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!!!!!

Advertisements

I’m feeling a little bit cranky

I suppose your all feeling very smug, aren’t you?

Everyone back home in the UK I’m talking to.

Yes, you!

Enjoy your extra hour in bed did you?

I bet you did!

Me, being over here in the USA didn’t have that little luxury, did I? Oh no indeedy.

Normally I wouldn’t be too miffed. I mean you’ll lose it again come next spring won’t you. Oh and how you’ll moan then? Yes you will, because it always happens. The papers will be full of it. ‘What’s the point?’ ‘Only the bloody farmers want it’ ‘It’s all due to Brexit,’ that sort of thing. The trouble is that so will I, without the benefit of this years gain.

But do I get sympathy now? 

No, nothing. Because you’ve got an extra hour of coveted beauty sleep, that’s why. Not you of course madam, (let’s face it that’d take a damn sight longer). Sorry, dear? No nothing. We were just talking amongst ourselves, weren’t we folks. (I don’t think she knows actually, if I see her coming I cover the mirrors).

Now you can say it’s my fault for being on holiday. Blame me, yes it’s all my own fault. But I feel that I’m being unfairly penalised here.

What’s that? Why?

Because I’m not getting it back am I, that’s bloody why.

I’ll get on the flight home and at some point in mid Atlantic an extra hour will just get tacked on. It won’t be commented on or noted in any way. If I do happen to get 40 winks on the plane I won’t wake feeling refreshed and grateful for the precious gift I haven’t actually been given. I’ll just be jet-lagged and cranky.

Cranky, yes. A bit like now, thank you for pointing that out.

Let’s face it I won’t ever get it back will I? It’s not as if I had a receipt, could take it back to the shop and say, ‘this hour is faulty, can you please replace it in accordance with my statutory rights?’

And yes I take your point. On a long haul flight every minute does indeed seem like a week and by that reasoning I’ll gain at least eight years, but those are eight years of red eyed purgatory. You’ve just had one hour luxuriating in your pit. There’s a difference.

It doesn’t matter that you’re not tired, does it. You could use it constructively. Stare at the ceiling, mentally putting the world to rights. 

Have breakfast in bed for once.

That sort of thing.

Pardon madam? You’re feeling a bit unfulfilled yourself? Why? Well never mind, next time make sure the batteries are fully charged! 

Wha..? Her phone was flat, the alarm didn’t go off and she missed the whole ‘extra hour’ thing entirely. Honestly you lot! Mind you thinking about things like that perhaps having a bit more time we could even have – pardon – oh thanks a lot! Kate says I normally manage that in thirty seconds! 

Anyway, writing this has given me time to come up with a solution. 

I know exactly what to do now.

I’m coming back here at the end of March to not lose my hour then instead.

So stick that in your pipe and smoke it! We’ll see who’s cranky then shall we?

Send the cavalry

So I’ve swapped Misty and Milly for a couple of weeks for their American cousins. That’s Henry (the small white one) and Murphy (the bigger brown one).


Pardon?
I don’t think that they bark with American accents, no.

Anyway… Sorry, what!?

No they don’t walk on the wrong side of the path either. And before you start again let’s not get into the whole potato, potarto/ tomato, tomarto argument o.k. We’d be here all day.

As I was about to say, I’ve been taking the lads out for a walk. In the morning, when it’s cooler – sorry, I just had to get that dig in. Is it raining back home? Oh dear!

But. And as so many things are over here, this is a big BUT. No, with one ‘T’, dear – there is a difference. Can I carry on now? Thank you.

But, when me and the girls go out in dear old Blighty we usually venture down the cut – oh, apologies again, that’s a Black Country phrase meaning ‘along the canal towpath’ – the most dangerous thing we are likely to encounter is a slightly miffed duck, annoyed because we haven’t brought it some bread.

Here in Fulshear, Texas, the new housing estates tend to be surrounded by water. Like a moat around a castle. And very picturesque it is too. Egrets stand by the bank looking all, well egrety actually, the banks are lush green grass, fountains fount. Lovely.


Hold on. What’s this? A sign. Let’s just take a look… WTF!


