DC Confidential by Christopher Meyer (‘The Controversial Memoirs of Britain’s Ambassador to the U.S. at the Time of 9/11 and the Iraq War’).
Creightons Sunshine Blonde Intensive Care Conditioner.
1 box of Maltesers.
1 packet of Kit-kats.
4 Birthday Cards.
2 tins of Felix Cat Food (Tuna).
1 packet of 4 little plastic tubs of peaches (not shown).
2 packs of 6 disposable lighters.
1 pack of 6 CD cases.
1 pack of 11 Kodak AA batteries.
2 packs of 4 Kodak C4 batteries.
1. This is getting ridiculous. I started this site as a useful guide for the discerning shopper to the highways and byways of that Land called Pound. It is now turning into a catalogue of weekly shopping lists. I do not object to the good lady wife accompanying me on my visits to Poundland, although she does shift my mood from one of quiet contemplation akin to W. H. Davies’
“What is this life, if full of care, We have no time to stand and stare.”
to Coleridge’s “Ancient Mariner”
“Like one, that on a lonesome road Doth walk in fear and dread, And having once turned round walks on, And turns no more his head; Because he knows, a frightful fiend Doth close behind him tread.”
I would like to state that I do my shopping for regular items in Mr. Morrison’s establishment and I do not wish to be collared by wandering reporters for ‘Midlands Today’ and interviewed on the state of the economy and how Poundland has become merely a downmarket version of proper shops. Nor, I might as well state here for future reference, do I wish to be secretly filmed from the neck down as an example of what fat people look like for the regular items on the scourge of obesity. And how come every time they mention dentists they have to show a close-up of somebody having their teeth drilled? We all know what dentists do and we don’t need to be reminded when we’re having our tea, thank you very much. Who’s in charge of ‘Midlands Today’ anyhow, Torquemada? However, to give the good lady wife her due, the price of Kit-kats is ridiculous so this was a bargain. I have no idea what ‘Creightons Sunshine Blonde Intensive Care Conditioner’ is, but I suspect it has a missing apostrophe. Not to worry, it turns up in the description of the packet of CD cases: “Colours make organising CD’s easy”. Personally, I wouldn’t have bothered adding any kind of explanation to a packet of blank CD cases, they are what they are and that’s why we buy them. Suggesting that they can be used in some way to catalogue our illegally downloaded CDs (or mayhap some perfectly legal use of blank CDs which don’t come with their own cases and thus require us to buy these - thought I’d better add that for when PC Plod comes to call) is pushing it a bit. Colours don’t make organising CDs easy if you’re colour-blind like what I am. What they should do, of course, is sack the bloke coming up with snappy slogans and use his salary to go back to putting 10 cases in the packet like they used to. I must also explain that William the Cat did not accompany us on our visit (we’re in Stoke remember, not Brighton) and drop the two tins of Felix into the basket - again it was just a bargain, cat food for some reason shadowing Kit-kats on the price rise front, perhaps due to the linguistic connection.
2. The packet of four little plastic tubs of peaches does not appear in the photograph because we were on our way to the hospital to visit the good lady wife’s aged parent and we purchased the peaches for her. I could have just left them off the list, but once you’re sat here typing ‘Creightons Sunshine Blonde Intensive Care Conditioner’, you think you might as well put everything in. Although I’m still not sure about the Birthday Cards - four for a pound. Should one reveal their origin? What if the joyful recipient, secure in the knowledge that hours have been spent perusing President Clinton’s cards or those of Mr. Smith in order to choose the most appropriate image and accompanying paean of praise, happens upon this site and realises that such is not the case? But, then again, nobody reads this rubbish, so we’re safe.
3. Finally we get to the interesting stuff. Nice to see Poundland keeping up the political section of its book department with Christopher Meyer’s DC Confidential. This was the good lady wife’s choice. I should also note that there were also plenty of copies of the BBC film about Tony Blair and Bill Clinton, The Special Relationship, which I purchased before Christmas. I was quite impressed by this and thought the main premise of the film, that Blair’s success with Clinton over Kosovo then led him to get into bed with George W. Bush (metaphorically speaking of course) over Iraq and the ‘War on Terror’ - silly foo him, eh? - was quite an accurate reading of events. However, at times, with Michael Sheen’s gurning and Dennis Quaid’s putty nose, one did feel that the fate of the world was in the hands of Kenneth Williams and W. C. Fields.
