Don’t know where to start with this one. Partly because I fear trouble lies ahead and partly because it genuinely is difficult to talk about raging furies… and I’ve got one going. Expect me to scuttle past the incorrigible and the politically correct (again) into something recognisably ill-advisedly human. And try to – yaknow – gimme the benefit.
Friends and followers will know I live in Pembrokeshire. We (I mean us as a family, personally) have got bugger all in the way of gargeous property, moolah, land or any of that stuff but what we have around us (my god! Jewel of jewels!) is the coast, The Coast Path, the twinkling sea and the gannets and the smell of mackerel or gorse or honeysuckle or horse-shit or ploughed fields, or the quiet glory that is a mown meadow sprawled out with a single grass-stem in its gob, reading and baking to hay under a smiling, banjo-playing sun. We’ve got all that, always, and particularly in the last week or several we’ve had shed loads, barn loads of it; I’m pretty clear that it’s not just my heart that’s been singing.
Now our tiddly but kinda pleasantly bijou home – four foot deep in kids, animals, wholefood-in-boxes and yeh, animal hairs – is denied a sea view but the total wonder that is the high-rez surround-sound cliff-top is but a hundred and nine point six-two-five yards away. (I labour this because it’s important – key, even – to the unseasonal angst I am about to unleash). Visitors come because they know about, or know something about what Pembrokeshire is.
These visitors, or grockles as we call ‘em, when they fail to reverse into passing places, or sit stupidly and wait whilst a zillion horses clop to all intents and purposes on the spot, preventing us locals from doing actual work in Haverfordwest or Milford, these vis-i-tors do come. (These particular horses, by the way are so experienced and so dumb that you could doughnut your Audi mid-ride and they would barely register your presence, so the alleged courtesy of sitting quietly, engine purring a self-righteous countdown for the life of the planet whilst the (Alexarrnder look! Wubberly geegees!) clomp past is utter townie doe-eyed bollocks). But I do digress…
Visitors stay next door on both sides of us, because on the one hand local people (Guy, computer guy who moves into his garage conversion) cash in and on the other a genuinely delightful family from Brighton/London/all over use their own, second gaff and/or rent it out. In passing I will say that I’m more offended by the amount of money folks charge than the practice of renting out but our hamlet effort is about 40% aliens in the summer and this sometimes feels… undermining. Anyway.
Last week some folks rented Guy’s place and once or twice I said hello to a bloke maybe sixty-odd on my way for that essential snort of briny wotsits with the dog. If pushed, I might place him in ‘The Merch’ on account of his propensity to wear apparently the same white vest for three or four days running whilst having a smoke on the doorstep. Plus he had that slickish back-combed barnet-thing redolent of greasy galley-food and cheery but solitary maritime banter going on. It is arguably entirely irrelevant that this gentleman was/is undoubtedly from Northern Ireland… but it is also undoubtedly true… and so I record the fact.
For some days we had no meaningful contact until one evening Bethan my wife heard The Family Next Door ‘gassing’ in the back garden and described their exchange as being ‘like something out of a cartoon’ but this comment hung, shorn of impact, undervalued, in the air at the time. Then I had a proper conversation with this guy. He nailed me slightly as I passed with the pooch.
You gotta television picture? he asked.
Yeh, we have – and no probs. You have a problem with yours, or what?
Nothing for three days.
Aaah. Hang on (I say) the BT lot were carving up the hedge the other day and bunging up a new pole… they’ll have maybe cut the wire, the donkeys. Happened before.
He neither confirms nor denies that he’s heard this story but I’m somehow immediately certain that Guy has already explained this one to him… and that he’s unimpressed. His manner shifts slightly towards the Miserable Git About to Bore the Universe end of the market. But… I don’t want to hate this man. In fact I want to give him every chance to pull through to Genuine Bloke In a Spot-hood, me being a sucker for well, anyone who patently ain’t posh. I wallow in the possibilities for a moment, giving him every chance – after all, he isn’t posh, he doesn’t reek of privilege, he’s got a working man’s hands and face and manner – no, I don’t want to be hating him, do I? What’s he on about, really?
