Above The Call

A waiter slops asparagus soup over my mum’s posh top, spits on my steak tartare and asks my dad if that’s a wig he’s wearing – which it isn’t. He now presents the bill for around £80 and asks dad if everything has been to his liking.

‘Splendid, thank you,’ says dad, making out a cheque for £90.

I witnessed this scenario hundreds of times during dad’s life. A routine addition of about ten per cent, rounded up, regardless of the experience.

‘It’s for the service,’ he would explain.

‘But what if that’s not very good?’ I’d say, trying to fathom it out. ‘And isn’t cooking the food and bringing it to the table what you’re already paying for?’

waiterThere seemed a touch of master-servant about the whole thing, a leftover from Victorian times – doffing the hat and placing a penny in the palm.

Dad’s benevolence especially showed at Christmas. People you never normally saw would knock at the door. The dustman (as he was then affectionately known) touched his forelock and dad handed him a small brown envelope; the milkman would find something similar in an empty milk bottle; and it was the only time the postman actually took an envelope away with him.

Tipping in taxis was also de rigueur. Failure to do so might mean the driver retracing his route a mile before letting dad out. Ten per cent to the hairdresser prevented an unwanted bald patch. And generosity towards chambermaids and bar staff during a hotel stay guaranteed clean beds and proper whisky measures.

While all this was going on, the doctor’s receptionist, sales assistant, bus conductor, deck chair attendant, train driver, signalman, street sweeper, telesales operator, left luggage handler, airline pilot, local government officer, hospital porter, travelling salesman, car mechanic, farmer, footballer, formula one driver, lifeguard, gardener, soldier, gravedigger and balloonist, and many, many others simply had to get by on basic wages, since their services were clearly of less importance.

Class distinctions are increasingly blurred. Christmas door-knocking is no longer fashionable. But tipping in the traditional trades continues, more under the guise of mock friendship than master-servant, but with scant regard for what it really means. Clearly, it’s not in the interest of those sectors to disavow people of the custom.

When I was younger I found myself following dad’s ‘easy route’, expressing gratitude and adding percentages regardless of the circumstances – a comfortable way out, making me feel kind of important and stupid at the same time. Annual Christmas cards from the Indian Restaurant (address written at their request on an Excel sheet during a November visit) reassured me that a lasting friendship had indeed been forged.

But as social rebellion kicked in I steeled myself to experiment with paying the asking price only. I was terrified that abandoning tips would mean losing these friendships. I expected the chef to come running from the kitchen with a machete, or the manager to ban me from his establishment. I waited for the taxi man to warn other drivers by radio. I feared a Sweeney Todd incident at the barbers.

barber Instead I was offered a loyalty card by the barber, placed on the priority list by the taxi firm and welcomed back to the curry house with open arms. I realised it was my continuing custom and that of my entourage they wanted, not the small change in my pocket. We remained friends.So, although tipping is still widely practised, in my world the random and pointless custom ended years ago. But I still feel bad about all those who remain tipless while the same old people cream off the ten-percentages. And I’m trying to do something about it.

At Greggs yesterday a woman passed me my 85p sausage roll, asking if I wanted anything else and wishing me a nice rest of the day.

‘Thank you,’ I said. ‘I must say this is the most exquisitely wrapped sausage roll I’ve ever had. You presented it with utter professionalism and a beautiful smile – more than I could possibly have asked for. Here’s a pound, and I want you to keep the change.’

As I left the bakers, trying not to catch the eye of the homeless people blocking my exit, it was ample reward hearing the woman enthusiastically recount our conversation to the girl on doughnuts.

Back at home, concluding a telephone conversation with the MakerMint Water Company, I said to the assistant, Trudy:

‘Frankly, I’ve never known someone handle a direct debit application with such grace and aplomb, offering me all the information I could possibly want, and making the experience so enjoyable. Trudy, you have performed over and above the call of duty. Please give me your BACS details immediately and I shall place £5 in your bank account.’

