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The Warky Lg 1 Report: They got me on Milk and Alcohol (A)
at 14:10 5 Jul 2020

A wet and windy July day, the dust blown around the garden, the rain hammering the windows and the bald brown patches of lawn outside. Birds huddled in pathetic solitude, puffed up like spiny fish in a coral reef. They ignored the bacon rinds and the stale bread until mid-morning, when they ate, pecking disconsolately, looking like stragglers at the sauce stand at the burger van behind Sir Alf. I'd not run to cheap ketchup and there were no paper napkins or bits of loose wet fried onion fluttering on the wind. Still, it mostly all went.

My third cup of coffee was blacker than I'd've really liked. The last of the milk was a lot less than I'd remembered. That, and the lack of bread, decent cheese (not the soapy bits of cheddar and the furry camembert that, like Mastermind, I'd started but didn't finish) or the terminal lack of ham, pickle, crisps or mayonnaise, drove me to risk Tesco at 10am. By the time I emerged into the wind and rain, I was seventy quid lighter and chastened by folks in surgical masks. There's no joy to food shopping any more. Everyone looks like they're in prep to do surgery on some bloke's chalfonts.

Tel didn't come on Friday night so I saved a fair bit of my shopping. I'm having a toasted cheese'n'pickle sarnie later. With some salt and vinegar flavoured crisps and a beer. He didn't come because he wasn't working. We've reached the nadir of his working life. He's now officially retired. And, with the boozers now open again, we spent yesterday celebrating.

I got a text on Friday afternoon, which I didn't fully understand. "Come home at home know. Work over at home". Perplexed, I rang him. "Orlrigh'?" he said, clearly in the garden due to the sound of air behind him. "Thass it, packed it in! No more van, no more stoopid journeys ter the four corners of Angleear. They gave us 'undred'n'fifty quid in Fen'ick vouchers, a big card they all signed and a bottle of brandy from Ray and the lads. That was good'f'em. Di'nt 'ave ter do all that". He paused to swig from a can, the liquid swilling down like dirty water in an unplugged sink. "Aint comin'ter yours ternight" he said apologetically. "Wife'n'me fancy fish'n'chips from the local, wiv a few wallies an' a bit of their curry sauce. An' I'll see yer darn the local at 12 termorra anyway". We exchanged pleasantries and he hung up.

Saturday. Yesterday. Windy. I was up at 7am, feeding birds and doing the recycling bits, crushing cans and clattering bottles into various red, green and black bins. They don't take the bottles, our dustmen. I have to nip 'em down the tip. The local one's like queuing for free money. There's generally an hour's wait. So I do it when they reach epic proportions, like two binfuls and a couple of cardboard boxes full. I'd hit that yesterday. Reached and beached. So I nipped 'em down yesterday just as they opened and was the only punter. They think I'm an alcoholic, the orange-fluorescent bibbed blokes who work there. They made some sarky comments about 'good nights' and 'shame yer can't get ten pees on empties any more, we'd all be orf ter the Bahamas just on yours alone'. I smiled and hoped they weren't calling the police to report a drunk-driver when I left.

I got the papers. Load of rubbish, even the sport pages. I had marmalade on toast and a big pot of tea. Then I cleaned the house, speculatively, vowing to do a better job tomorrow as I'm off on leave next week. Then it was eleven, so I did a few crosswords and sudokus and sat watching the blue tits navigating the bird bath.

At twelve, I left. I'd told Tel 12pm just so he could be in there first, as he likes to chat up the barmaids and have a few grumbles with Jamie the landlord. I got there at 12.20 to find three old blokes sat on their own at tables, supping from pints of IPA and chatting to Jamie from afar, like prisoners in American movies behind the plate glass. The bar had perspex panels so it resembled a goldfish tank. The two barmaids came out in masks to serve and bring beer and food. Tel hadn't arrived so I sat at our usual table and ordered a pint. It came, eventually, along with the smart card reader. I ordered another two and paid for them in one go. £12.30. They bought the other two just as I was draining the first. 12.45pm. No sign of Tel.

He arrived just after 1pm. Sweating, taking off his YSL gilet, eyeing the pint I'd placed opposite me. "Blimey" he said, looking around. "See the old clientele aint improved since March then?".

He drank his pint with an 'ahhhh' of satisfaction and reached into the carrier bag he'd put next to him on the spare seat. 'Ave a butchers at that" he said, pulling out a huge card with "Sorry you're leaving" on it and a picture of a cartoon rabbit driving a sports car away from a crowd of waving rabbits. Some of the crowd were wiping away tears with little hankies. Inside, it was like a school teacher's remedial class homework book. Some had written indecipherable comments. One from Ray read "Enjoy retirment you old bastad!" Another, from someone with a signature so unreadable it could have been done by a GP, wrote "Terry, you aint never gona go to Grimsby". There was one from an 'Aimee-Lee" who'd written 'Luv ya Tel, come back and see us sometime" and signed it in a rounded hand with big O's above the I's and several kisses, then, clearly wearing lippy, she'd anointed the card with a proper 'kiss'. "I aint shown it ter the wife" admitted Tel, reaching for his pint.

I gave it back and he shoved it back in the carrier, in the envelope it came in. Jamie the landlord came over and stood a good ten feet away as he chatted to us through his black mask. He looked like something out of Mortal Kombat, with his topknot and shaved bonce and his sleeveless vest. Tel asked him if he was OK and he nodded and then spoke about the food options, his mask rippling as he spoke. He was doing a reduced menu, he explained, which didn't include any of the mains on the normal one. "Are yer doin' ribs?" asked Tel. Jamie nodded. "Two full racks then, I'll 'ave the barbecue sauce wiv mine, 'e'll 'ave the smoky chilli" (pointing a thumb at me). He couldn't find his bank card so I paid. Then he found it in his wallet and ordered four pints of lager and a bag of dry roasted.

The food took an age, so we'd finished the two pints each and the dry roasted nuts. There was no telly on, no music, and the pool table was all taped off, like a murder scene. The quiz machine was on and, as it was close to us, we each put a £2 coin in. It clanked through and back out so we did it a few more times, then Tel found two £1 coins and tried them. It worked. We got through to the money round first time and won £5, but when we came to withdraw it, the machine made a buzzing sort of noise and then a siren went off. Jamie came over. "Sorry, aint topped it up since it was last on". He switched it off and said he'd take a fiver off our next order.

More people came in, non-locals, asking for food and beer in the garden as it was now quite warm and sunny. More and more came in. The beer garden was heaving when I went for a piss at three. Tel and I did a footy bet just before it. He did Man Utd, Leicester, Brentford and Leeds. I did Stoke and Fulham. We watched the Leicester game on his phone, until he got bored and switched it off. We had twenty on four, a tenner on six and fifteen on my two. They all won, although Tel had a mini-heart attack when Bournemouth went 1-0 up. He showed me his phone later and we now had £2890 in the account. "Chrissmuss'll be a laugh anyway" he said, smiling.

We talked about the proposed US trip next year. "Tone's back on" he said, as if he'd just remembered it. ""E'n the missus want the kids to go away early part of July, ter Italy. So e's free come September when we go. E's gotta fortune ter spend'n'll, 'is rebate from the tax an' 'e's got two insurances maturin' in June, so 'e'll 'ave a bit to play wiv. Trouble is..." and here he became confidential, "'e wants ter go ter Vegas. I hadn't factored that in, like. Expensive is Vegas. So f'your not up for it, let me know now an' I can tell 'Im". He winked at me, He doesn't fancy Vegas either. I've been before. It's not really a city you go back to once you've been, unless you like spending days playing fruities and not winning much, and we could do that at Clacton.

We drank up and had brandies and then, with more people crowding in at seven, we went. We went to the Thai for a takeaway and then got a taxi back to Tel's to eat it. Mrs Tel was amenable and had a few of my cigarettes and we joked about the pub and the amount of people in it, and she tutted and said how mad people were to be crowding in just because they could, and I agreed. We were both merry and the beers made way for brandy. I left at eleven. I couldn't walk with any great confidence and so got a cab back.

"They're open again and I've stopped work" said Tel happily as we parted. We made arrangements to meet up on Monday afternoon for another session. I might be needing my share of our winnings long before Xmas at this rate. Still, I've got Tel sort of back.
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The Warky League 1 Report: Rolling & riding & slipping & sliding, it's magic (H)
at 12:56 28 Jun 2020

"One bleedin' week" said Tel. "Five days 'f'you wanna be exact". He was peeling the label off his Estrella bottle. I waited for the hours and minutes, but he couldn't be bothered thinking.

Time used to be his enemy when he had the shop. "Never 'ad a minit to meself, always summink 'app'nin' ter give us 'eadache". The label off, he started folding it absently. Then he rolled it into a sort of conical shape and poked it into the neck of his bottle. That'll be fun for the recycling people to extract. "Paula's bin in touch. Offered me a job in Bore'am at their branch, ware'ouse work. She wanted me drivers licence an' that. I told 'er I'd retired official like. Can't be bovvered drivin' all the way darn there jus' for some stackin' an' pickin' an' packin'". He brightened. "'Ere, that rhymed din't it? Poet an' ah don't knowwit". I offered him another beer and he nodded and put the empty one down.

How's Paula? I asked. He looked blank for a second and then recognition flooded back. "She's fine, still wiv Blake, still not pregnant, still workin'. As I say, she offered me a job but iss in Bore'am, which is darn the A12 near Chelmsford". I said I knew it well, having lived in Hatfield Peverel for many years since my birth. "Oh yeah" he said. "Too far though innit? I mean, that road's a nightmare at the best'o'times. An' warehousin'? I mean, iss 'ardly brain surgery, is it? Don' need the money that bad".

Since last Saturday, when he last appeared in these notes, he's been working. He went to Norwich on Tuesday and Dereham on Thursday. He's shadowing his replacement, Mike, next week. Mike's a former Hermes despatch driver who moved to Trimley before lockdown and wanted a job nearer home. "Thass a good'un!" said Tel. "Deliv'ry driver 'oo wants a job near 'ome. He'll be doin' more trips up norf than a Tory politician. Anyway, 'e's wiv me nex' week, just ter get the 'ang of it, though gawd knows 'ell probably knar more'n me. 'E's takin' the van as well. I'm picking 'im up Fursdy mornin' an' 'e'll drive me 'ome when we're back".

I asked after Mrs Tel. He made a face. "She's in a right old mood. Said ter me last week I need to make sure the van's clean before I give it ter Mike. The way she said it, you'd've fought I'd 'ad wild parties in it. There's nuffink in it that shoul'nt be there. I chuck everyfing out when I come 'ome. Stoopid cow she is at the moment". I asked, tentatively, but not delicately as Tel doesn't appreciate these nuances and doesn't really do diplomacy, whether they'd had a row. "Nah" he said, dismissively. "She's jus' got a cob on 'cos I'll be 'ome from the end'o' nex' week. Ruins 'er little 'ome alone fing. She's not social. She 'ates parties an' stuff. Strange 'cos she used ter love 'em when we were young".

