Wednesday 22 August 2012

‘You got shit on the beach’ ‘Really? How often I got do dat den?’

Something nasty on the beach
I do like to read the obituaries column in the Telegraph.  Not through any morbid fascination but because to be included, the late lamented was clearly a cut above the rest of the dying population.  Many of them are truly inspiring describing as they do lives of selfless sacrifice, extraordinary bravery or remarkable achievement, littered with anecdotes such as, ‘He finally gave up flying aged 87’, or, ‘He remained an active member of the Blankshire Beagles until he took up Archery aged 75’.  I am still waiting for one saying ‘His untimely death, aged 90, was due to being shot by a jealous husband’.

As inspiring as they generally are, they can at times be a little deflating.  Here we have some chap who was still donkey walloping and cautioned by the police for decking an odious little snot as an octogenarian and I can’t even inch a 50 litre drum of water along a smooth concrete pathway without putting my back out.  I am in agony and both mentally and physically pathetic.  First there is that sudden very sharp pain which, like a frozen video leaves one paralysed neither fully upright nor sensibly prone but somewhere excruciatingly between.  Then the sharp pain recedes and is replaced with a dull yet incessant and very debilitating agony that spreads steadily North and South so that a day later legs are throbbing and operating mysteriously independently and the top of the skull is ready to burst.  The merest breeze has me unbalanced and tottering, eyes suddenly watering so perhaps it is possible to imagine the real grief when a three year old launches himself at the so afflicted, punching him expertly and devastatingly accurately in the pills saying, ‘C’mon Daddy, let’s fight!’ 

‘Not right now my darling and ever so lovely Son,’ is about all I can manage to squeak.  Tender, ever so tender words to that effect anyway.

Talking about watering eyes, Dominic is with me.  Elections are due this month in Angola so the government has decided that the normal two week winter school break should be doubled to four weeks.  I can’t explain what possible motive there could be for such a decision.  Perhaps the government feel that if parents are stuck looking after their offspring they won’t have time to indulge in riotous assembly.  Amazingly, his mother has graciously allowed the boy to spend that time with me at the Barra de Kwanza rather than sit bored out of his skull in the city.  Or maybe she wants to indulge in a bit of riotous assembly herself and needs him out of the way.  I hope that is the real reason, for a well aimed shot by one of the country’s valiant security services might simultaneously solve the two further headaches I have to endure over and above a wonky spine, those of custody and alimony.  I mustn’t think like that.  No, really, I mustn’t.

Back to watering eyes.  Dominic has lost none of his increasingly wicked sense of humour.  Recognising that I am a bit off colour, he has been very attentive.  Having lulled me into a false sense of security with a constant supply of tea he volunteered to test the new hair clippers Brother Michael brought for us from Germany.  ‘Just a little bit off the back and sides,’ I said, ‘I know you are itching to have a go.’

‘I’m sorry Dad, it’s just so hard to know when to stop’, he said afterwards.  ‘Can I make you a sandwich?’

‘Will it make my hair grow back faster?’

I like fresh bread.  Ever since I was a kid in Germany and at 6.30 would be dispatched down the hill to the baker to collect the Broetchen for breakfast I have loved bread and would still be prepared to argue with the Big Man that one can survive on bread alone.  If we were all suddenly directed by Higher Authority to survive on only one staple of our choice I would sacrifice meat and fish and choose fresh bread.  Not constrained by any such directive, I like my bread with cheese, mayonnaise and whatever salad vegetable is available.  Today it was tomatoes.  I really like them as well.

There is another vegetable/fruit or whatever the damn things are called that grow like fruit but are sold in the vegetable section of Sainsbury’s which grows here in abundance.  Gindungo.  Such an innocuous name for natural Nitro Glycerine, no, Napalm.  Actually, with the blend of its explosive and pyrotechnic properties, it is perhaps an evil combination of both.  Used in Saffron like quantities it can turn even the blandest meal into something memorable adding rich warmth to stews and a pleasant heat to curries.  Used in place of tomatoes and in similar quantity it is nothing short of lethal.

That wasn't tomato was it?
No.  It wasn't tomato.  Good joke you ferkin bastid.  Honestly, these are tears of mirth I am wiping away.
My spine is already shattered so I am really not looking forward to another spine shattering experience on the bog tomorrow morning.  Gindungo gives good value for money.  It burns on the way in and is bloody incendiary on the way out.  Still, at least I have remembered to put the toilet paper in the fridge.

If I thought God had, through the warped mind of one of his younger souls, given me enough to endure, he sent Nice Paul to me (yes, Nice Paul is back, hurray!).

