Wednesday, September 29, 2004


I do pursue it, you know. Actively. Mostly with rolled up newspapers, a hefty shoe or aerosols and other biological agents of mass destruction.

I am very selective in my choice of prey. And in the case of wasps, mosquitoes, Colorado beetles and ants, actually do my own killing. Mice, on the other hand, I prefer to contract out to my two cats. It is only after having tried locking them both in the conservatory overnight and their having stirred only to claw the furniture that I resort to traps.

I have no special rituals I associate with this genocide, no special clothes...underpants and T-shirt normally suffice...and nor do I take any exceptional pleasure in the act even though I have been known to let rip a, "Got you, you little bastard!" after smearing an especially elusive skeeter all over a window pane but that is by the by.

So, in short, I kill things. I remove them of that which is most precious...their lives. Sometimes it is a deliberate act...squish or be bitten or stung...and don't try and convince me that wasps are okay if you leave them alone. On that point my mind is unamenable to persuasion. Intractable. Absolutely made the fuck up. At other times it is almost accidental. I mean, I fully intended to mow the meadow (and I use that word advisedly...lawn it is not) and it was indeed me who powered up the rotor mower but face it...the body count was enormous. Grasshoppers, cicadas, buckets full of mantis and innumerable species of black beetle. Carnage, in fact. Insect armageddon.

So would you say it was hypocritical of me to be so against fox hunting? I would. In a way. But only from the point of view of one who believes all life is sacred and of equal worth. Any other justification is bull of the highest degree. Total bollocks, in fact. Hunters? Fuckwits all.

Foxes prey on farmers' livestock.
Oh, yeah? Small voles, moles and field mice have made up a large part of Britain's agricultural output for how long, did you say? Ah...chickens, you meant? Right, so the foxes have the keys to the battery farm doors then, do they? And even if they do lose one or two, isn't the farmers' lobby always telling us that they get that little money for them anyway as to make their worth almost negligible? I rather suspect here that they are more worried about loss of game birds and their having a few less grouse and the like to pump full of shot after the glorious twelfth.

Their numbers need to be controlled.
You ever seen a fox? I have. Once. But that is again, by the by. If you can show me proof that Britain would be in the grip of a plague of foxes were it not for the 'millions' killed by hounds each year, then I would agree to a cull. You could use any firearm of your choice above .22 calibre, land mines, guided fucking missiles, anything short of the nuclear option, in fact.

The hounds would have to be put down.
So? Destroy 'em.

Whole communities depend on the hunt.
Tell that to the pit villagers. I didn't see many rural action groups demonstrating on their behalf.

It's traditional, part of what makes this country great.
Bear baiting, cock fighting, pit ponies, hare coursing...traditions all.

Well, actually...we rather enjoy it to be honest. I do realise that a drag hunt would involve everything we do at present...everything but the kill that is...and I do rather feel that would somehow take all the fun out of it really.
I haven't, in all honesty, heard this argument yet but at least it would have the virtue of being accurate and truthful. There are however, a whole shed load of people whose facial features it would give me the greatest of pleasure to violently rearrange but I accept that I should have to bow to the common consensus against this and other suchwise actions.

All except one that is. What say we pin an aniseed scented, artificial fox tail on donkey Blair? And let air the cry, "Let loose the dogs of war!"

Friday, September 24, 2004


...if you eat too many bagels, will you suffer Hassidic tummy?

...if Martin calls his house 'Lair de Clunes'?

...if I covet my neighbour's garden, am I suffering peonies envy?

Yeah, I know. It's been that kind of day. Anyway, time to visit my masseuse. She leaves no stern untoned.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004


Here's one for all you observant girlies. There are three differences between these two pictures. If you spot them, or even if you don't, there is no extra charge for the extra three inches I've just added to the height of your chair.

Monday, September 20, 2004


And a big "Thangyavermuch" to Lamps over at the packet. It just doesn't get any better than this.

Thursday, September 16, 2004



Rather like JonnyB's tactic of, well, not lying exactly...more failing to correct misapprehensions...being economical with the...well, lying actually, I suggested to Idris that we have a day out in Lincoln. Castle, cathedral, history, second hand and antique emporia etc. with nary a mention of the whisky shop. So confident was I of her finding the proposal irresistible that I had taken the liberty of phoning the day before and reserving a bottle. Wouldn't want to go all that way and risk disappointment now, would we?

