The Blog of Zakspade

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  Scary Mover
Monday 30 April, 2018
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Ever seen the film, Scary Movie? It’s funny in a not scary way.

I was driving through a nearby town yesterday. As I drove along a road towards my Final Destination (vaguely scary) I spotted a car in a side road some way ahead waiting to pull out onto the road along which I was travelling. It remained stationary at the junction until I reached it whereupon the driver decided to scare me by suddenly coming out into the main road.

He braked and I braked. We braked together It was a sort of Breakdance, if you will (not at all scary – except my heart skipped a beat because our cars stopped within a metre of each other). He reversed back a little out of my path and I carried on my way.

I looked in my mirror through my Rear Window (a 1954 classic) and saw that he had come out onto the road behind me. Not only that but he was now driving about half a car length behind me. Some may have been tempted to perform a ‘brake test’ but after the incident back at the road junction, the chances were that the guy was not only a moron but also incompetent and likely to end up parking his car in my rear seats.

Having reached the car park in which I intended to park, I turned in. He followed me – without indicating, naturally. I indicated ahead of a parking space, gently came to a halt, and engaged gear so as to reverse into the bay.

As the car that had followed me into the car park had stopped about half a metre behind me, I was unable to reverse. Keeping my foot on the clutch and the car in gear so that the tell-tale reversing lights would remain lit, I slowly undid my seat belt in preparation for getting out and asking him to move back.

There was no need for me to ask – he reversed back and gave me space. As I lowered my handbrake he drove forward through the gap between me and the parking space. We almost collided, but not because I was moving at that time. No, it was because there was barely enough room for him to pass and his door mirror hit mine.

That was scary because I hadn’t expected the sudden loud ‘clonk’ right next to my face.

He parked a few metres further along.

I parked in the space behind me and felt like screaming because no one would hear me. Once composed, I got out and locked my car.

As I walked past him I looked at him in wonder – he looked so normal.

‘Can I help you?’ he asked.

I shook my head as walked on my way, bewildered by the thought that someone so oblivious to what they had done could afford to buy a car.

   
  Squeezing Through
Friday 27 April, 2018
 

I saw something very scary a few mornings back: a minibus picking up kids to take them to school.

Why scary?

Well, who was the driver? Were they reliable and trustworthy? Was he known to any of the parents?

At this point I realise I will have invited comment to the effect that said driver and minibus company will have been subject to in depth checks by whatever authority was responsible for organising those inter-town school pickups. It is an obviously sensible, but, however, ultimately flawed, approach to determining the competence, suitability and safety of the person in charge of the vehicle.

Eh?

I am a pedestrian out walking a dog. Just up ahead of me the minibus pulls onto the pavement and fully blocks it, forcing me to walk into the road to negotiate it. I see the reason for doing what he did: leave enough room for other vehicles to get by as they rush to get away to work in the morning – except that by driving onto the path he left clear passage of nearly three car widths.

My dog noticed nothing and we carried on our way.

Around the corner, the same minibus caught me up and pulled across ahead of me and parked on the pavement, blocking my way and again leaving the same clearway on the road.

What sort of parent would trust their child to such a moron? If they behaved like that, who’s to say they won’t take an axe to their offspring? The vetting didn’t reveal the driver’s mental deficiencies – what if they forget how to drive as they approach a busy junction?

As I again walked into the road, I made a note of the vehicle’s registration, the name of the school on the jumpers of the children boarding the minibus, the name and number of the company emblazoned down the side, and the date and time. I then notified the police (who were – not surprisingly – uninterested), the minibus company, and the school.

The first two might not be too bothered about my complaint, but I promised all three I would be following up to see how the matter was dealt with, and the school in question has a very serious reputation in its area.

Parking on the pavement is a pain. Cutting up a pedestrian to park on a pavement is a bigger pain. Doing it repeatedly when driving a minibus with children on board is the biggest pain in that it clearly demonstrates the mentality of a person supposed to be in charge of the welfare of the young lives aboard.

I don’t feel too bad about making waves over this one...

   
  Calming Influence
Wednesday 25 April, 2018
 

I was following a stream of vehicles along a familiar road into a nearby town and found myself on the tail end of a slowing line. Every few weeks I use this route and from time-to-time I encounter a white police van set up around the slight bend with a speed camera within pointing at motorists entering the town.

I presumed I was experiencing was one of those days as cars ahead of me spotted the revenue generation vehicle parked on the verge, and they overreacted by slowing to below 20mph.

As I navigated the slight bend I could see ahead to where the speed trap was usually parked and there was nothing. A glance further ahead showed a clear junction up ahead. It seemed that the only reason for the drastically reduced speed was the car leading the bunched up line of cars, of which I was at the end.

Then I hit the pothole.

