All posts by Mike Walsh

A brief (ish) word on why I began this blog. I am a happily married, self-employed joiner and have worked in the industry for coming on 30 years. I have two daughters and a son. The girls are/were both away at University, one Just completing 4 years of a Speech Therapy degree - which I have to say, (to my utter surprise) wasn't about teaching lisping kids how to pronounce their "S'" so they didn't sound like they had a tongue like a party streamer, but was wayyyyyyyy more medically involved.. (Well done Em) The other daughter is galloping her way passionately through her 3rd year studying veterinary medicine and seems to be on placement at practices or farms every time everyone else is on holiday and using large animals like glove puppets. (Tremendous Hol) My son has played football from being a small boy to the professional level he is currently at and has decided to embark on a 4 year scholarship in America, again playing football (or soccer - pff - as these Yankies like to call it) while doing a computer science degree. My sister has moved over to France with her husband, where they are finally completing the renovation of a derelict old farm house they began some 6 years ago just outside Cognac. This blog was my way of keeping in touch and (hopefully) keeping them entertained during the time I don't get to see them. Originally it was intended as a personal thing, just for those who are absent from home. So when I began it, I was posting away like I was on a sugar rush. I have to admit, I'm not computer savvy and finding my way around sites is a chore. Instead I allowed my blind enthusiasm to get the better of me and began machine-gunning away at the key-board, posting stories and sending links for my daughters/son and sister to read at their leisure, laughing to myself as I re-remembered incidents that had taken place over the last 40 years or so. Imagine my surprise therefore, when I discovered I was publishing on a public forum open to whoever discovered my ramblings... It was a slightly toe-curling-nails-down-a-blackboard moment, as I realized others had read the words I had written. Dear God But then I decided - buggerit - They're all true stories. The ridiculous and the funny. People can make their own minds up. I can only hope you have as much fun reading these stories as I did writing them down.

Raging Monkey – Part 2

 

Dennis didn’t look too happy today.

We’d just had a delivery that was sat on a pallet in front of the job. It was a cold December and snowing. He was looking hard at the pile of boxes that was taller than him,  accumulating a peppering of snow. I went out to give him a lift to load it inside.

“Come on Dennis lad! let’s get this sorted!”

My attempt at enthusiasm was falling on deaf ears. He was obviously really annoyed.

“Cheer up Den! S’just a bit of snow! Look! I’m helping! We’ll get this in in no time! With my brains and your small bit of brawn we’ll get it done!”

Stony silence. In his  annoyance he picked up more than he needed to in an effort to get the job done. There was more involved here than I thought.

This could be good.

I collected a box of ceiling tiles off the pile and followed his angry march inside.

“Come on lad! Suck a breath in and let the poison out! How’s the parole going on?”

Dennis isn’t big and the stiff-back walk only heightened his short stature.

He wasn’t wearing my cheery-mate attempt to find out what was wrong. As we dropped a box each on the growing pile inside, I changed tack and went direct.

“Alright Dennis. What’s going on?”

I asked this with slight trepidation and a glance at my watch. This could take up serious time.

He mumbled something vague and waved a paw in the air. Something had obviously gone on to leave him not just angry but dejected as well.

“Den?  What’s up mate?”

I have to say something here.  I like Dennis.  He’s a genuine character. Considering all the thing’s he’s told me, you’d expect him to have a lot more problems than he does. It’s a credit to him that he leads a normal existence and works six-days-a week constantly.  He tends to wear his heart on his sleeve and  you know when he’s truly disgruntled.  It spills out in a total rush. The information starts in dribs and drabs,  then you get The Lot. But on the whole, he is a completely sincere, genuine person. I think that’s why I like him so much.

Dennis’ grievances  tend to be relayed in :  The World’s Against Me theme.

There’ll be a slight hesitation in passing on what’s actually  happened, but he’ll be that pissed off about how The World has conspired against him that he can’t help it, he has to get it out of his system.

“Got a fine.”

“A fine you say? Oh dear oh dear.”

Inwardly I was thinking ‘Here we go. Jackpot.’ I’m sad like that. I’m easily entertained.

“What was the fine for Den?”

“Fuckin train.”

“Train?  What? You been at the gym? You been training? What? Oh.  Railway train? Ah. Didn’t pay again. ”

This was a common theme at one  time. It had become a kind of competition to get home without paying for a ticket. I assumed he had reverted to type.

I gave his shoulder a shove. I tried sympathy.

“I supposed that was a £50 quid fine then. Bummer mate. You been dodging paying for a ticket on the journey home again?”

“No! I get a lift now!”

“What? Then, this fine…?”

“Its from way back! Two fuckin’ years ago!!”

“How long?? Hang on Dennis. How much is this fine?”

“£2400!!”

How much! Christ! What did you do?? Rob the fuckin’ train??”

There was a slight shift in stance. An embarrassed shuffle before he continued.

I find that there’s always a hesitation in relaying information when someone feels they’re about to be judged. I realised there was more to this than he was letting on. He was still pissed but also slow to continue. Obviously he had done something wrong, that he knew was wrong  and now he was telling me he realised that I’d know he’d done something wrong.  What was pissing him off was he had committed the cardinal sin of getting caught doing something wrong and now he was having to admit it.

It was like watching a small neanderthal trying to decide whether attacking this mammoth in front of him was a good idea or not.

“No! No. It was just a fine for a  ticket! For not paying my fair! The ticket was only worth a couple of quid! We just ran out of train!!”

Like that explained it.

We walked back to the pallet and collected another box each of tiles. I asked as we walked back out of the drifting snow.

“What, are you talking about Dennis??”

By now he was caught up in the conversation and was trying to tell me as we walked, stopping every other step.

“You know.  When you run out of train?”

“Dennis. Mate. Iv’e never dodged a fair in  my life. I have enough trouble working out how to pay at the automated machine, never mind not paying and working out how to get away from it.”

We’d come to a stand-still.

“You can walk and talk lad. Walk. And please, explain.”

He moved towards  to the growing pile inside the building and dropped his box on top of what we had already brought in, moving to allow me to do the same then stopped to continue. He took a measured look as he outlined his ticket -avoidance-method.

