Tag Archives: Manchester

Timmy’s Magic Box

magic box

Who’s there??”

I found myself actually flinching at the anonymous voice in the store room, literally clutching myself as I spun around looking in all directions trying to find the source of the sound that seemingly emanated from fresh air.

It was a breathless, asthmatic whispered question I had heard, was sure I had hear, but I couldn’t locate where the sound had come from. Jesus I must be hearing things I thought.

The small room I found myself in contained all the fixings and site equipment. This same room was also used as a lock-up for everyone’s tools at the end of the day with a large steel tool-box against one wall and surrounded by assorted shelves jammed with odds and ends. I say room, but it was just part of the larger external space that had been sectioned off by a temporary stud wall to give it a hint of security when everything was locked away each night.

I had only started on this job a couple of weeks previously, working in the center of Manchester. I had followed my normal routine of arrival which was to find somewhere to park in the city center, then walk my tools over to the job. This normally involved a painful 10-15 minute lug across town juggling whatever I needed to take with me. I would have a tool box on my shoulder rattling away against my ear, while I’d be holding a drill box in my free hand, my arm slowly extending with the suspended weight over the travelling distance.

Under the same arm, jammed against my ribs, I would have another smaller tool case held there by the weight of the drill box hanging off the end of my arm. By the time I’d reach the job I would have stopped half a dozen times or more to re-arrange every position and try to remain comfortable. Also to get some blood flowing back to my shoulder and try to stop my now, foot longer arm holding the drill box from scraping along the floor.

The arrival on site meant asking the first person you saw where the site office was. In this case I bumped into a joiner I’d worked with before.

“Hello Mike! How are you? Didn’t know you were starting on here.”

“Dave! Nice to see you. Still with Stuart?”

“For my sins! He’s upstairs running around unsupervised!”

“Better get back to him then! Christ my arms gone dead. Where can I dump this lot?”

Dave directed me to the stores first.

“Get down there first – get rid of that lot. Timmy’s the store-man – he’ll point you in the direction of the office.”

Which is what I did, working down the narrow stairs into the basement, to find somewhere I could drop the tools. Timmy, was sat perched on a stool in the small room reading a much folded newspaper through some truly magnificently sturdy looking bifocals. He had that owlish look some people have who wear really thick glasses. That looking-down-their-nose through the lenses stare, with that slightly open mouthed gape that made them seem a bit dense. That measure cadence he had when speaking didn’t help either.


He was surrounded by shelves stacked haphazardly with odds and ends.

“Hello mate. Room for this lot?”

“Hello son. Not seen your face before. New start? I’m Timmy – the Store-man”

Timmy was a sixty-something old boy who had retired and taken the job on a casual basis, all cash in hand, kept him busy and out from under his wife’s feet. He was responsible for making sure all the plant hire being used on site was signed for and came back to this small room each day. Also he took care of any deliveries that arrived and made sure they were locked away. The rest of his time involved hovering on his stool reading his daily paper that looked as though he was practicing origami with. Each time he stopped to do anything it would be slipped into his back pocket. It was usually reduced to a 4 inch square wad by the end of the day.

Now any new job you start on always involves a certain amount of trepidation. If you don’t know the employer the first two weeks meant sweating slightly, waiting to see if you actually got paid after working that week in hand. It wasn’t so bad if there were lads on there already working who you knew – that meant more often than not it must be fine. If there weren’t any familiar faces it meant that either everything was ok or, that as a new starter you were there to pick up the crap jobs they didn’t want to do. If nobody had any inclination to talk to you it tended to be another heads up. It could mean they were aware of how bad the work was that you would be asked to do, or knew you were going to have your money knocked and wouldn’t last long enough to make it worth getting to know you anyway. You would be leaving soon enough when you realized that your money had been cut. Because, if you discovered it was a cowboy employer, come pay-day, they could cut your agreed rate or just not pay you at all.

Don’t get me wrong. It still goes on. Every job I start on these days still involves that gut wrenching couple of weeks before I get my first pay cheque – especially if its a bad job from day one. The only thing that’s changed these days, is that some employers want to pay you monthly or every 2 weeks instead of weekly. It’s up to you whether or not you take that chance. Lets face it – that’s a lot of money to be owed to have worked a month for and not receive.

As it happened, I knew a number of lads on this site. So when I walked into the brew room there were a fair number of familiar faces. I didn’t have to try and establish myself with the lads on that job. But, I have to admit there was an element of slapstick running of the job. All the foremen were mates, a couple had started on the job and brought friends in to similar positions. This meant that it was a job for the boys. Men were running the job who didn’t actually know what they were doing.

