“..The Certainty of Stupidity…”

Miserable weather. Magnificently matching my mood…cold and grey.

The gloom of January. The general post festive scenario following the joyous month of Christmas where thirsts were slaked in the name of capitalism. I felt I was ready for the onslaught where I manage to drink with everyone I love. It is my failing and my strength. Without my liver idiocy friendships would wane.  Jen reckons I’m a mug,  perhaps I am but I tell her;

 “It’s not about me…. it’s about ‘them’….’the others’…”.

I’m all about the charity… and the laugh.  So remember mates, If you didn’t see me during Christmas it’s because you couldn’t make it.. I’m was blameless. I was out there in the Guinness and Rouge. The magnitude of this selfless act resulted in three days of paranoia where I found myself believing I was being followed.  I’m too old for it…It needs to be controlled…

…0757 hours…. The Freak Box…

The tube is unforgiving in cold weather. Brutal heat meets heavy coats creating a damp, pungency. We trundle along and I’m wearing a fleece and a gilet (body warmer to anyone brought up in the ’70’s)… I’m sweating like a pregnant nun but I’m maintaining a steady calm as ever…

Up trots a massive bloke to head towards a seat next to me. He’s a right old lump. A good two metres tall and in a polyester puffer jacket.  He sits quicker than I anticipate and so my arm is crushed by his truly epic arse. We exchange a manly nod as neither of us want the other to think that this interaction may have been deliberate.  He’s a big bloke and I feel myself crunching inwards like a page three girl showing off the goods…

A small girl with a nice smell to my left (almonds if you were wondering) who has sat next to me since the off alights. At the doors bustling on I see the troll from the toilets in Hogwarts.  It’s heading my way.  I have no wand.

He’s wearing the classic Clarkson costume of tweed jacket, open neck shirt, jeans and loafers. He’s not worried about the cold as he’s UKIP rich, proudly ‘British’ and into ‘Torque’, ‘fuel capacity’ and bitter in a jug… he’s a top level chinless, mouth breather and is probably only on public transport due to a night on the Bolly at a fundraiser for the ‘little people’…

He hits the seat in a “Boom!!” kind of way at which point I realise I’m trapped between a puffer jacket and heavy, itchy tweed when I’m kitted out for a nuclear winter. This could be bad…his arm is touching mine, it’s hotter than the sun and I have 25 minutes of this to endure. It must look hilarious from the opposite seats. I must look like the ‘fresh meat’ in the Wormwood Scrubs Shower block, all small and scared being escorted by monsters to a crippling fate before being hurled in the corner like a discarded pair of pants. I accept my fate…death by hot arm and leg.

I reach my stop and I’m able to squeeze out from between these two behemoths like an over large baby bursting out of a damp tweed and polyester womb… I feel dirty. I wind my way up to the street where en route I see two women have a verbal fight on an escalator. A good Samaritan intervenes and becomes the focus of both women’s hate. Mug. Let them fight, we all want to see it…blood, snot, teeth, hair, bloodied lips… he deserves the hate.

I reach the lobby of the station and walk past the in-house dry cleaners with the sign that says ‘Shirt service’ where some wag has removed the ‘r’ in ‘shirt’… always makes me smile.

Outside is the soft shoed God Squaddette. She’s from the same tribe troupe as the one at my home station and is holding a paper with the headline ‘Is Satan Real?’…Hmmm…. it’s a tough one.  I take the paper and head to the office where I’ll add it to the pile of similar periodicals rotting under my desk.

I take the lift up the tower block to my floor. At the entrance to the office I pause… I always pause as I can’t believe I have to walk in again.  As life requires money I open the door and head to my desk.

I work in a specialist environment. I’m not going to be specific as that would be unprofessional.  I was called unprofessional once by the worlds most stupid employee. I was so angry at the accusation that I just went home on the spot. If I didn’t leave at that moment I may have been sacked as I was a second away from dropping the C Bomb. I’ve been angry a lot in my life but that was the apex of rage.. …Anyway I digress.

The staff where I work as almost exclusively split down the middle in ability and likability.

On one side you have the workers.  Solid, dependable, funny and a joy to work with. On the other you have the management who appear to be there as part of some kind of ‘woke up in an office’ experiment.  They tend to be the old guard and the type of people who get to this level through time rather than capability. They talk with a certainty of stupidity.

We’ve all had bosses like them. The bosses that listen to your ideas, think about what you’ve said and then come up with your idea as if it’s their own. They are the type of people that, when corrected on an issue say ‘That’s what I meant’ or even better ‘That’s what I said’ which are the ultimate, cornered, out of your depth bluffs.  Of course it never used to be like this.

When I started here there were proper leaders, people you would aspire to be and follow to the end. Now I look at the management with a level of contempt which screams P45. They don’t lead and they don’t manage. They merely exist in a world of paralysing, decision making fear.

There are only two ways to do things, The right way and the wrong way. If you make the wrong decision you simply change that decision to make it right… it’s easy. Modern management won’t make the decision in the first place. They hesitate and delay in the hope that the problem will go away rather than address it head on. My work heroes have always acted swiftly and correctly. They also knew more than I did. You can’t lead, in my view, if you are lacking wisdom. Too many bosses in my place ‘wing it’ which is always a recipe for disaster in the long term.

Modern management is hopeless, a lost cause, broken and the main reason why I need to go as I feel that I’d like to be inspired by someone rather being left constantly disappointed.

The other factor that I have noticed in very poor management is Coffee. For some reason the general, useless manager seems to feel the need to leave the building on a regular basis to ingest large amounts of overpriced coffee in a cup with their name on, in order to not make a decision. It is the fuel of the bullshitter.

I do my bit, I humour the useless, do the requisite hourage and leave. I head to the station and the joy of the journey back to my lovely tribe.

The journey home is always a pleasure. The train is generally quiet and I usually choose to stand as I’ve been sitting all day at a desk. I’m standing in the middle section by the doors when a man in his fifties gets on. He looks tired. He’s wearing clothes which are too young for him… clearly he’s a morning Vampire with no mirrors in his house.  Tatty edged hems, skater shoes, some form of military jacket, a Watford scarf and the crowning turd in the waterpipe, a Marvel superheroes messenger bag which is very low slung… Is he cool? is he?….IS HE?? No…. no he’s not…

I close my eyes and hang on to the upright rail. After about 5 minutes I notice my gripping hand and more specifically my knuckles appear to be in contact with some flesh. No one likes to touch a stranger on a train for fear of a Frottage arrest so I slightly panic. I open my eyes and a young girl (19 or 20) is standing quite close to me,  leaning up against the hand rail I’m gripping. Her bare midriff is pushed against my gripping fist…This is awkward.

I close my eyes in ostrich fashion while I come up with a plan. What do you do? open your hand and poke her in the stomach? move your hand up or down? not advisable. I figure that the stomach is the lesser of three evils so I leave it there momentarily while I deal with the image in my head of the interview with British Transport Police and the subsequent disciplinary proceedings.

I need to do something sharpish before my hand is there too long for it to be an accident.   I know, I’ll roll my knuckles as if I’m steadying my grip. She jumps back like a startled squirrel. I open my eyes in fake shock and she looks at me apologetically. We are both relieved…

A close shave which means tomorrow I will once more stand at the door to the office taking a deep breath having avoided getting, ‘Arrestified’, ‘Handcuffdicated’ and chucked in the dingly for the mattress treatment.

…Maybe I need a Coffee….hmmm…. I can’t decide….

“…Tell Gwenyth I Love Her…”

It’s been a funny week.  A sad week. A defining week…

The end of an era… and maybe the start of something new. More of the new another time hopefully but not on this occasion. This week I gave up something I’ve been doing for about 28 years….. no, not that…That can never be given up, it’s essential.

