Intruder Alert

As I was leaving the house for my Sunday run (yes, smug, aren’t I), I noticed two large, wet footprints in the porch of Randall Towers. I stopped and considered them for a moment. Somebody had recently visited our door, but hadn’t left anything. It was Sunday, so no postal deliveries. So why had they been standing at the main entrance to our house?

Earlier, I had awoken from a dream, where I had been walking along a city street, when, out of a side road, hundreds of people emerged, running up the hill I had apparently been walking down. I stopped and watched them hurriedly making their way up the incline. Why were they in such a hurry? More to the point, were they running towards or away from something? I decided that it may be best to retrace my steps, turning and jogging leisurely after the crowd. That’s when I noticed the rather well built unshaven man with wild eyes along side me. He was dressed in a check shirt and moleskin trousers, pulled almost to his chest and fastened by a wide, black belt. But the thing I noticed most was the large meat cleaver in his right hand, glinting in the streetlights, dripping with blood.

He stared into my eyes, keeping pace with me, as he raised the cleaver above his head and aimed it in my direction…

That was when I’d woken up. So, was this dream a portent? Was somebody watching the house, waiting for the right time to pounce? Worse still, had somebody retreated from the front entrance and found another way into the house?

Perhaps they were waiting for me in another room, hidden in the shades, check shirt rolled to the elbow to reveal hairy arms, thick, strong fingers wrapped around the handle of a large meat cleaver.

My reverie was interrupted by Miss Katherine, standing in the hallway behind me.

“What’s the matter?” she asked.

I tried my best not to be too dramatic.

“Somebody has been to our front door early this morning, but not to drop anything off,” I explained.

“Why do you think that?”

I pointed out the two size nine footprints on the flagstones outside the door. She stared at them for a moment. Perhaps I’d spooked her, too.

“That would be the footprints you made when clearing up the cat sick this morning,” she explained, before making her way to the coffee machine.

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Luge Yourself

Word pretzels, it’s been a while. I thought the muse had left me forever, but somehow the winter Olympics has inspired me.

I didn’t think it would. I started watching some of the snowboarding on TV – the sort of event usually confined to Eurosport, which is only watched by Brits sitting in the Irish bars of Torremolinos as they drink steiners of local lager. Sport’s answer to magnolia paint.

As far as I can tell, snowboarding is a a ‘sport’ that came about because of those video games from a few years ago and inevitably evolves its own language. Commentators shouting things like, “That’s a great 540 with a hand grip leading into a narly fripanstoper, rad tactic, Alan”. I suddenly knew what it felt like to a complete sportsphobe listening to any sports commentary that inevitably alienates the non enthusiast. Anyway, it was quite interesting and obviously quite physically amazing, but my baser instincts prefer watching people kick or carry a bag of leather around a regulation size area of grass or artificial equivalent towards a pre determined goal. Horses for courses, I suppose.

But then I came across something called  luge. I’d seen luge or skeleton racing, where persons propelled themselves down icy alleyways as fast as possible. When I say fast, I mean in excess of 80 mph. Now, in a car, you would have to keep your wits about you when driving at that speed. These individuals are travelling without a car, without an airbag. Or seatbelts. Over 80 mph. Head first.

So, naturally, you like to watch, partly in disbelief, but mostly wondering what would happen if they crashed head first into the wall of the track? What would be the last thing to go through their minds? Their arses, I would assume.

So, that was exciting, but the event that really made me sit up was – the double luge. Suddenly, I saw olympic athletes, that, with the exception of the gin soaks involved in equestrianism, had body shapes like mine. Or, at least, one of them in each team does.

Let me explain double luge to you. It involves an olympian shaped person (i.e. somebody who looks OK in lycra) and a normal shaped person (i.e. somebody who looks like me in lycra when I’m in shape and been dieting like fury for 3 months). Let’s call the second person ‘the fat bloke’ (I haven’t seen any female double luge teams. This may be because they don’t do it, it’s not televised or regarded as far too titillating).

What happens is, they run like the clappers down an extreme version of those playground ice slides we were allowed to make at school in the 60s and 70s, to get up a head of steam, then the fat bloke lies on top of the the smaller bloke. You’d assume it would be the other way around, since the bulkier one could probably take the weight, but no. Maybe that’s because the fat bloke would have more surface contact with the ice and slow them down. Also, the smaller bloke could roll off the fat bloke’s belly. Anyway, that’s what happens. This isn’t done face first, but feet first, known as ‘supine’. In case you’re wondering, they are also both face up. Any other combination could be considered slightly creepy if not perverted. Just in case you’re asking ‘if the fat bloke’s on the little bloke, what’s he on?”, let me explain. Besides valium, (I would be), he’s supine on a small tea tray with handles on the side.

