Bless Me Father…

Boxing Gloves

As a young boy I was raised as a practicing Catholic. And when I say “practicing” That probably, was what it actually was.

I’d practice being good and not doing bad things.
I’d say my prayers every night and ask God to keep everyone safe, working through a litany of names.
“Even those people who weren’t part of my family.”
And include in my prayer that I loved everyone just to demonstrate I was a good Christian. And to push my dedication towards world peace further, I would also include “even Mary Mcguire”, a girl in my year at school who, I actually couldn’t stand.
Like God wouldn’t realize…
Same thing every night. Daren’t change it.
It was OCD on a biblical scale

At school religion was an important part (to the catholic school) in the development of young minds. Things had changed from when my own parents were children only slightly. In my day, it wasn’t as common to find a priest as part of the school teaching staff. Instead they came in once a week to teach specifically religion. Hands on. In my parents day, a priest was a major part of the established school environment, and actually taught a number of lessons.
And, have a major influence in your welfare and your perceptions of religion.
It wasn’t uncommon to find a Priest who felt a good thrashing was an essential part of your education in life. And how many unstable minds there must presently be, from that generation out there, currently waiting to “go to hell for their sins”, I just can’t imagine.

When my Dad was at school there were a number of clergy part of the teaching staff and they set demands towards you’re education, soul  and physical well being. For instance. My dad and his brother were part of the school boxing team, (It being a well accepted fact in those days, that kids could knock seven shades out of each other till one wailed “Mother” in an organized competitive venue, and, be much better off for it) (They may have had a point).
But there was never any real money to spend on equipment and you made do and used what was available.

This particular night my dad’s brother, Chris, arrived home after fighting in one of the Monday night, inter school boxing events. Upon walking through the door it was obvious he had been the victim of a particularly bad thumping. Which surprised my dad, as his brother was a rather good boxer.

“Jesus. What happened to you?” was the inevitable question.

“Father Toby. That’s what happened!”

It so followed that Father Toby – who ran the boxing club with the zeal of an evangelist on crack – was handing out glove’s and shorts to the team’s combatants at the start, with the regular,

“May God give you the strength to rip his block clean off my son, “

And

“That wee fella has a glass chin. Say an “Our Father” before you get in that ring lad and he’ll help you put him out cold.”

And then Chris received his shorts and gloves. Upon popping the shorts on he found to his dismay that they were some 2 sizes too big. “Father Toby, these short’s…”

” Get them on Walsh, and thank God that you’re not fighting in you’re underpants and feckin wellies!!

Feckin heathen..”

No negotiation or discussion, just get them on and get on with it.

So Chris dons the shorts and gets in the ring with his opposite number.

Who proceeded to thrash him.

The problem being that Chris is clutching his short’s trying to keep them up, all the while boxing one handed with no guard. And every time, in a fit of temper, he releases the front of his shorts, to try and land a punch, his shorts fell down.

So he’d catch them mid way down, drag them back up and clutch them to his midrif. Until, with wounded pride another fit of temper would make him forget the shorts and begin round housing his opponent. It was catch 22, clutch the shorts – thump,thump,thump. Let go, try and fight, down they go.

Vicious circle.

With Father Toby apoplectic ring side threatening hell and damnation.

When he came home he was battered. With a clip off father Toby as a parting gift.

So, as a Catholic, the church made an impression and part of my early childhood, till I could have a say in it, revolved around the Church. Going to Sunday mass, sat with my grandad, my sister and brother. I’d always start sat next to my brother, until it degenerated to fidgeting finally to messing about. Then we’d get a dead leg each and yanked either side of my grandad.

A whispered,

“Pack it in”

And making a fist  with his middle knuckle prominent, threatening another dead leg. With two dead legs Steven hawkings would have lapped us. Best wait till the first one wore off before getting another..

That was just a Sunday. Saturday would be Confession. On a Saturday we would be taken to church at some point to confess our sins, seek God’s forgiveness, and be forgiven by his earthly representative, (Father Pierre in this instance) And have a clean soul, ready to receive communion during the following days mass. This involved being given a piece of consecrated bread which represented the body of Christ and the sacrifice he made for our souls.

So Saturday was all important in that, to receive the Communion on Sunday, you needed to heal your soul as well as  regain the grace of God by going to confession and “confessing” you sins to God’s earthly representative.

Confession required 3 acts.

Contrition – demonstrate your sorrow for your sins.

Disclosure – Confession of those sins

And Penance – do something to show you regretted doing them in the first place.

The priest would hear your confession, forgive you, then give you a penance – in this case so many Our Fathers or Hail Mary’s etc…

So, in you’d go to the confessional to work off your sins, whilst there were a whole line of real sinners sat outside, clutching their rosary beads, quietly waiting their turn. From my point of view this failed on a number of levels.

Firstly, you were encased in the wooden booth, clad with curtains inside to try and muffle the sound, with a little perforated viewing hatch so you could confer with the priest. It was always dark, quite claustrophobic and there was always this musty smell in there. Some churches did a face to face confessional, where you looked the priest in the eye while you admitted your sins..my eyes would have watered.

And secondly, A number of the priests were quite intimidating, and to find myself in a private booth with one of them, hoping everybody sat outside couldn’t hear me, was quite disconcerting. Being expected to bare my soul and admit what terrible things, I as a 9 year old had done, to one of these priests was unthinkable to me.

I hasten to add nothing terrible ever happened, it was just my own natural reluctance to speak privately of anything I may have found embarrassing to someone, who lets face it, was a stranger.

So, I would lie in confession.

I know this sounds terrible but if its any conciliation as a child I don’t believe I did anything really terrible.

I am, as you can imagine I am going to hell.

