Pissing ‘Bloketiquette’

Forget feminism. Men are chained, shackled and manacled when it comes to public pissing etiquette or ‘Bloketiquette’ in the “Big House” or alternatively the “Little Boys’ Room”.

I’ve heard the phrase “Rat Up a Drainpipe” applied to it before, but have started calling a public lavatory – the “Rat On a Hot Tin Roof”. Why ? – because I once happened to glance up in a public lavvy while taking a piss and saw a rat and nest of babies sandwiched between chicken wire mesh and a hot corrugated steel roof above me. Ah…the serenity of that particular moment.

From an early age it’s instilled into males to stand rigid at a urinal, eyes transfixed forward, boring into the obligatory white tiled mouldy lime grout wall. No acknowledgement of the bloke next to you who’s trying to get the piss out in as short a time as possible. There’s communication generally, but it’s a monosyllabic grunt of acknowledgement at the start. Nothing midstream mind you and no eye contact – that’s dodgy.

If the bloke alongside you spontaneously combusted, you might notice out of the corner of your eye at the absolute extreme edge of your peripheral vision but even then you wouldn’t turn ever so slightly to try to douse the flames with a trickle. Eyes straight ahead thank you very much.

I was once in a rundown pub a bit worse for wear after a pub crawl and the door was busted. From the corner of my eye I noticed someone watching but carried on. Once I’d finished – a dozen or so girls’ were having a laugh looking at a few of us lined up through the half open broken door. None of us had turned to look at them. Not the done thing you see. Eyes straight ahead.

The big stainless steel plates as urinals are there because once you start there can be no correction in trajectory. We’d rather piss over our trousers and shoes than try to correct things. Anything other than a microsecond of correction is just not okay. Certainly no lingering fine motor skill adjustment. Looking upwards at the ceiling where I spied my furry friends is acceptable but it needs to be a quick look upwards, not head in the clouds, star gazing stuff. None of that spinning around like on the deck of the Titanic in the movie.

The difficulty of not being able to talk in a toilet got to me when I worked at McDonalds after school as a youngster. In between preparing fine food I cleaned the toilets.

One day I was changing toilet paper and someone went into the cubicle while my back was turned. Unfortunately for them though there was no toilet paper as I hadn’t gotten round to replacing it before they went in there. It soon became clear they weren’t taking a piss. However there was no toilet paper and this they would soon discover to their horror.

But I couldn’t exactly call out, “Excuse me, are you having a crap or a piss ? If the former is the case, unless you’re accomplished at using your hand, you should know there’s no paper. You should stop now if you can. If you’re too far gone I’ll send some over – Bombs Away !”

I couldn’t do anything other than watch the poor bugger emerge walking like he’d been in the saddle for a month, and amble his way out of the family  restaurant at a brisk pace looking like someone with motor neurone disease having difficulties with his limbs.

Speaking of McDonalds, I should have known something was up when I walked in as a customer one day and lamented the fact that there were no urinals – that and the eye contact I was getting at the hand dryer. Not the done thing.

Out of the corner of my eye, someone was looking straight at me as I stood drying my hands with my gaze transfixed on the wall in front of me as is the male custom. The extreme edge of my peripheral vision though told me  that someone was staring intently and seemingly malevolently at me. You don’t stare at someone in the “Rat On a Hot Tin Roof”. Bugger that I thought, bloketiquette is to hold one’s ground no matter what and I wasn’t going to be pushed off the hand dryer until my hands were baked in dried soap.

Only then did I turn to let them use it and looked into the eyes of a woman.

Something didn’t make sense I thought. My first reaction was that this bloody pervert woman has gone into a male toilet !

But I said nothing. No talking is the rule, and I nonchalantly turned and strolled out the door.

It only became clear later on that the toilets had been switched following renovations and I’d just assumed they were in the same place and walked straight in there without looking for any signage on the door. It became clearer in those stunned few seconds that I was the one in the wrong as the lack of urinals hit home.

I duly registered a complaint at the counter to establish an alibi and after that legged it.

