Tuesday, May 13, 2008

I wandered lonely in a crowd... (of about 20,000 people)

A baking hot May Day Bank Holiday saw us break out the shorts, packed lunches, Norwegian walking poles, Kendal mint cake and my AA Book of Country Walks, (bought in 1975 and never actually used – until now).

Yes, Team Alfie was off on a scenic yomp – up to the Lake District – the place which bearded mountaineer, Chris Bonnington once described as the most magical landscape in the whole world....

And it certainly is – forget the Norwegian Fjords and their designer Slartibartfast - for true artistic interpretation of what God’s own country looks like, it has to be the Lake District.

But where to go?

Leafing through the book of walks, we hit the Lake District section. Shall we go there? Or there? The choice is so fulsome, so hard – it’s like trying to decide whether to have the chocolate truffle or the caramel cream...... but this being the Lake District, there are no nougat slices or nut cracknels. Every single walk is a piece of choccy heaven.

Not being fell-walkers, mountaineers, ramblers or even fit, we opt for a nice and easy traipse. An amble around Grassmere is our walk of choice. Four miles of landscaped gorgeousness in the seat of Englishness – and the haunt of Wordsworth..... Fantastic.

We arrive. Last time I was here it was raining stair rods, cats, and dogs. Come to think of it, virtually every time I’ve been here I’ve got soaked – but not today. Today it’s wall to wall sunshine.

Of course, with the Sun, comes the crowds – and this being a Bank Holiday means half the population of the country is here – all trying to recite Wordsworth’s ‘Daffodils’ poem; all trying to feel ‘lonely’; all trying to rediscover an England of a bygone time.

We meandered around the Mere and into Grassmere village. It was like a Chinese route march – there were bloody millions of us, all wishing that we too could live here full time..... If only we could win the lottery, Aston Martin Vanquish, pads in New York, St Moritz and Sydney harbour....... and an idyllic waterside choccy box cottage in the Lake District.

This time, we gave Dove Cottage, the home of Double-Dubya for around 10 years, a miss. We’ve been there before – to be honest it’s always been a way to get out of the rain – the place is dank, dark and depressing – somehow, Dickensian..... Well, I suppose it would be....

We had a look around the little parish church of St Oswald’s in the middle of the village. This drab church with its odd finish of grey pebble dash render to the outside wall looked somehow out of place against the majestic backdrop of the natural amphitheatre of the southern lakes. Apparently, it’s a Grade 1 listed building –and that puts it into the same league as Salisbury Cathedral. Whilst the outside looks like the finish on a post war prefab, the inside is totally different. Simple, early medieval – it has retained the rustic honesty of a house of God, built circa 13th century.

In the graveyard, we found the Wordsworth plot. In the centre of a host of leaden headstones was the great man himself. Having scribed for England, Double-Dubbya, sheathed his quill pen for the final time in 1850. Around him, basking in the reflected glory of the great Wordsworthsmith lay his extended family.... They only just fit – the plot is crammed fit to busting with Wordsworths - shoved in so tightly they must all have been on a diet of Victorian gruel and a slice of breeze block bread. A simple iron fence is all that separates the unread masses from the master of the written word – you could reach forward and touch the tombstone – no formality, no queuing management systems, no Jobsworth telling you not to touch the Wordsworth.

We ambled back to the car – and the regulation 2 hour queue to the motorway, but it didn’t matter. It had been a bloody great day spent in a bloody great part of England. We vowed to return, someday to have a go at another Lakeland walk - and next time, we wouldn't leave it another 30 years......

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

I'm back.

Will be in uploading a-go-go - starting on Thursday.

Alfred has not really been OK for the past few months - he has been more like 'Alfred the Angry Git' lately..... Oh, and have I told you about my off-the-scale high blood pressure?

But calm is now prevailing. I'm feeling better, not quite whistling Dixie yet, but not far off.......

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Led Zeppelin.

Well, I've lodged my claim for one of the 20,000 tickets for the O2 'Stair-lift to heaven' gig in London. - me and 24 million other people that is. If my sums are correct, I have a 1 in 1,200 chance of getting one.... But to be honest, even if there was just a 1 in a million chance, I'd still reckon it would be worth the gamble for a chance to see the world's greatest rock band - ever.....

Everything's crossed.....
Separated at birth?....

Rather worryingly, the only other person I know (besides me) who dyes his snow white beard to a comely mid chestnut is Osama Bin Laden....

Vanity can do terrible things to a man's stability....

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

One of the World’s great questions answered….

I found the answer to one of the great unanswered questions of civilisation the other day – right in the middle of the A59, one of the busiest days in the country.

Is it "How did they build the pyramids"? No it is not.

Is it "Can I really turn base metals into gold"? No it is not.

Is it "Do they actually get any viewers to watch ‘Dance X’ on Saturday night TV?" No it is not.

No, no, the great question that can now be struck off the WGQ list is "Can you really get hold of a hedgehog with your bare hands without running the risk of a fistful of puncture wounds?

And the answer is – yes …. and no….

So I’m tootling along the A59, minding my own business when I see the little prickly fella wandering along the centre line.

One thing’s for certain – it will get run over, it will not see another prickly sunrise, it will die within the next minute unless I do the right thing.

