Saturday, 20 July 2019

Harry the Hunchback

I was brought up in an affluent part of Surrey, and every Summer my parents would help out in the local fête organised by a nearby Conservative Party committee.

These fêtes  were typically English affairs, with huge marquees, home-made lemonade and bad-tempered children's entertainers, all laid-out on the vast, immaculately-kept lawn of a well-to-do party member.

My parents would spend a few hours helping out on the 'White Elephant' stall. This was the name they gave to the table full of items donated by locals for sale to fellow locals who might want them more than the doner did. These days we would call it a 'car boot' sale.

Being affluent Surrey, most of these items could have been classed as antiques. There were African spears, elephant leg umbrella stands, carriage clocks, good quality ceramics - everything you might expect to find in the attic of a house which once belonged to a well-travelled diplomat or businessman.

Toward the end of the afternoon, men would begin to shuffle out of the beer tent and congregate in a nearby paddock, out of site from the lawn. I asked my parents what they were doing, and my father looked at my mother for a while before saying, "I think he is old enough now to go and watch." I was baffled but followed him through the gate to find a row of men in a line, standing in front of a metal pale.

One by one they unbuttoned their flies, but then someone shouted, "Wait for me!" I looked round to see a short, unkempt man with a hunch-back shambling toward the group, and one of the men groaned, "Oh no. It's Harry the Hunchback."

Harry found his place in the line and someone gave the signal to begin.

Slowly, the men began pissing into the bucket whilst simultaneously walking backwards. The further away from it they got, the higher the trajectory of the multiple streams of urine became, until - one by one - they began to tail off and run out of fluid. A few men stopped after a matter of a few feet but the experienced ones kept going, having loaded themselves in the beer tent for an hour or so before the event.

Long after the last man had given up, Harry the Hunchback was still walking backwards with a leisurely step, the great arc of  urine getting higher and higher as it rained down on its way toward the bucket. Finally, Harry stopped at what must have been a good fifty feet back with a look of triumph on his shaggy face.

It seems that Harry performed this feat every year, claiming the prize money and making his way back to wherever he had come from as quickly as he had arrived. Rumour had it that he was a Socialist who frequented the Woking Railway Workers club in town, but nobody knew that for sure.

A group of the contestants huddled together and began mumbling amongst themselves whilst looking at Harry, who was standing nearby, patiently waiting to claim his prize.

Then two of the men approached Harry, took him by the arms and marched him into a small wooden shed. A few minutes later all three came out and Harry dejectedly left the grounds in disgrace, never to return.

It seems that Harry's 'hunch-back' was, in fact, a large reservoir of tinted water which - under pressure - was fed by a tube to the front of his trousers.

It was this one incident in childhood which instilled the English sense of fair play which remains with me to this day.

Friday, 19 July 2019

Night Scented Stock update.

It is gone 1.00 am and the inconsequential little flowers are filling our compact but adorable city apartment with the most delicious perfume. I am working for the most charming West Country estate within about 200 miles. Summer will turn into Autumn. Autumn will turn into Winter, and life is sweet. I am not sure I deserve it.

My next incarnation

I was looking at the Iford Manor cat yesterday when a lady selling tickets to the garden commented on the fact he is only one year old. I was astounded - he is enormous, but will carry on growing for another three years.

He is a Maine Coon I am told, and I am also told that they grow to be huge. It's a good job he is a gentle, friendly creature. He likes to lie down right in front of you as you are trying to work.

I think if I could choose to come back in another life, I would be a Maine Coon living at Iford Manor.

Thursday, 18 July 2019

'king Cnut

That's it. Just 'king Cnut. I like this title. One day I will find a use for it.

Monday, 15 July 2019

Glass half-full after all

I arrived at my workshop today to find that thieves had broken into it the hard way. They smashed a toughened glass window, removed the frame, then bent four 3/4 inch steel bars to 90 degrees rather than simply cutting off the door lock to the right side of this photo.

They took all of my power tools, but - and this is a big but - did not touch the pair of bronze sculptures in the same room which were waiting for me to take them away this morning to reinstall at the client's house.

This confirmed two things at once for me.

One was that a small number of nasty cunts make life so difficult for ordinary people who are just trying to get on with their lives without harming others, and the other was that my glass is, indeed, half-full after all.

Yes, it is going to cost me a lot of money that I do not have to repair the workshop and replace the tools so I can carry on making an honest living, but if they had stolen the bronzes it would probably have finished me off for good by bankrupting me.

I am strangely grateful for their incompetence.

Empty blue sky

Last year, I noticed that there were far fewer Swallows in the skies over Bath than the year before, and this year I have not seen one. Usually the Swifts, Swallows and Martins seem to fill the sky as they wheel and dart around, catching insects to feed their young.

I wondered what is going on, so I looked it up.

Mainly in Egypt but also across the whole North African coast, men are putting up 'mist nets' between high poles, catching anything that flies into them, killing the birds in their hundreds of thousands and selling them to the Chinese as food for their restaurants. A particular delicacy is the extremely rare Golden Oriel, which is considered a form of Viagra by particularly stupid Chinese men.

Since childhood when I first learned that these birds journey thousands of miles every year to return to the same little eave or farmhouse wall as last, and that the young that they raise there will not stop flying - even sleeping on the wing at high altitude - until they reach breeding age after three years, I always say welcome to the first one I see overhead, swooping around and waiting for its fellows to join it. I felt so privileged that this little bird had made the long and hazardous journey just to be in the area I live.

Even if they stop the handful of men who are killing all the migrating birds as they leave the African continent to go North, I don't think that their numbers will increase before I die. Summers will never be the same again.

Sunday, 14 July 2019

Le Coq Sportif

What a day for T.V. - You've got The Men's Final at Wimbledon, Formula One, Netball, World Cup Cricket, the start of the Tour de France... er... Antiques Roadshow and a new series of Poldark.

I'm only interested in the last two.