As my mind recovered from the experience, I hit the next one. As my foot moved towards the brake pedal I was shaken by yet another. In order to better see the road surface ahead of me and avoid what were cavernous openings in the Earth’s surface, I slowed from the crawl I was already part of so as to attempt to avoid the traps.

After negotiating the road junction, the surface returned to normal.

I told a few people of my encounter and reactions were either one of resigned disgust over the authority’s inability to maintain carriageways; or they would jokingly suggest it was a great way to make drivers keep within proscribed speed limits.

The latter I already knew would not work. I had once lived and driven abroad in a country where cobbled roads tended to be common and form part of major route ways. At the time I had use of a tiny Fiat 126 and when it came to managing rough terrain, it didn’t.

Just about every time I came across a change from tarmac to cobbles, I slowed – only to be overtaken by each and every car previously following me. Those who sped past me at clearly more than the indicated speed limits included Fiat 126 motor cars.

Nice idea, but I don’t think it would be effective. I would rather those in charge fixed the roads rather than wring their hands.

   
  St Patrick's Day
Monday 23 April, 2018
 

Today is St Patrick’s Day! Hurrah, Top o’ the mornin’ t’ yer!

Except, it isn’t.

Reading this, just about everyone will know my opening statement and greeting to be wrong. However, most will only know what day it is not rather than what day it is, which is a little sad.

Just for clarification: this Blog is written from a sofa based in Blighty. That was a clue.

Every year, it never ceases to amaze me how so much of the population of this island know the feast day of the patron saint of Ireland nearby, but are unaware of the feast day of this their own island’s patron saint – George.

Find it difficult to believe? Try for yourself – ask about, preferably earlier in the day before the information filters through to even the most oblivious.

   
  Calmer
Wednesday 18 April, 2018
 

Walking home after a visit to the post office, I approached a mini roundabout and witnessed a white van make a right turn across the front of an approaching car. He gave no indication of his manoeuvre and the car screeched to an ungainly stop in a valiant and successful attempt to avoid piling into the cretin.

The white van casually drove away up the road leaving the car stalled on the approach to the roundabout with its driver inside turning the air blue as he glared in the direction of the dopey imbecile heading away from him.

My walk home in the mild air was tinged with my own annoyance due to having witnessed the total idiocy and selfishness displayed by the berk. Despite not being the car driver, I was incensed.

However, what I had not noticed was something of which the van driver had also been unaware: there was a police car not far behind and in a good position to have witnessed what had happened.

On came the blue lights and the police car made the same turn at quite a clip in pursuit of the van. It charged up the side road after the errant vehicle and I immediately felt calmer as I realised there was definitely karma in the world.

   
  Bucks Fizz
Monday 16 April, 2018
 

I went shopping last week; in Milton Keynes; in their main shopping centre. Yes.

Forgive my manner – I’m not too sure exactly where I went shopping, if I tell the truth.

These days, the place calls itself centre:mk and the website www.centremk.com does so as well. However, I am sure they called themselves thecentre:mk at one time. Indeed, searching out old references to the location says the same, as do past photographs showing road signs in the background.

If you want to email the management to ask about the identity crisis, you can do so at an address that features thecentre.com as the domain. In fact, if you use that as the web address, it is redirected seamlessly through to the current domain name.

So I’m not going mad.

I suppose that there is nothing like making your mind up.

   
  Waiting for a Bus
Friday 13 April, 2018
 

I needed to be 15 miles away; hence I was in the car heading out of town. It was doubly handy being in a tin box because it was raining.

The road I was driving along has a bus stop where the road begins to narrow. As I approached, there was a bus stopped with its hazard warning lights flashing.

People – about twenty of them – who I took to be the passengers, were all milling about the bus stop beside the empty bus.

In the rain.

Once I had made my way around the semi-permanently stopped bus, I carried on my journey. In my rear view mirror I saw the people getting wetter.

Questions entered my head and remain there even now. Why had the bus stopped? Why had the passengers been forced off and into the rain? There was no breakdown vehicle present, nor were any panels open indicating anyone was working on the vehicle. And why were the ex-passengers staying with the bus but seeming content with becoming wetter and wetter in the rain?

Waiting for a bus is surely a powerful thing.

   
  I'm on the Train!
Wednesday 11 April, 2018
 

As I walked alongside the busy main road, someone was shouting and I wondered if they were hailing me. I looked about but saw no one looking as if they were trying to get my attention. In fact, there didn’t appear to be anybody attempting to attract anybody’s attention.

It quickly became apparent that the kid riding a bicycle towards me was the person doing the shouting. He wasn’t engaging with the world around him and was having a conversation with an invisible companion, presumably on an equally invisible bicycle, riding alongside him.

‘Yeah, you should have answered quicker when I called!’

There was a short pause in his yelling as he cycled.

‘No, she said you were weird!’

He wobbled along the road some more.

‘Ha ha! Yeah, she really did say that! Can you still hear me?’

Then, as he came closer, it transpired that he was bawling into a mobile phone which explained his loud demeanour and his unsteady progress up the road.