And on the London train today, when I’d felt compelled to mention the state of the toilet to the train manager, and he’d apologised profusely before single-handedly restoring the cubicle to its pristine condition, I said as he called me to inspect his work:

‘Young man. I know you didn’t make this mess yourself, but you stepped up to the bowl and took full responsibility. Watching you don those Marigolds and plunge wholeheartedly into the matter of the moment has restored my faith in young people and in the entire railway industry. I paid £29 for this journey. Here – take this additional £2.90 to spend as you wish.’

So far, so good. And three new friends already!

Next week: Part 2. Fly Tipping – What To Give Bluebottles.

Copyright © Paul Costello January 2017

http://www.paulcostello.me

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WHAT A SWELL PARTY THIS IS!

I wasn’t settled enough for BBC Springwatch or Dinner Date on ITV. A few Butty Bachs in the Talbot Inn had energised me like Duracells. I needed to keep going, and a pack of San Miguel was a good place to start.

The pub music still circles round my head – Sister Sledge, Donna Summer, Bee Gees. I know every word and note. Cue for a rare dip into my vinyl collection. CDs are easier, but tonight only vinyl will do. Not just the sound, but remembering when and where I acquired these wonderful 33s and 45s. And what mattered to me at the time – in life and love.

San Miguel to hand, I sift through alphabetical LPs in the black trunk which serves as a side table. 70s/80s disco perhaps – carrying on where the pub left off. Sister Sledge – ‘Music Makes Me Feel Good’ – great track! Andy Gibb’s Shadow Dancing and Saturday Night Fever. And Real People by Chic, a 1980 album whose sleeve sports a young guitarist Nile Rodgers, dazzling us still on Daft Punk’s 2014 hit Get Lucky.

I swig beer and sway to the beat, wildly, like ‘Dad at the Wedding’. Tweaking the volume to 23, I recall people I shared these sounds with way back, wondering which of today’s friends might enjoy them. Julie and Dave are always singing. And Carol – she knows the words to every tune written. I could invite them round to reminisce. Eight or ten people perhaps – dinner and nostalgia! Tim and Cathy – they’re fun! Me and Tessa of course, and Michael – he’d be up for it. Oh, and the Johnsons. I make a note of the ideal ten!

Four Tops Greatest Hits is next. I open another can, party plans and San Miguel in full flow. I’ll do that crabby/prawny starter with spicy mayonnaise; they’ll love that. And a chilli con carne with veg chilli option. Basmati rice and toasted pitta. And my prize-winning Lemon and Orange Cheesecake!

Four Tops have finished ‘reaching out’, so time for 45s. My singles, skimpy paper sleeves long perished, are protected between the glossy pages of old ‘Personnel Management’ magazines. You can tell how old they are – it’s been called ‘Human Resources’ for decades. The collection has moved home about twenty times, in a battered Mackenzie Whisky box.

I discover Michael Jackson, some early Stones and Beatles, and Barry White’s Can’t Get Enough of Your Love Babe for which I nudge the volume to 27. Retro! Perfect party music! Trouble is the tracks only last a few minutes. Part of their charm, but it does tie you to the turntable. I’m lucky my 1980s music centre has a turntable; an added party novelty! Shame there’s no drop-down feature where you stack a dozen singles and they fall in turn, like my first record player – a Bush.

I fetch a new beer. As I swig and jig madly on the red rug dance area I remember Don and Jenny. Of course they must come too. And the Wilsons, and Frank and June. That’s sixteen. Perhaps a buffet would be better; food in the kitchen and dancing in the living room. A soirée. I could ask all the neighbours – that’s another  fourteen. And people at choir. And the man who runs the garage opposite – he’s friendly. And people I once worked with – a sort of reunion. I slurp excitedly. And the folk at Ledbury in Bloom, and the Canal Trust in Worcester. And my friends in Sussex, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Scotland and London. And my brother in Haywards Heath, and all my nephews and nieces. I could put them up. They’d love to come!

Vying with max volume 31, I shout along to Marvin Gaye’s Heard It Through The Grapevine, which like the other singles takes me back to a particular time and place – when life was perfect. Pausing only for liquid refreshment, and a frequent change of 45s, I keep adding to the list. I’m up to seventy-five, but assuming a third can’t make it that’d leave fiftyish – just right!

A last San Miguel. Batteries are running down. Finish planning tomorrow. Perhaps a spam sandwich before I crash out. I eventually hear the front door bell on repeat. The lady next door in off-white dressing gown.

