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.’

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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!

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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. 😀

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.

Let Me Just Check…

As some of you no doubt know (and if not why not!? I’ve blogged about it enough) we’ve just got back from America. Well, not just, but recently enough for me not to have prepared any new blog posts lately  – that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. So here’s one that I did the first time we whizzed off to see Kate’s clan over in Huston back in 2015. As you’ll see there was a different guy in charge back then so I’m safe from abuse by Twitter if Nelly The Elephant doesn’t like this blog.

Pardon – oh, Nelly The Elephant? Trump, Trump, Trump. Really, don’t you pay attention to anything I write? I might as well delete all my previous blogs right now!

Anyway, as I was saying – obviously this time things went according to plan (yeah right, you know me too well!) but first time? Here is, Let Me Just Check…

…Yeah, passport, tickets all present and correct.
So, now I’ve just got to check in, on line – I’ve joined the technocological age.
What’s this? How many bags? I don’t bloody know, I ain’t finished packing yet! We’ll call it two eh? What’s the worst that could happen? Well they might not let me on the plane for a start. I better make sure there really is only sodding two then! I wonder where the passport is?
No, I’m not getting stressed.
Eddie Black said last night I ought to allow more time to get to Heathrow. He can’t possibly be right. Can he? Now what did I do with them tickets?
Hang on. What’s that muffled screaming sound?
Well perhaps I shouldn’t have packed Kate – I only wanted to make sure I knew where she was. That’s more than I can say for the passport and tickets! I’ll swear I had them only a few minutes ago.
She’s not happy! Apparently it was a bit cramped. That suitcase ain’t as big as it looks. Perhaps I put the tickets in there too. I’ll unpack it again and take a look.
Do I need those shorts? It’ll be hot. I’ve taken them out and put them back three times now. Can’t say I like wearing them, not really my style. But still, the passport may be in the pocket – I’d better take them.
No really, I’m not too stressed. I wonder where the tickets are?
She’s still going on. Honestly! I had to unpack her stuff to get her in the case. O.k. I was going to leave most of it behind  – does she really need more than two tee shirts! There are after all only two cases we can take now.
I wonder if she’s hidden my passport out of spite?
Thinking about it, who the hell wants to know how many cases I’m taking anyway. British Airways? The U.S. government? Barack bloody Obama? Perhaps he’s got the tickets!
There’s only twelve hours left to sort this mess out. If I say two cases, does it really mean two? Surely there must be a bit of leeway in the system! You know what they’re like in American immigration, I could end up on death row!
I swear I had my passport. I remember printing out the tickets. What was the problem with the old days when they sent them through the post? There was never all this cowing trouble!
NO I’M NOT FUCKING STRESSED!!!!!

Land of the acronym

So here I am another year older. I am now officially as old as God’s dog. Bloody hell, who’d have thought it? There are, of course, people older than me who would scoff and call me a spring chicken. And they would be quite justified in that. But just let me have a little reminisce before the ageing process goes too far and I end up in some depressing institution dribbling into my soup.

Yesterday – the day of the sixty second anniversary of my birth – I was lucky enough to spend at COTA. Yes, I’m in the good old U,S of A, land of the acronym ruled over by POTUS and FLOTUS. From listening to some over here the former could stand for President Orange, Totally Useless Shit. Others may have it as, Prosperity Over Trumps Utopian States. Just depends who you listen to. It’s a bit like Brexit without other countries being involved.

Anyway – COTA – Circuit Of The Americas, for those who don’t know about such things. Yes, I treated myself to the American Formula One Grand Prix. I’m over here visiting family, so it would be rude not to really, wouldn’t it. So resplendent in Red Bull team shirt and cowboy hat I ventured forth. In the rain! Now I should explain that when it rains here it does actually rain. It comes down all at once in galvanised buckets. Before you know it you’re up to your wheel trims in water. Pardon? No of course we don’t walk anywhere, that’s just not the American way. 


As luck would have it once we reached the circuit, God’s dog must have been looking down. The skies cleared, the sun shone and apart from Max Verstappen being cruelly robbed at the end I thoroughly enjoyed my treat.

Which led me to thinking. Over the years, who stand out in the memory as sportsmen I have seen in the flesh. No, not naked madam, I’m not some sort of changing room voyeur. It’s a bit like those lists you get on Facebook. I’m sure you have your own. These are mine.

Top of the list has to be The Holy Trinity. Yes, Best, Law and Charlton all on the pitch at the same time. I have to say that most of my footballing experiences were down at West Bromwich Albion’s ground. Back in the day that was hard enough to get to, let alone what must surely have been a three day trek to Old Trafford. Strangely they drew two apiece. United were losing in the first half two – nil. At half time Matt Busby must have said give the ball to George. They did, and someone sprinkled magic football dust on the ground. Bestie swayed and shimmied as only he could. Law headed in and Bobby Charlton struck a ball (not the flimsy plastic things of today) from twenty yards out which hit the back of the net like a thunderbolt.

At the same ground I saw that other trinity, albeit individually, Hurst, Moore and Peters. In another two all draw I witnessed first hand why Martin Peters was called ‘The Ghost.’ Across came the ball, no one was there until I swear that a trap door opened in the ground, out popped our man and headed home.

