Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Home From The Park Too Soon

There is something incredibly bittersweet about walking your child home from school.

It struck me this morning as I made my way into work and my journey overlapped part of the route that me and Tom take every afternoon. For a second I saw myself transplanted 10 or 15 years hence looking back on our old walks home from school at a time when they’d be long behind us. And it occurred to me that this time, this experience, is very much only in the now. It isn’t going to last forever. The very nature of it – the route we take and the conversations we have – will change with each passing year until he gets too old to want to undertake the journey with me.

At the moment our route takes in the sweet shop (provided he has been a good boy at school). I buy him a little treat. Sometimes he insists that I get myself a little treat too (but only if I have been good). Sometimes we cut through the park. I ask him what he has learnt at school. Last week he told me very confidently that he had learnt how to be an artist. The felt-tip stains on his hands were testament to the truth of this.

In a few years time it won’t be sweets he’ll be after but computer game magazines. And if he answers my questions at all it will be a begrudging “long division” or “the 12 times table.”

This time we have now where everything is new and he is indefatigably enthusiastic will pass. We will find ourselves home from the park all too soon and perhaps going our separate ways.

I wonder if he will look back on these times as I undoubtedly will and find that he misses them.

Or maybe he won’t think of them at all until, like me, he has his own children to collect from school. Because, in truth, it is only now that I find myself thinking back to my own childhood journeys home from school. When my mum would collect me and my sister and we’d run out to find her waiting outside the school gates. Back in the days when we had proper winters with proper snow and we’d snowball fight and lob “accidental” snowballs at my mum’s umbrella as we trailed home behind her. When, if we had been good, we were allowed a quick trip to the sweetshop too.

Looking back on them now, those days seem to have gone by so quickly. So frighteningly quickly.

But I guess that’s the trouble when you’re a kid; you’re always home from the park too soon.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Private Dick

I’ve been feeling a little glum of late. A little uninspired. Every week I’ve got to the point where I’ve thought: this is it, old boy, your mojo has gone; it’s time to hang up the blogging hat and call it a day. I’m not feeling the love like I used to.

I haven’t written about it and I’m not going to go into it here. To write a post about how I’m finding it hard to write posts seems horribly, embarrassingly self indulgent. And although that would be totally in character I have to draw the line somewhere.

There are many reasons for my glumness:

Change in home life – the eldest son started at secondary school, the youngest starting school for the first time, Karen back in full time work and me changing my work shift completely so that I can be finished in time to pick the youngling up from the school gates. We’re all tired and frantic and not yet settled into the new work/life routine.

My novel is getting nowhere and I have temporarily lost the will to send out postal submissions or bum-lick my way up into the higher colonic echelons of Authonomy.

I also applied for a dream job and didn’t even make it through the initial paper-sift.

Police Community Support Officer.

It fairly rolls off the tongue doesn’t it?

Everyone I spoke to said I was made for the job. Even my boss. Ideal candidate material.

I spent more time on this particular application form than I have on any other. It was a work of art. I cogitated. I mulled. I thought about what I wanted to say and made sure what I said matched the job profile.

I had high hopes.

It sounded the perfect job. Not precisely a proper policeman but as near as damn it and without the responsibility of nicking / coshing / handcuffing / rubber-bulleting some ne’erdowell through the hallowed doors of justice. I would have been a bobby on the beat. A big friendly policeman (PC McGarry number 542). Dixon of Dock Green. H-evening all, madam, may I h-assist you in carrying your shopping home?

Walking about, outdoors, meeting people, in uniform. Who knows where it could have led?

But as always it led nowhere. I didn’t make the grade for interview. I wasn’t good enough to be not a proper policeman.

I feel properly gutted.

The only option I have open to me now is the one that all ex not proper policemen have before them... that of becoming a private dick.

Some of you will no doubt say that I am already halfway there...

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Strange Vegetables

Black magic is afoot.

Something old and ancient and of the deepest, darkest soil.

As I have performed my daily security checks around Grindstone Towers I have encountered weird totems left out for me. Strange vegetables left in odd but prominent places.

I’m not talking peas or legumes. I am talking root vegetables. Turnips. Swedes. Mangelwurzels.

Mangelwurzels especially.