4. If I’d seen a copy of Loose Cannons for a pound in HMV I would have ignored it. One of the Poundland ‘effects’ (which perhaps deserve a new section on the Rules page) is that the diminished choice makes you think twice about certain things (though not about the packet of little tubs of peaches, because it was either those or little tubs of pears and the aged parent doesn’t like pears). Although whether I still would have bought Loose Cannons if No. 2 son hadn’t bought a copy in Worthing Poundland and told me about it, I don’t know, making that first sentence irrelevant and I can’t be bothered adding a new section to the Rules page on ‘Poundland Effects’ anyway. When he told me about it I just thought I’ve seen that and it’s rubbish. When he read some of the blurb on the back, I realised I hadn’t seen it, probably just seen bits of it on TV or read a review and decided it was rubbish. When he said it was directed by Bob Clark I thought, it’s probably still rubbish. So when I saw a copy in Hanley, I took all this into account and bought it. It is probably rubbish. Bob Clark made a lot of rubbish films, but he also made A Christmas Story and Murder By Decree. The former is my second favourite Christmas movie, after It’s A Wonderful Life, the latter is my second favourite non-canonical Sherlock Holmes film after Sherlock Holmes and the Spider Woman. Bob Clark was not an auteur but he did make two great films. I doubt very much whether Loose Cannons makes it three, but it’s worth a look. (And he also made Black Christmas four years before John Carpenter made Halloween - whenever you mention Bob Clark you are contractually obliged to mention this fact.)
I’ve only seen one film directed by Alain Corneau, Tous les Matins du Monde, which is about the 17th century French musicians Sainte-Colombe and Marin Marais, and is absolutely exquisite.
I just checked my database of films to see if I had got any other films by Alain Corneau (which I haven’t) but I then, for some reason searched for Loose Cannons and there it was. I have a copy. Which means I have seen it. And presumably thought it worth adding to the collection. Which means everything I wrote above is the pointless ramblings of a befuddled brain. I have no recollection of the film whatsoever. When video recorders first appeared and the world was made whole, I started to collect films and as the price of tapes went down and the collection grew I catalogued them on my computer (first on the Spectrum, where you had to write the code and create the database for yourself, then on the Amiga, where I did the same thing, then on the PC where you could get a proper program for free off a comic) and I always knew that the time would come when I would forget what I had and I would record something again and when that happened I would know that I had enough films and I should stop collecting. Who knew that Loose Cannons would be that film? Not me, obviously. Should I take this as a sign (not from God, because I doubt he’s interested in my film collection, he must have his own which will be a lot better, he may even have the 1953, 3D version of I, The Jury with cinematography by John Alton) that my film collecting habit is out of control, or that my memory is going and I should start sitting around drooling a bit? When the dole people send for me, as they keep threatening to do on the telly when they haven’t got any films of headless fat people wandering around to scare us with, to get me back into work and give some purpose to my life, until I drop down dead at the age of 75 ringing up another unsuspecting citizen, putting on a funny Indian accent and offering to insulate his loft, can I present this as evidence that I’m not fit for work?
Back to The Second Wind, which is a remake of Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1966 gangster film, Le Deuxieme Souffle (everything sounds better in French), which I’ve never seen (as far as I know, can’t be sure of anything now). It stars Daniel Auteuil (one of my favourite French actors), Monica Bellucci and France’s answer to Vinnie Jones, Eric Cantona. And I still can’t believe I found a copy of it in Poundland.
5. If you’d like to explore the subject of memory further, could I suggest you read Marcel Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu (in the original French of course). I have read it several times - I presume, since I don’t remember a thing about it. On the other hand, if you have a life, you could try The Librarian of Rosarioby Manuel Garcia Monteros, which is a lot shorter.
Sunday, 27th February - Worthing
AVH: Alien vs. Hunter DVD.
Bakugan Morph-Lite (Really lites up! S’Allume en vra!).
2 Medicine Managers.
2 Conical Irish Damask Mugs.
2 Birthday Cards.
1 pack of 6 disposable lighters.
1 pack of 2 Sony Ultra Super 9v ‘square’ batteries.
