2.213 I’ve A-mazed Myself

July 31, 2012

Despite the shitty weather, the Cawthorne Maize Maze has actually managed to open. With the weather similar to that of the first time we went, back in 2007, we’re expecting to visit and find that there’s not a lot of corn and that we can see over the  walls of the maze – not that that makes it any easier to negotiate as we’ve never managed to clock in a time under two hours for solving the maze and finding all the clues. But that’s all part of the fun. And as that small child learnt last year, if your rush around the maze there’s a chance that an adult will inadvertently elbow you – quite hard – in the head. A practically textbook example of the phrase “More Haste, Less Speed” with the added experience of walking around the maze expecting to find a child slumped over in some corn with severe concussion, judging by the pains in my elbow. I mean, erm, that adult’s elbow.

But it seems, thinking back, that I’ve never had the greatest of experiences in mazes. Aside from learning, from my Dad, to always follow one wall (and stick with it) and you’ll eventually solve it – something we do not apply in the Cawthorne maze – mazes have been bad news for me.

None more so than at, I think, Flamingo Land when I was a lot younger.

The trip to Flamingo Land was one fraught with danger from the get go. Not only did I come a cropper in a maze, but Richard Jarrett – a boy who, when visiting my house one birthday, rode my bike down a hill and flew – actually flew – over the handlebars and landed in someone elses garden, covering a distance of at least eight feet – flew off one of the helter-skelter, wavy slide rides and knocked himself out. For me, though, knocking out would have been a blessing.

Instead, I entered some sort of crawlspace-style maze. This was before I’d been on the school trip during which a scramble net tried to kill me by entangling itself with the hood of my kagool, so I wasn’t as fearful of crawling around. But there I was, crawling through this maze when I found myself in the unenviable position where you’re lost in a maze but you really, really need a poo.

It’s not something I’m proud of. I’d like to think that the added pressure increased my maze-solving skills, requiring me to fine tune my deductive reasoning and direction skills like never before. Turning me into a homing missile of a boy, racing through the twists and turns of a wooden structure, desperate to find the way out. Not just for freedom but so I could rush to the loo.

I’d like to think all of that.

I really would.

All I know is this.

I didn’t make it out of the maze in time.

Advertisements

2.212 We Apologise For The Late Running Of This Service

July 30, 2012

I think it’s around the fourth or fifth time they announce it that you start to think that maybe, just maybe, TransPennine Express aren’t actually sorry for any delays to your journey.

This morning, as I stood on the platform at Huddersfield station – having arrived early due to the vagaries of Huddersfield’s bus network – the 7.26 train, my link to the working world of Leeds, was delayed. By eight minutes.

As I stood and caught up on the world of Twitter and Facebook, browsed Sky News and read a bit of my Kindle my eyes turned towards the high-tech digital display board showing me the upcoming departures. Eight minutes late. Now nine minutes late. Ten minutes. Eleven minutes. Twelve minutes late.

Each time another minute was added, we were treated to an announcement. “TransPennine Express is sorry to announce that the 7.26 To Middlesbrough is delayed by approximately…”. Sometimes the announcement went on to explain why there was a delay, other times it didn’t. Not that you could understand the reason. I mean Huddersfield is the station where, if you’re lucky, you can stand and hear the “Customers are reminded that it is against the law to smoke any part of this station” announcement. Not “in any part of this station” just “any part of this station”.

So, when it came to mumbling what the reason for the delay was, our announcement went like this “jhfhasfa djasdkjsa kjsadkjka kjkasdjasd kdjkasd in the Manchester area.” So it was something in Manchester. Something that could not be enunciated by a pre-recorded person who was deeply sorry.

The problem was that the train was delayed so much that it actually came at the time the next train should arrive, which mean that two trains-worth of people tried to cram into three carriages.

Apart from me.

I just stood back on the platform, and let the train fill up and bugger off. I mentally threw rude names at a guy with a bike who basically barged his way into a throng of people because he simply must get his bike on the train – and thus defeat the point of a bike. I watched people run, and push and shove. I watched the man I joyfully refer to as “Prick” scramble to be the first onto the train so he could have a seat – something he always does and something I take great joy in when he doesn’t succeed. And I watched the blind guy who has an uncanny knack of knowing exactly where there train doors are, trip everyone up with his guide dog – as normal

And as the three carriages rammed with people set off, looking like something from a documentary about rail travel in India or wherever it is people hang off the outside of trains, I just waited for a whole minute longer – figuring I was late already so what the hey – and stepped onto a gloriously empty train. No prick. No guide dog olympics. Just an open, uncluttered doorway.

