Sunday 11 December 2022

The Sunday Ishmael: 11/12/2022

Henry V Act 1, Sc 2
Fear the main intendment of the Scot,
Who hath been still a giddy neighbor to us.
For you shall read that my great-grandfather
Never went with his forces into France
But that the Scot on his unfurnished kingdom
Came pouring like the tide into a breach
With ample and brim fullness of his force,
Galling the glean├Ęd land with hot assays,
Girding with grievous siege castles and towns.....
For once the eagle England being in prey,
To her unguarded nest the weasel Scot
Comes sneaking and so sucks her princely eggs...

That was a result that went down very well indeed in at  least one corner of our DisUnited Kingdom. The weasel Scot has been jubilating. Anyone but England. And how delightful for them that it was their old friend and ally that knocked England out of the World Cup, even by way of such a dishonourable victory. An infrequent  watcher of the footie, I was shocked and dismayed to see the blatant cheating, thuggery, barging and tripping perpetrated by the French - not to mention the spitting. 
When I was a kid, there were signs up in every bus forbidding spitting and everyone knew that spitting was something only horrible old men did and that it spread tuberculosis. If you couldn't swallow because your lungs were rotting, you were expected to expectorate into your hankie. Now the habit has become popularised by footballers who run, fall, roll and skid in other players' spit, their boots churning aerosol droplets of disease into the air to be breathed in by everyone else. Filthy fucking bastards. Not a hanky to be seen amongst the lot of them. 
And the great Harry Kane - what was he aiming at when he sent the ball flying during his 84th minute penalty kick?

 You need nerves of steel to be a football supporter. No wonder middle aged men are forever dropping off the twig with heart attacks. It's all the stress hormones, liberating sugars and fat into the blood stream, ready to fight the French, but instead settling onto the walls of arteries in deep despair. That's it now - me and football - we're done. 

Turning to matters political, did you see Rishi Sunak, the horrible fucking bastard, announcing that he is working on "new tough laws" to protect people from strike disruption? He told MPs if "union leaders continue to be unreasonable, then it is my duty to take action to protect the lives and livelihoods of the British public". 
No, no, no, you overprivileged simpleton, the action you need to take to protect the British public is to ensure they can afford their electricity bills and food shopping. Does this wealthy but dim unelected Prime Minister really think he can convince the public that their fight is with "trade union leaders" who for some unaccountable reason want to "hold the country to ransom"? Does Mr Shit-for-Brains, in his return to Thatcherian rhetoric and policies, want to precipitate civil war? If there is no legal route to protest, then how else will the citizenry take forward their grievances? Pat Cullen, General Secretary and Chief Executive of the Royal College of Nursing told Laura Nose this morning that the NHS is carrying 100,000 vacancies, that the NHS is in a mess, it is despicable that UK nurses are the lowest paid in Europe and that her members are  not greedy people and just want to make ends meet.
Sounds entirely reasonable to me. But not to horrible fucking fat stubbly bastard Foreign Secretary Cleverly, who said nothing to do with me, guv, not my job, negotiate with your bosses - This is Not Political.
Not like this:
Which may well have something to do with soaring electricity prices, inflation and a lack of money to pay decent wages.

At Scapa today:
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more —
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.

