2.031 Bad Plannering

January 31, 2012

There are many problems in the world at the moment. Recessions, collapsing economies, war, murder. You know, that kind of thing. But there’s something worse than that. Something far, far worse.

Getting down to less than 10% on the Sky Planner.

If you ask us, we’ll tell you that we don’t watch that much. There’s very little that we watch. We will tell you that. We would basically lie to your faces.

I could throw out a list of things that we watch. It would be massive. It would include things like New Girl, NCIS, Modern Family, Suits, Harry’s Law, Rizzolli and Isles and Castle. That’s not the complete list, that’s just the first few things I could think of. There’s more. A lot more.

We probably watch, in fact, more things than there is time to watch in our lifetimes. And if that wasn’t enough, we’ve now got into things like Mud Men, Pawn Stars and Storage Wars because I, accidentally, ventured past the Discovery Channel – normally the threshold of our channel selections (apart from the cartoons, and the radio stations) – and found a marathon of Storage Wars. A whole day dedicated to shows about four people buying storage lockers full of stuff. That’s all it is. But it’s strangely addictive. As is Pawn Stars. And then that has a spin-off series, focusing on the guy who does the restorations. And don’t even get me started on American Pickers. Or the fact that we now seem to be addicted to the Great British Bake Off as well – although at least that’s not on, so we do get some respite.

This weekend, as we stared at the diminishing digits highlighting our available space, we took drastic action. We deleted things. Things we had watched some off, recorded the whole series of and decided that – because it had been cancelled in the US – we weren’t that bothered for. We had to get ruthless. We had to clear some space and it was the best way to do it. So we did. And now it’s gone. If it’s ever shown again we’ll probably watch it, but until then it’s gone.

And then we started watching the earliest thing remaining in the planner.

It was an episode of The Defenders (yes, I know it’s been cancelled in the US and should have been deleted but it’s really quite entertaining). It was a good episode. Full of laughs and drama. It was very enjoyable.

As I fast-forwarded through the adverts, however, my eyes fell across one that scared me. Not because of the content but because of the age.

It was from June.

I assume it was June last year. It’s hard to tell. I’m basing that on the fact that I’m fairly sure the Defenders was on last year.

Well, I say fairly sure. I’m a percentage sure that’s slightly larger than the available space in our planner.


2.030 Thunderbirds Are Go

January 30, 2012

On Friday, once we’d made it in after the train of fear, I stayed up for a little bit. I thought I’d just have a sit down, read a bit more of my book and then go to sleep. Unfortunately, I put the TV on and flicked through the channels. And I stumbled across Sky Family. And Thunderbirds. The movie, that is. Not the puppet-based series.

I went to see the film, when it first came out, in the cinema next to the Reading Football Ground (don’t ask me anymore than that – it’s football, I’ll draw a blank). It was a very strange complex – it may not even still be there. In fact, judging by the fact that whenever I visited there it was always next to empty, I’d be surprised if it is still in business. I love Thunderbirds – it captured my imagination when I was a kid, and again during it’s surge in popularity in the 90s. I drew the line at building myself a Tracy Island out of shoe boxes and  papier mache. Even now, if I happen to stumbled across it on a satellite channel I’ll stop and watch it – despite the fact that I’ve seen the episodes so many times. So when we went to see the film I was really looking forward to it. Not as much as the group of people sitting in front of us who – when the theme music started – began to dance like loons but I was definitely all over it like Ryan Giggs at a Big Brother Eviction Night.

I enjoyed the film. I enjoyed the little nods to the source material. I enjoyed the occasional puppet appearance – the hands on the controls having marionette wires, Brains – while under the Hood’s control – walking like a puppet, that kind of thing. And I enjoyed it again, in the wee small hours of Saturday morning. Evidenced by the fact that I watched it all the way to the end.

