‘Alright, lover? Cold, isn’t it? Had a good Christmas, have we? No biscuits this morning, lover?’
The new woman behind the counter in Mr Mishri’s shop was bombarding me with breezy questions at eight o’clock this morning.
‘I don’t eat biscuits.’
She gave me a look that would terrify a cobra. After a beat, she redefined herself, smiled and declared: ‘My sister’s son is gay.’
‘Good for him. How – eh!?’
‘Just the milk is it, lover?’
I fumbled in my pocket and several one-pound coins spilled on to the floor.
‘Oh, dear,’ she tutted. Then, leaning over the counter, she whispered conspiratorially: ‘Make sure you pick ‘em all up, my lover – Arabs come in here, you know.’
On the way home I was musing with Audrey over why Mr Mishri had employed this odd woman, this unfortunate middle-aged female with the apparent deadly power of inconsequent suggestion.
We came to the conclusion that he had perhaps had another one of his brain hemorrhages, or was having an ironic joke at our expense.
Back in the warm kitchen, I boiled the kettle for the first Earl Grey of the day.
‘I don’t know about you, Audrey,’ I told my little dog who was watching me with big brown eyes, hoping she was about to be handed one of her chews made from sheep’s lips, ‘but, as it happens, I quite fancy a biscuit. Custard Cream, actually.’
On our afternoon walk yesterday, I noticed that the BNP office on the High Street has been transformed into a lovely little florist shop called Cobbler’s Flowers.
I was just telling Audrey how delighted I was when Kev the hard-man-fascist-bully-boy-skinhead-twat came out of the betting shop next door vigorously scratching his testicles – either that or he was searching for the lost city of Atlantis in his trousers. Noticing us, he wandered over to where we were standing, spat on the pavement and said: ‘Shame, innit – what wiv’ all them Poles ‘round ‘ere an’ that.’
‘Well, I, erm . . .’
‘Don’t worry,’ he said, punching me hard on the arm, ‘We’ll be back.’
I felt horrible, dirty and vaguely polluted as we walked home. Rubbing the spot on my aching arm where he had thumped me, I couldn’t help thinking about Kev’s words and how he must have somehow thought that I share his sickening and racist opinions, that we are political cohorts in some way.
I felt much better, however, after returning to the house and indulging in a frothy hour of ethnic cleansing in the bathroom.
We walked to Blackwell church yesterday and had a wander around the cemetery. In spite of the heavy rain, my mood was distinctly elevated, an effect achieved in most part by spending a few minutes reading some of the lovely epitaphs on the various headstones. Some are very beautiful and touching, unlike the disgusting graffiti that can be found everywhere in the small graveyard.
A couple of the Jewish graves that reside at the back under an old beech tree have been vandalised more than most, an unfortunate state of affairs that receives frequent high-pitched coverage in the local press. In spite of this, I was not expecting the degree of odium and hate that was to be found in those particular messages and I hope that somebody manages to remove them as soon as possible. Neither would I repeat any of the appalling sentiments here; they are pure filth. The person who did it deserves to be severely punished – but, of course, I suspect his or her identity will never be discovered or disclosed.
The slogans daubed on other headstones and on the heavy church doors were of a more benign – if that is the correct word – nature and mostly alluded to the act of anal sex. I am sure you can imagine their nature. I blame someone called Dokie for most of this stuff because it is his elaborate sig that can found sprayed on almost every available vertical surface. Some of his work will have limited appeal – ‘Hitler was a Derby goalie’, for instance, will be confusing to people who are not fans of English football – and its implications are rather complicated, to say the least.
Meanwhile, on the wooden notice-board at the church entrance, in between posters for the Friday coffee morning, the annual summer fête and various jumble sales, someone had been busy with a silver marker pen. This was in a different hand and was of a more humorous nature. I allowed myself a smile as I read: ‘My mother made me a homosexual’ underneath which some wag had added: ‘If I send her the wool, will she make me one, too?’ Another posed the question: ‘Who was Darwin?’ to which someone had answered, ‘He instigated the Evolution’ – which displays either very sophisticated or very muddled thinking, depending on your point of view.
Before we left for home, I had to look twice at a relatively fresh headstone upon which had been expertly engraved: ‘Here Lies John S . . . ., Father and Husband, Forever Awkward’. Someone desperate to have the final word, I thought. But on closer inspection, I realised the words were actually ‘Forever Loved’.
A few years ago, I discovered, to my dismay, that it is a popularly held belief that children’s author Enid Blyton was something of a racist. I was quite disappointed to learn this as the Famous five books were a big part of my early childhood.
I was even more taken aback by recent claims against Belgian author and illustrator Hergé. I love the Tintin books and still read them today. Audrey is also a big fan and is especially fond of having L’Etoile Mystérieuse read to her at bedtime. Though she regards Snowy as something of a coward, I secretly think that she has a crush on him.
To make matters even worse, I had the unfortunate experience of watching a documentary on Channel 4 the other evening whose subject was obese, northern comedian Bernard Manning, one of my favourite recently-deceased bigots. Apparently, our Bernard was also something of a raving racist. In the programme, someone said of him: ‘No matter what you think of Bernard or how much of a hate-filled chauvinist you may think he is, he did, nonetheless, have a talent that couldn’t be ignored.’
(I do love a challenge – Comedy Ed.)
And now, would you believe it, I have just been reliably informed by a husky-voiced child-psychologist-cum-local-radio-presenter (with a Dutch accent) that top schoolboy wizard Harry Potter is in fact gay. I tell you this: I am glad I was listening to Derbyshire Farming Today earlier on, or I would have gone on living my life suffering under some very serious delusions indeed.
‘Twas ever thus.
On the Fantastic hi-fi today:
The Impossible Bird – Nick Lowe
Song to a Seagull – Joni Mitchell
I had the unfortunate experience of watching the enormous frame of dimwit Jade Goody prance around the house in the Channel 4 reality TV programme Big Brother last night.
I only allowed myself 10 minutes or so, but in the end that was all I needed – all I needed for her to be raised slightly in my expectations.
Indeed, I used to think that you were nothing but a boorish moron, Jade.
Well, now, congratulations are in order.
Jade Goody, you have been promoted! You are now officially an idiot.
Well done and God bless your pointed little head.
What was, until recently, a small cake shop on the High Street here in the small Derbyshire town that Audrey and I call home, is soon to open its doors as an office/shop/surgery belonging to the representatives, members and officials of the local British National Party.
It has robust metal shutters protecting the windows and door at the moment, but there is a colourful new sign above the entrance – decorated with several eye-catchingly glossy Union flags – that bears the legend ‘The BNP The Truth The Whole Truth And Nothing But The Truth.’ (sic)
Ours is a fairly parochial but rather close community that has never really benefited from any substantial redevelopment or government investment since the local coal-mining industry collapsed about 20 years ago. The presence of the BNP here is not a total shock, though it is a little surprising for such a small and friendly, rural village. Surprising to me, anyway – perhaps I am being slightly naïve. It wouldn’t be the first time.
So – what to do? Shall I wait for the doors to open in a few weeks’ time and step inside offering my trenchant views on their distasteful opinions and methods? With the high level of unemployment, low level of education and general fundamental, overall dissatisfaction of most of the people who live here, I would probably be wasting my time. It is a very sad fact, but any potential BNP canvassers would unfortunately be preaching mostly to the already converted, as it were.
Hey, Audrey, time for us to move on, methinks.