Thursday, June 22, 2006

goodbye and thanks for all the fish....

Tell me if this makes sense:

I was sitting doing my thing in the office today when my gimp said, apropos of nothing, “you don’t like me do you?”

I’m used to being subjected to him giving voice to obtuse, random corners of his mind so I wasn’t particularly perturbed…I’m pretty sure he knows full well that I detest him. (Although on reflection he seems to think that everyone else thinks he's a hoot).

It was just too good an opportunity. Honesty is the best policy? So I told him. I told him that no, I don’t like him, that in fact he makes my skin crawl, that he represents almost every human quality that I despise; ugliness of spirit, crassness, sexism, racism, complete self indulgent absorption, the attention span of a may fly…in fact I went so far as to suggest that I it thought it may well be down to him being at a different stage in evolution to the rest of us. Either lagging well behind, chimp like, or well in advance – perhaps he’s superseded us and was now the next stage of humanity, the corporate twat.

Actually I ignored him. I couldn’t bare to look at him.

But.

It’s symptomatic of the way I’m feeling at the moment. I hate this. If you’ve met me or read this it will probably have become apparent to you that I don’t have an anchor. My sole responsibility is to the dogs. In every other respect I do whatever I please within the limitations of my income.

My job sounds wonderful if you describe it, simply put it involves a huge amount of travel and getting drunk with people when I get there. I’m the corporate good time, and they pay me to do it.

Sounds pretty good doesn’t it? Stop whining boy? (Except that it spills over into my life, I can’t help it, my cup literally runneth over).

I can’t complain about the salary either, the partners look after me very well. But I don’t think I’m ever going to be rich, filthy stinking rich, rich with a big house in the country to retire. I’ve had my own business fail on me in the past which landed me in (HUGE) debt, and I’ve made lifestyle choices, most of which included spend it now – tomorrow is another day.

So I was considering retiring now.

Why not?

Ugliness hurts me, it’s an almost physical hurt and there’s so much of it in the city. I feel like my soul is being slowly but surely eroded. There’s so much anger here, and spite, so much needless thoughtlessness and intolerance it’s almost palpable, there’s a miasma of crippled, abused emotion in the air.

So I’m beginning to think quite seriously about cashing in my chips. Pooling every penny I posses and then slipping out of the door one morning with the few possessions I really need and the dogs of course and leaving. We’d go to France first and Spain, and….well, there’s no rush, we’ve all the time in the world.

I’m not sure what I can do to earn a crust, I doubt whether I can get part time jobs as the local lush - but if we are happy we can survive on crumbs, so long as there’s petrol when we need it…and wine, of course!

Take a look at my Bongo, (it's the Mazda Bongo, the third one down) I’m going to buy it on Saturday.

Monday, June 19, 2006

the magic caravan (the end...thank goodness)

Well the the rough draft at least, it still has to be edited by my mate Pam...

They ate breakfast together in a cool, stone floored kitchen. Great sizzling slabs of bacon, fried eggs and buttered toast accompanied by steaming hot cups of tea. Stanley cooked himself seconds but the boys were stuffed.

While they sat and Stanley busied himself at the ancient stove in the corner they chattered about what to do, where to go, the obvious stumbling point being that they had no idea within 50 miles of where they actually were at present. Stanley sat down around the table with them bringing a great pile of fresh toast and the tea pot, and joined in. "See now" he said, while liberally buttering a round of toast. They watched, fascinated as he bit off the corners and began to trim down the sides unevenly with his teeth, not entirely sure of what it was they were supposed to 'see'. When Stanley was happy with his molar machinations he held up the remainder of the toast, and with butter running down his fingers, declared "that's Devon that is" pointing at his masticated marvel. "Yoir 'ere", he pointed vaguely to some point in the centre, "Cornwall's thataway, Barnstaple's up 'ere on the coast, and Dartmoor's over in that direction. That be a nice drive", he said contemplatively, "but you don't want to be gettin' lost up there". And promptly popped the entire county into his mouth.

"Or else", he said over his shoulder, as he stood to clear the dishes, "you moight want to stay 'ere for a day or two".