I have found no less than four of these left on pillar bases, at the tops of stairs and placed strategically in doorways so that they are hard to avoid.

It is hard not to take these portents personally though the cryptic message they contain could be meant for anybody I suppose, not necessarily me.

Wikipedia tells me that as far as mangelwurzels are concerned their “contemporary use is primarily for cattle, pig and other stock feed” though they can be fed to humans when the root is young.

What is a young root? A rootlet? Isn’t that a quickie in Australian slang?

Plainly someone feels that I am of bovine persuasion. It is hard not to interpret that as some kind of negative feedback.

Or course, I could be misreading the situation. Maybe a regular has seen me scoffing my face with chocolate and feels that I should be eating more healthily and has taken to leaving me various food items that I could take home and incorporate into a nice stew. Sort of a low level piecemeal Red Cross food parcel service.

I admit I have been surveying the visitors to the Library contained within Grindstone Towers trying to identify the potential reader of the large print version of “Fifty Shades Of Gravy” but all to no avail. They are keeping their identity well hidden. It could be absolutely anybody.

Should I, of course, ever find a mangelwurzel in my bed I will know that the truth is I have offended the countryside mafia in some way and that my time on this good green earth is now at an end and I am about to be harvested forthwith (and not, alas, for my succulence). For as it is written: all flesh is like grass, and all of man's glory like the flower in the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls...

But all I have at the moment is guess work. Guess work, speculation and conjecture. The truth is I don’t know what is happening only that it is strange and disturbing and nebulously sexual and I would welcome input from anybody at all on this matter.

Please carve all ideas and theorems into the back of a parsnip and send them to the usual address please.

Or alternatively just leave them out in the street for me to find in the morning.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Spare The Rod

My youngest son, Tom, started school for the very first time on Monday afternoon and our two walks home along the canal over the last 2 days when I have collected him from his afternoon sessions have possibly been the most educational part of the experience.

Sadly not in a positive way.

On Monday we encountered someone who could invariably be described as a street urchin / little ruffian / miniature yobbo / future politician mouthing off to another child in the middle of the path. His choice of language would have made a rugby player blush if not burst into tears.

I really don’t want my 4 year old hearing language like that so early in life (I’d much rather he waited until next week when he is at school full time and can gain bona fide playground experience) so I asked the little thug to stop.

In retrospect this was a bad move. In retrospect telling him to “learn some manners” probably sounded hopelessly archaic and so far outside his normal lexicon he could inevitably only respond by telling me to “eff off”. And then repeating this singularly choice phrase until we were well out of earshot.

I wasn’t impressed but hoped it was a one-off. Tom just thought the boy was “a meanie”.

Sadly we had another run-in with the same kid yesterday afternoon. This time he was thrashing an expensive looking fishing rod into the filmy soup of the canal. Any hope of walking by unmolested was blown when one of his compadres remarked “there’s that man again.” Without provocation the airways were split by another round of expletives. This time God could be heard sighing expressively from somewhere within the lofty heavens as hellish epithets were once more rained down upon the good green earth.

I’d had enough by then. Lord knows it doesn’t take much to get my goat. My goat has been got and got on so many times I’m thinking of renaming her Marianne Faithless.

I made a point of reading the name of the school that was emblazoned on the lad’s jumper. When he demanded to know what I was looking at I told him I was making a note of his school so I could ring up his headmaster and talk to him. He responded with, “you’ll have an effing job ‘cos I don’t have an effing headmaster” by which, with superior intelligence and Sherlock Holmesian mental agility, I deduced that he had a headmistress.

I also got the fishing rod waved in my face which, though it made me feel a little affronted, was also largely comical. I do hope he got my size right when he told his parents about the one that got away.

Anyway, Dr Google soon furnished me information about the school and a little humility. It proved to be a school for kids with behavioural problems and social issues. It took much of the sting out of the situation. Plainly this very angry young man has many things to be angry about.

However, it’s not right that my 4 year old should have to endure such behaviour on his walk home every night when he is right at the very start of his school career. So I rang the headmistress and explained the situation. She easily identified the boy and said she would deal with it forthwith. She explained that the school takes an active approach in engaging with their pupil’s behaviour both in and out of the classroom and she wanted to be kept informed if there was any repeat performance though she hoped her talk with him in the morning would knock it all on the head. I admitted I’d all but made up my mind to take an alternative route home with my boy anyway. We agreed that I shouldn’t have to but we could both see that constant encounters with this boy are only going to inflame the situation and make it worse. It is unfair to expect him to show a forbearance that is plainly beyond him at this current stage of his development.

