The gull

Alone with my thoughts, and following the zig-zagging coastal path, I gazed upon a heron gull in a clear blue sky. And I watched it circle. Just circle, high up on the thermals without a care in this world or for any of the things going on far, far beneath the wind holding up its wings.
It looked so carefree and so happy, gradually drifting out to sea, simply going round and round with the slightest of effort and with only the occasional thought of a lazy flap…
Without the slightest thought towards us or of us, stuck all the way down here on terra firma, causing untold damage and revelling in harm towards each other. Even during such a lovely sunny day.
I watched that soaring gull circle and glide back towards me, till it was high over me in the clear blue summer sky…

And then the bastard thing did shit upon my head!

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Horace Wimp, this is your life. Part 2

‘Nanny Wimp tried to love me, or at least she would have done if she could only work out what it was that I was supposed to be? An initial expression that had screamed, “What sort of abomination against the forces of natural law is this?” etched across her face and proving impossible to hide.
“He’s… beautiful,” she lied with fingers crossed, shrugging her shoulders and squirming with embarrassment.
“Are you sure they haven’t given you the afterbirth by mistake?” she asked innocently at the Christening, just as the Vicar was trying to work out which end to dunk into the font first… Finally giving up and deciding to leave it to the fates of God. “I have always said that you can’t trust these modern hospitals.” My paternal grandmother lit another extra strength Capstan and thumped her chest with a curled fist, while simultaneously retching.
“That’s got the bugger.”
Mum and Dad were both obviously shocked and extremely hurt at such an outrageous slur upon their first born, whatever I was. Mind you, they hadn’t thought of this eventuality and upon reflection they both agreed that it was definitely something to bear in mind. Perhaps they should talk to their lawyer? Perhaps they should get a lawyer?
But then, there was Nanny Cole, standing proudly around the stone font in her Sunday best, watching me scream and kick with every splash of burning Holy Water. I was her first grandchild, her pride and joy… Her rather hairy pride and joy. Forever smiling, forever giggling. She didn’t care if I was a boy, a girl or, come to think of it, even homosapien, just as long as I was healthy and had ten fingers and toes in all the right places. Well, near enough. Who was counting anyway? As she held me in her arms and made strange gurgling sounds, she didn’t care if I was the son of Beelzebub, for I could do no wrong in her eyes, which, fortunately for me, were somewhat short-sighted.
“Who’s a pretty boy?” she cooed in peculiar baby tongue, gently opening the bottom drawer of the antique bedroom set where I slept, along with seventeen shirts from British Home Stores, countless pairs of socks, some washed, and a five legged spider named Harry, who was two months behind with his rent but claiming squatters rights and the cleaner duvet… Her pride and joy.’

Horace Wimp, this is your life…

‘From such humble beginnings in Portnall Road, London, where Oliver Twist roamed free, picking pockets and singing to his heart’s content, Mum and Dad, as they had suddenly become known, had been presented with a beautiful bundle of freshly washed towels. Cocooned within this warm enveloping shell, a laughing baby boy with a head of spun blond hair gazed up at them with clear blue eyes and giggled affectionately. My mum and dad looked at each other warmly, pride clearly visible, tears of wonder falling unashamedly down their rosy cheeks. Yes, their baby was indeed beautiful.
Unfortunately, because life can be a real bitch sometimes, this wasn’t their baby gazing up at them in wonder. Due to overwork, incompetence and English being the third language on this particular ward, the nursing staff at Paddington’s hospital had surpassed themselves yet again, making another truly terrible mistake that they now, urgently, sought to repair, before anyone of importance noticed and any real damage was done to promising careers.
“Di!”
“Feck!” with a harsh Irish lilt.
“Fuck! Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!” screamed a South African and an Australian in complete unison, with heads in hands.
Within seconds, this smiling bundle of endless joy had been wrenched from loving arms with red-hot crowbars and replaced with something that London Zoo were later to term officially as, “The Missing Link”.
“What in Hell?”
Three wise men and one village idiot, who had travelled the length and breadth of the Edgware Road faithfully following the brightest star, now dodged security in an attempt to gain entry: for this night had been foretold by an extremely concerned angel of the Lord.
“Kill it!” they demanded, hammering fists against the windows. “Kill it!”
It was all too much for my dear mother, who cried out with anguish, having to be heavily sedated, leaving my distraught father with the unenviable task of searching for the give-away sign of the anti-Christ hidden somewhere under thick tuffs of body hair. But happily, for me at least, all he found after several hours of fruitless searching, was a crooked “Made In Taiwan” label, stuck to the bottom of my left foot, and a large “This Way Up” sticker plastered across my right eyebrow.
My mother and father were soon dissuaded from trying to drown me in an unused specimen jar and were quickly evicted from the hospital in an old wheelbarrow, thrown unceremoniously into a crowded street, sobbing hysterically and pleading for a refund.
“A pint of beer!” my dad threw himself at the mercy of the registrar. “That’s my final offer. And we’ll say no more about it. He’s got to be worth that to medical science, surely?” But it was no good, the big double doors slamming shut, security guards standing firm. He sobbed on the street, his howls heard throughout west London.’