1. Another strange adventure in the land of the south. We had planned a visit to Worthing Museum but it’s closed on Sundays, so we settled for Poundland. The good lady wife bought mugs and cards and drug paraphernalia. No. 1 son grabbed the only copy of Johnny To’s Vengeance (starring Johnny Hallyday) saying it was dead good, then felt guilty and offered it to me, but Poundland etiquette prevailed and I declined and in a spirit of magnanimity suggested he also purchase King of the Hill (a neat little Spanish thriller that I’d recently taped off Film4). So I ended up with Alien vs. Hunter and a toy. Alien vs. Hunter is obviously a rubbish rip-off of Alien vs. Predator but it stars William Katt, after whom William the Cat is named. Mr. Katt does not seem to make many films these days so I thought it would be worth seeing what he looks like now and whether he has dispensed with his curly hair. As everyone knows he is the son of Della Street and Paul Drake from the original Perry Mason series, then he later went to work for Perry Mason, taking over his father’s detective duties, after Mr. Mason had recovered the use of his legs and had grown a beard, presumably to fool Mark (token black man) Sanger who was probably following him around trying to get him back in the van. William Katt then went on to star in The Greatest American Hero with Robert Culp and then made House. And after that I don’t know what he did. I could look it up but I’m still in ‘hiding from the Oscars’ mode and conner be bothered.
The Oscars are weird. You get all the build-up on the BBC, especially when a British film is in the running, then suddenly nothing. It’s like we’re peasants traipsing up to the big house on Christmas morning to pay our respects to the Lord of the Manor, then after catching a glimpse of his table laden with roast swans and sweetmeats, we trudge back to our hovels and eat gruel. Meanwhile all the barons who have abandoned their morals and paid their tribute to King Rupert can sit back and watch the Oscars. In fact, King Rupert then makes them pay again for the privilege, so it’s only the richest Sky subscribers who get a look-in. So while David Cameron and his mates, (who’ve probably never bin pictures), can stay up all night watching it live, the rest of us have to wait till it’s over then download it, thus Rupert Murdoch makes criminals of us all. We also have to avoid television (not hard in Worthing) and radio and the internet in case something pops up telling us who’s won.
And a toy. I bought that because No. 2 son was also with us and I don’t feel daft buying toys when he’s around. I couldn’t work out what the Bakugan Morph-Lite (Really lites up!) was, but it said I could Clip it On, Pop it Open and Lite it up, so that was three things I could do with it. When I got it out of the packet I also found a little picture on it of a dustbin with a cross through it, so presumably I can’t throw it away. So I’m stuck with it now. It folds down into a ball, then if you press the button it explodes into a wingčd creature and the little light comes on. It is good.
After Poundland we went back out into the rain and met Dennis Locorriere, who used to be in Dr. Hook, then went back to No. 1 son’s house and watched a Vincenzo Natali film called Nothing about two men who will the world away and end up as talking heads, which was very good and strange. Then we went to see No. 3 son dancing in a show with the ghosts of Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, which was better than I expected, although I got a bit confused when Jessica Rabbit appeared. It’s a long time since I’ve seen Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and I’d forgotten that Jessica Rabbit was a lady cartoon, I thought she was a rabbit cartoon, so due to my poor memory I tipped over into that land where you check if your watch is melting.
Monday we had a look at Brighton pier where they sell crayfish tails and then went back home to Stoke where they don’t.
2. One last thing. No. 2 son bought a packet of Marionettenpuppen, with which we decorated No. 1 son’s Victorian abode. If you have a suitable period feature on your wall which you don’t know what to do with I would suggest three scary puppets from the world of Punch and Judy add a certain frisson to the ambience of the room.
Tuesday, 15th March - Southend-on-Sea
Classic Artists: Yes DVD.
We Know Where You Live Remix The Complete Series DVD.
Death Sentence DVD.
King Lear DVD.
Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House by Valerie Plame Wilson.
Titanic Sinks Mug.
Everest Conquered! Mug.
Packet of Cadbury’s caramel mini-eggs.
1 pack of 6 disposable lighters.
1. To Southend for the unveiling of a new bronze bust of Robert Buchanan on his grave in St. John’s churchyard.
2. Thence to Poundland where we found a couple of gifts for friends (the Yes DVD - never liked Yes - and the We Know Where You Live Remix The Complete Series DVD - never seen it but it looks slightly comedic so not my cup of tea). My cup of tea will in future be served in the Everest Conquered! mug, and I also bought another Titanic Sinks mug since they’re difficult to get hold of and I wanted a backup for when my other Titanic Sinks mug gets broke.
3. The Fair Game book was a bit of a surprise since the film (starring Naomi Watts and Sean Penn) has only just come out. However it’s one for the good lady wife who has the interest in American politics, whereas I can’t drum up any sympathy for C.I.A. agents and their woes - if you’re daft enough to join the C.I.A. then you deserve all you get.