Oh what joy this event gave me. Seeing somebody in lycra who, like me, tries to avoid mirrors like a traditional vampire, competing in an Olympic event.

My favourites were the Šics brothers from Latvia, Andris and Juris. Yes, they’re extremely talented and have

Big Shit, my hero, sitting on his brother Little Shit, prior to sliding down a chute at 87 mph trying to see over his belly…

won lots of awards, but the best thing about them was the ‘big’ brother’s laissez faire approach to tight fitting sports attire and that their name is pronounced ‘shits’. Therefore, listening to a commentator describe the Shits coming down the run extremely fast or how difficult it could be to catch the Shits, appealed to my puerile sense of humour. To compound this, there was a little Shit and a big Shit.

So, thank you, winter Olympics, for the double luge. You’ve given a man with a middle aged shape hope. However, I have no idea if the Shits won or not. Maybe, just maybe, if you’ve been sitting in a bar drinking lager and watching Eurosport in a Torremolinos bar during the last week, you can let me know.

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Christmas Past, Christmas Present – Mustard Coloured Track Suit and a Leopard Skin Kimono

It was Christmas. I couldn’t blog earlier, I was too busy doing nothing, so here’s a rehashed Christmas blog from 2012.


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The Tale of the Loose Canon and The Old Meg Clog Dancers

This is in honour of The Loose Canon, who was one of a kind. I was lucky to know him.


Yesterday evening, we had the pleasure of being invited to Master George’s 18th family birthday party. This wasn’t one of those usual 18th birthday parties where all the adults sit in the kitchen whilst hormonally charged youths consume their single malt whisky and vomit in the bath, but a ‘family dinner party’, where everybody sat around the long table in the barn at the Loose Canon’s house.

We were honoured to be the only guests who weren’t immediate family. It was a wonderful evening, sitting between The Sexton and his younger sister Sue, with a sumptuous chicken and ham pie cooked by Pen, followed by a slice of delicious frangipani, created by Sue, who bakes for a living.

You’re probably thinking that this all seemed very pleasant, with little incident, but events that happened towards the end of the celebrations made the evening very special for me.

After we’d finished…

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Farewell, Loose Canon

Prologue: some sad news, I’m afraid, with the loss of an amazing person.

Canon John Evans, known to you in many of my ramblings as the Loose Canon, passed away on Monday. Former vicar of three parishes, head teacher at the village school, he’d married us as well as his daughter Pen and The Sexton, christened our children and invited us to many events over the years. He treated us all like family.

He’d been poorly for some time with degenerative heart disease; on our last visit to his house, on my birthday back in September, he called our entire family into the drawing room, where he sat in his favourite wing back chair, tubes in his nostrils leading down to a trusty canister of oxygen, a tray on a small table in front of him, the remnants of his recently eaten dinner on the plate, knife and fork tidily placed together in parallel. Standing dutifully beside the plate, half a glass of The Loose Canon’s favourite red wine. He was pale and thin, but still possessed his familiar voice, with its clear, received pronunciation. After a few pleasantries, it became apparent that he had something to say.

“Well,” he said, “it’s very nice to see you all, I don’t suppose I’m going to be around for much longer…”

He waved away our protestations and continued.

“No. I’m dying, you see. It’s my heart. Don’t worry – I’m not scared of dying. I know I haven’t got long, but; there we are. I’m quite comfortable at the present time, it’s just that I can’t get about much at all.”

A twinkle appeared in his eye.

“Of course, that means I won’t have to put up with that awful man Jeremy Corbyn on the television all the time,” he said, the familiar laugh rising from his weakened lungs; frail, but still mischievous enough to tease me, always having regarded me as a bit of a lefty.

I smiled.

“Well, that’s good,” I said, smiling back at him.

The conversation continued for a while, but he was tired and we left the room to re-join Pen and The Sexton.

Lady Barton St Mary touched my arm.

“I think that was ‘the talk’,” she whispered. I looked at her, pretending not to understand.

She gave a wan smile.

“It was goodbye…”

The Loose Canon and The Atheist

But I cannot finish without recounting my tale of The Loose Canon’s theological triumph over me. He was perfectly aware that I was an atheist; in fact, he rather enjoyed it. He never once attempted to debate the point. As he grew older, he’d often say to me that he wasn’t sure he entirely believed in it all anymore; just before he retired as a vicar, I can recall reports and rumours from villagers about his sermons, where he’d become accustomed to telling them to ‘make up their own minds’, which only made him a greater ecclesiastical figure in my (and many other people’s) opinion.

