Monday, 14 July 2014

Cock and Bull Stories

A big cock


The internet is more down than up.  Things keep breaking (the well pump has just burnt out so I am busy stripping it and an old pump to try and get one good pump going) and my blasted swollen leg will not give up annoying me.  I used to find the time to write my posts in the wee small hours, usually tanked up to the eyeballs.  Now I am generally busy during the day and go to bed knackered and early.  This, I am informed on good authority, is a healthy lifestyle.

Early this morning Marcia asked me why African football teams never did so well in international competition.  I was just being handed the keys to my fully restored Triumph Stag, on the hand stitched leather passenger seat of which Kylie Minogue was working out how best to arrange her legs for maximum effect, and now suddenly I was being dragged back to reality.  It was a bastard of a way to wake up.

Since my return I have been ever so slightly, just a teensy weeny bit guilty of reminding Marcia what a shithole this place is, how useless everyone who lives here is and how bloody corrupt everything is so thought, just for a change, I might try a softer approach to filling this awful gap in her knowledge and lie.

‘African countries do not have the population or infrastructure to support the large number of well-populated leagues they have in Europe,’ I said.  ‘African teams really do not have the local competition or get the practice they need to compete at an international level,’ I continued, ‘the only quality players they have are those who play in European or South American club football.’  This utter codswallop seemed to satisfy Marcia so I sloped off to the kitchen to satisfy myself with a cup of tea.  Political interference and corruption along with a huge dose of selfish arrogance rather than team spirit, I thought, that’s why African football teams are crap. Mind you, the selfish arrogance bit applies just as well to England.

We turned on BBC news in time to hear a breathless reporter quote a Cameroon Football Association representative: "Recent allegations of fraud around Cameroon 2014 Fifa World Cup three preliminary games, especially Cameroon vs. Croatia, as well of the existence of seven bad apples in our national team do not reflect the values and principles promoted by our administration.” 

It begs the question, what’s left that does?  But I did not say anything to Marcia.

Last night I briefed the new building crew chief.  I have kept my original Filipino carpenter but I have now sacked all of the old crew bar him.  I know I had their issues sorted the day I arrived after hurrying back from UK but I lied to them as well.  I thought it best to get them back to work and not stick them full of leaky holes but I could not allow them to get away with trying it on with Marcia while I was away.  It has taken me only a few weeks to find another crew and this time I was not lying to the original team members at all when I told them if they were still on my land by nightfall I would stick them full of leaky holes.

Marcia’s car was overheating more than when I left so it is not purely down to the engine running lean.  I still cannot forgive Marcia for the artisan repair she allowed the Pork and Cheese mechanic to effect, though, as the problem is a leaky radiator.  It will cost me 400 bucks for a new one (quite reasonable for Angola) so while I am at it, I might as well cut the old fan off and replace all the bits damaged by the ‘repair’.  My life would be much easier if I could find a wrecked Jeep and pillage the parts from that.  It is a hell of sight easier to swap out an assembly rather than strip and fix one.  In UK (or anywhere else civilized for that matter), you’d just by an exchange reconditioned part.

My one week’s freedom in UK has spoiled me rather.  In Milton Keynes I was in a Sainsbury’s store bigger than the largest (and only) shopping centre in Angola.  It didn’t just sell food, it sold everything.  I had gone in there not to buy food, oddly enough, but to buy an Amazon gift voucher because that’s where Amazon.com said I could buy some.  Since the Visa debit card on my Angolan Bank was being laughed at in UK, Amazon gift vouchers were the only way, apart from asking a friend to use his card and me refunding him in cash, I could make on line purchases.  The shop was so large and I was so precarious on my pins, I asked an assistant for help locating them to save unnecessary walking.  In other words, like all good explorers I procured for myself the services of a native guide.  On the way we passed a rank of fantastically futuristic looking devices lined up on display.  I gave up trying to work out what they were (I considered water filtration devices or pumps but remained unconvinced) so asked my guide.

‘They’re vacuum cleaners,’ he said, his voice as flat as his expression.

