2.152 The Shame

May 31, 2012

Last night I inadvertently stayed awake until something approaching 1am. I didn’t mean to but it turns out that the internet is a massive distraction to all things. Especially when you don’t really want to go to bed because it means work comes all the quicker.

So in between having a discussion on Facebook about what one of my friends should have as a tattoo (suggestions include a cock, the Marvel character Blade and the whole of the Facebook discussion etched onto her flesh for all time), making widdle jokes with Lucy Porter on Twitter and waiting in vain for Helen Keen’s “It Is Rocket Science” to appear on iPlayer because I’d forgotten to listen to it last night, I found myself browsing Amazon.

And then I realised that it was just after midnight and I could see what the Kindle daily deal was. Since I got my Kindle proper (having previously used the iPhone app) the Deal of the Day has been consistently bobbins. But I hopped over to Amazon, followed the link for the Deal of the Day and bought it. Just like that. No messing, no thinking about it. It appealed to me because it was one of the books that inspired the Aardman film The “Pirates: In An Adventure With Scientists” and it was only 99p. So there we go, job done.

But then I started feeling awful. Not because I was so fast and loose with my life savings, squandering it on electronic books willy-nilly, but because I’d rocked up to the Amazon website just after the stroke of midnight to see what I could get for a penny shy of a pound. Which, I realised with the kind of startling realisation which would be best represented by that zoom shot of Chief Brody in Jaws when he realises there’s a shark in the water, is the internet equivalent of queuing up outside the Post Office in the morning so that you can be in there before the pension money runs out and everyone is sent home empty-handed.

When I realised what I’d done I almost wanted to click the button on my Kindle that says I’ve bought the book by accident. The one that says “What am I like, eh? Me, old sausage fingers. Just pressing buttons willy-nilly.” That way I could just give the book back and hide the shame. I could always have popped back later in the day to purchase the book like a normal, sane human and not one who has the bargain-buying munchies in the wee small hours of the morning.

But I didn’t do that. I kept the book, and carried the shame around with me like a child who suddenly refuses to walk anymore and insists on being carried. But no-one will find out about it, so that’s alright.


2.151 Jubilee

May 30, 2012

I had a great idea for the Jubilee and, surprisingly (for me, at least) it wasn’t to just not bother with it in the first place. My idea was quite a simple one and, I thought, quite a fun one as well. Much better than putting a Union Jack on bloody everything and claiming that it is in some way a celebration of the Queen’s  years on the throne. I saw some bathroom plughole cleaner today which was specially Jubilee branded. That, I think, is a sign that we should just stop. That and the fact that, for some reason, I find the special Jubilee packets of Coco Pops vaguely racist. Alongside all the street parties and people having health-and-safety nightmares when they come to hang bunting in precarious places, we should celebrate the Jubilee by pouring Sodium Hydroxide into plugholes to dissolve hair and soap.

My idea, though, was that the Queen should do a new set of stamps. For however long the Queen has been on stamps, sitting in the top right hand corner of the envelope and staring into the distance, she’s had the same face. It’s not very exciting which, I think, is why no-one buys stamps anymore anyway. No-one gets excited about there being a new set of stamps for Christmas or any of the guff – that might be due to the fact that the BBC doesn’t show Blue Peter three times a week, but I could be wrong. I seem to remember that being the kind of thing they’d bang on about on there, before showing us how many milk bottle tops the nation had collected to pay for a guide dog, and then wrapping some non-flammable tinsel around a couple of coathangers to make an advent crown which no-one ever really made. Apart from us, in the third year of University.

Anyway, my idea was to release a set of stamps of the Queen just basically nobbing about. Pulling faces and the like. It has been suggested that, as a special edition, she could signify the class of stamp – first or second – by using her fingers, but I don’t suppose the Queen would stoop that low. But still, sending a large letter adorned with a stamp bearing a picture of the queen with her tongue out and her fingers in her ears would be brilliant. Much better than setting up a trestle table and eating sandwiches in the street with people you barely talk to for the rest of the year.

