There is a state between awake and asleep that can be so enlightening: sometimes wonderful, at other times quite scary, cast adrift on the choppy sea of my imagination. I drank too much rosé at wine circle last night and woke up at dawn (circa 0430) with a bulging bladder. Some time between snuggling back into bed on return from the bathroom and when I eventually arose to make Maeve’s coffee at 0615, I borrowed a pair of my ex-boss’s trousers and bought a large motorcycle (it may have been a Guzzi Le Mans but I’m not sure). Thereafter, I took up panning for gold in North Wales. It’s a lot to cope with before breakfast.
Maeve organised a trip for the Wine Circle to Springhead Brewery, Laneham, North Nottinghamshire (http://www.springhead.co.uk/)
We had a fantastic time: good food, interesting tour, marvellous beers. I commend a visit to any who have not been. I think that, if I live a good life, Springhead might be where they send me when I die.
My only negative observation is that they’re far better brewers than photographers.
If someone says “Do you want a go?” you have to say “Yes” don’t you? The trick to mounting a penny-farthing (I think) is to instill sufficient momentum by scooting, before climbing the steps built into the frame up to the saddle, and starting to pedal. If you don’t have momentum, staying atop the machine is entirely dependent on balance. The saddle is around five feet off the ground, which may not sound much, but it seemed a long way to fall. Luckily, the concrete was there to catch me.
Barry can feel another argument is upon him. He takes a deep breath and adopts his “calm and reasonable” persona.
“I haven’t spent any time with the lads for months. Why would you object to us having a poker night?” He’s worried this sounds a bit whiney.
Karen spreads more mascara and tears across her cheek, and supresses a sob.
“I don’t object to you spending time with your mates but you don’t need to be gambling.”
He can see she has calmed down a little but is still unsure of his ground.
“You like a flutter on the lottery. What’s the difference?”
Woof! It’s like he’s lit the blue touch paper. Immediately, she is ranting again; her face twisted, like she’s in pain and jabbing her finger at him.
“I don’t invite a bunch of drunks here when I buy a lottery ticket, do I? Are you fucking stupid or what?” She’s glaring at him; challenging him; daring him to argue some more. But Barry still doesn’t understand.
“So it’s not the gambling you object to?”
“No” she barks.
“Well, I know you like Kev and Andy. You’re happy enough in their company in the pub on a Friday night. And Micky’s alright: you’re OK with Micky aren’t you?”
Karen gives one of her pained sighs that’s supposed to tell him that he’s an utter moron, bereft of all reasoning power. She takes on the long-suffering parent tone.
“It’s not for me to choose your drinking mates. For what it’s worth, I have no problem with any of them: I think they’re a good bunch of lads.” Barry is even more confused. Is she being deliberately obtuse? What on earth is she getting at? He tries one more time.
“Well, what is the problem then?”
“Do I need to draw you a picture or something?” she sneers, sarcasticly “I don’t want them here. This is my home. This is where I shut the world out. This is where I feel safe. I need a haven from all the crap out there. If you want to play poker, then piss off down the pub.”
I don’t waste much time on ghosties and ghoulies and things that go bump in the night. I get frustrated with those at the Inkwell (Creative Writing Forum) who seem to only write fantasy. It seems any piece I open currently has to contain a vampire or zombie. I have opined this to be laziness on the part of the author(s); ducking the need to make anything real or believable.
I have no belief in anything religious or metaphysical. My regular readers will know, there are several starkly atheistic posts within this blog.
Folklore is not a subject that has challenged my mind much. It has occurred to me however, over the last week or so, that this is a blinkered approach. Britain has a rich and varied folklore, inherited over thousands of years, that informs our national character and outlook. I doubt King Arthur or Robin Hood ever took breath, but I know their tales like the back of my hand, and so, I’d wager, do my peers. That’s a bond of sorts.
I rarely find cause for pride in “Britain’s” activities in the world, but I still have a kinship with my fellow countrymen. I will not be chasing faeries down the garden any time soon, but I have to accept that faeries form part of our history, albeit imagined history. And maybe, that is it imagined, doesn’t really matter anyway. The important distiction is that sufficient of our forebears felt the need to pass this material on to the next generation and so it lives with us.
I shall be off site, for the next two days, watching a “Project Acceleration by Coaching and Teamwork” (PACT) workshop unfold. Don’t expect much WordPress activity from me.
A delicate subject.
If you got shit on any part of your body other than your hole, would you be content with toilet tissue to clean it off? I certainly wouldn’t be. So why is it deemed acceptable for your hole? I don’t think toilet tissue is “fit for purpose”. I carry wet-wipes. Other people seem to think this is weird behaviour on my part. What do you think?
I can’t remember who said that originally, but it should have been written in blood within my job description.
The lengths that people will go to, in order to preserve their established way of working, are breathtaking. It matters not how good the improvement you’re offering is, or that it makes everyone’s life easier. Folk defend the status quo like a scrapyard dog protects his bone. Count your fingers.
The trick is to engage with all stakeholders; identify promoters and detractors; sell the benefits and closely monitor the results. It’s also vital to keep everyone informed: folk soon jump ship if they can’t see anything happening. Work instructions, training manuals and process descriptions are just so much scrap paper if no-one reads or adheres to them. All too often, managers are like puppeteers: nothing happens unless they’re pulling the strings.
Unless everyone involved is committed to the change, life will be fraught.
There is natural variation in all things. Few processes give exactly predictable results. Management and control lean heavily on measurement and reporting. It is important to distinguish between “noise” (i.e. the natural variation from the process) and “signal” (i.e. data which tells you something significant has happened). It is all too easy to waste time, energy and money chasing noise. Understand your data: statistical significance is the key.
Smudge is a cute mutt but getting her to pose for a photo is like plaiting fog. She will not sit still, insists on wriggling like an eel and looks in any direction except the one required. We had a family outing, and found ourselves in a country park, in the wilds of Nottinghamshire. I think I need to send her to modelling school.
Q. Are you thinking what I’m thinking?
A. No, I would never think a thing like that.
Q. Did you just say what I thought you just said?
A. I don’t know. How good is your hearing?
Q. Why is nothing ever simple?
A. Where do you want me to start?
Q. Will you ask me that again in ten years time?
A. Probably not.
Q. What do people in China call their good plates?
A. Good plates.
By mid-morning, Kev has finished sifting and answering emails, and so decides to call Jed Stevens, construction manager, at the test facility, on the other side of town.
“Hi. You’re speaking to Jed Stevens, Astra Space Mission. How may I help?”
“Hi Jed, its Kev. I just wanted to check you got those logic cards I sent you?”
“Oh, hi Kev. Yes, thanks: received, installed, tested and working fine.”
“OK, good. So is that everything? Nothing to prevent us running the dress rehearsal on the Astronaut Capsule next Monday?”.