 

In Angola, the fastest I travel is about 80 Kph.  That’s a maximum.  Usually it is about walking pace in traffic.  Any faster than that and I start to get very nervous.  Now this might surprise some people, especially those who tried to keep up with me in Germany when I was stuffing sports cars or motorcycles through the scenery as fast as I could.  If I were the only person on an autobahn, I could still make it a race; I would have to beat my fastest time between two locations and if I had never been there before, I would still want to set a benchmark.  I can still remember some of those benchmarks today:  Three hours and fourteen minutes from Venlo to Baden-Baden; fourteen hours and twenty minutes from Split in Yugoslavia to Bielefeld in Germany (both in Golf GTI’s if you are interested, proving that nippiness beats brute power).  The fastest I have travelled while still in contact, however tenuous, with the Earth’s surface was not on a race track, but on the A33 from Bielefeld to Paderborn riding a motorcycle, 170 mph.  What at normal speeds were virtually unnoticeable curves, now required me to lean the ‘bike over far enough to get my knee down.  Being passed by a large capacity motorcycle at full chat doing a hundred miles an hour faster than you were must have been heart stopping for a dear old lady in a VW Polo.

When I left hospital, I did not have far to walk.  Trains to Milton Keynes leave London from Euston and the hospital was only across the road.  Walking was bad enough but standing still was misery so when I saw the queue to buy tickets from the counters, I decided to use a Virgin Train as they had half the station devoted to machines from which passengers could buy tickets without having to queue.  Sadly, of the fifty or so identical machines, not one took good old cash so I had to ask a rather hyped individual dressed in red trousers and waistcoat who I correctly assumed was a Virgin employee.  It says everything about a modern cashless society (and rubs in the difficulties I was experiencing sans plastic) that there were only three, dusty and forlorn looking machines tucked away in a corner that accepted cash.

My old friend Paul was waiting for me when I arrived at MK Central.  Paul had tried hard to convince me that he should pick me up from the hospital.  I supposed he imagined me being wheeled out in a chair and deposited at the road side.  This, as I explained to him, was madness.  It would take him hours to fight his way into Central London, would cost in petrol and congestion charges and, since I would not know exactly when I would be released, would involve one of us hanging around waiting for the other.  Much better for me to walk a few hundred yards, pay fourteen quid, and be in MK thirty minutes later.  Besides, he had a wedding to arrange, his, so hardly had the time. 

I must pause here to consider his fiancée Karen who I had not yet had the pleasure of meeting.  As far as she was concerned, I was just some oik who her husband-to-be had met years ago (I was his armed bodyguard in Angola back in the mid Nineties), I had been rushed into an infectious diseases ward of a London hospital after arriving suddenly from darkest, Ebola infested Africa where, despite best efforts, the beasty causing this awful flesh eating affliction had not been identified and now, just two weeks before their wedding, Paul wanted to put me up in their house.  The fact that she obviously allowed this is testament to the true love I hope they enjoy for the rest of their lives for I wouldn’t have gone within a mile of myself had I the choice.  Karen, as I expected, was completely laid back, allowed me to use my e cig in the house and fed me everything my heart and stomach craved which really came down to anything with salad and horseradish sauce.  Paul seemed a bit tired of salad (the fridge was full of it) but I couldn’t get enough, salad is a luxury in Angola.

Paul had come to collect me in his toy.  I have been so long in Angola I had never seen a Porsche Boxster in its tin flesh.  It looks miles better in real life.  Paul is a geologist and does mathematics as a hobby.  His brain is about the size of a small planet but he is by no means a geeky intellectual.  For a start, he is a big bloke and I often wondered who would be protecting whom if the shit had hit the fan in Angola.  I suppose he felt comfortable knowing I had a gun and was licenced to use it.  One of the most interesting walks I had was with him along a Cape Town beach listening him explain just when and how all the rock formations surrounding us were formed.  He is also mad keen on motor sport, especially Formula One.  I am sure it is no coincidence that his lovely house is set in the North Buckinghamshire countryside within sight of Silverstone Circuit. 

