Lovers’ Lane

Within a 10-minute walk from my house, I can find myself in a country lane with idyllic views over the beautiful Yorkshire countryside. When I take my dog out, this route is probably my favourite, especially in the summertime when the weather is fine. On a clear day, I can see many miles into the distance, and I never tire of the wonderful view.

Idyllic View From Roper Lane

There are often sheep and cattle in the field; only this week I witnessed the amazing sight of new-born lambs skipping around without a care in the world. My dog was transfixed as he sat down to watch them for what seemed like an eternity.

The mile-long lane itself is one of the highest parts of one of the highest villages in Yorkshire. There are three lay-bys on one side of the road and a few benches on the other side. On a Sunday afternoon, I often see two old ladies sat on those benches admiring the picturesque setting while out for a leisurely stroll.

When those lay-bys are not used as illegal fly-tipping locations, they provide magnificent rest areas. A few years ago, I saw two parked cars, one was empty, and the other had a gentleman behind the steering wheel and a lady in the passenger seat. While I’m not one to condone extra-marital affairs in any way, shape or form, it was easy to imagine that a loving couple could secretly meet up in such a perfect setting to steal some precious moments together. It wasn’t the first time I had seen such an occurrence, in fact, it seemed to be a regular event as dusk descended and the spectacular sunsets displayed their magnificence for just a few minutes each day.

Sunset over Roper Lane

Imagine the disgust at my own naivete as I discovered on a local discussion forum only last month that those lay-bys are in fact renowned dogging sites; at least that might explain the regular sightings of empty cans of extra-strong lager, ‘Diamond White’ cider and discarded condoms. I now feel that my favourite route is like a game of golf… “a good walk, spoiled”.  **Note, this is a well-known Mark Twain quote… about golf, not dogging!

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Chelp Champion

I took Duke for his daily early evening walk and met a pensioner who was also out for a stroll. He looked like a cross between Bobby Ball, Bruce Forsyth and Buddy Holly. It is no exaggeration to say that he could easily represent his country if there were an Olympic event for unscripted monologues. In our family, we call the art of non-stop irrelevant chatter as “chelping”; my daughters were rather good at it, but this guy was world-class.

Chelp Champion

Duke was wearing his harness and was on his lead. He is quite a big Labrador, and my new friend took an instant liking to him. He started the conversation by saying Duke should have a saddle; I replied that he had one and what he really needs is a jockey. For me, that was our conversation done; it was short and sweet, contained mild humour and friendliness. For him, I reckon he had gone fishing for someone to talk to and hit the jackpot. Duke made a brief fuss of him before the unstoppable force of his dialogue was unleashed. It went like this.

 

“I used to have a dog, but he died a few years ago, and we decided not to get another. He was a collie; we always had collies in our house even as a child when I lived on a farm. The last one used to chase cars, I could never trust him on the road, not like your big fella. I think your dog likes me; animals can always tell when humans are friendly and when they are used to having animals around them. You know, my mate had one of them pit-bull things, it used to guard his garage. Do you know it, it’s that exhaust place just down the lane? Anyway, he always told people not to go near it, but the dog was always fantastic with me. Don’t get me wrong, he once said the same to a lady who lives next door to his garage, she ignored him, and he had a little nip of her hand. Well, she was warned. When I lived on the farm, we didn’t only have dogs; we had horses too. There was a German one which was huge. I used to get on well with him, but not everybody did…”

 

I admit I might have switched off a little bit at this point so didn’t get the full history of the other horses he used to have. Duke did a big sigh because he wanted to carry on his walk. He nudged me gently, but then sat down.

 

“Did you see that story in the paper about a pensioner who had killed a burglar with a screwdriver after he had broken into his house? Well, I’m sorry but I’m with him all the way; I have no sympathy for the victim. I would do the same thing myself given a chance. It reminded me of that publican who was murdered in the pub down the road about 20 years ago. ‘Mad Mick’ they called him. I’m pretty sure there were drugs involved and someone owed him a lot of money. He had sent some handy lads to retrieve it, but the two guys who owed the money had some handy mates of their own, and they decided the best course of action was to take the initiative and get in the first hit. Things got out of control, one thing led to another, and Mad Mick was shot dead. The murderers were sent to prison, but I happen to know the mother of one of them. She has lived her life under a constant threat but, ooh she’s a lovely woman, and she doesn’t half work hard. You can’t knock that can you?”

