Trial By Tesco

Evening shopping in Tesco. I kind of switch off, go on autopilot, just pointing the shopping trolley in whichever direction my wife, Jen, is heading for.

We were in the main aisle when my usual air of mundane despair was punctured by the sight of a man reacting to two young lads who passed him. They were about ten years old, full of swagger, owning the place like they do. He was middle-aged and a little off.

I saw him whirl and watch them go, then as they vanished from view down a joining aisle he went after them, but his delay proved fatal as he couldn’t find where they had gone. He walked up and down checking several other aisles with no apparent luck.

I can be quite discreet in my curiosity, but I made the fatal mistake of mentioning it to Jen who was caught in rabbit and headlights eye contact with him. Quick as a flash he was by our side.

“Did you see those kids? Eh? Did you? How disrespectful were they? Blowing their vape thing like that in the middle of the store. Right as they’re passing me!”

I neutrally inclined my head, but Jen encouraged him with an appeasing “They don’t care, do they?”

“Vaping in the middle of Tesco. I’m thirty-eight. If I say something to them, you know what happens then, don’t you?”

A few scenarios were playing out in my mind. Jen just advised, “You’re best just leaving them to it. It’s not worth the trouble.”

“I get sick of it though. You have lovely eyes, by the way.”

“Thank you.”

He examined mine. “You have old eyes.”

Yeah, thank you.

“I’m gonna go find ‘em,” he continued.

“Leave them to it,” Jen replied.

“ I can’t leave it. I know you could, because that’s the nice kind of person you are.” He looked at me. “And he couldn’t either, could you? I can see it in his face. In his eyes.”

That would be my old eyes.

“No, I’m off after them.” Then he gave me one final piece of advice. “You need to swap that,” he pointed to the trolley I was pushing, “for this,” he brandished his basket that had just a couple of items in it. “I’m going to twat them with it.”

I wished him good luck , which meant yes, you go and leave us now. Jen pointed out that that was the kind of conversation she had all of the time when she worked in mental health.

We spotted him once again, near the checkout, when his loud conversation drew our attention. He had indeed caught up with the two boys. Rather than “twat them” he’d bought them both an Easter egg. “But I’m not a paedophile!” he told the woman at the till.

We made a quick u-turn despite what was still on our shopping list and where it might be located, and managed to avoid him for the rest of our shop, me warning Jen that whatever happens she was not to make eye contact again with her lovely eyes.

But then, outside in the car park, we ran smack bang into him again.

Fuck’s sake” I barely disguised beneath my breath.

He pulled the collar of his t-shirt down, baring his neck to Jen. “Here, have a sniff of this. What do you think it is?”

She dutifully did, “Hmm . . . I’m not sure. Creed?”

RUBBER!” he shouted, then jumped into the car that he was stood beside and hot-rodded right outta there, engine revving, wheels screeching.

Next week I think we are going to give Aldi a try.

The Lion Growls Tonight

Some snow came in last night. It wasn’t a lot and it wasn’t a surprise.We had been told that it was coming, dragged down by some northern, arctic air, but going to bed last night it was just a few flurries.

What was a surprise was the message this morning that my kids’ high school was closed. There wasn’t that much on the ground, not enough to wall us up alive, and certainly not enough to turn our uphill main road into an impasse. (Yes, I know that it’s only an uphill main road if you’re going up it and not down it, but that’s the direction the school is in.)

It seems that the reason given was that other towns received more snow than us and that’s where some staff would be travelling from.

I don’t ever recall schools closing due to weather when I was young, not even in our younger primary school days. But, then again, in the 70’s wellies were cool.

We could be forgiven for starting to think of climate change and unseasonal weather, but apparently we get more snow here in March than we do in December. Who knew? Not I, and I’ve only been here all my life.

I have heard that saying: If March comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb.

It wasn’t really roaring last night though, maybe just giving a little warning growl.

I had some things to get this morning so I walked down to the town centre as I’d originally planned. The kids were still in bed, not even aware that school was shut. Wouldn’t it be great if they woke, thought they’d overslept and scurried off to the best days of their lives?

I’m scurrying off now to another day in mine, hoping you all have a great weekend, but before I go can I just give a shoutout to the meteorologist, on TV at 7.30am, who explained that “snow is crunchy beneath your feet.

I’ll never be ignorant again.

Threads

I happened to be in Manchester this week. Of course, I live in Manchester, what I mean is I was in Manchester city centre. Although it’s a city, when travelling there we always say “We are going into town.”

Local vernacular and all that. Anyway, there I was – in Manchester. Not much had changed since my last visit. One thing I did notice, though, is where you used to be able to buy a can of Pepsi or Fanta, there is now this:

An eyelash dispenser. Whatever next?

******

Some of the homes on our estate have been without water for a while. There were reports on social media of water tankers scattered around the area. I’m not sure what the problem is, or if these tankers are indeed flushing water through drains as has been suggested, as I’ve not taken that much interest because our home has been unaffected by the problem.

However, yesterday morning, as we were on the school run, we spotted one of the tankers parked up on a neighbouring street. There was nobody with it. We turned onto a main road and saw another two tankers, again unmanned, as though they’d been abandoned.

“More tankers!” exclaimed my wife. “It’s like they’ve taken over the world. Just appeared overnight.”