And that’s when I discovered that Vanessa Hudgens from High School Musical is in it. Someone told me she’s in High School Musical, obviously, as I am a boy and would not have watched High School Musical or the two sequels. And definitely not more than once. Obviously. I spent a good portion of the time watching the film on Friday night thinking “I know that face. I know her from somewhere.” I started to think that it was our Gabrielle, but then I kind of talked myself out of it. I’d recently done a similar thing with Poppy Montgomery, from Without A Trace, being in Unforgettable but with red hair, where I knew who it was but couldn’t work it out, so I wasn’t convinced that my face-recognition skills were actually up to scratch.

I was so determined to find out that I was right that I was even willing to endure the theme song performed by Busted – the boy band responsible for the most songs based around teenage wank fantasies – to check the credits and make sure it actually was her.

I suffer for my art.

2.029 The 22.10 From Leeds

January 29, 2012

After Showstopper on Friday night we headed for the train station to make our way home. We’ve come home by train after gigs and the like before, and it’s been a nice quiet ride where we can just chill out – at least one of us can fall asleep while the other reads a book – and reflect on a great night.

Obviously we’ve never done it on a Friday night before.

It was only just after 10pm when we caught the train but by Jimminy there we some strange people about.#

There were a couple who were thrown out of First Class for not having First Class tickets. A perfectly viable reason to be ejected from the luxury of having a lamp on your table and an antimacassar on the back of your seat to soak up any head sweat. But throughout the rest of the journey they kept referring to the fact that they’d been shunned by the Upper Classes – most of the time claiming that if they were in First Class they would already be home. Because, as everyone knows, one of the benefits of First Class – other than an “at seat refreshment service” is the fact that it can travel in time.

Naturally being the loon magnets that we are, the disgruntled f-ing and blinding non-First Class Couple ended up remarkably close to us. They probably would have been sitting with us if it hadn’t been for a girl who was having a really bad day. A bad life, in fact, if you listened to her. What we should have done is introduce her to the guy who was on the platform having a massive Facebook dilemma which he didn’t want everyone to know about and then proceeded to phone everyone. They’d have got on like two houses on fire. Like a semi-detached house on fire, I suppose.

The girl opposite us had just started a new job. It wasn’t great, by all accounts. But in six months she could be an assistant manager, and then a few months after that she could be a manager and then she could have her own office and – what the hell? We’re not even going under a bridge…

Yeah, she was on her phone a lot. And it kept dropping signal. And every time it dropped signal she would growl and theatrically flop forward onto the table like it was THE WORST THING IN THE WORLD EVER. And every time she growled, because she was sitting – somehow – diagonally (the direction, as opposed to where Harry Potter buys his books) she managed to kick me in the shins.

I’ll never complain about the ride to work again.

(Although that last comment is not legally binding)

2.028 Audience Watching

January 28, 2012

Last night we went to see the first Showstopper of the year at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. It was – as I’m sure you’ll have guessed by now – excellent – a moving tale of love, loss, sacrifice and happiness played out in the icy waters around Antarctica.

Considering I lived in Leeds while I was at University, and have caught buses from the bus station since then – actually sitting in the stand starting at the Playhouse – it’s not somewhere I’ve ever been before. But it was lovely. Really lovely. The theatre we were in was both large and intimate at the same time, which I was really impressed with. We were four rows back from the action – close enough to smell them – and while we were basking in the closeness to the stage, before the show started, we took the chance to look around the audience members.

Across the way was a woman we’d spotted earlier. Actually, it was hard not to spot her. She was dressed in a pink and black stripey dress. Not horizontal stripes, not vertical stripes. No, they were diagonal stripes. She, quite quickly, became known as Migraine Woman because continued exposure started to make your head hurt. And it was one of those things that, once you knew she was there, you couldn’t not look – a bit like when you find a spot and you can’t help but pick at it.

But, because this was Showstopper, you won’t be surprised to hear that we managed to sit close to people who didn’t get the fact that the show is improvised. You can get a leaflet when you go in which lists all the people who can be involved in the show at any one time – they cast is pulled together from a group of people, a bit like The Avengers, but funnier and with music – which also mentions that it would be impossible for the show not to be improvised. It makes it quite clear. Repeatedly.