From the novel, “Reluctant Country Boy”.

Being sent to the Headmaster!

Back by popular demand, in particular Jane from Manchester, and because we’ve not got anything better this week, Horace Wimp recalls the time he was sent to the Headmaster for being absolutely beastly…

‘I was in my own little world. Relatively happy. Leaning slovenly against the scuffed white wall, hands in pockets, thinking about the delectable Kathy Lyons, so sexy during French; perched on the corner of her desk, the buttons of her tight blouse straining along those fine contours…
Until I finally heard my name being called with a growing loss of patience. The deep voice that echoed along the corridor, and I swear that each window rattled, wind rushing through my hair, ruffling my fashionable mullet.
“Don’t make me come out there, boy. Not today. I have a really bad headache.” And suddenly back to reality. Outside the Headmaster’s office, standing on a threadbare carpet, extremely nervous.
I brushed myself down, straightened my tie and tidied my disobedient blazer and its stubborn lapels, the bloody things, before coughing politely and gently rapping on his door.
“Yes I know it’s you. Now get in here and close the door behind you. I have another seventeen to get through before lunch.”
“I’ll come back later, Sir.” If it would help? He was obviously busy, and I smiled the false smile of the otherwise damned.
“No you won’t!” Decisive. Full of authority. “Sit!”
Mr Green was sitting behind his oversized desk, his worn face heavily lined from signing and turning important looking papers. Whilst waiting, I had imagined that one of them was my death warrant, it ink still wet on the single sheet. He had had enough of me, judging by the frown, and now nonchalantly signed me away with the merest of flicks from a favourite pen, in an office that smelt of pipe tobacco and liniment oil.
“Please don’t have me killed.” A plea from the heart.
“Why have you been sent to me today?”
“Well,” I coughed, as rehearsed. “Mr Gordons said I was disrupting his Agricultural Studies class.” Like I would, my expression added.
“Disrupting his Agricultural Studies class,” Harry Green repeated slowly, folding his arms, looking at me sternly, disdain evident above the rim of his glasses.
“Were you, or were you not, chasing the girls around his classroom with the leg of a recently deceased chicken?” Oh, he’d heard.
“It wasn’t all of them, Sir.”
Mr Green apologised, corrected himself, consulted his scribbled notes. “Kathy Lyons and Joanne Beckman, to be precise.”
I nodded. “And Teresa Francis,” I added, trying to be helpful. “Mandy Wicks, Lindsey Greene and Sandy Smith. But I can explain, Sir.”
“Can you?” he asked, sneering at me over those dull, half-moon rims.
“No.” I rested my shaking head in my shaking hands. “No, I can’t.” The wind escaping my sails.
“I thought not.”
He rose slowly, the chair creaking with relief, for it had definitely witnessed much better days – several ragged tears and the right arm now attached with long pieces of masking tape. He paced behind me, head back, chest out, arms folded.
“To be precise, you chased six girls around Mr Gordons’ classroom, shouting, and I quote from the numerous witness statements, ‘Look out girls, here comes the dreaded claw’.” He shook his head. Was that right?
“Seven. I forgot Angie Burton.” I liked Angie Burton.
“Seven… The dreaded claw…” Towering above me menacingly, his hands now on the back of my chair – uncomfortably close to my neck – but I thought that I caught the trace of a smile, looking up quickly.
“It is disgusting, Sir,” Helen Hadley complained bitterly in her best plum voice.
“How can we learn anything with that imbecile in the class?” A bit cruel.
“We are here to broaden our minds. Not to have fun!” Jane Pierce nodding earnestly, an ever faithful ally, even going so far as to stick out her tongue. “I demand, no, I insist on his immediate removal!” Or she’d tell her mother, the Chairwoman of the P.T.A.
“What am I to do with you?” Harry Green asked.
“I can think of a couple of things, if it helps?” But the Headmaster gave me that look again, any hint of that smile having evaporated: that look that reminded us both of the prized collection of antique canes that lay at rest nearby. They hadn’t been banned yet. It obviously hadn’t been a question that needed answering.
I bowed, but not before tempting him with my best “shamed” expression.
“I do not want to see you in my office again,” he said slowly. Did I understand? His well-chosen words having the desired affect, me nodding frantically.
“Furthermore, I do not want to hear that you have disrupted any more classes.” Was that clear? And again I nodded, mouthed feeble apologies. “Because, if I do…” pointing towards those antique canes at rest in their antique cupboard.
“You are quite the little joker, but remember, there is a time and a place for joviality, and Agricultural Studies is neither the time nor the place for chasing young girls with a deceased chicken’s leg.”
“How about a live one?”
I mouthed another quick apology, again bowing my head, lesson learnt, I promise.
“Do you understand?” Again the nod of sincerity. “Good. Now send in Noone on your way out.” And with that he once more returned to his large seat behind his large wooden desk, beneath his prized picture of a solemn looking queen.
“Ah, young Noone. Why did you call Mr Carmichael, and I quote, ‘Bummer’, again?” I pulled the door to, gently.
“Now, this is going to hurt me far more than it will ever hurt you.”
“Bollocks is it,” the younger Noone guffawed.’

