Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Letter to the Managing Director of Halfords.

9 ...... Park
Co Down
BT** 6 **

The Manager
Customer Services
Halfords LTD,
Icknield St Drive,
Washford West,
B98 0DE

Dear Sir/Madam,

At Christmas last, I decided to buy a bicycle as my last one has worn out. So I bought one from Argos. However, it arrived in pieces and when I tried to put it together the pieces didn't fit.

So I took it back and got a refund. I decided that I would get a pre-built bike from a proper shop.

We have two specialist bike shops here in town but I don't like either of them. One is run by two little dwarfish brothers who tend to be rather pricey. They charged me £50 for some fairly minor parts and service on my previous bike. I don't trust them.

The other bike shop is too intimidating. It is run by one of those lycra-clad semi-pros who probably do a 60km training run before breakfast and sneer at you if want anything less than some carbon, titanium and kryptonite-based vehicle costing £700.

So on Christmas day itself I took advantage of a special offer on your website & bought an Apollo Crossways bicycle for £161.99. The website said it was reduced from £400. Bargain, I thought.

I went round to collect my bicycle a couple of days later from your branch at Clandeboye Business Park, on the Bangor ring road.

Some people might slag Halfords off but my dealings were always pleasant. When the previous old rusted bike I own went kaput, the bloke there fixed the rear wheel for me using some old stock in an afternoon and only charged me a tenner. This was a lifesaver as I worked besides Halfords at the time and do not drive. I live 3.7 miles from the shop, so it would have been a long walk home. I think the bloke who fixed my bike was called Mark.

There were some initial teething problems. When cycling to work, the handlebars suddenly came out as whoever built it hadn't tightened the nuts. And the gears weren't biting.

So I took it back and Mark fixed these problems. Well, at least some of them. Although he tightened the cables, the gears never really bit properly & kept slipping. So I just found a gear I was comfortable with and left it there.

There was also a strange rattling from the pedal housing; the pedals seemed a bit loose in there. I couldn't work out if this was a design problem or a fault with my particular vehicle.

There was also a problem with rust; after a few weeks some of the fixtures and two of the rear spokes rusted. This despite that I always garaged the bike at night.

But otherwise it was good. I put up with these faults because I had bought a bike for £161.99 and it cycled smoothly. I wouldn't have paid the original £400 for it. That would have been taking the proverbial. But for £161.99 I thought it was OK.

I've only used it for commuting the 3.4 miles to work and cycling around town in the last six months. The rear tyre has worn right away since Christmas. Is this normal? Are rear tyres supposed to wear away so fast?

Anyway, onto the main problem.

A few weeks ago, I thought that the rear wheel had buckled slightly. I couldn't tell with the naked eye. Certainly, it seemed to have a slight kink, but I thought it may have been a trick of the mind, so to speak.

But maybe it wasn't.

Because when I cycled up to get the morning paper, travelling at some speed down the road, my back wheel suddenly locked and sent me spilling all over the tarmac. I lay there for a minute just to make sure I was still alive before slowly getting to my feet. It happened right in front of a bus, and facing the local secondary school. Thankfully the bus was empty of passengers so no-one sneered at me.

The bus driver got off and helped me. It was drop-off time at the school and a sympathetic teenage girl picked up my now smashed rear light and batteries for me and fussed over me. She offered me a lift home with her mum. When I looked in and saw an attractive brunette I was sorely tempted. But I declined as the mother remained mute and there was nowhere to put my bike in a black Audi sports car. Maybe it was karma's way of telling me not to buy the Daily Mail. But I bought it anyway.

Raymond the newsagent was also sympathetic and offered to take the bike home in his van or lend me spanners. But I walked it the ten minutes up the road.

I escaped with a skinned knee, a lump on my chin, and a sprained wrist. Lucky. The sprained wrist took a couple of weeks to heal. My knee became infected but is scabbing up nicely now. I had to change the dressing on it every day for a while and it leaked pus into my trousers. Yuck.

