2.274 The Mayans That Stole Christmas

When it comes to Christmas this year – I can talk about this now because the shops are starting to fill up with their Christmas-y items, therefore it’s perfectly ok to mention it – I will be doing some last minute shopping. If we’re still here, that is.

Because, of course, 2012 is the year of that Mayan Prophesy. The one in which the world will end on December 21st. So, if that’s the case, I’m not sure I should really be going out of my way to come up with any thoughtful gifts for people between now and the other side of the apocalypse. I mean, why should I waste valuable time I should be living in thinking about whether a present is or isn’t suitable for someone. And it’ll save a lot of time buggering about writing cards as well. Not much point bothering – especially with the cost of a stamp these days – if the world’s just going to shatter or whatever at some point during the day.

Of course, there’s a lot of issues with this Mayan Prophesy. The first, I think, is that it’s not really a prophesy. It’s just the fact that whoever made their calendar stopped doing it on the date that would, once we’d settled on a working, uniform calendar system, fall on the 21st of December. Now, obviously, the first thing you would think on finding something like this is that they stopped because it was the end of the world.

That’s the obvious thought, really.

No-one stops to think that maybe the guy who made the calendar got a bit carried away, counting off his days and he only stopped when one of the other Mayans came up to him and told him he’d done enough.

“Tim! Tim… you can stop, mate. The calendar. You can stop. You’ve done enough. You’ve been at it for a ridiculously long time – well, you know, you invented the days – and, frankly, we’re running out of funny cat pictures to put on each of the months. Just stop now. Stop.”
“But, you don’t think some people in the future will find this calendar and think that the world’s going to end on that day, do you? Maybe I should put a note on it or something? What do you reckon?”
“Look, Tim, just leave it. It’ll be fine. No-one in the future’s going to think that. Come and have some sacrifice.”

That could actually have been what happened. Except, of course, in real life Tim would have been called Timaxypotl or something. Although that sounds a bit like a medicine.



2.273 The Ponds

She can’t die, I reasoned, as Rose Tyler provided the voice-over at the end of her second series of Doctor Who. She can’t die, because if she died, how would she manage to provide the voice-over, huh? But I was still a little bit worried when it looked like she’d be sucked into the void alongside all the Daleks and Cybermen and, I’ll be honest, a little bit emotional at the bit when Rose and The Doctor are on opposites sides of the wall. Never to reunite. Apart from when they do. Obviously.

I’ve watched Doctor Who for a long time. I’ve seen companions come and go. I’ve fallen in love with some, I’ve hated others. I’ve seen them leave of their own accord, be left behind and I’ve seen them die. And each one has touched me. Even Adric, who was so wooden he made Daniel Radcliffe look like he should be in the running for an Oscar, crashing a spaceship full of Cybermen into the Earth 65 million years ago and killing all the dinosaurs – even his sacrifice moved me a little bit. It mainly moved me in a “Well, at least it wasn’t Nyssa” kind of way, but still. It counts.

And now,  the Ponds.

I love the Ponds. I’ve loved the Ponds from the first moment. I loved them at the start of their adventures with the same love I had for Donna at the end of hers. I loved Donna towards the end of her run – everyone poo-pooed her at the beginning – myself included, in all honesty, but by the end of her series I loved her. She got rid of all that will they-won’t they gubbins that had been there with Rose and, at the beginning, with Martha. And I carried that love over to the Ponds.

I’ve never wanted to watch and, in the same moment, not wanted to watch an episode of Doctor Who so much in my life. I reason that if I don’t watch it then, for me at least, nothing will have happened. I can go on blissfully thinking that all is right with the world and that everything is hunky dory. That the Ponds were merely dropped off after their last adventure and lived a happy and fruitful life. That might be, after all the speculation that one or the other of them will die, what happens after all. That’s the kind of double-double-double bluff I’d expect. Like most of Jeffrey Deaver’s  early books when the criminal is almost always one of the police advisors working closely with the hero.

So that’s why I have to watch it. I have to watch it to see what happens. Because if I don’t watch it, I won’t know. I’ll just imagine. And if I do watch it, I can find out if what I’m imagining is actually what happens.

I suppose in a couple of hours time I’ll have my answer.

Somebody hold me.

2.272 Dear Next

Dear Next,

Hello Next. How the devil are you? I hope that you’re well. I’m not too bad myself, all things considered. And when I say all things considered, I mean this.

This is your dish drainer. This one is the cream one, we have the chrome one, but really it’s all the same thing. It’s a dish drainer. A £20 dish drainer, at that. At first it looks all lovely and it seems to solve one of the biggest problem facing middle class people – drying a wine glass without any of it touching the surface of the draining board. As you know, Next, your drainers have specially designed bits – I appreciate they probably have a more technical name than “bits” – to hang your wine glasses from where, if you’re lucky, you’ll knock them off – accidentally – because the rest of the drainer frustrates the crap out of you.

I don’t know, Next, if you’ve ever washed up. You look like the kind of place that would have someone who dealt with that for you. Or a dishwasher. Either or. That’s how you strike me, Next. You don’t look like the kind of place that would slip on a pair of marigolds or, throwing caution to the wind, plunge your bare hands into hot soapy water to wash your cutlery and crockery. And this drainer seems to back up that theory because, well, I don’t know if you’ve ever used one other than for show – trying to fool the people below you into thinking you are in some way homely, for example, but it’s not very good, is it?