I’d love to receive a letter with a stamp on that just shows the top of the Queen’s head, like she’s peeping over the edge of the stamp like one of those “Kilroy was ‘ere” faces that you used to get when graffiti was graffiti and not “tagging” or whatever the cool kids call it these days. That would be brilliant. Or maybe one of Phillip, sitting in for the Queen because she’d nipped out somewhere. Now he would signify the class of letter with his fingers without a second thought.

But it’ll all be over by this time next week. We’ll have had all the street parties and the celebrations – fireworks and probably something with the Red Arrows in it, for definite – and that’ll be that until 2022 when we can celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and Prince Charles can mutter about the fact that he’ll never get a go with the crown if this carries on.

2.150 Recommended For You

May 29, 2012

Since I got my Kindle I’ve spent a lot of time hanging out on the Amazon website, looking for books to fill it up with. After all, if it can hold 1400 books and I don’t have to worry about it being any bigger than Victoria Beckham turned sideways then why the hell shouldn’t I try to fill it up?

I find Amazon’s “Recommended For You” section a little bit scary. I mean, I’ve bought things from Amazon for years now. A lot of years. I’ve generally bought at least one book in every series of books that I love from Amazon. But Amazon still doesn’t seem to know me. It’s less “Recommended For You” and more “We’ve Just Randomly Selected Some Items From Our Vast Inventory And Thrown Them On The Home Page For You”. I mean, what have I bought in the past decade that makes Amazon think that I want to purchase the latest rudey book “Fifty Shades Of Grey”?  Or is it just recommended that to everyone because it’s “in” at the moment. Everyone’s reading it anyway, why would I want to read it when I can overhear people talking about bits of it at work for nothing?

The “Related Items” bit is also fun. I’ve looked at a few books and dismissed them. Even when I know it’s not going to take up shelf space I’m a little bit fussy about even trying a book that I’m not really sure about. And you can’t rely on the reviews because there’s always a lot of really low star reviews written by people who seem to think that the Amazon review box is, in fact, a place to write an essay that wouldn’t go amiss in an English comprehension exam. “I’ve only given this book two stars because it didn’t capture the true angst of the situation” or “I’ve had to give this book one star because the writing just didn’t allow me to place myself in the shoes of a penniless baker in 1820’s Chesterfield”, that kind of thing. So I dismiss the books. And then Amazon comes along and says “You look at that book, here’s some more books that may interest you.” And you look, and they’re all by the same author you’ve just looked at and dismissed.

Or they’re all variations of the theme you’ve just looked at.

I, for example, through a series of links, ended up browsing the page for a book on how the London Underground Stations got their name (sample review: “If some of the so-called facts in the book can be proven as untrue with a simple Google search, what is the point? 1 star”). I ended up there because I had looked at a travelogue book about visiting all the places on a Monopoly board – a book which is either brilliant or utter bobbins depending on which end of the reviews you look at. But now Amazon is determined to get me to buy a book about the street names in London including, marvelously, The Worst Street In London AND The Worst Street In London Part 2. Which makes me think that there’s more than one worst street, in which case the author really needs to go back over their notes and settle on one of them.

Hmmm, maybe I could write that in the review box.

1 star.

2.149 Chicken-Gate

May 28, 2012

We’ve spent a decent portion of the weekend trying to get the garden into some semblance of order. Blaming a lack of decent weekends, we’ve not really had much chance to get out there and have a concerted effort at sorting everything out but, with the sun high in the sky and temperatures higher than on the surface of Venus we’re out there, trying not to get burnt and taking occasional shelter under a hastily erected shade made from the throw off the couch hung between two washing lines.

As we knew we were to embark on this weekend of hard graft we decided, on Friday, that we would have a nice, quick, easy tea on Saturday as we didn’t know a) when we would be having it and b) if we would have the strength left in our bodies to chew food. So we decided on what we like to call Chicken Club, which is a glorified name for a selection of chicken sandwiches adorned with stuffing, coleslaw and whatever else takes our fancy.