mr verge said: Those (memory)ledgers tend to have haunted hinges, mr mongoose, forever springing open of their own accord.
 It was, as they say, a dark and stormy night. Unless you've ever hunkered down in a cold, rubble-walled, 200 year-old house in the depths of the countryside whilst the skies above were riven by the battle cries of angels and devils and torrential sheets of rain were blown by gale-force winds sideways against rattling windows, you have no idea, no idea at all. Oh by the way, do you suppose that windows are so called because whenever  rocks and mud fell out of the side of a neolithic house everyone shouted - Wind - O, and ducked?
Anyway. Back to the dark and stormy night. mr ishmael and I were watching Midsummer Murders and congratulating ourselves on having had the roof re-slated. Cost a small fortune, but was entirely necessary because it had been raining in on the top floor and mushrooms were growing on the carpets. Our attention was on the telly, in the small pool of light that never penetrated the shadowy corners of the room, despite mr ishmael's best efforts with different lighting systems. 
I began to hear a small drip. It might have come from the adjacent utility room. It was only a small drip, like a leaky tap, safely ignored. Especially because mr ishmael had become convinced that I liked to report maintenance  issues to him for the sole purpose of vexing him. You've never liked this house, he'd growl. I have to say, there were many, many maintenance issues to report. I've never come across a house so ornery, so downright dugged  before. And so dirty. Ancient stone dust seemed to sift onto newly-polished surfaces the minute the duster was put away. Bulbs would blow constantly. He'd get around to fixing whatever the latest crisis was. Eventually. A bucket might have to be deployed under the sink for a few months before whatever was wrong with the plumbing was first admitted, then fixed. Not without the rebuke - why didn't you tell me about this earlier? Can't fix it if I don't know about it. But.. but don't you remember? I did. 3 months ago. 
Sometimes the solutions were ingenious. Once, when cleaning behind the shower cubicle, trying to track down the strange smell in the shower room, my reluctant hand encountered something cold, clammy and flaccid. Moist and yielding. Dear god, no, there's something dead behind here and I've just put my hand in it. Or could the dog have squeezed into the tiny space for a secret poo? And it seems to be raining behind here. Mr ishmael rigged up his powerful site-lights-on-a-tripod and we squinched around to see whatthefuck it was. Hard to see in the narrow space, even with the arc lights. It was grey and smooth and the smell was horrid, but vaguely familiar. Put these bio hazard gloves on, instructed mr ishmael, and pull some of it out. I'd do it, but my hands are too big. And I don't bend like that. And it's a girl's job. Suppressing my girly flinching, I did as I was told. The mother plant seemed to shudder as I pulled a bit off. In the full light, it was obviously a bit of wet fungus.Not ectoplasm at all. But the free-standing shower cubicle, a sodding great ugly monolith, couldn't be moved. And it was continuing to rain behind there. The shower had been installed by the previous owner, a man, his wifie proudly informed us, who was nacky. He liked to use whatever came to hand for his relentless, remorseless, improvement programme. The appropriate shower hose fittings reposing in the nearest B&Q - Inverness, some 150 miles and a sea journey away, the nacky man had deployed a handy length of garden hose. Job's a good'un. What could possibly go wrong?  Nothing, as far as he was concerned. He sold the dugged historic house on to us, and bought a nice, new, insulated, warm, bright little house in Kirkwall because his wife was a city girl at heart. Over time, of course, the hose failed and it was impossible to access it because the shower cubicle, some Victorian lump that he had liberated, could not be moved without a full dismantling job. So mr ishmael took out the wall behind the shower cubicle, accessing it from the other side, which turned out to be the servant's staircase, fixed up the shower with a nice new length of garden hose and some jubilee clips he had in his stash, and popped in a newish piece of plaster board to repair the wall.
Right. Back to the small drip. mr ishmael had his library table under the window, which during a summer's day looked out onto fields full of buttercups, daisies, kye and yows. Tonight, it was a black rectangle. No street lights, no friendly lights from a neighbour's home - (no streets, no neighbours). In that shadowy corner of the room,  the small drip speeded up, splashing onto computer, telephone, speakers, papers, cables, pens, half-full coffee mug, the leather scriver of the antique writing table. 
What the fuck, we exclaimed, what has the house done now
"Run upstairs and check," urged mr ishmael. "Maybe you left the tap on in the basin in the bedroom."
Well, obviously I didn't. The room was unused. The taps were turned off. But bubbling up out of the plughole and the overflow outlet was a stream of black, scummy water, filling the basin and pouring onto the pale carpet in a tide of filth.
I reported the situation to mr ishmael.  By which time the ceiling was fat with water and the drip had turned into a torrent. 
"Where is it coming from? How can water run uphill and flood a room on the second storey? Run outside and have a look at the side of the house."
"In the dark? In the howling gale? In the driving rain?"
"Best take a torch," he advised, kindly.
Outside, bent double against the wind, I struggled round to the side of the house. Everything seemed just as it should. The down pipe from the roof was joined by the waste pipe from the bedroom's basin. I reported back. 
"I'll have to go and look. Needs a man to understand a flood running uphill". 
Negotiating the path to the side of the house was even trickier for mr ishmael, whose mobility was compromised. Once there he was as  stumped as I was. 

