Thursday, 16 October 2014

It had been a windy night; beech nuts were popping under my feet



It had been a windy night; beech nuts were popping under my feet. The street-lights were out again, it would have been pitch-black had it not been for the faint glow of the light that illuminated the green lichen triangle that used to be a street sign.
By lunchtime it was still only half light. And cold. Paths were lined with thick puddles of leaves, black arthritic nettles, and frantically suckering brambles. The wind hissed through yellow horse-chestnut and variegated birch and the telegraph wires strained at their poles. Brown stripped-bare fields were dotted white with gulls and the farm cat swallowed a mouse whole in just three gulps.
At the pub in the village where ‘2 Dine for £12.99 on selected main courses and afternoon tea,’ the landlord was being important enough in fair-isle and corduroy. ‘Hello there!’ he enthused to customers disgorged crease-free from mainly Range Rovers. 
          Later, I watched some squabbling crows while I pissed against a tree. Half a dozen of them were fighting over the topmost perch of the church steeple. They’d circle scrappily for a while until one would suddenly tip its wing, break away and attempt to land. Usually its move would be pre-empted by the others and the breakaway bird would be knocked off course and forced to abort. Occasionally, one would succeed in making the perch only for the rest to rush it en masse, dislodging it after only a few seconds. I saw several tours, swooping attempts, and brief landings but I don’t know what the ultimate outcome was.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Research into outdoor chores carried out in the last week of September:



Research into outdoor chores carried out in the last week of September: Gender, approx’ age, what to wear. 
Unusually mild weather for the time of year. 16°C - 20°C. Sunny with very occasional light drizzle.
  1. Male, 40s. Watering potted annuals. T-shirt, jeans, sandals.
  2. Male, 70s. Scrubbing hose-reel with stiff brush. T-shirt, trousers, sandals.
  3. Male, 60s. Clipping fingernails. T-shirt, jeans, sandals.
  4. Female, 60s. Digging out couch grass. Fleece jacket, jogging pants, walking boots.
  5. Female, 70s. Taking seedlings round to a neighbour. Blouse, trousers, sandals.
  6. Female, 40s. Walking Labrador. T-shirt, jeans, trainers.
  7. Female, 70s. Weeding between driveway setts with special long-handled tool. Fleece jacket, trousers, sandals.
  8. Male, 60s. Loading garden cuttings into Fiat Punto. Fleece jacket, jeans, black shoes.
  9. Female, 40s. Re-pointing garage wall. Fleece jacket, tracksuit pants, slippers.
  10. Female, 70s. Walking Highland terrier. Fleece jacket, knee-length plaid pleated skirt, flat black shoes.
  11. Male, 60s. Re-pointing wall. Polo-shirt, jeans, black shirt.
  12. Female, 30s. Putting out bins. large knitted striped jumper, jogging pants, one slipper, one bare foot.
  13. Female, 70s. Popping to shop to get bits. knee-length skirt, knitted cardigan, flat black shoes.
  14. Male, 60s. Sweeping yard. Fleece jacket, trousers, welly shoes.
  15. Male, 60s. Washing Fiat Punto. Navy-blue overalls, black shoes.
  16. Male, 60s. Clearing guttering. Shirt with collar, V-neck sweater, suit trousers, slippers.
  17. Female, 60s. Sweeping pavement outside house. Cardigan, trousers, slippers.
  18. Male, 80s. Polishing KIA Picanto. Shirt with collar, V-neck sweater, suit trousers, black shoes.
  19. Female, 70s. Sweeping driveway with brand new yard-brush. Sweatshirt embroidered with floral display, trousers, welly shoes.
  20. Male, 70s. Re-applying window putty. Knitted cardigan, jeans, slippers.
  21. Male, 50s. Shouting abuse at a neighbour in the street, “Don’t fuck with me!”. T-shirt, jeans, socks.
  22. Male, 70s. Telling the postman that a neighbour has died, “Yep, they’ve buried her and everything”. Baseball cap, cardigan, jogging pants, trainers.
  23. Male, 20s. Hiding door key under mat, “You never saw that, did you? There’s nowt worth nicking anyway; it’s a right shit-hole”. Motorcycle helmet, tracksuit, trainers.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

