I took the back country route past Steyning, up to Washington, down and right turn at Findon and along the Long Furlong to get to David. I mention the route because Uncle David enjoyed it so much and was recounting various times he’d been this way in the past, his time raising ‘Barley beef cattle’ and delivering them around the area among others. All I could think of afterwards was that I’d wished I had a recorder for that drive because he was so animated about it while enjoying the ride. I once read a quote by Franz Fanon in ‘Black Skin, White Mask’ that “when an old person dies, it’s like a library has been burned down” and now one of our family ‘libraries’ has indeed gone to ashes. But Uncle David left a fine legacy, and his family are there to keep some of his stories passed on down the line. He was a gentle man, generous of spirit, and not without a little endearing mischief about him, he’ll be missed very much, but remembered very fondly.

Work wise, this year has been pretty bleak, I’ve had just two days work so far, being self employed means no dollar when not working, so it’s belt tightening time. The work is out there, but we keep getting undercut regardless of how low we drop prices, even supplying everything at cost and working for a reduced day rate isn’t enough, hopefully as the weather improves so will our chances of working.

I have at least got a few things done around the house just recently, having been a lazy git for too long. The log cabin has moved a little closer to my intended finish, although I’m still not setting myself too ambitious a target for when, it’s actually already a crime that I haven’t done it before now! I am a naturally slack git when it comes to motivation, fine with the actual labour, even revelling in hard graft, it’s just the business of getting started. I’m much the same with my writing as you may well tell by the gaps between blogs.

Just recently the faintest whiff of romance came up most unexpectedly, and pretty much disappeared in the same way, leaving this continually challenged emotional retard to chew up and spit himself out once again. I wish I knew how ‘real’ people do it, for it seems to be the toughest challenge of all to me, it’s a shame I know religion for the brainwashing farce it is, or I’d take it up and become a bloody monk and never have to worry about women again.

And then to this weekend gone. After a rather lubricated Friday night down at the local, I was snoozing happily in my pit until the phone interrupts my bliss and Pete informs me he’s got a freshly gunned down goose for me to pick up. I pitched a roof for him last summer, and it seems I’d expressed an interest in having one of these geese that he gets to shoot. They're from a couple of golf clubs where he's licenced by DEFRA to cull excess wild fowl causing damage to the courses. Half cursing my stupidity for having said anything, I now had the unpleasant task of going to fetch this thing back here and butcher it ready for cooking today. When I returned with the beast, I tapped on the window with its beak as a surprise to Ma, which brought a grin to her face. I won’t go into too much detail, but an axe, sharp knife, handsaw, and pair of marigolds were involved, blood and feathers were all over the place, it was like something out of a Hannibal Lecter movie. I felt mildly traumatised during the whole distasteful business, (as was our dog Aero who was desperately trying to get in on the action!), but learnt a few lessons on the way, and it’s now in the oven stuffed full of sausages and topped with bacon, so fingers crossed I don’t poison anyone!

I definitely needed a beer after that effort, so there went Saturday night too which pretty much made Sunday my recovery day for which I was grateful, just squeezing a crafty few Guinness’s late afternoon before coming back to walk the dog. No more beer this week, or at least not til Friday anyway.

The sad tail of the dog n duck!

22-01-2009

Having coughed my lungs up through the night, finally getting some much needed kip after a dose of Benylin and a chunk of chocolate at 4 a.m, I wasn’t much looking forward to walking the hound out in the miserable weather currently afflicting the south coast. But Aero wasn’t about to let me off the hook, so suitably wrapped for the occasion I headed off to the beach with said dog and poo bags in hand. The weather today is foul, the skies leaden and the sea exploding onto the shore with every new break of waves, while the seagulls hover above like vultures in the sure knowledge of an easy feed as fresh marine life carcasses are regularly spat out.

Aero is typical of her breed (choccy brown Labrador) and loves to sniff out all available scents and chase off anything with wings that doesn’t move quick enough, unfortunately this morning she spotted a duck stood still just off the tide line and headed straight for it. Now normally this would be no problem and as with most birds, it would take flight before she got anywhere near, but on closer inspection it was clear to me that this particular duck was knackered and unable to take flight.

Running to put myself between dog and duck, whilst shouting at Aero to get away, the clearly perturbed duck made back towards a rather inhospitable looking surf and before I could encourage it otherwise was back in the frothy, turbulent, mud brown sea swell. With much regret and sadness I watched as this poor creature ducked into the waves crashing in, disappearing and then bobbing up a little further along each time until it made it out far enough to sit on the surface of the water and catch its breath for a moment, but I could see it was struggling and wouldn’t last long in the conditions. With Aero now at the top of the beach, I kept my eye out for this forlorn feathered friend and saw to my great delight that it made it back in to the next beach along and was soon spreading its wings out to dry while stood on the shingle at the waters edge.

It was about this time that I noticed a crusty beachcomber trying to light his rolly next to the rock groin which divided these last two beach sections, so I asked him if he knew anything about rescuing birds, he nodded towards his blue plastic recycling box and said he’d put it in there and get it to safety. I’d already explained the need to be between the duck and the sea after my failed experience, but to my huge disappointment he casually walked up to it as if he might to ask someone for a light, and the duck bolted straight back into the seething surf once more, leaving me to wish I’d not said a word to him.

I know there’s a strong possibility that other dog walkers would have been around soon enough for this scenario to have happened time and again, but personally I find it a little heart breaking. This hardy beast had survived mother natures battering only to be chased back into the teeth of the tempestuous sea by a bloody dog walker and a crusty beachcomber, however well intended. Not a very pleasant start to the day for me really, but nowhere near as unpleasant as it was for that poor duck.


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