She's apparently not having an affair. The thought made Tel choke on his beer, and the coughing fit made him turn red. "'Er?" he gasped when the paroxysm's died. "Christ! She don' do it wiv me! Not often anyway. Not after the hys'rectomy an' all the problems she's 'ad wiv 'er bits since. You'd fink any bloke 'aving that sort of fing'd want the odd bit of ow's-yer-farver now an' then? An' she don't like any o' that mouth-stuff, never 'as". Point proved, he sat back in the chair and eyed me with certainty. "Nah, you'd expect it from me, 'avin' an affair, wun't ya? Make sense if it was me. That wun't surprise anyone. But nah, even if I was tempted, like, I wouldn't. Too much 'assle organisin' it fer one fing. And you're never sure the bird wouldn't say summink to someone 'oo knows me".

I changed the subject, slightly put off my supper of fish pie, wondering if it'd be better to just have soup. The glimpse behind the curtains, prurient as it was, hadn't been a success. Tel finished his beer and reached for his keys. It was 7.30pm on Friday. We hadn't arranged a Saturday nighter, mainly because we'd arranged a celebration in the local for next Saturday night when Jamie reopens it after lockdown. "Save our money" said Tel. "It'll be a pricey one next Sat'dee. I fancy a Thai". I shuddered at images of mail-order and some woman saying "Me horny" and 'Love you long time" after the previous conversation, but he did mean Thai food. Food. It's the link between us. That and beer. And brandy. And betting.

He drove off, something rattling in the back of the van, not mechanical but as though something unsecured was rolling around. It was probably a statue or piece of garden furniture. It probably wasn't a dead Mrs Tel, wrapped in a length of old carpet. You never really know though.

And that would've been that for this week, save for a phone call I (unexpectedly) got on Saturday afternoon at three. The reception sounded like someone talking inside a crisp packet. I couldn't hear anything spoken, said so, and the caller hung up, only to call again a moment later. It was Tel. "Can y'ear me knar?" he screamed, causing me to physically wince away from the earpiece. Yes. "I''m in 'Ertfordsheer wiv Ray, we just delivered a set of rockery stones to some old bint 'oo wanted us ter set 'em up, cheek o' sum people. Ah told 'er, we're jus' the deliverers, she'd need a builder fer the settin' up. Reckon thass'a complaint. She kept goin' on abart bein' 85 and did we seriously expect 'er ter lift 'em? Tight as a gnat's chuff. Anyway..." here he spoke to Ray about which road he needed for the M25. "You there?" he said as he came back on. "Ah might come over for a quick beer later, if we can get on the M25 quick". Fine I said. "Nice one! Can't 'ave a Saturdy night wivout a beer wiv you. I'' drop Ray at 'ome an' come rand after".

He arrived just after 7pm. We sat drinking in my garden, despite the cooler evening weather, and watched the tail end of the Norwich game on BBC, Tel chortling as they defended deeper and deeper in extra time. "Goal 'ere in a mo" he said. Then he reached for his phone. "Choose a next goalscorer an' we'll have fifty on 'im wiv Ladbrokes. So I chose Martial. Only, as previously related, Tel's spelling is probably worse than dyslexia, and when he showed me his phone, he'd inadvertently lumped on Maguire. Maguire? I said, laughingly. "Oh bleedin' ell" said Tel, despondently.

16-1. Fifty quid. It's like magic.
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The Warky League 1 Report: There is a season Turn Turn Turn (H)
at 20:41 25 Jun 2020

This should really be two reports in one. It won't be. I wouldn't know where to end. The last week has been like an early bit of Brideshead Revisited, without the castles and the entitlement.

I'm starting from last Thursday, 'cos not a lot happened in the three days leading up to it. Tel had his '24-hour stakeout' on Thursday night; a series of deliveries of the sort of garden stuff you find with weeds growing up it in normal gardens. No gnomes. Tel described it by text, but to be honest, Tel's texts are about as comprehensible as letters from 60's serial killer The Zodiac. He uses non-literary characters on his phone like letters. I've often thought his skills were wasted; he should have been flown to San Francisco PD to solve their most infamous unsolved case.

He appeared back in the manor on Friday afternoon. He didn't bother with a beer at mine. Home by 2pm, he rang me to see if I was still coming to his on Saturday. "Pick yer up at six-firtyish" he croaked as I gave an affirmative. "Mind, we gotta get the chinky on the way back". It was my turn to pay. He gave me a broad scope of their takeaway menu and made me promise I'd remember the crispy chilli beef. "Get two" he barked when I admitted I liked it as well. "The wife'll probly do 'alf a tray on 'er own".

Friday night was spent gargling lager and watching the scum lose. It's not really a pleasure any more. It's like that bit in 'Monty Python's Meaning of Life" when the school kids play the masters at rugger. Todd Cantwell even looks like Carole Cleveland, without the suspenders and the big knockers. He'll be gone. Probably Leeds if they go up, £10 million, his alice band another modern trait that will cause confusion to the bluff Yorkshire homophobes.

Saturday. It came. I scrubbed and refilled the bird baths and checked my food bin for potential feathered scooby snacks. They eat anything, mine. They're partial to pepperoni pizza. And stale Hob Nobs. They hang like kids outside a cheap chicken takeaway, lobbing the bits they don't fancy or that wobble on the floor. The mice then hoover up those. I've got two mice. One, a sort of gingery-red with a good dart on him I've called Nolan. The other, grey and a bit slower, is Skuse. Christ knows where Chambers is. Probably getting done on the right by shrews.

Tel arrived at 6.45pm, bibbing his horn and gesticulating for me to get in like a tripping traffic cop. I was told 7pm by the Chinese for collection and I stupidly told him. "Bleedin' stuff'll be colder than a harwich bird's hooters" he muttered as I reached for my seat belt and we hurtled like the Sweeney on a promise, taking my street corner on two wheels.

As you can never converse with Tel when he's late and driving, lest you entertain short, pithy, unintelligible replies of the sort made by Morph, i refrained from asking him how Thursday went. After he'd nearly clipped two pedestrians and blasted his horn at a few cyclists, we arrived. I went in. I was paying. Tel sat outside in the car and let the smoke ease off a bit from the brakes.

The bloke who serves in our local Chinese looks a lot like the dwarf off 'Fantasy Island', the one that used to shout 'Da Plane, Da Plane!" His command of English is sort of direct and shouty. He repeats everything you've ordered in a loud voice, so that the whole restaurant wonders why you went for chips with your sweet and sour. Fortunately, the restaurant was empty and so was the takeaway bit, so I had time to watch some crap on ITV and admire the 2ft chinese letters on the wall opposite. Tel thinks they spell "Condemned".

The takeaway came. "Want Prawn Crack-ahs?" asked the bloke. I nodded, although frankly, we never bother. He bent down and then rose clutching a bag of funny whitey-yellow things they probably cooked last year. "One firty" he said. I'd already paid and had no cash on me so I shook my head. "No want?" said the bloke, eyeing me with the sort of look Shoguns probably give you before they chop off your head with a single swipe. Then he sighed and bent down and put them back. When he came up, I was halfway back to the car.

"Nah prawn crackers?" said Tel in surprised irritation as he took the bags from me so I could get in. No I said. They'd run out. "Blimey" he said. Then he looked accusingly at me. "That'll ruin me chilli beef, that. When they melt in yer mowf an' yer chilli beef heats up yer tongue". He reached for some change in his pocket and pulled out a two pound coin. "Get us some" he said, imploringly. So I went back in. Prawn Crackers. "Want Prawn Crack-ahs, yes?" Yes, I said, humbly, in the face of a bloke who thought I was taking the piss. He sighed and bent down. He reappeared with ones that looked like banana skins. "One firty".

He asked if I wanted a can of drink as well, and clearly didn't believe me when I said no. It's ironic. Our local Indian chucks free food at you. Bombay potatoes, extra poppadoms, a few extra sauces, even once a free Shami Kebab. These wouldn't give you the steam off their wee. Well, unless that was the yellow bits on the crackers?

We drove back, Tel happily whistling as he had his prawn crackers safe. In the event, he ate two. Two. I asked about Oxfordshire on Thursday. "Yeah, s'alright. Went to Banbree first. Dropped off two stachoos and a few replacement green'ouse panes. Then 'ad a pick up in Woodstock" (here he made a facetious crack about the lack of hippies on the road). "Then Oxford for anuvver pick up and four deliv'ries, then Tom bought us a Maccy D drive-froo an' I 'ad a Chicken Mcwotsit an' them fings they call chips. Their coffee was alright though. Came 'ome Friday an' the wife was in a right ole mood. Bin like it for a few days. Must be summink I've said. S'always my fought".

We arrived at Chez Tel. The outside lights were on, even though it was still light. "Bleedin' 'ell, f'I've told 'er once..." moaned Tel. He opened the door and let me through with the bags. Mrs Tel was in the kitchen, fetching plates and cutlery. She smiled as I came in. "Ullo darlin'" she said and kissed me on the cheek. I put the bags on the worktop but Tel carried them straight in to the dining room. He laid a few mats out and unloaded the trays and paper bags. He picked up a fork and started loading his plate. We did the same. He went and got two beers, then went back for a Diet Coke in a glass with ice for Mrs Tel.

We ate, It was alright. Nothing mind-blowing. The chilli beef was the star. Tel finished one carton and then lobbed it at the open plastic bag near his legs. It missed. A bit of carrot and sauce came out on the carpet. Mrs Tel saw them. She shot him a look, but by then we were talking about the delights of rural Oxfordshire in June. She got a bit of kitchen roll and wiped it up, then went for a bit of Vanish in the kitchen. Tel rolled his eyes at me when she'd gone.

We finished. There was loads left. Tel asked me if I wanted a doggy bag, half-joking, half-serious, but I said no anyway. He put the trays with the leftover bits on the kitchen worktop and loaded the dishwasher. Mrs Tel and I went for a fag on their patio.

She put her new Ray-Bans on to smoke it. She reminded me of an old Velvet Underground poster I had at University, of the drummer Mo Tucker at the back with her dark glasses on. She let the smoke out slowly and said "Gawd, needed that" as though she meant it. We chatted, her with little streams of smoke exhaling from the corners of her mouth as she spoke. "Ah've 'ad enuff" she started, alarmingly. She never said what of. Then she said "Sometimes, luv, ah just really wanna go ter Spain on me own, be free of all this, just let meself be me fer a while". I asked why she didn't and she inclined her head towards the kitchen window. ""E finks the world revolves rand 'im. "Es gonna be a nightmare when 'is job ends. 'E aint got a clue what 'e'll do. Keeps talkin' abart this yank trip nex' year, well, no disrespect ter you, darlin' but I was 'oping it'd just be us two. Now I fink I needs ya there. I'll swing for 'im, or say summink I regret".

Tel brought out the brandy bottle and two glasses, and went back for the Bacardi and Coke he'd made for Mrs Tel. She took a sip and asked him to add a bit more Coke. He got up, reluctantly, and took it off her and went back to the kitchen. He brought it back in a longer glass. He stood, waiting, in front of her, like an anxious lapdog to a queen, waiting for the favourable reaction.

When he didn't get one, he slunk back to his chair. "Ah'll sit darn again then if it's alright?" he said, sarcastically, to no-one in particular. No-one answered. He gave me a sly eye roll and and a resigned shake of the head when he thought she wasn't looking.

We drank the brandy. He got loud and started playing Disco hits on their kitchen DAB radio. He came out boogying to 'Knock on Wood'. It was a bit embarrassing and he quickly stopped. He then had a one-sided conversation with me about our Ladbrokes account. £1295, he said proudly. "Ascot was a good un and we've cleaned up on the footy". He looked expectantly at me and I clinked glasses with him in celebration, despite the fact I've not contributed much to our run.