This becomes painfully obvious when trying to overcome any problems and your asking for a decision on some issue. The foreman will be stood there looking at an up-side down site drawing pulling his lip mumbling,

“Mmmmm. Well, I can see that’s a problem. Yes. definitely. What do you think then…?”

And you would gently turn the drawing the right way and fold it up and just say,

“Leave it with me. I’ll sort something out ok?”

The lads running this job had come from other walks of life. Most of them nothing to do with the building trade at all. But one of their mates had told them there was nothing to it. Just point at things and let the lads sort it out. It was quite directionless at times.

Most of the guys on site I knew were all older. A good group who had all worked in the game a long time. Most partnered up over a number of years. Dave had worked with Stuart a long time, and I think it was just resigned patience from Dave that had kept them together. Dave was obviously the brains of the outfit.

“You’ll do ok on here Mike. Money’s fine – no problem. All cash too.”

I raised my eyebrows in surprise. A cash job meant the employer was cutting corners somewhere. To be honest I wasn’t going to worry about what the employer was doing – I was just relieved I was going to be paid. The only thing you had to worry about was staying safe on this job. That slapstick way of running things had almost ended in tragedy a couple of weeks prior to me starting. We were sat in another one of those rooms that had been requisitioned out of obscurity and converted into a brew area for the lads. It was down in the basement of the building, badly lit with fold out benches and tables and permanent hint of dust in the air, which filtered down through the floor above. Dave turned to me one brew time and said,

“You missed all the fun a couple of weeks back Mike.”

“Fun? Why? What went on?”

Stuart sat next to him spat some tea back out as he snorted over a snigger.

“Fun? Christ we didn’t know what was going on!”

Apparently the guys running the job had decided in their wisdom to have a mini digger lifted up onto one of the floors to aid demolition.

“Yeah, they had this thing rolling around on the 2nd floor pushing all the crap into a big pile,” continued Dave. “Only these idiots just kept on piling it up in the same spot.”

“Much there?”

“Much there? Christ it was a pile of brick and rubble almost up to the ceiling.”

“Blimey. What happened?”

“Well, we’re all sat in this shit hole down here, when all of a sudden we could hear this rumble.”

“What? Like thunder?”

“Yeah, we thought the same at first.”

“I actually said – I did didn’t I Dave? I said “Is that thunder?””

threw in Stuart wide eyed. Dave looked heaven wards – it seemed he’d had this conversation a number of times with Stuart.

“Yes you did Stu. Spotted it straight away. You often say when it starts raining, “Looks like rain,” too. You also mention when the sun is shining how hot it is or isn’t. You should be reading the fucking weather on the telly – you’re wasted here thats for sure. Only It wasn’t thunder was it?”

What it was was the mound of rubble on the 2nd floor. The old flooring joists couldn’t take the weight and had collapsed. The rubble, digger and all and had come crashing down straight through the first floor, finally coming to a rest on the ground floor – directly on top of the brew room.

“Right on top of us!”

Continued Dave,

“Couldn’t see a fucking thing! Took all the lights out – what we actually have that is – a fucking mole with a torch would get lost in here! It was real panic stations to be honest.”

“Christ! What happened?”

I asked, peering up at the ceiling above me.

“Well, luckily they had fitted all the new steel supports under the floor above the week before, so when it hit this level everything held. If It hadn’t been for that, Michael Fish our resident weather expert over there would have been as flat as the rest of us!”

The cascading debris had knocked out all the lights. The noise of the descending rubble on the floor above had been frightening enough. When the lights went out they were plunged into pitch darkness with choking dust coming through. It had been a case of lighters flickering in the darkness to find their way out into the lobby, crawling or blundering blindly against one another, and up the narrow stairs to the exit. A real claustrophobic experience.

“I had Gammon sandwiches too that day,”

threw in Stuart wistfully, staring back into the past.

“Missus made them special.”

I looked from Stuart to Dave and could see him visibly grinding his teeth staring at the sky again. I don’t know how they managed to work together for so long. I think it was the approach of retirement that kept Dave with him after all that time. I think he made the most of knowing he wouldn’t have to put up with it on a daily basis much longer.. I settled into the job but have to say it was never one of my favourites. The bumbling management didn’t make anything easier and as they were getting bonus’ for saving money this began to extend to the quality of the materials.

