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Kelso

Kelso is a charming town in the eastern border country of Scotland. The Tweed sweeps majestically round the edge of the town centre, giving a superb setting for a relaxing break.  The centre of town itself is dominated by the large French-style, cobbled square, lined with some impressive period buildings giving this small town an air of gentility and prosperity.  The square is dominated by the impressive clock tower of the town hall where tourist information can also be found, and the imposing Cross Keys Hotel.  Kelso Abbey, built by David I in the early 12th century is one of several important such sights in the region.  Four of them – Kelso, Jedburgh, Dryburgh and Melrose – are linked by the Four Abbeys Cycle route, which understandably passes through Kelso.  More information on this route is available from Sustrans, and the Plumbers are happy to recommend Simon Porteous on Bridge Street for cycle hire. (01573 223692).

The borders area has plenty of opportunity for outdoor pursuits, especially if it involves killing.  These days, the violence is directed at the fish that are abundant in the Tweed or the local game, but the area has a turbulent past, being the scene of many a cross border raid and local feuds involving the clans of Scotland and neighbouring English families.  With crops destroyed and livestock killed or stolen, many turned to robbery, blackmail, kidnapping and murder.  This is the land of the Border Reiver. There is much written about the period of the reiver, 400 years or so up to the beginning of the 17th century.  We recommend you visit the reivers web site or this other reivers’ link for more info on this fascinating time in the history of both England and Scotland.  These days, raids are confined to the bookies on the Kelso racecourse.

The other main attraction is the Duke of Roxburghe’s place, Floors Castle, the largest inhabited castle in Scotland.  It is also, according to legend, where Prince Andrew proposed to Sarah Ferguson, but don’t let the Duke’s questionable choice of house guest put you off seeing his collection of art and furniture or viewing the spectacular gardens.  There is also a coffee shop, apparently.  Not enough that the poor Duke has to let the commoners into his boudoir, but good grief, the fearful grunts are staying for tea and cakes too.  It’s more than flesh and (blue) blood can stand.  McMurdo asserts that the Duke can often be met skulking around in the early morning – no doubt getting out of the way before the hoi-polloi arrive in their charabancs.

Kelso’s air of prosperity is reflected in the specialist shops found in abundance around the main square.  It makes for a refreshing change to walk down a high street in Scotland with no sign of the usual bland chain stores offering up pap for the indiscriminating masses.  A particular Plumbers’ favourite is the delicatessen on Bridge Street just along from the Queen’s Head Hotel.  Here you can sample some local specialities including the mouth-watering, but buttock-clenchingly powerful, Kelsae cheese. You have been warned.  Oh, and make sure you pick up a Border tart at the baker’s.

Where to Eat

You are in the heart of some of Scotland’s best farmland and the region has some of the best fishing in Europe, so local produce is of the highest quality and Kelso, for its size, has a plethora of fine eating establishments.  Finest among them is the Cobbles Inn, tucked away just off the main square.  A small and congenial atmosphere complements the delicious (and plentiful) food.  On several occasions the Plumbers have been rendered immobile by the size of the portions, but still unable to resist the allure of a wee Border tart. Tel: 01573 223578.  The Cobbles web site will give you more details.  Booking is recommended.

Good eats can also be had at the Queen’s Head on Bridge Street, also the Plumbers’ preferred lodgings when in town – but note that it was closed last time we were there in December 2002.  An interesting and extensive menu, superbly presented, makes this a good choice for pre-race dining.  You may also pick up a tip or two at the bar, as the racing and canoeing fraternity are common customers.  The Border breakfast is also a must, setting the Plumber on his way with a hearty, cholesterol-filled feed. Add to that the opportunity of rubbing shoulders with portly ‘Scottish’ sporting celebrities known to ‘use the bar’ at the Queen’s, and you have an all-round delight of an experience. Tel: 01573 224636.  Try the website for more details.

Speaking of corporate (or maybe that’s corporeal), you might want to try some of the racecourse hospitality.  Prices are reasonable, starting at around £20 a head for lunch, with a whole range of packages to suit all tastes and wallets.  Booking it, however, is another matter as there doesn’t seem to be much coordination between the course officials (i.e. the Kelso jannie) and the outside firms (two local family businesses, apparently) which run the catering.  If you fancy trying this then phone the racecourse office on 01668 281611 and ask for Trish or email her direct. 

For that special dinner, push the boat out to the Ednam House Hotel, also on Bridge Street.  The bar has a superb view of the majestic Tweed as it sweeps through the town – just the perfect setting for that pre-prandial gin and tonic. The food is fairly good, even if it flatters to deceive, but the faded charm of the place makes for an interesting dining experience.  It’s still the only place we’ve ever had scrambled eggs on toast to finish off a seven course meal.  This is where the huntin’, shootin’ & fishin’ set are staying, so you can’t afford it, mate. Tel: 01573 224168 and have a look here

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Where To Drink

There are a few good pubs in Kelso, certainly enough to make for a reasonable pub crawl.  The Queen?s Head has a good selection of beers and a comfortable atmosphere and the White Swan comes recommended for post-race celebration and comiseration.  It’s busy and boasts real ales and over 70 whiskies.  Occasionally it boasts some boisterous locals too so watch out if you’re not in the mood for it.  Facilties include a pool table and (occasionally) loud jukebox.  For watching the footie, you can?t beat the Red Lion (behind the Cross Keys Hotel) where an open fire in the basic, but cosy, public bar ensures comfortable viewing.  This is where the Kelso folk club meets every Friday

Less endearing are the Black Swan (some interesting rugby memorabilia and a puggy that bleeds you dry, if I recall correctly) and the very small Cloisters Bar on Bridge Street, both of which can attract Kelso’s more interesting clientele.  Good for trying to pick up on the local lingo though.

Where To Stay

We’ve stayed at the Queen’s Head and it’s always been fine enough, other than the tricky business of having to decide which of us full-grown, heterosexual men are going to share a room.  Rooms are smallish, but comfy and have all amenities.  The price has crept up over the years and maybe that is a factor in the place being closed last time we were there.  Can’t remember what the décor is like but who notices that sort of thing anyway.  Also, you are on the main street and it can be noisy.

The Cross Keys Hotel is also worthy of a mention.  Its rooms are reasonably priced, comfortable and a good size. The restaurant is not too bad either, despite suffering from the local ‘black-pudding salad’ syndrome and has picked up a couple of (deserved) tourist awards.  The Italian owner, Signor Becatelli, is particularly friendly, making sure you get a copy of the Racing Post delivered to your door first thing in the morning – nothing is worse than the long, lonely trek to RS McColl’s after a long night in Cloisters bar.  Watch out for traffic wardens though.  The hotel has no parking so you’ll find yourself leaving the car on the main street at night only to have to move it to one of the main car parks early (after 10 a.m.) next morning.  More details are available on the hotel’s website

What To Avoid

We’d like to comment on the Waggon Inn, but it has been closed on every occasion we’ve visited.  Despite recommendations at a number of other places, this travel guide can’t recommend it, as they don’t seem to want the Plumbers’ trade.  Generally, Kelso has much to commend and little to disfavour it.

