Wednesday, 15 July 2015

NFN - Three Men went to Mow

Our local auction house is a fairly typical provincial auction save for the fact that it is actually four simultaneous auctions combined. We designate them the "Posh" (Mrs Rine's forte), the "House Clearance" (my speciality), the "Old Steadings" (mainly furniture, now moved from old cattle sheds into a custom new building) and the "Meadow". If you have items to bid on in different auctions it can mean scurrying between the various locations and making dramatic late entrances frantically waving like a character in the final scenes of a Hollywood classic. "Don't shut the Savings & Loan...!!!"

The "Meadow" is the Auction house name (rather than ours) for an area of open ground outside the main building. It isn't green and in fact it should only really deserve the name "Meadow" if prefaced by the qualifying adjective "post-apocalyptic". It looks like this:

It is the most quirky and "Norfolk" part of the auction and comprises a motley and bizarrely random selection of lots which are pored over on a Thursday afternoon by a motley and bizarrely random selection of potential bidders. An Office Chair, a galvanised tank, a chimney pot, a wine rack, six 9ft telegraph poles, a lawn mower, a unicycle.... the list is like a very odd edition of the Generation Game conveyor belt where the producer has had a mind storm. Where all this stuff comes from every week is anyone's guess.

Kicking (often quite literally) over the lots are the bidders, almost exclusively male and almost exclusively over 65 years old. They normally mooch along in little gangs of three and nod knowingly to each other over a set of tools or a tray of lobelias. A large galvanised bathtub will get them quite animated and they are certainly imaging themselves in "Last of the Summer Wine" despite the lack of hills in our lovely County. When they get to a chain saw it is inevitable that one of them will pick it up, pull the start cord several times and, when it bursts into life, grin with toothless satisfaction at his admiring fellows. You just know he has no intention of buying it.

I sit nonchalantly in the open cafe area sipping a latte with an air of patronising superiority before I disappear back into the House Clearance to rifle through the contents of somebody's old drawers.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Elephant in the Room

I noticed the other day that one of my Facebook chums had changed his profile picture to this:

What was he up to I wondered? Then I saw his fabulous new video:

First Flight from mark stockdale hughes on Vimeo.

Things seem to have suddenly become proper 21st Century. Even our local Publican has got a drone, and so has the Chairman of our Parish Council (and its not one of the counsellors!) - it's going mainstream and I'm being left hovering like a late adopter!

It reminded me of one of my childhood heroes from the erudite weekly publication we used to feast on in Gravesend in the 1950's:

Yes, General Jumbo in the Beano commanded an entire remote controlled army, navy and airforce  from his wrist to fight wrong doers and n'eer do wells from 1953 to 1975 and was the envy of most boys my age. Alfie "Jumbo" Johnson remained 12 years old throughout and was supplied by the genius of Professor Carter (who one suspects may be now assisting the Police Yew Tree investigation)..

I wonder what the next childhood feature will be to become reality? I suppose we've already got Lord Snooty in the Cabinet and Bash Street Kids in several secondary schools.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Mentioned in Despatches

We have regular daily despatches from our eBay shop and for most of the year, providing the parcels aren't too enormous, I can take them on my Raleigh Silver Dream Racer.

 I'm very fortunate indeed to have one of the nicest routes in the whole Country to travel to our nearest courier shop and always find myself loving the quiet and tranquil charm of the little lanes with grass growing down the middle, Norfolk's own dual carriageways.

Some days, especially calm sunny blue-sky days in high summer, the sensation of euphoria is almost too strong. Today was one of those days.

As I glanced across the sky with its tiny white cloudlets accentuating the pastel blue all I could hear was the tweeting of birds and the buzzing of insects. I stopped pedalling and for some reason my imagination fed me the input of an RAF Spitfire roaring across the heavens in pursuit of two Messerschmitts in the summer of 1942. Perhaps it was a sort of reverse Adlestrop moment but it was more likely the fact that our neighbour Alec had been telling us at length about the village in wartime the previous evening.

Our little local airfield was built in 1943 for the United States Army Air Forces and from December that year became home to 4 squadrons of B-24 Liberator Bombers.