I had been rebuilding the roof, a flat structure with rows of peaked atriums springing out of the structure. Some were designed to take glass skylights which were situated down the center of the roof in order to stream the natural light into the building, and down onto the ground floor far below that was covered with a beautiful mosaic tiling feature. I found out how poor the materials were at this point as I fixed one of the roofing rafters.

I had stepped onto the one already fixed to nail the one I was fitting. As it was I was straddling the roof members with a 4 floor drop below straight through the atrium. I don’t know what came first, the crack of the timber or the give as it snapped. I caught myself before I went too far through. Wedged between the rafters either side with legs dangling over the drop. I’ve never had a problem with heights and noticed them even less when actually working on a project. Its only when something suddenly goes wrong that you become aware of a impending – and possibly permanent – issue. It was a wake up call and one I took seriously after I climbed off the roof and stood with trembling knees checking through the timber I was using.

The first thing someone always suggests in those situations is a cup of tea. Sweet tea too. To calm you down. But I wouldn’t have trusted my hands to hold one steady at that moment as they were shaking that badly. Upon closer inspection the timber I was using was crap. Cheap and nasty really. Who-ever had ordered it had done so with an eye on his bonus regarding what he was saving in costs if he had bought better material.

I just took more care selecting what I was using from there on in.

The final straw came for me some weeks later when the DSS raided the Job.

This was a government body in charge of social services at the time. I had been oblivious to the fact that the wage payments had been in cash so that the employer hadn’t been deducting tax from certain people. They were given a false name so that nobody could trace them. The trouble was nobody working on site knew who was on the fiddle. People weren’t discussing it with work mates so nobody was any the wiser if a mate was using an assumed name or not. This particular morning there was sudden activity below me on the job. I had almost completed the roof and tilers had followed along behind me battening and slating the roof. I had heard some shouting below and looked through a skylight to see a flurry of activity and bodies rushing around the job.

“Dave! Dave!! Whats going on??”

“Its a fucking raid! The DSS are here!!”


And he rushed past looking for a way out. (Obviously Dave was a Frank Smith on the wage slips) I’ll give Frank this. For a fella nearing retirement he couldn’t have shift when pushed.

“What about Stuart?”

“Fuck Stuart! The Bastard! He climbed out a window at the back and jumped in the skip before they could seal the building off!”

It was like someone had poked an ant hill and people were spilling out all over the place. The forefront of most peoples minds was escape. It was only at this point that I realized the scale of fiddling going on. There must have been 90 per-cent of the work force scrambling about looking for an exit. Bodies were flinging themselves across the roof looking for a fire escape to get down. Seeing no joy at one end they would run past people going the other way looking for the same thing, non actually getting anywhere. Looking over the roof edge I could see there were police stationed on the street at each exit from the building. It didn’t look good these people meant business.

“Frank! I mean Dave! The newsagents!”


“The newsagents!!”

And the penny dropped. He waved his thanks and took off. I could hear “The Newsagents!” being shouted round the job as he descended the stairs. What I had noticed from the roof was that the only entrance not blocked by the police was the doorway to the shops inside the building on the ground floor.

We walked into the site that way each morning to buy a paper, then continued through the shop into the lift lobby where the lifts would be situated. This lobby ran the length of the building and would house the ground floor flats. It was this lobby that had the lovely mosaic as a floor finish that I could look down upon from the roof. From here you could enter the stairs that took you down to the basement, up into the site or out of the exit at the rear of the building. There were only two other exits, one on the front and one at the end of the building through two now unoccupied shops.

I rushed over to the side of the building where the newsagent was. It didn’t take long for bodies to begin sliding out, each clutching a paper or some other item as they left, so the copper outside assumed they were just leaving the shop not the job. There were various nods to the officer guarding that end of the building oblivious to the evacuation going on before him. Bodies drifted off in different directions into the busy city center with that slightly urgent quick step just shy of breaking into a run.

I made my way down through the building carrying my tools with me. I wasn’t leaving them lying around as it was obvious the working day was over. On the way down through the now abandoned site, littered with helmets and tools, I met one of the foremen heading the other way directing a rather officious DSS officer around the building. I was told in no uncertain terms to go straight to the room being used to check ID’s, immediately, without deviation.

On the way down I was met by various police officers eyeing me suspiciously, stationed at key points through out the building, guiding the few that remained to one of the empty shops on the ground floor. By the time they managed to search the job there must have been 9 of us out of a work force of 40 actually on site.