4. I would have put the Macbeth DVD as a rejected item since I picked it up, then put it back, Jason Connery forever being the not very good replacement for Michael Praed in Robin of Sherwood (Robin, the hooded man, bum bum), but then I spotted King Lear starring BRIAN BLESSED. King Lear is usually played by haggard thin chaps, so the casting of BRIAN BLESSED immediately makes you think this might be a bit different, especially when it comes to the mad bit and the “Blow winds and crack your cheeks” speech. Hopefully that’ll blow the speakers on me telly for good and we can get a new flat one for when the analogue signal gets switched off in September which a little box that keeps popping up when you’re trying to watch summat keeps telling me is going happen. So I bought the Macbeth as well.
5. I also bought Death Sentence because I couldn’t remember whether I’d got a copy. But I had, so bugger to that.
6. On the way home we passed a road sign that said ‘Wild Animals!’ which seemed rather unspecific. Whether there was a zoo with lax security nearby I don’t know, it could have been a circus. On the way to Southend we stopped off in Norwich to visit newly relocated No. 3 son, and on the way to Norwich I saw a camel and a zebra. The good lady wife didn’t because she was asleep and had given me instructions to wake her if the Sutton swing bridge was open for a boat - it had been on a previous occasion and she’d missed it because she was asleep. So I didn’t bother waking her up when I passed the circus and saw the camel and the zebra and so suffered the consequences. But there wasn’t a “Wild Animals!” sign warning me there, so I don’t think the one on the road out of Southend was designed for circuses. I think it was probably a replacement for the Deer signs that are dotted about and which have ceased to be effective. Now when we see a Deer sign we just think there won’t be any deers around here then and go back to sleep. But “Wild Animals!” we’re wide awake and looking for monkeys and wildebeest. It’s a good notion and proof that southerners are more up to date than we of the north. Expect to see them soon on the motorways of Britain replacing those signs going on about how tired you are which have a soothing hypnotic effect and cause accidents.
Sunday, 3rd April - Brighton
Jane Doe DVD.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning DVD.
4 rolls of sellotape.
1 pack of 6 disposable lighters.
Large spade in the shape of the Great Cthulhu. Rejected by all on the grounds that no one wanted to be seen walking round Brighton with a replica of the Great Cthulhu in spade form lest it offend the many followers of the Great Old Ones who live in the town.
1. This probably looks like a very poor haul from Poundland, but we actually walked out with two bags full. Plus it was the Brighton Poundland which I usually exit empty-handed. So, to explain: I turned 60 the previous week (which is not a cause for celebration - you get sent a letter from the Queen asking if you’ve got bowel cancer and talking about poo and whether you’ve got a lump in your tummy, so not only does she think I’ve got the cancer but she also thinks I’m senile) and meant to visit my local Poundland as usual to see what Mr. Poundland had got me, but being ridiculously busy on account of Robert Buchanan getting a new head and my Albert Ayler website collapsing in peculiar circumstances, I didn’t get round to it. So we went down south to stay with the offspring for a weekend and I thought I’d go to the Worthing shop until No. 2 son told me that they’d cleared their DVD shelves, which was worrying, so I thought I’d let it go, then on the Sunday after lunch (note southern spelling of dinner) in Brighton, I was persuaded to try the Brighton Poundland even though I had my doubts, and we (sons 1 and 2 and good lady girlfriend of latter) went by a circuitous route, that took us past a weird house with a shop window full of strange things like the owner’s teeth and a squirrel in a waistcoat, and not open to the public, a private collection, so it said on the door, and a clear indication, if one were needed considering the Great Cthulhu spade on sale in Poundland, that Brighton should be twinned with Innsmouth, to Poundland and everybody put interesting things in the basket, like a how to play guitar book with multi-angle DVD and X-men bobbing head toys and such, except me who settled for two DVDs, some sellotape and the requisite packet of lighters. I would have bought a third DVD but the lady on the till wouldn’t let me have it. It was The Thing - the original version not the John Carpenter remake - and is no doubt much better than the other two what I was allowed to buy, but I was refused purchase. No explanation was given and I could have kicked up a fuss, but people were already staring, wondering what illicit DVD I had found which could not be sold even to someone of my advanced age, so I smiled and let it go. I think it has something to do with a copyright issue and the company which issued this version of The Thing were not entitled to do so. I would have offered this in explanation to the lady on the till who kept giving me a funny look as if it was my fault I’d tried to buy it, even though I followed the correct shop etiquette (as Lou Costello would pronounce it) of picking it up off the shelf, placing it in my basket, taking it to the till and proffering money. So, I was left with the other two DVDs and a lingering memory of a third DVD which I thought I’d bought and which I kept trying to remember as we made our way down to the pier where they’d fixed the horse-racing machine so it didn’t keep paying out on the big winners but just the 20p red and so I lost a pound before I realised I was wasting my money. Which I did with the two-disc edition of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning which I watched on telly and didn’t like so I don’t particularly want to see it ever again, but it was a two disc edition so you think that’s a bargain and buy it. Jane Doe is about one of those women who wake up one day and find out they’re superspies or summat and go round shooting people and giving them a kick. There are a lot of these women around. I blame feminism. I think when they started feminism the C.I.A. reckoned they should recruit a lot of housewives and train them in killing people, then get Derren Brown in to put them to sleep a bit, so that they can wake them up later and make films about them to show how feminism didn’t work and made women into killers and just like men, thus undermining the whole feminist ethos about how women would be better at running the world since they were more peaceful and nurturing. In England M.I.5 did the same thing, but they just made Margaret Thatcher and that was it, job done.