After admiring the Porsche from the outside, I then had to get into it.  This was easier said than done for me as one has to slot oneself down into it, not an easy feat with a gammy leg but worth the effort, the Germans do make exceedingly good cars and when Paul started it, it was an aural delight as well, especially as the hood was down. 

We purred menacingly out of the station car park and I was just wriggling myself into a comfortable position in the soft leather upholstery when all hell broke loose.  One second I was feeling all soft and fuzzy, next something punched me hard in the kidneys and I was wondering why I was staring at the sky with my head welded to the headrest.  My stomach, I suspected, was lying as surprised as its ex owner in a moist and slithery heap in the car park.  Bloody hell the car was fast.  Did you know that a cricket ball making its rapid progress down the wicket actually gains weight?  It’s something to do with relativity.  I too felt as if I had gained weight, a lot of weight but I think that had more to do with inertia as, when we arrived suddenly at a junction I lost all sensation of weight before regaining it again when I hit the limit of the seatbelt.  The car must have brake disks the size of dustbin lids. 

If someone had driven me that fast in Angola, I would have ordered them to stop the car before shooting them by the roadside.  It was different with Paul, though.  Not only is he a very competent driver, he knew both his car and the road we were travelling along like the back of his hand so I was really enjoying myself, terrified but having fun as people do, for example, on maniac roller coaster rides.  As he slotted the car through another roundabout, expertly hitting every apex I marvelled at the car’s grip.

‘This car has a hell of a lot of grip,’ I said but then stopped myself from concluding with, ‘I haven’t heard the tyres squeal once.’  That really would have been a bit of an invitation.  Well, maybe not, Paul is very sensible but I didn’t feel like putting his maturity to the test, there’s an eighteen year old lurking dangerously in all of us.  I was in a spinning mid-engined sports car once, it was a Ferrari and I had just lost control of it.  Let me tell you, mid-engined sports cars spin like a top and once they’re spinning, there’s bugger all you can do about it until they either stop of their own accord or, more usually in such a circumstance, wrap themselves and their about-to-be-deceased passengers around something unforgiving.

It wasn’t for that reason, however, that I was relieved to be travelling to Wales in Paul’s Saab.  Going there in the Porsche would have been miles more fun but there was no way I would have been able to cope with my legs stretched out horizontally in a cramped cockpit unless Paul took along an engine hoist to get me out again.  Besides, I like Saabs.  I know that towards the end they lost some of their quirkiness and have now finally gone bust but their cars were always interesting and driven by a ‘certain’ type of person.  You were more likely to see one driven by an architect (or a geologist) than a rep.  Naturally Paul’s Saab had the bigger engine with twin turbos so it was no slouch either.  I have never, ever been in an estate car that could corner so fast and was so comfortable.  They are rare cars, I only saw one other on the journey which, by amazing coincidence, was the same model and colour as Paul’s and parked in the car park of the same restaurant at which we had stopped to have breakfast.  The affinity amongst dying breeds, such as Saab owners, must be strong for Paul and the owner of the other Saab exchanged waves to acknowledge their shared automotive and gastronomic taste.

The fact that I was travelling to Wales at all was by pure happy chance.  I had been fortunate enough to meet two fellow bloggers while I was in hospital.  Both Pete, better known as the Idiot Gardener and Sten, aka the Suburban Bushwacker had come to see me on several occasions cheering me up immensely and both of them couldn’t have been more helpful.  I was disappointed I could not take them up on their offers for get togethers once I was out but I really was in no position to be doing any travelling more involved than climbing onto a train at Euston and getting off again half an hour later.  I was hoping to meet JayGray in London on my way out but it transpired that I would be flying the day before he arrived in the city.  Paul had obviously picked up on this for he asked me whereabouts in Wales John Gray lived.  Paul was to travel to Wales to meet up with his son in Llandudno.  After checking on the map, we realized he would pass within a couple of miles of the Ukrainian Village and its small suburb, Trelawnyd.  I would get to visit John and Paul would have company on the journey.