I still couldn’t bring myself to sit down though. Something about being able to have a seat on the way to work just seems wrong.

 

 


2.211 Am I Allowed To Use The Word “Olympics”? I Don’t Have My List Handy

July 29, 2012

The Olympics.

They’ve started and – in a move which surprised even me – I found myself watching the opening ceremony. Which, in hindsight, would have been more enjoyable if we’d opted for one of the BBC options that allowed us to turn the commentary off so that we didn’t have to listen to Trevor Nelson explaining what Grime music was (I still don’t know) or how his cousins, sisters, brothers and people who he’d once met were all involved in the Opening Ceremony.

Well, Trev, I knew two people in the Opening Ceremony as well but I didn’t bang on about it either.

One of the highlights – aside from a journalist is the US who thought that Kenneth Brannagh was playing “a character out of a Charles Dickens novel” rather than a famous industrialist – had to be the little Bond & Her Maj sketch which marked the arrival of the Royal party to the arena. Well, that and the bit with Rowan Atkinson which was really rather brilliant. But Bond and The Queen was brilliant.

So brilliant, in fact, that when the ceremony eventually finished on BBC 1, and transmission of programs ceased before cutting over to the BBC News 24 channel (where, in the olden days, there would have been six hours of the pages of Ceefax with some easy-listening tunes) the news said this:

Dramatic Scenes as The Queen leaps from a helicopter above the Olympic Stadium.

Sorry, The News, but what? The Queen leaping from a helicopter? Considering you’re the news and supposed to be well-informed and the like I have a few issues with that – mainly that you shouldn’t be telling people, especially those who are watching the rolling news at 1.30 in the morning (something normally only reserved for circumstances involving disasters or riots) that the Queen has just jumped out of a helicopter. Your target audience at 1.30 in the morning is basically drunk people or people who nodded off several hours earlier and have just woken up. Both of whom, I think we could agree, will be quite gullible. I mean, you could wake me up in the middle of the night and tell me anything – chances are I’d believe it because I’d just left a place beyond my wildest dreams and my grip on reality would not be as strong as if, say, I’d been awake for ages and was just about to get up and turn the TV off before the whole Opening Ceremony started again from the beginning, but this time with people telling me that the Queen had actually thrown herself out of a helicopter.

And that sort of thing is best left to Trevor Nelson.

 


2.210 Off Her Trolley

July 28, 2012

Yesterday, as I was going to work, I was standing – obviously – on the train, minding my own business and reading a book on my Kindle. As I tend to do. The book, since you can’t tell from the outside of a Kindle was Morgue Drawer Four – a funny crime tale, translated from German, about a car thief who is killed but can’t seem to go into the light and just hangs around with the mortician all day. It was a thoroughly enjoyable book – even more so, probably, because it only cost 99p via the Deal Of The Day.

As the train arrived into Leeds the overly friendly over-priced drinks and food trolley lady came down the train. The trolley gets off in Leeds, you see, so they have to move it despite there being a throng a commuters. It just makes sense to do that. Obviously. She came all the way down to the end of the train and parked up next to me. She leant on the corner of her trolley and stared at my Kindle. I know all this because I’d clocked her out of the corner of my eye, and my Spider-Sense was tingling.

I’d attracted a nutter.

“Is that a good book?” she asked me. Which is a perfectly reasonable question, on the whole. But if you have no idea what book is being read because you can’t – for example – see a cover or anything, then it’s kind of a stupid question.
“Yes it is,” I replied. Because I’ve learnt that ignoring an overly friendly person in these situations can be more dangerous than engaging them in conversation.

She still didn’t ask what book it was or anything like that. She just stood and looked at me for a bit.