2. I should also list a couple more DVDs which I did not buy - although I think I would have been allowed to, but who knows? One was a Cuba Gooding Jr. film about a border patrol guard, rejected on the basis that films about border patrol guards are always a bit rubbish, even though Mr. Gooding Jr. can on occasion show excellent taste in the straight-to-video films in which he chooses to appear - I cite A Murder of Crows, End Game and Ticking Clock as examples. The other DVD I rejected, on the grounds that I did not want to be seen succumbing to dubious marketing techniques with faintly racist undertones, was the Wesley Snipes film, Unstoppable, which was on prominent display and obviously intended to fool customers into thinking this was the just released on DVD film about a runaway train, Unstoppable starring Denzel Washington. Thank you very much Mr. Poundland but I am quite able to tell my Snipeses from my Washingtons and thus your devious scheme availed thee naught. What next? Golliwogs!
Thursday, 28th April - York
Moscow Zero DVD.
Who Wants To Be A Millionaire (Fifth edition) DVD Game .
55 DL self seal envelopes.
1 pack of 6 disposable lighters.
1 pack of 6 Kodak Supralife batteries.
1. After the perennial argument about the best way to get to York from Stoke - I prefer going across then up whereas the good lady wife favours up and across (we never go diagonally since that way lie speed cameras and windey country roads with farmers going about their business of riding up and down on their tractors) - we spent a pleasant day looking at old buildings and stuff with No. 2 son and his good lady girlfriend. Apart from the visit to Poundland and tea at Wackers the highlight of the trip for me was a visit to the Art Gallery where, although I was disappointed not to find their John Martin on display, I was impressed by one of the David Hockney big tree pictures. So impressed that the next day I went out and bought a big telly.
2. Not from Poundland of course, since that would be daft. The day when Poundland sells big tellies then we will know that the Revolution has arrived and we don’t have to watch other people getting married if we don’t want to.
3. Since we had a lot to do and we’d left the good lady wife and mother outside somewhere, our visit to Poundland was brief. No. 2 son chose a DVD of Kiltro, on the basis that it was a silly name for a film, but I have been watching a lot of rubbish lately and forewent it. However we both chose Moscow Zero because it starred two mad actors, Vincent Gallo and Val Kilmer. At least their names were on the front. Val Kilmer is more of a ‘with’ or an ‘and’ and does not do much mad acting - although there is a trailer on the DVD for Conspiracy, a film I do not know, but stars Val Kilmer and seems to be a remake of Bad Day at Black Rock with Val Kilmer in the Spencer Tracy role, although he plays it with two arms. I will have to seek it out. Another reason not to buy Moscow Zero was that it is directed by Luna and as a rule it is best to avoid anything made by people who only have one name since it is a clear sign that they are arty buggers, but I decided to throw caution to the wind. Actually it turned out not to be too bad. It’s very short (75 minutes before the credits) which is always good, and there are a lot of proper actors involved - apart from the mad ones, there’s Joss Ackland doing a bit, then the Russian bloke who’s in everything that needs a Russian bloke, and Joaquim de Almeida who is usually Spanish or Mexican and plays villains in 24 and such although here he’s a Russian guiding Vincent Gallo’s priest under the streets of Moscow where there’s an entrance to Hell. Sylvester’s son, Sage is in it also, but I thought he was the one who looked like his dad, then turned out not to be, so I can’t comment on his thesping. Basically, it’s a tunnel film, but usually with tunnel films you get a gang of stuntmen or wrestlers running away from someone in a monster suit, whereas here you’ve got proper actors and Sylvester Stallone’s son running away from shadows and ghostly children, so it’s not as boring as most tunnel films (Andrzej Wajda’s Kanal excluded naturally). Then right at the end the one-named director rears her arty head and goes all enigmatic. I’m getting too old for enigmatic endings. I think people who use them should be made to employ Rod Serling, or a living equivalent, to come on after the credits and explain everything to us, preferably while smoking a fag. Then people who like to spend the next three hours mulling over what the ending was all about can switch off before Rod appears and the rest of us can get a bit of what the Americans call closure and can move on to the next photoplay.
