One For Uncle Arthur

Our cat died today. Well, we think he did…

After seventeen years of putting up with us as a family, he suddenly got ill. My daughter took him to the vet last week, and the vet, as most vets do, gave her two unpalatable options… 1) putting him down now or 2) charging her £3000 to do tests, and then putting him down in a month’s time, once the results have come back. My daughter, like most pet-loving people would, brought the cat home to live out his last few days within the bosom of the family that has always loved him dearly…

Anyway, over the next few days, as often is the way, the poor old chap rallied a little, but it was clear he was not doing well. We knew it was only a matter of time before a return trip to the vets was required to take up option one. And then on Thursday night, he decided to venture out into the back garden, a rarity of late. Only this time, he didn’t come back.

My daughter looked everywhere for him, he was nowhere to be seen. The next day, I looked in all the places that my daughter had looked, plus the sheds, plus the neighbours gardens and the neighbours sheds. Then I walked around the entire neighbourhood, and then checking with all the dexterity of a bomb disposable officer, I searched under every parked car. Still no cat!

Now, being more a Lord Byron than a James Herriot, I’ve chosen romantically to believe that our pet took itself off to die peacefully amongst the daisies in some Epping Forest pasture, thus saving the family the tears and expense of euthanasia.

Incidentally, Shane Richie, him of Eastenders fame, bought the cat for my daughter. Which goes to prove no matter what people say about him, he must actually have a reasonably nice side in him somewhere. But typical of the egotistical ex-soap star, he insisted that we call the cat Shane. After several hours of negotiations, we reached a compromise and called it Richie. He’s been a great addition to the family, the cat not Shane. All of us have doted on him, again the cat not Shane, even though he has been somewhat of a transient animal, living at one time or another with each of my three children, as well as me. He had a gentle nature and of course, my granddaughter has had 10months loving the animal and he has become her best friend.

But, dear old Richie did give me something to think about when it comes to time for me to shuffle off this mortal coil. I had always told my kids the moment that they have to change my diapers, then they should put me in a wheelchair, take me to the top of Beachy Head and while we watch the sun go down for the last time together, give me one great shove and watch me fly. Then, once the deed was done, they should tootle off home for a nice cup of tea and slice of fruitcake, or a Belgium bun, if they really wanted to push the boat out.

But of course, the downside is in this nanny state in which we live, one of them, if not all of them, would be arrested for assisting my demise. Whether it was murder or manslaughter, I couldn’t let my kids suffer that. So now, following Richie’s example, when my time comes, I shall slip on my carpet slippers and under cover of night, shuffle off into the darkness, never to be seen again and doing away with the need for tears and coffin costs.

Anyway, wherever you are, old man – thanks for being a great pal, a great comfort, and a great part of our family. We all wish you well, wherever your next stop is. RIP Richie.

I wrote this 650-word eulogy about him, as a nice opening for the blog, while my ex-wife, daughter, and granddaughter all sat in the hall saying nice things about their departed cat. I heard Deborah, my ex, say something nice, then my daughter says something… and then Richie meowed… WHAT?

Yes, that’s right, that fucking cat was sitting there right next to us, being stroked by my granddaughter.

Where it came from I have no idea, the cat flap didn’t open and shut, so all the time, the little bastard must have been hiding indoors somewhere. I could kill the little fucker. All morning we spent looking for him and holding back the tears. If I had a spare £104.09, I’d run the little git to the vet’s myself and have him done for…

But it did give me another idea, it would be kinda fun to turn up at my own send-off, just to scare the pants off a few people. Not that there would be many people there… and that’s not because friends wouldn’t want to say goodbye to me or the debt collectors, ensuring that I’d actually gone… No, it’s just I’ve had it written into my will that I want a naturist funeral, everyone has to go butt naked, wearing party hats and singing Max Bygraves’…You Need Hands. Seems like a fitting end to me.

Anyway, Richie’s fine, hanging in there and we’re all very pleased that he’s home and we’re watching him closely. And I thought that as I’d written these 650 words, there was no point in wasting them, but be assured, when that cat does pop his clogs. I’m not writing another single sodding word about him.

Well, my last blog certainly stirred up some reaction, didn’t it? I was called melancholy, morose, maudlin, a moaner, old, miserable, cantankerous, depressed, someone even suggested I might be sitting in Gods waiting room. All of which made me laugh out loud, because, of course, while I am most of those things, I am also none of them all of the time. It’s strange, isn’t it that when people talk about their own mortality or describing the misery that life can bring, they are immediately diagnosed as clinically depressed and in need of medication. How about it’s just being honest? I do often write about wonderful things, but that seems to go unnoticed… echoing back to the last blog that we’re only really interested in bad news.

