Monthly Archives: January 2016

A Visit To Hill Top Farm

Absolute style

Absolute style

This morning I awoke to this news: Beatrix Potter story Kitty-In-Boots discovered after 100 years – BBC News and I wet the bed.

For a reason that’s emphatically unknown to science, God, and everyone I’ve ever crossed paths with, I have a comforting yet inexplicable obsession with the children’s author and scientist, Beatrix Potter. Several years ago, almost overnight and for reasons I’ve never been able to figure out, I developed a deep and definitely-not-completely-bizarre fascination with everything about her life, art, mycology and anthropomorphic animal tales involving lots of anthropomorphic animals and their anthropomorphic animal adventures.

While you would probably expect this Potter fixation to have stemmed directly from my childhood experience of Peter Rabbit and all his fantastically-attired chums, it turns out that though my early years were obviously splashed with a touch of Beatrix’s critter creations (and, let’s face it, it should be law that all babies and toddlers are drip fed an early childhood of Peter Rabbit, Mrs Tiggy-Winkle et al – and one would expect those that aren’t probably grow up to be extremely dangerous), it wasn’t actually until I reached the pointless old age of 30 that I began to acknowledge that this was a person with whom I was completely captivated, and was clearly everything I could ever hope to be as a human being.

Peter Rabbit presumably being strangled by his mam.

Peter Rabbit presumably being strangled by his mam.

I suspect it’s obvious that there may be an argument for a link to pre-school literature and my general mental age, but I can assure you this is only half the case. While I’m so obviously besotted with the children’s books that made her name, it was her general outlook on life, her way of living and her contempt for authority that resonated mostly with me.

Read any article or biography of Beatrix Potter and you’ll discover a society-raised, well-to-do young woman who despised the snobbish foppery, social aspiration and high society that her background represented. She held principles that align completely with my own, forged a career in something I’d love to forge a career in, pissed off an entire community (in this case the mycological science community by submitting, as an amateur mycologist, a paper on fungi that has since proved to be entirely accurate prompting the Linnean Society to issue an apology in 1997 for their sexism) before buggering off to live her later years as a sheep-farmer in the Lake District, all the while maintaining an outlook on life that makes me drool.

Here’s a few quotes from Miss P that illustrate just how startlingly wonderful she was:

“Thank goodness I was never sent to school; it would have rubbed off some of the originality.”

“All outward forms of religion are almost useless, and are the causes of endless strife. . . . Believe there is a great power silently working all things for good, behave yourself and never mind the rest.”

“I remember I used to half believe and wholly play with fairies when I was a child. What heaven can be more real than to retain the spirit-world of childhood, tempered and balanced by knowledge and common-sense.”

This woman knew what’s what.

She was also a brilliant businesswoman, invented what we now know as merchandising, and was notoriously tough when it came to quality and output of her creations. Fun fact: she once told Walt Disney to basically sod off when he approached her in 1936 about adapting Peter Rabbit into a film. Oh, and she was also a huge conservationist, stubborn-headed when it came to preserving the landscape and fell-farming, and bequeathed all of her land and property (as well as her illustrations) to the National Trust which included the land which now makes up the Lake District National Park. I just simmer at her brilliance.

Beatrix Potter lived a perfect life. At least she did in my eyes. Aside from my fiancee Laura (of course!), she’s the one person who I idolise unequivocally. There isn’t a single aspect of her existence that I’m not fascinated by, completely in love with or just plain bowled over by. My friends and associates fully acknowledge my strange fixation with all things Beattie P and I’ll regularly get people who I’ve not spoken to in years pinging a link to my Facebook or Twitter when they stumble across something about Beatrix Potter they think I may have missed. Apparently just the mention of Beatrix Potter reminds them of me and my delirious fanboyism, and I am more than fine with that. Admittedly I’ve had friends say the same thing regarding Brad Pitt and Andrea Pirlo which, again, I’m absolutely fine with.

But Miss Potter’s my true icon. If I was eleven I’d have a poster of her on my bedroom wall. I’m not eleven though so instead I have a poster of Peter Rabbit and as many Beatrix Potter-themed trinkets dotted around the house as my girlfriend will allow. If it sounds creepy that’s because it isn’t.

