Way Back When it Was 1999

Lifted straight from The Internet Archive, some pictures are missing, links defunct and text out of context. This though is where it all began, in 1999:
 

Maybe, just maybe…

 

Sunday, 20th June: Alas last night I missed out on scooping the national lottery jackpot. I got one number right and a mere five eluded me. Just another five days of work then and it’ll be my turn next Saturday to win the jackpot. I don’t mind sharing it, as I’m generous at heart, just so long as it’s with no more than two or three people. Every week I tell myself that having not won for yet another week only increases my chances of doing so the next, a thought that gets me through the drudgery of work each week. Every Saturday night I also religiously avoid finding out what the winning numbers are, even if it means camping out at the bottom of the garden to avoid hearing downstairs’ or next door’s TV announcing the results. In doing so I spend one night per week as a potential millionaire, only to have my dreams scrambled, along with my eggs when I open the Sunday newspaper and see the winning numbers.

When I do win next Saturday, I shall be deliberately late for work on Monday. There’s an art to being late and that is to be so late that rather than being greeted by moans and grumbles, your expectant audience have given up all hope of seeing you. Upon your eventual arrival, they emit surprised sounds instead, thereby leading you to believe that they’re pleased to see you and of course relieved that you’re okay as they were so worried about your well being. On that Monday I shall be so obscenely late that hugs and gifts greet me. This, of course is self-delusion and I shall instead be dragged over hot coals for my slovenliness. I shall enjoy this as I will know that this will be the last time that my bosses will be able to admonish me. I will then turn the tables on them by announcing that I am in fact now their boss. Also, that I have spent the morning buying the company and they should consider themselves jolly lucky that I am allowing them to keep the office-junior jobs that I have newly created for them, together with their revised salaries and despite their outrageous behaviour towards the new company owner.

When that day comes I shall find myself in a position, currently occupied by others, where I am able to accept no blame for things that I have done wrongly. I shall have scapegoats a plenty and revel in the glory of congratulations received for things that I have not done correctly but for which I have stolen someone else’s thunder. Gone will be the days of spending my time at work being blamed for other people’s mistakes and seeing others take credit for what I have done well. Until then, the daily grind lays ahead and with that thought being firmly banished from my mind I shall close on a lighter note:

I am now off to practice some alchemy by turning cider into cider as I pour it from bottle to glass and then into bullshit as its effects filter via my bloodstream, before emerging through my finger tips and hitting this keyboard elsewhere.

 

 

Lunch, telephones and a spider.

 

Sunday, 27 June. The weekend has been long as I inadvertently took Friday off of work. The prospect of tomorrow is therefore a worse one than a normal Monday, as I know that I’ll have a backlog of work to greet me when I arrive. I swear that those individual pieces of paper, although quiet and inanimate when on their own, get a certain feeling of safety in numbers. I say this because when faced with such a pile in my in-tray, I’m made to feel paranoid, as if they’re staring at me and taunting me, raising a pair of paper fingers at me as soon as my back is turned. It’s probably just in my mind but that air of smugness from my in-tray when it’s full is undeniable.

Last week saw many visits from the local fauna of Southeast London to our office. There are no chemical or nuclear processing plants in the area to my knowledge, but each visiting thing seemed to be larger than in the textbooks, although smaller than on the TV. Most notable was the spider that I discovered in my drawer the other day: I’ve seen some big spiders in my time but this one took the biscuit. In fact, given the chance he probably would have carried a biscuit away with very little effort but for the fact that I had no biscuits for him to take. So, I opened my drawer to retrieve my book to read, as this was lunchtime. I should point out here that normally during the lunch hour it would appear to my colleagues that there is something not quite right about my desk, almost as though there is something missing. They grow concerned about this thing that they can’t quite put their finger on before finally relaxing when they realise that it is actually me that is missing. The reason that I normally am not at my desk is because of my compulsion to answer the telephone. Our office does not have a receptionist as such and it is therefore all of our responsibilities to answer the phone, and the phone rings quite a lot. Some of my colleagues have an in-built ability to simply ignore the incessant ringing. I, like many of the others, do not. It is therefore not uncommon for me to spend an entire lunch hour reading the same two or three paragraphs of my book or newspaper over and over again as I am constantly interrupted by my inability to ignore the phones and my compulsion to answer them. So, I normally go to the pub or on a nice day, to a bench somewhere if one can be found that isn’t doubling as a bed for a tramp or a public convenience for the local Pigeons. This in itself can present problems as, given my phone compulsion, I have to be restrained from answering the pub’s telephone and make sure that any bench I find is well away from any public telephone boxes. If someone sits next to me and their mobile phone rings, well that’s another story.

So, back to the drawer: There, bold as brass, was this spider, sitting or whatever it is spiders do when not chasing people, quite comfortable, relaxed and reading my book. As the light from outside his drawer pouring in disturbed him, the spider looked up at me and gave me a “can I help you?” look. This spider had a clearly discernible face – not the best looking one to me perhaps, but to other spiders I dare say he was quite handsome. He had fashioned a moustache and side-burns from his facial hair and was wearing four pairs of reading glasses. Before I’d had a chance to introduce myself he jumped, clearing the side of my drawer, and as he scurried across the floor the sound of his eight training shoes could be heard disappearing into the distance. Looking at my now uninhabited drawer, and my book lying open where he’d left it, I realised that this spider would perhaps now be feeling all alone with nowhere to go and that I might have scared him.

I’ve not seen him since, but if he’s reading this I’d just like to say that we got off on the wrong foot, or feet in your case, you’re welcome to come back to my drawer any time and I’ve even kept your page in my book marked. If you’re worried about the magazines that I found that you were keeping in there, be assured that they’re safe and I haven’t said a word to anyone.

 

 

Must try harder.

 

Sunday, 04 July. Yesterday saw England knocked out of the World Tennis Championships at Wimbledon. Our only remaining hope Tim, as in Tim Henman, but just plain Tim to those of us that have never met him, was knocked out by Sampras (the opposition is always referred to on second name only terms) in the semi-final. The English, it has to be said are very good at coming second, or for that matter third, fourth and not at all. We are not very good at actually winning things though, which is a shame because we try so hard. The English do have a certain determination in everything they do, it just never seems to be enough. If the world were a classroom, and the countries pupils, at the end of term England’s school report would probably be of the “must try harder” kind. Much like my own at school in fact, where I was more content to allow my mind to wander, ponder and daydream than actually listen to anything that the teacher was trying to teach. I did quite well at school and had what would have been a very good education if I’d paid more attention in class. By my own admission I could have done better, and that will no doubt be the story of my life with those four words one day making a final farewell appearance as my epitaph.

All of which is irrelevant of course as the world will end today, as predicted by that most reliable of prophets, Nostradamus. Even now I am compiling a list of people to phone and reveal my true feelings to. I predict that this will result in two discoveries: The first will be that the intended recipients of my messages are out, which is very inconsiderate of them seeing as I’ve gone to so much trouble rehearsing my lines. The second will be that the feeling has been very much mutual all along. In the case of those (very few) that I declare my undying hate to, this will be fine. On the other hand I will be very disappointed at not having turned my thoughts into actions in the case of those that I declare undying love to.

