It has been a busy week in the Holme Valley. This was the week when we were supposed to be snowed in, paralysed by the weather, Britain grinds to a halt, Met men say there’s more to come as Britain shivers in the big freeze, and so on, accompanied by an “and finally” piece about some hardy fool who hitched up the family Labrador to a dog sled and managed to make it in to the office all the way from Thames Ditton. The usual stuff, in other words. Only the weather forgot to oblige, at least in the Holme Valley it did. There was snow elsewhere, though I gather even that didn’t lie. More and more I am beginning to think that the collected weather forecasts of the BBC should be entered for the next Booker Prize for fiction.
The week was, in fact, mainly bright and dry. True, it’s been cold enough first thing for it to have been just a tad skiddy underfoot, with odd shards of ice glinting, and there have been occasional showers of cold hard rain falling like Agincourt arrows, sudden out of leaden skies, but by and large, when it’s been fine, it’s been sunny, and the sky has been that incredible, radiant blue you only see in the illustrations of Maxfield Parrish. The leaves, as well, are at their most brilliant shade of greeny-yellow just before they fall, at the bidding of some unseen signal from the tree, to form the next years layer of mulch and crumb on the surface of the earth. I don’t normally like this time of year. In fact, let’s be honest, I hate it, but there have been one or two bright days this year which have led me to think that if it stayed like that until February, I might just about cope with winter.
Of course, the long dark nights are the main drawback for those of us who feel light deprived, and it is even worse at this time of year because, from about Halloween onwards, all the way until New Year’s Eve, the long dark nights mean the incessant crumping and popping of fireworks, near and far. Ever since Misty’s bad experience two weeks ago, she’s been a bit hyper, and this week it came to a head. On Monday night and on Tuesday night alike, Misty got as far as the park with Debbie and then, as soon as the explosions started gong off, she freaked and tried to burrow into the nearest hedge bottom. On both nights, all ideas of a walk abandoned, Debbie had to more or less half-drag, half-carry the dog home. We wrote it off as a bad do, and resolved that tomorrow would be another day.
First on the agenda on Wednesday was an unexpected visit from the coalman, a day early. No problems with that, better a day early than a day late in this weather. He also brought some rock salt, which I had ordered in anticipation of the great arctic freeze, and it sat outside in its bag, catching the fine winter sunshine and glinting. Still, I daresay it’ll get used up in the next four months. Matilda took advantage of the coalman’s visit and scuttled in through the porch door, into the garage, for some reason best known unto herself, and had to be enticed back into the kitchen with a sachet of Felix so I could shut the door and keep the heat in.
The next visitor was expected; Gez came round to pick up his copy of Portuguese edition of The Spot on My Bum (A Borbulha No Rabo, I kid you not) and I was just talking to him when the man from NHS supplies arrived to take away my standing aid. This was something which had been pre-arranged, but nevertheless, it marked a milestone. I have had the standing aid since I came out of hospital and it has always stood as some sort of totem for me getting up on my feet again. However, now that my hamstrings are so shortened that it would take either major surgery or months of physio and or botox to straighten out my legs again, the most I am ever going to manage would be a haka-like crouch in my present condition, and it was just something that got covered with spare laundry and drying washing, and needed to be plugged in and charged. So when I had my last review, I told them this, and we agreed to take it away. So now I have officially, finally, admitted to myself what everyone else had probably guessed anyway, long ago. I will never walk again.
Wednesday also marked the delivery of the Sainsburys order, which included, or should have, a furry squeaky duck toy for Misty, and a solid rugby ball toy (also for Misty). I say “should have”, because in fact what we actually got was two squeaky ducks and one squeaky football (no partridge in a pear tree, however.) It was just as well they sent two by mistake, because within a day she had dismembered one of them, and got the stuffing and the squeaker out. So we put the other one away for special occasions. The ball was a great hit, though.
On Wednesday night, things seemed much quieter on the firework front, and, because Debbie doesn’t teach on Wednesday afternoons, they were able to set off for “walkies” earlier as well, in the hope of a longer walk that would make up for the lack of one on the previous two days. Sadly this was not to be – they got as far as the quarry beyond the wood, when standard Fireworks up at Crosland Moor started having some sort of firework display. On the 20th November! Fifteen days after bonfire night and thirteen days after the end of Diwali. What the hell was that all about?
