Assuming you've even heard of the place, Thatto Heath gets a bit of a bad press. It has a reputation as being a little rough around the edges. Yet apart from the odd murder and the occasional discovery of infant remains that have lingered there for over 20 years, there's very little bother.
Not where I live anyway. I have lived on our estate in not one but two houses and until yesterday had never encountered anything even approaching crime. Somebody once told me that 'Heathers' don't rob from their own. I was quite prepared to believe it too, but my illusions are now well and truly shattered.
It was a twist of plot more bizarre than anything seen before on these pages. More surreal than the hedgehog or any of the antics of Northern Rail. I'd taken the day off work via the magic of flexi, and had spent most of the day slumped on my sofa watching Europe win back the Ryder Cup. Considering the misery of the Super League Grand Final at the weekend, this was as close as I was going to get to enjoying a perfect day off, when I was rudely interrupted.
I never even heard the front door open. There is another door which divides the tiny hallway and the living room, and as I sat on the sofa trying to find something to watch that did not feature Anne Robinson or Noel Edmonds, it swung open and there before me stood a complete stranger;
"Who are you?" I enquired, not unreasonably.
"Erm......I've just come to buy some ciggies." he said nervously.
At this point I thought I had entered a Coen brothers movie and rather than a rational fear of a man who could have been carrying a weapon, I experienced only a blind fury at his temerity;
"Get the bloody Hell out of my house." I shouted, bewildered and outraged in equal measure.
"Can't you just serve me?" he asked.
I quickly got back into my chair and, trying hard not to butcher the English language too much, ushered him out of my living room and towards the front door. At which point the man pulled a fist full of £20 notes from his pocket and pleaded with me to sell him 20 Regal.
"Does this house look like an off-license to you?" I asked
"So you don't sell ciggies then?"
"No I bloody don't! I just live here!" I raged. I'd gone a bit John Cleese at this point, and was only moments away from giving him a damn good thrashing with a tree branch.
Finally the man grasped the concept that I was not a cigarette salesman and began to apologise as he backed towards the front door. Finally rid of him, it was only then that I started to consider the possibility that he was not just a mental case who genuinely thought I worked for Lambert & Butler. It was more likely that he was a grubby little thief who was sizing up the house for a good old fashioned ransacking.
Oh, and for whoever said they don't rob from their own, well he did have a scouse accent...........
Do you Peg Feed?
Turn the clock back two days, and our evening out for the Super League Grand Final. I'd rather not talk about the game if you don't mind, so instead I'll relay another strange tale. It's another true story, though I can scarcely believe this sort of crap happens to me.
I needed a wee. That's not a pleasant thought but there it is, we all do it. I entered the gents (no disabled toilets at the Springfield, you have to slum it in the urinals) and a burly and incredibly drunk man stood next to me;
"I'm not being funny mate but........." he started.
I hate that. Whenever I hear that phrase it is without exception a prelude to someone being funny. And not funny ha-ha, but funny rude or funny plain ignorant. He didn't let me down.
"I'm not being funny mate but do you peg-feed?"
"Do I what?" I asked, with no small amount of exasperation in my tone.
"Oh no mate sorry, I've got it wrong, I'm really sorry. It's just that I work with a lot of people with learning disabilities and a lot of them do so I just thought that......you know?"
No I don't know;
"I haven't got a learning disability, mate. I've got a degree."
"Oh no no no, I wasn't saying you had I just........."
You just were assuming I had cos I have a wheelchair. Because you're a plant pot and because you are representative of Thatto Heath's staggeringly ignorant able-bodied community.
"What is peg-feeding anyway?" I enquired.
He wouldn't tell me. He told me it didn't matter and that he was sorry.
Other people eh? Bloody Hell.
I've just found out what peg-feeding is. The peg in question is an acronym, standing for Percutaneous Endoscopy Gastrotomy. Basically it is feeding a patient through a tube directly to the stomach if, for whatever reason, they are unable to feed themselves orally.
However I remain confused. The man in the pub clearly stated that he worked with a lot of people with 'learning disabilities'. With that in mind his assumption seems even more staggeringly ignorant. The term 'learning disabilities' surely relates to those with say, autism, or something not immediately obvious like dyslexia. Surely it is more likely that someone with a very severe physical disability would have a greater need for this type of thing? I have met and been educated alongside many such people, and can assure our burly pub-goer that they do not necessarily have anything resembling a learning disability.
On the contrary, they are more clued up than he obviously is.