I saw a cop heading towards McDonalds outside and thought for a brief moment I was going to be done for loitering with intent or something – the bloody injustice of it all ! Anyway the cop went past me and I got the hell out of there.Blended into the crowd.

My point of all of this is – sure we piss standing up, but it’s not all milk and honey.

Whereas woman are so liberated they can have a telephone conversation on the toilet. We males are imprisoned in our four walls and have a long, long way to go…

         urinal

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A Stag To-Do

I don’t know why I keep returning to my childhood in my posts.

Maybe its cathartic I ponder, as I look up at a huge full moon tonight with my Rescue dog “Mr Lee” tugging at the end of his leash to edge closer to the neighbour’s letterbox and rubbish bin so he can piss over them.

I guess I have a gob full of mortality in my mouth and feel the need to leave something behind, however inane.

Many moons ago as young kids we moved countries and went to live in South East Asia on the outskirts of a city on an abandoned Dutchman’s orchard surrounded by jungle. My memories are of hot summer nights and days spent knocking ‘Black Doris’ variety plums out of mature trees with bamboo poles and subsisting on plums for days on end.

There were new creatures to discover in this strange new land, including snakes.

A vivid memory I have is of my brother finding an eel in the creek that had died and him wearing it like a belt around his waist for weeks until the smell got too much.

Also of me finding a dead Stag Beetle (Dorcus species). A truly impressive creature it seemed to me. So much so that rather than letting the ants carry it off to their ‘All You Can Eat Buffet’, I felt it deserved to be exhibited.

So I took it inside and put it all the way down the bottom of my parents’ bed.

Pack as many critters in there, I thought at the time. I couldn’t help laughing to myself as I thought about their shock at encountering this primordial whopper.

Nothing happened though after 3 days or so, and I actually forgot about the Stag.

However I awoke one morning to find my dad prostrate on the couch applying some sort of salve to an elevated leg.

Apparently the barbed bits of the Stag Beetle’s legs had somehow gotten caught on the skin or hair of Dad’s leg on the 3rd night of sharing his bed with this bedfellow. He’d woken up with a start, couldn’t shake it free and assumed it was alive.

According to Dad it had gotten such a hold and bitten so deeply in the middle of the night that if he ripped it off his leg it would, “open him up”, he’d “bleed out” and, “require a multitude of stitches.” So he’d pleaded with my Mum to get it the “hell off him !” and she’d grabbed the first thing to hand, that happened to be a can of fly spray.

As Dad said, “I don’t know if it said it killed Stag Beetles on the little illustrations on the side of the can, but that bastard was so big it made no difference whatsoever. If anything it made it madder and it bit down harder.”

“Your Mother”, he said, “Unloaded half a can of that stuff into him and it did nothing. Didn’t even touch the sides.” In the end Dad said he wielded Webster’s Illustrated Dictionary like a brick and crushed the thing and his leg in the process, before it would let go.

By this time of the night apparently my Dad was starting to feel dizzy and wondered, “If this tropical devil had injected him with a paralysing neurotoxin” and it was starting to kick in.

Meanwhile I was suppressing my laughter and feigning deep concern as he related the night’s events. Trying to throw him off, I asked him why we’d moved to this godforsaken place where such things existed.

“I’m sorry”, he said, “But we just have to get on with things.”

I couldn’t let on that the Stag had been dead for about a week.

Dad had taken up drumming in a band and had developed a penchant for using drumsticks on the backs of our legs when we kids played up. So I stayed shtum.

Dad put salve on his leg for weeks afterwards to stop, “Necrosis of the skin, the flesh eating bug thing”, he reckoned.

Still makes me laugh.

The Stag Beetle

The Stag Beetle

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The Good, The Bad and The Ugly – Teachers

Was thinking about the various teachers who had the undoubted pleasure of basking in the golden glow of my cerebral cortex. A fine sparkling wine I was, bubbling up to an uncorked neck.

