Retired Bloke and the jobsworths

YOU’LL be familiar with the experience of stumbling up against the jobsworths. The head reels. The soul (if that’s not being too poetic about it) says quietly to itself: “Tut. I don’t know why I bother.”

To explain: The Garden Project has decided to spread its wings and move indoors. We’ve replaced the bedroom carpets in my parents’ house. The carpet-layers’ customer care extended as far as the front door, outside which they left the old carpets and underlay in the sort of artfully careless arrangement that international art prize judges find so appealing.

This resulted in a retired bloke spending this morning bagging assorted cuts of carpet and underlay, and heaving them into the back of the ageing Jaguar preparatory to a visit to the local recycling and household refuse centre (also known as “the tip”).

This left three fairly hefty rolls of carpet on the parental threshold. Not a problem, I thought (Oh Foolish Man). The council takes away up to three pieces of refuse for £17. The Current Mrs Feeney put in the telephone call. Her end of the conversation, as overheard by self, went as follows:

“Can you come and take away three rolls of carpet, please….Provided they are dry?….But it’s been raining….How am I supposed to have kept three rolls of carpet dry in the rain?…But I don’t have a tarpaulin….I don’t think I want to buy a tarpaulin…Leave it; we’ll get rid of them ourselves.”

So it’s off to the tip again tomorrow for ageing Jaguar (which is beginning to suspect I’ve confused it with a white van)and self.

When less is more

I’ve been thumbing through the latest edition of the BBC’s excellent History magazine. There’s an article by the ever entertaining historian Simon Schama about the development of British portraiture. One section is devoted to Fame; what we’re more likely to call ‘celebrity’ these days.

The 18th-century courtesan Kitty Fisher is described as the ‘first celebrity’ in the sense that she was famous simply for being famous. And how did she become famous in the first place? “With a brilliantly conceived stunt in St James’s Park in 1759, which saw her fall spectacularly from her horse during which it was revealed that she was not wearing underwear.”

The incident, says Schama, “had been staged for maximum exposure.” Um. Quite. ‘All fur coat and no knickers”, as my mum would say.


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