Life on the cut

I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I started writing a regular column for Canals Online magazine. For those of you who didn’t believe it, here is one of the aforementioned articles, treated of course with my usual diplomatic reverence.
As mentioned in the last edition of ‘Canals Online’ magazine, spring has well and truly sprung and is now in full swing down by old bridge number 38.

‘How do you know,’ I hear you cry.
Well I’ll tell you a few of the tricks us old timers living down by the cut use in defining the passing of the seasons.
Firstly, during the first full school holiday week of Easter the tourist boats begin to weave their way up from Stourport. ‘Weave’ is the operative word as the novice captain of the vessel struggles with the intricacies of steering left but going right.
Also during this holiday period it rains.
Incessantly.
Yes, it comes down in galvanised bloody buckets.
Happy Easter, pass the creme eggs, some oilskins and a sou’wester.
But there are other signs.
Fishermen for a start.
The secretive solitary angler has slowly been shedding his winter plumage. The waterproof green and brown camouflage jacket and camouflage over-trousers with visible bum crack have been replaced by a stunning pair of dungarees in a fetching Grey/ Black ‘shock and awe’ pattern just in case a Russian submarine should surface through the murky waters of the Staffs and Worcs. ‘Can’t smear Novichok nerve agent on my knob, Vladimir – I’m disguised as a rock.’
Flocks of them have now appeared on the banks, freshly returned from their winter migration to The Horse and Jockey or the far more exotic Hinksford Arms.
The calls have changed too. Instead of the customary grunt of the lone fisherman in response to any hearty greeting from passing walkers, the calls echo out as they try to locate their mate – ‘How about them Dingles? Couldn’t pass a ball if they tried!’
‘You need bloody talk, the Baggies ain’t much better.’
The ritual displaying of their wares is in full swing. Boxes on wheels have been dragged through the countryside before being opened up to allow all and sundry to see the bewildering array of hooks and lures lovingly arranged in trays. Phalanxes of carbon fibre rods lie across the towpath, held up on all sorts of tripods, steady’s, stands, racks and bits of old twig, giving each angler more catching power than a fleet of Grimsby trawlers.
A pair of Tupperware boxes, one with cheese sandwiches in cling film which have been mouldering on the windowsill since last Wednesday and one full of maggots fresh from the fridge lie discarded in the grass. Take care not to mix those two up then.
A chorus of disapproval starts at the far end and like some slow motion Mexican wave the only rod each of them ever uses is hoisted out of the water and into the air to let the latest learner skipper zig-zag his way past.
Look out!
Coming toward us now is the latest fair weather visitor, clad in shorts, an Action Heart tee shirt and shiny new trainers. Yes, the occasional jogger has peeked out of its nest, discerned that the temperature is above fifteen degrees and it is unlikely to drizzle for at least the next half an hour. He has set out on a mission to jog up as far as the pub, stop for a crafty half and then head back in an effort to lose a few pounds. As well as his colourful plumage he wears a Fitbit on his wrist to be examined every few seconds as an antidote to his being unable to access Facebook in this wi-fi dead-spot called ‘the countryside.’ He is also sporting a utility belt which would make Batman green with envy. There is a water bottle handily placed to be unslung without
losing pace. An iPod is connected up to his head with the latest in ear-bud technology. There is a spare water bottle and a container with re-hydration fluid for emergencies. A pouch contains a multigrain bar which when opened will look (and probably taste) like something that has fallen out of the backside of a squirrel. There are a packet of plasters because you never know do you? He once stumbled, fell and grazed a knee whilst attempting to