But I’m blathering…

My future home

My future home

The first time I went to visit the Mecca of all things Beatrix Potter – Hill Top Farm – was with one of my oldest and most delightfully loopy mates, Emma, back in 2010. Such was the immensity of occasion, I was overawed and compelled enough to write a couple of poems about it, one of which is presented below in sonnet form. The day itself was one of the best I’ve ever had because BEATRIX POTTER’S HOUSE! Emma, being as much of a fangirl as I was a fanboy, really got into the spirit of it, ooohing and aaahing at handwritten letters and pencil sketches, and almost causing a riot when she discovered we weren’t allowed to take photos inside the house. This was a marked difference to the second time I went in 2014 with my friend Dan who looked as pissed off as one would expect a 34 year old to be when being moaned at for not acting as excited as I was at visiting Peter Rabbit’s house.

It took Emma and me about four hours to find the place despite driving straight past it about a billion times, completely oblivious to the hordes of Japanese tourists queuing up outside. Added to this was getting yelled at and chased by angry locals on Windermere for Emma’s illegal parking manoeuvres as well as spending an arresting few hours encouraging her pet dog, Arthur, to swim in the lake and acting like a proud mum when he didn’t drown. It’s days like these that memories are really made of.

So here’s the scribbles from the day we had tea and cake at Beatrix Potter’s house. It’s obviously dedicated to Emma because it was an utterly glorious day plus she drove us all the way there and I still haven’t paid her for the petrol.

 

‘A Visit To Hill Top Farm’

_____________________________________________________________

Hours in the car, laughing; a trip we took,
On winding roads towards green, looming peaks.
You drove us there. We got lost by a brook
And in fields; endless moors steeped in mystique.
We drove past it five times. Possibly six,
Laughing, wondering if we’d ever see
Her home; the cottage where our Beatrix
Spun her tales and inspired us. You and me.
Then we found ourselves there, softly entranced
By bunnies, ducks, or a handwritten note.
We stood where imagination once danced;
The creatures she drew, the stories she wrote.
And all day we laughed. You and me. Content.
Still you don’t know – you don’t – how much it meant.

Dedicated to Emma Kate Corr, written in the summer of 2010.

Emma also edits a superb parenting blog at www.emmakatecorr.com. Have a gander. Right now.

 

Correspondence #5: eBay

I found this image on the internationalnetwork. I've no idea what it's referring to, and I'm using the image without permission.

I found this image on the internationalnetwork. I’ve no idea what it’s referring to, and I’m using the image without permission.

My username on eBay is mr_jimmy_grimble which is something my brother occasionally calls me. I’m not sure exactly why, nor where the name originated but there is a film called ‘There’s Only One Jimmy Grimble’ which is a football film about a young footballer who plays football with a football. It wasn’t about me though as I haven’t played football for ages due to laziness and severe trench foot caused by a pair of £8 trainers that I purchased on eBay.

I usually buy the same pair of these trainers twice a year, and because they’re so cheap coupled with the fact my feet are Hobbit-esque and belong in the circus, they have a tendency to fall apart after about six months due to the unnecessary stress my freak feet exert to the interior lining. This time, however, the seam in these sneaky sneakers split the second time I put them on, and when I opened up a correspondence with the seller I genuinely wanted a simple replacement. If it wasn’t for them ignoring me then emailing with a dismissive retort I probably would have forgotten about it which happens a lot because of years of recreational drug abuse that has removed large chunks of my memory.

 

From:mr_jimmy_grimble
To:shucentre-uk
Sent:17-Nov-15 18:39

mr_jimmy_grimble has sent a question about item #321177794881, ending on 20-Nov-15 11:33:21 GMT – New Mens Ladies Unisex Black White School
PE Pumps Plimsoll Plims Shoes Lace Up

Hi,

I purchased these trainers last week, I’ve worn them twice and the seam in
the left shoe has split open.

Would I be able to return them for a pair that aren’t damaged?

