The end of an era, the big hole and the survivor

Bernard Manning was buried this week and with him went an institution. I had been to see Bernard a few times at the Embassy club in Manchester and I always had a great time. To me he was one of the funniest comedians I ever saw. I never thought of him as racist or anything else that society should not tolerate. He was just a very funny man who teased each and every race and often regional variations the same. Due to my almost Liverpool accent I am often called many names when ever I go to Manchester. “Scouse twat” and “watch your hubcaps” being some of the more polite joshing I endure when I venture into those parts. Does it bother me? No and nor should it. Bernard’s demise was bought about by the PC fascists.

The same people who told us we could not have golliwogs on our jam jars anymore and that it’s offensive to say “blackboard”, it now has to be chalkboard. The same people who have told some sections of the civil service that they cannot have family pictures on their desks in case it upsets same sex couples who cant have any. Oh dear, how sad that some people should have such thin skin and no shoulders at all but I am willing to bet they have very deep pockets for putting compensation due to hurt feelings and the like into.

Not content with telling us what we can and cannot say in a country with supposedly “Free speech” they are now hell bent on telling us what we can do. At 6am tomorrow morning (July 1st 2007) it will be illegal to smoke in any public building regardless of whether the people who own the building mind or not. Many bingo halls, pubs and clubs and some theatres will be affected drastically and if the Government say they won’t then please take a look at how many licensed premises in Scotland are shutting down because it is no longer financially viable to stay open. Indeed so hell bent are they on enforcing these rules a whole army of enforcers has been created to over see the operation and ensure no one is having a crafty drag in the toilets or behind the bike sheds. I don’t have much sympathy for non smokers; it’s not a health issue for me. I fiercely object to them getting for nothing something that has costs me a fortune in tax and VAT. For that I suppose I should be grateful to the Lilly livered, panty waisted, pinko commie sons of bachelors for ensuring no one is going to get any more of the smoke I have paid a fortune in taxes for, free of charge ever again. I just wish it was voluntary and people who wanted to have smoke free establishments could do so if they wish and those who did not could also do the same. Free choice has gone the same way as free speech. It won’t be long before we have the dreaded thought police; George Orwell was perhaps right after all. It’s the end of an era.

 At around 11-00pm on the day of the big hole, a large wagon turned up outside my house and a couple of large workmen asked me where the hole to be filled in was. I pointed to the hole and they scratched their heads, drew a large intake of breath in the manner that only tradesmen and workman can and asked what my neighbours were like. I told them the neighbours were great and asked them if they would like a cup of tea. Both faces lit up and within a matter of minutes a crane from the wagon hauled a wheel barrow and other assorted implements of construction/destruction onto the pavement.

A flurry of almost noiseless activity of taking away the spoil left by their predecessors was finished off by filling in the remaining hole with rocks and infill. This was followed by starting up a “whacker” plate which consists of a diesel engine attached to a large hammer type thingy that flattens or “whacks” everything flat. It did make a bit of noise which is why they asked me what my neighbours were like. Finally a large solid plastic plate like affair was thrown over the hole and they departed saying it was now safe to wheel anything over the plate and that some one would come around next week to concrete the hole permanently. Hopefully very soon there will be no big hole.

There are some signs that the entire population of tadpoles has not been wiped out by the chemical attack on my pond. I found a “froglet” this morning happily jumping up and down in the flower beds nearby the pond. I am praying he grows to be big and fat and has a healthy appetite for slugs and snails. In short this plucky little guy is a survivor.

The big hole

It’s not all fun and games at the Château Ghastanbury, situated in the fiefdom of Higherdew nestled in between the banks of the rivers Mersey and Dee. Oh no we have our moments of drama every now and then. It all started innocently enough, my neighbours had an electrician out for their annual certificate of electrical worthiness. As they rent their house this certificate is a legal requirement on behalf of the landlord. They didn’t get one. No, the young electrician switched the power off there and then and  said there was a slight snag and that the neighbours should ring their electricity supplier and inform them, that there was no incoming earth connection. I only know of this because at 5-30pm a pair of large vans from N Power turned up followed by a smaller van. Several people walked up and down the path and my neighbour knocked on my door to tell me his electricity was going off. It appeared that an earth cable coming into the house was actually not and the electricians could not find the source of where it should be coming from and were waiting for ground plans to arrive. In the meantime a mechanical digger arrived on the back of a truck, just in case they had to dig anything up! By 10-30 pm the electricians had given up their search and said they would resume in the morning, in the meantime my neighbours could not have the electricity on. I gave them some candles and a torch and left them with my best wishes.

