LAST Christmas I gave you my heart. Still got it, cos I could do with it back? Let’s face it valiantly, 2017 can be summed up in a word; “crap.”
Just another year of government mendacities, spending cuts, and tyrannical deviations to make Britain as great as our new passports. Blue is the colour of cold and remoteness, just saying.
Another year where bulletins of worldwide terrorist attacks, terrible environmental tragedies and threats of internal conflict and war dwindle fast, to make room for the next horror story, and the poorest writhe under misguided pronouncements from bigoted world leaders, while ladies cut holes in their Christmas jumpers to make their boobs look like reindeers; we took the rough with the smooth.
Locally, pubs close faster than you can finish your drink in them, while Facebook pages spawn like rabbits. Everything feels as fake and plastic as Donald Trump’s suntan, and the world as spiteful as his Twitter profile. All’s well that ends well working the other way, even this No Surprises is nothing more than a clip-show; what a rip off.
I opened the year after the Boxing Day massacre, and sided with the fox: I’m on a wind up because, despite its illegality, thousands gathered on Boxing Day to blatantly flaunt the law and, just like they do to their children, they rub the blood in the face of anyone who might feel it slightly unfair on the fox by unveiling their crime in the native newspaper, as if what they did was acceptable behaviour; shame on the Gazette for passing such conceited pugnacious dribble off as an innocuous pageant.
This one, I’m sure you’ll appreciate, went down like a lead balloon at a ban lead-balloon-popping protest. Still not much changes, this Boxing Day they gathered in Pewsey, among other locations across the country. The only difference now is the ones claiming no harm is done seem to have found a novel activity; beat the protester with a horsewhip.
Our hate for foxes came to an apex when some idiot nicked the Basil Brush RNL collection box from the Little Brittox, but I’d already turned my attention to the A303 at Stonehenge: dodgy as an atomic-powered milk-float on a mountain footpath, used like an ultramodern autobahn by selfie-taking headless chickens, the proposed 1.4 billion squid to entomb traffic in a carbon monoxide tube for 1.8 miles, and campaigners complained, it’s not long enough; as if it was bound to happen when the council can’t even repair a pothole.
Then scaremongering weather warnings that were never to be sparked a trip down memory lane when Paul Baker, Sue Linsley, Patricia Besant, Ron Bridewell, Caroline Hubbard Reid and a chap with the unfortunate name of OAP Kev recollected snowy days of yore in Devizes. The column was getting nice again, until teenagers were caught uttering naughty words in Morrisons by Facebook PC philanthropists.
So I flipped open Pandora’s Box, asking The Devises Issue group, not for their reaction to the criticism teenagers received, but to prove the stereotype wrong. We covered many decent activities local youth do, from Arthur Plumb fire-juggling on a unicycle to the Bratton Silver Band and Phoenix Brass, the Cadets to Devizes Youth Club, and highlighted MACs and Centre Stage Academy of Dance.
Rubbing salt into whinger’s wounds, we heard a most memorable guest; the fantastic Freya Pigott, who talked about the Wiltshire Assembly of Youth and the UK Youth Parliament: “we find ourselves conflicting with Wiltshire Council,” she told us, “as we often stand up against cuts to public transport and youth services, while calling for more funding for mental health services.” Shame it doesn’t feel like they listened, cutting more than Mary Whitehouse editing Debbie Does Dallas.
I reckon we did justice for youth though, showed up pigeonholing “grownups,” while our own MP unleashed some serious drivel, comparing hysterical Brexiteers to jihadists: It was more irrational outburst than a cheap-shot rebellious kvetch, her only intention seemingly to earn a permit to appear on the tele-box.” And she did, where she proceeded to ignore Billy Bragg and over-shout senior obnoxious cow, Anne Widdecombe: “Did you catch “the World According to Claire Perry Show,” with guests including David Dimbleby, incorrectly scheduled by the BBC as Question Time? She fumbled humble pie but it fell on the floor before she had the opportunity to eat it. Her annoyance with Brexiteers soon dissolved to mindless obedience to the Tory line.