“Well, you have to work out where you sit. See?The inspector gets on at one point, and we used to just, you know, move away from him as he came down the train checking tickets. The bastard used to get on a couple of stops before we got to Liverpool. By the time he gets near  us, we’d be in the last carriage arriving at Lime Street station and, you know  – offski!”

“Ah. You misjudged your starting position then?”

“What? No. The bastards started getting on the train at a station  earlier .”

“What a bunch of arseholes. The devious buggers. Who’d have thought that they’d get wise to it. The rotten shits.”

This had already dawned on Dennis though, and then some.

Something seemed to register then escalate across his face until the final emotion papered there was shock.

“Do You know what? I think they have something against Scousers!”

Whoa. The paranoia. This wa another level.

“What makes you say that Den?”

He looked at me like I was stupid.

“Aww ‘ey mate. It’s obvious. You only ever see them on the train going into Liverpool. You never see the bastards going the other way – to Manchester. It’s ‘cos we’re Scousers!!”

I’ve always been one to poke a simmering fire.

“Well. That’s understandable Dennis. Why would they police a train coming into Manchester?? Ever fucker wants to get out of Liverpool and you can guarantee they’ll pay to do it  No point raiding that train – ”

“Wha’! You cheeky bastard -”

I waved away his outrage and guided him towards the door.

“The story Dennis. Get on with it. We’ll never find the pallet in the snow if this take’s much longer.”

We collected another box each.

“Well. That was it wasn’t it? We ran out of train. He’d got to everyone before we hit Lime Street. We were  there for fuckin’ ages.  We had to wait while he got round  to writing the ticket. ”

“Why would it take so long to get away? How long can it take to write a ticket?”

Then something registered.

“What do you mean ‘Everyone‘?”

“You know. Everyone. All the other people that ran out of train. ”

I had to stop behind him to avoid bumping into him as he halted, with his box cradled against his chest,  gazing off  into the original memory. Almost nostalgic.

“I mean, It could get a bit crowded in the last compartment before we arrived at Lime Street.  You know?  When those  Nazi bastards got on at the old stop?  But when they started getting on earlier, well,  it was rammed in the last carriage and we hadn’t even come near Lime street!

I had come to a complete stop myself as realisation dawned. I placed a hand on his shoulder to turn him towards me as I addressed him.

“Dennis. Mate.  Are you trying to say that no-one payed for their ticket? And everyone was galloping up the train trying to stay in front of the inspector? It must have been like a fucking stampede of Scousers!! It’s a wonder the fucking train could stop by the time it hit Lime street with the sheer weight of everyone in the front carriage!!  No wonder they raided the train every night!”

” Yeah, but the bastards – I mean!  £2400!!”

“- Dennis. If no fucker pays for a ticket going home, and every time the inspector looks up as he comes down the train,  every man, woman, child and granny is heading in the opposite direction, then what the fuck,  do you think they’re going to do. They must have thought ‘There’s no way we can process this lot. I know. Let’s get on at Manchester , it take’s 45 minutes. We can start issuing tickets as soon as the doors shut…’-”

” – They just hate Scousers -”

I had a mental image of the train arriving in Lime street and the effort put in to avoid the inspectors.

 

“- Fuck me Dennis. they should have started at Birmingham!! Obviously they underestimated the size of the task they were taking on if you had to sit and wait to be issued a ticket at the end of the journey!!  When they finally bottle-necked you all, they couldn’t even shout  ‘All you’s Scouser spread ’em against the walls!‘ There wasn’t enough walls to go round!!!!”

“Aww ‘ey mate -”

“Alright. Alright. So tell me. How did a £50 fine turn into £2400?”

He softened somewhat as we approached the pallet for the final time,  picked one of the remaining  boxes and continued.

“Well,  I lived with me bird.  So I gave me Ma’s address.”

He looked at me like this was an Ultimate Master Plan.

I sucked a breath through my teeth in an effort to gain time before I asked. I could actually feel a headache coming on. I brushed the snow off and I picked up  the  final box before continuing.

“Ah. I see. Obviously this  was fool proof decision. How could  it go wrong?”

“Aww, you know.”

He spoke matter-of-factIy , like he was relaying a common occurrence.

“I fell out with me bird. You Know? Went home? To me Ma’s? They caught me.  There.”

“Oh bugger. The tricky fuckers. Who have thought they’d be so persistent over so long. There’s only one answer. They must have felt you were a master criminal!

This was wasted.

“I know. Right? I couldn’t believe it! Anyway, with all the letters that had been sent and interest and what-not, well…. it all added up.”

“Added up? Jesus Den!  For £3 or what ever it was, you could have bought a ticket and got home scott-free. I mean, For fucks sake! For £50 quid even, you could have put it to bed and forgot about it!!”

“Yeah I know! I knowwww! but mate, £2400 quid!”

I sighed, looking for a positive.

“Well at least you’re nearly done with the sentencing., the parole thing? That’s a plus!”

“Gottagotocounselling.”

It was said quietly and quickly, so I almost missed it.

“What now? Go Where now?”

“Counselling! A’right! COUNSELLING!!”

“Counselling?”

I felt like I was having a different conversation. I gave my head a shake.

“Counselling?? What the fuck for? Avoiding paying for a train ticket?? Jesus! They must they must be really pissed that you dodge-”

“No! No! No! Not for a train ticket!!”

“Alright! Alright! Calm down Tiny! What for then??”

“Fuckin’ Anger management!!”

I just looked at him. I didn’t know where to start asking..

There’s always a part 3 with Dennis..

 

 

 

 

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Raging Monkey – Part 1 — Mike Walsh – What The Mop Lady Saw…

“You away on holiday this year Dennis?” I threw the question over my shoulder, making conversation as I carried a sheet of plywood into a building with Dennis, a five foot five ball of varying degrees of angry Scouse. The height difference made it difficult as the board tended to have a lack of […]

via Raging Monkey – Part 1 — Mike Walsh – What The Mop Lady Saw…

Raging Monkey – Part 1

 

“You away on holiday this year Dennis?”

I threw the question over my shoulder,  making conversation as I  carried a sheet of plywood into a building with  Dennis, a five foot five ball of varying degrees of angry Scouse.