“Yes, everything is good. Indeed, we’re taking advantage of being in front of schedule and running the dress rehearsal now.”
“What, you mean today?”
“Even as we speak.”
“I wish you wouldn’t do that Jed. We put the schedule together for good reason. All sorts of things rest upon events happening to plan: not late but not early either.”
“We’ve worked hard to get in front. We don’t want to just squander the time we’ve gained. It could give us some leeway if we hit a snag later.”
“You should spend the time you’ve gained checking and double-checking that everything is in place to enable you to work exactly to the plan and specification, so there are no snags. Every time you deviate, you create more problems.”
“You’re not being reasonable, Kev. I have to have some room for manoeuvre. We understand the implications of the changes we make.”
“What changes? What else have you done?”
“Just little adjustments, here and there, nothing you need worry about.”
“I am worried. Don’t tell me not to worry. That spec and plan were honed to perfection. I want to know exactly what you’ve changed and I want to know now.”
“Perfection, my arse! The spec said we needed to fill the test chamber with three bar of air pressure. Our compressors won’t give much more than two bar. Obviously your perfection engineers didn’t think of that. So we had to come up with a solution.”
“If we missed something, you need to tell us; not just do your own thing and keep quiet about it. We’ll keep making the same mistakes if you do that. What’s your solution?”
“You don’t need to worry, like I said. It won’t cost you anything. We were quite clever, really. We still had those liquid oxygen tanks left over from the previous mission. So we just used oxygen instead of air to pressurise the chamber. Neat huh?”
“You’re not telling me you have three astronauts sitting in three atmospheres of pure oxygen?”
“No, the astronauts are in the capsule, which is in the chamber. It’s not like they’re breathing it. It’s just to recreate the launch pressures on the capsule hull, for the dress rehearsal.”
“You fucking imbecile! Don’t you realise that, in three atmospheres of pure oxygen, steel burns like paper and aluminium burns like dynamite? Get those men out now.”
But the phone clicked dead and, a fraction of a second later, Kev heard the boom from the other side of town.
My regular readers will be aware that I have an ongoing curiosity regarding human sexual attraction: what it is, why it’s there, how it works, what it means. The subject of nipples seems apposite and offers a number of challenging questions.
Which body parts it is “proper” for a woman to reveal in public is a complex subject. Relying on some sweeping generalisations to circumvent the complexity: there are situations (red carpet at the Oscars?) where upper breast, cleavage, under breast, side breast are deemed acceptable, but nipples are not. Many beaches in Europe permit topless bathers but, where this is not so, it is the nipples that are covered. The most daring bikinis reveal most of the breast but conceal the nipple. I think it is reasonable to say that the nipple is a step beyond the breast.
Why is this so? In the coy sexual play of conceal and reveal, it is logical that the focus should fall upon the sites of human sexual differentiation. So vulva versus penis and scrota makes perfect sense. Developed female breasts versus undeveloped male breasts similarly makes sense. But what of nipples?
Men have nipples too. What’s more, to the naked eye, male nipples are indistinguishable from female nipples. So visually at least, the nipple is not a site of human sexual differentiation, unlike the rest of the breast. So the pecking order is all wrong: the breast should, logically, be more important than the nipple. Whence came this counterintuitive system?
Hearsay. Well, that and political pressure on crime figures. Oh, and coppers seeking to climb the greasy pole. Anything to get a conviction. Another tick in another box. I shouldn’t be in here. I haven’t done anything wrong. Well, nothing to justify them putting me behind bars, anyway. Bastards! I was trying to help, for fuck’s sake. Is this any way to repay me? Karen was obviously in distress. There was so much blood. I’ve never seen so much blood: horrible. Richard was just lying there. He was covered in blood too. I didn’t know he was dead though. Karen was screaming at me. What was she saying? “Leave me alone” I think. I looked behind me but I couldn’t see anyone. But it was quite dark down that alley. She was upset. Quite understandable, given the circumstances. Not thinking straight. I guess she would have screamed at anyone. I shouldn’t take it personally. No, I’m being too sensitive there. I need to calm down and think it through properly. How did we come to be in that alley? I know I was in the nightclub. I remember seeing Karen dancing. She’s usually quite sexy but she’s a real turn-on when she’s dancing. Richard was dancing with her. I think he was. I’m not sure. I was just drinking at the bar. Just watching. Watching Karen dancing. She has a fantastic figure. Marvellous tits. Great legs too. She should have been dancing with me. I wanted to take her home. Yes, I wanted that. I wanted her in my bed. I wanted her naked. I knew I had to play with that fantastic body. But she was dancing with Richard. Then she went out back. I thought she was going to the loo but she kept going. Out through the fire escape and into the alley. Smokers’ corner. Why was I there? I don’t smoke. She should have come home with me then. I knew that she had the hots for me. I think she was only dancing with Richard to make me jealous. I know she loves me really. We could have gone back to my place. Then Richard was there. What did he want? I was only talking to Karen. It was nothing to do with him. I think Karen must have felt embarrassed. That was Richard’s fault. Karen and I were going back to my place. But she wouldn’t want Richard to know. That’s it. That’s why she was embarrassed. That’s why she said she wouldn’t come. It was his fault. Then she laughed at me. Why would she do that? That made me angry. I really hate it when someone laughs at me. What happened next? I can’t remember. But Richard got hurt. All that blood!
We had dinner with a six friends from the wine circle at the Royal Oak in Aubourn on Saturday night. After a fine repast, I was stuffed to the gunwales with piggely pie, loitering in the bar area, finishing my pint of Black Sheep best bitter. Sid called out to me “Rob, help me”. I turned to find him slumped backwards across bar and bar stool, looking decidedly dodgy. I rushed to him and caught him as he began to slide to the floor. His usually pink complexion had turned greenish grey, he was sweating profusely but felt cold, whilst losing consciousness. Now I knew Sid was diabetic, so I guessed he was suffering a hypo, wrestled him back onto his stool and asked the barmaid to call an ambulance. “Not nice but no cause for panic” thought I. As an afterthought, I checked Sid’s pulse: nothing. Checked the other wrist and carotid: still nothing. Forget the “no need to panic” comment: Sid is dying.
I shouted Maeve and Elsie, Sid’s wife, over and we dragged Sid onto one of the padded bench seats. Still no detectable pulse, but he was breathing and wandering in and out of consciousness. So I called for quiet and listened to his chest. His heart seemed to be thumping away at a reasonable pace: so why didn’t he have a pulse? I no longer thought Sid was dying but I couldn’t make sense of the symptoms he presented.
Ten minutes later, Sid was waking up and regaining some colour, as the paramedic arrived. She had him hooked up to ECG and tested for blood glucose (9.7 mmol/l) in minutes. She gave us her diagnosis: Sid had suffered a vaso-vagal event. The silly old sod had eaten and drunk so much as to put his guts into shock. This had caused his body to divert virtually all blood circulation to his guts, accounting for his blanched complexion, undetectable pulse and loss of consciousness. Given his diabetes and previous heart attack, she recommended that he be taken to Lincoln County Hospital for a thorough check-over, but he was not in any danger. He was discharged at 01:00 next morning.
