Friday, October 28, 2011

Family camp - in October! Really? - part 3

As you already know, because you read part 1 & part 2, I found myself camping last weekend, even though it is October.

tents - in case you were wondering
I’ll pick up from the point where I was laughing in Karma’s face.

I returned to camp and unloaded the equipment into the tent, barely noticing the missing item. Well it was missing, so that is probably why I didn’t see it.

We had some supper and then a campfire was lit and the boys sat around it telling jokes. Apparently the big sing-a-long campfire was arranged for Saturday night, so this was less organised.

"Knock-Knock - who's there? - I'm gate..."
You could say that. Have you ever been forced to listen to a group of young boys all trying to tell jokes? It is not, as such, funny.

One recurring theme that came up was that of being – well – gay. A long forgotten part of me remembers being that age, and learning about these things, learning how powerful a tease it is to wield it at someone. I also can just about remember how funny it all seemed to be.

I can – just.

Of course, I’m older now and wiser to the world. I wouldn’t feel happy about my sons telling these kind of jokes in my earshot, and I didn’t feel overly comfortable there either, but it wasn’t my party and at the end of the day it is just normal silliness I suppose. This eventually led to the funniest moment of the whole weekend.

You see, one of the boys told this joke…

“Three men in a bath together. They were called Me, Me-Me and Me-Me-Me. Me-Me-Me got out. Then Me-Me. Who was still in the bath?”

Someone inevitably answers “Me”

At which point the joke teller laughs and shouts “You’re gay”

Now – I’ll be honest, I didn’t get it at all, though it sure made the boys laugh.
This wasn’t the funniest moment of the weekend though, that came the next day, when Jo explained the joke to me.

You see, the crucial point of this joke, was the bit that was just too far over their heads. The reason the joke didn’t make sense was because they just didn’t actually understand it – they just thought three men in a bath meant they could call their friend gay.

Here is the same joke again as it is supposed to be told – see if it makes sense this time…

“There were three men in a bath. They were called Me, Me-Me and Me-Me-Me. Me-Me-Me CAME OUT. Me-Me CAME OUT. Who’s going to COME OUT next?”

Do you see the difference?

I laughed my head off and couldn’t stop giggling for ages – not at the joke but at the sheer daftness of the kids, for laughing so hard at things they had absolutely no hope of understanding.

Who was still in the bath?  I absolutely love it!

no clouds in Oxfordshire means it's going to be cold
 But it wasn’t the next day yet. It was bedtime and I was about to see the missing item.

We had borrowed two lovely thermal sleeping bags. Daniel had one in the main Cub’s tent and Jamie had the other one with me in our little tent. We had an air bed to share and a light Summer sleeping bag for me.

Now, where did I leave my quilt?

You know, the big heavy quilt that I needed to put over my light sleeping bag?

KARMA!!!!  Never laugh in Karma’s face people – take a tip from me.

I’d forgotten it and so I slept on an October’s night in England, in a tent, covered by only a very thin sleeping bag.

Over the course of the next two days the boys would abseil, sing songs around a camp fire (that’s a fire at camp by the way, not a fire that’s a bit light on its feet – sorry, been hanging around with cubs and scouts all weekend), they made me almost cry laughing at the milk crate stacking challenge, they played, they had adventures in the woods, they had – let’s face it – an absolutely brilliant time.

Saturday morning tea - teabag stays to prevent caffeine wastage
I wouldn’t change a thing.

The boys are full of it; they loved every minute of it.

Well I say I wouldn’t change anything …

All of that fun stuff was yet to come; at this point I am still staring in disbelief at the large space where my quilt was supposed to be.

No quilt.

No central heating.

This, I swiftly assessed, did not look promising.

Things got very, very cold.

I don’t know what time it was, but it was early – or late – I’m not sure which, but the time must have started with an ‘0’. I reached up again and pulled the sleeping bag back up Jamie’s shoulders to keep him warm and snuggled back into him for warmth. Using your youngest son as an emergency hot water bottle can only mean one thing.

Things have gone a little parental.

Daniel abseiling
Jamie abseiling

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Family camp - in October! Really? - part 2

So – as you may or may not recall from part 1 – I had been conned into taking my two sons camping with the Cubs and Beavers, while my wife (yes I’ve dropped the lovely) Jo, stayed at home and abused the central heating.

I drove home and quickly packed a bag for my son and I, located the warm sleeping bag for Jamie and the air bed. I threw in as much as I could remember needing from the quick list that Jo had told me at the campsite. 

After swiftly updating Facebook with my current state of mind, I was ready.

