Sunday 15 June 2008

The great Welsh fish shortage

14st 1lb again; 2.0 units of alcohol; 1,329; north Wales look you isn’t it?

The reason that I had been stocking up with fuel was to ensure that I had the option of driving either car to Chester this morning. I always like to keep my options open, unlike my mind or flies.

Both cars have a similar range, and I might have dithered for a while about which to take if I did not have the awful warning of Gordon Brown before me to illustrate the dangers of indecisiveness. So I purposefully selected the one that is heavier on fuel (a) because it is so comfortable (it has been likened to driving a DFS sofa) and (b) because it has one of those handy satellite navigation systems which flash a warning in the event of some idiot crashing their car and blocking the motorway. Not that this feature has ever proved a blind bit of use up to now, since it always seems to suggest complicated diversions around catastrophes which were cleared up hours if not days ago by crack teams of blokes wearing long brown coats and equipped with state-of-the-art brooms and buckets of sawdust.

I arrived in Chester bang on time at noon, to find the Less Tall Brunette from those parts taking a refreshing shower as part of her programme of recuperation from a ball, which had kept her up until 4.30 in the morning. A ball to which a spare ticket for me was mysteriously unavailable. At least, that was the story to which she had adhered until she accidentally blurted out that some other people were coming along at short notice. Then she admitted that she had not made much of an effort on the ticket front as she did not think that I would like it. A very astute analysis, as usual, since I think I can safely say that I do not like anything calculated to keep me out of my bed until 4.30 a.m. The last thing that did so was an agreed takeover bid, specifically waiting for the conclusion of one of those all-night meetings on which City lawyers all insist to show how unbelievably macho they are. On the whole, I’d rather be at a ball than twiddling my thumbs in the office waiting for the final approval of a press release, but it’s a surprisingly close-run thing.

I drove the LTCB and her brother out into the badlands of North Wales to a more than half decent pub, where a double celebration lunch had been arranged to mark (a) Father’s Day, and (b) the LTCB’s sister’s 30th birthday. Since I am not permitted to name the LTCB in these pages, logic dictates that I am not going to be allowed to name her sister either. The acronym that springs to mind is ELTCB, with the “E” standing for “Even”. She also apparently has the gift of eternal youth, and is still being regularly challenged to produce ID demonstrating that she is over 18 when she goes to buy booze or fags. Many people would consider signing away their soul to be able to do this, though naturally the beneficiary of this flattering confusion just finds it a total pain in the arse.

The LTCB’s whole family proved to be as charming as she is, though I wished on the whole that her father would make more of an effort to look older than I am. Perhaps he could think about putting flour in his hair or something. Maybe developing a stoop?

The Welsh clearly have hearty appetites, as they brought us starters of such generosity that any normal English person would simply have gone for a nice lie-down afterwards, rather than hanging around to take on yet more calories in a main course. At least there was a suitably long interlude to enable us to rebuild our appetites before the plates groaning with Sunday roasts appeared. Except in front of the LTCB, who had chosen an appropriately boomerang-shaped Australian fish called a barramundi. Clearly they don’t do fish in Wales. Just sheep. Which none of us had the requisite sense of local loyalty to order except the LTCB’s father, who also got landed with the bill. Which seemed to me to undermine the whole concept of inviting him out for a Father’s Day treat.

When we left at 3.30, people were still arriving to claim their booked tables for a late lunch. Food served all day, now there’s a concept you don’t encounter in Northumberland. There’s no demand for it, I’m sure.

This evening I enjoyed a surreal encounter with a spectacularly barking local councillor, who was kitted out in a bush hat, eye-wateringly tight and brief grey shorts, and a matching shirt that was gaping open to reveal a mass of grey chest hair and a medallion. When he had gone I commented on his attire and was assured that this was his more modest get-up, as he normally wore shorts that were much more like hot pants (though not necessarily all year round, I assume). I then asked how the hell such an eccentric had ever got elected to anything, and received the classic reply that “He’s really very good on the doorstep, because he doesn’t stay long.” I thought about it and concluded that even I might be moved to vote for him provided he promised to go away and stay there until further notice. Though the worrying corollary is that, if this idea catches on, Gordon Brown’s chances of re-election may prove to be nothing like as bleak as the polls currently suggest.

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