So we purchased a chicken on Friday.

We got one of those ready-cooked ones from Asda. The ones that reside inside those bags that keep the contents hot enough to melt through human flesh. We bought it on Friday evening, it was piping hot, so we left it out on the side to cool down. It was still in the bag, and it was my job to put it in the fridge before I came to bed.

And I forgot.

I fell asleep on the couch at some point during the latter stages of the evening, my Kindle hanging limply from my hand (not a euphemism). I woke up, bleary-eyed and wondering where the hell I was, at some point just before midnight. And I forgot the chicken. I just checked the doors in a bit of a post-sleep funk and went to bed. That was that. On Saturday morning I woke up and, not long after becoming fully alert I swore as I realised I’d forgotten the chicken.

In my mind, though, it was ok. I couldn’t see any difference between leaving the chicken to cool overnight and leaving it to cook during the day. It seemed perfectly ok to me. And I said as much. Carole, on the other hand, was less confident but told me that if I said it was ok she would go with that and have some of the chicken.

Saturday night comes along. I make her a chicken sandwich, she eats it (or so I think) while I’m making mine. I later discover, putting the evidence together days after the event, that she’d actually picked all the chicken out of her sandwich and thrown it in the bin while I was still in the kitchen. She never ate a chicken sandwich. She just ate a sandwich that, at some point in its short life, had once been cosy with some chicken.

I ate two chicken sandwiches. I suffered no ill effects from the chicken whatsoever.

But the feelings of betrayal… they’ll never leave me.

2.148 Atomic Kitten

May 27, 2012

It’s been a beautifully sunny day today. We’ve been out to look at little week-or-so-old bundles of fluff to decide which one will become our new kitten. Our new kitten, that is, providing that Pumpkin doesn’t try to eat/kill/dismember it because she can be a bit funny with other cats. But our new kitten none the less.

Excitingly, I get to choose the kitten. All the decision-making is up to me. And you’d think when presented with five bundles of fluff that don’t really do much at the moment it’d be quite easy. Even easier, in fact, as one of them has already been claimed. But it’s not, although the one I first spotted as being a potential candidate is, in fact, the one we have plumped with. But during the however-long-I-was-left-alone-with-them-for while Carole went off for a gossip I weighed up the pros and cons of all the others.

But I think I’ve made a decent choice. It’s hard to tell at about two weeks old what sort of trouble you’ve gotten yourself into, but I think that the one I’ve picked will be a nice addition to the home. So at some point in the next month or so, young Peppa (it had to be, really, didn’t it?) will be entering the Chinchen-Shaw household (until she’s eaten/killed/dismembered by Pumpkin).

The kitten thing was lovely. But I think all the adorableness had gone to my head because, as we were leaving, I suggested that we go to B&Q. On a Sunday. When the sun is shining. That’s right up there on my no-no list along with visiting any kind of tourist attraction on a Bank Holiday and going to the Supermarket ever. It’s just not the done thing. But there I was actually suggesting we do it.

And so we did. And it was as busy as you’d expect, populated mainly by couples  who all fitted the same criteria. One of them was excited about going to B&Q, the other one was just there to push the trolley. Or, in one case, push the trolley and cling on to, manfully, a large white leather handbag. I just stood, by the cheap fence panels, and waited for Carole to come back to me laden down with plants. And didn’t feel the need to kill anyone in there. Which is unusual. 

I think the kitten’s making me soft.

2.147 Hot Enough To Fry Eggs On A Car

May 26, 2012

I looked about as I entered the newsagent, the street was deserted. I pushed open the door, wincing a little at the sound of the bell alerting the shop owner to my presence. If this had been before the smoking ban, there would have been a smokey pall hanging in the air above the counter – the place would have seemed a little bit dirtier than I felt standing in it at that time. I stood in front of the papers and magazines, looking at them all, but my eyes never settling. Maybe I was a little sheepish in my approach, holding back a little because of the shame I felt about making the purchase. The shopkeeper emerged from a darkened back room, the beaded curtain clacking as he passed through it.

