A Nice Day Out in Cheltenham

Vernon Coleman

1. Antoinette and I took coffee and ginger biscuits at the Cafť Nero within the House of Fraser store. The biscuits they serve are excellent for dunking. It isnít widely appreciated but dunking is both an art and a science. It is important not to dip too much of the biscuit into the liquid. Between half and three quarters of an inch at most. And the biscuit must be held in the liquid for just the right length of time. Antoinette reckons a count of Ďone and twoí should suffice for most biscuits, though double biscuits such as custard creams and bourbons would require longer if you were to consider them appropriate dunkers. I have it on the best authority that the Queen of England is a committed dunker. So too was Bill Hayden.

2. In Cheltenham town centre I saw a man wearing a T-shirt which carried the following message: ĎGCHQ: Always listening to our customers.í The man told me he worked at GCHQ. I got the impression he didnít think of the slogan as a joke. They clearly take their spying seriously in Cheltenham.

3. It was annoying and desperately inconvenient to discover that parking meters in Cheltenham wonít take the new pound coins. I spent eleven minutes feeding the funny little coins into a parking machine. (The new pound coin looks like a euro which has mated with a threepenny bit.) I eventually twigged that the new coins were the numismatic equivalent of lepers and a second after the dawn broke I noticed the small sign telling me that the machine didnít take the new coins but would happily accept Somalian shillings and little washers. The owners of small shops and pubs have, of course, all adapted their machines to cope with the new currency and I have no doubt that if they havenít, a man from the council will be round to beat them over the head with a bunch of officially designated parsnips. It is reassuring to know that the council plans to adapt its new meters before the next millennium celebrations. Just what drivers are supposed to do when the old pound coins stop being legal tender in the autumn is a mystery. I suppose weíll all have to walk round carrying huge bags of 10 pence pieces.

4. I noticed that the fashion of wearing jeans with holes at the knees has been resuscitated. This fashion was first popular two or three generations ago. It is, I assume, designed to suggest that the wearer spends her life alternately scrubbing floors and giving blow jobs.

5. Attracted by the lovely carpets therein, I bought some books and magazines in the local branch of WH Smith. The till wouldnít work so I persuaded the cashier to write out a receipt using a pen and a piece of paper torn from a till roll. It took him quite a while to find a pen, though there were several hundred on sale just a few feet away. I shall cherish my hand-written receipt Ė possibly the last in Britain.

6. I parked the car close to a charity shop so that we could take in several boxes of books without having to carry them too far. The car was parked legally and off the road. I had just lifted the final box from the boot when a motorist turned up. Antoinette was in the shop dropping off several bags of stuff and I couldnít move the car without putting down the box so I hurried and was back in less than a minute. The driver of the vehicle and his passenger could see exactly what I was doing but when I returned they shouted abuse at me. (The driver could have driven around my car but that would have meant turning the steering wheel which is, of course, against health and safety regulations.) The merry pair also pulled out the inevitable and ubiquitous mobile phones and filmed me, shouting that they would report me to the police and put the film on YouTube. Though the pair of them were several decades younger than I am, I snarled Ďpiss off you old fartsí. I was cross with myself afterwards: if Iíd been quick enough Iíd have shouted the title of my latest book and got a free advertisement on YouTube. I assume I will now be issued with one of those ASBO things. What a treat.

7. I noticed today that a number of commercial vans now have dash cams fitted front and aft. Everything is filmed these days. Iím going to paint advertising slogans on the bonnet and boot of the car to take advantage of these outstanding commercial opportunities.

8. Whatever happened to car bumpers? In the bad old days car manufacturers used to build cars with bumpers at both ends. Minor collisions resulted in dents to the chromium plated bumper. If the bumper got badly damaged it could be removed and replaced. Today, I counted four cars which had dents in their back ends. All the dents were clearly a result of the owners backing into posts or trees. (I know from bitter experience that a carís sensors are useless if there is a single post or tree behind when youíre reversing.) Repairing the dents costs a fortune, and often means replacing a huge chunk of bodywork, so I suppose itís easy to see why car manufacturers have stopped fitting bumpers. I suspect that British drivers will soon adopt the French way of dealing with dents: ignore them or regard them with the same pride that the Heidelburgers used to regard duelling scars.

9. While in Cheltenham, I had my hair cut. I asked for a trim and settled down for a nap. When I woke up, I was shocked to discover that the demon barber had given me one of those haircuts which are favoured by men in their 30s who are hoping to hide the fact that they are going bald. I shall not be going out of the house again until my hair has grown back to a decent length. The barber was a trifle clumsy and managed to cut my neck with his clippers. This was my first ever hairdressing injury. A multi million pound lawsuit beckons and pictures of the wound will be published on my Snippy-Snappy social media account.

10. We drove back from Cheltenham behind a pair of cyclists who were travelling at 10 mph and keeping to the middle of the road as they chatted away. It was impossible to overtake safely. Within a mile or two we had a massive queue behind us Ė all travelling at the same speed. Internal combustion engines burn up far more fuel when travelling slowly and those smug and selfish cyclists doubtless did more harm to the environment than a thousand motorists.

Note: Vernon Colemanís fifth diary entitled Life on the Edge is now available as an ebook on Amazon. The book has been deemed unsuitable for the nervous, the easily upset, the politically sensitive and the millions for whom irony is an adjective used to describe something which has a ferrousy sort of taste. Vernon Colemanís diaries are bestsellers in Britain and Australia but donít do terribly well in foreign places that arenít called Australia.

Copyright Vernon Coleman 2017

There are hundreds of free articles on www.vernoncoleman.com and www.vernoncoleman.co.uk
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