Marigold Says...

Random thoughts on travelling and life in general.

We bought these curved yellow fruit in Utah. Astonished to find they tasted just like bananas.

Marigold Says...

We desperately needed a spare key for the front door as I had lost mine, which I haven’t owned up to. Went to the nearest local key cutter. Key man was standing outside having a fag and then assured me the one he got off the rack would fit.
Well it didn’t, so back we go.

Key man said “I didn’t think it would but worth a try! I will take a photo and order one. Ring me in a couple of days.”

When I rang him he reckoned he didn’t know what I was on about but to call in anyway.

Went AGAIN, he was sitting in the window in full motorbike gear reading VIZ and guffawing. I said 'are you working, or just going out?'

Key Man said “I was just off for a McDonalds”.

It was 09.15.

He found the key which fortunately and miraculously looks like it will do the job. He is obviously such a workaholic he should get an award.

Not.

He also said “I am not very busy because of Covid, as nobody is going out”. Think he is not very busy as he is totally incompetent. On the back of his leather jacket it said “Bikers do it really fast”.

Yuk. In future I will go to Timpsons.

We got home, tried the key, it didn’t work. Of course it didn’t. I rang up and ordered yet another. It wasn’t easy as he’d got Meatloaf blasting out in the background.

‘Be ready Thursday,’ he said. I think. We went back on Thursday and Mister Key Cutter was now wearing a motorbike helmet, with the visor down and a full set of motorbike leathers. I asked if the key I’d ordered was ready yet.

‘Eh?’ He pulled his visor up so he could hear me as I repeated the question.

‘No idea, love, I’ve not looked at the post yet, just got back from the kebab shop.’ Changed over from McDonalds then. He obviously supports all local businesses.

He took off his jacket but left the helmet on. ‘Best idea ever, this. Can’t be doing with wearing a mask, hurts my ears. I was supposed to have a plastic screen fitted to protect me from customers who aren’t wearing masks, but already got this helmet and it’s a lot cheaper.’

We got home and the key works now. I think I’ve lost it already, but am saying nothing. It will turn up.

For four days we have had scaffolders on the roof over the road in wet, windy and cold conditions. Two of them are wearing shorts and tee shirts, and the only thing to keep them warm is their tattoo ink and what is obviously a very vulgar sense of humour. Wish I could hear, but judging by the hand gestures probably better I can’t.

G Says...

I was reading a Sherlock Holmes story, seeking comfort in familiar surroundings, and as I read a passage where Watson, in his usual pompous manner, declares, ‘London is that great cesspool into which all the loungers and idlers of the Empire are irresistibly drained,’ I glanced up at the television news – yes, I can multi task – and saw His Worship the Lord Mayor Sadiq Khan’s face filling the screen. He was having a right old moan.

No change there then. It seems doom and gloom are the buzz words dominating everyone’s life just lately.

‘Will Christmas be cancelled? What do you think?’ Our neighbour, one of those resolutely ‘glass nearly empty or as near as damn it’ characters, bellowed the enquiry as I was braving a trip out to the rubbish bin. Why ask me, I wondered. What difference will my thoughts have on events?

We all want to know, from a specific vantage point in the present, that things will be OK later on. Be better, in fact. But we can never know for sure. This is why it’s erroneous to say we live now in especially uncertain times. The future is always uncertain; it always has been, it’s just that we’re currently very aware of it. As the ancient Greek and Roman Stoics used to emphasise, much of our suffering arises from attempting to control what is not in our control anyway and never can be. No amount of worrying or fretting can alter that.

We have a rather famous neighbour. Well, that’s not strictly true, but one of the local residents looks exactly like Brian Blessed, he even has the booming voice which is pretty handy in the social distancing era. Everyone calls him Brian, although his name is actually Ken, so it’s not just us who see the uncanny resemblance. Charlie Chaplin once secretly entered a ‘Chaplin look-alike’ contest – what Marigold calls a lookie-likie- and only came third, so if Brian Blessed moves to this area he can expect a few problems.

