Monday 21 April 2008

You're having a laugh

13st 10lb; zero alcohol yesterday; 1,383; Windsor Castle.

It always gets my day off to a good start when I hear God Save The Queen blasting out of the wireless at seven o’clock, even though it annoys me that the BBC has pandered to republican elements by dropping the traditional words “We wish Her Majesty a very happy day” from their introduction to it. Still, I for one do wish her a happy day, today and every day.

Can I have my OBE now, please?

It was a much less unsettling start to the day than yesterday’s, when the Radio 4 news led with John Prescott’s shock revelations about his bulimia. Which were motivated entirely by his concern for the welfare of vulnerable young women (not confined to diary secretaries) and totally unrelated to the fact that he has a book to plug. Obviously. I was actually moved to go and check my calendar to ensure that it wasn’t the first of the month, while I waited for the follow-up revelations that the Pope has converted to Protestantism, and that a group of grizzly bears in the Appalachians has clubbed together to fund the construction of a commodious downtown lavatory block.

But what a gift to a newspaper columnist, eh? Unfortunately for me, it was duly grabbed with both hands by my Monday counterpart, who shamelessly rolled his tanks all over my lawn by making a series of cruel jokes about the former Deputy Prime Minister (and this from a writer who calls himself a socialist – which may, now I come to think of it, be the root of his objection) followed by some frank confessions about his own mental stability, or lack thereof.

Knackers. I spent far longer than usual trying to think of something else of a topical nature to write about, but got no farther than St George’s Day on Wednesday. It may not amount to much, but it will have to do.

This morning I had a date with a stripper called Serena, which was unfortunately nothing like as exciting as it sounds. One of the nice things about owning a Border terrier – actually, on mature reflection, quite possibly the only nice thing about owning a Border terrier – is that you get two dogs for the price of one. Because they grow two coats. (And, while we’re on the subject, why couldn’t God have arranged for women to grow their own shoes?) Every six months or so I take the little scamp along to a professional stripper who pulls out his long, wiry outer coat to expose the short, soft one underneath it. The result is a completely different animal. See what I mean?

Before: a hairy dog with a cute paw action.

After: a smooth dog with a cute paw action. And a biscuit.

Of course the owner could perform this operation himself, if he had a couple of days to spare and didn’t mind being bitten quite a lot. But personally I’d rather be blogging than waiting in the Accident & Emergency Department of Ashington Hospital following a bloody good savaging.

I drove to the stripper in Shilbottle by a most circuitous route, then sprang it all on the dog with shocking suddenness. It is much the kindest way. I picked up the technique from the hangman Albert Pierrepoint’s memoirs.

On my way back, I called at the garage just to check that the nondescript piece of plastic that dropped off the underside of my car the other day was serving no useful purpose, and could be safely slung in the bin. Oh dear me no, sir, they said, that is affording vital protection to your engine and radiator. Well, can I have it replaced under my warranty, then? Oh dear me no, sir, that does not cover accident damage. Maybe not, I said, but then I haven’t had an accident. It’s the sort of thing I tend to notice. Oh yes you have, sir, said the top man extricated from the service department to deal with Mr Stroppy at the counter. Look at these fresh impact marks on your nondescript bit of plastic. What, the ones you made just now with a lump hammer? Oh dear me no, sir, that looks like stone or a concrete kerb to me, sir: you probably clipped one when you were pissed. (A reasonably safe bet in the Alnwick area, I’ll give them that, but in fact I haven’t been, at any rate not behind the wheel. And I have no recollection of hitting anything at all for weeks, despite the daily efforts of huge timber lorries to drive me off the road as they go around collecting the spoils from the Elfin Safety tree destruction campaign.)

Oh, all right then, I said. Then he told me it was going to cost £200 and I said “You’re having a laugh, aren’t you?” But he wasn’t. He did add that that was with labour, allowing me to make the crack about everything costing more with Labour, but I can’t say it cheered me up very much. Nor did making some acerbic remarks about how glad I was to have invested in a big, robust, off-road vehicle rather than some tinny little jalopy that would fall to bits at the slightest provocation. I think they may have gone over his head.

What did cheer me up was receiving an e-mail late this afternoon from some Bloke who liked my website and this blog. By bedtime he had posted the most extraordinarily adulatory comment on his own blog, saying that he had never been so pleased to find a writer since Dave Barry started writing his column for the Miami Herald. Blimey. He should clearly get out more, but even so: thanks. And here is a reciprocal plug for I’ll confess that I haven’t read all that much of it so far, but I do like his suggestion that the way to defeat extremist Muslim terrorism is to persuade Rowan Williams to convert and work the same sort of magic on Islam as he has done for the Church of England.

I wish I’d thought of that.

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