I went at half eleven, my taxi beeping outside. I went to say goodbye to Mrs Tel and she hugged me, fiercely, with what looked like tears in her eyes. It was a bit embarrassing 'cos I don't think she was drunk. She might've been. It's certainly easier, looking back, to tell yourself she was. She kissed me on the lips as well, a gentle peck that she gave lovingly, but she's never done that before. Strange.

Tel shook my hand with fist-pumping firmness and then we hugged. "Pubs'll be open in a few weeks fank gawd" he muttered. His job ends just as everywhere opens, so he's timed it well. "Wonder wot the local looks like now?" he said, and we made each other laugh with reminiscences of old and loved characters we'd missed. He came out to the cab with me, and waved me off into the inky pitch.

Turn, turn, turn. Trouble is, these aren't people who turn easily, or willingly.
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Sorry
at 21:59 24 Jun 2020

Warky Report tomorrow. I've just lost it again. Bloody laptop
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The Warky League One Report: Paranoia's Poisoned Door (H)
at 16:58 14 Jun 2020

In these days of outrage and aggression, I like to think I'm a laid-back, respectable cove.

You're never likely to see me on one of those Channel Five documentaries about "Neighbours from Hell" because I don't deliberately go out of my way to annoy my neighbours. No all night rowdy parties with guests relieving themselves on next door's drive or cluttering the fence with empties, no loud expletive-ridden outbursts (unless you count the gardening or my attempts at DIY, and who doesn't say "F*ck" when they hit their thumb with the hammer or strim over the toe of their trainers?). No watering the plants with my cock and balls on full show, just as the vicar arrives for tea. No crap eighties 'Terry and June' farces about having the boss over for dinner and then apologising mirthlessly for 'the bloke next door'.

So it came as a surprise, to put it mildly, that another neighbour caught me last Tuesday as I washed the car and engaged me in conversation, keeping at least six foot away but coming closer when he realised I couldn't hear his whispered gossip. Apparently, the people next door have complained to my other neighbours about me. Or, to be accurate, about Tel and his leaving his diesel van running on Monday evening while he nipped in to hand me back the pair of sunglasses I left at his last weekend.

"She" said the neighbour, indicating next door with a jerk of his head reminiscent of someone in the latter stages of an epileptic episode "She says she got one of her heads 'cos of the noise from your friend's van last night". It struck me as incongruous to say the least. Tel's van isn't a traction engine for one thing. He wasn't revving it. I've actually broken wind louder than that.

Mollified by my tone and inclined to be matey, he stepped a bit closer. "Bloody mad if you ask me" he said in a voice that dropped several octaves and with a furtive look at my neighbour's property, just in case he could be seen or heard fraternising with the enemy. "I mean, I was in last night and I'm closer to yours. I never heard a thing. She's just jealous you get visitors".

Now, to some, this would be the sort of pettiness that would be laughed off. But I was quite hurt. I haven't told Tel. He'd just consider it an outrage and, before you knew it, he'd be round there, making the glass in their front door rattle. No, best not. Still, it's all a bit hurtful. I hate causing a fracas.

Tel came back on Friday, driven by Mrs Tel. I'd got the curry. The restaurant now allows you in (masked, which they hand you. They smell like Bombay Mix). You're allowed to stand in the waiting area, two people max. You're allowed a half of lager while you wait. The staff, all masked and sporting white plastic aprons, remind you of a surgeon's briefing before a tricky appendectomy. They even answer the phone in their masks. You can usually only understand one word in five they say when unencumbered. Now, it's impossible, and several calls were repeated orders, with the caller growing more and more urgent as the menu items were repeated ('No, number fifty-two, the mushroom rice' I heard one shout as the staff member patiently asked if they wanted extra chips with their lamb balti).

Indian meal safely home and Tel prowling the bags armed with a bottle of Estrella and a plate, we discussed his week. "Wife wants a noo pair o'sunglasses" he mumbled, mouth filled with pakoras. "Shops are openin' next week so she'll probly gettem in Fennick's in Colchester. She wants them Ray Bens. She's gotta perfect pair'o' Channel ones already but she don't like 'em. Says they make er look like a fly".

The butterfly prawns were the size of maracas. It was mostly breadcrumb. Tel did his best Bez out of Happy Mondays impression with them. You usually get three to an order; we had these two. I didn't fancy one after all, so I had the prawn puri and Tel ate both, once he'd separated prawn flesh from breadcrumb. His plate looked like it had gone down with severe smallpox.

Tel's been asked to work an overnighter in Oxford on Thursday/Friday. "Lee, one of the drivers, is off work wiv an 'ernia". Who's she? I asked. "Nah, 'ernia, you know, can't lift anyfing 'eavy, 'as to wear a support like a girdle, looks like 'e should be playin' Mrs Miniver in one'o'them plays". He sniffed and took a swig of beer. "Bleedin' unlucky is Lee. One of 'is nuts is undescended an' all. 'E reckons 'is ballsack looks like a turkey's neck". I swallowed my mouthful of chicken vindaloo with difficulty.

Work is nearly at an end for him. "The wife's me main concern now. Geddin' under 'er feet at 'ome. I'm findin' excuses ter nip darn Tesco's more an' more. That an' the reduction in income. Still, could be worse. I could be dead or summink. This corona's comin' to a head now they're lettin' the ole hoi ploy out. Footy starts next week'n'all, although not for you lot. You'll be 'appier, knowing' the Town can't screw up any more weekends for yer".

Brandied to the hilt and chucking pearls of wisdom like empty bottles ("I've gone off toast. Just went off it. I 'ave fruit and yoghurt for breakfast. 'Ad a bit of toast week before last an' 'ad 'eartburn all mornin'. Must've been a bad bit. They add gunpowder to white bread, d'you know that? 'Elps it toast better. Jim down the pub told me that an' 'e used ter work as a driver fer Hovis) Mrs Tel arrived. I had a moment of panic as she tooted her horn, imagining the curtains twitching next door. Tel invited me round to his next Saturday for a Chinese. "I'll be knackered after the all nighter" he said, the tone of martyrdom competing with the thrill of having Monday and Tuesday off the following week to make up for it.

He climbed in the car and they left. Someone (could only have been Tel) beeped the horn in the '2-4-6-8 who do we appreciate?' stanza and they drove away, Tel's arm lifted out of the car window in farewell. I waved back, then returned to my door, looking apprehensively at next door for the severe face at a window or the shuffling steps away from the front door to meet me and remonstrate. But all was darkness.

Perhaps they weren't there? Oh well.

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The Warky Lg 1 Report: Sunday morning is everyday for all I care (H)
at 14:12 7 Jun 2020

I've now spent more time at home than I did when I left University in 1995, albeit with less threatening letters from the bank about my overdraft and the possibility of my repaying it.

I was a bit of a mess back then; I grew a wispy, effeminate beard and started wearing sandals. All of my friends were working in London. They had to. With access to student loans and grants finito, it was a case of finding work or basically resuming a sort of Withnail life, squatting in dumpy housing and ekeing out the dole for a four-pack of Skol and a saveloy on a Saturday night.

I never fancied that. Home meant comfort, regular washing, the chance to rebuild a life derailed by indolence and too much weed. I got my First, which sort of kept my parents happy, although my dad did keep on about postgraduate stuff 'if you're not getting a job". Twenty-one years old and I should have had life in the palm of my hand. Funny how things work. I eventually tottered into social work, then ran as slowly away from it when it became difficult.

I was reminded of these pasty, idle days by Tel, who is getting the old stir crazy feelings and he's not even stopped work yet. "Bleedin' unemployed, that'll be my lot come the third of July" he said, mournfully. I did remind him that he was the master of his destiny, that he had more money than 99% of the other people I personally knew, and that at least he wasn't walking away because he had to. He looked at me sardonically "S'Alright for you innit? You'll be back up that A14 the minit they say come back. You aint stuck at 'ome wiv a wife 'oo keeps pointing' art little jobs yer could be doin', lark the decoratin' or the drains". He sniffed and looked disconsolately at his Estrella bottle. "Iss a pain in the proverbials to be 'onest".

The start-up of horse-racing cheered him, although he's done a hundred quid on our account and not won a bean back yet. "Goin' by names" he told me, confidentially. He showed me his betting tips. One was called Desperate Don. Who's Don? I asked. "Yer know Don, bloke 'oo used ter buy all the locals off me when I 'ad the shop, lookin' ter see if 'is mate Robin 'ad started 'is old window-cleanin' bizniss up again. Bit o' claret spilt there. They were partners, like, fer twenny odd years, then Robin offers 'im two grand to quit and starts up under 'is old name. Don's Deepkleen. Remember them? Used ter do mine at the shop an' my 'ouse, til Don came in an' warned me 'e was out. Poor ole boy never recovered a'rter that. Went a bit nutty. 'E was the one 'oo got done for that flashin' case darn at Dovercourt sea front. Couldn't prove it. Let off wiv a fine and a caushun".

I wondered how Tel thought this would make a surefire winner. "Well, yer gotta feel for the bloke. In a care 'ome now. Daughter won't see 'im cos of the flashin' fing". I nodded. It all made perfect sense.

We had fish and chips round his last night. It was due to be Friday but then it was put back to last night. "Wife wanted to wotch Eastenders" said Tel. It's typical of the lockdown that such arrangements are so fluid and yet don't put anyone out. The chippy was busy with folk waiting patiently on the pavement at least three feet apart. We ordered three large cod'n'chips and Tel asked for a large tub of mushy peas and some curry sauce. The mushy peas reminded me of green juices my ex-wife used to make for breakfast. The curry sauce was tepid.

We carried the spoils home in a Tesco carrier, the fat and the vinegar competing for scent dominance in the car. Tel unloaded all on his kitchen counter and then reached for bread and butter, which he laid carelessly on a plate. "Fer chip butties" he announced to no-one in particular. "Gotta 'ave chip butties wiv a fish supper. Chips'n'sauce'n'mushies" he drooled, making one to show me what he meant (and nicking three of my stray chips to do it). Chips, a blob of curry sauce, some Daddies brown sauce and then a liberal coating of mushy peas. It looked like something you'd find squashed on your windscreen.

Mrs Tel was radiant. Her local home hairdresser had been out on Thursday ("In a mask an' she kept 'er distance" asserted Tel, just in case I was the Covid gestapo) and she sported newly-trimmed and coloured tresses, in the same brown as the curry sauce, I noted. "'Ello luv" she said and gave me a peck on the cheek and a hug. Her highlights shone like cherry wood under their lounge spotlights. She had some American masked singing rubbish on the telly, which was turned down (but not off) as I sat on their settee awaiting the proffered lager from Tel.

We ate the fish'n'chips in their dining room. Tel decanted the mushy peas onto each plate, unasked. Mrs Tel studiously ate around them, as though they were kryptonite. We chatted about the lockdown and the people we'd seen, which was a brief chat punctuated by faux outrage at 'the libities sum people take rand 'ere' as though they'd been spotted sunning themselves in Tel's back garden. "Ah saw loadsa couples wiv their kids walkin' darn ter the beach when I was drivin' back from Tesco the uvver day" said Mrs Tel, in tones of indignation. "Course, they'd bought up all the picnic stuff so I couldn't get Tel's rolls fer 'is lunch or nuffink". "I 'ad to take sandwiches" said Tel, proving her point. "An' ah like 'am rolls more than sarnies, the tomaters don' make the rolls soggy".