hurdle a particularly well spread dog poo. Another pouch contains an economy tub of Vaseline just in case his nipples start to chafe and create static electricity against the nylon of his shirt. And if his right arm should somehow become incapacitated there is a further water bottle within reaching distance of his left arm, to which is also strapped a blood pressure monitor and a sweat band.
Another recent riser from hibernation is the fisherman’s arch rival. So fast and unwilling to stop are these creatures that it causes the normally reticent angler to swear and cuss like girls on a hen night in Newcastle as they hastily drag their fancy plastic rods off the towpath. In a blur of florescent Lycra the mountain biker swoops past covered in an array of multi-national corporate logo’s like an oversubscribed advertising hoarding, head armoured against attack and bum splattered in mud (well at least I hope that’s what that is!) because his bicycle is far too fancy for mud-guards.
Also leaping out of the way are a pair of ramblers. Quiet and unassuming these shy creatures are also agitated by the cyclists ill-mannered charge past and the male may ‘TUT!’ loudly only to be admonished by his mate who will tap his arm apologetically and whisper, ‘George, really!’ They dress identically in a (whisper it, because the next bit is rude) uni-sex sort of way. Despite the heat they wear long grey woollen socks which are rolled down to the top of their hiking boots. Khaki shorts are topped with check patterned shirt (or blouse). He wears a cap, she a sun hat. He carries an Ordnance Survey map in a plastic cover and a compass which he examines at regular intervals despite being on a towpath which allows only a choice of two directions. She has a canvas knapsack inside which is a tinfoil wrap of egg and cress sandwiches, two packets of plain crisps, four Hob-Nobs in cling-film, a thermos of tea – no sugar, her reading glasses (his are on a string around his neck for map and compass readings) and two sensible raincoats.
If I’m not very much mistaken in that thicket over there, just off the towpath – if we approach quietly… Ah yes, I thought it was, the den of the angst ridden teenager – thankfully unoccupied. Normally raucously obnoxious when in a group but get one alone and it will become monosyllabic, with words like ‘yeah,’ ‘nah,’ or ‘innit.’
Pardon?
Oh, how do I know?
Well it’s very similar to looking out for Otter scat. As you will notice there are many empty cans of lager strewn about and the lingering smell of weed signifies that they have been marking their territory. We’d better get back out into the open in case they come back.
Watch out for the over excited Alsatian bounding along it will probably (ah yes, I thought it would – apologies for the tardy warning, it was running faster than I thought) sniff your groin and drool unnervingly. Here comes the owner, or ‘Dad’ as he likes to be called in Tyson’s presence, with a cheery if hesitant, ‘he’s very friendly, so I don’t think he’ll hurt you.’ He would have been closer to his pooch but he was diligently poo picking before hanging the plastic bag from the branch of the nearest tree like a gaudy Christmas bauble.
And that my friends is how we country bumpkins tell the time of year. Summer will be upon us soon, it’s scheduled for a week next Thursday – we will of course know by the arrival of a pair of Kayakers and a paddle boarder.
Oh yes, and the rain will be warmer.
If you’d like to read my latest musings of life on the cut for ‘Canals Online’ magazine you’ll find them at https://www.canalsonlinemagazine.uk/david-robertson-article-2
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I’m a SWAGger…

