Life’s a Gas…

Yes, I know, I know.

I’ve been away for an awfully long time.

But I thought I’d give you all a bit of a break. After all it’s been a nice summer so why ruin it with some old git whinging about this, that and the other? 

But now I’m back! You have been warned. 

Autumn is here, or ‘Fall’ as my American friends would have it and I’m in the mood for a right old moan.

I saw that too! No need to raise your eyes to the heavens like that, no need at all.

‘So what’s the old bugger grizzling at now?’ I hear you cry. ‘Brexit? Trump? Mourinho?’

Well it’s none of the above, although it could so easily have been.

No, what’s deservedly earned my scorn is, wait for it – gas! 

Thinking about my American pals again I must explain that I don’t mean petrol. Come to think of it, if they call petrol, ‘gas’ what do they call gas? Very strange. Anyway I digress.

Now some of you may be aware that I live in a mobile home, or ‘park home’ as they’ve recently re-labelled them. Actually I call it a caravan but not too loudly because it upsets some of the neighbours.

On one side is the canal, to the other is the brook (recently also re-labelled as a river, but I don’t know who they’re trying to kid).

Very picturesque it is too, which is why I’ve lived here for the best part of thirty years and why Kate gave up her house when we got married. Job’s a good ‘un, as we say in these parts.

But, due to our location we are not connected to mains gas. 

So we have a tank.

No madam, not a Challenger or a Panzer, please pay attention – this one is for LPG.

fullsizeoutput_71b

And, every so often, along comes a tanker and tops it up.

Again, jobs a good ‘un.

Except.

They don’t deliver in summer. Fair enough, the heating isn’t on so we only need it for cooking and hot water so we don’t use so much.

Then, one morning last week we noticed a smell.

Gas!

I checked the tank. According to the gauge we’re running on fumes. The needle is so far past zero that it’s nearly come around to full again.

There is a quite distinctive smell (my Grandad was a gas man back in the day, so I know what the bloody stuff smells like) and an ominous hissing noise from the pipework. 

There’s also a shut off valve.

I shut it off.

Hisssss!

Bugger!

Obviously the leak is before the shut off valve.

SHgs65BeS+KE6j3swOCbEw

There are labels on the tank. In an emergency call this number immediately!

I called it.

Immediately.

It rang for quite a long time, giving me pause to reflect that following my heart attack four years ago I had been very sensible to give up smoking, otherwise I may now be flying through the air with my eyebrows singed.

Eventually a woman answered. ‘Hello.’

‘I can smell gas,’ I told her. ‘I think there’s a leak on my tank.’

‘Oh.’ She replied. ‘Can you hang on, I think there’s a form around here somewhere that I have to fill out.’

Even with the immediacy of the situation I did find that strangely reassuring. At least these things don’t appear to happen very often, I thought. Perhaps I wasn’t in danger of being blown to kingdom come after all.

Eventually she came back, ‘Have you got your account number?’

FFS!

I held it together admirably. ‘No!’

She made do with my postcode.

‘Have you turned off the gas at the regulator?’

‘No, but I did turn off the shut-off valve and that made no difference.’

‘Oh.’ 

I imagined her desperately thumbing through some technical manual trying to find a solution.

I was wrong.

‘I’m new here,’ she said, ‘I really don’t know what to suggest.’

My gob was smacked!

Translation once more for my American buddies – FFS!

But – and this is what has really got my goat – she put me on to someone else.

‘Do you have any gas?’ She asked.

‘No,’ I told her, ‘the gauge is reading way below zero, it must have nearly all escaped!’

‘Actually it hasn’t.’ I thought she sounded rather smug. ‘I think you’ll find you’ve run out. You should have phoned up and ordered some more when it got below twenty five percent full.’

WTF! 

Now it’s my fault!

‘But I can smell gas!’

‘That’s not gas.’ She delivered her coup de grace. ‘We put in an artificial smell which escapes when your tank gets too low so that you know it needs filling.’