So Tom and I will take a slightly longer walk home tonight. It feels unfair but I can’t help but wonder how much more unfair life is for that very angry little street urchin...

After all, his chances of finding a live fish in that canal are absolutely zero.

And somehow that feels like a damning metaphor.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Blessed Are Those Whose Anger Flowers Early

I believe the Italians have a saying: beware the anger of a patient man.

The reason being, I am sure, that the anger of someone with a short fuse who is prone to ignite at the merest whiff of a spark tends to be short-lived. It tends to be all noise and no fire. The damage radius remain relatively local.

I’m sure there are exceptions and I am at pains to point out that this is by no means an empirically proven thesis.

The corollary, however, is certainly true. The anger of a man who remains for years, if not decades, patient, calm, tolerant and tranquil must be devastating when it finally blows. We are talking thousand mega-tonne detonation. Something that wipes out half a continent. The collateral damage must be catastrophic.

I much regret being so tolerant, calm and level-headed. I regret being a patient man. Especially in the face of certain situations and circumstances over the years that when viewed logically and with perspective plainly call for someone to be given am almighty slap. I am, of course, talking metaphorically. I abhor all kinds of physical violence. (Unless it is done to my enemies).

Much better, much healthier to open the bottle a little every day and let out a small fizzing demon every now and then, as the need arises. The pressure is relieved. The beast has its moment in the sun and tires itself out. It retires and the bottle is resealed. All is made safe.

When this is not done, however, the beastie grows. It grows inside the bottle. It grows and grows. The bottle begins to chafe. The ever tightening constraints of the bottle then adds to the beasts anger. The pressure builds.

Until it get to the point where it is not ever safe to open it. The beast inside will run riot. The beast inside will tower over everything and level the entire city. It is much too strong now to be loosed upon the world. So the bottle top is tightened. You try to forget the demon is there but, of course, as is the way of things, the beast grows most quickly in the dark, most voluminously when it is ignored.

But the bottle cannot hold it forever.

The bottle is becoming more and more brittle with age. The will to keep the stopper held in place is become weaker, becoming compromised.

The effect is a nuclear countdown that cannot be deactivated.

You can cut the red wire, the blue wire or even the yellow but it will make no difference. If anything you will only speed up the clock.

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Whatever Happened To My Ergonomic Butt?

Some people might put it down to my being thin. I’m one of Pharaoh’s lean kind, as my Nan would have said. I’ve always been slim. No excess fat. No padding. No upholstery.

The package is the product.

But by all the gods of DFS I cannot sit on a park bench for more than 30 seconds before my butt starts killing me.

I mean, real got-to-scoot-about-a-bit-right-now-before-my-buttocks-implode agonizing pain.

Is this normal? Is it just me? Because I am very aware that there other people – kids, young mums, oldsters, etc – who all hang around the park and seem able to deposit their derrieres onto the benches for upwards of an hour at a time and sit there smiling and laughing as if they have just immersed their assorted buns into a giant vat of soothingly cool Nivea skin cream.

They don’t fidget or grimace or wish they’d brought some kind of floatation device.

So there must be a marked difference between their butts and mine. It doesn’t come down to trunk size or the firmness of the pillows... ‘cos some of those old folks are so skeletal they’re in danger of falling between the slats.

Somehow my buttocks are missing the comfort chromosome; the rest-easy gene.

Park benches must obey some kind of ergonomic design plan but I seem to be the exception to that particular rule. My butt is outside their design envelope. My pert cheeks are in ergonomic exile.

I am plainly not meant to take a comfort break in a park or ever, ever be seated in one.


It’s really not fair.

And the police wonder why I hide in the bushes...

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

The War Against Plants

There are plans afoot to remove all greenery from my household.

Shrubbery, foliage and photosynthesis have been designated public enemy status.