Anyway, the truth is I really can’t be doing with this “always looking on the bright side of life,” attitude and always finding the good in a bad situation.

No! NO! NO! Sometimes things are just shit!

There you go. It’s that simple. I’ve said it.

A dear friend of mine is suffering from cancer. Where is the good it that? Someone tell her kids and grandchildren that there is something good in what she’s going through. I’m sorry it’s just crap. So, you can stuff that forgiveness and that smile and that happy attitude right up God’s jumper. If you want to believe in the Almighty, if you want to believe there’s good in the bad, if you want to believe in karma, then be my guest. But let me believe in the truth – sometimes life just sucks.

What I do agree with is while you’re having a bad time; somewhere in the world, some lucky git is enjoying your slice of good luck. I think it’s fair to say, that life is made up of lucky sods and unlucky buggers.

Orson Welles said… “Nobody gets justice. People only get good luck or bad luck.”

And while I don’t believe in superstition, other than it’s bad luck to put your shoes on a ladder and walk under a table, I do believe fate gives us good luck and bad luck streaks. Personally, I’ve had 57 years of fantastic luck. So, I’m okay having the few years of crap I seem to be dealing with presently. Trust me, it’s relative, compared to those poor people in Syria my life’s a breeze.

I actually wrote a screenplay about Luck. It was called knock on Wood. Everyone liked it, but it didn’t sell. Maybe, I’ll dig it out and post it on here for you to read if you want to.

The one thing I get questioned about all the time is the direction in which this blog is going. Whereas its intention was originally to follow me into old age as I carefully stepped my way through the minefield of life to come, I have been accused of actually just reminiscing about life gone by and not preparing for the future.

But my argument is before I can’t walk through the door that is opened to the rest of my life, I must be sure that I want to close the door to my past, otherwise, I’ll find myself in purgatory or in laymen’s terms the upstairs landing. The bedroom and all its fun, being life gone past, and the bathroom and all its facilities, being the life to come — and no one wants to be stuck on the upstairs landing. It means sleeping on a rug and peeing in the aspidistra.

So, I’m taking my time to decide what my future hold, do I stay here in London near to my kids, or do I travel? Do I travel in the UK or abroad? The coast is calling… but then, so is the bank? Do I actually get a real job? Can I get a real job? Do I get a girlfriend? Can I get a girlfriend? I’ve never had one, a job, not a girlfriend. I’ve had a few girlfriends. Who the hell is going to employ me? I have no history of employment. I’ve just sort of, scooted through life. But I’ve got to do something.

So, hopefully, you can see it’s very hard to write about the future when I haven’t decided what path to walk yet. I think this is one of the dilemmas of getting old, it’s not just me. Many of my similarly aged friends want to get off of the treadmill and enjoy life a little. That’s a big step. Of course, for me, I’ve got to stop enjoying life and get on that friggin treadmill, that’ an even bigger step.

I have, however, discovered the key to old age. It is that moment you can’t bring yourself to throw away a loose screw that you’ve found on the windowsill.

You’re not sure why it’s there, or where it came from, but you’re not going to throw it away just in case… So, you put it somewhere safe thinking that it will come in useful later. It never does, but it’s how old men amass jars upon jars of loose screws, pins, nails, tacks and other fixings.

Young men, carefree men, toss misplaced hardware and fastener away with gay abandon, but the moment you pick up a screw and pocket it to keep for later use, then you have just entered the doorway marked decrepit.

Before long you’ll be going through your toolbox sorting out all those ripped open bags of nails and fixings, carefully putting them into a compartmentalized container that never shuts properly. And as soon as you shut it and put it back in the toolbox, it tips out spilling the newly sorted hardware everywhere – it’s a slippery slope.

Seriously, why would I need a 2 1⁄2 Imperial steel washer? In my 59 years on this planet, I have never had cause to use a 2 1⁄2 Imperial steel washer. Yet, I have 453 of them. I know because I counted them. Every single one! One day, when I had some spare time (Man, I really need a job.) After I counted them, I was going to throw them away, but thought better of it, “You never know. There is a slight chance that one day I just might need a 2 1⁄2 Imperial steel washer.” So, I put them back with the other 2000 washers of various sizes that I have.

I blame B&Q and Homebase. It’s because they charge so much for stuff. £3 for a bag of six screws, it’s daylight robbery!