I want to tell you about one November weekend, when I drove my car into Countrywide Stores, the sort of rural supermarket for all things farming. I forget why I was there. Over on the far side of the car park, I spotted The Loose Canon, alone, serenely staring into the middle distance, two huge bags of birdfeed next to him, ready to be loaded into his Landrover. I parked and made my way over to say hello.

“Ah Hello!” he chuckled as I approached. It became apparent that the large bags of birdfeed were far too heavy for The Loose Canon to load into his vehicle.

“Hello – gosh, they look heavy!” I cried, “would you like me to load them into your car?”

“Why thank you, Robert,” he said (one of the few people to call me by my full name).

“I had no idea how I was going to do it. Chap left them here, never offered, you see.”

With considerably effort, I hefted the first, followed slowly by the second, into the back of the Discovery, before leaning my hands on my knees to catch my breath. The Loose Canon closed the car boot as I stood upright and turned to me with a twinkle in his eye.

“You see Robert,” he said, “there is a God …”


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BS Warp Factor 10

‘Would you like a newer car?’ Lady BSM asked me a couple of months ago. At first, I thought, no, I don’t need one; after all, my trusty Honda Civic, black and named Kit after the Night Rider car, was extremely reliable. However, it had over 100 000 miles on the clock, so after a couple of weeks, I decided that a newer car would be a good thing, so went to look at Honda Civics (I’m not into cars and know what I like). It took probably less than 2 hours to choose one.

However, we still had to deal with the car salesman. The experience got me thinking: how many jobs are there which rely predominantly on a large portion of bullshit? Or, rather, which occupations do we allow ourselves to be bullshitted to without much protest? Surely, in the 21st century, we know that car salesmen generally spout poppycock as a process to get you to part with several thousand pounds for a hunk of metal, leather and plastic. But still, we accept it’s part of their genetic makeup.


Let me explain what I’m talking about. The salesperson in question sidled up and engaged us in conversation on the forecourt as we looked at a purple Honda Civic.

“So, interested in the ’16 Honda 2-23 magnesio spigotted 4 valve’, are we?” he enquired with a cheery tone. I’ll point out at this point he may not have used this specific description, but I’m rubbish at cars and that’s what I heard.

“What are you driving at the moment?” he continued.

“A Honda Civic,” I replied.

“Oh, great! What model?”

I pointed across the forecourt, indicating Kit.

“That black one,” I explained. He frowned momentarily before showing us a couple of Civics. One had heated seats and a DAB radio, so that would do. We went for a test drive followed by some ‘negotiations’ in the showroom.

Now, Lady BSM deals with these things, so discussions started around how we would offer a certain amount of money and he would suck a thoughtful tooth and make a meagre counter claim.

We all know this game. We know he’s going to reduce the price, but it’s up to us (when I say us, I mean Lady BSM) to get it as low as possible. Then, at a certain point in these negotiations, the true bullshit starts.

“ I’ll have to talk to my Sales Director,” says Keith (they’re all called Keith or Steve), disappearing into the back offices of the showroom.

I looked at Lady BSM.

“Do you think he’s gone to see anybody?” I asked.

She stared ahead, impassive.

“No, I very much doubt it,” she whispered.

He returned to inform us his sales director had looked at the figures and could probably find a bit of a discount here but wouldn’t budge there. He’d tried his best, but the man honestly said he couldn’t do any more. I looked deeply into his eyes, trying to imagine the inside of his head being like the SS Enterprise from Star Trek. A tiny Captain Kirk, controlling his brain, sending a message to his own version of Engineer, Captain Montgomery Scott.

I cannae defy the laws of bullshit!!

“Scotty, take us to Bullshit Warp Factor 7,” demands Kirk.

Panic in Scotty’s eyes as the car salesman’s brain wobbles and steam appears in the engine room.

“Captain, I cannae keep it at this level, the levels of gullibility are nowhere near high enough!”

I sat back in my chair and waited for the next move from her ladyship. It was a good one, the salesman sucking thoughtfully on his pen as Captain Kirk, Ahuru, Bones et al careered from one ear to the other in his head.

“I’ll have to see our finance manager again,” he said. Lady BSM gave me a warning look, knowing I was about to offer to talk to him myself, but, as tradition states, car salesmen are permitted to keep up this pretence.

Eventually, the deal was done, the car purchased with a full tank of fuel and a promise to fix the broken air conditioning. This took 4 weeks, with me eventually getting ratty when the car salesman didn’t return my calls because he was too busy. At least he was honest, but might have well said “I’ve sold you a car now f*** off”.

Before I conclude, no blog about professional bullshitters can overlook the experts – let’s just take politicians as read – estate agents.

