Partridgeville: House of a Thousand Spiders

You’ll be pleased to hear that the Wi-Fi has been reconnected and no farmers have been seriously assaulted.  Modern life makes me this way, violent and in need of devices.  I’ve been here for nearly 2 weeks and my phone has only rung three times and on every occasion it has been necessary for me to insult some jub informing me of an accident I’ve been involved in or telling me that I could be liable for a refund of PPI that I have never signed up to…

Hmmm…. Maybe people don’t care that I’m here?  Fuck people.

Ok… There are only a few things that have eight legs that I’m wary of when I’m in their death arc.

  • Two hungry tigers
  • A protective elephant and calf
  • Four pissheads in a kebab shop where the chilli sauce has run dry and:

‘Tegenaria gigantea’

  • The Giant House spider or ‘savage flappy legged hell freak’.

I am an Arachnophobe and always have been and there are many reasons for this.

There’s my overpowering human desire to smash, burn, shoot and burn again spiders.  There’s the time I woke up face to face with one on the pillow aged 8 and the time a very large one was directly responsible for ‘coitus interruptus’ in my late teens resulting in a rapid disengagement from participating party and a frantic hunt for the beast in the confines of a box room in my parents’ house where all previous attempts to keep ‘things’ quiet went out the window in the melee that followed.

On that occasion the beast was found crawling up the forearm of a naked girlfriend who was shouting ‘WHERE?? WHERE??’ as I pointed in silent terror.  That spider (let’s call him Brian) destroyed that late teen moment and so they all now must die.

It’s been a difficult forty odd years but I reckon I’ve dispatched thousands of the fuckers by means of rapidly brought down boot, dropped dinner plate, chucked remote control, pointed stick poke, hairspray (slows them down), boiling water from above (unbelievably effective) and slapped palm…. I am the Torquemada of the spider inquisition.

And then I rented this lovely barn type conversion for two weeks in Norfolk.  Good God.  It’s like all the spiders in the world are on holiday here.  In the 12 days in this house I have dispatched at least 22 of the fuckers, tiny yellow ones, small black ones, medium brown ones and a ludicrous number of massive ones with dripping fangs and cocky ‘never say die’ attitude.

When dealing with ‘Tegenaria Gigantea’ it is essential to deploy US Special forces and CIA employed, private death machine ‘Blackwater’ tactic: The ‘OODA Loop’.

For the uninitiated OODA stands for ‘Observe, Orientate, Decide, Act’.  You need to do these four things in 1.5 seconds in order to be victorious when faced with an adversary of this magnitude and hate who can kill you in 2 seconds.  Remember the beast has the advantage as you have a quarter of the legs that it does.

  • Observe:  You spot the Spider
  • Orientate: Check that no spider lovers are around
  • Decide: The spider must be smashed (no brainer)
  • Act: Smash the spider (then smash repeatedly until dust)

Easy.  I’ve been doing this for years (not wholly true as I only discovered OODA in a book about ‘Blackwater’ a week ago) and it only fails if you have spotted the spider and allowed more than 1.5 seconds to elapse.

When in that position, it is advisable (so long as the beast is contained in a sink or cage) to pace up and down swearing a lot while sweating profusely.  The delay in dishing out death from above causes panic of apocalyptic proportions where no implement seems big enough.  You go from handful of kitchen roll for the death grip, through such weapons as shoe and coffee table before sofa and TV may be used to smash to dust.  If the beast is not contained in some kind of death row type scenario, then It’s best to either ring Foxton’s for a valuation on the property or burn the house down.

Now I know there will be some freaks out there, probably in New Zealand, telling me that Spiders are great and that they should be captured and released to run free in the countryside but I’m deploying an Agincourt approach here.  No fucking prisoners, no messages back to the King Spider as a warning.  Henry V didn’t smash the French through nicety. He was victorious because he took out an entire generation with absolutely no chivalry whatsoever.  Genius.  I am he and this is for England.  Fuck Spiders.  I will not be Baggins wrapped up like a juicy human Burrito frothing at the mouth dominated by an arachnid… I’ve made my decision, accept it…there are billions of spiders and only one me.

So…. Off to Norwich we go.

Norwich scene of some stuff at some point…..and Alan Partridge….’The blood runs deep’.

Norwich is a great city.  I was particularly impressed by the Cathedral and being of catholic stock I’ve seen a lot of buildings erected for God.  It was lovely place where you could walk around at will with surprisingly little in the way of ‘out of bounds’… The only problem with it was in the last 10 feet where a kids entertainer called ‘Johnny Jaffa cake’ was doing his thing to a mob of 20 five year old brats screaming the place down. An odd choice for the inside of a religious building, bit like sticking a Coke machine up by the altar. We move on and out, at pace, into the city itself.