This week I resigned from the committee of an Amateur football club. The reasons are mostly irrelevant on here so I won’t bore you as I’ve bored the long suffering Jen. All I’ll say is it’s a generational issue and I’m too long in the tooth to be told that rules don’t matter. I’m a purist.. old school.. do the right thing or get the fuck out. I’m sad about it but I have principles, maybe too many principles.  Anyway, during my sulking this week I started to think about the good times playing football before all the strokers appeared.  Glory days indeed… proper matches with proper battles and proper personalities, less piss takers and dimwits.

1985 – 1995: Self inflicted football violence…

I played my first game for the club in 1985. I was 16 and a bit scared to be honest…Inevitably I scored and was a hero.  It from a cross delivered from the boot of a man whose daughter would later marry one of my best mates. I remember every moment of that goal to this day, the cross, the scrape off my laces, the flop into the bottom corner and the utter joy…I was hooked at that moment.

Over the next few years I became a captain of a team. I managed to assemble a team of like minded animals who were committed to the cause. Very few oppositions could deal with the onslaught of verbal and physical aggression and we were quite successful as a result. It was the glory time, lifelong friendships were cemented and I can’t recall laughing so much on a football pitch since.

It was the time of the ‘Kharzi assassin’ when retribution for a flailing elbow was sought in the showers. I recall the scene… reminiscent of a Oliver Read wrestling Alan Bates by the fire in ‘Women in Love’. Not really something you wish to witness when you are washing your hair under a dribbling, cold shower in Gunnersbury Park…. how do you stop it? everyone is shiny and wet… what do you grab?.. who are you grabbing?… what are you grabbing?

It was a time of impact injury. No one strained a muscle so the only way you really got hurt was by hitting something similarly human shaped.

My partner in crime up front was a tough North London nut with a pretty boy face. He was, and remains, obsessed with his own beauty and regularly used ‘strawberry pip’ shower gel to exfoliate after matches. One cold January afternoon he decided to jump for a header a fraction too late which resulted in the forehead of the opposition player connected with the bridge of his nose. He hit the deck holding his face but when he removed his hands the lack of blood was noticeable…. I saw this as worrying and a bit like a razor cut that doesn’t initially bleed. We were an advanced team and owned a bucket of water and a sponge.  We took the sponge and placed it hard on the nose of our mate. No one knew why but we thought it would be a good idea. upon removing the sponge, a edge of it snagged the U-shaped red line on the bridge of his nose made by the impact and pulled the skin like when you peel a banana. This flap of skin was now incapable of going back in place no matter how many times we pushed the sponge back on it. “is it bad?” says pretty boy…”Hmm”.. says I, noticing the exposed cartilage of his nose, “I won’t lie to you Franco…. it’s fuckin’ rotten. “. We send Francis to Hospital, finish the match and adjourn to the pub.

Some hours later he arrives at the pub battered and stitched up across the bridge of the nose… it looks angry and I notice that he is slightly cross eyed. We quickly establish through the swearing that he is staring at two pieces of surgical cord that the nurse has failed to trim. In essence he has two small antenna on the top of his nose that he can’t ignore. His best mate, lets call him ‘Gary’, volunteers himself to trim the offending antenna there and then in the pub in order to avoid a second trip to the Hospital, so he borrows some blunt scissors from the barmaid. After much panic and twitching Gary manages to do the job and so we can happily continue our celebratory night out.

A couple of years later I decided to get involved in some of my own head trauma. It’s a cup game at home against a bank and for some reason I decide to attack a ball from a corner on the off chance that it will hit me in the face and fly in the net. I had this all planned in my head but forgot that my sight without glasses is like being underwater.

The corner comes in and I jump to head the ball.  The defender, who it turns out is equally as myopic as me does likewise and we are simaltneously airborne as the ball passes between us. Unfortunately there is no stopping us and we head each others faces at full tilt.

I land on my feet and wobble but, like a weeble, don’t fall down. I look at the floor and see what I feel is the contents of my head pour out at my feet. It’s clearly bad and needs more than a sponge and a plaster. I look up and see a lot of distressed faces. It’s suggested that I go to the hospital and so I set off on foot. This isn’t as fantastical as it seems as it was about 100 yards away.

I walk into casualty and there is only three people present. It’s amazing how packed A&E can become in 20 years but on this particular Saturday back then it was empty. I’m greeted by a nurse who ushers me into a side room and has me lie on bed. I’m Lying there for what seems like an age and as the bleeding has stopped so I sit up and notice that in the corner a Doctor is preparing a needle. He walks over and informs me that I’m going to need 8 stitches just above my eyebrow. I’ll also need some x-rays on Monday (turned out I’d broken my nose and fractured my eye socket and cheek in the impact). The Doctor tells me to relax and starts to insert the needle. It was at that point that the nurse arrived with the anaesthetic which was yet to be administered.  The needle is in my eyebrow from the bottom up and I can see it at close quarters while the Doctor and the nurse have a frantic, whispered conversational argument. The doctor turns to me, apologises, whips out the needle, leaves the room and lets the nurse inject my face before she stitches me up…. she was a good seamstress.

The first 10 years of my football ‘career’ were brilliant… violent, hilarious and successful. Trophies were won, teams were battered, people were battered. It moulded and bonded me to the place and I felt it was important to get involved with the hierarchy and maybe even take control of it. And so that is what Bunny and I planned to do…

As I’m coming to the end of my self imposed blog limit and I want to leave on some drama I’ll continue this cobblers in a later blog just to see if you are really following me or just placating my ego..

…1642 hours….. The Freak Box….

I leave work and head in the rain to the station. This is a deep central London station with lifts that are insufficient so everyday I use the stairs instead.  If you time it right you can really pick up some pace on these stairs as the wind downwards.

I have that headphones on and am listening to something suitable heavy but the stairs are packed with meandering tourists who tentatively walk down. Annoying but lets keep it realistic.. it’s not a big deal.

As we get near the bottom I sense a problem. The tourists speed up slightly… I turn the final bend and see the issue.

Standing at the bottom of the stairs is a young Muslim man. He has a long beard, traditional Afghan male garb, the classic Osama Bin Laden hat and a large rucksack on his back…He is also talking while seemingly pointing to the heavens with an outstretched finger…I can’t hear him due to the UFO Live album I’m soaking up on the ‘phones..

This is it….

‘This is the end…my only friend…The End..’

UFO are replaced by the words of a fat, drunk, dead bloke … What do I do?.. I’m eight steps up on him and so if I leap, the force of me (sponsored by Guinness) will really do him some damage…

This is the VC moment…I nearly shout ‘Tell Gwenyth I Love her’ as it could be my final words and I want that as a subheading on the front of The Times when it reports “Bomber dispatched by the greatest hero in the history of humanity”.  I picture Paltrow weeping at my grave while dropping a single black rose into the hole and whispering “You beautiful, sweet, funny man…Why?’…

I hestitate… I change tact. I slowly walk up to him…I’ve dealt with people… I can do this… I notice he’s stopped talking… I take a breath and remove my headphones and stare into the face of my destiny…he starts to speak…

“…’ere mate… how many fucking steps are there going up?…I can’t get any of those tourists to tell me….”

Looks can be deceiving….

The Clown, The Waiter and the Monkey Sanctuary…..

Firstly, I didn’t get the job…. This isn’t a surprise but the reason was. Apparently I had all the skills and experience but didn’t show the necessary enthusiasm to work for the firm in question….. nice…. No matter…. we move on….other opportunities will arise and so I need to regain the lost enthusiasm and focus on my current employer for a bit.

Back to work….

I head to the station and realise that I haven’t seen The God Squadder for weeks. The area by the back entrance has been vacant, religion free. There has been no manhandling of the weak, no thrusting of pamphlets, no damp smell of urine and digestives. 

I turn the corner and see that he has returned however he’s different.  He has a new hat (flat) and appears to be sporting the moustache of an Austrian house painter.  It’s the clincher.. this should have the crowds rolling in… I give him my most contemptible glance and head to the Jesus free platform.