Tel loaded the dishwasher as we went outside for a ciggie, Mrs Tel carefully blowing her smoke away from the back windows and flicking her ash into a pottery thing she kept on the low wall leading up to the lawn. Her patio heaters were switched on and my shirt became clammy as I backed right onto one. Mrs Tel told me a cautionary tale about her brother, Tony. "'E's 'ad 'emmaroids fer a while, right? So 'e's usin' that cream stuff to cool 'em an' rearly, 'e needs an op. So I says to 'im 'Go private and pay fer it, they'll do that straight away. No good bein' in pain from 'em an' not bein' able to sit darn prop'ly is it? An' 'e goes 'nah, waster money. They'll go of their own accord'. "E's daft. I 'ad 'em back when the waiting list was huge and Tel paid for mine ter be done private at The Oaks in Colch'ster. It was Gods own pleasure. "E won' do that though. Scared of it, 'e is. Never liked 'ospitals".

Tel came out just then and announced profiteroles for pudding. I declined. Mrs Tel made a face at him so he went back in. He came and joined us outside with a tiny dish with about three of them on it, which he munched as we smoked. He also brought me a brandy. Then he finished and went back in and came out with another brandy glass and the bottle. We finished the bottle, which was just over half full, and then he went back in and bought out a new one, fiddling with the seal on it to replenish our glasses.

We got hammered. The discussions became more slurred by the minute. Mrs Tel had one more cigarette and a can of Diet Coke and then disappeared, never to return. I later found her laid on their settee, watching Beaches with Bette Midler. Tel said "She's bleeding' antisocial at times. When Sadie 'er 'airdresser came rand on Fursday, she couldn't wait fer 'er to go after 'er treatment an' then she cleaned everyfing with Flash; floor, doors she'd touched, all that. She's still terrified of catchin' it. She's only up now to wait fer you to go, then she'll wipe everyfing darn again". I took this as my cue. It was half eleven. I rang the taxi company. They told me they'd have a car within 15 minutes. I went back out and told Tel. He nodded and poured me one more brandy for the road.

The taxi arrived at ten to twelve and I said my farewells. Mrs Tel was asleep on the settee, so I whispered bye to her but she never stirred. I swear I heard a sort of snore. Tel, hyperactive from the brandy and boisterous, had a chat with the taxi driver, George, who he'd known as a regular in his shop. I hoped he wasn't running the meter. Tel gave him his life story since they sold up. I noticed he was very dismissive about his current job. 'What do you really want?' I thought. I also wondered if life post 3rd July would be filled with a lachrymose Tel, whining on about quitting. But he wants out. He doesn't want to be driving to Bradford regularly, and that's the type his employer needs.

We said goodbye again and he said "Fridy rand yours again fer a ruby?" and I nodded. The taxi went. I sat in the back as the masked driver spluttered niceties about Tel and the shop, fondly reminiscing. My replies became shorter and shorter. He dropped me at home and charged me twenty-five quid. I gave him thirty and said 'keep the change'. He was pleased with his tip.

And so I opened the front door and life went back to being as it has been for these last few months. Still, the brandy helped.
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The Warky L1 Report: In the Land of Grey and Pink (H)
at 15:00 31 May 2020

I'm not sure what possessed me to repaint the kitchen, but it wasn't boredom.

Back when the DIY stores were open, I bought a few tins of paint. I eschewed the poncy Farrow and Ball stuff with its evocative names (Willow in a muddy stream, Golden Retriever, Weasel's foreskin) and went straight for the no-nonsense Dulux stuff. Only it was a bit nonsense. "Wood Pidgeon" is their subtle blend of grey with a bit of blue in it. "English Rose" is a sort of reddish-pink. Looks more like undercooked liver.

So I've done the primer and repainted two walls and left a trail of ghostly grey footprints over the kitchen floor, and sworn a lot, loudly, and everywhere smells like one of those Russian factories that they film dead fish in at the nearest stream. In fact, it brought such tears to the eyes, even with the windows wide, that I told Tel we'd have a barbecue on my patio last night, rather than our weekly curry.

He turned up at seven, dropped by Mrs Tel, who curiously vanished before I could open the front door, like something out of Cannonball Run. Tel clutched a Tesco bag full of cold beer and a bottle of red. "Barbie's good" he said. "Ah've 'ad the ole Richards after all them curries. Wife moaned abart the stench, so ah've 'ad ter buy that Feb Breeze stuff for our en-suite. She's 'avin' 'er showers darn stairs now".

I showed him the steaks (Sirloin from Tesco) and the burgers (my own mix, ground on my food processor and with herbs added) and made sure the barbecue I lit at five hadn't since gone out. He was doing the cooking. It went unsaid. He always does the cooking on a barbecue.

We discussed his impending unemployment as we prepared the food. "It aint unemployment fer a start" said Tel, indignantly. "Iss retirement. Ah've never bin unemployed in me life. Worked since I was a nipper, 'elpin' the old man in 'is shop an' then, when I was 'itched, wiv the wife in our own place". He bridled at the memory. "That was proppah work, that. Aint never bin one o' these 'oo do nuffink an' expect every ovver poor bleeder to pay for 'em. Used ter see 'em in the shop regular. Tryin' to get credit for their giros, nickin' chocolate". His colour rose dangerously. "The ole welfare state keepin' 'em in twenty bensons and a pack of crispy pancakes. Nah, aint me".

He developed this theme as I went in to fetch the salad stuff. "Yer darn't remember the free day week do yer? Loads of 'em, all hangin' rarnd,long hair an' dungarees, lookin' to half-inch yer stock, rubbish pilin' up like skyscrapers. I know she weren't popular, like, but thass why I admired Mrs Fatcher. She told yer ter geddout there an' graft, save up an' buy yer own 'ouse an' yer business. I grafted like a murderer on a year's 'ard labour. Eighty 'our weeks in the shop, me back frobbin' from all the lifting' an' carryin'...yer don't know yer born. My problem was I din't take educashun serious. Not lark you, wiv yer management job an' yer guaranteed wage an' yer suits an' that". Here he smiled. "Don't blame yer of course. If I'd been inclined to bovver at school, I'd be wiv yer".

I asked after Paula's mum as he cooked, my Playboy apron on to cover his YSL shirt. "Got a noo carer" he said, disparagingly. "Bird called Julie, looks like Rosa Klebb, probly even got the poisoned spikes in 'er Doc Martens". He enlarged on his dislike of Julie. "Iss not that I don't trust 'er, iss jus' that she's a typical bleedin' do-gooder. The sort that finks jus' 'cos she's got a carers qualification and a Guardian subscription, she can talk darn to the likes'o'me. Yer should've seen 'er the ovver day. I bought some shoppin' over an' Paula's mum gave me firty quid, even though it cost abart twenny-six. I didn't 'ave any change on me so we agreed I'd pay 'er next time. An' this Julie fing, she shoots me the ole evils, like I'm connin' the poor woman out of money. Stupid bint. Probly 'ates all blokes. That type, yer knar?" What type, I said innocently. "Rug Muncher" said Tel.

We ate at my patio table. Tel moaned about the steaks ("More gristle than meat. That's Tesco's for ya. Probably carved from a stray dog they found 'angin' rand their bins") and was less than complimentary about the burgers ("Ah bet McDonalds'll be wettin' 'emselves when they finally open again) but he ate it all the same. I proffered my barbie dessert, fresh pineapple skewers flamed over the coals with dark rum and demerara sugar, served with my home-made coconut and Malibu ice cream. "So that's a fing, is it?" said Tel dispassionately, "Burnt fruit?" He tasted the ice-cream. "Blimey" he coughed. "Who'd've thought of emptyin' a bottle of Malibu over their soft scoop?".

The light slowly faded and the shadows lengthened. We turned to the brandy. "Takes the taste o' the food away" said Tel, smiling. He told me about Tony and Sandy and their plans for renewing their wedding vows once the virus had died down. "Funny fing abart all this" said Tel, reflectively. "It aint actually bin all that bad". He did his 'What-have-the-romans-ever-done-for-us' bit. "So, granted, yer carn't go darn the boozer, there's no footy, most o' the shops'er shut, I've 'ad ter rely on the wife cutting' me 'air, which was like asking Stephen 'Awkin' ter 'ave a bash, yet fings 'ave been nice and relaxed an' we can enjoy one anuvvers company. Thass what counts".

Mrs Tel arrived at eleven. She honked her horn in the drive and Tel lurched up, ready to go. "Come rand fer fish'n'chips next Fridy" he said. "Only don't drive 'cos it'll be a boozy one. Get a cab n'all. Don't do that walking palaver. You'll probly end up sleepin' in some ditch on the way 'ome". With that, and a cheery wave to Mrs Tel, who waved and smiled back, he was gone.

The kitchen walls need another coat. I noticed it as I came in last night. Oh well. It's not like I don't have the time.
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The Warky L1 Report: You'd better watch out if you've got long brown hair (H)
at 15:51 23 May 2020

Tel's had his hair cut by his missus. He looks like Max Wall. "She missed 'ole bleedin' strips darn the back" he moaned when I'd stopped laughing. "Them clipper'sall be the first fing we take back when Next reopens. Bleedin' useless. She swore she'd done the back as a number two'n'all". To be fair to her, she had. I've never seen a more sh*t haircut attempt. Even my mum with the pudding bowl when I was a kid, at least you could tell an attempt had been made to cut the hair, even if the style left something to the imagination.

He screwed his baseball cap on again glumly and made another facetious remark about "least ah tried. Yours makes yer look like an extra on the Sweeney. I mean, blimey, woss wiv the bouffant fing? Yer growing an afro?".

Welcome back once again. It's been a few weeks since the last time, but you haven't missed much. We had a curry last night, Tel's treat after he missed the bank holiday Friday before to take Mrs Tel for a bag of chips on Harwich seafront. "Celebratin' VE day we woz" he said. No, I corrected him, the 75th anniversary. The actual thing happened in 1945. "Yer don't change much, do yer" he said, critically.

Most of the food shops have reopened round here. True, social distancing means you wait in the street a bit more, but it's good to have the choice again and see things gradually returning to some sort of normality. "Iss all up Norf now" said Tel, perhaps a little rashly. Tel treats the 'Norf' much like he treats the rest of the world that isn't Spain, namely with healthy antagonism and scepticism and all the other 'ism's' in between, including jingo. "I bet they weren't enjoying chips by the seafront in Blackpool' he said, with satisfaction. "Bleedin' 'ole that is. Went wiv the Barkin' social club in 1978 for a laugh. Poxy place. Worse than Clacton, 'n' thass sayin' summink. All these fat norverners eatin' ninety-nines and wiv 'ankies knotted on their 'eads". He shuddered and sipped more beer.

Work has been the main interest during these bleak times, that and drinking. Working from home on a laptop loses it's appeal after two months. I never know how to treat it. I generally log in at ten am and then get bored and find other things to do, so that by twelve, I've done nothing much. So it's same as, basically. Tel has stopped working weekends and public holidays. The clamour for his services waned a few weeks ago, and now he mainly does deliveries of medical equipment to pharmacies and the odd garden furniture items. He's counting down the days. "One munf an' five days left" he said on arrival at my place last night.