It’s normally me that’s given to flights of fancy.

We approached the school and, lo and behold, more tankers were in the small car park outside the gates.

“They’re even here!” she said. “They’re like aliens. Everywhere we go they are hounding us. It’s like the world’s coming to an end and they are our masters.”

Wow.

Maybe there’s a story in that.

******

I’ve always believed that it’s the insects that will take over in our absence.

I’ve been sorting through my Mum’s things since she passed away. Donating furniture to charity, giving things to people that we know, to friends of friends, anyone who would be grateful of them. Dismantling bit by bit the things that make up a part of who I am.

While emptying her kitchen drawers I spotted an ant trap on her window ledge. She had been plagued with them off and on over the last few summers. This was her last response – an irresistible cocktail of sugar and boric acid.

Some lines came to mind from a Walter Tevis novel I’ve just read, a novel about ‘another’ alien invader:

Or think of living with the insects, of living with the shiny, busy, mindless ants

which prompted the question: should we co-exist? Or should we exterminate?

This summer it will be someone else’s dilemma.

Christmas Lights? If Only

We had not been to a match for a while. We support a local Non-League club (Prestwich Heys), at a level which is always susceptible to weather. Following two postponements, I had to break the news to my son that, for that night’s game, we had no means of getting there. After my Mum passed away, the tax was stopped on her mobility car which then had to be returned. So, for a month or so, we had no car and couldn’t get to a night game.

“You’re joking!” he exclaimed. “You mean, we could have gone but there was a waterlogged pitch. Then we could have gone but then there was a frozen pitch, and now we can’t go and the pitch is fine?!

You’ve got to love irony. He doesn’t.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, thinking that our lad, still grieving the recent loss of his Gran, could do with a bit of normality, we managed to arrange a lift.

But some things just aren’t meant to be. For, just five minutes from kick off, the lights failed. Floodlights out, clubhouse lights out, changing room lights out, the league advised the referee to give us thirty minutes to see if the electricity could be restored before calling it off. The problem was obviously with the floodlights, because the clubhouse lights were restored, but when the floodlights were turned on everything tripped and we were plunged back into darkness.

The first time that happened, the lights came on and I’m sure that the ref raised his whistle to his lips and then they were off again before he could even blow it!

What is a night match without floodlights? Well, it’s not a night match.

The match was called off. Twice through weather, once through for God’s sake what we gotta do to see a game we are cursed (according to my son).

Our approach to the ground, if only things had stayed this way!
People milling around outside. First check was that local street and house lights were on, in case it was a localised power cut. They were, it wasn’t.
Heys by night. Bit of a stark beauty about it. Wonder if my son appreciated the view?
In the clubhouse, fans gathered around the only light source, a small bar-top Christmas tree. Isn’t that what Christmas is about, after all, the light in the darkness?
The bare essentials: light and gratitude.
My son, in his duties as corner-flag guy, admitted defeat and set off to bring the flags in again, using his phone to light the way.

See you next game. But don’t count your chickens.

Cold Morning

This morning the estate I live on was a cold one. People seemed to carry more weight as they moved about it, with backs bent and shoulders hunched.

But there was a beauty there, too (something not often said about the place), if they would just stop for a moment, straighten up, and take it in.

A stark urban beauty, shaking off the shackles of sleep.

November Nights

The strong wind came in as forecast. In my town centre, it was as if it had swept away most people along with the litter and leaves. Darkness fell at the same time as the storm.

Gloom and mood in tandem, the Autumn ‘fall’.

My house is on an estate at the top of a hill. The house on the hill. Sounds familiar. The hill hangs over this town centre. Half way up is a line of trees that have often served as refuge when caught in a sudden deluge. (And also a veritable bounty for kids filling their pockets with conkers.)

The rain followed faithfully the wind, but this time I didn’t need refuge. Modern man has a weather app, you know, and everything else at his nimble fingers. Sometimes I feel we’ve been robbed of the element of surprise, often exchanging wonder for knowledge. But if I really felt so strongly about it, I’d discard all oracles and take every day as it comes, wouldn’t I ?

Still, there is some wonder, even if, beneath this hooded, waterproof coat, there are no surprises:

I do love this time of year.

Sir Perceval Of Pumpkins

We always leave it too late. Every single year. October 29th, October 30th, I, like Manchester’s answer to Sir Perceval, trawling fruitlessly around all of the local stores on a vain last minute pumpkin quest.

Not this time, I thought. October 28th. Not too soon for them to go rotten, not too late for them to sell out.

Leave it to me this year, dear family of mine, Halloween is safe in my hands.

(And no, it’s not that I have giant hands.)

Falling Into Fifties

I’m long past that awkward, self-conscious stage.

I was never fashionable and so never had any street cred. But still, being around twelve or thirteen, I would steer my Mum away from the Oxfam window she was about to look in, lest any school friend should see us.

“Scav!” would be the gibe.

Thrift shops I think the Americans call them.

At what point do your scruples change?

Last week I got a pair of jeans for £3.50. I’ve also picked up a jacket for £7.00.

Is this my market now? Falling into my fifties.

It also seems appropriate that I’m mulling this over while passing through a late autumn afternoon, dappled fields lost to a host of daddy longlegs and spiders; ground conceded to the worms of the earth.