Breakfast was free gratis, there was something so simply friendly in the gesture and the manner that it was offered that brooked any suggestion of offering payment. They washed the dishes together and tidied away the plates and then retreated into the bar. They lit cigarettes and Stanley found a pipe and packed it. "What would we do?" asked Derek.

"Well, here's a thing, do you fish?"

""Not much" said Colin, "but where".

"There's fish in pond" said Stanley, "and I've got rods you can borrow"

"Sounds good to me", offered Derek glancing out of the window onto what was becoming a beautiful day, "a lazy day".

And Stanley sealed the deal with the offer of a packed lunch.

They pottered around, Derek and Colin collected the few glasses from the previous evening and cleared the fire while Stanley made for the kitchen. He came back with a brown paper bag containing doorstop cheese and onion sandwiches and a stone demijohn which he filled to the brim with cider. The fishing rods, although so far unnoticed, had been obvious all along, pushed over the low beams of the bar. He brought them down and shook one gently dislodging cobwebs and dust, it was all set up ready to go with a float and hook held on to the spool of the reel.

"There's only two" said Colin

"That's roit" said Stanley, "Oi aint got time to be arsin' around fishin' av Oi?". "Oi've a business to run, now bugger off and enjoy yornselves!"

And so they did.

They sat on their sleeping bags on the gravel down by the pond and idly whiled away the morning. The little floats on their lines never so much as bobbed nor twitched, not a sign of biting fish. They neither knew nor cared what they were fishing for and only vaguely hoped that whatever it was that it liked cheese. The first few attempts at casting in had been a failure as the bread that they had originally used to bait the hooks had fallen off in transit, but when they experimented with little lumps of cheese from the sandwiches it stayed put and landed with a soft plop to sink below the sparkling surface.

The morning was warm and hazy, the caravan - now a dusty grey - sat amongst it's own meadow of tall grass where butterflies flitted amongst wild poppies and fennel and the only sound was the soft drone of the occasional bee. The stone flagon was soon opened on the premise that the pub was only a few minutes away if they should run out and the temptation, which they succumbed to, was to simply lean back and doze. Derek sat up to take a swig and peered out across the pond. He saw the rusty truck roof and it's three snow white occupants lazily sunning themselves, and a thought occurred to him: If he were a fish, then the submerged nooks and crannies of the truck would be a fine place to be. Momentarily enthused by his own genius he reeled in his line, replaced the cheese with a fresh lump and stood to cast out.
He took aim and watched the cheesy morsel on the hook arc through the air, it looked to be a good shot and he waited for the plop, but there was none. Instead the line landed on the roof of the van and stayed there held briefly but calamitously by the insubstantial float. Just long enough in fact for the nearest of the ducks to take an interest, reach out its neck and gobble up the cheese.

"Bollocks" he muttered. Not initially registering the extent of the problem.

He gave the line the slightest of tugs and was vaguely alarmed to see the ducks head move fractionally towards him. He pulled a little harder and the duck, eyes open now, extended its neck in his direction.

He gave Colin a dig in the ribs with his foot, "washamara?"

"Erm, we may have a problem"

Colin sat up, "why are you pointing at that duck with your rod?"

"I'm not pointing you tosser, we're attached"

"Ah" grinned Colin "then yes, I'd say you do have a problem".

At around this point the duck stretched it's wings and uncurled onto it's feet. It had so far been gazing at them without appearing to be overly concerned, but as it began to move so its head began to swivel against the tension of the line. It decided to pull back. Derek was still talking to Colin and hesitated momentarily before compensating for the sudden movement by his feathered adversary in this little tug of war. They looked over and saw the duck, clearly distressed now, decide that enough was quite definitely enough. With a flap and an ungainly waddle it made for the water. Unfortunately it made for the water in the wrong direction. Its dash and Derek's slow reactions flipped it up over and onto its back, where it flapped around like a wild thing, quacking up a thunder, spilling white feathers into the air and the other two ducks into the pond. Somehow it found its feet and, making the connection between the boys on the shore and it's own discomfort, tried once again to exit in the opposite direction - with similar results.

They both looked on, mouths open, at the commotion on the tin roof until at last Colin said "drop the rod, drop the bloody rod".

But Derek didn't think that was a good idea, an instinct told him that the rod would float and that the poor fouled foul would only drag it around the lake. "No!" he said without explaining.