…0815 hours…. The Freak Box…..

Its the wrong time to get this train so I position myself by the door I will eventually alight from perching on that useless half seat.  I figure it’s going to get banged out and so it’s best to make the exit easier by being in position early doors.  This strategy is 99% effective but can backfire. 

A few months back I was minding my own business in this spot when I realised we had been in the station for a long time.  I also noticed a commotion to my left. I care little for the Freaks of the Box but I was intrigued and so disconnected from the joys of early Van Halen to see what was happening

It appeared that some real negative vibe merchant had decided to pass out half on and half off the carriage.  This wasn’t good.  I was supposed to be getting a bacon roll at this point but I’m stuck looking at the helpful…the interfering and helpful, the worst of all combo’s.  There appears to be a lot of fussing with no decision making.  I’m about to suggest a vote amongst the conscious within the carriage along the lines of ‘drag her on or roll her off’ when I’m poked by an older women who wants me to pull the chord and speak to bloke in charge of propelling this tube.  I can’t call them ‘drivers’ as that indicates a level of skill above the dead mans handle this plum controls.  I’ve never pulled the chord and so willingly oblige.

“. Can someone tell me what is happening to block the doorway in your carriage?..” says a voice free from politeness…

“..hello Freak… the door is being blocked by someone’s hips…They are prone…” says I.

“..Eh?..” he grunts… Clearly he’s incapable of moving from his pod at the front to see what’s happening due to the inevitable health and safety issues so I just part the crowd, step over the body and walk from the station I’m at… I didn’t look back, bacon has triumphed over Schadenfreude….

As I said earlier my door strategy is 99% effective and a quick scan of the carriage reveals no potential fainters so I relax.

This train is surprisingly empty but when we reach the next stop there’s a rush for seats from a packed station. Bursting through the doors I see it. It’s a treat that I’ve heard of but never witnessed…

The Clown….

It’s big, overly nourished with ham hock arms and tiny, tiny feet that defy physics…This ain’t no Charlie Cairoli turnout but the make up is similar. She gets the last seat as no one is big enough or brave enough to stop her and sits down with such force that the two punters either side involuntarily rise up. From my position I can see the caked on make up. It’s cheap…and like the shoddy work of a cockney plasterer it needs several coats to be sufficient. I’m hoping she smiles as the cracking will be magnificent and flaky like a puff pastry mince pie.

She goes for her bag.. I’m expecting toffees or a pie but she brings out an immense make up bag in order to apply more gunk and gloop to the eyes. She’s at that point that only Da Vinci could understand after trying to perfect the Mona Lisa smirk… The more she slaps on the more she takes off. Less should be more but I imagine that’s an alien concept in this case. I study her face from my vantage point. There is so much make up that it’s impossible to age her unless you look at the hands. She is the spitting image of the daughter of that funny Jewish family on “Gogglebox”… as I think they are hilarious I move my attention to another carriage dweller to her right….

A young Asian guy is squeezed in next to her. He’s wearing an oversized beaney hat which I have always seen as a sign of mental illness. The collar of his jacket is up and his hair pokes out from under the hat… He looks like “ensemble cast” from Les Miserable. He’s motionless. He hasn’t moved since he was propelled in the air by The Clown. Standby…. we have movement.

He reaches into his coat pocket and produces a small silver tray reminiscent of the kind of thing you get your bill on in an expensive restaurant from an aloof waiter. He looks at the tray. I’m waiting for him to deposit some form of chocolate stack on the tray before offering it up to truffle monster beside him when I realise it’s an iPhone 6…the big one. It’s a ludicrous size. He’s clearly making some kind of statement with a phone that big….I reckon that statement is “Please mug me..I have a £700 device”…

I work with a bloke who has a large phone… He’s a small bloke and so the phone looks like an iPad in the hands of a 10 year old. When he receives a call you can’t see his head side on. When you’re buying a new coat in order to store your phone then you have the wrong phone… it’s basic…

We trundle along and I go to work with the usual enthusiasm…. It’s over for me… but Half term is imminent and I’m off for a week so I fight on..

As a man I find half term, looking after kids utter drudgery. I know I’m supposed to cherish these moments with the kids but as usual I’m tasked with washing, cleaning, cooking and dealing with tradesmen…. It’s a shit business..

This half term is different. We head to the North to visit the in-laws, and one in particular, Jen’s grandmother who is a fantastic women clocking in at 102 years old, sharp as a tack and worthy of another 100 years. Strangely, and for all my piss taking about Northern Monkeys, I like the North… It’s simple…like the people..(did you see what I did there?). I jest. It’s friendly with less stress than London with more character.

Jen is the Queen of research and so she finds us a magnificent independent hotel to stay for a couple of nights.

We arrive and check in and my first impressions are great. It has a buzzing, welcoming bar and I can spot the Guinness tap. I’m sorted and care little for anyone else, I mean let’s face it… You can’t fuck up a coke can you?

We head off to visit grandma for a couple of hours and upon our return I’m keen to visit the bar and feed the kids who love being out at night… it’s an adventure for them.

After a brief freshen up we head down the sweeping staircase to the bar where I see some cones marked “caution! wet floor”. I look and then look again. Cordoned off with the cones is a trail of vomit about 20 feet long with a larger deposit every 2-3 feet. It’s a magnificent effort… real piss head quality with fantastic distance, lots of bile and pink to boot. I’m thinking ‘stomach lining’ after an afternoon of Cider…

“Excuse me Northern Monkey” I say to our host, “Is that vomit?”

“Aye”…he grunts deciding not to offer any other information. I stare at him and he informs me that a child has spewed and his staff are dealing with it.. This is excellent news and I expect no less from an establishment of this quality.

Years ago I was in a curry house in North London where an refreshed young man chundered on the table and merely covered it with a napkin before continuing to scoop in large mouthfuls of Aloo Gobi… Nobody in there cared to position a cone as a warning… Halcyon days…

We have some bar food in the presence of the sick and the kids find it hilarious… Then we retire to the room for a restless night on a wooden bed so hard that I wake as those my internal organs are being pushed out of my mouth…

The next morning, after reassembling my body, we head for breakfast where against all the Gods of Ecky Thump I’m presented with a continental breakfast…

… Fuck that….

I expect meat so I decide to move outside the parameters of ‘included in the price’ and go for a marvellously described meat fest…

… The plate arrives and it looks suitably Northern so I tuck in. I stare at the hash brown and re read the menu in an attempt to link it to the items on the listed. I hate to bring this to the attention of the residents of Yorkshire but an Iceland Frozen Hash Brown isn’t the ‘crispy bubble and squeak cake’ described in italic font on the menu…. I am undeterred and anyway the sausages made up for it.

We swan off and enjoy the countryside and the open spaces of Yorkshire. It truly is a fantastic place and deserves more recognition from my Soft Southern heart….

Things seem easier here… I’m a bit sick of London and the grief but what could I do here? Farm? Run a pub? Maybe…. How about Armed Robbery?

This moment will pass, when upon our return I see a sign that says ‘London 101’… That’s all it took… I’m an expert in London…

Greatest City in the world….if you ain’t in it you should be…

Tell me about a time when you underperformed…..

1312 hours….. The Freak Box….

As you’d expect the train is empty…. It’s the middle of the day….

I’ve been up since 0642 hours.  I’ve been pacing around like an expectant father desperately trying to recall what you have to do in an interview…That’s right…. an interview.  Not the normal interviews I’m used to where big lumpy Oaf’s refuse to say anything but an interview where I am under the microscope… a job is at stake…a good job..and I want it…

I’m rarely glad to be on a train but today is different as I’ve been in a right mess all morning…I’ve felt sick with worry. For a man with a massive mouth I lack a certain focused confidence and today is my nightmare..  I have to sell myself.