It’s bustling with the tattooed and thumbless but it’s friendly and none of us are kidnapped to spend our remaining time in a barn with over large boys and three legged chickens.  There are buskers on most street corners and not the type that are simple clanking some spoons together but ones with real talent including two paddies knocking out that weepy Snow Patrol track and mid-range efforts from the Simon and Garfunkel cannon.  It’s also nice not to see the fake ‘Big Issue’ seller with the laminated copy which is the scourge of the country.

Jen and B stop at a market stall selling novelty rucksacks.  The boy and I watch from a far.  They have clearly spotted some kind of bargain and are getting involved.  After about 10 minute they have returned with goods and smiles, the joy of actual ‘live’ purchases rather than interweb shopping.  As she gets back I ask Jen how she good buy anything off a bloke like that.

‘Like what?’ she says.

‘Like bulldog tattoo to right calf, union flag tattoo to left forearm, Crusader brandishing broadsword tattoo to right bicep, St George cross tattoo to side of head, ‘NF’ tattoo to back of neck’ says I.

‘….Oh….I didn’t notice’ she replies…

And there you have it.  Women are none suspicious whereas men scan a crowd like the Terminator looking for Sarah Connor through a red lens.

‘….Hardnut……soft lad…..dangerous dog…..drunk…..nice rack…..ginger…..old lady, bad small…. Skinny suit…. city boy…. Ponytailed office fooder…..top heavy…. Potential rival for leadership come the Zombie Apocalypse…. needs a shoeing…. big arse….no arse…..nice rack…. sad and lonely…dog owner….arsehole…. loves a spider…. nice smell….cheap pub with escape route…’

…this kind of thing.  We are hunters and so assess as we go along, It’s a disease, a sickness. Women are much nicer; they see the good rather than the horror.  Anyway now that we’ve funded the lifestyle of a fascist we look for somewhere to eat for lunch.

Norwich has some lovely eateries so why and I sitting in a Greggs?  Not only sitting in a Greggs but sitting in the front window of a Greggs exposed to passing trade, some of whom look intelligent and sympathetic to my plight.  I’m being mocked by the general Norwichian.

Jen chooses Greggs as a quick and easy lunch.  I have no items on me to disguise myself, not even a cap and so am stuck in the window like an advert for the meat with pastry eater.  You don’t get a body like mine without liking pastry but no one eats in a Greggs under 70 as most of the offerings appear partially digested for ease.

Greggs is a shop that you enter at speed, order out of the corner of your mouth while looking around shouting ‘QUICKER!! QUICKER!! QUICKER!!’ like Tom Hardy being rubbed with butter in ‘Bronson’.  You then chuck money at the counter when they fail to get you in and out within 15 seconds.  It’s not a ‘table for four’ place but I’m at a table for four gnawing on a meat parcel and a cup of ‘Coffee’ minus any coffee flavour.

Next to us are two elastic waistband old ladies.  They are deep in discussion. Old bat #1 is dolled up to the eyeballs.  She is bottle blond and made up like Bette Davis in ‘What ever happened to Baby Jane?’. The eye make-up is particularly memorable as it looks like two spiders have set up home such is the black thickness. She’s also cleavage heavy in a flash back to years gone by but now she’s struggling to fill the cup with a couple of snoopy noses…. She ain’t having it though, she’s pushing forward, thrusting upwards at the hope of attracting some kind of plum looking for a GGILF liaison.

Old bat #2 looks like a bloke I used to work with who is long dead.  Dead, dead eyes like a shark mid death bite, and the teeth/nose combo is worthy of a fancy dress shop £2 bargain bucket however she is more conventionally dressed for her age and I appreciate that for the sake of my sight.

I hone in on their conversation and to my horror they are talking about sex and going ’over the side’.  The once buxom Baby Jane is doing the goading in a Sybil Fawlty ‘…Ooo I know…’ kind of way and comedy nose is doing the graphic descriptive stuff.  She’s ‘had enough’ or her old man and is seeking fresh excitement with a younger model to liven herself up to make her feel ‘like a women again’….I’m dubious of the ‘again’ bit.

I’m half gagging on my ‘meet’ packet at the thought of this dry old crone going ‘at it’ but I’m trapped as I can see no opportunity to flee without being spotted by someone vaguely normal.  I bite down and force myself through the double whammy of horrendous imagery and liquid meat and potato in soggy pastry.