And 3 of those were arrested on the spot as their false ID’s were made obvious.

The rest had slipped out through the newsagents carrying various confectionaries. We were the only legit workers on the site. I had had an inkling that some had been using different names but never in my wildest dreams had I expected it on the scale it was being used.

The DSS officers were devastated. What had been a slick operation, surrounding the building like a finely oiled machine had turned into a farce. It was a quick identity check and back out on site.

I made my way to the basement store room to lock away my tools, reflecting on the number of people that were working under different ID’s. I realized I wasn’t sure if I had been calling people by the right names. It was as I was rattling the tool box lid trying to put my gear away that I heard the voice and jumped back looking around. Then I realized – It was coming from the box.

“Jesus! Who’s In there?”

Its me! Timmy!!”

came the guarded whisper.

“Timmy?? Wtf!”

I then noticed the tools scattered around the room, placed there in an obvious rush. Timmy was another assumed name working for his cash in hand. And as soon as the raid had begun he had dragged everything out of the chest and got one of the lads to lock him inside.

Where’s Terry?”

came the whisper.

Have the DSS fucked off yet?”

Nearly done mate,”

I found I was bent down whispering back.

They’re on they’re way off site now.”

Oh thank fucking Christ for that! I think I’m running out of air!”

Really? Ah. Well don’t go getting stressed. Your going to need to stay calm and use as little as possible mate.”

Stay calm? Stay Calm? Did you say “use as little air as possible?”???”

There was a slight hysterical edge to the whispered voice. Then,

I’ll be fine. Yeah fine. Just get Terry. With the key. Fetch him down. He can let me out.”

All the while the voice was raising slightly and the breathing had gained a slightly frantic gulping quality.

Yeah. Get Terry. He can unlock the box! He’ll have me out in no time!

I was stood staring at the blank front of the tool chest trying to pick my words, then whispered back,

Well, That’s the thing Tim. Terry’s not a Terry – he’s a John. And they’re just loading John into the back of the police van…”


The Broad View..Part 1


There are moments in our lives when a smell or a sound or a place can bring memories flooding back. You just have to take some time out to think of what they may be and it opens all kinds of doors. I was fortunate to have a group of friends that I grew up with, went through school with and basically all we experienced or discovered early on in our lives, we did in one or the others company. We shared our highs and lows and laughed an awful lot together.

I try to remember the good parts in my life, the points where I found humour in a situation. The times where back then may not have been too funny but looking back now, are, just because it was so unbelievable. I find some things much funnier now than they ever were then. I think that comes with growing through life and realizing that the stresses and strains of yesterday were never, in retrospect, as great as I feared. But that realization is only reached with age and experiencing things that truly are difficult to deal with.

I think as time passes its easy to remember good times as great, and the not so good moments, the actual severity of those situations actually fade somewhat. It has to – or you’d never move on.

Whether that’s down to a personal view of past situations or not I can’t say. But on the whole I prefer to look at the things that have made me laugh when I reminisce or find a shiny thread of point in a memory that I can look back on and think

“Well, really, that unbelievable situation was funny when you look at it now..”

Most things are if you get the right spin on it.

One of my first “grown up” holidays, one I went on with friends rather than family took place some 27 years ago, 1987 with a group of lads I had known through-out my early years.


It was the time of Afflecks Palace on the corner of Church street when a bargain really did exist. 501’s were the rage, worn with a turn up on the leg. Long overcoats. The Cave shoe shop on Cross street that was mostly goth gear but sold some fabulously suede winklepickers. Corbierres Wine Bar off St. Anns square, down a little side alley and some winding stairs to a cave-like bar. Sitting and rolling Old Holborn ciggies in liquorice paper that had an aroma all its own. Then spending the next 10 minutes first smoking it, then picking bits of tobacco out of your teeth.

Loved it.

U2 in their pomp, with The Joshua Tree tour in full flow. Manchester was THE place to be with bands breaking onto the scene all the time. The Smiths had “Shoplifters Of The World Unite” and “The World Won’t Listen” out, The Stone Roses “Sally Cinnamon” and “I Wanna Be Adored” to name but a few, were in all our thoughts. Billy Bragg with political ideals and raw music that was like a sugar rush to idealistic teens. The Housemartins were in the charts. It was a band I had seen not long before at The International club in Manchester with the same friends arriving late and catching only the last few tracks of the then little known support band, The Proclaimers.

Who were unbelievable live.

The twins came to stand on the balcony where we were watching the set after their stint on stage and we took turns to go over and say

“Fantastic music lads! Whats the name of the band?”

