Category Archives: Dorset

Hello, and welcome to my blog.

 

I’ve found my happy place. Surprisingly, it is in a barber’s chair.

Friday was my monthly haircut and beard trim; with the exception of my blog writing and poetry (which I do at home mostly), this is my only “me time”. This is my treat, my little bit of self indulgence – and we all need a little self indulgence from time to time.

The barber’s chair in which I drift away, straighten out my knots, and untangle myself from the brambles of stress lives at number 26, High East Street, Dorchester Dorset – otherwise known as “Seventh Seal“. This is a Gentleman’s Apothecary, Barber and Clothier where gentleman like myself can come for a haircut, by some beautiful fragranced treatments for skin and hair, buy some clothes, or simply pop in and have a coffee and a chat.

I was booked in for 4:30pm and true to recent form, I was running late from work. I really hate it when I am late; I try hard not to be, and I feel genuinely quite bad when I am. I took the liberty of calling ahead to Seventh Seal as I attempted (badly) to speed walk down Dorchester high street, as I felt it only right to inform them.

As I inadvertently minced towards my appointment, I needn’t have worried; my barber – and proprietor of Seventh Seal – Thomas, was running a little late himself. I find this completely acceptable, as I have experienced first hand the level of attention to detail and personal service given here. This isn’t one of those large, “chain” of hairdressers where it’s a production line of haircuts. I have always found a very unique, individual focused service at Seventh Seal – one I would not begrudge anyone this.

So I arrived, slightly out of breath and frazzled. I was greeted by Toby, the other proprietor, and giver of excellent coffee. All customers receiving a haircut or treatment get a coffee on the house, so I asked for a flat white, and sat in the leather Chesterfield-Esque chair they have just added to the décor. My coffee was presented to me, and while I waited I sat and leafed through the selection of gentleman’s fashion magazines that were on offer (my favourite is a publication titled “The Chap“), along with the highly enjoyable book, “Crap Taxidermy”. My relaxation began as I perused sharp suits, fantastic facial hair, and a badger with a duck’s bill glued badly on its face. With exemplary timing, just as I finished my coffee Thomas came over and greeted me. He showed me to my chair, and my treatment began; I was having the hair on my head clippered to a grade zero, my beard tidied up, and a shave with a cutthroat razor.

I cannot emphasise enough just how much of a talent Thomas is.  His attention to detail is brilliant. He is patient, attentive, calm, gentle, thorough and skilful. He checks and re-checks, makes you feel so at ease, and the quality of his work is unquestionable.

That’s a fiver he owes me.

My favourite part of the whole treatment is the cutthroat shave; please be aware that I may get the exact order of this mixed up somewhat. The only excuse I can give is that during this treatment I always almost pass out completely from sheer relaxation.

Thomas started by massaging some shave oil into my skin. Then he wraps a hot towel around my face, leaving only my nose poking out so I can breathe. I must admit, that the very first time this happened, I was a little unsure and felt claustrophobic even. But now, I love it – I bathe in it’s warmth, and close my eyes and feel my stress melt away.  It’s like falling gently without fear of harm – truly relaxing. It’s actually a good thing that I have a towel covering my face at this point, because I expect that in that state of relaxation, my mouth would fall open and my tongue would loll out of one side like an overheating French Bulldog. Before removing the towel, Thomas massages my beard and neck a little, and I almost fall asleep.

The shave comes next. Now, cutthroat razors have got a bit of a bad press thanks to Sweeney Todd, but I have never had such an excellent close shave in my life. No pain, no wincing as my skin gets nicked, no bleeding to death. Thomas is careful, and precise. After the shave, I have some more after-shave oil stuff (that’s a technical term folks) rubbed into my face, head and neck. These oils come in a variety of fragrances; my choice on this occasion was Sandalwood.

And that was my treatment finished. I went in frantic and stressed, and I came out soothed relaxed, happy and looking sharper than a Fox in a suit.

I’ve already booked my next treatment. I will try to get less stressed in between (it is something I struggle with greatly), and although I don’t rely on it it is good to know that my little pampering session will also help me unwind.

Just wrap me in a hot towel and leave me – I’ll be fine.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Hello and welcome to my blog.

So, how was your weekend? I hope it was good.