So, we saw the cathedral.

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Yes...very impressive.

We had a gander round the castle taking in an archery demonstration and a look at one of the original copies of Magna Carta.

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Yes...very, er...old.

And yes, I was led on an expedition and to the proprietors of any shop we didn't visit that afternoon, I can only say it wasn't personal. I have the power of veto only as long as I use it sparingly. On this occasion, I limited myself to those places possessing at least one of the following.

1. Jaw dropping prices.

2. Tourist crap on display in the window.

3. The words 'Olde Worlde' in their name.

So, we trudged back up the hill fully laden up to the small square in front of the castle and with an, "I wonder what's up here", quite accidentally and fortuitously chanced upon the delightfully named Whisky Shop.

Now this is a place that, as they say, does what it says on the tin. I walked in, glanced around, manually lifted my jaw into something approaching a closed position and retracted my eyes back into their sockets.

"Can I help you, sir?"

"Er...I don't suppose you do bed and breakfast, do you?"

It was a good job they didn't. We only had two weeks left in England. I had never been in a place which more inspired one to spend money than this one. Row upon row of single malts each one represented by bottles of different ages and strengths. You will be surprised to learn that I was strong. I resisted. The thought of putting everything on the Company's expenses as 'corporate entertainment' only momentarily flitted across my synapses and I only took the bottle I had reserved...

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...and one of that about which I had completely forgotten.

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So, ticking them all off the list like a kid in a playground swapping footie cards, "Got, got, got, not, got" I realised my mission had been accomplished. There was no feeling of anticlimax, no sense of emptiness...I had, after all, a new purpose. To get them all back home for a taste off to end all taste offs and attempt to drink them at such a rate that they will last a year until the next malt run.


Day 21

A word of advice. When cleaning the guttering of a bungalow, always place one's stepladders at right angles to the exterior walls. This will help avoid the risk of attempting to descend on the wrong side, as it were, crashing through the diagonal support strut and thuswise decorating one's inner left thigh.

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Monday, September 13, 2004


Two adulterous ducks in a hotel room suddenly realise that they are fresh out of condoms and decide to call room service.

A few minutes later there is a discreet knock at the door and the drake gets up to answer it.

There he finds a waiter type chappie with a condom on a silver tray.

"Here you are, sir. Shall I put it on your bill?"

Sunday, September 12, 2004


First of all, apologies for missing the match yesterday. I'm still trying to get my head around this new firewall. Hopefully, I'll have it sorted by Tuesday.

Secondly, and most worryingly, it has come to my attention that there is a rumour afoot, the main substance of which is to the effect that Stella is becoming, and I quote, "Chav juice." Most disturbing.

As I see it, I have three options. I can,

1. Meekly Bow Before the Mind Boggling Brilliance of those Mighty Brain Boxes of the Matilda Botty Boys, give up the Leuven Lightning and stick to Amstel from here on in, but that would involve a rather too radical change in the title of this blog.

2. Reach for the Argos catalogue and bling myself up large or, the most attractive proposition of the three, I must admit,

3. Refer you to the answer to a previous question.

Anyway, I always thought it was White Lightning. Although I am prepared to at least consider the hypothesis that it is possible that Darwinian theory may well apply to Chavs, the almost glacial or, more aptly, geological rate of their evolution so far would tend to predispose of the proposition that an inbuilt predeliction for the delights of strong cider is becoming a regressive trait in their gene pool.

So there.


Day 17

I woke up with that match day feeling and spent an awful long time over breakfast. I had the feeling that most of my input this day would be liquid and I wanted to be prepared. The Frog did the usual ferrying of pork products and our Gert practiced drumming her fingers on the table. She’s really getting quite good at it.

It was a sunny morning, thank the gods. I couldn’t imagine leaving the girls in the car while I hit the poncy lagers in the Sheaf View so I hoped it would last. We took the Frog into Endcliffe Park and I had a flashback to lazy summer days spent playing football or cricket, games of which would be hazed by that rather sweet scent that emanates from some of the more laid back sections of BDTBL on match days. I also seemed to recall being under the influence of far too much Lucy and thinking it would be a good idea to take two of my mate’s canoes out on the small lake at the Oakbrook Road end.