I got the rear wheel free and pushed the bicycle the 3.4 miles to Halfords. Mark the bike repair bloke wasn't there so I explained to the young fella at the counter that it was under warranty and could he repair it for me? I wrote down the list of faults with the bike for him to look at.

Well, that was about a month ago and my bike has not been repaired. When I called in a couple of weeks ago I was told by a different member of staff that Mark the bike repairer has been off on the sick and then was about to go on his holidays.

This member of staff told me that he had tried to repair my bike but he "couldn't get the frame loose." He couldn't understand how I had jammed the frame and asked me if I had taken the bike to some rival bike shop to be repaired?!? I told him I didn't have a clue what he was talking about. I still don't. I had no idea that the frame was jammed.

Anyway, he told me that my bike might need some spare parts or a whole new frame, but that "he didn't have the authority" to OK such actions. He would have to wait for the bike bloke to come back from sickness/holiday. He did leave a long note for him in the special Bikehut diary & took my mobile number.

That was about 3 weeks ago, meaning my bike has been in Halfords for a month in total. As I said, I don't drive. I'm having to walk everywhere or pay a pound on the bus. As I'm on Jobseekers' Allowance this is a luxury I literally can't afford.

Here's a deal. I bet you buy these bikes for £30 a pop from Chinese factories. How's about giving me a new one? It is under warranty and only 6 months old. I NEED MY BIKE!



Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A seal

I was out in the bay yesterday and a seal popped his head up about six feet from me. He had a grey head and long whiskers. He looked surprised.

I said 'Hello' out loud.

He (or she) gave me a look as if to say 'What the effing hell are you doing out here? Can't you see I'm trying to fish?'

So I said 'Sorry.' Out loud.

Then he ducked his head below the water and I didn't see him again. I know from watching them before from the land that they can hold their lungs for ages and ages, and swim for many feet under water. So by the time he popped his head up again he was probably half way to Belfast.

Then a friendly boat owner came by and told me I was too far from shore. He said the speedboats couldn't see me as I was nearly invisible to them. He offered me a lift back to shore but I swam back. I think it's unfair of the speedboats and their waterskier tow-behinds to come so close to land. They have the whole of Belfast Lough to play in, minus a few shipping lanes. They are just showing off by coming in so close to land.

They might say I'm showing off by swimming out so far, but I'm not. I like the water out there. It's only ten feet deep and you still meet seals.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The World Cup of Football; Engerland's nadir; Week 2

When 'Aussie' Guss Hiddink was in charge of the team from Down Under, he brought all the players together for a pre-World Cup camp.

He found that while the players from teams on the European continent were in good shape, the Premiership ones were unfit. He reckoned that it wasn't the fact that they played so many games was the problem per se; it was that they just didn't have time to work on their fitness. There were so many games in such quick succession that players recovery time was too great. And they ate all matter of convenience store crappy food, as young Brits do.

So he ran the legs off them pre-2006, and it worked. Look at those goals Timmy Cahill scored against Japan at the death.

Anyway, the England players looked tired yesterday. And fed up. David James pretty much let the cat of the bag in a hilarious, quietly-scathing, sarcastic post-match interview on Radio 5 Live. Capello may strike fear and respect into some, but clearly not James. I like him, and think he's good. The players dislike Capello. And if you listened to Danny Baker this morning, that great man reckons Capello dislikes them equally. He can't understand why they aren't as good as he thinks they should be.

I feel that too much has been made of the 'only naming the team two hours' before thing. But - would you like to be young Dawson this week, if Capello pins your name up on the cork board 5 minutes before you climb on the coach? Interesting.

Another thing - this 'burden of expectation' bollocks.

Every big team has a huge burden of expectation on them.

Do you think the German, Brazilian, Italian or Argentinian teams don't have a burden of expectation from fans and media?

If England secured a series of boring, scrappy 1-0 wins, got to the final and then got knocked out on penalties, statues would be erected in the players' honour at every shopping mall & precinct in the land. They'd be lauded.