To follow a trend set by others seems ovine. I’m told there is sufficient latitude within any trend for individuality; for each to demonstrate their interpretation. I can see that but surely, there is even more latitude for individuality without the trend? What purpose does the trend fulfil?
New is better than old. Is it? OK, it could be there is some design improvement offered; some solution to a problem, not previously thought of but that seems rare. More often I see the same styles regurgitated on an erratic cycle “this year, the nineteen-twenties look is in”. If retro is in, then someone thinks old is better than new.
Does fashion help snobs and bitches? Does being “in” help me to sneer and criticise those who are “out”? How often have we heard “that’s soooo last year”? Is this really the sort of behaviour we want to encourage?
I own a garment that fits me well, is in a good state of repair, is comfortable, I like. But it’s not a la mode. Should I wear it or not? To me, it’s a no-brainer; others differ. I wish I could tell you all that I’m immune to the peer pressure but that would not be strictly accurate.
Fashion is an art-form. Haute couture may be; buying the latest trends off a high street rack is not; buying a pink laptop is not.
Fashion is slowly but surely creeping into so many consumer goods. It’s held sway in clothing, shoes, music and décor for centuries; more recently cars, but now phones, computers, gadgets, toothbrushes. The economic advantages for manufacturers, to persuade you that your goods need replacing, even though there is absolutely nothing wrong with them, are clear. Will you fall for it?
“Nevermore” quoth the raven, trying hard not to resemble a writing desk. The Hatter regards him with mistrust. I can feel myself drifting off to sleep again. My eyes are swimming; I can feel my energy ebbing away. Alice is talking about riddles, or maybe in riddles. I don’t care: I’m so tired.
There’s a burning sensation on my nose and I’m jerked into wakefulness again. Hatter is leaning over me with his teapot and there is a steaming puddle before me. “Why, Hatter? You must realise that hurts. You do, don’t you? Why are you such a loony?” Hatter doesn’t answer but looks pained.
“I’ve seen a grin” says Hare. Everyone looks at him in askance. “Over there” he offers, by way of explanation, and vaguely waves a paw towards the cottage. Heads are turned, to follow his wave, but no grin is apparent. “I only mention it because where there’s a grin there may be a cat. I know you don’t like cats.”
“I like cats” says Alice. The raven looks troubled.
“This delightful-sounding word possibly comes to English from the Anglo-Norman hapertas meaning “small ware,” though the origin is unknown. Haberdashery first entered English in the early fourteen-hundreds, though the term for the proprietor of this kind of shop or these kinds of goods, a haberdasher predates haberdashery by one hundred years.”
So did M. Haberdasher twiddle his thumbs in an empty shop for a century?
Cut price haberdashery is perfect for a cheap frill.
My friend Kim came back from a training course in Germany, where the tutor tried to persuade her that culture comes from sayings, adages or saws. That set our morning coffee gathering to a lively debate. It feels like a case of the tail wagging the dog or the cart before the horse to me. Surely, it’s our culture that defines our sayings, not the other way around?
We’re not usually very serious for very long and this occasion was no exception. Levity is the watchword, even if I’m the only one who knows what it means. Claire proposed “lol”, though I don’t think that qualifies as a saying. If at first you don’t succeed, maybe sky-diving isn’t for you. If you can keep your head, whilst those around are losing theirs, maybe you’ve misunderstood the situation. Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may diet. Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he’ll want a quota. Little Jack Horner pulled out a plum and said “where’s my thumb gone?” Procrastination is the thief of time, but so are a lot of other long words. Beauty is only skin deep but ugliness goes right to the bone. It is better to keep your mouth shut, and have everyone think you’re dumb, than to open it, and prove it beyond all doubt. “Hell hath no fury like a woman’s corn” (Taming Of The Shoe).
Culture? Don’t talk to me about culture. Ask the man with the petri dish.
We said goodbye to a good friend today. Freda was wonderful to be with; never had a bad word to say about anyone; enjoyed her life; took sustenance and real delight in the people and events around her. Even in her late eighties, she had a sense of fun and mischief that lit up the room. We will miss her.
You expect a funeral to be a sad occasion and, in some ways, I suppose it was. But I think the mood was more one of celebration and gratitude for what Freda had given us and relief that she didn’t suffer for long.
I hope there are no long faces when I shake off this coital maul. I’ve had a good life. I want folk to raise a glass and say a happy goodbye. Wear a red dress, have a drink on me and give me a smile.
You expect bouts of attention seeking behaviour from a three year old. They don’t understand the ways of the world at that age. It does not seem unreasonable to them to rant, scream and generally misbehave until they get what they want. Parents put much time and effort into teaching moderation, give-and-take, decorum. If you’ve had the misfortune to be cooped with an attention seeking child and ineffectual parent combination, you will know how irksome it can be. Christos Tsiolkas describes a similar poser in “The Slap”. Violence isn’t the answer. There are two well-defined methods for approaching the ineffectual parent of a misbehaving child and they’re both useless.
Children grow up, maybe despite their parents. Most, though certainly not all, lose their tantrums. Do they lose their attention seeking behaviour? I think, if you don’t think about it much, you answer “yes”. But take a step back and ponder a moment. How much of all human endeavour is attention seeking behaviour? Whether you’re an actor, model, musician, architect, manager, gardener, writer, priest; how much of what you do is to seek the attention of your peers? Sure, you have to make a living and use your talents to get on in the world; that’s a given. Do you hide your light under a bushel meantime?
Mr Fox will urge an end to the ring-fencing of budgets for the NHS, schools and international development and as well as of universal benefits such as the pensioners’ winter fuel allowance.” (BBC News)
Or, to put it another way, he plans to take money from the poor, the sick, the children and give it to the rich. Why would anyone ever consider voting Tory?
There is little point in ranting and cursing at an inanimate object. The self check-out systems at ASDA have me so frustrated. Bar-code scanners seem to work when the mood takes them. The weighing function linked to inane and utterly useless recorded instruction is patronising and irritating. To tell me I have more weight of goods in my bag than I’ve scanned makes sense; to tell me I have less, does not, particularly as it has a manual override anyway.
I always seem to be too fast for the system at every juncture, which means I’m constantly being prompted to do things I’ve already done.
ASDA will tell me that the whole exercise is intended to save my time. I don’t believe this is true. A more likely explanation is that it reduces their headcount and wage bill.
I use supermarkets because I like their low prices, so I should accept the measures they use to drive their costs down. Well, maybe, but check-out personnel still have to eat: don’t I just pay by another means?
I really like the design of the carrier-bag dispenser with the hold open function, though. I think that’s a fine piece of design.