The height difference made it difficult as the board tended to have a lack of control as he tried to lift it to a height that matched my own. It wavered and bobbed along behind as we negotiated our way into the job.

It felt like I was carrying it all on my own with Dennis hanging onto  the rear,  like a kites tail,  bobbing   along  completely  at odds with what was going on at the front.

“Yeah. I booked to go to CanCun. In Mexico!”

I have to say, I was surprised.

I puffed my way round a corner before I asked.

“Cancun? Well. That sounds great Dennis. But – And I hate to bring this up – Isn’t there the small matter of finishing your community service?”

“Yeah. I told her – the parole lady –  at the meetings, I was off to Mexico. And she said something like that too. But  I said,  straight to her,  I said,  ‘listen love, ‘am off on holiday in September,  I’d already booked it before all this parole thing see, so you can’t really stop me. It’s all paid for.’

I let this scene wash over my minds eye.

” Oh aye? How did that go down then?”

“Well,”

And he stopped  again before he continued, halting our forward motion like a small anchor,  forcing me to come to a stand-still.  We lowered the sheet, resting for the moment.

And the indignation spilled forth,

She said – and you won’t believe this Mike – She said, ‘Young man, you may find it difficult to understand this,’ – All hoity-toity-”

And he paused, his eyebrows meeting in the middle and he looked off into the distance then added –

” Honestly,  I think she was being a bit sarky  Mike ..”

His attention and indignation snapped back to me as he continued.

“She looks me straight in the eye, right, and she goes ;

Dennis. Your’e being punished for a crime. That’s why you”re attending these parole classes  Forget. Your. Holiday. In. Cancun..

“Honest to God Mike. That’s how she said it. To my face!! To my fuckin face!!!  I paid four grand for that holiday!”

I picked up the front end of the sheet with Dennis doing the same at the back and we continued on our way. I mulled over what he had said, listening to him panting behind me  before replying, gauging how this was going to go down.

I waited until we reached another level and stopped for another breather.

“Dennis. Son. Considering what happened You were lucky you didn’t get time lad.  You only avoided prison because the other party didn’t turn up and went on the run because he was in trouble for something himself!!”

“I Know!!”

The scouse accent was getting thicker by the minute. As he said it,  he leant  forward, eyes wide, mouth open, disbelievingly, as if to stress the point,  in a way that went;

Can you fucking believe what she said??

Like it backed up his argument.

I gave up. I looked for a positive.

“Well, at least they’ll ship you back for free.”

“Wha’? Ship me back where for free? Who?”

“The Mexican  customs. Surely,  when you land,  in breach of your parole, those sharp-eyed Mexican chaps at passport control will  scan your passport,  shout ‘Ay Caramba!!” set off all the alarms  and they’ll strong arm Tiny Tim the scouse crime lord   and fuck you off on the next flight back.. Suck in that Mexican air while you can.”

We puffed our way up another flight of stairs with Dennis stewing along behind.

Finally his voice continued from the back, having digested what I’d said and deciding it’d be safer to  head off on another track.

“D’ya Know what my little lad said to me last night Mike?”

I paused to think briefly  before answering.

Calmdowncalmdown??”

“Wha’? No. No!! ”

“Well go on then. What did your young five year old son say to you Amigo?”

He panted as he continued, holding onto the corner of the plywood as we negotiated another flight of stairs.

“Well, we’d just finished watching The new Planet Of the Apes film – You know it? All those gorillas that try and take over the world? And the credits were rolling up and he takes a really long look at me like, and the cheeky little bugger say’s ”Da’, You look like a monkey”

This time I stopped to lower the sheet to the floor,  forcing Dennis to do the same and turned to face him, resting my chin on my arms while I cast an eye over him. A mental reshuffle of my perception of Dennis.

Realisation dawned on Dennis’  face as he looked back at me.

“What the fuck have I just told you that for??”

I momentarily  ignored the latest utterance, my mind was still focused on Mexico.

“We’ll address that shortly.  Cheetah.  Just repeat after me, ‘Areeba. Areeba.  Hello my friend, how are you?  Can I have a helping of chilli and chips  please? Oh, and a hammer to go.’

He looked at me suspiciously then translated into  near perfect Mexican-scouse,

He lost it straight away. The scouse accent spilled into overdrive and he couldn’t help himself.

“‘AreeeeebaAreeeeeba! ‘Ey  ameeeeeeeego, ‘ow ar’ yoo?  Can I ‘av a ‘elping of chillee and cheeeeeps pleeeease?  (He lost it completely there) ‘O, and a ‘ammerrrr to go.”

“….Why am I saying that Mike?”

“Well I was just weighing up, with you being scouse, you sound half fuckin’ Mexican already. I just wanted to see what  a Scouse, mexican talking monkey sounded like in person. I have to say. I’m impressed.”

“Wha’?!! You cheeky bastard! I-”

I didn’t give him a chance to continue,  I picked up the sheet and lurched onwards, dragging him along in the wake.

I decided to blind side him.

“Seriously though Den, with all due respect, I have to say you’ve missed a massive opportunity. And lets be honest, chances like this don’t come round very often. In fact, you could have been making fantastic money.  With someone as vertically challenged as you are, an opportunity like this  beats carrying these plywood sheets upstairs and trying to keep up with us normal sized humans to boot. You’d have made a fortune lad.”

He was caught between being still outraged by the original insult and the current one, while still  battling his curiosity regarding the money opportunity.

The money won.

“Wha’ money? ‘Ow would I ‘av made a fortune? ‘Ow? I know you Mike.  You’s taking the piss. Go on then. ‘Ow.

They were holding auditions. In Liverpool. For that new film, with – whatshername – Margot Robbie  -”

“She’s well fit she is! I’d like to -”

“Yeah, yeah I know Dennis. you and every other dwarf.  But you know the film?  Her and that fella? Thingy? You know. Whatsisname? A bit foreign? First name Alexander?”

“Dunno Mike. when were the auditions?  Whats the film about?”

“Skarsgard! Thats it. Well the films a bit of a romantic action packed block buster.”

“It is?”