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So, back to the Hotel for a spot of lunch and call a cab. Next stop, the Sheaf View. Driving through Nether Edge was wonderful…at least one area of Sheffield hasn’t changed at all…but the other side of Abbeydale Road was a complete mystery to me.

We arrived and went straight for the kiddies’ area round the back. I turned the corner and, I jive you not, the first person I saw was Lamps. I was astounded that he recognized me. Hail and well met. He handed over a message from Jess and I made for the bar. Mmmm. Weissbier! And so it began.

I could see no sign of a fat guy with a beard and I think Lamps thought I was looking for Dinky and not Weggie so that didn’t help but the mistake was rectified and I was eventually introduced to Weggie and Weggie senior. Well met again.

The three of us were at the bar awaiting a change of Weissbier barrels when Weggie made his big mistake. It would appear that text messages had been winging back and forth across the Atlantic and Weggie was under orders to, “Give him a big kiss on the lips from me.” His mistake was to tell me. Lamps turned discreetly away and ever since then, Weggie has referred to me as gay boy. Hah! He doesn’t fool me.

Was it three, four, five? I do not recall but Zsuzsi informed me it was half past two and hadn’t we better get off to the match?


We were walking down Bramall Lane in sight of the ground when the teams were announced over the tannoy. Our seats were at the other end of John Street so I upped the pace. The Frog was getting really excited because of all the noise and when we emerged from beneath the stand to view the hallowed turf bathed in brilliant sunshine, she looked around in wonder and let rip with a huge, “Wow!”

Someone was sitting in our seats which I hoped was not an omen but there were plenty free in the row behind so we took these. Right behind us was a gang way which was great as I could climb over the back of the seat and under the railings whenever I needed a piss, but also bad as I could only squeeze off three shots before a steward informed me that taking photos was an ejectable offence.

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What can I say about the game? Not a lot. It seemed a lot of players were playing out of position and despite a lot of huff and puff, there was very little creativity, discernible formation or even tactics. We had most of the possession but created few, if any, chances. They had one, and they scored from it. I will only get to one game this season and the Blades do it to me again. Oh, well. At least Monty wasn’t playing.


Right. Now, where was it? Ah, yes, the Nelson. In Arundel Gate, opposite where Redgates used to be, yeah? Well, yes. And no. It was closed. Hmmmm. Into a shop to cadge a phone book. Aha. The LORD Nelson, Arundel STREET. So we head in a thataways direction and notice a crowd outside what appears to be a pub in the middle distance. Zsuzsi starts making noises of a, “I hope it’s not that one” variety and I worry I won’t recognize them.

I had seen pictures of the motley crew that is the MBB and, as I approached, I saw a chappie that might or might not have been Uncy, but I walked past, checked the rest of the crowd and then came back. My original identification proved correct. I introduced myself by asking him if he had been responsible for the poisonous gas leak in Wakefield reported on the news the previous day and when he informed me that there had indeed been a blowout in the bottom area but it had since been plugged, I knew I had my man.

So, good company, draught Stella, lots of laughs. What more could a man want? Too good in fact as I am afraid I rather neglected my family, drank far too much beer and when The Frog and Dragon left to go for what they later assured me was just a walk, I made my farewells and chased off, rather meanderingly it has to be said, after them. Thanks to…
Uncy…purveyor of fine cakes extraordinaire who, despite being rather under the weather, was still on good form.
Big Mart…whose theory about Monty was quite blown out of the water that afternoon.
Latters…to whom I am afraid I was rather rude, hitting him with the rather blatant Kan-style, “Who the fuck are you?”
BHK…a gem. An all round good egg.
Kirsty…whom, if she were any thinner, I could have rolled around a good pinch of Drum and smoked.

Oh, and thanks to the Nelson for the Stella glasses. I’ll bring them back next year. Honest.

Thursday, September 09, 2004


Day 16 Addendum

Forgot to mention that after procuring our tickets for the match, I decided to locate and check out the Sheaf View as it was a new one for me. Weggie's directions were pretty good and I found it without too much trouble. As I parked, it started to rain so I picked up the Frog and carried her inside. I placed her down on an upholstered bench and sauntered enthusiastically over to the bar where the only two other customers in the whole place were ensconced and where I had been assured I would find several real ales and numerous 'poncy lagers'. I was there informed that we would have to sit the rain...on uncovered wet benches. And all because of a very recently four year old girl. Bollocks. No wonder we're a nation of aggressive drunks and binge drinkers.