Thomas Hardy has long been a favoured author for me. I like the way he choses to write about real people, rather than the upper-class twits who were lauded by so many of his contemporaries. I also find resonance in his philosophy of life: that the universe is configured to make us miserable and little we do makes any real difference. It is almost as though he tried to describe entropy in human terms, though I doubt he ever used such a word.
Our eponymous mayor makes many mistakes, acts foolishly and selfishly on occasion, but he is not evil. There is a horrible inevitability about the way retribution for his deeds is visited upon him. It is nigh-on impossible not to feel some sympathy with him. His best efforts to make amends for his wrongdoings are misinterpretted and only make matters worse. How many of us have been there?
Most of all, The Mayor Of Casterbridge is a well thought out and well written yarn. If you’ve never read it, then I commend it to you. The ebook is available for free download at http://www.gutenberg.org/
“The price of everything and the value of nothing” wrote Oscar Wilde: a modern disease. Price is such a curious attribute. An economist will tell you that any item’s price is merely what someone is prepared to pay for it. In a sensible system, you might imagine this should be tied to the cost to produce an item, but this is not always so, and it is often not simple. So called “hidden costs” are a feature. In a world that is geared to support business, it is politic to spread the burden far and wide. If a factory is built on a green field, is the true cost of the loss of that field merely the price of the land? Maybe the field will be an industrial site, and not green, for a thousand years: how could you put a true cost to that? You could find the cost of clearing the site and returning it to its former ecosystem (assuming all the species were still “available”) but that still would not cover the cost to the generations who had been denied it. Which brings us back to where we started and the question of value: he was a clever bloke, that Oscar.
A saw an item in on a news magazine last night that made me wonder. They were discussing the resurgence of malnutrition as a problem in the North of England. One interviewee, a single mother of two, told how she sometimes went without food herself, in order to guarantee that her children were fed. I salute her dedication. But then she showed the meal she was making for them: chicken nuggets, tinned mushy peas, and frozen chips. Chicken breast, dried marrowfat peas and potatoes are significantly cheaper than the ingredients she chose (and probably healthier too). I’m guessing the reason behind her choice is that she can’t cook.
It is an absolute disgrace that folk should suffer such poverty in a country as rich as the U.K. I fully support the interviewee’s right to demand better.
There’s an old saw that says if you give a man a fish, he will eat for a day; if you give a man a fishing rod, he will eat for evermore. I wonder whether a few cooking lessons might ease the situation?
One night, a lorry driver decides to take a shortcut over the moors. Half way across, all the electrics on his lorry go dead and he grinds to a halt. All is darkness and desolation. Although not normally of a nervous disposition, the driver feels a terrible dread creep over him. So he finds his torch, climbs out of the cab and looks for the source of the problem. He’s routing around in the engine compartment when he hears a ghastly voice from the dark “It’s your earth lead”. Shaking with fear, the driver looks around, but can see no-one but a huge black horse, staring at him from the field beside the road. Frantically, the driver again hunts for the cause of the fault. Again comes the eerie voice “It’s your earth lead”. Still there is no-one to be seen, just the horse staring at him. So the driver open his battery box; finds that the earth lead has indeed come adrift; and he pushes it back on. All of the electrics on his lorry are immediately alive again, so the driver leaps back into his cab and races away as fast as he can.
The driver is feeling a little shaken by this experience, so he pulls in at the next public house on route and orders himself a stiff drink. The landlord is aware of the tremble in the driver’s voice and that all is not well. “What’s your problem driver: you look like you’ve seen a ghost?”. So the driver relates the tale of the huge black horse on the moor. “Ah now” says the landlord, nodding sagely “you’ll not be knowing of the local legend. There’s many who’ve called in here, scared witless by the black horse. Mind, you should count yourself most fortunate that it was the black horse you met and not the white one.”
“Why?” asks the driver, eyes wide with fright.
“’Cos the white one knows nothing about electrics.”
For as long as anyone could remember, Bill and John had fished together in the canal. Every day they were there together, without fail. One Tuesday morning, they were sitting side-by-side on the bank, as usual, when Bill said “I’m not coming tomorrow.”
“Not coming tomorrow?” replied John, utterly aghast.
“No, sorry, I can’t ‘cos I’m getting married. It’s OK though. I’ll be here again on Thursday.”
John heaved a sigh of relief “Oh, that’s OK then.”
Thursday morning, sure enough, they’re fishing together again. But John’s curiosity is piqued “This new wife: are you going to tell me a bit about her?”
“Well, there’s not much to tell, really”.
“Oh” says John.
After a while, John decides to try again: “Is she a looker?”
“No, quite plain, ugly even.”
“Oh” says John.
“Is she an intellectual then, clever like?” asks John, albeit without much conviction.
“No, I’d say she’s pretty thick, really.”
“Oh” says John.
John is nothing if not persistent: “Well, she must be a bubbly personality then; you know, fun to be with?”
“No, she’s quite boring.”
“Oh” says John.
“I’ll bet she’s loaded. Is she? Rich widow or such-like?”
“No, poor as a church mouse.”
“Oh” says John.
“I know, I’ve got the measure of you matey-boy: I’ll bet she’s a nymphomaniac, goes like a bunny, shags you silly every night?”
“No, she’s not interested in sex at all: totally celibate.”
“Oh” says John.
John’s confusion is growing. Eventually he can stand it no longer and challenges his friend “Bill, this makes no sense. If she’s ugly, stupid, thick, boring, broke and celibate, why on earth did you marry her?”
“She’s got worms.”
I really enjoyed “Meet The Izzards” on BBC One, 2100hrs gmt, yesterday. Eddie Izzard was tracing his genetic ancestry. Eddie is a blue-eyed, white, caucasian, Englishman, yet he was able to track back to ancestors in Southern Africa. There is overwhelming evidence that ALL humans originated there, through one female line, two hundred thousand years ago. So we’re ALL related. It matters not whether you’re black, white, yellow, brown, pink, or polka-dotted. Somewhere in the past, you and I share an ancestor.
1. Wastes no time finding the facts.
2. Avoids wasted effort checking other points of view.
3. Ducks all those tedious arguments.
4. Ignores distractions from respect for the feelings or sensibilities of others.
5. Allows the user single-minded focus on selfish exploit.
I went to Scunthorpe Wine Circle last night as they had a comedy act on. I can’t remember all of the material I laughed long and hard at, but his opening gambit stayed with me:
“My wife has decided we’ll sleep in separate beds from now on. My bed will be in Lincoln and hers will be in Liverpool.”
I’m assuming that there’s a first time for all of us. Well, very nearly all of us. Very few people, I suggest, marry the first person they date and remain with that person ‘til death them do part. So, it follow, nearly everyone has an “ex” somewhere.
Names are important; I realise that. But there are only so many things that anyone can think about at any particular moment and still fewer that you can actually concentrate upon. So my defence, your honour, is one of absent-mindedness; nothing more sinister than that.