Taken from the upcoming novel, Reluctant Country Boy

And now, again…

.. more from Horace Wimp, (and I would like to take this opportunity, on behalf of our sponsors, to apologise for the use of foul and offensive language! I keep warning him, but will he fucking listen?):

“Cross country! Again?”
I spat a fly from my mouth, clambering from the sucking mud, now trainer-less. Climbing fences, leaving layers of pale skin on the dull barbs. Running for miles through thick woods where the branches swept back with a spiteful “swish”, slapping around heads and whipping into red faces.
“Fucking cross country!”
That hopeless huffing and puffing. The side-splitting agony as your lungs threaten to catapult themselves through your rib cage, to end up back where you started, gasping for breath in that changing room.
“Can’t we play football, Mr Bulstrode?”
Fucking cross country!
I slipped on fallen leaves and tripped over hidden roots. I tumbled down narrow tracks, legs scratched and chapped, cursing Bully Bulstrode as he blared through his squeaking megaphone, my feet now blistered. When I was older, bigger, I decided there and then, I was going to ram that megaphone right up his… Oh darn. The blister had finally burst.
Running left me desperately trying to forge a sick note from my mum.
“Please excuse me,” quickly scribbled out, “my son, from PE today, Bulstrode old bean, because he has accidentally come down with a severe case of rabies that doctors are now telling us may be fatal, not to mention bad for his health. However, I should be okay in time for football practice next Thursday. Love my mother.” That was one of the better efforts, but needless to say, they never, ever worked.
“Fucking cross country!” All we ever seemed to do was cross bloody country!
We trudged bitterly around the playing field – “Bates, go around boy!” – through the small wood and up the obstacle laden hill, sneaking past the terrifying sheep sharpening their flick knives, and viciously cursing the bloodsucking cows that tried to entice us into their lair with promises of Cough Candy Twists. There had to be another way?
“Wimp! Lift those stubby little legs and pump those chunky little arms. Faster boy,” Bully yelled. “Faster!”
“Taylor! Put that cigarette out and see me after, boy… See me after for some extra work.”
It did not take some of us too long to discover sneaky short cuts somewhere along the route, or a devilishly cunning hideaway where we could lie safely amongst thick trees, until the time was right for us to re-emerge, claiming our usual place at the back of the extremely muddy athletes, all breathing heavily from their exertion.
It was particularly cold, that Tuesday afternoon. The usual crowd making our way over the first stages of the course, Bully forever encouraging us with a high-powered stun gun, those thinly veiled death threats carrying on the biting wind, aimed at those at the very back refusing to enjoy ourselves.
Thankfully, we eventually stumbled from sight, down the steep and winding track that led us to our top secret haven: known only to the whole English speaking population of the western world. And not before bloody time either; the first drops of cold rain falling, splattering through the canopy; my poor lungs wheezing abuse at me, threatening to hold the rest of my pain-filled body hostage unless I quickly found a place amongst the trees to collapse. Somewhere quiet, where I could sleep undisturbed. They were simply not designed for all this palaver, they painfully reminded me.
As the rhythmic sound of pounding feet slowly faded, windproof matches were struck, cigarettes hastily lit behind cupped hands, to sighs of relief. Thins wisps of blue smoke floating through the trees. Delirium.
I lay back and dreamt my life away listening to the natural sounds; birds singing, Taylor coughing, retching violently beside me, his lungs already “shagged out” at the tender age of twelve. I had started to smoke, very occasionally, on the school bus, ducking behind the seats to take that crafty drag when no one was looking, waving away the smoke as I coughed sporadically, all the while forcing a sickly smile and a weak thumbs up. But Col was already smoking thirty-a-day, and expertly blowing twenty or more perfect smoke rings that linked up or formed simple sentences. But I digress.
To get away with such a cunning mission of deception, your timing has to be impeccable. Every last detail well rehearsed. Every eventuality clearly thought out, contingencies put into place. Unfortunately, for our little gang of lazy desperadoes, our timing on this particular afternoon was to be slightly out, by about twenty minutes.