So I’ve got involved with a theatre group – wanna hear about it? Then read on.

Hi there and a happy New Year to you. 

I know that a lot of you liked and followed our SWAG page some time ago and…

Pardon? SWAG. That’s Stourbridge Writers and Actors Group, madam.

So anyway…

What?

Well I suppose technically it should be SWAAG, but allow us a bit of artistic licence here for heavens sake! 

Honestly, aren’t some people picky?

As I was saying, the group has been up and running for a few months now and we thought it was high time we told you what was occurring.

Firstly what is SWAG, I hear you cry?

Yes, I know that no one actually said anything my love, but remember that artistic licence we spoke about only a few seconds ago? 

Pardon? 

Yes it was, when I said, ‘I hear you cry,’ it was in fact a  figure of speech. Are you going to question every remark? 

Thank the Lord for that. So please sit down and try not to shuffle about so much. 

Yes you were. And rummaging about in your handbag too. 

You’re trying to find what? 

Well when you do find them please try to chew them quietly.

Anyone else? Yes, you at the back? Yes, you with your hand up…

…Oh! They’re through the doors behind you and turn right sir. 

Really? Are you!? 

Well turn left then. Apologies, it was the short hair and moustache that confused me.

So, can I start again?

Thank you.

SWAG.

It was formed some time ago by Mr Sean Harris, who then proceeded to do nothing with it until myself and Simon Faux (formerly of Radio D.J, fame) came along and, shall we say, gee’d him up a bit.

Me? Oh, I’m David Robertson- I write kids books and the odd play, as you’ll no doubt find out in due course.

What? Oh, okay, I’ll rephrase that then, ‘the occasional play,’ is that better? Not ‘odd’ as in ‘peculiar,’ although come to think of it…

The aim of the group is quite simple. To write, direct and produce our own work for your critical appreciation. We hope to entertain, possibly inform and give you a jolly good belly laugh if our production is a comedy of course. That may not be appropriate if we put on a drama for instance, please read the write up first – you wouldn’t like to chuckle in the wrong place now, would you?

So, having kickstarted young Mr Harris into action, we began recruiting others of a thespian bent.- yes I thought that might confuse you, madam. I’ll explain it later.

We are currently rehearsing our first play (technically the second as all three of us were involved in a production of ‘pm .com’ with a different group, although that’s another story). 

This current one though is ‘Downside Abbey’ written by the aforementioned Sean Harris. You may recognise that the title is very similar to a recent production which was on the telly box. Obviously ours is far superior as there are far more jokes involved. We are hoping to stage it in early April 2019, so watch this space and I’ll furnish you with the details of when, where and how ridiculously inexpensive admission is, in upcoming blog posts. 

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Yes madam, this is set to become a regular feature so you’d better get used to it.

And don’t raise your eyes to the heavens like that. There’s no need!

Following on from that we will be working on ‘Dudley – not quite a musical,’ a potted history of this wonderful part of the country, written by yours truly. Hopefully that will be coming your way in July in time to celebrate Black Country Day with a fit of the giggles.

So that’s it for now, except to say…

…oh what is it now?

How do you get involved as an out of work actress?

Well anyone wishing to get involved is welcome to drop us a message on the Facebook page and we’ll be pleased to furnish them with details.

Sorry, I didn’t realise you were ‘in the trade’ so to speak, madam.

You were? Really? Now you’re taking the…

Well, I don’t doubt you, but I hardly see a little, grey haired old lady would have much of a part in a Bond movie.

Oh, you were his boss!

Dear me, it just gets better and better. Have you thought of comedy writing?

Can I ask your name? After all I do now consider myself something of an expert in the world of luvviedom.

Dame Judy who?

Never heard of you!

 

Find out more on Facebook search – Stourbridge Writers and Actors Group – SWAG

Happy Christmas – here it is again…

I know it’s been done before, but I couldn’t let today go by without recycling this message from Misty because, well, you know what old Miss Cranky Pants is like.
‘Wouldn’t it be nice if you could sort out some nice carols,’ I said, ‘for the Christmas do’s that we’ve got coming up.’
But according to her there are none that suit.
No dogs represented apparently.
So she’s written her own, to rectify the situation, so here not for the first time is –

MISTY’S CHRISSYMUS SONG BOOK

All together now!

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I THINK I’M IN DANGER
(Traditional tune – Away in a Manger)

I think I’m in danger, I may come to harm
The farmer has left me in charge of the farm
There are creatures all over, it fills me with dread
How can one little collie, get this lot to bed

I run like a whirlwind, I ‘come bye’ like mad
I do all those tricks I was taught by my Dad
I round up some ducks, I herd up the hens
And if I was taller I’d open the pens.

The cattle are slowing, overtaken by sheep
At this rate of progress I may need a jeep
The horses are frisky and starting to stray
And some blooming piglets have stolen the hay.