Culture

Yeah, yeah, abbeys and castles.  Been there, done that.  Get on your bike and head west to Abbotsford, the home of Sir Walter Scott, situated between Melrose and Galashiels.  Stop off at the picturesque town of Melrose en route for a breather (we recommend the Ship Inn, 01896 822190, as do Kelso Ladies Hockey Club (what more incentive do you want!), excellent sausages from the local butcher and one of only two places in Scotland you can buy Valrhona chocolates for that special person (the other is Jenner’s in Edinburgh).  The house and grounds at Abbotsford are interesting enough, but Sir Walter’s study is particularly atmospheric.  Nice to see evidence of a great artist getting recognition for his talents while still alive to enjoy it.  No poverty-stricken suffering for the art here.

Getting There

Use a roadmap.  Transport other than your car is simply not a sensible option.  You can, of course, travel by bus, sea, air, rail or whatever mode of transport takes your fancy but the chances are you will arrive in Edinburgh, Glasgow or Newcastle – all of which are 1 to 2 hours drive from Kelso.  The town lies off the A6089 and the A699, just a few miles behind the 21st century.  If you’re really stuck then try the AA’s online route planner service.

Getting To The Course

The racecourse itself is right on the outskirts of Kelso so you’ll need to organise a driver or a taxi.  The fare is around £5 and the taxi driver will probably give you an excellent running commentary on local sites.  Just nod off and nurse your hangover because you won’t understand a word he says.  Parking is in a great big muddy field (if you take your car) so make sure you have a pair of green wellies handy.  Last time there, entry was £8 for the plebs and £12 for the members’ enclosure.  Pay the extra £4 – it’s worth it.

About The Course

The soubriquet Britain’s Friendliest Racecourse is one that Kelso well deserves.  It has long been a favourite of the Plumbers and what it lacks in quality racing, it more than makes up in charm and character.  Even the infamous Coole Abbey scam of 1998 failed to dampen the Plumbers’ enthusiasm.  The course enjoys excellent facilities with the imposing original grandstand now flanked by 2 newer stands offering a wide range of drinks and food.  Views at the course are excellent.  The Plumbers particularly recommend that you pay the additional 4 quid to enter the members’ enclosure.  This affords you a fine view of the action from the upstairs balcony and also the chance to stand right at the winning post and shout at Richard Johnson if that’s what you like to do.

There is a distinct intimacy at Kelso with the bookies, parade ring and winners circle all very close together.  This allows you to take an unhurried approach to your selection of that winning horse and leaves ample time for a quick snifter in the Tweedie Stand.

The website carries full details of all facilities, fixtures, admission prices and so on.

What To Wear

The area is full of European-subsidy fairmers so Barbour hacking jackets and bunnets are in abundance.  Do not turn up in a tee-shirt and jeans – it’s not Hamilton you know – even if you are from the North-East of England.  The Plumbers recommend a Burberry scarf to finish the outfit.  Oh, and remember to attach your members’ enclosure ticket to the zipper of your Barbour.

The Plumber

The Travel Guide recommends:  John M Turnbull, 10, Abbotsford Grove, Kelso. TD5 7BN Tel: 01573 224173

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Longchamp

Qua-a-a-a-nd il me prend dans ses bras, il me parle tout bas, je voie la vie en rose…

Eiffel TowerWhat can you say about Paris that hasn’t been said a thousand times before? One of the most charismatic, romantic and fascinating cities in Europe. Home of the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, Maxim’s and La Coupole, Montmartre and Le Marais. Every time you visit you find something else to excite your imagination and your tastebuds.

Paris – or what is now the Ile de La Cite – was originally settled by a bunch of Celtic tribesmen called the Parisii sometime around 400 BC. For three hundred and fifty years they happily lived on the island, sailing their little wooden boats, catching their fish, hitting each other with sticks and hunting deer. Then one day, Caesar and the Romans came along and built a fort. This encampment soon stretched over from the island to the left bank. A town – Lutetia – was born. Lutetia became Paris and never looked back. Over the centuries, neither war nor revolution (and there have been plenty) has dampened the enthusiasm or the impenetrable charm of this most intriguing city.

Champs-ElyseesMuch of contemporary Parisian life owes its existence to one Baron Haussmann (of Major Charles ‘Millionaire Cheat‘ Ingram fame) who was town planner under Napoleon III in the mid-nineteenth century. Haussmann was an idealist and visionary who dragged the old, medieval Paris with its weeping streets and stench-filled gutters into the vibrant new star of the Belle Epoque that we all know and love. Beautifully sculpted gardens, splendid avenues and tree-lined boulevards radiating from sweeping places and rond-points were his more obvious hallmarks although Haussmann was also responsible for an intricate network of underground sewers: not half as romantic but vital nevertheless in the development of the city. As with all great visionaries, Haussmann had little regard for budgetary control and, in 1869, was ousted from office by pettifogging, penny-pinching townhall bureaucrats. His legacy, however, lives on.

The nineteenth century was a period of rapid growth for Paris. Three world fairs and an entrepreneurial spirit saw Parisian cultural life flourish. Cafes and restaurants appeared on the grand boulevards. The Grand Opera House, built and designed by Charles Garnier, was completed in 1875. The Eiffel Tower, spirit and symbol of Paris, was erected in 1889 – a monument to its designer, the engineer Gustave Eiffel. Montmartre and Montparnasse, in particular, drew artists and philosophers from around the globe.

The early twentieth century saw Paris establish itself as the cultural and artistic centre of the universe. From the nineteen twenties onwards the city was alive with progressive avant-garde movements such as Cubism, Fauvism and Surrealism. Le Corbusier transformed the face of architecture with his geometric shapes. Musicians, film-makers, writers and artists flocked to Paris and the bars and cafes of the grand boulevards played host to such luminaries as Ernest Hemingway, Salvador Dali, Sidney Bechet and Gertrude Stein.

In the 60s, a program of civil restoration works picked up the Haussmann theme and got to work on some of the more run-down districts like Le Marais. Much credit should go to the often-maligned President Francois Mitterand who continued the work with his Grands Travaux scheme which was ultimately responsible for some of the finest modern buildings in the city.