And let’s not forget my debonair man-child looks. Think yin and yang pre-pubescent Sean Connery. Me with hair but no facial hair, Sean with facial hair but no hair. Especially by the time Thunderball (1965) came out, when poor old Sean looked like he’d been crossed with a horse – there was so much horse hair in his hairpiece.

But, I jest.

On the whole most of my teachers were good, dedicated and decent human beings. But there were a few exceptions that sad to say were pieces of shit.

One of the worst I ever had, was a cruel Scottish woman who delighted in undermining and belittling kids. What better place to be than in a school in an unassailable position of responsibility with which to  magnify and spit back the vitriol of abuse she must have suffered in her youth. In doing so not only did she continue the circle of abuse but she magnified it tenfold given the number of young children in her care.

I was 8 at the time and well remember a girl called Carolyn in my class who seemed quite troubled and lost – all at sea she was. We may have been kids but we could see her pain. Now sadly common, her Mum and Dad had separated which was a rarity back then and she’d borne the brunt of the family turmoil.

To encourage creativity and confidence as part of the school curriculum (in no way was this due to any initiative by this particular teacher), each of us had to perform a musical piece in front of the class.

Mine was a drum solo performed on a torn vinyl and foam stool. Not quite ‘Moby Dick’ as my drumstick got caught in the torn upholstery which put the kibosh on my crescendo and left my 7A jazz drumstick firmly embedded at right angles in the foam. From memory I accompanied the drum solo with a rendition of ‘Like a Rhinestone Cowboy’ by Glen Campbell. Classy stuff.

Carolyn stepping out of her shell, did a piece on the piano. She did darn well with one hand / finger playing the verse-chorus-verse and got through the piece, which for her at that particular time in her life was a pretty big achievement for someone whom life had unfairly given a kicking to. We gave her a big round of applause that brought a smile to a face that was permanently downcast and looked at the floor. We never saw her smile.

Then this teacher sarcastically said, “Okay…but would have been better if you’d used both hands”. And laughed at her.

It crushed the poor kid and was probably the first time I’d encountered real cruelty as a youngster. That particular teacher died of cancer and her husband topped himself shortly afterwards.

The other one was a teacher from High School, “Rat Bastard”.

He’d delight in making kids cry (including my best mate, who was going through something similar to that which Carolyn had many years before, as his Dad left the kids and his Mum high and dry never to return. Left the country with another woman.)

“Rat bastard” would psychologically torture his kids from down the back of the class behind their backs and had the habit of closing his eyes as he ranted. He was in the habit of ritualistically cracking open his briefcase and officiously removing his tie and jacket at the beginning of a class. Showing us that he meant business.

A friend of mine Marty, whom I’d sat next to on my first day at High School, was the son of a cop. His dad had a gun collection and Marty brought a .45 to school that first day and showed it to me under the desk as “Rat Bastard” sat directly in front of us. I managed to talk him out of pointing it at him. Thinking about it now I probably should have encouraged him to blow “Rat Bastard’s” balls off.

I suspect now though that the gun wasn’t loaded and Marty was probably enjoying winding me up.

Marty was an interesting guy. He’d get himself into suicidal fights with the knuckle scraping gorillas who roamed the school looking for a fight. They couldn’t quite believe that this skinny kid would take them on and he did some damage.

Anyway, this particular day “Rat Bastard” was ridiculing my friend whose Dad did the runner and he broke down. Yet this shit of a teacher wouldn’t stop. He just kept going on. Marty was at the front of the class while “Rat Bastard” was down the back yelling at my mate sitting beside me.

We all willed him to stop. My mate had had enough and really wasn’t in a good way emotionally.

At that moment Marty had the brilliant idea of changing the tone and mood by setting fire to the contents of “Rat Bastard’s” prized briefcase open on his desk at the front of the room. In a split second my mate and I were desperately trying not to laugh at “Rat Bastard” still ranting but off-topic now with his eyes closed while his briefcase and its contents blazed away.

Marty proceeded to ritualistically feed his tie to the flames.