If Brazil secured a series of boring, scrappy 1-0 wins, got to the final and then got knocked out on penalties, the natives would be burning wax effigies of the players in the street. They'd be pelting them with rotten mangoes as soon as they stepped off the plane.

(The Italians might just shrug and blame the referee, though.)

Anyway, in a fantastically bad England performance, I just want to single out one player for especial opprobrium. For some reason, maybe cos they were all sh1t, I haven't heard his name mentioned, but:

Glen Johnson. Hang your corn-rowed head in shame. You were truly effing awful. You kept asking for ball and then butchering it. I had to turn away. You have stunk the World Cup up. But your mates weren't much better.

Sorry England fans, but I'll be cheering on Slovenia. I like them. They play a lovely brand of football. If England come out and attack and play with some sort of verve, they might swing me back again. But who in their right minds, as a neutral, could put up with that load of tawdry old bollocks?

Anyway, I've missed a fair bit of the tournament this week. I have seen none of Mexico or Argentina. But here are

My dearest of World Cup teams, week 2

1. Germany - They won't get the credit they deserve, but they continued to play great, attacking football after they went down to 10 men.

2. Slovenia - Lovely footyball, great young playmaker, great game with USA.

3. USA - For playing how England are supposed to play. Balls, courage, fire in the belly. Wonderful game with Slovenia.

4. Brazil - they really did play like they were supposed to. I like them. I like Robinho. Kaka will improve.

5. Switzerland - I'm a defender and I like defenders. Good ones. Swiss have a few. They played this match perfectly. Total concentration at the back with a smash and grab raid up front. I thought this match was great spectacle for the 'football purist' and I am very very pure. I'm human puree.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Speaking of bicycles, I took a tumble off mine yesterday.

I've had problems with punctures the last few weeks, so I've been taking the rear wheel on and off a fair bit. In course of this, I think I managed to loosen the rear axle nuts.

This put pressure on the axle, and caused the rear wheel to buckle slightly.

I thought I'd managed to tap it back into shape, and then tightened the axle nuts. A little too tight I think. Because when I cycled up to get the morning paper, travelling at some speed down the road, my back wheel suddenly locked and sent me spilling all over the tarmac.

I lay there for a minute just to make sure I was still alive before slowly getting to my feet.

It happened right in front of a bus, and facing the local secondary school. Thankfully the bus was empty of passengers so no-one sneered at me. The bus driver got off and helped me. It was drop-off time at the school and a sympathetic teenage girl picked up my now smashed rear light and batteries for me and fussed over me.

She offered me a lift home with her mum. When I looked in and saw an attractive brunette I was sorely tempted. But I declined as the mother remained mute and there was nowhere to put my bike in a black Audi sports car.

Maybe it was karma's way of telling me not to buy the Daily Mail. But I bought it anyway. Littlejohn's column was exceptionally offensive this week.

Raymond the newsagent was also sympathetic and offered to take the bike home in his van or lend me spanners. But I walked it the ten minutes up the road. It's in Halfords now. It's only six months old and still under warranty so I hope they repair it for free.

I've escaped with a skinned knee, a lump on my chin, and a sprained wrist. Lucky.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

On Bloody Sunday and the Saville Report

So today is the day of the Saville Report publication on Bloody Sunday, when 27 men where shot in Derry/Londonderry on the 30 January 1972. 13 died immediately.

These are the bare facts. All the rest of what happened on that day is hotly disputed conjecture.

I'm not going to the add to this conjecture. I'm just going to make a few points about the report,without second guessing the its conclusions.

Some people are saying, "Why single out Bloody Sunday? Why not have a commission about every event of the Troubles?"

Firstly, this wasn't like any other event. There was no other time when so many (presumably) innocent civilians were shot by what was supposed to be their own army.

