Along the bypass. Past the college. Past the toll-house. Past the tower on the hill on the right. We spot one of the buzzards hovering in the valley to the left. Past the caravan park and onward along the less trod winding route which must have been there for centuries.
Despite being in desperate need of a service, the van is at its mountain goat best, slipping into third for every bend and keeping up with the traffic with effortless ease along the dual carriageways. Meticulous attention to detail with the upgrading of the running gear – engine; gearbox; carbs and exhaust allows a 1965 jalopy to keep up with modern traffic.
Halfway house as ever is the posh supermarket just up from the famous bridge over the river where all the bikers hang out. It’s my first time in a supermarket since way before lockdown. It’s just before compulsory masks come in. I’m not bothered about wearing a mask – I wear one all day at work anyway. I’ve already asked myself the necessary deeply rhetorical soul searching questions: ‘Does my face look less like a slapped arse in this?’ ‘Do I look more of a twat or less a twat in this?’ They won’t let both of us in – it’s ‘one person per household’. It’s actually quite a sedate civilised experience. I stock up on the usual luxury glamping requisites and we’re off again.
Slipping leftwards, avoiding the central busy route. On and on with all the markers and landmarks passing on the right. The coastal estuary appears on the left then finally we’re off the busy trunk road. Into the village where they used to bring the slate and copper in barges via the lake from the mountain over ten miles away.
We’re onto the picturesque chocolate box winding roads and there’s not far to go now. Excitement mounts. I know every bend and landmark. I’ve been travelling this road since childhood and so has Elias. We try and come once a year. It’s more important than any birthday or anniversary.
Finally, the magic moment when the lake appears on the right. I’m apprehensive. What if the campsite’s full? It isn’t. We’ve deliberately chosen to come midweek when it’s drizzly, a week or so after the initial flurry of campsites re-opening. It’s no busier than it usually is at this time of year.
Setting up camp is a well-practised ritual. Rock pegs for the tents are essential on the stony ground. I unfold the front bench seat into my little bed and arrange the lush bedding. The cooker and utensils go in the back as a little kitchen. The perishables go in a carrier bag under the van. Finally the little table goes up in the back, and camp is set.
We head into the village for the customary pint of the same beer at the same table at the same pub and the same bar meal. It’s mildly warmly fine drizzling but we’re not bothered.
Next day is up the mountain day and it’s fine and not hot. We can see the top from the campsite and it’s in a cloud. We choose the usual isolated back-route and when we join the main path, it’s swarming. A squashed-face dog with a luminous bright orange coat with a hole for its arse looked surreally hilarious – especially when the owner talks to it as if it’s a naughty boy in a 50s boarding school: ‘Stanley, come here immediately!’ After about half way up, we’re in the cloud and it’s cold and windy. The last stretch is steep and craggy then finally we’re there. We shelter behind a rock to eat our butties.
Nothing in particular happens at the top, but the walk teaches me a little lesson and once again I think about ditching some of my unnecessary habits and concentrating more on what really matters.
We had a couple of perfect outdoor meals during the hot weather. The first was for Sam’s birthday. All the old crew who spent a lot of time at our house as teenagers came and it was swell.
The second was a family Sunday dinner for seven of us where everything apart from the fish was picked fresh from the land. Tyler came early and by the time Louise arrived with the vino, everything was ready to go – spuds scrubbed, peas podded. Afterwards we lit the stove and sat round it. Neat.
On Monday, it rained and rained. I had a huge mound of horse muck to shift, the greenhouses to water and loads of fruit & veg to pick and I was knackered after working the weekend.
Doubting Dick came at me with both barrels blaring and I thought ‘Wtf am I doing scrabbling about like this on this scrubby clay hill?’
I fantasised about selling EVERYTHING and starting from scratch: A compact tidy house with a manageable garden; a nice all round vehicle and NO CLUTTER – a bit of Buddhist stylee minimalism.
Buddhism is populated with lists – like an Ordnance Survey map for the slippery, slippery mind.
The first lists to be taught are The Five Hindrances and The Five Faculties. Doubt is right up there with its four other bad boys Sense desire, ill will, sloth and torpor and restlessness and worry. The practical antidotes are: Faith; energy; mindfulness; concentration and vigour. That’s why I rant about the bourgeois modern promotion of mindfulness in isolation – its use is as part of a wider armoury.
