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Tim Chipping

Ranting & Reeling

Tim Chipping’s monthly column

I’ve recently started a new job. The other employees are younger than me and exist in a bubble of modern things you’re supposed to do when you’re young and modern, like drinking sickly cocktails in bars where the music is so loud you can’t hear yourself vomit, knowing who the Kardashians are and why they are, and taking part in The Colour Run (as if running weren’t unpleasant enough without strangers spraying you in the face with dyed corn starch.) They’re lovely people but I only recognise every fifth word and that word is often Kardashian.

Last week one of the youngest and most modern of my colleagues (her eyebrows are always “on fleek” – I don’t entirely know what that means) attempted to engage me in light chat by asking what I did at the weekend. I dread this question because I inevitably feel the need to give ‘the talk’.

The talk is where I try, as succinctly as possible but never succinctly enough, to explain the oddities of my life. The chief oddity being that the bulk of my leisure time involves folk. And that’s going to need some background information before we get to the precise details of what I did at the weekend.

I’m used to having to give the talk and have been giving it for as long as I can remember other children raising their eyebrows when I stood up in front of my infant school class to give an account of ‘what I did on my holiday’. I grew up in a church family, by which I mean we lived next to the church, my parents were caretakers of the church and they met at Bible college so frequently preached at the church too (with my assistance when I was old enough to read the Gospels out loud – I used to do it in the voice of Richard Burton reciting Under Milk Wood, the old ladies loved it). But everyone knows what church is. If someone asks you what you did at the weekend and you say you spent it at church, they don’t have to be the Pope’s boyfriend to know what that entails.

Folk, as we know, is different. Everyone thinks they know what folk is, most haven’t a clue. Perhaps they think it’s a hippy idyll akin to Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant; some may recall scenes of part-time beatniks on the Aldermaston March; others picture you playing a lute, in the nude, but that’s between them and their therapist.

Why should I care what they imagine I do? They don’t, they’re simply making polite conversation. But I’m no good at that. Ask me how I am and I will tell you how I am, in detail with an accompanying PowerPoint presentation.

“How was your weekend?” is not a question I ask of others because, in truth, I don’t care how their weekend was unless it was so interesting they ended up on the news and are currently helping police with their enquiries. But also because if I ask them how their weekend was then they’re going to ask me how my weekend was. And I’m going to have to tell them I was at a folk club and they’re not going to know what that means. But for the record, it’s a bit like church.

Tim Chipping


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