EuroFiles (No.4) Senior Grey – Backbone of the Bristles Basement

Senior Grey. Affectionately known as The Senior. The backbone of the Bristles basement. A sound Eurocratican – yet still totally in love with his own country, The Duchy of Neverland.

At first glance he doesn’t look old enough to have been The Senior for decades.

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This picture was taken on his first day as a Grey all those years ago.

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… and this today as The Senior.

Spot the difference!

It’s down to careful management of time – always on his way to or from a meeting but rarely enough time to actually attend them or stick around for long, let alone make decisions. No stress, you see …

It’s also down to a sound relationship with the basement box shifters. The Senior nurtures loyal Greys like the reliably efficient and compliant Stickler Grey from Germolena, and Groveller Grey from The Shrek Republic, a past master at brown-nosing.

The Senior is simply all-round nice. Give him a yellow box and a counter bell to play with and he’s happy as a sandboy.

In fact, so idyllic is working life in the Eurocratic Union, that regardless of how long they’ve worked there, no Grey ever looks a day older than when they first started.  And they thrive on The Senior’s benevolence. One of his rare tickings-off feels as punitive as a pampering session in the Union’s onsite health spa.

All in all, The Senior and his team are perfect for promoting the Eurocratic Union’s role as – as – well, whatever it is …

The Yellow Box original draft poster (2) (282x400)

In the next issue: Posh Grey – Quettex trod nerreh!

The Yellow Box – written and directed by Paul Costello

Bookings:  www.themarkettheatre.com

Copyright © Paul Costello    August 2017

http://www.paulcostello.me 

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EuroFiles (No.2) – Finsky Feelgood the Tai Chi Instructor

Life in the Eurocratic Club is pretty relaxed.

That Greys never age from the day they start working in Bristles is testimony to the gentle pace of life, the stress-free environment and the magnificent facilities on offer, such as the health spa, pampering pool and 5-Star restaurants for all nationalities.

To help keep it so, The Senior calls occasionally on the services of Finski Feelgood, a tai chi instructor from Scandy. The wellbeing and balance offered by tai chi leaves the Greys feeling ever more euphoric about life in the Bristles basement – if indeed that’s possible.

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Finski’s classes are compelling. If ever the Greys were at risk of over-pacing themselves, the smooth and graceful tai chi moves slow them to a more manageable work rate. They love Finski’s visits – although she does prove a distraction to Newday Grey, his loss of concentration making the moves not so much ‘smooth and graceful’ as ‘dad at the disco’.

And of course tai chi will serve as a great communication skill for The Angel of Mercy and her ‘troops’ when, having absorbed most of Eurocratica and Middle Easternness, she begins her advance into Far Eastern Regions. Fabulous being able to display such an understanding of what makes other cultures tick!

Finski Feelgood – the basement’s star attraction. Bringing a touch of glamour to an office that might otherwise be, well, rather too grey.

The Yellow Box original draft poster (2) (282x400)

In the next issue: Wisecrack Grey – the Joker in the Pack

The Yellow Box – written and directed by Paul Costello

Bookings:  www.themarkettheatre.com

Copyright © Paul Costello    August 2017

http://www.paulcostello.me

Fashionista

There – I’ve done it!  I now have a rip in each knee of my Marks and Spencer black jeans!

It took a while to twig on that torn trousers aren’t the outcome of an unfortunate scrape with an ill-fitted screwhead or the perishing of cheap cotton, but are actually designed like that. And I’m not one to miss out on a fashion!

Admittedly, the tear is not as neat as some. The left knee in particular has a hanging flap of material rather than a slit; admirers would be entitled to wonder if the jeans were torn or part-cut to shorts. But they draw the eye – and that’s the point!

And the knees that now protrude are not, I suppose, my most endearing feature. Bulbous and veiny, they don’t quite replicate the smoothness of younger people’s. More like a barnacled whale surfacing. But I’ve not overheard anyone saying, ‘Take a look at that – what does he think he looks like?’ And in the grand scheme of living a life, would I care anyway?

