Monday, 28 November 2011

I wish I'd said that...

Charity mugger on High Road to man walking just in front of me: “Hi, do you have two minutes to talk about the RSPCA?”
Man: “It’s alright mate, I’ve just been talking to your mate across the road.”
CM: ‘Okay!”
Man: “And I told him to fuck off as well…”

An' me fag's gonnout 'nall!

A couple of years ago I entered an ill-advised relationship with a woman a lot younger than myself. And for a while I was willing to ignore her screeching accent, her refusal to eat anything that didn’t come wrapped in plastic and her inability to pronounce the letter ‘t’ – particularly the one in my first name - because she was exceptionally pretty and she was half my age.

Earlier today I took a stroll down to the local supermarket. It’s on the High Road, the north-south road that crosses the east-west of White Hart Lane. WHL isn’t bad; it’s  typically 1930s council stock, interspersed with more recent tiny Barratt Home-style apartments that have 80%-sized furniture in the show flats. It has the Cemetary, which is a thing of beauty and a valued spot of quiet contemplation. Just before it ends, it changes name for a few hundred yards and becomes Creighton Road – the Lane itself skulks off on its own like a scolded dog for a bit – which is where the saintly Bill Nicholson used to live.

Tottenham High Road itself is quite ugly. There’s no avoiding the fact, it simply is. It’s a range of chicken shops and bookies; one or two employment agencies full of shaven-headed eastern Europeans willing to work all night for bare minimum wage in an Osterley industrial shed packing your Christmas doo-dahs; a couple of those barber shops full of black guys in their twenties talking into a Bluetooth headset and texting with one hand, there’s a plasma high up on one wall, and nobody seems to be either cutting hair or having their hair cut.

You know those conversations you can have with strangers, where five seconds in, you realise it’s a mistake but you can’t back out? I had one of those. Some woman with a voice like a parrot being waterboarded sprang out of Love Lane – a name very much deceptive – and asked me if I lived round here. I said yes. It was a mistake.

“Where’s Norfumberlun Par Crow? Dah nair?”  I told her Northumberland Park Road wasn’t down there, it was in the opposite direction, end of the road, turn left, first right.

“See? Smar’arse! Iss dah natway! Yorso futtin clevva you wen ron way! Arsow!”

She shouted all of this over the road to where a rat-faced fella in a Helly Hansen waterproof was skulking along trying to look inconspicuous. He shouted something back. I felt a lurching in the old lunch when I fell in that she was going to walk alongside me. Which she did, in her giant sheepskin boots and her denim leggings and her coat made from the pelts of the finest cat.

“See, I doe noe roun ear, I doen liveer, I live down Edmonton, I live Edmonton Green.”

Which pretty much explained it. My former girlie lived that way too. Like I said, nice girl but not what you’d call gifted with the social graces. And if this sounds snobbish, then very well, it’s snobbish. If Stoke Newington, our neighbour to the south, can look down on us, then we have every right to do the same to Edmonton. It’s what it’s there for. 

Tuesday, 8 November 2011


You know the worst thing about cycling in London?

It’s not the cars that overtake you and then immediately turn left, so saving themselves about half a second by making you brake and so exposing yourself to the possibility of a nasty tail-ender.

It’s not the drivers who forget that a car is either a flat-sided or a convex-shaped vehicle and so, owing to the laws of geometry, will reduce the distance between the side of the vehicle and the kerb as it proceeds around a left-handed curve. And having forgotten that, said drivers will speed around said curve while the poor sod on the bike feels the odds of him being swept under the side of the passing lorry growing in inverse proportion to that diminishing curve.

It's not even the buggers who overtake at traffic islands WHICH IT TELLS YOU NOT TO DO IN THE BLOODY HIGHWAY CODE YOU ARSE.

It’s bloody pedestrians.

Since the accident a few weeks ago, I’ve redoubled my efforts to be seen after dark, especially since the clocks went back. The old single-LED front light’s been replaced by a multi-LED ultrabright. There’s a second rear flasher on the seatpost to supplement the one near the gear cassette. I’ve bought some exceptionally camp arm/wrist bands with LEDs that flash alternately red and yellow. Now, small children try to stand me near their tellies and put their Christmas presents underneath me.

I even wear this kit in the mornings, especially on grey, drizzly days when visibility isn't great and windscreen wipers may or may not be used depending on how blase a driver may be. 

Days like today. 

This morning, I’m threading through the school run traffic. Being careful, watching out for car doors opening or vehicles pulling out from sidestreet or parking space. I reach a set of traffic lights as my route crosses a major road. My east-west route is very low priority compared to the main north-south road so there’s usually a long wait for the lights to change in my favour.

I’m standing there for a while when a woman steps off the pavement and walks straight into me. 

Flashing front light. Flashing back lights. Flashing armbands. Big fucking yellow fluorescent day-glo reflective hi-vis bastard vest.

And she walks straight into me.

Mutters an apology, not to me but to the world in general. Something along the lines of ‘I didn’t see that bike.” Strolls off.

A hundred yards later, the stupid cow does exactly the same thing again.

Tomorrow, I’m taking a helmet-mounted microphone and a pair of PA speakers so I can announce my presence audibly as well as visually, and I’m going nowhere unless I’m surrounded by a full Salvation Army brass band playing Onward Christian Soldiers with choir accompaniment.

And luckily there will be a place in heaven reserved for them each, for you can bet your last ha’penny that some silly bastard will still not see us, and there will be righteous blood flowing on the streets of North London Town. 

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Fuck You Mick Jackson

I once saw Brian Moore walking along the touchline at White Hart Lane. He had a very big nose. Far bigger than it looked on telly.

Brian’s TV programme, The Big Match, was the Match Of The Day of its time, only without annoying graphics or Alan Hansen. Or a budget. On The Big Match you’d get seventy seconds of long-haired dockers hoofing a cannonball up and down a bombsite, followed by Crimplene-clad baldie Brian sitting behind a plywood desk, discussing what he’d just seen with Alf Ramsey or Brian Clough. I always thought Brian Clough was funny. My old man couldn’t stand him.

The thing was, The Big Match used to be, along with Sunday Lunch and Sunday Tea, one of the high points of Sundays. And it was a high point because there was literally nothing else to do. No shops, very little else on telly except an old war film. Television used to close for a couple of hours in the afternoon – my gran always said it was to give the set a chance to cool down. Try that today, you’d have riots in the streets the likes of which would make the Occupy London movement wet their pants.

Sundays were exactly like Tony Hancock said they were. They were vast expanses of Nothing To Do. You’d read the paper, maybe have a kickabout over the playing field, and that was it. All that was left was to eat yourself stupid and have a bit of a kip.

Over the last few months I’ve noticed that ennui creeping back into Sundays, these days without the Sunday paper (none of ‘em any good anymore) or the giant blow-outs at the dinner table, but most certainly with the feeling that there’s absolutely sod all to do.

Go for a walk, maybe. But it’s November, it’s grey and damp and cold and the streets are full of either baying lunatics who’d stab you and steal your trousers just for the hell of it, or filthy media types clutching Costa Coffee take-aways in the park and wearing over-designed spectacles with writing on the arms. 

I suppose there are books to read but who can be fagged these days? Besides, Sundays are a day off and exertion of physical or mental nature shouldn’t be on the agenda. I want to be entertained at the weekend but it just ain’t happening.

Yes, I know, I’m a miserable old bastard who just needs a kick up the arse to get him going. Until that kick arrives I intend to sit on the sofa, have the odd nap, and complain about modern life.

Fancy joining me?