And have one of them turn and look at us through their heavy black framed glasses, and say something completely unintelligible in that heavy Scottish accent of theirs.

“Aw great! Thanks lads! Fantastic! Did I say that already? Superb then!” and wander dazed like back to our waiting friends who would ask,

“Well? What did they say? Whats the name of the band??”

“No fucking idea. Couldn’t understand a word he said.”

Dickhead. You just heard them singing! How hard can it be to ask a question? Did you ask??”

“Dickhead yourself! You have a go then.”

And the next person would wander over slap them on the back and nearly knock their glasses off with their enthusiasm and have the same conversation.

“Well?” when they came back,

“I not sure, but I think it sounded like he just threatened to kick the shit out of me or something.”

Caddy rolled his eyes.

“Jesus. Wait here ffs.” And off he went.

A few minutes later he was back looking smug.

“The Proclaimers.”

He just stood and basked in the admiration thrown his way.

“You understood what they said?”

And we turned as one to look at the granite faced twins then back to Caddy.


“Nope. No fucking idea what he was blathering on about. I asked the girl stood next to them who they were.”

Ah. Why didn’t any of us idiots think of that.

He went far in life Caddy.

I had gone through school with all of them and we were still close enough then to be arranging holidays and have regular nights out together so-much-so that really it was part of our fabric of growing up. Most of what we experienced at the time we did mostly together. This was before University or working life changed some of those relationships due to distance or responsibilities that came with the impact of either. Most of those friendships still exist today, some still close, others tied together with the strands of what we experienced together growing up. Changed, but still there.

So when someone came up with the idea of going on a boat and sailing it round the Norfolk Broads water-ways for a week, stopping only to drink beer at lunch and evenings, well, it sounded like the perfect holiday. Previous holidays together had involved walking up and down remote hills in the Lakes in all weather, carrying everything you needed on your back. Mainly it was wet 90% of the time, with only blisters and banter (when you could catch your breath) to distract you from the weather or the miles, stretching away in front of you,(vertically mostly) to where that nights bed, and nearest pub beckoned. I can’t say those were my favourate holiday venues, the only thing making them worth-while for me, was the company and belly-aching moments of laughter with my friends.

So. It was decided and week of swash-buckling on the Broads beckoned..

pirate flag2

There were 6 of us on this trip. Which involved travelling down to Norfolk to the staging point where we were to pick up our boat and given the do’s and don’ts of life on the river by-ways. Then we would fight over who was going to be Captain and actually drive the boat.

What actually happened was a monumental journey by train that seemed to go on forever. Norfolk wasn’t the easiest place to get to even by road back then. All motorways ended on what felt like the west coast of the country and the journey into Norfolk went via back roads and country lanes involving mules and camels.

With people when asked for directions, rolling a piece of straw between their teeth and saying,

“Arrr? Thee Arr. Thy oo-arr? Arrrrrrrrrrr.”

A lot.

Lots and lots of “Arrrrrrrr’s” and “Oo-arrrrrr’s”.

Our journey into Norfolk was British rails equivalent to the road version.

As I recall it took some 500 trains and changes to complete the journey to I-don’t-know-where-the-fuck-I-am boat yard to collect our boat and begin our own personal Amazons and Swallows moment. The only good points about the journey was the beginning when we were excited, and then the final part where we joined the last train and found it was all private carriages, echoes of another age. It probably was. Stuck in time in the middle of no-where. What I can say is it added a bit of romance to the trip and raised spirits somewhat after a soul destroying journey.

When we finally reached our destination we were shown our new nautical vehicle then given the list of what not to do while on the water. The man giving us the talk was obviously eyeing the 6 young lads he was about to had over a part of his fleet to and was at great pains to impart his rules.

“Thee ‘av ‘an achor. Oo-arr?”

6 heads nod.

“Arrr lads? Life jackets? All times! Oo-arrr? Speeding? 5 to 7 mph. No speeding! Banks washed away! Arrrr??”


“Toilet? Needs emptying. Tha’ll all sink if ship’s not emptied but shit’ll float! Oo-arrrr?”

Distracted nods as eye each other and weigh up who’s going to do that job.

“Emptyin’ station”s. All over damn place. Use ’em. Arrr? Arr.”

I of course took no notice what’s-so-ever as there were more responsible members of the group like Barny and Caddy who would look after that sort of thing. Good, sensible lads. Could empty all the shit they wanted for me. I had more urgent things occupying my mind. I was going to be Captain , strike a heroic pose at the helm and issue orders no one would take any notice of.