Like all great cities, Paris is a conglommeration of smaller districts and townships, known as arondissements, each with its own distinctive feel and character. Each of these 20 arondissements has its own administrative system with a Prefect and a council which manages local affairs. Overseeing the 20 arondissements is the Prefecture of Paris based in the Hotel de Ville in the centre of the city.

Metro signGetting about in Paris is best done on foot. Take the time out to stroll through the Jardin du Luxembourg and watch the kids sailing their toy boats; walk down along the Seine at dusk or simply wander through the myriad of streets in Le Marais. It’s a big city with a lot to discover so don’t expect to find everything on your first visit.

Paris also has one of the best metro systems in the world. Clean, punctual trains take you to every corner of the city. They are reasonably cheap but we would recommend that you buy a travel pass or carnet de billets to avoid the endless search for change and tickets.

Where To Eat

No-one does food like the French and no-one does French food like the Parisians. There are some truly majestic restaurants in Paris. Le Grand Vefour is one of the best. Granted a third Michelin star in 2000, head chef Guy Martin will cook you up a treat. He will also expect you to dig deep into your pockets though so maybe save it for a special occasion. Le Grand Vefour, 17 Rue Beaujolais, 75001 Paris Tel (33) (01) 42 96 56 27 Closed Friday nights, Saturday and Sunday. Reservations must be made a month ahead of time for dinner, three weeks for lunch.

Maxim’s at 3 Rue Royale, 75008 Paris Tel: 33(01) 42 65 27 94 is a splendid Belle Epoque restaurant that has been graced by the famous for over a century.

La Coupole at 102 Boulevard de Montparnasse is good for spotting the occasional celebrity. Red velvet and columns abound. Distinguished former guests include Jean-Paul Sartre, Josephine Baker and Roman Polanski. Seafood is the speciality of the house and there is dancing late into the night…

Typical French bistroPlain, simple lunches (salads, omelettes etc.) are excellent in the Bar du Marche in St Germain des Pres.

Most cafes and bars (you will find one about every hundred metres) will offer you good quality food and drink at almost any time of the day so you will be spoilt for choice. It’s actually quite difficult to find somewhere disappointing. Breakfast time is a particularly good occasion as there are few finer pleasures in life than sitting in a Paris cafe eating croissants, drinking coffee and reading L’Equipe. For general eating, we selected the choice locations of Le Marais and Luxembourg, opting for restaurants where the locals are happy to eat.

There’s always the other option of wandering into one of the countless charcuteries or delis and picking up some nice ham and cheese and a bottle of red. A couple of baguettes from the boulangerie and a seat in the park is all you need to make your feast complete.

Where To Drink

Harrys New York Bar in Daunou StreetIf you really need to find a pub then what are you doing reading this? Philistines can head to The Auld Alliance to meet up with similarly unimaginative Scots wearing rugby tops and kilts or celebrity Partick Thistle supporters. Do yourself a favour though and remember that you are in Paris, not Falkirk, and seek out some of the more interesting establishments. Harry’s New York Bar in the Rue Daunou is worth the trek. Home of the world-renowned Bloody Mary, it was named after one of its proprietors, Harry McElhone, who bought the bar in 1913. Some of its more illustrious clientele include F Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. The Plumbers can highly recommend the feisty Bloody Mary as almost a meal in itself.

Stagger out of Harry’s and head down the road to the Ritz Hotel on the Place Vendome. You can almost smell the burning rubber and hear the squeal of the tyres as Audrey Hepburn drops off Peter O’Toole in the forecourt.

As we’ve mentioned there are hundreds of bars, cafes and wine bars dotted liberally around the city. Experiment. Just drop in anywhere, take a seat, ask for un vin ordinaire and let that special Parisian atmosphere flow over you.

Where To Stay

City centre hotel prices are not as expensive as you might think so shop around and you’ll probably pick up a good bargain. We opted for a 2-star hotel from the comfortable Timhotel chain in Avenue La Tour-Maubourg described as ‘ideally situated with panoramic views over Les Invalides and close to the Eiffel Tower and the Champ de Mars’. Rooms were a good size, clean and, unusually for French hotel rooms, tastefully decorated. 2 minutes walk from the Ecole Militaire metro station, friendly staff and a tiny, but comfortable, hotel bar made for a very pleasant stay.

There are plenty of other hotels you could choose from. We would recommend looking for a deal on the Internet. Lastminute.com offers some cost-effective packages. Typical prices might be around £400 for two people sharing for two nights including all flights, transfers, accommodation and breakfast.

What To Avoid

Tat. Pure and simple. Too much nonsense sold along the Seine and avoid at all costs Les Halles. And it is probably best not to go up the Eiffel Tower on the night that America starts a bombing campaign against a major Muslim country.

The creeping cancer that is the Irish pub is also to be avoided.

Culture

Culture? Where would you like to start?

If art galleries and museums are your bag then the Plumbers would happily recommend any or all of the following…

The Louvre. Venus de Milo. Mona Lisa. Big glass pyramid. Enough said.

Musee d’Orsay, 1 Rue de Bellechasse 75007. Victor Laloux’s majestic old railway station now houses the finest collection of Impressionist paintings anywhere in the world. Yet at one time it was on the demolition man’s books only to be saved by the unlikely form of Valery Giscard d’Estaing in the late 1960s. Van Gogh, Monet and the rest are all magnificently displayed in an unforgettable setting. Don’t take our word for it. Just go and enjoy.

Musee Rodin, 77 Rue de Varenne 75007. A Plumbers’ favourite. There is just something about Rodin’s sculptures that makes you want to touch them. Cool marble. If you have to go to one museum when you are in Paris then go to this one. You will not be disappointed.

Musee Picasso, 5 Rue de Thorigny 75003. The old 17th century Hotel Sale in the Marais district of Paris holds thousands of pieces of Picasso’s works. Over 200 paintings, 190 sculptures, various ceramics, drawings, engravings and manuscripts all passed to the French state when the master died in 1973 and are housed here along with some other pieces by Matisse and Cezanne.

Musee de L’Orangerie, Place de la Concorde 75001. Originally designed as the greenhouse for the Jardin des Tuileries, the Musee de L’Orangerie is famous primarily for housing Monet’s big – and we mean big – waterlily paintings. If you get bored with these then apart from being a philistine not worthy of lacing the metaphorical boot of Paris, you could always view the works of Sisley, Renoir, Picasso and Modigliani.

Pompidou Centre,
75191 Paris. Famous almost as much for the exterior building design and street theatre as the fine collection of modern art inside.