So I would go in and be all

“Bless me Father for I have sinned – blahblahblah. I have been rude to my mum, shouted at my brother, not cleaned my room, and I said I feckin loved Mary McGuire again…” You get the picture..

And the priest would then say,

Blahblahblah Say an Our Father in here, then as a penance say 4 Hail Mary’s out side.”

The amount was a reflection of the seriousness of your sins. So then you’d come out and ask each other,

“What did you get?”

“Couple of Hail Mary’s and 3 Our Fathers. You?”

“250 Our Fathers…”

“Fuuuuuuuuuuuck!”

Then the priest would finish with,

“Go in peace your sins are forgiven …”

And off you go, say your Hail Mary’s and you were right for another week.

Anyhow, this week I had Father Pierre, whom I have to say was particularly intimidating to me for no exact reason I can think of, other than the fact that he was always so serious.
I’d done all my confessing, was on the final part and am told to say my “Our father” now, then so many “Hail Mary’s” outside.

So I’d begin,

“Our father who ‘art in heaven….”

Then completely dry up. It was like getting stage fright.

“Um. sorry father, I can’t remember my Our Father.”

And Father Pierre went off like a fucking rocket.

“WHAAAAAAAT!! GET OUT! GET OUUUUT! YOUR A DISGRACE! YOU’RE AN ANIMAL!! AND SAY 15 MORE HAIL MARY’S!!!!”

So I stumbled from the booth, falling over myself in the rush, with what ever anonymity I may have had gone.
Everybody in the pews waiting their turn are looking at me. And you can see. I mean really see , they’re all thinking,

“What the fuck, has that kid just admitted?”

So bad as I feel about telling lies to cover my shame of my real sins. And for forgetting my “Our father” after confessing. Even, for saying I loved Mary McGuire, when I damn well didn’t. I just thank God it wasn’t one of those face to face confessionals.

Because I know deep in my heart, that God or no God.

I would have admitted fuck all.

Have You Heard Of Jesus?

Who's Your Buddy Jesus

It was 1996 and the build up for the European championships taking place in England had begun. “Its Coming Home ” was on the radio all the time along with Simply Red’s “We’re In this Together”. And in the background taking up as much listening time on the radio was Tubthumpings ” I Get Knocked Down (But I Get Up Again) ”.

And to top it off, it was turning into one of those fantastically sunny summers, when its a pleasure to get up to a lovely warm morning and go to work in that early heat and clear blue sky.

I was starting on a new job fitting out a bar in Wigan, where, it seems, everyone injects themselves with a hypodermic full of bravery every morning and come’s ready to fight the world.

“God was born in Wigan.” I often heard. (He wasn’t)

So we had Baddiel and Skinner “Coming Home” on all the time and 4 pies for a pound. That’s what else I remember about that job. You could buy 4 pies for a pound. It normally cost you a pound for one anywhere else. but this was Wigan. Pie central. They don’t call them Pie eaters for nothing.

My first day on the job, the first person I meet, is this slightly built fella, shaven head, very mild looking and slightly hesitant.

“Hello mate, looking for Tony? The agent?” I ask.

“In the back fella. I’m Jimmy.” And he offers his hand passing his brush to the other.

“Alright jimmy – I’m Mike. Nice to meet you. You the site labourer?”

“Aye. That’s right fella. Have you heard about jesus?”

And I just went,

“Fuck. Off.”

Not, I hasten to add to insult or abuse, but I just had no time for someone I didn’t know immediately trying to recruit me to The Lords Work. (I’m a catholic, I have enough guilt as it is.)

I kid you not. And that was my introduction to jimmy. A Born Again Christian, In every sense of the word.

As I settled in to the job, it turned into one of those jobs where the Craic was fantastic. Everyone worked hard, but it was a laugh all the time. You spent your time trying to stay in front of someone else’s wind up by coming up with one first, and keeping them too preoccupied to get you back. It was like double Jeopardy, trying to anticipate the next set-up and topping it before you became the target.

It being a building site there was no mercy. And if you actually put yourself on everyone else’s radar, well you only had your self to blame and best take it on the chin and stay mum. Because if you bit, your life would not be worth living until some other unfortunate would line themselves up as a replacement.

So it was a daily battle to come up with a better wind up than someone else’s, or just pay someone back. And, if you could, form a posse and get the other’s to do the dirty work. You were better being at the back of a lynching than front and center…

It may sound cruel or mean but it was anything but. It was a very funny environment to be in and that’s why this job stick’s so firmly and fondly in my memory.

But getting back to being a target. Enter jimmy from left stage.

He started by removing the Page 3′s that had been stuck up on the wall where we had brew. Then slapping a bible down on the brew table, (If anyone would like to read it..) citing his religious beliefs. Well that’s all well and good but this wasn’t the height of political correctness we have to submit to these days. We were still allowed to have a black sense of humour and laugh at inappropriate things. Because, lets face it, sometimes it is funny when someone else falls on their arse.

So when he began taking down the site’s pride and joy (Linsey Dawn McKenzie and Donna Ewin), Jimmy Just became “Target No 1“.

But I have to say Jimmy intrigued me because he really was a nice bloke, Just you know, So focused, in his beliefs. Like he couldn’t or daren’t consider any other option’s or choices in life. Couldn’t try something in case it was too good – daren’t risk it. (Whooooah, Too much pleasure down that road, must be a sin! A temptation! That’s torn it, I’m off to hell!!)

So one day when Jimmy came over to where I was working to clean up, I finally asked him,

“Jimmy, what happened? What actual defining moment turned you towards God?”

Because the only way I could reason it was, nobody becomes Born Again without having had a revelation in their lives, some terrible moment or experience that re-aligns a persons thinking. A search for some form of stability in the life. Direction.

