Friday, May 21, 2010

Wild in the Country

The mercury is rising. I have checked with the Met Office and yes, it's nearly summer although they said I musn't quote them on this. There is a momentary stall in global warming as the acres of bare white Great British flesh temporarily reflect the sun's rays whence they came and the sound of "Greensleeves" echoes across the parched estates and ancient byways as a thousand ice-cream vans sate the masses with their chemical wares.
It is also that time of year when, of a weekend, naive and unwitting town-folk escape their dreary and unfulfilling lives in their droves and head toward the fresh air and soothing verdant balm of the countryside. Million upon million of them unaware that they are heading innocently toward illness, injury and certain DEATH!!

Although I now live on the edge of a small northern town, I was raised in the countryside and am of farming stock. Our footpaths and fields hold no fear for me, the knowledge of the ancients passed down through the generations holding me in good stead and protecting me as I take the air on my frequent pastoral constitutionals. By way of instruction, I have included below some photographs taken on my most recent outing, the notes outlining the perils the naive and foolhardy day-tripper may encounter.

Wild Markus

Grows at head-height in a bewildering and confused mass. Can cause temporary blindness if brushed near the eyes. The bright orange fruit smells of rotten liver and attracts hornets.

Totter's Dog

Abundant in hedgerows and along tow-paths and especially near grazing sheep. Benign and scentless unless trodden on whereupon it releases faeces-like odours and is near impossible to remove from footwear.

Bitter Scurran

If picked, sap can leave indelible red stain. If ingested may induce violent bilious attacks and possible spleen damage. One of our few carnivorous plants.


Rife in North America and Canada, this is a recent import to our shores. It needs little or no encouragement to flourish and is abundant virtually anywhere it turns up. Can cause headaches if smelt and the leaves turn very acidic if in contact with dog's urine.

Bearded Priest

Named not after a prelate but after the weighted tool with which an angler dispenses the last rights to his catch. Quite possibly the deadliest of our wayside plants and on no account should it be touched or picked. Ingestion will almost certainly result in multiple organ failure and a slow and painful demise.

Sot of Brabant

These are another recent arrival to these islands and are thought to have migrated beneath Eurostar railway wagons from the low countries. These rapacious arachnids can grow to 8 inches across and deliver a vicious and disabling sting. They are easily provoked. Attracted to picnics, especially where alcohol is being served.

All these perils were encountered during a 2 hour stroll. Luckily I returned home unscathed and I will do so again. Best leave the countryside to those who know - Stay at home!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Big Leggy

Picture the scene: I was standing with a friend in the queue for the tills in Poundstretcher this morning when a vision in red strode confidently into the store and disappeared down the aisle between the gardening stuff and the knickers. But it wasn't the slim and lithe figure clad in bright red woollen tights, red tartan micro-skirt and matching top and teetering on red platforms that caught my eye, it was the short curly hair atop the tanned and very definitely masculine head. Nobody else seemed to have noticed and if they had, weren't that bothered. I tapped my friend on the shoulder and pointed, open-mouthed.

"Did you see that?"

"Yeah, that was Barry*."

"Aaah. Right. THAT's Barry."

I'd heard mention of Barry before but until this morning had never actually happened across him. There aren't that many nutters in this town**, to be honest, and as I tend to keep myself to myself and don't hang about the few dens of iniquity that are still trading, this kind of thing tends to pass me by. I've only lived here on and off for eight years, plenty of time to pick up the gossip yet. There's a bloke called Disco Pete who's banned from every establishment and social housing building in the area on account of his habit of falling asleep drunk and setting fire to things and otherwise making a nuisance of himself but that's about it as far as I know. There is a genuine Scot who insists on wearing a tatty old kilt come rain or snow (taken to wearing a pair of chinos under it now for some reason) but I don't think talking to yourself while using the microfiche machines in the reference library, which is where he's usually found, counts. We got back in the car, my friend continued:

"Barry comes in The Angel sometimes." The Angel is an establishment I've never frequented. I like a quiet life. I exit the car park.

"He says he's not had sex for years. He also insists that anyone can have his wife for a tenner. He pimps his wife in the pub!"

"Wha..?" I indicate left at the roundabout.

"Yeah. He offered her to me but I told him I wouldn't even touch her for a fiver."

I leave the roundabout at the third exit.

*Not his real name. It's nothing like Barry at all.

**I have heard rumours that about 40 years ago there was a group of hippies who lived in West Avenue and owned a tank. Undoubtedly this is preposterous nonsense of the highest order.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Members Only

Despite our limping hero's best efforts last week, it looks like the great British talent for disaster maximisation and the tabloids' insatiable desire to create a story out of nothing just so's they can turn round and tell us that we're crap (is it any coincidence that David Triesman was an active communist in the 7os and that this non-story was fabricated by the Daily Nazi?) is going to thwart the country's attempts to bring football home in 2018.

Mind you, I have a better idea - possible trial sport for London 2012?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Look you...

The new Deputy Prime Minister.
Or is it?
Tonight, Matthew, I'm going to be...


Monday, May 03, 2010

Constituent parts

I was discussing the election with my mother yesterday. During our chat she mentioned that she didn't recognise the candidates on her leaflets, which is strange as Damian Green has been the MP there for a while and the Tory majority has historically been such that most of the opposition parties tend not to bother turning up. Green's predecessors were Keith Speed, Navy minister under Attila but resigned before the Falklands because he dared to go against her (he resigned protesting against cuts, before you get carried away) and from AD 526 until 1974, Dear Old Bill Deedesh, and you don't get much more Tory than the ex editor of the Telegraph. Actually, there was a two year blip when they voted Liberal but nobody talks about that anymore. I suggested she'd been subjected to a boundary change; Ashford, after all, is growing almost exponentially and the historical constituency would be struggling to stay within the usual numerical size limits in its existing boundaries. There was a brief rustle.

"Oh yes, just found the polling cards that arrived the other day. Oh, we're in Folkestone and Hythe now." Gasp! That's like...FRANCE! Imagine going to sleep in your house along the East Lancs Road in Greater Manchester and waking up finding you'd been moved to Merseyside. Still, it could have been worse; Folkestone and Hythe's most recent MP stood down for this election as he'd had enough of representing the peeepul.

Actually, I've noticed something else: my Nazi candidate shares the same surname as the one standing my mother's constituency. Has the one-eyed slug (the one-eyed slug that likes bigots, I mean) got a Gregory Peck lookalikee churning them out in Bolivia or something?