When Debbie got back and told me where the noise had been coming from, I rang Standard Fireworks and complained, but of course they were on voicemail at that time of night, so all I could do was leave a message, quite a long message, in fact. I also rang the police, on their non-emergency 101 number, to check exactly what the legal position was, and it turns out that the bastards letting off the bangs are within their legal rights to terrorise my dog, as the law presently stands. I actually let my frustration get the better of me with this woman, and told her to send a cop car round there and arrest them, before slamming the phone down.
When it comes to fireworks, it seems now that we live in a country where, if you want to have a (peaceful) demonstration against the cruel and unjust policies of the Junta, you have to give six weeks’ notice and the police can turn you down flat, but yobboes can caper about the streets letting off bangers night after night and causing mayhem, and no-one bats an eyelid.
Meanwhile, we have to deal with the fallout. Misty was trembling for a long while and Debbie got her up next to her on to the settee and calmed her down, allowing her to snooze a bit, but when it came to time to go up to bed, the dog wouldn’t settle and kept roaming the house, coming back downstairs again. I think, personally, she was looking for somewhere she considered “safe” to “go to ground”. Debbie was teaching the next day so there was no way she could stay up all night, so I ended up wrapped in an alpaca poncho, clutching a hot water bottle, in my wheelchair next to the stove, while Misty roamed back and forth. Every time she came back into the kitchen, I tried to get her to settle in the armchair, but the slightest noise from outside meant she was up and off again. Eventually, about 3.45AM, she finally settled down to sleep, curled in a tight ball with her nose in her tail, on the settee under the bay window in Colin’s front room.
It was at about that point in the proceedings that I noticed Matilda’s little face pressed up against the lobby door, meowing to come in. In all the trapping about earlier trying to get Misty up to bed, Matilda must have scuttled out of the lobby door and across into the garage, and now, cold, annoyed and hungry, she made it clear the way only a pissed-off cat can, that she wanted to reclaim her rightful place on the settee next to the stove, which we duly did. We all had about two hours’ fitful sleep and then, finally, just as I had really begun to drop off, my alarm went on my phone, indicating that it was 7.30AM, and I could hear Debbie clomping about upstairs, getting ready to set off for College. Not the best night I have ever had.
Various people have offered all sorts of suggestions for calming Misty down, ranging from the helpful to the downright abusive. There are various natural remedies we can try, and then there are dog tranquilisers (if we go down that route, I am going to ask Donaldsons for a second lot just for me) and ultimately, there is the nuclear option of asking the Border Collie sanctuary to take her back into “kennels” for four weeks until the worst of the fireworks is over. For suggesting the latter, on Tuesday night, on Facebook, when I got into what T S Eliot would have called “A tedious argument of insidious intent” about fireworks, I was told, by a supporter of an animal sanctuary that I, too, have tried to help, that if I did that, I wasn’t a fit person to have a dog. Go figure. I can really do without that sort of crap from people to whom I have freely given scarce money in the past. I was also told (by others) that my “medical problems” meant I was getting bitter and intolerant, (this may well be true. I have a lot to be bitter and intolerant about) which apparently sat ill at ease with my professed stance as a libertarian. I am paraphrasing here, but I was surprised at this assertion. I don’t know where the idea has arisen that I am some sort of laissez-faire, anything goes, after-you-Claude type of woolly hippy. I believe in an equal balance of rights and responsibilities. You have, currently, under the law, it seems, a right to let off fireworks. That should be balanced by an equal responsibility to ensure that you do not cause undue terror and stress to pets.
Personally, I think the law should be that fireworks may only be let off for one week a year (the week containing bonfire night) and then only at public displays, which should be curtailed by 8pm. Organisers should only be granted permission to have a display if they can be shown to have taken reasonable steps (adverts, leaflets, whatever) to make the surrounding area aware of their intentions at least four weeks before the event, to give pet owners time to make alternative arrangements. And I will be starting an e-petition to that effect on the government petitions web site.