Kind regards,

Chris

From:shucentre-uk
To:mr_jimmy_grimble
Sent:18-Nov-15 10:18
please send us an image so we can check this thanks

Kind Regards

ShuCentre
http://www.shucentre.co.uk

From:mr_jimmy_grimble
To:shucentre-uk
Sent:18-Nov-15 20:54
As requested
Not a hint of hedgehog...

Welcome to Splitsville. Population: shoe.

From:mr_jimmy_grimble
To:shucentre-uk
Sent:26-Nov-15 15:42

Hi,

Did you receive the image of the split trainer? If not, here’s the offending item now.

Many thanks,

Chris

Not a hint of hedgehog...

Seams dodgy. See what I did there?

From:shucentre-uk
To:mr_jimmy_grimble
Sent:26-Nov-15 17:03
yes just wait. we are dealing with this

Kind Regards

ShuCentre
http://www.shucentre.co.uk

From:mr_jimmy_grimble
To:shucentre-uk
Sent:26-Nov-15 17:39

Dear Sue Centre,

Many thanks for your friendly response.

It pleases me greatly to know that you are dealing with this swiftly, efficiently,
and effectively – all adjectives that one would use to describe responding to
a query that has been sitting festering for over a week with no communication.

However, I completely understand your reticence to reply to my request for
a replacement shoe. At present I am ignoring approximately 40 emails
including several from a solicitor regarding a tax evasion scam I am
caught up in as well as about 25 from my manager at work asking how
the stock level in the vending machines halve with no noticeable profit
every time I am on shift. I find replying to email gets in the way of
more pressing concerns such as chewing my fingernails or trying
on my girlfriend’s clothes when she’s at work.

I should only presume, given the length of time it’s been since my first
query, that you’ve sent off the photograph of my diseased trainer to
Kodak to be analysed for authenticity should you be concerned that
I am attempting to con you out of £10. You need not worry as I can
guarantee that it’s genuine as that is my freshly manicured thumb
pointing to where the split in the seam is. I had it manicured especially
for that photograph. As a token of goodwill from yourself, I’d gladly
accept a refund on the manicure as well. It only seems fair. It cost £50.
Just transfer it into my PayPal account at your earliest convenience.

I look forward to your early response regarding my trainer troubles.

Regards,

Chris

From:mr_jimmy_grimble
To:shucentre-uk
Sent:09-Jan-16 10:09

Dear Sue Centre,

Many thanks for your reply which still hasn’t arrived.

I replied to your friendly reply back on 26th November 2015 and it’s
now 9th January 2016 which I calculate is approximately 6 months
since we last corresponded. That’s a long time to leave me hanging.
It’s like the email equivalent of me going to high five you and you
just looking at me blankly while my high-fived hand is just hanging
in the air. Perhaps that’s where the phrase ‘don’t leave me hanging’
comes from. Something to think about I suppose, especially if you
don’t high five and opt for ‘big tens’ instead. That would just be
embarrassing if you attempted to big ten someone and got nothing
back. I can’t imagine anything more excruciating.

Anyway, enough about high fives and big tens. My damaged New
Mens Ladies Unisex Black White School PE Pumps Plimsoll Plims
Shoes Lace Ups are still awaiting return to the mothership to be replaced.
Can you tell me when this will happen? Presently, they’re sitting on a
shelf in my flat looking at me and wondering what’s going on and why
they’re not being used. I haven’t the heart to tell them that they’re
damaged and pretty much useless, and that I’m still waiting for a
younger, more attractive, more nubile pair of New Mens Ladies Unisex Black
White School PE Pumps Plimsoll Plims Shoes Lace Ups to arrive to
replace them.

Incidentally can we please refer to my New Mens Ladies Unisex Black White
School PE Pumps Plimsoll Plims Shoes Lace Ups as simply
‘my damaged trainers’ from now on? When I called the police to
inform them about your shoddy correspondence and apparent
refusal to replace my New Mens Ladies Unisex Black White School PE Pumps
Plimsoll Plims Shoes Lace Ups they hung up after the seventh time
I referred to them as New Mens Ladies Unisex Black White School PE Pumps
Plimsoll Plims Shoes Lace Ups.