I always feel nervous about religious zeal, the sheer strength of belief, it always feels like there’s an indoctrination involved. But maybe that say’s more about me…

“What do you mean?”

“Well, what made you become a born again Christian Jimmy? What trauma actually happened in your life that made you feel you needed saving?”

And eventually he began to tell me.

“Well,” he started, ” I was a bad lad. I mean a BAD lad.”

“What do you mean Jim? A nice lad like you? Bad? Gerraway.”

“No fella, I was a real bag of trouble. Drinking. Doing Drugs and fighting all the time. Went off the rails. Getting mixed up with the wrong crowd. Real wrong crowd.”

“What, and then you found God?”

“Well no.”

And he’s sort of stood there rolling the brush handle between his hands, and then says,

“It was serving 6 out of 9 years for armed robbery finally did it.”

And I’m looking at Jimmy, mild mannered Jim, real quiet fella, with hands now resting one on top of the other leaning on his brush handle, with his chin resting on top, stood looking off into the past telling me this.

And I’m all thinking is, “Fuck. A. Duck.”

It turned out jimmy, was the getaway driver. You know. A pro. leather gloves, shades kept the engine running outside whilst the real loons went in with the sawn offs and swag bag.

Only, it wasn’t Pro. It was some lads he knocked about with decided they’d get rich quick. (Rob a bank! Yeah! That’s the way. In and out with a big bag of dosh.)

Only, they nicked a ford Capri. 2 door. Pull up. Jimmy (the Get Away Driver) jumps out. lifts the seats forward so the balloons in the back can get out.

Then jumps back in and sits revving the motor as they rush into the bank to rob it.

I wouldn’t have been surprised if they had all gone dressed up – 4 Teenage Ninja Turtles would have looked fantastic.

“Ok every one!! Cowabunga!! Don’t do anything stupid and no one gets hurt!! If you’d all like to place any money or anything of value (Pizza?) in Donatello or Michelangelo’s bag and we’ll be on our way! dominos shut in ten! Get a fuckin move on!!! ”

While Leonardo is sat outside revving the arse off his Capri..

Anyway it’s not long before they all rush out and they repeat the performance in reverse.

Jimmy leaps out, seat held up – everyone squeezes in, (Everyone got they’re seat belt on? No? George? Buckle up lad. Clunk click and all that.) mirror, indicate, manouver, annnnnd off we go.

So. They’ve done it. Robbed a bank.

And now they’re racing round Wigan with sirens in the distance trying to make good they’re getaway.

And then (I take this as the defining moment) They come to a choice.

Blue lights flashing in the distant distance and they either go onto the motorway or off over the moors.

And, its fallen to Jimmy, The Getaway Driver, to decide.

Now you can imagine them thinking, ” Mmm. motorway? Or off up into the middle of no-where, up a road with hardly any turn offs, that heads up onto the moors?? Mmmm. Which way? Well the view’s ever so nice this time of day on the top’s…..”

But its got to be The Motorway. Hands down. Every time. Multiple exits. Head off anywhere before the police get near. etc etc etc.

”But the thing was,” said jimmy to me,

“What Jim?” I ask,

“The thing was fella, I hate driving on the motorway”.

“I’m just all nerves. Panting in a paper bag job see. Get panicky!”

So, off they go up onto the moors blue light’s ablaze behind and shortly, blue lights swarming towards them in the opposite direction. And it was decamp and run for it in four directions.
Course. This fooled the police immediately. Didn’t know what to do. Lads got clean away.

Only they didn’t. Police just let the dogs after then then strolled over and popped the bracelets on whilst they were getting ragged around the heather.

And there was jimmy, 6 years later having found god whilst inside. Having decided he needed this in his life. The structure. The stability it gave him. The focus it gave him to rebuild his life.. and I’m happy to say, it did.

New man, on the straight and narrow. Just a little unnerving at times..the intensity.

And I was glad to have listened to him. Felt I’d learnt something worthwhile.

But whenever a siren flew past the job all you’d hear would be –

“Jimmy! Jimmmmy!! They’re coming for you Jimmy! Run You Fucker! They’re fucking COMINNNNNG!!”

Sympathy is all well and good, but you didn’t get any in Wigan in ’96…(I Get Knocked Down..)

Dust Motes…

 

Dust Motes

Every time I see them, floating and spinning in the air, caught in a ray of sunshine – dust motes –  when some movement has disturbed them and lifted they spilling and spiraling in the light, my mind drops back about 10 years to a job I was working on.
It was brew time – time for a cup of tea and a sandwich. I was sat holding a brew in an empty room as people trickled in.  And the sun was shining from some hidden point in the roof, picking out all these spinning paticles, floating in the air.

There was a new face trying to slide in and find somewhere to sit before  anyone else noticed him.

“Lads this is Billy, New apprentice.” Leave it with them. Fair game. You can see all the eye’s sliding round to weigh up the new arrival, just deciding what wind up they’re going to use..

John just tipped his head back and looked down his nose through his bi-focals, dismissed the new face with a look, then went back to reading his paper. (Read about John in Jonny Moonshine and Jonny Moonshine Rides Again.)

We had been asked to take on board a new apprentice by the bricklaying contractor,

“No strings, I’ll pay his wage, you teach him – he’s a mate’s son – said I’d see him right.”

So no harm, make’s for a change a new face, bit of entertainment seeing if he can learn or not. See if he’s clever enough to try and adapt to his new environment, take onboard what’s thrown at him. See if he breaks.

Fresh Blood. So to speak.

