Thank God Facebook is back. I thought I was going to turn fifty in a couple of months without being able to tell everyone that I still feel twenty-one.
I’m a conversational vampire.
I absorb snippets of conversations from total strangers that later find a home in the mouths of fictional characters or the middle of a City Jackdaw post.
It’s not intentional. It’s not as if I’m a professional eavesdropper or anything. It’s just that I seem to pick things up when out and about that stay with me. The people out there are just great.
‘This train is the Northern service to Leeds.’ That was the announcement that kicked off the latest episode.
Then, despite the next statement stating that the next stop would be New Pudsey, one half of the young couple sat facing each other at the table opposite mine, on the other side of the aisle, jumped into life.
“Shit we’re in Leeds! Is this Leeds?” she asked in alarm. Betraying zero trust in her male companion, she turned wildly to catch my eye.
I shook my head. “This is Bradford.”
“Well, where are they goin’?” she asked the lad, now dismissing me as I’d served my purpose. She was referring to a group of girls that had just left the train and were walking across the platform outside of her window.
“On holiday?” he replied, sounding bored.
“On holiday? Dressed like that? They look like they’re goin’ to a festival!”
It was obvious that that was where these two were going. The Leeds and Reading festival was about to start, and she was sporting the festival look. Doc Martins with stockings, topped with a garish, tie-dyed shirt and silver-sequinned wings stuck to her forehead. Her boyfriend (I presumed) had similar artwork studded above his eyebrows.
“Who would actually holiday in Bradford anyway?” she continued. “No – they’re dressed for a festival.”
If that was the case then those girls had exited at the wrong station, despite this carriage being crowded with other young . . . what? Was there a term for these kids?
I googled what do you call a person who attends a festival?
Answer: one who attends a festival.
I tried to get on with my book but now I couldn’t help feeding. Like I said, I’m a conversational vampire.
“I’ve read they’re gonna have stalls set up where you can have your Covid jab while you’re there,” she went on. “Are you gonna have it?”
He shrugged, still looking disinterested. I began to suspect he was hungover.
“I don’t know either. I mean, I get it if you’re old and that. If you’re a certain age, say over forty, it’s a risk. But we’re young. Nearly everyone at the festival’s young so what’s the point? And you know that it can make your kids disabled? And it alters your DNA. Apparently.”
Old – over forty? And that last bit, like a disclaimer: Apparently.
I realised I was shaking my head and tried to immerse myself in my book once again, re-reading the same lines in an attempt to drown out this endless soliloquy. I slowly began to build up a wall of resistance and finished my chapter by the time we rolled into Leeds station.
I left the train and that young couple somewhere behind me to join other commuters on a busy escalator. We rose up to a walkway which took us high over the railway lines to then get another escalator which took us down to the ticket gates.
Those should-have-been unremarkable seconds were enough to feed again. It was a male voice, immediately behind me.
“Social media has given people too many mental issues, man. There’s men dressing up as women, women dressing up as men, aliens dressing up as children. Everyone’s lost their identity. They don’t know who they are.”
Well, of course I was curious. Who would be pursuing that line of reasoning, most of which I could go along with? Except . . . aliens?
Turning around would be too obvious, so instead, after reaching the end of the escalator, I took a few steps and then hung to the side on the pretence that I was getting my e-ticket up on my phone. I had a quick glance as they passed. These weren’t two young naive festival goers, they were a couple of professional looking men around my age.
Totally not what I was expecting. It just goes to show that you can never predict the type of thing that goes on in a person’s head.
As often happens when in a transitory place, I wondered where these two were heading, and more beguilingly where their conversation would lead too. But I had to let them go, I had my own destination to reach. And anyway, by now I was fully sated.
Well it had to happen sometime, didn’t it? I mean I must have been on Facebook, what? Ten years maybe?
I woke up this morning to discover I’d been slung into Facebook jail for twenty-four hours without parole, unable to post or comment or like anything.
Why? I was informed that it was for a comment in reply to a friend’s joke post making a request.
I can’t even remember which friend it was now, nor exactly what his/her post was, but it was done with humour and went something like: ‘Has anyone got any (something)? Asking for a friend’.
So I’d commented ‘Has anyone got any crack cocaine? Asking for my Nanna’.
It seemed that the Facebook Police really thought that I was trying to procure some crack cocaine for my Nanna. I was given the right to appeal and so I did – under their criteria that Facebook didn’t understand the context of my comment. There was no place that I could add that, not only was I joking, my Nanna had been dead for 31 years. And no, it wasn’t by overdose.
I failed my appeal in five minutes flat. I wish that our justice system was that fast.
They also cited a previous comment of mine from back in January. It was in a Jack the Ripper group. I’m in some groups you wouldn’t believe. My wife Jen says “You know, on paper, you sound a right boring bastard.” 😂
Anyway, this was a Ripper group, and a researcher was trying to access records that had been denied him on the grounds of the Official Secrets Act. So all I’d commented was: ‘They’d let you have them but then they’d have to kill you and hide the body. That’s how Jack the Ripper started out’.
It now appeared that the Facebook Police believed that I was 1, trying to score some crack cocaine and 2, inciting a murder.
Not only do they not have a sense of humour, I don’t think I’ll ever be free again.
