Wailing Baby

November 30, 2011

Picture the scene.

A busy Wetherspoon’s, the second busiest place in Brighouse – the first being the British Heart Foundation shop which seems to be the place to go if you’re passing through Brighouse in a morning, it was heaving. Anyway, you’re in Wetherspoon’s, you’ve ordered breakfast – large – and you’re waiting for it to arrive.

As you’re sitting, in your booth (I know, swish), chatting about this, that and the other with your beloved in strolls two woman – one young, one older – and two kids. Now the women are clearly mother and daughter and the children belong to the daughter. You can work all that out fairly quickly. So they come in, and as they do so the baby in the pram – the youngest of the two children – starts to cry. You can understand why – there’s not really a lot that a Wetherspoon’s offers the very small child. Even the colouring in and the kids menu is aimed a bit above them.

So the baby cries a bit, and then Grandma gets the baby out and starts walking round with it – effectively spreading the joy of the wailing child to all and sundry. She eventually sits down, and lies the baby down on the table. The baby then starts crying, presumably thinking it is going to be sacrificed or something. It cries and cries and cries. The mother starts to shake up a bottle of milk – this is the first time she’s shown any sort of interest in the wailing child – and hands the milk to the grandma. The grandma presents the milk to the child and the child falls silent.

At that precise moment I went “Ahhhhh.” Not “Ahhhh” as in “isn’t that a cute child” but “Ahhhh” as in “oh the noise has stopped, huzzah.”

Now, I “Ahhh”‘d quite loudly, not on purpose but I was genuinely that relieved that the crying had stopped.

At this point the grandma clutches the baby to her and starts asking round the pub, “Does anyone object to the baby being here?” but in quite an accusatory tone. A kind of “how dare you imply that the sound of a crying baby is not all sweetness and light.”

Now, for the most part everyone ignored her. Eventually two people went, “Sorry? Are you asking us?” She wasn’t. She was asking everyone. No-one answered her. She continued to ask and threw in the line, “I ask because some people are being quite mean about the baby.”

Did she mean me? Was I being mean? Was my – admittedly slightly louder than planned – “Ahhh” really mean? Is it wrong to enjoy the moment of silence when a baby stops crying? Is it? I’ve ridden on enough buses to know that as soon as the mother with the screaming child gets off the bus there is a collective “Ahhhh” from every remaining passenger. Should she actually get back on, wave the baby about and ask if everyone is happy with the baby being there?


Using Your Noodle

November 29, 2011

During my student years – mainly during the second year, I seem to think – I developed a taste for Pot Noodle. I figured that, seeing as I was a student, I should do some work to reinforce the stereotype so beloved of many – that all students do is sleep, drink and eat Pot Noodle. To be fair, I didn’t drink much (well, I drunk a lot one night, threw up on a bench and fell asleep for 18 hours) and I tended to stay up late and get up early so I didn’t tick the sleeping box. But Pot Noodle? I was there.

There was a shop across from my University flat that sold essential student supplies. Milk, Pot Noodles and biscuits. I would poddle over there periodically and buy a couple of Pot Noodles and then use the change for a couple of goes on the Star Trek: Next Generation pinball machine outside. Or I did, until I managed to wedge the ball between the hull of the Enterprise and the lid of the machine. Then I pretended it was like that when I found it and ran away, trailing Pot Noodles.

Part of the fun of a Pot Noodle is the fact that no matter how hard you stir, no matter how hard you work your fork into every corner of the round pot, no matter how long you leave the boiling water to soak into the noodles, you’ll always come across a bit of the sauce. It’ll be there, towards the bottom of the pot, still in powder form and waiting for an unsuspecting eater to get it on their fork and eat it. All of a sudden there’s an intense flavour burst in your mouth as the powder seeks out every drop of moisture in your mouth and reconstitutes into whatever flavour juice the noodles were sitting in. It will also have a piece of pea or carrot in it that won’t have benefitted from any of the boiling water at all – and you’ll almost break your tooth on that.

The other week, when we went shopping, I bought something called a Mug Shot. It’s a packet of stuff – noodles with flavouring and the requisite bits of small carrot and pea that you will only find in noodle dishes. I’d like to know who thought “Ah, we’re making a noodle dish with vegetables so let’s make the vegetables as small as humanly possibly. Do you know anyone who can cut a pea into very small cubes?” So, torn between the Mug Shot and a tin of Baxter’s Scotch Broth for lunch I opted for the Mug Shot.