The next day after I had spent a morning running some errands for mother,  an engineer from N Power knocked on my door and asked to look at my electricity meter. I allowed him in, showed him where it was and he sighed and then smiled. “I know what the problem next door is” he said. A single supply of electricity had been run to the pair of houses and had entered my house and then it was directed to next doors. This he explained saved a lot of cable by virtue of the fact that there was only one long run to each pair of houses instead of two. The earth cable from my house to next doors had never been fitted. It would be a simple matter to connect next door and the Chateau up to a single cable and my neighbours could have their power back on in a matter of minutes. He left beaming like the baby off the Tellytubbies. After arriving back at mine some moments later with several colleagues and a multitude of tools and assorted implements of destruction he proceeded to busy himself with some cabling in my meter cupboard. After a few moments later he re-appeared looking somewhat ashen faced and announced he had some rather bad news. Who ever had put my own earth cable in had screwed the thing in place so damn tight that it had broken through the protective lining of the live cable and would have to be replaced immediately. He was amazed that the house had not blown up seeing as how the gas meter was next to the electricity meter. The electricity would have to go off until further notice. The engineers then huddled together and after much muttering and murmuring to themselves announced they would have to dig up the drive out side my front door, well actually it’s the path but I do have pretensions! It was now 2-30pm

30 minutes later another couple of engineers arrived with some fierce concrete cutting equipment and proceeded to make a large hole outside the front door. Three hours later and my electricity was back on and the neighbours had power and were safe and now legal. All well and good except I still have this big hole until some one comes to fill it in. It may be sometime on Monday before the ground workers come back to fill it in for you the engineer said as he pulled away in his van. Lucky for the neighbours, what started out as their problem is now mine!

Ghastanbury 2007

I woke up the following morning with a pounding head. I really should not have hit the bourbon the night before but I had. It was only due to the efforts of the Bean counter that I managed to get up at all! I forced myself to stagger into the garden for 7am, splash several large bottles of lighter fluid over the three sections of charcoal that required it and tossed several matches onto each pile.  So far so good I thought until I saw the clouds of smoke reaching for the skies. I could not do anything about that except hope that no one was up that early in the morning and I ran back into the house and got showered and changed. By the time I was back outside, the smoke, well most of it any way, had subsided and it was now merely very smoky and not such a health hazard.  As I said earlier the goat was in two sections and I could not merely run the spit through its arse and out of its mouth and pin it along the way. The problem of the spit was solved by placing one side of the goat on a table, putting the spit along its length and skewering it with long stainless steel pins and then placing the other half on top of the pins and forcing it down til the two sides met and wrapping butchers twine around the animal to keep it in place

Two hours later and it was all smouldering nicely. Mercifully it was damp and not the sort of weather that you hang washing out in. By 9-30am I had the goat on the spit, the lamb, beef and pork in the long Rumo smoker and the ribs in the upright Brinkman. The traveller, in the spirit of the occasion and theme bought out some confederate flags and we draped these around the cooking section and opened up the beers. We spent most of the morning running back and forth between a gazebo to keep dry from the frequent showers and back to the fires to stoke them up not forgetting to turn the spit every 10 minutes or so. The traveller and my bro looked after the spit while I concentrated on looking after the Rumo and chopping wood while my neighbour, (God bless him for his patience) looked after the small brinkman. It was a round 4pm that the first of the guests arrived and although the meat in the smokers was cooked the goat was at least two hours away. I think if it had of been a sunnier and less windy day then it would have cooked faster.

One of the overwhelming comments from most of the guests was that you could smell meat cooking from several hundred yards away. Again I have to thank my neighbours for putting up with me. To most people’s surprise the goat tasted lovely. It was quite stringy and tasted stronger than lamb but not as strong as beef. I had marinated it in a mixture of lime juice, chilli, cinnamon, brown sugar, maple syrup and some cayenne pepper which gave it a kick. The animal took over 10 ten hours to cook through and what bits were not finished we hacked them off and wrapped them in tin foil and threw them in the ashes of the fire pit. I had used somewhere along the lines of 20, 5 kilo bags of charcoal and a lot of logs. Nearly all of the meat went with little going to waste and still people asked for sausages and burgers. It was time to turn to my old faithfull grill and Commander Riker stepped up to the plate and grilled like a seasoned pro. Most people had left by around 10pm and I managed to allow myself to be led to bed somewhere around 1am. I think all of them had a good time, my mum certainly did and as usual her birthday had gone with a swing somewhat different to any of her friends, then again none of them have a son like me! All in all this years Ghastanbury was a success.