"Well cut the line"

"No we have to get the hook out!"

"Oh yes right, of course, and the cheese? - do you want the fucking cheese back too?"

"We can't let it run around with 20 yards of frigging fishing line hanging out of it?!!"

And after a long pause, Colin agreed, "Guess not" he said, "unless you fancy a unusual kite".

They quickly came up with a rudimentary plan while the duck's thrashings ebbed and flowed atop the van. The route to the right around the pond offered the shortest distance from van to the bank, so Derek started to let out some line. For a moment the commotion ceased as the duck, given scope to manoeuvre, slipped over the side only to start a cacophony of quacking complaint as soon as it hit the water and its progress was again impeded. They both set off down the bank, Derek slowly but surely retrieving the line and towing the struggling duck ashore.

It took an age. They got it to within a yard of the bank where, on inspection, a ragged hole in its beak and the offending hook were clearly visible. Fearing to cause further damage Derek simply held it there while Colin edged towards it in the shallow water. It eyed him warily and scooted from side to side, he put his hand around the line and inched towards the beleaguered bird and wrapped one hand around it's neck.

The duck must have thought that this was the final stroke in some devilish plan to end its life. It thrashed his arm and face with it's wings making an awful din, it's neck was surprisingly slender under the thick white feathers. Colin was sure it must surely do itself a damage when suddenly Derek appeared by their side and held down first one and then the other of its wings, still keeping a firm hold of the rod. Colin quickly wrapped his free arm over Derek’s hands until the duck was held in the crook of his elbow, its neck still held in his hand.

Together they retreated up the bank.

"There, that wasn't so bad was it" said Colin to the duck.

The duck stared back at him balefully as if to say, "No? Well you fucking try it then".

"Hold it up” said Derek, and Colin did.

Derek approached slowly, not knowing if the mangled mandible caused the duck any physical pain or not, but not wishing to alarm it further. He got within inches, and reached to swap his hand for Colin's around the creature’s neck. In the instant that Colin released his grip the duck's neck sprang forward and it attached itself to Derek's face, biting his top lip fiercely with its beak.

"Trust you to catch a homosexual duck" said Colin.

"not phuffin phunny" phaid Derek.

Derek slowly reached up, wrapped his fingers around the back of the ducks head and gave it an experimental tug. It stayed fast, and brought tears to his eyes. What's more there was the unmistakable bitter taste of blood in his mouth.

Colin lowered his head and peered at them both. The duck appeared to have Derek in a death grip, there was a steady drip of blood down his chin and a very determined look in his feathered friend's eye. He motioned upwards with his hand and lifted the duck to accommodate Derek as he slowly rose form a crouching positions.

"I think it's a stand off" said Colin

"puff" said Derek

"Twat" offered Colin

"nooo puff" said Derek and pointed behind him in the general direction of the pub.



It took a considerable time and much discomfort, (for Derek), to negotiate their way to the pub. Each slip or misplaced step, and anything that the duck mistook for a further threat on its wellbeing, was accompanied by a muffled complaint from Derek.

When Sydney emerged to Colin's shouted, "Syd....Syd!!" he was greeted by a very strange sight indeed. There in the front door was a boy, holding a duck, holding another boy holding a fishing rod, by the top lip.

"Don't want none o you circus types 'ere" he said, stifling a laugh.

"Just help me get this frigging thing off his face"

Stanley came for a closer look. He saw the jagged hole and the hook still connected to the line and immediately understood what had happened, though not exactly how the duck had become connected to Derek's face.

"Oi thought you were going to fish", he said, "not duck, that's a different sport altogether". And then added. "Don't look too happy do 'e"?

"He's had a bit of a rough day" said Colin

Stanley thought for a moment and then with an "Oi'll be back in a tick" went off to the kitchen. He came back a few moments later with scissors and a teaspoon and knelt on the floor to examine the full extent of the predicament. He was not overly concerned with a steady but slow drip of blood from Derek's chin, he was in no imminent danger of bleeding to death. Slowly he reached out and circled the line in thumb and forefinger a yard from the protagonists faces. They both followed his movements with a wary eye to see what he had in mind. He brought this hand up towards them, slowly, ever so slowly and nipped the line twixt finger and thumb six inches from their faces. The scissors, in his other hand appeared stage right, moving again very slowly, so as not to startle, where they opened fractionally and then closed on the line with a soundless snip. Stanley put the scissors down and held the rod and nodded at Derek who released it so that he could put it gently on the floor.

