Monday, 28 September 2009

By "Polish" I mean definitely Eastern European and probably Polish (alternative title: Blathering on about the mundane)

For a couple of months my wife had been asking me to get my hair cut. I finally gave in and headed into town. Go to Supercuts, said my mum, they're cheap and you don't need an appointment. Six years since I last lived here, the last thing I wanted was to fritter hours away searching for the right barber, so to Supercuts I went.

I lasted in there for no more than ten seconds, fifteen at most. Uncomfortably feminine, cheap and tacky, it felt entirely dubious. There were two hairdressers, both in action. One a humongous mama, the other a depressive maniac. Or so it seemed. The mama terrified me and let's face it, would you really submit yourself to a depressive armed to the teeth with scissors and clippers?

To be fair, her long, miserable face was nothing compared to that of a mosquito I saw the other night. The poor bugger was splatted on the tiles above a urinal. Talk about depression, could there be a more depressing fate than that? The little bloodsucker had been lurking in the Marquis waiting for the perfect inebriated target. He spotted an ideally stinky rogue, followed him into the gents, found himself in a dimly-lit under-ventilated wee-splattered hell-hole and was promptly swatted against the porcelain. A lowly death and one to be depressed about.

Supercuts yeah right, I took to my heels and scurried down the street. A few shops further on a ginger painter was lounging about taking a fag break. "Are there any barbers round here?" I asked. He took a long drag, lost in thought for a few seconds. "Couple down East Street," he said, "nothing special," he added, "should cost you a tenner."

"What a nice chap" I thought, my opinions of the human race lifted a notch. I wandered down East Street and sure enough there they were, practically side by side. The first looked preferable with a blue steel style, slick and classy. In truth it was a bit too slick and classy and in reality not classy at all. A Polish girl stood outside smoking. By "Polish" I mean definitely Eastern European and probably Polish. Tattooed to the hilt, long nails, very alternative, slightly off-putting. I entered anyway, never expecting she would be the one to cut my hair.

Snipping and clipping she chewed gum noisily, producing a nauseating cigarette-Spearmint stench. As always I had to take off my glasses meaning I couldn't see a thing. Why didn't I wear contact lenses? she asked. I used to, I explained, but my eyes decided they had had enough. She was worried about being allergic to contact lenses, she had all sorts of allergies, she could only wear silver or gold jewellery. I didn't know what to say, did she mean as opposed to plastic or copper?

It was a riveting conversation, simply riveting. The above passage was carefully formed to illustrate what a skilled conversationalist I am.

A bloke in a black vest wandered in, a total gimp if you ask me. Not Polish (nor Eastern European), just a plain old English yob. He was trying to sell aftershave. Counterfeit aftershave most likely. The Polish owner sent him packing, the vested gimp caused a bit of a fuss. By "Polish" of course I mean definitely Eastern European and probably Polish. By "fuss" I mean he cursed like a miner and spat like a Chav.

I strolled home infinitely pleased. Pleased with the haircut, pleased it only cost a tenner, pleased I hadn't gone to Supercuts. Passing the Marquis I thought of the poor mosquito. An old man stumbled on a paving slab, turned round and glared at it menacingly. If a trip to the barber is this much fun I'll have to go more often.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Romping Donkeys, Squealing Piglets

Life can so easily feel aimless. You work, you get tired, you work, you get tired. Of course, crazy loons in camouflage gear liven things up a bit, but as we waited in eager anticipation for the piglet race, it felt like we had purpose. Real definite purpose.

To celebrate our daughter's first birthday we treated her to a "petting" farm visit. Aside from the usual collection of sheep, hens, cows, disappointed-looking horses and melancholic donkeys, twice a day the farm runs a piglet race.

The race was set in a field where two winding fences formed the racetrack. A simple track with nothing even remotely close to a chicane, but I decided to let them off. The crowd was heaving, the excitement immeasurable. I myself was sceptical, expecting nothing more than a desultory pack of small pigs to amble round the track, skirmish occasionally and perhaps snort a little.

The piglets were held in a small wooden shed at the start of the track. We could hear them squealing, but there seemed to be a delay in starting the race. The crowd quietened, a tad impatient I think. Suddenly a horrific screeching sound echoed across the venue. A female donkey galloped past in the neighbouring field, screeching wildly as she was chased by a male. He cornered her, mounted her, and the two of them staggered about like a gruesome two-headed donkey goblin from hell. The crowd moved away from the racetrack to watch. "Are they playing?" I heard one small boy ask his father.

The farm staff sprang into action. You could sense their frustration, all the effort they go through to organise a piglet race and they lose their crowd to a couple of horny donkeys. One girl attempted to whip the crowd into a frenzy with a megaphone, another moved amongst us carrying a board displaying piglet names. "Who would you bet on?" she asked. I was torn between Frankie De Snorter and Curly Sue. "Curly Sue", I said firmly.

The race itself was the most incredible thing I have ever seen. Sure, there were skirmishes, and the little critters squealed rather than snorted, but what could be better than watching six squealing piglets sprint round a field to the ecstatic chanting of small children? Boy did they go fast, you would think they were being chased by a butcher, a baker and a sandwich-maker.

The baby wasn't bothered, scrambling about on the grass, the perfect example of self-immersed indifference. No Sweetheart, that's a cigarette butt, cigarette butts are not for babies. No Sweetheart, that's a discarded pistachio shell, pistachio shells are not for babies.