I have previously called my wife by the dog’s name and my dog by my wife’s name. Neither of these transgressions prompted more than a passing comment (though the dog looked confused).
I realise that it was most impolitic to call my present wife by my ex-wife’s name. It wasn’t that I was thinking of my ex-wife. Had I been concentrating upon her, the misdemeanour would have been less and not more likely. It was only a “slip of the tongue”. Suffice to say that the ensuing debate has persuaded me to avoid any repeat.
Rupert Murdoch has hinted that the Sun may shed its infamous page three model feature. I’m not averse to a bit of soft porn but siting it in (what purports to be) a newspaper has always seemed wrong. I’m cynical enough to believe there is vested interest beyond readership figures and into distraction from the real news (or who’s stealing your birth-right today?) The Sun has long been a thorn in the side of the Labour Movement. I recall Ray Buckton (ASLEF) saying he wouldn’t wrap his chips in it. There was a campaign to reclassify it as a comic.
I hope the lack of naked breast won’t allow the Sun to gain respectability. Murdoch is making no promises about shedding rabid reactionary lies.
Dating sites should have feedback, anonymous of course. Everyone you meet, you should give an appraisal of; marks out of ten for dress sense, sweetness of breath, conversation prowess, most tactile or snoggable, and the like. They could prepare league tables of best performers in the various categories; features on star turns; rookie of the month for the recently dumped or divorced. Just think how much easier this would make finding Mister or Missus Right.
My life has taken a turn for the better and things are looking up at last. We suffered a most depressing winter, with plaster everywhere, and every room in turmoil. A local plumber and a local decorator have forged my faith in tradesmen anew, after the debacle with the saboteur plasterer. I still have the spare bedroom to decorate and the lounge flooring to sort; but things are back to normality again. I can take a shower, find my clothes, get to my guitars, and cook a meal.
I believe it was worth the trauma we suffered, to get to the levels of insulation we now enjoy. You may recall, the reason we embarked on this adventure, was to fit foam-backed plaster board inside all of the exterior walls, to make up for our lack of a cavity. Previously, the boiler was running at full tilt and we were still cold. Now, I’ve turned down all of the radiator valves, I hear the boiler fire up only intermittently, and we’re as warm as toast: result!
I didn’t realise just how much the situation at home was getting us down. We were snapping and snarling at one-another, falling out over nothing. I was looking for excuses to stay late at the office. All tribute to poor Maeve, who had no such escape available.
“All’s well that ends well” said Billy the Bard. We’re smiling now.
The top floor landing of our wonderful new office suite gives a panoramic view of the car park. I had occasion to visit Engineering this morning and lingered for a moment to take in the scene. I was struck by how similar the cars look. I am old enough to remember when you could tell the make of a vehicle approaching from over a mile away, even before you could determine the model. Citroens, Rovers, Jaguars, Volvos, VWs, MGBs, many others had discernible form. Of course, I took much more of an interest in such things as a boy and I know my eyesight hasn’t improved any in the past fifty years. Even so, now it seems I need to be close enough to read the badge to tell who made a car.
I really appreciate the reliability and practicality of modern cars. I can also remember the hours spent fettling and cajoling old motors, with little guarantee that the damn things would start or go anywhere. My Nissan Note is so reliable that thoughts of not arriving at my destination never enters my consciousness. My prowess as a mechanic is severely limited, so I am happy to wave goodbye to the bad old days. I just wish we could have retained a little more character in our “wheels”.
I’d say I have a optimistic outlook at work and on life generally. My job title is Six Sigma Black Belt, which sounds exotic, but actually just means that I spend my time trying to find ways to improve the business. Most folk I work with recognise this and I get a positive response from them.
There are few objections to business improvement that I haven’t heard before. “We don’t have time”, “we’ve always done it this way”, “that’s the way we were told to do it”, “that’s what it says in the book”, “it’s not us you need to worry about; it’s those plonkers in buying/shipping/stores/engineering/sales/contracts/IT/HR/packing/accounts/
quality/production/logistics” (delete any that don’t apply). Because I’m seen as a neutral, i.e. not aligned to any of the warring departments, I can usually get people to work together to find a solution. Occasionally, however, I have a run-in with a dinosaur.
Fortunately, dinosaurs are few and far between. I don’t like to give them too much attention. I find that, if the rest of the team are all working to realise an improvement, dinosaur can very quickly find him/herself isolated. Dinosaur then has few options: either change attitude and join in or lose any relevance. Dinosaurs are often attention seekers, so isolation is anathema to them.
This week, I found a dinosaur so stubborn and disruptive, that his attitudes are not only undermining my efforts, but actually starting to rub off on me. I find myself thinking “we’ll do it his way, even though I know it’s wrong, and when it all goes to rat shit, I will be vindicated”. This is not a good place for me to go. If the process fails, or does not improve, inevitably folk will look in askance to me; even if I am not the prime mover of the failure. Bloody-minded is not a suitable attitude for a black belt. I’ve got to find a better way to smother my dinosaur.
“Every cloud has a silver lining” says the rather optimistic saw. Maybe there will be some good to come from the horsemeat scandal(s). Maybe, just maybe, people will want to steer clear of pre-processed microwave food and support their local butchers. We can but hope.
I am happy to be blessed with an excellent butcher (Bellamy’s) less than a mile from my home. Use it or lose it!
“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?”
“Depends what you mean by “fairest”, Luv. Some folk mean “blonde” when they say “fair”. Others mean “just” or “sporting” or “egalitarian”.”
“You’re a magic mirror: I’m consulting you about beauty. Am I not the most gorgeous creature in the world?”
“I think “creature” is a mistake, to be honest, Luv. This is difficult enough without getting non-species specific.”
“All right! Am I the most beautiful woman in the world then?”
“Of course you are.”
“Why “of course”?”
“You own me. I’ve made a judgement that you want to be the most beautiful. Therefore, you are the most beautiful.”
“But am I REALLY the most beautiful?”
“Well, I think so, of course, but these things are very subjective.”
“That’s not good enough. I want you to tell me that I’m REALLY the most beautiful.”
“You’re REALLY the most beautiful.”
“But would you still say that if I didn’t own you?”
“But would you still say that if someone else owned you?”
“But wouldn’t she, your new owner, I mean, wouldn’t she want you to say that she was the most beautiful?”
“So what would you say then?”
“Look Luv, I’m doing my best here. My job is to please. I don’t know what my new owner looks like. Isn’t it enough that you’re the most beautiful owner I know?”
“Am I not the only owner you know?”
“Well, strictly speaking, yes, but I think you’re beautiful.”
“What’s the point in having a magic mirror, if I can’t get a straight answer?”
“With respect Luv, you don’t want a straight answer.”
This is the age of the “one stop shop”. Across the world, supermarkets are replacing the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker with convenience stores. I do most of my shopping in supermarkets because I crave their convenience and low prices. At the same time, I miss the quality and personal touch the little shops used to provide.
