One of the disadvantages of living in town is that there are lots of chancers taking the piss at the front door. When I lived in rural Aberdeenshire, no one knocked me up to sell their wares. Now that I have moved into Inverurie it seems I am fair game.
Last week I had some traveller guy dressed in a yellow Day-Glo jacket trying to interest me in a very cheap black tarmac driveway.
– No obligation, we give a no quibble guarantee.
– Yeah right. When I lived in the countryside a neighbour or two got one of these. Fell apart in the first frost as I recall. Tarmac split from top to bottom. Thin as a tortilla. Bought from the council quarry at Pitcaple as “end of day” waste. Fit only for the council dump as I recall.
– Nah, we aint no Gypo’s. Must have been someone else. We only provide high end tarmac and that’s a fact.
– Gypo’s? What can you mean?
– Just a derogatory term sir for those “who bring travelling folk into disrepute” you understand. No disrespect intended whatsoever.
– Just as well.
Then there are the Bric a Brac folk.
– I’m just going round the doors regarding Bric a Brac.
– Oh right, are you buying or selling?
– I don’t buy or sell Bric a Brac.
– Oh dear.
– Oh right. Please don’t come back. Thank you so much for calling.
You get used to it eventually I suppose. I mean, the recession has forced many previously upright and respectable folk to seek new revenue streams. Like all of us, they need to put food on the table after all.
Last Wednesday however, a very middle aged lady wearing a very old fashioned Crombie coat rang the door bell.
– Hello! I am the new prospective Liberal Democrat for Gordon. Malcolm is stepping down before the next election and I am calling round to introduce myself. Do you vote?
– Oh yes.
– Can I ask if you have voted for Malcolm?
– I used to vote Liberal Democrat but won’t be doing so again ever.
– Why is that?
I hesitated to berate the poor woman about the betrayal of democracy and downright lies which the Liberal Democrats had espoused during the past few years. The association with the Conservatives was bad enough, but then there was that war in Kabul plus those tenants being forced out of their homes by an unfair and uncaring Thatcher like bedroom tax. Scottish children were dying yet again in some far off foreign land while a uncaring Libcon government alliance were evicting their mums from family homes because of some nasty Tory law against the poor and disadvantaged.
The killing of folk in Afghanistan plus the often mistaken killing of those poor peasants in the lands between Pakistan and the Khyber Pass flashed past my mind. Drones and all that. Guys in caravans in Nevada playing video games. The new face of democracy perhaps. A remote war played by remote politicians who only go there to rally the troops.
Just then, a smartly dressed man in a dark blue coat walked down the far side of the road. These folk have really got the bases covered I thought. If ever there was a Malcolm Bruce MP look a like, then this was one. The gait, the height and the slightly confident but reserved facial expression gave it all away. This was no fake!
– He’s behind you.
– What do you mean.
– Its Malcolm in the middle, he’s behind you! Watch out.
– Yes I know he’s behind me.
– Well, watch out.
As the middle aged lady wearing the worn Crombie coat turned to look, I took the opportunity to close my front door. After all, why listen to some old lies on your own doorstep.
As always, my pal Joe has a view on such things. After working for some 30 years repairing the bombed out railways in Africa at great personal risk I might add, firstly in Zimbabwe then in Mozambique during that vile and nasty civil war, he still wonders about the morality of it all.
On the subject of witnessing the blowing up of trains and the blowing up of men he told me “do you know, there are technicians in factories all over Europe who’s job it is to work out exactly how much explosive it takes to blow off a mans leg below the knee. Just below the knee you understand, not above and not to kill. The intention is not to kill, just to maim. How can anyone live with that?
“I don’t really know” I rambled.
I told him that it reminded me of Owen’s words ( something about Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, mors et fugacem persequitur virum, nec parcit inbellis iuventae, poplitibus timidove tergo, as I recalled, but that I really didn’t know why anyone would vote for a party who accepted money from arms dealers.
“Kalashnikov died recently wondering why his invention killed so many”, I said without much conviction.
“Ah right.” Said Joe. “How sweet and honourable it is to die for one’s country
Death pursues the man who flees, spares not the hamstrings or cowardly backs
Of battle-shy youths.”
“Lies, lies and more lies.” Says Joe.
There’s always the next election. But how do you sort it all out?
Words and images © Duncan Harley