The Great Plan

It’s been a busy old time of late, there has been a lot of sorting out to do and an awful lot of planning. A few days ago my brother came to stay, the new smoker arrived, modifications were made to the existing fire pit and a dead goat arrived in the back of little Miss Sunshine’s car. This was all in one day, oh and my mate the Traveller arrived for the weekend. So where to start?


The day I heard that goat was being delivered to my house, no one least of all me knew whether it would be walking into the house or carried in. There was the faint possibility that it would be walking around my garden for a few days munching flowers and all and sundry before I managed to bring myself to dispatch it. It was with some sense of relief that when it did arrive it was in two bags and had been butchered and skinned and guttered. There was no head on it but it still had its hooves attached. As I said it was in two bags, I should have said it was in two pieces, it had been cleaved completely down the middle of its backbone. This gave me a problem, how was I going to fix it onto a spit and secondly it was rather larger than I had anticipated, it must have weighed 60 pounds so where was I going to store it hygienically? Also, how do you marinate something so big?

By the day of my mums birthday which has become known as Ghastanbury (cos its held at the same time as Glastonbury, get it?) I had managed to overcome all of these problems with some help from my friends. A dry rub was mixed up and the goat was coated, placed in several large bags and stored in a garden shed packed with ice and tins of very cold beer. I had also defrosted 6 pieces of beef brisket, one leg of lamb and a rolled pork shoulder and given them all the same treatment. I managed to fill the two smokers with charcoal and fill the new fire pit with the same. The plan was that early in the morning I would be able to pour fire lighter fluid over all of the charcoal, throw some matches at it and then stand back until it glowed, place the meat in situ and then sit back and drink beer till the guests arrived. All in all Friday the 22nd was hectic but it went smoothly. I finally got to bed at around one am dreaming of the great plan.

The Gestapo

It would seem that the mystery of the disappearing tadpoles has been solved. I have discovered, much to my horror that the Beast who was around at my house on the day I broke in the spit roast, not only threw up in the grid and in the garden but also in my small pond. I have always said to people that one day I would have a vomitorium in my garden, just for the days in which I re-enact the fall of empire. Well why not? I would appear to have almost everything else apart from the money and the slaves but I am working on that. I did not envisage that people would use the pond as a substitute until it was built. Sadly the tadpoles did not survive the chemical attack that was the contents of the “Beasts” stomach. My attempts to have organic pest control have for now been scuppered. There will be few if any frogs and no hedgehogs to keep the slugs and snails down this year.

After watching a few evenings of Night time spring watch, it’s so much better than the non reality TV fare on offer such as BB, I have come up with a plan to put some bird boxes in the trees at the bottom of the garden in the hope they will eat insects and things. There is already one bat flying around in the evenings but he does not seem very hungry judging by the amount of mozzies and greenfly in the garden. Hopefully a bird or two will help the ecological balance.

While performing some deadly dull domestic chores I watched a programme about the changes in Britain which featured the Thatcher years. Most people either love or hate Maggie, there does not seem to be any in between. I guess that’s what make’s me different. I don’t hate her but I am not a big fan of hers either. I was lucky enough to get out of the building and heavy industry before she destroyed it all and entered the service industry which is where I have been ever since. I think the Thatcher years were good to me. I even had the sense to reckon on mortgage repayments hitting 14% and deciding if I could afford a house before they actually did. None of this helped many of my friends though and some are still suffering from the excesses of her years in power. I guess that’s why the Tiler thinks I am more rightwing then Genghis Khan. Certainly on learning of the fate of my tadpoles he had no hesitation in branding me and the Beast the Gestapo of wildlife!


The weekend didn’t quite go to plan but it was hugely enjoyable, well the bits I remember were anyway. Friday night was a quiet night in due to work on Saturday. Saturday itself got off to a shaky start. I had planned to go and see Bo Diddley at the cavern and then onto that playground of the rich, New Brighton. As the Bo concert was cancelled due to his stroke a few weeks back, I had planned to go to New Brighton, hit a few bars including a new one that has just opened and then onto a club to see a band called Pixie Truck.  At around 5-30pm mum announced she was going out with some friends from the Mothers Union. It’s very rare that she goes out and I felt obliged to stay in until she came back home. She was picked up and taken to her destination and I waited for her to be brought home. I don’t like not being in the house when she goes to bed in case she falls down the stairs. She insists on having her bed upstairs because its “what proper people do, you go up to bed at night and you come down in the morning”. A few years ago I went to work and when I came home in the evening I noticed that the house lights were not on. I found mum collapsed in the bathroom, she had been there for around nine hours unable to get to the phone and alert anyone to her plight.