“Yeah. All go. And this fella, his bird -”

“Margot -”

“- Yeah -”

“- Cor I’d like to -”

” – Yeah. Alright. Calm down Casagnome. You’d need a ladder. Anyway, this fella – his bird gets kidnapped by these baddies. Right fucking Not-Rights. Your parole lady? Who has to deal with you? Well after all the time she’s spent with you she’d  probably recognise them before they got off the boat – ”

“Wha’?!”

“Yeah. So this fella, Skarsgard chap? Right strapping lump he is. Built like a brick shit hous -”

“- Wha’? And you think I should’ve auditioned to play him? What did he do? Did he rescue her?”

“Actually Dennis, he did. But to answer your question, no,  I don’t think you could have auditioned to play him. He was probably three-foot away from you tallest point. No what I was thinking about – and I have to stress that these characters make a Bomb for their performances, with loads of food treats too – was playing the dependable side-kick.”

Dennis stopped again and I was forced to lower the sheet. We were almost at our destination.

“Really? Side-kick helps save the day?  So who was this big strapping  fella playing?”

“Alexander thingy? He was playing Tarzan -”

“- Tarzan -”

“Yeah. The Jungle Lord. You know? Raised by apes – ”

“And who’s his side-kick then?”

I looked him earnestly in the eye.

“Its only after what you said before that made me think. You, my little scouse friend, would have nailed the part of his dependable companion  – Dennis the monkey – with your eyes shut -”

The outrage was back.

“- Fuckin’ Dennis the monk -”

“Yeah honest mate. I kid you not. I can just see you finding Jane, His bird, surrounded by the Not-Rights, and swinging off through the trees to  find Tarzan to tell him the news! He’s be like –

Dennis! Whats up boy? Tell me Dennis! Get it out lad! Whats up??

“And you’d be hopping up and down on your little legs and giving it -”

Ey mate! Calmdowncalmdown! ‘A found ya’bird! Jane! All’u Baddies ‘av ‘er mate!! Come on! You gotta’ save ‘er big lad!!

Dennis was mesmerised by this point.

“And off you’d swing Dennis! Like a little furry ball of vengeance! Leading the way for the hero!! You would have been mint mate. Mint!!  Shame you missed out to be honest. I’d have paid a  fortune to see you on the big screen as a monkey..”

 

 

 

Ripping Yarn

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There is something definitely satisfying about the sound of tearing fabric. Either the slow, gradual rippppppp, or the swift, rapid tear, both paint an definitive image in the mind.

The old Laurel and Hardy films were, and still are favourites of mine.  There is so much conveyed in those movie shorts, originally through expression, but even more so with the advent of sound. That satisfying explosion of sutures always left one or the other of the duo trouser-less.

Let me tell you about Tony.

I’ve just spent the last year ferociously busy with work. Non-stop ridiculously hectic and  it’s made writing or completing any blogs difficult. But I had to pass this one on.

One of my close friends has worked with me this last year, which has made for an entertaining time because, well, he’s very self deprecating,  extremely easy going, very funny and, one of the few people who make me laugh without trying.

He’s also a Man City season ticket holder and relives every tribulation, real and imagined his team goes through.

(Count your blessings he doesn’t sit behind you at games Viv )

I, on the other hand, support a proper team – Man UTD – so it makes for entertaining Monday mornings. But I can say, he’s very passionate about his team in his pursuit of watching his confused idea of perfection. To be fair, he’s quite honest in his opinions about his team. He wants them to play exciting, entertaining football. Anything else is a disappointment for him.

In fact, he’ll  criticize his team when they win, for playing badly.

The last job I worked on went on for some ten months, with quite solid completion times in order to hand it over  to the incoming client. It meant we had targets to hit all year in order to allow this business to open. So, from day one it was high impact work. organised in a way to be continuously rolling along and completing targets. I kept a team of lads I trust implicitly together in order to achieve this. They’re the only people in the trade I would ever recommend if anyone asked for top quality labour.

Tony was part of this team.

I think it’s fair to say, Tony had put a bit of weight on before the start of this job. But, with the way we were shifting each day, I think we all expected it to drop off.  What we didn’t  expect was him to gain a stone  and a half after some very hectic weeks. I was impressed. It was only as we neared the end of the job that the issue was really raised.

It was a lull in a busy period and Tony was breaking a piece off a Toblerone, something he seemed to have a supply of at odd times like this.

“Blimey Tony. Have you put some weight on this year?” I asked my friend, as I looked at his body profile with one eye closed.

He’s strained to looked down at his own body

“Nooo. Welllllll, maybe a bit. I think I just have a slow, whaddya call it? Metabolism.”

“Slow? Jesus. I think it’s stopped. In fact, you only have an ‘ism”

“Yeah, yeah. Funny.”

“Seriously, You’ve actually put weight on.”

“A bit. Maybe.”

“Mate. Elasticated trousers aren’t a fashion statement.”

It’s fair to say he takes some ribbing. But to be honest that’s what makes Tony funny. The amount of – there’s no denying it – abuse,  he actually gets is phenomenal. Over anything. He’s actually too good natured. It’d break a lesser person it really would. And if he wasn’t getting verbal abuse he would be ambushed in other ways.

One ideal situation would be to block him  on his way to the toilet when he would get his daily two minute warning. This was a moment in his day when the toilet was a immediate necessity that could not be stopped. But obstructing his route as he was spotted trotting along  and have him hopping on foot to foot in slight desperation while you talked to him,  became another form of entertainment.

I must admit I can sit here right now  and find myself actually laughing out loud when I think about some of the things he’s come in work and told us about that have happened to him over that weekend. And expected everyone to just carry on and not even comment.

The building trade is not, I repeat, NOT that kind of compassionate environment.

Jesus. Its like handing over a  gun then passing on the bullets.

As he began to gain weight we actually took to watching Tony arrive of a morning and make his way over to Greggs bakery. He would meander back with what looked suspiciously like a twelve inch pastry and a coffee.

He kept claiming he went for porridge to start his day off right. But I’ve never seen anyone walk back from Greggs with a large coffee and look like they were trying to deepthroat a bag of porridge…

We’d be sat in the van upon arriving and there’d be  a nudge and an “Aye aye. There he goes!” Then we’d sit and wait to watch him walk back to see  how he would struggle manfully to get a bag of “porridge” down his neck by taking sips of coffee so it would be soft enough to swallow..

