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 The waterproof green and brown camouflage jacket and camouflage over-trousers with visible bum crack have been replaced by a stunning pair of dungarees in a fetching Grey/ Black ‘shock and awe’ pattern just in case a Russian submarine should surface through the murky waters of the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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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

Psst! Wanna gatecrash an Xmas party?

Do you?
Good, come over here and I’ll tell you about it.
No, no, no.
Quietly!
Don’t draw attention to yourself, we don’t want everyone to know, do we?
What do you mean, ‘Why not?
I’ll tell you why not – what about if her at number 33 heard about it and turned up too, eh? Her with the gammy leg and the boss eye, yes. You wouldn’t want to get trapped up a corner in polite conversation with her now would you? No, exactly. You know what she’s like, anything you say will be taken down and used in evidence against you. Nosey old bat!
And him from the local debating society. Can you imagine… Dear Lord, you’d never get a word in edge ways. Annoying git!
So let’s just keep it to ourselves, yeah?
O.k.
So, this do is at Southcart Books in Walsall.
Yes you do know it, it’s behind that new Poundland place they’ve just built.
Pardon?
Is it?
53b Lower Hall, Lane WS1 1RJ?
Well you obviously know the place better than I do then. Let’s face it it’s a long way from Dudley.
That’s the one, yes, run by Scott and Amy.
Well I heard that they’re putting on a bit of a do on Saturday 16th December between 11 and 4. There’ll be food and drink and everything. Even people telling stories and reciting poetry.
So anyway, I was thinking of going over and taking the Misty Books gang with me.

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Now the new book is out, yes. Have I mentioned that at all?
You’re sick of hearing about it?
Well I thought you might be pleased.
After all it follows on from DOGNAPPED! which I may have mentioned was a finalist in The People’s Book Prize earlier this year. And then there was IN THE DOGHOUSE of course which is coincidentally a year old now and of course the latest ON THE DOG WALK which I just got my hands on from the publisher.Image 19-12-2016 at 08.01
You can take your fingers out of your ears now, I’ve finished the promo.
I SAID YOU CAN TAKE YOUR FINGERS…
Sorry, I didn’t mean to shout but you did have your fingers…
What?
Yes. Ian R Ward has done the illustrations for the new book too and once again they’re fantastic.
Oh, you’re interested now then. Not a story person I take it, more of a picture looker.
Just as well they’re for kids then isn’t it.
Well now you’re asking they’re aimed between seven and eleven as rough guide, although a lot of folk seem to like the shared reading experience for younger kids.
There’s an Amazon link here so you can take a look. http://amzn.to/2e0GyRe
Of course they’ll be cheaper at Southcart but like I said, keep it to yourself, we don’t want everyone to know. They make great stocking fillers.
Yes I’ll sign it.
You want a what? A bookmark? Oh go on then.
I might even tell you a story, ‘Th’auld pol on th’ cut’, you like that one don’t you. Can I do what? ‘The Bard of Dudlay’. Surely you don’t want to hear that old chestnut again! You do? Oh, alright then, if you insist.
I’ll see you there then, on the 16th.
But don’t forget, keep it to yourself. Whatever you do don’t…
You did didn’t you.
I saw you just then.
Pressing the share button.
Bloody hell. I’ll have to tell them to order more sodding sausage rolls now!4a-300-copy24129986_2071662109729175_3232081706566700152_n