His name was Billy and he was dizzy to say the least. Bit slow in fact. not sure if you were taking the mick or having a craic with him. But I’d have to say that tends to be the case with most 16 year olds. New apprentices, all a bit nervy, and quiet at first. But ALL thinking they’re going to be a joiner by a week Thursday.

“Piece of Piss mate. Can’t tell me nuthin – S’easy – I know how it works see?  Wide head me. No one put’s one over on Billy boy…”

Welcome to reality Bill.

What had followed was 3 or 4 weeks indoctrination in thrilling apprentice pastimes  like,

How To Sweep Up SHIT.

And,

How To Carry Wood From Here To Wayyyyyy Over There. (And Back Again Because It’s The wrong Gear Billy!)

He Finally began to understand around the 4th week when he was doing another fabulous apprentice routine which was,

Getting The Bacon Sarnies For The Lads.

Upon his return –

“No sauce on sandwiches Billy,” (It was like a cardinal sin) “Off you fuck son and sort them out.”

This being a big job Billy complained (S’miles away! S’other side of the job, You don’t need sauce), where upon it was spelt out with Billy listening with dawning comprehension.

“Billy. You need to realize something son. You don’t contribute anything to the working of this job. Don’t You Understand? Your job is to run and fetch and carry. Bring that here take this there. That’s the set of skills you currently possess.

You, take up our, time, having to organize you. You’re progress in this job will be measured by how and where you stand when we’re working, with what tool you have in your  hand, ready, just quivering with readiness, to pass the right tool over at the right time.

THAT, will show your taking note of how a job is done Billy.

THAT means your learning Billy. And THAT means you’ll be trusted to actually use your own hammer on something other than your thumb..

Now, Off you fuck and get the sauce…”

So it was a turning point for Billy. Every apprentice has one, when they either finally settle down, work and make head way with what they’re trying to learn……or they don’t.  And then they spend their day getting bollocked,  because really, they’re wasting everybody’s time.

So Billy settled and the weeks went by and he began to learn. And he was a nice lad Billy.

A bit wild and daft but he tried and worked hard.

But there was always Some drama, or some situation he’d get himself into over the weekend.

He was working with me one day and not overly responsive. So  I’ve eventually stopped what I’m doing to really look at him and I realize he’s literally grey. So I say,

“Billy, you feeling ok?”

Yeah. well, bit rough – heavy night last night with the lads. Tried something new. Was great.”

“Oh yeah? What was it? Bit of circuit training or weights? Worn you out son?  Something like that?” (Say’s a lot about how my mind works against this younger generation),

“What? Oh, no. We did some ketamine. Brilliant! Off me head! Wankered! Don’t remember a thing! Thing is though, thing is, feel a bit crap today. Bit rough. Feel slow. Breathing, a bit heavy.” ( No. Really?)

And I’m stood there having one of those WTF moments thinking “WHO, I mean WHO, takes a horse tranquilizer??”

then I remember who I’m looking at and sort of go, “Ahhhh. Yeahhhhh.”

Or when we returned to work after Christmas and we’re loading doors up to a work area. One man front and back because these doors were seriously heavy. So there I am with Billy, lumping these things onto pallet trucks, then over to where we’re working, then up stairs and…you get the picture.

Each time we get to our destination it’s a chance to get our breath, have a moment before we start the next one. And I keep looking at Billy, knowing something is out of place but just not asking, thinking, it’ll come to me shortly.

Eventually Billy takes matters into his own hands and say,

“What do you think? You’ve not said anything.”

“Well why don’t you just tell me about it Bill.” say’s I, still not clocking what he was talking about but thinking silence is the best thing here, let the lad talk, and Billy says,

“Me eyebrows! What do you think?”

And I look and suddenly realize his eyebrows are gone. (Another WTF moment)

Just two big pink spots where they used to be. And, truly, he looked like a simpleton. I mean a proper window licker.  And all I can do  as I realize is fold over and laugh and laugh and laugh, until it was actually painful.

“Billy, Bill what the fuck have you done?”

” Christmas party!  Got wankered, on ketamine and a bit of Prosac? And just flaked out. You Know how it is.”

(No Billy, I’m sorry, I don’t)

“And me mates – the bastards – well they sort of sanded me eyebrows off with an orbital sander. Didn’t feel a thing though!! ”

(Plenty of pre- op shire horses will rest easy)

So there’s nothing else for it.

“Billy, ”  I say, thinking “he’s never going to go for this one,”

Haven’t you thought about drawing some on??”

And Billy says ( I swear to god)

“Yeah! Course I did!! I’m not stupid you know!” (?) “But me mates – the bastards – Kept rubbing them off with the snow!!’

So I say,

” You want me to do some for you?’ (pleasegodpleasegodpleasesayyes)

“What?”

“You know. Draw some eyebrows on for you. I could do it. Easy. ”

“You reckon?”

“Yeeeeeah. No prob.”

“Ok then.” (Ohthankyoulord)

“What sort do you want then? ” I say fumbling for my permanent ink marker pen.

“What?”

“You know – happy eyebrows! Or Sad eyebrows. Or angry – yeah – angry  eyebrows  would look great Billy. Nobody will mess with you then Bill!”

“Yeah! That sounds top! Do it! Do what you think!!” (It’s like finding Aladin’s lantern and 3 wishes)

So I set to work on Billy. And at the end of my masterpiece – which was nigh impossible for laughing – Billy Looked like the Emperor Ming.

And then another one of the lads who had turned up to watch and had been stood trying to chew his knuckle’s, in an effort not to laugh, says,

Billy You look like a right tart.”

“What?  Really?”

“Yeah Bill. A Tart mate. Too thin those eyebrows. Look like a girl. ‘Ere, give me that pen.” And he set’s to work.