I hope this matter is resolved sooner rather than later. I’d hate to
have to open up a dispute thing with PayPal as I’ve heard they’re
Mafia-esque.

Kind regards,

Chris

From:shucentre-uk
To:mr_jimmy_grimble
Sent:09-Jan-16 13:36
please send us a picture of the received item and where its faulty, we advise you to return the item back to us so we can check this, we have not been ignoring you as you state, we are not a company to rip you of for £8 worth of shoes?????? you can call the police or do what is best but its not the way we deal with our returns or faulty items. please firstly send us a picture of the item as you are claiming it to be damaged

Kind Regards

ShuCentre
http://www.shucentre.co.uk

From:mr_jimmy_grimble
To:shucentre-uk
Sent:09-Jan-16 14:28

Dear Sue,

Many thanks for your friendly reply.

Unfortunately I’ve deleted the image of my diseased trainer from my iPhone,
as well as the 400 photographs of my feet that I take each time I’m on the
toilet, in order to free up storage space so I can download images of Brad
Pitt with no top on. I’ve attached my current favourite image of Brad instead.
I’d like to think he was thinking of me in this picture; perhaps about meeting
up and watching all of his movies together. I think he’d be a really nice
person to hang out with. We could talk about trainers. Perhaps he’d ask me
why I was wearing a damaged pair of New Mens Ladies Unisex Black White
School PE Pumps Plimsoll Plims Shoes Lace Ups, and I could reply that
the seam split; then he could ask why I don’t get them replaced and I’d
say that I’ve been trying my hardest but not getting anywhere with Sue
Centre. Then he’d probably call Sue a cow and give me a hug. I expect
he doesn’t wear damaged New Mens Ladies Unisex Black White School
PE Pumps Plimsoll Plims Shoes Lace Ups.

However, if you read the previous correspondence you will see that I
sent an image of my diseased shoe back on 26th November, as per your
request. As previously mentioned, you can see my thumb in the image so
please let me know what you think of the manicure you so kindly offered
to pay for by way of recompense for failing to respond to my enquiry
about replacing my damaged trainer. I am still awaiting the funds to
be deposited into my account.

It does reassure me to know that you aren’t a company that rips people
off for £8 worth of shoes but it’s quite apparent that your shoes rip
themselves off given how easily the seam burst away from the sole
the second time I put them on. On the plus side, wearing damaged trainers
that expose my feet to the elements does have its advantages including
trench foot and mild frostbite which I think creates a connection between
me and Mother Nature.

Please let me know when my new trainer will be sent.

Regards,

Chris

Oooh la la...

Oooh la la…

From:shucentre-uk
To:mr_jimmy_grimble
Sent:09-Jan-16 20:31
please provide us with proper photos and not brad pitt

Kind Regards

ShuCentre
http://www.shucentre.co.uk

From:mr_jimmy_grimble
To:shucentre-uk
Sent:10-Jan-16 13:17

Dear Sue Centre,

Many thanks for your friendly reply.

That was a test and you failed. It’s quite clearly a picture of a shirtless
Johnny Depp and definitely not a picture of Brad Pitt with no top on.
I know this because I’ve memorised the intricacies of Brad’s abdominal
muscles and they’re clearly not on show here. I’m disappointed with you
in making such an elementary mistake and fear you cannot be trusted in
a combat situation. If this is the way you conduct your business then it’s
no wonder that your Ladies Unisex Black White School PE Pumps Plimsoll
Plims Shoes Lace Ups surrender and capitulate to the elements after only
36 hours of use playing football, rock climbing and kicking small
hedgehogs against garage walls as they go about their business.

Having said that I have, at no extra expense to you and despite having
already sent the image twice previously, attached the initial photograph
of the diseased trainer and my manicured thumb which, given the
protracted nature of this correspondence, is due another one as my
thumbnail is nowlong and powerful enough to slice open the seam on the
other shoe with minimal effort.

I trust procedures will now be in place to get my New Mens Ladies Unisex
Black White School PE Pumps Plimsoll Plims Shoes Lace Up replaced at
long long last.