4. I also purchased the 2007 edition of the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire quiz game DVD since according to the cover it guaranteed Family Fun. And what fun we had. I would have had more fun if every other question did not involve an intimate knowledge of the kings and queens of England, but since the next time we played it some of the same questions turned up again, I was prepared. In order to outdo me, the next day No. 2 son went to Hanley Poundland and bought Fingers on Buzzers, which came with four individual controllers and was thus quite a bargain. However, by the time I’d read the question and considered the answers on offer, younger fingers had pressed their buzzers and I came last. In future I will stick with Chris Tarrant despite his rather obvious ploy to get knighted.
Wednesday, 11th May - Boston
1 250g box of multi purpose lawn seed.
1 pack of 4 A6 hardback notebooks.
1 pack of 10 disposable lighters.
Faithful: Two Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season by Stewart O’Nan and Stephen King.
I admire the way in which Mr. Poundland targets specific stores for his merchandise so I felt this item should be noted, but not bought.
A Disquisition on the Nature of Dream Landscapes
Driving into Boston the good lady wife spots a man carrying a Poundland bag. I am cheered by this and resolve to seek out the store. We head for the town centre, keeping one eye out for the windmill we have come to see and the other for somewhere to park. We notice many signs which just say ‘Cinema’. Boston seems inordinately proud of its Cinema. One sign says ‘Cinema’ and below it, ‘Car Park’. We park the car by the Cinema and walk into the town looking for a Tourist Information Office. I notice the tower of St. Botolph’s Church. It is hard not to. It is very tall. It is market day. A woman is singing selections from the śuvre of Andrew Lloyd Webber in the Market Square. She is a soprano. It says so on the board behind her. It is not a pleasant soundtrack to our wanderings. We find the Tourist Information Office in the old Guildhall. The old Guildhall was established by religious people, there is a chapel in the Guildhall, the cells where two of the Pilgrim Fathers were possibly imprisoned (there is a sign on the wall which disputes this), a courthouse with a display of instruments of torture, a medieval kitchen and a banqueting hall. Whenever you walk into a room you trigger a recording of ghostly voices. We find a cafe and have some dinner. I order the double egg and chips since it is only Ł3, which seems very cheap. The cafe is deserted. As we finish our meal the owner closes the cafe. Outside I stand and smoke my pipe and notice that all the buildings on the opposite side of the road are a little askew. They belong to different periods and one in particular does not connect to its neighbours, there is a slight gap either side and it is crooked. We are now in a cobbled street leading to the church. I see a sign that says “Visit the Stump Shop”. The tower, being so tall, is called the ‘Stump’. I have written several novels set in an alternate version of Stoke which I named Stump. In the shop inside the church I buy several items which have ‘Boston Stump’ on them since they give the impression (to me alone) that Stump has been twinned with Boston. Outside the church I see a strange black creature hopping across a wall. I cannot make out what it is at first then realise there is a sunken path and the creature is the top of a man’s head bobbing along. We leave the churchyard and pass a large statue of Herbert Ingram, the founder of The Illustrated London News. The size of the statue seems out of proportion to the achievements of its subject. (Later I will wish that I had taken a photo of the statue set against the oversized church tower - if one was lucky with the light it would be reminiscent of the paintings of Giorgio de Chirico.) The good lady wife spots a Marks and Spencers and I leave her there and go in search of Poundland. I find it but I am disappointed. It is a very nice Poundland but I cannot find anything to buy. The DVD section is full of DVDs about gypsy folk. They do not interest me. I remember I have to buy some grass seed, so I do. Then I buy some hardback notebooks since I find them difficult to resist and the usual pack of lighters. I go back to Marks and Spencers and we walk back to the car and continue our quest to find the windmill. We find the windmill. I abandon my wife and climb to the top. As the windmill narrows so do the steps, until the final stage is little more than a ladder. I feel like James Stewart in Vertigo. As I climb back down I go out onto the platform, avoiding a swinging chain, and I walk round to the front where the sails are now spinning round. I now just feel vertigo. I go back downstairs. I am covered