I walked a long way today, through eight spiders’ webs



I walked a long way today, through eight spiders’ webs. I had dead flies webbed to my shirt and face. 
         Tree litter, safely bagged nappies, and BMW’s covered the slippery Driveways of Distinction. 
         A builder on the main road was loading a heavy-duty radio back into his van. He slammed the doors shut as I strode across his freshly laid concrete path leaving three deep footprints. I apologised and made a weak joke about the current vogue for pattern imprinted paving. The builder said nothing, just turned round, opened the van doors, and unloaded his radio and tools again. I disappeared round a corner and was washing my shoes in a puddle when a small boy of about 4 or 5 years old ran out across the road. His dad came after him, picked him up and dragged him back to the pavement. 
“I’ve told you not to do that, It’s dangerous!” He yelled.
“I know” said the boy.
“So why did you do it then?”
“Because … because it was a secret ninja job.”

PS: The Most Difficult Thing Ever has been shortlisted for this years Blog North Awards, the final results of which are partly decided by public vote. If you feel inclined, you can vote here:  www.blognorthawards.com
         The event itself takes place at The Deaf Institute in Manchester on Wednesday 8th October. Details here: www.manchesterliteraturefestival.co.uk
         Also, if you're interested, there is a Most Difficult Thing Ever dedicated Facebook page here: www.facebook.com

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Out in the sticks where 50% of women are inside Range Rovers.



Out in the sticks where 50% of women are inside Range Rovers, I followed the deer down the gravel driveway to the barn conversion where the new faux-modernist chrome-plated garden sculpture is ‘something a bit different’ and ‘absolutely beautiful to look at’ according to the woman with the ‘glass of something lovely’ in her hand. I lost a fiver around here yesterday, I retraced my steps for about ten minutes but there was no sign of it.

Later, a police dog pissed on my van and a bright red man inside a bright red BMW nearly took my wing mirror as he swerved to avoid some horse shit.

In the village, the grown-up paper-girl in distressed denim passed me in the street. She tucked her phone under her chin and folded a copy of The Sun for her next drop without pausing her conversation, ‘She’s having another baby,’ she said, ‘Royal twats!’ She pushed open the gate with her hip, ‘… Yes, well, if I had a decent job I wouldn’t be doing a paper round, would I?’

I parked my van at the end of another long driveway — in the same place I have every day this week. I opened the door and there, screwed up on the pavement was my fiver.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Kyle’s Always Grabbing My Tits.



“Kyle’s always grabbing my tits,” said the young woman in the too-tight playsuit whose young son had just grabbed her tits.
“I know! Mine too, it really hurts,” said the older woman in the noteworthy trainers, gathering her low maintenance hair into a scrunchie.
And it’s embarrassing,” added the younger one, pushing her unfashionable specs up the bridge of her nose.

The butcher was recommending a cut of pork loin to the thin-lipped elderly woman with the frown and the large black canvas shopping bag. She was wearing a heavy overcoat and a headscarf in spite of the fine weather. He waved a large knife over the display counter, “Those’ll be lovely; tender as a woman’s heart!“ he said.
“I’ll have the sausages,” said the woman.

A boy of about six or seven years old stopped me in the street.
“Do you want to buy this for a pound?” he said, opening his palm to reveal the pebble I’d just seen him pick up from Mr Beever’s driveway.
“What is it?” I asked.
“A pebble” said the boy, rubbing it on his sleeve, “It’s shiny”.
“A pound for a pebble?” I said.
“It’s magic,” said the boy.

I was watching a nuthatch in Hangingstone Road when a thin man in washed-out black passed at dangerously high speed. He was riding a pushbike and trailer with GAY written across the back in large plastic letters. He looked up at me as he shot through the narrow gap between the double parked cars. “Hiya!” he yelled at the top of his voice. The nuthatch flew away.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

I Chased the Cloud Shadows up Over the Moor...