‘Hello,’ I say, keen to reinforce my newfound neighbourliness.

‘Can you please turn it down?’ she says, doing a switching hand movement while mouthing the words. I bid her goodnight with reciprocal sign language and turn the music down. It’s not even ten – bit early to complain? Perhaps I’ll knock her off the list.

Next morning, after a gallon of tea, I fire up the laptop. Nearby I see a list of names. A few look familiar, most are like doctor’s writing – impossible to decipher. Who are these people?

My eye is drawn towards a browning paper note taped to the laptop lid.

“No texts, emails, Facebook or any communications late at night!”

With trepidation, I go into Outlook and check my ‘sent’ folder. Phew, nothing for two days! I slip the list into the recycling along with loads of empty cans – leftovers from a terrific party.

Paul Costello Copyright © July 2015

 CLICK .COM showing at Bosbury Parish Hall, near Ledbury                                          Friday 24th/Saturday 25th July at 7.30pm                                                                    Tickets:       Online:        www.ticketsource.co.uk/ruraltheatreplayers                                                         In Person:   Ledbury Books and Maps, 20 High Street, Ledbury

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 Paul Costello – Writer       Website: www.paulcostello.me       Twitter: @PaulCostello8

 

 

 

Donuts and Toilets

On a recent trip to Stroud I spotted a postie delivering letters to the Wy Wong takeaway, and since my mind works in mysterious ways I imagined that the white envelopes scattered across the mat were from dissatisfied customers answering that very question.

2014-08-30 13.56.43‘Because it wasn’t the weightwatchers version I asked for,’ might be one reply, or ‘because as always I was still hungry after eating it.’ Or simply, ‘because you forgot to put in the prawn crackers.’ That sort of thing.

Naturally, I jotted these thoughts in the Moleskine writer’s notebook that follows me around, its pages rich with wacky catering snippets – a source of writing inspiration only surpassed by people’s moronic mismanagement of mobiles in public.

A lot of material has come from Indian Restaurants – probably because I’m in them so often. The chicken madras in the Rice ’n Spice at Haywards Heath according to the menu contained ‘avid black pepper’. In the Bengal Lancer at Llanelli you could get a ‘potion of chips’ (spooky).The Bilash at Rugeley offered ‘King Prawn Roshuni – a pleasant dish of king prawns made by our chef,’ which sounded, well, really pleasant. When I hurried the order along at the Jalsagor in Hereford the manager said he’d ‘hasten the papadums in a minute.’ And in the Taste of India at Leominster the menu described chicken tikka as ‘tender pieces of lamb cooked in …’. I wondered if it might have been ‘torn’ chicken – torn, that is, between whether it was a chicken or a lamb. It got eaten, so we can’t ask it now.

Elsewhere, a sign in Tesco exhorted me to buy puddings: ‘Life’s Short – Eat Dessert First’. In the same store a man asked the shelf filler if they had any Camp coffee. ‘Ooooo, I’m not sure. Now let me see-ee.’ And in a lovely cafe called Quinns in Worcester the menu offered ‘a lovely large bowl of home-made soup, lovely salads, lovely old-fashioned puddings and orange squash served in a lovely plastic cup with a straw’. Lovely. I was, however, appalled to see 30p for a glass of tap water with ice and lemon at Nice Things cafe in Ledbury, a charge sensibly removed by new owners.

Further afield, I liked the English blackboard menu outside the Hotel Verol Restaurant, which included chicken breast with chips, chicken wings with chips – and chicken tights with chips, presumably a thirty denier Las Palmas speciality.

I'm sure there's a chimp in here somewhere.

I’m sure there’s a chimp in here somewhere

And during a three-night stay in Bangkok I took a shine to a nearby fish restaurant – Kuang Seafood – which had numerous fish tanks fronting the street. Families and business people filled the room each evening, waiters brandishing huge trays of mouth-watering delicacies and chefs periodically lowering their nets into the bubbling homes of red snappers and catfish. In Thailand what we know as prawns are called shrimps; and tucked among the long list of shrimp dishes I found ‘Baked Chimp with salt’. I didn’t fancy the salt and opted instead for crab curry and fried rice with fish.