In a matter of moments and heavy scribbling Billy is transformed. If Anybody ever watched a Charlie Chaplin film, they would remember his nemesis – and actor called Alfred Eric Campbell, frequently cast as The Bully. He of large stature and big bushy eyebrows.

As you can imagine it was now actually painful to draw a breath around the laughter.

And Billy’s going,

“What’s that like? They better? They are better aren’t they?

Do they look real now?” ( arrrrrrr I’m going to wee – omg I can’t get any airrrrrrrrrrrrrr).

And it was the look, Just that vacant, docile look on the boys face, as he’s looking at us waiting for an answer.

And as he wandered off to show everybody else, all I could think of was that big empty space in in Billy’s head, and dust motes floating around all sparkly…

What The Mop Lady Saw

mop lady

After much soul searching and sleep deprivation due to sharing middle of the night nappy changes and feeds, ( A Japanese prisoner of war Camp Commandant has a  lot to learn from a 1, 3 and nearly 5 year old’s at 3am,) I finally faced up to the fact that I really did need to have the snip.

I hasten to add, I would have continued down the road to ruin and had more children if only for the novelty of making up  extraordinary names,  then settling for normality. And telling each one at individual times amazing lies,

“You were a mistake and your mother trapped me!” This tormented Emily for  a while.

Or

” YOU were always my favourite! Don’t tell your sisters or brother and sister”, – depending upon whom I decided to lie to. Then watching them, unable to resist, going to the  sibling they felt in most competition and saying,

I’m dads favourite! YOU were a mistake!!”

It went on and on. But most of all I loved all of their company ALL of the time.  Just for the simple joy of hearing “Why?” or “What’s that for?” or “How?”. Just anything to have a lovely conversation and coming up with the most outrageous answers. I loved taking them all anywhere. If any of them do read this they’re each thinking “Probably means ME really. Cos I am his FAVE.” Not so.

I mean All and each of you.

The sheer enjoyment of thinking some terrible story (LIE) up on the spur of the moment in reply to a question. For example, I once convinced Emily after she complained about time, (takes so long! Why so slowww!), that if she concentrated realllllllly concentrated, she could stare at the clock and actually SEE time move. Bear in mind there wasn’t a seconds hand.

And she did. AND she convinced Holly to sit with her  – See! See time move holly! ( My work was complete.)

Holly being slightly more clued up even at a younger age lasted a matter of minutes. Emily went on for around an hour.

I don’t know who this reflected the  better on to be honest. Holly for seeing through it or, Emily and her levels of concentration.

So living in a 2 bedroom terraced was fine but rapidly running out of space when Callum arrived. And I more or less immediately made an appointment to  see my local GP about a vasectomy, Had a conversation and then It took me a further 12 months to finally confirm I was having it done and the whole process started to roll forward.

Anyway the day arrived of my appointment  in a private clinic in the center of Manchester, which I had been dreading but was more or less adamant I was having it done. And, it being busy Jane and I decided not to try driving through the heavy traffic but parking on the opposite side of town and walk the 15 minute or so walk over. Beautiful sunny summer day, blue sky lovely and warm. So No worries off we go.

We eventually arrive at a lovely old building and make our way up stairs to the clinic, and walk into the waiting room which is surprisingly small, scuffed vnyle on the floor with plastic chairs squeezed in snugly and its crowded.

Its one of those rooms you walk into and you can actually feel the tension. It was charged with nervous energy. 

Men sat with partners, all either sweating slightly, looking at the ceiling or shoes, or trying to look nonchalant  and relaxed and drape themselves in their chair. Anywhere but at each other.

All,  trying to avoid eye contact and when they inadvertently do slide they’re eyes into someone else’s, sort of raising they’re eyebrows at each other, rolling eyes,giving a slight shrug and a little ” Pff “.

It was like being in your very own private Masons club where everybody knows what’s what, but barring a secret handshake no one is actually going to speak about it. 

Anyway eventually my name is called and I stand up,like dead man walking, hitch up my trousers, square my shoulders and am led (by Jane) into a tiny office adjacent to the waiting room.

There then follows a conversation that began with “Mr. Walsh are you aware of the actual procedure? No? Well let me tell YOU, we Inject  a great big needle into your testicals and ……” That was the way it translated and It was at this point I lost interest and faded the conversation out. (Fingers in ears, sucking thumb etc  “I’minnahappyplace,I’minnahappyplace…”)

So I finally convince the doctor to send me through and just let me GET ON WITH IT.  Because, if I’m honest, I’m fine if I know something has to be done. I just don’t need to know the hows and nitty gritty, chopping and cutting and injecting stuff that is part of the procedure.

And so there I am being led into the next room. And the next room is not a patch on the waiting room. Its about 5 times bigger with a couple of sofas at either end and two doors. Its like going to the swimming baths and first getting in the paddling pool then jumping into the 100m all singing all dancing pool next door. Its massive.

There’s so much space! I’m led to a lovely 2 seater sofa,(leather), Inlaid with Oak (fabulous), cushions everywhere, nice oak coffee table, flowers, lovely thick carpet….

It was a room that exuded Plushness.

And as I’m leaning back being nonchalant, (looking at the ceiling or floor, draping,), I became aware that at the other end of the room, in the distance, Door No 2  opens and a chap who has obviously just had the procedure done, is being led, stumbling slightly and vacant eyed, to another little island  of comfort at the opposite end of the room. Straight away I’m sat up straighter trying to catch his eye while the kindly nurse is asking him if

“..like a cup of tea sir? ..Biscuit??”

Finally she head’s off to pick up Sirs refreshment and as she passes me Leans over and says gently,

“If you’d like to go into the changing room and remove you’re lower half then  on through the next door into the theatre…You’ll be fine…”

And on she goes.