‘I’ve found something nasty on the beach I need you to take a look at’, he said.

‘Paul, I feel like fucking shit, I don’t need to go look at anymore’

‘But I need your advice’

‘Shove it back into the sea’

Be reasonable, Dear Reader, surely I was entitled to be grumpy by now?

‘I can send the car round for you’

‘Piss off Paul’, I said, ‘I’ll walk’.  Hobble more like.  You try walking with eighty squillion smashed vertebrae, shards of which are poking out your eyeballs and the knowledge that all there is between you and Vesuvius like Armageddon are your tightly clenched butt cheeks.  Shit, it would take more than a few centuries to dig this place out after the pyroclastic flow I was brewing.

They used to call me the ‘Twix King’ when I was a Captain on the bomb squad in UK.  During what we called the ‘Silly Season’ and all normal citizens called ‘Summer’, we could get a hundred calls a month.  Often this meant we were on the road for days at a time and only returned to base, in my case Colchester, when we ran out of explosives.  Yes, we used explosives to get rid of explosives.  Back in the boom of the Eighties, Wimpy’s, Bovis Homes at al were digging up the East Anglian countryside faster than a communist agricultural revolution and all to often, something nasty fell out of the digger bucket.  The whole area had been a military training site during the war and men pressed reluctantly into service with responsibility for the assets of the Army back then were happy to make their lives easier by saying the ordnance on their flick had gone ‘Bang’.  I was now making a career of sleeping in police cells and eating for free while claiming NRSA (Nightly Rate of Subsistence Allowance) and making things really go bang.  If I had been an MP, the Telegraph would have loved me.

We travelled around in souped up Ford Transits fitted with V6 engines and twin long range fuel tanks, one on either side.  When it came time to refuel the driver, much more than a driver, the Number Two of an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team would swing into the petrol station equidistant between the pumps on either side.  If there was a queue of traffic, a quick blip of the Blues and Twos usually dealt with that.  The Blues were also bloody useful for Indian takeaways when we were finally running back to base and parking was difficult.  We had the very first Vodaphones so a quick call as we were hauling arse down the A12 ensured that as we pulled up outside Patel Singh’s Burning Bum By Morning Indian Takeaway, there was a waiter on the pavement handing over the goods and me signing a chit while we stopped the traffic and the Number Two retorted to irate passing motorists that he would be delighted to ‘off’ himself in the manner suggested if only he had somewhere to park his dick.

While the No 2 stretched hose and stuffed nozzles into tanks I would carry the Shell charge card to the kiosk to pay for the fuel and would always buy a full box of Twix as well. Her Majesty was always intolerant of malnourished subordinates.  I never bought charcoal.  Oddly enough, a slow barbecue seemed pretty boring in comparison to the day job.  What burns well with Shell?  Nikki Lauda.  The old ones are always the best.  Like the old Coal Board advert, ‘Come home to a real fire.’  ‘Buy a cottage in Wales’ said Not the Nine O’Clock News’.  Back in the old days it was a sick job and we had the sense of humour to match.

But then I had a run of chemical jobs.  Lewisite, Phosgene and especially Phosphorous.  So they started to call me the Chemical King.  I did have one job with nuclear implications.  We always had to consider secondary hazards best explained this way. a kilo of explosive in the middle of a farmer's field will be a damn sight easier to deal with than the same kilo strapped to a petrol tanker parked in the High Street.   Secondary hazards, see?  They can turn an otherwise boring day into something terribly interesting.  So you can imagine how I felt when I was on my way home (I thought) and got tasked to a suspicious package at Sizewell B nuclear power station.  How's that for a secondary hazard?  Mind you, had I fucked up I was at least guaranteed a full front page spread in any surviving newspaper.  15 milliseconds of fame, don't knock it.

I’ll admit that heights make me go weak at the knees but doing a chemical job in a government issue charcoal impregnated suit that a carelessly discarded fag could burn through in the blink of an eye and respirator (cheapest contractor wins the bid) really had my arse doing sixpence half-a-crown bit as it pumped all my bravery out to the beat of the Bee Gee’s ‘Staying Alive’.  Scared?  That’s why you wear puttees in the Army, you don’t get shit on your boots, which would, of course, be a chargeable offence even if it did make the seats of the Ford Transit more comfortable.

Thus it was that after scaling what felt to me like the Himalayan mountain chain quickly followed by a hike through the Andes and on through Saharan sand dunes, not a single intact bone in my body and a stomach threatening riotous assembly, I saw this poking out the sand at me:

Any language issues?
‘What do you think, Tom?’ Nice Paul asked me.