Gobsmacked is now an understatement.

‘What!!??’

‘Yes, I’ll order you a delivery. We won’t know if your tank is leaking until you have some gas in it.’

‘What!!?? How long will that take?’

‘Seven to ten working days.’

The tank was filled a mere five days later. The smell has gone. It seems the tank wasn’t leaking after all and little miss smarty pants was right all along.

But really?

Two things strike me as strange.

Firstly – if there has to be a smell to alert you that the tank needs filling, why oh why does it smell of, of all things – gas? Immediately you fear the worst, and if my first emergency contact had decided to take a coffee break as the enormity of her career choice clearly hadn’t been explained to her, I would probably have phoned the fire brigade. Why doesn’t the ‘your tank is empty’ warning smell like roses, or freshly ground coffee, or even – heaven forbid – a stale fart?

Secondly and even more confusingly, even with my limited knowledge of chemistry, how the hell does an artificial smell – which is obviously heavier than gas because it sits at the bottom of the tank until the gas is gone – how the hell does it escape from the tank and the gas doesn’t?

Answers on a postcard please. 

Advertisements

Did I mention..?

I’ve only gone and got myself another job!
Now don’t get excited, it’s not paid.
Oh, and don’t worry – I’m not giving up the day job either.
No madam, I’m not giving up the blog or the writing.
O.k., who shouted, ‘Shame!’? There’s no need!
Some people!
No listen, I’m now a columnist for ‘Canals Online’ magazine.
I know, I know. I’m chuffed once again. It seems that my chuffedness knows no bounds. Just as soon as I think, ‘do you know what, I think that I’m as chuffed as it’s possible to be,’ something comes along and boosts my chuffidity to a whole new level.
Now I must admit I feel a bit of a fraud. Stop shuffling about at the front and I’ll tell you why.
I haven’t actually got a boat.
Apparently I don’t need one.
Hard to believe I know.
I don’t fish either.
No, nor cycle.
And I don’t even…
Hang on a minute, will you stop fidgeting.
Yes you. I asked nicely not long ago.
What is that you’ve got there?
Is it?
Eurrgh! Well put it down and go and wash your hands.
So for the rest of you, here’s what happened. I was looking for somewhere to advertise, DOGNAPPED!
Pardon? Yes, that’s right, the first kids book.
Anyway I was trawling through the Internet and…
No, I don’t know why I wasn’t trying to advertise the third book, ON THE DOG WALK. Somehow my mind doesn’t work that way.
What!? No I said ‘trawling through the Internet,’ not ‘trolling,’ that’s something entirely different. Perhaps you should join our hand washing mate and go and give your ears a quick swill.
I said, ‘GO AND GIVE YOUR EARS A SWILL.’
Oh sorry, is it? Well switch it back on again, that way I won’t have to shout so much.
‘I said, ‘SWITCH IT BACK ON…’ Good Lord, does it always whistle like that?
So yes, anyway, I wanted somewhere to advertise DOGNAPPED! and if you remember it’s set on a narrowboat. So I thought, ‘Why not try canal magazines?
So I did.
Canals Online.
Columnists Wanted,’ it said on the Home page.
Hmmm! I thought.
Could I?
It might just attract more readers to my blog, I thought.
No, I never said anything about a better class of reader now, did I?
Although thinking about it…
Well if you’re going to complain at least stop picking your nose while you’re doing it! Honestly, I ask you!
So I anyway I applied.
And now I am.
A columnist.
For ‘Canals Online’ magazine.
Here’s my first one here.

http://bit.ly/2DFuK0W
Try it, you might like it. And don’t forget to read the rest of the magazine too. It’s only fair.
Oh hello, back again. Didn’t dry your hands I see. You what? The dryer’s broken. Well that’s not my problem is it?
No don’t wipe them down my trouser leg like that! It’s unhygienic.
No I’m not going to go through it all again just for you.
Well you should have thought of that before, shouldn’t you? Some people!
Ask the others, perhaps they’ll tell you.
I have to go away and write next months column.
Now I’m a columnist.

