Archive for the ‘self sufficiency’ Category

Stranger Danger

It’s not your fault for not paying attention I really have not blogged in a long time and I mean to put that right. So here goes.

Nearly through my second semester in the first year at university as a mature student. Gained a nickname from ‘she who must be obeyed’ as Mr Firsty irst First: that is what I have mostly been getting but it is becoming extremely hard to maintain. It is very strange being a student in my 50’s  and constantly feel out-of-place. There is the working class thing too which can sometimes be awkward. Only the other day I gave an example of the wonderful French predilection for independent action on globalization issues in front of the class. You might have heard of the farmer and his use of that wonderful piece of farm machinery the ‘shit-spreader’ and how he unleashed a nourishing potential rarely associated with  McDonald’s. I was swiftly reminded by one of my class mates that the name I was looking for was ‘muck spreader’. Not a hint of humour from him either, I had surely soiled his ears with my pedigree. This all seemed rather odd to me as the tutor had sworn on many occasions, and I could only wonder if the student was making a distinction based on authority; whereas I did not have the authority to swear.

Boundaries and groups, class distinctions and role-playing have all been on my mind for quite some time at university and feeling like an outsider has helped me develop a sensitivity about my environment which has had me chuckling to myself for weeks. Yes you will be glad to hear that I don’t just laugh at your misfortunes but my own as well. This outsider business is not all bad though as I tend to do the set reading and more as there is not much opportunity to socialize.  I am perhaps a little jealous of the female mature students I have spoken to; as they have found a new role in their respective classes. Having experienced isolation at first, the younger class-mates quickly realised that the mature female students were always well organised and able to give assistance with assignments. They have somehow moved into a ‘mothering role’ and taken on a new identity which has overcome the barriers set by age at least. I on the other hand although a magnificent example of male 50 ish boldness  also represent a perfect example of ‘stranger danger’ which this generation of students were    brought up on as children. I am the physical personification of the modern bogey-man. Neither unfortunately do I look as friendly as I really am : I’m a real lamb honest . To make things worse at the start of the year I was often mistaken for the tutor when I arrived early for seminars. One occasion in particular I think is instructive on how judgements are made by people. When I say people I do mean people; there is nothing peculiar about these students they behave and react to the world pretty much as we do even though they do say  ‘You know what I mean like?’ and my favourite ‘Its like’ at the beginning of the sentence scattered throughout and at the end. This form of diluting the full force of their argument is I think a form of modesty out-of-place in the academic world, but anyway I digress. Picture this: I am seated in the classroom having arrived early waiting for the tutor; because it is a large classroom with lots of space I have the standard two empty seats either side of me, just in case being old is contagious. Then a student who has never been to this class before as he has been off sick comes in and sits down in the teachers traditional place. He speaks to the young girls and asks if this is the right class etc.  He has not noticed or has discounted the fact that he is sitting in front of the blackboard and a projector and computer equipment. There is a positive asymmetry to the room which has not affected his choice of where to sit. Why is that? Because he is sitting facing an old person who has no one sitting near them. I therefore must be the tutor. The fact that we are regularly taught by young male and female tutors who could be my grandchildren seems not to have affected their judgement one bit.   In their defence however I mistook the tutor for a student in one of my early classes so it seems I can only point out these problems and not pass judgement. The only worry left is that I cannot see a role model for me other than ‘stranger danger man’. But don’t get me wrong I am having a great time. If I am scaring the kids Tough!


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Well that’s the last night of taxi surveys and ‘ Next week I will mostly be installing garage doors’.

My 10 till 4am shift being the last , had to be the worst for weather and decibels ,courtesy of the particular brand of drunk that hangs around that area of the town centre.

You see its my observation that different socio-economic groups are attracted to particular areas of the city. Which is odd to me as neither appears distinctly  up-market or down-market.

Now the drunken staggering was more brutish last night near the train station and the bouncers were really having to throw people out of the clubs; and I mean throw them out, into a heap on the pavement. Women somewhere between 18 and 20 stone dressed as school girls (I have a nerve in my face that still twitches when I recall that vision) teetered on stressed stilettos  and weaved  in and out of cars in an almost suicidal attempt at keeping up with pub crawling friends crossing the road.

I quickly found a doorway refuge to avoid the shoulder barging from the inebriated punters.

I was soon joined by a tramp who asked politely if he could sit in the doorway. How could I refuse; the furniture store doorway was large enough for two .It had the unfortunate effect however of making us look like a duo. When he started to ask passers-by for small change; and always politely, I was marking taxi figures on my clip-board but surely it appeared that I was marking his success rate or at least assisting with some accountancy work on his behalf.