On the move, I particularly enjoyed the jolly Welsh trolley man on Arriva trains between Manchester and Cardiff. Happy in his work and determined to offer travellers a new experience, his operatic rendition of ‘Just One Cornetto’ lightened the atmosphere of a crowded carriage, as did his later promotion of sea serpents and snake venom in as deadpan a way as one might sell Walkers crisps or KitKats.

And on a bus near Gloucester I overheard a woman telling fellow travellers they should try a cafe in Herne Bay, Kent which sold ‘the best garlic bread in the world’. Okay – tomorrow perhaps.

I’m used to restaurants glossing their menus; outrageous descriptions are now so commonplace that I rarely bother noting them. A roadside Brewers Fayre listed ‘fresh, hand-battered, pole-and-line caught Cornish cod, served on a bed of chef’s chunky, crispy-dipped potato strips and topped with a jus of caper-infused mayo rich in mountain tarragon’. To you and me, fish and chips with tartar sauce. Even M&S gets in on the act with ‘handcrafted, British pork sausage rolls’. And I found a fine example at the Seven Stars pub in Ledbury: ‘complex, muscular yet graceful, with fine length and lovely maturity’. Not as I had imagined some sort of sex service, but a bottle of Bolinger for fifty quid. A stark contrast with the pundit on a TV wine tasting who glugged some red and got ‘a WVS clothing store’.

2014-11-04 11.04.31

Only last week I found that a Weston-super-Mare seafront cafe had thoughtfully placed its menu on the outside wall.

Only two choices. But which first, that’s the exciting thing?

Eenie, meenie, miney …

 

 

Copyright © Paul Costello November 2014

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

Marmite and Anchovies

Ask a hundred people, ‘Do you like Marmite, yes or no?’ and there’d be near enough fifty in each camp. Marmite is the old favourite – the one that comes to mind. Ask another hundred, ‘Which product do you most associate with loving or loathing?’ they’d all say Marmite. Clever marketing by Unilever, I’d say.

And it offers a spirited avenue for social exchange. In a room full of strained conversation, Marmitetry yelling:

‘Listen everyone! Hands up those who like Marmite.’

Half the people raise a hand and the mood lightens. The ‘Not been a bad day’ gambit is gone, and conversations move swiftly on.

But Marmite doesn’t have it all its own way. There are plenty of other contenders.

‘Do you like anchovies?’ would not be the greatest chat-up line on a blind date. Personally I love the salty little creatures, especially to spice up a pizza topping. Change the question to black pudding (or lard – same thing) and you might get a good slap. But I’d wager the outcome for both on a wider headcount would be 50-50.

And it’s not just food where opinion is polarised. Social media is a good candidate. From its original idea of connecting people socially, Facebook has developed into a must-have tool for commercial organisations and those espousing causes like ‘Save the Thin-Skinned Wombat’ or ‘Buy My Hand-Crafted Lemon Curd.’ I should know – I use it to promote my book, Utterly Undiscovered.

www.fineleaf.co.uk/titles/utterlyundiscove.html

There – I’ve just done it again! But to use Facebook and Twitter effectively, you have to trawl through a mountain of other stuff, and I hate that. I’ll bet a joint survey of users and non-users would confirm split interest.

Staying with electronics, the Kindle is a contender. Yes, usage grows apace and book sales have shrunk, but pros and cons for each format surely leave equal numbers enjoying both.

Book ReaderThe same applies to predictive text (PT). I’ve had mobiles where PT works perfectly and others where the text comes out weird or rude. For everyone who swears by PT, I know as many people, some far techier than me, who loathe it – though qwerty keypads have to an extent sidelined its use.

Back to food, and how about kippers? Traditionally a breakfast dish, yet arguably one of the sharpest, most lingering tastes you could offer a palate dried up by eight hours of rushing air. In Utterly Undiscovered, My Basil loves telling guests about the bride-to-be who stayed the night before her wedding and chose kippers for breakfast. Definitely an acquired taste – you love ’em or hate ’em.