Mine was a good one for sure, and was a weekend of contrasts. My fiancée and I were without the kids this weekend, which meant that we were able to visit places that were of interest to us, without the fear of unbridled moaning from the little people in our lives. We were like kids in a sweet shop – no, not off our heads on sugar with chocolate smeared on our faces – excited at the possibilities!

Saturday in Dorset was a glorious day – the sun was shining, the sky was blue, and the world was our oyster. We decided to go to Bridport, as this weekend they were having their famous Hat Festival – where the best and brightest from the world of Millinery parade their wares and compare notes. We set off in good spirits – but soon a cloud of concern filled our horizon; a cloud in the shape of a traffic jam. Our journey to Bridport took us past Dorchester – where this weekend, the famous Dorset County Show was taking place. As we passed by the main routes into Dorchester, we could see miles and miles of queuing traffic – holiday makers, visitors to the County Show, local people who had forgotten about the risk of congestion, caravanners –  they were all there. All the drivers and their passengers looked so fed up on the already hot day, who knows how long it would take them to get where they were going?

I felt lucky that we were going in the opposite direction, and hoped these queues would be gone by the time we returned. Soon enough, we arrived in Bridport and after parking the car we wandered down to the festival.

 

WP_20170902_12_54_29_Pro

You can leave your hat on….

Well, mould me over a hat block and stick me in a drying cabinet – there were hats – thousands of them – and such variety of designs; almost everything you could think of was there. There were planes, trains, cakes, snakes, fruit, fish, houses, fairgrounds, beer glasses, top hats, Berets, Trilbys, tricorns, caps, chefs hats, big hats, small hats, hats with plants, hats with tools, hats with cards, hats with jewels, and so much more!.

Of course, my fiancée and me were suitably adorned; she had a hat on which she made herself – including some exquisite beading, and I had one of those hats on which made me look like a member of an Indie Band who, despite being way past his best days, can’t quite let go. To complete the outfit, I had my t-shirt on which read “If your dad doesn’t have a beard, you have two moms”, which got its fair share of reaction from other festival goers.

The festival was really good; along with the multitude of hats on display there were exhibitions of Millinery, plus competitions for professional hat makers, and live music from a number of excellent bands. There were also various stalls selling a wide variety of things including antiques, tools, and toys. There was even a group photo of everyone wearing their hats – taken by professional photographers hanging out of an attic window. There were meant to be two main photographs taken – one with everyone cheering, and one with everyone cheering AND raising their hats in the air. Some people had difficulty dealing with these two separate instructions and cheered when they should have raised, and vice versa – but it didn’t matter really.

We ended our visit to Bridport with a cooling drink in one of the many establishments catering for people’s thirsts and tastes. The afternoon sun was still warm, and the sounds of chatting and laughter drifted through the air, making the perfect accompaniment to the atmosphere.

It really was an excellent day – and I would recommend the festival to anyone.

 

Sunday, in terms of weather was a completely different affair. It was raining all day, and windy with it. I don’t know if this was the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo, or Hector, or Humphrey – or whatever it was called, but it made for very grim conditions. This was definitely a day for staying in and keeping dry.

So naturally, I went out.

Regular followers of my blog will know that each and every Friday I post a brand new Friday Poem. What some of you might not know is that I regularly read my poems at Open Mic events in the local area, and it just so happened that down at Lyme Regis they were holding a Folk Festival, and as part of that Festival there was an open mic poetry reading event. I had been invited to attend, and was excited about reading my own work to a new audience.

The drive to Lyme Regis took me an hour, and the coastal conditions made the already wet weather, that little bit worse. The sea was choppier than a chopping board on a Harley Davidson, with the foam tipped waves crashing relentlessly against the battered shore. Sadly, because of the weather there were nowhere near the numbers of visitors to this lovely seaside town with its incredible history of fossil hunting. Only a few hardy tourists and locals braved the sea front, dragging their bedraggled dogs behind them. Still, I was in good spirits and with my portfolio of poetic prowess with me, I sought out the venue for the open mic event.

The venue was small, but overlooked the beach, and the sound of the waves provided a beautiful background to the poetry being read. It was a small audience, again because of the weather, and was largely consisted of poets and those performing. The event got underway, and I recognised some of the poets from other open mic events I had attended. I was really cool to listen to other poets work; to my not confident mind everyone else’s poetry sounded a million times better than mine – better written, better words, better message, but I find it incredibly useful to hear these other forms of poetry.