I chased the cloud shadows up over the moor and onto the estate where the men still drive Rovers and wear their hair in elaborate comb-overs that flip up in the wind like busy, beige peddle-bin lids. Wind-assisted lapwings flocked in the field behind the abandoned Renault camper — £500 ono — and the pretend duck by the bin-store ‘quacked’ as I passed. A replica of a basset-hound peered out from the large stone handbag in Mrs Hinchliffe’s alpine rockery, its head bobbing on a spring. People in comfy shoes were restraining small terriers, frying liver and onions, smoking cigs, and scraping fluvial sediment from a storm drain with a butter knife. A man with a bit of dinner on his face was sitting on a collapsible chair outside his conservatory door. He was surrounded by marigolds, begonias, gladioli, Sport For All stickers, a faded Basil Ede print of some ducks, a pile of VHS video cassettes, a dozen or so pretend meerkats, and a miniature wooden wheelbarrow stuffed with pansies and snapdragons. Next door, a ten year old dusty-pink Kia Picanto pulled up and a grey haired man with thick, plastic rimmed reactolite glasses and a three-quarter length beige anorak climbed out. He slammed the door, opened the boot, and unloaded three heavy looking Lidl bags-for-life. He pulled out a small packet of dog biscuits and held it up high to show the man with the dinner on his face who shouted, ’Thanks, Derek!’ and pointed towards the open door of his green plastic shed, ‘Wob us it in there, can you?’

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Under the Overgrown Brambles, Through the Spider’s Webs...



Under the overgrown brambles, through the spider’s webs, past the tethered cat asleep on the lawn at the limit of its chain, to Mr Briggs’ front door.
“Good weekend?” he asked.
“Not so bad, thanks. You?”
“It were all right. We went down The Railway. I said to Robert, ‘Have you any food on?’ He said ‘Yes, we’re doing bacon sandwiches for a pound.’ I said, ‘I’ll have two’. So we had a bacon sandwich each”.
“Very nice” I said.
“Aye, but when I got up to go for a piss they had a bloke on the toilet door trying to charge me 50p because of the Tour de France! The robbing bastards! I said to Robert, ‘You’re not charging me 50p for a piss, I’ve been coming in here thirty-five year.’”
Did he charge you?” I said.
“Did he fuck. Robbing bastard.”

The roofers were listening to Tracey Chapman on their bright yellow, heavy-duty radio while they discussed what a great night-out Brighouse is.
“Aye, I went-out there last weekend. It wasn’t a bad night but I didn’t go out to get rat-arsed” said the younger one, rolling a cigarette.
“Fuck me!” said the older one, “I did! I got absolutely fucking bladdered.”

The occupants of the little Fiat 500 ahead of me at the lights were engaged in some kind of gobbing-out-of-the-window contest. The big man with the moustache in the near-side passenger seat appeared to be winning; he’d landed a large greeny halfway across the pavement outside the doctor's surgery. Two of the beige pensioners in the long line of mainly-beige-with-accents-of-navy pensioners at the bus stop looked on disapprovingly. They started to remonstrate but the wind blew something heavy by Yves St Laurent into the van and I wound-up my window so I didn't hear what they said.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

The Most Difficult Thing Ever audio extract / new stockists



Two new Manchester stockists of The Most Difficult Thing Ever book/CD:

Magma
22 Oldham Street
Manchester 
M1 1JN

Trouble at Mill
50 Beech Road
Chorlton-cum-Hardy
Manchester
M21 9EG

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Just Down From The Sun Pub Where Elvis Performed Last Night...



Just down from the Sun pub where 'Elvis' performed last night, the man who still has his Christmas decorations up was singing Everly Brothers songs at the top of his voice while he did his ironing with the window open.

Two fifteen year old Vauxhall coupés driven by slack-jawed snapback wearers sped past. The silver metallic one in front hit the speed-bump by the bus stop too quickly and its wide-arch body-kit came off in one piece. The second coupé, a red one, ran over the body kit and smashed it to pieces dragging it up the road for a few hundred yards. The elderly man with the Scottish accent and a spaniel asleep in the basket attached to his walking-frame said, ‘There are some right fucking idiots about’.

On the terrace with more plants in the guttering than in the gardens — next door to the house with the Twix wrapper, the AAA battery, the ear-buds, and the dustpan and brush in the concreted-over yard — a man of about 60, wearing a sweatshirt, jeans, and slippers was sitting on his front step listening to The Eurythmics at very high volume. He occasionally joined in with the chorus between drags on his roll-up.

Out in the sticks, Builders of all ages listen to 80s chart hits all day long and chubby young white men with no socks, beards, tattoos and flat caps say, ‘Thanks, boss’ to the Asian shopkeepers or do some cycling. A man of about 60 with a grey crew-cut-and-rat-tail discusses his Mercedes with another younger Mercedes owner. They both refer to their cars using the pronouns ‘She’ or 'Her'.