Anyway, I swore and we left. Thirst unslated.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004


Day 14

I finally pluck up enough courage to visit the bank and check my accounts. Good news. I take another dividend out of the company and phone the Hunter House Hotel. White van man is no more.

Phone Weggie again. Voicemail. Bollocks.

", you now have 20 seconds to explain the connection between Weston-Super-Mare and SUFC. Alternatively, you can ring Kan on...."

He calls back and we arrange to meet in the Sheaf View before the game. Apparently, I won't have any trouble recognising him, I'm to look for a, "fat guy with a beard." After three weeks without a shave, I can find one of those in the mirror.

Which reminds me of one of Roger McGough's little rhymelets.

Woke up.
Had a shave.
Did the Times' crossword.
Had another shave.


Day 16

Woke up, had a shave and headed for the old home town. Arrived in Sheffield along the Parkway and wondered whether or not I would be able to negotiate safely the magic roundabout at its conclusion. More by luck than any skill on my part, I was successful and emerged the other side. Past the station, a fond glance in the direction of the Leadmill, the site of my 15 minutes, up onto Arundel gate and eventually onto Ecclesall Road. Damn! I hung a left somewhere and ended up on Cemetery Road and from there somehow to BDTBL to get the tickets for the match on the morrow.

Back onto Ecclesall Road and the only two landmarks I recognised were the Nursery Tavern and the Polish Club. It is not my town any more.

We checked into the Hotel and set off for an explore...that's Dragonspeak for shop. We discovered the delights of Woody's sandwich bar and then shop hopped from there in a townwards direction. After the first three or four, I just loitered outside and had a smoke while the girls did their thing. It was hot so I borrowed one of the Frog's hair bands and did the sad and lonely pony tail bit at about the same time as I noticed a men's hairdresser's. No appointments necessary. Mmmmmmmm.

We passed Berkeley Precinct and I noticed what might have been a Thresher's. I went in on the off chance and discovered another of the harder to get Islay malts.

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I enquired about the Bunnahabhain and they told me of a whisky shop in Lincoln that may be worth a visit. Again, mmmmmm.

Right, head back then. We hit the Precinct again and Idris feels the urge to 'Let's go, Tesco!' I arrange to meet them in Woody's and tootle off ferra spot of topiary.

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Needless to say, they weren't in Woody's. They were still on around aisle 6 when I found them.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004


Day 10

"Right then, guys. Let's see what this thing can do, shall we?"

My brother had to have the garage door raised by 2 inches to fit the damned thing in and even then the lock mechanism scraped along its roof as I was backing it out. I guess I should have realised then that anything which has to be shoe horned into Kan's Lincolnshire retreat so tightly was not likely to become a favourite selection amongst our vehicular transportation options.

A 1993 white Ford Transit.

To start with, I did actually succeed in turning it around in our drive although I was quite unprepared for the amount of serious wrestling I would have to do with the steering wheel. It left me quite breathless, I can tell you.

Anyway, the Frog was really pleased to get to sit in the front at last (and face forward), Zsuzsi less so as she was wedged in the middle seat. I gingerly manoeuvred it between the gateposts and, as our house is midway between two corners about 100 yards apart and necessitates a quick getaway, I decided to turn left onto the road. So far so good.

It occured to me that I should maybe get out of first gear and, because I had taken my hand off the gear stick to heave the thing in a left-wise direction, I was now facing my first problem. Loathe to take my eyes off the road approaching the first corner, I attempted to locate the lever by touch and failed quite abysmally, my hand doing a kind of deranged St. Vitus dance and encountering only air. I asked Zsuzsi quite calmly if she'd seen a fucking gear stick anywhere around here and she, equally calmly grabbed my hand and placed it on the knob...oo, er, missus.

For those of you blissfully unaware of the physical characteristics of Ford Transit gear levers, let me enlighten you as to some of their more perverse properties. The thing is shaped like an inversion of one of those old City Council nine hole golf course putters, the head of which has been removed and replaced with a golf ball. In other words small and, in moments of greatest need, bloody difficult to find. Its length is such that any vibration (and there are plenty, believe you me) is amplified along said length until by the time it reaches the tip, as it were, said golf ball's path is along several random ellipses the outermost points of which could be contained within a circle of some 3 inches radius from its resting position.

