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Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
responses, apologies. I hold posts to 300 words* having found less is better than more.
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Friday, 18 November 2016

Who's that at the door?

"Bicycle Maintenance/Repairs. Home Visits." announced a passing van - a service new to me. In Monmouth too, Wales not renowned for forward thinking.

Obviously I'm out of touch. I took bikes seriously for yonks, one benefit being that maintenance and repair were up to me, no arcane skills needed, thus no rapacious invoices. Once, from curiosity, I disassembled and reassembled the bearings in my bike's bottom-bracket. Only people with time on their hands and nothing in their heads do that.

I was shocked when brother Sir Hugh admitted (reluctantly; he could see I was a disbeliever) taking his mountain bike “in” for servicing. As to house calls it seemed a van would hardly be necessary; vagrant bike mechanics could travel by bus, tools a'pocket, reading an improving novel.

Is there further potential for house-calls?

● Medical emergencies: but it may have been tried.
● Extracting thick-ended corks from Italian wine bottles.
● Cat manicures.
● Stripping film-wrapped CDs (Patience a must).
● Finding and bringing in nomadic wheelie bins.
● Priest to forgive lefty for being lefty.
● Hungry immigrant to eat last cold slice of pizza.
● Ringing doorbell (Is-it-audible-on-the-loo? check)
● Tory utters Brexit agitprop through letter-slot
● Maternal type comforts smoking pariahs outdoors.
● Choir sings national anthem to doubting patriots.
● The Police! (Just joking.)
● Michael Gove! (Not joking at all.)
● Michael McIntyre! (Incapable of joking.)
● Reporting all Hallowe’en pranksters now in jail.
● Unexpectedly touting for garden work, post-dusk.
● Distraction ploy for thief presently ransacking kitchen.
● Delivering End Of World Is Nigh flyers.
● Commandant, so-called ISIS, seeks sanctuary.


  1. My neighbour has someone call to steam clean his wheelie-bin. I have never cleaned mine since it was issued years ago.

    Pete has a septic tank and the waste pipe blocks from time to time. He has guy contracted to come at specified intervals (regardless) to rod - worth every penny I reckon however much it costs.

  2. An amusing list, RR. I can add that I just telephone a man who undertakes to supply and change any or all car tyres on the front drive. An excellent service and no more expensive than having to drive the car to a tyre outlet and then sit and wait whilst they change them.

    I used to change my own motorcycle tyres, which involves taking the wheel out (not an easy job with the back wheel as it involves splitting the drive chain) and then wrestling one off and the new one on. I still have to take the wheel out, but take it to a tyre outlet for the wrestling these days. A similar service to that for the car (above) would be welcome. However, my miles travelled by motorcycle ar small these days and the tyres last a good deal longer.

    We have a home maintenance cycle mechanic here, too, but I have never used him as any cycle jobs I can manage. You seem to think that any such work is a chore. I actually enjoy it and only decreased physical strength and the inability to get down (and up again!) means that I have to farm out some motor vehicle jobs.

  3. Sir Hugh: No doubt you hold your breath when dropping waste into the wheelie bin. Perhaps, too, you give up eating fish in summer.

    In France we had a fosse septique and I made sure it was someone else's job to empty it. The guy with the tractor and the towed tonneau used to bring his simple-minded dad with him as an outing for the old man. As a further treat Old Dad was allowed to stand over the hole which gave access to the unmentionables. As the hose began its deadly work Old Dad used to clap his hads and say "Im-pecc-able! Im-pecc-able!" VR, who used to put a kilometer between herself and this event, tended to share Old Dad's sentiment.

    Avus: If I seem to think such work is a chore then it is a chore; I need no further help in defining it. You say you enjoy this type of work and there are also people who strip naked in Finland in winter, flagellate themselves with birch branches (So specific!) then jump into ponds where mini icebergs float. Both these activities can be explained by psychiatrists. Me, I'd rather read a book and, if it's any comfort, psychiatrists' attitude towards reading is just as unflattering.

