“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 […]
“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 sound 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?”
And he stopped again before he continued, forcing me to do the same as he’d just turned into an anchor. 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!!”
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.
The voice continued from the back, 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.
“Wha’? No. No!! ”
“Well go on then. What did your young five year old son say 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”
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’ 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 chilli and cheeeeeps pleeeease? (He lost it briefly 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. Lets be honest, 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.”
“Yeah. All go. And this fella, his bird -”
“- 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 – ”
“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..”
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?”
“- 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,
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?”
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 -”
“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 –
.”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.
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.”
“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.
“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..
“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.
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.
Then there was the bionic man. The boys doll. Steve Austin. The six million dollar man, almost killed in…
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“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
“Honest Mike. I think that man on the top balcony hasn’t got any clothes on! He’s got his legs wide open!!”
Jane was plainly scandalized. It wasn’t stopping her furiously trying to see over her book though.
I was still lost in the haze of heat, part stupified and half asleep. Facing the opposite direction, I only managed to open one eye and roll my head over my shoulder for a obligatory glance. There was an over weight man on the top floor balcony, but my view was blocked by the towel over the handrail. I let my head roll back.
“Good for him.” I mumbled. ” At least he won’t have sweaty balls. Mine feel like treacle on a radia -.”
“Mike! Seriously! He can’t just sit there like, like – that!!”
The end of our holiday was drawing to a close and to be honest, I didn’t have the energy to worry about this chap with his tallywacker hanging out.
It really had been an odd break, not as peacefully relaxing as I had expected and it had begun with our initial stressful journey to catch our flight here.
I finished my last post The Fiddler On The Balcony having arrived at the airport en-route to my holiday destination after a some what traumatic experience getting there. As we waved my daughter off, we did so with one eye on the entrance doors, desperate to just get inside the airport and check in so we knew we were actually going to make the flight.
This wasn’t an ideal beginning to our holiday. I like a nice early start, arriving at the airport completely relaxed and ready for the flight. As it was there was a definite air of anxiety about the quick steps that finally took us through the doors into Terminal 2 to face The Queue.
My immediate impression as I hurried through the entrance doors was;
Blimey, every check in desk is busy.
That was the initial impression until the reality of the situation struck me and I stuttered to a stop, the automatic doors closing behind me did a double take and swished back open.
This wasn’t a number of ragged queues to various check in desks.
This was one. One huge queue snaking left to right from one end of the desks to the other, then zig-zagging back the opposite way. The volume of people simply filled the floor space. And it didn’t stop there as we found out when we headed for the back of the line.
We eventually discovered that it disappeared down a corridor on the way to Terminal 1
“Seriously. What is the point of on-line check in? Seriously??”
Was what I heard from the couple in front.
And they were quite right. What is the point of on-line check in when it doesn’t save any time what’s so-ever? We never seem to avoid a huge queue in order to get through to the departure lounge, where, insult to injury, during the time it takes to get there, there are enterprising staff constantly wandering through the crush offering to “fast track you”.
For a fee.
We weren’t late, we were just later than we would normally get to the airport for. We still had two hours to get through check in, security and into the departure lounge. I just accepted it with a mental “Wellll, at least we’re on our way“.
It took us 45 minutes to reach the front of the shuffling line to check our bags in. You know what its like. Shuffle along a couple of steps with your case rocking on its wheels because its not actually moving anywhere when you take one step, while someone behind you – in this case the most impressive Mono-brow Man I’ve ever seen – is getting too close for comfort because of course, they think that will make the line move faster.
Little Jonny in front with his own miniature case. Really bright and shiny, embossed with characters from The Avengers. Oh, and a teddy shaped back-pack strapped to his shoulders, loaded with so much shit that’s he’s having trouble walking and dealing with the laws of gravity. It’s touch and go whether or not he’s going to topple over backwards.
So, there’s a five year old given the responsibility of pulling his own case to the check in desk, trying to keep his balance and remember to pull his luggage each time the line moves. Then, when he forgets, leaves it behind and blocks the line behind (me) from moving forwards. He’s then gently berated for not doing so, while dad takes hold of the handle, rolling his eyes at me as if to say “Kids eh? Ahahah“. Then when dad lays a hand on little Jonny’s luggage, the child begins a professional strop and begins to vocally insist, (punctuating each point with a stamp of the foot) hewantstopullhisownfuckingcase.
Of course, then mum steps in and tells dad to let Jonny pull his own luggage in order to keep him quiet. We catch up with the back of the line and then begin the process again next time it moves forward.