In fact, I’ve gone as far as cutting a tinier slit at the top of the right thigh. One of those that gets passers-by thinking, ‘Was that a tear, or was it my imagination?’ More discreet than the knees and right up there with the trend, methinks.

The top slit also offers a teasing taste of the dragon tattoo I had installed a few weeks back. Designed by yours truly and pretty damn original, the dragon circles the entire thigh – fiery nose-to-tail  so to speak! I’m getting some great looks down the gym, although that could just be curiosity about the set of hoop earrings along my left ear. Individually they’d be nothing, but fitted as they are like the Olympic symbol they look great! Only the lucky ones get to see the matching navel stud!

The only thing with an earring set is keeping the ear clear to view. No point otherwise. My hair’s quite long, and I’ve been using a man bun for the last year or so. But I’m now seriously thinking of getting a one sided shave style and keeping it long and pointy on the right side only. I bet the bouncers at ‘Hard’ (my all-time favourite club) will love it! They still won’t let me in wearing my green Doc Martens or furry parka though. I’m working on it! Incidentally, the parka is identical to the one I wore on my Lambretta in the mid-60s. What goes round, eh?

Anyway, must dash. I’m well ready for a vape. Photos to follow; there’s only a couple of pictures left in my Box Brownie, then I’ll pop the film into Boots for developing.

 

Copyright © Paul Costello May 2016

 

Free as an Old Bird

Perched on the plinth of the Captain Matthew Flinders bronze at Euston Station, he of fame for circumnavigating Australia and now offering a resting place for travellers’ bums and Burger King bags, I make light work of my Upper Crust ham baguette. I’ve picked one art installation from which to observe another – hundreds of upturned faces, all ages, colours and destinies, frozen, waiting for their platform numbers to appear on the electronic board above.

Young travellers and business people predominate. I wonder where the young people are off to, who they’re meeting and what life holds for them. I think: does their energy and fashion mean they’re having a better time than me? Do their smiles as they text and talk mean they have richer relationships? Are they totally worry-free as I must surely have been at their age?

Wouldn’t these young people and I have something in common? They’re probably itching to invite me into their social circles. Wouldn’t they be anxious to draw on my life to affirm their own – hear about the myriad experiences they’ll have before earning their entitlement to a gammy hip? I could even trade some of my warfarin tablets for whatever they were passing around.

My thoughts dwindle as Platform 14 flashes and the installation sparks to life in a full battle charge towards the Virgin train for Birmingham. We know we’ll all get a seat yet we all want to front the attack.

From B 48 I can see the full length of the carriage as its likely occupants tumble aboard. Unlike train companies whose ancient rolling stock uses printed cards for reservations, these Pendolinos have tiny electronic booking tabs above each pair of seats. You need a fine pair of eyes and a magnifier, which means a lot of bumping, grumping and general mayhem as people try to find their reserved seat, or anything available. Having spearheaded the platform assault I’m in situ to witness this volatile behaviour.

A pair of tight-pin-striped, middle-aged businessmen in shiny slip-ons sit opposite. Already on their phones as they bump themselves and their polyester computer cases along the aisle, they devote the first thirty minutes of the journey to reporting back to bosses, secretaries and wives.

With bosses it’s assertive and purposeful – distribution networks, pallet-loads and call frequencies. Serious stuff – laptops and iPads whirring, successful meetings, no weaknesses at all, apparently. With secretaries – Amanda and Amy respectively – it’s appointments and mild flirtation. With wives it’s luv, vets, kids and supper, softly tuned. With all of them it’s sorry for ‘just going through a tunnel’.

Symphonies in three movements, performed with panache and aplomb. Daily. Do they really like doing this, I wonder?

They unwittingly reaffirm my retirement – in which I don’t have to learn alien languages and follow grey paths, but indulge my time for intrinsic not monetary reward. I don’t gloat, except perhaps when lying in bed listening to icy windscreens being scraped and engines revved for work. Nor does the vibrancy of younger people make me feel the passing of time. I’m well aware that life for them too can often be hard, emotionally and materially.

I am simply keen to enjoy the time I’ve earned, and grateful for having the choice. For as long as my hip holds up, my heart keeps pumping and the resident weasel at 11 Downing Street leaves me enough cash, I’ll carry on soaking up life’s bright side. And hopefully my contentment will spill over to those around me – young or old, at work or retired.