Of course, the world will not end today and I can say this with a degree of confidence in not looking a complete arse, because I know that if I turn out to be wrong, you will not be reading this now. The fact that you are means that I was right and also that I didn’t make those phone calls, which is a shame as now I will never know the true feelings of those that I have feelings for. If only I had some form of guarantee that the world really would end. Then I’d be able to say these things in my head and in my heart to these people and know that I wouldn’t suffer any embarrassment in the future, as there would be no future to be embarrassed in. The absence of such a guarantee means that some feelings will be forever locked in my head and my heart, unless I can find confidence enough to bring myself to say them. Maybe I should try harder. Maybe I could do better.

 

 

Mad Englishmen and dogs.

 

Sunday, 11 July. It’s hot. The weather that is, and when I say that, I’m using the English definition of “hot” which means that it’s mildly warm to residents of countries where nice weather is normal. England is not one of those countries and, as is the case every year, this mini heat wave has caught us unprepared and made us do the usual silly things, more of which in a moment. The temperature outside is in the low 80s, which is obviously of the Fahrenheit scale as 80 degrees on either the Celsius or Kelvin ones would most likely render me not here. It is interesting that I should choose to quote the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit, as, just like the vast majority of the general public in this country, my temperature scales are seasonal. We all like to exaggerate a little when we can get away with it, and we like to sensationalise things too. By varying our quoted temperature scales seasonally, we even manage to sensationalise the weather to a degree. After all, if I were to say that the temperature outside was in the high 20s using the Celsius scale, this would sound nowhere near as impressive, nor give me the self-contentment of making the weather sound as hot as possible, as to use the Fahrenheit scale does. Similarly, in winter we will use the Celsius scale as, for instance “minus ten” sounds much colder than “twenty-five”.

Although many countries have weather that is consistently warmer than our warmest, and colder than our coldest, the English weather just seems to vary that much more, sometimes from one extreme to another, and often from day to day. It has been known in the past for us to have snow in June and be lying on beaches in November – months when those types of weather would not normally be expected. No wonder then that we talk about the weather so much. This is not an unusual time of year for hot weather, but the fact that only two weeks or so ago it was cold and raining, is why it caught us by surprise. Now that we have had our annual dose of heat and are suffering, we long for the return of that cold, wet weather. This year again, at the first glimmer of sunshine, deck chairs and sun loungers were dragged, kicking and screaming from garden sheds all across the country, and people stripped off to burn themselves. People went to the pub to sit in the garden, unable to do so at home as that is where they leave their dogs to bark and annoy the neighbours. Having the cat and no dog, I was able to sit in my garden and listen to the neighbours’ dogs. Because sunshine is a relative rarity, we do not tend to keep supplies of suntan lotion and sun block. And because we know that the heat will probably be short-lived anyway, we do away with such time-consuming methods of gaining a tan, opting instead for the “get burned quick” method and totally forgetting that we did exactly the same last year and suffered for weeks afterwards. Currently then the streets of my home town at least, are populated by people sporting skin colours representing a good cross-section of the crustacean population of the oceans, from delicate prawn pinks to painful-looking lobster reds.

Another example of being unprepared is my office which, were there an award for most unprepared place for the arrival of hot weather, and therefore most uncomfortable place to work when the hot weather does arrive, would certainly be among the nominees, if not the overall winner. We face west, where the Sun is for most of the day, and for added effect we have full-length windows. We currently have a construction site opposite and so these windows are rendered permanently closed by the noise and flying debris. We have blinds in the windows but these are broken, mainly in the open position. We have the usual array of office electronic equipment that adds its contribution to the heat, and we have no air conditioning. We have fans, as in things that spin, rather than people who like us, but these only serve to circulate the hot air around the office.

Despite all of this, we are all confident in the knowledge that, this being England, in a week or two it will be cold or raining, or both, and we’ll have something different to talk and complain about. Then we’ll grow weary once more of wrapping up warm to go out, and of carrying umbrellas around. We’ll long for the return of that nice warm weather that we enjoyed so much while it lasted.

 

 

Disorderly sleep.

 

Monday, 12 July. This morning I failed to rise. Not in the sense of being sexually inadequate, but in the sense of not actually getting out of bed on a day that I am supposed to. The events that led to my not setting the alarm before retiring are not necessarily relevant here, suffice to say that I have done it before. Normally this phenomenon occurs in another way, where the alarm has been set the night before and duly greets the dawning of a new day with a merry chirp that I’m sure members of the electronic clock population of the world find pleasant. Personally, I find this sound to be as welcome as I’m sure a married Hen does when she is awakened by her Cock rising to greet the same event. In the past, I have quite literally hit the alarm clock and in doing so, missed the “snooze” button and pressed the “off” button instead. The former allows me eight minutes of extra snooze whereas the latter allows me unlimited snooze or sleep time, invariably making me late for work. This was the case today, although only the late for work part is true, as the alarm clock had been rendered a mute casual observer by me not setting it.

The opposite scenario, where I have arisen on a day when I am not supposed to, has proved even more embarrassing as there I have an audience whereas in the privacy of my own room I do not. An example would be the morning in the not too distant past when I awoke at about half past five in the morning: Unable to get back to sleep, I switched off the alarm, aware that thirty minutes later I would need to be awake anyway. If I had only realised at the time that the alarm clock was not actually on in the first place, this embarrassing event need never had happened.

I dutifully arose, as I do on any weekday, and an hour later was standing on the platform of my local train station – looking quite fetching in my suit with my briefcase at my side – awaiting a train. At twelve minutes past seven my train had not arrived, nor was it advertised on the indicator boards. I decided to wait, but after a further ten minutes grew tired of the lack of information and train. I then sought platform staff and found them lacking also. At the same time I also noticed an absence of fellow commuters and that the newspaper stand and buffet were closed. At this point it dawned on me that this was actually a Sunday and that I was very misplaced. Trying to look as though I knew where I was and that I was supposed to be there, I sidled off of the platform in a manner resembling a Hermit Crab looking for a new shell to hide in and went back home to bed.

If only my alarm clock could be relied upon to work correctly, these problems need never arise. Similarly, if I could be relied upon to set my alarm correctly, the same would be true. On the mornings that the alarm goes off when it’s supposed to, I make full use of the “snooze” button (if I hit it), to gain those extra eight minutes of rest. The last minute of the eight is the one that I hold dearest to my heart, as I know that soon, my bed and I will be parted. Perhaps in that last minute I should wonder less about the alarm and I working, and more about what day it is.

 

 

Sleep depraved.

 

Sunday, 18 July. Tired. Very tired. So tired in fact that I’ll excuse myself now if this turns out to read as though I’m typing with my knees or talking out of my backside. I’d prefer to think though that I manage to make sense even when my brain is begging for mercy, so in my delusional state I’ll assume that to be the case.

My acute tiredness is due to a number of factors, partly work-related, but compounded by social excess. Without entering into too much detail, and thereby retaining some myth and legend for myself, suffice it to say that this was a very busy week in the office. The working week was busy enough as to encroach on my weekday evenings, which I begrudged it. To gain some form of personal revenge I therefore spent a very long Friday night in London, consuming quantities of alcohol that probably wouldn’t be prescribed by a doctor. As a result, I spent the whole of yesterday feeling a little frayed around the edges, much like any other day. By the time yesterday evening arrived, I decided that my working week hadn’t really been taught a proper lesson yet for denying me my weekday evening enjoyment, and that I would continue to make my point. This I did for a full twelve hours at a house party, until today was well and truly with us at six O’clock this morning. Having had a full two hours of sleep, I now feel that my working week has been well and truly made to feel bad about what it did to me last week, although I’m sure I probably feel worse than it does.