Consequently, Thursday did not find me at my best, which was awkward, because it was a day when I had lots to do. I made a pot of industrial-strength coffee and sucked it down eagerly, then tried to prop my eyes open for long enough to get through my to-do list. I was rather surprised when I received a call from NHS supplies asking if they could come and service my stand-aid. I pointed them in the direction of their own storeroom, and they went away happy. You can see how people go into hospital and end up with the wrong leg being amputated, though.
Also on Thursday, Misty’s new brass dog tag arrived in the post, to replace the plastic one we bought her on Arran, which she had somehow managed to snap off and lose, leaving only the metal ring hanging on her collar. Since it’s technically illegal for her not to have a tag with her address on it while she is out in a public place, and in her case anyway, given her penchant for legging it mid-walkies at the sound of a distant bang, all additional methods of identification are to be embraced and gratefully accepted, I lost no time in attaching dog to tag and vice versa.
Thursday night was a much better night, I have to say. The idiots with the fireworks seemed to have died the death (hooray) and Deb had finished teaching for the week. I cooked a risotto and we all settled down to a relatively early night, after the chaos of Wednesday. As I lay in bed that night, knowing that we were all shut in, safe and warm, I silently thanked all that was good for delivering us thus far. It felt like we had been adrift at sea and had suddenly, fortuitously, been rescued, given a change of clothes, a warm towel, and a mug of hot soup. Sleep blissfully overcame me.
Friday was a day spent doing the jacket illustration for Mac and The Lost Tribe (for me) and catching up on her GCSE marking (for Debbie) using the insanely subjective AQA marking scheme. Apparently one of the early drafts she had to read during the week from one of her candidates contained the sentence that “meeting people can lead to consequences” which is, undeniably, true. Strangely enough, the Daily Mail, a newspaper normally stuffed with unpleasant lies and untruths, published an article this week that reported on a survey result that 70 per cent of teachers had admitted to having pulled an “all-nighter” in preparing for the next day’s class. While it is heartening to see the Daily Mail publishing something that is true, for once, it does come under the heading of history, rather than news, at least in our house it does.
By Friday, the squeaky ball was no longer squeaky, and (possibly more unexpectedly) the boiler in Colin’s side of the house seemed to have packed up. While this was not necessarily a financial disaster, as it was under guarantee, it was nevertheless irritating, as organising the plumber would be yet another thing on a burgeoning to-do list for the weekend.
Saturday dawned yet another bright day. If this kept up, Maxfield Parrish would be round for his royalties! I sat on the edge of my bed and took in the blue sky and the gold of the leaves and suddenly two pure white contrails crossed the sky. After I‘d made us all some breakfast and yet another steaming pot of coffee, I called John the plumber and he said that, as it happened, he was en route to another job in our area, so he would call by. This was fortunate, and our good fortune continued, because it turned out that the boiler just needed re-pressurising. Debbie thought she had already done this, but this particular boiler requires you to turn two knobs simultaneously while re-pressurising (no jokes, please) and this, Debbie did not know. She does now. John refused to take any payment for his visit, as he was here for less than five minutes, so I offered him a free copy of Catheter Come Home, instead, which he refused, saying “I’m not a great reader”. This, of course, made Debbie’s day and she was smirking for hours afterwards.
During the afternoon, Freddie snoozed and I worked, while Debbie took Zak and Misty for a walk round Honley, 11.7 miles or thereabouts. I was looking forward to another quiet evening at home, but alas it was not to be, because some stupid bastard up in Newsome or Berry Brow was setting off fireworks at 7.30, 9pm, 9.45pm and 10.30pm, and every time they did it, Misty barrelled through the bifold doors and disappeared next door into Colin’s and had to be cajoled back. The last time she did it, she upset her bowl of Muttnuts all over the kitchen floor. Great. Meanwhile, I seethed and wished for a horrific firework-related accident to be visited upon those responsible. Sorry about that, but I have just about had it with mudheads this week. Losing a couple of fingers and having to pick their noses with their toenails in future might just stir the primordial sludge between their ears and make them think about their actions for once. But I doubt it.