By now we were pinching great swathes of our skin to suppress our laughter, desperately trying not to give the game away. It got worse when the curtain next to the briefcase went up with Marty managing to smother it with “Rat Bastard’s” tweed jacket.

Somehow Marty and the others managed to stop the whole place going up, leaving behind charred ashes, a bubbled suitcase, half-burnt curtain, blackened jacket and a paint blistered wall.

We bolted out of class as soon as the bell rang leaving “Rat Bastard” with his eyes still closed, babbling on.

Strangely enough we never got done for that. We either scared him, or else he may have had difficulty explaining how we torched the classroom without him noticing. He was removed from the school after someone managed to goad him into hitting them in the face. Went on to teach foreign students after that – God help them !

My best teacher was an alcoholic by the name of Johnson who taught English. He was as thin as a rake, didn’t eat properly or take care of himself unfortunately, and was outfitted exclusively by the church thrift shop. Because he was so thin the outline of a hip flask in his left hand trouser pocket was always clearly visible. Like a snake that’s disarticulated its jaw and just eaten a goat. Hard to hide.

There was a storage room behind his desk and he’d disappear during the course of a class into there where we could just make out the silver glint of his hip flask through the crack in the partially closed door, held aloft and judicilusly applied to his lips.

He’d take us out to the middle of the school field (never the edge of it mind you) and squat down like he was having a crap, but read. Much the same as he did at home on the toilet I imagine. We did the same, but lying on the grass reading in the sun – freed of the accursed classroom.

We watched and discussed books and movies like ‘Kes’ (1969) based on the novel by Barry Hines; ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ with Jack (1975); Fahrenheit 451 (1966); and Joseph Heller’s ‘Catch-22’ (1961). Mr Johnson challenged us.

Unfortunately (tragically !) he was dismissed by the school for his drinking. I saw him many years later crewing the coastal merchant ships down at the Port and got the chance to tell him what a great teacher he’d been to me.

Sadly he died about 20 years ago when his liver gave out on him.

image

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Toenails versus Chewing Gum

Was thinking about my early years living in symmetrical, careful, planned, 1970s ‘cul de sac’ suburbia before we moved out to the abject chaos of the jungle.

Food was constantly on my brothers and my minds. Mum and Dad were young parents trying to find a vocation (stints at real estate, sound system installation) to provide for three growing boys and their insatiable appetites.

From an early age apparently I used to sit perched on top of the letterbox from which to survey the coming’s and going’s of the street and yoga-like stretch my foot up to my face and eat my toenails.

The neighbours used to comment to my mum on my sense of balance and finesse with which I did so. He’s destined for great things they’d say.

Well no, they didn’t say that – I’m making that up. I think they thought of me as a curious freak of nature to puzzle over when folding the washing and gazing out the window.

Was it hunger that drove my search for sustenance in the keratin protein of my toenails ?  I’ll never know.

The fishmonger in his truck would venture down our street each Friday and we local kids would barrel after him together with a gaggle of haggling housewives to buy the fish of the day. We were interested in looking at the different varieties of fish on display gazing up at us with their glazed, cloudy, dead eyes smelling somewhere between fresh and week old.

Occasionally, a novice ice cream driver would take the wrong turn and head down the street with his jingle playing. That was a ‘call to arms’ and every kid running, on bikes, skateboards, crutches or whatever came to hand would corner him in his truck and watch as one or two lucky ones got to choose a chocolate dipped and sprinkled single scoop.We always hoped he’d give us one for free, but he never did.

Anyway, this gets me to the point of this memory and that is the mystery of my brother’s chewing gum stash.

My brothers and I got 10 cents pocket money. Once it was in our hot little hands we’d immediately dash off to the local dairy for our 10 cents worth of mixed lollies – our sugar bliss. The lollies came in little brown bags pre-made by the dairy-owner, all ready for the kids. We’d chow through our various spearmint leaves, milk bottles, jet planes, wine gums and assorted gelatin pretty darn quickly. No room for civility. You pause, you lose.