Musee Edith Piaf, 5 Rue Crespin du Gast 75011. The Little Sparrow lived here as a child. Which maybe explains why the rest of her life was so painful and tortured. Not exactly the most salubrious area of Paris and probably best visited in daylight hours. The museum is in an avid fan’s apartment and contains memorabilia galore. An extraordinary homage to one of the most extraordinary talents and voices of the age.

Champs Elysees signIf your culture is of the smaller, plastic rectangular variety then you could try one of the many haute-couture houses for which Paris is rightly famous. The centre of Parisian couture lies around the Champs-Elysées with Yves Saint Laurent, Guy Laroche, Nina Ricci, Givenchy, Christian Dior, Hermés and Chanel all represented.

If department store shopping is more of your thing then try out any of this lot…

Bon Marche 22 Rue de Severs. The first department store in Paris and designed by Gustave Eiffel (of tower fame), Au Bon Marche is worthy of a visit for the food store – La Grande Epicerie – alone. Fortnum and Mason eat your heart out. This is magnificent.

Galeries Lafayette 40 Boulevard Haussmann. Spread over two locations, Galeries Lafayette is mall heaven. Look out for the weekly fashion shows on Wednesdays at 11 a.m.

Au Printemps 64 Boulevard Haussmann. Boasting the world’s largest perfume collection and a domed restaurant, Au Printemps is supposedly a shopper’s heaven. Lots of different, separate wee buildings each dedicated to different products make this a bit more interesting than Debenhams. Just.

La Samaritaine 19 Rue de la Monnaie. One of the oldest shops in Paris, La Samaritaine is a bit more downmarket than the Galeries Lafayette but none the less interesting for that. Worth a visit if only for the view of the Seine from the restaurant. Good for sportswear and household goods. Open a bit later than the rest too.

BHV 52-64 Rue de Rivoli. Le Bazar de L’Hotel de Ville (BHV) is a bit like B+Q with style. Everything the Skoda Fabia driver could want and more.

Louis Vuitton, 101 Avenue des Champs-Elysees. Looking for an expensive handbag for the little lady? Then look no further than the gorgeous Louis Vuitton. All the leather you can eat on three floors.

Remember to be polite when you are out shopping. Whether you’re buying pain au chocolat from the boulangerie or a silk cravat from Hermes, French shop assistants will expect you to at least grunt a Bonjour Madame/Mademoiselle/Monsieur when you enter so don’t just go shuffling in with the head down, looking balefully at your feet. You’re not in Edinburgh you know.

No trip to Paris would be complete without a visit to one of the markets that abound in the city. We have no hesitation in recommending these…

Le Marche des Puces de St. Ouen de Clignancourt, Avenue de la Porte de Clignancourt. Europe’s largest flea market, Clignancourt is actually a collection of around 2500 open stalls and shops. You will certainly find something here but be prepared to rake through a whole load of rubbish first.

Cite des Fleurs on the Ile de la Cite. Open seven days a week, the flower market sells all manner of pot plants and cut flowers. On Sundays, you can also buy a bird (of the feathered variety) and accessories.

St Pierre market, Montmartre. Nestling close to the Sacre-Coeur in pittoresque Montmartre is this typical Parisian flea-market. Worth a browse if you are in the area.

And remember. If you forget to buy your nearest and dearest a present – God forbid – there is always the big foxtrot-oscar Toblerone at the airport.

Those of you interested in religious architecture might want to head towards…

notre DameNotre-Dame Cathedral, Place du Parvis de Notre Dame, 75004 Paris. Founded in 1163 during the reign of Louis the Seventh, Notre Dame has seen it all. Mary Queen of Scots was crowned Queen of France here after her marriage to François II; Henry VI of England was crowned here in 1430; and to top it all it was nearly burned to the ground by little Jimmy Sommerville and his Communards in 1871. Although the cathedral is the best part of 900 years old, it is a bit of a parvenu in holy house terms having been preceded by a Celtic shrine, Roman temple to Jupiter and Christian basilica.

The cathedral’s worldwide fame can be attributed, of course, to Victor Hugo, whose 1831 novel Notre Dame de Paris made a star of both the building and its hunchbacked inhabitant. Please do not, however, attempt to do any kind of Charles Laughton impersonation within the environs of the building. Even if you are from Carluke.

Sacre-Coeur, Parvis du Sacre-Coeur, 75018 Paris. Perched atop the Butte de Montmartre, the Basilique du Sacre-Coeur is a magnificent Romano-Byzantine church well worthy of a visit. It was designed by the architect Abadie in the late nineteenth century as a result of a design competition held by the state. It was completed in 1914 but not consecrated until the end of the First World War in 1919. From the dome at the top you have a magnificent panoramic view of the rooftops of Paris.

Not had enough yet? Well, you could try…

L'Arc de TriompheL’Arc de Triomphe, Place Charles de Gaulle, 75008 Paris. Commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 after his victory at Austerlitz, the Arc de Triomphe is one of the most famous landmarks in the world. Nissan Micra drivers will be delighted to know that there is a lovely view from the top. More importantly, it lends its name to one of the most important race meetings in the world: the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in the first Sunday of October.

Tour Eiffel, Champ de Mars, 75007 Paris. After the Statue of Liberty (which is French anyway), the Eiffel Tower is probably the most famous and recognisable landmark in the world. Constructed for the International Exhibition of Paris in 1889 by Gustave Eiffel, it stands some 300 metres tall. Until 1930, in fact, it was the world’s tallest construction. The panoramic views of Paris, particularly just before sunset, are breathtaking, as are the stairs so you probably want to go up in the lift, dear.

Unimaginative romantics with lots of cash might want to book the restaurant Jules Verne. It is highly expensive. The Plumbers have not eaten there so can give no opinion on the quality of the cuisine although, being Parisian, it will no doubt pass muster. There is also a gift emporium and a bar for the less affluent. Now that the entrance fee scam has been exposed, you can hand over your Euros safe in the knowledge that they are going towards the upkeep of the old girl rather than the 3:45 at Auteil.

Tour Montparnasse, 33 Avenue du Maine, 75015 Paris. At 210m tall, the Tour Montparnasse is the tallest building in France. Until 1990 it was the tallest building in Europe – outside Russia. Architecture students may wonder at its composite structure but the rest of us will just take the lift up to the 56th or 59th floor (the only ones open to the public) and gaze admiringly at the view.

Place de la ConcordePlace de la Concorde. A fine octagonal square of 8 hectares, the Place de la Concorde is a good location to start your sightseeing. The place itself has a couple of worthy sights: the 23-metre, 2300 year-old obelisk of Ramses II of Thebes to name but one. Go see it when it’s lit up at night.