Me and the wife can just about manage without the telly like but it’s not been easy with the children.
And you got a mobile signal at all?
Nope. Nobody does mate. It’s just a fact of life. You’ll get a mobile signal up there (I point) or up there… but not here. No chance. Just the way it is. Pembrokeshire. Although I reckon there’s something quite nice about not being available when you’re home, to be honest…
Well the telly being off hasn’t been good. Okay for me and the wife but what’s the children (who are grown up, by the way) gonna do? They’ve gone home. Couldn’t stand it anymore… and what happens if there’s a fire and you’ve no mobile… the place is gonna be burnt down before you can do anything…
I’m weirdly stunned; in shock; but immediately the rage is rising. All I can actually get out before easing away is
Well if there’s a fire we’d use a landline, first up… and then we’d probably step outside and call for help or run to the neighbours, as yado…
But I’m already walking away, right? Having swiftly computed the black-and-white of what he’s said, the psychotic, poisonous essence of it… that the children have gone home because there is no telly… walking away, the fury rising yard by yard as I contemplate firstly shocking, summary violence and then calm towards something more proportionate. And then back to justifiable violence once more. Finally I settle and simply wonder what exactly it is that stops me from saying this;
Let me get this right you complete fucking moron. You and your family of unfeeling arse’oles have come to Pembrokeshire where you could walk to a sensational cliff-top in one minute, from where you could walk possibly the finest stretch of coast in Western Europe, or drop down onto a beach that cries out for games or swims or dog-walks or digging or rock-pooling or surfing or paddling out in a sit-on-top or okay just lounging in yer humming fucking vest… and your kids have gone home because there’s no telly? Is this what you’re telling me? With a straight, slightly unremarkable face? With no sense that this marks you out as right up there with the dumbest creatures that have ever walked this earth? You’ve firstly chosen – unless this is some surreal Community Service Award thing(?)- to come to the most beautiful place any sentient being could imagine and then both brain cells have triggered fall-into-a-decline mode because you can’t plonk yer idle underwashed bumholes in front of a gogglebox? In weather that might only be described as absolutely fucking magnificent? When the sun is beaming for you and the gannets are plunging and the sand-eels twirling and the bass practically coming in their pants with excitement… because the whole natural world is screaming ‘Look at me I am a wonder!!’ You, my friend are farting in the living-room and smoking on the doorstep and quite simply unaware… of the presence or value of anything. Well I’m sorry not to sympathise or support your campaign to reduce the rental fee against my friend and neighbour, Guy – that’s where you’re Neanderthal logic is going, right? – but having now reflected upon this and without needing to put this to the committee that is my family and our dog and the pigs in that field… I’ve decided we’re gonna eat you. Bethaaan! Get the knife!
This is clearly how it should have gone. It didn’t, because not only have I read stuff which argues against violence even under appalling temptation, in the main, I believe it. However, despite the need to defer to certain moral guidelines re how we might describe or appreciate other humans, I choose to show no pity in my description of this man and his dumb family, even after a day or three’s reflection.
Yes I know not we’re all reliant or addicted to something and that for many that thing is the telefuckingvision. I find it difficult, though, to claw back from the brink of homicide in this case. To have actually gone home (or in the parents case allowed their offspring to make that choice) is, as we say in Wales, ‘beyond’. They are thus anti-life and their obvious ignorance – traceable to lower life-chances as it may certainly be – offends me so significantly that I react… so. I wanted to cut him up and maybe not eat him but spread him out there for the gulls and the ravens. That feeling remains.
There are bigger questions here, on education and sensitivity and reliance and lack of opportunity as well as issues (of course) around my own levels of tolerance. But in the short term I am left with raw anger at the crushing, crushing stupidity of this ‘ordinary’ family. And sure, sadness that this is where we, the world, the people, the nation, some of us are at – mindless and dead to the most wonderful of things.