Friday, 11 November 2016

Home Front

Mrs A has been away visiting her sister in Tenerife again. It’s an oft repeated and enthusiastically enjoyed trip. She came back refreshed, relaxed and retanned having enjoyed some quality time with Auntie Sue and plenty of pleasant 28-degree November sunshine.

Each time she goes I write a post on here explaining that Mrs A calls the break a long weekend and I describe it as a short week. This time, even my barber agrees with me.

“Thursday morning to Tuesday night? That’s a week, mate. A week.” 

We have some great chats, me and Bardo. None of that bravura birds-and-football chat that Trump would call Locker Room Banter. Not at all. Bardo was soon showing me pictures on his phone of his a rabbit hutch that he had crafted with his own hands. Less of a hutch, more of a villa: three sheltered storeys and a large, enclosed run.

Bardo is quite a flashy name for a barber. He’s from Italian stock. His brother owns and also works in the shop. He’s called John, which is much more befitting. Odd that Bardo has such an exotic monicker. Maybe I’ve just misheard it and he’s really called Barry…

Whilst Mrs A was readying for departure on Thursday morning, I had bumped into J at Berko station. Our train’s arrival time began to slip ominously. It became apparent that overhead line damage just down the track would put at risk my meeting in Waterloo. J and I were eventually shunted to Platform 2 and squeezed on the first available train after a spate if cancelled ones. It was four carriages. Why does London Midland insist on four car units in the middle of the day? They are busy enough even before any incidents.

My furious texts to work colleagues declaring my lateness went unanswered. Then a response from the bloke who had called the meeting arrived. He was ill and still in bed. It was by then past the scheduled start time. Would he have mentioned his incapacitation without my prompting texts?

I left J to the rest of the journey and turned round at Watford. Another text pinged in. Mrs A this time.

“I thought I was flying from Luton but it’s Gatwick. And the trains are up the spout. Aaagghh.”

The following scrambled taxi and rail journeys got her to Gatwick with a little time to spare. Later, she texted again from Tenerife South.

“Arrived. Phew. Waiting to be picked up by Bootsie.”

“Did you tell him the right airport?” I quickly and wittily retorted.  No answer.

J is my allotment buddy. For 6 ½ years we’ve shared a plot off All Saints Road. We’ve finally given up on it this Autumn. The site has always been hard work with heavy clay soils and deep rooted thistles. The wildlife on this exposed spot has been a persistent challenge too. This season, even J, who is far more dedicated than me, said that enough was enough. This was after the fallow deer rampaged over the plots most of the Summer, eating everything edible and trampling the rest. We’ve had a succession of other incidents. Badgers ate my sweet corn, rabbits scoffed my cabbages, slugs polished off my lettuces and birds picked clean the currant bushes. There have been rumours of Gallapagoan racer snake attacks and Christmas Island-like red crab marches. I hear the final episode in Planet Earth II may be a special on our allotment.

By Friday night, pot noodles were earmarked as the dinner choice for Daughter No 2 and me. And pretty swiftly I was down to two clean mugs and one moderately clean pair of  ‘Where’s Wally’ boxers before anything got washed.

There was just me and daughter No 2 here all weekend. Not that I saw her much in between the job at Tesco’s and the boyfriend. She says I don’t write enough about her in these blogs. I’m flattered and moderately surprised that she reads them. The job at Tesco’s seems to be going well. There are a lot of hours to juggle with college, but she enjoys the wage packet. The company are not bad payers, despite other criticisms of them. She doesn’t even mind friends and family coming in to see her at work. Not even when Fay and Adrian waved at her maniacally through the window, dressed up in dinner jackets and cocktail dresses before our party. Everyone else in the store did a double-take, however.

Daughter No 2’s boyfriend is a good lad: plays lead guitar and wears classic metal t-shirts. We’ve met his Mum and Dad a few times. On the first meeting, we asked Tom what he wanted to drink.

“I’m Polish. I drink anything.”

We liked him immediately. On the second meeting he got me smashed up on ‘Polish tequila’ that by tradition had to be drunk in multiples of three shots. I think it was a vodka liqueur derivative. ‘If this is six’, I thought, ‘things will be messy’. It was 12.

I was back at Berko station on Saturday night. This time to watch the fireworks. Speaking to GC on the phone earlier in the day, in between my impatient shouts to the dog of “Wait!”, “Heel!”, “Come!” and “Oh, piss of then!”, he had suggested beers, fireworks and a chilli that night. Parts 1 and 3 of the plan went very well. There was a good few of us in the pub and it was only another round of beers making us late for the fireworks that prevented a successful part 2.  Instead, I make a quick trip up to platform 4 to access a nearby (free) vantage point. A couple next to me were doing the same thing. Or so I thought. When a London-bound train arrived, they got on and held the doors open for me.

“It’s OK, I’m only here for the show.”

Their looks betrayed nothing but contempt for a cheapskate.

Anyway, after a few more beers, we went back to Bex and GC’s place for a stonking (free) chilli.

Most of Saturday had been taken up with racing.  Uncharacteristically, I’ve been a slow starter this jumps season. The fixtures that afternoon featured some decent action from Aintree and Wincanton, plus the flat finale from Doncaster. Later that evening, after my night out, I watched the climax of Breeders Cup meeting from Santa Anita. An epic day with some thrilling races.

After a range of imponderable win, each-way and combination bets over a seven hour period, I finished £7.50 in profit. Daughter No 2 would scoff at that £1.07 hourly rate. Quite rightly. That was slave labour even when I was 16.

Racing has had a strange feel about it the last few days. Freddie Tylicki’s horrendous fall and paralysis, coupled with the death of Vautour who was one of the most talented horses and electrifying jumpers of recent years, has brought the gut-wrenching fragility of the sport to the surface.

But we go again. We will heal. Today is the start of the Open Meeting at Cheltenham, one of the crown jewels of the season. Sport is escapism and there’s plenty to be fleeing from right now. I wonder if Trump could outrun a racer snake?


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