Then morning brew time would come. Tony would wander off with  one of the other lads, Sean,  to get a bacon and egg sandwich. Sean,  who I hate to admit had a metabolism like a humming bird, just ate what-ever, when-ever with no impact.

I  think unfortunately Tony saw this as a challenge and – Whooah Nelly! – did he lose that deluded competition.

He’d match Sean’s bacon and egg, or bacon and cheese, and  he’d even raise the stakes and order a toasted tea-cake for afters.

It’s not like he’s even tall and can carry it off. His head  just seemed to get closer to his feet.

This went on all year. And in between  this, there were odd days I would walk out of the room I was working in to pass on some measurement, and find him  chewing on a piece of Toblerone that had suddenly appeared from somewhere. It happened to be a particular favourite of Tony’s.

So, as the job drew to an end, I happened to take a sidelong glance at Tony and realized with a jolt he’s really packed a bit of timber on.

I thought it was time to give him a break and try a lighter tone.

“Honest mate, this time I’m not taking the piss or anything. You really have banged a bit of weight on.”

Tony was quite adamant – blinkered even – it was nothing to worry about. Certainly not as noticeable as I was trying to express anyway. I have to hold my hands up here because we had  been quite merciless in ribbing Tony all year, on anything, so for him to doubt my sincerity was, in my  honest opinion,  a good move.

“We’re going to be having a Christmas night out soon and you don’t want to be looking like that kid,  Chunk,  from the Goonies do you?”

Tony just turned his nose up slightly.

“Actually I’m not sure if I can make it. I have other invites on the night, so I may not get out.”

What! Your’e ducking our piss-up?”

Tony instantly blustered trying to defend himself.

“It’s my cousin’s do on the same night! Family! And my last employer has invited me out! There’s too many invites! I don’t know what to do !” He wailed.

“But Tone! We’re your mates!”

But Tony carried on without hearing.

“I’ve got the match on Saturday too! City are playing at home! I can’t handle a heavy session on a Friday when I’m expected to go on the piss before and after the game the next day!!”

“Ah well when you put it like that it’s completely understa – I can’t believe your abandoning your mates you fat bastard!”

“Thats it! I’m defo not going out on the Friday with anyone! I’m going to the match on the Saturday and having a pint then! No! Thats it! My minds made up!”

He held his hand in front of my face in a dramatic gesture to stop me interrupting.

(for the record I wasn’t even trying to speak)

“You can’t talk me out of it! I’m going to the game!!”

“Well if your mind’s set fatty,  I obviously can’t talk you round . Tell you what. See how you feel on the night. I’ll pick you up if you change your mind.”

“Alright. I’ll think about it.”

The next day I walked over with Tony to get myself a sandwich.

“I’ll walk over to your shop today Tone. What are the sandwiches like?”

“Yeah they’re  ok.”

He sounded somewhat subdued.

” Whats up with you?  What you eating today?”

“A salad sandwich”

I actually stumbled.

“A what now?”

“A SALAD sandwich. Are you deaf?”

“No. But, well. Whats with the salad?”

“Wellll. I hopped on the scales last night -”

He snatched a look at me.

I ‘d made a noise.

“Sorry. I have “snigger reflex”. It must be  genetic  or something. Sorry. You were saying. You broke the scales…?”

“Yeah. Ha. Very funny. No, well, I jumped on last night and – ”

It came out in a rush,  his revelation disgusted himself even.

“Well it was a bit of a shock I knew I’d put a bit on – butnotTHATfuckingmuch!!”

“Alright chunks. Calm down. Lets just clear up exactly how much you’ve put on shall we?”

“A stone-”

“- Fuc -”

“- And a hal-”

“-  k ME Tony!! A stone and a half! Jesus!!”

Alrightalright! Iv’e got to start somewhere. So. I’m cutting stuff out.”

“Stuff? Stuff?? You want to cut out anything you can get in your mouth mate.”

“Seriously. I’m off the bacon and egg. That’s it! I’m being good!”

We talked it through as we walked over,discussing the merits of eating better types of food,  while Tony led the way to his regular nose bag shop. It was a back street cafe, the type I hadn’t seen in a long time. These days It’s a modern, multi -selection of coffee/tea and  special-bread sandwiches and wraps, with strange flavours of crisps. What happened to all those full English with a cup-of-tea cafe’s?

Anyway, walking into this place was slightly nostalgic.

We were greeted by a cheerful, thick set, middle aged  lady who was obviously a firm believer in the attributes of cooking with lard.

“Hiya Tony! Bacon and cheese day today love?”

I snapped a look at Tony who had the good grace not to meet my eye.

“Your’e on first name terms-”

He completely ignored me and replied to the lady.

“No not today. I think I’ll have something new today. A fresh start! How’s about a chicken salad with mayo and cheese  on – ”

He stole a glance at me,

Brown bread?”

I recovered from my shock to close my gaping mouth.

“Whoah whoah whoahhhhhhh! Tell you what love. Give him a chicken salad. NO cheese. NO mayo. And NO, butter. He CAN have brown bread.”

The lady in question looked from me to Tony.

“Is that what you really want Tony?”

Tony turned to me.

“Can I have a Toasted teacake for later?”

“No.”

He turned back to the lady with dejected eyes, shoulders slumped.

“Yeah. Just the chicken thing please.”

It was left for the lady to stand momentarily with her mouth open. Then she slowly turned away reflecting Tony’s body language completely.

Obviously profits were going to take  a massive hit.

We got back to the job, and sat in our adjacent van’s eating our sandwiches, Tony without the usual enthusiasm. I just kept honking my horn and rubbing my belly and mouthing “Yum Yum?” at him.

He was a bit dejected.

The next day we headed over to get a sandwich again, this time with another lad in tow, John. we decided to try a new-ish looking cafe for a change.

Tony was first to the counter. He took a long look at the menu then licked his lips and addressed the lady.

