What You Mean Is…

January 21, 2017

I was made redundant two months ago now.

And, as of the time of writing,  I haven’t yet looked for anything else. Not because I’m never going to work again, but because I’m enjoying this little, well, pause in my working life. It’s tipping the scale of the work-life balance way over to the life side – that side having been seriously lacking for a while.

But there are still people out there who look at me with pity. And those who express, with some force, that I must surely be bored. That I must be just sitting at home and rocking like a Romanian orphan.

I’m not. I’m doing things that I enjoy. I’m doing this around the house. I am just doing things. I’m not bored. I haven’t really had time to be bored, such is the opportunity to do things. It’s not like when you were a kid and the six week holidays had nothing in them to hold your interest after about week four.

This is adulthood, where you can find things to do everywhere.

And even where you can hunt out new ways to do the things you already did – for example, I’m cooking – which I love – with ingredients I have never cooked with before. Just because I can. Because I have the time and opportunity to mess about with stuff that work me would have dismissed as not being “safe”, i.e. a known quantity. It’s pretty exciting, actually, to flick through a recipe book and not be bound by working hours when it comes to prep and cooking times.

If anything, the fact that you think I should be bored is more of a reflection on you than on me. What you’re actually saying, while you’re vehemently insisting that I must be longing for something to do, is that you’re not entirely sure if you can function outside of a work environment. I guess, in a way, it’s like you have Stockholm Syndrome towards your employers. You can’t imagine a world without them in it, telling you what to do and when to do it and rewarding you for a job well done.

I know work will come again. I know this pause won’t last forever, but I’m making the most of it while it’s here.

And I’m certainly not bored…


January 20, 2017

I’ve changed the cat flap on the back door, eventually.

We’ve had a new one sitting in a cupboard for the better part of a year but I’ve always been too busy or distracted to do anything about it. Well, that and the fact that amongst the required tools it listed glue. Which frightened me on a number of levels and led to many a mental image of a cat stuck – literally – half in and half out of the damn thing.

But as it was just a straight swap, it was pretty much a case of off with the old and on with the new. As long as you can work out how to get at the screws of the old one without basically lying on the kitchen floor with the back door open calling a piece of plastic a complete bastard. You know, hypothetically.

So the old came off, and the new went on. Pretty much seamlessly. It was a nice easy job, to be fair, and one that took a lot less time than it’s taken me to procrastinate it all the way to January.

There are several key differences between the new flap and the old.

  1. You can see through the new flap, and not just look at a mucky layer of ick.
  2. The new one doesn’t have a hole in it filled with a large amount of cat hair.
  3. The seal on the new on is intact so an icy wind doesn’t try and slice you legs off at the ankles.
    And the best one…
  4. Peppa can’t fathom it out.

I think it’s fair to say that Peppa has a few reservations about the new flap. Because it loosk different, smells different and isn’t full of hair. It also works as it should. Which means that it’s sealed a bit better than the old one. Which is to say, it has a seal. All of these things have lead to a confused cat for most of the afternoon.

She’s pretty much sussed it now. I think. But we shall see. She’s managed to come in through it and somehow wedge it open, so there’s definitely a few lessons needed but we’ll see how it all pans out.

The worst thing about the cat flap, though, is the warning that comes with it.

It basically says that the manufacturers of said cat portal cannot be held responsible for other small animals and even people such as small children entering your home.

It’s a cat flap.

Like a small cat flap.

I don’t know how small the small children I’m being warned against are, but if they were written about in a book Joey would be totally putting it in the freezer. They would have to be freakishly small.

I can understand if it was a bigger flap, like a dog flap. I’ve seen Home Alone. I know that they would come with a warning about how they can’t be held responsible if the Wet Bandits get in your home, but a teensy weensy cat flap?

I guess they alude to the fact that a ne’er-do-well could, if they were so inclined, remove the flap and – through the hole in the door – insert a criminally minded child who could do evil. Still a moderately freakishly small one, and with a ne’er-do-well’s moustache, but a child none the less.

However, I’d know if that was happening. Because they’d be lying on the floor, trying to get at the screws and calling a piece of plastic a bastard.

It’s a total giveaway.


Cats. Eyes.

January 19, 2017

When I went to bed last night I was reading something on my phone before I went to sleep. So, rather than put my glasses on top of the chest of drawers, I just put them on the chair at the side of the bed next to my phone and my book.

And I thought nothing of it.

Until, that is, this morning when I came to put them on.