I don’t know what I was expecting. I genuinely don’t. I think, in my mind there were less noodles and it was more soupy. But when I made it, and left it to stand for the requisite amount of time (and then some, because I forgot I’d made it and got engrossed in something else) I came to the staggering realisation that it was, in fact, just a Pot Noodle.

But that I had to provide the pot.


Christmas In November

November 28, 2011

It’s the start of a week off. I have a multitude of games I could play, I have a plethora of books I could read, I have a stack of things I could write. So what do I do?

Watch Christmas movies all day.

It’s not even December yet, but one of the movie channels has already transformed from Movies 24 to Christmas 24. Now, I don’t normally watch Movies 24. By the time you get through the movie channels to Movies 24 you’ve normally given up hope. Movies 24 seems to be the home of made-for-television movies and seems to be one of the main sources of employment for Kevin Sorbo from Hercules.

But today. there I was, flicking through the channels until I came across Christmas 24. I was intrigued by the title – Santa Suit. I pressed the info button – it was a Christmas movie starring Kevin Sorbo. Kevin was a mean businessman who was cursed by Santa (I know, this is apparently a seldom mentioned side of old Father Christmas – he likes to throw curses around). He cursed Kevin so that everyone would think he was Santa, even though he wasn’t. It was like Quantum Leap but Sam has leapt into Santa. He didn’t have a holographic helper though – he had an over-acting elf and a pretty woman who worked as some kind of social care facility. I watched the whole thing. The whole thing.

And then I watched one about a woman who was hired by the US Postal Service to respond to letters to Santa who, it turned out, was her dad. She fell in love with a postman and, along the way, convinced him to follow his dream of being a rock guitarist. At the end they went on a tour around America for 10 months. In each and every one of the photoshopped photos at the end, she was still wearing her big thick winter coat so I can only imagine how much she was sweating.

I finished off – saved by the fact that Carole came home – watching one about a family who ended up stranded in a small town called Nowhere. Nowhere had no hope, but luckily these out-of-towners were just the kick in the arse the town needed. Given that it was a small town which had no shops – they’d all had to shut when the mines closed – there were a hell of a lot of people still living there. And it had a school. A massive school. And yet, throughout the entire film, there were only about five children – and two of them were part of the family of stranded people.

The thing that worries me the most is not how much I cared about the implausible nature of the films, or the fact that no-one seemed to put their Christmas decorations up until Christmas Eve, it’s none of that.

It’s the fact that I might do it all again tomorrow.


Crafty So-And-So

November 27, 2011

Carole has many hobbies. By far the biggest – in terms of impact, and things around the house – is crafting. She likes making her own cards and her own jewellery and things of that nature. She’s a very creative person. But it gets everywhere. Crafting stuff is like the blob from the film The Blob. It consumes things and grows larger and larger until you find that it’s swallowed up an entire room in the house and is starting to encroach on the stairs.

When I first started going out with Carole, she’s was relatively new to crafting. She’d make cards for birthdays and Christmas and, for a short time after she’d made these, you’d find little off-cuts of card, the backing paper from double-sided sticky tape or the peel off paper from sticky foam pads everywhere. And I do mean everywhere. They’d be stuck to you. They’d be inside your clothes. They’d be in the bathroom – even in the bath. They would get everywhere. I once woke up because there was a sharp stabbing in my side. After the initial scrabbling around under the duvet to find what it was, it was revealed to be a particularly sturdy piece of cardstock shaped into a triangle. I assume it was an off-cut, and not part of some elaborate plan to slowly stab me to death while I slept but it was very hard to tell.

This year Carole’s shifted her crafting skills to jewellery. Necklaces, bracelets – things of that nature. Obviously, this is a new field for her and, as such, she’s taken some time in gathering all the necessary equipment together – the beads, the wire or elastic, the tools. But now she has it all. And then some. There’s stuff everywhere. For quite a while, the bottom shelf of one of the kitchen cupboards was occupied by beading stuff, and there is that time when we went to London and I was waiting over an hour for her to finish shopping in a bead shop she found after we came out of Showstopper! at the Ambassador Theatre.

In the last year, though, I’m not sure I’ve seen her actually make anything. She says she has. She says she’s made quite a few things. I’ve not seen them – apart from one which I have become a wrist model for because my wrist happens to match that of her intended audience (or so she tells me – I just hold my arm out, wearily, and hope it will all be over soon). What I have seen her do, however, is sort her beads out. Sort, sort, sort.

