trenchantly
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trenchantly

Some rediscovered half-thoughts as the year, and our country, comes to an end

I have been keeping a list of “things I want to write about” which I have of course not done. Looking back at this year’s list I have nothing but a vague notion of what most are. I also appeared to give up in autumn. I thought I would have a go anyway. What follows is a series of brief guesses of this year’s things I never wrote but wanted to.

Captured on 13 June, 11.37pm

The timing of this thought implies a post carousing wistfulness of the relative death of the humble choc ice. Growing up in the 80s, with not everything I wanted, the thrill of being given a slab of ice cream held together by structurally inadequate sheets of thin frozen chocolate was often a powerful motivator. The choc ice took over from the arguably less ambitious ice cream sandwich — essentially a two dimensional cone wafer that could only be eaten by people with no nerve endings in their teeth.

The choc ice, sold only in multipacks that resided deep at the back of the freezer gathering geological layers of frost, was gentler on the gums because of its sturdier frame, but was still a challenge to eat. You couldn’t hold it because it would immediately melt, so you have to juggle constantly with the wrapper, more often than not dripping with ice cream into your other hand (lest you ruin Mother’s carpet and never eat one again); acting as an insulator, while shoving the other end into your mouth as shards of the supporting chocolate sides snapped of like a melting glacier. This could cause critical collapse if you bit into the side forcing the top layer of chocolate to spring off like an elephant dropping into the corner of a frozen lake.

Nowadays, thirty years of economic growth has left us with the Super Choc Ice in the form of Magnums and their imitators. Suddenly, the addition of a recklessly wide lolly stick means that the days of rectilinear dairy innocence are over. The simple 20p choc ice is a social embarrassment. Now you have to tunnel though chocolate the thickness of money, with added nuts or chia seeds, to reach ice cream with unnatural creamy texture. But gone too is a time of simple joy, of a class levelling summer time treat.

Captured on 23 June, 10.24pm

Despite the timing of this thought, I know roughly what I wanted to say. Depending on where you live, you may well have noticed that children today, who I observe to be increasingly feral, mark the passage into manhood by riding around on bikes with farming-grade tyre widths. They hunt in packs often at night and without lights. On bikes so structurally distorted that they could effortlessly cycle up walls*. But what’s become most interesting about this evolving sub-culture is the way they vie to be the dominant male. This is done by being able to do the longest wheelie down the road (in the road, wrong side better).

Three things struck me: these bikes are built to make pulling a wheelie easier; doing a wheelie has zero intrinsic value; and I am yet to find a woman that says knowing a man can do the longest wheelie makes him more appealing: so this also has no evolutionary purpose as far as I can tell and its far less hard than you would think. So why have they not progressed onto unicycles? Riding a unicycle is a non-stop wheelie, and it’s hard. Gangs of unicycle riders rocking back and forth across the estates would be fun. Then they could compete on how high their saddles are and even start to juggle.

* there is another, or was as I think this is dying out, of young adults and even grown men — they kind that can’t grow up because they still believe that skateboarding will never die, they live at home and dropped out of school to follow their diablo dream — riding around on tiny BMX bikes that require so much constant effort to move at any speed that they are usually moving below walking pace, with their knees bumping on their chins. They never do any stunts and they really do think they are cool. The truth is though that they look like they just doubled in size and are late for school.

Captured on 26 June, 8.05pm

No bells ringing here. Maybe I was referring to the wonderfully British cultural act that drivers of very similar vehicles, usually doing very similar jobs, will raise a finger or two in appreciation, support and recognition of their efforts — or a shared understanding that their job is harder than people realise, or their days are often lonelier than they can admit to loved ones. The long distance coach driver will give a small wave to another; rural bus drivers dealing with tricky corners; passenger boats and sometimes even horses seem to nod a little. There are exceptions, of course: bus drivers in London would need a third arm to keep it up, drivers of big ships are far too self important to consider others as capable of them and we all know White Van Drivers are all wankers.