After winter, came….yeah, potholes. I fell into Potterne’s craters, slightly more filled in than the A360 upon asking Wiltshire Council the procedures for pothole repairs. The vagueness of their response was a contributing factor to the path No Surprises would take; when dealing with the Council I found it best to just make stuff up rather than ask. The ethos peaked over the hysteria of parking charges to punish local business.
Attempts to hop back to the good foot, including chatting to Devizes-born Chris Astill-Smith, on his mission to swim the channel. I thanked the Great Western Hospital Foundation, providing space for the Devizes Foodbank and was even nice about Claire Perry’s assistance with it. Also, it was cool talking to Wadworth’s sign-painter David Young, after he rubbed shoulders with Prince Charles.
Seemed spring was brightening up, but then Peter Blockley of the Devizes Lions announced the club was unable to comply with Wiltshire Council’s interpretation of regulations: “We’re very sorry for any disappointment felt by the public, who have always supported this event.” Tradition couldn’t save the May Fair this year for fear of terrorist attack: Maybe the Council has a point, I’m angered by all the terrorist attacks at events in Devizes; Christmas light switch on I saw a bearded foreigner, probably one of those Lapland extremists, on the roof of the Bear Hotel with some kind of electrical device. The next thing, I heard explosions.
A surge in annoyance developed, being Wiltshire, with the lowest crime rates in the country, but peculiarly, police Taser usage above national average, celebrated the incongruity with Chief Constable Mike Veale handing out Tasers to: any old PC Tom, Dick, or Dirty Harry. And even more frustrating, his reasoning: It’s all these darn terrorist attacks happening in our God forsaken county.
So with staying in being the new going out, fear of being Tasered, I created a poll to find the best takeaway in town: it’s more important than the EU referendum. Bit naff, but the following week I did a prodigious piece on gender equality at the Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race, and the inspiring tale of Sheila Burnett, who disguised her gender to enter. Similarly I advocated the virtue of girl’s football; Things I do to get out of doghouse. I even, like a premonition of Devizine, previewed the summer festivities, moaning “what do I look like now, some kind of event guide?” Pleasant topics; if I knew then what I… oh, forget it.
But with spanners dressing as Muslims to protest about the cancelation of the May Fair, a new pub landlord trying to paint over ceiling murals sacred to crop-circlers, a surge in dog owners tying poo-bags to trees, and not forgetting, of course, our trustworthy Prime Minister nobody voted for, who clearly stated she wouldn’t call a snap election, suddenly calling a snap election, it was reasonable to suggest all hell would break loose. Who’d have flunked it?
We managed a tenacious link from doggy-poo bags to the current state of Parliament, which wasn’t tricky: Better still; train your pooch to poo in your own garden rather than leave it to the heroic CUDS and Green Party’s Geoff Brewer, who have been tidying discarded poo sacks in Drew’s Pond Wood, the worst affected area of Devizes. At last, here’s a councillor cleaning poo rather than dishing it out.
One way forward; interview prospective local candidates, as if they had a chance. We started with the most radical, Dr Emma Dawnay of the Green Party: “We are not a single issue party!” Emma assured, “we have policies across the board which will increase wellbeing and give people the financial motivation to live in a more sustainable manner. For me our economic policies, on tax, investment and the monetary system – are more important than rules on, for instance, plastic bags, as they will have a far wider impact. I’m a political economist, and it is the Green Party’s economic policies that convinced me to become Green.”
Then Labour’s Imtiyaz Shaikh under the spotlight: who is surprisingly optimistic in his attempt to gain against the bigger kids in this game of musical chairs. It was becoming clear with my notion: Least we can be sure; the Conservative Party will remain callous organisms, unreliable as Charles Ponzi at the My Little Pony Friendship Club AGM. No apologies, this is not the Beeb. The chance of impartiality here equals the chance of Tories sticking to their manifesto, the furnace was warming.
Now, expectedly a few obnoxious right-wing fanatics, too thick to see the satire through their hateful agenda tried laughably to verbally attack me personally, so we took a fortnight away from politics where I dressed as Wilber, the Air Ambulance bear at the brilliant Calne-Fest, had an adventure on the wheels of steel at the Devizes Scooter Club Family Fun Day and chatted to Sam Bishop of Devizes-own pop band Larkin, all the time never really believing Claire Perry would take the No Surprises podium.