I wonder now why some of my earlier posts haven’t been flagged. Like the Jenisms my wife comes out with. I posted one once when she had a heavy cold, and wanted me to get some menthol crystals to help with her breathing, but instead asked “Will you go over to the chemist and get me some crystal meths.” Up here on Langley there very well could be chemists that sell that kind of thing.
But anyway, for future reference, I’ve now learnt that the Facebook Police allow crystal meths but not crack cocaine. Life’s a learning curve.
Free the Manchester One.
Marvel are scraping the barrel now.
Day Two of Calorie Counting Update: Borderline Dead.
What a beautiful day it was today.
In fact, do you know what kind of day it was today? It was a Rosemary’s Baby and Fosters kind of day today.
So much so that I felt that I had to share with everyone on Facebook just how I’d passed the afternoon.
Why have you poured Fosters into a glass?! my daughter Courtney commented.
Because the glass wouldn’t fit into the can, I replied.
Obvious, isn’t it?
One pay-off to be made for the good weather at this time of year is that we have to share it with others. Other creatures, that is. A few days ago I noticed some bees flying around the end of the guttering at the front of our house, guttering that is close to both Courtney’s bedroom window and also her sister Millie’s bedroom window. Courtney and Millie are not the most bug-friendly girls you’re ever likely to meet.
When one of the bees turned up in our living room today I thought, while catching it to release outside, I’d take the opportunity to photograph it in an effort to identify the species. As it dropped onto the window ledge, I placed a glass over it (yes, the Fosters glass) and took a snap of it.
That’s right-the bee was doing what bees do and wouldn’t keep still, flying to the top of the glass. Eventually though, I got a close up.
From this, and from what I’d read when scientifically googling bee nests in gutters I deduced that the bees were most likely to be Tree Bumblebees. Eat your heart out Attenborough.
(Though don’t ask where the tree comes into play.)
And from what I’ve learnt I’ve decided not to take any action and leave them bee (😀) as it’s likely that they will leave the nest by the end of July anyway.
That’s only two months away. Eight weeks. Ish.
You can imagine how thrilled my daughters are by this decision.
Just wait until that sun is out again tomorrow, and the temperature rises, and how those windows should be opened to admit some fresh air.
I’m thinking now that tomorrow could be a Cool Hand Luke in the sweatbox kind of day.
You’ve got no chance when you’re up against twelve men, the Gods and the ancestors.
I’m starting to get anxiety now about people hugging me in the street. I might just say that I’ve got eggs in my pockets.
I really thought we’d made it, managed to make it through to the other side, unaffected. On May 17th restrictions are lifting, in ten days we can attend matches again. The wife and I have had our two jabs. Summer’s coming.
And then this morning, having already dropped my son off at school, I got a message from said school: There’s been a positive Covid test in Year 6 and so they’d have to close their bubble.
Year 6 is my son’s class and ‘closing the bubble’ meant that they would be sending him home to self-isolate. I’d only been home fifteen minutes after dropping him. The parent of whichever child had tested positive must have only got the test results when school was due to open.
So off I went again to pick him up. I crossed the deserted playground to the office, gave James’ name and one of the receptionists went to get him while the other explained that, though James would have to isolate for ten days, my wife and I didn’t as we were classed as contact of a contact. I really thought we’d seen the last of all this.
James came out and when he saw me he greeted me with a shrug of resignation. “So,” I began as we headed for the gates, “someone tested positive in your class?”
“Yes, someone who’s been in school.”
“Any idea who it is?” I asked.
“Well it could either be me, or . . . “
“You? How can it be you?”
“Well, I’ve been in school.”
“Have you done a test?”
“Then it can’t be you then, can it?”
“To test positive, you have to do a test to begin with.”
He seemed to think this over. “No . . .”
“How did you find out about it?” I asked.
“We were sitting where the computers are, then all of a sudden the teachers all started panicking and running around.”
“They were running?!”
“Mrs * has a son in our school, and she was shouting to him ‘Run son!”
“She was shouting run?” I asked with some scepticism.
“Well, it might have been ‘jog quickly.’”
I’m sure that you’ve all seen those disaster movies, too, you know the ones where everyone is told to jog quickly for your lives!
Save yourselves! Jog quickly!
You could forgive me for thinking that he was being a bit dramatic, but later one of the mothers said that she’d asked her daughter who confirmed that teachers were indeed shouting “Quick! Run! Run!”
Maybe they were trying to head off all points of entry to the building, maybe they thought that the predatory virus was now chasing them down the school corridors?
Anyway, ten days start now, ten long days. Keep washing those hands. And if anyone around you appears a little off-colour then remember: jog quickly and don’t look back. They always get you when you look back.
I managed to get this photograph yesterday while we were driving through Prestwich. It’s a mural, created in 2019, of Victoria Wood, who was born in that town.
Heading North is of course a compulsion with me, too, though her full joke includes the punchline: “Even in Tesco, I head straight for the freezer cabinets on the back wall.”
Seeing it took me right back to the 80’s, laughing at this northern ballad of frisky Freda and the poor, beaten Barry. Give it a watch, those of you not from the north of England may have to give it a couple of goes to catch the lyrics. Google may help, too!