There are those – the powers who have come to be – who are working hard to turn the green and pleasant land of my living room into a desert. The windowsills, once a tropical paradise courtesy of B&Q, are already denuded. Deforestation is occurring at such an alarming rate I am thinking of launching a campaign on Facebook and asking Bono to perform a charity gig.

Yes. It’s that bad.

Our kittens – now at the feline teenager stage – have taken it upon themselves to munch, push, kick, pounce, harass, eat and slash every single plant organism we own to the point of death. Their favourite tactic is to turn themselves into a feline ballista. They launch themselves at the curtains, climb up and then, when they have reached optimum height and can guarantee that, with the help of gravity they can reach terminal velocity, they re-sheath their claws and freefall onto whatever hapless spider plant is basking innocently beneath them.

Should the triffids ever attack their nemesis is right here.

Were I to let Missy and Kiah loose in Brazil I fear the loggers would soon be out of a job and the rain forests would be out of existence. They would see Kew Gardens as a bit of light lunch.

Nothing we can do seems to stop them. Our carpets have had so much soil deposited onto them I could throw down seed potatoes and grow a decent crop for Christmas.

We’ve tried shouting, tapping their little nosey-wosies gently, even removing them bodily from the room.

They laugh in our faces. Or rather they stare at us without blinking, ears back and then carry on their carnage like we don’t exist. This, as you all know, is the cat equivalent of laughing.

So we are down to mechanical warfare.

Weapons of war. Something with a trigger.

A weapon of mass inundation.

We have accepted that it is now necessary to spray our cats with water whenever they do something naughty.

I feel a bit uneasy about it. It feels too much like water-boarding but really the only other option is the electric chair... and despite their destructive mischievousness we love them both to bits and don’t want to stamp down too hard on their feline rights.

And who knows?

Should a jet of cold water to the mush work without too much psychological damage we may even try it on the kids...

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Midday Express

I went for a lunch time meal with mates the other day.

We tried the new Wagamama’s that had opened in town a month or two ago.

My experience of noodles up to this point had been constrained to the dry stuff that you buy in supermarkets and boil for about 10 minutes or the occasional visit to a Thai restaurant. I figured Wagamama’s fell somewhere between the two with its noodles being cooked by professional chefs but cooked in a kitchen belonging to a restaurant chain as opposed to a little Thai family who emigrated here in the 80’s and opened up a family run restaurant in a shoebox.

I was quite impressed by the Wagamama experience. There was an energy about the place that you don’t normally find in restaurants. The waiters and waitresses were visibly busy. As opposed to being invisibly busy where you cannot see them but charitably suppose them to be about the business of another diner.

The food was good but as this is not a sponsored post I am not going to wax lyrical about their fresh spring onions or the tenderness of their chicken breasts. Instead I am going to focus on the tables.

Wagamama’s in Leamington has long trestle tables that span the entire width of the eating environment. Down the centre of this table glides a metal dividing pole with a small strip light installed into the top of it so that one side of the trestle table is divided from the other by close quarter lighting from above.

Maybe to those of you who “do lunch” regularly this is old hat. Those of you who are more cosmopolitan possibly eat from loveseats suspended 8ft above lotus flower strewn water and consider the novelty of long benches and tables to me as being rather twee. To me, however, it was new. And unfortunately my diseased mind could only conjure up one reference point with which to normalize the experience.

Midnight Express.

The bit where Billy Hayes has been locked up but gets a last visit from his girlfriend and attempts to connect his slobbering, sobbing lips with her pert breasts through about two inches of bullet proof, knife proof, definitely penis proof glass.

Mentioning this out loud probably explains why the conversation between me and my two female colleagues stalled momentarily.

This aside I was impressed by the amount of young kids that were about the place merrily tucking into steaming bowls of eastern-esque cuisine.

Haven’t us proles come a long way since I was a kid?

Back when I were a lad (by ‘eck) it were a big thing to eat out at a Berni Inn let alone somewhere that sold sushi and noodles and expected you to mop the lot up with a pair of chopsticks.

Such marlarky was for rich toffs – those who holidayed in places other than Weston-super-Mare and Scunthorpe and instead pushed the envelope out to the continent and ate at an El Berni Posada in Spain.

The world has very quickly got a lot smaller.

Though, of course, this could entirely be down to an optical illusion caused by the size of the tables...