Note: this blog post was started on Saturday evening.
Hello, I hope you are well. Tonight’s post (because I am typing this at 8:47pm UK time) is written under the very slight influence of alcohol, so this really could go anywhere.
It could also turn out to be the greatest blog post I have ever written – who knows? If it does, I shall definitely be typing inebriated more often.
Anyway, enough about my lifestyle choices – let’s get on with this blog post.
It’s been an interesting past few days, and it all started on BBC Radio Four (as it often does). I have Radio Four as one of the pre-set stations in my car, along with BBC Radio Two, Classic FM, Radio One, Heart, and Wessex FM. In truth I don’t listen to Radio One anymore, because I only have the radio on during the journey to and from work and I can’t stand Nick Grimshaw.
I don’t actually listen to Radio Four much either, but on occasion they have great comedy shows like “Just a Minute”, and I like the way they discuss topics in the news etc. I know that some people will turn their nose up at the thought of Radio Four, but that is their choice. At the times when it suits me, Radio Four suits me very well.
Last week, as I drove home at quarter to five in the afternoon I put on Radio Four and found myself listening to a book review show. One of the guest reviewers was Will Self, the novelist, political commentator, and actor who looks like this:
“Hello, I’m Will Self”
Mr Self was discussing the book being reviewed – which was a cheery tale set in South Africa about the wife of a murdered white farmer, who takes on a male black gardener or house servant or similar. The story tells of the developing relationship between the widowed lady and the gardener, which turns from an emotional one to a physical, before the lady’s children arrive and heap scorn and shame upon the woman. Eventually (and I’m not sure why exactly) the woman is murdered by the gardener and the story ends.
In case my brief synopsis has somehow managed to pique your interest – in which case may I say how very easily you are piqued, and even go further to assume that often you may pique too soon – you are welcome to look for this story in your local bookshop. I have no idea what the book was called, but I imagine it will have one of those ambiguous titles that bear no direct relevance to the story or plot. Something like: “The Depth of my Allotment”, or “Peeling Labels”, or perhaps even “That Gardener’s a bit tasty, I fancy a bit of that, what’s the worse that can happen? Oh shit I’m dead!” If you do find it, please keep it to yourself.
Surprisingly Will Self didn’t like it, and made no bones about telling the other reviewer so, and indeed went on to tell them that they were wrong for liking it. The problem I had, was that while all this was going on, because I was unable to see the faces of any of the participants, I had to picture Mr Self’s face in my head. Well, that is what you do isn’t it? If someone talks about someone you have seen before, you automatically picture them in your head. If I say that Michael Jackson had been booked to go on “I’m a celebrity get me out of here” (friends in the USA might have to google that), you will now have a picture of Michael in your heads. Apart from the ones picturing a kangaroo’s penis – you dirty lot!
But going back to my story, the problem I had was, that although I know who Will Self is, I don’t hear of him regularly enough for my ‘face to name’ database in my brain to keep that file updated. Which is why, in my head, I pictured comedian Mark Steel – who looks like this:
“Hi, Mark Steel here.”
Mark Steel is a very funny comedian. I’m not aware that he does much stand up comedy, but his satirical stuff is top-notch, and I enjoy it very much.. But I had replaced Will Self’s image with Mark Steel’s and got very confused about it.
Furthermore I did Mark Steel a disservice because while Mr Self was giving his usual honest and forthright opinion (as is his right to do so) in his very own intelligent way , I was sat listening in the car thinking to myself, ‘Blimey, Mark Steel isn’t anywhere near a funny as he used to be’.
It was only when I got home and googled Messrs Self and Steel that I realised my mistake. So I apologise to you Mark Steel, for any offence caused. As for Mr Will Self, I’m fairly confident he wouldn’t care a badger’s arse about what the likes of me thinks about him, or anything else for that matter.
So, my week started with a degree of confusion and carried on in a similar vein, as during the course of those seven days I would hear a few things that made me say “huh? what?”.
The first of these came in a conversation I was listening to on a stony beach, in the company of friends at Ringstead in Dorset. One of these friends had brought his dog, Digby along and was talking about how a few days previously, Digby had been swimming in a river oblivious to the fact that there was an Otter right next to it. Digby’s owner had seen it, but Digby was non the wiser. When Digby got out of the river a little further down, there was a man with a tripod and camera set up. Digby’s owner asked the man if he was looking for the otter, and when the man replied in the affirmative, Digby’s owner (Tim, his name is Tim – I’m not going to call him Digby’s owner anymore) told him that Digby had just been swimming with an otter moments before.
At this, the man with the camera apparently got very animated, and said that the dog should not have been allowed to go near the otter. The man even went as far to say these immortal words:
“Don’t you know the Otter code?”
I’m sorry, what? The Otter Code? What the heck is that? Is it like Morse Code – a way of sending messages to Otters without any other amphibious mammals knowing what the messages mean? Maybe it’s a form of semaphore – but with teeny tiny flags (Otters only have little hands) – although how Otters could swim and use a flag based signalling system at the same time is doubtful.