For other purchases, I’m a little more choosey. I don’t expect or want my dentist to syringe my ears, or cut my hair, whilst he’s checking my teeth. I want a specialist, not a “jack of all trades” or “all-rounder”. Similarly, I’m content to see my G.P. with my minor ailments but, if there’s something seriously wrong with me, I want a specialist. I don’t expect my G.P. to be expert in every field of medicine. I wouldn’t want a good all-rounder administering my oncology, or an ear, nose and throat wallah fiddling with my aorta!
Monogamous tradition dictates that your partner must be an all-rounder. We expect him/her to provide care, attention, love, support, social interaction, entertainment, sex, and we expect to provide the same in return. It is not reasonable to expect anyone to be expert in every aspect of partnership. The very best we can hope for is a good all-rounder, with expertise in the one aspect most dear to us. Even this compromise is difficult to find and nigh-on impossible to sustain over decades.
So, is there a case for single service providers in lieu of a one stop shop? Is the only perfect partner actually not one man or woman but a collection of people, chosen for their skill sets? Logically, I think yes. Emotionally, I’m less convinced. What do you think?
I’m naked but I’m still hidden behind the half open door. Everyone else in the office is carrying on with their work regardless: they haven’t seen me. Somehow, I’ve got to get across the office and out the front door, so I can get home for some clothes, without anyone seeing me. My pal Jimmy is at his desk. If I can attract his attention without alerting anyone else, maybe he can help.
“Psst Jimmy!” Jimmy is still staring at his screen.
“Jimmy” I try a little louder. Carole looks over at me.
“Rob. Why are you hiding behind that door?” Now everyone is looking my way. Cynthia is laughing. “Are you naked in the office again?”
“No” I say, holding the door tightly against me.
“You are, aren’t you?” Carole is out of her seat and walking towards me. Cynthia and Sally follow her. I back out of the threshold, close the door behind me and hold on tight to the handle. They’re banging on the door and shouting variously “Come out” and “You’re disgusting” and “We’re coming to get you.”
Then someone starts to force the handle down. I’m fighting to hold it up but still it turns inexorably.
“No, no” I shout “no, no, no….”
“Rob wake up, you’re dreaming, wake up, it’s just a nightmare” I’m in bed and Maeve is kneeling beside me, shaking me by the shoulders “This is just a dream: you’re alright” she soothes.
“Oh God, that was horrible” I say and start to describe my dream to her, but she gently puts her finger to my lips to silence me.
“Shhhh” she says “you’re in a good dream now, forget about all that.” I laugh.
“I’m not dreaming now.”
“Yes, of course you are. This isn’t real. You just relax for a while and think about where you might have left your clothes.” Her words slap me out of any relax.
“What do you mean? That makes no sense.”
“It makes perfect sense. You went to work fully dressed but now you’re naked, so where are your clothes?”
“No, this is bullshit. I must be dreaming. I’ll wake up in a bit and everything will be fine.”
“Well, maybe, but you tried that once and look what happened.”
“We scrap seven out of every eight bells we make.” An uneasy hush fell over the boardroom. Arthur scanned around the worried faces. He had their attention now. “This is costing us a small fortune. We have to find a way to make each bell right first time, or this company is going under.”
Derek, the purchasing manager, spluttered into life. “But we’ve been round this loop umpteen times Arthur. We can’t afford the new molds we need to solve the problem of casting surface finish. It’s poor surface finish that makes them go scrap: well, the majority of them anyway.”
Mike, production manager, grunted an agreement.
Arthur fought to control his temper “We cannot just accept this situation. If we don’t come up with a solution, we’re finished. This company has been founding bells in this town for two hundred and seventy years. We have to find a way to keep us going until we can fund the new moulds.”
“Can’t we borrow the money for the molds?” asked Mike without any conviction.
Tim, accounts manager, chipped in “Come on Mike, you know we’re stretched to the limit. The bank is twitchy enough already. They won’t let us take on any more debt.”
Arthur clenched his fists, then forced himself to relax. “Right, enough of this. I don’t know what any of you planned to do for the remainder of this week but, whatever it was, forget it. Go and find a solution for this problem. Surf the net, ask your granny, spy on another foundry, I don’t care but I don’t want to see any of you again until we have a solution we can work with. Now, go to it.”
Two days later, Arthur was at his desk and nearing despair. The management team had done a lot of scurrying but no-one had offered any useful ideas. He suspected the scurrying was more associated with looking for alternative employment than answers to quality problems.
Arthur heard a little tap at his door. “Come!” he barked. Sally Atkins, their only remaining apprentice, poked her head around the door. “I’m sorry Mr. Taylor, could you spare me a moment, please? I can come back later if…”
“No Sally, come on in and sit down. What can I do for you? How’s your granddad?”
“He’s fine Mr. Taylor, thank you: enjoying his retirement but still reminiscing every day about his years making bells here.”
“So, what’s up?”
“I’ve been thinking about this problem with the molds. I thought of a way of doing it. I know it’s not perfect but I think it might just do as a temporary fix.”
“OK” said Arthur, dubiously. “Have you asked Mike Donaldson about it?”
“Yes, I told him but he said I was being stupid. But I’m sure it can work.”
“Mike’s been making bells here for thirty years.”
“Yes, I know that: he was my granddad’s apprentice.”
Arthur had to laugh at that. “OK, so what’s your idea?”
“We make twenty-eight different sizes of bells. The molds are matched: inners and outers. If we use the correct size outer but a size smaller inner, we will cast a bell with a much thicker wall. It will mean a lot more machining to get them down to the correct size but we’re bound to remove any surface defects in the process.”
“Good grief, that’s brilliant. Sally, that’s just perfect. It’s so simple yet absolutely effective. Thank you, thank you so much. Why didn’t we think of that? You’re so clever. God, I could kiss you right now. Come on: we’ll go and explain it to Mike and get him started.”
There has been a lot of discussion of feminist issues on various social media, following the brutal rape and murder of Nirbhaya. Most of the outcry is emotional, necessary and laudable. Predictably, there is a small minority seeking to blame the victims for the problem: skirts too short, drinking alcohol, not chaperoned, &c. Thankfully, the vermin spouting these lies are relatively rare (albeit not quite rare enough).
What I also detect is a worrying undercurrent that seems to suggest that feminist ideas and ideals are pro-woman but anti-man. I believe this is fundamentally flawed. I am proud to declare that I am a feminist. I absolutely believe that equality of opportunity is in the best interests of both sexes.
In my experience, women who are respected, supported and feel safe, are more likely to be happy. Women who are happy, keep men happy. I don’t know of any other way that works.
So, it follows, that feminism is in the best interests of even the most selfish man, and all the rest of us too.