I look in the mirror and remember the words of a trusted associate who suggested the Gareth Cheeseman approach where, when under pressure, he shouts ‘YOU’RE A TIGER!!’ into the mirror at himself before knocking one out for a treat….

…I’m not going to do that….I’m too nervous… instead I sit down and watch ‘Boardwalk Empire’ in my pants as I’m home alone.  I’m a professional…I’ve locked the door…I’ve closed the blinds… I cannot be caught….

The joy of Al Capone killing someone with a statue of the Empire State Building quickly subsides and I’m back in full panic mode where my only friend is the toilet…. It’s pathetic… I’m in my mid 40’s and I’ve turned into a frightened child. I revise what I think I should know but at the back of my head are the words of my father who recently told me..

‘I didn’t bother about your education as it was clear early on that you weren’t up to much’…

..inspiring stuff eh?   Think about that for a minute. Who wants to hear that?  Who deserves that?…maybe someone, somewhere, some scumbag perhaps but not me.

I realise I cant rely on my education to dig me out and so I focus on my bolshiness which may win the day. I manage to regain some semblance of control, I get ready, calm down and leave during a thunderstorm which seems like a sign not to go… alas Canary Wharf awaits..

The journey is under an hour. Revision at this stage is futile so I resign myself to the fact that the CV, the experience and my mouth are the only options…. I start to sweat.  My mouth can be the problem.  My mouth has always been the problem…my mouth will be the problem…

I get to the Wharf via the DLR. It’s magnificent, the future of train travel. It’s completely empty, with no driver which coincidently is weirdly reminiscent of the inside of my head at this moment in time.

I’m a bit early so I calm myself by walking around the shops in the vicinity. This proves to be another bad idea.  There is no place for people like me in any of these shops.  I don’t have the body or the feet for such sharp apparel.  I’m built for comfort not speed.  If I were a vegetable I’d be a turnip…dense, misshapen and earthy… these garments are made for the Asparagus people… sharp, thin, long and tasty.  I’m built for harsh winters not Zinfandel summers and so I apologetically slope out….

My best option is to stand still and observes the punters milling about. I need to relax and perhaps rip the piss out of the mob.  If that was the job I’d be a shoe-in. I’ve got 27 minutes to kill before I am killed in front two people I don’t know after being slowly dissected. I’m not used to this concept but I’ll go with it as it would be unprofessional to walk away at this point.

I decide to position myself by a set of down escalators and watch….

An initial assessment reveals fitted shirts and pointy shoes to be the order of the day. This was expected but I’m shocked at the number of people in this get up given the fact that it’s absolutely pissing down and windy.  I’m suited and booted with additional rain coat…. Obviously I’m sweating like a pregnant nun but I’m expected to look the part for the impending arsehole-ripping I’m about to get… its all about the confidence right?

I look around and see fantastically expensive sandwich shops with queues out the doors. Everyone is involved in the Avocado and crispy bacon on Rye bread with mayo and Swiss cheese mega wrap game and they are happy to let you know it by carrying it about in a bespoke bag made by a cottage industry free trade peasant from a third world country.  I’m starving but just know that if I buy something it will explode all over me and destroy my pristineness and that’s all I’ve got at the minute.

I toy with going to a bar to have a stiff drink…’Dutch Courage’ as it were. The problem with that is that the only odourless drink I can think of is Vodka and my luck would dictate that at the point of ordering I’d be spotted by any imminent interviewer and would be perceived as a pisshead.  It’s too risky so I give it a miss and anyway that’s a slippery slope even this plastic paddy refuses to head down

I continue to stand and watch…. The clock ticks slowly…. 10 minutes before I need to arrive at an early enough time to seem professional  and up for it…. I feel sick…. It’s been 12 years since my last interview to this level with a future employer and it’s clear to me that experience in my job means fuck all…

I scan the crowd and note the preening and the posturing….Is this really me? The Wharf?

It couldn’t be further removed from my life of employment and in particular my current job.  We have Windows XP,  a canteen that sells ‘Buck Rabbit’ and a sign on the gents toilet that says ‘The Shitter’s full’… It’s gritty, harsh and hilarious for a reason whereas this is sparkly, sterile and sleek for show…

The clock ticks on and I decide the time has come…. There is no turning back… I get into character and head to the place of sacrifice where I announce myself to the concierge, or ‘bloke at the counter’ as I would normal refer to him as. Unbelievably he’s never heard of me and so I’m given a visitors pass and am directed to ‘waiting area A’ where I sit and wait to be ‘collected’.

…2 minutes click by….. there’s marble everywhere…. marble and glass and a sweeping staircase.  I’ve been here before in my current job and so at least I’m familiar with my surroundings.

Two me approach me.. one older than the other.  The younger one walks off on his own to prepare the altar and the older one introduces himself to me by calling me by my full Christian name… only my mother does this.  He’s not my mother.

We head up the stairs and bizarrely I spot someone I know who works there in a boardroom we pass….I didn’t wave or bang on the window but feel the need to mention it as I’m getting the hint from his lack of warmth that I’m struggling to impress him in the four sentences we’ve shared….I need a chink of light in the gloom..

We get to the chamber and I’m introduced to torturer number two…. it’s a flaccid, damp, no eye contact handshake…. the worst kind possible but he seems like a nice enough human.  I’m looking for positives and I see it in the form of a bottle of sparkling water…. the bottle has a lovely stopper at the top. As you can tell I have a problem with focus…

I take a deep breath…. sit down….pour a glass of water… and face up to the onslaught… I am Leonidas before the Persians refusing to kneel….

“..Tell me about a specific time when…….”

…and there it is…. the worst possible question to ask me at any time let alone crammed into a room with two blokes who need entertainment….I could be finished before I’ve uttered a syllable….I’m on the rack…

I’m in there an hour and I’ve answered most questions with what I believe to be feeble responses to multi layered, complex,  competency based questions.  By the end I’m feeling fairly dejected and almost apologise for the performance which as Jen tells me later would have been a mistake as I don’t know how bad the other candidates may have been.  She’s the master of turning a negative into a positive…

I leave the chamber and receive the same limp handshakes… there’s no joy here…. I head for the DLR and I don’t look back I’m not keen on the idea of seeing two strangers watch me cross the road with shaking heads and pity.

I scurry away from The Wharf’s slickness to the grit and grime I’m used to….I’m happier in the dirt for now because as you now know I’m not really up to much…..

…we’ll see Pater…..we’ll see….

Traders of the Lost Ark…

Autumnal…. a slight chill in the air and the sun streams down, creating a morning haze.

Perfect. It’s my favourite time of year as it reminds me of roaring fires, bad weather crashing on the window and wearing a fleece…I’m only really happy when I’m in a fleece as I’m a winter person.

I’m striding along listening to some tunes when I see him.  The human embodiment of Canary Wharf, all rosy cheeked with too much product in his hair as it’s essential you look the part on the trading floor when you’re on the phone…

He’s solid…. Lunchtime gym solid….Boxercise solid…. Clearly he’s a man fully capable of the ‘Maximuscle shake’… He’s moving quickly which is quite a feat in brown brogue winkle pickers and a skinny sliver grey suit.  He looks sharp… no tie but he’s travelling so I’ll let it go. I’m thankful that the tie isn’t loosely hanging round the neck in the ‘just left the casino’ way.  At least he hasn’t gone the v-necked jumper, shirt and scarf route which is classic city boy and wholly impractical…

This whole images decays before my very eyes when I spot the big headphones…. why do they exist?  They rarely look good and require a separate bag for transportation purposes.

I work with a bloke who can pull the big headphone look off…I work with others who can’t.  When you wear them with a bald head you look like the bloke in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ who controls Cloud City for Lando Calrissian. When you wear them with hair you just look like you can’t afford decent smaller headphones. I’m sure they sound great but why do they have to be so big?  They draw the eye like a low cut top on an old lady.

