Monday, 14 March 2016

A corner of a foreign field

I was naked from the waist down when the workmen arrived (unannounced) at our house again today, prompting my Mum, who was on the phone at the time, to ask if I was always undressed. She may have a point. I often am... To make her feel a little better about her son's obvious loucheness, I told her that I'd once stood with Philippa whilst she ironed a top for a night out on the tiles whilst wearing nothing but a bra and a pair of cowboy boots. I still remember her mother entering the kitchen where all this was going on and saying in a distressed voice "oh darling..."

I was cleaning the bathroom when the men arrived and rushed to find a towel to protect my/ their modesty. The nearest thing to hand was a threadbare old thing which I hastily draped around my waist. I stepped out of the bathroom and said a cheery hello, but it was only after I returned that I realised there was a big hole in the towel which was exposing my nether regions to the world, or, more specifically, them.

The workmen stayed for five minutes. This is the pattern. I don't think they're doing any work. I actually think there's something in the loft they're paying homage to...

Some twenty years ago, I moved into a garden flat in Palmer's Green with my mate, Sam. On one occasion, hot water started flooding through the ceiling of our bathroom. We knew an old lady lived in the upstairs flat so managed to convince ourselves that she'd died in the bath before turning the taps off! We had visions of the entire bath dropping through the ceiling with a corpse inside, so immediately called the fire brigade because no one answered when we banged on her door.

To their credit, the boys in yellow and blue were there in seconds. They broke into the upstairs flat but found no corpse and discovered that the pipes in our own flat were to blame, so they kindly offered to go down to our cellar to turn the water off. We'd just moved in so hadn't yet ventured down there ourselves. One fireman went down the steps and pretty speedily came back up to find a mate. And this kept happening till all four firemen were in the cellar. For an age. Sam and I sat in the sitting room panicking that something awful was happening.

Half an hour later the firemen emerged looking flushed and giggling like school children before telling us that everything was fixed and scampering away at alarming speed.

Sam and I thought we ought to go down into the cellar to find the water switch in case there was a repeat of the incident and immediately discovered why the fireman had spent so long down there: Boxes and boxes and boxes of grot mags. Literally thousands of them! Heaven knows who lived in the flat before us, but the firemen must have thought we were running a porn empire!

I keep meaning to mention that Brother Edward has been researching our family tree and in the process charted one branch of relatives back to America. Isn't it Americans who are meant to trace their relatives back to Europe and not vice versa? Far more interesting is the fact that Nathan has now officially joined the family tree as my spouse. How good did it feel to see his name next to mine and know that future generations of genealogists will look at their forebears and not blink twice to see a same-sex married couple?

People from Leeds City Council have finally started getting back to me and I'm pleased to report that, contrary to initial suggestions, the 100th anniversary of the death of the Leeds Pals battalion is being marked officially in the city, although one person was at pains to point out that new evidence suggests not quite as many Leeds Pals died on the first day of the Somme than reported at the time. I wasn't sure whether I was meant to read from that that we were all to commemorate the event just a little bit less.

I was a little horrified when one of the people I contacted said I might be pleased to hear that Leeds Council had decided to fund another musical... About the Leeds Pals! This one seems to be being told from a modern day black woman's perspective. Which, of course, is the one thing Brass was missing.

The same woman told me she is only able to fund arts-based projects in Leeds itself. I fully understand her position but would have thought, if Rupert Brooke, were anything to go by, the death of 300 Loiners in a patch of land the size of a football pitch in France means that there's some corner of a foreign field that is forever Leeds.

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