Behind Lace Curtains

26 Feb

As you know I’ve complained before about busybodies. I’ve got no time for them. To be fair, I don’t even care for the term — if anything, the reason they are as they are is because they’ve got nothing reasonable to keep their bodies busy so they turn their dull selves to other people’s business. It’s sad really and my heart would ache for them if I didn’t find them so utterly annoying.

However, I must confess that it was a busybody on our street who saved the day this week, so while I am unable to retract my annoyance, I am glad to see the issue resolved.

Unbeknownst to those of us who have lives to lead, Mrs Clements from Number 11 has been conducting surveillance on the Hartley family at Number 14 for quite some time. As an active member of our local community, I had, of course, heard mumblings that things ‘weren’t quite right’ in the house, but I would argue that most of my neighbours’ insistence on raising children despite their obvious inadequacies isn’t ‘quite right’ either. Nonetheless, she’s got pages and pages of notes on the dodgy dealings going on behind the Peters’ curtains.

It all exploded this week when the police were called. Mrs Clements obviously felt she had enough evidence to get the law involved, and Christopher and I were woken to some brutish activity up the road. Needless to say, I forbade him from peeking through the curtains to try to gain info as that makes us no better than they, so after getting dressed, I promptly walked up and asked the coppers directly what they were playing at.

Although PC Stupidface was quite tight-lipped, it became clear what was going on. The Hartley family was no family at all — the only one at the address was a bachelor named Peter Hartley who lived with a horse. A small horse, but most definitely a horse.

horse-in-window-bw

No one seemed aware of how and when it moved in, nor did anyone understand why. Without having had a cup of tea yet, I couldn’t be bothered to share my insights into the causes (loneliness, delusion, father who lost too much money on the gee-gees), because the most urgent concern was how to get the horse out of the home.

It was a ridiculously complicated affair that I shan’t bore you with, but by early evening, the horse was being led down the road on its way to a nearby farm where it will live the rest of its days, getting plenty of fresh air and water and eating grass instead of fried eggs and beans.

Peter was taken away as well, though, his future probably won’t be quite as bright. He’s likely to be charged with animal endangerment. and cleaning his house is going to cost a pretty penny, but I do hope he gets the help he needs. I do not condone Mrs Clements’s nosiness or her loudmouth children. However, as a result of her intervention, the unhappy state at Number 14 has now come to an end.

Often we don’t know the details of those people who live around us, and until this week, I was 100% on board with that idea. I was willing to give them a quick wave and I’ve always been an active member of many local groups; however, I was quite happy to keep myself distanced from the tedious details of their daily lives.

But seeing Peter’s sad eyes as his horse was led away made me question my attitude. Maybe getting to know the lives of those around us could help keep all of us happier and safer. It’s a delicate balance, of course — invading people’s privacy is still a no-go area and the use of binoculars or listening devices is rarely recommended. But maybe if I had taken a little more time to get to know Peter, I could’ve helped him (or at least noticed the odour of manure). Mrs Clements too was ignorant of his equine companion; for all her watching and note-taking, she had never actually spoken to the man to find out the truth of what was going on.white-629431_1280

When Christopher and I returned from our errands this morning, we passed by the farm and saw the horse at the gate, looking longingly for his old friend. It was such a sad sight that when we got back, I had Christopher spend three hours baking cupcakes which I then had him deliver to our neighbours’ doors. I don’t pretend that my gifts changed anyone’s lives, and, quite frankly, I still don’t like any of them. (I even actively despise one, who knows who he is and who I’m sure remembers the deviled egg disaster as well as I do). But it’s a start.

If a little friendliness lets people know that there’s someone they can reach out to in times of trouble, no harm done. And if it means that no more farm animals will be taking up residence on our avenue, all the better.

Ten Days In

30 Jan

It’s a difficult time to be hopeful, isn’t it?

It really doesn’t matter if you’re a Republican or Democrat, if you’re American or not (yes, Americans, other countries have people, too!). If you’re a human, this is a tough time. You don’t have to be a frequent tinfoil hat wearer to see conspiracies and have doomsday worries.

Because this is kind of how the end of the world’s likely to start.

In the simplest terms, a powerful nation has elected a man who knows fuck-all and for whom power is nothing but wank fuel [insert small hands joke here].

