Apparently a combination of antihistamine tablets and paracetamol are a surefire way of avoiding any unpleasant side effects from the Covid vaccine, so in preparation for my long-awaited jab this Sunday I head to Brampton pharmacy to stock up.
The pharmacy operates a strict one-in-one-out policy, so I join a queue that stretches all the way down the main street, past the bus stop and the Spar and around the Moot Hall, ending up in a side alley next to the hardware shop.
There I am surprised to find Colonel Long from the Old Vicarage, waiting patiently with his labrador Alfie and Ng Mao, his newest and most energetic Eurasian concubine. The Colonel is not yet 60, but due to underlying health issues caused by a lifetime of cigars, port and Eurasian concubines he had his jabs back in December as a precaution.
He explains that following the hoo-hah about Orlando Bloom’s revelatory “Life In The Day” article in the Sunday Times at the weekend he is here to buy some brain octane oil. Apparently this a dietary supplement, favoured by Orlando, made from caprylic acid, found in coconuts, which is said to boost brain power and produce ketone energy to reduce cravings and burn fat.
“Actually it’s her idea,” the Colonel admits, nodding at Ng Mao who is clinging to his back like a spider, legs around his neck. “She thinks I’m beginning to lose my marbles as well as my get-up-and-go.”
Brain octane oil is all the rage in LA, and since the Sunday Times article it is now all the rage in Brampton and its surrounding villages, judging by the queue for the pharmacy. So, it seems, are the other accoutrements of Orlando’s unusual lifestyle regime.
I spot Mad Wattie, the molecatcher from Bewcastle, who tells me he has taken up Buddhist chanting and is now hoping to buy some green powder and vegan protein supplement. Further up the line is Des Barrymore, a retired cowherd from Gilsland, who has a long shopping list which includes goji berries and hazelnut milk for his breakfast porridge and collagen powder for his thinning hair.
“I just hope there’s some left by the time it’s my turn,” he says, staring at the queue with his one good eye and sucking anxiously on a needle-thin rollie.
I’m not so sure. One of the more egregious effects of lockdown is that middle-aged men have too much time on their hands, and as the line creeps forward I can’t help wondering if Des, Wattie and the Colonel would be here if the pubs were open.
After all, brain octane oil is all very well, but compared to Wainwright’s Best Bitter it’s just a passing fad.
Just days after Orlando Bloom’s article in the Sunday Times a startling photograph emerges of former Libertines and Babyshambles frontman Pete Doherty.
Once as thin as one of Des Barrymore’s fags, it seems Doherty has piled on the pounds during lockdown, to the extent it now looks as if he is wearing a fat suit and a neck brace.
That said, he also looks perfectly content with his girlfriend Katia de Vidas — which goes to show that you should always say no to Class A drugs, especially if the option is a jumbo bucket of KFC.
Doherty is a legend in Carlisle. Following a show in the city back in 2005, a 15-year-old groupie was allegedly invited on the Babyshambles tour bus and driven all the way to Greenock with the band, much to the horror of her parents.
With a 15-year-old daughter of my own, I can understand their concern — especially as the Ayatollah has just bought tickets to the Kendal Calling rock festival this summer. In my case, however, I’m not so much worried that she will be found on Pete Doherty’s tour bus, but that she will be sent back.
A SMALL CONSIDERATION
My annual statement from the Author’s Licencing and Collecting Society (ALCS) has arrived.
ALCS is the body that ensures that when anybody withdraws one of my many novels from the library, or if a school photocopies one of my many works of non-fiction, I as the author get paid a small consideration.
This year’s haul is grand total of £57.23, but I’m not complaining. Considering I haven’t published a book in 10 years and all the libraries are shut due to Covid it’s a bit like receiving a postal order from a distant relative you forgot ever existed.
In any case it’ll cover the £52 annual subs to Lake District Radio, which every presenter must pay towards tea bags, milk and defamation insurance.
Speaking of which, I’ve introduced a new slot in my Tuesday 9am-midday show on Lake District Radio (did I tell you I have a 9am-midday show on Lake District Radio?). It’s called “Really Good or Racket?”, in which I invite listeners to vote whether a particular record is really good or a racket.
So far Never Gonna Change My Love For You by Glenn Medeiros and Every Loser Wins by Nick Berry have been judged to be a racket, overwhelmingly so in Nick’s case (it was surprising how many people thought Glenn Medeiros was really good, mind).
On Tuesday the featured disc is Touch Me by Samantha Fox, but I’m looking for suggestions for future shows. If there’s a tune that you think is a racket but may actually be really good, or vice versa, send me an email and let the great Cumbrian public decide for you.
Covid has delayed publication of my comeback novel, although I’m assured it will be coming out sometime this year.
It’s about the adventures of a middle-aged, dissolute white Englishman, and as such I don’t think the subject matter will get me in trouble with the cultural appropriation police.
The same cannot be said for other authors. Last year Jeanine Cummins published a bestselling novel called American Dirt about a Mexican woman and her son attempting to flee to the United States. Despite its commercial success she was immediately castigated by some reviewers because, as a white woman from New York, she apparently has no right to use indigenous voices and cultures that aren’t her own.
The situation has reached a point when a whole generation of authors are now questioning what they can, or more importantly can’t, write about. Or at least they are if they’re afraid of upsetting the cultural appropriation police.
I’m too old in the tooth to give a toss – which is just as well, because I’m currently writing a crime thriller set in an Amsterdam whorehouse. If it ends up being cancelled, then I’ll email you all a copy.
Have a good weekend.