Tuesday, 2 August 2011

The damned heat

My word, it's hot in the barn this morning.  Stifling - close.  Humid,  or yoomid as my Nan would have said. Sultry, armpitty, clammy of hand and all covered areas.  The kind of day to 'go commando'.

Is there any truth in that?  And for what reason did Her Majesty's gallant lads opt for not wearing a baselayer?  Surely a good stout pant would provide an excellent barrier against leeches when wading up a Burmese river at 2am, knife firmly clenched between gritted teeth.

More accurately, I should have said His Majesty's commandos for the vision in my head was one of John Mills or Anthony Quayle on active service in 1945, when our present monarch was still wearing a girl guide uniform and learning to bleed a sump on an Austin Champ. For the war effort and all that..

..anyway, I am not without underwear. At present.

A year ago, at about this time, I was without outer garments. Swimming about in an open air pool at the Furnace Creek Ranch, at the very heart of the hottest place on Earth.  Death Valley: complete with bleached cattle skulls, sand dunes, heat haze and twanging steel guitars.  Rocking chairs on front porches and little pipes bearing ice cold water which sprayed a fine mist to cool the brow outside the general store and bar.

Dear reader let me tell you, depsite being 50 whatever centigrade at 9.40am (that's 122 in old money) it did NOT feel as hot as it does here today.

Yeah yeah, wasn't working.  Yeah yeah, dressed for the climate.  But when the temperature rises here it is the most unpleasant kind of warmth. Airless. It has you reaching for a cold flannel at every opportunity.  Then there are the insects. Not cruel crawling flies like you see on an Amazonian Indian's startled face, nor buzzing biting mosquitos such as those which swarm around slowly rotating ceiling fan in a Malayan bungalow.  These are the teeny tiny annoying kind. Minute thunderbugs crawling in your hair, silent gnats which suddenly appear in front of your eyes and bastard wasps.  Dilly dallying around your wine glass, whizzing towards your hair then spinning away without reason, before reappearing an inch from your ear when you are least expecting it.

Today puts me in mind of a 1950s B movie. A science fiction one where the editor of the Daily Express plays himself in a stilted yet memorable performance. Only surpassed by Fred Pontin and Bernard Matthews' acting ability in their own TV adverts. Anyhow, the film: the sun or some kind of enormous asteroid is going to crash into the earth and everything is heating up.  Eggs can be fried on pavements, toilet cisterns begin to boil over and as a consequence, people are forced out of the cities. Apart from a few diehard hacks and cranky old women - and there's lots of forehead mopping and collar fingering. Yet nobody thinks of taking their tie off.  Let alone removing their pants.  I think there's a moment of romance where someone like a young Sylvia Simms may appear briefly by a Venetian blind in the moonlight wearing a satin slip, but that's about as close as anyone gets to being stark bollock naked.

I suppose the film was made not long after the era when the BBC required its radio announcers to wear a black tie after 6pm.  The Northern Symphony Orchestra would be there in tail coats and dickies, parping away on French horns, violins soaring majestically in Broadcasting House, while Kathleen Ferrier or some old trout like that trilled into a large microphone with a mink stole draped over the bare shoulders of  her Norman Hartnell ball gown.

How standards have fallen. Chris fucking Evans.  In shorts and espadrilles with coarse ginger stubble, not even capable of putting out a show without various hangers on in the studio with him, laughing at his jokes and playing the latest offering from Adele instead of Dame Kathleen.

Which brings me nicely back to going commando: for by her own admission, Adele is a woman who does. Except recently this proved not to be such a good idea when she stepped outside to bring the milk in and a gust of wind revealed her ample pantless rear end to the early morning passers-by in Camden Town. Or wherever Adele's manor happens to be.

So the moral is, go commando by all means in this weather. Just cancel the milk first;  it will probably go off on your doorstep in any case.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Oh, all right then

So how has it come to this?  

Well, I will tell you.  For once, at 1.50pm on a Friday, I don't actually have very much to do.  Yes I could flick a bit of dust off my desk, line pens and pencils up neatly or engage in some jolly e-mail banter with friends. 

The sort of friends who are easily distracted by e-mails. So it would never end. An endless chain of opening a message which says 'thanks' so one pings back saying 'don't mention it' before being smashed by a mighty forehanded 'no problem.'


Maybe I should step outside for  fag?   Dead leaves  left over from  the last great puff of Autumn wind are still billowing around there. Horse chestnuts, oaks, beech and so on. I'm not good with trees. Identified most easily by what grows upon them - hopefully in the shape of fruit. Or acorns. Nuts. That kind of thing. Leaves again - driven here by a gale, so far these remaining few - all opaque brown and withered now - have escaped the rake of Ted.  He's one of the three gardeners who tend to the yards and keep the gravel tidy.

Not, I hasten to add, the same Ted the gardener who is hotly pursued by Charlie Higson in whichever comedy series it is or was. The one I would laugh at after a few glasses of wine but not find amusing when sober. Which isn't very often at 9pm.

But I digress.  I do a lot of digressing. Tangents. Prompted to move into the obscure mid-conversation by something said in passing. The onset of a daydream maybe provoked, slipping into a parralel universe once more, real-life questions parried with a smile. A knowing nod. Moving on... where was I?  Where am I? How do I know where I am? How will I know where I am when I get there?  Have I got a map?

Actually, I've got lots of maps. Some special old ones I acquired recently. A treasured gift. They help with the imagination as well as memories of almost forgotten walks. Long summer days, dogs and skylarks, streams where the wild garlic grows, pink thrift on cliff tops and horizons. The wide blue yonder. The wild hope of something out there way, way beyond it. The people you pass on the path, observe from a distance, appear in their photographs. Caught in someone else's time for all posterity. Flashbacks. Warm nights. Illicitly engaged, even. Perhaps. Once upon a time.

"Your emails make me laugh."  

Is there an Oxford format for e-mail? Email? Ee-mail. Ee-by-eck-mail.northern.com
I didn't put a full stop after com in case it mislead anyone. 

"No, your e-mails make me laugh, you should start a blog."

"I haven't got time for that."

"You wrote a book. How did you have time for that?"

"I made time. Just sat down and did it. Ignoring the phone. Neglecting my work."

"Well then...."

So here it is - there may never be any more. Unless something amusing happens and I feel compelled to record it.

Observational stuff. A man fell over in the churchyard the other morning -  fell on his pompous arse, the pompous arse. I didn't help of course - earlier on he'd shot me a glance which said "my eye is on you sonny. Don't think about casing the joint for silver plate."

Sonny?  I am only  fifteen  years your junior for Christ's sake. Whoops, sorry vicar.  Got up, dusted himself off, bristled back to his little green car.  Only a small thing but I did have to bite my lip. Stifle a chortle. Muffle a mouth movement. Grasp a hand to prevent it forming a v-shape.

Patrick Kielty doesn't make me laugh. Does he make anyone laugh? What, pray, does this man have to offer in the way of entertainment. A 'TV personality' which is a laugh in itself.  He has no personality. Katie Boyle, Ted Moult - there's a couple more. Gone now, but once household names for doing fuck all.  Can you say fuck in a blog?

Well, dear readers, we are about to find out.  I may be censored before I am even published. 

More another time. If I can be arsed.