Secondly, the people of Derry/Londonderry already had one commission, the Widgery Report, which was a complete whitewash. This has led to a lot of understandable hurt in the city. Even loyalists acknowledge that.

I would love a commission on The Troubles as a whole. Why did so many people die? Why did some bombs go off and others didn't? Did informers kill the informers and leave their bodies in ditches? How did the loyalists get the technology to set off car bombs in Dublin and Monaghan, skills which they never utilised again?

But you look at the £200 million spent on the Bloody Sunday, and wonder if it would be worth it. So many lawyers growing fat on our money. People say we might have a South African style "Truth and Reconciliation Committee." But I don't trust people here to tell the truth. We're too bitter. Many of the events happened a long time ago and human memories are faulty. Many of the main protagonists are dead.

So lets leave it at this. I'm glad the people of Derry got their commission and I hope they get the results they want and deserve. I've heard the relatives talking about dead sons and brothers and cousins on the radio today. They talk about the events of Bloody Sunday as if they were yesterday and the events are still red raw.

But I must disagree on one point. A few are calling for the soldiers to be jailed. I don't want to see any soldiers jailed. I can fully understand why the relatives want this. But it may lead to more riots. It may lead to more deaths and hurt. It will mean people asking why Martin McGuinness, commanding officer of the Derry brigade of the Provisional Irish Republican army is not prosecuted for his crimes. We must look at the bigger picture.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Thoughts on the World Cup

I have been watching this Fabio Capello dance on the sidelines. His constant instruction seems to be 'push up, push up, get close.' He's happy to concede possession and then win the ball back, and pump it long to Emile Heskey, the Velcro-like, non-scoring striker. Heskey then lays it off in the hope that Gerrard or Rooney or very rarely Lampard will run through and score. I've also heard that Capello spends ages and ages working on set pieces.

So. England have spent £6 million pounds a year on Jack Charlton circa 1988-1994.

The difference being, Jack's players loved and respected him.

Capello's fear and respect him.

And Jack had Niall Quinn, Tony Casc and Ray Houghton. Capello has Heskey, Rooney, Crouch and Gerrard. Yet, who is the better coach? Only one way to find out! Biff him, Jack.

It's easier to persuade with love rather than fear. If players are frightened of the boss, they get all sweaty and make silly errors. Like Rob Green.

Just before he let in the goal, Green punted the ball to a USA player. He was probably thinking, 'Oh Lordy, I hope Capello doesn't single that out on the DVD review on Tuesday.' And that's why he wasn't concentrating on the save.

Anyway, how many people live in England? 55 millions? Can they not find someone who can cross the ball? Watching Aaron Lennon try to deliver a cross is more painful and tortuous than watching Our Lord Jesus deliver his up to Calvary in that famous mockumentary by Melvin Gibson.

Now, I tuned into Radio 5 live on Saturday night. There was one and a half hours of 606 and then three and a half hours of Stephen Nolan. All devoted to the topic of whether we should be nice to Robert Green or not. Us 'Celtic' nations often say we'd dread an English victory because we'd never hear the end of it. Well, a one-all draw is bad enough. Just get over it! Do you think Radios Ulster, Wales or Scotland would clear five and half hours of schedule to talk nonsense about a goalkeeper?

And when they weren't talking about poor old Rob Green, the BBC gave a platform to the sort of loonies who frequent the very darkest corners of the internet. Fools who suggest that Rooney should be dropped for Defoe, that Walcott would win the World Cup on his own, that England should play 3-3-4 or that Capello should be sacked and replaced by H out of Steps. Listening to it was a kind of glorious torture.


Here are my current Dearest of World Cup Teams:

1.) South Africa - for turning things round after early nerves and scoring a fabulous goal.
2.) South Korea - for allying hard work to creativity and putting the horrible plodders Greece to the sword
3.) England - just because of all my dear English friends, yeah?
4.) Germany - Ok it was only Australia. But aren't they great around the box?
5.) Ghana - for making everyone's 'Dark Horses,' Serbia, look like a big load of oversized white donkeys.