in flour dust. I engage in banter with the proprietor of the windmill then we go back to the car and decide to head for the marina. I realise that there are a lot of railway crossings in Boston. They don’t seem to have any geographical logic to them. I have a fear of railway crossings. The good lady wife pooh poohs my anxiety but I am sure that one day a mistake will be made by the mad signalman and I will be hit by a train. I trace this fear back to David Lynch’s Eraserhead. We find the marina but despite a sign advertising tea and cakes, it is closed. A man stands by his front door smoking. In front of his front door is a larger door. We speculate on the need for two front doors. We head for the docks, as marked on the map, thinking there may be a pleasant area to walk among fisherfolk and the like. There is a security barrier. It reminds us of the second season of The Wire. We backtrack to another river where there are boats moored and two rusting hulks resting on the mud. As the river level rises these must disappear from view under the water as the living boats are borne up to the path where we stand. An ice cream van comes down the street playing the usual tune. It parks in front of our car. We do not feel like an ice cream so wait until it goes. Then we drive out of Boston and return to the road we know.
That night I do not sleep, which is unusual for me. I lie there thinking about the doings of the day and how much they remind me of the places I visit in my dreams. The word ‘surreal’ is overused. We see something a little out of the ordinary and call it surreal, when we just mean odd. I do not have many dreams, or at least I do not recall them, and when I do dream they are mostly mundane affairs, occurring in vaguely familiar surroundings that just seem a little out of whack. I place no significance on dreams and have no truck with the now discredited musings of Mr. Freud. I am also not suggesting that Boston is a doorway to a place of enchantment. It was merely coincidence, a concatenation of chance encounters with things which play on my mind from time to time, curious old buildings, ladders, railway crossings, books I should be writing, scenes from films and TV, a memory from childhood, an image of death and decay, an unknown creature skittering along a path, deserted cafes and mad music. Now it has joined the memories of visits to other towns, including that other Boston across the water. But I wonder if it will ever cross that line which separates the memories of dream landscapes and those which purport to be real.
Souvenirs celebrating the twinning of Boston with the imaginary City of Stump.
View from a windmill.
A study in perspective taken by another hand.
Saturday, 18th June - Worthing
The Monster Maker DVD
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley audiobook (read by Richard Pasco - 3 CDs, abridged)
Life Beyond Measure by Sidney Poitier
Hero: 108 Kingdom Krashers - Mr. No Hands
Hero: 108 Kingdom Krashers - Jumpy Ghostface
Hero: 108 Kingdom Krashers - Shark King
2 250g boxes of multi purpose lawn seed.
2 packs of 6 CD cases.
1 box of 70 Paper CD covers.
2 packs of 6 disposable lighters.
I should have made a note of this, but I didn’t. It was a book of Parish records, with no obvious connection to Worthing, or anywhere else of interest, but I nearly bought it for the obscurity value. Then realised it would just take up a book-sized space in my house which could be used for something else that I might possibly read one day, so I let it be. You never know, one day a member of that particular parish might wander into Worthing Poundland and seize upon the treasure, which to the rest of us is mere dross.
1. I have to explain why Jumpy Ghostface and Shark King are not pictured above. I bought them for sons 1 and 2 and so they were left in Worthing. Here’s a picture:
I nearly bought some more of these since they looked good, but they’re a bit rubbish really. You get a little man (or shark or jumpy ghostface) and he fits on a little car that you then ram into each other and that releases a thingy which pops up and your little man (or shark or jumpy ghostface) falls off and you read the numbers on the thingy and work out who’s won. Except it’s more complicated than that and after you’ve had one go you give up reading the rules and put it on the shelf and it becomes an ornament. A pity considering all the work that’s gone into it.
2. Talking of work, while walking round the shop a cheery chappie on the tannoy kept asking if I wanted “a career in Poundland”. If he’d said “do you want a job in Poundland” then fair enough, but the idea of spending 30 years stacking shelves with rubbish and kidding yourself this is the equivalent of working in biomechanical engineering seemed rather depressing. I think cheery chappie was guilty of overegging the pudding.