Soon it was my turn; I took to the front of the room, adjusted the microphone, and read four of my poems; Loose Skin (Friday Poem #34), Bat Poem (#33 I think), A Cautionary Tale, and Archie Pelago. The last two have not yet been posted on this blog yet, so keep an eye out!

The response I got to my poems was incredible; people laughed out loud, and applauded each poem. And at the end, a member of the public approached me and asked where he could access these poems. I gave him a business card, and told him about my blog. He then asked if I had a book published – as he thought my poems would make an excellent present for someone. I was blown away by that – I would love to get my poetry published, and to know that someone would buy it if I did is a great confidence boost!

So, I think you’ll agree it was a very good weekend all round!!

 

 

 

 

Good evening, and welcome to my blog.

I hope you are all well, and also hope that life is being kind to you.

Here is another blog memory, from way back when I lived by myself and clearly had too much time on my hands………..

Ninja Reconnaissance Snail…….and The Karma Trail Continues – on Foot

So I was still in a “doing” mood this morning, and got up at 8am and cleaned my windows, tidied my garden, put some washing on and out, and started the housework. I always start in the Kitchen, and then do the Bathroom,  then rest of the house. With the kitchen sparkling, and fingers burning (here’s a tip: blisters and bleach based cleaning agents don’t mix), I went into the bathroom to start cleaning in there. I had only squirted some toilet duck down the toilet when I saw something out of the corner of my eye. There was a round dark object at the top of one wall in the middle, right against the ceiling. It was about the size of a two-pound coin.

My initial thought was that it might be the early stages of a wasp’s nest – but then I remembered they tend to be more colourful, as in this picture:

“We love the colour scheme!”

So it wasn’t a wasps nest – but what was it? I didn’t know, but I knew I had to get rid of it. So, I grabbed a handful of kitchen towel, which as we all know is the tool of choice for removing everything from spiders web to a buffalo – should you find such a thing in your home. I removed the object from the wall, and as I held it I could tell it was hard. With the same feelings of apprehension and curiosity you get when you look into a tissue after blowing your nose, I opened the ball of kitchen towel carefully and looked inside…. I wasn’t prepared for what I saw – it wasn’t a wasp nest, it was a snail.

You heard me: a snail.

I was shocked and confused; How on earth did that snail get to the top of the wall in my bathroom? and more importantly – how come I never saw it!?
As we all know, snails aren’t the fastest of movers and I am fairly sure that in the length of time it would have taken that snail to climb up that wall, I would have walked into my bathroom and seen it.
Unless it happened while I was asleep – but how did he (all snails are male) get into my bathroom in the first place? The one window is shut at night, and I close the door to the bathroom whenever I leave it. The snail couldn’t have fitted under the gap at the bottom of the door, because of its shell.

Maybe this was a new species of snail – the Ninja snail. Obviously, it hitched a ride into the bathroom at some point on the bottom of my jeans, or disguised as a tube of toothpaste, and then waited for me to go to bed before starting his ascent. But what was his aim? Why scale the wall……….unless he was an advance scouting party for an army of Ninja snails who were coming to overrun me. This Ninja reconnaissance snail was obviously checking out the bathroom as a possible point of first assault – well not anymore. Now he’s stuck in complete darkness in my bin, that’s the invasion thwarted.

Although, I didn’t check him for a radio……….

It has been a good day today. I have been very pro-active in the housework and defence of my home front, and I continued to do good deeds. I rang my friends Heather and Peter and asked if I could pop over and see them. Being a polite chap, I bought some “Just because” flowers for Heather – these are my favourite types of flowers to buy for someone because you need absolutely no reason to give them to the intended recipient, and when they ask why, you just say “just because”. So I drove over to see those two, and discovered that Peter had suffered a prang in his car. A young girl had driven into the side of the car and not only dented the door and front wing, but had knackered the steering mechanism.So they were going to be without a car for a while until their car was repaired.