The Place de la Concorde has an interesting history. It was not always called the Place de la Concorde for example. It was originally called Place de Louis XV and had a large statue of Louis in the centre. In 1792, at the time of the French Revolution, the square was cleverly renamed Place de la Revolution and the statue of Louis was replaced with a statue called Liberte. The revolutionaries also took the liberty of installing a guillotine which went on to behead the likes of Robespierre, Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI. In all, 1119 people met their gruesome death there in the name of democracy. After the Revolution, the square had a number of different names, as might have been expected, before the current one, Place de la Concorde, was plumped for in 1830.

Place Vendome. Splendour. Grandeur. The Ritz. Peter O’Toole, Audrey Hepburn, Ernest Hemingway. Expensive shops. The Place Vendome is all of these and more. You will be in Harry’s Bar in the nearby Rue Daunou so take the short detour to the Place Vendome and a step back in time to a more glorious age.

Forum des Halles, 75001 Paris. For 800 years the Forum des Halles was the central marketplace for Paris. Now it is a sprawling concourse on 3 levels that includes big-name department stores, cinemas, discotheques, a park and one of the world’s biggest subway stations.

All of this culture can take its toll. So why not relax and have a quiet stroll in some of the famous parks and gardens of Paris?

Jardins des Plantes, 57 Rue Cuvier 75005 Paris. The Jardin des Plantes, or botanical gardens, was created in the 17th century as a home for medicinal herbs and flowers. It is now the experimental garden of the Musee Nationalle d’Histoire Naturelle. On site there is a menagerie, an alpine garden and various exhibition halls. Good for a stroll and a picnic and somewhere to take your crabbit kids.

TuileriesJardin des Tuileries. Designed in the 17th century by Andre Le Notre, the Jardin des Tuileries was once part of the old Palais des Tuileries. A good spot to sit and watch the kids sailing their boats or the world pass by. In the vicinity is the Jeu de Paume, formerly a real tennis court built by Napoleon III and now a museum of contemporary art and the Musee de l’Orangerie, the repository for Monet’s waterlily paintings.

Jardin du Luxembourg, 75006 Paris. Lovely 17th century park near the Sorbonne University and a Plumbers’ favourite. Just round the corner from the main entrance is a fine takeaway food shop serving up fresh baguettes, croissants etc. so get yourself down there and have a relaxed al fresco lunch in the park. In the middle of the Jardin du Luxembourg is a large octagonal pond called the Grand Bassin, popular with the kids who rent small, remote controlled boats to irritate nearby relaxing adults.

The park has two notable fountains: the Fontaine de Medicis designed in 1624 and the Fontaine de l’Observatoire constructed in 1873. The latter features a statue of a globe held up by 4 women. Each woman represents a different continent with Oceania left out for the purposes of symmetry. I guess that if the statue was being built today a different continent might be left out.

At the far northern end of the Jardin stands the Palais du Luxembourg. This fine Florentine palace was built for Marie de Medicis in the early seventeenth century and has fulfilled a number of roles through the years. At the time of the Revolution it was, unsurprisingly, a prison. In WWII, it served as the HQ of the Luftwaffe. Now, it houses the French Senate.

bateau-moucheStill need to destress? Take a boat trip on the Seine in one of the bateaux-mouches. These are luxurious, air-conditioned boats that stroll languidly up and down the river giving you an outstanding view of Paris. They have retractable roofs so you don’t need to worry about the barnet if it starts to rain.

Getting There

Flying is best. Ryanair to Beauvais avoids the queues at both ends, but does entail a lengthy bus journey into the city. Air France (s4l4uds) should be avoided at all costs unless you do not like your luggage and can afford to buy replacements as they certainly won’t compensate you when it takes an alternative route. RER from Charles de Gaulle is quick and regular. The journey to Orly is great fun as it involves a driverless electric train for a large part of the journey. Getting home of course will be by private helicopter, paid for out of the winnings

Getting To The Course

There is only one answer in the absence of a chauffeur-driven Mercedes, and that is the courtesy bus, or navette gratuite, from the Porte d’Auteil Metro station. The meetings can be really busy and the traffic from the metro station is torture so make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to catch the first race.

About The Course

Paris has two racecourses, both set in the Bois de Boulogne. Auteil, the other one, is the home of French jump racing with the French Steeplechase Grand Prix held on the third Sunday of June.

Longchamp, the one we are concerned with, is a beautiful course. Inaugurated in 1857 by Napoleon III, the course is famously home to the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe – the premier, and richest, flat race in the European racing calendar.

A huge grandstand and wide, concrete concourse offer excellent opportunities to watch mares and fillies. You get quite a good view of the horses too. The most famous landmark on the course is the windmill which was once part of the Abbaye de Longchamp founded in 1256.

Longchamp Winners CircleThe winners’ circle is intimate yet accommodating even for the most vertically challenged. A particular Plumbers’ highlight was watching Frankie Dettori perform his spectacular dismount from Sakhee a couple of years ago after winning the main event. The whole place simply oozes class. Try and take in a top meeting like the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe and you will be dazzled by French elan and style. Entry is cheap at around 50FF and you are allowed to use the facilities in the Tribune du Conseil (grandstand). A lesson for some courses in the UK, we think.

Champagne in the bar overlooking the winners enclosure is particularly recommended. Last time we were there a bottle of NV Moet et Chandon came in at 400FF in one of the champagne tents although the cheap plastic glasses spoiled the effect somewhat (good metaphor for France really). Nevertheless, it’s a good way to spend your winnings.

If you fancy a meal on the course then there’s no better place than the Restaurant Panoramique. As its name suggests you get a good view of the racecourse. Fiendishly expensive on the day of the Arc, it is, we are told, a bit more reasonable at other times. Just inside the entrance is a fine statue of Gladiateur, the first French horse to win the Epsom Derby in 1865.

Unlike courses in the UK, there are no individual bookies for you to mercilessly fleece. Betting is via the PM (Pari-Mutuel) which is a bit like the Tote in that when you win you have absolutely no idea how much money you are going to get back. Get your bets on early too as the queues soon build up.

To bet, you need to go to the row of windows at the back of the stand. Different windows accept different bets of different denominations. Bets start at 10 FF (it will be Euros now I suppose) so if that’s all you want to bet go to the 10FF window. If you want to bet 50FF then go to the 50FF window and so on. To place your bet, choose the horse (obviously), go up to the window, hand over your cash and give the horse’s number (you’ll find it on the racecard). Say gagnant for a win bet or place for an each-way bet. Couldn’t be easier.

A word of caution about the course too. It seems that Longchamp, and especially the Arc meeting in October, attracts a particular type of white, English pseudo-working class male. Easily identifiable from these four traits: drunk, stupid, loud, loads of money.

