Robin Williams once said that getting divorced was like having your balls ripped off through your wallet. My divorce was a similarly cathartic experience: after everything was paid for – solicitors, estate agents, other assorted robbing bastards and ex-wife, I was left with £12,000 of my pension and barely any of the equity in the house.
I think I probably got off lightly – however, that meant that I have to start again…. Not the best scenario for a 46 year old single bloke, so I’ve got a place in one of the less salubrious parts of Rumney down Wentloog Road, left into Greenway Road, right into Harris Avenue. It’s an ex-council house with four bedrooms and view across the playing fields – where on a Saturday night about 11:30 you can see little white bums bobbing up and down…. I’m thinking of investing in an air rifle.
I’ve also got myself a Collie bitch – who does her best to keep me fit, although walking around Greenway Road at night – even with a dog – can’t be good for your health. Some nights, Harris Avenue is like Main Street, Kabul – flashing blue lights, sirens, squealing tyres… And that’s just the milkman. Other nights, it’s so peaceful you can hear the last tweet of the spaggies in the poplar trees as they drift off to birdie dreamland.
I tried the local pub the other night, and made a friend immediately he even called me "pal" as in: "Who you looking at, pal?"
Have you noticed how the more aggressive people are, the more friendly the terms in which they refer to you are? For example, "Listen mate, any more lip from you and you’re going home in a fucking ambulance." I’ve only known him five minutes and already I’m his mate, so I took the time to advise him that he’d made a mistake: one goes to hospital in an ambulance, but one goes home in a taxi.
Opposite my house are a bunch of shops – the area around the shops double as a night club for young men with aggressive looking hair cuts and younger women with clothes that might as well have "Cheap Slut" embroidered on them in silver thread. Walking the dog the other night, I counted 26 "fuckings" before I got out of earshot (we’re talking verbal here, not street level penetration) – so lively conversation is alive and well and living in Rumney. It’s not surprising really, having seen the parents. If aliens landed, they’d conclude there were no intelligent life forms on this planet.
The best bit about living here is; I am only 10 minutes from TWO Tesco stores. Sad really. I think the fat girl on checkout no 5 has taken a shine to me – so I’ll have to return to my Sainsbury super-store like a prodigal son just to avoid her – they probably have a ceremony in which I cut up my Tesco loyalty card and down a bottle of Chilean Merlot in one go before I can gain admittance. If they find out I’ve moved from Cyncoed, the game will be up – I’ll get banished to Kwiksave and I’ll probably end up subscribing to Sky.
Sunday saw an invasion of motorbikes and quads, racing around the park like demented chain-saws. What is it about the people in Rumney that they have to interrupt a perfectly peaceful Sunday afternoon with as much noise as they can possibly generate? By four o’clock, I’d had a guts full, so I phoned the police. They were polite, informative and comfortingly inclusive, but completely ineffective.
I rang the hotline, and feeling a little like the caped crusader, I was disappointed not to be answered by Commissioner Gordon. The respondent to my enquiry was an even tempered woman, who said she would put me through to the help desk. It’s a good job I wasn’t cooking eggs because the help desk took a little longer than I would have expected to answer my enquiry. I conjured up scenarios of invading aliens, rampant terrorists or an armed robbery of the dry cleaners opposite, while I waited for the help desk operative to complete his form 49b/2727490/kja(ethnic monitoring) before answering the phone.
Eventually, I got; "Hello, South Wales Police help desk".
Too late, I’m dead, I thought. I paused, just long enough for them to repeat, "Hello, South…"
"Oh, I’m sorry," I said, trying to imply that I was asleep without actually saying it.
I told them of the bikes, how they were endangering life in the park by having lunatic races, and how they had been at it since early in the afternoon – I gave my name and address and they said they would let a squad car know. So, no surface to quad bike missile strikes then.
One of the best things about noisy bikes is they upset the dogs next door. I mean this in the most ironic way possible. I adore dogs, especially quiet dogs, but Alsatians who bark continuously for hours on end do not endear themselves to me in any way. As I said, the residents of Harris Avenue seem to delight in making as much noise as possible, at the most inconvenient times, and my neighbour is no exception. I would never describe him as a dribbling ignoramus with the mental aptitude of cretinous slug, but suffice to say I do not hold him in high regard. For a start, he is a bus driver. If I were to draw up a least favourite attributes chart, being a Corporation bus driver would feature somewhere in the top ten. They are not as bad as taxi drivers, municipal park motor-bikers, politicians or accountants, but worse than estate agents, banks, insurance companies, tabloid journalists, and other people’s children.
It is like living next door to a steel foundry without any of the environmental controls. I have a theory that people who make too much noise do it because they are trying to make a statement as compensation for being fat, stupid and ugly. The combined efforts of my neighbours who are very noisy, the scramblers and the quad bikes is to make Sunday afternoon in Harris Avenue a little like one of those psycho-shock noise habitats the military use to make SAS guys really, really hard. Certainly, it has the effect of making me want to vault the wall, a large Bowie knife gripped in my teeth and a rapid-fire, small calibre weapon clutched in my hands.
The compensations for living here are few, but our newsagent, Yudey is definitely one of them. He’s a cracking bloke and his family are as polite and well mannered as the other residents are brash and ill-bred. While discourtesy is a way of life for the harsh faced rags of humanity that litter the pavements around his shop, Yudey maintains a rich vein of good humour and unyielding tolerance. His wife takes no shit from anyone, but is equally gracious. They weren’t the first Indians to invite me into their homes, but certainly they were the first to become firm friends. A failing on my part I suspect.
Curiously, the shop next store, owned by someone called "Mike", another Indian, has an altogether different feel to it. Mike is the sort of guy who you can’t get near, and makes me want to count my change every time I buy something. Just a prejudice against a flat personality I guess, but it illustrates vividly that despite a shared heritage and culture, that you cannot make generalisations about people, because we are all different.
Reflecting on this, and chiding myself for characterising all the residents of Harris Avenue as white trash, I returned home one evening to find one of the local yahoos making his way towards my front door. Determined to build bridges, I smiled at him as I approached.
"Hello son," I said as cheerfully as I could, "what can I do for you?"
"Want to buy a Playstation, bra?" he asked, pulling the edge of the small object of desire from his parka. "Twenty quid to you."
I sighed, and was about to tell him we already had one, when I realised that if I did, we would not have one for much longer. Instead I said, "I don’t allow my kids to play with that sort of stuff. They’ve got school work to do. Sorry…..mate."
He nodded, pushed the PS2 back into the folds of his coat and hunched his way back down the path. I closed the door and wondered which god I had offended in this or any of my previous lives, and what I had to do to make amends.