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The man who shouted at ducks, and other stories

Okay, I will say it, I always suspected Duncan-Smith was uncomfortable with his role as Cutfinder-General in the sphere of social benefits.

He is not really a Bad Man, he has just been too compliant in the face of his loss of the Tory leadership and his naive belief in the power of austerity to restore prosperity. (It is clear to some of us that the two are mutually contradictory.)

Or maybe he just needed the job.

He has now resigned his post as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, writing a steamy two-page letter to Dave Cameron, over more cuts announced in the annual budget statement by Gideon ‘George’ Osborne, the Chancellor, to the supplementary living allowance (PIP) that enables 350,000 disabled people to get up and go to work in the morning.

Bravo.

And bollocks.

The former Tory leader is a huge ‘Leaver’ knob when it comes to Europe. Gideon is a fervent ‘Remainer’. Here he is, the minister whose department has been struggling not to admit that 2,300 disabled people its contractors have pronounced fit for work have died within six weeks of being assessed; the minister who brought in the hated ‘bedroom tax’, ramming a stake in the ground three months ahead of the In-Out referendum. He has found a point of principle that will cost him nothing but make the Chancellor look like Ted Bundy.

We all know that Osborne likes to announce bad news and then court popularity by retracting his more unpopular measures. As a result, he is nowhere near balancing the budget, something he has been promising to do for the past six years by 2020 – the date of the next General Election.

But the disability living allowance (now known PIP, I forget what it stands for)  is not going to be cut, and even Gideon knows it, massive heartless brutaliser of the underclass though he appears to be. (In fact, by the following morning he had already retracted it. Most of his social benefit cuts have ended up costing more, anyway.) The opposition even from within Tory ranks has been overwhelming.

Duncan-Smith, who has not himself been astoundingly successful when it comes to benefit reform, but who has for six years apparently wholeheartedly supported the notion in cabinet that ‘Arbeit macht frei’, enthusiastically driving the halt and the lame into low-paid McJobs with whips and scourges, is now making compassion for the poor a point of political principle.

Perhaps it’s got something to do with the canonisation last week of Mother Teresa.

Thus, he has cunningly undermined the man whom everyone imagined was in direct line of succession for Cameron’s job, in the way that Gordon Brown was the favoured son of Tony Blair. The ploy may fail, as Duncan-Smith is probably the most unpopular minister in history and nobody outside the bubble, frankly, gives a fuck if he stays or dies.

There is certainly no chance of him returning to lead the party, but with Osborne out of the way, and hence Cameron discredited by association, there is every chance of another Eurosceptic Tory cunt stepping into the breach when the leadership comes up for grabs post-referendum at the party conference in September.

And the idea that even Eurosceptics have principles (Sunday a.m. and after an appearance on Andrew Marr, Duncan-Smith is being rebranded as The Great Reformer… Jesus!) could just help to swing it for the Leavers.

They don’t, of course. But who’s to know?

And if you think politics is boring enough, you should try DIY…

 

If you want something doing, don’t do it

I’ve been up to my neck in DIY an’ shit for the past, it seems like forever. Is it only three weeks since I started buying up B&Q’s remaining stocks of real budget-level wood-laminated flooring, chickened-out and paid a man money to lay it for me?

So is it really only five days since I scratched my new real-wood-laminated floor to buggery, wrestling my enormous old upright fridge-freezer out through the living room under two abnormally low doors, rotating it 90 deg. on one sharp corner through the stupid tiny hallway, sliding it beneath the jutting handle of the non-standard, narrow front door, having sold it for the same money I was having to pay the floor man extra for laying more floor in the hallway only the previous week, his idea, now permanently ruined?