There is a bloody great diesel motor up front the vibrations from which far exceeded my power to hold the gear stick steady which resulted in me ramming it in fourth and even, albeit momentarily, attempting to engage reverse, before I found my intended gear.

I was just about to hit the Z bends on the Sleaford road when it started siling it down. A real downpour. What with trying to find the right gears, and the lights and the windscreen wipers, I am surprised I only hit the kerb twice before we got to Revesby Hall.

I drive through a puddle and all the electrics cut out. For the first time since I have been home, I swear in English, turn the bugger around and head for the garage in East Keal...slowly...very slowly...the windscreen is doing its best impression of Niagara Falls and what I can see out of it can best be described as negligible. I did look on the bright side however, and thanked the gods it was a diesel and thus could run sans battery and they smiled on me and stopped the rain. I was driving up Keal Hill when everything suddenly cut in again. Realising that me little bit o' wire had dried out, I headed for Boston.

By the time I got there, I was beginning to enjoy meself. Okay, so the van was wider than I was used to, which did involve hitting the kerb again going through Stickford, but straying onto the oncoming lane a little was okay as people tended to get out my way rather sharpish. I was enjoying being so high off the road, I was beginning to experience that sense of proprietorship over the highway that I had long suspected drivers of bigger vehicles than mine to possess. When I arrived in Boston, it got even better. I cut a swathe through the traffic, or should I say that it seemed to part for me and we arrived at Homebase in the blink of an eye.

I sent the girls therein and I detoured into Comet where my company decided to invest in a Nikon Coolpix 4100. Rejoined the family where, to my shock, I discovered that they had actually managed to spend less than I had and we returned to the tank. We had just got the doors closed when the heavens opened again. I started the engine post haste and we started to sit it out. I am not a patient man. I decided to go for it and by avoiding the biggest puddles, made it home all in one piece. And by dint of stopping at Asda, with a fresh 24 pack of Stella in back.

Sunday, September 05, 2004


Day 8

Woke up late. I had sinned the night before and had sampled the McClelland to an extent which I now recognised as being a trifle excessive.

I realised that thus far I had done nothing to forward my plan to visit Sheffield and BDTBL for the Reading game so I phoned Weggie to arrange a meet. I got his voice mail and realised that he must still be in Poland. I was far too hungover to leave a message so I hung up.

Now, my regular readers will be aware, due to my penchant for gloating at all too frequent intervals, that my income allows me to lead a life here in central Europe that can best be described as carefree. I rarely have to check prices and should I be desirous of anything, I buy it. While this falls some way short of regular visits to the estate agents or Ferrari showrooms, it does mean that there is little which falls beyond my fiscal span as it were. All this changes as soon as I arrive in the UK.

Suddenly and painfully, I succumb to the realisation that I have to pay attention to the rate at which quantities of the folding disappear from both my wallet and my bank accounts. It is not as if I earn overmuch, you understand, it is more a question of prices. Pray allow me to enlighten you as to the expenses likely to be incurred by a visitor to say, Nagykanizsa, for example.

Bottle of Teacher’s scotch…less than a fiver.
40g pouch of Drum tobacco…about two quid.
Half litre bottle of Stella...35p
One night’s hotel accommodation…twenty five nicker.
Slap-up meal for four in best restaurant plus drinks (lots)…max fifty notes.

Even travelling through Europe, I do not have to be overly attentive to prices but as soon as I alight at Dover, I am only too aware that my most common exclamation for at least two weeks will be, "How much?!" Rip-off Britain indeed.

So it was, with an eye to saving a few spondoolies, that I decided to borrow my brother’s Ford Transit van and travel to Sheffield in it with a view to sleeping therein rather than pay an excessive amount of cash for a double room and ersatz English breakfast. There were, unfortunately, some problems involved with this. Apart from the fact that the van was chez nous and my brother wasn’t.

Firstly, the tax disc had expired. "No problem, bro’. I’ll take care of that." Zoom off to post office. "How much?!" Ninety-odd fucking quid, that’s how much.

Secondly, I was not a named driver on my bro’s insurance policy. He phones them, then rings me. "They won’t insure a non-UK resident on my policy." My bro lacks my devious mind, you see. "Ring them back, kid. I guarantee you won’t speak to the same person. Tell them I am, as of this moment, resident at the same address as is on my driving licence. Call me when it’s okay."

