Sunday, July 31, 2005

Cops and Knobbers Cont..

It's surprising that during these fragile times a driver on his way to work can be made to feel like a criminal because he's not conforming entirely with the Construction and Use elements of the Road Traffic Act. But the law, I suppose makes no distinctions between serious criminal offences and minor infractions in so far as no one is above the law and therefore all of us are bound by its precepts. And the law states that two tail lights should be illuminated on moving vehicles during periods of darkness and that four wheeled vehicles can't do impressions of Cyclops from the rear without attracting the attention of a modern day Odysseus.

I could so easily have avoided this brush with authority if I had not treated the bulb-out- matter as trivial and allowed the problem of purchasing a £1.99 new bulb to languish at the bottom of my mental 'to do list.' I knew the old one was keeping an irregular working pattern and was always likely to choose its flexible time off at suspicious 'two in the morning' type times, offering red rags - as opposed to a red lenses - to any trawling traffic bobbies anxious to relieve the crushing ennui of the night shift.

And of course once they've go you in, it's size 14 boot-filling time in open season and the check list is quickly out. Actually it was more like size 4 slingback-filling time as both officers were female - though what they lacked in foot bulk was more than compensated by their robust officialdom.

Once they'd finished grilling me in the rear, in the rear seat of their car, about rear light etiquettee; I was invited to join them in a bossy grand-voyage-around-my-car to check a few other matters of concern. It was like being in the presence of a couple of demonised cinema usherettes who instead of searching the rows of seats for sneak-in imps, illuminated the dark corners of my car for signs of hidden defects.

The legal minimum tread depth for car tyres in the United Kingdom and the European Community is 1.6 millimetres throughout a continuous band, three quarters of the width of tread wide and round the entire central circumference of the tyre. One of my tyres didn't seem to make this grade, though in the absence of an onboard police gizmo called a tread-gauge only an un-validated 1.6 millimetre finger nail was testament to this fact, and I was in no mood to accept that as proof beyond reasonable doubt.

So I was sent on my way with a Vehicle Defect Form and a HORT(1) documents producer. Which is sort of getting away with it, but I'm still pretty pissed off.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Cops and Knobbers

I was called into work at two o'clock in the morning. I had barely two hours sleep before hitting the M5 south. I was on an emergency call out which had implications of national importance. My role was to be small, but vital. I had to be at the pick up point by 3 o'clock to be driven to another destination by six. There was little traffic on the road save a few lorries desultorily grinding out their endless routes - growing from the gloom of the opposite carriageway looking like low-tech 50s sci-fi space ships with rows of lights outlining their grills and roofs. The trundling trucks on my side proving no obstacle to my progress as I glided effortlessly by.

I was making good time but I had only minutes to spare. With about 10 miles to go I spotted a police patrol car travelling at normal speed progressing by alternating between the centre and slow lanes as the Highway Code says we should. I eased off the accelerator in the knowledge that the speed limit of 70 m.p.h could easily be breached if I were to overtake it. I also remembered being told about two weeks ago that one of my tail lights was out, and lazy procrastinator that I am did nothing about it. Better to stay behind the patrol car rather than blasting impatiently past. Better to keep my distance. Despite being well ahead of time I didn't need any . . . Unscheduled delays.

I slowed to sixty. This I hoped would allow the patrol car to stretch away gradually and take its delay threat with it. But the distance didn't lengthen. Dropping down to 50 didn't help. Nor did 45. It was like being reverse-stalked. Huge trucks - my erstwhile victims, gobbled up and spat out by a quicker, more confidant earlier version of me crept into view and trundled past unbothered by the now pootering patrol car and its nervy snail-tail. The truckers with their ham-sized forearms, glowing woodbines and dreams of one day wearing a tie and driving for Eddie Stobart- probably wondered what dastardly, twisted, cat and mouse affair was being enacted on this quiet expanse of road, at this slumbering hour. They had no fear. Those drivers of lorries with lights to spare. But I was down one, and I was protecting the fact. I had a guilty secret that I wasn't about to reveal to interested eyes. My rear-end illegality was concealed by the facade of my front-end normality.