In the mean time our “Oo-arrr” instructor continued.

“Life-Jackets? Over there. Arr? Try ’em on and get ship shape lads. Arr? Off you go then.”

So we moved like a small herd and clustered round a room rammed full of worn, orange life-preservers and began trying on what this chap passed out as he sized us up. We gradually began to line up, each standing ready to be inspected, each clad in their own personal buoyancy jackets with bits of string dangling in all the wrong places.

Until he finally came to Nick, and eyeballed him while holding a jacket in either hand, looking from either one trying to decide which would best fit.

See, Nick was short and stocky, carrying a bit of weight, all shoulders and no neck, and neither jacket quite fit. The right size for his height was meant for a tall child, but wasn’t wide enough to incorporate both shoulders in the jacket normally. To be able to fit both in meant his arms were clenched back from his torso while his shoulder blades met in the center making him look like he was impersonating a giant chicken. It looked as if a tension spring had given way in his back and yanked his arms behind him and pushed his chest out.
leaving Nick spluttering somewhat.

“Whaaaa.. Whaaa the…??”

There was no way it would fasten and it yawned wide open across the middle, so that a 12 inch gap was displayed across the chest and stomach, and the tie’s wouldn’t stretch across the space to fasten. And the next size life preserver swamped him.

So it was decided in the spirit of health and safety, that the best course of action was to choose the large one because it would actually fasten and it was funny. The collar rose above his head and the jacket encompassed his torso with plenty to spare. So that only his arms from the elbows and legs from the knees down were visible. At least in an emergency he could put it on and we could throw him over board and 3 or 4 clamber on top of him and paddle for the river bank, “Ahoying!” all the way.

(Nick center stage)

He’d have been better off with arm bands and a swimming cap.

Finally we scrambled aboard our boat and there was an immediate rush for the steering wheel. Lets just say a scuffle took place over control, but Nick clad in a life preserver that would fit 5 men, barged his way in and created enough space to get concrete grip on the wheel. It was him who took charge of our departure, bouncing it off the dock a dozen times before finally reaching open water and then with a wicked grin and a,

Fuck the rules!”

With a glint in the eye, Nick revved the engine to full throttle, rammed it in gear, and found out just how fast 5 mph was.

Each bend in the river suddenly took on a vastly different perspective and looked a very long-way-away. The first bend alone seemed to have somehow been stretched further away from us all of a sudden.

I think we all stood along side him, gazing ahead for some time, trying to draw the first turn closer by sheer willpower, then exhaustion set in and one-by-one we wilted and wandered off, leaving Nick to it.

It was decided there and then.

Nick was now our Captain and he could drive all he wanted.

ship steering wheel

Part 2 to follow…


La Coupe De Brousse…(The Bush Trimmer…)

Wayne how the fuck am I goin to pick this

You may have read previously about the Porters paying a flying visit back to the UK from France in order to pick up and transport a mini-excavator back over the Channel. The journey took them through Paris (see Paris Or Bust…)

Well, the excavator has been put to use and word has gone round. Wayne is now working around the local area as more people have become aware of the service he can now provide, and more and more work has been rolling in…

He’s now digging trenches, land-filling and landscaping amongst other things with his new machine. In between this he squeezes in the work on the farm with the Ostriches, vines, and work on their own house. Its actually non stop at the moment.

This all going on while Kerry returns to the UK for her week long stay every 3rd week, to work hands on in the offices in Manchester. Then travelling via Tram/bus/taxi and lifts, to which-ever place her diary dictates during that week long stay. I tend to bump into her around 9pm each evening as she manages to return back to my house to crawl to bed. The last time she came over I managed to squeeze a night out with her into the hectic schedule she kept, just before she returned back to France.

I met her down in Manchester with her friend from work at around 7pm that Friday evening and caught up with them in a bar-come restaurant on High Street in the Northern quarter, where they were ensconced at a table for two upstairs. I was going to wait down stairs at the bar until they were finished, but to the waitresses dismay, I was convinced to drag a chair over and block her route through the room and join them at their table.

I gathered the waitress saying, “Oh no its finnnne..” and her smiles were a trifle insincere when she clocked me with her elbows behind the ear a couple of times in passing.

Once seated, I sat and watched them munch their way through the variety of Mexican food placed before them, nursing my beer and slowly salivating and trying not to. To be fair they didn’t take long to lick their plates clean (in a lady like fashion) and we headed across the street to another bar.