"Only one thing for it. I've got to relieve the pressure in the down pipe. Get my big fuck-off drill. The one with the massive bit."

Braced against the dry-stone dyke, mr ishmael aimed the mighty drill at the down pipe. It went in. Nothing happened. Until he reverse-engined and pulled out the drill bit. A geyser of filthy water under high pressure hit him in the chest and bore him to the ground.
Back inside, drying out, we  considered the situation. Upstairs, the water was no longer swooshing out of the basin onto the sodden, blackened carpet. Downstairs, there was no more drip, although bits of ceiling had fallen onto the soaking computer. Outside, through the gale and driving rain, could be heard the torrent of the new horizontal water feature. We still didn't know how this had happened. 
In the dry, sunny, wind-free morning, mr ishmael made some more test holes in the now-ruined down pipe, until he hit a solid concrete plug in the downpipe a little below  his original hole. When the penny dropped, his language contained ripe animadversions on cowboy builders, censuring their apparent practice of neatly sweeping into the downpipe all the slate and cement residue from the very, very, expensive re-roofing job.
One day, I'll tell you about the time I went to work, leaving mr ishmael to replace a washer in the kitchen tap.
 Church Notices
 The Ladies of the Church have cast off clothing and may be seen in the church basement on Friday afternoon.

This afternoon there will be a meeting in the south and north ends of the church. Children will be baptised at both ends.

For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a nursery downstairs.

Ladies, don't forget the jumble sale. It's a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands.

The Associate Minister unveiled the the church's new campaign slogan - Last Sunday I upped my pledge. Up yours.



thanks to editor mr. verge, there are now three anthologies of the collected works of ishmael smith:

Honest Not Invent, Vent Stack  and Ishmael’s Blues are all available from Lulu and Amazon. If you buy from Amazon, it would be nice if you could give a review on their website.
Ishmaelites wishing to buy a copy from lulu should follow these steps :
please register an account first, at This is advisable because otherwise paypal seems to think it's ok to charge in dollars, and they then apply their own conversion rate, which might put the price up slightly for a UK buyer. Once the new account is set up, follow one of the links below (to either paperback or hardback) or type "Ishmael’s Blues" into the Lulu Bookstore search box.  Click on the “show explicit content” tab, give the age verification box a date of birth such as 1 January 1960, and proceed.
Link for Hardcover :
Link for Paperback :
At checkout, try WELCOME15 in the coupon box, which (for the moment) takes 15% off the price before postage.  If this code has expired by the time you reach this point, try a google search for " voucher code" and see what comes up.  
With the 15% voucher, PB (including delivery to a UK address) should be £16.84; HB £27.04.
Energy crisis?



mongoose said...

Roofers, eh? Almost as bad as electricians, slightly more careful than scaffolders.

We had our place re-roofed completely about this time last year. If it's any comfort our down-pipe was also chocker with bits of old tile, and the mortar that had dropped into the gutters had set that into a solid plug in exactly the same way. My event happened in daylight and so I was able to take it all off and rod it through with a bit of stick. Idle buggers. There is nothing wrong with a roofer that a good birching- Well, no, it wouldn't set them straight but it would be a chastening of a sort.

Mike said...

Well, I can only report that in the last week I have witnessed the exact opposite.

My neighbours had their roof completely replaced. Its at least 70 years old; theirs is a large roof, or series of roofs; 5 bed detached house with garage. Not a small job.

Anyway, the workers assembled at 6.30am (in suburban Sydney work cannot start 'till 7am). They were the usual mix of strong looking Maori, Pacific Islanders, and Aussies. The guy in charge looked Lebanese - older tough looking, you wouldn't want to catch his eye. All just wearing shorts and singlets, muscled, and with various tattoos. I'll just mention it was a hot day - officially mid-20s, but our houses have 180 degree exposure to blue sky and sun.