The patrol car slowed to 40, as did I. I began to feel like the reluctant pilot in Airplane, in mock-up profuse sweat mode, shaking like a manikin with a jack-hammer up its ass. I steadied myself and looked in vain for an exit route, an escape from this hell. And of course there was no exit lane.
The patrol car then indicated left and filtered into what could only be the hard shoulder. I'm lured into a pass I didn't want to take, and grimacing, sidled past to allow predator and prey to adopt their customary roles. I'm sunk. Entrapped. My only hope is that the disinterested officers onboard the patrol car are receiving orders which will send them off at speed once they've consulted their maps, retuned their radios and donned their protective jackets. Which of course is my preferred option as I'll be able to bimble guiltily along leaving the patrol car officers to reconfigure their plans and tea stops whilst I am left pledging to change that damn bulb as soon as I can.

The fired-up strafe-strobe blue lights behind me, turning my rear viewer mirror into a flattened glitter ball practically before I had time to exhale a recovery breath provided an early answer.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

M L M Part 2

I ride the snooze gap. The seduction sirens dancing through my half dreams lull me into a sad, guilty, slumber. I know how short it will be. Now. Now that I need sleep more than ever. More than the night's restlessness. More than the evening's weariness. Morpheous has been beckoned, and returns, but this time he's an imposter. The fleeting return of the muddled ecstasy of visions, the ethereal dioramas of hopes and desires all end, abruptly. The gap has elapsed and the klaxon is roaring again. I will not sleep again. Not now.

I drag my aching body to the bathroom and perform my morning ablutions. I'm getting older - but I haven't yet reached the Larkin of 'Sad Steps,' of having to grope my way back to bed after a four o'clock piss with much looking out of bleak windows and many a curmudgeonly thought about my lot and my untimely bladder clock. No four o'clock preludes to the big get up for me. Bladder still capable of holding its own. Only the clock buzzer does it.

I study my face in the mirror for those tell tale 'marks of weariness, marks of woe' sympathetic nods to Blake's troubled Londoners brought forward to the here and now. And they're there. I peel off the residue of sleep from my eyes, turn on the shower with the precision of a safe-cracker, judge the cold to heat water jets to perfection, step in, and rattle-scrape the curtain closed.

Friday, July 22, 2005

My Life's Minutiae Part 1

My early morning regimen seldom changes. I am always, always woken by my clock radio. This is a buzzer- blasting, upchucking survivor from the seventies, all cream plastic casings, buttons the size of dominoes that have to be to fist-hammered to allow for a temporary alarm calling shut-up, or 'snooze,' and slide switches which require the finger strength of a stone mason to silence it completely. Outside temperature display sized stark red 'digital' numerals - which had just replaced those flip-over numbers - all variations on the early 8 theme, complete the travesty. I'd love to change this thing to something a little more modern - a touch swisher - a tad gentler on the ear-drum, slightly more aesthetically pleasing to the eye, a bit less heart poundingly stressful. I'd love to have a break from being shock and awed awake, bombed into nervy, jittery, bleary-eyed consciousness by hostilities, by a sound-meld of ship's fog horn and hammer drill. But it always does the job. So I hang on to it.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Shooting Fish

Swiveling the passenger sun-visor upwards whilst driving my car the other day - a little less sun recently has resulted in a little less reason to have both sun visors permanently down - I noticed two bullet holes displaying their particular form of filigreed artwork against the glassy canvass of my windscreen.

Bullets holes are not a work of art, no matter how you dress it up. Certainly not. Putting aside their obvious destructiveness to flesh, they aren't to be sought out as fashionable add ons for anything else. There was a time during the tasteless 70s when it was considered that a row of stick on star shaped bullet holes on your car rear window was a bit of a hoot. Toot if you think it's a hoot. It was a kind of cheeky, cheesy reference to the (early) James Bond, Bonny and Clyde, Godfather film period: " Look at me, I've just had the back of my Ford Cortina sprayed with a Tommy-gun - ain't I a hood?

I think these things came free with petrol and those with style deficit disorder couldn't wait to stick em on. Even though they knew they would never have had to 'stick 'em up' for real. But I've got real ones. And they're on my windscreen. How cool is that?

Actually I think - can you feel the bathos - that one of the urchins from the nearby estate has become a bit handy with his dad's BB gun and he's probably been taking pot shots at that nuisance cat who thinks he lives on the roof of my car. I did notice recently that this particular feline has been walking around as if he's had a cap put up his ass - all tentative paw shakings, nervous glances and ponderous sashayings.