Paul wanted an early start.  As I was still on hospital time (for over four weeks I had been woken at five every morning by the temperature and pressures nurse) this was no problem so even though Paul intended to stop for breakfast on the way, I had plenty of time for a cup of tea and a few slices of toast.  Coming into the village of Stony Stratford soon after setting off, Paul drew in on the High Street saying he needed the cash point.  Almost as an aside he told me that the hotel opposite us, the Cock, was one half of the Cock and Bull legend.  The other half, the Bull was only a few yards further along.  I was fascinated.  I had never given the origin of a ‘Cock and Bull’ story much thought.  I thought it meant a load of rubbish.  Now that Paul was explaining it to me, I realised it didn’t necessarily mean that.  It was really a case of how stories got better in the telling; which did you believe, the story you heard in the Cock while sinking a pint or the Bull version you heard over another pint only a few paces down the road?  Staring at the Cock and Bull set in this typically English town made me aware of England’s rich heritage.  Even the place names have meaning, revealing their ancient Briton, Roman, Saxon, Viking and Norman roots.  I attended school in Ashby-de-la-Zouch and had a girlfriend living in Thorpe Constantine.

Americans love this sort of thing, direct links all the way back to their ancestral origins.  That’s why once a year on the 17th of March a good proportion of Americans paint everything including themselves green and drink so much green stout that the resultant sewage turns the Chicago River the same colour.  Or that in late January every year grown American men of pale complexion and red hair pull on skirts and spend the evening getting rip roaring drunk on whisky, head butting each other and the ground eventually throwing up the frankly awful substitute for Haggis they have there.  Bizarrely, imports of Haggis to the United States were banned in 1971 as one of its principal ingredients is sheep’s lung, which evidently posed a severe threat to the health of citizens.  Such concern (even though ludicrous) could, I suppose, be considered heart-warming until you note that America only got round to banning the use of lead in paint 44 years after the Europeans did and American canners were still using lead solder in the manufacture of food containers until as recently as 1993.  No wonder their Generals are all crazy, they’ve gone mad on a diet of tinned army rations. 

Once on the M1, I saw my first wind turbine.  God they’re a shocking eyesore, a real blot on the landscape.  I told Paul this.  He told me to wait a while, I hadn’t seen anything yet apparently.  With his cruise control set to just a tadge under 100mph, a while was not long at all.  The national speed limit on the UK’s motorways is seventy miles per hour (112 Kph) by the way but it is speeds of or above 100 that really cause the Federales to lose their composure.  Quite a few years ago I hired a hot snot Mercedes at the airport because I was in a hurry to get to the Midlands and was dismayed to find it had been limited to 100mph.  I might as well have rented a weedy compact.

Occupying the whole of the vista in front of us were bloody great white windmills, hundreds of them.  That was bad enough but I realized just how ludicrous all this was when Paul pointed out that only a third were actually running.  Wind turbines, another Millennium bug style scam.  They are only economically viable to their owners because of tax payer subsidies.  You can’t get away from them.  As soon as one lot faded into the distance, another lot hove into view.  What I was witnessing was the tip of the ice berg.

There were none of the problems I expected crossing the border from England into Wales, not even the sight of a startled farmer caught with the hind legs of a sheep stuffed into his wellies.  The sun was shining, something I thought hardly ever happened that side of the rain shadow, and Liverpool could be observed from the safety of the Flintshire side of the Mersey.  My finger was now tracing our course across the one inch to four mile road map accurately at a speed commensurate with our progress (it had lagged behind til now, so deceptively fast was the smooth riding Saab) and I knew we would be at John’s in less than fifteen or so minutes.  We were running late, I had said to John that we would arrive mid-morning, it was now lunchtime.  Where we had lost time I wasn’t sure.  Traffic had been reasonably light, I suppose we had dawdled over breakfast but I was sure John wouldn’t mind.  I had a clear image of John in my mind, an image developed over several years of reading his blog and our occasional email exchange.  What if he was nothing like this image?  What did I really know of him?  He was a nurse who lived with his partner in Wales.  He kept animals, liked scotch eggs and zombie films and was very community spirited.  Whilst I would risk asking him to care for one of my animals, I would never entrust him with the care of my car.