Not if  could help it. I offered them the use of my car – I don’t use it to get to work, and won’t need to use it for at least three weeks, as I can get shopping etc. in Sturminster Newton, where I live. I arranged to give them the car tomorrow, after I come back from Yeovil. The Larry Lagrue Karma Bus will be temporarily transferred to foot power – but there will be no lack of service.

So that’s another good thing I’ve done, which means at some point, somewhere, something good will happen to me. Actually, it probably already has – Heather picked some fresh Raspberries from her garden, and gave them to me to take home. They are delicious – and I am going to nip out now and buy some Ice Cream to enjoy them with.

Not too shabby, I think you’ll agree?

 

 

Why the Chances of Going Shopping Without Getting Enraged is Approximately 3,720 – 1

Hello, and welcome to my blog.

As regular readers of my blog will know, I am a great believer in the beauty of the human spirit, and how each of us has the ability to bring light and joy into the lives of others every day. We are, by nature a laughing and caring species – and I am proud to include myself as one of you.

EXCEPT – when I’m walking behind you out shopping. In that scenario, I’d happily kill you all.

I don’t go shopping very often, so when I do I always know where I’m going, which shops I’m visiting, and I don’t hang about. Time is money, people – and as I have little of either, I literally cannot afford to be stuck behind people shuffling along in a little dream, oblivious to everything around them.

I’m fortunate enough to live in a part of the world which has both natural beauty and plenty of history (a bit like me, really). Because of this, at this time of year there are a lot of tourists around – who apparently haven’t seen shops, or buildings before because they slowly walk around looking up at the building that used to be something important, but is now a drive through spray-tan and vajazzle boutique. Whilst I recognise and welcome the valuable income that tourists bring to my little corner of the world, I do wish they would recognise that stopping suddenly in front of me when I am walking at speeds of up to 4.75 miles per hour, could result in at the least embarrassment and minor injury, and in the worst case, an intimate moment and a court appearance. And if the slow walking and sudden stopping wasn’t bad enough, what also appears to be a habit of every other person out in town is the fact that they window shop – from twenty-five feet away!.

The pedestrian “area” of my local town centre is about half a mile in length, and is about sixty feet wide. It is lined on both sides by shops – all of which have lovely window displays, specifically designed to entice and lure customers in. So why do people choose to stop smack bang in the middle of the main thoroughfare and peer from a distance at the items in the window!? I lose count of the times I have nearly rear-ended an elderly couple who have stopped to discuss whether the shop in the distance has shoes in her size. It’s a shop! not a great white shark ! You can approach it – and even go into it if you like to have a better look. I’m fairly sure that the owners of the shop would like you too!!  But no, please don’t take my word for it – please do stay completely still…..it will make it easy for me to bludgeon you both to death with your wheeled trolley!!

It honestly is like a scene from a zombie film at times – loads of shuffling figures, with vacant expressions on their faces, arms outstretched with the head tilted to one side. I have to plan my route ahead because they keep changing direction or coming out of nowhere to thwart my progress. I feel like the Millennium Falcon escaping from the TIE fighters in the asteroid field in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’. Sometimes, I even hum the piece of music that accompanies that scene. If you still can’t picture that image, you can watch the scene HERE.

I know I could shop online, and I honestly do consider myself a real “people” person.

 

Just not when you are in my way.

Good evening, and welcome to my blog.

This post was written over the recent bank holiday weekend. I hope you enjoyed yours, as much as I enjoyed mine.

 

I always hoped that blogging would take me places, and today my hopes have been realised – albeit in a more diluted form that I had originally hoped for. I’m writing this blog sat at a picnic table in the rest area of a mountain bike park, at Okeford Hill Bike Park in Dorset.

But why am I here? Sadly, I am not blogging whilst hurtling downhill over jumps, round burms, or getting “big air”, with my tablet delicately balanced on my handlebars. No, I’m leaving that kind of tomfoolery to my son Barnaby who, since getting his full suspension mountain bike for his birthday recently, has been inseparable from it.

It is so still here….I just paused to listen to the sounds of the forest, and apart from the chirrups and calls of the various species of birds that are within earshot, there isn’t a sound. I know that regularly there will be noise from another downhill daredevil as he or she tears along one of the  multiple tracks that are available. Each track has a different degree of difficulty, ranging from beginner to “are you out of your mind!?”, so that riders can test their skills and abilities – and the strength of their bones to resist fracture. The only other noise is from the uplift vehicle – a 4×4 which brings riders and their bikes up from the bottom of the park, back to the rest area which is next to the start. But these are only periodic interruptions to the tranquillity of this place.

