4 january 2019






school photos







           All original writing

           2014, 2015, 2016, 2017,            2018, 2019

           Ian McLauchlin



You know it's going to be a good day when the alarm goes off at 6:30 and your nose bleeds.

Daughter's car needed a service and MOT. Doesn't time fly. It seems like only a year since the last time. Managed to control nose until the sneezing fit on the approaches to Car Dealers. All then went downhill from there.

3/2/1944 I uttered from habit. They looked at me strangely, which is how people generally look at me these days. "It'll be ready at 5pm." Oh bugger. A whole day to fill. 'Do you have a bus ticket to get into town?' "Yes, but we're spending all day working here." 'No, for me?'

It was icy cold. And that was only the stare. Bus arrived quickly and glasses steamed up as I got on. Difficult managing a nose bleed, a sneezing fit and steamed up specs all at the same time.

What shall I do today I wonder. A lot of sitting down needed, considering my circumstance. No not pregnant . . . .

Started off in M&S cafe with a cup of coffee. They hadn't taken their Xmas decorations down yet either so I felt comfortingly at home immediately.

What comes after coffee? No not another coffee. When you're out for the day, you have to grab a toilet facility while you can and M&S welcomed me into their toilet, but only if I'd paid for the goods first. I assured them that the liquid goods I was about to take in with me had indeed cost a lot of money and I was about to let them have the goods back, anyway.

I collect examples of naff brand names, like Winmau dart boards and Petwant pet food dispensers. I ask you . . . .  Here was another one. Looks around. No-one about. Takes a photo of urinal.

And there standing behind me was another coffee containing curious human intent on no longer containing it . . . .   In a split second I decided that an explanation was futile and left.

Judith (known as Gaga to her family . . .  don't ask) needed some cold sore cream (CSC). Now there's CSC and there's CSC. I wanted the cheapest - the non branded but with the same active ingredient. Why? I'm Northern. "Do you have any cold sore cream?" Entering into the spirit of the pantomime season she hollered "It's behind you." And sure enough, there, next to the wicked witch and the two-men-shaped horse, was a display of Zovirax (TM). I made an excuse and left.

What now? And most importantly, what involves lots of sitting down in the warmth? Toss up between Turkish Bath and train to Plymouth. Not a lot of scope for adventure in a TB (unless you know different, answers on a postcard please) so Plymouth it was. Change at Exeter St Davids. This outfit not good enough then?

Train was delayed due to signalling problems. They'd run out of dots and dashes. Turns out it was a blessing in disguise as it said "Sloping Platform, Apply Brakes" which I did just in time, having been distracted by the interesting selective use of upper case.

Train arrived, sat down, and friendly dog came sniffing around. Noting that it was now socially OK to do that, I went through the carriage sniffing around, sometimes in hard-to-get-to places. The verbal warning was anything but verbal and the bruises will take some time to heal.

Still enjoy the Exe Estuary from the train (yes, and from other places too). Low water so you could see the inviting mud and watch the birdlife have breakfast. And there, across the mud, was Exmouth with its Marina, Church Tower and half-hearted attempt at seafront redevelopment.

Cruising gently through Totnes, there in black on the side of a warehouse was the graffito "BREXIT IS A CRIME SCENE". I like Totnes.

I attract people who need to talk to me. Drunks on buses. Oncology specialists. Women rummaging through enormous shopping bags on trains. "I had it a minute ago" she said. (Name of husband? HIV? Value of pi to fifteen decimal places?) Shopping list. “I'm sure I packed it. I remember seeing it. Or I could've left it at home.” Rummage rummage. 'I know’ I said. ‘I always leave mine at home. Or, and this is my favourite, I do the shopping, don't look at the shopping list, pay for the shopping, get out to the car, look at the shopping list, missed 3 important items, hesitate, oh can't be bothered, arrive home, hesitate, etc.' That shut her up. Except for the phone call. “I’m on the train. Have YOU got it?” Etc.

Arrived in Plymouth. Why did I go to Plymouth? Still wondering. The Station was out of town and I still had a couple of hours to kill. I know, I'll get the bus. And there she was, sitting at the bus stop, rummaging and regaling anyone within earshot with tales of shopping list. I hurriedly beeped my bus pass and sat down.

Pity Plymouth Barbican isn't the city centre. My favourite memory of the Barbican from a few decades ago was a blue plaque inscribed "On this very spot, in the winter of 1593, nothing happened".