Kind regards,

Chris

Not a hint of hedgehog...

Not a hint of hedgehog…

From:shucentre-uk
To:mr_jimmy_grimble
Sent:10-Jan-16 16:36
we advise you to return them to us so we can inspect the shoes and help you get it the situation resolved thanks

Kind Regards

ShuCentre
http://www.shucentre.co.uk

From:mr_jimmy_grimble
To:shucentre-uk
Sent:11-Jan-16 13:21

Dear Sue,

Many thanks for your friendly reply.

I am very glad we are approaching something resembling a resolution with
regard to my diseased New Mens Ladies Unisex Black White School PE
Pumps Plimsoll Plims Shoes Lace Ups. I have taken your advice and
first thing this morning I went to the post office with my broken trainer
and asked them to wrap it up and post it to you. When they asked me why
I wanted to post one shoe I explained that it was infected and needed to
be replaced with one that isn’t extremely ill with an infectious disease.
Not entirely sure of what to make of my statement, the clerk behind the
desk offered to throw it in the bin if it was as terminally ill as I suggested
so I hastily agreed because I didn’t want them to make a scene as I was still
in my pyjamas and night cap.

However, I have instead sent you the left boot of the slipper boots that
I got off Santa Claus this Christmas. They too are damaged due to the length
of my toenails and their all-too-easy ability to penetrate soft, woollen fabric
and half-arsed stitch-work carried out by child sweatshop workers in
Bangladesh.

The damaged slipper boot should arrive tomorrow, first class post, so please
send me a New Mens Ladies Unisex Black White School PE Pumps Plimsoll
Plims Shoes Lace Up as a replacement.

Kind regards,

Chris

From:shucentre-uk
To:mr_jimmy_grimble
Sent:11-Jan-16 17:12
we can’t accept a damaged slipper in place of a shoe. return the split trainer and we’ll see what we can do

Kind Regards

ShuCentre
http://www.shucentre.co.uk

From:mr_jimmy_grimble
To:shucentre-uk
Sent:12-Jan-16 9:06

Dear Sue,

You owe me a slipper.

Kind regards,

Chris

Road Rage

Definitely this...

Lots of this going on…

A few months ago after a moment of uncharacteristic positivity, I made a casual enquiry with various instructors about what my chances were at ever passing a driving test should I choose to learn the practicalities prior to actually taking one. I spoke to several driving instructors and informed them that the total experience I have when it comes to driving amounted to playing Mario Kart on the Super Nintendo when I was 12, being forced to watch Formula One against my will whenever I visit my friend Steve, and gleefully grabbing the wheel of the car and lurching it into oncoming traffic for fun every time I’m in the car with my best mate, Phil. I was told that while this was all reassuring experience it probably wouldn’t help me learn to drive in real life so I should best get some lessons booked in. So I did.

As you may or may not be aware, back in October I blogged about my initial forays into attempting to manoeuvre a car without it resulting in an explosion of some sort, and aside from gaining extensive experience in how to endanger human lives, the only thing I’ve learned is that spending £800 of your money, four and a half months of your time, and an infinite amount mentally pissing on your self-respect doesn’t guarantee you the ability to move a car from A to B. Given how much I despise anything to do with cars – most intensely the people who drive them – the likelihood of me picking up the basics of driving straightaway wasn’t high at all. And let me tell you it was nowhere near as high as how my instructor’s voice gets when he shrieks in terror whenever I nervously approach a junction and I get my feet muddled up resulting in me slamming my foot down on the accelerator instead of the brake.

All of the death is heading my way...

All of the death is heading my way…

Literally everyone I spoke to before I started learning to drive confidently asserted that one day everything I’m being told during my lessons would just ‘click’ into place like some magic spell that would wondrously transform me into the mentally-agitated equivalent of Lewis Hamilton, but without the money and annoying disposition. Once everything ‘clicks’, I was told, then it’s just a case of improving with each lesson, the instructor would ‘put you forward for your test’, whatever that means, and then it would only be a matter of time before I joined the mass throng of impatient, self-centred, obnoxious arseholes that currently patrol the UK’s roads in their metal coffins. In theory it sounded simple. In reality it was an exercise in complete and utter incompetence.