‘This is what I have come to then’ assistant to a tramp.

In my defence he was a gentleman tramp and always courteous; even wishing people who declined to give money with “have a nice day”. Just thought I would mention my business partners meritorious politeness for the benefit of all those who said I would come to  Nowt. 

I’m moving on now with my spotted hankie on a stick, (no I didn’t steal his) to seek my fortune in garage doors.

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Dolly , a very happy Warren henToday whilst aimlessly browsing the internet I came across a snippet of information that shocked me.

Looking up Warren hens initially I inevitably ended up looking up rescue hens and felt guilty that when in France our language skills were not up to acquiring Factory birds.

It’s a lot easier in the market to buy, as they are there to sell, and its obvious you are there to buy, yes; the international language of money.

Now the fact that shocked on this website was a warning not to give a perch to rescue birds as the jump down from a perch of just a foot high can sometimes break legs as one poor owner discovered. Turns out poor diet in these factory farms gives some of the old bird’s osteoporosis.

It makes me so angry, that we allow creatures to be treated that way, but it also made me angry with my self.

You see a few years back some animal activist’s stole a woman’s dead body, there was a great deal made of it in the press, and I thought something at the time that I never said

In a nut shell it was this, cruelty to animals is offensive to me, it sickens me, angers me,

And I put more value in a living animal than a dead human being. I would like to think most people would agree with me.

What these activists attempted however, was to make peoples beliefs clash almost in a display of performance art.

How naive!

They said by this act ‘if you ignore my most profound beliefs, we will ignore yours’

But what a strange set of beliefs people seem to have, these days.

The papers are up in arms if little dead Johnny comes home from hospital with an organ missing, but does society believe we must go to the grave whole to be ready for resurrection.

Some do have this belief I am sure but not the majority, so who is the media being indignant for.

I think the answer lies in the fact that papers are just advertising space for hire at the end of the day, and the company they keep are all about telling you how special you are.

Yes YOU go on treat yourself, after all your special and it doesn’t stop when you’re dead.

So stop sucking up newspapers and remind us what we believe in just once and a while.

Just to be clear, I am quite prepared to put my dead carcase to good use.

I sometimes joke with my wife that a shallow grave will do in the back garden, but leave my bum sticking out the top so visitors have got somewhere to park their bikes.

Perhaps a little plaque that simply states

Arnold the end.

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Its that time of year again.

The ugly subject of money  raises its head, and alas I have returned to blighty to earn some dosh, accompanied this time by she who must be obeyed.

My first job from the agency has been drivers mate for a well known company who deliver and install white goods for a well known high street electrical retailer.

Get the impression that I am going to slag them off yet!

Well I am.

This company are the keepers of The National Collection of Miserable Old Men.

I have never met such humourless miserable old gits in my life, but to find so many gathered under one roof is just an impossible coincidence. The only explanation is that they were collected under one roof for some evil purpose, yet to be revealed to us by some wailing hermit from Uddersfax or somewhere really hilly and cavy!

I and the miserable old git of the day, have been mostly delivering and  not installing plasma TVs.

Why ‘Not Installing’?

Well the salesperson at that well known high street electrical store has not explained the ‘ins and outs’ of wall-mounted plasma and LCD TVs.  People who buy them and want them wall-mounted have certain expectations, and so you would think, would the salesperson ; and having a measure of empathy mention the ‘ins and outs’.

Not on your Nelly!

My image of this technology I must admit, comes entirely from Star Trek. So let’s imagine that Captain Kirk has ordered a wall-mounted screen from that well known high street store.

SPOCK : “Captain a Clingon battle-cruiser has just de-cloaked  ”

KIRK :  “Shields and on-screen”

KIRK : “On-screen”


KIRK : ” I thought you said it had de-cloaked Spock; yet I cannot see anything”

SPOCK : ” Affirmative Captain, that well known high street electrical retailer sent round that well known company that installs electrical goods and installed the screen you see before you”

KIRK : ” So why can I not see anything?”

SCOTTY : The installation chappy mounted the screen Captain and everything was just fine until he tried to plug it in”.

KIRK : ” I don’t understand Scotty”

SCOTTY : “Well its like this Captain, the power lead just hung down from the screen and was too short to reach the socket where we used to have the telly in the corner of the bridge”

SCOTTY GRIMACES  ” It was just So, So  un-modern Captain”

Yes this is the reality for most households who have not been told  to make provision for power supplies.