Another working week begins tomorrow, and I will no doubt perform some of those tasks that only the terminally tired are able to perform. Although I learn new stupid things to do when tired all the time, I can almost guarantee that I will demonstrate the classics. In the past, I have become frustrated when I have not been able to contact someone as my telephone has apparently developed a fault, only to discover that I am trying to make the call on my calculator. Conversely, I have added up an entire spreadsheet using the buttons on my telephone and wondered why it was not displaying a solution to my problem. The sheer extent of my tiredness in these two examples is appreciable by the fact that the numeric keypads of telephones and calculators run in opposite orders and I still continued.

Further examples of stupidity induced by lack of sleep have occurred at home: There was the evening when, upon arriving home and wanting to make a cup of tea, I was unable to as I could not locate the kettle. After much searching, I discovered it, in the fridge, where I had placed it that same morning. Similarly, I wondered one morning why my tea was so weak and cold – I had filled the teapot with milk instead of boiling water. I have covered my face in hair mousse and put shaving foam in my hair. I once threw my dirty laundry into the toilet, which sits next to the laundry basket. Fortunately, this is not an event that occurred the other way around.

 

 

Vetting the Cat.

 

Monday, 26 July. This is the third day of a four-day holiday, wrapped around Saturday and Sunday to make a six-day weekend. The last four days were mainly spent being drunk, recovering from being drunk, and then being drunk again. Last night I got drunk, for a change. Today and tomorrow will be spent cramming into two days that which I intended to spread over six.

Harley (the Cat) went to the vet on Friday for his annual booster injections against such nasty infections as Cat Flu and Feline Enteritis. As a result, I paid my annual visit to the Doctor’s surgery for my annual Tetanus injection. Cats are delicate creatures, prone to many afflictions, Insomnia not normally being one. At six O’clock in the evening on a Friday, Harley can normally be found not suffering from Insomnia, on my bed, sleeping off his weekly Friday night meal of a Cod steak (he’s a religious Cat). He has a secret calendar though, that he alone knows the whereabouts of, where he ticks off the days leading up to his annual visit to the Vet. Realising that this was the allotted day, he had developed his annual bout of Insomnia and had been restless all afternoon. As the time for the visit to the Vet approached, he was nowhere to be seen.

After much shaking of a box of “Kit n’ Kaboodle” in the garden and repeatedly calling his name at a volume audible to the whole street (thank God I gave him a relatively sensible name), there was a rustling of the hedge at the end of the garden. A Cat, doing a very good impression of a Sheep emerged. While Harley was busy feeding his face, I performed a quick sweep of the house and secured any potential exit points. Having played for time by eating every individual biscuit in his bowl, Harley was now finished, as far as his food was concerned. Now, I thought he would want to retire to sleep somewhere, at which point I would simply scoop him into his travel basket. He was wise to the ritual however, and this was not to be the case.

Retrieving Harley from behind the sofa, I attempted to open the travel basket with one hand while holding him still with the other. Cat 2; Me nil, and already sporting claw and teeth marks.

Standing on a chair, I prized Harley from the top of the curtains. I’d had the forethought to stand the basket on its end with the door open, on the floor beside the chair, so that it would be a simple matter of dropping Harley into it. This I did, but he was out again and up the stairs before I could close the door of the basket.

After changing my T-shirt, as the first was now somewhat torn and bloodstained, and having donned a pair of gardening gloves from the shed to protect my already shredded hands, I closed the door of the bedroom behind me. This time there would be no escape. Flipping down the visor of my motorcycle crash helmet, I peered beneath the bed to be greeted by a cat twice the size he was when I’d seen him last, fur standing on end, teeth bared and hissing violently. Ignoring his growls and hisses and oblivious to his sharp edges due to my canny protective clothing, cat and basket were finally introduced. The back of the basket was against the wall, as I’d positioned it and the door was open, thus enabling me the use of both hands on Harley. He now extended all four limbs to become a giant Feline capital “X”, stiff as though beset with rigor mortis to prevent his insertion into the basket. With one final, determined shove, he was in and I quickly closed the door, securing it with a padlock that I’d found to be sure that he stayed that way.

Much wailing, scratching and hissing could be heard from the basket as it jumped across the back seat of the car on the way to the Veterinary surgery. On arrival, we were granted immediate access to the consulting room, the nurses no doubt alarmed by the contents of my basket, or perhaps by the fact that I was still wearing my gardening gloves and crash helmet. The Vet opened the basket and after a psychedelic pattern of black and white (cat and Vet’s gown respectively) had danced around the consulting room, the injections were duly administered. Two humans versus one cat meant that re-introduction to the basket took a mere ten minutes, and we were soon on our way home again.

The last memory of Harley that I have is a black flash emerging as if propelled by rocket fuel, from the basket and through the one window in the living room that I’d forgotten to close earlier. That was three days ago and if previous experience can be relied upon, a cat / sheep creature should return here soon. This morning I had my Tetanus jab and replaced some clothes and furniture that were lost in Friday’s battle. I have fresh Salmon awaiting my boy’s return and now have a whole year in which to gain his forgiveness and regain his trust, before repeating the whole process again.

 

 

A fishy tale of revenge.

 

Sunday, 01 August. I am in pain. It was my own stupid fault, so I should expect no sympathy even if any were to be offered, which it is not. Perhaps I should not be so hard on myself as it was only the first event that occurred due to my stupidity. It was this first event that gave rise to the subsequent ones though, so perhaps this desire that I have to punish myself is justified. I am not normally clumsy, nor unthinking, except when drunk which is only in the evenings. Therefore I only become clumsy and unthinking for four hours or so each day. Four hours being less than half of a day does not constitute “normally” in my mind. When I do perform stupid acts though, they are usually so stupid as to induce anger in my sensible self that wants to punish my idiotic self. I digress.

The event that led to the others, and therefore my current discomfort would seem to an outside observer to be a relatively harmless one. To a drunken fool though, the act of preparing dinner is fraught with danger. This being me, and me being drunk at the time, it was not hot surfaces or sharp edges that caused my injuries, it was the ingredients. I could leave it there and allow you images of me sustaining life-threatening injuries after struggling with a Great white shark whose fins I had designs on for a soup. I feel that I should elaborate though, as I am an animal lover and would never partake in such activities, as I’d be too scared. No, this perpetrator of my injuries was a particularly vicious, dangerous, evil, violent (I can’t maintain this pretence any longer), Chilli.

I was preparing supper on Friday night, on the wrong side of a drinking session. Dinner was to be a simple affair of Pan-fried Lemon Sole with new potatoes and Asparagus spears. I’d become quite attached to the fish as he’d been in my fridge for over a week and was approaching his sell-by date. Now it was time for us to part company. I decided to add some heat to the meal. I’d had some fresh Bird’s Eye (particularly hot and nasty) Chillies for a while and decided that this would be a good opportunity to use them and give my fish some bite. I figured he was dead, and that me just throwing him into a pan was a bit of a one-sided battle, so this was giving him a fighting chance. Having finished my rather pleasant supper, and after a few night-caps, I was feeling rather tired. I rubbed my eyes and became aware of a sensation in addition to the tired one that they were already exhibiting. My eyes began to itch, which I put down to tiredness and so I rubbed them to relieve the sensation. Then they began to sting and tears began to form. I knew that I didn’t feel so bad about my fish friend to induce such a reaction, so I figured something must be wrong. After more rubbing, my eyes felt as though they were burning, and were streaming to an extent that made the trip to the bathroom a perilous one.

