Monthly Archives: November 2020

“To all the girls I’ve loved before…”

In memoriam: Ken Jenkins who passed November 2020 aged 91.

The scene here needs to be set. The backdrop critical, so come with me…

When & where:

It’s the tail of the ’90s and younger self was bringing a new friend on a cultural immersion tour of Swansea. Said friend – Allister – enjoyed a night on the town and we were to imbibe in a Swansea pub crawl from The Robin Hood, to The Tredegar Arms to who knows where. Pints and pints. A kebab shop would doubtless be in the mix.

The Tredegar Arms, Sandfields, Swansea:

Essentially a couple of terraced houses knocked into one: the Sandfields, by the beach, a few streets away from the Vetch Field and HMP Swansea. Think full Phoenix Nights and dubbed with fab-lass Swansea accents. Or for a darker edge, check out the sublime local ’90s movie: Twin Town. These tremendous pieces of celluloid are much more biopic, much more love letter than many viewers realise…

By the time we arrived at The Tredegar’ karaoke night had long set sail. (To be fair, we were several sheets to the wind too. So let’s not worry about details and go with what I remember okay?) A snug affair – a repurposed front room! – with the regular-Friday night crowd. Packed in ladies in spangly blouses, poodle perms. Pints of bitter being handed chain-style from the crowded bar over to the busy tables. The “stage” itself had a bar-stool, a tinsel curtain backdrop and some coloured lights.

Pubs and nights like this pretty much don’t exist in the English home counties. Industrial Britain developed these jovial, raucous, unglamorous, hard drinking, hard partying establishments. From Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Swansea, Belfast, Glasgow… They share a vibe and are absolutely bloody brilliant.

[Full Swansea MC/DJ] “Next up: Ken Jenkins. C’mon Ken…”

White hair coiffured, shirt unbuttoned one-too-many, slacks crisp and slip-ons just so, Ken took his cue and sauntered up to the stage. His practiced air as if we were witnessing his residency at a bar on the Strip in ‘Vegas. Elvis, Sir Tom Jones, Ken… In today’s language, Ken bossed it.

As he took to the stool the music filled the room on cue.

We held our pints and our breath.

“To all the girls I’ve loved before…”

A mellifluous tenor, white teeth, microphone held like an expensive cigar. But none of that describes the perfect pause between the lyric “loved” and “before”. In time with the syncopation and accents of the music. Yet, more importantly, accompanied by a theatrical knowing wink to the “girls” in the front row.

Listen here: Engelbert Humpadink made a good fist of it, but didn’t have the chops to clip the word “loved” with such chutzpah as Ken.

Of course, the “girls” went wild… Bawling “we love ew Kehhhhnnn!”

Our posse included Mum & Dad, Gilly, myself, Allister and very probably Sue, Ken’s wife. (His third.) We cheered his arrival on stage, listened and when he was done clapped our heartfelt applause.

Legend

At that point my friend Allister all but collapsed. Alarmed, we assisted him, but the cause of his doubling over was laughter. The rest of us – locals – hadn’t noticed the cause. What on earth was it? Well, moments before a rotund minicab-wallah had forced his way into the bar and – with a South Walean, matter-of-fact attention getting bellow – in a pause between tunes issued forth the following information:

“TAXI FOR JONES.”

Us Welsh didn’t bat an eyelid, whereas Al’ expected the whole pub to sup-up and cram into the waiting car. After all, isn’t every Welshman a Jones? To be fair, a few minutes later the raucous, frisky, Jones party – all ladies – were trying to bodily kidnap Al’ from the kerbside as he helped collect their half-finished glasses.

Just another night in the Sandfields I guess… but it etched Ken into my memory forever.

RIP.

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Do they know it’s Chrsitmas?

I enjoy hanging out with man’s best friend. Love a cwtch with a cat. Am firmly of the opinion that if you take on a pet, you are signing up for a lifelong commitment and must treat animals with respect: care for their wellbeing, ensure their safety. If you abandon a domesticated animal, you should be a) ashamed of yourself and b) probably prosecuted.

There. Am hoping that is crystal’.

In the batshit – ouch – crazy year that is 2020, we have witnessed all sorts of weird and, just occasionally, wonderful things. Conspiracies have moved up a whole new set of gears, facts are not the dependable currency they once were and the notion of society is (involuntarily) under scrutiny. (I will gesture to the vast debris field that is politics but not go there if you don’t mind.)

Health of swathes of the population has been damaged, many fatally. The impact economically? So very many good, diligent, talented, hardworking people have had their livelihoods whipped away overnight. The “viability” of their trade/profession/business has been upended and skewered straight out of left field.

Breathtaking. Distressing. Heartbreaking.

And yet I have found a bridge too far.

[Perhaps writing about it here will offer catharsis? If you can shed light on or provide a sensible argument for the following, please comment.]

Triggered by a post on local social media:

Do they know it’s Christmas?

It’s the second sentence. (Well, I say sentence in the absence of consistent punctuation. I mean the phrase after the full stop.)

“It gives the animals who haven’t got a family of their own something special on xmas day [heart emoji]”

Wait, what?!