His global abortion gag rule will affect women all over the world, but he doesn’t care. I mean, literally, he doesn’t care about abortion; this isn’t a moral issue for him. A White House leak claims his words on the topic were: “It doesn’t effect me, so why should I care if it exists?” (I’m going on the assumption that even when Trump speaks he misspells words.) He pushed forward on the DAPL, despite Native Americans’ and environmentalists’ objections. The following day 138,600 gallons of diesel fuel spilled from a pipeline in Iowa. Of course, Trump doesn’t live in Iowa, so why should he care, right? Some of his cabinet picks, though, do care about the pipeline’s success. Coincidence? He put gag orders on government agencies, telling them not to speak to the press. He began plans for the Wall. And he initiated the Muslim ban Muslims-from-countries-that-do-not-benefit-Trump’-companies ban. He did this on Holocaust Memorial Day, when he also released a statement that did not mention Jews. I’m sure this has nothing to do with Steve Bannon, whose power in the White House continues to grow.

Basically, in his first week, Trump has illustrated that

  • American ideals mean literally nothing to him
  • many Americans themselves mean literally nothing to him
  • issues that affect the stability of the entire world mean literally nothing to him.

It is tempting to lash out at the people who voted for Trump, even the ‘good’ ones who didn’t agree with his horrible actions and words before the election but focused on potential economic benefits. It’s tempting to remind them of all the times they said wait and see or just give the guy a chance.

It’s also tempting to get sucked into every ‘alternative fact‘: the size of his inauguration crowd or his obsession with voter fraud. It’s tempting to retweet and post evidence that proves the President of the United States is a delusional liar.

It’s also tempting to put on a foil cap, curl up in a corner of a cellar, and pray you’ve stockpiled enough food and water to make it to the other side.

All these things are enticing, and I wouldn’t judge anyone who gives in. However, there are other things we can do.

Thousands of people are taking action around the world. Some US government agencies have set up ‘alt’ social media accounts. A few politicians are stepping up — lawyers and protesters showed up at airports, and shortly thereafter, a federal judge issued a stay against Trump’s ban. Millions of people are marching and making donations.

This is good. This is all good.

But it’s also all tiring, and we can’t pretend it’s not. We have to take care of ourselves as we do our best to take care of the world. We don’t know for sure what will or will not work. If at the moment all you can do is sign a petition, that’s all right. If you can’t afford to offer financial support, that’s okay. If you need to take a break from 695b5edf289e965571216ccf3acd3361social media, do it.

But promise yourself that you’ll do everything you can to stop Donald Trump. Because in high school history class, you probably wondered what you’d have done during the early days of Hitler’s reign.

Now is the chance to find out.

 

 

 

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Happy New Year and All That

31 Dec

Here’s to a much better year, eh?a5e39061b928e6db841a943a5fe5497b

Happy Christmas to All

25 Dec

All We Need

9 Dec

Friends, I know that recent times have been tough, what with the blatant disregard for morality exhibited by Donald Trump and his followers’ complete acceptance of him and said disregard as well as the hate crimes that have been committed since his election win. It has been well hard to think very positively about the future, near or far.

However, I am here to tell you today that there is something that can save us. It’s not Jesus, no, nor is it the newest, shiniest product you can buy exclusively from this website. No,

it’s love.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I am in love.

As disappointing as it may be for Charlize Theron, it is a man who has stolen my heart. Of course, appearances are superficial, and far be it from me to be so shallow; however, with this man, his looks are really just an external reflection of his internal perfection (I’m referring to his emotional intelligence here, though I’m sure all his organs are also equally flawless). His salt and pepper hair is sexy, yes, but it also reveals his years of experience and wisdom. His weedy yet sturdy stature is perfect for providing a sense of security while still assuring that one could knock him flat if the situation called for it. His blue eyes, with their gorgeous limbic rings, offer windows to his sensitive soul. He is clearly committed to success in his work as well as in his personal relationships. No one could deny his kindness nor the calm that envelops anyone to whom he gives just one look.

Basically, he’s beautiful.

René Maltête: Jardin du Luxembourg Paris, 1960

René Maltête: Jardin du Luxembourg Paris, 1960

In a strange twist of fate, this man is Christopher’s Uncle Trevor. Recently, I was in Christopher’s room organising his sock drawer, when I noticed a photo on his bedside table and from that first moment, I was transfixed. You know that my heart is not easily swayed, but, dear readers, something beyond my own logic took over that morning.

Love is often consigned to greeting cards and notes of apology from spouses who’ve been caught playing away with the local slapper. But the truth is love is something that we all need. It can improve every moment of our lives. It reminds us that someone other than ourselves matters, and that the world is greater than our own needs and worries.