A few mins later and the phone rings.

"Now then."

"This is *garbled* of the NCB."

"Uh…er…yer wot?"

"*garbled* of the MCC."

"Er…I’m sorry…who?"

"Uncy. Raul. MBB."

"Yoooooooooooooo! Jesus Christ! How ya doin’?"

And so it came to pass that an appointment was made to confront the full might of the MBB in the Nelson after the Reading game. I remembered the Nelson for ’twas there that I would meet Allison, somebody else’s girlfriend, but I was of an age not to be so fussy and, come to think of it, I still am.

Bro phones. Alles gut. Another 17 quid down the spout for an added name.

Now, where was I? Oh, yes.

Thirdly, and most problematically, bro, bro’s bane and van had just returned from a two week sojourn in the south of France and my brother’s housekeeping skills, never excellent at the best of times, had not improved to any significant degree since last we had met. The van was a mess. It would need a thorough spring clean.

After wading through a three foot high pile of malodourous socks, sundry clothes and bed linen, I finally uncovered the air mattress, desperately in need of some air. I bunged everything into black plastic bin liners, sealed them for ’freshness’, washed the mattress, cut up what he had been using for a ground sheet, fitted it to the floor of the van and left the van doors open for the rest of the day.

Come the evening and the whiff had not entirely dissipated so I left the doors open all night an’ all. Bugger it, if any sod is brave enough to half-inch this fucker, they’re welcome to it.

Saturday, September 04, 2004


Day 5

My mission, and I did choose to accept it, was to purchase, purloin or otherwise obtain one bottle of malt from each of the Islay distilleries.

I had to go into Spilsby for a newspaper and some milk and I sauntered into Somerfields where I spotted these on the shelf.

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The McClelland's was a mystery to me and it was only after I had bought it that I realised it was one of those 'specially bottled for...' jobbies so to make up for my mistake, I bought two bottles of Bowmore. What the hell, I was flush and feeling reckless.


Day 6

Any shopping trip to Boston wouldn't be complete without a visit to Tesco's now, would it? Leaving the Frog and Dragon amongst the fruit and vegetables, I made straight for the spirits and was not disappointed.

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One bog standard and one cask strength later and it's three down, five to go.


Day 7

A little run out through Old Bolingbroke and up and over the hill to Horncastle. The only place to park there is really Tesco's and, as we were there, I allowed the Frog to drag me inside.

After getting her some munchies and something to drink, I half-heartedly perused the spirits' section where, lo and behold, was lurking one of the more hard to get malts of Islay.

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Pausing only to kiss the Frog in gratitude, I crossed the Caol Ila off the list and headed out for the river where she indulged in a spot of duck worrying.

I was then dragged through every shop in Horncastle, most of which are antique emporia, second-hand bookshops or charity shops. Considerably lighter of pocket, I was heading back to the car when I spotted an off-licence. More in hope than expectation, I wandered in, glanced up at the whiskies and exclaimed, "Bingo!" Having thus attracted the attention of the assistant, I made my purchase and wended my merry way back to the car with the following.

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All in all, a very good day.

Friday, September 03, 2004


Day 3

Get up, three coffees, head for Spilsby.

The Frog remembers the newsagent's where I'd taken her with her loose change to buy as many 2 for a penny sweeties as she could stuff into her cavernous pockets. Have you noticed how kids' pockets exist outside the realms of normal physics and operate on the same principle as the good Doctor's Tardis?

I glance over the headlines of the papers on display and am not surprised to discover that some single Swedish guy's nobbin' takes precedence over genocide in the Sudan. I check the prices of Drum tobacco and am thankful I imported my own.

Into the Co-op. Exposed to an English supermarket after a year's absence, Zsuzsi displays her habitual response. Her eyes widen, then glaze over and then, in what I can only describe as a calm and measured frenzy, she proceeds to test the load-bearing capacity of a standard issue shopping trolley.

I track down a 24 pack of Stella, notice the price is shocking...but not shocking enough apparently...and heave it onto my shoulder, there being absolutely no chance of it fitting into the by now seriously sagging trolley, where it stays for the next half hour or so.

I mean, call me simple if you like, but I have refined over the years a pretty simple shopping technique which, due to my sex, I would appear to have been genetically programmed to follow since I first fell out of the pram. I enter a supermarket with a very clear idea of what I want and where to find it. I then proceed to lighten the shelves of these precise products and hie me to the tills. I find it pretty effective.