One cut eyebrow courtesy of a light switch, a bumped head from a door post and five stubbed toes thanks to the bathroom scales later and I was in front of the mirror. My first thought was to wash my eyes out with cold water. This I did after sustaining another bump to the head from the sink. Finally catching a glimpse of myself, I looked as though I’d been deprived of sleep for many days. My eyeballs were bloodshot and my bottom eyelids were curling in an attempt to escape. It was only at this point that two and two, when added together became four. Having chopped the Chilli and mixed it using my fingers with some Garlic and Olive oil, and having rubbed this mixture, with my fingers, onto the fish, I had not washed my hands.

Now, my eyes still sting, my toes are bruised and my face is cut. I feel as though my fish found a use for the “teeth” that I gave him after all, and that although I felt satisfied at winning our battle having eaten him, he is now exacting revenge upon me from beyond the grave. So, in the end, he won the battle after all and is now punishing me. For that, he has my respect and is saving me a job, so he remains my friend.

 

 

Going indirectly home

 

Sunday, 08 August. I am feeling somewhat delicate today, having rather over-indulged myself last night. Although I indulge myself with alcohol most nights, over-indulgence can creep in to varying degrees dependant upon my surroundings and mood. When at home, mood is obviously the determining factor, unless of course I’ve been moving the furniture around or knocking down walls. Here I drink out of habit more than anything else. I consulted my local off-license manager once on the merits of giving up drinking. He was not perhaps the best choice for advice of this nature, but the advice he gave was very sensible. I told him that I didn’t drink out of boredom as I had plenty to occupy my mind. Surely then, giving up the drink should be easy when I can indulge myself in television, the computer, outdoor activities etc? “Ah” came the reply. “But what are you going to do while you are doing all of these things? A man such as you needs more than one thing to occupy his mind, and what better thing than a drink in your hand?” Very good reasoning I thought.

Mood plays a part when I am drinking out, although only to the extent that it dictates how much alcohol I can drink before losing control of my faculties. If I am in a particularly good mood, it is almost as though I can drink an establishment dry before having to seek alternative sources of drink. In reality I am drunk to the same extent as usual, but when in a very good mood my drunkenness manifests itself in my making a complete fool of myself, as opposed to feeling nauseous in a corner somewhere. Surrounding play a larger part though and generally the size of an establishment will have a direct relation to my drunkenness. In a small, intimate bar where the surroundings are cosy and quiet, I will sip my drinks intimately and approach the bar less often and more slowly. The bar that we patronised last night was at the complete opposite end of the size spectrum and positively cavernous in its dimensions, holding perhaps a thousand people with space for the same amount in the huge garden at the rear. As a result, drinks were poured down throats with gusto and visits to the bar were at a sprint every few minutes.

When closing time came, the large group that I was with dispersed much like a river with all of us walking together for a while, then splitting into gradually smaller groups as we headed off in different directions. Eventually I was alone, like the final little trickle of a stream before it reaches its end. The river analogy is a good one as, between us we were probably carrying enough alcoholic liquid to form a river and me being a trickle at the end was further demonstrated by the trickles that I produced behind various trees and down dark alleys.

We had elected to walk as it was a pleasant evening and we had all spent rather copious amounts of money and were therefore keen to avoid the expense of using taxis. Normally the walk to my house from the town centre is one of no more than thirty minutes, even taking trickle stops into account. From the point that I became the sole walker on my route, about forty minutes after leaving the bar, I should have been no more than fifteen minutes from home. What followed was an epic journey that, had I been sober, would have allowed me to map a substantial proportion of the roads in the town. This was as a result of spotting what I thought was a short cut, via an alley that would also allow another trickle. The alley emerged however into territory completely alien to me.

I wandered for quite some time in far from straight lines, from street to street and didn’t recognise any of them by name or appearance. Finally, after about an hour, I stumbled out of an alley and into a road that I recognised. I then realised that it was the same road I had been in earlier that was then alien. I set off in the complete opposite direction to the one that I had earlier, thinking that this may serve a purpose. This it did in rendering me even more hopelessly lost than I had been previously. I continued to wander until I chanced upon a telephone box, where I called for a cab.

The cab arrived and I told the driver my intended destination. I thought I detected a sigh, but thought no more of it and proceeded to put on my seatbelt. No sooner than I had it fastened and we were outside my house. I paid the fare, with a generous tip and vowed that I would improve my knowledge of the geography of my immediate surroundings.

 

 

Good to be back.

 

Saturday, 04 September. I’m back. This follows a period of being away. I find that it helps to be away if one intends to arrive back somewhere. To my regular readers, I would like to say two things: Firstly, hello to you both. Secondly, an explanation of my recent absence: For the past three weeks or so, I have been involved in a few time-consuming projects. None of them are worthy of anything more than a brief mention, so a brief mention is all that I shall grant them.

I have finally managed to finish a publishable short story. This is the opinion of others that I have confided in, and not just my own, before I sound conceited. When it goes to print, I shall make it available here. Until then, wooden things have taken on an undeniable attraction, as I touch them daily in the hope that all works out. My fingers hurt too, from being crossed so much.

Speaking of crossed things, and unable to think of a better link, my first individually commissioned crossword puzzle is due to be printed in the coming week. Again, after it is printed I’ll post it here.

The main thing though is that I recently resigned from my day job. (Although most people would perhaps have advised against this, given what they read here). After much wrangling and almost three days of continuous meetings in the office, I have decided to continue working for the company. This in itself would appear to be a waste of three good days, however I am only staying to take on another role. That is one of a sales person.

Although much opinion has been put forward on the virtues and usefulness (or lack of) of such titled individuals, I now take it all back as I am shortly to become one myself. My new job, which I commence on 1st October, will not disadvantage me of salary. It will also grant me certain extra job perks: I will have a company mobile phone, thereby allowing me to ditch the one that I currently pay a monthly line rental on to receive approximately two calls per month. I also receive a laptop computer. Of course, I have my desktop machine where I create all of these ramblings, but my only current company-issued item of electronic gadgetry is a pocket calculator. The calculator has been useful, but there comes a point where calculating the number of pockets that one has becomes boring. Also, it is an unbeatable machine, as I discovered the day that I donned my entire wardrobe in an attempt to fool it. It was still able to calculate that I had sixteen pockets. Most importantly, I get my own set of wheels. I currently own a set, but the ones that the company is offering me have a car on top.

So, here I am. Back and feeling much better for being away. That being away is what I needed to make me feel so good about being back.

 

 

Unanswered questions.

 

Sunday, 12 September. Sunday night, and the wrong end of a five day weekend. The wrong end because it is the last before the return to work tomorrow. Familiar ground, so I shall not dwell on my feelings.

A lot has been achieved over the last five days, including the completion of another short story, which I hope someone will consider publishable. As ever I await news, firstly from my proof-reader. A few drafts will then follow before I play the next waiting game with, probably a magazine. As with my first, this latest one will appear here when it’s published somewhere. Until then, this place remains spookily devoid of published works, apart from the Space Invader Crossword. This was published last week and is therefore my first child as far as writing is concerned. I now await further offspring.