3. I nearly rejected the Sidney Poitier book since it has the subtitle, “Letters to My Great-Granddaughter”, and I thought it might be a bit sentimental and slushy. But, in the end, I thought, it’s Sidney Poitier, so into the basket it went.
4. I’ve tried reading Frankenstein a couple of times but I’ve never been able to ‘get into it’, so I thought I’d get a man to read it to me like a little babby.
5. The Monster Maker is about a mad scientist trying to get off with this woman what looks like his dead wife who killed herself after he injected her with the elephant man disease in order that other blokes wouldn’t fancy her, which is about as mad as it gets. He also has a gorilla in a cage in his laboratory as all mad scientists did in those days. He is played by J. Carrol Naish using an Eastern European accent and wearing Patrick Moore’s trousers. Mr. Naish is probably best remembered as Charlie Chan in the TV series from the 1950s. For that he had slanty eyes and a Chinese accent which was probably a bit offputting for his No. 1 son, played by James Hong. I used to like those old half-hour detective shows. There was Dial 999 starring Robert Beatty whose special detective skill was being Canadian. This was similar to Charlie Chan’s skill of pretending to be Chinese. In those days before cheap foreign holidays and the internet you just had to be a bit foreign to get a job as a detective on British TV. Although my favourite was Mark Saber whose special detective skill was having one arm which was a bit different.
6. I can attest to the quality of Poundland grass seed. When I went to Worthing I didn’t think I’d be able to say that since after ploughing the fields and scattering the good seed on the land there was nowt to show for all my hard work. However, when we got home it had grown as the photos below show. The first one is the Poundland seed, the second, some expensive seed from a proper garden centre (very disappointing, although that could be because it’d been lying round the house for two years waiting for me to get round to demolishing the shed).
I was in a garden centre the other week watching an air show - at least the good lady wife was watching the aeroplanes and I was reading the paper. We’d spent ages trying to get out of Stoke due to it being the Potteries Half Marathon (they used to do a full one but then ran out of money, but they still run round where we live and block all the roads so we’re prisoners in our own homes) and we spent half-an-hour waiting for a gap in the parade of fat old blokes walking in the rain to make a dash for the barbed wire fence which separates us from Switzerland. I have no objection to people running marathons but I think such events should be limited to those who can run. I reckon they should open the roads again after two hours or however long it’s supposed to take and then the stragglers can take their chances with the traffic. I don’t understand why walking around in the pouring rain is good for your health. Even the old cavemen knew enough to take shelter, that’s why they were called cavemen. I think evolution is starting to go backwards and rubbish marathon runners are leading the way. Soon we’ll all be like the extinct fieldmen standing in the rain and going ugh, some of whom will be wearing fancy dress. They’re the really annoying ones. I think the true meaning of the marathon should be explained to them. Drop them all in Afghanistan and if we ever win a battle out there they can run home and tell us about it.
We also got stuck in Brighton on Sunday (I blame facebook, if the good lady wife didn’t keep telling the world where we were going then the powers that be wouldn’t be able to organise all these events to make our lives a misery) because of a load of people riding bicycles. I suppose they’re a step up from marathon runners since they’ve just regressed to the Victorian era rather than Ancient Greece, but they’re equally annoying if you want to drop off No. 3 son’s big telly and then find somewhere to eat. I suggested we go down the coast to the next big town on the map, which was Newhaven, but when we got there it was closed. Then we saw a sign for ‘West Beach’ and, thinking that a named beach would have a cafe, we drove down this narrow road which ended at a car park in front of some kind of industrial complex. It reminded me of Quatermass II when the bloke falls into the vat of slime and his face falls off, which I saw when I was but a nipper and used to sneak downstairs and watch telly from behind the sofa. There was a man guarding the car park next to a cardboard sign saying ‘No public access to sandy beach’. I don’t know why people would want to park their cars in industrial complexes while the seagulls and crabs smirked at them from the sandy beach, unless you wanted to revisit childhood traumas, so we turned round and went back to Brighton where the streets were still full of people riding their bikes with no regard to public safety, and that attitude of superiority which comes from being told you’re superior. So we dropped off the child in the middle of the street and headed for home, and got stuck in traffic again, mostly cars with bikes on the back, which I didn’t understand. If you know about cars and how you can sit in comfort and listen to music and smoke your pipe and get to your destination faster and with a minimum of physical effort, then why are you still riding a bike?