I am not a fly

Saturday September 9, 2006

Graham had warned me that there would be more than one parcel to pick up, and that one of them might be bulky and heavy to handle.

“I wouldn’t ask you to fetch them on your own, but it will save an awful lot of time.”

“Not to worry, then. I’ll go round the back doubles and park behind the shop. No problem at all. I may be slow but I’m still a big boy, you know.”

“Of course. Just take it easy.”

And that’s why I drove over to the holiday camp this morning, cadged a breakfast, picked up the receipt for the roller blinds he’s had on order from Wyvern Blinds in Magdelaine Passage, Taunton, grabbed a few bits from the caravan that needed to be transported back to the house, and set off for Taunton across the country lanes.

Seems to have been my day for brushing against young people of the near-chav kind, for I was darned near run down by a group of them zooming out of a farmyard at Weacombe. I say ‘near-chav’ because I just cannot bring myself to believe that real chavs would be seen dead in a farmyard, not for any reason. A combination of my anticipatory driving skills and the fast reactions of youth avoided a crunch, though, and they were content thereafter to sit quietly behind me as I navigated the narrow lane and the almost equally narrow main road into Taunton. Again, not real chavs. Real chavs would have overtaken me and my little silver Ford just as soon as they could, on principle.

I normally drive through the back doubles to the multi-storey car park in Taunton, but that would have left me with a long walk from Magdelaine Passage, carrying heavy parcels, so I gritted my teeth, girded my patience, and slipped into the slow grind of the main road through the town centre, and around the back road to where I was sure I’d be able to park at the back of the shop. You need all the patience you can muster when you tackle the traffic in Taunton town centre on a Saturday.

I was gratified to find that my mapping instinct was right, parked in the pick-up and delivery lot, trudged through an alley-way by the side of the Coffee Lounge and thence into Wyvern Blinds where the nice lady had our parcels ready to pick up. It was lunch time, and she was on her own in the shop, so she was unable to help me carry the stuff, and too security conscious to open the barred back door into the pick-up lot. “No matter,” I said, stoutly. “If you can open the front door for me I shall manage just fine, just see if I don’t.”

I did, too. Manage, I mean. One of the parcels, a tube-wrapped length of blackout blind fabric, was a little unwieldy at some seven feet in length, but I slipped it into the car with no problem, and headed out of Taunton, again on the back doubles, to join the main road out to Bridgwater. It really does help when you know about these back routes.

In Sainsbury’s, seeking affordable wine for the weekend and as far beyond as parsimony permits, I picked up a box of French chardonnay, quite palatable, but with a tap that leaks. Perishin’ thing. I shall have to slurp it up rather faster than I’d planned, is all. Two or three wine-dunked evenings ahead, I’m afraid.

Back home, Dolly rolled over onto her tummy in greeting, inviting me to join her on the bed for a siesta.

“Good idea, Dolly,” I said. “Give me a few minutes to get sorted, and I think I may just do that.”

It was a heavy siesta. One of those where you roll over to look at the clock, decide that you’re not quite cooked yet, and settle down to do the other side. Well, when you’ve been working hard, you do need to be sure to rest yourself on both sides, front and back, don’t you?

To be honest, it was a little late to take my evening medicine walk but I still needed to stretch my legs and walk off the toxins that gather after strenuous activity. So I grabbed my camera, and my stick, and set off along the footpath, taking the opposite direction from yesterday, and walking into the sun. Proceeding almost but not quite at random, I ended up in Wembdon village, by St George’s Church, as the sun reached down to the horizon, making shadows of the Gothic kind across the churchyard. Couldn’t resist a photograph or two of the tombstones. I didn’t realize just how Gothic the scene was until I downloaded the pictures to the computer on my return.


St George’s Church, Wembdon


The Englishman in me appreciates the way the sun warms the back of the stones, raising thoughts of the comfort of resting in an old English churchyard.

As a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan, it now occurs to me that this was a perfect vampire moment, the sun sinking fast, and the Undead stirring, ready to reach up into the world of the living, seeking sustenance.

Except that no vampire worth the name would be caught undead in an English churchyard. Not with a fearless old poet carrying a stout stick close by, they wouldn’t.

The stout stick was useful a little later, too, on the return leg. A small group of very young proto-chavs seemed to resent my presence on the darkening street, and called insults of the ‘old bugger’ kind at me as I passed. I stopped, turned to face them, and they wilted away. I take no nonsense of that kind, and am perfectly willing to demonstrate the way an old bugger can do fearful damage with his stick.

It’s absolutely essential that those of us who can do not yield the streets to roving gangs of youngsters with nothing better to do but attempt to intimidate us old ‘uns. Give up the streets of an evening and the world is lessened, rendered hostile and uninhabitable.

But as I say, and confidently expected, they wilted away. In my experience, a stern visage and a stout stick works wonders with young people who, individually, are perfectly nice and wouldn’t dream of harming a fly. And, though I say it myself, I’m no fly.



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