Cricket. Ah yes. On Saturday mornings Dad went to work. In doing so he had to pass Edgbaston, home of Warwickshire County Cricket Club. He’d throw me out on the way and pick me up coming back. I saw the legend which was Godfrey Evans playing for the Cavaliers in the swan song of his wicket keeping career. Other great names from the past, the two Fred’s, Trueman and Titmus, Bob Willis, Dennis Amis, Farouk Engineer, Gary Sobers. So many, but the one that stood out for me was the great West Indies player, Clive Lloyd. I always loved watching him, such a charismatic figure and I even played my own part in a test match, England v West Indies. The match, on Saturday as usual, was underway. All was going well until play was suddenly stopped. The crowd began to boo and jeer. I could make out cries of ‘sit down!’ through the din. Clive Lloyd was waving his arms, seemingly in my direction. Some idiot, it appeared, had wandered in front of the sight screen – a huge white board which shielded the ball from the crowd so that the batsman could see it coming. ‘How was the match?’ asked Dad when he picked me up. ‘Great.’ I replied, wondering if I blushed as much then as I had when I sat down with indecent haste that sunny afternoon.

At Cosford in 1981, Sebastian Coe broke the world indoor 800m record. I was there with my Dad and brother. Dad had been a racing cyclist in his youth. Both of them ran marathons for ‘fun.’ That gene thankfully missed me!

And so, back to the Grand Prix, at Zandvoort in the era of Mansell and Senna but perhaps more memorably my first at Brands Hatch, not perhaps for the race but for getting there. My Morris 1000 broke down on the way, but after a quick pit stop (and hastily joining the AA) I arrived in time to see Emerson Fittipaldi beat Jackie Stewart. The next year at Silverstone nearly half the field were taken out when Jody Scheckter crashed at the end of the first lap. What names though! Some still here but most long gone in pursuit of their sport. Hill, Peterson, Lauda, Hulme , Amon, Reutemann, Revson, Oliver, Ickx, Cevert and the never to be forgotten Jean-Pierre Beltois if only for the fact that I got his autograph even though I had no idea who he was, except that he must be a driver because he wore overalls.

So – thanks for the birthday wishes and allowing a sad old git to reminisce for a bit. 

I wonder what I’ll do next?

Trouble’s brewing…

I have a terrible confession to make. One that jeopardises the very essence of my being. In fact I’m not one hundred percent sure that I’m willing to share this shocking revelation with you, my blog loving readership, although I have in fact alluded to it in an earlier blog – I was just hoping that the situation might resolve itself.
So perhaps I won’t tell you after all.
I do find it quite embarrassing.
Pardon?
Oh, you want to hear it.
Are you sure?
Well I agree I have ‘dangled the carrot’ as you so eloquently put it.                                       Do stop giggling at the back, madam.
I suppose you’re right and after all I can’t unsay it now, can I?
I’ve gone a bit too far.
Okay, here goes.
Perhaps you should sit down.
Ready?
No no, I’m not prevaricating – again.
Here goes.
Ahem.
Sorry, just clearing my throat.
I don’t like tea.

There you have it.
What?
You were expecting something a bit more risqué?
Well I apologise, but it concerns me.
Greatly.
After all it goes to the very root of my ‘Englishness.
As a native of Shakespeare’s sceptred isle I should probably be swimming in the stuff every day before breakfast. As a Brit I’m supposed to like it.
And I used to.
Until they ripped out my still beating heart and replumbed it before thrusting it back and stapling up my chest cavity.
Sorry madam? Yes, you go and have a lie down. I’ll try not to be so graphic in future.
Anyway – perhaps it was something to do with the anaesthetic.
Put me right off. I can’t even bear the thought of drinking a brew now.
Proper tea of course.
By ‘proper‘ I mean the stuff that you might call breakfast tea, builders tea or something like that. Tea to put hair on your chest madam.
Tea to stand your spoon up in.
Tea as thick as custard.
Not that wishy washy tea that the Queen no doubt gets served on a daily basis. I’ll bet a pound to a penny that Madge would like nothing better than to wrap her regal mitts around a nice steaming mug of good old Tetley instead of that crappy green gunk she’s given.
Tea worth fighting our former colonial territories over.
Good old British tea – made in India, or China.

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And that brings me back to my point.
If I no longer like tea, am I no longer a dyed in the wool Englishman?
Don’t get me wrong, if there’s a game of cricket going on I’m all for lounging around by the boundary rope and applauding politely when a wicket is taken or the bowler is struck for six.
I can deride Johnny Foreigner with the best of them.
I know the main verse of the National Anthem and am quite comfortable with the last verse having something to do with giving those damned rebellious Scots a good crushing.
I do my best to keep my upper lip as rigid and untrembly as possible.
I’ve never tried, but I have no doubt that I could probably pole a punt with the best of them.
Wha..? No madam, with a ‘P.’
I live here, in Blake’s Jerusalem in the heart of the country that gave industrialisation to the world, the land that Constable and Turner painted, that Dickens wrote about in the language spoken by most of the planet.
But I now don’t like tea.
I feel like a traitor.
Perhaps they’ll drag me to The Tower, lop off my worthless head and mount it on a pike outside Westminster Palace as a warning to others not to be so fickle.
Or suspend me upside down over a vat of steaming Typhoo and dunk me like an unworthy digestive.
I’m supposed to go to the States in a couple of weeks, after this shocking admission I’ll be surprised if they let me back into the country of my birth.
I’ll be forced to live a life in exile in some coffee growing republic.
It’s been nice knowing you.