Love, of course, does not make Donald Trump go away or keep bastards (criminal or elected) from plying their trades. But love can make those things just a little easier to face, and the companionship and connection with another person that come with love also make those things easier to fight.

So I wish you all the bliss that I am currently feeling. In love and with love, we can all carry on working to improve our world.

 

_____________

 

UPDATE 10 December 2016:

Unfortunately, I am afraid I must retract the above statement.

As it turns out, the man in the photograph on Christopher’s nightstand, with whom I fell instantly in love, is not in fact his Uncle Trevor. After my pestering him for a few days to set up a chance for the man and me to meet, Christopher confessed all.

Apparently, the picture was one he’d torn from a 1960s Kays Catalogue (I am still a bit confused about why it was kept by Christopher’s bedside, but he assures me there is a valid reason). He claimed he thought it’d be “funny” to play “little joke” on the woman who has offered him free room and board for these many years. It appears Christopher has never even met this man, and (he thoughtfully reminded me) in all likelihood, the man formerly known as Uncle Trevor is no longer alive.

I felt I must admit this to you, after my (now embarrassing) display of joy and hopefulness. I apologise profusely and confess that I am both humiliated and heartbroken. I have banned all mail-order shopping from this household until I have overcome this traumatic experience.

What Matters

7 Nov

Words matter.

Actions matter.

Voting matters.

bystanders

 

Perfect Harmony

6 Sep

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my many interactions with other humans, it is that we don’t have to love everyone. We don’t have to want to kiss on them or lend them a book or invite them to ours for dinner. We don’t even have to like them. However, we do have to acknowledge their existence and respect the concept of community to be able to live in a fair and harmonious world.

Last night I attended an event where I saw the devastating effects of those who seem unwilling to recognise that other people also matter. Our neighbourhood association meets on the first Monday of each month, and September was my turn to host. Christopher spent much of yesterday tidying up the house and when people began arriving, we had tea and biscuits at the ready. It all started off so well. However, the mood quickly turned when we began to discuss the stone bench we’d commissioned for the greenway.

Colin from Number 18 had photographs of the bench his nephew Billy had just finished, and as we passed the pictures around, he broached the topic of the engraving. Billy would need to charge by the letter and thus we did not have enough money in the pot to have all our names engraved. It was clear Colin was torn up about the issue — he had offered his nephew’s services, but slowly the original estimate and date of completion had changed, and many in the group were a bit put out about it. Now he was asking for even more money, and Colin was stuck in the middle.

“We’ll take him to court,” said Mr Lee, who is and always has been a dickhead.

The colour drained from Colin’s face. Fearing he might slide off his chair and spill his drink of my rug, I quickly suggested that we each chip in five more pounds, and the engraving could be completed and the bench ready for installation by the Autumn Festival.

“Absolutely not,” Mr Lee grunted. “I don’t literally bleed money, you know.”

I felt like pointing out the idiocy of his comment, but I have learned my lesson in the past about trying to explain the definition of the word literally to this man.

“Billy wants 50p per letter,” explained Colin.

“We pay for our own or I’m out,” Mr Lee stated.

“I don’t know,” mumbled the extraordinarily fertile woman who lives at Number 24. “We’ve had to buy new school uniforms this year. . . ”

“That’s your own fault,” Mr Lee said. He stuck his hand in his pocket and pulled out two pounds. “Just my first initial,” he added, sliding the money across the table to Colin.

Now I personally know this man is not hurting for money, but everyone has the right to be a miser if they so choose. However, it didn’t seem quite right that his response favoured him and him alone (we have a lot of long surnames living in this area). There are a number of people who’d wanted to include their family members’ names on the bench, and, of course, my own household’s contribution would be an additional £16.50. I was willing to pay, but since this was supposedly a neighbourhood project, it seemed more appropriate for us all to make the same donation to ensure that everyone was happy. However, Mr Lee, who was born with a short name and who (obviously) lives alone, was unwilling to put the group’s need before his own.

That was until we got to Any Other Business, and Mr Lee proposed a change to our recycling programme. As he is a keen drinker of Coca-Cola products, he complained that his recycling bin runneth over before each designated pickup. His solution was to petition the council for a weekly collection, but he was quickly reminded that the only way this could happen was via an increase in council tax. He said he was happy to pay. When the grumbling from the crowd indicated the feeling was not shared, Mr Lee stood up and shouted, “This group is supposed to benefit the neighbourhood! Why should I have to suffer just because of you lot?”

“Why don’t you just not drink so much Coke?” Mrs Jones suggested timidly.