As if to take the dairy of the ludicrous ‘phones I then notice his man-bag.  Naturally it’s brown antique leather and he has it strapped across the body like Indiana Jones….I wonder what antiquities lie within? The Golden idol of the Hovito?  The headpiece to the Staff of Ra?  No. Most likely an Iphone 6 and a copy of Men’s Health… any month will do as It’s the same magazine every month.  He’s off at speed, round a corner and gone… we’ll never meet again… it’s a tragedy..

I get to the station and see the all the normal freaks in position.

At the side entrance is the simpering God Squadder.  He’s grasping the hand of an unwilling victim and he seems reluctant to release his grip. He sickens me.  He inflicts himself on people which is unnecessary. If you want religion you will find it without his or anyone’s assistance…it’s a personal choice.  I take the thrusting of God on people quite badly.  I like early Van Halen but if you don’t that’s you’re problem not mine… you’re missing out …It’s a matter for you…

This is a weird station. It seems to be controlled by a whoop (to be fair I’m guessing at the collective noun) of 1970’s rock fans who hang around the ticket office in underground uniform.  Like most worshippers of The late Crow they serve little purpose but ooze self importance, roll ups and Carling Black Label.  They sport mullets and lank pony tails and large dark framed glasses.  It’s how I imagine Uriah Heap looking after the glory days had ended and they needed work, or that ‘League of Gentleman’ character who was in the rock band ‘Crème Brulee’.  A motley band of saddo’s longingly waiting for a return to the good old days….It’s a shit business guys….

I get on the train which is deader than a dead thing…

0738 Hours….. The Freak Box…..

A few waifs appear in the carriage and we prepare for take off…

Two stops in and I find my self sitting opposite a student type girl wearing a pair of leggings and a silver biker jacket. In its self this is not wholly unusual, she’s a student intent on making her mark on this train and I’m always pleased to see the unusual….It’s a happy arrangement…everyone smiles internally…

The jacket appears to be spray painted silver. This reminds me of a story my Bruv told me once of his fashion faux pas in the 70’s when he purchased some Doc Martens to spray silver a’la ‘Space Rock Rebel’.  He buys the boots, gets home, unpacks the boots…removes the laces and sprays them silver.  He re-laces them and puts them on….. Ahhhh…. Two left feet…. Flat spin panic takes over… What would you do?  He knows what to do…He was trained by the best.  He drops them in some white spirit to remove the paint and then sheepishly tries to return them.  At the shop he gets all ‘I’d like a refund…I’ve changed my mind’ and nearly gets away with it until the assistant notices the famous Doc Marten stitching is silver…. Rumbled..

There are no such issues with the jacket before me… it’s a professional job. The leggings she’s wearing are freaking me out though as they are designed to look like leg bones with attached pelvis. It’s disturbing and really taking my attention away from her magnificent ‘Flock of Seagulls’ haircut.  She looks different which is what it’s all about when you are young.

Before her sits me…. Mr North Face…bland and uninteresting but warm and ready for any weather that may come my way on a tube train.  In the event of a new ice age starting at street level I’ll be ready… Who’ll be laughing then?

Mrs Mothballs gets on and sits next to me….The classic smell of your Nan’s house. Surely she can smell herself? It’s a bit like Damp Clothes guy, Garlic man and Musty Crotch Tramp… Deep down they all know and should apologise to their fellow travellers in writing….it’s unnecessary.

The train is nicely busy now and as we pull into a station I notice a man wearing two pairs of glasses reading a book. Not a pair on his head and another on his eyes, he’s wearing two pairs while reading a book.  This is a first for me. His eyes are so bad Specsavers were unable to fashion the necessary and so special measures were initiated.  I’m side on to him and so can see pair number one are close to the eye sockets, while pair number two are on the furthest possible part of the bridge of the nose… I’d love to see him head-on all wide eyed and mental…

I alight at my station and take a pamphlet and a nicely bound religious tome from the sensible shoed woman at the exit of my station. They must think that I’m well into their beliefs as I try to get one at lease twice a week… Little do they know that my actual plan is to put them out of business by hoarding the books under my desk at work… It could take a while but I’m in for the long haul, I’m a professional dismantler….

I do some stuff at work which breaks the monotony of drinking tea and moaning about the lack of biscuits and decide that after the requisite minimum hourage I can leave. No one stops me.  No one ever stops me. It’s too easy and I need a change of employer as this isn’t good for me or them.  Plans are afoot…

I sit on an empty train home. There are four people in my segment and we are all split by a spare seat signifying we want nothing to do with each other.  It’s the tube equivalent of Gentleman’s urinal etiquette.

A young woman gets on. She’s carrying a rucksack and starts to walk through the carriage.  As she gets closer I notice that she’s carrying something. It doesn’t appear to be a big red button marked ‘detonate’ so I relax, uncurl myself from the ball I have put myself in and carry on reading the paper.

She gets to our segment and deposits what she is holding on every empty seat available.  After this drop-off she stands at the end of the carriage and waits.  I look down to see what is on the seat next to me and see that it’s a packet of tissues covered with a typed note pleading for monetary assistance as she’s young mother in need of cash… there’s a mention of God in the narrative so I engage my disgusted face.

The note says she has a one year old child and would be grateful for a few pennies for the tissues to assist in her quest to become a tissue saleswoman… I don’t need tissues… I don’t need God.

It’s a sad scenario and indicative of the state of the nation but essentially it’s a load of cobblers… I mean, where is the kid? how much is she paying the babysitter? How did she buy the tissues? How much credit is on her Oyster card? How did she print out the note?  What computer did you use to type it on? How much was that North Face ‘Jester’ 20 litre rucksack?… It doesn’t wash with me… I toy with asking these questions but she realises that this carriage doesn’t need tissues and so she snaffles the parcels up and moves on,  she may have none of my loose change but she has nice tissues and a quality rucksack….

Yeah, I know…. I’m a cold hearted animal… unfortunately I was made that way by life and my employers.  Be thankful… I say this stuff so you don’t have to.  It’s my job.  It’s what I do.  I’m a idiot.

If it’s any consolation I now have a throat infection and a cold and so could really do with those tissues…maybe there is a God…

Carry on Citizens….

Death and all of his friends……

Before I start,  I’m not looking for sympathy. I’m not special and I know some of you will be the same as me and have had worse than this. This isn’t a cry for help or some deep insight into the inside of my head,  It’s just another low level rant about something I’m a bit sick of.   I’m just letting it out…. I’m sharing… I’m a sharer….

I’ve seen a lot of death in my time.  Not the ‘old relative dies’ type death, I’m talking the ‘gone too soon’ type death.  The worse kind of death.  When an elderly relative dies we deal with it in a reflective way.  Of course it’s sad but it’s also joyous in an particularly Irish ‘celebratory’ way, as you look back at what was achieved and not what wasn’t.

You know this…. and I know that….

For my sins, and they have been frequent, very bad (in some cases ‘Cardinal’) and many, I have been involved in the running of a football club for about 28 years.  I’ve been a player, a captain, a secretary, a chairman, a barman and a target for fists and hate throughout that time.  It’s my choice, I can take it and I can give it.

During that time I’ve made some of my greatest mates and had some of the best laughs imaginable…. Can anyone forget Amsterdam?… the prostitute with the Adams’ apple, the violence free nightclub exit,  the pissed 180,  The Cryuff turn against the Dutch,  the vibrating bag at the airport, the friendship pennant made from a McDonald’s place mat which was  handed to a bemused Dutch centre half at the kick off…. Comedy Gold…

One of the downsides of being involved more than the average a player is that you become emotionally involved with the membership. You get to know all the members and not just the ones you share the Ralgex with and stand naked in the shower next to.