I thought those ripples in the middle were a bit big for any sort of fish I’ve ever seen the fishermen of England drag out of the Staffordshire and Worcester canal. And although the grass is neatly trimmed for the first foot or so, isn’t that long grass a bit too close to the path? Dogs don’t hiss over here, do they? And what ‘other wild life’? Mice? Raccoons? Grizzly’s? The sign’s not very specific is it. I mean I went to Alaska once and believe you me bears really do shit in the woods. I came across some (bear shit not bears). It was still steaming. It was probably still steaming in the extremely short period of time it took me to hurtle back to a place of safety.

Well, I mean! Honestly! These are new estates. What are they trying to do? It must be the modern day equivalent of getting the covered wagons into a defensive circle in case of attack and the 7th cavalry aren’t around for protection. Any enemy of note isn’t about to come crawling through the grass to pinch the barbecue while you’re not looking are they? No one’s likely to swim across the lake to have an illicit bounce on your trampoline are they?

And what if poor Fido goes missing. Slips out of the back gate or a hole in the fence in the middle of the night. Are you going to go looking? Too right – nor me matey! One wrong move could be fatal. Stick your foot in a puddle accidentally and the next thing you know you’re doing the death roll tango with a ten foot reptile! The only thing you’ll find of your best friend the next day is a tuft of fur and some frightened poo. Leave well alone, that’s what I say.

Next time me and the boys go out hiking I shall take a lot more notice when they start to bark in whatever regional accent they’re using. For all I know they’re shouting, ‘Big scaley thing with teeth. And his tail ain’t wagging.’

You can buy guns here you know. 

Excuse me – I’m just popping down to Walmart for an AK47.

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?

Oh, oh, oh it’s magic…

It’s a strange thing when you have too much time on your hands. The things that go through your mind I mean.

Take now for instance. I’m on a plane.

I’ve been sat in more or less the same position for nigh on 3 1/2 hours and I’m likely to do so for a further 5 1/2. Despicable Me 3 has just finished and you get to thinking,

1. Should I go to the loo, just for something to do?

2. When are they feeding me again?

3. What the bejasus is holding this thing in the air?

I know, I know – you can get all scientific on me.

You can tell me about differential air pressure until you’re blue in the face.

Yes, and thrust too madam. I thought you might put your twopennorth in!

But it’s me sitting here over the wing and believe you me, there’s very little between the underside of the aerilon (or whatever that flappy thing is called) and the tip of bloody Greenland as far as I can see.

And 39000 feet straight down looks pretty far at the moment, I can tell you.

Between us and Arsuk (it’s true, Google it. What an unfortunate postal address that is! Where do you live? Arsuk. Well I only asked!) there is air. A lot of it admittedly, but it’s not exactly heavy. We breath the stuff in and out constantly and it doesn’t take a great deal of effort. Can it really hold up God knows how many tons (yes I know it’s tonnes but we’re going to the USA. And anyway, after Brexit do we get our measurements back?) of aircraft, fuel, cargo and us poor bloody passengers?
Furthermore, have you had the chance to study an aeroplane wing in detail?


No? Nor me until now. Honestly I’ve seen more sheet steel in your average bus shelter. 

And rivets! Don’t talk to me about rivets! I used rivets in metalwork at school once. Not the sturdiest of fixings in my opinion.

Pardon? Yes, that was rather a long time ago, thank you for pointing that out.

As I was saying I have used the odd rivet in various metallurgical disasters and they do in my experience tend to shear as soon as you look at them. Yes, I know that there are rather a lot of them dotted about the aerodynamic surfaces, but personally and particularly now that my mind is working overtime, I would have preferred to see row upon row of nice half inch diameter bolts. In super high tensile steel!

So what is it holding us up?

I’ve had a lot of time to think.

And I have come to the conclusion that there is only on possible logical answer.

It’s magic.

I might be on the telly…

So – you know how it goes.
You’re bored.
At a loose end.
Facebook has the looney left, the rabid right and the cautious centre all abusing each other for the debacle which has become British government – or lack of it.
What’s a chap to do?
I know, how about that old table up the corner, the one we inherited when we cleared Dad’s house?
Is it worth anything?
What’s it’s story?

I’ll Google it out of idle curiosity.
But what do I call it?
Well, it has a marquetry picture of Muckcross Abbey on the top and it’s a gaming table.
That’ll do for starters.
Tongue stuck between teeth I type, ‘m-u-c-k-c-r-o-s-s_a-b-b-e-y_g-a-m-e-s_t-a-b-l-e_enter’
Got a few results, so stick tongue back to where it should be.

