The Plastic Hippo

October 8, 2015

Hitting the roof

Via Carlisle newsandstar

Via Carlisle newsandstar

Only a complete idiot would take advice from an addled George Osborne so instead of fixing the roof when the sun was shining, we arranged for the roofer to call on the day the October monsoon emptied itself all over the house. Rather like George Osborne, the insignificant drip was transformed into a long streak of what suspiciously resembled urine coming through the attic rafters.

The appointed hour came and went but the roofer did not. A message was left on his answer machine and the hiatus allowed the TV to be fired up to watch the latest episode of one of the funniest series of programmes ever broadcast. The previous day, George Osborne had delivered a performance of sublime surrealism and almost perfect comic timing. With a carefully rehearsed vacant facial expression and a mastery of autocue worthy of Jeremy Corbyn, Osborne`s “devolution revolution” routine had them rolling in the aisles. Osborne staked his claim with a bland explanation of how useless he has been as Chancellor.

Cutting devolved capital funding to local authorities in return for keeping all those lovely business rates went down well in the hall and in wealthy southern boroughs with Conservative councils. Sadly, humourless oafs milling about outside boarded-up shops in the Midlands and the north are too dim to get the joke. It serves them right for voting Labour. Very few people are laughing in Redcar.

Apparently, Osborne will offer a discount if a local authority is controlled by a single elected mayor and business rates can change if “local business leaders” agree. Strangely, some people are still under the deluded impression that local government democracy is the responsibility of elected councillors rather than “local business leaders”. In many cases, especially in this neck of the woods, councillors and business leaders are one and the same or at least in the pocket of each other so to speak. The thought of a blustering council leader and a strange side-kick tasked with regeneration getting their hands on the money would shiver the timbers of even the most robust Grade One listed building. If you have to explain the joke, it`s not funny.

So, with no roofer, it was back to the Manchester stand-up comedy festival. Osborne was always going to be a tough act to follow but the Conservative party did not disappoint. First up was the Secretary of State for Justice Michael Gove. Having been removed from education partly for having been judged to have acted illegally and now presiding over a complete shambles in the judicial system, the words Michael Gove and “justice” in the same minimum sentence might seem incongruous but that is the ironic beauty of his act. His boyish good looks, easy charm and clever patter soon won the crowd over. Did you hear the one about the urgent and immediate repeal of the Human Rights Act and withdrawal from the European Court of Human Rights? You are not alone because nobody else heard it either.

Gove`s set was over all too soon but this did offer the opportunity to empty the bucket catching the rain and to leave another message on the roofer`s answer phone. Settling down with a nice mug of tea to watch the next comic turn was an utter delight. On stormed Home Secretary Theresa May to stake her claim for party leadership by explaining exactly how useless she has been as Home Secretary. Accusations that she told lies about migration and asylum are completely unfounded as this was comedy, just a laugh, a bit of fun. Where`s your sense of humour? Whipping up division and racial hatred is a tried and tested tool of satire and nobody should take this desperate attempt to become leader seriously. After all, she did harangue universities for not deporting foreign students after graduation because “the rules have to be obeyed” and yet in the very next sentence stated that the flood of migrants from the EU must stop and that “the rules have to be changed”. Mrs May will become party leader but that party will be the EDL.

Then it was lunch and another chance to empty the bucket and talk to Kevin the roofer`s answer machine. After cheese on toast, it seemed wise to spread a tarp in order to protect the attic floor before continuing with the laugh-in.

New to the stand-up circuit, mayoral candidate and tax avoider Zac Goldsmith offered a minimalist five minutes of avant-garde experimental humour. If Corbyn`s speech to his conference was considered as “rambling” by the media, then Zac`s effort could be compared to a three-week Himalayan trek including assents of Everest and K2. Bucket…Kevin`s answer machine…next.

Next was a fixture of the Tory open mic fun fest, Boris Johnson. The same old crude buffoonery never succeeds to amuse but this time Boris stole the show by pretending to be a liberal. The comic impersonation was hilarious. He also staked his claim for party leadership by explaining how useless he has been a London mayor.

Kevin the roofer finally returned the calls from what sounded like the interior of a public house. “No mate,” he said. “We don`t come out when it`s raining…health and safety”. Pointing out that he was only supposed to conduct an internal visual inspection in order to provide a quote, produced an intake of breath and that he was now “on another job”. He did not seem disappointed when told not to bother or words to that effect.

With a morning wasted and work to be done, the bucket was again emptied and the TV shut down. It was disappointing not to catch the stellar acts booked for the afternoon gig but it is always possible to catch up with the highlights on the BBC`s excellent “Lie of the Day 2” also known as “Newsnight” in the Conservative press office. Thus Iain Duncan Smith (a smile, a song and 4,000 suicides completely unrelated to DWP sanctions), Nicky Morgan (saucy innuendo from Danny Alexander in a frock) and Jeremy Hunt (tall stories from a loveable rogue) would have to wait. On the recommendation from a neighbour, an alternative roofer was contacted and an appointment made for the following morning.

As arranged, at exactly 8-00am, the new roofers arrived. It seems that Tomasz and Lukasz honed their building skills in Wroclaw and in the Tory spirit of free enterprise, decided to obtain a better life by getting on their bikes, working hard and providing a vital service to anyone lucky enough to be able to afford their own home. Before entering the house, Tom, as he wished to be known, produced photo ID and Luke, as he liked to be known, stood on their van for a closer look at the roof.

Once up in the attic, Luke inspected the leak and Tom produced bundles of paperwork confirming National Insurance numbers, tax returns, bank statements, building qualifications and European passports. A quizzical look resulted in Tom saying in perfect English;
“Some people think that we are illegal and that we are not true tradesmen. We are here to work and we give a 10 year guarantee.”
Tea and a plate of chocolate Hobnobs were provided by their new client and negotiations began. Expecting expensive talk of scaffolding for a week sometime before Christmas if you are lucky; imagine the surprise at hearing that the repair could take place that day for the approximate cost of a family Sunday lunch at some ghastly pub chain. Carefully removing a section of plaster board, Luke discovered an air vent that had not been inadequately sealed and delved into his bag for the wherewithal to fix it.

After three hours, the work was complete and the attic returned to normality. Luke even emptied the bucket. The offer of cash was turned down in favour of a bank transfer or cheque because, according to Tom, this made accounting more accountable. Leaving a receipt, a full guarantee and a pristine attic, Tom and Luke drove away. Kevin was probably ignoring his mobile phone. Perhaps Theresa May is right after all in stating that Europeans are taking British jobs.

I settled down in front of the TV to watch Cameron`s conference speech. It became evident early on that his comments might attract the attention of lawyers specialising in defamation so it is best not to comment on any possible and imminent legal proceedings.

I will give it a day or two to see if the roof is actually fixed.


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