Soon after putting myself forward as a Captain for the club I was in a meeting of the overall Old Boys Committee and they announced that a member of the club had committed suicide.  It was my first memory of dealing with non family death.  I was 20.  The guy in question was older but no older than 50.  It was quite shocking at the time as you can’t fathom the mind-set to do that when you are young.  It affected me. I only met him once but I still remember his face and his name and I imagine I’ll never forget it.

A few years later when I was Secretary I had to announce to the football committee that one of our old teachers had died.  He wasn’t young.  He had retired.  I never liked him.  He was brutal to boys in the lower school, a real nasty bully however when you went to middle school he called you ‘friend’,  presumably as he thought he might get smacked in the mouth in retribution for  past crimes.

I announced his death to the assembled captains and there was a ripple of applause tinged with relief and joy .  We all had a drink to toast his death.  Not my finest hour but we all agreed it was necessary.  I had a Heineken.  It was great,  he was not.

Over the following years I attended several funerals of players of the club.

John was the first one.  He was one of my first skippers.  He was 10 years older than me and in reality a bit of a pompous prick who manage to stay in the side because the youth, which included me, won the games for him.  We never saw eye to eye as he was more stroppy than me at the time and he made bad footballing decisions.  He was a tactical wasteland who thought he was a genius.

Anyway, tragically he developed a rare form of terminal bone cancer which took him fairly quickly.

He was a biggish man who liked his food but when he arrived at the club annual dinner, gaunt and with tubes attached I saw him in a different light.  He was brave…braver than me… he wanted one last club dinner and he wouldn’t miss it for anything.  I was talking to my best mate Bunny at the bar and I could see this guy over Bun’s shoulder as he struggled to walk in the club.  I told Bun the bloke was coming and that we should act normal.  Sounds harsh but he’d gone from 15 stone to about 8 stone in a few months so the natural reaction would have been to be shocked.  Bun turned round and greeted John as if nothing was wrong… a true professional then and now.

When John finally left for the night due to exhaustion Bun and I toasted him and drank till dawn…. We normally did that anyway but he was in our thoughts that night and we regularly raised a glass in his honour.

Three months later John was gone… I went to his funeral where his 12 year old sang a Gaelic Ballad next to his coffin.  It was chilling and cannot be forgotten.

In more recent years I’ve attended three funerals that I never thought I’d see.  Walshie, Sean and one of my oldest friends Rob.

Walshie was a giant of a man both physically and by personality.  He’s the only man who could make me run as you didn’t want to let him down.  He was a warrior.   Again cancer was the cause.

Walshie’s coffin arrived at the cemetery during a thunderstorm but during the prays by the graveside the sun came out and the grass steamed and the atmosphere became hazy.   At that point a fiddle was produced and everyone sang ‘The Fields of Athenry’. It was pure theatre.  During the singing I looked about and saw his 90 year old father, his ex wife and new girlfriend consoling each other by the grave as he was lowered in while his kids dropped gifts into the hole.  A Celtic shirt, a toy car some letters and pictures… gut wrenching stuff.  I’ve never cried so much at a funeral.

At the wake grown men openly wept when we were shown a video of Walshie which consisted of pictures of him over the years to songs his kids had personally picked.  I walked home smashed off me head crying… I was a mess…

The guy who arranged Walshie’s funeral and gave a speech of such emotion previously unheard of from his mouth was one of his oldest mates.  Tragically he died a few years later.

Sean was another football club legend.  Originally a trappy scaffolder he carved out a career as a trappy financial advisor.  I loved him, lots didn’t. He had a roguish charm and was a great player who I spent many an hour laughing with and at over the years.

Illness didn’t get Sean, medical malpractice did so I’ll say no more.  There were less tears at Sean’s funeral but a lot of shock.  A  needless loss of life rather than a drawn out affair to that a bastard of a disease.  Three months before Sean’s death we were on the lash in Brighton oblivious to what was about to happen…. it still seems slightly unreal..

The third great man I have lost in the past three years was one of my oldest friends.

Rob was a fireman who was killed in a motorbike crash on his way to work.  Another tragic waste of a great man, gone too soon leaving a child fatherless and a family empty.  I had some great times with Rob.  We worked together in pubs, drove around at night looking for kebab shops, we waited for him outside his girlfriends house when we were kids, we went to Ibiza in 1988, I even drank a pint of my own urine in a pub because he proved to me that he had…. turned out he hadn’t…. he did a pint of orange cordial and warm tap water but no matter they were glory days.  Those glory days are merely words now, confined to memory only…. no more talks… just thoughts.

Today I went to another funeral of a young man…39 years old with three lovely kids.

I’d only known him a couple of years due to our boys playing football on the same side but it turned out we had mutual friends so we shared a few laughs at their expense while standing in the cold and wet watching kids run about.  I have only good things to say about this man and that is almost impossible for a nasty fucker like me.  He was always smiling and so that’s the only image I have of him.  A good guy gone.  I stood by his coffin today and suddenly felt my own mortality…I watched his 3 year old wave at me through a car window oblivious of what was going on knowing that her grief will hit her in the years to come.  It’s simply wrong on all levels.

What has happened?  Years ago the old died and the young lived.  I don’t recall my parents attending many funerals of their immediate associates when they were my age and I’m old enough to remember.  When did it change?  What made it change?  One thing I do know is that I’m pretty sick of it,  I’ve had my fill but I will remember the Men and not their ends…..

Death Sickens me….. I blame Cameron and our Purring Monarch…..

The fear of the Flannel….

0801 hours…. The Freak Box….

I’m in place.  Settled.

Punters rush on and the carriage fills up fairly quickly.  I have a seat so I’m happy enough and care little for the standing.  Harsh?  no… we all think the same… We all rush for seats, we all want the space, we all pretend to be asleep….It’s the tube way, it’s accepted.  If you are wearing a “baby on board” badge you can have my seat however if you aren’t and look like you could be then I ain’t risking the offer and the verbal.  Old ladies, if you can stand and feel you can deal with rush hour then you can suffer like the young…not my problem.

I appear to be the only man in this entire section of the carriage.  Should there be some kind of apocalyptic event at street level during the journey, humanity will survive in the tunnels due to me…. They all look healthy and of child bearing age and I’ll be happy to deliver the goods for Queen and Country…  I’m a Patriot…I fancy a Knighthood but I’ll settle for a medal of some type though.  A ‘VC’ perhaps with a the legend ‘The Father of the Nation’…..

Anyway, to my left and opposite I see my pet hate on public transport.  It happens a lot on the tube and the bus…. Women doing their make up. The blonde next to me is on eyes and lashes and the brunette opposite is doing blusher and lips… I could be walking through the ground floor of Selfridges on Oxford Street but I’m not.  I’m on a bumpy, sweaty train banged out with people.

Why do women do this?  When did it become acceptable? Would it be acceptable for me to whip out a toothbrush or a nose clipper…. I think not. What would be the male equivalent?  I can only assume it would be shaving.

A couple of months ago I witnessed a bloke in his 50’s wearing a suit, riding up from the the escalator from the depths at Chancery Lane using an electric razor. He was oblivious to the fact they he was covering his fellow travellers in his shearing’s that were being wafted about…. filth bag…. That was as disgusting as the time I saw a builder sit on an early morning bus eating a cold roast dinner out of a Tupperware container on his lap.  It was a horrendous. He used only a spoon and drank the solidified gravy by tipping the container at a corner into his mouth.  One Christmas on the Northern Line I witnessed two polish builders drink half a bottle of whiskey in shots over a 25 minute period.  They had their own shot glasses and never said a single word….0630 hours…when they departed they merely winked at each other and bumped knuckles… Magnificent effort.  I see this kind of behaviour as disgusting and unnecessary but also as eccentric and funny.  The make up thing is noting more than lazy.

