various events during Sheffield Tramlines Festival

(Jack Cohen bought tea from Thomas Edward Stockwell. He made new labels using the first three letters of his supplier (TES), and the first two letters of his surname (CO), and BONGO BINGO TESCO!)

OK, dude-faces out there! It’s a British Sunday morn and the last day of Sheffield Tramlines Festival and I’m asitting at my son’s table listening to drills and small drills and pneums, and forklifts forklifting, and knocks and bashes as yet another student-accommodation block goes up just across the road from dear, said son’s apartment. There it goes – another plank biff-bang falling and fitting into place. So I raise my addled head which rises, reflecting that in Mumbai they work all day and all night so I should be over the moon here – with noise seven days a week starting at eight, regular as clockwork, and finishing at five, regular as clockwork.

      OK, dude-heads, so take it from me, I’m in this happy mood that only four British pints and a beautiful chick could make better but won’t. Excuse me…………………………………………………………………

      OK, so I’ve just drunk my third and my fourth cups of brown brew – tea to the unpoetic out there (but I get the feel that only poets – the ones Plato banned from his Republic – will be reading the dude-brain scribbling and scriggling here).

      I raise that weary, heavy head of mine and look out at the scene, and there it is – the scene looking back at me which, from where I’m sitting, does not look too scenic. There are the green hills of “home” just across, yellow scaffolding on the student block being worked on. (Tie a yellow scaffolding round that old oak block, block-head.) There are low and lower red-and-white-brick conglomerates. Higher stude-rises across the way, and then there it is! BONGO-BONGO! BINGO! INSPIRATION! in the form of my local TESCO little store which does a thriving trade being the one and only selling almost everything in a dire dude-range of kilometers around here.

      This Tesco is formidable because its staff risks life and limb every day of their working lives. They are stabbed by syringe-wielding druggies, molested by local residents and formidably put-upon by thieves. Only yesterday I looked out of the son’s window and saw the manager chasing a thief. Yep, dudes, there he was olympicsing it after a thin, sallow, malnourished, lanky dude of a coloured guy, creole, who was doing a poor job at winning the race. Though I say so myself, the manager was legging along as though he’d just set off on a pleasant marathon, and with his tie flapping behind him, his business-shoes atwinkling, his blond hair waving in the wind which he was afurrowing as he dashed along, and his blue shirt not showing one jot of the sweat that should have already been upon him (it being 29 degrees Celsius), he was showing every sign of the lion about to pounce on the gazelle, roll the creature over in the swathe, and sink a white but soon to be ruddy fang into the weaker animal’s throbbing jugular.

      “…………………..And I have felt


       ………………………….a sense sublime

       Of something far more deeply interfused,

       Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,

       And the round ocean and the living air,

       And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;”

The lanky, adolescent thief must have got the same impression as me because to detract the lion he threw down one of his stolen items in its path. The blue-shirted, business-shoed lion stopped in its pursuit, licked its jowls, forgot about prosecution of the prey, stooped, picked upon, picked at, pawed, and picked up that little thief-bundle of atonement, and lolloped it back to Tesco.

      Here I must pause and get in two more cups of tea. I am highly excited by my prose and wish to conclude as well as I can – with purple passages galore and gore both meritorious and un-.

      Ah, that’s better. I must have four pints of tea sloshing around down there, easing through to prostrate the unprostated bladder which will serve as another interruption before I pen the finale, denouement (acute accent on the first “e”, please) and “tenda finale” as they say in “bella” Roma.

       I put it to my son and friend, and they throw up their eyes to heaven and their arms to the ceiling. “Why do that?” shouts Fabrucc. “Are you sure?” shouts my dear son. “What’s in it for you? Are you going to write another dismal tale?”

      “Yep, yep and yep,” I reply in an authoritarian fashion, befitting my senior years and dignity. “I’m going to talk to that manager and find out what he was running after and why.” I then discourse to deaf ears that thieves should not be hung, drawn and quartered because I have never ever met anyone (I repeat anyone) who has not stolen something at some point in his or her mortal coil-essence and pitiful piece of earthy earthly existence. Stony silence. I go even further and elaborate. “Why,” I say, scything the air with compendious arm-hands, and laughing magnanimously, “Even I, the great green Finch, made phone calls from my place of work to dear mum and dire, dear dad, and on one notable depressed day at said place of work did therein purloin and put away to be deviously scribbled upon ONE sheet of white A4 paper.” Further stony silence. “Look, guys,” I say, “don’t give me a hard time with your stony silences. Remember,” I remind them, holding my hands together as if in prayer, “that Christ was crucified between two thieves. Haven’t you ever asked yourselves why?” More stony silence…but what can you expect from PhD students, one immersed in fucking statistics, the other in unhealthy health-economics, closely associated with NICE, the National Institute for Care Health Excellence? Talk about profundities falling on deaf cochleas! Now I know why that bony sensory receptor is shaped like a snail. It can be filled with as many fluids as it likes, even more than two if it so wishes, thus revolutionizing the inner ear, but I doubt it will help statisticians and health economists reason in an appealing fashion to dud dudes like me. But let’s get on with the story!