Try this first one.
BLOODY HELL! There’s a photo of it here.IMG_0448
An exact match.
And it’s in – wait for it – the Royal Collection.
I know, I know. That’s what I thought!
Liz and Phil have one too!
I bet they unfold it every night before bed (after Corrie probably) and have a quick game of whist while they scoff their supper from the Tupperware.

IMG_0441

Well fancy that.
I need more information.
I look at other sites.
But I don’t see it. There are similar, but the legs are different.
Now let’s just quash any comments to do with me having Queen Anne legs straight away, shall we.
I know you lot.
Hmm.

I Google the history and learn quite a bit.
Apparently it’s Irish in origin.
That’s where the Abbey is, so that makes sense.
Killarney-ware, it has a name.
It was made for the tourist industry.
Bugger! that means they probably made hundreds of the bloody things.
Ah well – never mind.
That’s how the Windsor’s got theirs obviously, Victoria and Albert must have got it for their museum when they were over on their holibobs.

So I left it.

A bit.

IMG_0444

 

Until…

Someone’s posted on Facebook that May is a raving idiot, Corbyn’s a knob and no one knows who the Liberals are anymore. But here, among the vitriol is a post telling me that the Antiques Roadshow is coming to the Black Country Museum in a few weeks time.
It wouldn’t hurt to go would it?
You never know, do you?
And Fiona Bruce is a bit of a sort isn’t she?
You prefer who?
Really? well never mind. Each to their own.
And ‘guns & militaria’ is a really hot subject isn’t it? If you like that sort of thing.
Uniforms and stuff. Weapons of mass destruction.

Anyway, what’s this?
Oh. It says here that you can get in touch and see if they might be interested.

So I did.

And they were.

They even came round to our place and had a look at it.
Kate said they seemed very keen (I wasn’t there) and I had to take it down to the museum the night before the show was to be recorded.
Deep joy.

I phoned bro on his holidays – no he wasn’t in Ireland or I might have asked him to buy another one – as back up. Well you never know, a spare might come in handy.
I’m back home,’ he said. ‘Bit of a disaster, came back early – me and Sue (sis in law) will come with.
Bostin’. As they say in these parts.

So off we went.
Have you ever been to The Black Country Living Museum?
You ought to try it.
There are trams and trolley buses, an old fashioned funfair, all manner of reconstructed old buildings (including a pub). Oh look, there’s a terraced house like the one I used to have! There are old shops, a mine, a working beam engine. Well worth a look.
And today there are – cameras.

The day is hot – unbearably so, and to start with there are not many there.
I’m a bit miffed. I have a special pass to get ‘fast-tracked’ through the throng and there’s no resentful queues to bypass.
Bummer!

Sit there,’ commands the man on reception.
So we sit.
There.
It is the BBC after all. I pay a licence fee for this you know and I’m glad they’re being so assertive with my money.

Oh look, there’s old wotsisface – doesn’t he do furniture? And there’s her that does the toys. Oh, oh, over there – it’s your mate from ‘guns & militaria?’
Yes, you’re right, in the flesh he is a bit of a disappointment.
Eventually up rocks the producer.
Hello,’ he says, ‘I’m the producer. I’ll find you an expert.
I giggle and bite my tongue.
He looks at me strangely, but I resist the urge to tell him the definition of an expert.
Oh, surely you know that old chestnut.
No?
An ‘ex’ is a has been and a ‘spurt’ is a drip under pressure.
See, you did know it didn’t you. I could tell by the groan.

Anyway, after a bit Steven Spielberg or whatever his name was comes back with our ‘expert’ in tow.
We introduce ourselves.
She’s Elaine Binning
She’s very nice. It turns out she knows her onions. Shame we’ve got a table.                               No, I was joking, I couldn’t resist – she’s very knowledgeable.
We tell her what we know about our heirloom.
She seems impressed.
Alfred Hitchcock, or whatever his name was, tells us to wait in the hospitality area, where we’ll get refreshments and some makeup.
Makeup!!!
No one said anything…
Oh well, I suppose the champagne and caviar will compensate for being girlyfied. And I must admit that my forehead is a bit shiny.
It’s a cuppa and a hobnob.
Cutbacks I suppose.
At least we get to go on T.V.
Isn’t it exciting?

I try to be nonchalant. After all I’ve been on local radio four times now and done the same amount of podcasts in my capacity as author don’t-cha know. But they didn’t involve make up. fullsizeoutput_26eThis is the real deal. I start rehearsing my BAFTA acceptance speech.