Zsuzsi, on the other hand, has the same relationship with the shelves in front of her as I do with the TV or, more precisely, with any Titian, Vermeer or van Dyke I chance upon during my visits to such institutions of culture that happen to stock such items. I peruse, I examine, I stand in thrall, almost hynotised by their charm and before I know it, it's teatime and the day has flown.

I was explaining the various merits of sundry tins of baked beans and other interestingly crafted pasta shapes in tooth rot sauce when a woman approached and addressed our Gert.

"Oh. You aren't English?"

"She's Hungarian. I'm English." I clarified.

"Oh, well. You're English, at least."

I mean, what? Open to interpretation of course, but her immediate choice of lexis was, to say the very least, a tad revealing.

Anyway, back home, Frog and Dragon off for afternoon nap and I click on the TV. Only 5 channels? Puhlease! My disappointment lasts as long as it takes me to discover the England v West Indies on Channel Four and I settle down to watch the best afternoon's cricket since Headingley in 19 whatever it was. Heaven.

And there I spent the rest of the day recharging my English speaking batteries. Watched 'Coyote Ugly' followed by 'My Fellow Americans' and then channel hopped only to alight upon some excrescence by the name of 'Big Brother - Late Night Forum'. Oh, dearie me.

An incoherent gaggle of Chavs and Slappers were being encouraged to reveal to the nation the end result of the education system in this country by a presenter who made me reflect back on Noel Edmonds with something approaching affection. He was..."you know, sort of, like, sooooooo wicked, you know what I mean?" God help us. The phrase, 'my fellow citizens' flitted across my awareness before I put myself out of my misery, gave up, switched off and went to bed.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004


Day 2

A good day. A gift. Right from waking up to realise I had no hangover and that by continuing on deserted roads the night before, I had cut about 4 hours off today's journey, things just got better.

Since the last time I was here, the Hotel had added sausage, bacon and eggs to their buffet breakfast and we lingered, savoured or pigged out if you prefer. It was self-service but the Frog enjoyed ferrying stuff from the hot plate and kept me in pork products for a good hour. I only discovered later that she had also stuffed her pockets with as many fruit yoghurts as they could reasonably hold. That's my girl.

Right, off to reception to check out the damage. Delightful morning receptionist speaks English. Halfway through our conversation I slip into Hungarian and tell family to get in the car ready for a quick getaway. No mention of the bar tab nor of my raid on the mini-bar. I do not correct the oversight.

So, a leisurely drive through the cow country that is Belgium. It may be famous for chocolate and Stella but going on olfactory evidence alone, it would appear that a large proportion of its gross national product is natural fertiliser and methane.

The ring road around Brusselles is almost deserted. I am blessed. Charmed.

We stop at the last petrol station before France to fill up on diesel and there is an argument in progress at the till. An HGV driver is being told in three languages, none of which he entirely understands, that there is no credit left on his fuel card and that the manager is duty bound to confiscate it. The driver finally realises his predicament and swears. Profusely. Colourfully. With feeling. In Hungarian.

I piss myself laughing and then spend the next hour helping him sort out his problem. Inbetween phone calls, he tells me he wants to go and work in the the time he was working for a company in England owned by an ex-pat Hungarian, hence his weakness in English...and the only way he could get in would be to marry an American citizen, current rate 10,000 US dollars.

Anyway, he buys the Frog a huge fluffy toy in gratitude and we head into France. We arrive at the ferry terminal five hours early, go straight to the check-in and they change my original, late night, cheapo booking to one for the next ferry at no extra charge. It is indeed, my day.

Off the ferry at Dover, quickly adjust wing mirrors and straight into town centre traffic. It is always a shock. I've just travelled across most of Europe and my first reaction on arriving in England is always, "Jesus Christ! Where did all these fucking cars come from?" It's the density, you see...we are indeed a small island.

Right then...onwards, ever onwards. problem. M25...seems to have temporarily given up its role as the largest car park in Europe, at least on the east bound section. M11...a breeze. A1(M)...likewise. Stamford to Boston...a stroll. Twenty minutes later and we arrive in West Keal. It is good to be home. Such days happen all too rarely and, cynic that I am, I fall asleep wondering when the bill will become due.