Hm – I wonder if my pin-striped passengers will be talking so fondly of sales forecasts twenty years from now …

Copyright © Paul Costello January 2016

www.paulcostello.me 

Ear Today, Grown Tomorrow

For last month’s birthday my nearest and dearest bought me a vintage Noddy Annual. Grand it was, with its pink, hardback cover and brightly coloured characters.

Tessa knows I like old books, especially those harking back to childhood. And she probably chose Noddy as a joke because I do nod off like a baby – typically ten hours a night plus daytime naps. In fact, on the parabola of life I’m wandering happily down the second childlike path. Having skipped along my first childhood and barged through the earnestness of middle life, I am once again showing off and making demands, and people think I’m sweet.

Big EarsBut inside the Annual I discovered a perhaps more pointed reason for her choice. Tessa had picked an edition where Big Ears sets up a taxi firm to rival Noddy’s, with a brightly coloured people carrier, cut-throat fares and an aggressive advertising campaign. Noddy’s livelihood was threatened and his sixty year friendship with Big Ears was teetering on the brink.

In itself the story made excellent fireside reading but, I thought, is her choice of the “Special Big Ears Edition” trying to tell me something? Was she perhaps inferring that Enid Blyton introduced Big Ears to make older readers like me feel less alone?  Was she teasing me about the differences between early and late periods of childhood? After all, in this secondary phase I hobble rather than skip, I take a daily dose of multi-coloured tablets not sweets – and yes, my ears are rapidly growing longer. An esteemed graduate of the British School of Irony, it wouldn’t be beyond Tessa to poke fun at my lengthening lobes.

I’m trying to grow old gracefully, bumbling and stumbling my way as best I can. But short of radical surgery (a ”lobe job” as they say) I can’t stop my lugs growing. Until recently I thought it was either genetic – that not everybody’s ears grew bigger – or that it was nature creating a larger funnel to compensate for loss of hearing. And I only thought about it when, say, World War 1 veterans appeared on TV or I was singing carols in a care home.

But I’ve discovered that ear growth is a natural part of the ageing process for all of us. Studies since the mid-nineties in Italy, Japan and the UK have proved that ears elongate by an average of 0.22mm a year, a fact so accurate that forensic scientists can determine someone’s approximate age by their ear size.

A little help funnelling sound

A little help funnelling sound

One school of thought is that an enlarged auricle (outer ear) does help funnel more sound. But a more accepted explanation is that ears sag with age thanks to a loss of elasticity as the collagen and elastin fibres that make up the ear’s cartilage and surrounding skin start to break down. Deterioration of this cartilage removes structural support, allowing gravity to take over and cause the appearance of droop. Since noses are constructed in the same way, they too are subject to apparent enlargement, though less so than ears. The effect is exacerbated by a loss in volume of surrounding areas like cheeks and lips, making the organs next to them look larger.

Ear-lengthening happens to women as much as men, but because their ears are often covered up we don’t notice. Under the pink and purple rinses on those coach trips to Scotland lie an abundance of awesome auricles. In fact sagging ears are potentially a greater issue for women because earrings, especially the ‘drop’ variety, encourage gravity to do its dastardly deed. No surprise that it’s women who most often seek redress through lobe surgery. A similar tug must be exerted by the ear stretchers in vogue with many young people. The combined vertical strain and butchered lobes will surely come back to haunt them in later life. But, huh, what do they care?

I’ve just measured my ears – they’re exactly 70mm long. If I live another thirty years they’ll be 76.6mm when I’m ninety-seven. But since 0.22mm is only the average growth, they could get even larger, occupying the entire sides of my face. I’ll be able to hear well enough, but it could spoil my chances with, say, a woman I’m trying to chat up in my nursing home. And I worry about other silly things, like how will I deal with all that unwanted extra hair? Would I need giant Baby Buds? Would a mobile phone disappear down my swollen ear canal? Will I experience violent ear-popping on flights, causing my head to explode?