And during this I find I’m doing exactly what the person behind me is doing that’s irritating me. Edging closer to the slow moving family in front. Like I can make the line go faster with my close proximity. Every one is doing it. It’s like one massive bottle neck behind Jonny.
The little bastard.
Honest to God, if it wasn’t for airport security, the next time I felt my neighbor’s case behind me bump my legs, I’d have turned round and ripped his eyebrow off then I’d have drop kicked that little fuckers case in front to the other side of the check in hall, then trampled him just to gain ten uninterrupted feet.
Eventually, we reached the front. I immediately felt my worries lighten as I fired my case through to where-ever it goes to reach my aircraft. I almost skipped along to head through the doors that led to security.
I only got as far as opening the door to reach the back of the next queue. Jesus this was unbelievable.
What followed next was an hour or so of the same intrusive shuffling to reach the security check point. I lost contact with Mono-Brow Man but found myself still directly behind Little Jonny. Fortunately one of the senior staff must have realized that two out of six X-ray machines (d’oh) just weren’t shifting the congestion and decided to open another two.
We were guided to one of the newly opened machines, peeling us away from Little Jonny. I have to admit I have trepidation over this point in our journey as it didn’t go well last year. (See Nikos And His Cocktail Shaker)
I went through the motions of placing my hat, watch, belt, camera and hand luggage into the proffered box, then slid it into the inspection area. Then I moved through the X-ray machine to wait for my tray of belongings.
After watching so many airport reality shows, I must admit I’m always a bit paranoid at airport security. All those people who get stopped who are adamant they have nothing illegal in their case’s, even though there are readings of various drugs/illegal food/TNT from swab inspections, that they have no idea how they came to contaminate their luggage
So, it was inevitable that I was left clawing at fresh air as my bag went off at a tangent just before I could get a grip on it and a guard waved me over to him.
The only small consolation I had was seeing five year old little Jonny’s teddy back-pack do the same thing in the adjacent inspection counter. Ha.
Lay on my sun lounger by the pool, I reflected on the journey. I looked over to Jane who had slipped into the water out of the heat. She was resting at the far end of the pool, her chin on her arms talking to the older lady who was sunning her self at the opposite end. They were both surreptitiously eyeing the balcony where our over weight nude was tanning himself in his private sun-trap.
The conversation at the end of the pool was almost conspiratorial. Obviously Jane had become disappointed at my lack of interest in the 17-stone or so of chiseled naked lard three floors above us and had gone out of her way to tell someone else.
I saw them both stiffen and muffled shocked laughter. They must have had a better view from over there. Obviously Brad Fatt had done something new. The lady Jane was speaking to turned to her husband to frantically get his attention. Jane peeled away from her new friend and began swimming like Jonny Weismuller across all 10 feet of pool.
Obviously this was important. I wasn’t in any rush to find out mind. I turned my face back to the sun’s heat and thought again of aggravation involved in getting to this point in my holiday.
I was back in front of the security guard.
“Anything you need to tell us about in here sir?” Asked the deadpan faced guard, gesturing into the box with my belongings with a ready swab on a stick.
I’m not good in these situations I must admit. I just have an immediate attack of guilt. Like I have something to hide, because my imagination is already running various scenarios through my mind. And they all end up with me spread-eagled, naked against a wall gnawing my bottom lip and whinneying. While behind my unseeing eyes I can hear the Snap of latex gloves and a Gloop of applied jell.
My attention turned to my wife. Jane, waiting for me, met my eyes. She just mouthed Shut up. She had been there the year before and seen me crumble under the pressure of remembering I had a pen knife in my hand luggage as we had approached security. To say I blabbered my way through that experience is an understatement.
Just comply. Don’t antagonize the nice man. Be helpful.
“Sir?” He was staring at me with eyebrows raised.
“What? Oh! Ahahaha. No. Nononono. Of course not!”
The guard just let his eyes linger on me as he began swabbing through my inspection box. I just smiled back weakly hoping to Christ I hadn’t come into contact with a drug runner in the congested entrance hall while queuing.
While next to me little Jonny was demanding his case off the bad man. My case! Want it! NOW!!NOWWWWW!!
That kid had balls.
The guard dealing with him was becoming uncomfortable with the noise being generated by the child. I could see straight away how this would unfold.
Yeah. You’ll be sorry kid when they show you the gloves.
My attention slid back to my own predicament. The guard was hovering over my camera case.
“Is this yours sir? Did you pack it yourself? Has anybody else looked after it while you’ve been in the airport?”
My eyes darted from the guard to the camera case and back to the guard. I looked at Jane. Her expressionless face conveyed more to me than if she had spoken any words.
