Theakston's Brewery in Masham, North Yorkshire brews a dark ale known as 'Old Peculiar'. According to Theakstons this name arises from the fact that Masham had a unique ecclesiastical status known as 'Court of the Peculiar' and is also a reference to the strong characteristic of the beer. For many years it was affectionately referred to as 'Yorkshire's Lunatic Broth.' My husband is not much of a beer drinker, preferring the grape to the hop, but is sometimes referred to by my good self as 'Old Peculiar'. Not that any of the dark qualities of the brew are reflected in his character, but because, as I suspect in common with all humanity, he possesses certain little habitual traits that are peculiar to him, hence the affectionate nomenclature.
Well, give us a clue, I hear you say. Do not blacken this man's character without airing the evidence. Fair do's.
Picture the scene. We are in the queue at the supermarket check-out and there are a line of those 'Next Customer' metal bars lined up - always, always under the care of the check-out lady or gent. I'll give Old Peculiar his due, he tries. I can feel him, resisting the urge, trying not to give into temptation, but always the inevitable happens.
I favour him with the death-stare, which briefly checks him, but not for long. Soon the restless fidgeting begins again. He cannot in the end resist and it matters not how many people are in front of him in the queue. With many an 'excuse me' he makes his way to the front, reaches over to the lined up 'next customer' bars and sends them shooting back up along their rail towards our end of the queue. Beaming now, he saunters happily back to our trolley and places a bar down on the rolling mat and carefully marshalls the rest of the bars for the customers coming behind us.
Is there gratitude for this service? Are our fellow customers wringing his hand in fellowship and thanks? No. They shrink nervously away. They could not shrink any further than they do, given the confines of the narrow aisle. They look away, avoiding eye contact with this most odd of fellows. What might happen next if they engage with him? These notions are palpably floating in the air. My Old Peculiar doesn't mind now. He is relaxed and smiling, mission accomplished.
This is only the beginning. I could go on about a certain way to mow the stripes on the lawn, how to wind the extension lead and worst of all, don't get him started on the double parking habits of the folk in our nearby village. The streets around the main square are wide enough to accommodate triple parking were it needed, but just let Old Peculiar catch sight of one vehicle parked alongside another, whilst its owner nips into the shop and there you have it - he's off on one.
What is his problem? I can't say he should get out more. He does. Our lives are hectic and chaotic most of the time. Perhaps that is the problem in a nutshell. Maybe he is trying to bring some kind of order into our roller coaster life. Stable doors, horses and the bolting of spring to mind, but I don't think my Old Peculiar will ever accept this. One day ... one day, he hopes he might restore a smidgeon of order to our lives. I think not, but shan't tell him. Better to travel in optimism...
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