Brian was out, sweeping up leaves, when I went outside and from thirty yards away decided we should have a chat. I deflected his enquiry as to whether Christmas will be cancelled with one of my very best Gallic shrugs – the gestures have outlasted much of the vocabulary from our decade in France – and fell back on traditional fare, the weather.

‘Bit nippy this morning.’ He pondered a reply for quite some time. I was almost anticipating a reference to a period spent under canvas in Murmansk with polar bears rooting in the bins or the risk of frostbitten genitals on Everest ascents, but he was merely gathering his thoughts for something impressive.

‘After Covid, we’ll get another ice age,’ he called out. ‘Mark my words, it’ll be like the Plasticine Age before long.’ I moved on, trying to keep a straight face. The Pleistocene Epoch ended thousands of years ago and did indeed mark the last great Ice Age, but I’ve seen no obvious signs predicting an imminent reoccurrence. I have to say though, I do like the idea of a Plasticine Age.

We were going shopping, a rare occurrence, fraught with dangers. I’m getting close to regarding other people as The Walking Dead: infected, dangerous and hugely threatening so to actually be out in their midst is terrifying. Okay, I may be slightly exaggerating.

Marigold needs supplies and I’m sure she would only announce this if the situation was not at a critical point. Waitrose has wide aisles and shoppers in there are guaranteed to wear stylish face coverings, but Marigold announced, to my horror, ‘Lidl will probably do and it’s closer.’

Lidl, or indeed Aldi as my prejudices are evenly balanced, is not my favourite shopping experience. The last time I was in LIDL I wondered if I had somehow entered some form of alternative universe in which there had been different victors of the Second World War as most of the chocolate, jams, breakfast cereals and sundry other items bore Germanic names.

Everywhere we went in Germany the locals pronounced it Lee-Dell, while most of us ignorant Brits call it Lidd-Uhl or something very similar. Around 90 per cent of the products at Lidl are own-label brands specifically made for the company.That means Lidl can control manufacturing costs and cut out supply costs, so it can charge less and still make more profit than it does on big-name brands. Interestingly, the biggest surge in sales came from a gradual increase of the ‘ten per cent,’ those recognisable brands that customers actually recognise and trust. Aldi and Lidl have as few as 1,500 – at most 2,000 different products, while the ‘big’ chains such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s have as much as 30,000, even 40,000 different ‘things’ on the shelves.

We walked in and stopped within ten paces. Social distancing? No sign of it in here. We did a swift about turn and went elsewhere.

Our trip out was an (apparent) urgent need for new saucepans. We were in town at just past 08.00 to play it safe. Wilkinson’s were just opening up, we were the only people in the place apart from a single teenage girl on the only staffed checkout who appeared to be still asleep.

Saucepans mission accomplished we went to pay, waving our sliver of magic plastic at the credit card terminal and hoping it was recognised. I’ve no idea why the seeing the word ‘approved’ flash up on the screen brings me pleasure verging on joy, but it does. The girl on the till, now awake although certainly not ‘wide awake’ pushed our clanking pans back towards us and said, ‘bet you’re glad you didn’t pick the set on offer, they’re rubbish.’ We hadn’t actually noticed them or they would have gone straight into the trolley.

On the way out we saw a customer furiously banging the top of the hand sanitiser dispenser with his clenched fist. A sign next to it said quite clearly, ‘foot pedal operated sanitiser.’

A barbers shop was just opening up next door. The (hand written) sign in the window said, ‘One at a time, please, I’m clipping as fast as I can.’ I like the sound of him. Not enough to tempt me inside though.

I’ve given up on looking smart. I don’t even attempt ‘tidy’ lately. Marigold said recently I’m looking like a dilapidated building, just before demolition. ‘Shabby chic,’ it’s my new look. From a quick glance at other (male) shoppers out and about, it’s catching on.