Friday, June 11, 2010

Why bother?

I was sitting at the bar in Jenny Watts the other week and ordered a Belfast Ale.

It came to over three pounds. Hmmph. Harummph.

As I was on my own and there was another bloke sitting about four feet to my left, I thought I would engage in what is known as 'banter.'

"I never thought I'd see the day when a pint cost over three quid"

He looks at me blankly.

"Wha?" he says

"I bet you thought you'd never live to see the day when a pint cost over three pounds," I repeat helpfully.

He says "I'm sorry I don't understand you." He gets up out of his seat. He comes over. He puts his face close to mine.

"I said I bet you'd never thought you'd see the day when a pint cost over three quid. It's hyperinflation. Nothing else has increased in price so much, eh?"

He looks at me blankly.

Now, earlier I heard him talking to other people in the bar, and to the barstaff. He had normal conversations with them. He had a local accent. He is not elderly. Why is he being like this?

I continue, "When I started drinking a pint was barely a quid. Now it's three quid. It's a big increase, no?"

He looks vacant."I'm sorry," he says, shaking his head. "I don't understand you."

He goes back to his seat, and starts talking to another man about how he doesn't understand me.

Lord Jebus, why have you forsaken me? I'm going to sew my mouth up with catgut and go and live in a remote cave.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Boxing vs Not Boxing; Scrotes

I used to think I was bi-polar, with a lot of terrible mood swings, from Ecstasy to despair. But since I curbed the worst of my lifestyle excesses, I'm just up most of the time. In a constant state of restless activity. I find it hard to settle. I'm typing this on only two hours sleep as I leapt out of bed full of the joys of summer this morning. That sort of thing. Not working means I'm full of energy and despite all the swimming and cycling I do, I just can't burn it off.

So at midnight last night I drank a bottle of stout and decided I wanted another one. But none there were. I went out to the garage and jumped on the pushbike and cycled the few miles into town.

I went into Donegans pub. As I suspected might be the case, the bar staff were already stacking chairs and wiping down the tables. There were a few scattered groups in the place but no-one interesting looking or friendly looking or drunk enough looking to talk to. So I sat at the bar and silently drained one pint of stout and then headed down the street.

At this point I'll describe what I'm wearing, as is becoming traditional for this blog. It was what I like to think of as my 1970s British Open golfer look. My black felt beret/cabby hat. My tight grey acrylic V-neck pullover (£5.50 from ASDA.) Beneath this, my lovely brown and white shirt, expertly hand sewn for me by the dearest of ex-wives on her sewing machine. I chose the fabric from the 'Spotlight' fabric shop in Melbourne. It has a big Harry Hill-style collar sticking out. Then there was my green, lightweight utility trouser, with its many zips and pockets. Finally, my tan M & S shoes.

A little eccentric for Bangor, perhaps, but hardly the full George Melly, as seen above.

Anyway, I'm walking down the street past Piccola Pizza at the bottom of High Street when I realise two fellas are smirking and eyeballing me. When I'm about fifteen feet away one shouts 'Hey Bummer!' Not too loud, but obviously intended for me to hear (see, I told you everyone thinks I'm gay!)

Hyped up more by my restless nature than the two beers, I spin round on my heels. "Come here and say that to my face," I call back steadily. I eye them up. Both in their early twenties? One is about five foot five, with short blond hair. He can't face me; can't even look at me. He walks back into the doorway of the pizza shop. The other is about five foot ten, average build, dark fuzzy 'boom microphone' hair.

Now me, I'm six feet two. Tall, yeah? But these days I am rather built too. I cycle about fifty miles a week, sometimes a lot more. After a year in the gym, I have given this up to concentrate on my swimming. I usually do an hour of breaststroke six days a week. So I am a bit more Ricky Hatton than Derek Hatton. Or Thesunhasgothis Hatton.