I can, in a way, see why they can think that it’s not improvised. The guys work bloody well together – Pippa and Ruth are a force to be reckoned with when their powers are combined, for example – and the songs just seem to flow. But that’s because they’re bloody good at what they do, not because they’re standing backstage rapidly learning a script based on a couple of suggestions that people shout out.

But no matter what the audience say – everyone gets caught up in it. A woman made an excited noise when it was revealed that characters were getting married, we all boo-ed the baddies, we all went “oooooh” when the ultimate sacrifice was revealed. And we all left the theatre singing one of the songs.

Roll on the next time…

2.027 Spider-man, Spider-man

January 27, 2012

There’s a chance  that by the time you read this I’ll have developed superpowers.

Last night, I opted to get the bus home. There are two reasons for this:

a) It stops just around the corner from work
b) It means I don’t have a twenty-minute wait in Huddersfield between the train and the bus.

More often than not, if I look at my scatterplot of bus reliability, the bus is late or doesn’t turn up. This week, though, it’s been on time every day so rather than look a gift horse in the mouth I’m using it to shave twenty minutes off the time it takes to get home.

So, last night I was on the bus and, somewhere around Dewsbury, I felt something on my hand. I looked down and there was a spider, spinning a web off my arm. It was either spinning a web or it planned to cocoon me and dissolve my internal organs with its spit so it could drink me later. When I noticed the spider I did what any self-respecting person who discovers a spider on their hand while they’re riding home on the bus would do – I flicked it off my hand and onto someone else’s seat.

A little later on, though, I noticed that where the spider had walked on my hand it was actually quite tingly. So I figure that it’s pretty much a shoe-in that I’ll become some kind of superhero. Now, I have learnt from the gospels of Stan Lee that this won’t be obvious immediately and that it will take at least one sleep for the powers to manifest themselves. I’ve had that sleep. By the time you read this I might not need my glasses anymore, my eyesight miraculously improving overnight thanks to my spider encounter. And, naturally, you might see me placing my hands on the walls of tall buildings to see if I can climb them.

I am a little bit worried, though. I don’t own any lycra. Which, really, is for the best because mine is not a body you want to see encased in any kind of stretchy material. Imagine a woman with a fat arse in leggings, but all over my body. That’s what I’d look like. It would not be a pretty sight. Yes, it might strike fear into the heart of your average supervillain but it might also have them rolling around in the aisles, paralysed by laughter (not too paralysed that they couldn’t roll around).

But  I don’t own any lycra. When Peter Parker became Spider-man he happened to have some suitably coloured lycra lying around at home that he could fashion his suit from. I don’t have that. In fact, as far as materials go I think we’ve just got a couple of old curtains and maybe an old sheet we used as a dustsheet.

Plus, my tailoring skills are not that good so I’m fairly sure that once I go public with my powers and start wearing a costume I’ll look like a bit of a twat.

2.026 Inadvertent Stalking

January 26, 2012

Dear Man In Glasses,

I think  I owe you an apology. You’re probably reading this and thinking “Who is this guy who’s writing me a letter on the internet and referring to me just as ‘man in glasses’?” A lot of people reading this who are men and are wearing glasses will be wondering if this is addressed to them. It’s not. It’s just addressed to you. Man In Glasses. In Huddersfield.

I was the guy standing behind you at the cash machine this morning. I find that 7am is a scary time to get cash out, especially in the environs of Huddersfield, and I hope I didn’t freak you out too much by standing behind you. I was the requisite distance away so that you can be sure I wasn’t reading your pin number over your shoulder, and I’ll also like to congratulate you on not being one of those people who, when presented with a cash machine, has to check every single balance on every single card they own. They could just get online banking and check their balances at home without inconveniencing me. Or you, for that matter. I bet you have online banking.

I was also the guy standing next to you on the platform at Huddersfield. I was reading a book, but still strangely aware that our paths had crossed again. You probably didn’t even notice that I was there, which is fine. I was just another face in the crowd. Or more accurately a face in a book in a crowd.