The masculine ‘look du jour’ of 2020 is that of stressed out, weary ragamuffins. The serried ranks of newly minted Tatterdemalions of Britain are everywhere, a growing force in the land.

My hair has never responded well to instruction. It’s no better now I have far less of it. I am reduced to two styles: the convict or the hostage. The convict, my usual ‘look’ in lockdown, is easy – clippers set to number one, basic sheep sheering. Alternatively, I let it grow unchecked and seemingly untouched for a few months. The result is more Charles Manson than Beau Brummel.

We were treated to a magnificent display of nacreous (or iridescent, as they are also called) clouds as we toddled back from our early morning excursion. Makes a change from the dark stuff containing yet more rain. I pointed them out to Marigold who seemed less than impressed. Maybe nature’s wonders are best appreciated a little later in the day.

Don't go away, there's more to come. 

 

Come on, is there anyone out there who wouldn't think, 'bet that will make a lovely family home' and shin up the rusty ladders to claim squatters's rights?

See, a lick of paint and it's a palace on the sea. What, still not convinced?

Part the Third

One of our friends lives in an area where Covid-19 is steeply rising and has voluntarily entered a recent drastic version of mostly self imposed lockdown. He’s okay about being restricted as it allows a bit of breathing space from a massive row with a neighbour that’s been ongoing for months. His hope now is that nobody tells the neighbour when the lockdown is eventually lifted as he’s enjoying a rest from endless weeks’ relentless strife conducted over the garden fence.

He attended the same school as me, he’s a year older, but lived nearby and we both had three ‘bus journeys each way every day so we got to know each other pretty well.

I remember the Headmaster singling him out on one occasion, in front of the entire school, saying ‘you are without doubt the cleverest boy of your age in all England.’ We were pretty astonished at the stratospheric nature of this rare praise, but after allowing an interval of at least ten seconds the Headmaster added, ‘it’s unfortunate that this is only your opinion and bears no relation whatsoever to the facts. On the contrary, you set yourself lamentably low standards of achievement and yet consistently fail to achieve them.’

Public humiliation of that ilk sticks in the mind. I certainly remember it, the gist of it anyway if not word for word.

As he reads this blog, I won’t embarrass my friend by naming him - let’s call him Ringo, it’s actually his dog’s name - but if I asked ten thousand random people in the North West of England who was the most awkward, cantankerous and argumentative person they’d ever met several hundred of them would utter his name.

Of course we get on very well with just the occasional difficult incident - only on every single occasion we meet and we rarely come to blows!

He knows when he’s outmatched.

I’ve learnt over the years not to take any of his absolute statements of fact at face value as there’s often very little empirical evidence to support them. He seems to subsist entirely on Guinness. It’s only on very rare occasions he’s seen eating anything that could be regarded, even loosely, as food. It’s Guinness all the way.

‘Food and drink in harmony,’ he’d announce, knocking the top off a bottle of porter on the edge of the table. ‘There’s all the nourishment the body needs in every swallow. Plus, no need to wash up after a meal, just chuck the empties in the bin.’

I’ve known him for many years and have yet to notice any deleterious effects on his health. Memo to self, order a crate of Guinness for the weekend.

Chocolate Digestives, fairly prosaic items, were the latest cause for diversion of views. ‘Of course, the chocolate forms the base, not the topping,’ Ringo pronounced as he handed out his customary ration, two for him, one for me.

I’ve devoured a great many chocolate digestive biscuits, a digestive biscuit with a chocolate topping, so was only too ready to take issue with his spurious claim that the chocolate formed the base of the biscuit.

To my horror, I read recently a press release by McVities stating with unassailable veracity that the chocolate on a McVities digestive is administered by a reservoir of chocolate, meaning that the chocolate side is the bottom of the biscuit, rather than the top. The same applies to Jaffa Cakes, also made by McVities, which is even more bizarre. 

I fully intended to ring up Ringo and apologise and beg his forgiveness for ever doubting him, but for some reason it slipped my mind. Will this do, mate?