The wider world has once again hardly impinged on my consciousness this week. Possibly because some of the time I would have spent looking at news sites in what is laughingly described as my spare time was actually spent playing with the Facebook autobot. What this is is a little application that reads all of the posts you have ever posted on Facebook at lightning speed and then generates randomised automatic posts on demand based on what you might have said. My favourite two from the week were “what a waste of dog-farts” and “happy as a pig in archives”, both of which probably deserve a wider currency. It’s when the auto-bot starts to make more sense than the real person that you need to worry, and I think with those two phrases we are indeed getting very close to the boundary with artificial intelligence.
Such inklings as there were from the outside world, percolating through, indicated that the world was as mad as it ever was. Sir Bernard Ingham, God bless him (preferably with a plague of boils) has apparently issued an oracular pronouncement this week to the effect that northerners who don’t support the Tories are “demented”. Sir Bernard Ingham is known in our house as “Sir Bernard Ingham, click”. The “click” suffix is because that is the sound that happens immediately after Jonathan Dumbledore has intoned “Sir Bernard Ingham” on “Any Questions”. It is the sound of a radio being turned off.
Apparently some Morris Dancers in Bacup, Lancashire, have been threatened with being shut down by some sort of health and safety issue, but I don’t really know the ins and outs. It’s probably another made up story by the Mail or the Daily Tegrelaff, but if it’s really true then the monkeys with the typewriters have finally come up with the manual of European law and it should all be repealed tomorrow. Or preferably yesterday. The inner geek in me always thinks that Bacup should be twinned with Restormel, but hey, that’s just me.
And lo! In a shitnastic week, while all this other ordure was occurring, I finally got a reply from the National Trust about badger culling. Not that Dame Helen Ghosh had the time (or the balls) to write back to me in person. She got some factotum called Kate to do it on her behalf. Kate Factotum says that the National Trust didn’t vote to overturn their members’ decision to ban badger culling after all. I must have been imagining it then. It turns out that the National Trust is in favour of vaccination and has been trialling it on the Killerton Estate in Devon. So how does that explain the shenanigans over voting, with the executive overruling the membership? Clearly more research is needed. By me, I mean. I will have to get to the bottom of it, when I have time. In the meantime, I am just recording that at least they replied, though given their track record on stag hunting on Exmoor, I doubt it will end well, either for them, or sadly, for the badgers.
In another totally random occurrence, Hull, my home town, was declared the UK City of Culture for 2017. I have mixed feelings about such civic junketing, because there have been cities of culture beforehand where, two post codes away from the civic hall where the bigwigs were junketing, there were streets full of potholes and un-emptied bins. But I think Hull deserves the benefit of the doubt, having had the shit kicked out of it by successive governments since the Cod War. The Cod War was followed by the cod peace, which is not nearly so much fun as it sounds, because it involved the dismantling and scrapping of the trawler fleet. Since then, Hull has become the butt of innumerable “crap towns” joke books, with various comedic authors kicking the town when it was down and focusing on the easy targets, the economic depression, the bad concrete, the fact that anyone famous from Hull has done it by escaping, from Ian Carmichael to John Alderton to Maureen Lipman to Amy Johnson to Andrew Marvell, and that the most famous literatum of Hull, Philip Larkin, was actually from Coventry.
Well, do you know what? I think that Hull being named a city of culture is the Crowle Street Kids striking back. When I was a pupil of Crowle Street School there was always a feeling that, if you tried hard enough, if you were a striver, you could escape that quadrant of barracks-like terraces and discover a greater world, outside. I did that. We moved to Brough, I passed the 11 plus, I went to Hessle High, then University. And on to “culture”. The other Crowle Street Kids followed, in their own way. We were those kids in national health specs, hand-me-down coats and sannies from Boyes’s, playing on the bomb sites under the Corporation street lights. And do you know what? We’re coming back. Yep, the Crowle Street Kids strike back. And every southern ponce who has dissed Hull in the last few years is going to have to eat his words. We’re the Crowle Sreet Kids, and we claim our city of culture, and if you don’t like it, well, tough shit.
Meanwhile, further evidence emerged, if further evidence were needed, that the entre ruling class is on drugs. A request lodged by the Huffington Post under the Freedom of Information Act resulted in the revelation that illegal drugs web sites had been the subject of 484 page views from within the Parliamentary system this year.