Perhaps we're both victims. My ass is fine, but my windscreen has started to gradually fragment like one of those cartoon character's splintering teeth. What started off as a couple of denty,white, scroungy dots with stunted limbs, soon evolved into two prize-winning sized starfish. Both Mr Mog and I had starfish concerns at this stage. But windscreen glass is a fragile, volatile mistress and both my starfishy progeny have grown - spidering out to all four edges making the glass look like it's been used as a glass etching surface for the devil.

Friday, July 15, 2005

The Vocabularians Part 1

Vocabularian is a made up word. It has though, a legitimate meaning and is defined by new word dictionaries as ‘a person who makes up new words.’ In that regard I suppose I’m something of a vocabularian myself, though not from any efforts towards stylistic show offerry, or as a demonstration of poetic or prose writing originality, (though I do like to gussie up the commonplace), more a case of a word blindness condition which could be described as part tip-of-the-tongue syndrome, part lexical memory impairment. Usually, I know which word or words I’m seeking. I always know they exist, and that somewhere, this shady sense impression of a word squatting silently in a dark corner of my consciousness, stubbornly slumbering and refusing to be configured with letters or sounds, won’t come to me without eye-scrunching thought prods and pleading provoke pokes. And that it wont be there until it has been dragged, nail-screechingly, wild-eyed and blinkingly, into service. And all this takes time. More time than fluency allows.

So I have to resort to some vocabularian techniques. If I’m not end up speaking like Lurch from The Addams Family – perhaps with a little of the base turned down – or writing with the speed it took to get the Yongle Dadian published, I have to be a little inventive. I rationalize this by means of – well somebody has to if language is to remain dynamic and evolving. Perhaps we’re all inventors. All neologism coiners. Apparently you can now squinch something into a tight corner or space. Squeeze must have been sought, but somebody’s squeeze went missing, and there was a need for their creative side to bail them out as their memory was failing at a crucial time. Squinch. I like that word: “Take a note of that word squinch Darling,( as Blackadder’s General Melchett nearly said) I want to use it more often in conversation.” And squinch is in there, readied for validation.

It's an example. There will be more.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Live 8 Background Waffle.

"It's two o'clock and welcome to the greatest rock and roll show in history" announced Jonathan Ross on BBC2. Actually it was more like 5 minutes past, but it hardly mattered. The British TV audience was going to have to ready itself for about eight hours with the floppy-haired yellow-suited Ross who apparently had: ' Asked them (the BBC) for a suit in a colour in keeping with the African theme.' Which put into context the hypocrisy of all the later sniffiness about Mariah Carey's diva-ness with her pampered puppies, water-tipple demands and twitterings for mike stands for the kiddies. Put together with Elton John's answer to a question about traffic delays to which he replied: 'I arrived by helicopter,' an answer that showed the disdain of someone who has long forgotten about how normal people live their lives let alone the starving, and was delivered as if it was a wise choice rather than a highly privileged one; made it obvious that most of these buggers are bit dotty.

And here's the BBC's presenter - soon to be as rich as another JR, being furnished with his clothes for his non singing all expenses paid gig, with absolutely no expense spared. None indeed. Ross was said to have bagged £50.000 for this stint which, though a long gig, didn't really amount to much more than sitting on his arse for a duration rather similar to an average days work for most of us. And he brought his kids with him, who were indulged with VIP tickets, booty bags and, no doubt, champagne flavoured lollies. The delightful little wossies were there being happy-snapped on Ross' lap with the 'wock and woll' stage in the background. And his theatrically painted and baby-doll frilled pneumatic wife was there too - *whistle* no wonder Ross was able to declare on his chat show after blagging a feel of one Susannah Constantine's luscious orbs that his wife's were bigger. Though I'm being cruel here because as far as I know she stayed off camera. For once.

