So it’s goodbye from me, and it’s goodbye from her

The house move has been completed.

We sit, semi-surrounded by boxes (there are more upstairs), in our new Oxfordshire home.

Home to us now is this small town with its busy little high street, its tiny shops and many cafes.

It feels different down here, not just the weather, but the atmosphere has a slightly different flavour to it.

Even the centre of the town – for we live on the edge of it – feels different to Bromsgrove. It looks different too. Not just in a “it’s a different place” kind of way. It took me some time to recognise what the difference was.

Decay – in the case of where we’ve just moved from; or in the case of our new home – lack of decay.

Bromsgrove – a small Worcestershire town – is blighted with an air of decay. A place where every third occupied shop is a charity shop, and where every fifth shop has a for sale or to let notice (or just stares, emptily back at you with whited-out windows), a place like this has something wrong with it.

Sadly this air of seediness isn’t confined to Bromsgrove.

Droitwich suffers from the same malaise; the general air of hopelessness is somehow thicker there, the culture of Chavdom hangs so thickly in the air you could cut it with a knife. I challenge anyone to walk through the centre of Droitwich and tell me at the end of their journey that the place displays significant quality of life! Emphasis on the word ‘quality’.

The county town of Worcestershire, a very short trip down the A38, is not an unattractive place. But it too has an air of being wounded. perhaps mortally so. The rising trend of joblessness across all age-groups, the stagnating numbers of residents (when viewed as a whole), the inevitably increasing demographic and the undeniable rise of the culture of chavdom does not make Worcester a happy or healthy place to be.

That the local economy in this small provincial city is in trouble is undeniable; the occupancy turnover of shops in the centre of the city takes place at a frighteningly fast pace.

Solid, dependable mass employers (outside of the public sector) are countable on the fingers of one hand.

These are significant contributors to the general air of stagnation in the town.

Ironically the only major development in the area is the building of the new stands at Worcester Rugby Club which, if we’re being honest here, isn’t even in Worcester. The location is one level of irony. The other is that the new stand = though it looks very impressive – will actually do nothing for the local economy. It’s just a big thing miles outside the city. Architecturally striking though.

But there’s more to the lifeblood of a small provincial city than planning regulations and architecture, ancient and modern.

And that’s the thing that a frighteningly large amount of people just don’t get.

I have no life. Sob! :)

Jane Austen wrote:
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

She almost got it right, there’s a 21st Century variation that goes along the lines of:
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a married man in possession of a good internet connection must be in want of a wife and a life.

And speaking of Jane Austen, is anyone else watching Lost in Austen? And does anyone else love the rhythm of that title? Lost in Austen. Lost in Austen, Lost in Austen, Lost in Austen, Lost in Austen.

It’s got a ticky-tocky syncopation, hasn’t it?

Anyway back to the early 21st Century.

Soph is not here, obv.

And there is absolutely nowt on the television, obv.

I don’t know how many channels we’ve got, twenty or thirty. Yet there’s nothing on. Except there’s always an episode of Top Gear on somewhere – usually on Dave. Or an episode of Friends. But I can’t watch Friends-on-a-loop. I mean, it’s hardly Buffy is it?

But that’s all OK because I have a book review to rewrite and another book review to write and an album to listen to and review and Hornby’s Slam to finish so I’ve got plenty to do.

So why have I just spent the last 45 minutes scouting through FailBlog for comedy video clips?

My favourite clip so far is the one where the guy sweeping out the elephant yard gets his head stuck up an elephant’s bum. In an Eeeew Whilst Laughing kind of way.

Do you want to see it?

I’ll see what I can do.

Anyway I’ve just made myself a cup of tea. Feed a cold, starve a fever, is that right? And drink plenty of liquids?

I am drinking plenty of liquids. Cup of tea cooling on the side and Dr Pepper just out of the fridge. And a pint of squash on standby.

Does anyone else call Dr Pepper ‘belching juice’?

No? Just me then.

And no Trixie, I have not had a drink. Not an alcoholic drink anyway.

So, this weekend upcoming.

We’re moving to Oxfordshire on Saturday.

Actually the move sort of starts on Friday; for want of a better description I’m hosting a farewell dinner party for the folk at the yard (or those who want to come) at a Chinese restaurant – will be flexing the credit card, that’s for sure!

On the way home afterwards Sophie will drop me at the yard, I’ll take the partitions out of the lorry and drive it home. This is cunning, it enables me to stay in bed just a little longer on Saturday morning.

