Whatever you want.

It’s a cold evening.

“Laydeeees and Gentulllmen!!!” hollers the man through the microphone. The field descends into hush.

I am in a crowd of about three grillion people, which is most definitely not my natural habitat. I have also been persuaded to drive here so that other people can get very drunk, which is also not my natural habitat. I am less a fish out of water than a fish that has been signed up to undertake a charity bike ride across the Sahara. I shift my weight from foot to foot, which is the sort of thing that one does in these circumstances.

“Welcome to these wonderful stately home surroundings!!!”

In aid of Distressed Anglers.

It is weird; the whole thing is weird.

A while back, I wrote a book. I never meant to, but people started asking me, and then I sort of thought ‘why not’, and then I worked out that this little Private Secret Diary would never really work in book form anyway, and then more people asked, and I got drawn in. And in the meantime, the thing that my old friends would always ask – invariably, every time, without fail – after they’d done all the ‘how are you’s’ and ‘are you well’s’ was: ‘So how’s the bowls going, then?’

“By kind permission of your host, Viscount Coke!!!”

And I began to realise this: that the whole theme of my life today could be encapsulated in one simple concept: just how bloody, bloody disappointed my eighteen year-old self would have been at how things turned out. I mean, I enjoy my life immensely. There is nothing better than living in Norfolk and keeping chickens and playing bowls.

“On this stage tonight!!!”

But my eighteen year-old self would be appalled. And it struck me that here was the entire basis about what I should write about. So I did. The rural life. The insularity. The chickens.

“Laydeeees and gentulllmen – please welcome…”

But of course there would be nothing that my eighteen year-old self would have been more disappointed about than the fact I played bowls. Nothing. It would be the bit underneath the barrel; the depths of horror and naffness to my aspirational would-be-cool teenage self.


Thank you, and goodnight.

A short post involving a chicken that pretty well encapsulates my life in a couple of paragraphs.

11 a.m. There is a knock at the door!!!

It is Big A. He is going away for a long weekend and would like me to look after his chicken. I am pleased to look after his chicken. It is no trouble, as he just lives round the corner, and as chickens go, his is no trouble. I know where the chicken food is kept, but he goes through it again, and I promise to treat the chicken well. To be honest, it is quite nice. Once I was a newcomer to chickens, fumbling around with my ‘keeping chickens for beginners’ book. Now I am the go-to man for looking after peoples’ chickens whilst they go off on long weekends. I bid my friend goodbye and wish him a pleasant break.

2 p.m. The chicken dies.

We tidy our bedroom.

“There you go,” I tell the LTLP.

We have spent all morning tidying our bedroom. It has been a good joint effort, with me sorting things out that should be moved, whilst she lifts them up and carries them down the stairs.

“One room,” she insists. “One room. That’s all I want. One room in this house that isn’t some form of clutter dumping ground Pig Sty.” She surveys the newly pristine boudoir with satisfaction. There is a scrunch of gravel outside.

My parents have arrived!!! I greet them with enthusiasm.

“I have brought the stuff you asked for,” says my father. “It took me ages to get it out of the loft.”

He presses a button on his key and the car boot bursts open. Crates of computer hardware! Bulging chests of software cassettes! Binders upon binders of Sinclair User magazines, and Crash!, and Micro Adventurer, and Your Spectrum!!! I gaze, agog.

“There is rather a lot of it,” he says.

“Don’t worry,” I reply. “We have cleared some space.”

I haul the first box past the LTLP. She is bearing the expression that went down so well during her keynote address to the Institute of the Thunderstruck. Luckily there is some space upstairs in our bedroom, so I lug it up here and return to the car for some more.

Her features are alternating between cyan and magenta as I walk through with the next batch. “There isn’t as much as there looks,” I reassure her, waving a Currah Microspeech in her face. Meanwhile, my father backs up the forklift truck to start on the magazines.

“All done!” I say when we have finally emptied the car and the man has finished reinforcing the floor joists. “It must be good to get that lot out of your attic.”

“Yes,” says my father, looking warily between us.



First day at Brownies.

“Go on,” I urge her. “You will enjoy it.”

It is Child #1’s first day at brownies. I have been encouraging her to go, as it will make her community spirited, being selfless and a good citizen and all that. I am quite into that at the moment, ever-striving to be a better person.

“I will be just next door,” I reassure her. “In the pub.”

“You just need to sign her in on thi…” Says Brown Owl.

“Yeah, yeah.” I make a scribble on the bit of paper and zip next door to the pub.

The pub is not busy at this early hour, so I am able to strive to be a better person in relative peace. It is good that my daughter and I are both able to do our duty to god and to the Queen etc. together as a family like this. It is a bonding experience.

The Brownies seems to have progressed in the days since my sister, RonnieB, was a keen attendee. The uniform is now all trendy, and they appear to offer activities that are not exclusively interesting to children from a South Lincolnshire family of Methodist farmers in Victorian times. Plus there is a residential camp thing which sounds very encouraging, although sadly lasts for a mere three days.

I return to pick her up an hour and a half later.

“Did you enjoy that, then?” I ask Child #1, whilst attempting not to breathe on Brown Owl.

“Excellent, I knew you would,” I continue, before she has a chance to reply.