 

I swear I had not said a single word up to this point. Duke nudged me again and then lay down by my feet.

 

“Have you been to America?” I was not given even a split-second to answer. “I went a few years ago, and I tell ya, they couldn’t understand me. I know I have a very broad Yorkshire accent, but the thing that baffled them the most was that they couldn’t understand what I was saying, but I understood everything that they said. Isn’t that weird? I’ll never forget saying to them that if someone were to tell me where I was going to die, I’d never go near the bleeding place. I didn’t half laugh, but they didn’t get the joke. Either Americans don’t have a sense of humour or it’s completely different to mine. Germans are the same.”

 

Duke had a little whimper at this point, to be honest, I had a little inaudible whimper too.

 

“It’s not just Yorkshire people who have difficulty being understood in foreign lands you know. The Welsh and the Irish are pretty bad, a Scouse accent is almost impossible and don’t even get me started on the Geordies. I had a good mate who was Scottish. I could just about fathom what he was saying until he had a drink – which was quite often – and after that, he’d say things like…” this was where he attempted an impression of drunken Scottish utterances which made absolutely no sense whatsoever. “He died when he was in England. His mother, lovely woman, bless her, had to travel down from Scotland to take his body back home. You won’t believe this, every Scottish county that they had to travel through to get his body home charged her for the privilege of travelling through their county. She even had to pay £150 just to get his body out of the hospital.”

 

I have no idea whether this is true or not, but my gut reaction is to suggest it is complete and utter bollocks.

 

There were more topics of conversation, too many to list here. The whole experience of being on the end of a world-class monologue was becoming too much to bear. I had to get it out of this situation. There was no option but to interrupt him in midsentence and make some excuse about already being late. I said it was lovely talking to him (‘lovely’ might be pushing it a bit), but I wished I had more time to listen to his fascinating stories. All the while, Duke and I were backing away but facing him the same time. We were least 5 yards away when he attempted to start another topic about a different car mechanic mate who had also lived locally. “I’m sorry, I really have to go, please tell me next time, and I’m looking forward to it already!” That could be the last time I take that route in the foreseeable future.

 

 

 

Wiggy

In the early 1990s, while working as an IT consultant/programmer, I once designed and wrote a series of modifications to our software to handle some specific warehousing requirements for a local chemical company. My main contact was the head of their accounts department, Roger. I had met him on many occasions; he was both a funny and a grumpy man who was approaching his retirement with a somewhat carefree attitude. I liked him.

When the warehousing modifications were complete, I invited Roger to our offices to view and hopefully approve the amendments; I said we would probably need about 2 hours. He asked if he could bring along the main warehouse manager (who was also just months away from retirement) as he would be using the software on a day-to-day basis. Naturally, I agreed. We set a time of 10 AM, and I booked one of our demonstration rooms for the morning.

Roger and his colleague arrived 10 minutes late. I ushered them into the room I had set up, and Roger then introduced me to the warehouse manager. “Stewart, meet Wiggy”. We shook hands, and I looked at him properly for the first time; it was obvious why he was called “Wiggy”. The picture below is not him, but I think you get the idea.

Wiggy

It seemed a bit disrespectful to call him “Wiggy”, so I asked him for his full name and pretended we needed it for a health and safety register. “Wiggy’s fine, don’t worry about it.” Roger said to me, “Go on, Stewart, ask him why he’s called Wiggy”. I felt a little uncomfortable about this but asked him anyway to which he replied, “I’ve no idea really, a guy in the warehouse once called me it, and it kinda stuck”. Roger laughed his head off; it was clearly a windup.

As we were already behind schedule, I quickly made some coffee and attempted to get started. Roger and Wiggy were happy just to be away from their chemical plant for a morning, and I soon realised that they were going to string it out for as long as possible. They initiated conversations, either with me or between themselves, about the state of the traffic, the weather, the coffee I had made, last night’s Coronation Street (honestly) and what they could anticipate for lunch. I’m sure there was a tactic of delaying my presentation so that they would still be off-site at lunchtime and I would have to arrange for some sandwiches to be brought in.