I got in the car and headed back to camp. As I drove off I realised that the petrol light was on and, not being a complete git, thought I’d better fill up so that Jo didn’t have to stop and do it later, or run out of it, I guess.

So I pulled into the petrol station – which was rammed with cars. It was a busy time of night, so I settled into a queue and waited.

Things were moving slowly, but still they were moving along.

Somebody was having trouble waiting though. A car kept pulling into one queue for a couple of minutes before deciding that a different queue seemed more promising and moving over.

“Relax”, I told it (yes I did actually say that out loud to a car – I hadn’t seen inside it yet so I could hardly tell the driver now could I?). But they couldn’t relax and as the car came close to me I saw a woman driving it with a couple of kids. The woman seemed a bit bothered.

“Relax”, I told her. “Just pick a queue and wait, take a chill pill” – I also advised.

When I got to the pump, I looked over and noticed that she was still waiting, even though she had arrived before me, this revelation caused me to visibly pump my fist and give a triumphant “Get in there me!” I don’t tend to get much pleasure from other people’s misfortune, but this was her fault for being impatient and not listening to my advice, I decided.

So I allowed myself a smug shout of victory.

I filled up, I queued again, I paid, and returned to my car to see something quite odd.
She was parked behind me, still waiting, even after all this time. There were, by this point two empty pumps.

“Hmm?” – I said.

As I approached my car, her window opened and she called me over.

I looked in to see a young woman at the wheel, a young kid in the passenger seat, and what turned out to be another young woman in the rear, rather than another child.

“Excuse me”, she asked, “Please could you help me out?”

“Ah” – I thought. But that was all she said, she didn’t say anything else and instead left an awkward silence. I took a guess that she wanted me to buy her some petrol. I said “Sorry I haven’t got any cash on me” (because I didn’t). And again she just sat there looking at me.

I can’t put my finger on exactly what it was, but something wasn’t right. I thought for a moment that I could put £10 of petrol in, and then go pay for it inside, but still she just sat there.

So I said “Sorry, I need to go” because I had already spent quite a while getting petrol and I knew the kids were waiting and it was getting dark. So I left her to it, drove out of the way and set about putting some new batteries, which I’d bought in the shop, into a torch.

As I did so, I thought some more and didn’t like what I was thinking. I thought, “What if that was Jo and the kids in that car? What if she had lost her handbag – or had it stolen – with all her money and phone in it? What if the young woman in the back was in the same boat because the handbags had been stolen from the car? Maybe they were just trying to get home, but hadn’t got enough petrol? If that had been my wife I’d really hope that just one passer-by trusted enough to help her – wouldn’t I?

£10. I could afford to give her £10 of petrol to get her home to safety, how long would it take really? 10 minutes? Could I really not afford that?

I was starting to feel really guilty by this point, and when I opened the battery case and the batteries spilled out onto the floor I thought “RIGHT – THAT’S BLOODY KARMA AGAIN!”

Karma was sticking its nose into the matter already.

Decision made. Of course I’d help her – why hadn’t I done it in the first place? Would I have helped her from the offset if she had been pretty? What kind of a stupid arse am I for that?
So I finished putting the batteries in the torch, resolute in my decision to help the woman, who was still circling, looking for help.

Just as I was about to open my door, salvation drove into the station.

A police car.
“Fantastic” I thought, she is saved. If she speaks to them they will help her. They will at least contact someone to help her, even if nothing else.

I was happy that they were now officially safe, although I wasn’t exactly relaxed because I wasn’t totally sure that this would be good enough for Karma – being that it wasn’t me helping them.

As soon – and I do mean as soon – as the police car came clearly into the view of this poor mistreated lady, she did a funny thing.

She sped off. As quickly as she could go, without making it too obvious, she completely left the petrol station and drove off.

Something about seeing those policemen made her want to swiftly leave.

“BLOODY HELL” I shouted! She was a con artist – scamming people for free petrol – all along!

“IN YOUR FACE KARMA!” I screamed, before noticing the funny looks that the policeman was giving me for blocking the last remaining parking space, that he wanted to be in.
Looking fairly guilty (because I always do when policemen talk to me for some reason) I drove off.

As I drove, I yet again told Karma what I thought of it.

Which was stupid, because I had a whole weekend of camping still to come…

Monday, October 24, 2011

Family camp - in October! Really? - part 1

I don’t know what time it was, but it was early – or late – I’m not sure which, but the time must have started with an ‘0’. I reached up again and pulled the sleeping bag back up Jamie’s shoulders to keep him warm and snuggled back into him for warmth. Using your youngest son as an emergency hot water bottle can only mean one thing.

