The morning had been particularly boring. Sometimes being retired is not what the ‘Association of Happy Retirees’ tells you it will be. I needed to get out of the house, get away from the TV, be amongst real people, get some fresh air. Escape, if you will, from the cloying fingers of self deprecation. I have reached the conclusion that people who suffer the inanity of daytime TV are forced to do so because of the following, they are either mentally disabled, physically disabled or, retired.
I mean no disrespect to the mentally or physically disabled when I say this. I am just pointing out that through no fault of their own the vast majority of them plus a good proportion of retirees are trapped in a bubble of media mediocrity in which they are mercilessly bombarded with the meaningless dramas of backstreet nobodies who, in turn, are prodded and cajoled by loud-mouthed egoists who lend their names to the shows for their own gain and their own sickening vanity.
I often wonder if Labour’s benefits brigade all imagine themselves starring in a reality show of their own making and are waiting to be plucked from obscurity by some latter day Jeremy Kyle. It should come as no surprise, given this level of mental stimulation, that pensioners are nearly all grey.
I decided that I would take the short walk to the village centre. I use the term loosely as it is not in the centre and since the Sixties, due to rapid expansion, its ‘village status’ is what you might call, ‘in the eye of the beholder’. The small area now designated as the village centre is a mishmash of sixties pre-cast monoliths and eighties regeneration. Suffice to say it looks nothing like the village centre that my forefathers would recognise, neither in size nor functionality. The High Street, in its present layout, would be totally alien to them. It is now nothing but a one-way system housing two banks, a florist, an overpriced coffee shop, two restaurants, a dentist, an Estate agency, the obligatory Chinese takeaway and a bookies. Free parking on one side and a Traffic Warden’s wet dream on the other.
However, as I only know of our forefather’s village from photographs and sketches which are kept in the village library, I shouldn’t really complain.
As part of the afore mentioned eighties regeneration, the old Council buildings have given way to a small but perfectly functional shopping precinct. Here you can buy anything from a diamond ring to a second-hand washing machine. There is also a branch of WH Smith’s and it was there that I had decided to go in order to purchase a daily newspaper. Yesterday’s news I know but I comfort myself with the fact that there is more detail in printed news than on Sky news or any of the other MSM outlets. As usual the shop was busy, something which has always puzzled me since I find it overpriced and limited in choice. I talk, of course, of its other products, i.e. pens, pencils, diaries and other stationary items.
However, I had only gone in for a newspaper and since it was no ones birthday or anniversary I didn’t have to faff about looking for a suitable card or present. I duly selected my newspaper from the stand and then proceeded to the checkout to pay for it.
“Would you like a bar of chocolate with that?” Asked the young lady to whom I had offered up my newspaper for payment.
“Chocolate, it’s half price. Would you like a bar?”
“No, thank you.”
“Would you like a voucher?”
“A voucher for what?” I asked.
“It’s a promotion. It means that you can get money off items the next time you come into the shop.”
“For example?” I asked.
“Ooh, lots of things.” She replied, her face beaming through an artificial smile.
“No, thank you, just the newspaper.”
I paid for the newspaper and exited back into the precinct, my thoughts on the pub which was just up the road. I planned to have a pint and a leisurely read. My plan however, was about to be thwarted, I had taken no more than a dozen steps when I was accosted by a small person of dubious age dressed in faded jeans, a Tee-shirt, with the logo, “Breast is Best” emblazoned across it and wearing a pair of Nike trainers.
I hate people sneezing over me and turned away as quickly as I could.
I turned to admonish him and was confronted by a pair of pleading eyes and an array of off-white teeth.
“Do you mind?” I said in my best angry voice. “Have you never heard of a handkerchief?”
He replied by thrusting a magazine towards me.
The penny dropped. Big Issue.
“No, thank you.” I was getting rather good with this reply now.
I must admit however, I was tempted to ask if I would get a free chocolate bar if I did buy one from him.
“Please you buy I can get coffee.”
“No, thank you.” I repeated and started to walk away.
“No you buy I get coffee.”
“NO!” I replied as forcefully as I could.
It would appear that I had upset my foreign friend but as I don’t speak “Bishoo” his insult went over my head. Also, as with the chocolate bar and the voucher, I had no need of a Big Issue.