When we’re ready we’ll throw the last few pieces of furniture in to the lorry and trundle off down Oxfordshire way. When we’ve unloaded the lorry (doesn’t it all sound so simple like that?) we’ll trundle back up Worcestershire to Sophie’s parents’ house where we’ll spend the night.

Sunday morning we’ll stop off at the yard, pick up Vin, his wardrobe of tack and even larger wardrobe of rugs and take him to his new home back down in Oxfordshire.

Monday morning I’m back in the office in London having negotiated the first half of the new daily commute.

So yeah, it’s going to be a bit of a weekend.

Fun though.

Speaking of fun, I promised you an amusing video clip?

Enjoy.

B.

p.s. It’s not the elephant one. I’m saving that for another day. But I like this song!

Sunday: 08.31

We Are Up.

Yeah I know. How random is this?

We are up in a ‘both been awake since 07.15, both had breakfast, Soph’s showered and dressed and I’m going to be too in a minute’ kind of way.

We did the ‘pre-move’ yesterday; from Worcestershire to Oxfordshire.

I guess today we’re doing the ‘post-pre-move’; taking a few more things down in the car, tidying up down there, faffing about – in a kind of good way.

I’m still trying to get my head around the fact that it’s (now) 08.35 Sunday morning and We Are Up – and all without the aid of an alarm.

I’m also trying to get my head round the fact that when we got back from Oxfordshire last night our neighbours were having sex on their couch with the curtains wide open.

How come people start doing something interesting around here the weekend before we move away?

B.

Changing my jodhpurs now

Vin and I went out for a hack around the Worcestershire countryside this afternoon. We got to the top of Horton Hill when something appeared on my personal radar.

I saw it before I heard it, moving slowly at a height of about 1,500 feet, the wall of sound eventually caught up with us as it was about twenty miles away.

Soon, however, it was almost on top of us, the sound deafening.

Fortunately Vin didn’t bat an eyelid but I was still cacking myself at the thought that at any moment he could vanish over the horizon with me clinging to his mane.

Bloody Vulcans! (of the non Spock variety).

B.

Sunset, beer, laughs, fags and Macs

We went out for a drink last night.

That’s worth a Woo and a Hoo all by itself!

Soph and Bren out on the town?

Goodness me!

The pub we chose was The Navigation in the village of Hanbury, Worcestershire.

Soph drove which afforded me the luxury of drinking alcohol, not diet coke.

More Wooing and Hooing is in order.

We ordered, paid for and collected our drinks and made our way outside to the garden.

And sat, and chatted, and laughed and giggled and laughed some more.

We are the funniest, funnest people I know.

I really wish I’d taken the portable recorder with me; our conversation would have made great audio.

As the evening drifted towards close-down, the sky drew in to a wonderful fiery colour that reflected in the trees above our heads.

Birds twittered, we giggled, we chatted.

I got told off.

For various things.

Several times.

Good naturedly though.

I think.

But we are so witty.

And funny.

We laughed and chatted, chatted and laughed.

And, as I’ve already mentioned, the birds twittered.

Idyllic really.

Until someone else came outside, sat at one of the other tables.

And started smoking.

Pros and Cons of the smoking ban?

Pro:
* The inside of pubs, clubs and restaurants smell clean
* The thought of going in to a pub, club and restaurant is no longer abhorrent
* It is possible to go to a pub, club and restaurant and, at the end of the evening, not smell as though one lives in an ashtray

Con:
* The doorways to pubs, clubs and restaurants are invariably crowded with smokers, meaning that one has to run a gauntlet of carcinogenic tobacco smoke being produced by a group of people who usually seem reluctant to open up and let a person through. Not good!
* The gardens have, by default, become the fair weather smoking room for pubs, clubs and restaurants. Also not good!

Anyway…

When the smokers arrived we polished off the remains of our drinks.

And decided on a detour on the way home.

This is scary.

Without prior communications we both decided on a detour on the way home to the same place.

Very scary.

So much in tune that it sometimes does frighten me.

I wonder if we’re in tune now?

Hang on, I’m just going to try an experiment.

[sits concentrating for a couple of minutes, beaming mental material six feet towards Soph’s head]

Well, that really wasn’t much of an experiment.

I wasn’t beaming a thought, really; it was more like a bucketful of good vibes.

Soph is sitting at the table, pouring over her next assignment and really it’s very simple.

But then I write analytical reports for a living; I recognise it’s perhaps not simple after all. 🙁

If you have any good vibes could you please beam them at her too?

Thanks.

Anyway, back to last night.

The detour.

Yes my friends, we stopped at the Restaurant of Chavs.

McDonalds.

For a milkshake and some fries.