Mr Lee turned sharply and fearing he was about to resort to violence, I gave Christopher the nod and he quickly moved into action, initiating our secret the-guests-need-to-leave-now procedure of cutting off all the lights in the house.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” I said, standing up and looking elegantly distraught. “We’ve got some candles round here somewhere,” I added as I moved to open a desk drawer. “Or we could continue this discussion at the next meeting.”

“Fine,” Mr Lee said as he stomped out of the house.

The other guests gathered up their things and started to leave.

“You should get that fuse box checked out,” Colin said as he headed towards the door.

“Will do,” I called. “And tell Billy the bench looks lovely.”

Once they were all gone, Christopher turned the lights back on and we discussed Mr Lee’s appalling attitude. The group’s mission statement is to better the lives of those living in our neighbourhood. When it came to something that was good for all of us, Mr Lee was unwilling to pitch in, yet when the issue was one from which he alone would benefit, he expected us all to play ball. He could not see beyond himself (which is not a comment on his size, though as you might imagine from his soda habits, he is quite large).

Next month, I will suggest that Mr Lee hire some of the bicycle hoodlums to take his cans to the recycling centre on non-delivery weeks. Compromise doesn’t have to be complicated.

I have no intention of ever running for public office — it seems more trouble than it’s worth and besides I don’t own any pantsuits. But in some ways, it’s not our leaders who are the problem. If each of us could just appreciate the fact that all our lives are equally important and ultimately intertwined, we might make better decisions about how our communities run. Sometimes it might mean personal sacrifice, but doing the right thing is sometimes difficult. And besides, if we create a caring climate for others, then it is more likely that we have someone to look out for us in our own time of need.

I mean, I hate those little shits who ride their bicycles up and down the street day and night, but I’ve never once hit them with my car. I’ve abstained because they are people too and have as much right to enjoy their leisure time as I do to safely drive down my road (also, I am slightly afraid they might vandalise my property if I call attention to myself, but that’s besides the point). To live in an environment of peace and harmony, we must create an environment of peace and harmony. For ourselves, for all of us.

Even the dickheads.

We Have Returned

14 Aug

vintage_bunker_photoChristopher and I have been underground for the last few weeks, testing our bunker. Given the events of 2016 thus far, we decided it’d be wise to check things out in case we need to go down permanently.

I spent most of yesterday skimming the news and can see that our choice was a wise one. God damn, son, things are bleak. It’s hard to imagine a future that doesn’t involve everyone hating everyone all the time and eventually being murdered or a murderer. Yeah, I know the Olympics are going on as well, but I’m afraid they just don’t do much for me. I mean I’ve not got anything against them, but as far as I can tell, their primary benefit is that they occasionally move Donald Trump a little lower down the front page.

The fresh air feels good at least.

If you too are considering leaving the above ground nightmare, we’ve learned a lot and are happy to share some of our mistakes and victories. The main thing is to plan ahead: we had been assuming we’d make our final move on the 9th of November, but I’m worried now that doomsday might come early, so get started sooner rather than later.

THINGS TO PACK:

  • The keys to the bunker door
    We’d actually planned to just stay overnight on the first of July, but someone — I’m not mentioning names, but it was Christopher — did not realise the keys had fallen into the grass until a few moments after we’d shut the door. A paperclip will eventually do the trick, but it takes much, much longer than expected.
  • A heat source
  • An icebox
  • A water purifier
  • Thirty gallons of water (per person, per week)
  • Teabags
    Don’t forget to tell your milkman to push the bottles through the cat flap in your bunker door.
  • Food
  • A bucket and toilet roll
  • Reading material
  • Masturbatory aids
    Take your usual, of course, but consider things you’ve sneered at in the past because Christopher reports that the Heat‘s Circle of Shame quickly lost its appeal and he found himself relying on the water purifier’s instruction sheet instead.
  • About 100 more cigarettes than you expect to smoke
    You will smoke them. Trust me. It’s fucking boring down there.
  • Lemons
    I won’t tell you why, but they come in incredibly handy.

THINGS NOT TO BOTHER WITH:

  • Your phone
    One of the main reasons for going underground is to avoid the news, so bringing in your phone puts your sanity at risk. Be aware that there are no Pokémon monsters in underground bunkers. If you are worried about missing out on updates from family and friends, don’t be — they will likely soon forget you exist until you reappear on the first of each month to empty your toilet bucket.
  • Tins of beans
  • Silverware
  • Your bra

Now obviously, I hope that the world can manage to get its shit together soon and no one needs to give up on humanity and try to restart their lives elsewhere. As we continue our preparations, we’ll be trying to maybe do some good and make some changes. Maybe you could do this as well. Maybe if we all did, things could get better. Maybe.