The feathered fiend evidently thought that the scissors had been wielded with a more sinister purpose and crapped over Colin's elbow onto the floor.

So far so good. With the steady solemn hand of a surgeon Stanley retrieved the spoon from his breast pocket. Holding it by the handle he offered it inch by inch towards the beasts beak where a slight gap, the width of Derek's flattened lip, was evident between the upper and lower bill. Ever so gently he tried to introduce the spoon into the gap but the duck, sensing a threat to the quid pro quo, immediately clamped down harder on it's hostage. Derek let out a startled groan and the drip of blood increased to a small steady flow.

Stanley retreated and stood up, scratching his head he muttered "Well Oi don't know, Oim flummoxed".

Just at that moment a child's voice from the vicinity of the doorway chimed in, "Stick a pencil up it's arse!".

Those who could, being Colin and Stanley, turned to look. A tiny befreckled urchin with a flop of blond hair stood all of four feet tall in the doorway. The ragamuffin wore baggy short trousers, a threadbare t-shirt and incongruous oversize carpet slippers. He was grinning from ear to ear obviously enjoying the show and repeated his advice again, "a pencil, up the arse".

"The duck's arse?" asked Colin solemnly.

"'Course" said the child equally seriously, "don't be darft".

So far Derek had been unable to declare his feelings about the antics of the past hour, due in no small part to having a large aquatic bird attached to his lip. It hurt, it hurt like hell. After an initial numbness every small movement hurt and bar having the bird instantly and painlessly removed, Derek's next requirement for a relatively happy existence was for everyone to be quite, quite still. He would happily feed through a straw until the duck slept or even passed away. It is a common syndrome for captives to build up a rapport with their captors over time, an empathy based on shared perspective. He had become certain that his lip was being held hostage by the duck, it being convinced that some mortal blow would befall it the moment it let go. And so they were balanced, precariously. The child's suggestion of introducing something into the duck's bottom filled Derek with horror. He had stared long into that beady black eye, he had learned to admire the stubborn will of his assailant and knew full well that an anally offended adversary would exact a terrible toll on his lip.

To make his point understood by the group Derek very careful raised his right arm and extended the index and middle fingers.

"Shame" conceded Stanley, "it sounded loik a good idea to me".

"Anywise Tom, where's yorn pa?"

"Oim ere" said a bigger version of the child.

"Get moi bloody slippers home you little sod", and cuffed his son around the head raising a puff of dust.

"Aw da', oi want to watch" said the boy, and retreated behind his father and stuck his head out from behind the jamb of the door.

"Looks loik yor in a roit pickle"

And before anyone could explain, or indeed utter a word, the Wurzel Gummage figure produced a (well used) handkerchief from his shirt pocket and dropped it over the ducks head.

Deprived of it's view, and consequently of any impression of immediate danger, the duck lessened and quickly relinquished it's grip. Derek who had been unconsciously pulling away, stumbled back, tripped and sat back on the floor. Now unimpeded, blood welled up in his lip, covering his teeth and ran off his chin in a steady stream giving him the appearance of a startled but well fed vampire.

Stanley worked quickly. He put his hands under the handkerchief and with a deft flick retrieved the hook outwards so that the barb did no further damage, "take he round the back and let the poor little blighter go" he said to Colin, who did.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Later they sat around the fire chortling over mugs of cider. Closer inspection had shown the cut on Derek's lip to be deep but only a quarter of an inch long and had stopped bleeding almost immediately when, much to Derek's dismay, Stanley had dabbed it with iodine. Drinking cider was fine, but he had to be careful when he laughed. They amused themselves conjecturing on Natty's demise and decided that he had stopped to tie his shoe lace, or dropped his lighter, but he'd obviously stooped too low, too close to the pond and been dragged by the nose to a watery grave by the duckfiend.

By common consent they retrieved their sleeping bags and spent the night on the bench seats in the bar. They left the next day, with a packed lunch, waving from the car to Stanley who stood smiling, hands on hips, in the doorway of the "Sign's in Cellar".