So up I get and make my way to door No 1, and as I do I’m sort of hissing at this guy, until I finally catch this his eye and sort of whisper/shout over to  him,

“How was it mate? Everything ok…???

And he sort of eventually focuses on me and says,

Yeah mate. No problem….. Be over before you know it.”

And so, reassured  in I go. Its a matter of moments  to strip down to my T-shirt and socks and step into the theatre. Where upon the cleaner mopping up and the surgeon turn and look and the surgeon says,

“You can leave your underwear on if you like…” (This actually happened. I cringe even now.)

So Its a quick reverse, undies slipped on, venture back in,(mercifully the cleaner had exited) I’m popped straight onto the table and  begins explaining to me what the procedure entails. Whoooooooah. (No worries doc, I know all about it, you just crack on and we’ll get this over with)

So he begins.

First of all he attempts to slide, (out of my view), 2 forcep like clamps about 12” long which he sort of murmurs,

“We’ll just pop these on…..heeeere….”, And I feel these thing’s sort of CLONK on my testicles.

This isn’t actually too bad at first, but as the seconds pass, the weight of these two clamps hanging from my testicles on either side, dangling towards the floor, begins to tell. In a short space of time it feels like I’ve been kicked (gently) in the bollocks. That achy, throbbing sensation in the stomach, that sort of increases as the seconds tic by. So when he (out of view) slides out this needle you’d use on an elephant, its sort of a relief to know he’s going to numb it. Which he does. Eventually. (Oooooooooooooooooh)

Anyhow, onwards he goes. He’s made the incision, tugged and pulled and does the first side no problem in two shakes. I’m actually starting to relax. Then, notice the lady wandering back in picking up where she left off mopping, gradually working round the room, and I’m lay there with no trousers on, sort of following her covertly out of the corners of my eyes. Trying to decide if this 60-something lady is a nurse or a cleaner?  

Eventually she finally lands court side by the table whilst the surgeon is working away, pauses, has a look down, and  I mean, a really good look, and just stands there for a couple of moments, chin on mop, with pursed lips and you can see her mentally giving out marks. And I’m like,

“Brrrr, Is it cold in here? Is anyone else cold? I’m freezing! You look cold doc. This is not the warmest room I’ve ever been in I’ll tell you that for nothing!!.”

And then she moves on. Mops to Door No 2. And leaves.

The surgeon during this hasn’t even acknowledged her presence or lifted his head. Beavering away finishing off the first side he’s finally cauterizing the incision, with that little electric sizzling sound. Its like an utterly surreal moment, like I was the only one who saw her.

And then, He’s on the final leg so to speak. Last nut to do, here we go home in 40. No problem.

Starts the incision and muttering “Here we go, last bit now, just let me know if you can feel anything…”

And I go “ No that’s fine, it’s okAAAAICANFEELITICANFEELIT!!!!!!” And then he prised me off the ceiling.

Actually it took a couple of attempts, of knuckle gnawing, bed clawing  to finally numb it, by which time I was feeling pasty, very grey and just utterly relieved when the electric sizzling started up. And when the clamps were finally removed I felt that I could actually stop panting and breathe normally again.

Then it was a case of – carefully – standing up, with what felt like a padded 2lb nappy packed into my undies “For support Mr. Walsh“, and a “Just Pop In the changing room (Door No 2) and slip your trousers, on then make your way next door and take a seat.” 

So in I go, hoping I’m not going to bump into the cleaner and see disappointment in her eyes, get dressed and on through the next door, walking like the ultimate stereotypical cowboy into The Plushness. I sort of walk crablike  to the immediate island of sofas and sit tenderly down. Make myself comfortable and try to put out of my mind the shock of the last few minutes. Then a nurse appears at my side and says ” ..Would you like a cup of tea?Biscuit??”

And I just nodded and thought, “Jesus, your dead right I do.”

And as she disappears through Door No 1, I hear ” Psst! Oi! Mate!!” and turn round and at the little sofa island at the other end of the room is a guy sat on the edge of the seat. I looked dumbly at him and he said in that sort of whisper come shout,

“How was it? Everything ok?? “

And  I just thought  “That fucking bastard”, and said

“You’ll be fine mate. Be over before you know it….”

Parking on the other side of town didn’t turn out to be a good idea either.

“Sucked Off By a Camel” …as they say in France

Camel Domino teeth

Hearing the latest from Yosamity Wayne and Kerry in France I can only pass it on.

If you’ve read “Ostrich Heaven” you’ll know Wayne has a tendancy to dress like Clint Eastwood, what with the leather chaps, ten gallon hat and spingly, spangly spurs.
And this is only to drive the tractor to pick up the paper.

But, seriously, that’s not true. He wears them when he’s on round up with the ostriches, Donkey and flouncy camel. I say the flouncy camel lightly, but its a huge creature. Not some big humped, easy going moulting fluff ball. Its massive. And if it decides it wandering over there, then tip your hat and clear the way because,

Its going over there….

Its a mite unpredictable with the size and presence to be and go where it wants to. But looks pleasant enough, actually like most livestock that people are inspired to pet then say

“Awww its soooo FLUFFY!
ARRRRRRRRRRRRRMyfingersmyfuckinfingeeeers!!!”

So, with the camel, huge as it is, with its roly poly plodding gait, its surprising how it just blends into the scenery and goes stealth bomber.
Like its been coated with a mental anti-radar paint.
Thats why Kerry and Indiana Wayne try keep the farm between them and it.

So you’ll be impressed to know they are adapting and integrating daily into they’re new lives, and, with all that’s thrown at them.

What I’m glad to report is Kerry has leapt forward in her relationship with the Ostriches. She’s now a fully fledged member of the flock

How? How has she done this?? – I hear you all cry, and Wayne most of all.