Now, I am used to fingerprints on my glasses. And greasy smudges. In fact, were I ever to be able to see without the use of glasses, I think I would miss that slightly smudgy feeling you get every now and again when your eye tries to focus on the ridges and whorls of a fingerprint rather than the outside world.

I am not, as a rule, used to cat paw prints and something which I hope was just a massive smudge and not a cat’s bumhole adorning my lenses.

I had forgotten that Peppa, of late, likes to sit on the chair and watch us sleep.

In a really sinister way. Like you can feel the air from her little nostrils blowing across your face kind of way. She’s really close. I think, in her own way, it’s a kind of revenge thing. We’ve shut her out of what was, essentially, her bedroom. It’s been her bedroom since she was a kitten, but now we’ve decorated and put a bed in it and whatever it’s too good for the likes of her to hang out (although we have been letting her, to bed fair). So I think now she’s just staring at us all the time, until we get so uncomfortable we go bad to letting her sleep in there just so we don’t get the heeby-jeebies.

She also likes to sit on the chair and rake one paw down my exposed arm. Not painfully. There are barely claws out, but it’s enough that if she was trying to get information out of me, I would talk. It’s somewhere on the threshold between quite a pleasant experience and absolute hell.

And, last night, she did all that whilst sitting on my glasses. I genuinely thought that something had happened to my eyes during the night. That I had lost some of my sight or something. An idea which, as someone who uses visual media a lot, absolutely terrifies the crap out of me).

I’m glad I didn’t panic-call the opticians and demand an eye test, only for them to find nothing physically wrong with my eyes and that on closer inspection I’d been trying to see the world through a smudged print of a cat’s anus.


Maths Porn

January 18, 2017

I’ve discovered a new love on YouTube.

If it’s not something to do with gaming, or something to do with unsolved mysteries and general weird shit then I’m normally not that bothered. But I’ve stumbled into the wonderful world of maths.

And it’s amazing.

It’s like cerebral porn.

I have – so far – two favourite people to watch. One of them, Matt Parker, is a guy we saw at the Edinburgh Festival give a talk on multi-dimensional objects and how you can tie your shoelaces just by folding and then unfolding your arms. I still can’t do the shoe laces thing and he still hasn’t emailed me the instructions – but it’s only been two years, and Rome wasn’t built in a day and all that.

The other is Hannah Fry. She’s a complex systems theorist. And if that’s not a massive nerdy turn on then I don’t know what is! She has done a ridiculously entertaining TED talk about the mathematics of love. And a lot of other things including how to arrange a decent office Secret Santa. But that just reminded me that my office only has one person in it and then I was sad.

Now, separately, they are both excellent. Both are ridiculously easy to listen to and make the maths easy to understand and accessible which is pretty awesome.

But when you combine them…

Basically there’s a video about a mathematical way to win Monopoly. Now you don’t even have to watch the whole thing to understand why it’s so wonderful. You just have to watch the bit about the probabilities of landing on each square. I’m not a maths guy, I am a science guy – which, I guess, incorporates some maths in the background – but I can appreciate the loveliness of a system that works. And the fact that two different approaches to the problem bring the same answer.

It’s a bit like the numbers round in Countdown and the contestants have both got the answer, but in different ways. Except, you know, better.

At first it looks as if the calculations that Matt has done differ from those of Hannah. And there is some frowning and general confusion, but as the video progresses it turns out that they have worked out the exact same probabilities in their own ways. As it should be, I guess, to prove that it’s correct.

But it’s just the joy on their faces when they realise it – all to do with the Jail square – that’s so wonderful. It’s like a really geeky, nerdy version of a sporty chest bump. It’s beautiful to watch.

And YouTube is now recommending that I indulge in the mathematics of Guess Who.

If I keep watching these maybe I’ll actually win a Games Night…


Lettuce At ‘Em

January 17, 2017

My flippancy yesterday regarding the state of the courgette market is more serious than I realised.

There’s a story on the BBC News website that bad weather has ruined the European courgette harvest, which means that when courgettes do appear (every time you are near), they will cost more.

That, coupled with Brexit meaning Brexit, means that the spiraliser will have to be retired to that cupboard where you put things like the cheese toastie maker (until, that is, you really fancy a cheese toastie and then you discover you threw it away years ago) and things of that nature. Steamer. Juicer. Bread Maker. Probably one of those air fryers if we had one.

The price of courgettes will be so amazing that companies will spring up – “Cash 4 Courgettes” and the like – offering you excellent prices for your unwanted veg. Like all those ones for gold that you see nothing of these days. Mainly because the television adverts are basically all life insurance, PPI and funeral plans. Oh, and Park Hampers because January.