I for one didn’t realise that “rescue” animals – and, am thinking broadly of any canine or feline friends here – are religious, let alone Christian? If Covid wipes out the human population, are we to imagine that the four legged community would celebrate the birth of baby Jeezus?

Forgive my apparent insensitivity here, but this is next-level bonkers.

Aside from those people who are struggling to make ends meet, there are folk unable to get healthcare. Folk forced to live with a plethora of sub-optimal domestic arrangements* and people – actual human ones – of all stripes who are, for no fault of their own, pitiably isolated and lonely.

I could go on.

If I did go on (and on) we would get to a time where Satan would be skating to work before the idea of Christmas presents for orphan pets (during a pandemic) had any credence.

In the twenty-first century-developed-world I am incredulous – against a backdrop of some pretty stiff competition for loss of credulity – that Christmas pressies for pooches would dimly light a single pixel on our collective societal radar ahead of the human wreckage we are faced with.

After all, the creatures in question are in care already right? (Kudos to their dedicated carers are doing sterling work.)

Perhaps if there was light hinting toward the end of the pandemic tunnel then… No. Nope. Nada. Still doesn’t work.

I am left pondering what factors would have to be in place for this to become a valid priority? If every hungry child were nourished? If employment/income was secured for the struggling? If hospital patient operations were being carried out? If key workers were able to be guaranteed safety from contagion?

[Blinks, almost imperceptable shae of the head, thousand yard stare.]

Help me out here… Is it me who needs therapy or those posting these appeals on social media?

Answers on a postcard to the usual address.

*mahousive understatement.

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Lockdown2:day1

Sit’ rep’

Well, the troops are taking it in their stride presently. Pizza for tea: pimped pepperoni for the boys, stoic margarita for the ladies. Tension around the garlic bread, but the extra cheese may have just swung it.

Just. It’s bally tense alright. How long can we hold out?

Bunce’s have “taken a few days off” – stress and exhaustion I expect, can’t blame the poor dabs – but you never know with social media and the Russians. So coffee from the cafetiere is all we can manage. I can make a brew and no mistake, but dammit man: I’m no barrisata. Wasn’t able to handle hot froth after the ’09 incident.

Never could from that day to this. Never will.

The weather held, enough to dry some washing, which has done a packet for morale. Odd socks, but I think I reached the airing cupboard before the gruppenfuhrer noticed. A close one for sure. Finished the Richard Osman novel which reminded me of the old days. Cups of tea, taking trips to the shop, nipping over to… Stop it. Stop. We can’t torture ourselves. Those days are gone.

More angst this evening over the tellybox viewing. Too much choice you see. When I was young we had proper shows with no oprtion but to have both racism and sexism or that plus xenophobia on a (printed) schedule. Now we have to settle for same in US politics in real time whereas TV is on catch-up/on-demand/streaming. We compromise with the BBC iPlayer: Ghosts. An excellent offering from the (original) Horrible Histories cast. But the subject matter of – among others – plague victims and dodgy MPs gave a dangerous subtext. But of course, no-one said what they were really thinking. There were laughs, sure, but were they… real? Hollow, ghoulish cackles of an embattled unit on a knife edge, jumpy, brittle, taught from a day of sheer nerves. No one mentioned the 5PM press conference. No one ever does these days. (No one says it, but we can’t bear the collective strain of random start times shattering the BBC1 schedules. How do the news anchors do it? Heck: they’re so, so brave. Little Mix may never recover from their tattered Saturday night prime-time debacle. Don’t start about Strictly’ not doing Halloween. Next slide please.)

Of course the fruit are still too green to justify making a banana bread. When I see my first loaf, that’s when we’ll know shit is real.

Used the sunlight to do minor outdoor jobs and gather some covert intel on the populace. Who are these people cheerfully walking past our outpost? Why don’t I recognise them? Fourteen years on site and that elderly man is a stranger to me. Who is he working for? Although I also noticed a lockdown dog or three. They seemed particularly fragile. Stay safe my canine friends. Curl up on the sofas, bide your time, await your calling.

Managed to raise a comm’ link to the outside via the haunted fishtank and engaged friendlies in faraway lands. We spoke in tongues, feverish with “you’re on mute” and “maybe draw the blinds so I can see you?” But we all know what we really meant. Unspoken terror. More prosaically, Andover logistics appear in similar fettle it seems but with access to locally roasted coffee beans. Lucky bastards having artisans and all.

From the international scene no word from across the Severn Bridge. I worry.

Am waiting for the inevitable discussion. We have industrial quantities in stock, but when to start? When are booze rations to be broken out on a school night? Should we binge only on weekends? What’s a school night? What’s a weekend?

My god it’s bleak.

But there is light from down under. The MAGA morons taking to Twitter are meeting resistance. Typically entitled American declarations like “well if the Dems win, y’all can count me out! I is movin’ t’Aust-ray-lee-ah!” have been met with [adopts Aussie accent] “Yah not welcome heee-rr ya COVID riddled, gun toting bigots.”

Vive la resistance: fair dinkum Australia.

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