Indiana Wayne

See, as we’ve already seen its about the gently, gently aproach NOT, the strangle them firmly till in a headlock and kick ’em when they’re down.
(“Get down and STAY down!”)
Tripping over your spingly spangly spurs doesn’t help either.

I mean how can you creep up on an Ostrich going “Ker-ling! Ker-ling! Ker-ling!??
You CAN”T. (Wayne)

They’re all on the opposite side of the field before you’ve taken your second step from your 1934 tractor.
And buying that bullwhip on amazon isn’t going to do any good either.
(You’ll look FANTASTIC though xx)

To be fair how Kerry discovered how to approach the ostrich’s without them all galloping off in a cloud of dust was by accident. I know this because she’s only just worked it out herself and begged me not to tell Wayne. Unfair I think, but who am I to destroy a new growing fad in Cognac?
(If you ever visit and go into town for a nice coffee and the waiter bullwhips it from his tray onto you table – you can seriously look wayne in the eye, shake him firmly by the hand and thank him for inspiring the experience.)

So, what has Kerry discovered? Its her hat!
She wears one of those leather hats with the furry rim and drop down furry flaps. And, when you look at her – out of the corner of your eye – from 80 yards or so, you can actually see what the Ostriches are seeing!

They seem to think she’s a miniature Ostrich! So when she comes into the field they surround her thinking she’s a stunted short arse Ostrich who need help! Its like they do a Big Bird wagon circle and pen her in, so she’s at the center of a flock of 9 foot birds.
I mean, take your pick – who do you want to get a grip of first??
Which is why Kerry is now the equivalent of an 1800’s chimney sweep’s apprentice. You know, the person your going to send up the chimney. That really tight space, with a brown paper bag (What for? we’ll tell you if you need it son. Upsadaisy.) and say

“You’ll be fiiiiine. Its a doddle. There nothing to it.”

So its a case of –

“kez off you go into that field full of 40 something 9 foot turkeys and just, you know, just bring them over here.”

Ending with

“You’ll be fiiiiiine. Can you run fast by the way? Why? Oh just to get them here quicker..avec.”

So it was with some pride that when Kerry and Wayne had visitors over Christmas, namely my Mum, Holly and Wayne Emmo, they took them down to the farm to demonstrate they’re amazing progress with the animals.

“Wait till you see the RAPORE we have with the animals! Its fantastic! Gently, gently – works wonders!!” (with Indiana Wayne cracking his whip and prowling up and down the fence – KerlingKerlingKerlingKerling – just waiting, for his chance to shine.)

And Kez, at the fence just demonstrating how – hat on – the birds come galloping to see her, -hat off – and away they drift.

Tadaaaa!

Wow.

Hat on – here they are! Swooping across the pasture to see shorty bird!
Hat off – Wtf! – where’s shorty gone? Come on girls back to the other side of the field..

Wowwwww.

As You can imagine she was like an Ornithologist equivalent of the karate kid mentor –
A real life Mrs. Miyagi. (wax on, wax off. Wow).

My Mum and Holly and Wayne Emmo as you can imagine were amazed.

Then in dropped Stealth Camel.

As Kez was taking her bow, an invisible 2 ton camel leaned over the fence and took her entire head in its mouth.

Obviously the 3 visitors are applauding madly thinking

“Jesus, this is AMAZING!”

Something you would pay big bucks to see in Vegas, happening in front of them!

And here, right HERE Was Kerry showing her RAPORE with another of Gods creatures!

And oh! Look! Here come all the Ostrich’s thinking kerrys got and even BIGGER hat on!

And Oh! Oh! They’re trying to form a Wagon Circle around Kerry and the camel – who at this point is actually sucking off kerrys head.

(sucked off by a camel – Not something that happens everyday.)

And NO! LOOOOOK! Indiana Wayne has taught the camel to take A BLOODYGOODTHRASHING with his bullwhip!

And finally, it let her go.

Awwwwwwwwwww.

Obviously my mum finally clocked that it wasn’t a show and went nuclear mother hen. And then after mopping all the camel saliva off Kerry, was frantically trying to talk her into a Tetanus.

But Kerrys made of tough stuff.

A few Domino sized teeth gnawing on you’re head are nothing!

And I mean NOTHING to an Ostrich whisperer.

Ostrich heaven

Ostrich Heaven

My sister and her husband recently moved over to France down near Cognac. Famous for its, well, Cognac. I’m yet to visit and intend to as soon as circumstances allow to see just what a fantastic job they’ve done renovating an old farm house into a livable home.
Its been some 6 years of hard work, travelling backwards and forwards trying to do mass amounts of work in short bursting spells. Until finally they decided to give it a go permanently and get the house completed and settle over there.
I know its been a massive decision to finally attempt this opportunity, with reservations and stress over leaving their everyday routine lives over here and re-establishing a life in another country. Communicating will always be an issue until they get to grips with the language, but with plenty of LOUD conversations with locals, (shouting always makes it clearer).
I know for a fact this does work as my grandfather demonstrated to me as a boy.

We had a French exchange student staying and my Grandfather called during her visit. What followed was a perfect demonstration in communication.
“CHURCH OF ENGLAND? (she was French mind) OR CATHOLIC??” This was important to my grandfather for some reason and was the first thing he actually asked her.
She in the meantime was sat looking bewildered shrugging her shoulders palms up.
It just got louder.
The thing was I actually started trying to help.
“HE WANTS TO KNOW IF YOUR CHURCH OF ENGL…(wtf?)”
I caught myself as I was shouting it louder than he was and sent him out.
But, with plenty of avecs and toute sweets we got by.