Going Home

Those of you who have taken the time to visit my website may recognise this. It started life as a radio sketch which I’ve now rewritten as a piece of flash fiction.
Whatever for?’ I hear you cry, ‘It was bad enough the first time!
Well I’ve done it for The Bloggers Bash competition, okay? Write about the royal wedding they said, three hundred words maximum they said. So here it is in three hundred words exactly. Well you know how pedantic I get about things like this. It’s called, ‘Going Home’ and I expect to get hauled to The Tower as soon as I press ‘PUBLISH.’ The last words I’ll hear will probably be, ‘Orf with his head.
It’s been nice knowing you.

GOING HOME

A lone piper played, ‘Donald where’s your troosers?’ the melody skirled along the glen.
A single shotgun blast transformed the refrain into a discordant wail as the bagpipes deflated.
‘Philiip!’ Faintly against the breeze.
‘Wha..? Bloody woman! Who the hell does she think she is?’ A servant squirmed uncomfortably beside him. ‘Go man, chase them out as we discussed.’
Discharging spent cartridges and reloading, he watched the gamekeeper hurriedly depart whilst his wife approached from the opposite direction, skirt flapping above wellingtons.
‘Phillip, are you shooting musicians? Again?’
‘New headscarf dear? Haven’t seen you in ages; been Googling yourself?’
‘Musicians, Phillip!?’
‘Bloody racket. Mercy killing I call it. What do you want anyway?’
‘Didn’t you get one’s email?’
‘You know I’m not a Golden Graham.’
‘The term is silver surfer. We’re going home. Now.’
‘We are home you stupid…’
‘Not this home. One of the big ones. In London. And no pot shots at the tourists either.’
‘London! Hateful place. Besides there’s a corps of buglers in that copse, I sent gillie to flush them out.’
A roar escalated, rushed overhead and faded, chased away by two gunshots.
‘Phillip!’
‘Bloody Red Arrows. Following us about, frightening the damn horses!’
‘Come, we have to pack.’
‘Why?’
‘One’s grandson is getting married.’
‘Married! Is the filly preggers?’
‘No!’
‘Then what’s the damn rush?’
‘Phillip!’
‘Must we?’
‘It’s expected. One has subjects.’
‘We need another war, sort the buggers out. We’ll be singing that bloody song I suppose?’
From Balmoral Castle the opening strains of ‘God Save The Queen,’ echoed across the grounds.
‘That’s the one,’ Phillip sighed.
‘Oh Lord, Brian May is on one’s roof again.’
‘Allow me, my dear.’
The shotgun barked and the chords died away.
‘Oh, good shot, Phillikins.’ she patted his arm affectionately.
‘One aims to please, ma’am.’

AWESOME

Did you see it?
Hold on, let me rephrase that.
DID YOU SEE IT!!!???
How awesome was that?

What do you mean, ‘What is he waffling on about now?’

I’ll tell you what I’m ‘waffling’ about thank you very much!
The Falcon Heavy, that’s what. Take the ‘Falcon’ from Star Wars’ Millennium Falcon, add the word heavy, because with the car that it’s carrying it weighs a bit more than your average roadster.
To para-phrase the words of a very old song, ‘it went up diddly up up and came down diddly down down.

Oh, still none the wiser, huh?
I’m not too surprised actually, the T.V. news had a lot on it’s mind after all. Notts County were playing Swansea in the cup as I recall.

SpaceX, that’s what I’m on about as Elon Musk bids to be the first multi-billionaire to get the merchandising rights in outer space by launching a giant phallic symbol into the heavens. Up yours, Branson, you’re a just a Virgin – I’m the bigger man.

That’s right, there’s now a crash test dummy in a space suit nonchalantly steering his Tesla around the speed bumps of the asteroid belt. You don’t get that sort of advertising for peanuts, let’s face it.