I like to think that there is always another way to look at things. I often find “perceived wisdom” to be desperately unwise. Terrorist attacks prompt predictable responses from the status quo: “we will never give in to terrorism”, “the perpetrators will be relentlessly pursued”, “this is just senseless violence”, “the slaughter of innocents is never justified”, and so on. The outrage and passions expressed are understandable, but do they help?
We all want peace, don’t we? But not peace at any price. Which says to me, we want peace on our terms. Which is exactly the same as saying, we want to fight until our aims are achieved or our enemy gives in. So maybe, we don’t want peace enough.
Ah yes, I hear you say, but they started it. Well, did they? And even if they did, does that mean that they can have no grievance (real or imagined)? And, if they have a grievance (real or imagined), could we address it?
I utterly condemn the methods employed by terrorists. Problem is, every time we kill a terrorist, two more seem to step into the breach. We’ve been killing them for years but they keep coming. A dispassionate observer might imagine that terrorists actually believe their actions to be justified. Is there a way, other than killing, to persuade them that they are wrong? More of the same tactics doesn’t seem intelligent.
“Senseless violence” just says to me that we don’t understand: no-one really believes that terrorists plant bombs for fun. “Relentless pursuit” is another way of saying “carry on as before”. Is “we will never give in to terrorism” just another way of saying “we’re still not listening”? And, if we’re still not listening, what will it take?
April 11th 1905: the earth moved. It had always moved, of course, and we thought that we understood why it moved. For two hundred years, we thought we knew. Two hundred years is a long time to believe. There were doubters: there always are. And the religious zealots were never far away, ever looking for a chink in the reasoning. But no-one of any import seriously doubted that Isaac Newton had the explanation essentially right. You only had to look at the huge swathe of events that Newtonian mechanics reliably and repeatedly predicted. So there might be a few quirks and specialised grey areas, but the theory worked.
Then a patent clerk, called Albert Einstein, chose that day in 1905 to show us that Newton’s wonderful theory could not be trusted in all situations. Shock enough, you might imagine, but there was more. Apparently, mass and energy are really two versions of the same thing and, under the right circumstances, may be converted, one to the other: bizarre. But there’s more. Speed is an illusion, depending upon one‘s viewpoint. We need to consider motion as a change in four dimensions or spacetime. Everything in the universe has the same speed in spacetime. Light only appears very fast because all of its spacetime is used up in motion. Paradox upon paradox.
The earth had never moved like this before.
(For the Inkwell’s monthly Friday Frenzy challenge)
Alcohol tax is a strange thing. I’ve never really understood why the cost of administering a country is more heavily borne by those who like a drink, than those who do not. This state of affairs is not likely to change significantly any time soon however, but fortunately, there is an opt out: make your own.
Home brewing used to mean murky brews of dubious provenance, but not any more. Modern kits are so easy to use and the results are dependable. I can make a bottle of wine of equal quality to that which sells for £5 in Asda (Walmart) for £1.50, and beer £2.50 per litre compared with for £1. It is really easy to learn and the kit required is quite modest.
Inevitably, there is a downside. You do need patience and some space. Also, there are those for whom the cost of booze is a welcome limitation: problems may ensue when they can afford three times as much. But it’s easy to get hooked on a hobby that saves you money. If anyone would care to give it a go, I’m willing and available to offer any advice I can. If you happen to be in the Lincoln area, there is a friendly club you can join too.
I wrote another piece for The Inkwell’s Half-hour Challenge under the theme “Bells”.
“Yes, this is Dave Probert. Who am I speaking to, please?”
“You don’t know me Mr. Probert. It’s best for all concerned if we leave it that way. Let’s just say I’m a friend of a friend or friends. You may call me Mr. Bell. I am of your brotherhood. I have a favour to ask of you for a brother in need.”
Dave was trying to think fast but going around in circles. The Brothers Of The Bell had helped his son Kevin with a string of bad debts, when Kev’s plumbing business looked to be going under for want of cash-flow. It had seemed mysterious at the time: no names, no faces, just anonymous voices on phones. But the people who owed Kev money had paid up P.D.Q., even those who seemed to have no money to pay.
Dave was aware all was silent. Mr. Bell was waiting a reply.
“What can I do for you, Mr. Bell?”
“You are employed as an Evidential Exhibits Officer at Lincoln Crown Court.”
Dave stiffened with dreadful anticipation. “I am.”
“The case of The Crown versus Landy is to be heard there next week. You will loose the CPS’s exhibits for this case before the trial commences.”
“I can’t do that. I’d get caught. Everyone would know it was me. It’s such a high profile case: it’s been in all the papers. Everyone knows that Landy is guilty. His fingerprints are on the knife and the victim’s blood is on Landy’s clothing.”
“I am not asking you for a legal assessment Mr. Probert. I am calling in the debt you owe to the Brotherhood. We did not ask any questions when you requested our help with your son’s cash-flow embarrassment and we don’t intend to offer any answers to you now. You only need know that your brother is in need and that you are in a position to help. We expect your help, Mr. Probert.”
“But that’s completely different. Kevin had done nothing wrong. He was owed that money fair and square for work he had done in good faith. Landy is a cold-blooded murderer and gangster. He deserves everything he gets.”
Mr. Bell barked an interruption “Mr. Probert!” then reverted to the quiet calm “None of that is your concern. You need only do as the Brotherhood has requested: nothing more, nothing less.”
Dave was scared but angry too “I won’t do it.”
There was a pause, then slowly Mr. Bell said “You should not say that, Mr. Probert. I find your attitude most disappointing. It displays an unprecedented lack of gratitude for our efforts on your son’s behalf. It also shows a breathtaking lack of understanding. Do you imagine that your son’s debtors paid him willingly? No, Mr. Probert: they paid him because we knew how to ask. The Brothers Of The Bell ask in ways that people find very persuasive.”
I’ve not been blogging much recently. I’ve been tied up with an elusive plasterer over Christmas and I’ve not had internet access at home. My views per day score has been bumbling along at around the fifty mark for weeks. This is not something that troubles me much: my motivation for blogging has little to do with popularity.
Yesterday, for reasons that I cannot fathom, 182 people viewed this blog. I’m intrigued to know why. I produced a short piece called “Here and Now” for The Inkwell’s Half-hour Challenge, much as I do every month. Nothing seems to have changed except the number of visitors.
Does anyone have a theory to offer?
The Inkwell’s monthly “Half-hour Challenge” competition, themed “Bells” for January.
What you can see or can’t see depends upon where your eyes are and which way they’re pointing; the light; and what’s in the way. I can see a hand. I think it’s mine, though I can’t seem to prompt any movement. The hand is lying on a patch of vertical lawn. No, maybe horizontal lawn, viewed from equally horizontal head. Beyond the lawn is a huge yew tree; behind that, a graveyard and a church. A bell is ringing, slow and sonorous, like a death march. “Dong” he says: walk this way. Again “dong”: slow and sober, but not distracted or deviated, please. “Dong”: inevitability is overwhelming. “Dong”: the birds twitter on regardless.