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

the magic caravan part iii

Look, I'm sorry. I know this is dragging on a bit, it's boring me too, but it's a true story and I've started so I'll have to finish. Just one more bit after this and you'll see the point, I promise. Incidentally, blogger has decided I can't add pictures so no light relief there either:



They looked at the caravan, and then at Stanley.

Stanley had a very simple way of avoiding any further discussion in the matter, he excused himself with a hearty “Good night” and crunched off, chuckling, the way they had come.

They watched him retreat along the edge of the pond and turn up the bank towards the orchard where his torch flicked into life momentarily illuminating the old apple tree which stood like a sentinel at its border.

Derek dropped the sleeping bags to the ground and sat on one of them looking forlornly out over the pond.

“Does it look like rain to you?”

“No, it looks like a pond” replied Colin.

“Nobody likes a smart arse…..I was thinking we’d be better off sleeping outside”

“Oh yeah, that would be lovely, we could build a little camp fire and keep watch in case the rotting corpse of Natty makes a reappearance, covered in pond weed and duck shit” suggested Colin morosely.

“Chuck us a can” ordered Derek and Colin duly obliged.

The unmistakable sound of click splffft twice in quick succession was followed by glugging noises, loud, theatrical burping and then the sound of two further cans being opened.

“I mean how the hell can you drown in twelve inches of water?” asked Colin.

“You can drown in an inch of water if you try really hard….or maybe he was eleven inches tall”

“Maybe it’s locked?” suggested Colin helpfully.

“’Course it is” mocked Derek, “I imagine it’s chock a block with valuable mole skins” and then “fuck it, I’m going for a look”, forcing himself to his feet a little unsteadily.

He stumbled up the slight rise towards the caravan. The moon behind him , although bright, cast no shadow of his on the dull surface of the caravan but it did illuminate the mist that sat on the high of the bank, caught by some lip, which eddied and pooled around his feet.

Derek didn’t hesitate but walked directly up to the side of the van and then, puzzled, stood for a moment looking for the door. It wasn’t obvious. The entire caravan seemed to be made from dull, dark rust and when he reached out a hand and brushed the surface in front of him it felt rough, like emery paper. He traced a finger to the side and felt an indent in the surface and followed it up and then, refocusing, the door was suddenly obvious. The handle was a flap like affair set into the surface and he curled two fingers into it and pulled. The caravan seemed to rock slightly towards him and then, with a small screech and what felt like the suction you would normally associate with the door of a refrigerator, the door opened towards him spilling forth a miasma of mothballs and sickly sweet mildew into the fresh night air.

Colin observed the whole performance from the safety of ten yards. From where he watched Derek seemed to have been coaxing the door open, as he traced his finger across and then upwards, almost magically, perhaps whispering some ancient druid spell of entry. As the door opened there was a soft “plop” in the water behind him and he raced up the hill in a jangle of beer cans to join his friend.

“It’s a bit whiffy” said Derek as Colin nearly bumped into him.

“It’s a bit dark”

“mmmm, cosy”, said Derek making the most of Colin’s obvious discomfort.

“Let’s go back to the car” which was half plea, half serious suggestion.

“You can if you like, but I don’t really fancy finding my way through those bloody apple trees without a light……”

“Smarmy twat” was all Colin could muster.

And so they retrieved the sleeping bags and stepped tentatively up into the tiny tin toadstool, Derek first of course.

It was a single room. Derek stood in the doorway and as he moved to the left to allow Colin room to join him the caravan rocked alarmingly under his weight. The wheels and axle which had been hidden by the mist obviously ran directly through the middle of the little caravan, through the centre line of the doorway.

“Pissed again” said Colin and entered to the right, whereupon the caravan corrected itself and swayed in the opposite direction. Derek walked to Colin, and it dipped further to the right, and then they both moved quickly across the centre line and the floor lurched dramatically downwards in that direction.

“Wicked” said Derek, “we’re going to spend the night in a tiny theme park”.

“Welcome to Nattyland?”, suggested Colin, “enjoy the ride. Keep you hands inside the carriage at all times and don’t go near the water”.