Which leads me to a point: I obviously know where offspring come from (Something to do with a Stork in a Cabbage-patch, so I was told), but the average child may not. Children have a habit of asking questions other than “where do babies come from” (see above), like “why is the sky blue?” (Because it is, and anyway, at night it’s black – I prefer not to offer the light-refraction answer, and let them figure it out by themselves). After childhood though, most of us seem to lose our curiosity about everyday occurrences. I think this is a shame, as it is a sure sign that we are allowing our brains to relax. To address this issue, I would like to pose some unanswered questions of my own:

These questions mainly concern nature, a subject that I didn’t pay as much attention to as perhaps I should have at school. I heeded all of the Human stuff, but when it came to things with more than the prerequisite two legs, my interest faltered.

Why do spiders not appreciate it when you run a bath for them? They sit in the empty tub all day, waiting. Then when you finally run the water for them, they perform a simultaneous breast stoke, front crawl and backstroke, as if showing off, before diving down the plughole.

If moths are nocturnal, why do they like lighting so much? Is the switching on of a light like a major night-club opening for them? They fly about quite happily in their night-time world outside, but as soon as a light goes on anywhere indoors, they’re head-banging the window to get in.

Finally in the nature series: Do wasps serve any useful purpose? Bees have a form of sex with flowers, albeit homosexual, and pollinate other flowers. Wasps do not to my knowledge. Nor do they lose their sting after stuffing it into Human flesh, so we don’t even have the safe knowledge that they will die after performing such a violent act. Bees sting for a reason, and if left alone will not do so in the first place. Wasps though just like inflicting pain it seems, while flying around in their rather garish stripy jumpers and generally acting hard.

Nothing to do with nature, but it’s playing on my mind: Why is a TV set so-called? I have a TV, but feel that I might be missing something not having the extra bits that make it a set.

These are probably questions that will accompany me to my early grave, unless my offspring can one day answer them for me.

 

 

The things people say.

 

Sunday, 19 September. Or rather, the downright stupid things that people say never cease to amaze me, and this week it has been as though I’ve been stalked by people who are determined to say something ridiculously stupid to me.

These people are perhaps normally sane and in full control of all their faculties. I just seem to encounter them when they’re having an off moment. Now we’re all guilty of saying silly things without thinking, normally in an attempt to break the ice or elicit a conversation. The propensity of silly things said to me this week though has led me to give the phenomenon some thought.

The beginning of the week was hot, weather-wise, and maybe that serves as some sort of excuse for the gentleman in question’s inability to ask sensible questions. This is a question that I’ve been asked before, and I cringe every time I’m asked it. The question in question as it were was “hot enough for you?” as I was standing on the platform of my local station, waiting for a train. This was a day when the temperature was touching the 90s Fahrenheit, and he saw fit to ask me that. I wonder what sort of answer these people expect: “Well, no actually, now you come to mention it. I’d be most grateful if perhaps you’d be so kind as to crank up the thermostat a little.” Perhaps that’s the reason for asking the question that this man was some kind of superhuman who could control the climate and he was only asking out of kindness. If that were the case, then I apologise to him now. I doubt it though. I think it more likely that he’s the kind of person who will sidle up to you under his umbrella in a torrential downpour and announce “I see it’s raining again.” Well, thanks for pointing that out to me, because I hadn’t actually noticed myself. Maybe that’s why I’m standing here soaked to the skin. Perhaps I’ll put up my umbrella. Thanks very much as, without you pointing out the fact that it’s raining, I’d have not thought to do so.

Of course I’m exaggerating on the second part, but people do genuinely seem to find it in themselves to state the obvious in this way. Another common one is the phenomenon that usually occurs on a Friday, when someone will stand next to me and proclaim “Well, Friday again”. And again, thanks to the person who pointed that out to me as, without that little nugget of knowledge I’d have happily gone into work yesterday.

This next one didn’t occur last week, but it’s worthy of mention as if there were a “hit parade” of the amount of times stupid things are said, this one would be vying for the top slot. It comes when one is sobbing uncontrollably at the loss of a loved one, or a spilled pint. Some helpful soul will approach and enquire “Are you okay?” Yes, fine thanks. Couldn’t be better actually, but thanks for asking.

And how about “Enjoy your meal”? This is a favourite of McDonald’s and I usually reply to it in one of three ways. The first is to state that I will, but not because I’m being told to do so. The second is to reply in a sarcastic tone that actually that wasn’t what I came here to do. I planned instead to hate my meal, and to sit and curse it aloud as I looked at it and ate it. My favourite (a bit childish perhaps) is to say that actually I won’t enjoy my meal as burgers don’t agree with me. Then opening the box, removing my burger and lifting and lowering the top half of the bun like a mouth, while saying in a comic voice “Oh yes we do.”

By the same token, I recently arrived at a restaurant with a friend. That’s me and one friend, neither of us being of a size that could be construed in any way other than the way that we arrived, as two people together. The first waiter to approach us uttered the immortal line: “Table for two?” I looked behind me for any signs of scamps that had followed us in, hoping to share our meal but could see none. For a wheeze though, I said that actually we required a table for six. This of course caused further amusement when people approached later in the evening and asked, “Is this seat taken?”

On Friday night, I went out in my local town and had booked a taxi to take me there. On setting off, the driver looked in the rear-view mirror and asked, with apparent genuine interest “Live local?” Yes actually. You just picked me up from my house.

Further examples of attempts to start a conversation before employing anything resembling thought occurred yesterday afternoon, when I decided to have a barbecue. I phoned various friends and stated that I was having a barbecue. The results of the survey that I conducted at the garden gate when my friends arrived were alarming and added further weight to the argument that people really do say the most stupid things. On arriving in my garden, a full fifty per cent of guests, on seeing the barbecue smoking away enquired “Ooh, are you having a barbecue?”

The barbecue went off well. When I say “went off”, I mean that it exploded when it didn’t seem to be burning too well and I threw petrol on it. A further example of stupid questions followed when I phoned the fire brigade and the operator asked, “What kind of fire is it?” Well hold on. Let me see. Well, it’s a hot one. After a telling off from the operator, the provision of a fire engine or two was procured (who said I don’t throw an entertaining barbecue?) The problem is that my house can be difficult to find, so the operator suggested that I wait at the bus stop at the end of the road and direct the fire crew from there.

Standing at the bus stop, a gentleman approached me and enquired “Are you waiting for a bus?” to which I was compelled to reply “No, actually I’m waiting for a fire engine.”

 

 

Getting high.

 

Sunday, 26 September. At the moment I am puffing on a reefer. I have given up drinking for tonight by way of a change, and as a result of an incident that occurred last night.

I was in town having a drink, for research purposes, when a fight broke out before me. I could see no reason for the fight to have erupted, and certainly there was no build up. I had heard nobody insult anybody else’s mother, or call anybody’s parentage into question for that matter. Here though, were two grown men trying to rearrange one another’s features. Soon, others joined in and the pub that was hosting this event eventually resembled a Wild West film set. In the end, the fight was broken up, police and ambulances arrived, and later glaziers and carpenters were repairing broken windows and furniture.