What to Wear

Longchamp HatsStart with the absurd and then become outrageous. Checks are obligatory. Hats? The madder the better. And colours should be bright and completely uncoordinated with all other items of clothing. Linen suit preferred but optional.

The Plumber

The Travel Guide recommends: Plomberie du Marais, 27 Rue du Temple 75004 Paris. Tel: 01 42 72 95 92

Categories
Fat Fred

Two down, two to go

Howya
It’s day three and I’m sitting here with a smile the size of Cork on me bake. Jaysus but it’s been deadly so far.
Tuesday was brand new and I was laughing me cacks off at the faces of the English eejits who thought they were all in on this steamer for Sweet Wake to romp the first. You’d have thought their Queen had found crap in her cornflakes.
Serves them bleedin right. They were jumping on a bandwagon that wasn’t theirs only to find that the poor thick Paddies had pulled the wheels from under them and had all piled on to Nicholl’s nag instead. Lovely so it was.
Then didn’t Brave Inca go and win as well and we started the hooley of all hoolies.
I was circling over Shannon before me afternoon snack, off me face by the start of the last race, futhered by the end of it and absolutely stocious by dinnertime. Joe Mangled so I was.
Man but I was gumming for some scran to soak the black stuff up. In the end I lost count at two steak pies, a bit of beef, a gansey of mash, ten pints of plain, two plates of ice cream and a wafer thin mint.
Jaysus I was so full that I could only manage half a pack of Jaffas and a couple of Bushmills for dessert then a Bill Murray before I hit the hay. To be fair the Peggy Dell in the room was atrocious but I was so ossified that I couldn’t have cared less.
I had a head on me alright the next morning but a quick dump, a shave and a Paddy Power and I was right as rain. Well I was till I got a dose of the scutters and left the bog looking like the Somme and smelling like Best Mate. It was Guinness apple tarts all the way to the course I tell you.
Another fine day Wednesday was too though. I did Newmill and Star de Mohaison and me pockets were heavier than a priest’s conscience. Of course cousin Donal and the Buncrana boys did the last of their euros on Moscow Flyer and the sentimental gobshites were last seen heading for the easyJet standby desk, their wallets as empty as Tony Dobbin’s ballbag. As useless as tits on a bull the lot of them.
Ah Cheltenham is deadly so it is. Even the bleedin bookie’s benefit stealing home at 33s in the last couldn’t take the shine off it.
I spent the night with Barry Geraghty who was buying black and burgers for every bucko he knew. He scooped his share as well so if you are after backing Ambobo in the stayer’s hurdle then you’d better be hoping that either he had a right good dose of the diuretics or had brekkie at Eddie Rockets.
Ah Jaysus there I go talking about food again. I had half a pig between a few baps a good hour ago but I’m fair gummin for some more. There’s a grand carvery next to the champagne tent and I could do some proper damage over there.
Hungry? I could eat a bus driver’s arse through a security grill.
See youse at the track.

Categories
Fat Fred

Sweets for me sweet, Noland for me honey

Howya
Jayus I love the smell of a scam in the morning. First Tuesday of Cheltenham and there’s already a whisper for a hit on the sods with the satchels. A whisper? It’s a bleeding roar.
You’ll know that every Paddy is supposed to be on Sweet Wake in the opener, convinced that he’ll rattle up like a good thing. Ah sure and Mr Meade is supposed to be setting us up for a week of black stuff and dancing. Or at least that’s what we want the Jammy clients who aren’t on God’s side of the sea to think.
Sweet Wake is a decent nag all right but sure she might just be terrible unlucky. Oh it will break our poor oul Irish hearts if she is, so it will. Me arse and Katty Barry!
Sweet Wake has as much chance of winning as I have of being named anorexic of the year. It’s not got a baldie.
A scam? Does the Holy Father himself wear a big hat with a swastika on it? Youse better believe it.
Or maybe this is all just a bit of craic to put the plastic Paddies off Sweet Wake so the real things can clean up and we’re not backing Paul Nicholl’s nag at all? Ah work it out for yoursels. You’ll know by a quarter after two anyways.
The craic was deadly down here last night, every last man talking fluent Guinness. Jaysus but the place is black with Irish. It’s busier than a priest’s trousers at first communion.
Me cousin Donal and the Buncrana mafia were the biggest gobshites in town as per usual, knowing every winner of every race and promising to buy up every hoor in London if Missed That wins the second. Dense as bottled shite the lot of them.
If Ruby can’t bring Mr Mullin’s nag home with every other horse looking at its arse then they will be home long before St Paddy’s and not have the price of a doxie between them. Feckin eejits
For meself I liked the look of Monet’s Garden in the same race but I’ve been put off a bit by the fact that Tony Dobbin is riding the thing. Dobbo’s had a few jumps too many recently if youse catch me drift. Never out the bleedin saddle that one. Nah the ape is too used to coming second these days. Monet’s Garden, Rose Garden… Dobbo will trim any bush as soon as look at it.
And have youse heard about JP McManus? Word is the big man is going to be laying a million English pounds on Brave Inca to win the Champion. Beef news begorrah, steal me custard creams and call me peckish. A million smackeroos? Respect to the big fella but me Gary Glitter would be would be going like a threepenny sponge if I had that kind of money on a nag. Mrs O’Farrell would also be after me mickey with a cutty knife but that’s another matter.
Anyways, I’ll need to be going on account of how it’s nearly lunchtime and me stomach thinks me throat’s a Protestant and starving it out of spite. I’ve had nothing but a packet of Jaffas and a package of tatos since breakfast and I’m as weak as a salmon in a sandpit.
Hungry? I could eat the lamb o’ Jaysus through the rungs of a chair.
See youse at the track.

Categories
Fat Fred

Royal Bleedin Ascot

Howya

Here I am at Ascot and I have to tell youse it’s bleeding deadly. Sure and I know it says Royal Ascot in the papers but she’s no queen of mine sure she’s not. She’s a nice enough old cow but as far as I’m concerned she sits down to do her business like the rest of us so I’ll be leaving the curtseys to the English. Bleedin eejits.

I got down here yesterday and Jaysus you should see the nick of some of the motts. There’s nothing like a bunch of posh doxies with their drawers on show to make me cacks jump to attention. Sure and they go on about the hats they’re wearing but what the hell are they bothering with that bollix for when there’s diddies on display everywhere? I tell youse there are some right qweer bits o skirt among these rich birds but the apes that are with them are too busy looking for their chins to notice. Feckin eejits.