In an attempt to ensure this is never repeated I try to make a point of being in the house when she goes to bed so if anything did happen then at least aid could be summoned in minutes rather than the hours she had to endure last time. So anyway, unable to go out until mum had come home and gone to bed, I waited for her to arrive home. Finally a car pulled up and I went outside to get her. She slithered out of the car with the words “It’s ok I am not drunk, I have only been drinking champagne”.  Well she was and I managed with the aid of the Bean counter to get her upstairs and settled down for the night. Finally the Bean counter and me drove to New Brighton.

The bar itself was packed and fairly buzzing. Several drinks and hugs to all my friends who were there and a long chat with the band of whom I have known each member individually for 10 or more years. It was great seeing so many of my friends all in one place. I even managed to make friends with a Hungarian and Polish contingency. It would seem the most inviting word in the English language and also the shortest question is, Beer? The band were great and I finally managed to make it home some time around 3-30am. The following morning it was up early with a bad hangover to pick a car up from the promenade where it had been parked overnight.  The bean counters kids turned up and duly pointed my gable end wall. I have been threatening to do this for years but never got around to it so when the offer came up it would have been impolite to refuse. With so many people around me working hard it seemed only fair that I got stuck in and mowed the lawn while waiting for the beers to cool.

At around 4 pm Little Miss Sunshine and her beau turned up and the beers came out. I don’t know how many beers we went thro but I do know we drank 2 and half bottles of Bourbon. I even dragged the neighbours from both sides around. I am fairly certain they humour me but they are great people and I am lucky as well as happy to have them both as neighbours. I really count myself fortunate that I have so many good friends. So here’s to you, a really big thanks for making my weekend great.


The wettest May I can ever remember has just given way to June which looks set to be as wet as the preceding month. On the plus side the days are starting to become longer if not much warmer. All attempts to work in the garden have sadly gone the same way as my keep fit campaign and things can only get better, surely?

Mums birthday is only a couple of weeks away and my big brother is coming along to stay at my house for a couple of days. Also coming along is the driver who promises to fill me in on the events of the last 6 months. It’s hard to believe but it’s that long since I last saw him. The traveller is now back from China and is coming along this Friday to let me know how the trip went and what if any opportunities there are over there. I also managed to speak to the Tiler and he told me it was now coming to the Ozzy Autumn. Temperatures were starting to dip and it was down to the low 20’s and it was “freezing”. He and his family have acclimatised very quickly. He was telling the natives over there that in the UK if it got into the high teens people would be wearing shorts and no one believed him. If any of them are reading this I can assure you that it’s not a wind up, it really is true!

By now my pond should be full of small frogs and all ready to declare war on the slugs and snails that are devastating my flowers and fruit crops. At one point there were lots of tadpoles but they seem to have disappeared. Maybe the slugs and snails have eaten the tadpoles? Unless I can see lots of frogs within a week or two I am going to drain the pond and clean it out. So much for bio diversity and using organic methods of pest control, it’s back to the chemicals and slug pellets.

I often wonder if the pace of life will ever slow down long enough for me to actually enjoy it. Commander Riker and me were in a shop the other day buying sandwiches for our lunch and at the head of the check out queue were two cute little old ladies. Neither of them seemed to have a care in the world as they stopped to pass the time of day with the check out assistant discussing family and friends and then spending ages trying to root out change from handbags to pay for their purchases. Riker and I silently fumed in the middle of a long queue as our lunch break was being wasted away. I have nothing at all against the little old dears, indeed I have an interesting fossil in the shape of my mum to contend with at home, but…… my time is precious and I don’t want to spend it in a shopping queue. This made me think why don’t they have set times at which slow people are allowed into shops? They can spend as much of their allotted time passing the day by and browsing stopping to chat with whoever they want. Then the rest of us who have so little time can avoid the shops at certain periods and enjoy being able to run in and out with whatever we have bought in a matter of minutes.

My mum never puts anything away in the same place twice. It’s an infuriating little habit she has picked up over the years but she receives an enormous amount of pleasure trying to find things. Just trying to find a sharp knife is an adventure for her and she has all the time in which to spend finding it. Indeed it makes her day go along quite well. The impact this has on me is that much of my free time is spent needlessly trying to find things I need in a hurry. I read only recently that a store in Germany has opened up and it is for the sole and exclusive use of the elderly. They can spend as much time in there as they want with out being hassled by young mums with kids and pushchairs and men in hurry like me. I hope they open a branch up around here soon because one day at some point in time, when I have no need to rush around, I will want to shop in a place like that