Now I must admit that I am very much surprised that more use hasn’t been made of our local celestial bodies before now. The ‘Coke’ (probably a registered trade mark sort of thing) logo, or the Maccy D’s Golden Arches (more trade mark type of blurb here) projected onto each full moon perhaps.

Surely it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that someone like Disney for instance could join up the dots in Orion’s belt, head off around the plough, the great bear and beyond to sketch out a quick characature to promote their latest cinematic venture.
But no, it’s been left to the leccy car maker to show his green credentials by slinging a bit of old scrap out around the Sun for the next billion years or so. You don’t get much more environmentally friendly than that do you? After all everyone knows that the environment ends at the bottom of the street, hence all the fly tipping.

And I’ve no doubt that there will be a lot of naysayers. It didn’t happen. It was all staged. The world is flat or at least a bit bent, so any rocket launch would have bounced off Australia. That sort of thing.

We’ll have discussions no doubt about what gender the dummy is. Is it straight, gay or gender neutral, black, white, brown, red, yellow or pink with purple spots. Is it Democrat, Republican, Communist, Socialist, vegan, a leaver, a remainer or, heaven forbid, Australian.

We may somehow have offended God – no, I’m not sure which one.

And I’m also only too aware of the arguments regarding the fact that we should only attempt this sort of thing once we have solved all of the worlds ills, abolished war, cured all diseases, crawled out of poverty and put an end to pollution.

And I’m more than very, very aware that we will never do/ achieve any of those things, admirable as they may be. We’re not that sort of creature, let’s face it, much as we like to brag about our opposable thumbs. A lot of the time we are downright nasty, argumentative, warmongering, ‘I’m all right Jack,’ sort of apes who couldn’t organise a Brexit in a brewery (and before you start on me again, remember that I didn’t say which side I was on). Don’t believe me? Just go on any vaguely contentious post on Facebook and you can almost feel the vitriol.

So I’ll say it again, DID YOU SEE IT?
AWESOME, with a capital AWE.

Excuse me a minute, I’m an engineer after all. This Is mightily big stuff. We’ve done some fantastic things. We’ve built enormous buildings, bridges, ships – yes even electric cars. We’ve created enough bangs to out-mushroom each other should Nelly the Elephant believe his own rhetoric about North Korea. But this..!

Twenty seven rocket motors in perfect harmony. There was more thrust there than you’ll ever see on a Saturday night missus.

And then, and then, the bloody fuel tanks came back to Earth and landed, two in perfect synchronisation in the middle of the target area and one, get this, one on a barge – at sea! Okay it missed, but it was damn close and in the words of another song, ‘two out of three ain’t bad.

And it didnae change the laws of physics, Jim.

The day when the promised marvels from the Eagle comics of the fifties and sixties and I’m sad to say, my youth, finally came to life.

Dan Dare lives, he’s driving a roadster to Mars, with Bowie blasting from the in car stereo and those immortal words, ‘DON’T PANIC’ writ large on the sat-nav.

Expect the Mekon and the Vogons along any day now.

I’d better brush up on my poetry.

Radio Ga Ga…

Oh hello.
Blimey you snuck in didn’t you? I never heard a thing.
I was what?
Oh, miles away.
That’s true I suppose.
Things on my mind.
A lot of stuff going on.

Did I tell you that I was going to be on the radio?
Again, yes.
What do you mean, you’re surprised they’ll let me back after last time!
It wasn’t that bad.

Was it?

Anyway, yes I’m going back.
Dave Homer’s show like the last couple of times.
Well yes, he’s a very nice bloke.

Did you know he’s the real ‘Mr Dave,’ of Balti Dave fame.
No?
Remember all those curry houses down Lye High Street – his fault.
See, you learn something new every day, don’t you.

I wonder what he’ll ask me? That’s why I’m so distracted. Running through the possibilities.
About the third Misty book obviously, that’s why I’m going in the first place.
He had me there for the first two after all.
But there’s so much more.