We were quickly introduced to his two female assistants, the first one was initially announced as just 'Fern' during a kind of "where are you?" camera searching piece as it swirled into the crowded celeb and media tent and caravan set up, and for a moment, I was looking for an even more comely figure than Mrs Ross in the shape of the hugely assetted Fern Brittain. Surely not - she's a game bird this Fern but Rock cakes are her thing, not Rock Chickery. I was right, it wasn't, it was little, cotton-thread-thin Fearne Cotton who at one point, during her pre-concert rolling rovings (the other Fern would have rolled better) was shamelessly chatted up whilst on air by the cheekiest chappie to have held a microphone since Norman Wisdom ... Robbie Williams. As part of his charm-fest with impish face and Smart Alec delivery he declaimed that the two aims of the day - of roughly equal weight - were "to make poverty history" and "to get Robbie laid." Another nutter who's been allowed to lose touch with reality - though I'm beginning to wonder what reality actually is these days. If Robbie had been a passing laddo he'd have been given short shrift I have no doubt. Being a celeb though he was left optimistic that he and Fearne would be getting it together before he returned to his luxurious pad in Los Angeles leaving Fearne a blurred memory melded with another milked audience. A broken heart in-waiting to match the broken colourings of her skunky hair.

More on-the-move 'meetwhospassingcelebs.' This time it's Jo Wiley the other roving dolly settling for Johnny Vaughan. "Who he?" I hear you say. Time was this John might have vied with Ross and Chris Evans for the top presenting jobs. As it was I think Vaughan was there reporting for the Reading Chronicle and as such couldn't really get away with snatching the mic from Jo and going into mock-interview mode as if to say: " We're the same, you and me, were both here celebrities interviewing celebrities, ain't it coool?" Erm not quite Johnny, you had your chance and blew it big time. Jo fairly smile-hissed as she retook the mic and looked longingly around for somebody famous to talk to. "Beat-it-buster-has-been" she nearly said. "If you'd have been half good at this malarky you'd be up there with John-boy, or carousing with the ginger-binger over at Radio 2, talking to crowds big enough to fill a continent instead of running a blog and chittering to an audience the size of a continental quilt.

Fearne spotted Peaches, round about the time Peter Kay was riffing drunkenly with Ross in the pod. Kay's a tea-total except for the odd baileys, "As a deserrrt!" protests Kay when challenged as to his TT status by Wossy. Ross struggling to handle Kay, seeks to break off the interview and concentrate on the interview with Sir Bob's middle daughter and send the unruly Kay packing - Ross' panicky face seemed to have 'I'm the comedy god of this pod get him out of here' etched all over it. "Hope you're taping this mum!" Kay shouts at the camera, hoping his mother will take heed. It was classic fill-in for Kay who, if not pissed was certainly pissed off sitting there being ignored. It was hardly surprising he was peevishly acting up as John boy had dragged his little girlies into camera shot - no, not Jo and Fearne - for photographs of himself and the Live 8 backdrop. Men who can't forget about being daddy for five minutes are always a bit of a trial for everyone else within groaning distance.

Oh and there was a concert. And some pretty good music. And a Hell of a good cause.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Turn Up or Tune In.

It was the Live Aid afternoon of July 1985 and I was applying quick drying cement between the patio cracks while wearing micro-length shorts, broken, flip-flops and a malignant mole, when Malcolm yelled from our Georgian window that Howard Jones was on the telly.

That's not entirely true. I didn't have a patio. I knew no-one called Malcolm. And I didn't have skin cancer. But I did waste most of the day gardening during Live Aid and its often been a regret of mine; though I did at least have the TV on and the windows open. This has never really provided a very good 'where were you when' answer to dazzle dinner party guests with whilst providing illuminating insights as to what an interesting person I am and what an enviable life I have. I never seem to have been doing anything and I mean anything when these epoch moments occur. Which is a post that will have to wait for another day.

The opening sentence, for those still reading this, is a cheap imitation of some of the more memorable first sentences I can recall, and I've always fancied trying one out. Pack in a load of details before hitting the first stop. They're always too long for the grammarians, fastidious school masters, the strictures of most software grammar checkers, and for those who haven't progressed beyond 'O' level English, but I think they can have a certain elegance. Such as Ryu Murakami's description of an unusual method of checking for signs of infant life from 'Coin Locker Babies:' "The woman pushed on the baby's stomach and sucked its penis into her mouth; it was thinner than the American menthols she smoked and a bit slimy, like raw fish." Or Anthony Burgess' Earthly Powers: "It was the afternoon of my eighty first birthday and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the Archbishop had come to see me."

It also gave suggested what I should write about tomorrow. Or after tomorrow. Or sometime next week. I wont be doing any gardening during Live 8. I wont be there, but I will be watching.

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