The caravan was a single room. Small windows to the front and rear (although there was no way to determine which was which) afforded just enough light to distinguish a sloping roof but gave no clue to the ‘d├ęcor’. The single most overpowering and obvious quality was the overriding stink of mothballs coupled with the syrupy sweet undercurrent that Derek had encountered earlier, and which now on reflection made him think of apples, overripe rotting apples.

The floor was smooth, carpetless and hard, and other than themselves and their few possessions was completely devoid of any feature or object. Derek opened the bag containing his sleeping bag and, holding the hood, swept it out across the floor soliciting a small puff of moonlit dust and a gentle rocking. Colin did the same in the other direction, with similar results. They sat together and flipped off their shoes, and wriggled into their respective nylon cocoons accompanied by the nauseating rock and roll of the van.

“Excrement” muttered Derek, “I need a wee”, and went through the process in reverse.

“Chuck us a fag” said Colin, “and a beer”.

Derek stood, silhouetted in the doorway, directing a silver stream of urine into the night. He fumbled in his back pocket and tossed the cigarettes over his shoulder in Colin’s general direction, where they hit him square in the forehead and skittered off into the gloom. Colin followed them, squirming grub like across the floor and sat enfolded in his bag to light one. The flame from the lighter briefly revealed what appeared to be dun, dirty brown flock wallpaper in a strange asymmetric design, but nothing of any real interest.

Eventually they slept, dreaming dreams of ocean swells and sailing boats, of hammocks and summer breezes as the slightest movement or readjustment caused their dark bower to gently dance.


“Thish ishn’t my tongue”, said a voice next to Derek, “it doeshn’t fit”

Derek reached over and felt around and sure enough found the face belonging to the complaint. He grabbed the top lip and pulled it towards the nose, soliciting an “Oww!!” and then his hand toddled off to the left in a wide arc encountering two full beer cans in their plastic lattice by his side. Deftly, for a man who has just awoken, he single handedly separated them, sat one on its base and pulled back the ring on the top. He opened his mouth and simply poured, soaking his face and the hood of the sleeping bag, but managing to get a reasonable amount in his mouth too.

He repeated the exercise with his arm reaching awkwardly behind his head and was gratified to hear a startled grunt which quickly subsided into gentle gargling.

“’sprin” said the voice this time. “aspirin”.

“Pocket” muttered Derek, and after a short pause the figure behind him began to bum crawl towards the door.

“Arse pocket in my jeans” said Derek, “I’m wearing them”. He felt around lifting his backside off the ground and located the packet in his back pocket, so far he’d only used one arm and he used it to propel the painkillers at the prostrate shape in the doorway.

It was morning outside. The light that scythed in through the crack in the doorway was bright and golden in contrast to the bleary green dimness that occupied the rest of the van. Slowly adjusting his neck, at every moment expecting a lance of pain from sleep stiffness or the previous night’s excesses, Derek looked down along his body to the window. The glass was completely covered in moss, dark and smooth where it was thickest, more brightly green at the edges where the sun made some meagre ingress, but nowhere transparent. More than anything else it resembled a badly kept fish tank.

He rolled to the side in time to see the figure in the doorway, head thrown back, dispatch two aspirin with a swig of beer and then unadvisedly lean against the door, which opened and deposited him on his back on the ground outside. For long moments the feet of the figure encased in the sleeping gently flapped like the disembodied nether regions of some unlikely sea creature before slipping sideways out of view.

Derek rolled over and attempted to re enter the land of nod, but was eventually forced to recognise the overriding imperative of his bladder. With a groan he struggled from the open end of his sleeping bag in a process that, in nature, results in the emergence of a delicate, beautiful butterfly but in his case gave birth to a hairy dishevelled gargoyle.

With a flop he sat down in the doorway resting his feet lightly on his friend and surveyed the lie of the land.

The land was indeed brightly lit and unrecognisable from the moonlit demesne of the previous night. The pond sparkled and glittered under an early morning sun that had risen behind them and now peered over the crest of their caravan. It was a big pond too, roughly oval and 30 yards across at it’s shortest span to the opposite bank from where Derek sat. And obviously quite deep, in the middle was what appeared to the roof of some kind of small truck, perhaps the original conveyance for their sleeping quarters, which was now submerged to the tops of its glassless windows providing a sun trap for several ducks who sat placidly on the tin platform.