“What colour would you say that is?” I am frequently asked. My answer crucial to a bead-filing system that is, I think, on its sixth or seventh variation now.

You can get a toy that represents some kind of quarry type thing. It’s a truck that goes round a track. At one point it collects some ball bearings (or “rocks”) before trundling off to the drop off point, where the balls go through some kind of channel to get back to the pick-up point and the whole thing begins again. It’s a bit like that with beading, from what I can tell, except that instead of the truck to ferry the beads from one place to another, it’s a spoon or something else scavenged from the kitchen. I’ve seen her using the measuring scoop from the bread maker (which, to be fair, is more action than the scoop ever found with the bread maker).

The upside, though, of the beading is that it’s highly unlikely that you’ll find a bead in your bead trying to stab you to death while you sleep.

For now, at least.


Lessons You Can Learn

November 26, 2011

I’m watching You’ve Been Framed as I write this. Sometimes, watching You’ve Been Framed is like watching a live action version of the Darwin Awards – when people who are really too stupid attempt to (or succeed in) wiping themselves off the face of the planet in some sort of bizarre way.

Watching You’ve Been Framed, though, is a good way to learn a lot of things.

You Should Never Dance On Tables

Honestly, if you took dancing on tables out of the show there would be very little left. I don’t know what it is about a table that screams “climb upon me and dance” when there’s a perfectly good floor which is almost certainly made for doing things of that nature on it. You can watch YBF every week and you’ll see someone who feels the need to dance on a table in a very attention seeking way. The table will be covered in some sort of tablecloth. This then masks what kind of table it is. Maybe it’s only a flimsy trestle table which would struggle to take the wares at a car boot sale without sagging. It’s certainly not made for an attention-seeking drunkard to leap upon and dance. As he plunges to the ground amidst splinters of his dancing platform you almost want to say “Told you!”

The Older You Get, The Looser Your Underwear Becomes

Where would you be without an old person loosing their pants at some point? The show is full of clips of old people with their undies round their ankles. I used to live in Halifax, a place with quite a high little old lady quotient. I don’t think I ever saw any of them lose their pants. But yet there are videos which would seem to suggest the elderly are almost incapable of keeping their pants up. And don’t even get me started on their teeth. Teeth just pop out at random – quite possibly in shock at the fact that their pants haven’t stayed up either.

Never Use A Tablecloth

You’ve laid on a lavish spread. The table is groaning under the weight of all the wares laid upon it. Maybe it’s a full roast dinner, maybe a festive meal, maybe a party spread. It doesn’t matter what it is. There just has to be more food than you could imagine – enough to make a third world country salivate before they watch, through the flies on their eyeballs, you devour the whole lot. And then, for some reason, you have to film it. I don’t know why. I don’t think there’s ever been a time when I’ve thought “Wow, I wish I had a video of that food that I can watch back later when I’m feeling a bit peckish.” The key to this meal, though, is that it’s placed atop a tablecloth with a quite substantial overhang that, say, a kid could grab at if they were falling. The food is spilt and, try as you might, the 30-second rule can’t save everything. It’s also very hard to scoop up gravy with your hands.

Christmas Confession

November 25, 2011

There are those amongst us – and let’s be honest, it’s mainly the women – who have done all their Christmas shopping already. It’s all done, everything’s bought. There might be a few bits and bobs – a couple of small things to pick up closer to the day – but that’s it. It’s all done. And they’re sitting there, all smug, with a “we’ve done it all” face on. Looking down at the rest of us – the menfolk – with a look of disgust that we haven’t done anything yet and, if we’re honest, won’t do anything until Christmas Eve.

At work, we’ve been given half a day off for Christmas Shopping during the month of December. The girls in the office are already discussing where they’re going and what shopping they’re doing. I’ve pointed out that they don’t have to actually do the shopping and that work won’t be expecting to see a receipt – which is just as well, otherwise all the guys in the office would not be allowed to have their day off – but they still seem quite adamant that they’re going to use the half day to finish up a few bits and bobs.

I even have a friend who, smugly, posted – as her Facebook status – that all her Christmas cards are written, the presents are all wrapped and that her Christmas meal is ordered from M&S (so it’s not just a Christmas meal, it’s an M&S Christmas meal) to be collected on Christmas Eve. All that’s well and good, but she has clearly learnt nothing from the Good Life where Margot orders Christmas to be delivered and the tree is six inches too short. She sends it back and Christmas is ruined. Well, ruined until she decides to join in with the Goods, wear hats made of newspaper and get drunk on Peapod Burgundy. I’m not saying that will happen, I’m just saying it’s a possibility.

