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Friday, 12 October 2007

The Eve Of the Battle Of Hastings (nearly)

It is Friday, and I'm in a very good mood. I have been granted a 3 hour pass from the religious order that masquerades as "my work", in order to view a house that the boffin and I are considering buying. The correct procedure for gaining "leave" involves an informal enquiry with Icksy my line manager, followed by a "Holiday Request Form" passed into "t'office lass", reviewed by the Production Manager, cross-checked back with Icksy, copied to Accounts, then sent back to "t'office lass" who gives it to the Production Manager for approval and this person officially confirms the request leading to a countersigned slip confirming that yesterday's requested holiday, is now approved. The procedure for getting us, the Production Staff, to work overtime is more streamlined and involves telling us five minutes before we leave for the day that we'll be staying late, (often this is ominously phrased as "very late") and that we should cancel our plans for the weekend. No paperwork is involved.

Nevertheless, the damns have held, the company is'nt in dire risk of collapse if one of it's carpenters has three hours off, and I meet our realtor at Number 23, expecting and hoping to see a practically derelict shell. The realtor arrives, and she is a different breed than Canadian realtors. "It stinks in here" she says, not even pretending to be happy at the prospect of entering. A Canadian realtor would tell you the house needs some TLC. Fortunately for Julia, none of her keys work, it appears the tenants of the house have added a new lock, and not supplied any key. Her nose is spared. My precious three hours are wasted, and I trudge off to Leeds, slightly disconsolate. I was looking forward to seeing a disaster. But, as Harold would have said, shortly before getting an arrow in the eye, things can only get better.

At work, I'm immediately tasked with renewing the plastic laminate surface of an old cabinet. Laminating is a favourite job, so I set to with gusto, happy to be getting something fun out of the day. I'm feeling creative, so instead of the time-honoured, proven tradition of removing laminate by slipping a knife under the laminate and gradually syringing small amounts of solvent thinner between the laminate and the substrate, thus dissolving the glue ( a process that takes about 15 minutes for a cabinet top of approximately 2ft sq), I decide to invent a whole new technique, and drill tiny little holes in the laminate surface, effectively perforating it like a teabag. I then pour generous quantities of solvent onto the surface in the expectation that the thinner will seep into the holes and release all the laminate in one go. An hour later, I'm sitting among hundreds of shards of broken plastic laminate, high as a kite from the solvents, and all judgement has totally gone.

Which is probably why, when Andy, my co-worker asks to see my work diary to check his and Paul's timesheet, I carelessly hand it over, even opening it at the relevant date, October 9th. The entry is reproduced below:

The text reads " A grumpy day in work. Paul {my boss} is upset about critisisms of his quality and Andy is upset because Paul "Did'nt speak the right way" to him ....

After a feeble attempt at explanation, and with the words "highly inappropriate" ringing in my still reddening ears, I return the diary to my rucksack, and having about 9 minutes to catch my train (it is an 8 minute ride, at top speed, even when not stoned on paint thinners) hastily zip it shut breaking the zip-pull completely, including the zip-runner. I get to Leeds station with one minute to spare. At the ticket barrier, I am refused entry to the platforms unless I produce my rail pass. Unfortunately the pass is locked in the unopenable rucksack. Necessity though is the mother of invention, and after a short dispute with the ticket inspector, I whip out my Stanley knife from the front pocket of the rucksack, and frantically attack the fabric of my pack. Bearing in mind the poster that has been Picture Of The Week for the last week, and the general disquiet that rucksacks, knives and agitated or suspicious behaviour (in my case, I'm still high from the thinner) occasion in the rail way stations and airports of the UK, this is potentially the most stupid thing I do today, apart from when I try to kill a baby on the train journey back to Hull. After a stern ticking off from Her Majesty's finest, I pass through the ticket barrier, relieved not to be in prison .

The train is happily late, so after another short argument with the guard who threatens to disallow the Crosstowner due to overcrowding, I board the train. Tonight's 17.38 is not a 170 Class Turbobooster, but a new Pennine Class 185. Bicycle storage is clearly designated, as the general schematic below, and the close up clearly demonstrate.
As is hopefully apparent, coach C provides a comfortable berth for the Crosstowner, but denies the public of four valuable seats. As I board a family of four, grandmother, toddler, daughter and very small baby are occupying the fold up seats that the Crosstowner would usually occupy (location "B" in the annotated diagram above). Conscious that I should cause no further discomfort today I eschew the option of asking them to move, and place the bike opposite them (location "A") leaning against the crossbar as a seat. Ten minutes after leaving Leeds, I have finished most of the undrinkable tea that the 17.38's lateness had allowed enough time to buy, and I'm wondering what to do with the empty cup. Spotting a garbage bin next to the doors at location "C", I leave the Crosstowner and make a quick stooping dash to deposit Pumpkin's empty container in said receptacle.

The next few seconds are slow motion nightmare. I stoop and dunk diagonally, the train gives a sudden lurch as it bumps over a point, and the Fuji, at location "A" begins to fall, handlebars heading straight for baby's head (Southernmost of the "B" locations). At this point location "D" enters the equation , in the form of a proud-looking Rastafarian woman in colourful turban and flowing robes, who makes a grab for the falling , and now lethal Fuji. Location "D"'s reactions are split second, followed only by the reactions of the Scouser at location "C", who spins on a dime and makes a low dive for the rear frame of the bike.

Location "D" returns the bike to its upright position, then waits with as much dignity as she can muster while I extract myself from the folds of her sarong which I've managed to mess up considerably as my hand passed between her legs in its search for the bike frame. I'm torn between "Thank you" and "I'm sorry" as I try to withdraw my hand without touching either of her inner thighs. It is a delicate moment.

After Selby, the train empties considerably and I jam the Crosstowner into the space at Door AZ, and lean against it, away from the suspicious gaze of the Rastafarian and the family who seem united by a vague bond of distrust of cyclists. I lean back against the Crosstowner, seated on the floor and am only awakened by an alighting passenger stepping on my hand at Howden. The ride home form Hull's Paragon Staion takes much longer than the usual twenty minutes, as I stop and get off the bike before performing any manoeuvre, distrustful of today's Fates.

The last thing Harold probably thought before he got an arrow through the eye was "Oh Well, It's been one of those days, Stroll on Tomorrow". The Batlle of Hastings was 13 October 1066.

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