I say let’s give it a try. Because Donald Trump isn’t a joke. And neither are the people who support him who will still be around regardless of November’s result.

Vote Carefully

23 Jun

It’s not about which side has the least biggest twats supporting them or which side the most annoying celebrities are spouting off about.

It’ll make a difference so vote carefully.

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See you on the other side.

Hippity Hop Hop Hop

23 Mar

There’s only a few more days until Easter Sunday, which means those who have given up things for Lent are probably arguing amongst each other about when they can legally light up their first cigarette in weeks (it’s not my business, of course, but I’d say if you wait until the Mass of the Last Supper is over, you can safely smoke your way through the Holy Triduum). Even though I’m not a follower of the faith, I happen to love Easter. Why? Because it’s absolutely crazy.

As anyone who’s ever received a Happy Birthday Jesus card from that woman who took a shine to you on the one day you agreed to pick up your grandmother at church knows, the Lord was born on December 25, and no Santa Claus with his presents and reindeer will ever take that fact away. However, when it comes to his being re-born, it’s all a little hazier, and it appears the head church honchos basically just said, screw it, let’s let the moon decide. Of course, three days before the rebirth celebration is the acknowledgement of Christ’s crucifixion and death, known as Good Friday, which seems a little harsh to me, but whatever, he’s your god. In fact, some Christians spread the whole holiday season out for weeks before, and I guess that makes sense because being born of a virgin is pretty good, but being born again after being killed, well, come on, that’s quite worthy of celebration.

Believe it or not, though, the being brought back to life thing isn’t even the craziest part of Easter.

The ways we celebrate the holiday are mad, and for some reason, animals are at the forefront. Pigs gets killed and spiral sliced onto plates for Easter Sunday, though to honour the porcine sacrifice, we decorate their carcasses with pineapple slices and Maraschino cherries. I’m sure that must soothe their departed souls.

Vintage-creepy-easter-bunny-3Of course, the Easter Bunny is the main animal associated with the holiday. He is a human-sized hare who shows up at shopping malls to judge and frighten children. Parents are cool with this, because the bunny then comes round the house to hide a basket full of plastic grass, cheap toys and jelly beans for children to find on Easter Sunday, thus allowing the adults a couple hours of free time while the little ones run off their sugar highs in the back garden. There are usually eggs in the basket as well, though anyone who believes the bunny laid those eggs is just not thinking right.

Because chickens lay eggs and even the craziness of Easter can’t change that. When I was growing up, we’d take hard-boiled chicken eggs, drop them in vinegar and dye, and marvel at the lovely colours. Sometimes we’d write on them first with crayon, with the promise that our names would appear once they emerged from the dye. I’m telling you, it was fucking magical. Now, I’m sure, kids use 3D printers or whatever to do their eggs, since technology is the magic of the day and everything good gets ruined. Sometimes adults hide these coloured eggs outside, and kids have to go find them. When I was growing up, my family held Easter egg hunts every year, and Grampy Carmichael used to hide one special silver egg (one of those plastic ones ladies hosiery used to be sold in), and the lucky child found it would get to enjoy the dollar and dirty joke inside. It seems hide and seek is a real theme of this holiday. Whether or not this is some kind of comment on the myrrhbearers not finding what they expected to find at Jesus’s tomb, I do not know.

However, eggs aren’t the only way that we mess with chickens’ minds at Easter. We often place the chicks whose development wasn’t stopped by being boiled in their shells in the baskets next to their siblings’ coloured tombs. Sometimes we dye the chicks pastels, just because we can. Or we form chicks out of marshmallows and cover them with sugar. (Suggestion: let them go a little stale before biting their heads off — yes, they’ll rip out your fillings but, trust me, it’ll be worth it.)

There are also Easter parades where people show off their hats. I mean, who doesn’t love hats?

Whether you’re into Easter for its religious significance or just for the insane traditions, I truly hope you have a good one. I was part of the parish’s planning committee, so naturally I’ll be donning my Easter bonnet this Sunday out at the egg hunt on the village green. Christopher will be suited up nice and smart next to me, though he won’t be taking pictures again, thanks to his police caution last year. Good luck to the little ones looking for the eggs — if you find the silver one and aren’t sure what that word means, I’m sure your father will be happy to explain it to you.