I arrived at the pub and found, to my joy, that the bar area was relatively empty. On reflection, it was midweek and the middle of the afternoon, so I should not have been too surprised. I ordered a pint and when it came I found myself a quiet corner and sat down to read my newspaper. The pub had a refurb and a change of name a few years back and has been transformed into a carvery. Luckily for me and a few other patrons, the bar area escaped the architect’s musings and we now have a secluded haven removed from the large and noisy restaurant area.
A carvery is supposed to be a restaurant or buffet where cooked joints are displayed and carved as required in front of customers. I think the owners of this pub have a different idea of a joint of meat than I do. I like my joints to come from one animal for a start and I would prefer it if that beast was from these islands. Botswana beef nor lamb from Lesotho appeals. However, if you are paying just over three quid for a full roast dinner your mind isn’t on the structure of the meat nor its origins.
The newspaper had dedicated four pages to Jeremy Corbyn’s “landslide” victory in the leadership contest for the Labour Party. I read every page, every sentence, every paragraph, I was truly astounded at the outcome. I knew he was ahead in the polls but I didn’t believe for one minute that the Labour Party would be stupid enough to vote for him in the numbers that they did. Sheer lunacy, he will surely finish what Michael Foot started back in the early Eighties. Not that I cared then, nor do I care now. If Labour want to self destruct then so be it, good riddance. I turned to the “Letters” page hoping to find some comment on Corbyn’s rapid rise to the front. I was not disappointed. They had an extra page of comment, most of it derisory, some of it stomach turning tripe.
My reverie was interrupted by. “Want another pint Phil?”
I looked up and saw my old mate Alan leaning against the bar.
“Yes please, don’t mind if I do.” I replied.
He brought the drinks over and we chatted about this and that and then he said.
“Have you seen that bloody asylum seeker selling Big Issue in the precinct? Bloody cheek. I soon told him where to shove his Big, bloody Issue!”
Alan believes that we should stop immigration altogether until we have sorted out who is legal and who is not. As such he is suspicious about anyone with a foreign accent.
“Yeah.” I replied. “He tried to sell me one when I came out of Smiths.”
“I hope you told him what he could do with it.” He said.
I changed the subject. Alan gets quite vociferous when it comes to migrants and all I wanted was a quiet pint.
“Have you seen this?” I asked, thrusting the newspaper towards him. “Those bloody idiots in Labour have only gone and elected that twat Corbyn to replace Miliband.”
“Serves them right.” He replied. “They deserve each other.”
To my delight, Alan was not in a talkative mood. He obviously had something on his mind but he was not forthcoming and I was not in the mood to ask. I was still trying to come to terms with the brain-numbing day-time TV bubble from which I had recently escaped. We continued with small talk, most of which only required yes or no answers. We had been here before and it was a testament to our forty year friendship that times like this did not spoil it. We each instinctively knew when the other needed space and respected the fact.
Alan finished his pint of bitter and refused my offer of a refill, saying that he had only popped out for a quick one and must now hurry back home as his wife had plans for a big dinner. From the look on his face I gathered that it was something that he was not looking forward to.
Twenty minutes later and I too was on my way home. I noticed, as I got to Smiths, that the diminutive Big Issue seller had called it a day. I offered up a silent prayer as the last thing I wanted was another battle of wills with a disillusioned immigrant.
In the shop window I saw that the local evening newspaper was being advertised and the main headline stated that the village police station was to be closed down. Something to do with streamlining, whatever that meant.
It made me think, as I wended my way home, how much we take the police – in fact all of the Emergency Services – for granted. Like everyone else, I suppose, I moaned about the custodian’s of the Law but now that we were to be stripped of our police station I suddenly felt a little less secure than when I had departed from home a few hours ago. Stupid really as the proposed close down was planned for the following year.
It took me back to my youth, to those halcyon days when you knew the local Bobby by name and held him in respectful fear. I remember once telling my grandson how the local Bobby had clipped me around the ear for riding my bicycle on the pavement. He was aghast. “Did you report him Grandad? That was assault and you weren’t even doing anything wrong!”
Different times, I know but were we so lax in bringing up our children that we taught them nothing of the Law or of the values of respect and obedience? Somewhere along the line something has been lost and I am doubtful that it will ever be found. Our world today is too fast, too politically correct and too dependent on ones human rights.
It seems that we have embraced all the new technology of the modern era but in the process we have abandoned a way of life upon which we, the post war babies, based our future upon. I’m talking about family values and mutual respect for one another.
My musings were cut short as I had reached my destination. Home, and back to the bubble of media mediocrity.