I spot a chance of escape behind a rather overly nourished individual on crutches with his pants exposed who has just purchase 4 jumbo sausage rolls and a Fanta…. We are out and in the clean, fresh air.

Piss taking aside, Norwich is a lovely city with lots to see and do.  It was vibrant and busy but also oozed history and was worth visiting.

And then there’s Cromer.

Cromer is every  British beachside resort you’ve ever been to with added freakery.  Bikers, Jugglers, a pier with absolutely nothing worthy on it at all and a boozer called ‘The Albion’.  I wasn’t risking the pub as I risked the pier.

The pier has all a pier should have including the standard crap bar with warm flat lager.  Dogs, electric mobility scooters and people crabbing off the edges of the pier are everywhere.  Crabbing is a fruitless pursuit given that crabmeat flows like sick in a gutter in Cromer as it costs nothing, is killed and liberated from gritty mud laden shells by someone else and in some cases stuffed into a stale baguette.

The crab people love the hunt though and so dangle crab enticing treats off strings into the sea in the hope of walking back to land with a poor old crab in a clear bucket emblazoned with a cartoon crustacean…. Christ knows what the crab thinks…

We leave the seafront for the back streets of Cromer.   It’s all there.  A tattooist called ‘Iconic ink’, an Antique Shop with a Bren Gun with bullet belt in the window for £2,000.00, a shop selling ceramic faced dolls that come to life at night and strangle things and a series of chip shops claiming ‘Best in Cromer’.  Can you be best anything in Cromer?  Best looking seagull?  Best drain cover? Best road out of Cromer?

I’m not big on seaside towns as you can probably tell.  Too many years visiting Hastings to see the in-laws or family holidays as a kid where we walked around aimlessly while my Old Man got mangled in the local British Legion before weaving his car home with us in tow.  Of course it’s different abroad where the heat is the major factor.  Bars replace transient punter boozers with pool tables providing weapons for the patrons and you have restaurants serving stuff killed at the table rather than fast food eateries serving up stuff you can usually eat on a stick.  Our promenades are filled with large pale blobs (of which I am one) limping along with screaming kids rather than the beautiful tanned, postage stamped budgie smuggler wearers dripping in Paco Rabanne.  Beach life just ain’t my bag baby…. I’m a big city type of twat.

The best day out we had was a trip to see the seals off Blakney Point.  I have nothing but good words about this trip from the quality of the boat to quality of the punters on board.  The two guys running the trip were funny and informative and it was great to some proper wildlife in a proper environment.  Excellent stuff.

See?  If I’m not ripping things to shreds it all gets nice and even more pointless.  And so with that in mind we come to Wroxham, the staging post for our trip down the Norfolk Broads.

Wroxham appears to a town dropped in from 1974 by an alien civilization.  Wroxham is effectively a bridge over part of the Norfolk broads surrounded by a few shops, cafes and a Pub.  I’ll deal with the pub in a minute but thankfully unlike most of the other retail units it was devoid of a flat roof.

Wroxham appears to be owned by a bloke called Roy.  There’s ‘Roys Toys’, ‘Roys DIY’, ‘Roys Food Emporium’, ‘Roys garden centre’ and, of course, simply ‘Roys’ which seems to be a department store specialising in clothes pre dipped in piss and lavender for old people.  The curry house at least tried by calling itself ‘The Royal’. Roy is the Wroxham equivalent of Rick Stein in Padstow.   He got his claws in early and he took the place over like a parasitic body snatcher.

As ever, with kids, we arrive and look for food.  It’s slim pickings and so we decide on a pub called The Kings Arms due to the sign reading ‘Food served all day / massive garden’.  This turned out to be partially correct as the garden was fucking massive.

We take a seat in the garden and peruse the fayre within the extensive menu.  There’s some nice stuff on it and we all agree it’s a good choice.  I then head to the bar for some lovely beverages to go with whatever we choose to eat…. Drinks first, then eat..I’m a traditionalist…

It’s a big pub with a two big bars.  In an act of outstanding English poncitude the assembled punters have formed four separate queues at each individual bar.  Each queue contains 10-12 people all carrying menus and hard earned cash.  They look hunger and their thirst needs slaking on a hot day like this.  I join a queue and wait my turn. I am merely 10 people from that ice cold Heineken pump and I start to drool slightly…. No one notices…

It then strikes me that this pub appears to have two bar staff for the whole building.  These two are working the two equally sized bars with four equally filled queues of idiots like me.  These ain’t no Irish bar staff, these are Wroxham bar staff.  Gone is the capability of serving two drinks at the same time left alone two punters at the same time, gone is the ability to strike up a conversation above a mumble and gone is the ability to pass on useful information to a crowd of people queuing like cows heading to a slaughter house.