      We’re not coming with you, they said. OK. (Note how great art repeats key-words and is circular in effect. You should be back to the “OK” at starters…) But let’s continue. “OK,” I said, “but I’m going, and please wait for me.” We were about to journey into Sheffield town-centre to listen to Tramlines music, drink Tramlines beer, note Tramlines adverts telling us that Sheffield was similar to Rio de Janeiro, see Tramlines hot-pants. One was really hot but I cannot say more, this being a family piece concerning Tesco.

      They waited in the road, idling the time away whilst I idled towards Tesco and time came with me and idled. I entered. “Don’t do ‘dat!!!” indicated the young man on the till. Ha! Ha! Ho! Ho! It WAS FUCKING TOO LATE. I had knocked on the manager’s door. The lion turned, lifted its head, shook its blue mane and approached. “I saw you chasing the young guy. What did he drop?” adding to ingratiate myself,” You can run!” “He dropped a packet of sweets.” Ah, so lions like sweets. Take note, all you dudes who believe lions are carnivores and so should be shunned for not endorsing vegetarian principles.

       “Why did you stop chasing him?”

       “We’re sometimes threatened with knives or syringes.”

       “Well, you’re a good runner.”

       “I can run for miles from scratch.” He lifted a trouser leg. “Bandaged, but I can still run.”

       “I see,” I said, because I saw.

       “Thanks, mate,” he said, for indeed I had made another friend. What can I do when the English like me so much because I want to put them into shorts, bitter-sweet short stories that only a few bored readers will dip into and out of as soon as they’ve dipped in,  got the rily drift, and decided to dip out of sooner than you can say, “Dude, read on.”

       Dude, read on.

       I returned to my son and friend and we progressed. I saw a lady’s bum coming out of hot pants. I drank a half pint and felt my old stomach revolt. I watched happy guys and gals dancing in the streets. I saw rock stars losing weight by jumping incredibly high, almost above their electric guitars, and I reflected on lions and giraffes and managers managing to sprint and long, loose guys defying gravity, sailing high with electric guitars poking out of their spread-eagled, randy-jeaned leg-loops. A good good day. A hot hot day. A Tramlines day in Sheffield. There were burger- stands and pizza-stands and Pad-Thai stands and ice-cream stands and lots of happy people standing around and eating. Or walking. Or dancing, waving their plastic mugs full of urine-coloured lager. Thank goodness because the aforementioned hot pants were walking, and walking away, so “Finalmente, un po’ di culo!” I shout to my son who smiles, a shade or two.

       And so the day was passing and the lions were dimming and the music was rising and the streets were filling and I was reflecting that on one of the hottest and friendliest days in Sheffield, that crazy dude of a gazelle was throwing down one item (maybe he had stolen a few more) to make his formidable pursuer pause. What a day to choose to get caught by a Tesco manager! Was that young thief normal? Why? And what depressed or resentful swill upset his shoulder-perched globe?

       I had a date with the lovely Kazak lady. We met. We walked. We talked. The streets were well and truly overflowing. She gifted me with a photo guide of Astana. She pushed at me some unusual photos of Kazakhstan countryside. (Boy! I don’t fancy getting lost in that sheer, boulder-strewn beauty-beast of deadly nature!) She asked me to weight-lift “WHO IS WHO” (in the assembly of the nations of Kazakhstan). A further weighty tome: “RITES AND CUSTOMS” (of the nations of Kazakhstan), she also asked me to lift. She was well and truly weighing me down and I was ever so thankful. If the Tesco manager had “WHO IS WHO” or “RITES AND CUSTOMS” he could have hit that thief on the back of the head with one nimble throw-blow and felled him before the chase even began. But the lovely “Kazaka” loved me and so the formidable weapons were in the hands of me, a pacifist, and an A4-sheet-thief. Who could I throw them at? Maybe Emily Bronte, Heathcliff and Cathy, but they were one hundred miles away with Lockwood wondering “how anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumbers, for the sleepers” – Cath. and Heath. — “in that quiet earth”. (And may I just add here how redundant is Lockwood’s comma. That dude never got CSE English! Take it from me, an expert in punctuating the punctuators.) Yes, it seemed I was doomed to read the weighty Kazak tomes not give them to lions to throw at gazelles.

