Saturday, 23 August 2014

The way to Warwick's is uncertain...

I can't remember how many years ago it was now when I happened to tune into the very first episode of 'On Mardle Fen', by Nick Warburton, and that is partly because I immediately drifted off to a sublime and blissful sleep as soon as the first few notes of its haunting theme-tune began to play.

I didn't fall asleep through boredom, I believe that the whole series is so good, so English and so super-real that, in order to immerse myself in it to the maximum, I had to hover half in this world and half in the world that sits uncertainly on an isolated fen - home to Warwick's restaurant.

Warwick: "Mardle Fen is a dark and horrible place - I love it deeply." and "There are more things that lay eggs on the Fen that you might imagine. Some of them are edible, and some of them are not."

Soon after episode one of series one, I Googled up Nick Warburton to see if I could tell him how much I loved this radio play, and I found someone who seemed to know him, who ran a blog about growing potatoes. This seemed to fit with the strangeness of it all, and I asked the potato-grower to please pass on my appreciation to Nick the next time he spoke to him.

A week or so later, I received an email from Nick direct, thanking me for my appreciation and saying what a wonderful team of actors he had for its making - this is indeed true, Warwick himself being played by Trevor Peacock, and every other actor brilliantly cast and brilliantly portraying the dysfunctional family and supporting staff who run a restaurant which, although surrounded by eels, does not actually offer them on its menu.

I also apologetically admitted to falling asleep every time I listened to an episode, but Mr Warburton seemed to know that this was not a slur on his work - far from it.

I have been in sporadic communication with him ever since, just stopping short of badgering him as to when the next series is out, and after the last (there has been six in all, I think) he told me that On Mardle Fen had reached a natural conclusion and there would be no more. Somehow, the journey down the shifting, umarked road that leads across the fen to Warwick's had come to an end.

I resolved to buy all the series as downloads so I could go back there for more dark humour whenever I felt like it, but had a little trouble finding one series which, at the time, wasn't available on Amazon or anywhere else, and I mentioned this to Nick.

About four days later, the complete series arrived on four CDs in a Jiffy-Bag, together with this map of Mardle Fen, just in case I ever went East to visit Warwick's.

Even with the map, I know it is next to impossible to find the place, so I may not bother to try.

Friday, 22 August 2014



(I wonder if they will step in and take over from
Sir Cliff Richard,
who was supposed to be turning on Bath's
Christmas lights this year...?)

Is suicide selfish?

Cro has just imparted a tragic story about suicide - although the crime of 'suicide' no longer exists in the eyes of the state - and it reminded me of an incident of about 10 years ago, when I noticed an acquaintance sitting in the corner of the pub looking morosely drunk and introspective.

I normally avoided this bloke, because he was a bore of Olympian standards - he eventually became the only person in the pub's history to be barred for life, simply for being too boring. Think about it. Try to imagine someone who is so boring that they are barred from an English public house for life, and you will begin to get some idea about how stunningly boring this man was.

I went over to his table and asked him what was wrong. He told me he was deeply depressed and was thinking about going home and killing himself.

We all knew him as someone who - at the age of about 35 - was completely supported by his rich parents, and did not seem to want for any material thing in life. He had a new, smart car, and could afford to go to the pub every night, stay as long as he wanted in order to bore as many people as possible - all without doing any of the work the rest of us had to in order to pop into the place at about 5.00 o'clock and stay for a couple of drinks. He would be pissed by the time we arrived, and when we left he would stay, often until closing time.

I couldn't just leave him in this state, so I pulled up a chair and spent the rest of the evening trying to convince him that life was worth living, only leaving myself when I thought that there was a good chance of him not carrying out his threat of self-destruction. I spent all night with him and I was shattered by the time I got home.

The next day I entered the pub, finding him standing at the bar and chatting to a few bored-looking people who could not get away from him. I asked him how he was today, and he replied by saying that he did not know what I was talking about, so I reminded him.

"Oh that," he said with an infuriatingly broad smile over his idiotic features, "I didn't really mean any of that!"

I got my hands around his throat and pinned him up against the wall, telling him that if he ever wasted my time  - or anyone else's - like that again, I would personally make sure he carried out his threat to kill himself, if I didn't do it for him out of impatience.