Never have I been as bad at anything as I am at driving. Or at least attempting to drive. Though maybe that’s overstating it a bit as I’m pretty abysmal at anything to do with numbers. Once, during my GCSE Mathematics examination when I was 16, I opened the test booklet that contained the sums that would potentially shape my future, took one horrified look at the jumbled array of figures looking back at me, wrote ‘I give up’ on the front of the paper then quietly went to sleep for the remainder of the exam. Comparatively, I’m far worse at driving than I am at attempting to negotiate a page of angry-looking numbers, figures and fractions. My family and friends think I’m exaggerating how woeful I actually am but let’s take a look at the evidence:

Previously, I’d mentioned I was eight lessons of driving tuition in, sixteen hours in total, and during that time I’d been told how to start the car, change gear, pull away, stop, reverse, and what to do at roundabouts and junctions. In the following weeks and lessons (and let me state for the record that there’s been another twelve of the bastards which amounts to a grand total of forty hours of driving tuition), I’ve been informed of parking, reverse parking, parallel parking, three-point turns, overtaking and absolutely loads more that went in one ear and out the other. Of the six basics of driving that I’ve stated (starting the car, changing gear etc) the only thing I can do with any degree of ease and confidence is stop the car. And that involves such a sudden thump on the brake pedal that it regularly causes my poor girlfriend in the passenger seat to lurch forward and only narrowly avoid knocking herself clean out on the windscreen by the car immediately rolling backwards and throwing her back into her seat because of my inability to apply the handbrake before I release the brake pedal.

As for the others, where do I start? I routinely lock the steering wheel when attempting to start the car which, bizarrely, causes me to stare absently into the middle distance, my gear changes involve two hands and a struggle that suggests I’m stabbing somebody to death, and my approaches to roundabouts are guaranteed to include the phrase, ‘WHAT THE FUCK DO I DO NOW?!’ as happened seven times when out and about with Laura the other day. And my parking? Call me naive, but when I first decided to learn to drive I never thought parking would entail driving into a car park, stopping the car, getting out, then watching as your girlfriend did it for you.

Additionally, I regularly go into what I call ‘shit-my-pants mode’ in which my brain disengages function with the rest of my body and I kind of freeze and loll about as the car cruises at 50mph towards a red light. I’m only jolted out of this psychological death-hold by my instructor screaming that now is the time we’re going to die. And let’s not forget I’m twenty lessons in. That’s forty sodding hours. That’s eight hours a day for five days, and I’m still no further forward from where I was after lessons three, four and five. It would be infuriating if it wasn’t so depressing.

This happened to me once. Not as dramatic, but still...

This happened to me once. Not as dramatic, but still…

My biggest problem by a substantial distance, however, is pulling away after I’ve stopped at a junction. It’s literally blind luck if I do it right. Just the other day I stalled three times attempting to pull onto a busy roundabout, screamed a bit, then the car kind of shut down and just rolled forward into speeding traffic with me helpless and clueless to do anything. I never, ever, ever thought that one day I would class driving to the local shop as an extreme sport.

The only flicker of light in all this doom and gloom was how easy the theory test was. Believe it or not I passed first time, and that was simply because the test I got was exactly the same – I’m talking a question for question carbon copy – of the practice test I’d done at work that morning when I should have been working. Apparently, however, it’s only valid for two years after which you have to take it again if you don’t pass the practical. So I’m going to have to take it all over again. Sigh.

Anyway, it’s very clear that I can’t drive even after all this time and tuition so I’m changing my instructor next week. In spite of all of my flagrant ineptitude and troubles behind the wheel I will insist on blaming it on someone else. So, mercifully for him, his life expectancy will probably increase with me now out of the picture; though I can’t account for the extreme blood pressure he’ll have accrued from being in a car with me.

I expect another few months of fear and terror on the roads as I learn all over again with a new instructor so no doubt I’ll be updating right here if I survive.

Happy 2016!