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15 April 2007

One Month Off

Apologies, I bet you've been salivating.

The last 30 days have been quite simply staggering, not to mention very busy indeed. Immediately prior to my last, somewhat thin post re. Ron Jeremy and the terrorist double-egg, a friend and I were out for a sensible beer in Moseley, Birmingham. Having quaffed our swifties, we sought cigarettes at the garage next door to the pub - which was closed - and so headed back to the car, me driving, and still needing nicotine.

We drove back to my friend's road, which conveniently has an off-license at the top end. We pulled up, all mid-conversation, and were chatting as we approached the off-license door, when we were jumped by five youths.

I really didn't know what to do. These guys were straight in our faces, shouting, pushing, very aggressive, lots of spit coming from mouths. They split my friend and I from each other, and the beefiest member of the crew kept his eyes on me, right up close. There was lots of "what you sayin'?" and so on, but while the shouting was all well and good, it was the going for the pockets and keeping hands inside that unnerved me. I've faced a few rowdy chaps before now, let me tell you, but never have I worried that there might be more than fists and feet involved.

We managed to come back together, this friend and I, but we weren't communicating - the focus was elsewhere. Had we ever been in this situation before, I'm sure something worse (from our side) might have happened. My friend has been known to "wade in" on occasion. There was no such wading this evening. All this moving about and squealing opened a door-based opportunity, and as I saw my friend dash for the door - and make it in, despite a pair of barricaders - I made back for my car, and got in. The chap who'd been on me made for the shop interior.

I started the engine whilst dialling the cops. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the door open and someone come running out. A quick glance showed me the previous subject of my attention, arm raised, clutching a bottle. Here goes my window, I thought as I turned away from the passenger side, awaiting the smash...yes, there it was. And I had to add a "fucking hell" as the bottle continued unabaited and smacked my lower back. It didn't smash, and bounced into my passenger footwell.

I backed the car across the junction where this offy was, watching, waiting for my friend. He'd been in there a long time, or at least it felt like it. I spoke to the police and gave them my location, described the incident and asked that someone come rather soon. The door of the shop opened and our five gangsters ran out, two one way and three the other. Then my friend appeared at the door. I flashed my lights and drove back across to him. As I got out, I realised there was blood trickling down his forehead. He was dialling the cops, but I told him the cavalry were on their way.

"What the fuck was that all about?" I enquired. "Fuck knows. Fucking fuckers."
"Mate, they've got you there."
"They got me on the back of the head too. Must have been wearing a ring."

And the cops arrived. And we told them what happened. And they called the ambulance. And my friend was taken off to hospital. And they impounded my car as evidence owing to the bottle inside.

Meanwhile, I headed back to his with his missus, who was annoyed that she hadn't called to let us know: earlier in the evening, she'd heard and seen a bunch of five lads raising merry hell around the area, and was going to warn us of their whereabouts. She decided against it.

We got our things together and both headed to the hospital, where our friend/partner had not yet been seen, owing to the alcohol. They had to let that through first. He was woozy, eyes not quite on a level, and rather pale. We sat and irked about the whole fiasco, before I headed home and he and the missus sat out another inhuman wait in A&E.

We've both been interviewed by the cops since. We've both told them what happened, how it literally came out of nowhere. Further incidents that evening, unrelated to yours truly, would seem to bear that out: we were both told that there was a string of occurences that evening - and many involved random physical attacks on members of the public. Some bloke was done as he left a pub nearby - and then the landlord when he came to assist the chap. Anyway, I told the police that I'd recognise the bloke who was in my face any day, and have said I'd do an I.D. parade, I'd go to court. But I strongly doubt either of those things will ever happen.

And life goes on. Mother's Day found me up early on a Sunday and straight into town, where I met with the good lady's female family members for an early lunch. They'd all recently had their personal colourswatches done, and now each was obsessed with the correct clothing colours to bring out their natural vitality. Given that this has been the topic of conversation amongst the girls since the infernal event happened, I made my excuses and went to buy some pants and have my hair cut.

Once that was done and dusted, we headed back home before zooming down to Mum's. I'd been bad and had booked late for Mother's Day at a lovely gastro pub in her village - and so our seat was at four pm. We got to the house and I did the usual set of light-changing, computer-fixing and so on, before we headed up the high street to eat. As usual (we go there a lot, but it is superb), the meal was excellent and I can safely say that all Mums went to bed happy.

