Thursday, September 08, 2005

And He Talks Of People Ten Years Gone Like I've Known Them All My Life, Like Scattered Black 'n' Whites 

I come back here from time to time, I shelter here some days.

It was exam results for some of us today - not me, thank goodness. Some passed, which was great of course, but not everybody, and that was - hey! - like, you know, horribly sad. What more to say?

The morning was spent mooching around, packing up, finishing off ice cream and hitting me baby one more time before travelling home in convoy. We stopped off at Bolton Abbey, by way of trying to prolong the rest of the holiday as much as possible.
It’s a lovely place and we walked across stepping stones and skimmed pebbles in the river.
Ducks surveyed our every move. We knew that they knew that we knew they were up something. We think they knew it too. They’re a lot smarter than they let on, ducks.

There was hugging, then me and Girlfriend went to see Elbow at the Ritz in Manchester.
They were just wonderful, beyond wonderful for such a bunch of big hairy lumps, and it was great to see them playing a small-ish venue. We paid absurdly over the odds for two cans of scooty pop and I made silly little movies just because I could.

Outside, the rain poured down by the coach load.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

If You Wanted The Sky I Would Write Across The Sky In Letters That Would Soar A Thousand Feet High “To Sir, With Love.” 

A lazy day around the house, skimming through football books, sitting out in the yard, then coming back in because it was too hot. We sat in the kitchen talking and Girlfriend did jigsaws with Leanne, who tried to teach me in the ways of the cryptic crossword. I got these:

“Athlete elated to come in second.” (6,2)
“Seafood gives strength, it’s said.” (6)
“Rector has arranged it’s concert.” (9)

Charlie took Juggling Protégé for a ride up Sutton Bank on her motorbike, and as requested, I learnt to play and sing “To Sir With Love” for that evening’s entertainment. It wasn’t great because it’s quite tricky, unable to quite make up it’s mind which key to be in. Still, it can’t have been worse than England’s performance against Northern Ireland.

We sat up late again drinking vodka and somehow the mood was a bit subdued. That sad “we’ve got to go home tomorrow” feeling seeped through proceedings.
We sang Lucky Stars again too. I was hoping that we might have had a well rehearsed, fully orchestrated rendition which I’d be able to record and upload for enjoyment here, but it didn’t quite work out that way. Next time maybe.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


In the morning Leanne took us to stroke the horse then we all got on the train to York.

We wandered round the shops a bit and sat by the fountain, and spent an age watching oriental women taking endless photos of each other by a flower stall. They ended up persuading random tubby English people to have their pictures taken with them too. We were careful not to make eye contact. A fiddle player busked with an evil dancing puppet attached to his pelvis.

Later on we played skittles in the park by the Minster with an apple and water bottles, and spent a happy hour or more people watching: the Russians on the bench - “I said be careful his bow tie is really a camera”; the might as well have been coital couple for the difference it made; the quiet readers and possible bloggers; the daisy chain makers and Show Off Dad - “Look what has sprung from my loins!” - chatting with his kids so loudly you wondered whether it was solely for their benefit. A wonderful lazy sunny afternoon.

Then we met up with my friend Steve again - oh for goodness sake! - who took us round haunted pubs and noisy pubs, and it was sad to say goodbye for the final time, yes really the final time, after he’d led us back, like Mother Duck with a train of drunken ducklings, back to the station. It was great seeing him and I hope he likes his present.

Back at the house we played Firing Squads, a refinement of the water bomb game, where the targetees sit in front of a wall and if your aim is too high, the balloon bursts on the wall and soaks everybody anyway.

After midnight everyone gave me birthday presents and I didn’t blub, although it was a close thing. I received a boomerang, a didgeridoo - watch this space, music lovers - a bottle of Raspberry Vodka, and a rocket which claims to fly 500 feet (152 metres) and then takes a photo as it parachutes back down again. Look out for a series of “polishing my rocket” themed gags in the very near future.

We stopped up until four or so, doing the tequila thing and having, like, deep and important conversations about life and love and that. Went to bed emotional and happy.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Cold Water 

We went for a stroll round Fountains Abbey. It was the first day that everybody was completely awake and it was great. Proper relaxing.

In Pateley Bridge we picked up some stuff for a picnic from my new favourite grocers shop - “Hi John. How are your crabs?” - then ran about like excited ten year olds at Brimham Rocks. It’s a brilliant place. Everywhere you look there are huge, precarious boulders, left behind squillions of years ago by forgetful glaciers, their loss being our gain, and you can scramble about to your heart’s content. It’s so peaceful and the views are amazing. We could happily have stuck around to watch the sunset and stargaze but we were wary of sending out the wrong signals to doggers, and more importantly, hungry.

Charlie and Juggling Protégé made Jambalaya with Masala Potatoes. Neither of them had ever cooked a meal before - rehearsals excepted - and it was great.
My friend Steve - my own friend! etc! - returned again because he’d left his shoes at the house when he’d hurried off to his 10K on Sunday morning. Everybody was really pleased to see him, damn it.

We improved on the water bomb game by having two teams of two. You get a bigger target that way, duh. That’s me in the stirrups, as REM once sang, and this is Leanne and Juggling Protégé taking a direct hit.
I changed into my third pair of underpants for the day and we played Twister - “Take the board! Take the board!” - while I wondered about combining Twister with water bombs.