Then home for half a film.

Then to bed where I fell unconscious as soon as my head hit the pillow.

And that, my little droogies, was Saturday Night with the Funny People.

How was yours?

What did you get up to?

B.

We Rock!

The Soph and I undertook a flyingly fast visit to Chav HQ (aka Worcester) this evening, for an Italian meal at, der, Little Venice.

We walked in, sat, ordered, drank, ate, ate again, ate some more, drank again, paid and were out again in fifty-five minutes.

How cool are we?

But my friends there was much strangeness observed.

Girls strolling around the centre of Worcester at 20.00 when the ambient external temperature reached a heady 2c, wearing…

Fuck all Nothing whatsoever.

Well, next to fuck all nothing whatsoever.

When (bearing in mind the temperature) they’re teetering around town in their ‘fuck me’ shoes, micro-skirts and sleeveless summer dresses (it’s 20.00 and plus 2c!!!!) I think that constitutes Fuck All nothing whatsoever, don’t you?

A new phrase was coined – at least I think it’s new (put it this way, I haven’t heard it before so I’m claiming it!)…

McChav!

Right, it’s 21.29 and that’s bed because the alarm is going to do its stuff at 05.15.

Night!

B.

Running away Sunday

We woke up early, fell asleep, woke up later and I delivered tea in bed and decided (with little resistance) that we should take advantage of the blue sky, lack of clouds and falling-from-above water and head for Worcester.

Getting bathroomed and dressed first, obv.

The multi-storey in the centre of the city looked almost deserted by normal weekend standards, the same couldn’t be said for the centre – it wasn’t packed but there were more than enough folk around for this simple country bumpkin.

We headed smartly for Cafe Rouge – they change from breakfast to lunch menu at 12.00, a deadline that we made, but only just!

Sipping hot chocolate whilst waiting for my Crepe Champignon (they do the best ever!) we gazed at the folk.

There was one guy in there with a huge bushy beard that resembled an out-of-control privet hedge. When he lowered his coffee cup we could see that his drink left a line of froth on his draggly moustache. Way unattractive, dude! But here’s a thing. He’d know about it right? I mean, a bushy draggly beard/moustache combo like that, it didn’t just occur overnight would it? So have a little personal hygiene dude. We don’t want to see your food and/or liquid remains. Thanks.

The Lovely S told me off for giving a noisy child the Vulcan Death Glare and I felt admonished. But only very slightly. 🙂

We chatted about nothing much and after a while I dived in to the complimentary copy of The Independent on Sunday.

I’m ashamed to admit that we were in, ordered, eaten, paid and out again in less than 40 minutes – it seems indecently hasty in retrospect.

Then we shopped.

Aren’t Christmas Vouchers the best thing ever?

Today I scored in HMV Abbey Road (The Beatles), Soup (best of Housemartins and Beautiful South) and S scored White Chalk (PJ Harvey). While we were there we also scored an interesting piece of information about a band called Vampire Weekend who have an album coming out tomorrow. HMV were playing the album (as well as some real dross) and it sounded really interesting. Stuff for the future maybe? Watch, listen, wait and see.

Over the road in M&S I acquired a belt. No, not around the ears. The kind that loops through your trousers…

Although we did have a bit of a moment while we were queuing to pay for said item. The Lovely S pointed out that M&S had a Spiderman costume for sale. I asked if I should buy it. Then, I said, I could put it on this evening and jump in through the bedroom door – while she was in bed, natch – in my lovely new Spiderman costume.

The woman in front of us thought this was amusing and asked for photographs. We should have taken her contact details because then I could tell her… it isn’t happening. Not tonight. Not ever.

Then to Costa for more hot chocolate, reading and people watching.

In a way I’m a little disappointed with Worcester today. Not Chavless exactly, but they weren’t in full flood as they usually are.

Then back home for a change (me) then to the yard for big-orange-thing-sitting-on (aka taking Vin for a hack, while The Lovely S drove on in to Detroitwich to do wonderful things with books.

Vin was Full of Beans, A Right Handful and A Barrel of Laughs. The use of caps is to highlight just how manic and stupid he was. We were trotting around one field when he did a massive starfish/spook and telegraphed to me “What the fuck is that?”.

“It’s a tree Vin.”

“Really? Oh, OK. If you say so.”

He really is a complete dickhead sometimes. 🙂

Back at the yard the rest of the horses were coming in for the evening. Trish and I had a long chat about competitions, competition centres, trainers and stuff; it’s useful to have her perspective, I value her experience and her views.

