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I Fought the Law (and the workshop won) October 31, 2011

Posted by normanmonkey in Thirtynumbthing.
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I’m becoming more convinced by the day that God exists. Not only that, he reads Blokely, has a malevolent sense of humour – how else does one explain the West Midlands accent – and he very much has it in for me. In the last missive for these pages I wrote that the only invite I was likely to get these days was a summons. With perfect timing, not one, but two arrived on the same day.

The first was from my electricity supplier. In the age of direct debit and social media envelopes are something of an anachronism, the assumption is that everything has been paid for and they keep posting letters as a genial mark of thanks and we aren’t actually required to open them. Not so. It appears I hadn’t paid the bill for a separate meter which measures the power for the electric gates. That will shake them up at the Anarchist Society.

I never realised EDF could get so livid. Had Don Logan from Sexy Beast drafted it I couldn’t have felt more intimidated. Within an instant, a call was made to their hotline. Contrary to the threatening tone of the letter I was dealt with by Cheryl, a pleasant woman who spoke with Estuary vowels and reassuring sibilance. All it took was a frisson of remorse, but more importantly my bank details, and I was no longer a desperado.

The other letter was postmarked from Sidcup. What ill will and irritation towards me could ever come from little Sidcup? Well, rather a lot it seems. It was from the Metropolitan Police who wanted to know if I was behind the wheel when my vehicle was snapped speeding towards Hammersmith at 37 mph at 10am on a recent Saturday.

The irony was not lost on me. Almost every other Saturday at around 5pm I can be found driving AWAY from Hammersmith at speed after an afternoon at Queens Park Rangers and certainly not with three points for my troubles.

The idea of doing anything at speed on a Saturday morning, in Hammersmith or elsewhere, is anathema to all cherished instincts and ideals yet I didn’t think this declaration would’ve washed with the Met.

With no recollection of driving through West London at speed on this or any other Saturday, but with information to hand that I had been photographed doing so, what comebacks does a confused man have? Perhaps a picture of myself in my pants sitting at the kitchen table with big hair and a croissant, Anadin and the Times crossword sent back as a rebuttal? ‘Here is a picture of me moving at precisely 0mph at the time in question. Accusation denied.’

Unlike God, the Met probably doesn’t have a sense of humour and when faced with impertinence the eyes of the law tend not to blink first. So I ‘fessed up’ which was a task that involved ticking a box, posting a letter and waiting to hear back from the Met.

That verdict came in today from Sidcup. I could have £60 and three penalty points, but the Met are prepared to make me another offer: £97.02 and going to a workshop with no penalty points. Points or workshop? Which one is it going to be? There’s something reassuring that when beneath the law’s sword of Damocles the spirit of Jim Bowen is invoked as one is invited to weigh up the choices.

Common sense probably dictates I should go for the Speed Awareness Workshop, but I can’t. Here’s why. It’s the word ‘workshop’. In an instant it conjures up 1980s images of drama students on Open University or feminists, all called Ros, with long skirts and unfettered chests sat in circle talking about the spirituality of their menstrual cycle. Latterly, like veganism, it seems to have slipped into mainstream acceptability, unpleasantly so into normal working life when, with no prior warning, any discussion involving more than two people can suddenly be branded a ‘workshop’. It bloody isn’t and we must seize it back.

My late Uncle Ray was a carpenter all his life. He worked in a pre-fabricated hut with a dozen other blokes in a plume of smoke and choice language with a sun bleached pin-up of Linda Lusardi on the wall. Ray wore a flat cap, had a fag permanently attached to his lower lip, used power tools with no protective clothing, drunk mugs of milky tea and was permanently covered in sawdust.When he clocked off at 5pm he had a shelf unit to show for it. Now that’s a workshop.

This misappropriation may have infiltrated even the Met as an alternative form of punishment, but I’d sooner do a spell inside than say ‘I’m going to a workshop’ – I’d stake my license on the ‘Group Leader’ being called Ros.

So, in honour of Ray and all those men who for centuries sawed, sweated and swore in confined spaces I’m taking the three points, Jim. Though I must confess to feeling the first pang of regret saying I’d take a proper punishment – given my current form, higher powers could be reading this, be they in Sidcup or himself so don’t be surprised if the next instalment comes from my stint in the Scrubs.

Not a workshop.

This post first appeared as Thirtynumbthing @blokely.com


A stroke of bad luck October 7, 2011

Posted by normanmonkey in QPR, Thirtynumbthing.
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Apparently I’m likely to have a stroke and not of the good luck variety. That’s according to the letter of invitation for a scan at the local village hall, opened in good faith and read as a fine accompaniment to my
cornflakes and sore head on Saturday morning. That certainly lit the touch paper for the weekend.