Olives evoke a similar response. Personally I like green olives, de-pipped and stuffed with pimento, anchovy or cream cheese. But I’m less keen on unpipped, unstuffed olives, especially black ones, where the sourness of the olive prevails. There are those who won’t touch them and those who demolish a whole bowl, waiting for the chicken to come off the barbecue.

On the move, I love public transport. Always have done – bus, train, boat, plane. It’s escapism and adventure – away from routine and responsibility. Must be the nerd in me – from train-spotting days on the Southern Region. And these days, as a writer, it offers a rich source of material, not just about places I go but people’s behaviour. But there are as many who use public transport only as a last resort, preferring the security and control of their own car.

The train may take me to a National Trust property, where I’m offered a guided tour. I loathe guided tours. The herding nature of tour guides means going at the pace of the slowest and in the direction you’re told. I remember once a guide calling ‘Come by!’ like One Man and his Dog. And does it really matter whether things happened in 1489 or 1490? I’ve paid my hundred pound entrance fee and want to poke around by myself. But for others, the tour is a godsend – safe, sociable and included in the two hundred pound entrance fee.

AnchoviesOr I might be on the way to a reunion, as long as it’s with a few close friends. Three or four hours in a room with forty others, usually same sex, many of whom weren’t friends fifty years earlier, haven’t been in touch since and likely won’t be again is hard work. But many people do thrive on such reunions. I suppose it’d be okay talking about Marmite. Or anchovies.

Other foods spring to mind. ‘Bits’ in orange juice seem equally loved or hated. Likewise mushy peas. I enjoy both – nothing like mushy peas with fish and chips occasionally.

And a major contender must be offal, particularly liver. A cheap and plentiful source of protein and iron, liver was, until the outbreak of BSE (Mad Cow Disease), a commonplace product, warranting eye-level space on supermarket shelves. But when cattle began turning in circles and being put down, politicians, who spend their entire working lives turning full circle and putting each other down, banged the final nails in the offal coffin. I love a rich liver and bacon casserole. I make a good one myself, and I’m always delighted when an enterprising cafe places it proudly at the head of the menu. Consigning these tasty innards to a small corner on the top shelf surely belies their popularity.

So those are my contenders for ‘Love or Loathe’. There must be more. If you think of any, ask a hundred people on the street, and let me know.

Paul Costello © September 2013

UTTERLY UNDISCOVERED by Paul Costello

Hilarious tales from a Shropshire Bed and Breakfast!

cropped-paul-and-book-7-13-3.jpg

Available through bookshops (ISBN 978-1-907741-30-2) or direct from Fineleaf Editions

www.fineleaf.co.uk/titles/utterlyundiscove.html

A fabulous holiday read!

www.paulcostello.me

@PaulCostello8

Postcardd ffrom Llanelli

Hiya Holly!

Guess what – I’m in Doctor Who territory! Having trundled along from Cardiff, my Arriva two-coacher dropped me off at Llanelli and disappeared round the bend towards Camarthen, hooting happily like Gordon the Big Blue Engine. And under a perfect holiday sky, I headed for the sea.

Ood

Ood

‘But, hm, where is it?’ I thought, following signs for ‘the beach’. 100_2438Sand and mud stretched for miles, and barren mud gullies, dressed with Asda trollies and bike tyres, reached towards the town like the tentacles of an Ood.

I had to wait till teatime for water briefly to invade the flats – before nothingness returned. And apart from the ubiquitous seagulls, there was little evidence of estuary birds. It’s as if water and waders took one look and decided: ‘Hm – perhaps some other time.’

Alongside the railway and mudflats runs the tundra-like Millennium Coastal Park, its Tarmac trails and rough-cropped grass affording little shade and few benches on which to sit and ponder the mud. A solitary ship-shaped building, the Coastal Park Discovery Centre, offers basic comforts, including a smart cafe and balcony with elevated views of perhaps an extra mile of mud. In the shop, you can buy fluffy green and red dragons, plastic green and red rugby balls with dragons on, and knitted green and red tea cosies (dragons optional), all from a trestle table laid out first thing and cleared away at 4 o’clock sharp. Outside, an overflowing litter bin is clearly popular for burger boxes and nappies.