But this was the city centre. Lots of 1950s concrete architecture, many shops empty and boarded up, and a smattering of homeless in sleeping bags. "Sorry to bother you mate, but I'm down on my arse, oops sorry for the language. Do you have 61p (interesting exactitude) for a pasty?" 'Sorry to hear it, here's a fiver'. Overwhelming gratitude which wasn't necessary . . .

My phone rang. The Car Dealership (suffix -ship denoting a skill in a certain capacity, or the collective individuals of a group. No prizes for the meaning of 'A shipshape Shipship'). They think your phone's in your hand. I'm not 15 any more, thankfully. By the time I'd decided that it might be my phone ringing, struggled to get it out of the tight front zipped pocket of my bumbag (which incidentally I wear on my front so should be called something else entirely), and remembered how to receive a call, they'd rung off. I phoned them back. "Which department do you want, Service or Parts?" 'Service.' Rang for 7 minutes. "Sorry our Parts Department isn't answering . . . "

I had a sit down. A long one.

As if to compensate for dismal post Xmas and NY period, there was a small funfare pumping out 50s rock music to go with the architecture - that'll get 'em in a jolly mood. I just about managed to force myself into avoiding a vomit-inducing ride as I was already feeling that way and didn’t need more.

It was time to find the Railway Station. 'Does this bus go to the Railway Station?'  "No." Another long sit down. These seats are COLD. 'Can you tell me which bus goes to the Railway Station?' "Yes, any one of those, half a mile away” or it seemed like it. . . . . . . . Sits down. Finally girds loins and sets off in approximately the right direction. (Whatever else you do, you gotta gird your loins.) Eventually found the right bus. Set me down on the opposite side of the road to the Station. A pedestrian overpass beckoned. Groaned and sat down again while adjusting girded state of loins. After a super-human effort I made it up, along and down again.

Entered warm station, past a posse of British Transport Police who eyed me suspiciously. Looked at Departures brightly lit display. I think there's just time to visit the toilet. Having finished, I was thinking of plugging the sink with a stick of dynamite or a couple of gobstoppers wrapped in cotton wool. That was allowed as the notice said:

I know, I'll take a photo of that notice. Just then a British Transport Policeman entered and exclaimed "Aha, caught in the act. Are you the Exeter Crazed Gentlemen's Toilet Snapper hoping to get away with it again here in Plymouth?" 'Er no. I was merely visiting Plymouth, the city associated forever with seafaring, with its Mayflower steps, famous Hoe (or was it spade?) and its 72 feet high Smeaton Tower constructed in 1759 with co-ordinates 50.36441 deg N, 4.14183 deg W.’

"Ok, on your way, SIR."

Phew. Decided to lay low for the rest of the return journey. Not many free seats to London Paddington. And no mention of a shopping list at all. Only a glimpse of a satellite dish on a long pole at the bottom of someone's long garden, with an adjacent Father Xmas scarecrow. Someone may have been banished to the shed for Xmas.

Phone message. "We need to fit new wiper blades to pass the MOT. It'll cost 10x the normal cost of new wiper blades but we won't charge for fitting . . ." On a train, next to sniffing girl with a very bad cold, clutching a handful of soggy tissues and watching something boring on her iPad, and hoping I won't be apprehended by Exeter Transport Police when I get off the train, what can you do? 'OK do it' I messaged back 'and call off the dogs.'

Back in Exeter, I was transfixed by the coupling between the back half of the train and the front half. No Transport Police around yet and probably not in a toilet, so I figured it might be safe to take a photo.

Now, if I just extract that pin there, and pull that plug there . . . .

A sleeping bag looked at me piteously. Here's a fiver and keep warm.

Someone else hadn't taken their Xmas decorations down yet.  

"Your car's ready, with its gold plated wiper blades, its fully stamped service history and its no sign of an earlier nosebleed on the seats and steering wheel." Phone went. Daughter was in Exeter, having managed to find how to get into reverse gear in my car and get off her drive, which I'd deliberately not explained to her to stop her being able to reverse my car off her drive. "I'm in Exeter, having found how to engage reverse and having found how to get Ciara (granddaughter) to some wild gathering or other. Do you need a lift or can you drive back?"

'I can drive back thanks, especially since I now have gold plated wiper blades, no MOT certificate (they’re electronic now like tax discs) and no sign whatever of an impending nose bleed. Oh wait a minute . . .'

Utterly worn out now. I'm not doing anything at all for the next few days except maybe write this up. Nah, I won't even do that.