Yet my brother always had wads of chewing gum left over which was curious as there was no chewing gum in the 10 cent mixed lolly bags to the best of our knowledge. He’d gloat and show us the juicy load of gum in his puffed up Marlon Brando ‘Godfather’ cheeks, all the time stretching it out with his tongue and playing with it at will. But he was always coy on where it came from.

So we spied on him for the next couple of days and it soon became clear.

He’d head off to our garage and get a small gardening trowel, wash it under the tap – undoubtedly for hygiene reasons – and take off down the street or ‘cul de sac’. There every piece of discarded flattened gum he came across on the footpath and road, he duly scraped up and put in a plastic bag. Once he’d finished his hunter gathering, he rolled the stringy bits of gum together to form a solid mass and stuck it in his mouth, and that was the source of his everlasting gum stash.

There can’t have been any flavour left in the gum that could have been out in the elements for years, run over, walked over, and possibly pissed on by dogs. But whatever it was it gave him a sense of satisfaction and satiation. Who were we to judge?

But we didn’t follow suit and we stayed clear of anything to do with his food for the rest of our lives, even to this day.

Frankly I’d prefer my dirty blackened toenails to pissed on gum any day, but that’s just me.

chewing gum

 

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Jenny The Spunk or the Spunk Who Loved Me (Not Really Though)

Being in the spare room often gives me cause to reflect on manly stirrings. The wife has extreme menopause of a kind that leaves me feeling like Lawrence of Arabia in the impassable Nefud Desert. Sand, sand and more damned sand. Not a drop of water in sight.

Last night I explored the baser part of my fishbowl right back to the beginning and my first crush – Jenny “The Spunk” (Jenny pronounced with an ‘ee’ and not an ‘ay’ – that’s Forrest Gump’s Jenny, not my Jenny.)

My Jenny was quintessentially English with thick hand knitted jumpers, cascading curls and she was smart. My only criticism if I had one, was that she wore thick knee-high embroidered patterned white socks. Good quality ones from England. Whereas the more skin I could see of Jenny the better.

She was my “Spunk” or “Honey” as both boys and girls (“Sheilas” and “Fellas”) called each other they fancied back then. Sad thing is she just didn’t know it or the steaming pile of goodness she was missing out on.

But how does a 10 year old impress this 1970s Aphrodite or even get her to notice him ?

In my mind I saw myself as a young Harry Hamlin (Perseus) and her my scantily clad classical beauty Judi Bowker  (Princess Andromeda) from the Clash of the Titans movie. Barring the bucked teeth and bowl haircut my mum gave me, though.

Judi was an on-screen crush of mine and a “Hottie” by the way.

Yes, I know that movie was from the 80s and the crush was in the 70s, but time blurs you know and the feelings were the same. Unfortunately though our encounters were like stop-motion Ray Harryhausen cinematography from the movie. Stilted and stumbling.

This was my dilemma.

Lurching back to the 70s, I’d been watching CHiPs on TV with Jon and Ponch and noticed the way the bikes were veritable chick magnets. No sooner had they stopped their motorcycles than women from everywhere emerged from the fake undergrowth sets. Flashing smiles and other bits, they were all over them like a swarm of “Honey” bees if you like.

So that’s what I needed to do of course. It made total sense. Stake out Jenny’s house (or “joint” to use the 70s TV lingo the baddies on CHiPs used) on my bike.

Okay, it was no CHiPs Kawasaki, but as a pushbike it did have a fake gear stick and brakes on the handlebars. The bike would do the trick.

Besides I didn’t need as many women as Jon and Ponch. Just my darling Jenny…

So every day after school and on weekends, I’d ride over to the asphalt service lane opposite Jenny’s (she lived opposite on the other side of the road) and ‘Park Up’ longingly looking towards her house and trying to look as sophisticated as I could with my bowl haircut blowing in the wind (courtesy of my mum) and my gear stick in neutral. All the time, hoping to catch a fleeting glimpse of my beloved. The idea was she’d notice the bike and this would set an unstoppable chain of events in motion. It being written in the stars and in the Pantheon of the Gods that the two of us would be together. What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

I was there for hours.