All of us turned to look at little Jonny next door, who was getting physical and trying to pull his Teddy bear back-pack from the grip of guard No 2.
I could hear the lid being unscrewed off the tube of jell.
My attention snapped back to my own guard. Shit. Is this a bluff? Please don’t let there be horse steroids in there. I don’t remember packing any. Oh fuck. What’s he found? How do I answer? I must confess I was on the verge of throwing Jane to the wolves and saying her name in answer to all his questions. And I would have done but eventually they would have let her out and she’d neverletmeforgetit.
Then reality kicked back in and I confirmed it was mine.
He opened it and checked out the contents. Then the stoney expression changed to a friendly one, and in an almost cheerful tone of voice he said,
“Ok Sir. All good here. If you’d like to repack your belongings you can go through. Have a nice holiday!”
I was almost disappointed. It was a complete anticlimax to what my imagination had been picturing for me. Next door, little Jonny was escalating his own situation and was now a whirling dervish in the arms of his father.
I had to take my hat off to the kid. He wasn’t taking any messing about with his teddy back-pack. I stopped for a moment to watch his long suffering father and our eyes met again. And over the flailing arms and legs his father managed another, eye-roll and a – Kid’s eh? Ahahaha – look.
Yeah. I readdressed my first thought.
Please God. Let them find ten pounds of cocaine in his back pack.
I wasn’t allowed to linger to find out. Jane was already pulling me towards the doors leading to the embarking area.
“The time. Look at the time!”
That got my attention back. I glanced at my watch and realized we had 25 minutes before the plane actually left. We hurried through the doors into the departure lounge and were met by the announcement that the gate to our flight was now open to board.
Seriously. This had not been a relaxing experience.
Ten days later, lay on my sunbed, listening to my wife swim like an Olympian across the small pool, I could afford to smile about the experience.
The sudden drops of cold water across my chest brought me back to the present.
“Jesus Jane! What’s -”
“He’s touching himself!! He’s only sat there, spread eagled having a fiddle!!”
Jane was sat next to me on her own sunbed, bent almost double with her arms folded across her lap, leaning forward vibrating with an urgency to whisper hoarsely at me. She was happily scandalized at the prospect of this fat bloke thirty foot above us knocking one off.
“Maybe they never allowed him to play a recorder at schoo-”
Really. I didn’t want to know. My mental imagery sensors balked at the idea. My attention remained stoically fixed on the hills in the hazy distance.
“Look! Look!! ” She was now giving frantic head gestures, trying to make me look in the direction she kept indicating.
“Jane, really, I don’t think I want -”
“You can just see between the towels. He’s not half giving it a yank!”
Her lips suddenly ceased to move and she began whispering like a ventriloquist, with her eyes now fixed on me, refusing to let her gaze be drawn upwards.
“Oh ma Gog. I “ink ee’s ‘een me ‘ooking! Gon’t ook. Gon’t ‘ook!!”
Yeah, like I was just about to..
I didn’t even have to consider whether or not I was turning my gaze where she had been encouraging me to look. I most certainly was not disturbing my current repose with the actual visual of the picture Jane was painting
At the other end of the pool, I realized the lady Jane had been speaking to had been having a similar conversation with her husband. It was obvious from her sudden attention to tidying around her sunbed that she had been caught looking too.
Jane suddenly began speaking in her normal urgent whisper again.
“It’s ok. He’s going inside -”
“Well he probably needs a hanky -”
“Stoppit! Omg! can You believe what he was doing?? Right out in the open!!”
“Not really Jane, no.” I answered. ” Not on a day like today. It’s roasting. He deserves a medal really. Which is why you should have a bit of consideration for the poor bugg – ”
“Bit of consider – what? What? What are you talking about? Don’t you realize he’s having a bloody wan -”
“Well, you know when I go on a long bike ride?”
“What? Yes? And??”
” You know I go loaded up? Spare inner tubes, mini tools, drinks, snacks-”
“What the hell are you talking about??”
“Well, my point being, you know when I forget to take the jelly – baby’s out of the back pocket? Of my jersey?”
“And they’re all sticky and soft and gluey? Sweaty almost. Yeah. that’s a good description. Sweaty. Stuck to your fingers. Because of the heat? And it’s not nice handling them? ”
“Well, Have a heart Jane. Think of how much determined effort that poor fella is putting in. Straining to reach the finish line. In this heat! What he’s having to work with! Having to fiddle with his very own jelly bab-”
“Oh my God! Michael!!”
I must admit, the disgusted reaction was worth it.
This one’s for Viv. Hope all’s good with you.