‘I think I seriously, urgently, earnestly need a shit’ I said.  Caught unawares by the sincerity with which he invited me for a stroll on the beach I had forgotten my puttees so was loathe to allow myself the instant relief my body craved.

‘Couldn’t we just burn it?’ volunteered Nice Paul.

I thought of Bhopal in India.

‘I don’t think so,’ I replied.

Apart from a dump what I really needed was a fag but I remembered that this stuff was graded ‘Severe’ when it came to explosion hazard and these cans had been well corroded with salt water so I denied myself that luxury too.

What do you reckon?  Past the sell by date or can we stick these back on the shelves?
Phostoxin is a commercially available chemical for use by trained and licenced professionals for gassing bulk stocks of grain and such like.  Releasing a canful into something as voluminous as a warehouse will kill anything crawling, walking or flying and requires a period of 36 hours to pass before personnel in Self Contained Breathing Apparatus can enter with specialist detection equipment in order to determine that the lethal gas produced has deteriorated to safe levels and consumers can no longer get a whiff of it on their cornflakes.  I think the Boeing Aircraft Factory boasts the largest covered area in the world.  What I was looking at was sufficient to stuff their workforce and all their pesky roaches about three times over and the cans were rotten rusty.

There is a ‘wet’ method of disposal but this requires someone brave enough to open rotten tins (preferably and wisely a non smoker using demagnetised or non ferrous tools, OK, a coin will do) and copious amounts of water mixed with a surfactant to break down the solids.  Then there is the question of what one does with the resultant slurry and the body of the man armed with a florin who opened the cans without the aid of SCBA.  Adding this stuff to just pure water accelerates the production of gas and will provide the can opener with the sight of his own lungs coughed painfully out across the sand before he expires.  Salt water, pretty much surrounded by which we were, can have quite a spectacular pyrotechnic and lachrymatory effect.

‘Have you got a buoy net?’ I asked.

I dug out the cans, over twenty in all, and stuffed them into the net weighted down by some rocks and dropped the lot into a 200 litre drum of waste oil.  Both back and sphincter, threatening some awful reprisal, unanimously voted I should leave it at that.

This gives me time to think.  I reckon the best option would be to deep six the lot out at sea.  Since whales don’t breathe underwater, the Land Rights for Gay Whales mob, they’ve got some pretty heavy support, should leave me alone.

So let’s drag my pained and oh so weary body back to tomatoes in all their plump and juicy sweet ripeness.  I was convinced we had loads so there was no excuse for the Chernobyl Gobful of Gindungo Dominic served up to me instead but he, maintaining the respectable illusion of innocence, insisted we had none. 

‘What about my Italian Grape Tomatoes?’ I argued, ‘Í water them every flaming day!’

He was right, though, not a budding tomato in sight.  Last time I buy seed from the bloody Dutch.
Not a tomato in sight.  A crap back, a crap day and now a crap tomato harvest.  I give up.


  1. now thomas
    come for a visit to the UK and present yourself to an A&E DEPARTMENT with acute back pain

  2. "... First there is that sudden very sharp pain which, like a frozen video leaves one paralysed neither fully upright nor sensibly prone but somewhere excruciatingly between. Then the sharp pain recedes and is replaced with a dull yet incessant and very debilitating agony that spreads steadily North and South so that a day later legs are throbbing and operating mysteriously independently and the top of the skull is ready to burst. ..."

    Oh! .... How perfectly that describes the sensation. Even to this very day, I'll being doing something as innocuous as walking around the supermarket with Rhonda and all of a sudden I wont be beside her but somewhere half an aisle back standing there, frozen in space and time, grimacing as the wave of pain recedes.

    She'll walk up to me and quietly say "Give me the trolley! Go and find somewhere to sit down!" and I'll hobble off like a Chelsea Pensioner trying to climb the pavilion steps

  3. Reminds me of the niner-teen eighties when I worked ("worked") in a seven-storey office block that was a favourite target for das bomben scares and hoax devices (not hoax devices like my payslip; lashed together candles and wiring and clocks). A new chap was appointed and given some fancy title, his basic and only job was to warn the whole office population to begin last rites or evacuation or whatever seemed appropriate when he had a threat routed to his phone.

    Several days into his new job I noticed that he had obviously just received a credible bomb-threat and was working well: I looked out of my sixth floor window and spotted him near the gates at the far end of the car park, looking agitated and waving both arms in the air, trying to attract the attention of everyone else back in the office ...