Things have gone a little parental.

Go on – guess what I did last weekend?

In late October. In England.

That’s right, I went on ‘Family Camp’ with the Cubs and the Beavers. I should point out to all that Beavers isn’t at all what you think. You’ve probably heard of Scouts? Well Cubs are the junior version of Scouts and then Beavers are the junior version of Cubs. These guys are little – proper little. My 10 year old is in the Cubs and Jamie, my 7 year old, is in the Beavers.

This weekend they all went away together to Youlbury Scout camp, in Oxfordshire, with their parents. Well I say parents – perhaps I shouldn’t have been so free and easy with my pluralisation there.

One thing that you have to have these days in Britain, if you are to sleep away with a bunch of other people’s kids in the middle of a forest, is something called a Criminal Records Bureau check. Just to say that you aren’t likely to run about killing folk in their sleep. This is fair enough, but we were not informed of this until 2 weeks before camp, and so only submitted our forms a week before. And this is seriously cutting it fine.

There were heated debates in our house because Jo, my lovely wife, already has had this done for her job as a teacher, where she could happily take these children on this camp by herself, if she so wanted. However rules are, it seems, rules and Jo had to have a new one done for this group – madness, but there you go.

The upshot was that Daniel was going to be able to camp with the cubs, but because Beavers had to have a t least one parent present, Jamie was not going to be allowed to go. This decision came to us two nights before camp – and Jamie was gutted.

So I offered to do the only thing I could possibly do.

 I put the tent up in our garden and promised Jamie that I’d camp with him at home.
As you do.

As it was – things got a little stranger than that.

We arrived at camp Friday night to drop Daniel off and to get Jamie involved with things, because we were allowed to be there during waking hours as guests, so Jamie could at least be a part of things. We would stay there through the days then head home, where Jamie and I would camp. I can’t remember exactly the reason why Jo couldn’t join us in the garden – some special reason though – it made sense at the time. When we arrived we were met by a smiling Akela who triumphantly informed me that my CRB was cleared – I could camp!

But Jo’s wasn’t!

“What?” I casually asked

This was answered by me being shown a small tent that I could borrow for the weekend. I could stay, Jamie could stay, but Jo could not.

“I see” I said.

I stared at Jo for a full 40 seconds, but she held firm and never once broke into a smile or smirk, nor did she offer up any help at all – she just stood and looked up and away from my eyes. Meanwhile Jamie made no effort whatsoever to hide his delight at being allowed to stay. I was cornered.

Okay then – so be it.

So I pitched the tent, left the boys with their mother and drove home to pack a bag for the two of us and load up with sleeping bags.

But more about the drive back and the camp later…

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

leave a message after the tone...


“Hello – I am currently busy working on some fiction for a competition. Or at least I would be if I wasn’t wasting time writing this message, letting myself get all distracted again. Actually writing something for a purpose is, it seems, somewhat harder than I thought, so it is taking a while.

While you wait, please feel free to shake your head at me disapprovingly for my actions yesterday. I managed to drop my coat from the above-seat rack on the train, onto the head of the lady in front. I apologised immediately of course, but she just kept rubbing her head and looking at me disgusted. I apologised again but she kept going, loudly huffing her hatred of all things male and yet again rubbing her head. I remind you that it was just that my coat flopped on to her head. I apologised a third time but when this too was ignored in favour of making a massive fuss, I snapped. I pointed out to her that she could stop pulling the ugly faces now, because I’ve apologised three times already. To be fair, she did stop making a fuss, but I think on reflection that I may have been a tad sharp there.

After walking away I managed to clip the back heel of another lady by the ticket gates, knocking her shoe clean off. I absolutely hate that when it happens to me. This lady turned and gave me a sharp look, but as the crowded melee pushed us apart, there wasn’t really much I could say.

It may please these ladies to know that Karma intervened when I got to my tube station, I managed to ‘fall’ up the stairs, jarring my shoulder when I braced for landing. My shoulder still hurts a bit, which should help cheer the women of London up a little, I suspect.

Anyway, I really do need to get back to work, this story won’t write itself and I’d quite like to try and win something, it is now well and truly mid-October and the people from the Bridport Prize still haven’t contacted me, so it is safe to say I can’t count on their prize money to pay for my Christmas cheese board. 