What do you mean, ‘like what?david robertson
There was The People’s Book Prize last summer. I could tell him a couple of funny stories about that, couldn’t I?
No I’m not telling you what, you’ll have to listen in won’t you!

fullsizeoutput_25d

Then there was the play wot I wrote. PM dot com. We could chat about that.
The Saturday night performance yes. Goes without saying really doesn’t it.

I never want to think about the Friday night again to be honest. All those fluffed lines. Waiting in the wings when I should have been on stage.

Wearing a Manchester City shirt – I still feel unclean! Well I haven’t got that many United shirts and my brother was the only person I know with enough strip for the cast. Just a shame he supports that mob from the wrong end of town! No matter how much I scrub myself…

What?

Oh yes, you’re right – I”d forgotten the stray dog running around the audience in the second half. Ha ha! I wonder where he came from? I wonder where he went?
Still, the Saturday performance was soooo much better.

It got a laugh anyway.

17342786_10154627669764086_1081957200397871344_n

And now I’m a professional playwright.
I got paid for it, so there.
I don’t think the amount is important, do you.
Oh!
Seeing as you asked it was ahem, ahem.
Pardon? Oh you didn’t hear. Never mind then.
Okay, okay! If you insist.
A pound.
No need to laugh quite so hard, thank you!

So anyway I decided to write another.
Yes, another play.
Well you don’t need to groan quite like that.
It’ll be funny.
In places.
No, I can’t tell you what it’s about. If I did I’d have to shoot you, it’s a secret see.
Don’t want anyone picking it up before it’s ready.

It’s set in The Black Country.
That’s as much as I’m saying otherwise Lenny Henry or Doreen Tipton might nick it.

Perhaps I’ll tell my mate Dave though.
Perhaps I’ll tell him that I do a blog.
What do you mean, ‘Where?
This is it!
Honestly!

Tell you what, I’ll mention your name.
You’ll have to listen now, won’t you?
102.5 FM Black Country Radio.
From 3 o’clock on Friday afternoon.
Or get it on catch up.
It’ll be a loff anyroad up.
Bostin. 😀

The square root of zero…

So here we are already one fiftytwoth of the year into 2018.
And exactly what have I achieved?

Well, nothing actually.

But you see, that’s not a very fair question is it?

What do you mean, ‘Why not?

Isn’t it obvious.

No, I don’t think, ‘Because you’re an idle bastard,’ is a valid comment.
The reason is because this first week doesn’t actually count, does it?

No.

You see this first week has been spent chatting to fellow bloggers setting targets which we hope to achieve during the other fifty one weeks of the year.
So I have actually been very busy.

No, I knew you were going to raise that old chestnut.
These are not resolutions.

Definitely not.
Resolutions are for packing up things like smoking, or drinking, or eating too much cream cake, that sort of thing.

And let’s face it resolutions are all too easily broken. Take that one I made at midnight to curb my excessive drinking habit. The fact that I toasted the idea with a very large Jack Daniels gives you some idea how that turned out.
No, these are targets. Goals if you like. Something to aim for.

Pardon?

Oh! How did I get on with last years?
Well let me just say that the objectives which were mooted at this point in the preceding twelve month span were perhaps not met with the resounding success that may have been envisaged at that juncture – but that exciting new opportunities were indeed, in the fullness of time, opened up with a view to future development.

I sound like a what?ardeh+U%TqaqnlwMTXrQ3APolitician!

Shoot me now!

What was that?

Oh that’s good.
I hadn’t heard that before. ‘The square root of zero is still bugger all.

I shall have to remember that one to use the next time I want to sound like a disparaging old fart.

Well I’m sorry to be so blunt, but there was no need for you to say that was there?

Encouragement, that’s what I need right now.
Okay, so I may not have achieved all that I set out to do last year.
No you’re right, I didn’t achieve anything actually.