I wasted an entire evening on this fool.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Rocket Science

We have sound engineers coming all the way from Nottingham in a minute to see if they can sort out the pounding bass-line coming from the flat roof of the new restaurant, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights.

I went down late one Saturday night to complain about it, but when I got inside the bar, the music levels were quite acceptable - prognosis: the problem was the flat roof acting as a drum-skin.

I have been telling them this for quite a while now, but they have come up with all sorts of other reasons, such as the volume of customers soaking up the sound, etc., and up until today have declined any invitations to come up and listen for themselves.

When the manager called me yesterday to arrange for the engineers to get access, we talked about the situation a little more and he responded to my saying that the problem was worse at weekends by telling me that they had a different music 'profile' on Fridays and Saturdays, and it was more a case of the type of party music played, rather than the volume it was played at. I expressed my disbelief that it could be so complicated, and returned to the drum-skin theory.

Eventually, he admitted that they had installed a Super-Woofer bass speaker right onto the ceiling below the flat roof.

The engineer told me yesterday - from Nottingham - that they had told them not to do that, but they insisted. He is re-positioning it now as I speak, and will be up here in an hour or so to test out the theory in practice...

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Confessions of a hypochondriac

I've learned a bit about the two types of bronchitis recently, having contracted - I think - the viral one which I mistook for a cold a couple of weeks ago. I am told it could last for up to a month, and - being viral - would not respond to any mis-prescribed anti-biotics that might be issued by a lazy doctor.

The other sort is actual lung damage, and lasts for three months (presumably the Winter ones) of the year - often caused by smoking or the breathing in of irritants such as harmful stone dust or chemicals.

It just so happens that this chesty cough arrived as I had - in between smoking - sanded down a particularly unusual and crystalline white stone, and after that I treated it with some hydrogen peroxide mixed with a very dry and dusty powder bleach which I tried very hard not to breathe in as I blended the two together.

Of course, I wore a dust-mask when I sanded down the stone, but - for want of a new one - I found a dirty, old, discarded one which had seen better days. Normally, I carefully wrap up these masks in plastic before I go home, because my workshop turns into a rat's playground at night. I know this because of the hundreds of footprints in the dust everywhere, but since I did not intend to use this mask again, I had left it unwrapped and was about to throw it away. My reasoning was that it was 'better than nothing'.

Being one of those people who wake up before dawn and realise that they may not be alive for more than a few days afterwards, it took a lot of self-conrol to arrive at the self-diagnosis of 'chronic' rather than 'acute' bronchitis. When you compare the names, there is not much to choose between either of them, but I have found out that it is better to be chronic rather than acute.

The symptoms of most fatal diseases - especially ones caught from rats - always seem to be described as 'flu-like' in the initial stages, so I was relieved that I only had a hacking cough rather than aching joints to go with it. At least I could rule out an early death through the ingestion of rat's piss - for the time being.

Many people go to doctors just to be reassured, but I don't go to them for the opposite reason.


Woman goes to the doctor for a full examination, and after she has put all her clothes back on, the doctor gives his prognosis.

Doctor:  "You have acute angina."

Woman:  "Never mind about that, just tell me what's wrong with me."

Monday, 18 August 2014

More choice

Idly staring at this church gate the other day, I wondered why it had a semi-circular paved area on the side away from the opening, so I looked a bit closer.

It opens both ways on this rocking, double hinge arrangement, it hangs from a pin at the top and the latch plate curves upwards both sides. Ingenious.

Carry on.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Old man's trousers

Two fashion posts in one day - lucky you.

These dark blue, linen, generously cut trousers I sport were bought for a mere £5 from a charity shop yesterday, and were very well made in Greece - judging from the label, they were bespoke made as well.

It's hard to tell with a crap camera and failing, pixilated light, but these are double-pleated fronts with plenty of Victor Sylvester - i.e., ballroom in abundance.

They are the closest thing to proper 1940s cut trousers I have seen that were not made in the 1940s, other than by Armani.

I love them, especially at that price.

The shirt is Hilfiger and the shoes are Crockett and Jones - of course.