These are all translated from the original Pali and it’s perfectly acceptable to use contextual local translations. My translation of wisdom (the antidote to doubt) in this context is ‘insight into the bigger picture’.
Say for example, I’m acting like a complete twat (a common occurrence) = ill will, I have the opportunity to catch sight sight of myself (Mindfulness), open up a bit (faith) and act like less of a twat.
The bigger picture is knowing that in the thirties, forties, and fifties the hillside was a collection of much smaller allotments which, along with pigeons, ferrets, chickens and so on included lots of veg growing. It’s about knowing that economic difficulty will come soon, and that once again, as during the war, despite the harsh growing environment, locally grown food, particularly organic, will become viable.
Elsewhere on the ranch, stuff is not growing brilliantly – even in the greenhouses. I dream of giving up all this scrabbling in the dirt. With the time and money I’d save, I could buy the finest organic produce from someone who is good at growing it.
After a heavy stint at work, Friday comes and I have a week off. It’s a gloriously hot and sunny day, and I resolve to do just about absolutely nothing apart from bask in the heat. It’s my own private paradise and Doubting Dick evaporates into the blue sky.
The other ranch
Bruce and I are attempting a difficult joint reduction. Everything that we do in our department aims for the best that be possibly done for the patient (as it does in all departments of course). In this case, on balance it’s worth a go. Sedation is required, which in turn mandates full PPE in the hot zone. Sedation to all intents and purposes involves the same rigorous processes as a general anaesthetic. It’s just that the drug doses are smaller.
I do the sedation and Bruce attempts the reduction. It’s the end of my shift and after getting changed, as usual, I throw my scrubs in the linen in the changing room.
The morning after my cash card is missing (it’s all cash card only in the shops in the foyer). I know with 100% certainty it was in the back pocket of my scrubs before I got changed. I’m normally pretty meticulous when it comes to checking my pockets. I phone the secs and Lauren says she’ll get onto it. Carel kindly roots through the scrubs in the linen basket. I should have phoned Thomo first to see if I left it on my desk even though I’m certain I didn’t.
It’s not on my desk, but Thomo finds it hiding under Bruce’s desk. Phew.
Ever since Thomo became the head boy, I’ve been thinking that I might get chucked out of the boys office to make way for someone far more useful than me.
I’m at that time of life where I start getting those letters about pensions and shit. Despite at least 12 years or so of endless exams and courses, we have to revalidate every five years and at one point I’d seriously considering not bothering again. In the end, I bit the bullet and got most of the tick-box shit out of the way. Then COVID happened and it all got postponed for a year.
On Thursday, at work I got an email to say that I’d been re-validated until 2026 and I was absolutely gobsmacked. I went rushing to the office like an excited child to tell Thomo and check that it wasn’t a mistake. It wasn’t – he’d sent all the details through. ‘You’ve got to stay now.’ he said. Aw. How flattering. We’re both on annual leave next week. He’s off to Ireland where his wife’s family live. I mention that I’ve always fancied touring the West coast of Ireland, playing in little venues. One day perhaps.
The recruitment film that I made is all finished and ready to go out in the next couple of weeks. It’ll be in the public domain. I looked at a lot of other recruitment films before I started and frankly they were as dull as dishwater. I wanted it to be a bit different and it is, hopefully reflecting the sense of humour and the work-life-balance side of things. Once people got used to me filming, I managed to get some pretty good fly-on-the-wall shots. I wrote the backing track for it and played every instrument on it. It’s turned out OK.
Eimhear comes on for the late shift and Lorna, the Glaswegian sister is there. There’s a bit of banter and they’re talking in their respective Glaswegian and Irish brogues and I’m struggling to tell what they’re saying. I mention a Glasgow kiss then I say something along the lines of having to impose some discipline if this continues. It becomes unrepeatable after that.
Gwen is coming to help me pick the fruit in the field – mainly redcurrants and the last of the gooseberries and blackcurrants. In yet another of my supreme acts of folly I’ve planted all the fruit bushes in the inner hedge which is mainly hawthorn. With the addition of nettles, the bushes are now hidden deep within the faster growing hedge so picking is a scratchy stingy experience. What’s more, it’s soggy from the soaked grass, and I suggest that she brings some waterproof trousers.