      So, how did I get on with my lovely date? Pretty well, even though I say so myself. I felt the curve of her back twice, and the second time I began to get a sixty-five-year-old hard-on. Not bad and cause for a sly brag. But it got better. We talked a lot about sex and Pattaya and me and Pattaya, and at a certain point I suggested what we could get up to. She smiled in a tolerant way…

      So, I got back and upstairs to my son and friend who were freshening up for the endless festival (which would end at six a.m.). At last they had met the lovely Kazak who was sitting with me and showing me her family gallery of photographs in the gardens below my formidable and lusty son’s apartment when they had chanced to return keyless and I had chanced to shout to catch the attention of them, a key-bearer shouting to the keyless. It had been a chance-meeting but what better meetings are there when you don’t know Kazakhs from Adam (and Astana)? They of course wanted to know how it went and I told them I had suggested sex of the mouthy sort. “Why did you do that?” “She showed me a photo of her son’s penis…” “You’re sick, Dad!” shouted out my son. “After he had been circumsized.” I told her about my unformidable member and how it too had been mutilated for similar rite-reasons but when I was ever so young. I expressed huge sadness that testosterone-virulent-vile virile men like me must feel pain down below and questioned the value and validity of the bloody ritual, pointing out the great trauma the genitalia-mutilation-issued issue must cause and continues to cause to this very day. Witness the pitiful prose you are conned into perusing here from me, mutilated. She doubted. They doubted…But who can doubt who knows me profoundly? “You’re sick, Dad!” Words of wisdom from the only guy who knows me to the bottom of my heart and to the bottom of my bottom.

      They left me in the little flat. I went to my sad, little double-bed alone. Lonesome as hell’s bells.

      This morning, “Hi, mate,” from the manager of Tesco. I’d gone in to nick some milk but decided to buy it when approached by the formidable lion. I talked to the pay-machine which asked me about plastic bags and told me to finish and get the hell out. I walked back to my flat. I was sad as the rainy days are long (except when Sheffield hits Tramlines-time) because I had chickened out in front of the lion and had paid 141 pence which made me a one-hundred-and-forty-one-pence-poorer writer. The milk also weighed heavily upon me. I was infuriated by the friendly manager. How was it possible he addressed me as one of his mates? And then I remembered that it was he too who had accused me of fraud two weeks ago when I had collected my son’s receipts and gone in to get them scanned for my son who is a keen collector of Tesco club-points. My memory served me but maybe the manager had forgotten that incident where I was called upon to reply to his accusation of fraud with, ”And your comment seems a bit slanderous.” (I had presented receipts which they, the Tesco guys, thought matchless.)

      When I return to Thailand in October I will see Tesco Lotus everywhere. When I return I will see Tesco Lotus Express everywhere, too. Family Mart and 7-Eleven will shoulder on in there, as well. The heat will make me lazy and I might even buy a pint of milk in one of those ever-so-convenient stores. And I will forget that — obstreperous jackass though I am — only this morning I am finishing with the following finale: “Tesco Lotus is a hypermarket chain in Thailand operated by Ek-Chai Distribution System Co., Ltd…..In 1998, the British supermarket chain Tesco took a stake to create “Tesco Lotus”. CP Group sold most of its shares in Tesco Lotus in 2003…Tesco Lotus stores currently operate in five formats: Extra, Hypermarket, Department Store, Talad and Express…..In late 2007 and early 2008” (please note my note : some years after buying out CP Group), “Tesco Lotus sued three of its critics for libel. It lost the case against Jit Siratranont, former MP and now vice-general secretary of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, dropped the case against newspaper columnist Kamol Kamoltrakul on the grounds of his ill-health, and obtained a written apology from a newspaper business editor Nongnart Harnvilai”. (Source : Wikipedia.)

      The Asian lion snarls on. It failed to bite one powerful gazelle. It dropped the pursuit of an ill gazelle. It got an apology (half-hearted, I hope) from a business editor.

      Long live Thailand and Thai diversity, especially those fresh-food markets ("talad") where Na and I shop, where food is often if not always local and delicious. And if I forget, remind me to buy a rifle just in case a lion roars too near to me.

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