Digestive biscuits, the bog standard variety not the chocolate ones, have been around a long time and were once heavily promoted as a health product. The idea was that the bicarbonate of soda used in the biscuit acted as an antacid and aided the digestive process, hence the name.

In 1836, Buss’s Digestive Biscuits declared that they contained ‘the greatest amount of farinaceous nutriment that can possibly be concentrated into a biscuit.’ *’Farinaceous’ simply means they contain a lot of starch, as do bread, potatoes and many other elements of our diet that we rarely hear being singled out as being beneficial to a healthy lifestyle.

Advertising has never paid much attention to actual facts when extolling the virtues of products and digestive biscuits have a dubious track record in this industry. J. Hutchinson, ‘the original introducer and sole proprietor of Abernethy’s celebrated Digestive Biscuits’ proudly informed the biscuit buying public, ‘these biscuits, when taken regularly by families, have the good property of keeping the body in a regular state, and in a great measure supersedes the necessity of having recourse to medicine.’

My underperforming heart notwithstanding, no wonder I feel so fit.

Not that good health is always a blessing. Edvard Munch would never have painted his masterpiece, The Scream, if he’d been a well man. ‘Without anxiety and illness I should have been like a ship without a rudder,’ he said. I can only assume Edvard didn’t care for the taste of Guinness.

‘Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not.’ ― Pablo Picasso

I’m usually reprimanded on arrival for failing to give due respect to Ringo’s title. He’s a baron, yes I have friends in the higher echelons of society, yet I invariably fail to refer to his ennoblement in a sufficiently impressive fashion. His title of Baron gets mentioned a lot, but not by me. It’s the sine qua non of just about every conversation.

This highfaluting title, bestowed by a Monarch no less, is rather less impressive than it sounds. One of the many oddball acquaintances who have crossed paths with Ringo was a magnificently eccentric man named Roy Bates who discovered a rusting World War Two fort off the coast of Harwich, Essex in 1967 and unilaterally decided to take possession of it. Together with his wife Joan, Roy Bates declared his new home independent from the UK and became Prince Roy and Princess Joan, rulers of Sealand. They produced coins, stamps and passports, and the sovereign nation of Sealand was represented in the World Egg-Throwing Championships.

Sealand was in fact a former Maunsell naval fort, put in place in 1942 at a cost of £40,000 (which would be in excess of £2 million today), one of a series stretching from Clacton in Essex to Margate in Kent. I’ve come across a few of these forts, but only one had claimed independent nation status. Originally manned by 120 soldiers and fitted with Vickers anti-aircraft guns, the Maunsell forts protected the Thames Estuary from German bombers and were abandoned by the military in 1958.

Sealand, formerly known as Roughs Tower, was, crucially, outside British territorial waters. In those far off days when Radio 1 was unheard of it was fashionable to set up ‘pirate’ radio stations outside the reach of British laws beaming pop music to a deprived ‘Yoof’ audience. The best known was Radio Caroline, but there were several others and Roy Bates was not one to miss out. It wasn’t luxurious; the ‘facilities’ consisted of a hole in the deck with a toilet seat on top of it and if a kettle was switched on, the record turntables slowed down.

Roy Bates died in 2012, aged 91, Sealand is now ruled by Roy's son, Prince Michael, who awarded the Sealand Peace Prize to Nelson Mandela and Sealand ‘noble titles’ to various people such as Terry Wogan, Ed Sheeran, Jeremy Clarkson and Ben Fogle, who are barons.

These notables would suggest Ringo, better make that Baron Ringo, is in good company, but alas for £199.99 anyone can become a Count or Countess and a mere Knighthood costs only £99.99.

If there’s still no sign of a gong heading my way in the next New Year’s Honours List I may yet have to lash out £199.99, if only to compete with Baron Ringo. Marigold has as yet expressed no interest at all in becoming a Lady.

We came across this in a hotel lounge. How useful is this on a Saturday night out?

King of biscuits