I've started making cocktails. Beer was bloating me too much and I've gone off white wine, so I bought Tequila, Cointreau, loads of limes, Vodka, Orange and Cranberry juices. My Margaritas are a joy but my Sea Breeze tastes like something you'd clean the toilet with, so I've kept to vodka'n'orange and chucked the cranberry juice. It was nice, last Wednesday, sat in my garden in a deckchair with a margarita next to me and my skin prickling in the heat. Until I went to take a drink and found a wasp in it.

Friday came all too languorously, the heat dissipating into winds, the beeps from my work laptop reminding me of non-existent meetings and deadlines. The birds bathed in the two stone baths I found in my shed (another job done. Tubes of polyfilla my dad used in the 1980's with their price stickers still on, a rusting bike, a load of cobwebs). Tel arrived at six thirty bearing three brown paper carriers filled with tin trays and paper bags. "I woz their first punter" he said proudly. For our local indian, you ring them to order at five and then arrange a time to collect and sit in your car while one of them, masked, comes out to ascertain who you are. Tel even got a paper cup of Kingfisher while he waited. You pay by card on their card payer thing.

I got the plates and the cutlery and the napkins and the beer. We've moved on to Estrella by the way. Less fizzy than the Asahi. We ladled equal portions of butterfly prawn and sauces and poppadoms onto our plates and kept the mains in their cartons for later. Tel spent fifty quid so we had enough food for four. I've just had cold chicken vindaloo with mango chutney and a cold peshwari naan for lunch. Jolly nice it was too.

We talked about the virus and the lockdown and the loosening of it and the stupidity of people and the German football bets we did disastrously on last week. Tel told me about Paula's mum ("er carer quit, so the wife'n'I 'ave been nipping' rand there to 'elp 'er wiv shoppin' an' that. Shame for 'er. She used to be a very attractive woman back in the day. Trouble was, she 'ad this problem wiv 'er legs". Was that the start of her MS? I asked. "Nah" said Tel through a spoonful of king prawn madras. "keeping' em closed").

He's convinced Tony won't be joining us on our US trip next year. "Poor ole Tone. Still workin' an' doin' good business, but Sandy wants 'im to take 'em ter Jamaica next year, kind of a treat for mah niece before she goes ter Uni". He thought for a moment. "Won't be buyin' us dinners there after all. Still, no biggie".

I asked about Paula and Blake and Tel, after a brief pause to work out how my bottle opener works again for about the thousandth time, said "Fine. She's been asked ter work in Stratford in a few weeks, management persition. 'E's still workin' wiv 'is bruvver, makin' a fortune, works all the 'ours God sends that lad". He eyed the last poppadom with candour and reached for it while I was finishing my keema naan. He pushed his plate away with a Bisto 'aah' and belched lightly.

He's got a theory on German Football bets. "Waste'o'time" he said, vehemently. "We'd be better waitin' til they get goin' again in this country. Least we know a bit about that". Fortuna let me down, with their 0-0 draw. Tel blamed me, naturally. He always does. Me and/or circumstance.

He left at 10pm, refusing the offer of a brandy for the road. "Nah, cheers anyway, get 'ome, get moaned at by the missus for summink, probly involvin' interruptin' 'er programme on the telly, 'ave a few of me own brandies in me chair, like some CEO or summink, then its bed. Probly get nuffink in there'n'all, knowin' the wife. Probly 'er 'eadache night again, or she's bloated from 'er Weightwotchers dinner. Or she'll moan about me smellin' like an Indian restaurant bogs, or summink like that. It's 'ard bein' wiv 'er in this lockdown fing. No escape. No little trips ter the boozer usin' you as the excuse. No way she's settin' foot outside 'erself, not unless she needs summink from Tescos an' I'm workin'". He gave me a little, tight smile and jumped in the van, narrowly missing my gatepost as he exited the drive.

And that was it. Another week closer to June and another one ticked in a five-bar gate off these walls. I'm having a walk tomorrow. A fifteen miler through Constable Country, rucksack with my sarnies and water, hip flask with my whisky. Hope it doesn't rain.
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Warky report on its way....
at 12:41 23 May 2020

Just finished Better Call Saul. Think it's better than Breaking Bad. Anyone agree?
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Detectorists
at 08:06 13 May 2020

In the absence of more 'Better Call Saul' episodes (I think series 6 is due next year or something), I watched Detectorists on BBC IPlayer last night. Think I recognised Orford, Framingham and Ipswich Mecca Bingo, but there were a few places I missed. Anyone know where this delightful comedy was filmed?
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The Warky League One Report: One Step Beyond (H)
at 10:26 11 May 2020

"Hey you! Don't watch that, watch this". So I did.

Square-eyed from the many hours spent watching Netflix (I'm now starting Series 5 of Better Call Saul, which I prefer to Breaking Bad because it's written better, and El Camino, which was just a satisfactory conclusion to BB) and something written by Julian Fellowes called 'The Beautiful Game' which was good, I then 'reused' an old stone planter I found in the back of the shed as a bird-bath. Now my new telly is outside my french doors, from about 7am to about 8pm.

You can never have enough Robins. Sure, the blackbirds, the wood pigeons with their dopey, doe-eyed watchfulness and the goldfinches, with their nice colours, are great. But it's robins that have the personality. Blue-tits just land, eat and zip off. Robins land, eat, bathe, drink and generally hang out, hoping you've got a few stale digestives or a bit of old cake you don't want. They'll even eat old chapatis and bits of peshwari naan. I like to think I'm cultivating their palates.

Our local Indian has reopened. You park your motor in their car park, they slip you a paper copy of the menu through a wound-down window with a pencil and you tick what you want. They cook it, bring it out to your car with a card reader for payment and bingo, you drive off with a brown paper bag full of cartons and white paper bags. No fuss. True, also no beer to help the wait, no gorgeous pint of draught Kingfisher imbibed greedily as you exchange heavily-accented small talk with the owner. But curry you haven't had to prepare and cook yourself, which doesn't come from Tesco with its cellophane wrapper to be popped with a knife prior to the microwave? That's progress.

Tel and I indulged in one on Friday. I went and got it. The Isolation VE Day Anniversary was marked by an absence of folk and a few colourful threads of bunting on hedges as I drove past. Tel is in good spirits at the moment. He's counting down the days to Friday 3rd July, when his job ends and he joins the ranks of the great unemployed, or 'retired' as he puts it, vehemently.

He joined me on Friday as I said earlier, my birthday celebrations a near memory. He hasn't worked since last Wednesday, having agreed to take more time off to clear his remaining annual leave owed. He went back today. "Bleedin' Kings Lynn" he remarked with resignation. "Still, Maldon on Toosdy an' Tiptree, Chelmsford, Mersea an' Colch'ster, then Saffron Walden, Bedford an' Kempston Wedn'sdy, Scumland on Fursdy an' Yarmuff Fridy". he smiled with a knowing, almost leering sort of smile. "Nearly done".

We had king prawn butterflies, poppadoms and sheek kebabs to start, then chicken vindaloo, lamb madras, king prawn jalfrezi and a keema naan and a peshwari naan with some bombay potatoes they chucked in for the hell of it gratis. Served on my best plates, with bottles of ice-cold Asahi to wash it down, we were like pigs in sh*t. Neither of us like rice from the indian so we didn't bother.

Tel told stories of acquaintances as we munched, often gobbing flecks of sauce at me as he launched on yet another tale. "Paula's bin asked ter cover Chingford" he said, masticating on a bit of naan. "She don' wanna leave Larton (Loughton) but they need an emergency manager in an' 'er boss is back from the sick. Be more money though an' she's lookin' at buyin' 'ouse wiv Blake in Norf Weald. Told er she needs a decent deposit, but it'll be a buyers markit come the end of all this palaver". He grinned, his new-found role as Financial Analyst complete.

"Tone's got piles. 'Ad 'em since after Chrissmuss, keeps 'oping the old Anusol'll shrink 'em. Ah told 'im, he might need them cuttin' out in 'ospital, legs in the ole stirrups'n'that, sleepin' on his belly for munfs". This was said with the cheerfulness of a true bastard. "Still, 'e'll be well used ter sleepin' on 'is front. Done it since 'e was sixteen, nightly. I bet iss 'is default position, bird optional". He nearly choked on his poppadom laughing, and I deftly changed subjects to one less crude.

We saw the Queen's speech. Tel remarked he thought 'she's on the way out, poor ole gel', but he's been saying that for years. He carries a disinfectant spray in one of the pockets of his cargo trousers for work and he sprayed a bit in my living room so I could smell just how chemical it was. It reminded me of fly spray. I haven't had any annoying houseflies since he did it. He said, Apocalypse Now-style, "Smells great after a hard day's toil in the van', and I wondered if Napalm was an active ingredient.

He left at 10, driving back having had his quota of two beers and a San Pelligrino. "Meet up nex' Saturday? I'm working til four but should be back by six. I'll pick anuvver ruby up on the way, my treat this time". I nodded and he backed the van out inch-by-inch, causing a car to pull up sharply and then sit waiting for him, resignedly, as he hit the road. He waved to the driver from his window and got a stiff little wave back. He then lurched forward and was gone, a cloud of dust and diesel engine marking his retreat.

I washed up then reached for the telly remote and the brandy bottle, almost in one movement. Glass, ice, feet up on the footstool, Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman on the screen (Series Five Episode One) and life restarted much as I'd left it since yesterday. The smell of Tel's disinfectant spray eventually dissipated. Lockdown life. It's repetitive, but it's starting to feel easy.
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Really got into Breaking Bad
at 18:06 29 Apr 2020

I never watched it first time round (I'm not usually keen on US drama series) but this is excellent. I'm up to Series 3 so far and it's been a real eye-opener, better than probably anything I've watched on telly so far in the lockdown.

Anyone else a fan?
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The Warky League One Report: Happy Birthday Part 2 (H)
at 11:59 28 Apr 2020

This report is dedicated to Mrs Bankster. Hope you're well. Best wishes.

First of all, apologies. This report was meant to have been posted yesterday but I ended up having a mini-crisis working from home and I'm currently waiting for my IT support team from work (based in Sheffield) to ring me to sort it out. In the event, I'm expecting the call some time next month.

So, back to Sunday. Terry arrived at 6.40pm, sat in his car and honked the horn twice to let me know he was outside. A few curtains twitched as I exited my house. One of my neighbours was out washing his car, and called a hearty greeting from the depths of his back seat well (he drives a Jeep Cherokee and his back seats are deeper than the Pacific). He emerged holding one of those portable vacuum cleaners and wearing lemon-yellow Marigolds. "Ah woul'nt wanna be seen in public wearing them" muttered Tel as I deposited a bottle of champers and a cheesecake on his back seat. "He mus' be usin' that car a lot to need to clean it as much as that". He sniffed and reversed hurriedly in my driveway. I prayed for the little bunch of drooping bluebells that sprang up unannounced in the border near my driveway and reasoned with my conscience that they were on the way out anyway.

