Posted in Life, Love and Laughter, Writing

(Some) People are Tools

People are funny sometimes. Some are ‘Funny Ha-Ha’ and others are more ‘Funny Peculiar’. Lately I seem to be plagued by the funny peculiar type and, I believe, I am in fact a magnet for them. I don’t know if it’s to do with being a woman travelling alone, or if the whole world just went funny when I wasn’t looking.

Urban Dictionary definition of a Tool: Someone whose ego FAR exceeds his talent, intelligence, and likeability. But, of course, he is clueless regarding that fact. He erroneously thinks he is THE MAN!

Which tool are you?

The Monkey Wrench

person holding silver crescent wrench behind vehicle wheels
The Monkey Wrench

Well, this bloke really took the biscuit when it came to funny peculiar. I shared a table with two lads for 2 hours on a packed train. The longest 2 hours of my life and 2 hours I will never get back. They did tell me their names but for the life of me, I can’t remember them, so I’ll call them Bill and Ben. They were only in their early twenties, if not younger, and they had Cardiff accents, so I knew when they got on at Birmingham, I was stuck with them for the duration.

I was already seated as they made a spectacle of themselves just finding seats. Ben carried one holdall and was dressed in joggers, a sweatshirt and trainers.  Bill had more luggage than Imelda Marcos leaving a shoe sale, and he had to put some of it on an empty seat next to another stranger. Bill was a dandy. He wore big rings on his fingers, a gold necklace with a cross, shiny leather shoes and a suit reminiscent of Rupert Bear. He wore a colourful striped shirt and a poppy covered tie. Clash much? He had a green paracord bracelet on his right hand, which didn’t fit with the rest of the ensemble and he must have bathed in a vat of aftershave.

I was reading a book when they sat down and started talking. Bill did not draw breath. He talked nonstop. I have never seen anything like it. He had an opinion and advice about absolutely everything you could think of, and he was as thick as your Nan’s doorstop cheese butty. I desperately kept trying to read and he kept interrupting me and the topics were completely random.

He couldn’t remember if people had 5 toes or 6 on each foot. I could see the cogs whirring as he was obviously trying to mentally count his toes from inside his shoes. He counted wrong. He didn’t know yoghurt was made from milk. He thinks he believes the Romans existed though he’s not sure Jerusalem is an actual place. He used his fingers to add 10 minutes to 58 minutes.

But the best thing was how he was trying to keep it quiet that they had just passed Army Selection (hence the paracord bracelet). He was so covert in hiding it that he kept calling me Ma’am, even after I told him my name, he answered “roger that” instead of a simple “yes” every single time, oh yes and he kept talking about it non-stop to a crowded train for 2 hours. He told me he didn’t want to advertise the fact that he was in the Army because it would, in effect, put a target on his forehead. He showed me his Facebook profile. His name was displayed as BILL TOOL (Soldier Boy) his profile pic was of him in uniform, and his cover photo was of his soon-to-be cap-badge. He may need extra lessons in camouflage class I think. SAS or Int Corps he most definitely is not.

They were perfectly lovely young men though (wow, how old do I sound?) obviously pleased as punch to have passed Selection, and rightly so.  I wish them both well. I am sure they will have a great future ahead of them and make their families and themselves proud. I don’t have a problem with people being factually challenged, it takes all sorts. People have different strengths and that is perfectly fine.

But oh my f god – he did not shut up for 2 hours straight. If you are going to talk incessantly, please try to make sure it’s not all total bo**ocks.

The Blunt Axe 

I took another train, this time to Southport. Just an hour each away so I took my knitting to keep busy. Nothing peculiar in that, right? The trip there was pretty uneventful. A little old gentleman sat opposite me reading his book, and he didn’t even raise his eyes to mine, let alone speak.

On the way back however, I was gifted with Derek (name changed to protect the peculiar) as a travelling companion. I know his name was Derek, because he introduced himself as he shook my hand and told me I have a very unique personality.

I knew I was in trouble when he interrupted a conversation across the carriage and told them they were wrong about water meters. They told him it was the best decision they had ever made and shut him down immediately. And so, he turned to me.

axe close up dark grass
The Blunt Axe

Derek was a nice enough chap. Reasonably well dressed in jeans with greying floppy hair, 50-ish I guess, a bit scruffy but not dirty. He had one of those softly spoken, gentle Liverpool accents, similar to Roger McGough the poet. The sort of voice you could listen to for hours if he were reading decent poetry. But Derek wasn’t reading poetry.

It was the knitting that gave him a conversation starter, although I’m sure he’d have found another ‘in’. But he soon lost interest in what I was doing and started banging on about all kinds of political stuff. I have no problem with people’s politics, each to their own, but if I wanted to hear some d*ck spouting nonsense I’d tune in to Question Time.