    Mind you, he was better at his job that one particular peaked-cap be-uniformed Insecurity Officer (with a body near retirement age and very eager to follow his mind into a damp Parker Knoll Recliner by the coast). He walked into my office one day with a biscuit tin that had been wrapped in duct tape. He had picked it up in the Reception doorway area, used his little Meinen Security Penknifen to cut it open, prised off the lid and was carrying several cylinders of something wrapped in brown paper, a lot of wiring and some elecronics separately. As he passed across a note he'd received about an hour earlier he asked "Do you think this is a bomb?" ...

    Is it any wonder that I ended my days in that job with one eye permanently higher than the other under a constant frown and over a wry grin? People - you have to love the ones you can't run away from.

  4. You don't want to dump that shit. Pop it in a shed somewhere. The day will come when you'll have a good use for it.

    I can't believe how people will throw perfectly usable stuff away just because its dangerous.

    As for the back, you have my sympthy. Don't you have opiates in Angola?

  5. St Francis of Trelawnyd.

    Please send me the emergency telephone number for your A&E/ICU unit. I only settle for the best. Book me a bed in the smoking section close to the bar.

    John D, I've suffered some pain in my time but a shot back is pretty shit. You have my sympathy. In the Army, it was always considered a 'wasters' excuse. I feel guilty now.

    Sir Owl of the Wood, I should write a book on my time with the Bomb Squad; turning up at a Police Station and asking where the device was only to be told, 'We picked it up and brought it here in the boot of an Escort, it's in the car park outside'

    IG, I am told that my Italian Grape Tomato plant leaves are not only good chopped finely and sread on salads, they will have an effect similar to opiates.

  6. Sir Owl of the Wood, you have me giggling like a school girl now...

    'We picked it up and brought it here in the boot of an Escort, it's in the car park outside'

    'So how long has it been there?' says I in a squeaky voice.

    'Well the station was built in 1956 so I guess the car park has been there nigh on thirty years'

    'Do you have to do an exam to be a Chief Superintendant?'

  7. Yeah. Tom I think you need to check to packet on those tomato seeds buddy.

    Oh and please send me some so I wont grow any tomatoes either.

  8. Packet Chris? They came in a brown paper bag as in the good old days crisps and chips did.

    I have enough problems with Marcia criticising my seed without you diving in as well!

  9. Heard there is enough of 'that type of tomato' in Angola itself, why import from NL? BTW, might help your back pain too. Cheers, Mo

  10. It's ok, Tom. I'll let you off the hook and won't take you up on your several offers to shag me senseless. I wouldn't be able to pay for your osteopath. As they say: The best things in life come for free.

    Other than that I too like my tomatoes, and men with hair. Dominic is clearly proactive as to spare his little brother's mother's feelings.

    And yes, I do bake my own [bread].


  11. Although this is a very literate and fluent blog, you appear to have overlooked a mis-spelling in the strapline under "A Hippo On The Lawn". NB "Involountary" should read "Involuntary" or was it some kind of deliberate/ironic mis-spelling that is beyond me? By the way, in pointing this out I am not trying to score points or diminish your interestingly written content in any way. Best wishes, Yorkshire Pudding

  12. Oh the shame! Receiving spelling lessons from a Pudding!

    There is no offence taken whatsoever and I wish more people would point out my mistakes, only that way can I learn. I have great difficulty, for example correctly placing commas. I am sure there are other issues, such as a tendency to use the plural or collective (the Bank of England have reduced the BLR, rather than has).

    I suppose rather arrogantly on my part, I sometimes assume when the spell check highlights some words, that it is forcing me into an American spelling.

    So once again, thank you for pointing this out to me and sparing me future blushes.

    I promise to try harder, Sir, and will correct the error immediately!

    How long IS detention in your class?

    An extra vowel un-noticed all this time. What a silly Count I am.

  13. Mo, I want to selctively interbreed several varieties until I get a leave that can sfely be smoked in public, a smokeless variety...

    Ursula, the best things in life come for free? A poetic assertion but at odds with the reality of modern society. I was willing to offer you a discount but not even I can sell damaged goods.

    Dominic also feels I should grow my hair long again. I never had long hair in my life before so thought I would try it now that I am living as a recluse in a small village. It drove me bloody nuts the wind causing it to flick in my eyes, tickle my ears and, at night, my head skidded all over the pillow. So I chopped the lot off. Now my pillow once again stays velcroed to my head and my hat no longer blows off with every Angel's fart of a breeze.


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.