The fifteen minute drive was punctuated by Tel alternately remarking with distaste on the number of people 'exercising' at this time of day (we passed a good fifty-odd, walking or cycling) and telling me about Ray, his colleague, going to Tring to see his mum this weekend. "Course, 'e aint married now, divorced 'er in 2010, din't say why. 'Is dorter lives in Richmond, married a chartered surveyor, so she's doin' alright. 'E don't see 'er at all. Fink 'is ex poisoned 'er against 'im. Bein' ex-army an' all that 'e can look after 'imself. No girlfriends or bits on the side that 'e tells me of. Funny bloke, ole Ray. Keeps 'imself to 'imself, sorta".

We arrived at Chez Tel. The blinds were drawn on the bay windows of the bungalow and the porch was lit in a soft yellow light. Tel parked behind his work van ("'Ave to move it for Thursdy, but we'll probably go shoppin' before then") and opened his front door to let me in. Mrs Tel was sat in their living room, wearing a plain black t-shirt and blue Levi's. Her Pandora bracelet rattled somewhere near my ear as we embraced. "'Appy Birfday love" she said.

Tel fetched me a beer and her a glass of something cloudy that resembled old-fashioned lemonade. "Vodka an' cloudy lemonade' she said, smiling, seeing me eyeing it with curiosity. "I used ter drink Vodka an' Sprite but this is nicer". We sat in her armchairs. They'd moved them around since I was last in the house. I commented on this and Mrs Tel said "We 'ad a bit'o' a change rarnd, just ter freshen fings up". We then talked lockdown; Mrs Tel adamant she was observing the Government's guidelines strictly. "Yer jus' dunno when this'll all blow over, do yer?".

Tel came back in, now wearing his cook's apron. I was disappointed it wasn't his 'Naked Playboy woman' one he'd worn previously. "Dunno where it went" he said, a bit sheepishly. He sat and sipped his beer from the bottle. San Miguel. "I've got some Asarhee" he said. "Found it in Tesco in Clacton last week, bought free packs of four. They wouldn't let me 'ave any more than that". The smells of cooking meat rose temptingly from the kitchen. "Steaks're on" said Tel, unnecessarily. "Ah've done steak, chips, salad, a few mushies, a few tomarters, a pepper sauce and a Bernaze one 'cos I know you're partial".

Mrs Tel and I retreated to their patio for a fag. I lit hers and she inhaled and exhaled the smoke luxuriously, like a velvet traction engine. Two new free-standing patio heaters sat near the table and chairs and she switched one on to show me how much heat it emitted. "Tel gottem from one of his jobs, trade price. Nice innit? We sit out 'ere a lot 'avin' a drink late an' it can be chilly at this time'o'year". I felt the skin on my neck begin to crackle and she switched it off.

We talked about Paula when Tel joined us from the kitchen window, his pots and pans steaming away happily. He stuck his head out to participate, having seen with a grimace of good-natured distaste the fags we were puffing on. ""Ad a text off 'er last week, she's still workin' in Loughton as Assistant Manager but she's managin' the store 'cos 'er manager's got asthma, so she's on that fur-low fing they keep on about". Mrs Tel joined in. "Ah spoke to 'er on the phone about a fortnight ago; ah was askin' if 'er mum needed anyfing 'cos she's lost one of 'er carers. She said she'd ask 'er for me and let me know, us bein' nearer to 'er an' that. I've not 'eard back from 'er since". Tel added that he'd also spoken to Blake. "You gotter admire that boy" he said. "Yer know 'e's workin' wiv 'is bruvver, doin' plumbin' work? Well, they did emergency jobs fer some local care 'ome free of charge. Yer don' see that bein' reported in the papers. Mind you.." he added, "they're makin' a killin' doing call outs. Blake reckoned 'e was earnin' over a grand a week". The thought of his cold snake eyes replaced by pound signs flashed into my head. Luckily, it went as quickly as it came.

We sat down to eat, Tel replenishing my beer and then opening the champers I'd bought and chilled. "Ooh shampoo!" said Mrs Tel. Her hair looked good. I wondered if Sadie was still coming over. Mine looked like I was purposefully growing it, but I've never suited longer hair and it was as shapeless as a fat man's sweater. "I bought clippers online las' year" said Tel, when I mentioned it. The missus does mine on a number free when ah need it". I asked him if he thought clippers would suit mine. "Nah" he said with a critical look. ""Edge trimmers".

We ate the food. The steaks were good, but not quite as good as the ones he got from Swiss Farm in ipswich. Fillet steaks, they were cooked rare and sliced like butter but didn't have much flavour. I was glad of the béarnaise sauce.

We finished the champers and Tel reached for the brandy bottle. "Treated meself to a Napoleon XS, cost me eighty quid but it's been a god-send these last few weeks". He took the plates through to the kitchen. No-one fancied the cheesecake so I left it with them. He's probably enjoying that on his patio, under his heaters, at ten at night. The neat brandies warmed the space recently vacated by the food. Mrs Tel had a Tia Maria. "We've 'ad that bottle about free years" warned Tel to her before he poured it.

He poured me another large brandy and then opened his kitchen cupboard, just as I was heading for their patio, to reveal another bottle sat there. He smiled quietly. "Not in any rush, are yer?" he asked, grinning.

The patio heaters were a welcome source of more robust heat as we sat outside at eleven. The copious brandies mellowed me and the chat was the inconsequential, libellous sort about locals, friends and family that all nearly-pissed folk indulge in when relaxed and refreshed. "Bleedin' Tone applied fer them Government payments for 'is staff" said Tel, indignantly, when Mrs Tel was out of earshot having gone to the loo. "Twenty staff an' 'e's making five 'undred grand a year profit AN' 'e's still workin' 'imself and doin' cash jobs on the side. Bleedin' liberty, yoosin' my taxes to prop his company up. 'E's takin' the mick as usual. Wants ter come wiv us to the US next year" he added as an afterthought. "Ah told 'im not to bovver. Mind you" encouragingly, "'e'll 'ave a fair amount of folding by then. Might treat us to a few decent dinners?"

I had one last brandy from the new bottle, a large one, and nursed it in chilly hands (it became a bit chillier at midnight and Tel turned the heaters up a notch. Suddenly, it was balmy once again). Mrs Tel went in to load the dishwasher. I offered to help but she waved it away with a smile. "Can't wait to leave in July now" said Tel. He swilled his brandy around his mouth, lost in thought. "The job's a pain in the proverbial to be 'onest. They need someone 'oo's prepared to drive miles an' that aint me. I've turned down the opportoonity ter go to Stoke-on-trent, Manchester, Leeds and Chester in the last two weeks. Furvest ah've been is St Neot's. And 'Unstanton" he added as an afterthought. "Jus' don't need all that".

I left at one in the morning, making the 3 mile walk back home via dangerous country roads with that familiar lightness of step of the inebriated. Tel gave me a birthday present as I left; a brand new gun-metal hip flask filled to the brim with Glenlivet. "Don' go doin' the lot on the way back" he smiled. "Don' wanna 'ear about them findin' your tired old corpse in a ditch somewhere near Bradfield". We hugged and I hugged Mrs Tel, who, unaware of Tel's present, wished me a safe journey home. "We'll meet again" she said, "soon enough". Tel, drunk, launched into the Dame Vera wartime ditty as I left.

I could still hear him singing it as I rounded the dark corner at the end of his road. It might have been the whisky, though.
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The Warky League One Report: Happy Birthday (H)
at 14:04 26 Apr 2020

Yesterday was yet another day spent locked down, in glorious technicolour, massaging a hangover and spitting out pieces of broken dreams like rust from a car crusher. Walkers took fat dogs for walks dressed in Bermuda shorts and sleeveless vests, accompanied by restless small children and fat, plaintive WAGS. The birds in the back garden preened and sunbathed.

I was born on 25th April 1974, in a small town in Essex, unremarkable, still there (albeit locked down and probably as dead today as it was back then; people still pointing at traffic in shocked bemusement and winters of discontent only affecting those with access to electricity). My mother remembers little from that day, only that it was 'warm and your dad brought me an Orange Maid lolly and a bottle of Corona cherryade to cool me down as I was feeling the heat on the ward'. I came into the world at 10pm that night, following a five hour labour. The Orange Maid was purchased from an ice cream van around the corner from the hospital. Ice cream vans in April. A different world.

My dad owned a Ford Anglia, which were decrepit even in 1974. We kept it until 1977 when he traded it in for an Austin Maxi just because said Austin had a roof rack and he had pretensions about holidays in Wales. Trouble was, the Maxi didn't like gradients, so we often ended up holidaying in North Norfolk instead, where at least we didn't have to push it as often as Snowdonia. Mind you, Cromer back then was like a time warp. Probably still is. I remember the Zoo on the hill because it was near our camping site. Nights in a tent listening to the lions roar and grumble were as close as I ever came to African safari.

Cromer was odd even by the strangeness of seaside towns in East Anglia. We'd previously stayed at guesthouses in Felixstowe and Southwold, where, prior to the gentrification from incoming Chelsea residents, the towns closed at 1pm daily and nothing except for the pubs was open on a Sunday. The pubs were refuges for husbands from nagging wives. Old retired Colonels sat sipping gin slings in the lounge and people with thick Sufferk accents who knew each other sat at the bar in their best cords and gulped pints of Broadside without it seemingly touching the sides.

But Cromer was all cheap sunglasses and the prevalent scent of fish'n'chips and old women with accents you could cut bread with out shopping in Allders with bags on wheels and grey-blue macs. The crab shops used to have queues outside and my father always bought dressed ones, denying me the delight of seeing inside a whole one because he didn't know which bits were the dead-man's fingers, so we'd often discard large amounts of decent brown meat as inedible. We used Mary Jane's as our Cromer chippy because the owner used to chuck in free wallies (Gherkins). You could smell Mary Jane's all over Cromer. We'd eat our wares overlooking the pier or walk up the footpath to the seats near the putting green. We walked loads in Cromer. We once walked from Cromer to Sheringham, only getting a bus back because I moaned about being tired. It was mostly sunny, but sometimes it peed down and we'd end up in the cinema or the church, whichever was open. I saw 'Back to the Future' twice at the cinema one year. It was that or something like 'Out of Africa'.

When I first got to know Terry, we compared experiences on UK holidays. He used to go to Clacton and Southend a lot, but once had a school trip to Sheringham ('took bleedin' days it did from Barkin' on a coach, no bogs on there and kids bein' sick on the journey'). He went on the steam railway ('din't go nowhere except to anuvver station froo some borin' countryside') and also went crabbing ('we 'ad to dig the bait up on the beach, these lugworms, an' then sat on the pier fishin' wiv these spools of nylon line. It was mind-nummin'. I caught loadsa little crabs but din't have a bucket to keep 'em in so I just chucked 'em back or shoved 'em darn gels tops'). We both agreed it was a generally good holiday but that the locals spoke funny and all knew each other well. 'Prob'ly related' said Tel with a wink.

Speaking of Tel, he came over on Friday to issue me with an invite to his for a steak supper tonight to celebrate my birthday. Unfortunately, he couldn't do it last night as he was working, but he's now due three days off so won't be back until Thursday next week. Now convinced I don't have Coronavirus, he talked the missus into it. I accepted with caution, not knowing how lockdown rules affected my decision, but he waved these aside with the entreaty 'We ain't gottit. You ain't eiver. The wife's disinfectin' the 'ouse wiv Dettol and Jeyes as we speak. We'll be fine". He's picking me up at six thirty. I'm walking home. I've bought more fags as she's partial, plus a bottle of Marks' champers and a cheesecake pud. Please don't judge me on this breaking of lockdown. I spent last night eating home-made curry and drinking champers, watching 'The Irishman' on Netflix and telling my mum I was fine when she rang to wish me a happy birthday. My dad dropped round bottles of decent Merlot and white wine and two shirts my mum ordered from Jacamo. They were gift-wrapped in Xmas wrapping paper but I let that pass.