I thought about a lot of things squirming from side-to-side on the banana seat of the bike.

I remember thinking that Jenny and I having children was probably a bit far down the track. There was no point getting ahead of myself. But then again the idea wasn’t inconceivable, I mused to myself.

Kids were inconceivable though, at our age come to think of it now !

I sat astride my ride, my chopper bike behind a low slung heavy chain that was weighed down in the middle by a heavy lock that almost kissed the asphalt driveway. It was there to stop cars after hours getting up the service lane. To block things off.

Well that chain came to symbolise the chastity belt that I’d never break through because Jenny unfortunately never appeared. Despite me, my bike, and every heavenly emotion and willpower I could muster – the closest I came to catching a glimpse of her was her bloody brother Geoffrey mowing the lawns.

Yes I was pretty heavy-hearted. But I wasn’t done yet. Where Jon and Ponch had failed me, divine providence would prevail. One last dying gasp, one last throw of the die.The course of love never did run smooth.

Jenny used to go to Church and Mum had been on at my brothers’ and I to give Church a chance. So I did. Once.

But what I found in Church shocked me to my 10 year old core and in the end tore my love completely asunder.

The sight of Jenny singing about her undying and obedient love for God (along with other people I recognised repeating the words of prayers over and over) scared me.

My free-thinking Jenny was somehow possessed by this thing called religion. There was no way she would notice me on my Chopper bike when I had to compete with God and Jesus. I was no angel. I rode a bike for God’s sake ! and I saw myself as a bit of an outlaw. I’d leave skid marks from the bike on my driveway from braking too hard and all that kind of rough stuff. Although you’re right, Perseus (Clash of the Titans), was technically a hero not an outlaw.

There could be no future, no kids. I’d never see her without knee-high socks !

Distressed and leaden with shock, I did manage to position myself next to an open window in the old Gothic Church where the service was being held and at an opportune break in the prayers, fell gently backwards out of it onto the grass and ran home as fast as I could.

Sadly, that was the end of Jenny and me.

She’ll never know how lucky she was….

chopper bike

My Chopper was just like this only yellow. How in the world can a girl not be impressed?

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Carbaryl Shakes and Wasp Napalm

With the ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ in his ears I guess, my brother lit the petrol much quicker than any of us expected and the air just supanoved, exploded in front of us. An overflowing swimming pool of molten honeyed light poured over the edges and painted in the picture frame between my eyes. A lighter click and striking flint flame instaneity – faster than any of us could take in what was happening. Then a deafening BOOM, shockwave, and the windows of the house blew out.

How did we get here, wherever that may be, you may well ask?

Well it all started with a German Wasp (Vespula vulgaris) that stung my Dad in the head.

Like I said in my last post, we lived in the bush and the place at times was swarming with wasps in Biblical plague-like proportions. An underground nest over one particular scorcher of a summer encircled the house as the wasps decided that anything within their perimeter (read ‘killing-zone’) was fair-game, to be terminated with extreme prejudice. And that happened to be my Dad’s forehead. A soft target.

Despite yelling and doing a sort of a jig in his office while he hit his forehead with the palm of his hand and pulled at his scalp, with the words ‘Son of a bitch ! Jesus ! Get It (The wasp, the Fuck – I’m filling this in for him) Off Me !’ There wasn’t much I could do for him, although the thought of hitting Dad over the head was tempting.

Eventually, and it took a while ! Dad dispatched the wasp and decided he’d had enough. He came back from the hardware store laden with Carbaryl (an insecticide we’d never heard of, which wasn’t surprising given we’d never even heard of insecticide), sprinkled it on some fish and put it in a tree. The idea with the stuff is that the wasps get the powder on their bodies, contaminate the nest, and meet their maker, swapping the jungle room for the sauna room in our case.