Time was when you had a hammer, some nails, a screwdriver and a saw. Maybe a dab of glue. Nowadays, the marketing monkeys have cleverly turned every tool into a ‘system’. Nothing fits with anything else, unless it’s in the ‘system’. I’ve lost count of the number of different cross-head ‘Posidriv’ screwdriver bits I’ve had to buy, before getting at least a part-match with the dozens of different screw heads you find in your box of random screws, so you can properly tighten them with your handy power-driver before the battery flattens and the heads are ground smooth to uselessness.

All I know is, it’s taken days off my life just to put together a cupboard and a worktop around my new fridge and freezer.

This of course required first building a false wall, as the early 20th-century builders of muh li’l cottage had failed to bring a setsquare along with the sandwiches and the walls wander off in all directions. A simple request to an electrician to put in a power socket then led to an estimate of ‘at least’ £300 plus VAT as he insists that the house electrics must be certified, and that requires updating and upgrading the fusebox to a posh new ‘consumer unit’ (I’m sure it’s got a set of initials but I can’t remember what). I then had to wait two weeks from the agreed date until his staff had all had the ‘flu, before I could get on with my alcove.

Next, I had to get the lad over to help me hang the wall-cupboard carcass. a) It’s heavy, and b) the system of wall-brackets and hooks designed by industrial-design baboons to fix it to the wall has been so ineptly managed that the hooks cannot engage with the brackets unless you mount the brackets on two little pieces of wood to ensure they project far enough out to take the hooks, which are protected by the cupboard surround from having any proximity with the wall.

My attempts to finish the false wall off with some tiles to match the other tiles in the kitchen have foundered on the matter of finding tiles the same shape and size (square, 100 ml) and colour (off-white) since no-one catalogues off-white, 100 ml-square tiles any longer, they have gone out of fashion. 10 ml x 20 ml brilliant white oblong tiles set in a staggered pattern like in a public toilet are de rigueur for kitchen designers at present; while I would not recommend UniBond Fix ‘n’ Grout readymix stuff to fix anything reliably to anything else, although it’s permanently stuck to my fingernails.

As for the cupboard… well, I got that in B&Q’s closing-down sale. I thought I was buying a bog-standard, self-assembly 1000 ml by 720 ml, two-shelf carcass unit made from white Melamine-coated chipboard. No worries there. But it needed a pair of doors to match the other cupboards already in the kitchen. These, in the required style, B&Q does not sell.

Magnet sells cupboard doors in the required style and off-white colour, only the manufacturer has subtly altered the sizes of the doors, so the 500 ml-wide ones that used to fit as a pair with the 1000 ml x 720 ml cupboard now don’t, as the height has been changed from 720 ml to 704 ml, thus obliging you to buy their unique new 1000 ml x 704 ml-size carcass unit instead of the one you got in B&Q. No wonder they’re closing down.

Howden’s Joinery sells cupboard doors that nearly match, not the same but good enough. So out of sheer frustration and at eyewatering expense I acquired a pair: actually, not a pair. I wanted a glass-fronted cabinet effect, but at £77 plus VAT per glass door (three times the price of the carcass unit) I could afford only one. The other, solid door was only £25 plus VAT, so I now have a non-matching pair of doors for £120, plus £10 each for a pair of knobs I had to buy, as no-one now stocks the same cupboard-door handles as in the rest of the kitchen.

The matching solid door turned out to be 2 mm thinner in profile than the glass door.

Not but which, the pre-drilled holes for the door hinges don’t match-up to the pre-drilled holes for the hinges on the B&Q carcass unit. Nor do the hinges I acquired with the carcass unit match to the pre-drilled holes in the doors. A minor problem, soon remedied – until I realised that what were stated clearly on the box to be 500 ml-wide doors are, in fact, only 495 ml, leaving a one-centimetre (10 ml) gap down the middle, where the doors don’t meet.

Having re-drilled the holes it’s too late to take them back.

I had better not get started on the difficulties of finding white goods in red (‘A fantastic range of colours’ turns out to mean white, ivory, or woodgrain-effect); or of finding any paint that dries to the same colour as is shown on the colour chart.