I looked at the clock; it was exactly 10:30. I knew we had a lot to get through and I felt I had no option but to act like a schoolteacher in front of a couple of unruly children. I explained that time was getting on and I asked them to put their newspapers to one side and to focus on the screen at the front of the room which was still showing the opening introduction slide. At that moment, Wiggy picked up his copy of The Sun, rolled it up and put it under his armpit, stood up and headed for the door. “Where are you going?” I asked. Wiggy replied “I always have a dump at 10:30” and headed out of the door. I couldn’t believe it; I asked Roger if he was deliberately winding me up to which he replied, “No, it’s true, it’s a well-known fact within the company that he indeed has a daily dump at 10:30.”

Wiggy returned over 20 minutes later. I reckon it was a skiving tactic he had used for decades and had become an unbreakable habit; either that or this was a remarkable pre-planned tactic to make sure that they got some free sandwiches at lunchtime.

My presentation went as well as could be expected and Roger could see no additional changes or corrections would be required. Wiggy sat quietly throughout the whole demonstration; it was clear he had not used computers very much in his lifetime and was uncomfortable with the fact that the company was becoming more hi-tech. As he had not contributed to the session, I gave him the chance to comment at the end by specifically asking him what he thought and whether he was happy with what he had seen. I will never forget his reply, “It’s all very nice this Fancy Dan stuff, but you can’t beat pen and paper”.

I did have to order some sandwiches, and after all the additional chat, they didn’t leave until after 1:30 PM. I reckon their mission was successful.

 

Bonnie Tyler

I worked for two years in the support organisation of an IT company. We had a customer who had recently activated our order processing software, and for a short while, we received many calls to the helpdesk. There was a pleasant young lady who worked for the customer called – I kid you not – Bonnie Tyler. I will never forget the day when I picked up the phone to hear about a problem which Bonnie wanted to report.

“One of the part numbers which we definitely delivered to our customer has not appeared on the invoice”, she said. I asked for some more details. She supplied me with the part number, the order number and invoice number so that I could investigate. She explained that the stock had been reduced on the system, the delivery note contained the missing part number, but it was omitted from the invoice, resulting in the customer being undercharged.

After a few moments, I said to Bonnie, “I think I know what the problem is, you have had a total eclipse of the part.”

Silence. Followed by more telephone silence and a side-order of tumbleweed. Inside my head, I was in hysterics, laughing at the quality of my own Bonnie Tyler joke. It didn’t take long before I started to worry about a potential complaint from a valued customer. “Are you still there, Bonnie?”

After a few seconds which seemed like an age, she said “If I had a pound for every…”, well, you can finish the rest of that sentence for yourself.

Bonnie Tyler

 

Valentine’s Day for the Middle-Aged

Valentine’s Day has not been a big deal in our household for many years. This morning, February 14, 2018, Angela walked through the front door as I simultaneously walked down the stairs. We greeted each other for the first time today, the conversation went like this:

Me:          “Good morning, wife.”

Angela:    “Good morning, husband.”

Me:          “Happy Valentine’s Day, wife.”

Angela:    “Happy Valentine’s Day, husband.”

Me:          “Is that Valentine’s Day done?”

Angela:    “Yep!”

 

In the top drawer of my office cabinet, I have a signed, sealed and unopened Valentine’s Day card for Angela. I fear that one day she will present me with a card and I won’t have anything in return, so I stored it away for such an event. It has been there for 15 years and will probably still be there in another 15.

 Who said romance is dead?

 

No Valentine

Guess Who

I received a text message from my daughter who incorrectly assumed that I was at home; it read “Has a package been delivered there for me today?” I replied, “We’re in Sainsbury’s. I’ll ask at the customer service desk if you like”.

As I laughed out loud at the quality of my own ‘Dad joke’, I heard a voice to my left. “Hello, Stewart”. My eyes refocused from my cell phone to the blonde lady by my side; I didn’t recognise her. Now here is a moral dilemma, do you own up or do you play along and hope a spark ignites; I chose the latter.

Guess Who Sainsburys
Character from the “Guess Who” board game.

I gave her a smile and said: “Oh hello, how are you doing?” She replied that she was fine and that it had been a “long time since I last saw you”. I experienced the slight glimmer of a spark of recognition; did I used to work with her?

For the next minute or so, we made small talk about being ready for Christmas and joking that we were leaving it a bit late to start our Christmas shopping. We said goodbye and headed off in opposite directions. It was only at that moment that I realised I had been married to her for 7½ years and we had a son together!

In my defence, I had never seen her with blonde hair and in fact have probably only seen her twice in the last 15 years. Even so, my dementia test is next Tuesday afternoon.