    Have you considered inviting neighbours round for tea and scones with the tyre man providing the entertainment? In literary terms I'm ahead of you here. In my novel Out Of Arizona a French family bring out folding chairs to the patio to watch Jana, the central character, change the cam-belt on the Gallic equivalent of a Transit van. Your kind of scene, it could be your kind of book. If you have a Kindle reader you could download OoA for not much much than 99 p.

  4. I'm a little sensitive to worn BB bearings. The clicking. The blip in the stroke. Not that much fun to fix, but probably more satisfying than pulling it apart just to verify an exploded view.

  5. MikeM: Decades after the BB event, by now surrounded by a family I had part-generated, I also became master of a repertory of evolved special-meaning words and phrases compiled at various times by my nearest. Elder daughter, Professional Bleeder, showed an especial talent for this, notably a term of mild abuse "A foolish wizard" which I haven't recalled for many a year.

    We never questioned its meaning but today I will accord it a meaning: someone who has done something complicated but also futile and pointless. Should you be tempted to be its first official user in its completed form, feel free to include it in a second comment intended to act as a coda to the first comment which appears to lack a judgment you were aching to add but which you were denied by a sense of politeness. My back is broad.

  6. Wizard's fairly teflon when it comes to derogatory adjectives. Besides, who'd want to risk getting on the wrong side of someone with magical powers? I pondered mentioning all the special tools required to keep a modern bike in good repair, but thought better of insulting those guys too.

  7. I have come back to these several times and chuckled anew. I was wondering if someone would like to come and make sure all the electronic appliances - phones, kindle, bluetooth headset and speaker, camera batteries etc - were all charged up. The advent of a single transferable plug for all these, and a USB port that can be plugged directly into the mains, formerly one of my excuses for never being on top of this situation, has in fact made little difference. While they were here they could empty out the crumb tray of the toaster.

    Otherwise I would like a person, ideally bilingual with a taste for paperwork and without my distaste for trawling back over the past clutter of my life, to impersonate me in order to obtain French naturalisation. I have the livret du citoyen already downloaded.

  8. MikeM: I don't think my daughter's phrase "The foolish wizard" was based on the idea of someone with magical powers: her aim (I'm guessing) was simply to create an unexpected euphony. Perhaps her abilities were better demonstrated on another occasion when she'd built what looked like a small corral out of Lego bricks. When asked what it was, she replied "an animal pluctuary". Both VR and I were careful not to ask for further explanation and that noun remains as sharp and explosive as when it was coined nearly 50 years ago.

    One of the early attractions of bikes was that they came with with a highly individual spanner - I can see it now - pressed out of a single sheet of metal, with notches to cover every nut used in the bike's assembly. Now it seems bikes have become more complicated, not to their advantage.

    Lucy: Yours are definitely cris de coeur and immediately recognisable, especially the fact that despite technological advances - ie, the wall socket now with a USB slot - you are still more inclined to cling to the earlier (strangely comforting?) sense of inertia. As I compiled this list I found myself elevating irritation to a higher, more poetical level until the link with "being irritated" was broken and only an inexplicable metaphor remained. Why, for instance, the priest? I am astonished but also deeply gratified that there was some resonance for you.

    The mannikin you propose in your second para should aso have read up on the political philosophy of Marine le Pen and be strong enough at heart to live in what could be a very different version of France. I like livret which is, I suppose, based on the verb livrer, emphasising the hoped-for passivity of the transition.

    Being interrogated by a naturalisation panel of soured francophons as to my enthusiasm for l'Hexagone combines elements of my worst nightmare and my most extreme linguistic aspirations. Perhaps I should apply knowing I would fail; the experience would be impossible to envisage, I would be scarred for life but in a boastworthy way.

  9. I've just installed iStripper, and now I can watch the sexiest virtual strippers on my taskbar.