Had this column had been fired off  a week before it was going to be a nauseatingly pious and preachy piece on how easy it is to give up drinking fora few weeks. As it turned out, it would have to resort how easy it is to cave in. It appears the only things required to consign a few weeks of sobriety to empties bin is a ray of sunshine, New Girlfriend working and an oldacquaintance saying his wife had given him a pass.

The past three Saturdays had been full of purpose: up early, clear head, morning coffee, papers, no dealing with accusations or recriminations, shopping, and maybe even a period of controlled exertion down the gym or swimming pool. If there was a time not to have fallen off the wagon and wake up full of remorse with a stinker behind theeyes then this was it. I swear the Life Line Screening Organisation had beenhiding behind the bushes watching my arrival home before popping the invitethrough the letterbox. They know their target market. Catch a man at his mostvulnerable moment, just when he wakes up full of woe and staggers down the stairs looking like a bad case of taxidermy toward the buff envelopes.

The way things are going the only invite I’m likely to get these days is a summons, but this is hardly a
step up. It stated that I am ‘now of the age’ where I might want to considergetting a scan order to prevent a stroke. Even more worryingly I was inclined to agree.

I, for one, am happy to take time out to consider the testimony of Mrs Rudham from Oxfordshire and her
carotid artery disease, but not have the ire of the invite turned upon myself:


Quite frankly, I’m in no particular rush to the village hall to find out. Everyone involved would probably have to lie down if they did. God knows what they’d say if they couldsee inside and it would certainly be unprintable, possibly offensive enough toget them struck off.  There’s a good chance we’d all be on the news by tea time.

Let’s take an upstanding artery at the age of 16: introduce it to women, public houses, university, clubbing
and then a job in PR in the age of the halcyon age of the client lunch on expenses. Throw in best friends who include a publican with a pair of tattooed on his arse and a fine wine merchant. Add to those two relegations, an aversion to outdoor pursuits, a string of relationships that could’ve been scripted by
Stephen King, and investment of funds in a high-interest Icelandic bank account just before the crash. Then mix with a number of misspent holidays and city breaks with people who shouldn’t be allowed out of a straight-jacket let alonethe country. Would you be able to see a sound artery to be proud of? I doubt it.

By comparison Mrs Rudham’sarteries were probably as clear as the Channel Tunnel during a train strike. She’s in fine fettle now and about to enjoy a three-month sailing trip with her husband. Good for her. Active. Had she said she was going to spend the next three-months sitting on a commuter train wondering if the Bulgarian cleaner hadrazed the house then I’d have not be so moved.

If the stroke scan invite didn’t do for me, watching QPR lose 6-0 to Fulham on Sunday almost did. Their heaviest defeat in my living memory and there were no scans to show that was coming. What I thought was an aneurysm around 4-0 was just a burning eye-brain reaction to watching ‘One Size’ Fitz Hall go into a tailspin every time someone in white advanced towards him. Keeping score was problematic enough. There followed no drowning of sorrows just a night spent indoors in a torpor trying to forget.

The vow is now to get back on the wagon and focus on wellbeing. None of this is down to my being the age for a scan. There’s more pressing problems caused by Fitz Hall than could berevealed in the village hall. If I can get treatment to remove any memories of that performance lurking in mysystem I will be first in the queue.

100 Minutes of Solitude October 7, 2011

Posted by normanmonkey in Uncategorized.
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I really better do something before the girlfriend comes round later this afternoon. There’s a plate in the kitchen table next to the laptop that would make Tracey Emin think twice. It’s the accumulation of a man left to his own lazy devices: some aged rice, three empty soy sauce packets, a piece of chewing gum and five dog ends. The plate itself rest on a letter from Life Line screening informing me I’m now of the age where I could have a stroke. Charming.

Charles Saatchi may pay a fortune for this, but otherwise it marks me down as someone who really should know better . the fact of the matter is that even on a day off the last thing I want to do is confront it. Instead plate and I have been having a stare out now for several evenings and the heap has merely been added to when an ashtray has proven to be out of reach.

What she will mkake of it I don’t intend to find out. What women will never understand is that after working till late every night and managed to find only a modicum of time to pass out after a brief session on FIFA 12 that the first brief window of free time in a week simply cannot be spent scraping a plate. Surely it’s far better to have a Diet Coke, put on Sky Sports News and smoke a cigarette and write something about the predicament and hope that said plate will go away?