Charlie tested our knowledge on films:
1. “Man wants to dance. They won’t let him. Dances anyway.”
2. “He wears a white suit and carries a woman.”
and television game shows:
3. “It went old fat lady. Young lady. Old fat man. Young man.”

She says that when you die, they take you away, put you in a fridge and call you Mavis.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

A Day At The Races 

If you want racing tips I’m your man. The secret is not to bet on anything that I do. You’ll be quids in, and you can buy us all a drink with your winnings.

We went to York Races. A lovely warm day, like it was still high summer, cars overheating on the approach roads and everything, and only spoiled by the fact that Girlfriend stopped at the house on account of not feeling well. She’s a bit of a racing enthusiast so that was a real bummer. We’ll go again soon.
We lunched on Pimms, burgers and chips, just like posh people you read about in the better quality newspapers, and met up again with my friend Steve - my own friend! - after he’d left the house early to put in a bit of racing of his own.

I’m guessing that most first time race goers are surprised by how tiny the horses are - they’re more like whippets than the riding ponies you’re used to seeing down your local on a Saturday - not to mention the miniscule minuteness of the jockeys. The poor sods have to live purely on coffee and cigarettes in order to keep their weight down, like supermodels or Hugh Grant in Notting Hill, and I bet jockeys don’t even bother with coffee either.

Leanne won £166 on Typhoon Ginger, 33-1 in the 3.55. Bet £6 on it. A childhood spent mucking out circus horses has it’s advantages.
My best effort was clawing 40p back on Nanton in the 2.45. Childhood spent planning a career in pop music and collecting bogeys.

There was a squirrel in a car being chased by Jack Russells which nearly traumatised Fairly Famous Actor again, and his Glamorous Girlfriend won nearly as much as Leanne. She gets her information from the friend of a bloke she knows from the pub.

I asked a girl if she’d mind me taking her photo, and we chatted a bit. Leanne said that I’d pulled, but it wasn’t like that at all. I’m just one of those people that’s only gregarious when it comes to ladies in zebra hats.

In the evening we adapted the water bombs game - two players launch them at each other. Very funny but we kept missing. Needed refining.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Day Sleeper 

Nobody slept very well. The house is by the side of an impressively busy main road, something the brochure strangely forgot to mention.

After a morning of skulking around in our pyjamas in a vaguely bad tempered manner - well, not exactly bad tempered, as such, but I certainly didn’t see anybody skipping - we trudged a mile down the busy main road to the pub for a bit of peace and quiet and some Wales v. England. They didn’t have Sky. We sat in a lovely beer garden, gazing in wonder at the view and considering our options. A petrol station on the opposite side of the roundabout provided a pleasing focal point, but buying a paper nearly cost Juggling Protégé more than he bargained for.

We went to Thirsk instead. It’s a lovely town and we found a nice pub that didn’t have Sky either, but once we’d satisfied the landlord that we didn’t work for Sky, they did. The racing crowds had been in earlier - good for takings but very trying on the patience, apparently - and he seemed glad for a bit of a lock in. The football wasn’t much good but the atmosphere was friendly enough.

It was warm so we had a barbecue when we got back and flares were lit. We played Jenga and everyone laughed when I demonstrated my water bomb launcher. I didn’t know my own strength.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Lucky Stars 

Whoever said it’s better to travel hopefully than to arrive clearly didn’t know the A59.
To find yourself blasting up and down the gears on a gorgeous evening in early September - past Clitheroe and Skipton, through the ever lovely Yorkshire Dales where me and Girlfriend did, well, you know, getting jiggy in our early years, onto Harrogate, Ripon and Thirsk; a boot full of beer, your best girl at your side, your windscreen liberally dotted with splattered insect remains, your troubles stuck behind the caravan that you overtook miles ago and a week ahead of “getting it together in the country, man” - what more could you possibly want? I’ll take arriving hopefully every time, please.

We arrived only moments after the cleaner. Charlie, Leanne and Juggling Protégé had already been there for hours. We started the washing up while the emergency cleaners busied about upstairs, apologising a lot. The owner kept ringing Leanne to say sorry too, which at first was courteous but became a kind of harassment by excruciatingly grovelling voicemail.
My friend - my own friend! - Steve joined us and settled in right away with the rest of the group, the sociable bastard. He managed to get everybody thinking he was great in minutes, and it’s not even as if he’s good looking or anything. I gave him a run for his money at table tennis and a few bruises that he won’t be forgetting in a hurry.

Leanne was first up on the cooking rota - pizzas, loads of them, stuffed into the oven like junk mail through a letterbox - ably assisted by Fairly Famous Actor, and afterwards shakey eggs, bongos, harmonicas, recorders and so on were distributed and we practised Lucky Stars. It’s our new holiday anthem.
Then we lay outside and counted them, four shooting stars in about ten minutes. I took it as a sign and made a wish, as four might have seemed greedy.
Later that first night we walked across the road to a scary building at the top of a field, and Leanne and Juggling Protégé screeched like faulty brakes when a horse approached from out of the darkness. Not me obviously. We have an understanding, horses and me.

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