Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Care in the community

15st 4lb, 5.0 units. The south Cheshire village where we live most of the time now is like one huge, fence-free Care in the Community project. The main street is a perennial obstacle course of crazily mis-parked cars; the pantechnicon bringing a selection of my belongings from Northumberland in October negotiated the first 234 miles of the journey without the slightest difficulty, but was delayed for more than an hour trying to find a way through this madhouse. Mrs H absolutely loves it; she says that she has finally found her spiritual home, the one place on the planet where her own driving and parking appear above average. On the way home, many’s the time that I have paused behind another vehicle signalling left at the junction with the high street, wondering exactly what he or she is waiting for, only to find the driver calmly exiting the car and pottering off in the direction of the Londis, quite oblivious to the fact that they have stopped about three feet from the kerb and on a “Give Way” line, thereby obstructing a busy junction.

Once you decide to release your grip on the side and go with the flow, abandoning your car in the middle of the road in line with the spirit of the place, things only get worse. Whichever shop you enter will contain at least two of the following: (a) a pensioner on a zimmer frame, though only if they have been unable to lay their hands on a more cumbersome and ineffective walking aid, (b) a hugely overweight mental defective, (c) a group of schoolchildren eating chips, (d) a ruddy-faced rustic with straw in his or her hair, clutching a large plastic bottle of implausibly cheap alcohol and exuding a strong smell of something that might, at best, be silage; (e) a hippy type wearing a Tibetan style hat and / or an organic self-knitted shirt or skirt, also looking as though they would benefit from a good scrub with carbolic.

Sometimes, of course, one individual will manage to straddle several of these categories.

The one thing you can say with confidence, given the cast of characters you are likely to encounter, is that every shop on the high street should have the words “All hope abandon, ye who enter here” emblazoned over its front door. The last time I went into the electrical shop to buy a few lightbulbs, I was rudely interrupted by a mental defective asking the bloke behind the counter if he remembered her coming in before Christmas and enquiring about [insert some technical gibberish of your choice] and him saying that he couldn’t get it any more? No, he didn’t. Well, he had and the OTHER electrical shop up Church Street had been able to get it, no trouble at all. What did he think of that? Well, he was surprised but very pleased for her. Yes, but it was not only that. Did he remember …

In total, I think that essentially the same point was repeated at some length three times, the gist being “your shop is shit, and the one over the road is great”. Why not just f*** off to the other place and stop wasting everyone’s time, then, you bloody mental? Or come back after hours and post a turd through their letter box, or whatever turns you on?


Then there’s the post office. Average length of queue at counter: a not discouraging three people. Average time spent queuing? Universes have formed and died more quickly. Often the people standing at the counter are in pairs, and at least you can pass ten minutes or so trying to work out which is the mental defective and which the carer (I’ve never reached a satisfactory solution yet). First they have to withdraw their pension / benefit money, paid out of my personal taxes, hampered of course by the fact that they can no more remember a PIN than the name of the current Prime Minister. Then they have to start paying all their sodding bills, one by one, as far as possible not using the £20 notes they have just been handed in benefits, but the old halfpennies, buttons and half-sucked mint imperials they have just emptied onto the counter from their capacious handbags. Finally, after the sort of interlude that makes a three hour A-level exam seem like the blink of an eye, they appear to have completed their transactions. Then they say “Now, can I just pay my mother’s bills?” and you find yourself banging your head against the nearest wall, moaning loudly. Mrs H swears that she once stood behind one who, after dealing with all her mother’s transactions, then said “Now, can I just pay my Auntie Dolly’s …”

No you f***ing can’t. Go and lie in the road until someone runs you over, for f***’s sake, which shouldn’t be too long given the general level of motoring skills around here.

I went into the Post Office this morning, very much against my better judgement, to return something I hadn’t ordered to the Royal Mint. To be fair to them, when I complained about this they sent me a pre-paid special delivery envelope for this purpose. All I had to was hand it over the counter and obtain some sort of receipt to prove that I had done so. I queued up behind five (count ‘em) people including one geriatric and two hippy crusties, though luckily it proved that three of them were actually waiting not for the counter service but for the cash machine, which was being monopolized for a scarcely credible length of time by a middle-aged woman who had evidently mistaken it for some sort of one-armed bandit and couldn’t understand her persistent failure to get three strawberries in a row.

Then, when I finally made it the counter, the process of weighing, scanning, looking up the rule book, huffing and grunting took so long that I seriously wondered whether it wouldn’t be quicker just to get back into the car and deliver the sodding thing to Pontyclun in person. Finally, just as I was wondering what that wispy thing floating towards the ceiling might be, and realizing that it was my will to live, a printed receipt was gracelessly and silently shoved towards me under the glass and I prepared to make my escape. Only to find my only exit route comprehensively blocked by a nonagenarian with a shopping trolley, skewed crazily across the aisle by the tills, with the only way round it taken up by a fat, patronising old cow, who was peering into the trolley (sole contents: one bag of flour) and enquiring “Ooh, are you baking then?”

The hope that the even older lady might say “No, I’m going to scatter it on the pavement and write “C*NTS” in it with the end of my walking stick” did cross my mind for a second, but she merely smiled vaguely, uncomprehendingly, as her interlocutor prepared to ask her question again more loudly and I weighed up whether to double the volume of my “Excuse me”, scream like a banshee, barge past and knock them both over, or ask “For f***’s sake, is this a shop or a care home?” at top volume. I avoided the last by a hair’s breadth.

I had just about stopped hyperventilating by the time I drove into the Deeside Industrial Park 45 minutes later. As I did so, I passed a van which bore the legend “ your No 2 is our No 1 business” and felt that perhaps, after all, my life was not as bad as it might be.

2 comments: said...

Oh how I laughed... Are you going to lose this humour now you are in the south?
Ash said...

Erk, WTF sorry for the HTML link. No idea Google thought of me as a TV stand business... even though I run one!
Now you are just going to think I posted to build links like a sad cyber hacker...
Why does Google think I am a site?
Honest I am a person Ash!!!