But what may pass for a lack of imagination is more than made up for by friendly people. And they speak English. In the cafe, I overheard a woman with a strong Welsh accent explaining to her friend how nothing was more annoying than people talking Welsh as you entered the room. I nodded across, smiling!

The Welsh language is distinctive. Lots of ddouble lletters – hard if you have a stutter, llethal with ffalse teeth! And there’s a ‘y’ in every other word, and ‘w’ insteadd of ‘u’, like bws (bus) or Millenniwm (Millennium). The strangest I’ve heardd is a place name on Anglesey starting Fanfare something and endding God God God. Perhaps it’s a religious thing – you know, a call to God? I mean, they do have llots of chapels here.

I’m staying at the Coastal Grill with Accommodation. It seems the ffashion to call places: ‘Bistro with Accommodation’ or ‘Restaurant with Rooms’. Posh soundding – until you step inside and ffind they’re just orddinary B&Bs!

100_2454

Tardis shower

The shower in my room (Nwmber 15) is llike the control console of the Tardis. There are no instrwctions, and the llist on the outside wall talks more of llifestyle than knob control:100_2458

–  Immediately shower after strenuous exercise inadvisable.

–  Leave at once if feel uncomfortable when                                                taking steambath.

Llike David Tennant, I push at the bank of bwttons andd pull at chrome llevers wntil smoke and steam gwshes from every spout and the capsule shwdders as transportation begins. This morning I found myself being llathered ddown by Miss Llanelli 1957 – how I llove that abillity to ddrop in anywhere, anytime!  But it was a sharp awakening as the air cleared to a washbasin with no pllwg, a benddy, plastic toilet seat that ddoesn’t stay wp, and a wardrobe door that swings open when people go in and out of Nwmber 16 – handy when I want a clean shirt.

Each morning, the llandlord, who is also cook, greets people and takes their breakffast ordder. His ddaily pleasure is itemising the Ffull Welsh – never the same two ddays rwnning.

‘Today’s Full Welsh is bacon, sausage, fried egg, half a grilled tomato, baked beans, button mushrooms and a hash brown,’ he said enthusiastically on my ffirst morning.

On the secondd morning, I eagerly awaited the new menu.

‘Today’s Full Welsh is bacon, sausage, fried egg, baked beans, button mushrooms, hash brown, and this morning,’ he added prouddly with ddramatic pause, ‘it’s tinned tomato.’

Tinned tomato! Mmm!

The third dday was like the ffirst bwt with halff a fflat mwshroom insteadd of bwttons. Then, somewhat bizarrely, he added, ‘Or kippers with butter,’ which seemed as incongruous as the Tardis in the beddroom and as unlikely as ffindding ffreshly picked, pimento-stufffed olives in Lidl.

100_2481

Theatre Elli

100_2498

Council garddens

In empathy with its mwddy estuary, Llanelli town has an iddentity crisis. The main shops have moved out, the theatre (Theatr Elli) has closed andd the cinema converted to a Wetherspoons. Home Bargain Stores, Cash Generators and charity shops dominate the centre. Bwt in the middst of this plainness, set out serenely behindd the imposing Victorian Town Hall, lie the beautiffully manicured Council garddens, with colourfful beds, comffortable benches and a grand banddstand lladen with plwsh hanging baskets.

And the llong rows of terraced houses, tidily painted in neat pastels, with satellite ddishes 100_2486pointing symetrically to the heavens llistening for the Doctor’s return, are testimony to the undderlying vibrance of the community. Street names llike Great Western Crescent (Gilgant Great Western), Railway Terrace (Teras y Rheilfordd) andd Railway Place (Fford y Wagen) hint at the extensive railway network servicing the coal, steel andd tin inddustries in Llanelli’s heydday. Only the pretty, toytown coastal lline remains.

Time ffor reffreshment. The delightfful llandllady of the one surviving tradditional town centre pwb, the Double Dragon, ddeffies ddesigner bars like Stamps andd The Met – offering great beer, andd ddarts matches five ddays a week. Andd twcked between the kebab take-aways and overbearing Asda, the Bengal Lancer serves a cracking Prawn Methi andd Aloo Sag. A handdwritten notice promotes ‘Potion of Chips’ for £2.50. But no need for strange brews – ffive pints of Felinfoel and a curry brings on slleep soon enough!