I also note a comedy T-shirt on an overly nourished young woman to my right.  She has a lovely face and doesn’t need a slogan on her chest saying “Keep Calm and Party”.  It’s a shame…My hope for her is totally lost when she gets her phone out of her pocket and it’s in a pink rubber case with two little comedy hands coming out the sides attempting to hug the owner….It makes me question Darwin.  Her chances of being involved in the country’s repopulation with my assistance are now slim.

It’s getting hot on here now as more and more people pile on… my eyes are at crotch level.  Is this what it’s like to be a porn star?.. on a level with belts and flies and only looking up when commanded and even then only in in a sheepish manner?  Through the bulges I see a pair of long, slender legs and a short, short skirt.  When I say ‘short’ I mean too short… dangerously short for the wearer.  I can’t quite see a face yet but I assume its a young girl who is confident, bold, aloof to convention and happy to wear a skirt in public that when the legs are crossed flagrantly reveals a partial buttock…The arrogance of youth…oh the majesty of it all..

But It’s not a young woman…. it’s not a middle aged woman… it’s an aging divorcee who’s ‘giving it another go’.  I know I’m the least fashionable man on the planet…I’m jeans and a fleece bloke not Gok Wan but I know that isn’t the garment for her.  I scan her face. She seems uncomfortable and perhaps slightly panicked.  She knows it’s a mistake but she’s committed to it….. Fuck it.. who am I to Judge?  Is she happy?…good luck to her, I wish I had her guts.  Godspeed tube princess!!

I get to work to find I have to go back on the tube to assist a colleague in speaking to a liar about another, bigger liar… I know the route and it’s not great.  It means the Central line.

The Central line is boiling hot.  We get on the train and although fairly roomy the heat is unbearable.  It’s like getting off the plane in Malaga in reverse.  That moment brings joy where as this brings misery.

We stand by the door next to a big, big lad in a shirt and ‘moo moo’ sized knitted tank top.  He is sweating like a pregnant nun….a terrible sight, a mess.  I notice something in his hand , light Blue and with an absorbent quality…. he’s  carrying a flannel.  It’s a sweat flannel.  He’s taken steps to combat the leakage by mopping himself down as we trundle along with a towelling flannel.  Has it come to this?  We used to rule the world…..

Flannels are horrendous items at the best of times. As a kid I remember then rotting in bathrooms and never fully drying out. Worse than that was using a warm one that had been used in the last 10 minutes…. It could have been anywhere. They are an icon from the 70’s like Imperial Leather in bar form.  They ooze BHS Christmas presents for your Dad….stuffed into a comedy mug in a gift pack.  All wrong…so wrong..

I used to play football with a bloke who brought a flannel and soap in a dish into the shower at the end of the match.  He was in his mid twenties and had a special bag to transport them in. When he used it to wash himself it flapped about like he was fighting a bat.. He was an accountant. The classic weekend warrior I felt compelled to apologise to the opposition for.  He was the flannel demographic… the flannel advertisers dream….

‘Flannels’ for the accountants who bathes.  That is the advert!!

There is no place for a flannel on a tube train or a bus and I don’t care if you are hot and sweaty…deal with it in some other way. Sweat out like the rest of us.  If you think carrying a flannel around as a sweat mop is acceptable then there is no hope for this country…we might as well hand over the keys to the flannel users and roll over…The flannels must not and cannot win…

This country sickens me….

 

 

 

 

The worst car thief on the planet…..

Saturday.  A glorious day, not the best day, that’s Friday, but a good one none the less.

Generally on a Saturday I visit a spaceship masquerading as a football stadium to watch some millionaires roll about the floor. This week its an early kick off so I have to enter the place with only tea in my body…this usually spells disaster as the pre match Guinness is a tradition but I’m not an animal so I deal with it….I can fit in anywhere… I’m a foul mouthed social chameleon..

Outside I meet my associate… a 60 year old Art student wearing red Adidas Stan Smith trainers… I ignore the trainers as he’s a top bloke and we enter the stadium.  We have good seats surrounded by good people… I’m lucky… it could be very bad.  A few years ago I had a person sit next to me who would shout “shoot” anytime the home team got into the opposition half… after a while I was forced to ask her to be quiet until she was able to fully comprehend what was going on.  She wasn’t happy…I didn’t care..

It’s a good game and the boys played well. We leave the stadium and head to the greatest pub in the history of mankind to discuss nothing in particular in great depth over some Guinness and peanuts.  It’s high end stuff….

My drinking buddy is a man who requires a plan. It’s almost a contract.  Every time we enter this pub he asks me how many are we going to have.  This drives me mental as I’m a ‘go with the flow’ type… if it starts badly go home, if it starts well go home Tuesday is my mantra.  We start the negotiations and settle on 4 pints… it’s about right for a Saturday afternoon.  By the way, we always have four pints so the negotiations are ultimately pointless but it makes him happy.

We put the world straight and hit the bus for home to prepare to take the ladies out for dinner in a Highgate pub of incredible ponceitude with good food.

The Gastropub in question is banged out and looks like there’s been a burglary…..kids running around, scrabble being paid, crayons on the floor, used glasses everywhere, prams in the pub, very few chins are evident and the ultimate turd in waterpipe….. Micro beers.

Micro Brewing is the apex in ‘Yummy Mummy’ new money socialising.  Beers no one really likes, that mostly taste of ear wax with an aftertaste that stays with you for days. It comes in bottles with comedy names or outlandish three foot long glasses but by God they look cool.  Luckily I’m not, never have been and will never be ‘Cool’…. I go Rioja…you can’t mess up Rioja…. it’s classical…

We have a great night chatting and quaffing and all have a good laugh at the size of my £7.50 starter of Scallops, Black pudding and bacon which arrives in a shell… The scallops are the size of a penny piece and I have to hunt for the other component parts which are so minute they contain no flavour.  I’m reminded of the Spaniard at a particularly low level event we attended where we were presented with a starter of “Plateau de fruits de mer” where the only fishy thing present in the bowl was brilliantly described by him as a “shard of prawn”.  Like the £7.50 starter it was so funny it was pointless complaining….

Next morning we wake to a silent house. Initially I assume I have gone deaf but then realise that the kids are at a sleep over. We have  a lazy morning before we go to pick them up.

En route to collect them Jen stops at a shop to get some flowers for our mates who had the kids.  We pull into the car park of a Tesco and I’m playing with my phone so I stay in the car.  She gets out and goes to the back seat to get her bag she shuts the door and I hear her lock the car.  For about ten seconds it doesn’t register in my thumping head but then I realise that I’m locked in an alarmed car in a busy Tesco car park..

I can’t move..

I’m all over the shop.  Incapacitated. Paralysed. Catatonic.  I’m Robert De Niro in ‘Awakenings’ without the chequered floor and the drugs….What do I? What CAN I do?… The most probable answer appears to be ‘Fuck all’ so I remain fixed in position only moving my eyes to scan the interior.

The doors are locked I can see that, my hand is to my face holding the phone that I was reading when I was incarcerated. I look like a frozen blind bloke reading a text message.  I wish I could see myself because I’m convinced it would be funny. A grown man whose only movement is his eyes… I look like the human version of one of those paintings in a horror film that scans a room before the eyes become part of the painting again.

Inadvertently I move my leg and nothing untoward happens.  I’ve cracked it… I am stealth personified…I’ve got away with it… Great I can get back to messing about on my Pho… nice…there it goes!!

Alarms sound,   lights flash,  people rally.  I lunge for the door to escape.  No fuckin’ chance!! You can’t escape a car you are locked in.  I look out the window to see people peering in, I see kids pointing and being dragged away by concerned parents as clearly I could  be a nutjob trapped in a car waiting to catch someone’s eye in order to burst out of a window to strike…

I’ve been embarrassed before but this is bad….I am a focal point of stupidity….