I assume that the Otter Code is an unwritten code of conduct, for any eventuality when a person or persons (or dogs) my come into contact with an Otter. I probably has a list of do’s and don’t’s, along with tips and advice on what to do if cornered by a gang of delinquent Otters (my advice is don’t make eye contact, and don’t get lured into a Rap battle – they’re experts). I guess it is similar to the countryside code – don’t leave gates open, keep dogs on leads near livestock, and don’t wander into shot when John Craven is doing a “piece to camera” on Countryfile.
It was the way the man excitedly said to Tim “Don’t you know the Otter code?” that struck me as odd. It was an odd way to say it ( I thought so anyway), or at least he could have explained himself a bit better.
This reminded me of a moment I witnessed in London back in early 2000’s. I was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar……….no, wait – that’s the Human League. I was working as the Administrator at the head office of a drug and alcohol charity, and part of my role was to collect the milk for the kitchen each morning. This I did from a little cafe down the road, which also sold freshly made cakes. One morning I walked into the cafe to get the milk, and found myself behind a man having a heated argument with the cafe owner over a box of twelve cream cakes he had just purchased. The customer was arguing that the cakes were stale and had not been made that morning. The cafe owner, was politely explaining that they were freshly made that morning, and even showed the printed sticker with that days date on it. For a few moments, the argument continued but, after realising that the owner was not going to be moved on the subject, the man picked up the box of cream cakes and stormed out of the cafe – pausing only at the door to turn back to the counter and say, “I know cakes!!”, before leaving.
“I know cakes” – oh, why didn’t you say so? If you know cakes, then you must be right sir – after all, I only make cakes each and every day for my business, but I’m not sure that I KNOW cakes. Please have a refund, and feel free to punch me in the doughnuts.
What a berk.
As an aside to all of this, I must mention that at this time I worked at the charity with a lovely lady called Rose Wheeler, whose daughter had a friend with the greatest n ame ever – Tiffany Bogle. I don’t know why, but I just think Tiffany Bogle is an awesome name.
The fact that English is such a deep and extensive language, with so many variances in expression and tone, makes it a real joy to just let the sounds of conversations around you wash over you sometimes. Especially when there is such a wide spectrum of intellect of those persons having those conversations.
My Fiancee left me confused the other day, when she announced mid conversation that bikers wear patchouli – or at least used to. When I asked her to explain, she couldn’t and I was left perplexed. About 10 years ago, my good lady had a motor bike, and did lots of biking – she was apparently in a gang called “The Mum’s of Anarchy”, who rode around the mean highways and byways of Dorset, straightening road signs, picking up road cones, and trimming hedges. So if anyone would know about biking, it would be her.
Except about the whole patchouli thing.
So I decided to do some digging – and after I had finished the gardening, I went online to find out the truth about patchouli. It turns out that it was true – biker gangs did used to wear patchouli, to mask the smell of the drugs they were taking, or smoking, or transporting to be sold. I don’t know if they tried any other scents beforehand – Lavender has a very strong smell, but it is also used to help get to sleep so might not have been a good idea considering the whole driving-a-motorcycle-on-a-public-highway thing. Plus they had to consider their image; a gang of twenty or so bikers would be considerably less intimidating if they all smelled of Lilly of the Valley.
Talking of vicious groups of individuals being very territorial and having brutal battles with rivals – Morris Dancers, they have a darker side not many people about that is very similar to Hells Angels.
Firstly, there are large numbers of individual groups or ‘Segments’ of Morris Men scattered around the country, much like the ‘Chapter’s’ that different areas of Hell’s Angels have. There is no love lost between different Segments, and running battles have been known to last for hours – right up until pub opening time. And in these Segment battles, no quarter is given; you can’t even wave your white handkerchief to signal surrender, as this will just be seen as you taunting the enemy with your dance.
Secondly, there are strict initiation ceremonies and conditions that restrict who get’s “in”: You can only join a segment if A) your father was a morris man B) your brother was a morris man, or C) you can easily get your hands on a good supply of handkerchiefs and sticks. One initiation ceremony I heard about was where a participant has to sneak into another segments head quarters, and replace all their wooden sticks for foam ones – which would make no noise.
Thirdly, retribution is severe; the fights between morris men can be infamous for their gruesome violence. In one Dorset battle, all the morris men on the losing side not only had their handkerchiefs shredded, but were found with their bells cut off, and stuffed in their mouths.
So don’t be fooled by the quaint appearance of Morris Men – they’re tougher than you think.
Finally, look at your hands. Hold them in front of you with the palms facing you. Hold your fingers together on each palm so that there are no gaps between them, and then relax them. See how they separate when they relax?
Now, imagine that I am washing my face and beard. I don’t have a flannel so I put soap on my hands and rub my hands vertically (no-body does it horizontally do they?) up and down my face at quite a rapid pace. I’ve got things to do, so speed is of the essence. While cleaning my face, I keep my fingers close together to form a better surface to wash with. However, occasionally my concentration slips momentarily and my hands relax – resulting in me thrusting one little finger right up my nose, which really hurts!!
It’s so painful and annoying – maintaining my appearance is important, but it comes at a price!