I learned that he sees himself as a traditional man, not one of these “new -fangled New Men” (his words). He is a hard-working labourer, a man’s man, with a woman at home looking after him. I know he moved to Southport because his girlfriend wanted him to, so he obviously wears the trousers in that household. He was on his way to his ailing mother’s house with not one but two Mother’s Day cards, because he couldn’t decide which he liked best. He showed them to me. They were pretty much identical. He had no idea what to buy her for a present. He was angry about where they had positioned her smoke alarm where she could see it blinking all day and all night, and that it showed a lack of empathy (fair point). He also hated that they had cut her carers down, in a subversive move to force her into a home so they could take all her money and her house. Something he vowed would never happen “as long as there is breath in my body”. He banged his fist on his thigh and pulled a face.

Derek was a very angry man and had many an axe to grind, he was anti-establishment, disliked ‘The Man’, but he was so softly spoken that I missed most of it. I smiled and nodded a bit, and generally tried to concentrate on what I was doing, hoping he’d get off the train soon. I resisted the urge to mention BREXIT or Thatcher. I think he may have quietly combusted.

There was plenty more, but I couldn’t hear a word. Regardless, he talked constantly for half an hour. But it all felt a bit wet. The fist punching was weak posturing for my benefit, and he had no idea that I wasn’t engaging in the conversation. How he knew what kind of personality I had is beyond me.

The Mallett

egg power fear hammer
The Mallett

And in case you think it’s all men – I am actually writing this on the Library computer and next to me a woman is gesticulating and bashing hell out of the keyboard and mouse in temper as she has a Facebook argument. She is swearing and arguing at the screen, flicking the v’s, and waving her arms in despair. I’m not sure she realises they can’t see or hear her. I’d love to have a nose and see what the argument is about, but I think I might get a punch in the face.

I am sure that these three are all very nice people, perhaps they just need someone to talk to, someone to listen. It’s a colourful world we live in, and these guys make life interesting. But Christ can they make a train journey drag.

Okay, so perhaps I am being a little judgemental, but hey, they invaded my space, I was quietly minding my own business when they interrupted, so that makes them fair game in my eyes.

I love people watching, all writers do I guess, but it’s almost as if these guys came out from the TV screen and sat on my sofa. Well, they will be characters in a book someday and revenge will be sweet.  This kind of Funny Peculiar is too good to waste.

Which Tool are You?

 

Posted in Life, Love and Laughter, Outdoors, pembrokeshire, Pets

Unlucky Chucky

There was an old chicken named Gertie

Whose feet were incredibly dirty.

To increase her allure

She’d a fine pedicure

And now she’s fantastically flirty.

She wasn’t called Gertie as it happens.  Her name was Scrat.  Do you remember Scrat, the sabre-toothed squirrel from the Ice Age movies?  He never has any luck, seems to always get himself into bother, and is obsessed with hoarding one single acorn.

Scrat, the only one daft enough to venture out into the snow in search of our company.
Scrat, the only one daft enough to venture out into the snow in search of our company. Here she is trying to look at me through her bad eye.

We named our Scrat after Ice Age Scrat because she was an unlucky but likeable little chicken.  When we first collected her, she could barely walk because her feet were completely encased in rock hard chicken poo. She had great big solid balls of the stuff on each of her toes.  It took a lot of soaking her feet in warm water to finally get them clean, but then she could run around just as well as the others.  Almost.

scrat fruitsalad
Helping herself to fruit salad

Scrat was accident prone.  She had somehow lost the sight in one eye before we collected her, but we don’t think she’d cottoned on to this fact.  She would get all excited and go hurtling around like a headless, well, like a headless chicken, only to crash headfirst into walls or trees or other chickens.  If you threw food for her from the wrong side she couldn’t see it, and by the time she’d worked out that she needed to turn around, the other chickens had often scoffed the lot.

She was the very definition of bottom of the pecking order in our little flock, bullied by all the girls, especially Tikka, who was a gobby little madam.  Even Kentucky the cockerel wasn’t as enamoured of her as he was the others.

dustbath cloche
Scrat and Kentucky destroying the seedlings in my cloche
scrat and dustbath
Scrat assessing the damage

But, after a little settling in period,  she laid just as well as any of our ladies,  she was soon in great condition, she was curious, she was silly and she loved people. The main reason we picked her up in the first place was because she ran straight to us, so she was easy to catch.  (and the dirty feet helped.)

She was always first to greet you in the mornings.  She was the one that sussed out where the back door was and would often wander into the kitchen.  She was the one standing outside the kitchen window, just in case you felt the urge to throw out a few scraps, or under the bird table in case the wild birds dropped anything.  She was the one that didn’t mind being picked up and stroked.  She almost lost her head or a toe every time she dived in front of the spade because she’d seen a grub or a worm.  She was the one that would come running up to you as soon as you stepped out of the house, head held to one side so she could see you from her good eye.

kentucky looking out for his girls
Scrat in the centre with Gertrude and Beatrice and Kentucky looking out for his girls.

She was a clutz, she was a danger to herself, she was accident prone, and we never worked out if she was very brave or just very stupid.  But her self-preservation skills seemed to be paying off, she trusted us and she was by far our favourite.

