Mr Grumpy....20th February, 2020
I bumped into my old school chum, Billy Belfont, again the other day — bizarrely, I often do when I want to write a column that is just full of head-scramble, and it’s always at the fish counter at Tesco. This time, it was on a Monday and he was stood just looking lost and confused, not least because the fish counter at Tesco is closed on a Monday and he had promised Helen, his wife, some fresh fish for tea and hoped for favours in return. After exchanging pleasantries, we devised a plan to simply buy some fish from the chiller bit and unwrap it before she could see it; what woman knows the difference between a tiddler and a sperm whale when it’s cooked? Does size really matter in the heat of the moment/casserole pot?
Billy has never been the same since the war — not that he was in it, but he went to see Saving Private Ryan and he hasn’t been able to eat ketchup since, or even donate blood. Mind, I can’t either as the thought of a beast of a woman (they usually are whenever I go to hospital) approaching me with a syringe the size of that used by a vet on a cow, knowing she was going to attach what always feels like a pair of kitchen scissors to the end, close her eyes and attempt to find an artery in which to insert it fills me with dread, too. I’ve never (knowingly) eaten egg since I was a child and went on a school trip to a farm and saw a chicken lay one. How can anyone eat something that comes out of an animal’s arse? I was traumatised, as it looks painful — it’s a matter of logistics, like a woman giving birth to a baby that is the equivalent size and weight of four bags of sugar: that’s gonna hurt! So I’ve never eaten egg since and have thus saved countless chickens from unnecessary pain.
Billy’s sister, Daisy, married a farmer called Eddie and was herself traumatised when she caught Eddie up to no good with a goat: after the initial shock (he’d dressed the goat in her Valentine’s night underwear) and after therapy (she, her husband and most certainly the goat) they’d all agreed to never mention it again and move on with their lives, until they went to a Wurzels concert and he stormed the stage, grabbed the microphone and started an additional chorus of I’ve Got A Brand New Combine Harvester and was roughed up by security. The whole family was banned from the Victoria Hall, Hanley, and Daisy and Billy’s father died of shame, although some said his death could more reasonably be attributed to the dreadful injuries sustained from falling into a combine harvester and coming out resembling a Weetabix.
The goat later appeared on The Jeremy Kyle Show, causing the family further embarrassment, especially when Eddie failed multiple lie-detector tests. The whole farm was closed under the specific instructions of the minister for agriculture, who was himself chair of the UK Society for the Protection of Goats, and who attempted to force an act of parliament through that prevented the sale of fireworks, alcohol and cigarettes to goats under the age of 18. This was seen by many as a backdoor way of preventing goat parties, which had started to spring up on farms in the North West on the basis goats have an average life span of 10 to 12 years.
“My name is Bond… James Bond…” – A famous Scottish actor who no longer lives in Scotland.
Daisy went on to appear on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, but only managed to win £100, because she said that the band that recorded the hit single Bohemian Rhapsody was Westlife, not Queen, and host Jeremy Clarkson had to make an apology and donate £500 to charity for calling her “a thick cow”.
So now you know why I felt sorry to see Billy lost and confused looking for fresh fish in Tesco: it was the least of his worries.
Sat here typing this (Sunday night), I’m more worried about flying up to Scotland tomorrow. I think it’s on one of those elastic-band powered things that takes me to Ireland and the Isle of Man and feels like a tumbledrier has been strapped to a balsa wood frame, and the pilot himself is rocking forward in his seat in an attempt to will the thing into the air as the end of the runway approaches. I think there’s more power in a hairdryer or Fiat 500 and the whole experience leaves me rediscovering my faith and asking God to forgive me for having rude thoughts about a woman at the office and save me from an untimely death.
Knowing my luck, even if we weren’t flying over the English Channel teeming with sharks, we’d crash into Lake Windermere where I’d survive the initial impact (having always had the courtesy of listening to the safety briefing from the well-endowed stewardess and put on my life-jacket) but then be eaten by crocodiles.
I really do always listen to the safety briefing, as it seems rude not to, but do think the airlines would have 100% attention if they chose the tastiest staff to do it and remove their tops (male and female, plus a current-trend token gay): why wouldn’t you pay attention, or at least be looking in the right direction?
It’s the same with the pilot’s comments, which are usually whispered and totally lacking in enthusiasm, as if he’s done it before (several times). They should make the announcements in song: “We are now approaching London and will be landing soon, so please put your seats upright and remember the brace position as we’re landing in Storm Dennis and I might screw it all up, but please do remember to put any odd coins in the Comic Relief envelope in the backrest.” All to the tune of The Police’s Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic.
I quite like Scotland and am looking forward to some Scottish hospitality. One night I’m staying in a country pub, the next in a city centre Dakota hotel, where I can usually plug a USB into the telly, which always gets them an extra point on the guest questionnaire.
Finally, I was sad to hear about Caroline Flack taking her own life over the weekend. I didn’t know her personally, but it certainly seems both tragic and avoidable.
My column of last week, not knowing what might be going through people’s minds, referred to the media hounding TV presenters. For once, I hate to sound like a clever dick or say, “I told you so…” But I clearly am. And did.