Of course, Frankie De Snorter won the race and as we left the donkeys were still romping in the field. The whole piglet business got me thinking. In an ideal world we would replace the measurement of horsepower with pigletpower. A Formula One engine, for example, might be said to have 50000 Pp - the power of 50000 piglets.

Monday, 14 September 2009

The Conservative Club (another oddball in military gear)

Rick and Libby climbed the stairs noisily, dumped their shopping in the aisle and sat at the front of the bus. They seemed oblivious to the world around them and in particular, the young man a few seats back, scribbling frantically in his notebook. Libby took the front seat, rummaged in her bag for a few seconds, pulled out a ball of wool and started knitting. Rick sat behind her.

"Ugh, Libs your neck just clicked," he said, and then began to massage her neck.

After spending six years commuting by train to London, for the next two months I'll be getting the bus. The transition is like crossing the Rubicon of sanity. The train, though not without its fair share of freaks, weirdos and gimp-grandchildren, provides a relatively normal experience in comparison to the mad house known as the bus.

An Indian man sat to their right. He was speaking on the phone very loudly, very fast. Libs shot him an irritated glance. She wore thick-lensed glasses, the lenses so thick her eyes appeared as tiny specks.

Rick was another one of those army fruitcakes, an overweight balding man clad entirely in camouflage gear. Frank Skinner once said that anyone wearing more than two badges is a nutter. Rick had more badges than a festival junkie.

"Leave me alone Rick," said Libs, "you're hurting me." "Yak, yak, yak," said the Indian man. "I'm not gonna hurt you Libs," assured Rick, with a touch of genuine disappointment in his voice. He reminded me of a disgruntled gorilla, not that I've ever seen one or for that matter would want to see one.

An old man got on the bus, we had to wait for a thousand years as he climbed slowly up the stairs. Two stops later he pressed the button, millennia flew by as the bus waited for him. He climbed down the stairs backwards. Slowly, painfully, his joints creaking (I imagine). The madness of it all, the effort he went through for a couple of minutes on the top deck.

Rick and Libs' shopping fell down the stairs as the bus turned a sharp corner. I was that close to bursting into wild, hearty laughter. Rick went after it, the moment was pure comedy. He could be heard scrambling about downstairs like a pig let loose in a grocery store. The rustling of plastic bags, the sound of tins rolling with the motion of the bus, the muffled curses as he stumbled about. When he finally returned all seemed forgotten, once again his hands found themselves on Libs' neck.

"How's this?" he asked. "Leave me alone, " she whined, her needles still clicking away.

I was fascinated by this mundane scene. Where were they going? A council estate? A working men's club? Down the newsagent to buy some lottery tickets? On route to buy a 300 inch plasma TV that they cannot afford? Who knows? I'm not one for stereotyping. They got off the bus and walked straight into a Conservative Club, of all places. If those guys are Tory we're all in trouble. The Indian chap watched this intently, he looked as surprised as I was. The world is a strange place.

I descended the stairs prepared for carnage, fully expecting to see broccoli scattered about, a dented tin of beans perhaps, or a puddle of milk by the priority seats. Nothing, just a suspicious-looking group of pensioners and a couple of schoolchildren. Rick, to his credit, had cleaned the whole lot up.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Never Trust Anyone in a Hawaiian Shirt

I know, I know, a rare flurry of mid-week activity from the "I'll only post on Mondays" Blogger, but I'm guest posting at Pseudo's place today, please go and pay her a visit.

Monday, 7 September 2009

The Soldier (and farewell Sass)

I dedicate this post to the fabulous Sass, the girl who taught me to blog. Not for its relevance, it is just my way of saying thanks and goodbye. She said her goodbyes to the Blogosphere last week. If you haven't already, pop over there to say farewell.

The motion of the traffic soothed my soul, a soul in tatters after missing the bus. It was all rather picturesque really, traffic dancing along to the dreary tunes on Starbuck's play-list. I sat there nursing my damaged sensibilities, sipping a coffee and scoffing a so-called “breakfast panini”. A skanky breakfast panini, and it cost me three quid too, which in the grand scheme of things was a kick in the teeth. But I was hungry enough to pay. Besides, I had half an hour to kill.

The door swung open. Not violently, not gently either, but firm, forceful, purposeful. A soldier strolled in. I say soldier, what I mean is some bloke in full camouflage gear who may or may not be a soldier. Army boots, bulky hiking rucksack, one of those army caps that made his head look like a tin can.

Cool, I thought, there are only two of us in the café and one of us is a soldier, a real man. Or was he? It dawned on me that he was a tad old to be a soldier. Home Guard, perhaps, but he was blatantly over 50, probably pushing 60. A colonel, possibly, but he had no stripes, no sign of rank. He did, however, have an incredible moustache, one which would have driven Lord Kitchener mad with jealousy.

He had a swagger abut him, not an aggressive “I could thrash you using only my pinky” sort of a swagger, but rather a careless nonchalance. His age and nonchalance gave me doubts. He was either a nutter or a colonel without his stripes. (I use the term “nutter” lightly, not for one minute forgetting the phenomenal toll taken on our troops.)

He ordered his coffee, and as he stood there James Blunt came on. The tiresome, ubiquitous James Blunt, the man whose dreary whining haunts us everywhere we go. The soldier starts to tap his feet, gently creasing one knee as he croons along, on his face an expression of intense ecstasy.

Tell you what, he can't have been a soldier. No soldier worth his salt would tap feet to James Blunt.
As I have quite a few new readers since I became a "Jelly Biter" I've put this up here again. To understand the context you must read this post!