After a brew and a catch up we prepare to don our over-trousers. It becomes apparent that hers don’t fit – she’s either a fat bastard (she isn’t – she’s thin) or the trousers are tiny. It transpires that they’re children’s – her friend Adele gave her them. It’s all rather amusing. I suggest me wearing them so she can wear mine. I squeeze them on with the greatest of difficulty by which time we’re rolling with laughter. Put it this way, they don’t look like typical gardening trousers.
I sense a photo opportunity and I strike a catalogue pose then put it on t’social media, attracting lots of comments including one about my eligibility to gain entry to certain clubs in Manchester. There has to be some humour amidst all this COVID shit.
We end up with a barrow load of excess redcurrants and gooseberries – I manage to get them to a food bank via a bit of local networking – that’s what it’s all about.
I think I’m not the only one who has experienced psychological overload with information on COVID on the internet – particularly social media. I don’t think I’d even bother with social media, if I wasn’t trying to build an audience for my writing. I got sick of people disseminating the mad notion that it’s a hoax or a scam and couldn’t resist writing a measured piece that went even more viralish than the trouser. It’s still possible for anyone with a bit of sense to wade through the internet dross to find impartial evidence. John Campbell is good.
The House of Turds
In the surreal world of not-politics, it’s become like the pages of a dystopian Orwellian novel, except it’s real. It’s true. It happening now. In England. (Thank fuck Scotland, Ireland and Wales have a scrap of autonomy). What’s more, there’s no viable opposition to it. What happened to the ordinary decent English? I despair. The astonishing corruption of the UK govt is there for all to see.
De Pfeffel has elected his brother and several of his billionaire cunt mates to the house of turds, where they get paid £323 a day plus expenses and get to wear turd necklaces and decide our laws forever. This includes a glittering array of ultra-cunts, including for example the largest shareholder of BAF systems whose bombs have slaughtered countless innocent civilians in Yemen.
If I had the notion (and I don’t), I could jokingly become the MP for Burnley in a trice (not with those trousers on someone retorts). My credentials are good. For a start NOTSENSIBLES are fondly embedded in Burnley’s psyche. I could have easily fucked off to some bourgeois Manchester suburb when I became a doctor but I chose to stay in a scruffy terraced house.
I would get a map of Burnley then I would zig-zag my way North to South, knocking on every single door saying ‘I represent the common ground of ordinary people – vote for me.’ It’s not going to happen though because I’m not interested. Plants to plant and records and films to make innit?
My dad’s mate Alan Hughes had been in the commandos and was hard as fuck. I remember him pulling the windscreen wiper off his daughter’s (ex) boyfriend’s car, scrunching it up, then twatting him through the open window. When my brother and I were going through a bit of a hippy-dippy phase (the Chumbas were all vegan long before it was fashionable), he used to royally rip the piss out of us. He had a wicked sense of humour and was very insightful. ‘You should be eating that off a wooden plate.’ He once fixed me with a steely gaze and said ‘You’re your father’s son – born of warrior stock’. It took me about twenty years to get what he meant. That’s what would give me the edge. Jeremy is just too nice. I’d be a match for any snivelling Tory.
The trouble with any label is that it can be grabbed and slaughtered by billionaire-owned internet and MSM. ‘Socialism’; ‘Left’ etc don’t stand a chance. ‘Common ground’ is somehow non-stick.
I chat to the postman. He’s just an ordinary bloke who goes in the local working mens club. He probably voted Brexit and he probably has a bit of racism in him, but I’m sure I could get him to vote for me on the grounds of the common ground between us.
If I went to a local market with lots of lovely fresh organic produce, I think right-wingers and left-wingers would buy it in equal measure. That’s another example of common ground.
If someone’s loved one was sick or injured, they would want the best healthcare – that’s another example.
My favourite guitarist died – I need to get back out there whilst I still can. Rock & Roll is smouldering under and I’m itching to get back to it. I resurrect the notion of using the van as a portable stage with the drum kit set up in the back. We just turn up with a little generator and set up in about 5 minutes then play.
It’s Sunday. The drizzle is subsiding. I have potatoes to harvest and a greenhouse to finish.