“Can I have a cheese and ham panini please and -”

“Hang on, hang on hang onnnnnnn! ”

I interrupted from behind. Tony shoulders slumped. I continued to the nice lady.

“Tell you what. Forget the cheese, no sauce’s, and he’ll have tomato there instead. He can have the  bit of ham. And if he ask’s, he can’t have a toasted Tea-cake for after.”

Tony shoulders drooped even more.

The lady looked from me to Tony and raised her eyebrows with a silent question.

“Yeah. That’s what I want. What he said please.”

He turned briefly to me.

“Can’t I just have one toasted Tea -”

“No.”

“Yeah. Just what he said please then.”

We sat down to eat, me with a toasted buttered bagel and John with a toasted cheese and marmite pannini, and I have to say even that looked more appetizing than Tony’s dusty and very, very dry ham and tomato panini.

Twenty minute later, back on site, I was congratulating Tony on doing well, when my phone rang. I was needed downstairs to take care of a job.

“Right. Well done you. I’ll be back in a bit.”

I turned away from a hungry looking Tony  to find out what I was needed for.

Ten minutes later I was calling Tony on his phone.

I could hear the ring tone nearby.

“Hello? Tone. Listen.Where are you? Down stairs?”

I headed toward the fire exit door leading to the car park where I had heard his phone ringing.

“Have you got your foam gun with you? Mine’s at home.”

“Yeah, it’s in the van – I’m just near it now.”

He sounded muffled.

“Yeah I heard your phone I’ll come and get it off – ”

I pushed open the fire exit door as I spoke to find Tony stood on the other side.

He threw his hands in the air and turned away in disgust heading to his van, unable to talk.

The reason being he had been stood in this out of the way place with a six inch piece of Toblerone in one hand and a fair chunk in his mouth. All he managed was a muffled –

images

.”Awwwwww! ‘Um ooonnn -”

“Tony what the fuc -”

He managed to swallow.

“Your’e having  laugh! I can’t even have this on the quiet -”

“Have you seriously snuck off to eat a load of chocolate -”

You wouldn’t let me have a toasted tea-cake!!”

I couldn’t stop laughing. I was immediately on the phone to John, the lad who had accompanied us to the cafe.

“You’ll never guess what! Iv’e just found Tony hiding outside eating a bar of Toblerone!”

Even Tony could hear John laughing as we reached the van.

“Yeah! I Know! Toblerone!! So much for ham and tomato!! Hang on a minute!”

Tony was surreptitiously trying to open the sliding  door on the side of the van to reach the foam gun.

“Hey! What have you got in there??”

I reached past him to open the door fully. A large bag fell forward.

“What the fuc -hang on John,”

I tipped the bag  out to reveal its contents.

Tony literally threw his arm over his eyes in shame. This was  going from bad to worse for him.

“Whats this?”

My voice was going up in octaves I didn’t realize I had.

Out of the bag had fallen the other half of the large Toblerone, A six pack family sized bag of crisps and a large party size tube of fruit pastels.

I turned to Tony.

“I was throwing it away today! I forgot it was there! It’s not even mine -”

“John! John! Your not going to believe this…”

As you can imagine Tony’s ribbing took on a whole new level.

The end of the week couldn’t come quick enough for Tony, which only remained to see if he was coming out with us for a beer or not. But he was adamant.

“No. Defo not. I’m not even going to my cousins do tonight. And I bought a ticket for that!”

“Ok mate, no worries. Tell you what. If you change your mind later I can still pop over and pick you up.”

“No, seriously I don’t think I can go out tonight and face tomorrows game and have a beer then too. So I’m just going for the beer on match day instead.”

So, that’s where we left it.

Next day, feeling, I have to confess, somewhat tender myself, I checked the scores to see City getting beat by Chelsea. I couldn’t resist it. I texted Tony knowing he was at the game.

The reply came back understandably subdued and then I didn’t have the heart to carry on after the week he had already had. I could add to his misery in person the following day as I had some wood to drop off for his wood burning stove.

I sent a quick text.

“Never mind mate.Worse things happen at sea! I’ll see you in the morning.”

There was a muted reply.

I turned up at Tony’s the next day ready to  pick at his disappointment.

“Ok Tone? Bit of a hammering yesterday?”

“Yeah, and some. But, I’ve got to admit. I never actually watched the game.”

“What? your’e joking?” I know you’ve left games early  before they finish but – come on! Your’e a season ticket holder! When did you leave? When the third goal went in?”

“Well, to be honest, I left before kick-off.”

“What Your’e joking mate! Why??”

“Well you know I said I wasn’t going out on Friday? Yeah. I went out. I didn’t get in till half four on Saturday morning. I went to my cousins do. I knew It’d get messy!”

“Oh mate your’e kidding!”

“No. And to top it all, I was blind drunk!  I felt terrible when i got up on match day!”

“You didn’t carry on drinking did you?”

“I tried a half but I have to say -”

He looked green as he continued,

“My stomach rolled as soon as I had a mouth full! There was no way that was going down!”

“So what happened?”

“I just thought I’d give the beer a miss. But on the way down, on the coach , honest to god, I thought I was gonna barf up on the old lady in front. I kept having to swallow it back down!”

I winced at the image as Tony shuddered and carried on,

We got to the ground and the lads were all for a pint before the game, but there was no way I could face it. So I figured I’d head into the ground and sit and watch the warm ups.”

“Oh mate – ”

“Well I sat there for a while and my stomach was just rolling all over – there was no way I was going to get through the game without chucking up so that was it.”

“What?”

“I went home.”

“What?? Without seeing a ball kicked??”

“Yeah. But that’s not the worst part.”

“There’s  something worse?”

“Yeah. quite a bite worse to be honest.”

He looked extremely sheepish.

“What? Well? Get on with it!”

“I’m walking away from the ground and I only go and get my two minute warning!”

I began to laugh. I couldn’t get a breath to ask what happened.

It was his two minute warning.

“What could I do. I mean? What??” I had to go!!” I HAD to!!”

There was a note of hysteria creeping into his voice as he tried to defend his actions.

I could feel an asthma attack coming on. I was almost breathless as I asked,

“Where Tone? Where did you go?? There isn’t anywhere there!”

