Wednesday, December 21, 2005


The kids carried on playing football while evening fell around them, buckets for goalposts on the village green, dark smudges in the gloaming, until they were called in for their tea. I drew the curtains, opened them again because it was a shame to shut out such a lovely night, unpacked my stuff, then headed down to the bar with Girlfriend.
Leanne was puzzling over the crossword while Canoeing Instructor puzzled over how anybody could actually do the crossword. We did our bit to help. The log stove crackled. Both of the world’s fattest cats came over for a nuzzle. We ran up a considerable bar tab over the weekend, played card games and “Call ‘em All!” and chatted about stuff. It was wonderfully relaxing, except for the bit where the cats meowed all bloody night in the corridor. I think in the end someone must have chucked them out of the window.

On Saturday we walked to Malham Cove, a limestone cliff 80m high and 300m wide, which older readers will remember was an active waterfall as recently as the 19th century. Waterfall boffins say the flow would once have been the same as that of Niagara Falls today.
We passed a fallen tree with coins growing out of it and not wanting to miss out on any coin / log related fun, I hammered in a ten pence piece - with my bare hands! And a small rock! I don’t know if you’re supposed to make a wish at this point, but I did anyway and, you know, so far so good.
Other trees can be hired as prime rural advertising space.

We walked up to the Tarn and then onto Gordale Scar, or The Waterfall Of Death as some call it. Unable to descend The Waterfall Of Death, on account of it being full of water and quite frightening, we walked down the lane instead. I took some pictures of road sign art - good shooting, Chav! - and future barn conversions. And a tree. And telegraph poles glistening in the afternoon sunshine.

After breakfast on Sunday we opened our Christmas presents, then were taken on an educational walkabout called “Girlfriend - The Early Years.”
This is my favourite view in the world. It’s like an illustration from a children’s story book - the rooftops and the market square, the town hall and the playing fields and the railway line, the cafes and the pubs, the school and fire station and the creamery. The fields and hills stretching out into infinity.
On the quiet of a summer evening, you can hear people chatting as they play bowls far down below, a dog barking miles away, someone dropping their car keys, Girlfriend calling her children home fifteen years ago. It’s perfection.
There was a quiz afterwards in The Naked Man.

It was bloody freezing when we eventually got back to Canoeing Instructor’s flat. We drank tea and read stories about brawls outside nightclubs in the Craven Herald. Leanne has asked me to point out that it’s Girlfriend’s scarf and she’s not a Leeds fan.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Since You've Been Around 

Rosie Thomas has the voice of an angel. She really does. We saw her on a freezing night in Liverpool a few weeks back, me, Girlfriend, Leanne and Canoeing Instructor. There can’t have been more than thirty or so people in the whole place, including the support band, road crew and bar staff. We sat on the floor right in front of the stage, like hippies with office jobs.
She’s cheerful and funny with her between song banter, and her music is so happy and sad and lovely, I just wanted to give her a big hug. So I did. Not until after the show though, when she was signing stuff for people and chatting. To be honest it was her who initiated the hugging, and she was hugging everybody else as well, so I’ve no delusions of being special or owt. She’s had a song on Alias you know, and she makes me want to go to Seattle more than ever.

The next night me and Girlfriend saw Elbow again. It’s alright, because if you’ve bought tickets, they can’t technically get you for stalking. Guy Garvey had a broken foot - “we went out kicking tramps and mine was frozen” - and had a walking stick which he shook at the audience now and then, making him look like an alt-rock LS Lowry.

Some time after that we saw Rufus Wainwright in Preston Guildhall, which felt really incongruous and strange. He was on terrific form - maybe he always is? - and it was the last night of the tour. They’d just eaten a turkey dinner and earlier in the day he’d been to Blackpool Pleasure Beach for a ride on The Big One. I wonder if many people there recognised him. He said Blackpool looked like a good place to go for a lost weekend, which was diplomatic to say the least.

And to round off a really good year on the Ticket Stub Temple Of Coolness front, Girlfriend, Leanne and me went to see Ben Folds last Thursday. See note above re. stalking. He’s amazingly talented and puts on such a good show. The band kick ass, the songs are beautiful and he’s so entertaining. He makes me want to take up piano and being funny lessons.

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Friday, December 09, 2005

Through The Years We All Will Be Together 

“Christians are fucking unbearable at this time of year, aren’t they?” asked Stella, my eighties style yuppie witch of a team leader, as she slammed the phone down. “Season of good will my arse.”

She turned to look at some photos she’d been emailed. They showed a group of young women, shit faced in strappy dresses, hanging around outside the Fishergate Centre. It looked like they’d crawled up through the paving slabs. They were the living dead in Prada.

“Which one is you?” I asked.
“There,” she pointed. “Sat down with my head between my knees.”

She was wearing a tinselly headband with a sprig of mistletoe attached to it. In one hand she held a stiletto with a broken heel, and in the other was a half eaten kebab. A lump of mechanically reclaimed meat appeared to be making it’s way up her left leg - the inedible in pursuit of the unthinkable.
“Tabs says I was snogging anything with a pulse. You should have come. It was a good night.”

In the next picture, the girls were unconsciously mimicking the poses of the dummies in Debenhams’ window. It was like one of those ‘before and after’ makeover photos. The dummies looked down on them with a weary ‘seen it all before’ expression.

“So who did you snog?” I asked.
At that moment Neil, my former team leader, walked into the office. He was wearing a pink tight fitting T-shirt, that read in sparkly lettering “Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was HOT like me?”
He saw Stella, blushed and twirled his hair around with a pencil, and then about-turned sharpish back out of the room.

“Buggered if I know,” she replied.
’Tis the season,” I said and wandered off to see the lady at the gate with the dreamy soft white baps. I’m sure they can’t really have been reindeer and cranberry, but I was too distracted to ask, and now it’s bothering me.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A Hazy Shade Of Winter 

Saturday was good fun. We went to the racing at Haydock and I won well in excess of £9.20. On the horses! I’m considering turning professional.

The morning started well with brandy in our coffees, and from there we moved onto vodka and it rained a bit. It was a cold, damp, sunny, wintery kind of day, and I was glad of my new scarf. It lends me an appropriately sophisticated, collegiate kind of air, a bit like Trevor and Simon on the cover of Sounds Of Silence, or Jose Mourinho. We agreed that we like the hurdles better than the flat because it makes the races last longer.

Afterwards we convened for a while around Charlie’s new motorbike, then we went to the pub and then on for a meal. There was a man singing Lighthouse Family songs, which was quite good actually.

We talked about how we need a lot of bathrooms. Holiday cottage owners don’t really seem to grasp this concept. We’re a bit stuck for ideas where to go for our next holiday adventure together. Trouble is we’re picky buggers.
We learned that Charlie watches The West Wing on Sunday nights with her Dad, and that Leanne has been invited by her best friend and her fella to be present for the birth, when the time comes. I think both these things are really good.

After that, we went to the pub again and then me and Girlfriend caught the last train home which, thankfully, was more eventless than the last time. Man alive, somebody could write a blog or something about the train service around here.
All things considered, I’ve decided to award Saturday a warm and fuzzy rating of 10.

Speaking of Jose Mourinho, I recently discovered that A Hazy Shade Of Winter was recorded on the day that I was born. As facts go it’s fairly meaningless, yet somehow I feel that little bit more enriched just by knowing it.

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