Bro and I do the thing. You know, ‘how much do you think it’s worth?’ My conservative £800 counters his wildly optimistic £1500.

And now we’re off to find out. We’ve both been smothered in foundation, powder puffed to within an inch of our lives and we’re marched with our non reflective foreheads down through Black Country streets of yore for people to point and smirk at, ready to go in front of – lights, camera, action.fullsizeoutput_270

It takes ages.
There is a chat about the table. That’s interesting, I wondered what the wood was. And it’s what!? 200 years old!
Bloody hell!
I thought 150 at most.
That’s why it’s got these old fashioned legs.
But how much?
Hang on. We have to reshoot that bit.
Someone’s hand was in the wrong position.
It’s o.k., they’ll cut it in when they’re editing.
See I know about these things now.
Has she said what it’s worth?
Am I supposed to be talking?
Or is it you?
Oh, we’re supposed to be listening, ‘with interest.’
Talking of interest it’s how much?
Hang on, can you just repeat that phrase. The microphone didn’t quite pick it up.
‘Did you say that you inherited it from ‘my’ Dad? Your brother is here too you know, shouldn’t that be, ‘our’?
I have to redo it.
Our father,’ I blurt out rather too confidently, before realising I sound as if I’m about to start praying.
FFS!
I do it again.
Has she told us the value yet?

I’m distinctly aware that my newly flattened brow is sweating profusely and my hands which I’ve had so comfortably at the ends of my arms for over sixty years seem to have developed a life of their own. What are they doing! From that camera angle I probably look as though I’m playing with my willy.

Dear God, let it be over soon.
Now what’s she wittering on about?
Not the bloody price is it!
‘All in all it is a very nice example,’ says Elaine. ‘Do you have any idea of value?’ she smiles sweetly.
I shake my head dumbly.
Well then,’ she declares, warming to her theme…

Apparently the new series airs in September.

I never did get to meet Fiona.

But I may be on the telly!

Vote DOGNAPPED! You know it makes sense

So – here’s something a little different from my usual scribbling.
Okay, who said, ‘About time too!
There’s no need.
And the rest of you can stop sniggering.
Honestly if I’ve got to come over there I swear that I’ll…
I should count to what?
Oh all right. 1,2…
…8, 9, 10. Thanks, I’m feeling a lot better now.
Now I may have mentioned this before, but Misty’s book, DOGNAPPED! is in the final of THE PEOPLE’S BOOK PRIZE and…
Eh?
Was that you – again?
It was, wasn’t it? ‘You never bloody shut up about it!‘ indeed.
I’ve got your card marked, matey.
Anyway, for the rest of you who are at least kind enough to show just a little bit of interest, then let me explain.
No not you, smarty pants.
You can go and stand over there – in the corner. No, go on, further, further and a bit more. That’ll do. I’m not speaking to you again.
Ever.

4
THE PEOPLE’S BOOK PRIZE.
It must be important, it’s in capitals.
And, ha ha, the final is in the capital too.
I know, I know – I don’t know how I think them up.

Well I thought it was funny! In fact I think a bit of wee came out. It must be an age thing!

So, London.
Down the smoke.
A week on Tuesday.
Me and Kate get to have a bit of posh nosh.
In Stationers Hall down by old St. Paul’s cathedral.
For the awards ceremony.
It might even be on a Sky News podcast thingy.
I’ve got to wear a dicky bow.
No, I haven’t bought it – I borrowed it off Posh Dave, he’s in a male voice choir, so he has all the gear.
I don’t even have to tie it, it’s on a bit of elastic. But don’t tell anyone, I’d hate to spoil the illusion.IMG_0216
So there we have it.
How about that then?

Of course you know what it’s about. The gang of dogs on the canal barge – got it now?

Well you said you’d read it, I told you to borrow it from Dudley library. Yes the one with Ashley in it, remember? I knew you’d bring that up – again! Here he is look, I know you like to see him, occasionally

I’m chuffed.
So’s Misty.
Pardon?
Will we win? Dunno – I’ll let you know.
Oh, hang on I nearly forgot.

You will vote for me & Misty won’t you?
Yes, that does include you in the corner.
Yes, I’m sorry – just a bit tense with all this going on. Hope you understand.

Anyway:-

Children’s section
DOGNAPPED!
http://www.peoplesbookprize.com

Thank you.