What then followed was around a 24 mile hike drinking at various establishments. Just as I would stop sweating and catch my breath, it would be,

“Why don’t we go…”

And another forced march. I had told my wife to expect us home for around 10pm so you can imagine my surprise to find I had criss-crossed the city center a number of times, and now discovered I was on Deansgate having visited Piccadilly Train station en-route to drop Kerry’s friend off. It was, I discovered, now 12.30/1am in the morning and as the fresh air hit me I was also made aware that I was reasonably convincingly drunk and was faced with one of Kerry’s concerted yomps, to catch a tram from Shude Hill.

We did make it all-beit using that old favourate, one step forwards, two sideways and the two backwards shuffle. Which when you think about it ensures you get to your destination only if you head there backwards.

me and kez

It was I have to add an excellent night one I don’t get to do often enough with my sister..

A couple of days later, Kerry duly returned home to Wayne who had been beavering away with his excavator during Kerry’s absence with his own stories to tell.

What he has built outside the house now, is what you could only describe as a bungalow. Its all a matter of perspective of course, it actually being a home to house the Porters newest additions – the 3 chickens that they have bought. But even to a human eye its a big structure with everything available for the welfare of these new creatures. From a chickens point of view though, the ceiling must go on forever…It must cost a fortune just to line it with bales of hay..

Kerry went with a neighbor to buy the chickens, Francios’ mum Agatha, a 70 something year old, typical farming no-nonsense lady. Kerry’s French has improved daily since, but at the time the conversation during the journey in the car was a little vague, although Agatha happily talked none stop. Leaving Kerry to throw in an odd “Oui” or “Non” or guestimating her response depending on what she imagined the question had sounded like. While Agatha who also had no idea what Kerry was saying, but bulled on through the conversation like women everywhere do..

It went long the lines of,

“Ho frisés, quand avez-vous décidé de poulets”
(“Ho Curly, when did you decide you wanted chickens?”)

A look inviting Kerry to speak.

“Poulets? Ah! Chicken! I love chicken sandwiches! I love the sky so blue and clear! Oui!”
(“Poulets? Ah! Poulet! J’aime sandwichs au poulet! J’aime le ciel si bleu et clair! Oui“)

“Oui? Très bon! J’ai eu des poulets depuis que je suis petite fille. Ils ont nourri ma pères de famille pendant la guerre!”
(“Yes? Very good! I have had chickens since I was a small girl. They fed my fathers family during the war!”)

“Really? Your father? I see. (not) He road a bicycle then?”
(“Vraiment? Votre père? Je vois. (pas) Il route un vélo alors“)

En effet. Les Allemands auraient confisqué les avaient ils les ont trouvés. les porcs
(“Indeed. The Germans would have confiscated them had they found them. The pigs!”)

“It was a german bicycle! Ah. Oui! And he had pee..pii.pig! Pigs! Indeed! He also rode a pig?
(“C’était un vélo allemand! Ah. Oui! Et il avait pipi .. pii.pig! Porcs! En effet! Il a également la route un cochon?”)

“Oui. Tous les porcs. Porcs allemands. Porcs anglais. Tout le monde est un cochon! Votre cochon bouclés!”
(“Oui. All pigs. German pigs. English pigs. Everyone is a pig! Your a curly pig!”)

“I love bacon. Mmmmmmm. I love pig!!”
(“J’aime le lard. Mmmmmmm. J’aime porc!!”)

And they laughed together all the way to the farmers market.

Where they bought our new friends who Kerry and Wayne now know as Ginger (Black/ginger colored chicken) Betty (Because she looks like a chubby old lady chicken and Betty fitted.(?)) And lesbian Mary, (white chicken) (because fuck knows)

These new pets are providing the household with regular free free range eggs, if, the Porters can find them when they wander into the vastness that is the chicken hut to look. I believe a ball of string and regulars shouts of “Alls well!.” every ten seconds as they wade deeper into the building are encouraged, to maintain contact with the outside world…

All the chickens produce eggs that have that lovely vivid yellow yoke that come with real free range eggs. Lesbian Mary in particular lays eggs in monster proportion scale. They seem to be pre-historic, knobbly and larger than normal. And what’s more, Mary’s eggs and only Mary’s eggs , are double yokers every time..