So. "Come down here!" i say forcefully to the taller fella. "I want to talk to you!" he eventually walks towards me and stops about five feet away. He's not a total spide (chav to our English viewers, or shell-suited bogan to our Aussie ones.) He's more like a scruffy indie kid. Disappointing.

Now, I'm not really an aggressive person. The last time I was in a proper fight was when I took on tha police and lost in 1991 and got the shit beat out of me (you can read the full gory details of that incident here.) I get surly and nasty when I drink whiskey, but only verbally so; someday, someone is going to kick the shit out of my unpleasant, aggressive whiskied-up self and I'll fully deserve it. So I'm not exactly a lover but not really a fighter either.

So I say to the bloke 'Why did you shout that at me?'

He replies, 'I was just talking to my mate,' with a dozy grin. yeah, bullshit.

'Oh that's OK then' I reply aggressively. 'No problem. It was nice seeing you. I hope we meet again soon.'

"Er...yeah..." he says. He turns to walk away. Then I call 'YOU FUCKING ARSEHOLE.'

And I turn to walk away. He waits until I'm a distance away before he calls back 'What did you say,' but weakly. I just keep walking. He doesn't say anything else and I know he won't follow me, cos I'll lay one on him. I turn back when I reach my bike parked up at the pier but he's nowhere to be seen.

Now I could have just kept walking. There were plenty of reasons to do so:

- When I initially passed them I saw they had two wine bottles in the pizza shop doorway. Nasty weapons, potentially.

-There were two of them and one of me.

- Although I'm not a street fighting man, if I had opened up with my fists I could have done them a lot of damage; and if the cops had seen that it would be me lifted, not them.

-They could have had a knife. I'm a father, even if I'm not doing a great job of this at the moment, and I wouldn't want to leave my daughter bereft over pettiness.

So maybe I should have just walked on & turned the other cheek, like the bloke in the first few verses of 'The Coward of the County.' But then I'd have spent the night in a seething rage, like the time those kids hit me with a Big Mac flung from a car window, ruining a promising night out in a splatted mess of tomato sauce and gherkin.

And then my resentment would have built up and next time I would have done something truly violent. Like the bloke in the last verse of 'Coward of the County.' Or the Michael Douglas character in 'Falling Down.' A lifetime of bubbling resentment might cause a man to become blackhearted.

But I hate homophobia and the like. I hate assholes. I hate people being assholes to me, in my earshot. Sigh. Sometimes you gotta fight back, yeah? A mans gotta do what a mans gotta do.

But an eye for an eye and the whole world goes blind.

Beating someone up doesn't change anything much.

yeah? no?

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Sea Swimming

In the 1920s, the famous Irish playwright and roustabout Brendan Behan lived in Donaghadee for a summer. He worked painting the lighthouse there on the harbour. I'd heard that he did this as a form of community service after being found guilty of some IRA related offence, but according to Jim Fitzpatrick of the BBC he was working for the Commissioner of Irish Lights, one of the few all-Ireland institutions which survived partition, and indeed survives to the present day. They look after all the lighthouses of Ireland, north and south. I presume they survived the upheavals and troubles of the 1920s and more recent times by just quietly getting on with their work. Politicians and similar bigmouths don't bother much with lighthouses.

Anyway, the reason I'm telling you this is because after he was finished painting the lighthouse for the day, Behan would swim across Donaghadee harbour and back. He was a great one for swimming, Brendan. Now, according to a prominent local broadcaster on Radio Ulster, someone once asked him (Behan, not the broadcaster) why he liked swimming so much.

"I don't know," he replied "I just do."

I have become a great one for the swimming myself, and I will try to answer that question.

All winter long for the last year I have been doing lane swimming at the local pool in Bangor for around days a week; sometimes more, sometimes less. Up and down, up and down, for fifty lengths or so. I usually stop when I get bored, because it does get boring, or if too many other people get in the pool and block my way. I try to go when there aren't many other people in there. Some of them are just there to clown around and have fun. That's OK for them, but they get in my way, and I don't like that.