Please leave me a message after the tone…”


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Ferrari F360 at Silverstone? Don't mind if I do

Today I drove a Ferrari around Silverstone’s Grand Prix circuit. Well technically it was around Silverstone’s Stowe Circuit, which is a little smaller, but never mind - because it was still Silverstone.
It was a present given to me for my 40th, after my brilliant Mum, Dad, Brother and Sister all chipped in to buy it. I am loving their work, because it was fantastic.

So fantastic that I’m lost for words, so I’ll let pictures do the talking. Scroll down to the bottom to see the full video of me in action. It is safe to say that I have absolutely no talent whatsoever, an inability to change ‘flappy paddle’ gears successfully, an impressive ability to beep the horn instead of changing said gears, and a complete lack of foot-hand-eye coordination. The keen eyed among you will note that I managed an all-time top speed of 104mph, which my instructor lies about, in an effort to make it sound better – and still has to waffle a bit to help out. Trust me, it was fast enough for me!
However, I absolutely loved every minute of my experience, from the moment we drove in through the main gate, to the moment we drove out of it.
Me at Silverstone - with a car driving past

Me proving that not ALL racing drivers are sexy

With my Mum and Dad

With my Brother - Phil

Now THAT is a sexy ass

Not too shoddy from the front either

Ferrari F360 at Silverstone

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Light Within

Prompt: Tell the tale of two people pulling up in a car to a remote lake. I used the photo as direct inspiration.
Any genre. 750 words max

The Light Within

Mist rolled slowly along the cold clear waters of Rudyard Lake. The only sounds to be heard were from the sparrows as they danced, beautifully coordinating their search for their evening’s perch. The Sun had pretty much disappeared beneath the horizon as the cool night air made its way towards the car parked at the edge of the lake.

Summer was only a distant memory now, so it was no surprise to find this aging, but perfectly kept, Civic sat alone on the shore.  

What was a surprise was the scream.

It certainly surprised the sparrows, who left a trail of surprise all over the nearby boathouse.
The car door opened and an old man climbed out, frantically paced back and forth, and shouted into a mobile. Occasionally he would put his head into the car, only to re-emerge after another rage filled scream.

Eventually the man climbed back into the car and slowly, the car drove away…

“Just hang in there Shirl. Not far now, everything’s going to be fine, you’ll see.” David tried hard to disguise the worry in his voice, but his fears were too real to be hidden.

Shirley hadn’t spoken a word since they had left the lake, ordinarily David would have relished the peace, but each minute’s silence bore into him like it was drilling for oil. She couldn’t speak because the pain was too strong; all she could do was wince with every bump in the road and groan at every corner. Her breath was shallow, fast and laboured. David shook his head in despair and drove on.

David felt his foot getting heavier on the throttle as he pushed his trusty Honda past Fifty for the first time in its life. He had to get her to the hospital quickly. Why had there been no ambulances available? He had begged and screamed down the phone, but all the operator would say was that it wasn’t an emergency. Not an emergency? Unbelievable! All his working life he had been paying his National Insurance and now, when he needed the NHS the most, they had let him down.

So he held out his hand and held her shaking knee, desperately trying to comfort her as he raced towards help. She was struggling, he could see that. The light within the woman he had fallen in love with, forty five years earlier, was fading fast.

A chance glance in the rear view mirror let him see the fear in his own eyes, within their cataract clouded depth he could hear them saying the very words that his mouth dared not speak –“We’re not going to make it.”

A pothole in the road released a long drawn-out scream from the troubled wife, louder than anything so far. “SHIRLEY! You okay? Shirl – love – are you okay?”

“No David. No! It’s agony. Why this, David? Why me? What’s going to happen? What’s going to happen David?”

The relief of hearing his wife speak again, was quickly dwarfed by the hatred of hearing her so scared and in such obvious pain. Again he stuck out his hand, this time taking hers. 

David’s foot took the car to sixty-two. The road was just a blur now, road signs flew past far too quickly to read.

“Oh David, I’ve never felt so awful, what are we going to do? What about the children? David what about the grandkids? This is terrible – what are we going to do?”

“Look love, don’t worry about it, we just need to get you better, I’m not worried about all that at all, I’m just worried about you.”

“Yes, I know you’re right, you always look after me. I love you David, I’m sure you’ll make it all better.”

“I love you too Shirl. Okay, here’s what you say. It is wash-day today, so your knickers were in the wash, and then you had needed to climb a step-ladder to replace a light-bulb. You put the new one on the side, lost your balance, fell, and landed on the bulb. Happens all the time love, no one will suspect anything – just stick to that story and trust me.”

“Brilliant. You are a genius David.


“Yes Shirl?”

“Are you speeding?”