I tiptoed to the clearing, listening intently in case we had been discovered or betrayed by reckless deed or careless word… Eventually, satisfied that everything was as it should be, I bolted down the narrow track that weaved its treacherous course, not for one moment daring to look back. Across the small brook I leapt, gracefully, like a springbok, the mutant goldfish leaping, gnashing their sharpened teeth. Up a steep incline, cutting left, sweeping right, and through the small wood surrounding our playing field, voices coming from the mobile classrooms. We were in the clear.
One last look, just to make sure.
Over the fence, careful not to snag our little legs. That mad dash around the hockey pitch, followed by a mad scramble along the left wing of the football pitch – the scene of my greatest goal, or biggest fluke as some had unkindly described my cross – and straight into that welcoming changing room, crashing through the double doors. Home and dry…
It was ever so quiet though.
Behind me, I could hear Col Taylor, wheezing, rasping, spitting, heading towards the showers, carefully stepping across a now prostrate Frankie, turning blue and thrashing about in semaphore. At this stage, and I put this down to the first signs of dehydration and utter exhaustion, it hadn’t dawned on me that nobody else was around, that the changing room was strangely quiet, empty of the usual naked bodies whipping other naked bodies with tightly rolled up towels. Or, come to that, that the water was still piping hot. It was not until later, much later, as Bully Bulstrode held my arm aloft triumphantly in front of my whole year, that the harsh reality of this dishonesty suddenly hit me, hard. It appeared that somehow, totally unintentionally I swear, I had managed to win the race, setting a record time in the process.
I stood there, slightly embarrassed, a towel about my waist, as Bulstrode praised me for this “supreme effort”. Tired and muddy bodies collapsing around me, faces sneering their stupefied anger, and, while Bully’s back was turned, promising to wait for me outside, pummelling their bitter fists into the palms of their still muddy hands. And me, with not a hair out of place, my still white kit now neatly folded. It was embarrassing, I can tell you.
“See what you can achieve with the utmost effort and dedication? With the right attitude?” He was laying it on a bit thick admittedly. “Look at what’s-his-face here. Absolutely bloody useless normally, a total waster even. But today, with great effort and personal discipline, a winner. Not like you lily-livered flakers. Now drop and give me ten.”
I hung my head as Bulstrode strode between them, continuing to sing my praises as he stepped on backs and trod on fingers. All I could do in return was mouth apologies and shrug embarrassed shoulders. It was a joke guys. Guys?
“Look!” Bulstrode boomed out, grabbing again for my wrist. “See how modest he is. The sign of a true champion. A true, contented champion, gentlemen. Tasting the success of his achievement. Unlike the rest of you weasels, who all want to take the easy option.” I could almost taste the contempt.
“Please stop!” He was not making this easy for me. I still had to work with these people. But he continued, unabated.
“Who would have thought that this… That this complete travesty of a human being in long gym shorts, would actually have what it takes to win something? A lesson to us all, I am sure. Now, get dressed you contentious little cretins.” And with that, he clipped me across the back of the head and pushed me back to the benches.
I was surprised and slightly hurt though, when the Headmaster omitted any mention of my fantastic feat from Assembly the next morning.
“Oh, and by the way children,” he might have said, standing before us in his only suit, worn and boringly grey. “Not only did our school win the World Cup yesterday, beating Brazil by a surprising twenty-seven goals to twenty-two, a full report to follow of course, but that funny looking kid with glasses won the First Year cross country race. He will now represent us in the Olympics, after he’s finished his latest detention for back chat.”
How they would all stand and cheer in rapturous salutation. How they would all clap and then faint with shock. And how the girls would all crowd around me, demanding my autograph and any spare clothing that I might just have upon my person.
I wasn’t asking for much, was I? And then I remembered.

Taken from, “Reluctant Country Boy”.