I remain calm until I realise that the punters are even more useless than these two plums behind the ramp.  Old people are the order of the day in Wroxham. Roy has slaughtered all those under 60 in a reverse ‘Children of the Corn’ nightmarish scenario, which means that every aged punter that reaches the mumbling barkeep goes through the drinks and menu with finite intensity looking for a bargain some angle of BOGOF cheapness.

I remain calm and wait my turn.  I’m only three from the front now and luckily due to the deafness of the spritzer drinker I hear a that if you want food the wait is 1 hour 25 minutes.  I’ve been in this queue for 20 minutes looking for 4 drinks that will take 90 seconds to pour and I’ve just heard on the breeze that food is far from being served ‘all day’ but is only served at specific non busy moments of the day.

I lean over the queue and tackle the barbod verbally much to the annoyance of a frustrated Mrs Violet Gobble from Penge who is asking about the tenderness of carrots within the medley of vegetables served with the Chicken, Leek and bacon puff pastry pie.

‘’scuse me mate….did you say that it’s a 85 minute wait for food?’ says I…

There’s a pause while he tries to calculate 1 hour 25 minutes into single minutes.

‘Yeah’ he says with mouth breathing pie hole open… ‘unless you want the Carvery’

‘The Carvery’ I reply.  ‘Do I look like I want a plate of stewed veg, bullet hard roasties and constantly reheated meat on a Thursday afternoon?….. No I don’t do I?’

He remains stationary, mouth agape.

‘Do you think this information may be relevant to us, the assembled throng? (gesturing to crowd of Jubs behind me) or were you hoping that we would all purchase drinks and so would be trapped and fall for the old 85 minute trick?’ I continue…

….nothing from faux hipster barjub…. He remains stationary with mouth open…

I turn and leave returning to the garden to deliver the bad news my tribe.  I look back and see the queue I’m in all move up one place as they are hardened Carvarians in dire need of the three meat platter with small jug of gravy.

We are in Wroxham for the final trip.  A boat journey up the broads on an Edwardian barge.  I’m seeking tranquillity and I get it in spades.

The boat is a fantastic piece of craftsmanship in immaculate condition.  The boatman must have been some kind of Thesp in his time and he regales us with stories of this lovely stretch of water and the peacefulness it oozes.

I’m reclining in the moment when I notice the boatman slightly quicken his commentary and fumble under is seat for what appears to be a table tennis bat.  Ahead on the river I notice a launch heading our way creating quite a large wake.  The occupants are a couple of middle aged herberts clearly on a trip from South East London who have decided that the 3mph limit doesn’t give off the ‘Miami Vice’ opening credits vibe they are looking for.  These boatmen are bouncing along with the speed (6mph) roaring with laughter.

We are almost adjacent now and I notice my Jerome K Jerome commentary has temporarily ceased from the Thesp.  The liberated table tennis bat is actually a sign with ‘3 MPH’ in large black letters and the Thesp is frantically waving it to get the attention of the London Scum who are upping the ante on ‘Mirabelle’ to an out of control 7 MPH.

As we come directly alongside the Thesp explodes with a violent outburst of ‘SLOW DOWN!!!! SLOW DOWN!! TOO FAST!!!’ while waving the bat in the direction of their cabin.  I look at the herberts and they temporarily stop laughing before shouting back ‘SORRY MATE’ in that tailing off way that you hear when giving abuse to a passing driver on a road.  Once out of bat range we hear the Mirabelle accelerate again and the laughing start once more…

Our commentary continues after Thesp has regained his composure and we trundle off down the river in peace at last….

The point of this holiday was for this family to bond after what has been the motherfucker of all years.  Clearly I’m speaking from a personal perspective but I’m not hearing many good things about 2016 in general so far so I’ll assume it’s just been crud all round and continues to be so with crap on all sides from death to illness to life changing decisions affecting my tranquillity arc.

We had a fantastic time in Norfolk and joking aside I recommend it to anyone looking for a peaceful getaway within this country.  The weather was excellent, which was a bonus, and the people were friendly and welcoming if not slightly eccentric and occasionally stupid.

And so back to work. Christmas is imminent. Bring. It. On.

Next Time: A ‘Moment of Clarity’ as I discuss alcohol and its part in my downfall.

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