But I tried.

Procrastination – that’s my biggest problem. I even wrote a blog about it. See, see, I did do something after all.
Yes, I know. Writing a piece about not doing anything is hardly something to shout about.
But it’s a start.
From tiny acorns and all that.
There’ll be a mighty oak along any minute now, just you wait and see.

Anyway – you know me. Always look on the bright side.
All those plans that I made last year can be exactly the same as the ones I’m making this year. I’ll just copy them out and have time to put my feet up for a bit.
See, I’ve already written a blog about procrastination, how’s that for progress?

Pass me last years diary, let’s see what’s going to be keeping me off the streets for the next fifty one weeks.

Oh, and while you’re up, could you pass me that packet of fags, a can of lager out of the fridge and I’m sure there was something else. That’s it, a nice slice of that cream filled Victoria sponge should slide down quite nicely I think.

Cute puppy though!

Ho bloody ho!

Pardon?

Oh, I thought you’d never ask.
But seeing as how you have – and may I just say that I think you took your time, you could clearly see that I was suffering – the answer to your question is, lousy thanks.
Yes I’m off the scale of from one to wretchedness.

Oh, you didn’t ask before because I, ‘looked like I was going to whinge.’
Charming!
As if I’d do that.

Anyway, Kate asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I never expected this.

Bloody man flu!

Of all things!

A few pairs of pants would have been fine quite honestly. I wouldn’t even have expected them to be bloody gift wrapped.
But no, that was obviously not good enough. She wanted me to really suffer, so nothing from Primark thank you very much. Straight to the snots and sore throat department for her. Oh, look over there – headaches on special offer I’ll get him one of those too, he’ll like that.

Thanks a bunch darling.

And all nicely wrapped in a box of man-sized tissues.

What?
Well yes of course she had it first, but that was just a minor girly cold. It’s getting slightly better after a couple of weeks and yes, she did have a few days off work, but even so…

This is serious.

I’m at least twenty four hours in now and I have to tell you that I’m proper poorly.
Feel my forehead.
Go on, don’t be shy.

See, I’m burning up aren’t I?

I’m what!? Slightly warm!?
Well quite frankly I’m glad that you’re not a doctor.
Good grief I’m at death’s sodding door here.

Well yes, I can see how you might think that me wearing a tee shirt, two jumpers a scarf and overcoat under my dressing gown whilst I’m lying on the sofa under a duvet may have elevated my temperature slightly but I can assure you right now that I’m in the grip of a raging fever.
I may even become delirious, I may start raving. Please make allowances if I do say something inappropriate.
What do you mean, ‘how would I know the difference?
Charming!

Still, it was nice of you to visit.
Would you mind popping the kettle on while you’re here?

IMG_0478No you’ll need more water in than that – fill it to the top.

Did you ask why?

Because I’d like a hot water bottle and a hot toddy please.

Oh, oh, a bit more whiskey than that please. Go on don’t be shy.
No, just chuck the empty bottle over there.
With the rest, yes.
Thank you.

There’s a list on the side there. Shopping yes. If you wouldn’t mind. Not right away of course. When you’ve got time. Although I am running low on tissues. Oh, and I’m not sure if my note makes it clear but could you make sure to get the ones with the soothing balm. A bit gentler on the nose I find, well worth the extra expense. I think it’s important not to be too, shall we say frugal, when it comes to one’s health and well-being.

You’re muttering under your breath again.

Can you overdose on Lemsip?
I just wondered, looking at all these discarded sachets lying on the floor among the tissues. Perhaps I ought to switch back to Paracetamol and cough syrup for a bit to give it chance to get out of my system.

You’re what sorry?

Oh, you’re off.
Well thanks again for coming over.
Very kind.
See I didn’t whinge, did I?
Could you just make sure that the t.v. remote is in reaching distance before you go.
And the telephone handset please.
Yes, just put it next to my pillow there.
In case I have to call an ambulance.