Saturday, 29 June 2013

The Arse and his date

    We're not long back from a holiday in Devon. A week of hiking, sightseeing and enjoying fine south-western food. And cider of course.
    Our hotel was a little basic. Not for us the Grand Hotel on the seafront, instead we stayed in an anonymous chain motel next to a trunk road because if you book such rooms far enough ahead they can be yours for a surprisingly small amount of money.
    You know exactly what you are getting at these places. The rooms are the same all over the country, basic but clean and unexpectedly spacious. Perfect for a budget getaway.
    Sadly we had the worst room in the hotel, on the ground floor by the entrance. Woken up at all hours by noisy mobile phone conversations and construction workers enjoying a quick fag before turning in.
    One such moment troubled me. About 1am, and a bloke has returned to the hotel with a woman he's picked up at the pub he's been to. As he catches a pre-coital fag we're treated to their conversation and it becomes rapidly clear that he's a scumbag of the first order. It's not exactly my area of expertise, but perhaps informing your date that she's a slapper who'll open her legs for anyone is not the done thing. Even if there is a ring of truth to it.
    You wish you could freeze time, run out and tell her he's an arse and to walk away. But you can't. After a few minutes of conversation and an unwelcome tobacco smell reaching our room they went inside and we were able to go back to sleep.
    I hope she found what she wanted, but something tells me she didn't find what she needed.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

fixin' an 'ole

    It must be nice, to be one of the Little People. What, you say, have I given myself Airs and Graces, fancy myself a Cut Above?
    Fortunately not. It must be nice, being someone with average sized feet. You can go into any old store and buy yourself a pair of shoes, and you don't have to spend much cash to do so.
    For once I'm not talking about unobtainable female shoes, either. The joy of buying any pair of shoes at retail has eluded me for decades, I mail order them and they cost me a fortune.
    My normal footwear are those trainers that think they're walking boots. Or is it the other way round? Anyway, they're comfortable and will grip on almost any terrain, yet go very well with my normal scruffy work uniform of jeans, t-shirt and sweater. They even work as girl shoes with jeans, something I realised when I saw my sister wearing a very similar pair to mine.
    They're tough, those shoes. They have to be, to withstand the British countryside in all its forms. Sadly though they do eventually wear out. Usually one side comes away from its sole somewhere in the instep and that's it, time to buy some more. I've hung on to the intact ones though and sometimes I can scrounge a few more months with a pair of New Balances or Columbias that only I know aren't the pair that came in the box together.
    This week though I had a problem. Two decent black New Balance right foot shoes in the box, my current dark brown pair of Columbias with departing soles at the front and a light brown pair of Columbias with a split on the left shoe. Not even I can make a pair from those that would stand up to scrutiny. And cash flow crises being what they are, I can't buy a new pair until next month.
    Fortunately my ongoing experiments with making footwear mean I have a big tin of impact adhesive to hand. The stuff where you're supposed to coat both sides with a thin layer and wait fifteen minutes before sticking them together.
    Some chance of that happening with a shoe that's still held together enough to make getting the glue in the gap a bit hit-and-miss. So I try levering the soles apart on the dark brown Columbias , cleaning the inside with a file, and covering as much exposed area with glue as I can. Leave it for a quarter hour and hope for the best.
    The light brown pair present a fresh challenge. A split doesn't have handy surfaces to glue together. I do my best, but it plainly isn't going to  hold for long.
    Salvation came from a woven plastic sack, one I think originally had seed potatoes in it. Impregnated with as much glue as I could and left for that annoying 15 minutes, a piece of sack fitted nicely over my dodgy glueing and should I hope hold it together.
    An afternoon with both pairs of shoes held in arrangements of clamps and bits of wood, and I hope I have a choice of decent shoes again. Albeit ones with the odd visible bit of glue or small area of reinforcement.
    If all this seems like a lot of effort, then yes, I guess it is. But I hate throwing out a good shoe when its pair is a bit knackered, and I have just put off having to buy a new pair that would cost about three times what a small pair might cost on the high street.
    Of course, I have the date on my side. It's June, and a dry June at that. It's no hardship, putting up with mildly holey shoes when there are no puddles about.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

They'll let anyone in these days

   My wife and I are sitting in a waiting room at a Government office in a suburb of Birmingham. There is quite an air of camaraderie among the people waiting with us, an American businessman and an Indian couple about our age. This is a regional UK Border Agency office, and we are all here for the same reason: to apply for or renew a UK visa.
    It amuses me sometimes that people forget my wife, who hails from the other side of the Atlantic, is an immigrant. "But she's..." They pause, looking embarrassed. I want to complete their sentence for them: "White?", but don't.
    There's a lot of nonsense talked about immigration. From all sides, those on the left like to see talking nonsense on immigration as purely a right-wing issue but the fact is they're as guilty as anyone. With varying degrees of accuracy depending on whom you are talking to those pesky foreigners bring jobs, take jobs, take homes, cause chaos in hospitals, run hospitals, take all the benefits, pay half the taxes, do no work and do all the work. Politicians like to sound tough on immigration but hate to get involved with it while the immigrants themselves just want to get on with their lives.
    All of which brings me to us, sitting in that waiting room near Birmingham. Over the past decade and a half we've had to deal with the visa system several times. Each time it's happened a cheque has changed hands, but one thing's certain. I know every time we'll be paying twice as much as we did the last time for the same service.
    The politicians have hit on the perfect formula, you see. They stand up at a party conference and say they'll get tough on immigration. Rousing speech, standing ovation. The tabloid readers see that and go away happy, at last, they think, Something will be Done about illegal immigrants!
    Meanwhile those of us who have to deal with the system release a groan. We know what they'll really do, which is double the price for the legal immigrants. After all, going after illegal immigrants requires a bit of effort, and that's not what governments do!
    We wait long enough for the chairs to become uncomfortable, then my wife is summoned away to the two desks for document checks and biometrics. We go away for lunch, and on our return she's told her application is successful.
    I wish those from all sides who go on so much about immigration could spend a morning in that waiting room.