The town I live in doesn’t encourage cars and bicycles to play nicely together. The roads are narrow and motor traffic is both heavy and swift. Cyclists are merely obstacles to be passed in whatever manner possible. One wobbling along holding a mobile phone to their ear makes an easy-to-hit target.

I suppose the hope is that such behaviour won’t become the norm because kids doing it won’t survive into adulthood in order to pass on their genes. Or maybe they will cease the practice before becoming road kill and move on to becoming one of those incredibly annoying people who shout their conversations into their phone while sitting next to you on the train?

   
  So Many Levels
Monday 9 April, 2018
 

There is a section of free parking in centre:mk.

I know – shock, horror and awe.

It isn’t unrestricted. It has a three hour limit and a two hour, no return, rule. It works well because there is usually always a chance to park there. The time limit is generous – and useful.

Last week I needed an hour and a half, or so, at Milton Keynes Theatre, so I looked for a space. One existed, as anticipated, but a car had a wheel over the line and into the bay I intended to use. As I figured that any problem with getting into the badly parked vehicle due to my own parking wasn’t too big an issue because the stupid and selfish parking was the cause, so I set about very carefully reversing into the restricted space.

It was as I gently eased into the bay that I spotted the Blue Badge. I hesitated before spotting the five free disabled parking bays on the other side of the road, and so completed my manoeuvre.

The angle of the errant parker was such that at one point the rear of my car was almost touching their wing wing and it was going to be extremely difficult for anyone to get into the vehicle. So, because I had arrived in good time, I decided to stay with my car, just in case an old lady hobbling on sticks made an appearance.

The driver returned within minutes, trotting from the post office across the road – the place with the empty disabled parking outside. He fixed me with a look and gave me a shoulder gesture understood the world over to mean: what am I supposed to do?

The jogging and the fact that of the available Blue Badge parking convinced me that someone was being an arse, so I opened my window and very obviously moved my head to show my gaze sweeping up and down the line denoting the bays, before returning to look at the man and making the best matching shoulder shrug through the window that I could manage, before closing it.

Watching him trying to get into his car was entertaining but I reckoned on not laughing in case I hurt his feelings.

Once in he started his car and fixed me with a glare that I returned with a pleasant smile and a little wave. The result was him gunning his engine and wheelspinning backwards out of the bay, coming to a very abrupt halt, crunching into another gear, then wheelspinning on his way to wherever.

Illegal use of a Blue Badge, hugely selfish parking, blaming me for his stupidity, and then driving in a manner likely to cause an accident (it was a good job no one was passing when he screamed out of the bay, backwards).

It was just wrong, on so many levels.

   
  Sunshine and Blue Skies
Friday 6 April, 2018
 

I had cause to be in Milton Keynes yesterday morning after the manic commuter period, so the grid roads were all moving at high speed.

Heading home, a temporary road sign coming out of a roundabout read, ‘Grass cutting for 1 mile,’ and a tractor dragging a maelstrom-like collection of whirling blades was cutting the grass on the central reservation. Then I negotiated the next roundabout and was told the same thing by another temporary road sign and another tractor would be at work on the next central reservation.

Combined with the sunshine, the thought was that of summer, despite it only being six degrees Celsius according to the dashboard display in my car.

Back home I parked and headed out on foot to run some errands. The smell of freshly cut grass was in the air and upon seeing my first expanse of open space; I saw that my hometown had thought the exact same thing – mow!

Then I heard the distant sound of someone using an electric lawnmower. I looked up into the flawlessly blue sky and back down across the expanse of recently shortened grass at a cherry tree in full bloom and I thought of sitting in the garden drinking a nice cup of tea, before I pulled my coat tighter about me to ward off the extreme cold that was trying to attack my bones.

   
  Voices
Monday 2 April, 2018
   
 

A writing deadline looms. Like a dark form, it hangs over me as if wielding teeth and claws ready to rip into me.

Currently I write as myself: ranting and proclaiming the world to be flawed, from a soapbox of sorts; a dog of simple tastes and views; a cat with a lofty and pretentious outlook on life; a tinfoil hat-wearing man who is convinced that extraterrestrial aliens are ready to invade the Earth; myself, again, but in my pre-marital name – reminiscing about things local to the publications in which my words appear; and a professor who writes about topics so as to impart their histories while including many facts but not a single truth.

However, this week I may need more words, but I cannot rely on the men, the cat, or the dog. Nor could I add another animal from my household as that would surely turn the column in question into an animals’ entertainment feature. I briefly considered writing as a lamppost that watches the world go by, but I reckoned on it being still too many non-human characters appearing as wordsmiths.

Gender realignment – without drugs, surgery or a change in wardrobe!

But how should the words be written?

The clue is probably in the choice of gender. As for the tone and general approach – maybe I ought to stay off the topics of beer and football.