But she did, and I interviewed the key person to all the shenanigans. Like a true politician, she avoided answering every question, and not one Tory sympathiser appreciated my unbiased effort anyway: Claire was keen to contradict herself, “We’re not entering a coalition with the DUP. The Conservative party is the only party forming the UK Government. We are entering talks with the DUP to ask if they will be willing to support us in those key votes on a confidence and supply basis. This does not mean we are entering into a relationship with the DUP, or that we support them.” Sake!
Despite a naked cyclist and phantom adolescent bum slapper at large, I insisted on a group huggle. We yakked to clothed Seend cyclist and pork pie lover, Jennifer Dalton, who with her friend John Whalley took part in the Deloitte Ride across Britain, and Poulshot farmer Nicole Pegg, who sadly had her livestock attacked by a dog. That though was the tip of the iceberg of bad news in Devizes, with the sabotage of the Jubilee woods and two paedophile arrests made, things too bleak to mention. So I proposed we look to carnival as revitalisation, until a dog bit me and I spent the parade slouching in Swindon’s A&E eating Wotzits. DOCA though have done us proud, with an excellent Hillworth Picnic and awesome street festival, forgotten by the public when new arrangements for the Christmas Parade needed ironing, and an electrical issue saw Santa booed.
Celebrations afoot, below Ian Diddams’ hashtag #nothingeverhappensindevizes I set to prove, despite the filthy top-heavy Tory ethos, Devizes is great, and there’s plenty to do. Since Facebookers lamented there was no single what’s-on guide, although there was, but updated as often as the Doomsday Book, I hit upon a revelation. The moisture of the Earth, the powers of the sun and moon, all worked upon a certain writer, old as creation, and he became magically fertile!
Yeah, whatever, that first egg was named, “No Surprises Living in Devizes.” The father Bud said, “With No Surprises, we make fun of Devizes.” Elemental forces caused the egg to hatch. From it came a stone cold website.
The nature of Devizine was irresponsible!
It certainly kept my mind preoccupied from the terrible cause of events in my personal life. My Dad suffered a stroke at the beginning of the year and never recovered. It left that inspiring, kind man severely physically and mentally disabled. Tuesdays when I usually wrote my column I’d spend driving to London after work to see him. The column therefore became sporadic, not as polished and often the satire was lost. To the point where some thought they’d kick me when I was down, and No Surprises downgraded from amusing causerie to ‘spam’, worthy of blocking and reporting to Facebook; nothing to do with the convenient reawakening of the official town website, obviously.
There were times I found it hard to be humorous, returning from a hospital where ninety-five percent Caucasian patients were nursed day and night by kindly foreign faces only to read the posts of xenophobic yokels claiming immigrants were choking the NHS by taking all the beds. Yeah, they’re taking the beds and cleaning our shit off them. Fancy doing this job when you scare them into Europe you moron?
Oh my years; you love it really! Truly, I want Devizine and No Surprises be something for the real people of Devizes, and beyond, to enjoy and share; not certain why some are against this; is it cos I is as common as muck dropped from the mudguards of Nigel Farage’s Land Rover, or cos I sway leftward like Jeremy’s vest on the washing line during Hurricane Harvey? I know it’s illegal to have alternative opinions over this state border. Like a dogmatic Footloose Kevin Bacon, I’ll kick Sunday shoes off to new avenues in the coming year, regardless of rubrics.
Between folds of crisis then, my father sadly passing in October, I managed bashing out a few No Surprises columns, verbally attacking fly-tippers, attending the Devizes Country Music Club, praising Jeannette Von Berg and her team who insure no one is alone at Christmas and I visited The St John’s Parish Rooms to see the amazing work of Devizes Opendoor. I consider these worthy.
So, I thank everyone who has been featured in No Surprises this year, especially Ms Perry for being a good sport. And I dedicate this final feature to the fond memories of my Dad. Here’s to a better year; 2018, I wish you all the best.
Devizine and No Surprises will live long and prosper, it’d be illogical not to support them Captain.