It occurred to me then that a whole industry has sprung up around the consumption of alcohol. I shan’t get into the politics of the issue, but will simply point out that alcohol is a legal intoxicating substance. It carries tax and duty, which is obviously income for the government in itself, but the profits from spin-offs must eclipse the amount of money that these are responsible for. Employment too, is helped by these alcohol-associated industries. Just take the above incident and consider that it required the services of policemen, paramedics, carpenters and glaziers. Then multiply that across the country and you have a hell of a lot of money that alcohol generates.

Drugs are a different matter. I don’t condone the taking of any drugs, and am totally against so-called “Class A” drugs, which do screw people up. Smoking Cannabis though is an activity generally tolerated by society, so long as it is done in private, or among like-minded people. The substance remains illegal though. Obviously there are health concerns, but it is not an enlightened society that allows the consumption of alcohol, whose main side effects are vomiting and violence, but bans the smoking of weed, whose main side effect is making one say “man” a lot.

Sportsmen have been suspended and banned from participating in their chosen sports because they have taken Cannabis. The basis for this is that Cannabis is a performance enhancing drug! Anyone who enjoys a smoke of the stuff will know that it is anything but performance-enhancing. A footballer for instance, under the influence of Cannabis, is hardly likely to be running about the pitch in a performance-enhanced way. He will more likely be lying on the turf, saying something like “I don’t know how they keep it looking so nice man. I wish I could get my lawn looking like this. It’s so green. Here, have a bang on that man.”

Alcohol is of course responsible for many atrocities, and the dangers of driving whilst under the influence don’t even need repeating. Being under the influence of drugs though carries the same penalties. However, here is another difference: A person smoking a joint in a car will not be driving it in the first place. He will more likely be parked up on the side of the road, trying to get the airbag out to see what colour it is.

The legalisation of Cannabis then, although it might increase sales of comfy sofas and warm slippers, has no benefit for the government and is therefore destined to remain technically illegal. As I am typing this, every key on the keyboard has taken on the feel of a miniature soft pillow as my fingers hit them. I feel strange. I think I’ll have a drink.

 

 

Descriptions and instructions.

 

Sunday, 17 October 1999. It’s been a while since I was last here, so my apologies to my reader, in other words myself. Some wag once told me that talking to yourself is nothing to worry about. Only when you start arguing with yourself should you worry. Personally I’d beg to differ with this advice, which I once told myself, and there I go again. To stop these arguments between me and myself, I find it easier sometimes to write things down, or type them as I am doing here. That way, the personal arguments are out of the way and only what we agree on ends up here. Actually I disagree with that last statement, but that’s for the two of me to sort out amongst myself.

A few postings back I commented on the TV set phenomena. We argued between us, me and I, but could not work out which part of the TV was missing. We have a lovely black box, with a screen that displays moving pictures, and a remote control that changes them. We don’t believe that this constitutes a “set” though, nor could we decide on what it is that might be missing. We contacted a number of local electrical stores, pointing out this apparent paradox and all of them had to agree with us that indeed something must be missing as one large and one small box do not a set make.

While the electrical stores conducted research on our behalf, I decided to do some shopping and uncovered other retail “rip-offs”. My local Optometrist escaped criticism as he had an offer on at the time. A pair of spectacles was indeed a pair, as if one bought one pair, one got a second pair, thereby making one pair, but at the same time two. Confused, I retired for lunch in a pub, where I ordered and received one sandwich and one pint of beer. Trying to convince the landlord to change his terminology and offer a pair of sandwiches and pints proved fruitless, so I continued my shopping trip.

Most of my local shops did not sell things that warranted any confusion or argument. However, the men’s clothing store and I are into an ongoing debating situation. They sold me some trousers, underpants and socks, and I am still trying to ascertain where the other garments that make the “pair” may be.

I am currently struggling with the bottle of after-shave that I bought from the same shop. The instructions say, and I quote “Shake, remove top and press nozzle”. I have shaken and removed my shirt in a number of ways, but cannot fathom these instructions. I have a head, but to my knowledge no nozzle that I can possibly press. The bottle of after-shave therefore sits in front of me, unused.

 

 

Temporary temper.

 

Sunday, 31 October 1999. Again I return here from a period of absence. Sometimes this can be a nice place to have to return from, on this occasion though I have spent the last week having the “hump”.

The new job was going well, it still is in fact. Last week however, just two weeks in, I took two sales rep terms rather too literally. These terms were “in the field”, usually used to describe a day out of the office, and “taking the car for a spin”, usually meaning driving the car. In this instance though, I literally spun the car, rather spectacularly if I may say so, and ended up in a field of the grassy variety. The car is quite likely to be an insurance write-off as the only undamaged panel is the roof. I now have every sympathy for whips, as I know what it feels like to be “lashed” in a whip sense as opposed to my usual “lashed” state, most evenings in the grip of an alcoholic stupor.

This was to be the beginning of a period of annoying incidents, ones that I would normally take in my stride or turn away from. Unable to walk properly and forced to face forward by my stiff neck, neither option has been open to me and I have had to face these little annoyances and deal with them.

My bad temper then is as a direct result of my discomfort and has manifested itself where it wouldn’t normally. Immediately following the accident came the inevitable form filling for insurance purposes. The forms that I had to complete, to me at least in my state of mind seemed to ask the most stupid questions. For example: “Was there anyone in the vehicle at the time of the accident?” Well yes actually, me, as I was driving it. I was able to skip the question, “Were there any passengers in the vehicle?” as I was alone. I wondered though, how many possible answers there were to the question that followed it: “Describe their positions”. Political or physical? Is anyone likely to answer other than “facing forwards”? Having ploughed through pages and pages of questions, I was forced to give a multiple-choice answer of my own making. The question was: “Who’s fault was the accident?” to which I answered, “The cat that ran in front of me / nobody’s / seeing as I was the only one there, I suppose you’ll think it was my fault. Delete as applicable.”

Tonight is Halloween. For weeks now the more entrepreneurial of my neighbours’ children have been knocking on the door pronouncing “trick or treat”. If they had bothered to wear costumes, or better still turn up on the correct night, I would have given them treats. Assuming that they were not Halloween visitors though, as it was not Halloween, I assumed they were offering services. On asking for a “trick”, expecting some conjuring act, I was disappointed in having to perform their acts for them when they produced dog poo on the doorstep but were unable to make it disappear again, preferring to give up on their act and walk away.

Bonfire night is at the end of this week, although many of my neighbours seem as confused as their children as to dates. Every night over the last week has seen some attempt at a pyrotechnic display over my back garden. As it turns out, most of them have been so poor as to elicit no more than a yawn from me. Last night’s display though would have been quite impressive, had it been held on the correct date, or at least the weekend surrounding the correct date. As it happened, it only served to annoy me, as I had to steal the cat away from his various exploits outside and keep him in for fear of him becoming rocket propelled at the hands of the same children whom I mentioned earlier.

Tonight though I have a plan. I have purchased a number of calendars for this year and next. The ones for this year are tatty and boring, the ones for next endorsed by various teeny pop groups. I am expecting visits from suitably attired “trick or treatees”, to whom I will give the latter. The former I will give to the chancers, who I invited to return on the correct night, and ask them to take them home and show their parents that Guy Fawkes Night is actually next week.

Realising now that I still have the hump, I think I will return to that place I call period of absence and wait for Christmas.

 

 

Slyming rhang.

