Friday, June 17, 2011

The City is Silent

My mate Martin loves London, if you read my report of the march on the 26th March, I explain why. Considering I spent so many years working there, travelling there and treating the place like a second home, I always find going to The Smoke or The Village as some call it, a bit daunting. It's the pace and with my back, I always feel as though I can't go at my own pace - which is a lot slower than it used to be. I used to charge around everywhere, now I stroll. I took to it amazingly easy.

Driving is another matter. I have a heavy right foot and whenever I have to travel to venues via a motorway I feel the urge to achieve my personal best time at covering a specific distance. Last year, when Roger and I accompanied our friend Phil Walker to two gigs - he drove to Leicester and the following day I drove to Wolverhampton. We got home from the Black Country in less time than it took us to get home from Leicester, despite being almost twice the distance away. Driving in a car with Phil Walker is like all your driving nightmares rolled into one. If I ever got stuck behind a driver like him, I'd risk my life to overtake.

I'm broke. A pauper. Thanks to my former employer's inability to pay me the right amount of money and get my redundancy to me in a humane time scale, I am struggling and on Tuesday, the third party of our trip to see Amplifier cried off with apparently self-inflicted food poisoning. The designated driver wasn't driving and that meant I had to. My car, a diesel, has been something of a guzzler, but a lot of that is how I drive. It would be considerably more economical if I drove it sensibly, but ask anyone who knows me, I've always driven sensibly, I just drive to fast. Not in restricted areas - had too many speeding fines for that - but if I know there's no cameras and the road is open... well, I just like speed! Subsequently, I put lots of fuel in my car.

I'd been chatting to a mate of mine about driving recently and he said that I have to drive my car with lower revs and I'd see the difference pretty quickly. So for the last week I've been keeping the Sedici below 2,000 revs and having my consumption monitor on the dashboard switched on. I said to roger that we were driving to London in a Phil Walker style and he gave me a look similar to that of Mr Spock in Star Trek, a raised eyebrow and a slight smile that suggested I was blowing smoke out of my arse.

I fucking did it! We never exceeded 65mph on the way down and the revs never went higher than 2,000. Roger rightly suggested that I am quite a restrained driver on the way to places, but the journey home at 1:00am with an empty motorway would be the ultimate decider. It was, I got off the motorway and came home via the A5. I put 10 miles on the journey, but avoided 25 miles of restrictions, which trust me is as boring as reading comics.

I probably saved about £7 in diesel and if you see an old duffer chugging along in a bright orange car it's probably me.

We got to London in 80 minutes, despite the traffic calming devices and parked up at East Finchley tube station, using this as our base as we needed the Northern Line and our destination was on the same network. East Finchley delivered nothing but expensive beer, so we decided to go down the tube and get off at Camden Town. A vibrant place but devoid of much in the way of decent beer or reasonable takeaways, we were getting hungry.

We decided as it was gone 7pm that perhaps we should go to Old Street and find a pub near the venue. We did, sort of, but they offered no bar snacks, poor beer and a dull game of football on the myriad screens dotted throughout the place. We decided that this being London, we'd grab something after the gig.

After the gig, it was 11.30 and there was nothing in that corner of Shoreditch, so we figured East Finchley would have something and I wanted some fuel from the garage there as it was cheaper than anywhere else we'd seen. We got back to the car at 12.10 and drove up the main drag and saw one convenience store open; even the garage was shut. We drove to Finchley, hoping to find something, but other than a Domino's Pizza and another convenience store everything was shut. Roger commented that all the houses we were driving past were dark; there were no lights on; everyone was asleep!

Deciding we needed fuel and maybe some snacks, we headed for Scratchwood or London Gateway as it has been known by some for years. It was shut. The garage was open charging 6p a litre more than anywhere else in the entire world and the attendant was as humourless as a housebrick. I considered pissing in their coffee, but opted to buy a bag of peanuts instead.

London on a Wednesday night is as dull and boring as Dunstable, but at least we saw a pub open at 1:00am there, which was one more than we saw in London. I'm sure there were parts of London where we could have bought anything for hours more, but this visit was decidedly underwhelming.

Good job the gig was so good, really.

***

There were a stack of (well, four) jobs in the paper this week and I shall be spending the weekend filling out application forms and building up my hopes and expectations yet again. Let's hope they're not cruelly dashed, yet again...

***

I was chatting with a friend and ex-colleague of mine called Helen recently; we occasionally exchange emails and her partner is a laugh, who also supports Spurs. She was telling me about a case she had to deal with recently; she's working out Wisbech way and is teaching at a junior school. She's part of a pre-school group, where kids who are going to be going to school can go, three mornings a week, to get them used to going to school. Her school starts this after Easter for an entire term.

Anyhow; the new kids are brought in by their parents, all are introduced to each other and eventually the folks leave and this continues for the first week or so. There were no kids who stood out and Helen thought it would be relatively easy. There was one young girl, very small and sweet looking who was playing with some crayons when another kid interrupted and tried to take one of the crayons. The sweet little kid pushed the kid away, turned on her and said, "Fuck off, or I'll kick your c**t in!" Helen and the two classroom assistants were stunned.

Later in the morning when the parents came to pick up the children, Helen took the little girl's mother to one side. She was a well spoken women, in her late 20s and Helen wondered how her little girl could have discovered such language and to be able to use it the way she did. Helen took a deep breath and told the mother what had happened. The woman shrugged her shoulders and said, "I told her father that talking to me that way would make an impression, but he doesn't listen." Horrified, Helen asked, rather tentatively if she was being abused. "Isn't everybody?" The mother took her daughter out of pre-school the next day and reported Helen to the school governors.

She didn't lose her job.

Turns out the parents were wealthy locals, possibly related to each other, distantly one would hope, who come from backgrounds where physical, sexual and mental abuse within the family has been common in the past. Helen thinks they escaped detection from Social Services because they lived in a posh house on a selective estate. Just because the father was good at his job, didn't mean he could be trusted not to abuse his family.

Several years ago, when the wife was working in IT, one of her colleagues based out in King's Lynn always said to her that Wisbech was possibly the strangest place he'd ever been to. Seems like he was right.

***

What is it with dogs and their ability to find the stinkiest pile of shit in the world and then roll in it? As much as I love them, this new bunch of dogs have got some truly disgusting habits which my old two dogs would have been appalled by.

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