I just had the one ride yesterday. Horses that is. A nag for Mr Dods in the big sprint. It’s a nice type but yesterday wasn’t one of its days for winning if youse know what I mean. Keep it thereabouts and then be a bit one-paced in the last furlong, don’ t make it too bleedin obvious says the guvnor. Only trouble was there was about 100 bleedin nags in the race and my one was scared shitless. His Gary Glitter was shaking so much it felt liking being on a washing machine on full spin cycle. Sure and does he not bolt off like a Boy Scout being chased by Michael Jackson? I nearly had me bleedin arms pulled out trying to stop the beggar from winning so I did. Still it was worth it and all, Mr Dods gave me a nice little bonus — £500 and a nice homemade steak pie. Lovely.

I tell youse there’s nothing like a runaway horse under your arse to give you an appetite. I went through that steak pie like John Leslie through a virgin then washed them down with a pack of Jaffas and a couple of jars of black. I felt more lardy than Vanessa Felz’s arse but it was nothing that maxi strength diurectics couldn’t cope with. I’d give the bog ten minutes if I was youse.

I got a little whisper for the big race today from the stable lad that gets Frankie his “special protein diet” — expensive stuff it is too on account of how it comes all the way from Colombia. Anyways, this feller tells me that Frankie’s nag doesn’t have a baldy and that all the Sheiks are putting their gold bars on Rakti. Sure and if it’s good enough for Sheik Yermani then it’s bleeding deadly enough for Freddie O’Farrell. Lovely biscuits.

It’ll be a grand dinner for me tonight James and don’t spare the courses. Keep the scran coming till the sauna is ready.

Hungry? I could eat chips from a beggar’s hankie.

See youse at the track.

Fred O’Farrell

Categories
Fat Fred

St Paddy’s Day. Please!!!

Happy St Paddy’s to youse all but jayus lads, how bad was that yesterday?

The drink link has taken a bigger battering than Lisa Jones gives her gee gees. If Mrs O’Farrell knew how much cash I lost to those thieves on the rails then she’d have me large lad in her handbag and be taking it down the pawn shop.

Sure and it was a grand start too. Brave Inca nosed it and we thought it was going to be black stuff all the way. Me gobshite cousin Donal had been trying to tell me how Garde Champetre couldn’t lose but I’d had the whisper from Timmy Murphy that it hadn’t a baldy so I nipped on the favourite. Course and I could have told Donal but I never liked the ape anyways.

He and his crew had to haul ass out of town on account of being all out of chicken’s hash. After the first! Feckin eejits.

Mind you, maybe I should have joined them. Jaysus there were more outsiders than a loaf of bread. It’s me own fault after Conor O’Dwyer was telling me about a nag the night before but I couldn’t hear him right through the Guinness. Hardly useless I thought he said. Jaysus.

I’d fired a rake of money on good thing after good thing but the bookies satchels just kept getting fuller than McCririck’s knickers. Ah we’ll get it back in the last two I told the lads. Me arse and Katy Barry. Forties and fifties! Jaysus, is this game rigged?

Ah but we’re still fighting lads. I’ve managed to come up with a stake for another little bash at the books today. Rhinestone Cowboy in the Coral and we are flying again. I think I might have been a little fluthered last night on account of how I told Jonjo that he’d be better off with a trained monkey on the Cowboy’s back than that eejit Magnier. Jonjo said how he’d be better off not running it at all than have a fat beggar like me break his back. Cheeky gobshite.

Right lads, up and at em again. It’s St Paddy’s and there’s no way we can lose. I’m just off down the chipper to get me strength up for the day ahead.

Hungry? I could eat a clown’s arse through a circus tent.

Categories
Fat Fred

Fer feck’s sake Fallon

Howya

Oh jaysus. Poor Keiren. He’s really gone and done it this time.

The Fallon fella was only doing his job and making sure his nag didn’t win when it wasn’t supposed to so that the one of Jamie Osbourne’s got over the line first. Where was the harm in that?

But the eejit had to go and get that horse of his so far out in front that his arse would have looked like a mouse’s diddy to the rest of them. Then he had to put the anchors on so heavy that you could almost hear the beast screeching to a bleedin halt.

Fair play, the man’s a fine jockey but for a crooked fella he’s damn poor at the cheating. Me, I would have eaten me way through half a cow and weighed the beggar down so much that he didn’t have a baldy.

To make matters even worse, the eejit only had to go and tell a couple of undercover reporters that his nag wasn’t going to win. The fella’s got a gob on him like an overworked hoor. A right bollocks he is.

Now the gits at the Jocket Club are all over him like flies on shite. And that means the feckers will be after the rest of us an all. Jaysus.

Ah sure and the Jockey Club are as much use as a cigarette lighter on a motorbike. I’m sure they don’t know the end that shits from the end that eats but they sure know how to make the working man’s life a bleedin misery.

All this hassle is bad for me digestion I tell youse. Sure and it’s putting a proper appetite on me.

Hungry? I could eat chips from John McCririck’s knickers.

See youse at the track.

Categories
Fat Fred

Sea Biscuit? See me.

Howya

Was youse watching the Oscars the other night? Blinding it was apart from that diddy bitch-bag Billy Crystal. You ever seen anyone more in need of a good kick in the bollocks? Me neither.

Anyways it minded me of that film Sea Biscuit about that ould horse that won all them races in America. Sound it was.

Mind youse, that little horse was so bleedin diddy that I’d have crushed the beggar. The only way it could have won with me on its back would be if it had a ton of rocket fuel up its jacksie. Actually that’s not as Irish as you might think. Jamie Osbourne has this stuff he calls arse ammo for the ones he wants to win. Bleedin deadly it is.

But even the ould movie nag’s name would have got me thinking of food. Sea Biscuit is it? If I see a biscuit I eat it. Ah custard creams, Kimberlys, bourbons, jammie bleedin dodgers. Lovely.

You can’t beat a pack of biccies for keeping your appetite down. A rake of choccy diggies and I can put off eating dinner for a good hour. At Wolverhampton last week I couldn’t eat lunch on account of having to ride a nag for Mr Lungo that had a bit of a baldy. Hank Marvin I was. So I got meself on the outside of a box of jaffa cakes and that fair did the trick.

Ah fair play, I had to eat. Without food in me I’m as much use as a lighthouse on a bog. Mind you I did get a right dose of the scutters just before the 3.30. A right reddener so it was. Youse can have no idea how skawly the trots can be when you’re wearing riding britches. Like an atom bomb going off in a can of beans so it is.

Still, blinding news. I’m on a winner at Lingfield on Saturday. Mr Channon tells me the only thing that can beat his nag is a bolter being ridden by Kieren. Now what Mr C doesn’t know is I was enjoying a bit of rock ‘n’ roll with a stable lass who tells me that Fallon’s nag is going to run a bit wide at the second bend and then get boxed in before heading for home. Dreadful unlucky that way some of Keiren’s horses.