I think it’ll turn out she was infected by something radioactive that had been carelessly discarded when she was a chick…

The Chickens

Wayne has had his own moments with Nicole Pierre’s wife, while Kerry was away back in the UK. It was one of those days when he was attempting to fit in the work on the farm whilst continuing his now on-going work with the digger.

He had been accosted by Nicole in passing. Wayne and Kerry help on the farm with the management of the Ostriches. Pierre being a retired Vet, has an assortment of animals for the Porters to contend with. So Unusual request’s aren’t uncommon. (see The Yokes On Wayne, Dance Like A Butterfly, Sting Like A Ron, Vive Le Garlic (Long Live The Garlic)…)

This stoic old lady had accosted Wayne with an urgent job that needed doing. She had tried to get Pierre to do the work and he had pointed her in Wayne’s direction having no inclination to have a go himself, and rightly so.

Again, while Wayne is valiant in his attempts at fitting into the way of life in France, his actual spoken french still needs a lot of work. So his conversation with Nicole was if anything more prone for misunderstanding.

“Ah Wayne. Juste l’homme J’ai besoin de parler à!”
(“Ah Wayne. Just the man I need to speak to!”)

“Hello! How are you madame? well I hope?”
(“Bonjour! Comment êtes-vous madame? J’espère bien“)

“Eh bien? Non! J’ai besoin de votre aide. J’ai un arbre qui a besoin de rognage. Êtes-vous libre”
(“Well? No! I need your help. I have a tree that needs trimming. Are you free?”)

“I’m sorry madam. A arbre? A bucket? A spoon? Pardon. I don’t understand..”
(“Je suis désolé madame. Un arbre ? Un seau? Une cuillère? Pardon. Je ne comprends pas…”)

Old lady rolls her eyes…

“Mon dieu. Un arbre. Un arbre! Attendez! Un buisson? oui! Un Buisson”
(“My god. A tree. A tree! Wait! A bush? yes! A bush?”)

“A Buisson? Buiss..bui..Ah! Buisson! Bush? Yes! Oui! You have a bush?”
(“Un Buisson? Buiss .. u .. Ah! Buisson! Bush? Oui! Oui! Vous avez un Buisson?”)

(The final word gave way to a pause and a bit of hesitancy..)


“(Cher Dieu) Oui! Oui! J’ai un buisson. Un gros buisson. Il a besoin de rognage. Pouvez-vous couper mon Buisson??”
(“(Dear God)Yes! Yes!! I have a bush. A BIG bush. It needs trimming. Can you trim my bush??”)

“You have a bush? Yes? A Gross bush? Gros? That you want me to mow? Cut? Trim? Trimmm!! You have a bush, a massive bush, you want me to trim!! Yes!! Wait..you have a..Massive bush…(Oh Jesus..)

(“Vous avez un buisson? Oui? Un buisson brut? Gros? Que vous voulez que je tonds? Couper? Coupez? Coupez! Vous avez un buisson, un buisson massif, vous voulez que je rogne! Oui! Attendez .. vous avez un buisson .. Massive … (Oh Jésus ..)”)

Well. Wayne’s nothing but game. Put a problem before him, any problem, and he’ll tackle it. Over come it, learn by his mistakes and know exactly how to do it properly from there-on-in. Never afraid to try.

“It Can Be Done” should be Waynes motto.

So as you can imagine upon translating what the old lady wanted doing theres was nothing else for it in Wayne’s eyes. He just squared his shoulders. Looked her straight in the eye and as dignified as he could he said,

Madame. It would be my honour, (Bow’s head even) Nay, My privilege, To trim your massive bush…
(“Madame. Il serait mon honneur, (la tête de Bow même) Non, mon privilège, Pour couper votre brousse massif…”)

Satisfied he finally understood she smiled at him, reached up and patted him kindly on the cheek and said,

“Oui, un bon garçon. Je vais attendre dans la cuisine pour vous”
(“Yes, your a good boy. I’ll wait in the kitchen for you..”)

It was with some surprise she opened the kitchen door to his hesitant knock 10 minutes later so see Wayne stood there, shoulders squared looking determined, clutching a tiny pair of scissors, which seemed even smaller in his large hands. The Old lady was confused for a moment, and looked from the scissors back to Wayne and said,

“Mon garçon Dieu. Vous serez là toute la journée avec ces petites choses! Mon Bush est énorme!! .. Vous devrez peut-être vous Digger…”

My God lad. You’ll be there all day with those little things! My Bush is enormous!!..You may need your digger…”

It was about this point that Wayne swooned.

Even Wayne has to draw a line somewhere.