46. It's another year nearer old age. I went for a walk yesterday, just up to Dedham and back, carrying four iced cans of San Miguel in a backpack and a cheese and tomato sarnie wrapped in cling film. I had visions of being stopped by the old bill for picnicking in the pandemic, but it never happened. I lobbed my crusts to the swans on the river and lay on the bank sipping my lager and marvelling at the eerie quietness of the A12. People walked dogs and eyed me as a ne'er do well, much like you eye those people who sit in town centres in favourable times drinking cans of White Lightening and badgering you for spare change. My hair is dishevelled, my clothes dusty and my mind absorbed in countryside views and the warmth of the spring sun on my face. That's a birthday present to remember.

I dropped the empty cans in the bin and went to the Co-op for another couple for the walk home. They were letting people come in gradually. Their signs on social distancing made me remember. The walk home was glorious in its solitude and heat and light and country. It beat previous birthdays on the lash with friends. The exercise made me glow and sweat modestly. Previous birthdays made me glower and sweat immodestly, in packed pubs and clubs. This was nature's way.
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The Warky League One Report: Take the long way (H)
at 16:00 18 Apr 2020

I had a funny dream the other night. We were playing a home game but it wasn't Portman Road. My mind insisted it WAS Portman Road but there were bits of it I didn't recognise. Plus I was on the outskirts of town and, though I could see the floodlights in the distance, I never quite worked out how to get there. It wasn't the outskirts of Ipswich either. It was some vastly different place, where the shadows caressed the buildings in the early afternoon sun. It had rolling hills behind it, far off, and broad avenues with little shops and the pubs looked Dickensian.

Still, you're not here to be my psychiatrist. You want Tel, and more Tel if possible. But funny dreams are becoming normal, in the lockdown where I work dressed in my slovenly best and with these four walls as a constant companion. I'm finding it difficult to sleep at the moment. So to Netflix, and the series "Sunderland Til I Die", an amusing, heartfelt documentary about the crash of Sunderland AFC leading to their League One play-off defeat last season. The fans are angry. One woman, fishwife if ever the description befitted one, moaned in the Wembley sun as she contemplated the loss "Why's ert neva oos?". And I thought 'but it was you more recently than it's been us and now we sit, furloughed and comfortably mid-table, without a play-off hope to our name". So my sympathy evaporated like piddle in a sauna and I switched off, more depressed than ever.

Tel is no help at the moment. Forlorn and regretful over his decision to quit his job, and with no end to the virus in sight, he came to mine in his boiler suit and face mask in his van yesterday evening with a sour look and a hundred petty grievances I couldn't find much sympathy for, much like those entitled Sunderland supporters on Netflix. He accepted his beer with a grunt of thanks and sat, feet up on my kitchen stool, berating a world where he couldn't go for a pint and a curry amongst like-minded souls.

"Bleedin' kitchen needs a decent once-over" he remarked as he traced his finger over a layer of toast crumbs I'd forgotten to clear from lunch. I nodded, too weary to argue. My work laptop keeps crashing so I've had to switch the modem they provided on and off a lot, which helps for about two hours before it happens again. He glugged the beer and rested the bottle on the table. "Dunno if I've done the right fing in quittin' this job" he announced soberly, scratching an itch on his neck lazily. I couldn't help. Only he knows why. "Trouble is, they keep askin' me ter go ter places I'm not keen on. It was Bluewater terday. Iss Milden'all an' Cambridge termarra. Lot of drivin' an' for what? I got paid fifteen 'undred after tax this munf cos they cancelled overtime an' everyone says I'm lucky ter be workin' at all".

'Everyone' it turned out, was Ray, his co-driver. As is known with Tel, he has difficulties getting on with other men he works with. Ray is also ex-army, so probably more inclined to just get on with it without moaning about his lot. I suspect being in constant working contact with Tel is a bit like sharing lockdown with Tony Hancock. The moaning must get on his tits a fair bit.

"Ray's OK normally though" said Tel, as though reading my mind. "I mean, 'e gets cheesed off like anyone but 'e don't let on. "is greatest difference from that Callum is 'e don't eat McDonalds eiver. Thass a blessin' in disguise, not 'avin to stop at every drive froo we pass. Ray likes 'is 'omemade sarnies an' 'is flask of tea an' 'is Penguins. 'E's nah bovver really".

He took the second beer I proffered with another grunt and sipped. I'd not been to the local supermarket all week so couldn't offer Indian snacks and dips and I couldn't be arsed getting some out the freezer to reheat, so I just finished up a bag of Chilli and Lime Poppadoms and some Bombay Mix that's been hanging around my pantry cupboard for a few weeks. He ate these with relish and didn't comment on the lack of samosas, so I think I'm in the clear. I'm off to the supermarket this evening, when I can be bothered to take a shower. The natural state of order and discipline has fallen sadly since I started lockdown. Even the daily walk has become a chore since my neighbour's bad back vanished and he has now stopped asking me to take his dog. I'm conscious of putting on weight and needing a haircut. I'm sick of the telly.

We didn't even talk about our hopes of travelling the USA next year. Tel said something, half-heartedly, about it, but then lost interest. Mrs Tel is fine. They've had sporadic email contact with Tony and family and they're all OK. Paula's working full-time and weekends, even Blake is back working with his brother, earning good money by doing emergency call outs. And then there was me, stuck at home with an underlying health condition, sending emails and doing work all day, retiring to a dull routine of dinner/telly/bed once the laptop stops grinding. My mind doing cartwheels and preventing sleep.

He left, his van careering round corners, his face mask and boiler suit folded neatly on the passenger seat. Home for the night, back to work tomorrow. The days ground on, into the distance, like an Escher monograph, all monotonous patterns. Tel blames the Chinese. I said I've not had any for weeks and he looked puzzled and then laughed. "Nah" he said, "not lark that". But it's true. I'd welcome a bit of sweet and sour. It's certainly missing from somewhere at the moment.
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The Warky League One Report: The Green Green Grass of (H)
at 14:10 12 Apr 2020

6am, Saturday. The mist rolled through the lawn like wraiths of the godless rising up from the crypts. The birds sang like a mini choir, the tweets of the songbirds merging with the harsh rawking of the rooks and the occasional foreign bleat of a startled pheasant. The sky promised heat and light later.

The half-pint of iced Aspalls apple juice looked like a forgotten sample on a hospital toilet cistern but tasted divine. Two ring doves, two pairs of nervous eyes on the french doors in case the nutty wild-haired fat bloke in his t-shirt and short combo should erupt and attack, pecked at the leftover cake bits on the floor near the bird table and eyed the newly-cleaned and filled bird bath, the water sparkling early morning diamonds on the rim, with longing.

The last week has seen many mornings like this. Work sent me a laptop and new router so I can finally work from home. So my working day, eight hours, starts at 7am and ends for a 30 minute lunch in the garden at 12pm sharp. It resumes at 12.30pm and carries on til 3.30pm or 3.45pm if I make a sarnie for lunch. During these hours, I make phone calls and compose emails to other folk, strange, desperate emails that I sometimes read back before submitting. But mainly don't.

I work in T-shirt and shorts, even for messenger meetings. I haven't worn socks for the last fifteen days. I'm cleaning the house today, and writing this. I'll be back at it tomorrow. Bank Holidays and weekends have lost their meaning. I keep forgetting what day it is. Don't even bother with the date.

Tel has quit his job. He's working his notice period until July, but he just didn't want to carry on. "Darn't need it" he said during our call last Tuesday. "Payin' more bleedin' tax than anyone, just keepin' fings tickin' over an' we're not spendin' anyfing so ah can live on me savin's. Shame 'cos I liked it but the wife's scared I'll bring it 'ome". He lowered his voice. "Troof is, me 'eart in't innit. They keep wantin' me ter do longer trips up norf an' thass a younger man's game". He went quiet for a mo and then said "Plus the wife's investments mature in September an' that'll be eighty grand". He sounded strangely depressed, as if retirement was a premature notification of withdrawal from life. I invited him for a beer at mine on Friday, which he accepted.

He came earlier on Friday, another wraith dressed like he'd been working down the sewers in his boiler suit and face mask and dirty boots. He divested himself of said garments in my hall and walked in to my kitchen/diner barefoot in his polo shirt and cargo shorts. The sweat was dark under the armpits of his polo shirt and his hair, normally groomed and neat, was plastered to his scalp like the business end of a rat-catcher's mallet.

He damn-near chugged the bottle of beer I gave him (Asahi - his current swig of choice), and leaned back in my diner chair, lightly belching and gasping. "Needed that"" he muttered. I've stocked up on beer and now buy three crates of 24 bottles a time from the local stores, who always have loads. It means I don't need to pop out as often. I've stopped getting a daily paper. There's no news in it. My freezer groans with bread, pasta, meat, fish, ice cream tubs and ice lollies. I make my own Indian treats these days. I made a plethora of samosas from a recipe online last week and froze them to reheat in the oven, to be served with mango chutney and mint yoghurt chutney and vindaloo sauce. I reheated ten for Tel. "Whered'ya get these from?" he asked, suspiciously, through a mouthful of spiced minced lamb and chickpea. I assured him the local Indian hadn't reopened. Folk are a lot more suspicious of you these days, aren't they?

"We're 'avin' a barbie on Sundy" said Tel nonchalantly. "Nuffin' too posh, just me'n'the missus an' a couple of steaks and a bit of cod loin skewered wiv peppers an' onions. I would've invited yer but the neighbours would've called the old bill if they saw us 'avin' guests, wot wiv the isolatin' an' all that. Plus the wife's become bleedin' pooritanical abart observin' the isolatin'. Won't even 'ave 'er bruvver and 'is lot rand. So yer in good comp'nee". I assured him I wouldn't be gracing 'Casa Tel' until we got the go-ahead to resume activities. "Gawd nars when that'll 'appen" said Tel gloomily.

He had a second beer. He took his time with this one, sipping daintily, like a debutante at an opening ball. We finished the samosas and he started on the poppadom scraps I'd cooked in the fryer and then bashed up. "Yer still avin' a walk every day?" he asked. Yes I said. I've still got access to my neighbour's dog, Christie, although she has a tendency not to want to go when I'm ready to take her, so we've called a temporary truce. I can't take her down the beach any more, just in case the Rozzers stop me and I end up in the Mail under a headline "Coronidiot 20" or something equally 'middle-class outrage'. Yesterday, I went to the bluebell wood and back. The day before, I had a stroll along the Essex Way into Mistley. It keeps me fit, and regular.

Tel told a funny story about delivering pre-packed sandwiches to a local corner shop and finding they were mainly cheese and pickle. The owner moaned at him, and he ended up shouting "Ah like cheese'n'pickle, every fing else is a bleedin' extravagance son!". He laughed and said "Ah forgot I was s'posed to pick a pallet each from the boxes in the fridge system an' just took the first row". His laughter subsided and he looked sad. "Thass why ah'm leavin'" he said, soberly. "Ah'm no good at all this lark any more. Paula used ter organise us in the shop in the last few years; ah was too hit'n'miss. Yer do start losin' it as yer get older. Tiredness. That an' demenshur. It cripples ya".