“There’s that open land at the bottom -”

“The Asda! there’s an Asda at the top of the hill -”

“I was at the bottom of the hill!! At the bottom!!!! I Looked like I was trying to walk along to a Bee-Gee’s track!!!  I’DHADMYTWOMINUTEWARNING!!!!”

Like that explained everything.

I have to admit I was caught between horrified fascination and a morbid need to know what had happened.

“So…?”

“I ran down this path onto the waste ground, and , well, there was this mound..”

“Tony. It’s a lump of soil in a wide open area. It only shields you from the other side of the fucking mound! Anyone on that side of the mound can see you!!”

“I know! I know!! But I’d had my two minute warning! The sweat was pouring off me! Pouring!!!!”

What had followed wasn’t pleasant, with Tony circling the mound trying to pick a sheltered spot in a open plain. In the end, unable to contain it any longer he just had to drop his trousers and go for it, bobbing up and down like a demented Meerkat.

I was opened mouthed trying to take in what he was telling me when another thought struck me.

“But Tony, what about, I mean, Toilet paper Tony! Toilet paper? What did you use??”

“My underpants! It’s all I had!”

This painted another picture on my already scarred mind and I tried to comprehend the mechanics of what he was describing.

“Your – you mean  you – What?? You stripped off your trousers in the middle of an open field to take off your underpants to use to wipe you –

“No!! Jesus! No!! Don’t be stupid!! I RIPPED them off and ran like fuck!!”

I swear, till the day I die.

The sound of tearing fabric will never, ever be the same again..

y-fronts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ben’s Itch.

 

arren-sept-2016-025

 

“Have you noticed Ben scratching more often at the moment?”

Came my daughter Holly’s query over the phone.

She had taken Ben the family dog to stay with her for a couple of days. My wife was working nights so it meant Ben wasn’t going to get a decent  walk until she finished this three night shift. Ben is a rescue dog who we have had for six years.

We picked  him at the dogs home after some serious manipulation on Holly’s part. She forced me to drink beer until I said – nay – promised she could have a dog.

Holly has always wanted animals in her life. She is a fourth year Veterinary student and  she lives and breaths it. Ben was the culmination of a lot of determined effort on her part, which I had withstood for a number of years. But, six to twelve bottles of Peroni – I have to admit I have little recollection  on the correct number –  just tipped the balance. And she made me promise. Bugger. I was out-maneuvered  by a fifteen year old.

And I wouldn’t mind but I was paying for the beer.

Anyway, off to the dogs home we went, and I was determined to pick a dog I wanted.

I had a number of stipulations I managed to insert during the foggy negotiations prior to promising.

The dog had to be a reasonable size. It had to be a quiet dog. it couldn’t be a hairy dog that malted all its body fur in one go. We would take our time choosing it, until we (I) found the one that fit us (me).

And he was going to be called Steve.

As I figured it, I might hate the dog but every time I shouted at it the comedic value of its name would entertain me..

I think I gradually warmed to the idea of having a Lassie-come-old yellow-come-Timmy relationship with our (my) new companion

Anyway. Over the next few weeks we made repeated trips to the dogs home. Most of my stipulations seemed unobtainable. Each time we walked in we were met by a wall of sound. The quiet dog scenario seemed unobtainable.  Each compound had a number of neurotic dogs in it either barking  dementedly or bouncing or tearing around with the same unerring vigor  they put into barking.

And as each week arrived I went to view these animals with trepidation knowing I had made a promise I had to keep, but couldn’t seem to find an acceptable middle ground.

There were a lot of large dogs. I mean BIG bastards. No way was I having one of those sitting in the passenger seat next to me. These things could have car jacked me at will. The majority of the other dogs were Staffies. You know? Little barrel chested, bow-legged, squared headed little things, like a poor mans pit bull. You usually see them being strutted around by some chavvy scroat and the poor animal has a piece of chain link for a collar. Quite unfairly portrayed actually. They tend to sleep most of the time.

But they didn’t fit with my ideal vision of a new furry companion either. I think Holly was beginning to despair. She would have taken the biggest, loudest donkey she could have got her hands on and been happy calling it Spot. But there were just no smallish dogs to be had.

Then, we found out that all the small dogs were snatched up early on. We had to get there at opening time.

Sure enough, the following week we were there twenty minutes early and first in the queue. As soon as the door opened  and the queue surged, I was off and running,  elbows going to create space,  galloping along past each compound quickly scanning what was inside and as quickly dismissing them as – Too big – Too loud – Too hairy – too small – Too – wtf is that?

I was almost at the end of the corridor looking behind me to where my family were at the first  compound, oohing at what i had already ruled out, when I turned and my eye fell on a small, miserable looking terrier, sat hunched at the back of the compound alone, with a cone round his neck after having his balls chopped off and an under-bite that made his bottom jaw stick out beyond his top.

I had a “That’s the one” moment. Then I was frantically trying to get somebody’s attention so I could claim that dog before some other calculating bastard robbed him. They finally took him out  for us to meet and greet, and I have to say he was a bony little thing, undernourished and very, very sad looking.

We (I) chose Ben. We took him through to sign the paperwork and pay his fee, and as we were stood there with him on the lead, a lady came in and did a double take and turned to her companion with obvious excitement and said,

“Here he is! This is him! This is the dog we saw yesterday!” Then turned to me and continued, “Who do I speak to about him?”

I was caught between two reactions. First of all I actually took a sly look at what I was wearing  thinking cheeky bastard thinks I work here, and then my mind quite uncharitably thought Ha. Too late. It’s mine. Ha. Haha. Hahahahahahaha

So the poor woman missed out. ( Hahahahahahahahahaha)

But I have to admit, Ben was the right choice. Well, I say right choice. He was the only choice  really.

It was Ben or something that could have killed me. Everything else had looked likely to rip my throat out.

“I’m not sure whether he has some irritating mites.”

Came Holly’s voice again.

“What? Really? Really?? What sort of mites? That little bastards been on the bed!”

“Well you might want to think about washing the bedding. They can be transferable to humans.” said Holly. “But I’ll take some samples and have them checked and let you know tomorrow.”