If you want something doing, as the saying goes, just don’t even think of doing it.

What you have there is fine, honestly.

 

The man who shouted at ducks

Some new people have moved into the house next-door-but-one.

They have a small dog that sometimes barks inoffensively in the garden – probably at my little cat, I don’t know.

And the woman goes crazy, screaming at it to be quiet, to shut up, to get in, to do as it’s told, as if it has human understanding; as if she is somehow personally shamed by its perfectly normal behaviour.

Having patently failed to train her little dog to do the simplest things, like love her so much he would rather die than not come to her when she calls, she is certifiably annoying me. As I sit bothered and fretful in my little garden room, Hunzi coiled adoringly (and silently) at my feet, I wish she would simply evaporate into thin air, get help from a good psychiatrist, acquire the entire boxed set of Barbara Woodhouse dog training videos – fuck off back to wherever she came from – ruin somebody else’s morning.

Until I remember the ducks.

I’m ashamed to say it, but I used to scream at the ducks.

It was for their own good. Every night on the farm, it was my job to round-up the ducks and push them back into their shit-filled old hen house; ducks being perhaps the least discriminate and continent shitters of the bird kingdom. The hills around were stiff with foxes and as dusk fell and the ducks continued happily to forage around the yard, out in the fields and hedgerows, down by the pond, you could hear them salivating for miles around.

I like to coin expressions. One my better coinages goes: ‘You can’t push a pig.’ Meaning, that pigs are wayward and sturdy animals that cannot be persuaded by force to move in the direction you want them to go. But their natural hunger and curiosity enables them to be led easily by the promise of a bucket of pignuts, even to their doom.

This principle applies to humans, mainly – but also, pertinently, to your common or garden duck.

A duck will not under any circumstances, no matter how loudly you scream at it, go in its house until the last vestige of light has faded from the land, by which time it has likely become supper.

I chased those ducks round and around that damned duck house for an hour every tormentuous bloody night for years, sobbing and pleading with them, screaming threats and imprecations, beating my breast and cursing the day I and they were ever born, to no avail. I asked God and all the lesser Gods, my Committee of Discarnate Entities, why, why me Lord? Why were ducks and humans born so stupid as to live in the countryside?

And round and round they would waddle, simply refusing to go in until it was too dark to see. A duck might sometimes briefly concede the point, only to pop straight back out again as soon as you were chasing its fellows around the back. Nope, it would say in Mandarin, not dark enough, sorry. And round we would go.

I have a thing about faceplates. You know, the fronts of  switches and power sockets. They are held on by special pointless screws that engage with holes in lugs protruding from their metal back-boxes. Only they don’t. Because you can’t see behind the faceplate to where the hole in the lug actually is, it can take half an hour of frustrating poking and prodding to finally engage the enormous screw with the tiny hole and get it to turn easily enough to actually tighten. Then you have to do the same the other side, only with the faceplate in position you can’t even get a glimpse round the edge to see where that damned lughole has migrated to. (And the screws are never the right length, always being too long to hold the faceplate to the wall or too short to reach the lugs. Trust me.)

Sometimes I scream at faceplates.

Well, it was like that, getting those little feathery fuckers to engage with the pop-hole to the safety of their bleak, stinking sanctuary. Why, oh why, will nobody and no creature on this entire crazed planet act logically, in its own best interests?

Why is that demented bloody woman out in the garden again, screaming at a little dog for no reason other than that she is frustrated she has no control over its perfectly normal behaviour?

Over her own life?

 

Our island story

Looking around the cavernous space that is my kitchen with its new floor, its shiny new alcove complete with strangely half-glass-fronted cupboard over, I thought, wouldn’t it be great to fill a part of that unused space with one of those fashionable island units, that used to be known as the kitchen table?

So I’ve just Googled ‘kitchen island’.

Some of those islands cost over five thousand pounds.

Tax havens, presumably.

 

 

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