But now that the warmer weather is here, I have taken to the seas at Ballyholme and Groomsport. This is heaven to me. There are no people swimming out there. A few souls go in paddling or up to their waists and turn back. But I am very strong swimmer now, because of all my practice. So I go way, way, way out, to where the jet skis swerve and the buoys don't.

I only ever do one stroke. Breaststroke. I hate all the other strokes. I've never learnt how to time my breathing with the crawl and I always start swallowing water. Butterfly just looks overly complex, so I've never tried it. Backstroke is OK, but the waves at sea tend to go over the top of your nose.

With breaststroke, you can keep your head above water the whole time, if you choose. Or you can do a more powerful version where your face goes under the water, but not for long. If you get tired, you can come to a virtual standstill, and just sort of float length ways. It's great.

I wear a pair of goggles and I put my head below the water. It's not really diving, because I find it difficult to stay under too long. I think I'm naturally buoyant. But I get to see seaweed in its natural state. How it is meant to be seen. What I mean by this is - when we see seaweed on the water's edge or the beach it's all limp and lifeless, like old dirty rubbish. Seaweed is meant to be viewed growing up under the water.

The only one I know the name of is bladderwrack. It grows like a black bush beneath the waves, swaying in the current. Then there is one like a long, translucent reed growing straight up to the sun. There is a green one which moves wildly back and forth like young wheat or barley in a strong breeze. And there is one with a thick brown stem and big leaves at the top. It looks just like a miniature underwater palm tree.

Sometimes, I swim out to yachts moored on the bay, but the people on the yachts snub me. They don't like me out there, invading their space. I'm not supposed to be there. That's OK. I understand this. The children might say hello but the adults ignore me.

The people on the land are friendlier. Sometimes, I'll swim from Groomsport beach to the pier and back again. The people on the pier are always surprised to see me. They often ask, "Do you do this a lot?"

"No," I reply. "I got into the water for the first time this morning, by lunchtime I'd taught myself to swim, and I'm just testing out the old sea legs this afternoon. Tomorrow, I'm swimming to Scotland."

The other question they always ask, is "Is it cold in there?" Well, it's always cold at first, until you start moving a bit. I wear a thing called a rash suit, like a half wet suit in T-shirt form. It helps keep some heat in me. My feet always remain cold, though. I think I have bad circulation. I often lose all sensation in the toe area. When I get out I bury them in warm sand until the feeling returns.

Last Saturday, a jellyfish must have stung me on the toes because when I got out they were covered in red weals. It was more than a wee bit painful when the sensation returned. So I have ordered 3mm wetsuit socks from eBay. They are made from neoprene, whatever that is. They should both keep my feet warm and protect me from stingers. I see a lot of jellyfish out there. They are beautiful but terrifying.

Anyway, why do I swim? The answer is obvious. It makes my body very toned and muscular, and women like that. I swim in order to pick up women in bars. That's pretty much why I do anything.

I look back to land from the ocean and see all the joggers on the promenade and feel sorry for them, with their red faces and poor joints. Come out and join me! But don't get too close.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

My non love life part two

I went out to celebrate RJG's birthday the other week. Returning back through Bangor at midnight, I peered through the window of a nightclub to find it surprisingly crowded for a Monday night. Flipping the stout doorkeep a shilling to mind my cane and cape, I ventured inside.

The place was fairly heaving with dreadful young people. Most of the girls were dressed in similar fashion; long floral print dresses and strappy heels. Nice. But their hair had that wild, Winehouse, artificially distressed look, sometimes involving a flat top and big sides. They were wearing lots of bright, bold unnecessary lipstick. Gilding the lily, in many cases. A cross between classic Laura Ashley with hair and make up by their five year old sisters.

The fellas were dressed in identikit fashion too: skinny jeans, polo shirts with random numbers and letters printed on or lumberjack shirts. I hope they didn't pay too much for them. If so, then maybe they should club together and buy in bulk. They'd save a fortune. They also had carefully wild, 'There's Something About Mary' style hair.