He drank his beer and wished me a happy easter and then paused and rooted in his bag before he got up, producing a Munchies egg and an After Eight egg, both biggun's. I stammered my thanks and he got embarrassed and said "From me'n'the wife" as if it was nothing. We've known each other too long for all that embarrassment though, and he made a joke about Ray sitting on the After Eight one accidentally in the van, so not to "try swappin' it" in the shop if the After Eights were a bit crushed. "At least Ray's arse cheeks won't show - it's dark choc'late" were Tel's parting words as he slung his protective gear over his arm and scuffed his bare feet back into his boots.

And he drove away and I went back into the house to wash the cutlery and plates up and go back to my solitary world.
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Just seen two buzzards, a family of stoats and a Marsh Harrier!
at 11:17 7 Apr 2020

Walked next door's dog along the church path in Lawford.

The wildlife's enjoying the lockdown.....
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The Warky League One Report: Suddenly let's just say, I'm odds and ends (h)
at 13:48 5 Apr 2020

I've got a new moniker: The Dog Warker. One of my elderly neighbours has an eight-year old Golden Retriever. They're both housebound, like practically all of us, but he came round to my drive on Friday. "Notice yer still drivin' out, wondered if you'd be kind enough to walk the dog for us? Mim's on these pills for her sciatica and I've done me back in. It'd be really good of you if you'd just take the dog for a daily walk". I accepted with alacrity. Who wouldn't? All the joys of owning a dog without the vet trips, clearing up the poo in your garden and all that.

The dog's called Christie. It's a she. I did wonder if she was named after the fifties London mass murderer, but apparently not, although Mike (my neighbour) didn't say who she was named after and in my studied excitement at having a dog to walk and therefore a non-Covid transmitting buddy, I forgot to ask. I was sort of relieved that they hadn't followed the process through. I could imagine getting strange looks from fellow dog-walkers shouting "Dahmer!" or "Bundy, come here with that bone".

She's a bundle of raw energy. I took her to the beach at Dovercourt yesterday and she loved it, in and out of the sea, digging in the sand. One of those little corner shops sold Jumbones and Bonio Biscuits and tennis balls, so I bought a few and lobbed them into the sea as I strolled. She went headlong in after them like an excited seal. The only slight trouble was she came out blacker than Newgate's knocker. I forgot to bring a towel. So I took her home and washed her down before returning her to the bosom of her family. My car seats look like I've been using them to hoard coal.

Tel came round for a beer last night. He's still delivering stuff to stores in his van. He arrived at six, parked the van in my drive, crushing a few of my daffs, but they were looking a bit tired anyway. He bounded in to the house like the dog did into the sea earlier, and sat at my kitchen table removing his boots, his socks a riot of multicoloured patterns. I'd been shopping on Friday, forced to stand outside at roughly two metres from the next person and wait for someone to exit before they let me in. I came away with beer and brandy and only missing the Rice Krispies, eggs and durum wheat pasta from my list.

Tel sipped his Peroni and told me horror stories from the front-line of delivery. "'Alf a pallet of bog rolls they 'ad an' they reckoned they'd have sold out ten minutes after puttin' 'em out. It's crazy. Ah said to Ray, bleedin' stoopid it's geddin' these days. 'E's ex-para so 'e's used to shortidges. Be surprised if 'e bovvers wiv bog roll at 'ome; probly uses 'is 'and".

He'd bought a gift; a bottle of Glenmorangie, unopened and still in the box. "Neighbour gave me it, but ah've stopped drinkin' scotch so I fought you'd appreshiate it more'n me?" I thanked him and then gave him a surprise of my own; four bottles of Asahi I'd picked up as he'd moaned earlier about not finding any in his local Asda. He hugged them to him like his newborn first child. "Fanks" he said, with a smile. "Ah can't find this anywhere". I took the Indian bits out of the oven. I'd done a sort of Vindaloo curry sauce to accompany them. He mopped his samosas and poppadoms in it liberally.

"'Ad any furver foughts on the US?" he asked casually as we sat sipping beer and munching Indian bits. I'm saving £300 a month towards the trip next year. I said I fancied a bit longer in New York and he snorted "we'll be busy in the bars darn there, you won't want more'n' a week 'cos yer'll wanna spend more time in Frisco and LA". He drained his beer and reached for another, prising the cap off with my bottle-opener-cum-corkscrew. " The wife wants more time in California 'cos iss hot'n'that. She'll wanna get on them beaches sunbavin'. An' shopping'" he added as an after thought, a pained look on his face as he realised this could cost him a fortune.

"Paula's mum's gottit" said Tel, eyeing me with a look of dread. "She's self-isolatin' at 'ome, Paula texted me on Fursday. Fing is...." and here he became confidential and flecked me with unswallowed bits of poppadom as he got in close, "Fing is, ow'd she know iss Corona? Could jus' be a cold'n'that? She's sus.... suss..... prone to colds, cos of 'er MS". He leaned back and took a long sip from his bottle, winking at me. "Ah bet iss just a cold" he said, point proven.

He left at seven thirty, reversing back over my daffs just to make sure they were goners, uprooting and trailing three in his back wheels as he drove off. He waved from the driver's window as he rounded the corner. He's coming back on Good Friday for another catch up. I didn't even realise it was Good Friday next week. My hair's starting to look like a haystack. It needed a trim before they shut all the hairdressers. Tel offered to have a bash next week with Mrs Tel's clippers she uses on his. I said thanks, but. I'd scare the neighbours into thinking an escaped convict is holding me captive.

Must go. I'm taking Christie to Shotley in a mo. I even packed a picnic to have in the car; two cans of Pepsi, a bag of pickled onion Monster Munch and the roast pork I cooked last night in sandwiches with apple sauce and cos lettuce and a bit of mayo. I've even found that bottle of car upholstery shampoo I got when I bought the car a few years ago. I reckon that'll be my job tomorrow sorted.

See you for the Easter extravaganza!
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Ever met a celebrity you didn't like?
at 15:55 30 Mar 2020

Mine was Geoff Capes. Fat, obnoxious w*nker.
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The Warky League One Report: Club Tropicana drinks are free (H)
at 09:02 30 Mar 2020

The Manningtree and Lawford area is well acquainted with net-twitchers. This used to be the domain of a quick bit of witch burning on spare greens in the 17th century; it didn't pay to be unpopular with your neighbours in those days. More so if you were a woman on her own with facial disfigurements and a penchant for black cats. Had this coronavirus happened three hundred and sixty-odd years ago, I don't doubt that someone round my way would have grassed up the lady at number 15 by now. They'd probably have even lobbed a few bits of kindling towards the bonfire.

The one great beauty of the virus is that it spares me from nosey neighbours. I don't doubt I've been just as much the subject of previous fevered speculation. For instance, when my ex-wife left, a neighbour told me they'd heard she'd thought I was secretly gay. God knows what they make of Tel's Saturday night visits. The nets twitch when he parks his van on my drive. 'And he's only there for about an hour, Gerald, and that's plenty of time for them to enjoy a bit of the other'.

Tel, oblivious to all these undertones, did indeed park his van and exited it dressed like an early '90's rave participant, his white boiler suit and face mask reminiscent of the time I attended a Halloween fancy dress party as one of the droogs from 'A Clockwork Orange'. He just needed the bowler hat and the mascara'd eyelash. And the cricket box tied round his nethers.

We meet at mine as I'm no longer allowed round his for a takeaway or, indeed, much else. Mrs Tel is taking the isolation bit seriously. "Not that she's accusin', like, she jus' don't wanna take the risk. Even our neighbours aint allowed in the 'ouse". He is my remaining social link to the outside world, if you don't count the checkouts and tobacco counter in Tesco's, and the servers in there don't bother with chat these days. They're more concerned with the two metre distancing. I do shopping for Mrs Leggate at number 15 as well; she's eighty-three and can't drive and is banned from catching the bus with her trolley-on-wheels. Her daughter, Carole, lives in Reading so I've become a sort of surrogate grandson. I have a cuppa with her when I come back, which isn't strictly part of Boris' rules, but is nice nonetheless. She likes little choccy treats, so I always treat her to a few even when she doesn't ask for them on her list.

"Bleedin' job's geddin' me darn now" said Tel as he accepted the bottle of beer and the Indian snacks I'd just heated in the oven. This is our Friday night takeaway. The Indian closed last week. Our local chinese still hangs on grimly for takeaway only. "Everywhere's gone mental. I'm deliverin' enuff bog rolls and disinfectant to clean the bogs between 'ere and Norfuk". He sniffed and took a swig from the bottle. "Ah'm still determinned ter retire in 2021, leave orl this be'ind. Which reminds me..." He reached into the Head sports bag he'd brought with him and took out four glossy brochures for holidays in the USA. "Bit'o'light readin' for ya" he said with a grin.

Mrs Tel has had to cancel her regular hair appointment at home. "'Er roots'er cummin' froo like Leylandi's. She says she don't need it fer anuvver few weeks, jus' 'er an' me at 'ome, still I reckon she'll be 'opin' this fing'll be past by Eastah. Fat bleedin' chance".

We discussed Paula, who Tel has spoken to last week. "She's workin' all 'ours. I keep 'opin' I'll get a delivery to 'er store. But she's fine. Not pregnant yet" he added quickly. "They probly aint 'ad the time. Blake's workin' fer 'is bruvver's firm". He took another swig and a chicken pakora. "Reckon 'e mus' be coinin' it in; 'is bruvver owns a Porsche". Then, suddenly "'Ere! I din't tell yer. Callum's leavin' us. Got a girlfriend, 'e 'as! She's gottim a job in Waitrose in Colchester where she works. Ah've met 'er an all. She came ter pick 'im up after a shift. She's eigh'een, Becky 'er name is". He lowered his voice, lavisciously and cupped his hands expansively at his midriff. "Nice woods" he winked. "Bleedin' acne though. Face lark a crib board. No pers'nality. Ah made a few ligh'earted comments, little funnies wiv 'er. Not even a titter. Miserable cow". I asked him if these witticisms included jokes about spots. "Nah". Then he thought for a moment "Well, not all of 'em".

He drank up and ate the last samosa. I offered him a brandy but he looked as though I'd offered a quick BJ upstairs. "Still gotter drive 'ome yer knar? Can't leave the van on yer drive an' I aint payin' their prices fer a cab 'ome". He gathered his stuff together, remembering the face mask, which he'd hung neatly on my bannister rail, so it looked like it too was taking self-isolation seriously. "Ah'll probly be back nex' week, see yer then. I'll tex' yer. I'm workin' six til four nex' week, not all drivin', we're 'avin' a stock take nex' Wensdy". He re-masked casually so it hung round his neck like a big bow tie. "Keep safe" he said, unnecessarily. Then he exited Planet Dust. Although, I must admit, self-isolation means I get a load more housework done these days.

The nets twitched as he left. Had I have thought, I'd've told him to walk a bit gingerly back to the van, perhaps holding his arse with an expression of suffering on his face. That'd have given them something to talk about.
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