Column for Independent

I have recently moved from London to a small village in Hertfordshire. Because I am 50 and that is the law.

My new high street has cars parked all along it so is for the most part  a single lane. But unlike in London everyone seems almost over-polite, letting each other through with a friendly wave.

Well almost everyone.

I was approaching home with my 2-year-old daughter in the back of the car. There was a long line of parked vehicles on the left, but nothing coming in the other direction, so I proceeded. I was very near the end of this line when I saw a lorry approaching. All common sense dictated that he would stop.

But the driver held no truck with common sense. He saw me, now only metres from sanctuary and drove to meet me. Forcing us both to a halt.

Shit! It was a scaffolders’ lorry. Everyone knows scaffolders are all unpredictable and insane. Their job is to clamber around in all weathers, on rickety poles and boards, that they know has been put up by a madman with a deathwish, because everyone they work with is crazy.

Don’t get me wrong. They are mavericks: the last true outlaws. I liked that.

Until I was in this stand-off. That they had pointlessly entered. Simply because they had somehow decided in an instant that I was some kind of middle-class ponce in a people carrier. What could have given me away?

The two men in the front of the lorry were already laughing. They weren’t waiting for anyone. Except, obviously, for me to get out of their way. Longer than they would have waited if they had just briefly paused for me to pass.

They had a bigger vehicle and bigger muscles and they were going to bully me off the road. Or at least 100 metres back up it.

Perhaps from their (incorrect, or at best technically correct) point of view I had tried to take a right of way that was theirs. Or perhaps they were just letting me know that this was a town without a sheriff…

The driver signalled with his hand that I should back up. And his friend pulled the kind of face that Donald Trump makes when talking about disabled journalists.

Would I back down?

I mean, obviously, I would. There’s no jeopardy here. I didn’t want my daughter to see my head being ripped off and stuck on a scaffolding pole.

But I wasn’t going to do it straight away. That was my only tiny power.

The lorry had the company’s name and email address on the front. I got out my phone to take a photo. The men pulled pretend terrified faces, as if this couldn’t possibly hurt them. But I could at least dob them in to their boss (as much as I suspected he was the man in the driving seat). Or name and shame them in an article in the Independent. Yeah, that’s right, pull a pretend scared face now, guys!

So the scaffolders, who would have been half a mile closer to their destination had they waited two seconds, had to watch me take out my phone, turn on the camera and size up the shot.

I considered not moving. What if I fronted it out? Little did they know that they had picked on the second craziest of professions: the comedian. Whilst I had no physical strength, I also had an ace up my sleeve. I had nowhere to be. I could wait all day. It was now a test of nerve.

Which I lost immediately. I reversed (as slowly as possible) on to one of my neighbour’s driveways and they drove past, victorious, showering me with wanker signs. 

They had won. I was humiliated. Partly because they had got it spot on. I am a wanker. And you can tell it just by looking at my face through a windscreen.

I did feel the need for vengeance. I am a pathetic man, but I am still a man and it hurts to be belittled. I thought about putting their photo up on Twitter and encouraging my equally weak followers to deluge them with emails and phone calls. Outprank the pranksters.

Though then they would know who I was and might outprank the outprankster by breaking my legs.

My sensible wife correctly told me to let it go.

Revenge is a dish best served by collecting a small fee for writing an article, that doesn’t name them and that they will likely never see.

I will take the high road.

Unless their lorry is coming the other way, in which case I will reverse up the high road and go down the low road. But slowly, my crazy friends. So very slowly.

 

What I’m Reading

Stalin- The Court of the Red Tsar by Simon Sebag Montefiore.  I very much enjoyed the film “The Death of Stalin” and wanted to see if the truth was as terrifyingly bonkers as the film. If anything it is much worse. I am a big fan of Montefiore, who makes complicated history accessible and the escalation of Stalin’s Terror is a timely reminder of how quickly a cult of (a damaged and paranoid) personality can turn into something beyond evil.

 

What I’m Watching

My daughter is obsessed with Paw Patrol, so that is on pretty much every waking minute of her day. It’s a cartoon about a town that entrusts all its emergency services and engineering to a 10-year-old boy and his trained puppies, (who can of course talk and operate heavy machinery).  I’d have more respect for the organization if it was made up of adult dogs. The idea that puppies would have this level of intelligence and skill is frankly ludicrous. To be fair they always get the job done efficiently which is more than I can say for the similarly over-equipped Postman Pat. There should be more female dogs though. My daughter (the idiot) loves this show. It’s time for dog equality.  Rocky and Zuma wouldn’t be missed.

 

What I’m Buying

Carbon Monoxide Alarms – luckily I had one of these already and it went off when I was burning my Christmas Tree in the wood burner  I have subsequently discovered this is a stupid thing to do). As it turned out the deadly gas was coming out of my brand new boiler and seeping into the house. So now I am getting alarms put near anything that is capable of killing me and my family in our sleep. If yours goes off, don’t be like me and wait 18 hours and take the battery out because you think it’s to do with your own tree burning naivity. Call 0800 111 999 and someone will come to you super quickly. And not even call you a dickhead for thinking you can burn fresh pine indoors.