 

Sunday, 14 November 1999.

I am pleased to report that I am alive and that my new car is in the same condition now as it was just over two weeks ago, when my company gave it to me. In fact it is in better condition, as since smashing up my humble Ford Mondeo I have been afraid to drive my new Peugeot 406, and have taken to polishing it quite a bit.

I did have reason to travel out of town last week however, and expect any day soon to see myself on one of our many motoring documentary TV programmes devoted to strange driving habits. I’ll be the in the Peugeot 406 that can be seen crawling nervously at a few miles per hour along the hard shoulder, stopping at every road-side telephone to inform the emergency services that I have passed another milestone in my quest to overcome my fear of driving again.

During this visit to the north (the north to those of us that live and work in London being anywhere beyond Watford), my London accent was called into question. Being surrounded by fellow southerners every day, I do not consider myself to have an accent. In Birmingham then, it was not I that had the accent, but the six people around me.

All the same, they were fascinated by the way in which I spoke. Mine is not a true Cockney London accent, but simply one of southern origin. This being the north though, my hosts insisted that I teach them rhyming slang. This was brought about by my getting annoyed with one of them for his persistence and telling him not to get his “Alans” in a twist. I am no expert on the subject, and its origins can be researched elsewhere on the Internet through sources far more educated than myself. I do use the native dialect sometimes though, usually with colleagues during a moment of banter and was now obliged to teach my hosts a few slang phrases. It was a surreal experience, hearing that which is normally spoken with a Cockney accent spoken with a Birmingham one.

For the record, rhyming slang was invented by Londoners to permit them to hold conversations in the presence of outsiders, without the outsiders realising what the Londoners were talking about. The best explanation is by way of an example: One of the more commonly known phrases is “Apples and Pairs”, which means “stairs”. A Londoner would say something along the lines of “I’m just going up the apples”, leaving the second part (“Pears”) off of the statement. Anyone in the know would know what he meant, but an outsider would be left confused as to the meaning of the statement. Similarly, “I’m going home to the trouble”: “Trouble” translates as “Trouble and strife”, which means “Wife”.

There is a rhyming slang equivalent to just about any word or phrase that exists, and therefore a proficient user of the language can become completely incomprehensible to an uneducated listener. New words are given rhyming slang equivalents all the time and some fun can be had making them up too. The most fun though is to be had holding a conversation in front of, or with someone not “in the know”.

By way of an introduction to the subject (which, like I said can be referenced elsewhere), some modern rhyming slangs are listed below. The quoted word is given first, followed by the full version and then the translation:

Gregories – Gregory Pecks – Specs (Spectacles, or glasses).

Peckham – Peckham Rye – Tie.

Hampsteads – Hampstead Heath – Teeth.

Randolph – Randolph Scott – Spot.

Clares – Clare Rayners – Trainers.

Alans – Alan Wickers – Knickers.

Threepennies – Threepenny bits – Tits.

Raspberries – Raspberry ripples – Nipples.

Confused? Well, I was asked. On the same subject, I mentioned another way of making one’s conversations private from prying ears, and that is to use “Spoonerisms” where the first letter(s) of words are swapped. This can be particularly amusing when applied to people’s names. My own becomes “Leven Staker”, but some are a real hoot. For instance Shirley Bassey becomes “Birley Shassey (Burly Chassis)”. Betty Swollocks is but a fictional character.

It’s a complicated subject, and it was then just as it is now difficult to explain. You either get it and pick up on it, or you don’t. Right now, I’m bucking fored of it all. I need to clean me Hampsteads and choose some Clares to wear tonight before I meet me Chinas. I’ve got some Randolphs on me boat that need seeing to before I go out, and I need to polish the Jam jar before tomorrow. Things can sometimes be so cucking fomplicated, it really gets on me threepennies.

 

 

Accidentally superstitious.

 

Sunday, 21 November 1999. This has been another week of accident-free motoring. In fact it has been a motoring-free week, due to my nearly severing a finger earlier in the week at work.

This being my second major mishap in as many months, people are starting to avoid me as my reputation as an accident looking for somewhere to happen precedes me. It as said that these things happen in threes, so I have requested that my colleagues arrange a small, injury-free accident for me at work, just to get the inevitable third one out of the way.

Talk of things happening in threes may lead some to view me as superstitious. I would like to make it clear that I am not now, have never been, nor ever will be. Proof of this is my cat, who is black. It is considered lucky by the superstitious community if a black cat runs in front of you. The number of times that Harley has done this and I have fallen over him is testament to the fact that I am not superstitious. At the last count, he had done this seven times. Seven is generally considered to be a lucky number. Not by me it isn’t.

I shan’t dwell too much on my latest accident for fear that I might tempt fate. Briefly then, I was demonstrating to a new employee how to correctly and safely handle a particularly large, heavy and sharp guillotine blade when I dropped it on my finger. It went straight through to the bone and severed a minor artery. I have been pressing my bosses to redecorate the factory for some time, and now I have saved them the bother with my introduction of a red streaked pattern on the walls.

I was soon at St. Thomas’ Hospital and I owe great gratitude to my nurse, Sarah. Having her stitch my wound was quite an intimate experience, but one that I hope not to repeat, preferring to find less painful ways of meeting pretty young nurses in the future. Anyway, I sent her some flowers the next day, not realising that she suffered from Hay fever.

Now I have seven stitches in my finger and can confirm again that this is not a lucky number for me. On leaving the hospital I was nearly run down by an ambulance as I stepped into the road to avoid walking under a ladder.

 

 

Upturned noses.

 

Sunday, 12 December 1999. As the more observant among visitors here may have noticed, I have not posted anything new now for three weeks. This has been for a number of reasons, none of which are worthy of mention here. So, having received letters by the sackload, I have returned, if only to let Mr and Mrs Sackload know that I am alive and well.

The best word to describe the last three weeks would be “fuzzy”. I have been suffering from a rather heavy head cold for much of the time, thereby rendering myself a little fuzzy around the edges in the way I feel. Work has dictated some fuzzy hours lately too, and having had to fit all of my Christmas shopping in during the week as well as at the weekend as a result, I’ve developed a fuzziness about what day of the week it is. All of which has been compounded by my old friend the bottle of cider / gin / vodka / whatever’s handy.

Returning to the subject of Christmas shopping, this year I done most online, and a very successful exercise it was too. The only problem was again a “fuzzy” one, in that spending money by not actually handing over one’s credit card to an assistant somehow makes the whole transaction feel detached and surreal. As a result I spend around three times as much as I’d planned to, but will do very well myself as about a third of the spend was on me.

There are many benefits to shopping online, among which are not having to fight crowds of eager shoppers, not having to travel, and most importantly to me, not having to enter shops that make you feel self-conscious. I refer to the kind of shops where the assistants look upon you as though you were something they found on their shoe on the way to work. There are many shops like this and they are divided into two categories: those where the assistants are very knowledgeable of their products (as they should be – That is their job) and make you feel a total imbecile for not knowing exactly what it is that you require. Then there are those where you are looked at in a way that questions your financial standing, as in “can you really afford to shop here?”