Obama checks today's flap factor

Obama checks today’s flap factor

 

Maybe I’m taking it too seriously. At least I don’t have sticky-out ears. With decades of growth and a high flap factor, people like Barack Obama and Gary Lineker might in later years find it tricky staying grounded in a strong wind.

 

I think I’m still on the right side of ear droop. Holding the Noddy Annual alongside my head in the mirror, I’m no way like Big Ears. And I’ll never catch up because his ears should grow with each new Annual. Let’s just say Tessa’s gift has made me think properly about my ears’ future; and she’ll be pleased I’m not now ordering from Amazon the gorgeous blue and white striped 5mm ear stretchers I’ve been banging on about for the last year.

Anyway, they wouldn’t have gone with my titanium butterfly eyebrow bar.

Copyright © Paul Costello March 2015

click. com – a play by Paul Costello. A comic romp through the joys and pitfalls of internet dating for ‘mature’ people. Showing at Bosbury Parish Hall Friday 10th/Saturday 11th July 2015

Website: www.paulcostello.me                 Twitter: @PaulCostello8

Game of Public Thrones

When I turned sixty-five my doctor gave me three pieces of advice.

  1. Never knowingly walk past a public loo.
  2. If you think you’re going to pass wind, don’t risk it.
  3. Should you get an erection, use it.

Sound ideas, I thought, except perhaps the final one since an irregular heartbeat already deprives my brain of oxygen-laden red cells and redirecting yet more blood might make me pass out.

The first suggestion was the most useful. I’m now in a steady relationship with public loos. I do knowingly walk past them, but never without adding their locations and opening times to my mental map – an imprint which includes cafes, bars, hotels and any stores with toilets the public can use. A relief map, so to speak.

The map for my home town of Ledbury is of course complete, as are outline maps of nearby towns Hereford, Worcester and Gloucester. Further afield, Birmingham City Centre and London Paddington Station are fairly well plotted, and having spent a great deal of my life in Brighton I’m confident about its layout too.

Does that mean more than one men?

Does that mean more than one men?

Where there’s a choice, the quality of premises counts. For example, my map shows that the men’s loo at Gloucester Bus Station is no-go for hygiene and feel-good, whereas Wetherspoon toilets are generally well kept. And whilst the loos of most Ledbury cafes might be all potpourri and frilly flowers, there’s one hotel that could do a good trade selling surgical masks in its men’s toilet.

Then there’s the question of payment. Perhaps once or twice in my life, in desperation and not without a good deal of resentment, I’ve paid to use a loo. The idea of charging originated in major railway termini, perhaps using their captive market to tempt people with a more attractive alternative than toilets on trains. Admittedly they are very clean. Thirty pence a go, it is – free for moneyless people whom I’ve often witnessed climbing in through the exit turnstiles with practised ease.

Charging has now become more common. McDonalds has coded loo doors – you have to buy something to get a code. I’m told that in Amsterdam nightclubs you have to pay each time you go to the loo or buy a night pass for 3Euros. A while ago Michael O’Leary floated the idea of charging customers to use the loo on Ryanair flights. And many local Councils in the UK, where they haven’t actually closed toilets, have started charging – supposedly a fund raiser in these hard times.

Fact is you shouldn’t have to pay once you’ve developed a mental map. There’s always a free alternative nearby, more often than not sponsored by the very places charging. Pubs and cafes in the retail ‘villages’ on major railway stations are a good bet. And some Councils promote so-called Community Toilet Schemes where Marks and Spencer, Wetherspoon and the like are encouraged to give free access to their loos.

I contend in any case that charging to wee is proportionately unfair on us ageing men. We can’t help how our bodies change. “Slo-flo” and “little and often” can be part of daily life. Should we really have to pay over the odds for nature’s shortcomings?

Fortunately I’m able to laugh along on that subject. I remember a work colleague at an English Heritage site pointing to a cow in an adjacent field and wistfully saying, ‘I wish I could still piss like that.’ And whenever I’m out with my teenage daughter I come to expect her cry of, ‘Not again, dad! You’ve only just been!’  I even enjoyed a younger friend’s inadvertency at a Brighton and Hove Albion soccer match. The half-time scrum in the men’s urinals involved banking up behind existing stallholders, creating a second row as it were, then stepping up when the man in front had finished. On returning to his seat my friend said, ‘Trouble is, you get stuck there for ages if you land up behind some old bloke with a prostate problem. You wonder if he’s ever gonna finish!’ Yeah, thanks for that, Buzzer. It was probably me.