Any llwck with a job yet? I know it’s not easy for gradduates these ddays …

Llove Paul

Paul Costello © August 2013

UTTERLY UNDISCOVERED by Paul Costello

cropped-paul-and-book-7-13-3.jpg

Available through bookshops (ISBN 978-1-907741-30-2) or direct from Fineleaf Editions

www.fineleaf.co.uk/titles/utterlyundiscove.html

A fabulous holiday read!

www.paulcostello.me

@PaulCostello8

Utterly Undiscovered

UTTERLY UNDISCOVERED by Paul Costello. Illustrated by Emma Hames

Now published!  My comic Bed and Breakfast memoir set in deepest Shropshire.

Meet Shropshire’s own Basil Fawlty. Council workers Paul and Debbie leave the Brighton rat race to open a Bed and Breakfast so close to the edge of civilisation that a rotting signpost at the crossroads says Shroosbury in one direction and Utterly Undiscovered in the other three. Dubbed My Basil by long-suffering Debbie, Paul fights off furry invaders, fat Americans, and teenagers who hang around half-naked. How is it that neighbour Jack finds him crawling across the car park at dawn in his dressing gown? Why does he loiter in a listed Victorian urinal? And how can he discourage the visitors he most fears – winos and noisy parrots?

UTTERLY UNDISCOVERED by Paul Costello

Utterly front cover - final 30.5.13

Available through bookshops (ISBN 978-1-907741-30-2) or direct from Fineleaf Editions

www.fineleaf.co.uk/titles/utterlyundiscove.html

A fabulous holiday read!

 

www.paulcostello.me

@PaulCostello8

Utterly Undiscovered – Talking to Yourself

Mmm, juicy king prawns …

I’d managed to get away with just buying a prawn mayo on wheat germ, despite the Greggs assistant’s relentless pitch for me to add ‘anything else’.

On a bench by the grand, soon-to-be-opened Birmingham Library, a young woman sharing the seat looked along and said:

‘You sure that’s good for you?’

‘Hm,’ I said, pausing to consider the well-worthiness of the sandwich, and glancing between it and the woman. Before I could come up with something more original, she looked me straight in the eyes and said:

‘As long as you’re okay.’

‘Yes,’ I said, ‘I’m fine.’

The young woman smiled and turned away. As I homed in on the juicy prawns in the centre, which like the icing on a chocolate cupcake I’d held back for the grand finale, I sensed from her muttering that she might be unwell.

‘Do you know where they come from?’ she then asked.

‘Haven’t the faintest,’ I said, wiping away a run of Marie Rose from my chin and licking my hand. ‘The sea?’

‘Ha ha!’ she said, grinning.

‘Don’t you like prawns?’ I asked.

‘What?’ she said, tensing across to check my question.

‘Not even the giant ones?  Mmm, juicy,’ I mused.

The woman shouldered her bag and stood up. As she walked past, throwing me a measured look, she lowered her head and I heard her mutter, ‘Some old bloke on a bench … no, I’ve just left,’ the wire trailing from her left ear, previously unseen like a newscaster’s, the only clue as to what had just happened.

*

Disjointed conversations were also commonplace in my Bed and Breakfast, visitors rarely getting to hear what I was actually thinking. In this part of my new book, Utterly Undiscovered, my alter ego (My Basil) gets to work as I check with four fat Americans that they’re happy with their rooms:

‘Is everything all right for you?’ I ask.

‘Rooms are a bit small, but they’ll do,’ says the fatter of the two men.

‘I think you’ll find it’s your obesity and the cases.’

‘Tell me, do you get hot water around here?’   copy-cropped-cropped-utterly-front-cover-jpg1.jpg

‘The tap marked “H”, dickhead.’

‘It may take a minute to come through,’ I say, trying not to give away too much disdain; I’d like to hold some back for later.

Paul Costello © April 2013

Utterly Undiscovered – comic Bed & Breakfast Memoir by Paul Costello.

Illustrated by Emma Hames.      

Publication:  spring 2013.    Fineleaf Editions  http://www.fineleaf.co.uk 

ISBN 978-1-907741-30-2

www.paulcostello.me

@PaulCostello8