Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Upon Owning A Zeppelin

I live in a Zeppelin, you know. I do. I got her way back in '97 off some guy who called himself Alf. Swapped her straight up for a timeshare in Tenerife. I always hated Tenerife.

You could say it's liberating. The commute to work is short, or you know, long if I fancy that. The views are good too. Except when it’s raining. Then it’s a problem because it’s hard to escape the rain when it’s all about you. I don't really have to pay bills although the government hasn't yet extended me the courtesy of a Winter Fuel Allowance. I think I’m right in their target demographic – running a Zeppelin is not cheap.

Weirdly, trying to get reception on the telly is a bit hit and miss as well.

Oh hey, you wanna know what my buddies always go on about? Parking fines. I know. Out of all the cool stuff about owning a Zeppelin, they talk about parking fines.

“Hey Mike,” says Pete or Steve as we hit the bar on a Wednesday night, “Got a parking permit yet?” Always with the parking permit joke. It wasn’t funny the first time, Pete or Steve.

“And what's the legal limit for driving a Zepp?” will immediately follow from someone else (usually Gary), and then laughter from the rest.

“Beer's on Mike!” is the chorus before I can chime in with all the air safety regulations and the potential penalties and fines for Piloting A Zeppelin Whilst Intoxicated. Yeah, that’s my buddies.

But you'd think that it'd be easy, wouldn't you? Visiting the family, getting the groceries – just pull up above the place and drop the ladder, job done. Yeah, right. Have you ever tried to refuel a floating Zeppelin in high winds? Tricky stuff, I assure you - she lists like a mother during the fuel transfer.

And you know how my buddies are always on about the parking? Well let me tell you, just because I have a flying house doesn’t mean it’s a picnic. There's always someone out to get you. Maybe they feel inadequate because they're on a scooter and it's raining, or perhaps just that the Zepp is taller than their SUV. I dunno. And London's just a nightmare – the streets are too narrow and you’ve got all these air traffic controllers getting all picky about their airspace. It's not exactly overcrowded in the centre of London, is it? I just want to go to Hamley’s.

This one time, right, I went to get the beers and some snacks for the Christmas party and a gust of wind blew the Zepp over a disabled parking bay. I came out the supermarket and there's this woman in a Spacewagon honking her horn.

“Hey lady, what's up?” I said, politely I thought.

“Someone's left a ladder in the disabled bay. I need to park there - I have the badge on my dashboard, look.” She jabbed a stubby finger at the badge. This woman looked about as disabled as me, just way fatter.

“Sorry, that'll be the Zeppelin. Must've been the wind – I'll move it right now.” I started to walk off, groceries in hand.

“Do you take me for some kind of idiot?” Her knuckles whitened as she gripped the steering wheel ever more tightly. “A Zeppelin? Is this your ladder then?” Please don’t eat me.

“Yeah it's my ladder, but like I said it's attached to a Zeppelin, so...” She lowered her eyebrows and looked like she was about to charge. I changed tack quickly. “Listen, I'm sorry my ladder's in the way. Have a mince pie and I'll move it.”

Reaching into my bag, I tossed her a fresh mince pie. She caught it in her pudgy little hands and stuffed it straight into her mouth, struggling to shovel and breathe at the same time. It wasn't till later that I realised just how small her mouth was in comparison to the rest of her; a tiny cave in the side of a great mountain of flesh.

It looked like most of the mince pie had ended up in her lap. What a waste. But it seemed to do the trick; her rage was sated, if not her appetite.

I left without a word and allowed the Zepp to take off while I was still on the ladder. I always thought I looked quite the hero in this pose, one hand wrapped around a ladder rung, the other holding my plastic shopping bags. As we floated upwards I saw the fat woman's mouth fall open and yet more mince pie tumble out. Had she swallowed any of it?

Still, it was just one mince pie, and it was the season of good will after all.


  1. Tom Hulton-Harrop14 December 2009 at 16:56

    lol that is awesome man! :D Your writing is so enjoyable to read :) Keep it coming!