So that means I’ll be due a right little wedge in a bonus from ould Channon and can get a nice little lift from Victor Swindler as well. Of course I could always tell Mrs O’Farrell about me little windfall. Yeah, in me brown I will.

Anyways I’m off to see a man about a one and one — cod and chips to you. Hungry? I’d eat a farmer’s arse through a blackthorn bush.

See youse at the track.

Categories
Fat Fred

Top of the morning line to you

Howya

Being followers of the sport of kings as you are, you’ll have seen me name on your racecard and in your papers and here I am to write for youse every now and again. Me oul sweat Paul Pot gave me the gig and said I should tell youse all about the grand game and the twisters that run it. Well here it is.

These days I don’t really have what you would call a regular stable. One day I’m whacking the arse off a horse for Mrs Reveley then the next I’m holding one back for Jamie Osbourne. It’s the variety that makes it so bleeding deadly.

I suppose it’s fair to say I’ve had something of a problem with me weight. It’s me genes — makes me lard go up and down more often than a stable girl’s cacks. All it takes is a couples of pints of the black stuff and I end up looking like that fat fecker McCririck. The lads like to indulge in a bit of cheery banter by calling me Fat Fred O’Farrell, the Fattest Fecker in the Field. Ah the cheeky little gobshites, I hope their bollocks drop off.

Anyways I may be a couple of pints overweight but at least I can ride. Some of these midgets are as much use as tits on a bull. They may be as small as a mouse’s diddy but they can ride feck all.

Sure I’m partial to a bag of taytos and the odd swallow of Arthur’s but all it takes is a few days of starvation, pills, saunas and cocaine to get me down to the same weight as the tiddlers.

End of last summer I was on a nice two-year-old for Mr Cecil. Top nag it was as well. The sheiks had wanted Fallon on board but there was no way that Mr Cecil was standing that. Kieren has had one ride too many at that yard if youse gets me drift.

I wasn’t Mr Cecil’s first choice either but Mickey-Jo, Spencey and Darley were booked up, Frankie was getting his hair cut and oul George was in his scratcher having a nap. A right mentaller the oul fella is, still riding at 72 and all.

Anyway, nice horse this was and I’m pretty sure it would have bolted up if I hadn’t had all the strength crapped out of me trying to get down to nine stone. Those diuretic pill jobs are the business for losing weight but spending half the night on the pan sure shags the bejesus out of ye.

Oul Sheik Yermani wasn’t best pleased at his nag losing either and I don’t suppose he’ll be shouting for O’Farrell come the Guineas. Ah well, bollix to him.

Today I’m off to Lingfield and I’ve got two rides, one winner and one loser. The one that doesn’t have a baldy is up first so there’s plenty of time for me to work off that fish supper I had to meself last night before I get on one of Mr Berry’s “specially-trained” efforts in the last. I had to stop this nag winning at Southwell and it nearly pulled me feckin arms out. Today it will go through the field like an Eddie Rockets breakfast through a tourist.

Of course I’m not allowed to bet on this nag as it’s against the rules. Yeah, me arse and Katty Barry. Mrs O’Farrel and the little O’Farrell’s will be going without dinner if something goes wrong and this fecker gets banjaxed. No worries though.

Anways, I’m off down to see my accountant and invest the snapper’s college funds. And I should just have time for a bit of dinner myself before I’m off. Hungry? I could eat a baby’s arse through the bars of a cot.

See yous at the track.

Fred O’Farrell

Categories
Plumb Line

Tight Squeeze

I was rigging up a dishwasher for a family down Ronald Place last week. Don’t know why he couldn’t just have bought her a pair of pink Marigold gloves and saved himself a few quid but who am I to argue.

In fact he’d have saved himself a good few quid more if he’d been there instead of his missus. Moaned from start to flippin finish she did. My rule of thumb is add another 20 knicker to the bill for every time someone gets up me nose and this witch cost herself a fortune. I think she must have had the painters in.

Not that she really had the painters in because doing that at the same time as the plumber would have been silly. No, I think she was on her mental cycle. It’s the only think that could have explained her being such a pain in the Jeffrey.

Imagine getting on her high horse just cos I ran a lead off the washing machine and her smalls ended up cleaning her knives and forks. Picky mare.

Mind you she did also have the teenager from Hell’s kitchen living with her as well so it was no wonder she was intemperated. The bratling was this skinny blonde thing with a hankie making do for a skirt. Blimey such a short skirt would have been all right if she filled out a bit but I think she was that arachnaphobic way. Terrible so it is but I don’t see why they can’t just make her eat some pies.

So I had the moaning mother moaning in one ear and Lolita stick insect squawking in the other. How’s a man supposed to do a proper job when he can’t hear himself think about ways of turning the VAT into ready cash? I’ve got professional standards to meet you know.

Next thing the mother disappears and the teenager starts asking me how big my wrench is. Flippin eck — there’s no way I want to end up doing backing vocals for Gary Glitter and Pete Townshend so I told her it could slip through a 5/8 washer and she slung her hook. My old gaffer always told me never to put something too big inside something too small or you would end up in more hot water than you can handle. And, as I always say, if it’s true in plumbing it’s true in life.

Anyways, about the thing I wanted to tell you about. Once Lady Macbeth and the six-stone slapper pushed off out of the way I got into the trap under the kitchen floor to feed up the strainer basket. Blimey if I didn’t find five hundred knicker in used readies hidden in the hole. Result. Merry Crimbo, Mrs Plumb. I couldn’t have been more surprised if Saddam Hussein had popped his head out and sang Take Me I’m Yours. Actually that’s not so unlikely when you think about it.

My first thought was they might be drug dealers but there was woodchip on the walls and no bling bling round the arachnaphobic’s neck so I ruled that one out. Best guess was the old man had won it on the nags and was hiding it from the old cow so he could spend it on someone who moaned less. Or more.

He’d never miss it for months and what’s more he could hardly go tell her about it now could he? Anyways theft is nine tenths of the law.

So I’m thinking Mrs Plumb might just get that diamante thong she wanted after all. Then I’m thinking an extra large sets you back a good few more spondulicks and a monkey doesn’t go as far as it did. So I’m thinking about following the geezer’s example and putting the entire monkey on a pony. Investment.

I pick out this nag called Tight Squeeze. Can’t lose I reckon. Then I see this tip for an animal called Jack Pot 2. Kiss Me Kate I thinks to meself, must be fate. A second jackpot is just what the optician ordered. Flippin third it was.

Oh well, easy come easy went. A pair of Marks and Spencers cotton finest for Mrs P. Blimey.

Plumb On

Peter Plumb