I was also the guy who ended up standing next to you on the train. I was still reading my book at that time, but I saw you. And you probably saw me. I’d like to make it clear, right now, that the rotten eggs smell on the train this morning was nothing to do with me. You’ll have smelt it – it was a phenomenal pong – and had it emanated from my body I would have proudly stood in that train carriage and proclaimed it as mine because a smell like that only comes along once in a blue moon. I’m sure it wasn’t you, either, although I did notice you weren’t looking around the carriage as frantically as everyone else – almost as if you knew it was coming – so maybe it was you.

Anyway, the point of this, Man In Glasses, is to make it clear that I was in no way stalking you. I realise that our paths crossing three times in the space of 45 minutes may seem to be more than a coincidence. But that’s all it was. A simple coincidence and nothing else. Normally I don’t see anyone more than once in a morning – apart from that guy with the killer umbrella the other week – so you were totally an exception and I won’t be sleeping behind your bins in the near future.

I hope I’ve made that clear.


2.025 Losing My Shirt

January 25, 2012

I had a fairly simple to do list today. Scattered amongst the points on the list were things like “Transfer money to shopping account” (check), “clear the stairs” (not check), “write today’s blog” (check) and “catch up with various comedy shows that I’ve missed on iPlayer” (check). Also in the list was “wash shirts”.

So, I got up this morning and came downstairs. I ate my breakfast seated at my laptop, listening to last Sunday’s edition of “It’s Your Round”, enjoying Lucy Porter’s otherwise well-hidden competitive streak coming to the fore during a round where you had to find the animal that rhymed with the opposite (very loose opposite, as well) of a word. For example, in this game the opposite of shoes is socks which is, of course, fox.

So, once that was done, and the tea-towels that were in the washer had finished their cleansing cycle, I put in my work shirts. I have six work shirts, and I work four days. This means that I have spare shirts every week, allowing me to play fast and loose with the washing schedules and, potentially, leading to a morning where I shout a string of obscenities about not having a clean shirt and have to wear one from a previous day that, knowing me, I’ll have drawn on by accident.

So I washed the shirts. On the cottons setting. It takes 1 hour and 34 minutes. A fact I know because the washing machine has a timer which, occasionally, will just jump around a bit and take off a huge chuck of time because some sophisticated sensors in the washing machine have decided, for example, that it doesn’t actually need that long and you could get away with a ten minute wash, rinse and soak.

So I did all that and, against the grain for our house, I remembered to take the stuff out of the machine when it was finished and not, as usually happens, just as you’ve got into bed or – if it’s a dark wash – the day after, when you realise that the darkness you could see in the machine wasn’t a shadow at all and was, in fact, all your clothes.

So I got them out and hung them on the airer. And then, because the sun was shining, I thought I’d put them outside to dry. It was never going to work because it was a bit nippy and the air felt a bit damp, but I am ever the optimist. So, I put the airer outside. And then I thought nothing of it.

Now, we have a frosted,patterned window in our back door. Through it you can see vague shapes and things – looking through it is like the before version of a laser eye surgery leaflet. Through the door I could see the airer and I could see white things on it, so I figured my shirts were still there. There was no reason to think they wouldn’t be, as it wasn’t exactly windy today. Just a bit nippy. Every now and again, as I worked at the kitchen table, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. I figured that this was just the shirts blowing a bit in the breeze. The same breeze, incidentally, that I had discounted earlier.

When I went to get the airer and bring it in I found that what I’d seen wasn’t the wind blowing my clothes dry. No, as it turns out it was four of the shirts systematically removing themselves from the airer and throwing themselves upon our patio. Now, our patio directly outside the door is quite a clean place. Most of the mess making – potting plants and other gardeny activities, takes place a bit further away from the house. Directly outside the door is a communal path for our neighbours so it’s normally fairly clean.

Our next door neighbours have just had turf laid. So the back step is somewhat covered in mud that’s been traipsed through the garden from when they cleared away all the old garden materials and brought the new stuff in.

And that’s where my shirts were resting.

I suppose, to look at my glass half-full, at least the step’s a little bit cleaner than it was before.