Well somehow we kind of forgot about it for a day or so, I guess we just assumed it was doing its righteous work. That was until we put two and two together, when poor old Jaybo (also known as Wolf), our adopted stray dog that came out of the bush (like Scrawns the cat in my previous post), became pretty unwell with what later came to be known in our house as ‘the Carbaryl shakes’.

The Carbaryl laced fish had come down in the wind and Jaybo being Jaybo had eaten it, even though it was fish. Unfortunately Dad hadn’t realised that the stuff was pretty toxic to animals and we hadn’t bargained on Jaybo’s scavenging skills, having lived in the bush before she adopted us. We all felt pretty bad about it, even though it was an accident.

Thankfully, Jaybo pulled through. However after that and me accidentally walking on top of the nest with my brother being stung in my stead when we did a reccy, things escalated.

A carefully formulated night-time plan of attack when the wasps were less active; of using a measured amount of petrol; of blocking up the entry to the nest so that the fumes overcame them and they quietly snuffed it in their sleep; was thrown out.

My brother’s new plan, as payback for basically everything, was to keep pouring a crap-load of petrol as close as he could get to the nest entrance, with a trail behind it so he could light it from a distance, while he got stung by the swarm.

He carried out his plan to a T. They stung the shit out of him.

But in his haste to get the hell away from the wasps, he gave little or no warning before he lit the thing. There wasn’t time to run before the blast hit, which by the way was a massive freaking avalanche of supercharged unleaded flame !

So although we blew the wasps to kingdom-come (& thankfully not us as well !), we did lose a few house windows in the process.

A few days later there was even an article in the local newspaper about a mysterious explosion.

We still talk about it. We were bloody lucky and Jaybo (like Scrawns, the cat) lived a long, happy life, despite the Carbaryl shakes – which we still feel bad about.

Jaybo (Wolf)

Jaybo (Wolf)

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Scrawns or Meow See Tongue (Mao Tse Tung)

All creatures great and small, two-legged and four-legged, running away from someone or something, tended to end up as flotsam and jetsam washed up against the gashed rock hills and errant bush that formed the city limits where I grew up.

Such was the case with the well-bred, waylaid and ultimately strayed Mr Scrawns, our cat.

Like so many creatures seeking refuge at the edge of the badlands, he suddenly appeared in the light-of-day one day. He’d been scavenging on bread crusts, hernias hidden beneath matted fur slung low under his belly, with a broken jaw that left his tongue extended in an unnerving first-impression hung-over but quizzical look, the end of which was rough to the touch like a piece of crispy fried bacon wizened in the sun.

He was according to the vet, quite well-heeled for a stray, a Birman ?, a relatively uncommon breed to fall upon hard times. Upper crust living on crusts. He even had real leather ears. He’d either been hit by, or thrown from, a car and ended up living on the edges of society before he wandered into our lives and asked for a bit of help in the form of some grub and lodgings.

Thereafter to us he always had a bit of mystery about him. He was peerage, a remittance man, a raconteur, kinda classy. His quizzical look and distended tongue that hung to one side came to resemble a cigarette-holder at the corner of a toffs mouth.

My most vivid memory of Scrawns is of the cat door snapping shut one night and him running up and down on my bed while I was trying to sleep. To the point where I just couldn’t take it any more and with the words: “For fuck’s sake Scrawns, stay still !” turned on the light to see him looking at me from the other side of the room with his head tilted quizzically and his tongue hanging free, and an equally quizzical rat about his size sitting on the bed next to me. It was the rat that had been running up and down my bed that I’d been patting and trying to settle down. Scrawns had kindly brought him inside so I could meet his new friend.

Unfortunately Scrawns died (peacefully) some time ago now. Upon his passing my brothers and I hauled a big-ass piece of rock from some road battering works and had a plaque made up for it that we stuck down with super-glue.

It read: ‘Scrawns Bush. With magic tonguey and matted fur, from the bush we now inter.’

It may not be known as ‘Scrawns Bush’ on official maps, but to us that place will always be known as ‘Scrawns Bush’ in our hearts.

image

Mr Scrawns

Here’s looking at you kid. So long old-fella.

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