The toolbox is an interesting invention. Firstly, it’s like the Tardis — far bigger on the inside than it looks on the outside. It’s so big you can never find the tool you’re looking for, even though you distinctly remember putting it back in there. The clanking of the tools and the cussing of a man as he delves with both hands deep into his toolbox is commonplace. Likewise, what you find in a toolbox is pretty universal too…

As I’ve said, loose screws and nails that have fallen out of the pre-packed bags and those stupid preformed plastic packs that you can never open. Then they’ll be used rusty screws, with the head slot all painted in. Note slots! Not crosshead! These painted screws are from an old gate or door that was used long before Philips mass-marketed their crosshead fixing. In your mind’s eye one day you’re going to have the time to sandpaper off all the paint and reuse these screws – yeah, that’s never going to happen.

And there’ll be bent nails that you intended to hammer straight and reuse – again, never going to happen.

Padlocks with no keys and keys with no padlocks.

There’ll be an array of plumbing copper fittings — all imperial size so you couldn’t use them even if you wanted to. An old tap that one-day you’re going to fix in the garden to save having to tie the hosepipe to the kitchen mixer tap with a pair of the wife’s tights.

White waste pipe fittings, there will always be, a white waste pipe fitting. Why? Who knows? Then when you need it you’ll never find it and you’ll have to go and buy another one.

Those little replaceable screwdriver heads — crossheads, flatheads, and a bunch of weird looking pointed, grooved heads that no one knows what they do.

Drills – sizes all mixed up, wood drills blunt because you used them on concrete. And so many Allen keys, you could start an Allen key shop.

All the same size because then come with every piece of flat pack furniture you’ve ever put together. You don’t throw them away with the cardboard because they might come in handy. The fact that you already have fifty-nine exactly the same doesn’t matter.

A mixed variety of raw plugs gives that Jackson Pollock abstract splash of colour – it’s art, it really is. Plus a whole host of curtain rail hooks that you took off the curtain rail from your last house. And even though they’re faded yellow you are still certain that they might come in useful at some stage in your sad decaying life.

There’ll be a single tent peg. Why? You have no clue, but no toolbox is complete without the obligatory single tent peg.

And those white plastic things, with huge screws going all the way through them, there are normally about five of these. Again, you’re not sure what they’re for, but you are certain that you will need them. You think they might have come off the washing machine when it was delivered, but you can’t remember. The thing is, they look just too useful to throw away. Oh, and a spare set of hoses for the hot and cold fill on the washing machine. Of course, new washing machines come with new hoses already fitted, but you keep the old ones just in case. Idiot.

Tile spacers! Loads of them! You haven’t tiled for fifteen years, but you have a sea of spacers floating around in the bottom of the toolbox. And those blue floor spacers from when you fitted a laminate wooden floor. Remember when laminate floors came out? All the rage, we all got rid of our carpets. They looked fantastic until you walked on them in your socks and then up in the air you went. Arse over tit. More bones are broken by walking on a shiny laminate floor in socks than in the history of Rugby Union. Bring back Lino I say.

And then there are the tools; I have four riveters in my toolbox and ten packs of rivets. When the hell am I ever going to rivet? In fairness, an Alzheimer suffering relative bought them for me. Four years running I had to look grateful as yet again, I unwrapped another riveter. What did she think I did for a living — friggin shipbuilding?

Oh, and a spark plug remover and a torque wrench. What was I thinking? Surely, no man can survive without a spark plug remover and a torque wrench. I think the last time I opened a bonnet was in 1975… No, wait, not true. I opened one yesterday when I was looking for that friggin cat!

Trust me… a man becomes old when he starts collecting screws.

Okay, I just backed the Grand National winner One for Arthur. I’d like to say it was due to my superior knowledge of all things equine… but it was actually in honor of my late Uncle Arthur. Now if only I had an Uncle Sergio who had past, I’d have a few quid on a Spaniard winning the Masters.

With Trump and Putin are rattling their inter ballistic sabers at each other, I’m not sure when the next blog will be. But all being well, I’ll probably see you all on the other side of World War three…

…Now, where the hell did I bury that Nissen hut?

















6 thoughts on “One For Uncle Arthur

  1. Peter Howitt

    Malc – it is now abundantly clear to me what you do. Take this blog on the road as a stand up routine and add other bits from other blogs. The tool box routine is hysterical and pure ‘old fucker stand up’. As I read it I could see you standing – OK sitting – on a stage ranting away about the raw plugs and curtain rails. Same rivets four years in a row from Alzheimer relative – comedy gold. I am sending you the money to buy a mike.

    • YourAutumnYears

      Thank you, dear. And my congratulations on Dandelions and Poppies. It’s great… I shall be posting the video.

  2. Anne Foley Smith


    Malcolm once called me a nutter.
    And he’s right.
    In fact, if he had consulted with my family, he would have found a clan in concordance with his diagnosis.

    I’m not offended.
    It takes a special kind of magic to be me.