Anyway, Carole’s done all the Christmas shopping. Everything’s ordered or bought already. There are things scattered around the house, there are drawers I am expressly forbidden from opening (whereas, a few years ago, I hid all the presents I’d bought for Carole in a hole under the couch, much more cunning) and there’s a stack of things that Carole’s keeping at work as well. And then there’s a present – a little something extra – that she’s bought for her dad.

It’s a box of Toblerone Minis.

It’s all festive. There’s a Christmas Tree on the box, and pictures of the tiny Toblerones contained within. Three flavours – white chocolate, milk chocolate and dark chocolate. Little bite-sized pieces of chocolate joy.

Last night we had a dilemma. One of those that includes the words, “We don’t have any chocolate in the house, do we?”

It turns out that Carole hasn’t done all her Christmas shopping yet. There’s a couple of bits and bobs to get, a little bit closer to the day.

And, I suppose, she should probably look to pick up a little bit of something extra for her Dad.

Hey, Mr Postman? No, really, hey!

November 24, 2011

There was a point during the roof fixing, when I stuck my head outside to make sure that there was still work going on and we weren’t just paying them to stand around pretending to work. My emergence from the house corresponded with the arrival of the postman who greeted me with a cheery “Hello!”

The cheery hello is an inherent part of being a postman. It’s almost as important as being afraid of, or chased by, dogs. When I had a paper-round which is, in essence, work experience for becoming a postman, I had neither a cheery hello or the need to run away from dogs. I was bitten – I maintain, by the way, that it was all the way down to the bone – by a cat on Gleanings Avenue. True fact.

So, having greeted me with a cheery hello, the postman then hands me the post. It’s quite a haul. A good six or seven different things. He then goes next door and delivers theirs, before coming back to me and saying, “One more here, mate!” in an equally cheery way before heading off to the other houses down the road.

It was at this point that I thumbed through all the post he had given me.

None of it was for us. Well, one thing was for us. The “one more here, mate!” was ours. The rest of it was for the preceeding house on his delivery route. I had all their post. I stood there with it in my hand. I even thumbed through it again to make sure that I hadn’t, somehow, managed to read it all wrongly. But I hadn’t. It definitely all belonged to next door, apart from the one final piece that was some beads that Carole had ordered off of the internet (for a change).

I had a handful of someone else’s post. I looked down the road. The postman was relatively close, after all he’d just doubled back to give me the “one more, mate!” package. Or, to look at it another way, our only piece of post addressed to anyone that lives in our house. I wanted to cry out to him. To take him to task on his shoddy disregard for the rigourous addressing standards that the Royal Mail insists on. Always use a postcode, they say, which is all well and good but – as this demonstrates – that only narrows it down to what street you’re delivering on, the rest is up to the beady eyes of the postman in question.

I couldn’t cry out. I couldn’t bring myself to go “Excuse me, erm, mate? You’ve delivered these incorrectly. They belong next door and, were I to accidentally open these I think I would be commiting some kind of crime or other. That’s what people say anyway. I don’t really know. I could look it up on Wikipedia if you give me a minute, the laptop’s on – it’s just in the kitchen where I was hard at work updating my rental list on Lovefilm.” I didn’t do that. And every second I didn’t do it, the window of opportunity closed a little bit further.

My indecision lasted so long that by the time I did anything the postman was just a little red speck at the end of the road. Well, with a heavy use of artistic license he was a tiny red speck at the end of the road. Our road is not actually that long. He was certainly smaller than he was when he’s up close but that doesn’t sound as dramatic as taking perspective to the extreme does it? I couldn’t call him back then – it was far too late. What do you even call out in these situations? “Postie”? “Excuse me, my good man”? I just don’t know. He’d have to walk all the way back along the road, take the post of me, post it next door and then walk back past me to go on his merry way. And all the time he’d be looking at me and thinking bad things. And maybe he’d make sure we only ever got bills. You never really want to cross a postman, just in case.

And that’s why, in full view of two men who were fixing our roof, I carried the massive pile of post that I had been handed just moments before and posted it through next door’s letterbox. It must have looked like I had rifled through it all and deemed it unworthy of our attention and, lacking in a handy receptical to put it in, I’d just shoved it through a neighbouring door.