Then The Lovely S arrived and we headed for home (via McD’s where a pair of apple pies and sundaes came in to our possession).

The contraband eaten, an episode of 24 watched and the new albums iPodded, we sit here feeling as though we might need a snack but not a meal while the sounds of new music fill the lounge only just covering Milly the Basset Hound Next Door’s almost continual howling.

It has been a running away Sunday. I should have been digging deep into OU stuff but frankly it’s been such a non-stop fortnight in my world that I needed the time off. And I feel as though my batteries have had a recharge.

It’s another 05.15 alarm tomorrow, the cycle starts all over again.

Except for next weekend. That will be different.

B.

Shopped, jumped, dumped, jumped again, fed and content

Ah, Worcestershire life!

This morning I had breakfast in bed.

Woo-hoo!

The Lovely S woke me with a mug of tea and a bowl of porridge. I don’t want you to think I’m pampered. Because I am. 🙂

Fed, showered, shaved, dressed and smelling sweetly clean we went shopping in Bromsgrove.

The tally was:

A new sidelight bulb for my car
A five litre container of battery water for the lorry
A heavy duty battery charger (see lorry above)
Various food-related things

Flushed with the success of shopping we went to Costa where we did those things that The Lovely S and I do very well.

She drank coffee, I drank hot chocolate, we read newspapers and we people watched.

Bromsgrove is a great place for people and chav watching, it’s not the capital of chavdom – which is Worcester.

But we discovered a new subcategory today:

Wannabe chavs.  These are very young schoolgirls who dress as if they’re chavs, but everyone can tell from their young-girly-but-not-chavlike behaviour that really, deep down beneath their badly applied tarty makeup they’re respectable girls.

Which makes me want to ask why such girls would to dress like wannabe chavs, but I guess that’s an unanswerable question, here and now.

Much watching and reading time later a visit to Blockbuster beckoned. Evan Almighty was duly selected. A trip to Greggs for lunch and then home to eat.

About 15.00 I changed in to riding clothes and drove to the yard.

To be met by Christine who asked if she could borrow my power pack because her lorry wouldn’t start.

We coupled it up and tried again; bloody thing still wouldn’t turn over. I offered her the use of my newly-acquired heavy duty battery charger which we connected and turned on, then Christine rang Gary the lorry mechanic that we both use and I went to groom and tack up.

Vin took one look at the slice of apple in my hand and whickered just like Beech used to. Bless!

We jumped today; flushed with success from some gridwork last night, I thought Vinnie would be ready for a little undemanding jumping.

The minute I mounted in the arena the heavens opened and it pissed down.  I thought ‘oh well, we’re here now’ and carried on.

Perhaps – with hindsight – that wasn’t the greatest piece of thinking I’ve done this week. Or month.

After working in (flatwork) and establishing all three paces and doing a little work on transitions we cantered in to the first fence – a small crosspole.

I should preface all further comments with this piece of information…

Jumping Vin scares me. He’s a big, fit, strong and powerfully fast horse. And he was bred to race and trained for racing for two years. He jumps fast and although he and I have a brilliant partnership on the flat (we’ve been placed in our last four dressage competitions), our jumping partnership has barely been established. 

Anyway, on with the day.

The first fence was a simple crosspole, we cantered in to it at a steady, balanced pace and…

He put in a dirty stop on the take-off stride, we skidded forward and he knocked it over.

Christine rebuilt the fence, we came in again, met it on a perfect jumping stride and pace and sailed over. Jumped it three more times.

However at the more challenging staggered upright we came in just a little too quick, landed much faster and with each of the next three strides, got much, much quicker with every footfall.

We were at the end of the arena, I steered him around the corner, even though we were much too fast.

Vin put in a little buck as we were motorbiking around the corner and with me so far out of position and still trying to get speed under control he unseated me. And I hit the deck.

Slightly winded with a bruised leg I climbed back onboard.

He was totally hyper, I could feel how flashed out his head was.

We flatworked to re-establish some kind of rapport then came at the fence again – this time I was prepared for him to tank off on landing.

I took a firmer contact than I would normally like and rode him up to the bridle.

We circuited and jumped that fence five times, gaining more control, balance and rhythm each time.

Then we called it a day.

I was soaked through, Vin felt very pleased with himself and my leg felt less sore.

Back home I stood inside the front door and peeled each sodden layer of clothing off then naked, dashed up to the shower.

The Lovely S had tea ready. Then Evan Almighty was watched.

What a day.

And now I’m sitting here wondering what the weather’s going to be doing tomorrow. If it’s good I’m going to jump him again.

Feeling brave, obviously.

🙂

B.