    But the latest offering from Malcolm shows that he has a screw loose too. Not to put too fine a point on it, he has a whole collection of screws on the loose.
    In fact, he has a toolbox full of them and it seems he’s been collecting them for a time and a season. The sure sign of old age is not the fact that he’s been collecting them. It is the fact that he has the optimism to believe that he had a future in which he could use them. At the rate Malcolm has been moaning about his toolkit falling apart, losing his imperial steel ring washers on the upstairs landing, and blunting his wooden drill on concrete, I don’t think his optimism is justified. Still, so long as his copper fittings are okay and his white waste pipe is not impacted, he will probably last a bit longer. Just don’t let him loose on the lubricants aisle in B&Q. We nutters don’t cope well on the treadmill of a normal life.

    God rest your Uncle Arthur and I am delighted you had a Grand National win off the back of your uncle’s name but I am going to disagree with your revealed methodology. Your past is replete with horse whispering antics and I think, like Harry Potter could hear the “parseltongue” of snakes, you are picking up strains of those horses as they commune in “nagsspeak”. You are probably an expert by now.
    I am a great exponent of conspiracy theories and I have it straight from the horse’s mouth that races are decided on beforehand, not by the owners or trainers, but by the horses themselves. I can easily understand why you would want to keep this method of communication under wraps. Who’s going to believe you and, in this world of fake “fake news”, truth still remains stranger than fiction? Could you cut me in on a few assured betting tips please? I need to top up my pension fund.

    The main star in this blog is a feline named Richie and, like most cats, he seems to have left paw prints the size of Mount Everest on your family’s heart. That’s the way it is with cats. They march into your life, allow you to pay the mortgage while they own the joint, but then proceed to live out their nine lives by causing mischief and mayhem that far outweigh their actual body size. It’s that “presence” thing that they wear so very well.

    Pity it can’t be captured.

    We’ve “owned” five cats over the course of my children’s lifetimes but one stands out above all others: Izzy, the Psychocat. Her exploits never ceased to amaze us but her best was the day she strolled up, draped in thick swathes of matted cobwebs that covered her from head to foot and trailed along in dusty layers behind her. She walked imperiously back into our lives after being missing for over a week. We had done our crying for our “departed” cat by then. Not once offering an explanation for her whereabouts and resisting all attempts to divest her of her manky “robes”, she demanded food forthwith and spent the next hour belching heavily as we cuddled and cooed over her stinky, smelly self. The parallels to the resurrection were not wasted on us for she returned early on Easter Sunday morning and I swear to this day that that cat of ours had been ensconced in a deep, dank spider-ridden cavern from which she “arose” on that Sunday morning in the glory of one of her nine lives.

    I now know that your Richie has made his final transition through the Great Cat Flap of Life. Should he meets our Izzy up there, all hell will break loose in that heaven – she hated male cats and was never loathe to wreck her nail varnish on a humdinger, extended-claw, cat fight with every Tom, Dick or Harry that had the God-awful misfortune to cross into our garden. I hope they are having fun.

    You spent a lot of time muttering about accusations of being morose, morbid and moribund as you reminisce on the past while not preparing for the future but there is no need to emulate the drip technique feted by Jackson Pollock. We have a drip too many, betimes, when dealing with that colourful style icon. You are obviously blessed with a plethora of spark plugs, torque wrenches, rawl plugs, fixers, fasteners, tent pegs and tile spacers. Get a grip and put them to good use – in true W Heath Robinson style. What more could you need other than a blank canvas, your Tardis toolbox and some PVC glue? This ridiculously intricate style of illustration will keep you out of trouble for the next zillion eons and ensure that your years wasted collection this jumble will not have been entirely wanton. And WHR was a near neighbour of yours: much better role model than the reclusive and volatile You Know Who from across The Pond.

    Before I go, two questions…
    You don’t suppose our Izzy was incarcerated in your lost Nissen hut? That would explain a lot.
    And may I have one of those riveter guns please? I have a few scores to settle and I know just how effective those guns are at nailing it.

  3. Pingback: Still looking for that loose screw? - Jennifer Sweete

  4. Oh YAY! You’re above ground! Hallelujah!!! I realize I’m running late; however, the funerals have been piling up on my end of things these days. Thank heavens you’re back among the living! My COMMENT (with photos – do you REALLY want to know what’s in my toolbox, LOL?!) is too long to post here so come on over to my blog for a chuckle 🙂 After all, you DID invite this one . . . I had to shorten the title from “YAY! Still looking for that loose screw, eh? It’s like we’ve come full circle . . .” But “Dueling Toolboxes” was just a little too short and not as SEO friendly, LOL!

Comments are closed.