Two examples – firstly, we had one of these amazing breed turn up at our old house to price it. After a cursory look around our cosy 3 bedroomed Georgian residence, he gave his verdict.

“I’d say we could put this on the market for £75 000,” he stated confidently. I stared at him for a couple of seconds.

“ Two other agents have told me £90 000. One up the road, admittedly with one extra bedroom, sold for £100 000 last week.”

He smiled weakly.

“Oh! then I would be pleased to put your house on the market for £90 000!” he beamed.

The only profession where you have no idea how much something is until the customer tells you.

Secondly, several years ago, we had to sell my late mother’s house. I waited with my nephew Dave. Another diminutive, besuited, kipper tied spiv rolled up in his white BMW, emblazoned with the estate agent’s logo. He proved to be the biggest of all Bullshit Agents. I would imagine that his brain’s Captain Kirk was in a coma and Scotty horribly burned in an attempt to reach BS Warp Factor 11.

“Well, y’know, I s’pose you’ve seen s few agents, but I’m yer man,” he swaggered.

“Here’s my article explaining how I’m far more successful than any other estate agent in selling your house quickly,” he boasted, handing me a leaflet.

I read it. Basically, his revolutionary sales success came from offering houses at a lower price than anybody else would.

“So, let me ask you something,” I said, “ can I buy your car for £100?”

He looked at me and then out of the window at his car.

“Wha- that’s a 5 series mate! It’s worth twenee grand!”

“I’m sure it is,” I replied, “but you’d sell it a lot quicker.”

He turned to Dave for some help.

“I think it’s time you left,” said Dave…








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You’ll Float Too …

Well, Wordpretzels, make my own sauce and call me Barry Norman, yet another film review, this time to see the much anticipated It, based on the novel by Stephen King. Now, Lady BSM isn’t into horror films, so gave this one a miss. I was accompanied by Master Johnny and Miss Cath, his girl friend.

You’ll float too, you’ll float too, YOU’LL FLOAT TOO …

I read ‘It’ when it was first published back in the 1970s – over one thousand pages long and telling a story stretching over 3 decades. It was enthralling, tense, emotional, distressing, uncompromising and terrifying by different turns. King is a prolific and hugely successful novelist and for good reason. I would go as far as to say his novels will be regarded in the same high esteem as Charles Dickens in time. He is one of the greatest storytellers of the century. He’s regarded as a horror writer, but his books are more than that. They’re not all about slashing and blood and guts, but contain many human aspects of hope and dreams, of failings and weaknesses, of fears and misgivings, kindness, love, hate, good and evil. I’ve read a lot of his books and experienced all emotions whilst doing so.

Like a lot of King’s stories, it’s set in Maine – in this case a town called Derry, where an above average number of people, especially children, go missing. The film makes sure you’re aware it’s 1988 – the significance of this becomes clear later. Like the book, the story begins with Bill making his young brother Georgie  a paper boat, which he takes to the streets in the pouring rain to float in the rushing water running in the road gutters. Suffice to say, Georgie disappears and no body is ever found. Move on a year and Bill, a stutterer, is part of the Losers’ Club bullied by Henry Bowers and his friends. The Losers’ club is a group of disparate teenagers: Ben, the obese new boy, Richie Tozier, the cocky one, Eddie, the asthmatic, Mike, the orphan, Stan, the jewish boy practising for Bar Mitzvah and finally Beverley, the only girl of the group.

All the characters fit perfectly into the Stephen King mould, as with “Stand by Me”. Of course, Beverley is a stunningly beautiful redhead, attractive to her male counterparts, especially Ben and Bill.

The whole film is colourful and sympathetic to the King novel, but as we reached the 90 minute mark of a  two hour programme, I began to panic. As far as I could remember (I read the book nearly 40 years ago) we were only half way through the original story. Let’s just say a sequel is not only likely, but essential.

The scary bits are suitably scary, the emotional parts enough to make me feel a little teary, especially the scene where Bill is confronted by Georgie, clutching his paper ship to his chest and pleading with the big brother he adores to take him home. This is one thing a King story can do, pull at your emotions without resorting to the usual American schmaltzy approach.

If it’s all guts and gore you’re looking for, this isn’t for you. Stephen King horror is very much like the monsters he creates – too clever, too wise to be that predictable, which is why they are so formidable and malevolent. Pennywise the clown is the epitome of this, feeding on your fears and the darker side of human nature – death, loss, guilt, physical, sexual and psychological child abuse, Munchausen by Proxy…

The film has its climax, the usual battle between good and evil, but like all good stories, there’s no definitive  girl meets boy, fall in love, good wins over evil, walk off into the sunset, happy ending.

Maybe not even in It – Chapter 2…


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