I have a moment of inspiration amidst the noise and lights.  I’ll ring Jen… she’ll return to save me.  What’s the chances of that happening?  No chance… she doesn’t pick her phone up ever, let alone in a moment of need.  I sit and wait… and wait.. and wait… she don’t care, I’m nothing to her compared to Tesco’s.   I look like the worlds worse car thief.  A man who can’t drive but decided to break into a car to sit in the passenger seat waiting to be arrested…. it’s a cry for help, a tragic cry for help.

Ten minutes in and I’m used to the lights and noise.  I feel like a great Ape in a cage.  Shall I chuck faeces at the punters?… Shall I break out, go berserk and rip off the windscreen wipers?  No… I have to take it…..Looks of pity and piss taking are everywhere.. the pointers are many.. the helpers are few.

Then I see her in the wing mirror.  The woman with the key.  She’s staring at her phone in a confused manner and intermittently looking at the flashing lights… suddenly it all clicks… she gets it… she knows what she’s done… she is the architect of my humiliation in a Tesco car park.  There is no remorse, there is no release for the innocent…There is only uncontrollable laughter.  The type of silent laughter that stops you from breathing.  It’s the most evil thing I’ve ever seen. She’s revelling in the power…She’s the prison officer poking the pizza under the door before dragging it away…. Filthy screws!! Filthy screws!!

Finally the noise and lights cease.  I await her entrance into the car but she’s all over the place.  Eventually she makes it in and we have to sit there while she regains some kind of class and we can all move on from this unsavoury incident.  She’s weeping with laughter…. we could be here a while…The whole day is ruined…

Sunday…. The worst of all days….

The Greek God with no Trumpet….

Monday… the worst of all the days.  A bastard of a day.  Only surpassed by Sunday evening when you were a at school which delivered the depressing countdown combo of ‘The Muppets’, ‘When the Boat comes in’, ‘Agony’ or ‘Two’s Company’ and then the tolling bell that was ‘The South Bank Show’.  Once the opening bars of the theme to ‘The South Bank Show’ kicked in, it was over….. school was imminent….No way out… no escape…. only becoming ill in your sleep could potentially save the situation…

It’s much the same now.  There is little good about a Sunday.   Sunday is like January 2nd on a weekly basis…the furthest point possible from the good times… work beckons and there’s nothing that we can do about it…

As usual I walk to the station.  I like the walk… it’s 15 minutes and as interesting as it gets. Millionaires row followed instantly by crammed hovel…classic London.

As I reach the station I see the familiar sight of the God Squadder.  He’s there most days handing out pamphlets to the weak minded.  He’s a sort of Mr Magoo type in the kind of clothes that only nothing-to-do old people seem able to find… flat cap, bumper car shoes, heavy fabric the ‘car crash through the window of a MIND shop’ effort. Wholly unappealing, musty with a hint of urine.

He’s never approached me. I have an unapproachable face so I’m hardly surprised but I do find that I save a special look for him.  In reality he’ll always leave me alone as I have testicles and he only really entertains women.  He’s a hand grabber…a look deeply in the eyes merchant.  You can almost see the religion being forced into the victims. Occasional he delivers the double peck to the cheek….sickening… this is the real reason he stands there.  He’s the religious equivalent of the laminated “Big Issue” that you can’t buy… show me the money or show me the money-shot…

I head to the platform and get on the emptier train heading in to London.  I have to do this trip every day so I’m not bothered if I let a packed train go in order to get a seat or a less pack carriage.  I’ve never understood the people that want to stand, crammed in someone’s breath zone in order to get to work two minutes earlier….I don’t want to get to work at all.

0743 Hours….. The Freak Box….

I’m planted in the middle of the carriage, my favourite seat… near enough the door but far enough away so I’m not hassled into giving up the seat to someone carrying a baby or wearing incontinence pants…

It’s fairly empty, in fact I’m the only person in this segment.  I whack up the ‘phones.  Naturally it’s ‘Royal Blood’ as I’m obsessed with it’s magnificence.  In the window opposite I see the reflection of another London bound train pull in and the faint sound of the platform Tannoy announcing that my train is first out. Cue panic in train two as the punters, who moments ago were smug in their seats, must now rush across to my train like zombies chasing a fat kid, to fight for a new seat.

Then I hear thudding steps coming my way.

In bursts a young Greek God,  all muscles and beard in loose open shirt with muscle vest beneath….City Boy is my guess .  I spot the obligatory “Maximuscle” water bottle poking from his bag.   He couldn’t give a fuck who else wants the seat opposite me,  they will be dispatched if they attempt to get it before him.  He sits down and seems to calm down slightly…

But wait a moment… he’s not happy.. he starts doing a seated version of the iPhone dance… he’s frantic, the hands are everywhere but the phone is clearly missing.  He’s in the bag, out the bag, in the pockets, out the pockets…a faint sheen of panicked sweat appears on his face and then he stiffens and looks across the platform at the other train.

He knows it, we know it…but can he make it? His hesitation is fatal… the door alarm bleeps.  He lunges  but is weighed down by Green Lanes muscle… he looks good but speed ain’t his thing….The doors crash shut and his lip trembles…  it’s over.. a 100 pictures of himself in a pair of speedo’s are left abandoned in a photo gallery on an iphone on a seat in a dead tube train.. “Achilles” paws at the door as we pull away.. he doesn’t look back at us but waits, ready to exit at the next stop in the hope he can make it back before a devotee of the deceased Crow can snaffle up the lost phone.

I smile….what an unprecedented start to a Monday…Bolshie bloke crumbles under his own whey protein fuelled arrogance… marvellous…

My gloom lifts and a sense of joyous euphoria hits me as I notice a young bloke get on at the next stop to fill the now vacant seat opposite me.  He’s carrying his own rubber ring to sit on…. he looks pale, it’s a clear case of the knobby’s and he must suffer our scrutiny…. personally I’d go to work later to minimise the attention but it’s a matter for him…..

I kill time at work… I don’t mind as I’ve got nothing better to do and I quite like the laugh.  After some sleep and a few phone calls The Horse and I retire to the pub for pre gig drinks.  Robert Plant beckons at The Roundhouse.  Horse is excited… I’ve never seen him so childlike… It’s brilliant.  However I do sense a certain disbelief on his part… I got these ticket free from a Greengrocer and until we actually get in I’m not sure even I can believe it.

We sink half a gallon and head to the queue…. It’s long and filled with Top Gear audience types and students who want the free stuff without appreciating the fact that they are about to see a Rock God belt it out.. These people are the ultimate freeloaders.

I’ve seen Plant before and have bought the albums, even the bad ones.. I know he’s called ‘Robert’ and not ‘Roger’.  These gigs are created for people like me and the Horse and not the assembled mob in the queue. If this was a paying gig this lot would be ‘Stub Hubbers’ paying top dollar for something they neither understand nor fully want to be at.  Attending concerts is no longer about being a fan it’s about saying you went… is that really what the musicians want?

We finally enter the building and Horse’s joy is evident.  We head to the bar and get suckered in to the mentality of the mob by drinking red wine from plastic tumblers…. rouge at a Rock gig…. My big Bruv would punch me in the face for that….

Plant starts his stuff…. It’s top drawer as expected.  The new stuff sounds great and he knocks out some classic Zeppelin including ‘No Quarter’ which has always been my favourite so I’m happy…

I scan the crowd… There’s a Rupert over there…. He has a younger girl on his shoulders… he’s wobbling,  she’s grinding herself into the back of his neck…he’s not used to this kind of attention outside of a debutants prom… he seems distracted … either that or her jean’s zip is cutting a groove into his neck..

“MATILDA??…. MATILDA??” he screams a little too high pitched…. “Can you see up there?…. can you see?”  She can see… she loves Roger Plant and “The Led Zep” and his new African direction is “tantalizing”…. It’s enough to make me weep….

The gig ends and we are chucked out into the night … I walk to Camden with the Horse for a rare trip on The Bus of Dreams where I manage to sit on a damp seat..

Red wine on a Monday might be a mistake..