“Is it that 50 Shades Of Grey?” she said.
“No, it’s not that.”
“There’s a man down there reading it,” she said, pointing further down the train.
“Oh,” I said, because there wasn’t much else to say in this situation. “Well, I’m not reading that.”
“Well I know you’re not reading it. Everyone is though, aren’t they. Everyone’s reading it. It’s supposed to be a bit raunchy isn’t it?”
“As far as I know, yes.”
“You’d be able to get it you know, if you wanted. For that.” She nodded at my Kindle. “You could get it. Just Google it. You could get it.”
“I don’t want it.”
“No, but you could get it.”
“I won’t be doing, though.”

So, as I got off the train, I was struck with a thought. That as I’d gotten dressed for work in the morning, my usual shirt and trousers combination had, somehow, construed to give me the look of a sexually frustrated middle-aged housewife.

Either that, or the woman on the train was a couple of kitkats short of a buffet trolley.


2.209 Bigfoot

July 27, 2012

As ever, I’ve been hanging out around the weirder programmes that you can find on the Discovery Channel and its ilk. Tucked away in the 500s, these channels – when not giving you profiles of Hitler, Hitler’s War Machines or Hitler’s Hidden Army – are filled with brilliant shows.

And some dodgy ones too. And it’s the dodgy ones I’m drawn to. There’s a reason, as I keep having to explain to Carole, that “My Sex Robot” is taking up a valuable percent or two of the Sky Planner. That reason is because anything that shows a man so desperate to have sex with a robot that he has his girlfriend hypnotised to believe she is a robot (and, judging from the footage, to be dead behind the eyes) is just unmissable.

But the other night I ended up watching a programme about finding Bigfoot in Rhode Island. Somewhere were, according to the four Bigfoot experts who presented the show, there wasn’t a Bigfoot. But then people started reporting Bigfoot sightings so clearly there was. There was a variety of evidence showcased throughout the show – the experts held a Town Hall meeting in which all the residents of a town came and told their individual stories about Bigfoot. There were lots of different stories. I have picked two.

1) The Bigfoot In The Woods

A man was walking in the woods. Ahead of him on the path he heard the sound of something big crashing its way across in front of him. As he got closer to where he thought the noise was he found a massive footprint in the mud. Clearly a Bigfoot print as, I believe, Bigfoot is so named because it has big feet. So, excitedly, this man phones his son or friend or someone a bit Rednecky, who comes out with some plaster of paris and takes a cast of the footprint. But they decided a cast is not enough so they actually dig up the footprint. They cut into the earth and remove the section containing the footprint. There is actual evidence that something has left a footprint in the woods. He tells this story to the experts. The experts get excited. And so they walk out into the woods and almost immediately one of the experts dismisses his story, saying that the footprint is clearly caused by one of those running shoes that has the toes on – the ones that are a bit like gloves for your feet. The man who took the footprint is a bit miffed, but the experts have spoken.

2) The Bigfoot Jumping Out From Behind A Bush And Going “Rawr!”

A man recounts a tale of thirty years ago when he was a lot younger and riding his bike. As he rode past a bush, a Bigfoot leapt out and chased him down the road. He pedaled away as fast as his little legs would carry him, only turning round once to see the Bigfoot vaulting a wall and running off. The Bigfoot he saw was silver, rather than the more traditional black. The expert immediately took all this on board and decided that he had clearly seen a Bigfoot. They go silver in old age, apparently.  So it was all perfectly legitimate. Not a single question was asked in an effort to debunk the story. No-one came along to tell him that what he saw was clearly an athlete in a silver suit. It was just a Bigfoot, pure and simple.

It was round about then that I started to think that maybe that was why no-one has ever found Bigfoot.


2.208 Hide And Seek

July 26, 2012

If you want to instill a slight sense of panic in your girlfriend, and you happen to know that she has starred you on Facebook so that she gets all of your status updates and the like pushed directly to her phone, then the way to do it is with one simple status.

“Slightly lost the kitten. Nothing to worry about. Nothing at all.”

I know this because a) I lost the kitten and b) I posted it on Facebook.

Within seconds, I was getting texts suggesting places I could look and asking if I’d done the simple things before letting her out, like covering up the cat flap which of course I had. But I’d still lost the kitten. But, in looking for her, have become more convinced than ever that cats can actually teleport.

For a large portion of the day, I couldn’t really do a lot because – for some reason – Peppa wouldn’t really leave me alone. She spent a while sitting on my shoulder like a furry parrot, and quite some time lying in my arms. Which was fun until she fell asleep and I realised that – effectively – I was now being held hostage. And, because she looked ever so cute as she dozed, suffering from Stockholm Syndrome to boot. But when I was eventually freed and Peppa set out to make her own fun, I made a bee-line for the laptop to do some bits and bobs.