But was I thinking, why don’t people in super brand new cars — perhaps those who have the latest number plate — not show some recognition of the joy other new car owners are experiencing. Perhaps we British are just too reserved, or obsessed with Brexit, to be able to say with our hands “hey you, fellow member of society, I see you have a new car. I know how happy and proud you must be feeling. These early days with an automobile are to be treasured, and I just want to say, I know how you feel. You know one day this new car will be an old car, and that you cannot get this time back. I just want to say, fella, that I get that.”

Captured on 14 July, 8.30pm

Many years ago I started writing about the razor blade advertising phenomenon. Once we realised that we had more than enough sources of metal and plastic, and big holes to throw then in, Gillette and others started to test the limits of human stupidity by selling the 3 blade, 4 blade, and yes 5 blade razor. And, I kid you not, 6 blade razor, yes — 6. How stupid are people?

Pondering this in a pub, and feeling a little peckish, it dawned on me when did cooking chips 3 times become normal? And why stop there? First, it’s worth knowing that when I worked in McDonalds the cardinal sin, bar none, was putting cooked fries back in the fryer. If you did this, you were shown the door. Incidentally you could NOT leave cooked fries love the oil for more than 15 seconds, as it makes them go soft. Facts.

Which is why I am bemused why cooking chips 3 times has become a thing, and is it just me or did we skip double cooked chips? And if thrice is so great, why not 5 times, 6? Has anyone ever noticed when their three times fried chips were accidentally only dunked twice? How long between cooking counts as a time?

It is my belief that before not too long quadruple fried chips will be spotted as a competitive advantage and then the inexorable ratcheting to six blades will be underway.

Captured on 22 July, 4.26pm

This was a sign I saw, I think. Prohibited means: “that has been forbidden; banned”. That’s fairly clear? Something is either allowed or it isn’t. But we’ve all seen a Strictly Prohibited sign and we’ve all seen a “you really, really can’t park here” sign.

A few thousand years of humans abusing hyperbole has left us with a damaged language. We have no way of knowing what people mean any more. I am angry. I am really angry. I am livid. I am literally livid. You can park here if you’re a dick, I probably won’t do anything. If you park here a child will die. Parking here is rude.

I had some antibiotics that said “even though most antibiotics say you must not drink alcohol when taking them, with these ones you really shouldn’t”. I saw a sign once saying “this is an active speed camera”.

What can we do? Time, entropy. This is a one way road, I can’t see anyway back. Anyway, maybe this is all moot now the reckoning is coming.

Captured on 22 July 2018, 6.41pm

Why I was thinking about this interminably annoying mockney moneybags on a Sunday night I am unsure (and two hours after seeing that sign). But I think I was telling myself to keep a list of new cooking verbs that one could imagine him using. Here are a few I’ve knocked up this afternoon:

  • Slash
  • Whamble
  • Runstle
  • Chili-Drill
  • Shunt and Front
  • Limp
  • Thunder-frucket
  • Trink, spitch, flang

Captured at 11 August, 4.14pm

I have never found another country that uses, and is so proud about using, the concept of an Overflow Carpark than the United Kingdom.

It is quintessentially British (pre-Brexit). We could have built a bigger car park. But no, we couldn’t be bothered. So there is a car park, that we know isn’t going to big enough for all occasions. But, when we have to open the Overflow Carpark then we all know we are Having an Occassion. Then, there is an implicit contract, never written down that: your car might be damaged, because you are parking on a very uneven field that’s normally used to house cows; you will obey any signal given to you by the confused scout wearing a high-visibility vest even if he’s telling you to park underneath another car; and in return there will a shared sense of adventure, long queues and chaos when you all try to leave at once.

There are many Overflow Carpark equivalents in Britain: the windbreak, foldable chairs, your grandmother’s room you are never allowed in except for Christmas and Sundays.

That’s my best guess at what I didn’t write this year, in summary form.

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