Yet, charging to use loos might be better than shutting them altogether. Closing public toilets in tourist towns like Ledbury, Hereford and Worcester is a bad plan. Such places are a mecca for day-trippers who add life to the streets and money to the economy. Visitors need wooing. Throughout the year I see coaches dropping people off on Ledbury High Street for a two-hour stopover. Who are these people?Elderly People sign Well, like me, they’re part of the growing elderly population that has time on its hands. And what’s the first thing they might want when they’ve been stuck on a coach for the last hour or two? Visitors often stop to ask me where there’s a loo. When I worked in Ledbury Library we were asked every day. At the moment I can still point to one that’s open, but for how long I don’t know.

As a visitor to Malta last Christmas I was relaxing in glorious winter sunshine on Sliema harbour front when a group of elderly tourists came tottering towards me. Led by a cheerful if mechanically-spoken lady sporting a blue Saga badge, the dozen or so newcomers moved at the pace of the couple bringing up the rear – dead ringers for the Highway Code road sign. Saga specialises in holidays for the over fifties, with a majority upwards of seventy-five. One of the company’s routines is to run a local orientation walk on the first morning. In a small Majorcan resort, when the rep pointed out the chemists, supermarkets, churches of various denominations and public toilets, I remember thinking how sensible this was for new people in unfamiliar surroundings, particularly the most elderly and those with special needs.

In Sliema the group stopped alongside my bench while the leader waved her arms semaphore-style, like the cabin crew doing safety drill on an Airbus 300.

‘In the likely event of you getting caught short,’ she said loudly, ‘there are public toilets therethere – and there.’

Indeed, Malta is proudly endowed with public loos, and I’d formed an excellent mental map by the end of my first day. I thought it ironic that a country perhaps second only to Britain in Britishness continues to recognise the importance of such public investment, made by the British, while back in blighty governments now deem public toilets surplus to requirements. Perhaps we can learn from this former British colony. How nice it would be, say, to find that my local Council had printed ‘GO’ at the end of its welcoming HEREFORDSHIRE – YOU CAN logo – and meant it.

I mean, we all have to.herefordshire-road-sign

And when you’ve gotta go …

 

 

Copyright © Paul Costello    January 2015

Utterly Undiscovered by Paul Costello. A hilarious Bed and Breakfast memoir set in deepest Shropshire. Order through bookshops or direct from http://www.fineleaf.co.uk

Website: www.paulcostello.me                 Twitter: @PaulCostello8

 

When She’s 94

In A Last Banana I reflected on my feelings when Dad died. Too often it’s only after such loss that we feel able to express our emotions – when, perhaps, it seems safe and normal to do so. So this New Year I write a living tribute to my Mum, alone seven years aged ninety-four …

… whose brilliant smile welcomes me in when we’ve not met a while. Who in all sorts of weather sets pots of pink fuchsias and waves of white heather. Who daily ticks the Guardian Quick. Who knows all the scores – Wimbledon, Old Trafford and Lords – and still bowls a winning wood indoors. Who correctly predicts the winner of Strictly, and “did all those dances with Dad in the fifties”. Whose diary is filled with visits and trips. Whose faithful old heart is put to the test, just like her bus pass getting no rest. Who stumbles and falls, yet hauls herself up, with a thin-blooded bruise. Who sings all the hymns on Songs of Praise and polished pews. Whose spirit nourishes the branches beneath her. Whose Thursday perm rests on my chest when she squeezes goodbye with a hug so strong it lasts long beyond my departing.

 

Copyright © Paul Costello  January 2015

Utterly Undiscovered by Paul Costello. A hilarious Bed and Breakfast memoir set in deepest Shropshire. Order through bookshops or direct from http://www.fineleaf.co.uk

Website: www.paulcostello.me                 Twitter: @PaulCostello8