I know Okeford Hill very well, having lived in the village of Okeford Fitzpaine  for many years in a previous chapter of my life. Okeford Fitzpaine sits at the foot of Okeford hill, and I used to come walking up the hill and through these woods with a trio of spectacularly wonderful dogs. Even without canine companionship, the walk through these woods and on Okeford hill is – in my opinion – a really nice walk.,

So, I’m here typing away while Barnaby does his thing. I brought him up here just before his Birthday so he could check it out. If you are going to get a mountain bike, you do really need to have a place where you can go and use to its full potential. Riding about on the road won’t do that for you, even if they are full of potholes.

Being a thirteen year old, Barnaby’s ‘adequate notice’ cortex has not yet developed fully. This was evidenced last night at 10pm, when he announced that he was going to ride to the bike park at 8am this morning. It’s roughly nine miles from home to here, which would have taken the young sir a good hour to ride. Whilst he had factored that in, we (his mother and I ) felt that he probably hadn’t factored in how knackered he would feel after spending two to three hours riding around the park, before having to cycle home again, so we agreed that I would drive him here, wait while he enjoys his bike and the park, and then drive him home again. We also wanted to be sure that if he did come off his bike and hurt himself, that there would be someone here for him – at least until he was confident enough and well kitted out enough to be able to come up here by himself. When that time comes, he can merrily wrap himself around a tree to his heart’s content.

We didn’t bother to explain to him that it would be nice for him to discuss what he would like to do, rather than have him just announce what he is going to do, as we might have had plans for us to do something as a family. Instead, my good lady and I just rolled our eyes at each other in a kind of ‘that boy – what is he like?’ way.

It’s 11:09am and I am half way through my flask of coffee. I haven’t brought any food with me, but I am not hungry. Besides I have copious amounts of body fat to sustain me (mmm……..fat), and I don’t want to put on anymore weight. If watching Barnaby, and the other riders zoom around this bike park has taught me anything, it is that I need to be more active. That being said, I have worked up a sweat here – I’ve got two layers on, and it’s quite humid.

This bike park has also taught me that twigs can leave a nasty scar, judging from some of the wounds I have seen on the other riders that I have chatted to. On that subject, I must say how friendly all the people I have spoken to here have been. Everyone has been really welcoming and encouraging to Barnaby, and have offered lots of advice on riding technique and where the best places to shop for riding gear can be found. It has also been very apparent that one part of essential riding equipment is a beard. Almost everyone has one, and I will be encouraging Barnaby to grow one as soon as is possible.

I myself, am already equipped for downhill riding, as I have a wonderful beard that draws acclaim from all who see it. In fact, when we arrived at the bike park today, I struck up a conversation with one of the owners, who commented on my beard – and the fact that I had left my comb in it. Nonetheless, having watched my son speed around the bike park, I admit that I now I quite fancy having a go at this mountain biking lark myself.

 

Now if I only had an adequate mountain bike, helmet, and reliable hand-eye coordination….

Good evening – here is a little bedtime reading you for you.

If it isn’t bedtime where you are – what are you still doing in bed at this time?

This is a blog I originally wrote six years ago, about an age old struggle……

 

Constitutionally, Its The Sausages You Have To Watch Out For.

So, today was the day. The day I chanced my arm at the lottery that is Barbecue cooking.

I had decided to not invite anyone else to this “practice” barbecue, mainly due to the high risk of me not cooking the food properly. Whilst I don’t mind risking food poisoning, it is simply not done to expect your guests to do so – and as I couldn’t promise a sickness free buffet, I opted to go this one alone.

Fire!!

Although I do have a fully functioning Fire Pit (and no, that is not a medical euphemism), I decided to “train” on one of those disposable barbecues. I found a sheltered corner of the garden, and lit the barbecue. Step one was complete! I stood back and watched the charcoal burn, my gaze following the wisps of smoke as they danced on the breeze……right to where my washing was hanging on the line.
A quick emergency clothing removal manoeuvre later, and all was well. The instructions for the barbecue said it could take up to 20 minutes for the flames to die down (and I quote) “depending on the conditions”. I wondered if the manufacturer had included being doused in petrol, or being held underwater in the “conditions” they referred to – as I was fairly sure that conditions like that would have a large effect on the time it took for the flames to die down.