It’s a sunny day. I can feel the warmth on my back. A shiny black fly burbles and bumbles around the gravestones, busy and blissfully unaware. Dandelion seeds drift by me, riding the warm breeze.
Everything is here and now. Life goes on apace. Bodies lie in their graves but don’t complain. Babies are born and complain about everything. Children grow and learn their lot. The bell tolls for another who shakes off the mantle of time and returns to the earth.
Gordon Besford carried his virginity like a millstone. The swinging sixties and sexual liberation were long ago and, at eighteen year of age, he felt cheated. His mates boasted of regular sexual encounters, though they were conspicuously short on detail. Meanwhile, all the women of his age that he knew gave the impression that they were virgins. Something didn’t add up.
His ex-girlfriends had been a big disappointment. Only Jennifer had even permitted him to play with her breasts and that was the absolute limit she set on their intimacy.
Sally was Gordon’s latest girlfriend of three months and, at long last, matters sexual seemed to be on the up. Gordon really liked Sally. She was pretty and sensible; displayed little of the childish regression that his previous girls had hidden behind. He genuinely enjoyed Sally’s company and conversation but, most of all, he lusted after her body.
Sally had initiated French kissing on their second date. He was thrilled and encouraged by this show of independence and reciprocated desire. Gordon felt that Sally would take him all the way, provided he let her set the pace. So he suppressed his urges and went with the flow.
After four weeks, their meetings settled into a pattern: they were together at her parents house most evenings, usually kicking around in the lounge or kitchen. But every Saturday night, her parents went to the local pub from eight to eleven, and Sally wasted no time in leading him to her bedroom.
He liked the way she gave him clear instruction as to which parts of her were on or off limits by guiding his hands, groaning with pleasure at his touch, but tapping his wrist if he wandered too far, as they kissed. Most of all he liked the way the on limit grew a little larger every Saturday night.
By Bonfire Night, they were both naked except for their knickers. Genitals were still out of bounds but Gordon felt things were moving apace and it was only a matter of time. On the second Saturday of December he decided, albeit with some trepidation, to try using Sally’s tactic, took her right hand from behind his neck and guided into his knickers. He expected resistance or, at the very least, some reciprocal trepidation on Sally’s part. Instead she eagerly sought out his erection, began to massage gently whilst purring in his ear, as though she had been waiting for the invitation. Gordon was so bowled over by this affirmation from Sally that he was moved to tears.
The following Saturday, Gordon could sense the impatience and expectation in the air as they waited for Sally’s parents to get ready and leave. The very moment the door clicked shut behind them, they dashed up the stairs, giggling with excitement and tearing off clothing on route. Gordon was slightly alarmed when Sally pushed him back on her bed, leapt on top of him, her hand immediately seeking his cock as she snogged him hungrily. Still she would not permit his hand inside her knickers but grunted and panted as he fiddled with her clit through the sodden cotton.
The fourth Saturday was Christmas Eve and her parents stayed in. Gordon couldn’t cope with being with Sally yet unable to play with her, so he went home early. They met again on Christmas day to exchange presents. As they parted, Sally whispered in Gordon’s ear “They’re going out tomorrow afternoon”.
Her parents had already left when she opened the door to him.
“Hello” he said.
“Fuck hello” she barked “get upstairs and get your knickers off!”
He obeyed at a gallop. This time, she too was naked as she jumped on top of him. Is today the day he wondered. But no, their activities were much the same as nine days previously, albeit with the added excitement of full nudity. He enjoyed what they did together and felt closer to Sally than ever before but still worried that she held so much in reserve and winced when he thought he still carried the label “virgin”. She recognised that he was brooding as they parted.
“You want to go all the way, don’t you?” she asked as she was dressing.
He was surprised at the question, first because of her directness but also because he thought the answer was obvious.
“Oh, yes Sally” he pleaded.
“Mum and Dad are going to a party on New Year’s Eve. We’ll do it then.”
“God, yes, do you mean it? Don’t tease me. Are you serious?”
“Yes, it’s time. I want you.”
The next five days dragged interminably. Gordon could not think of anything else but their planned sexual encounter. His excitement was palpable but also he was fearful. Could he perform to Sally’s satisfaction? Her confidence scared him. Was she really a virgin?
New Year’s Eve found Gordon in a state of acute agitation and near exhaustion. He’d spent the previous day and all night worrying about Sally and whether he would measure up to her expectations. He’d had no sleep and felt like he had a cold coming on. He spent the day trying to find something to distract him but nothing seemed to help. By the time he presented himself at Sally’s house at eight-thirty, he looked like death warmed over.
“God, what happened to you?” was Sally’s greeting.
“I’m just a bit tired” he replied.
“Do you still want to do it?”
“Yes, of course I do” he lied.
“Look, it’s no big deal. If you’re not feeling up to it, we can take it easy and try another time.”
“No, I really want you. Please don’t make me wait.”
“O.K. come on then.”
They stripped, she pushed him back onto her bed and they started kissing and heavy petting, as before. Gordon started to relax a little and enjoy the stimulation.
Sally broke off kissing and panted into his ear “I’ll go on top the first time”.
She straddled his hips and guided his penis to her vulva as she sat back. He felt her warm and wet against his throbbing penis. This is it he thought and his every muscle stiffened involuntarily in anticipation. He was trembling with excitement. She still held his shaft tightly in her hand and started to rock back and forth. He expected to slide into her but instead he felt his cock being crushed, harder and harder as she pushed down upon him. Sally grimaced with pain but kept to her task, pressing down harder whilst manoeuvring his cock with her hand. Still he felt he was not inside her and, worse still, because of the mauling his penis was taking, thought he could not avoid orgasm for much longer. Then, in an instant, he was inside her and coming, but also squealing and writhing in agony. Sally climbed off him and turned to inspect the damage. Gordon’s frenulum, the tie between foreskin and glans (bell-end) had ripped open and was oozing blood into the stream of semen flowing from the tip. Gordon sobbed.
Another entry for January’s Half-hour Challenge on The Inkwell, under the theme “Bells”.
In the days before medical science understood brain-death, the prospect of finding oneself interred alive was very real. Of course, it is impossible to estimate the numbers who met this unpleasant end. Physicians continued with impunity in the knowledge that any death certificate mistakes were well buried. The phrase “saved by the bell” alludes not to pugilistic exploit, as many imagine, but to the erstwhile practice of installing bell mechanisms within coffins to permit premature interees to summon assistance. The relationship of trust that must have existed between undertakers, sextons and their customers intrigues me. Imagine your emotional state if you woke from a coma, in a coffin already buried, heaved a sigh of relief that you paid your undertaker to arrange a bell, then discovered that the sexton had neglected to connect the linkages necessary to make your bell ring. Now, what was plan B?