Now Wayne worked in the building trade like myself, which with the best will in the world is just an apprenticeship in Tourettes. Absolutely fluent in Fuckanese. English is probably a second language. So I can understand how hard it must be to go somewhere where you have to get past your pigeon French and begin living an established life and be able to communicate. Something they’re managing well, and gradually learning the language.

So I have no doubt that as this coming year passes their French will improve to the point of all the locals learning better English. Just to save time.

But seriously I know its been an upheaval and I know there will be some things that will be missed. But on the whole I think its a good thing and a great opportunity to lead a more relaxed self sufficient life.
As the house has come along, and I mean it really has come along magnificently, I think their slowly but surely creating a space for them selves in the local community. The great thing on the whole, is that the local community are making a space for them. You see they aren’t just there to visit, or holiday. They’re there to live and I think that this is respected due to the fact that they’ve taken on board a derelict farm house and re-established back into the working village life.

Kerry come’s back to the UK and stays at my home for a week once a month. She work hands on in her old job then spends part of her time back at home in France doing the same job via the PC.
During the rest of the time over in France, Kerry and Wanye have become part of the local working environment and have taken skills over there that only add to local life.
Wayne can work on the construction side of life or, repair and fix vehicles. Always on the go, busy not happy stood still and always something to do. Just always ready to work hard and overcome a problem and make something work. Plenty of strings to his bow.
Kez has always been very get-up-and-go, very hands-on, multi talented and loves creating. She used to hand make broaches and head-dresses for functions and wedding. Just stuff out of nothing . Bits of cotton, gauze, beads, you name it. She just enjoys being busy and doing. Creating. I think they compliment each other so much, both prepared to work so hard for the other.

Kerry and Wayne have taken to working part time on the local Ostrich farm which has been a source of entertainment. The birds are powerful, extremely large and very nervous. Part of the work involves treating the birds, checking them out, tagging, just plain dealing with them.

There’s two ways of getting to grips with them and these are

A. Kerrys way.
and
B. Waynes way.

Normally, to get hold of one, they are herded together until someone can actually get “hands on”.
Once they’re close enough you have to get a grip on their neck to restrain them, drop a blanket on their noggin and someone else will lean on their backs to help control and guide them until whatever needed to be done is.
It can be a wrestling match.
Wanyes route to success is unintentional throttling until the bird blacks out. With hands a gorilla would be proud of I suppose controlling how hard you grip the birds neck is hard to judge.
And the first time old “banana fingers” got to grips with one, the poor bastard just collapsed and blacked out till someone explained he was choking it. And air is a requirement.

Kerry’s way, ah. Finesse. Gently, gently gain the birds confidence. Stroke the neck on a regular basis. Whenever your passing in fact . This way it gets to the point, the birds approach you.
Then its just a simple thing of getting (a gentle) hold until it becomes a secure grip, bag on the noggin, guide where you want, Do what needs doing, release….etc, etc, ect – Francois’ your uncle.

Wayne will be stood watching in awe at this point with his lasso drooping and Stetson tipped back…Its not all Berets and Garlic cloves over there.

But seriously, he doesn’t wear a Stetson.

Unless its sunny and he’s picking the vines.. but that’s for later.

Castelli – The lycra of Champions……3/1/14

Having bought a new bike recently I’ve been in a rush to get up to speed gear wise to get the most enjoyment out of riding it. Luckily, having left a review against my experience in buying the bike, (which I have to say was top banana), I won a £250 voucher which went a ways towards buying a decent start up kit.

In the mean time it gave me the opportunity to sell of some things to raise more money to buy other odds and ends.
The outcome at the moment is that I look like a very, very impressive lycra clad pimp without having to resort to wearing platform shoes with goldfish swimming round the soles. Or lots of gold chains. (Too heavy you see? Who can ride a sleek, leaps-dolphin-like on the road, bike, wearing 12lb of gold? Not even Mr. T.)

Anyhow, the sales are here! And have I been scanning them for deals? You bet I have. After initially trying to buy gear that was radically reduced, then returning it and trying something else radically reduced and finding that really, Your balls shouldn’t be squeezed into those areas that turn you into a Falsetto.
So I had seen the Castelli brand of cycle gear and balked at the price, but after trying on my 7th pair of cycling shorts and thinking,
“Omg. I can’t feel my toes anymore.”
I decided I’ll at least try on their shorts. Because it wasn’t like I was actually going to pay that sort of money. Ohnohahaha
But after trying them on and finding it was like putting on a glove, and a lovely glove at that. Not one of those items of clothes you try in various shops thinking “Why (God) does this make me look my actual size..? (whale) Surely, surely one of these places is going to have something that fits me and makes me look like a normal (catwalk model) person.” But Finding no such shop exists.

But this brand just felt fabulous. No other word. Looks fantastic, fits great (as long as you jump a couple of sizes – damn Italians) the actual larger sizes don’t look big, they just fit.

My wife has taken to looking at me in a kindly, paternal, patient kind of way. Saying things like “Yes, that looks fantastic!” (although I have caught her on a couple of occasions turn away and rolling her eyes in a WTF moment)

But what a wonderful woman I’m blessed with marrying. Of course we have our moments, but on the whole its a great marriage. She makes me laugh, ( I’m the funny one though), and recently its turned into a swearing competition. And for a Vicars daughter and me working on building sites, I have to say – Damn! I’m impressed!
So when I need someone to convince me to buy something she’s the one I’ll talk to. The one who’ll convince me to go for it. Then tell me I look good in it.

But see, She knows how to buff my ego, puff my chest out and raise my chin.
Just so she can Stand back and watch me strut out of the house ready ride, with the neighbours looking on thinking, “There’s that damn fat pimp again.”

And Other Stories