The following Monday was, of course, the lunar eclipse. I decided to take photos, but then thought back to my timelapse experiments and so set it up to capture the whole event. This meant me being outdoors for the duration, moving the camera every time the moon had made a complete pass of the screen from left to right. It's not perfect but it's good - click the GonzoVision link on the right of this page if you fancy a butchers. 657 viewers in a month can't be wrong...

I headed to Wales to my boat, which is now there, albeit slightly knocked from an emergency stop (tyre bursting) just outside Le Havre. The bloke is called Dave and seems a nice chap. He's taking charge of the shipshapeness and I expect that she'll be on the water late April, early May.

My sister's husband's 30th birthday party took place in Otley a couple of weeks back. A lovely meal with all of their friends, then onto a pub for some rowdy drinking and dancing. We were up early the next day to have lunch with my missus' sister and their parents in Wakefield before gunning back to Brum.

As April hoved into view, springtime work on the house began in earnest. The suggested drainpipe amendments have been made. MFI delivered us our free flatscreen TV, despite us cancelling a considerable part of the original order, bringing us below the threshold for TV qualification. But then, having been witness to MFI's general standard of service, I'm not surprised in the least.

An interesting power-to-the-people situation has come up locally. This old Cadbury land (and, it turns out, old Solihull School land...) is apparently referred to as The Coppice. This includes Raddlebarn Farm Drive, Sparrey Drive, Hawkes Close and Lea Yield Close. Some adjoining land has recently been sold, and there has been a complete cessation of maintenance around the estate - apparently owing to non-payment, refusal to pay, all bound up with a nice dollop of apathy.

So: a local resident has started up some kind of revolution. Thankfully, the organisation that a) sold the land and b) should do the maintenance, are one and the same. This makes your target clear. A letter came through asking us all to turn up at the Skittle Alley at a local pub, where we could air our views and decide of a course of action. There was lots of people there, at least 100, maybe 150. A very good turn out. Two local councillors were there too. Ultimately, some kind of committee was formed, and a list of names taken. I'm sure there's more to come, and I'll keep you abreast of things. I like Bournville. It's people are militant about quality of life. In the same vein, while we're on giant-killings, Tesco has had to back down with its booze counter idea for their new Bournville Express store/Esso station. And all because of the Quaker tradition around here. It's great. No drunken kids around and about. You have to go to Stirchley for that.

Easter Weekend saw that rarest of occurences: my sister and her family south of Sheffield. The clan Carter arrived here at lunchtime, the barbecue already lit and smoking. The boys loved the canal, though their first view was somewhat marred by the local mallard's decision to choose that exact moment to mount the object of his affections and hump her. I thought the poor creature was going to drown, just the tip of her beak appearing above the water once the swordsman was in place. How we laughed. It's like that old cartoon of the great ape in the cage: "I'll wait until there are a few more grannies and children around then I'll start playing with myself."

We had a splendid barbecue of chicken breast, burgers, sausages and all the usual salads and trimmings, before heading off on a walk to the park. It was difficult to explain to the kids why we were walking past Cadbury World. It's shut today, I offered, as a coach drove out of the gates, laden with hyperactive, rushing rugrats.

Our healthier pursuits in the park soon made them forget the lure of hydrogenated vegetable oil and sugar. They both loved the playground, but it was the little river running through the middle of the park that held their attention, whether throwing sticks and stones in or peering through the bridge to the water below. It was a lovely walk, and the sun was out and hot.

The clan left us late afternoon to head for Mum's. We joined them the next day for a fabulous roast rolled sirloin with the standard trimmings, a meal that I've never found bettered than the one my Mum does. I get to carve these days, lacking as we do a head of the family. It was also Faye and mine's second anniversary.

Other than these sundry entertainments, my bread and butter of existence is still working with Mum getting her shop ready for EPOS, and then e-commerce. It's all very exciting and we have almost reached our 1000th (that is one thousandth) unique product. God, do I sound like a data entry bore, or a data entry whore? Altogether, it's making for a superb system and Mum is - despite a few stresses and strains - getting the hang of it and how it organises things on a business level. It will prove, no doubt, a mightily useful tool.

Poduction continues, and I am pleased to announce (and perhaps jinx) the fact that my business partner, with whom I established the company in 2006, is actually going to spend some real time on the development with me. I sometimes feel like a boob for hanging out for him, god knows I could have been usefully employed elsewhere, but a labour of love is not something you can just quit. One day, I believe, we shall own a very successful multimedia production company. The interest is rising, as people seek to get their fingers into Web 2.0.

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