“What can I get you, mate?” he asked me.

I gulped. If I wanted to do this I’d have to do it now. It would have been so easy to just grab the first publication that caught my eye and buy that in a really flustered way, trying to make it seem that it was the reason I’d gone in, while everything about my body language clearly said it wasn’t.

“Erm… have you… have you got any Couriers?”

“I have mate, yeah,” he said, turning to get one from a special place behind the counter. “That’s 50p please, mate.”

Yes, I bought an Evening Courier. The paper version. Old school. While the website is great (erm, adequate?), its constant demand that you buy the paper to find out more about a certain story does grate a little. Or the fact that it has stuff like this on it (and yes, I have copied and pasted the entire article):

“A ROAD in Halifax was shut this afternoon because of a lorry stuck under a bridge. Police were called to Water Lane at 2.40pm where the 44ft-high wagon got wedged. Traffic was diverted.”

 And yesterday, as we popped into Halifax to pick up the tickets for Mickey Flannagan (he’s not on a for a year, putting him into second place on the longest time some tickets have been on the fridge after the Millican), the billboards for the Courier immediately caught my attention.

Amidst all the Eurozone crises, the trustworthiness of Jeremy Hunt and who will win The Voice, the local news had its finger firmly on the pulse. The Courier newsboard, designed to attract the attention of prospective buyers, said that on Friday it was hot enough to fry eggs on a car. Clearly nothing of any note was happening in Halifax. There must have been a space between Galas (nine times out of ten there’s a Gala) and clearly no-one was objecting to some plans for town centre development or demanding a vote on what will happen to some cherry trees. No, instead, eggs could be cooked on cars in the Halifax area.

And there, on the front of the 36 page advert-fest that is the Halifax Courier (if you cut out all the news contained in the paper you’d probably get about four pages of news to 32 pages of adverts and notices about men’s shorts for sale for £2.50) is a woman frying an egg on a car. She’s got a spatula and everything.

I’ve never been prouder of my home town.


2.146 Semi-Naked Sun Worship

May 25, 2012

It’s sunny.

I know this because it’s a) sunny and b) on everyone’s Facebook updates. Before Facebook we had to depend on things like looking out of the window to find out what the weather is like. Now we can find out by reading the latest updates from people who have spent half of their time online looking up funny cat videos on YouTube.

The newspapers have proclaimed that the UK has recently been warmer than Barcelona. Which is great, it’s always good to one-up somewhere that’s supposed to be warmer than us. But, at the end of the day, the thing is people in Barcelona probably look better when they feel the need to take their tops off because it’s a bit sunny. In fact, because they’re used to the sun and things, they’ve probably evolved into a species that doesn’t need to tear their tops off at the first threat of a tan.

For example, seeing not-Sid up a ladder painting his new garage with his top off is not something I want to see. It’s bad enough seeing him without his top on anyway – even going so far as to take off his high-vis vest as well – but I don’t want that semi-naked form to be elevated like it’s been chosen to go on the fourth plinth at Trafalgar Square. In fact it’s surprising that there hasn’t been a semi-naked Englishman commissioned for the fourth plinth, especially with the Olympics coming up – we must want to immerse any visiting spectators in as much British “culture” as possible.

The curious thing is, though, as much as people will gladly part with their tops in the sunshine, and choose shorts over trousers they seem very reluctant to let the socks go. Even when they decide that the sandal – a dubious bit of footwear at the best of times – is to be worn (presumably because it consists of less material than a normal shoe, and is therefore cooling), they still stick with the socks.

When it rains and everyone’s got umbrellas up, you find people muttering about how they have to dodge out of the way in case they lose an eye on one of the umbrella’s spokes. And for me, trying to avoid clapping eyes on people who really shouldn’t be any kind of naked outside of their own, well-secured and firmly curtained, homes is the same as avoiding an eye skewer from a brolly.

At least, though, if you’re stabbed in the eye with a brolly during rainy season you won’t necessarily be able to see the semi-nakeds on display in the sunshine.