I, of course, was dressed in timeless style. My dark velvet Louis Feraud jacket which I got cheap on Ebay because the woman selling it spelled 'Feraud' as 'Ferraux.' My early 1990s Ben Sherman shirt with its many tiny squares of blue. My smart brown Element skateboarding trousers which I got from the bargain rail at TK Maxx. My tan brown Marks and Spencer shoes.

I'm giving you a mental line drawing here. You'll have to fill in the technicolour detail from the pastel palette of the artbox of your imagination. I'm sure your inward eye will be seeing a pretty impressive image right now.

I sidled up to the bar and bought a whiskey. Over three quid! Not shy. They should have a hoist to lift you up by the ankles and shake you for change.

Then to the edge of the dancefloor. A seated young blonde lady looked at me and smiled. Then she turned and said something to her friend. Then she looked back and smiled again. I didn't talk her because I am naturally shy and there was a great big high medieval sort of a table between us surrounded by many young women. Like a banqueting table. Later, one of these young women tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to her blonde friend. I have no idea what this meant. But I wasn't about to dive over a big high table and ask 'How's your father, is your mother still working?' It would have been easier to crawl underneath it, anyhow. Though possibly less socially acceptable.

I noticed everyone was drinking wine. I asked this long narrow streak of a girl why so. She told me it was because wine was half price. 'By the glass or the bottle?' I enquired. 'Oh by the bottle,' she replied, as it were the query of the fool.

So I bought a bottle of rosé. Californian Zinfandel. Don't know if you've tried this stuff but it's a syrupy, sweet concoction. The sort of wine you might serve to toddlers at a kids party, if it wasn't 10% alcohol.

I'd already had a few drinks at the pub so I was soon rather merry. I danced a bit, or rather moved my legs rhythmically on the spot. However, I soon noticed something terrible. No-one on the dancefloor was really dancing. They were posing. And taking pictures of each other, or themselves, with their camera phones! They would move a little, stop, snap, move, stop, snap, until they got fed up and did something else.

When did this start? I went out clubbing last year and young people were still dancing in a fairly unselfconscious fashion.

There was one young beanpole fella in spray on jeans, white sneakers, a tight green top and Sonic the Hedgehog hair. He was acting as a sort of paparazzo for a blonde girl beside me. She would dance a little, then pose with her hair all flicked up and her hand behind her head in faux-model fashion while he grinned boofishly and took photos of her. Now, I'm no DCI Gene Hunts. But such a bloke should hand back his penis and testicles and resign as a member of the male sex, no?

I sank back the bottle of wine in about 15 minutes and went to the bar for a second. Memories start to become a bit hazy at this point. I remember the girl who was smiling at me earlier dancing with me but she was taking pictures of herself too so I went off her in disgust. Plus she was very small and I am tall, and by that stage I could only focus on things which were close to me due to the effects of the alcohol.

Some other people took pictures of me, or posed with me in a group portrait, presumably because to them I am 'a character.' I suppose these have been added to social networking photo galleries somewhere. Dear Lord. I saw them taking photos of that little Asian bloke who goes crazy on the dancefloor too. He is also 'a character.'

The last thing I remember is necking wine from the bottle and smiling at the bouncers as they eyed me warily. At that point my memories black out.

When I awoke next day I was still drunk. Later, I would discover that I had withdrawn all the money from my bank account. Thankfully, I reclaimed most of it from my wallet. But not all. I also learned some information my nine year old neighbour, Hungarian Matty. He told me that I woke him and his mum Zsuzsanna with a mixture of my roaring and singing (roarsing?) I then collapsed against a car, lay down on the road for a while before crawling indoors. I had to apologise to the pair of them.

I probably woke the rest of the street up too. But I'm not apologising to them. If I can't remember it happening, and they don't mention it, then it Didn't Happen.