A House of Commons official confirmed: "The information covers all sites accessed via all ‘non-public’ computers on the Parliamentary Estate and all users including Members of either House, their staff and staff working for the House Administrations."
Clearly, this system is used by several classes of people, and no doubt the culprits would claim that it was purely for research purposes, allegedly, M’Lud, but the hypothesis that the government spend most of their time off their face stroke out of their tree on mind-bending drugs goes a long way towards being the most convincing [explanation for many of the more bizarre actions of the Blight Brigade. It is the only possible explanation for the case of Miriam Harley Miller, of whom I wrote last week. In four days, on November 28th, she will be technically an illegal alien, and liable to have her removal papers served on her at any time.
This is the link to the petition started by Andrew hall. They are hoping to get to 10,000 signatures before the due date.
Sadly, it seems Miriam Harley Miller is not the only case of this nature. Pensioner and Vietnam veteran Marx Hirsch currently resides under threat of deportation after 47 years in the UK, because he unwittingly broke one of the residency conditions by moving to Ireland for five years. His wife is currently battling cancer.
Miaou Guo and Massimo Ciabattini were taking their vows at Camden register office when UK Border Police stopped the wedding for half an hour until they had satisfied themselves that it wasn’t just a sham marriage for immigration purposes. The bride and groom should have invited them on honeymoon to watch them consummate it, it’s the only language these people understand.
Isa Muazu is currently on hunger strike in the Harmondsworth Detention Centre after refusing to eat for over 90 days in his attempt to stave off being deported back to Nigeria, where he fears for his life at the hands of Boko Haram. Despite the fact that he is reported to be “near death” and “fading away”, the Home Office says he is “fit to fly”. They must have been taking lessons from ATOS. Perhaps he would have fared better if he had been a whiter shade of pale.
Anybody with half a brain can see that immigration is in a complete mess, and will remain so whilever we are in the EU. Why the UK Borders Agency is consistently making so many shocking and unjust decisions is, however, something known only to them and to their dealers.
As Thom Brooks of the LSE has written:
Immigration policy seems driven not so much by commitment to some vision, but instead policy management through tinkering and tampering.
Any hope of a greater degree of coherence swiftly recedes and vanishes, however, when you look at the announcement by Immigration Minister Mark Harper that the “random” immigration checks on people who appear to be committing the crime of being brown in a public place, viz and to whit, the London Underground, will continue. It is then you realise just how far down the road to being a racist police state we have travelled.
Anyway, somehow we’ve staggered through to Sunday, a murky and cold day but nevertheless, “Stir Up Sunday” has arrived, the last Sunday before Advent, and the day when traditionally you are supposed to mix your Christmas pudding.
Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Or, for those of you that prefer your music played on the original musicians:
Excita, quaesumus, Domine, tuorum fidelium voluntates: ut divini operis fructum propensius exsequentes, pietatis tuae remedia maiora percipiant: Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
The idea was that the words of the Collect jogged your mind and you hastened home to your kitchen and began work immediately on constructing a Christmas Duff. Or you instructed your servants to!
The rest of the recommended prayer book texts for the day include Psalm 49, which includes:
They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches; none of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him:
which is something our supposed Lords and Masters should perhaps bear in mind, and John 15: 1-11, which includes verse 5
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
Which sort of brings us back to the point where we came in, with the trees outside my window, and their root and branch process of regeneration. Next week it will be Advent, and surely at some point winter will descend upon us in all its fury. It’s probably forecast for next week, for all I know, I haven’t had time to check the weather forecast. If it is for snow and ice, I will have to find out my Hawaiian shirt and my sunglasses and dust off the barbecue.
Meanwhile, yes, it’s Stir Up Sunday. Soon it will be Christmas, and another year gone. On 10th December, it will be three years since I came out of hospital. Where has the time gone, and what have I done with it?
I think I need to stir my own stumps, before it’s too late. I’d like to see a lot more stirring gong on, actually. A whole lot of stirring going on. I’d like to see the Home Office and the UKBA stirred up, and shaken too, if possible. But if I am going to stir up other people, first I need to stir myself. I can’t do it when I’m gone, so I guess, however many people on Facebook it upsets, I guess I’ll have to do it while I’m here.