Last week I encountered both forms of retail snobbery while shopping in London. Firstly I wanted to procure some surround sound speakers for my stereo, a simple request I thought, until I looked for said speakers in Tottenham Court Road, London’s electronic Mecca, as it were. In three shops the same scenario occurred. On enquiring of the availability of said speakers, I was asked such questions as “Is it for a DX450 ABC XYZ turbo nutter bastard bleeding ears, and do you require the leads to be made from Afghan goats hair and coated in monkey spunk?” or something. On replying that I just wanted to buy some speakers to plug into my humble stereo system and position behind the sofa for that “surround” effect, I was greeted by guffaws and it was suggested that I shop somewhere less specialised where the assistants would be more likely to help me and converse on my level.

My response to this was that I would do exactly that, excuse me for having thought that these people are paid to know about things that I don’t and therefore should be helpful towards me, and procured my speakers from a normal high street shop. I then took great pride in parading my newly acquired speakers around the former shop and informing the assistants that they cost me considerably more that anything they had been able to offer. I felt like Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman”, except for the prostitute bit.

The second encounter with a snob occurred in a well-known department store when I asked where the Khazi was. On being asked what a “khazi” was by the toffee-nosed git on the shop floor, I replied that it was a toilet. He informed me that “We have a bathroom sir”, to which I replied that if I wanted a bath I could have one at home but on this occasion I actually needed a shit. He had no reply to this, so I held myself until I got home and done the rest of my shopping online.

 

 

Don’t know about the Millennium.

 

Sunday, 19 December 1999. I’ve just finished reading the Sunday newspapers and was intrigued by a survey that has recently been conducted concerning the whole Millennium thing. What struck me was just how many people seem to fall into the “don’t know” category about themselves, let alone what they’re doing on the big night.

To illustrate the point, an example question was “Do you think the Millennium celebrations hold any religious significance?” Around 60 per cent of respondents answered “Yes”, with a further 35 per cent replying in the negative. It doesn’t take a great deal of mathematical genius to work out that these two figures do not add up to 100 per cent of those polled. Further examination revealed that the remaining 5 per cent answered “don’t know”. In this instance the 5 per cent could be excused for not having an opinion. Another question though was “Do you believe in God”. A similar split of “Yes” and “No” replies was revealed, leaving another 5 per cent who didn’t know. Surely this is a question with only two possible answers, or maybe I’m being pedantic? Yes or no? I don’t know. The most striking thing to me though, was the fact that this survey had been conducted by phone. Not with researchers phoning members of the public, but with members (and perhaps that’s an uncannily accurate Freudian slip) invited to telephone their opinions in response to questions printed in a newspaper. Consider the scenario: A member consciously picks up the telephone and dials a number, only to say “I don’t know”.

The poll also solicited people’s opinions on the Millennium dome. Most were indifferent to it, as am I, which I suppose makes me a member too. One Millennium structure that has captured the public’s imagination over her though, and mine, is the Millennium wheel, or “London Eye.” I have actually booked tickets, although am not due to travel on it till 13th February next year, which I fear may be too late to fulfil an ambition that I have.

For anyone who might have been living in a cave for the last year in this country, the London Eye is a 450ft wheel on the South bank of the Thames. It is fitted with 32 capsules, each carrying 20 passengers and offers a half-hour ride around its revolution allowing stunning views over London. Knowing my luck the weather will be against me on the day as far as viewing is concerned, but that needn’t get in the way of my ambition. Someone is bound to do it, and will probably have done so before 13th February, but if not I’d like to have sex in the capsule. No doubt my travelling companions might have an opinion on this, but I hope to convince them that it’ll be worth it as they’ll be interviewed by the media and get themselves into the newspapers and onto TV as being in the first capsule to be utilised in such a way.

I can imagine the scene already. Onlookers on the ground will become aware of one of the capsules rocking back and forth, before seeing a naked backside pressed against the glass. The newspapers will be clamouring for pictures and the operators of the wheel will be powerless to stop the show. It would be my 15 minutes (or maybe seconds) of fame. Any potential sponsors should contact me, as I’m sure my chosen partner would be only too willing to have a corporate logo painted on her buttocks.

But that’s not till February. Before then I have to decide what to do on Millennium eve. I’ve ruled out pubs and clubs, as have most people, the prices they’re charging being unreasonable to say the least. Which leaves me with two choices. One is to brave the crowds in London and view the festivities planned along the Thames, which should be quite spectacular. With the weather being cold, problems getting home and the fact that the police will probably confiscate alcohol though, the other alternative is to stay at home and watch it all unfold on TV.

In case this is my last broadcast before Christmas, I wish my reader a very merry one. As for Christmas eve, I will be joining my friends who now live in London as they return to spend the festive period with their families. On the subject of Millennium eve though I really can’t decide, so at the moment, when anyone asks me what I’m doing on Millennium eve, I am forced to answer “I don’t know”. Unless I can become a member of any of the exclusive clubs with plans before the event, I will have to remain just a member of the other kind.

 

 

The morning after Christmas.

 

Sunday, 26 December 1999. Boxing day. Appropriately named as I feel that I’ve been involved in a few boxing matches on account of my pounding head and aching stomach. The latter is as a result of over indulgence of proportions of food normally saved for this time of year. Alcohol, of course, I often over indulge in.

My reason for being here today is boredom. Now that the main Christmas celebrations have died down, I’m waiting for the over-hyped celebrations of next week to begin (I still don’t know what I’m doing). This then is by way of killing some time and putting pen to paper, in the electronic sense, in a rare moment of sobriety.

There is much speak of the stupid things people say when they’re drunk, but much less thought is given to the totally inept crap that people write. Maybe this is because relatively few people write as opposed to talking, or maybe because those that write are ashamed to reveal their howlers. I am not one of these people. That is, I am not ashamed to admit my cock-ups, as opposed to I am not someone who writes.

I may not be the best writer in the world, which might explain why I’ve not been published yet, but I and others consider me to be at least competent. I refer not to the occasional ramblings that I post here, as these are merely an outreaching of my thoughts. I refer instead to my short fiction work, or perhaps “hobby” would be a more appropriate word. I have written a number of short stories and have shared them with a few trusted friends who have given me positive feedback. Thinking they were just being polite, I posted a couple of my stories to writing newsgroups and received similar views. Having said that, I’m very shy about my writing, perhaps insecure and afraid of rejection, which is me personified. All of which is why they have not appeared here. Maybe one day when I’m ready to meet my public, that situation will change.

Until that day, I am not so shy that I can’t share my howlers and allow others to laugh at me alongside myself. A recent example brought on by the excesses of Christmas is a classic. I am currently writing, among others, a short story the details of which I need not go into. Like most of my stories, the plot will probably change when I discover some glaring detail that I’ve overlooked. Suffice to say that there is one scene where the hero of the story visits the girl that he is in love with. She is upset and he comforts her. I went back to this story on Christmas Eve morning, following a very heavy drinking session the previous evening. My mind was not functioning at full capacity, and the reasons for the golden rule of writing, as in not to do it when drunk were demonstrated when I wrote the following line: “He could tell she was upset because she was crying”. A classic piece of literature I think you’ll agree. If ever there were a letters page in a newspaper for animals, I’d be the one who wrote “I had to laugh at the zoo the other day, as I’m a Hyena”.

That was the latest in a long line of classics committed while under the influence of intoxicating substances. Three drunken nights on the trot find me feeling very uneasy today, and I wonder what classics I’ve inadvertently included in the above. Not wanting to deny anyone a good laugh at my expense, I shall not check it, but post it for all to see as it stands.

 

 

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