Beyond the pond a small rickety wooden shed stood on the far bank in a patch of dusty earth amongst long uncultivated grass and beyond that a large unkempt hedge over which, vague and rippling in the early light, were the hazy purple outlines of low distant hills.

Derek breathed in savouring the fresh country air, sans eau de mothball, and immediately fell back into the van in a spasm of coughing.

He lit a cigarette and dropped an empty beer can on what he hoped was the lump formed in the sleeping bag by Colin’s head. It was.

“It’s too bright”, came a muffled voice.

“I need to go poo” said Derek, simply.

“Well go poo”

“Where?”

“Frankly my dear I don’t give a shit”

“I’m going back to the pub, the loo’s outside remember?”

And eventually after a few strategically aimed kicks and some plaintive wailing Colin was separated from his bag and, armed with their toothbrushes, the pair ambled back towards the pub.

It was a very short trek, completely devoid of the mystery endowed on it by night. The orchard was bright, airy and no more than rustic, the twisted trees took on almost comic shapes by the light of day. In just a few minutes they stood outside the lavvy which leant against the rear of the pub. To Derek’s delight there was toilet roll too, albeit the crispy shiny kind which he conveyed to Colin through the wooden wall.

“Hurt’s yer bum” he shouted.

“Does the trick though” replied a familiar voice from an open window in the side wall of the under the sloping eve of the pub, “you’re up then, I didn’t think Oid see you this side of nine o’clock”, he sounded genuinely surprised.

“When yer finished whatever it is you’ve got to do, Oi’ll get us up some breakfast”.

Monday, June 12, 2006

a nomadic tribe called Colin...

It's the 12th of June.

How on earth did it get to be June already. I feel like Rip van Winkle, I went to sleep just the other night, it was March, and now it's mid-bloody-June already. Stop the world I want to get off.

So, Greece.

Greece has it's own schedule too, everyone seems so laissez faire about life in general and especially deadlines and the passage of time. Certainly if you order something in a Greek restaurant it's not a good idea to wait until you are hungry, chances are that it won't arrive for a very long time and it's quite likely that it won't be what you ordered either. So just chill, order a bottle of wine not a glass, and if you insist on ordering a Greek wine then make sure it's either a). expensive, b). very, very, very cold...otherwise you might taste it and that wouldn't do.

Ferries, by far the easiest way to get around the islands, and also their commercial life lines are notoriously unpunctual. I once caught a ferry from the port in Piraeus which was stunningly on time - only to be told that it was actually yesterdays ferry. The timetable had eventually righted itself by virtue of being progressively 2 hours later each day for the past 2 weeks or so.

So why in God's name the taxi drivers feel the necessity to hurl themselves ferociously into traffic at mach 3 I'll never know. Unless of course it's some genetic trait that only taxi drivers have - part lemming perhaps? (I'm a bad passenger, I sit in the back seat sullenly refusing to offer any further distraction to the gormless maniac who is apparently happy to negligently damage me. I also have an imaginary steering wheel and brake pedal that I use to will us around corners and other road users).

I spent the whole of last week in stinky, sweaty, smelly Athens, 32 deg, no air conditioning and a dark blue suit. I lost so much liquid that my eyes made a rasping noise when I shut them.

Prior to that I spent the weekend with friends on a boat on the Norfolk Broads - a lush green fenland dissected by a network of canals, sprinkled with bright, thatched villages hardly accessible by car and beautiful old pubs. The whole experience is conducted at a wonderfully indolent pace of 3 miles per hour, just the ticket for a drunken, miserable fart like me.

So I desperately need to get some washing done, all three of my pairs of underpants are dirty (I hesitate to say "soiled"). You know it's 30 degrees here in London too? In an extended period of hot weather my place begins to resemble a fire brick, we're British you see, we don't do air conditioning. The air is hot and leaden. The dogs, who are panting continuously, have managed to find a relatively cool spot on the quarry tiles on the bathroom floor, so I leave the door open for them - I'm half inclined to leave six inches of cold water in the bath for them while I'm at work.

And I will apologise now, but there's a small matter of the World Cup going on at the moment, so reports from chez Fish may be intermittent, at least while England are still in it.