Bad Friday

The Oldest of Old Flames and I, spoke for six solid hours on the telephone and I could tell neither of us really wanted to be the first to hang up.

Regular readers of this column will know that the Butchelor Pad commands stunning views over next door’s wheelie bins and a neighbouring car park.

I roost high up among 23 telephone wires, several old-fashioned chimney stacks, two plastic owl decoys (not mine) and a visiting house sparrow.

It likes to arrive as early as it can every morning and sit as near to my boudoir as possible – just in case I’m getting too much sleep, especially at weekends.

Having lived here for four months now, I now have a new understanding of that estate agent euphemism ‘convenient to local facilities’.

What it actually means in practice is that I can hear every late-night mating call of every passing troop of howler monkeys swinging from pub to pub.

I can also hear every unnecessary door slam of those rocking up at takeaways to collect their grub.

And given the ease with which we can now instantly and silently communicate via mobile phones, I will never understand the need at 3am for some people to shout across the street at the top of their voices.

For a generation which usually considers their phone on a par with a major organ equivalent to the brain, heart and lungs – why do they feel the need to bellow at their mates when the rest of us are trying to get some shut eye, instead of messaging them?

I don’t generally mind these signs of life, but what I cannot abide is tolerating them during the week only then being woken up at the weekend by a tourist’s car alarm.

An alarm apparently so highly sensitive that it goes off at the slightest cough or passing fart and doesn’t stop blaring until they return from a day’s hiking up Helvellyn?

And why would a carpet shop need a burglar alarm? Is there a dark web for stolen Axminister?

Do shadowy rug pushers heave rolls of shag pile between pubs?

I haven’t slept very well for years now anyway, and all this noise nuisance isn’t helping.

Around these parts, I’ve also become aware of a regular late-night drag racer who clearly fancies himself as an F1 driver and the town centre as his race track.

He treats the chicanes and mini roundabouts round here with the contempt Senna did of La Rascasse in Monaco.

I have become highly attuned to his approaching exhaust and increasingly violent accelerations.

My hope is that one of these nights he meets a lamp-post in the middle of his path and not an elderly pedestrian, and that he ends up in that great scrapyard of the sky.

Stupid, show off drivers being the absolute pinnacle of knobheadery in my book.

Yet somehow I don’t really mind any of it and have laughed at it this week.

I have found myself falling for the Oldest of Old Flames, the first girl I loved when I was 14.

On Wednesday night, OOOF and I, spoke for six solid hours on the telephone and I could tell neither of us really wanted to be first to hang up.

Instead of 30 years ago, it felt like ten flaming minutes and it was nice that she is no longer the Coldest of Old Flames.

But I was badly burned at 22 and yet here I find myself again at 50, with no oven gloves and a pigheaded unwillingness to face facts that it will go down in flames.

There’s no fool like an old fool, I suppose, but what a brain she has and I could listen to her for hours, which is handy when it takes 20 minutes to get a word in.

I find myself bounding out of bed again with a rare zeal, when I really should be acting all urbane and aloof and independent.

At my time of strife, I can do without all this kind of nonsense. We’ve tried domesticity before and if memory serves, it was like keeping a Golden Eagle in a budgie cage.

Capturing me was about as easy as trapping a blind duck with an old crust.

The madness of it is that among my belongings, I recently located an old diary entry from Easter 1986 when we first met as young teenagers.

I read it out to her and it records how she pointed out in the night sky that Venus, the auspicious planet of love, was visible.

As was the Big Dipper.

In spite of all my adult instincts, I fear I am about to have one last go on the roller coaster again.

Heart says: ‘Tunnel of Love,’ head screams ‘Ghost Train.’

My face will go through all the emotions Bob Hoskins manages at the end of The Long Good Friday, (1979) which I always make a point of watching over Easter.

The (Not So) Grand National

Well I picked the runner-up in this weekend’s Grand National with Any Second Now which would usually be a cause for a rare outbreak of Asti Spumante – had I not backed it to win

Well I picked the runner-up in this weekend’s Grand National with Any Second Now (10-1) which would usually be a cause for a rare outbreak of Asti Spumante – had I not backed it to win.

With a name like Any Second Now staring me in the face, I will be left to rue the day why I didn’t have it each way when its name was such a giveaway.

My other runner, Eclair Surf at 14-1, fell at the third and was the third horse to fall. Not easy to say without your teeth in.

I heard the commentator say it had crashed out at The Ditch, which is about right, given that I’ve always feared I might be heading for one when this writing game runs out.

Sadly, I read today that the eight-year-old Eclair Surf has died overnight having sustained a massive head injury.

It certainly puts any monetary loss of mine into focus, and the story gets sadder.

Eclair Surf was a third reserve to run in the National and would not have been taking part had it not been for the withdrawal of Battleoverdoyen and Court Maid.

The ultimate kiss of death of course was for Butcher – the ultimate harbinger of impending doom – to roll up late in the day and lay out a fiver on it to finish in the top six – each way naturally.

It has all left me in a mood to jack in this horse racing malarkey.

Every passing national finds me further and further at the back of the field from those glory days where I only had to glance at a horse in The Racing Post to win.

The one that stands out most is a £250 triumph on Amberleigh House (2004).

I was somewhat ‘over refreshed’ when I scribbled out the slip at Chas Kendall in Ulverston.

I contrived to both back it to win and finish each way – so double booty – as John McCririck might say, if he wasn’t dead.

2012 was also a good year with Neptune Collognes when the then five-year-old daughter sweetly picked its colours out of the paper and it went on to win, with me hoisting her high onto my shoulders and galloping her round and round the back garden like a crazy horse.

And then there was that year that I lost all my bets but then recovered my losses having won the office sweepstake on One For Arthur (2017).

The Oldest of Old Flames (OOOF) – who I have been frantically corresponding with this week for the first time in circa 15 years- confirmed my memory that her granddad used to enjoy a flutter on the gee gees.

In fact, the Bee Gee Gees would be a good name for a race horse, as would be Stayin Alive if you could guarantee it did, or Tragedy if it didn’t.

If I owned a race horse I would be inclined to call it Neigh Chance and I’d back it at ten to one and it would come in at quarter to four, as Tommy Cooper used to say.

Anyway, ‘OOOF‘ was always devastatingly right on and painfully unconventional long before it became a badge of honour.

But I always respected her opinions and our arguments three long decades ago were rare but of spectacularly high quality.

Now living on a houseboat with a clutter of cats and a murder of crows, she texted to tell me that she regards horse racing as, and I quote, ‘horrendous animal abuse,’ – accompanied by three exclamation marks.

I better not then tell her about switching hobbies to seal clubbing.

I don’t have the energy or the inclination here to get into the whys and the wherefores of horse racing.

The Ell and Back blog doesn’t seek to become a polarising force in the world in order to rack up fake internet likes – there’s far too much of that, thank you.

Suffice to say that a horse bred from a long line of animals trained to run and jump over things which then doesn’t like it, is a bit like finding a fish that doesn’t like water. Or swimming.