The stars in the night sky are less than impressed
And I have begun now to run out of zest
I lay down my head with a feeling of sorrow
‘Oh sod it!’ I think, ‘I’ll sort it tomorrow.’

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A SHEPHERD WATCHED
(Traditional tune – what do you think!?)

A shepherd watched his sheep one night
While seated on the ground
A silly ass came rushing past
And chased the flock around

He scratched his head in stunned surprise
Not knowing what to do
‘Fear not’, spake forth a little voice
‘I’ll round them up for you.’

Looking round, the shepherd spied
A dog come into view
‘Pray tell forsooth,’ the shepherd said
‘What’s in the deal for you?’

‘Believe me’, spake the little dog
‘This really is no scam,
I only wish a bed of straw,
Maybe a leg of lamb.’

The man agreed, for he true knew
He was in trouble deep
In less than thirty seconds flat
The dog herded up the sheep.

The shepherd, he was most impressed
‘Pray what do they call you?’
‘Colin,’ replied the little dog,
Head in a bowl of stew.

The shepherd, who was Mutton Jeff
He heard this not the same
And that my friend’s the story of
How collies got their name.

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ONCE A DASCHUND
(Traditional tune – Once in Royal David’s City)

Once a Daschund loyal and so pretty
Had a kennel, it was painted red
Not a fan of anything so grisly
The garish hue was doing in her head
The colour really made her cross
So she went out and bought a tin of gloss

Daschunds they are really such a small breed
Being quite deficient in the leg
But our friend she really paid it no heed
The problem never entering her head
But when half finished, she was madder
Our poor mutt, she couldn’t find a ladder.

People came for miles just to wonder
This marvel all mankind could now behold
No one there could quite believe the blunder
On Facebook, Twitter, everyone was told
What an awful colour scheme
The top still red – the bottom painted green.

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Quite how Ashley got his picture here I’m not too sure! Did you know that someone started a movement to get him back in favour for book 4 – honestly, what a nerve!
CHUCK THE BALLS
(Traditional tune – Deck the halls)

Chuck the balls for hounds and collies
Fah la la, la la, bark, bark
‘Tis the reason I’m so jolly
Fah la la la la, la la, bark, bark
Chuck them further, chuck them higher
Fah la la, fah la la, bark, bark, bark,
You’ll be shattered, I won’t tire
Fah la la la la, la la, bark, bark.

And so, our little homage to dogs at Christmas is nearly over. Only one left to sing and just to warn you, there is a slightly naughty word in it. So sorry yet again! I did tell her, but Misty muttered something about it being artistic license. I just said that it was awfully rude.
Anyway that’s just about it for now. As I said there’s one tune left. Hope you enjoy it – put your fingers in your ears for ‘that’ word.
Oh, take a look around the rest of the blog site- there’s all sorts of stuff on there to give you a bit of a giggle.

By the way, these great pictures are drawn by the very talented Mr Ian R Ward.

HAPPY CHRISTMAS ONE AND ALL

Clear your throats – that’s right madam, cough it up – it may be a gold watch! Let’s all have one last lusty chorus…

AN ALSATIAN
(Traditional tune – Good King Wotsiface)

An Alsatian, he set out
Told no one he was leaving
The pizza cooked, without a doubt
Was deep and crisp and even
His friends, he knew they liked it hot
But he had let it coo-el
A vital thing he had forgot
Oh what a silly foo-o-el!

He set out to the local shop
The weather it was snowing
He hoped no one had seen him go
But little was he knowing
A row of circles marked his trail
Of which way he would go-o
Steaming circles – yellow rimmed
Shining in the snow-o-o!

His friends who were all quite astute
Noticed their host missing
They all set off in hot pursuit
Following his pissing
They caught him at the checkout till
And mocked him till he blu-ushed
So don’t forget the garlic bread
Or you may end up flu-u-ushed!

rascal-running

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.

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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.

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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. 

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.