 Alec was at school then and remembers the village and its 5 pubs being alive with crowds of American forces fresh from California and sometimes overstaying their welcome in Fenn Street and being herded up by MP's in jeeps. He would go up to the airfield after school and they would let him sit in the Pilot's seat or play with the guns. He and his friends got to know them well but regularly they would notice an absentee and ask "where's Danny today?". "Aw he's been posted back to the States", they would reply but Alec and his friends knew different. They had seen Liberators limping home the previous night, shot to pieces and throwing flares and ordnance to get their bombs and bodies back to base. They'd seen the horrendous state of the rear gun turret strafed by burning phosphor and knew what odds Danny and his fellow rear-gunners had stacked against them.

366 US servicemen at our airfield gave their lives in the campaign to fight a German nation that had sleep-walked into allowing a small ruling elite to unleash pure evil on anyone who didn't look like or agree with them. Ring any bells today? In that case the side of good prevailed and we have our very way of life to thank those 366 young men and women for. It has been said that for evil men to accomplish their purpose it is only necessary that good men should do nothing.
Easier said than done.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Hole in the Corner Gang

I think the audacious Hatton Garden robbery by a lot of pensioners the other week seems to have started a new trend.

I found this "Wanted" posted for the "Highdale Four" aka "The Coal in the Horner Gang" who are wanted for highway robbery at various Antiques Fairs across East Anglia.

If you come across any of them, particularly little "Jack" Horner (second from left), you are advised to approach with care as they will engage you in hours of entertaining chat about matters historical which will steal all of your available time.

Friday, 19 June 2015

The Cookie Crumbles

It seems a long time since we visited St Michael's Mount in Cornwall and I spent two hours searching but COULD I find the Marks & Spencers?

Anyway no such problem now because I'm bombarded with M&S advertisments whenever I log into Facebook, Ebay and other web sites. Last week I bought some shorts from the Marks & Spencer web site and now, whenever I look at these other sites, I'm presented with this:

M&S are presumably paying good money to Facebook and others to wave this attractive image in front of me but having just bought three years supply of shorts from them it is money down the drain.

I thought Cookies (the little tracking files which grass on our viewing proclivities) were supposed to be really smart and anticipate interest rather than blindly repeat information from past purchases so it brings into question the decisions of media buyers to transfer millions of pounds worth of advertising from old media to new. I quite like browsing through advertisements in the local free paper.

This cookie stuff is trying to be too clever and failing miserably. It's like in the old days, if I'd bought a jacket from an old-fashioned outfitter* in the High Street and every time I walk past his shop he runs out into the street waving an identical jacket at me shouting "do you want to buy THIS jacket?!!!".

(*a Victorian gentleman's emporium where clothes were purchased over a friendly chat and a pinch of snuff. They kept one's inside leg measurement on a card index in a fine oak bureau).

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Tracks of my Years

Taking the train into Cambridge is for me like sitting in front of one of those cheesy 1930’s Hollywood flashback sequences. There's a green blur of trees and fields then a house I used to live at, then another blur and a place I used to go running. More blur, an old cycle route, blur again and a favourite riverside walk. It's a bit like examining a core sample of my last 30 years as I pass three of my old houses and numerous old haunts within the space of 10 minutes. I wonder why all my previous residences were so close to a railway line and think I could perhaps take part in Radio Two’s “Tracks of My Years” feature.

The flashbacks of nostalgia soft-fade into the open flat black fenland and the three carriage train achieves a hypnotic beat across the horizontal landscape. My mind starts to drift.

We reach Ely. A sea of laughing, chattering youth pours into the carriage with their bags and bikes and smells of deodorant and fresh coffee. I'm jolted back to my present where I wouldn't change places with a living soul.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Bearly Discernable

This weekend we experienced an alien visitation. A strange QUASAR craft from the plantet IP Switch 9000 landed at the end of our village known as Crack Nell and two Ursine beings emerged blinking into the sunshine.

In order to give them a clue as to what life is like in 21st Century Britain we made them watch the entire Eurovision Song Contest and they nodded wisely. I explained that this is the only entertainment available because we as a Country are in straitened circumstances which is all the fault of the Banks.