Friday, March 27, 2009

Angels With Dirty Faces



I may have mentioned the sheep around these parts before, but I feel obliged to mention them again. I work in a strange borough, made up of old mining communities and steel towns, all of them very high up on any scale of poverty you care to mention and very low down on any quality of life measure…………although none of the proud folk who live there would agree with that. Anyway, unlike the urban sprawl of the Midlands, where you would not know when you have moved from one town to another (apart from Wolverhampton, where the low brow, open mouth and dragging knuckles of the populace indicate that you have entered a strange, other land) there is open countryside between all of the little communities.

Sheep reside on that hilly terrain, and they make frequent incursions into the towns and onto the roads. These sheep ain’t chickens. They will stare down anyone and they are as scrawny and tough looking as any 1930’s New York street gang. They can be quite scary. Until recently, the borough would round these silent, staring urchins up and return them to where they belong, but the borough is skint, and has stopped doing it, so they are left free to colonise the streets, take over the car parks and to charge down busy roads like a gang of 70's football hooligans, regardless of oncoming traffic. It is hilarious.

Having said that, in the last few days I have had to execute an emergency stop and have also been required to take avoiding action 3 times. You don’t get that in the bloody Midlands.

Talking of Welsh nutters, there I was in Tescos in Ebbw Vale last night, waiting to pay for my Beano, when I found myself being given an enormous bear hug, by a person unknown, with the unknown person simultaneously bellowing in my ear “The Blues are staying down, the Blues are staying down”, he then legged it, laughing, before shouting back at me:” see you in the play off's butty!”. He obviously knew me, but I haven’t got the faintest bloody idea who he was.

Youngest has started Judo. It was like living with bloody Cato anyway: Christ knows what it will be like now. It has come about because of some local bullies, although he has been asking to have a go for ages. The daughter and her pals like to go into a wood and play and build dens, but they are constantly subject to harassment, bullying and violence from some local scoundrels, one of whom should not be allowed out without his banjo.

Last Saturday, they came in for dinner and, to my great surprise, asked youngest if he wanted to help them in the afternoon, which, of course, he did. An hour or so later I had to round them up in readiness for some other activity, and couldn’t find the little ‘un, so, naturally, enquired as to his whereabouts. The girls sort of shuffled their feet a bit, looked a bit sheepish and pointed upwards.

He was sitting up a tree, looking quite content with his lot. “Hi Dad” he smiled, gummily. “What’s he doing up the tree”, I wondered. “Well”, the girls explained,” we stuck him up there with a load of sticks and told him if the boys come around again to throw the sticks at them”.

It was a damn fine, if reckless strategy, if you ask me.

You will ahve seen the universally good reviews for the new Leonard Cohen, which, by the wonder of the interweb, you can hear in its entirety, for free.
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