First cottage after the Church he had told me.  We couldn’t miss it, not because it was a huge country pile, but because it was exactly as I imagined, only nicer.  The lane was narrow, bounded by high stone wall capped verges.  Just down the hill the road curved to the right in front of a gate towards which was walking the unmistakable figure of John.  Through my open window I called out in my best BBC voice,

‘I say, old boy, I’m looking for a rather affable gay Welsh raconteur!’

And so, twixt cottage and field in the middle of Flintshire, the Hippo met Mr. Gently.

A load of Bull

50 comments:

  1. I was so glad the two of you got to meet! What a nice bit of luck to come
    from all the upheaval you had to endure recently.

    I occasionally find myself wanting to talk about things going on in this strange blogging universe of ours with my real-life friends and family. They look at me funny when I say, "Well, there's this blogger in Angola/Wales/wherever, and he did such and such the other day, etc...". I think of you all as friends, and I know how odd that must seem. :)

    I can't wait to hear more about your visit with the affable gay Welsh raconteur! And auntie Glad!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do the same thing too Jennifer or I thrust a blogpost in front of my husband to read . He "knows" quite a few of my blogging pals now !

      Delete
    2. I make my husband read blog posts occasionally too! He thinks I'm a little strange, but after 8 years of living together and another 8 years of marriage, he's used to it!

      It tends to be people at work or casual friends who think I'm really out there when I try to tell them something about a blog friend of mine. And for most of the people I encounter on a daily basis, Angola may as well be the far side of the moon!

      Delete
    3. Try and picture the reaction of a typical friend of mine, perhaps an ex British Frontier Police Service and bush war veteran, when I say, 'Oh, and you should have read what John Gray said in his latest post. Yon know, John Gray, the gay Welsh nurse I went to see?'

      Delete
  2. me too! i want to hear more! i am so glad you are back!

    ReplyDelete
  3. And standing in front of the gate, when I looked up, bucket in hand....
    Was a white haired, distinguished looking , well dressed aristocrat
    Who had a strange resemblance to a shorted haired Jon Pertwee in his Dr Who days......

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wish I had been there too..you and Tom are the bloggers I would most like to meet! Love you both. xx

      Delete
    2. Not Barry Cryer then? Jon Pertwee. Christ, I must look old!

      You never know how things might pan out, Frances. I reckon John and I could do a pretty good Hale and Pace routine so you might see us on the telly!

      Delete
  4. Well look at that, he IS alive! Thought you'd fallen of the face of the earth. Glad to see you back in good spirits. Is the gammy leg getting any better?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am more likely to die underneath a flaming Jeep! Thanks for the tips last time, by the way,

      Delete
  5. You just teased us with that Cock and Bull post title. The Cock and Bull will appear in the next post, I trust.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There's usually a bit of cock and a lot of bull in all my posts...

      Delete
  6. I rather like the Boxster as well but agree that it's not an ideal chariot for poorly chaps but I go for the other Swede, a Volvo S80. Good to hear you are getting back on top of things at home. I take it you had your passport stamped when you crossed the Welsh border?
    Welcome back.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am trying to persuade Marcia to let me replace her Jeep with an XC90 but she wants a Range Rover...

      No passport required from an Englishman, just a solemn undertaking to leave again as soon as possible,

      Delete
  7. I've been waiting for the story of meeting John. Yay.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Looks as if I paused just at the right point to keep you in suspense!

      Delete
  8. cool that you're back: and in fine fettle

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. But I must try harder, I know.