Also on the hit list are peppers. I need peppers for something this week. I’m not hopeful. If only for the fact that they are neither an apple nor a potato and so are unlikely to be stocked by Tesco in the first place.

I mean it’s got so bad that in some cases lettuces are being imported from the US. Because, you know, unless it’s on a burger they don’t know what to do with a lettuce. I can only assume that this is just the tip of any sort of trade agreement that Boris Johnson and his president elect hair twin have discussed. I assumed it would be a much more industrial-based thing, rather than the lightest of all salad vegetables, but hey I guess things have to start out small.

Even if it does mean that the US is benefiting from climate change – something that Trump has claimed is entirely made up by the Chinese to drive their businesses.

But we aren’t importing Chinese lettuces are we?




Pomme, Pomme, Pomme, Pomme de Terre, Pomme de Terre

January 16, 2017

(title to be sung to the Imperial March from Star Wars)

Because we’re cool and hip, we own a spiraliser. And because we’re cool and hip, we’ve not really taken it beyond spinning a courgette through it to make – and I hate this name – courgetti.

Courgette Spaghetti.

It’s right up there with boodles, which are butternut squash noodles. I, personally, would have gone with “squoodles”. Because it’s a lot more fun than boodles. Boodles sounds like you’re being fed at a pantomime.

Anyway, while you can buy pre-spiralised courgetti, what’s the point in having a spiraliser – that I can attach a POWER DRILL to, should I so desire – if you don’t spend a while spinning a vegetable in a circle.

However, for some reason, courgettes just didn’t exist as an item when we came to do the Sainbury’s shop this week. I searched for courgettes and instead of the usual loose and packaged veg, I was presented with a series of things that were just variations on smooshed up courgette. Baby food, something else with courgette in it. Just not actual courgettes.

So, I had to brave the “fresh” fruit and veg section of our local Tesco Express today to see if  could find any.

I mean, I knew the answer before I set off. Most of you have never been in our Tesco Express, but you must know the answer. Sort of instinctively. It’s no, isn’t it. It’s always going to be no. This is not the sort of area that people would buy courgettes. Certainly not according to the Clubcard data which is used to stock the store, anyway.

I mean we all know that our Tesco Express’ primary role is to provide somewhere the local drunks can buy vodka at eight in the morning.

Not courgettes.

Basically if it’s not an apple or some potatoes, you ain’t gonna get it. I mean sure, there are some oranges, and a cucumber. Maybe a leek or two. But it’s mainly apples – green, red, red and green – and potatoes – new, baking, salad (which, let’s face it, is new), and floury ones.

That’s it.

I didn’t ask if they had any that they hadn’t put out yet. I didn’t feel comfortable that I wouldn’t be laughed out of the store.

Or just offered a cucumber because it looks a bit similar.



January 15, 2017

Brexit Means Brexit.

That’s been Theresa May’s catchphrase for a while now. Like Beans Means Heinz. Or No Means No.

Brexit Means Brexit means nothing, really. Because Brexit is still pretty much undefined in terms of what’s going to happen, how shafted we’ll be by things, how unshafted we’ll be by other things. And because people were up in arms about being kept in the dark about something as important as the future of the country – imagine that – Brexit needs to be announced to the general public at some point, with all the ins and outs and whatevers that come with it.

And while the people who voted for out are busy with their “see, Chicken Little, the sky hasn’t fallen” told you so finger pointing at the Remains, despite nothing actually having been done up to this point so everything is essentially the same, one thing has shone like a beacon in the night that Brexit might actually be a massively bad idea.

Donald Trump says the “UK was so smart in getting out” of the EU.

What more evidence do we need that it was a bad idea?

I think if there’s ever a rule of thumb to live by – and, of course, that thumb would be always photographed in some kind of thumbs up gesture – it’s What Would Donald Trump Do.

If you always ask yourself that question and then, when you have an answer of what he most definitely would do, do the opposite then you probably can’t go wrong.

For example, when approaching an attractive woman, What Would Donald Trump Do. Or, in this case, What Wouldn’t Donald Trump Do. If you do that one thing – say hello and pass on by – then you’ll be safe as houses. Anything else and, well, you’ve only yourself to blame.

So, now the news has broken that Donald thinks Brexit is a great idea and we were hella smart to do it – or, as it’s Trump “THE UK WAS SMART TO GET OUT OF THE EUROPEAN UNION. CLEVER!” – then I imagine the whole thing will be scrapped tomorrow…