Who ordered the Salmonella platter?

Sure enough, after a period of time the flames died away, and all that was left was the smouldering coals (which incidentally sounds like a great name for a band). Like the stick I use to play pool, this was my cue – and I brought out the burgers and sausages to be cooked. I placed them on the barbecue, and stood back and watched the cooking take place. After a minute or so of watching, I became bored so I went into the kitchen and prepared some rolls and some salad bits. I was doing the whole shabang – oh yeah! I had some pre-packed fresh salad, and added some tomatoes (quartered), and some Beetroot (sliced by me). I do love a bit of Beetroot. In fact, I love a lot of Beetroot – I could happily eat it all day. And then not go out, because I’ll have stained teeth and Beetroot breath.

Starting to cook

I kept popping out to the garden to check on the progress of my burgers and sausages, and pretty soon one thing became apparent: the burgers were cooking faster than the sausages. I don’t know if this is a well-known fact about burgers, but it was news to me. Clearly burgers are the “man” of the barbecue foods – ready in a short space of time, and still tasty with no worries about problems later. Sausages on the other hand are obviously the “woman” – taking ages to get ready, you and they never completely sure if they are properly ready, and if you have one there is a risk of being violently ill later on. The burgers were well on their way to being completed cooked, while the sausages were just getting the slightest hint of a tan. Undaunted, I carried on. And why wouldn’t I? who ever heard of anyone being daunted by sausages?

Apart from vegetarians, that is.

Mmmm……tasty!

Not long after, the burgers were ready. I brought out my plate laden with salad and tomato and beetroot and put two sliced buns on it. I put the cooked burgers in the buns, added some Branston Relish. The relish I had chosen was Spicy Chili and Jalapeno – which really was quite spicy (there’s a surprise!). Now came the moment of truth; I picked up a bun with a burger in it, raised it to my mouth and took a bite. Instantly, I regretted it – not because the burger wasn’t cooked, but because a big dollop of relish squelched out of the burger and splattered down my t-shirt. Typical. Mumbling a curse, I went inside and changed my top. Happily, that was the only downside of the burgers. Taste wise, they were fine, and I have every confidence in my ability to cook them from now on.

The sausages, however, would be another matter. As they sat on the barbecue slowly cooking, droplets of fat dripped onto the hot coals beneath. The hissing noise this made was not dissimilar to the noise a vampire makes when you show it a crucifix – and so I began to look upon the sausages as vessels of evil, sitting there cooking it their own juices, whispering to me “we’re not cooked – we’ll never be cooked properly!”. Because that is the problem – you are never sure if sausages are cooked properly. I blame that advert that they show every year at the start of barbecue season, with the song “when will I see you again” in the background – you know the one, there’s a shot of a blackened sausage on the barbecue and then they cut it open and it is not cooked inside. Because of that advert, I second guessed myself today about those sausages. In the end I spent an age crouched over that barbecue, turning the sausages to ensure they were cooked evenly. And when they looked cooked, every time I thought about taking them off, a little voice in my head said “give ’em a bit longer”.

In the end, I made an executive decision and declared the sausages cooked. I put them in four finger rolls (that’s four individual finger rolls, not rolls big enough to fit four fingers in), added some more relish – quite a bit more to be honest – and ate them. They tasted fine, but I will admit that ever since I ate them I have been waiting for the first pains of stomach cramps to kick in. At this present time we are at Sausages plus three hours, and all seems well. Have no fear, if I do end up vomiting my barbecue back up at some point tonight, I will give you all the details tomorrow.

All in all, I consider my practice barbecue a success. The disposable barbecue I purchased was a twin pack, so I can have another go at some point if I wish. Now all I have to do is get more chairs, invest in a beverage cooling system (a bucket and loads of ice), practice using the fire pit, invest in some barbecue toolage, and general stuff like that.

Easy peasy!!

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:

13323-Will_Self_Reading_-1660-Edit[1]

“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:

mark-steel[1]

“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!