Our first five chickens came from a barn and had never stepped outside before.  Next we rescued a couple of ex-battery hens, who were in a worse state.  But watching them take their first steps on grass and grow in confidence and feathers was an absolute joy.

tikka

Times have changed and we don’t keep chickens anymore, we don’t have the lifestyle that would allow us to keep them right now.

But, if you do have the opportunity, the resources and the desire to keep chickens, I can absolutely recommend it.  They are such characters with quite individual personalities, and they are a joy to have around.   And the eggs are a delicious bonus!

eggs

Posted in Army, Poetry

The Ballad of the White Poppy

landscape red field flowers
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Red poppies worn proudly and tears left unshed

The white poppy scornful of those who have bled.

The last post they played and two minutes stood still,

Reveille revives them from November’s chill.

 

A wife and her son watch the vanishing crowd,

Together in sadness in their mist made shroud.

Their soldier returned from a conflict so raw

He just couldn’t cope and began to withdraw.

 

His day of endurance his fight to survive

One more like all others, his ghosts to deprive.

Another night darkens and street lights turn on

Awaiting the morning, bad dreams to be gone.

 

She wonders ‘Where is he?’ and checks the doorways,

Her son he looks at her with his father’s gaze.

She squeezes his hand, he has grown up so tall.

Now home to the medals and to the Albert Hall.

 

Whores, thieves and wretches they all step around,

His eyes, they all know, still see a battleground.

A hand on his shoulder revives and consoles

The hot soup designed to save many lost souls.

 

The big empty bed and a breakfast for two

An empty place setting – if only he knew.

When he was on tour at least bluies they’d write

But now there was nothing, the day gave no light.

 

Fitfully sleeping to block out the day

His beds behind stations are then moved away.

Out of the rain but not out of the cold

If only he’d known this when he’d first enrolled.

 

The school run and home, they can both feel the chill.

She takes down his photo from a windowsill,

Puts it in a bag with the rest of the gear

Then leaves once again to find one they hold dear.

 

He misses the structure of his army life

And can’t bear to think about his child and wife.

The pain and the guilt drive their faces away

His head choked with thoughts of that one awful day.

 

Hostels and soup kitchens, picture in hand,

They’re searching the desert for one grain of sand.

The city is packed with the homeless and lost

But they’ll keep on searching, whatever the cost.

 

A churchyard tonight, his bed lies in a lee

The bright shining poppies a welcome red sea.

His friends may be missed, maimed or dead, many gone

But here with the poppies their memories live on.

 

“I’m sorry my darling we’ll try tomorrow.”

“I’ll be here again mum, as always, you know.”

Footsore and dejected they turn to go home

The world a dark place of a grey monochrome.

 

  A white poppy shines in the midst of the red

If he could just find some peace inside his head.

His heart scarce believes it, his mind it protests

As two friendly faces look down where he rests.

 

His son clasps his shoulder, his wife turns to say

“Would you like a drink to keep the cold at bay?”

Their eyes shine with love as they pass him some tea

And his tears fall unguarded on the white poppy.

 

He’s obliged to so many, his war has ended

His gratitude’s boundless for all that they did.

Two years have now passed and things have moved apace.

His family are comforted in his embrace.

 

Red poppies worn proudly for what went before,

The white for his family, the peace that they bore.

The Last Post they played and two minutes stood still.

Reveille revives them from November’s chill.

sunset sun horizon priroda
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
Posted in Army, Poetry, Remembrance

Hourglass

Please bear with me this week as I share with you two of my poems.  I am not, in any way shape or form, a poet, but I was forced (kicking and often screaming) to write poetry for my MA in Creative Writing by the amazing and sadly missed Mr Nigel Jenkins from The Gower.  A lovely man and an inspirational teacher.

I produced two poems over that time which I am rather proud of and so I have decided to share my favourite, a few days before Remembrance Day and the second will be posted at the weekend.

This one is called ‘Hourglass‘ and records the moment we lined the route for one of our comrades whose coffin was being taken into a Chinook to fly him home from the Gulf.  This is, therefore, in Remembrance of several people.

  1. Sergeant John Nightingale for whom the poem is written.
  2. Lance Corporal Pete Mahoney who sadly took his own life soon after returning from Iraq.
  3. Flight Sergeant Anna Irwin, a truly inspirational person  and the light of everyone’s life taken far too soon by cancer, and who was standing next to me during this parade.
  4. And also of course, to Mr Nigel Jenkins who made me write the poem in the first place.

 

HOURGLASS

Together

Shoulder to shoulder

Dread, pain, sorrow and fear.

A thought, a sigh, the closeness of friends.

The bright flash of flag draped over

someone we hold dear.

The Chinook’s maw

Black

Open

Beckons.

Dusty desert boots

Six shoulder the load.

A stifled sob, gritted teeth, a silent tear.

The padre, the bible, the bugler, a sandstorm.

Two rows of uniforms

Left in silence

Alone.

Remembrance bench
Remembrance Bench, Hereford