Well....what transpired from 7am till 5pm was a choreographed symphony of hard work. No orders given, just a team of a dozen men (no women) totally in harmony knowing their respective roles. The stronger looking guys were doing the heavy work, the lighter guys were dancing across the roofs.

On day one they had completely stripped the roofs, applied linings and rafters, and laid all the roof tiles except what needed cutting and the coping tiles. After having a few beers on site they departed at 6pm.

Next day, 7pm, they started on the finishing tasks. By 3pm the job was done; everything cleared up, even the head man checked with the memsahib that nothing had come on our garden. After a few more on-site beers and general laughter and good vibes at a job well done they departed.

I spoke with my neighbour the next day. She is not the kind to give gratuitous complements. She said they did a good job.

I report this because its the exception. Its a coincidence that a roofing job, coincided with a roofing blog. It was a joy to watch from my office window.

For anyone interested:

mrs ishmael said...

Actually, mr mongoose, it certainly is a comfort to know that we weren't uniquely the victims of house disaster - although I do think we had more than our fair share of dugged house woe.
As for mr mike and his neighbour's excellent roofing crew - well, I can only say that it is just Not British.

mongoose said...

I doubt none of that, mr mike. And to be fair, my four hundred year old pyramid bends almost a metre and a half along its length of twenty. (We're falling into the stream very slowly, and so a very great many tiles had to be bespokely cut. Nothing is square and straight here.) Having been parenthetically kind, my reroofing took a whole month and a middling five figure sum!

If my dad had still been alive, we would have done it - with two or three 150-quid-per-day lads help - in three or four weekends at the most. Alas, that wisdom is lost to me now and mine is not applicable to Tudor roofs.

mongoose said...

Also, mr mike, two lads did mine. Not twelve. A chippy - an awful fucking butcher - attended for a couple of days before I fucked him off the gig and did that myself.

Mike said...

In days gone by when we lived in deep Devon, we lived in a thatched house dating back to 1512. The oak beams would have been cut from the same trees that were used for the ships pitted against the Spanish Armada. The beams were riddled with worm holes, but the beams had become harder than steel. Certainly a drill would hardly penetrate. My wife swears there were bats in the roof. I never saw one flying (only outside), but our cat used to catch them and lay them out at the bottom of the stairs as a sort of trophy.

Anyway, there was a time of terrible storms (I guessing it would be 1991 or thereabouts). The buildings that survived with their roofs intact were the thatched ones.

mongoose said...

We have no bats in in the roof, mr mike, but then again, i did not look more closely than was prudent. The churchyard has plenty though and we often have the odd thing swoop about of a summer's evening just before full dark.

No sooner had we spoken but the Toyota has shed a clutch-plate. (And it is to be hoped no more than a clutch.)

Mike said...

Trust its just a clutch plate mr mongoose, but it will still not be cheap. Long gone are the days when you could do that yourself.

Reminds me of the first car I bought my wife to be - she was 17 and just learning to drive. A Morris Minor. Paid 50 quid for it; lovely car, grey with red leather interior. We had a lot of fun (wink, wink). Kept it for 3 years - replaced 1 tyre and 1 wiper blade. Then sold it for 75 quid. Still regret that.

mongoose said...

Even better, mr mike, it's a fractured thrust bearing. And as we have done only a couple of miles to get it home, we shall escape with not too much of a bill. Our mechanic is also the son of a mechanic who was a Rallying acquaintance of my father in the 60s. This helps when the bills are getting drawn up.

I probably could change a clutch if I had a dry space and the kit. Alas, these days - as you say - stuff is so complex and crammed into such small spaces, there is a technique for even the most simple of tasks. I failed to change a set of brake pads and disk a while back because I have not the specialist tool to do it. There used not to be a need for anything beyond two spanners.

Mike said...

Good news mr mongoose, but your spending money may be shortly in for a hit through no fault of your own. See below.

Here is a very sobering read. I had already alerted this fact several threads ago, but the numbers have become much larger. It was George Osborne who dreamed up this little scheme.

mongoose said...

Crikey! I'll have a quick look down the back of the sofa.