A black lead hanging down ! Or should I say if you spent £1500 smacker-roonies or more

                                                      ‘A f****** BLACK LEAD HANGING DOWN’

Luckily for the customer the installation guys point this out to the client before it is mounted on the wall, and usually agree not to mount the screen. I wonder if this constantly failing to do what they set out to do; that day, is what turns them into miserable old sods.

                                                   On the bases that zero job satisfaction will do that to anyone.

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I am starting to wonder if one or more of my ancestors were hanged from tree’s as cattle rustlers, as the combination of tree and rope seems to be very dangerous for me.


Last year Martin and I set about chopping down a rotten fruit tree in the garden. All was well till I tied a rope round a branch that needed to fall in a particular direction.

As soon as I turned my back to pull the rope the branch, which was only a third sawn through, fell. The impact on my head was so hard it knocked me to my knees.


The curse is not finished with me yet however.

Yesterday was a good day in the Limousin for cutting wood. Sunshine no wind to speak of and fairly dry under foot. An excellent day to tackle the cutting of dead coppice for the fire. It was just for experimental purposes; to see if the standing dead wood can be burnt on the stove straight away, without storing it for the usual length of time.

The plot is only about a quarter of an acre but it is good coppice and densely planted; producing long straight tree trunks. The dead wood left standing is probably because deer have chewed on the bark of the young shoots and killed the odd trunk here and there.


So there I am in the woods with my chainsaw.

I am already scared because I read a book called The Ax last year and am aware how many things can go wrong when cutting tree’s.


Unfortunately I have to cut the wood to fall into the other tree’s as I have no clearing before my neighbours  land. I know this is going to make the fall of the tree slightly unpredictable. When you have cut through the trunk and the tree start’s to fall you put down the chainsaw and walk away; which in itself is tricky;  because of the dense growth.


What I saw after my first cut was spectacular. The tree trunk released from its base by my cut started to spin, lifted in the air, and sat back down 6 feet away. It stood perfectly upright, held in place by the slender top branches of the other trees.


Five minutes later I am back from my car with a rope, which I tied on to the base.

I heaved on the rope for a good while, not realising that my rope had a knot in it that suddenly released. This was at the point where my tugging was at its most reckless.

I flew backwards and landed flat on my back with a fallen tree trunk just at the base of my spine.

I am laid up now on the settee and furious; nowhere in that book did it say Warning you may be an unobservant silly old git, or check for family curses.

In these days of rampant Health and Safety warnings, where chainsaw’s come with scary labels such as;  




 Where was the label on the rope?

I think I shall buy one of those label gun thingy’s and start producing my own warning stickers.


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Well so much for 2007.

I could kick my self for all the un-finished tasks I will carry over to 2008 , but I would probably miss.


On reflection I do think life’s about the journey however.


In that spirit I have had a good year and have added to my CV, with a few jobs I have never done before.


1)      Public survey, “Excuse me! Would you mind answering a few questions” “No Sod Off”

2)      Spying on taxi drivers till 4 in the morning.

3)      Learnt to drive tractor. (yes you are not worthy )

4)      Dry walling and plumbing.

5)      Eating a meal with 8 courses.(yes it was hard but someone had to do it)


‘I am rather proud of my job list since leaving school to be honest’,




Meter reader

Clothing designer

Fork lift truck driver

Warehouse supervisor

IT network engineer

Work in dry cleaners

Head wear designer


I actually feel sorry for those people who stay in the same job year after year.

You do get to see more of life I think, by moving around from trade to trade.

Although it is not a recipe for financial success it does teach a person about society and people. That is what life should be about as far as I am concerned.

Learning about the world we really live in doesn’t just mean wildlife on the telly.


In conclusion it was a good year and hope this year will be interesting for us.

Good luck with yours.


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Its been quite a few days now since returning home and finding Mimo dead in the road. I have only just been able to write anything at all about her. Yet I have now reached the point were I can celebrate her life and be greatful it was spent with us.

When she was given to us , she was quite ferrel and there was lots of spitting involved, but slowly we gained her trust.

I have never known a cat enjoy play fighting as much as she did, and everyday was a new adventure for her and us.

Everywhere we went in the house or garden she would leap out at us from some hiding place. Her mock attack with ears back and tail fluffed out was pure fun, and now that has gone the house and garden feels empty of fun and adventure. I am sure we will have other cats maybe not here as the road is too dangerous, but we will never meet another Mimo, thats for sure.


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