And it was after I’d done those bits and bobs that I realised that the house was awfully quiet and that the usual sound of a kitten running around like a crazy thing was just not there.

I will admit I was a little worried. But, I remained as calm as I could and divided the house into sections. Peppa was only able to get into four rooms and the hallway. She had a very limited range. So I checked each room methodically.

Was she under the units in the kitchen? No. Thanks to a cunningly positioned cereal box and a magazine from Leeds Uni, all access to the under cupboard spaces was cut off. Which is just as well, really, because the times she’s been under there she’s come out covered in more cobwebs than someone dressing up as a cobweb for Hallowe’en.

Was she behind the TV where she likes to sleep sometimes? No, she wasn’t. Earlier in the day when I’d lost her but been more quiet about it, that’s where she was. Just chilling out in the nest of wires behind the tv, chilling out in the steady stream of warm air blown through the vents of various pieces of electrical equipment.

Was she hiding in the Coca-Cola box in her room? No, no she wasn’t. But she does love to hide in there so that, when you go in to her room in a morning it’s a little bit like an episode of Jonathan Creek because she’s clearly not in the room, but she was definitely there when you left her last night.

Had she climbed into the toilet and swum round the U-bend? I will be honest. The bathroom was the last room I looked it. By this point, having not found her anywhere else, I was beginning to worry. I won’t tell you how long I looked into the toilet and considered the possibility that not only had she climbed in, but for some inexplicable reason had decided that rather than try and climb out she would swim below the surface of the water and into the soil pipe. I eventually convinced myself that she wouldn’t have done that, and headed downstairs to start the search again.

And there she was, just sitting in the middle of the floor in the front room. Like nothing had happened.

Teleportation. It’s the only answer.


2.207 Seriously, Just Shut Up!

July 25, 2012

The price of a cinema ticket, these days, is a bit high. We went to see The Dark Knight Rises last night and at £8-something a throw, it’s not the cheap night out it used to be. But hey, the film was excellent and well worth seeing so it’s not all bad. Not that I really found myself with any choice about having to see it as, it would appear, one of the people I work with is just like a ticking time bomb when it comes to potentially spoiling the film. He let a little bit of it slip on Monday, and by Tuesday the risk was just too great that he was just going to explode and reveal the entire plot of the film without even realising.

And so we went to the cinema to thwart him.

And sixteen pounds something later, he can say whatever the hell he likes about it now.

But the thing with the cinema is, you’re paying to see a film. You’re paying nearly twenty quid – if you’re a couple or out with a mate, to see a film. So why, then, do people feel the need to spend this money and think, somehow, that what they’ve paid for is to sit in the dark for nearly three hours and have a chat while there’s a film on as a bit of background incase the conversation dries up?

When we arrived at the cinema yesterday, it was reasonably quiet. We took up what are fast becoming our “usual seats”, slightly off to the side. They are our seats of choice for busy films because – more often than not – everyone will sit in the middle section and we can spread out at the side to our heart’s content. It’s worked for almost everything we’ve seen.

Until last night.

Last night we ended up surrounded by chatty folk. Just chuntering on about any old thing they fancied. The group of four behind us could have gone to the pub and spent their ticket money on beer and had a good old natter. But instead they seemed to think it was better to come and annoy us throughout the film. And the couple in front – I’m not sure if they weren’t intending to be together for much longer because it was almost as if they needed to get all the conversation they could every possibly have out of the way before they left the cinema. It was amazing. And it wasn’t in whispered tones either. It was in what is best described as outdoor voices. 

I think, though, it was galactic karma catching up with us. As we entered the cinema, a hoard of scouts were just on their way out. Carole and I have a special skill that wherever we go – a SeaLife centre, a zoo, a maze, even a garden centre (I kid you not) there will be some sort of organised outing. Whether it’s a school trip, or some other kind of day trip, they’re always there. Even at Tong Garden Centre. So, as we went in the opposite direction to the scouts, clearly getting their media awareness badges, I turned to Carole and pointed out that we had dodged that particular bullet.

I think I’d have preferred the scouts.