A chap called Larry made my shopping trip to Sainsbury’s in St Annes a little brighter the other day.
He stopped me in the shampoo aisle (I was buying more conditioner; when you’ve hair as virile as mine it’s important to look after it) to ask if I was ‘that Steve Canavan, the one who writes The Gazette column’.
I’m always nervous when this happens.
It might be a complaint, an angry reader holding a grudge about something I’d written years earier. Or worse still, maybe he was the guy I’d shoulder-barged out of the way moments earlier in my haste to get to the last 12-pack of Andrex on special offer at £3.50?
Turns out it was neither. He was just a very nice bloke, who, it turns out, occasionally reads the waffle I write here.
And he told me a story which made me laugh.
Larry, now retired, worked as a removal man with his brother and used to transport a lot of items to Europe, mainly because the tips were pretty good.
One day their delivery address was an extremely posh house in Belgium, which, they discovered, belonged to a renowned antiques collector.
Larry busily unloaded the van and handed the various boxes to his brother, who carried them into the house.
At one point, while reaching for another item, Larry knelt on a cardboard box and heard a crack.
He handed the box to his brother and told him to tell the owner the parcel may have been damaged in transit.
Moments later he overheard a shriek and the owner of the house wailing ‘but it’s a 200-year-old barometer’.
Larry’s brother, in broad Lancashire accent, replied, ‘well it’s about time you got a new’un then’.
Needless to say, the lads didn’t receive a tip.
The tale reminded me of something you’d find in Only Fools and Horses, which in turn compels me to retell my all-time favourite exchange from that programme.
It was the episode where grandad (the original old fella, before Buster Merryfield’s Uncle Albert) is very ill and carefully hands grandson Rodney a silver cigarette case, “as carried by my grandfather in the Boer War”.
It’s a very emotional scene. Grandad tells Rodney it’s his lucky cigarette case, which he’s carried with him all his life, but that ‘I want you to have it now’.
A tearful Rodney asks why it is lucky.
“Well,” says grandad, “One night my grandad was on sentry duty. He was standing there alone in the middle of Africa, when suddenly a sniper fired at him. The bullet was heading straight for my grandad’s heart. But he had that cigarette case in his breast pocket and the bullet hit that instead.”
Rodney looks in awe at the cigarette case he’s holding in his hands and says, “Jeez, it saved his life.”
“Well not really,” replies grandad, “the bullet ricocheted up his nose and blew his brains out.”
They don’t write ‘em like that anymore.
Ey up...tha’ won’t get me into this chain gang...
Judging by the delirious scenes in Yorkshire at the weekend I think I may be in the minority when I say I don’t understand the fuss about the Tour de France.
First of all have you seen the outfits?
No man should ever wear Lycra – it shows bits that no one other than the wife and, if your luck’s out, your GP should see. If I was Prime Minister it is the first law I’d bring in. That and promoting Bury FC to the Premier League.
My better half Mrs C suggested we drive to Yorkshire and watch but I couldn’t summon up the enthusiasm. We’d be stuck in huge traffic jams and then no doubt be stood so far from the action that the bikes would be a distant speck and all we’d be able to see was the back of some fella’s head from Skipton.
Besides, while reporting for this paper a couple of year ago, I attended the end of the Tour of Britain, which finished on Blackpool Promenade. I and about a thousand other onlookers stood for an hour in the wind and rain, then suddenly this group of bikes sped past. And that was it. An hour’s wait and they’d passed in less time than it takes me to change TV channel when The X-Factor starts.
The final reason I have no interest in the Tour de France is that I don’t really understand it. Some people are sprinters, some are climbers, and some – like Chris Froome, the Kenyan chap – don’t win any stages but still win overall. Makes no sense.
So, yes, it was nice to see streets filled with enthusiastic British folk, and it was lovely to see how pictureque Yorkshire looked on the TV.
Just a pity the cycling spoiled it.