Aw crap. I thought.I had noticed him scratching and trying to reach his underside and had even given him a good scratch at this unreachable point myself, thinking I was doing him a favour, the little riddled bastard! My finger nails could be rife with unseen bugs!

I almost gnawed a knuckle then remembered who I had been scratching. I had arrived home from work the other day and Ben had been on his own for a number of hours with free access round the house. He normally stretches out on the end of the bed but when he’s on his own and sure enough, when I had walked into my room  I discovered he had actually dragged my pillow  onto the duvet and used that to create a kind of nest.

Oh bollocks! I could be walking round with a plague of parasites!

I had  this conversation with Holly in the evening and  hadn’t even had time to tell Jane as she  had already gone to work.

The first thing I did that night was sleep on Jane’s side of the bed then swap her pillow with mine the following morning. If I was going to be infested I might as well make sure we shared it…

When we finally took Ben home from the dog sanctuary,  it was with mixed feelings on my part,  mainly because no one would call him Steve, but this turned into serious reservations when he immediately developed kennel cough and was firing out dog sputum every third step. It was a hygienic nightmare for me. He was like a pneumatic gobbing machine.

But I have to admit he was miserable  and I was torn between pity and disgust. And really, he must have felt absolutely lousy. There followed a couple of weeks of antibiotics which turned him round and he gradually gained weight.

Then there was a long period when we would walk him in  the park and he would see another dog in the distance and tear off to play with it. While I would be gradually frothing at the mouth shouting  “Ben! Ben! Ben! BEN! BENNNNNN! BENBENBENBENBEN!!!!” then finally have to run after him like something demented. (If only we had called him Steve, I’d have laughed about him running away.)

So that took a bit of sorting out. I tended to let him off the lead with a bit of trepidation and try and put him back on if I saw another dog before he did, otherwise the little bastard was off and you had to walk 400 yards back the way you had just come. Ben was definitely not one of those dog’s that was going to come to you at a sharp command and stand awaiting his next order quivering like an arrow.

But, he finally found his feet in our home and has become very firmly established.

I have to say he is an unusual dog. He is very quiet. He very rarely whines or barks. If he wants to go in the garden he just stands and eyeballs the door with a megawatt stare until someone notices and lets him out. And you have to be careful you don’t forget about him (Jane) because he’ll be on the other side of the door staring at it until someone remembers he’s not around inside. He’s doesn’t like fuss, he rarely stands still for someone to stroke him unless you’ve just arrived home and it’s very rewarding to have that exuberant welcome to be honest. If he wants attention he’ll sit at your feet and rest one paw on your foot until you stroke him. Then when he’s had enough he buggers off and stretches out.

He has a blanket on the sofa next to my wife which he occupies most evenings while I’m on the PC and Jane is watching TV. The sofa has an L-shaped recliner that Jane normally claims of an evening and lets just say she’s not one for sharing. I tend to sit down with her later on and stretch across the angle and attempt to purchase a foothold.

It’s usually at this point that Ben – until then comatose – lifts his head from the new position at the end of the sofa that I’d just slid him to, while I strained to gain a toenail-hold on the recliner point of the settee, and he looks at me with, I have no doubt whatsoever, complete disgust.

Within moments he slides off his blanket to the floor and disappears behind the sofa. As we hear him slump to the floor this noise is actually followed by him grumbling..

I’d just pulled up in Tesco’s car park when the phone went again the following day.

“Hi dad. I’ve taken Ben into the Vets to have him checked for mites today.”

I was immediately all ears. I hadn’t yet told Jane she had my pillow.

“And? Whats he riddled with?”

“The good news is he’s not. He’s all clear!”

“Well thank Christ for that. I was on the verge of burning the bed! So what was he scratching at”

“Well, he has an absolutely huge anal gland!”

Momentarily, and it was a confused moment I admit, I swelled with pride.

Our dog has a HUGE anal gland.

“Is that….good? ” I was thinking Guiness Book of Records you see. ” What is an anal gland by the way?” I queried slowly.

“Well, all dogs have them but your’e probably better off not knowing to be honest.”

Good girl. She obviously remembered my reaction to Ben coughing spit all over the shop.

“But seriously dad, it was huge. Huge. No wonder he was scratching away. He probably couldn’t get any relief. It would have been causing him a lot of discomfort. ” continued Holly. “And, I have to say,”

I heard the frown in her voice,

” – and it was very out of character – but he really snarled at me when I cleaned him out.”

Well I’m not one to judge,  but i think I’d snarl a bit if I’d had to have  someone two knuckles deep in me.

 

 

Razzle Dazzle

Mike Walsh - What The Mop Lady Saw...

cane

Growing up in the 70’s has quite distinctive memories for me. There was a certain visual flavor to that period for a small boy. Attitudes, clothes, and from a kids perspective, toys even more so stick in my mind.

Everything seemed garishly bright. Or patterned like a carpet, so you looked like you were wearing a weave people could wipe their feet on.

My (purple) Raleigh Chopper bike that I loved, was one of those items that must have been designed by someone taking LSD when it was on the drawing board. It was a step up from the Chipper I had had prior. My bright yellow chipper. Both bikes had been developed with that 70’s affliction of terrible colours.

Dreadful,  but still, I have to say, incredibly cool in their own way.

A boy on a Raleigh Chopper, 1970s

Then there was the bionic man. The boys doll. Steve Austin. The six million dollar man, almost killed in…

View original post 3,322 more words

Great Balls Of Fire

Mike Walsh - What The Mop Lady Saw...

banjo

“Kevin! Get that rubbish together in the compound and burn it. Save some space in the skip.”

This instruction shouted to the site laborour. Kevin, was a 27 year old simple lad. Quite easy going, happy to help, and like I say, a bit simple.

Now I’m not saying he was stupid. No.  But there was an absence of focus. A distracted air about his personality that made you think he was never quite on the same page whenever you had a conversation with him. His mental approach to anything made you aware that very clear instructions were needed to prevent any misunderstanding.

His level of attention wasn’t brilliant either and if left alone too long you would find the concentrated brush strokes in the dust leading off, in one long, meandering sweeping line, to where you find him, nose pressed against a window steaming the glass up with…

View original post 2,598 more words