      Delete
  9. If I ever knew the origins of the Cock & Bull stories I had forgotten it. Thank you for the refresher, and the refreshing return of the Hippo blog. Your little unplanned excursion to Blighty seems to have opened your eyes about the adopted home which you inhabit. I am at the stage where I need a break from mine, but I hope I shall return and savour the reasons why we live here. The taste is slightly sour at the moment, dealing as I am again with a case of local politics related to our condo, over such a minor matter that has taken on mountainous qualities, and a chance to observe the obfuscation of "discussion" on the subject. ("Did you know X, and when?"...requires ten minutes of reply including translation, and it is neither "yes" or "no" or when. Pass me the Gillettes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think sobering up also had an effect on my sensory abilities!

      Delete
  10. Well worth waiting for but i want more.....

    ReplyDelete
  11. My 'Compact Royce' was in fact actually manufactured by Peugeot. It starts on the turn of an old fashioned key (remember those?), gets me from A to B as requested, and does not seem to spill liquids or steam from every orifice. I beg to recommend.

    Good to see you back; we were worried.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You have a key! Flash bastard, I just twist a couple of wires together.

      I like Peugeots. I also like Citroens and the Renault 4 I had was a hoot!

      Delete
    2. So was mine. Lady M had one too that she used to fill the rust holes in with the skin off old paint pots. This is TRUE.

      Delete
    3. R-4 or "Cuatro Latas" as we called them in Venezuela is what I learned to drive in at twelve. 16 point 360 degree turns inside a 2 car garage anyone? now there is a simple car to work on.

      Delete
  12. Lovely to hear from you again. I hope you are keeping well and that Marcia is feeling OK
    Sue

    ReplyDelete
  13. There's no car like SAAB, a bit odd until one find all controlls for windows and such. Why place them where it should be natural to fiund them :-) I have one myself but I'm glad I don't have twin turbos, it's expensive enough to get just one if it would break ;:-)

    Christer in Sweden.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Don't get me started on Wind turbines. So pleased you managed to meet John.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am surprised more people aren't saving on clays and potting turbine blades instead...

      Delete
  15. I could kick myself that we didn't get to meet - the one day I decided to and you had checked out! Glad you had a good time in MK and Wales. But how is the leg?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. All I will say about the leg is if I tried to kick myself I would fall over...

      Delete
  16. Sounds like the leg is still giving trouble ... But then I bet you are not able to rest it like you should. Your little trip to the UK has opened up your eyes to conditions you had begun to accept as normal eh ? Very unsettling for you. You must be feeling quite disgruntled as well as not physically fit to do all the jobs you take on. Be careful, you don't want to fall in a heap.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Another uplifting pep talk from down under!

      Delete
  17. How wonderful to read of Mr. Hippo meeting Mr. Gently there on a country lane. Not unlike Dickens and Poe in Philadelphia - a meeting of two legends.
    So glad to see you are well and back at the keyboard.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can't imagine two places less alike than Wales and Angola. Or two men less alike than Tom and John. Their friendship is a beautiful thing. :)

      Delete
    2. But, both of us having reputations to maintain, we still have to meet covertly in isolated places...

      Delete
  18. Wonderful that you're back and stories of two of my favorite bloggers! Can't wait to hear more, both from you and dear John (even though we did hear a tad bit from him earlier).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You mean, 'He Who Falls Off Bicycles'?

      Delete
  19. So pleased that you are Ok….just spent a great 15 minutes reading your post. Someone up above ( commenter) said something about feeling you get to feel like you are friends with certain bloggers, and I love following your trials and tribulations……hope that the future will only be good for you and the family. Love to Marcia…..she must have a lot to put up with!! Hope the leg is healing.XX

    ReplyDelete
  20. tease.

    okay, but what I really want to know is this - why was the sheeps legs in the farmers wellies? Is this as kinky as it sounds?

    :P

    ReplyDelete
  21. Missed this recount a few weeks ago. Hope all is well or so so.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I've just installed iStripper, so I can have the sexiest virtual strippers on my taskbar.

    ReplyDelete

Please feel free to comment, good or bad. I will allow anything that isn't truly offensive to any other commentator. Me? You can slag me without mercy but try and be witty while you are about it.