The plate thing is ok. I’ll give you that. You can put a plate in there and it will drain. It’s really good for plates. It’s not so good for bowls. Somehow you’ve designed the slots so they’re superb for plates, but when presented with the curvature of a bowl it just all goes to pot. I assume this is because we’re all supposed to be using those shallow square bowls now. They’re trendy, aren’t they. Shallow square bowls. It’s the in thing. I don’t know if anyone’s tried eating cereal out of a square, shallow bowl – or, say, rice pudding – but that kind of bowl just doesn’t cut it. You can’t stir, you can’t mix, you can’t soften your cereal or stir your jam in properly. They might look arty-farty and cultured, but from a practical standpoint they’re useless. Unless you want a bowl that can fit into your drainer. Then they’re top notch.

The cutlery thing though, that is a work of… well, it’s a work of something. It’s whatever the exact opposite to “it’s a work of art” is. It’s awful. I find nothing more entertaining, as I wash up, that putting a knife, say, into your cutlery cage (or whatever fancy-schmancy name you’ve given this bit that hangs on the drainer) only for it to pass, completely unbidden, through the gaps in the cage and either back into the sink or, if I’m really lucky, bounce onto the floor. Either way it’s getting washed again. Washing up knives, forks and spoons for two people means that when it comes time to empty the cage and put the cutlery away in the drawer, it resembles a game of kerplunk. There are handles sticking out all over the place, poking out through all the slots in your poorly designed – but probably insanely trendy – cage. And whereas before these items would just slide out of their own free will, when you come empty the cage it is almost as if they are one with the drainer. I’m not sure that part of the washing up experience is supposed to be repeatedly banging your cutlery drainer onto the kitchen worktop in a desperate attempt to encourage it to release the couple of teaspoons it’s grabbed hold of and refuses to let go.

So all in all, Next, I’m disappointed. I’m more disappointed in this drainer than I’ve ever been in anything else I’ve ever bought from your shop which, in all honesty, amounts to a pair of shoes and a tie. But still, I didn’t have to repeatedly bang the shoes onto a surface in order to get my feet out, did I? Nor did I have to keep putting the tie around my neck because, for some reason, my neck just slid out of the hole every time I put it in there.





2.271 An Obituary

It is with a heavy heart that I must announce the passing of my fleece jacket. A jacket which has served me through thick and thin, over the past however many years. A simple black fleece, boasting two pockets and a grey trim around the colour, it fast became known as my favourite fleece and would accompany to many great outings and witness many memorable things. I think it even joined me on a trip to a really misty field somewhere to count hares.

Over the course of our time together, the fleece has seen me work in three different jobs and travel to many different cities. The pockets have carried countless things over the years and, due to a failure in the structural integrity of the jacket a while ago, have been bigger on the inside for quite some time, allowing me to keep things in there that a person with a newer jacket could only dream of. 

My fleece has protected me from the elements and, on occasion, allowed me to experience the cold, wet feeling of those elements that day after due to being highly absorbent. Few can forget the fleece’s last trip to Edinburgh when, just as the Samhain festival began, the heaven opened and my fleece stepped up to the mark and kept me dry whilst simultaneously absorbing most of the water in Scotland for me to enjoy on the following day. And the day after. And the one after that.

It was a great fleece and one that stood by me for years. And years. And years. But it was its time. There was nothing that could be done. The pockets, while TARDIS-like in their size, meant that I could – should I so desire – reach through the lining of the coat and rub my belly. One of the pockets no longer had a working zip. In fact, it not longer had the bit that mean it was a zip and not just a silver serrated bit of metal on attached to a bit of material.

But now it’s gone. And a new fleece has taken its place. It’s a big step for me, having been in a loving, committed relationship with the old fleece. But I must move on. I must embrace the new fleece, and learn to love it so that I can, in time, have the same sort of relationship as I had with the old one.

 It’s time to move on.

In a warmer, more snuggly way.


2.270 Pracatan!

When I was younger, Clive James used to be on ITV or BBC or something. Definitely one of those. Possibly both. I suspect it was ITV, but I’ll have wanted to pretend that it was the BBC because I always hold the BBC in much higher regard than ITV, but that’s just me. Anyway, Clive James was responsible for bringing Margarita Pracatan to the forefront of British Popular Culture. Coming from Cuba she was a, quite frankly, awful singer but you had to give her points for trying. She had boundless enthusiasm and her cry of  “Pracatan!” could be heard echoing across the land of a Sunday evening.

But, apparently, only I know that now. It’s like it was something that I’m sure existed, but may have only been a dream. It’s as though the timeline has altered and Margarita Pracatan never happened for everyone else, but for some reason I remember it.

I learnt this at work. I sent a simple email to some of the more spider-fearing members of staff in our office. It said this “FYI, Margarita Pracatan came in last week and feather-dustered the bejesus out of all the spider webs in the office”. That was all it said. I sent that on Monday morning. I then spent most of the day explaining to the majority of the office who Margarita Pracatan is. When all I was trying to say, basically, is that a small red-haired foreign lady came to the office with an extendable feather duster and got rid of the spiders. And asked me, in a variety of accents, if we had any ladders.

What I’ve learnt from this experience is that the next time I think about sending a vaguely amusing email which makes some sort of reference to a person, place or thing I should, beforehand, prepare some sort of briefing pack and issue it to all the recipients of the email so that they can be prepared. This may somewhat deaden the impact of the email as it is intended but, in the greater scheme of things, will be a hell of a lot better than having to go round the office with a picture of Margarita Pracatan on my phone to illustrate the point.

And then still have people asking me if it  really was her or if it was just someone who looked like her.

Sometimes, I don’t know why I bother.

And, it turns out, she didn’t get rid of all the spiders either. They’ve just moved lower. At least if she comes back she won’t need the ladders.