I bumped the car up onto the pavement and got out. There was a lull in the traffic – and the guy behind me had sort of decided to straddle the highway in an attempt to block the route while I did my lifesaving best. I tippy-toed up behind the hedgehog, put my fingers underneath and lifted him up. He curled around my fingers with his soft underbelly. I reached the safety of the pavement and waved a wave of thanks to the bloke in the car behind me with my brand new prickly muffler

So what to do with the little fella then? I had to get him off my hands pretty quick. A likely spot was found, a nice woody hedge bordering the pavement – and a Victorian garden beyond. I wound myself up sort of like Fred Flintstone about to deliver one of his stone bowling balls. I bowled. There was a steep incline just beyond the hedge, he rolled all the way to the top, and then rolled all the way back again, straight past me and almost back into the road.

A deft bit of footwork saved the day – I thought about a bit of keepy-uppy but decided against it. I would have to lift him again - but this time without the luxury of getting my fingers into his soft underbelly.

I picked him up. Every single little pointy point stabbed into my hands – it was like handling a red hot bag of nails, without the bag.. I started to shift him from hand to hand – like he was a mega-hot giant jacket spud or something.

Where to put him? Anywhere, just somewhere quick….

I ran up the drive of the Victorian garden, full to the brim with 100 year-old trees. I reckoned this was where he came from. A startled lady, resplendent in a big flowery hat and a trowel in her gardening gloved hand looked up from her work in the flower-beds.

"This is yours, I think"

I gently placed ‘Hedgy’ under a bush and left.

And my hands? On the throb-o-meter around regulo 184 – and in my wildest dreams, who’d have thought that me, Mr Hetrosexual 1973 would be writing about having a load of hot pricks in my hot sweaty hands?….

Monday, July 30, 2007

Another money making scheme.....

My wife and I were having one of our ‘let’s try and think of something so damn brilliant – it’s bound to be a sure fire money-spinner’ sessions the other day.

We were sort of inspired by the latest success of JK Rowling. The final Harry Potter book went on sale last Friday, she was shifting around 15 books per second for the first couple of days, which isn’t too bad, I suppose.

Obviously, wanting the glory and the money, without the graft, toil & trouble it takes to think of another plot as original as Harry Potter we thought we might sort of piggy back the worldwide phenomena that is the Hogwarts experience. Step forward ‘Barry Rotter’ the baddest wizard since Adolf Abracadabra…..

Read how evil boy genius wizard, Barry Rotter battles to the death with goody-two-shoes Harry Potter to decide the fate of a billion dollar book market……

Maybe not.

No. We need to think of something that doesn’t involve any actual work from ourselves. Something so brilliant that a company will give us a load of cash – just so they can buy the idea from us.

You occasionally read in the papers about how the corporate boot boys from Virgin or EasyJet are trying to buy out a little company because they have dared to use the words ‘Virgin’ or ‘Easy’ in their company name. ‘The EasyKebab Eating Emporium’ and the ‘Virgin on the Ridiculous’ novelty shop wouldn’t, I’d have thought, been much of a threat to those two huge conglomerates….

But they are a bit touchy about it, aren’t they?

With this in mind, Alfreda has come up with a whizz of an idea. She’s about to incorporate a brand spanking new company into the OK stable of corporate high finance.

‘EasyVirgin Limited’….

We haven’t yet decided what activities the new company will be engaged in, but I’m sure it will be a great success….

Sir Richard and Sir Stelios, you’d better start opening your cheque books boys…… and don’t forget your pens.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A trip to the dentist

I went to see my new lady dentist this week (the old one, the one I’ve been with for 30 years dropped dead 2 weeks ago).

She seems nice and professional – and best of all she has a rock steady hand, (my old one had a tendency to twitch, but not any more, if you see what I mean). Anyway, she did a filling and then a scale and polish – which I found unbearable. It’s when the little polishing brush catches your gum – it’s so damn tickly, I could hardly control myself...

Anyway, after the torture of the polish she took an x-ray of a tooth in my lower right jaw. "I just want to take an x-ray of this tuth – it doesn’t look right"…

"A ‘tuth’, you’re taking an x-ray of a tuth?"

"Yes, this tuth here"….

With that, she shoved a big sort of picture frame into my mouth, and lowered what looked like Flash Gordon’s flash death-ray gun down from the ceiling.

"Now just relax, there’s nothing to worry about" she said, as she legged it out of the room and pressed the button.

Ten minutes later and I’m looking at a lightbox with a little bit of film on it. My tuth is there in all its gory glory.

"Ahhh, thought so"

"What, what’s up then?"

She got out her special pointy stick.

"This tuth - do you see this, and that, and this"…..

I nodded in all the right places, cracking on I understood what the hell she was talking about. She blah-blahed away until she came to the end of her medical diagnosis, and the only bit of the conversation I understood…… "And to fix your tuth will cost around £600"..

£600! The slap on the floor was the sound of my jaw hitting the deck.

A straw pole at Alfie HQ rendered a fairly sympathetic response from the crew – that was, until I mentioned the cost.

"Six 'kin hundred 'kin quid........ Are you 'kin 'kin mad?" Last time I saw Mrs A, she was rummaging around the toolbox apparently looking for a hammer and a chisel……..

Thursday, July 05, 2007

George Melly joins the great jazz band in the sky….

George Melly has died today aged 80. I’ve seen him perform a few times over the years – by far the best gig I went to was when he did the Kirkland’s Wine Bar in Liverpool around 1980.

He was brilliant, floppy fedora, stripey zoot suit, two-tone shoes, John Chilton and his Feetwarmers…. Everyone was drunk, including the band – and George finished the set with a fine rendition of ‘Nuts’. He then issued an appeal amongst the audience – "has anyone got any marrywarna, man for Georgie?"

Someone chucked him a spliff and he disappeared in a haze of smoke…..

I wonder if his tombstone will read - Here lies George Melly, Journalist and Jazzman…… Nice.