Volume 3 – Chapter 31: The Slumber Of The Beast

I had some very strange dreams last night. In one of them I watched someone drive a petrol-powered wheelbarrow into a hedge and in another I was involved in some kind of plot to do something or other which involved making something look like an old scrap yard or something.

Wait, hang on a minute, I had some strange dreams last night? I don’t normally get much of an opportunity to dream because Peppa’s nocturnal activities don’t allow me to lie still long enough to get anywhere near the required REM sleep for a nice, leisurely dream.

And, at twenty to four this morning, that’s exactly what my brain told my body and I sprang awake.

Well, I say sprang, I woke up and spent a while trying to work out what day it was. And then once I’d got the basics sorted I started to listen to my brain a little bit more as it kept asking, over and over, where Peppa was.

Because she wasn’t on the bed, swinging from the curtains, climbing up the shelves or on top of the door. And, as I padded round the house using my Kindle reading light as a torch, she also wasn’t in the bathroom, her room or anywhere in the hallway. I started to panic that she’d managed to get the front room door open and had made a break for the freedom outside the cat flap, but the door was still shut. And Peppa was nowhere to be seen.

Which is why, had you looked into our bedroom this morning, you would have seen me – in the dark – patting my way across the duvet, looking for a lump which may or may not be a small black and white cat. And all the while, as you may expect from previous blogs, Carole slept on. Oblivious to the worry that I was experiencing.

And as I tapped the bed, eventually, I found a spot that made a very cat-like noise when I pressed on it. I’d found her. I could relax. She was fine, just sleeping under the duvet down near Carole’s feet. All was well with the world. Except that a little part of me was worried that she might have suffocated, or be close to suffocating. For which I blame my mother who would always say that if you slept under the duvet you would suffocate and, as I have always slept with my head out of the duvet and never suffocated, I believe to be true. So I had to reach in under the duvet and poke at Peppa to make sure she was still fully functioning. I was rewarded with two claw-filled paws in my hand.

And all the while Carole slept on.

And I went back to bed, content that Peppa was safe and happy. I could fall into a deep slumber and have some more strange dreams before I had to wake up properly, in a couple of hours, for work.

Or so I thought.

But what I’d done, you see, was wake up the beast.

I’ve learnt my lesson.

Let sleeping cats lie.

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Volume 3 – Chapter 30: A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To…*

* It didn’t, as you’ll see.

February’s a massive rip off, isn’t it?

This occurred to me today, as I handed over £140 for my latest monthly travel pass. An £8 increase over last year’s monthly cost which, as you may imagine, I can see being spent on improving my travel no end. Well, we get a new high-speed rail link in 20 years or whatever the hell it is, so that makes it all worth it.

So for £140 I get train travel to-and-from Leeds and I get to travel the entire county of West Yorkshire on the bus. For a month. Any other month, when I renewed my travel pass, I would have got travel from the 30th to the following 30th. But because it’s January I get to renew my pass from the 30th of January until the 28th of February. For the same price. Which seems a little bit wrong. I should have got a few more days. But no, instead I get to travel for the next month knowing that, broken down on a day-to-day basis, this coming month is actually costing me more. Which means I’ll have to put some extra effort into enjoying my journey so that I get my money’s worth.

I would have brought this up in the bus station as I paid for my ticket, but the man serving me had already explained to me – in both words and via the medium of mime – that the pass I was about to purchase wouldn’t go through the ticket barriers in the train station and I would have to show one of the gate trolls to be allowed access. Which I already knew. But I let him explain it and then, for reasons which my brain has not yet explained to me, I tried to explain to this man – a man I did not know – how I had come to have a ticket last month which did go through the barriers. It was as though I felt I had to justify my reasons for not buying my pass from Huddersfield and choosing to buy it from a quite angry old woman in Leeds station instead (which is basically because I happened to be there early and there was no-one about).

But just to add further woe and misery and to make my internal voices scream “What the hell are you doing?!?” I proceeded to laugh after telling my story as if it was the funniest anecdote in the known universe. Which it isn’t. It really isn’t. But for some reason, this morning, I wanted it to be. I wanted it to be hilarious. I think I even, during the course of my telling, referred to it as a “happy coincidence”. It was none of those things. The woman was mean and there was no coincidence involved in the slightest. How would it even have been a coincidence? What the hell was I talking about? And, more importantly, why was I still talking?

Looking back, it’s probably just as well I didn’t bring up the whole February’s a rip off thing. The way it was going I’d have turned it into a song and dance number.

 

Volume 3 – Chapter 29: Even More Further Tales From The Peasant Wagon

Today I came home from work old school. By which I mean how I used to – via the medium of train and bus – rather than on a penny farthing or via a hansom cab driven by a man with a beard and extravagant sideburns.  And so that meant that I got two bites of the public transport cherry for the price of one.

On the train, the conductor made his announcements, as he does. He doesn’t come up and down the train conducting, mind. He just sits in the cab at the end reading a book or whittling something out of soap or whatever train conductors do. Or practicing how to say the word “aisle” because, on the train home tonight, we were asked to keep the owls clear of luggage. Not just once. But twice. Please ensure that the owls are kept clear. Luggage can be stored in the racks or above the seats. Nothing should be placed in the owls.

Which, unless you’re catching your train from Platform 9 3/4, is a good rule of thumb anyway. You should never place anything in an owl. Unless you’re another owl. And even then, only with the first owl’s consent.

Meanwhile, on the bus, there’s a reasonable chance that we ran over and killed someone.

I don’t know that for definite, I’ll be honest, but about halfway home there was the sound of something hitting the front of the bus and then the unmistakable thud of that same something making its way along the length of the bus impacting with the undercarriage along the way. Oh, and the jolt as the wheels went over it at the end. I didn’t see what we hit, because I had my head in my Kindle (or whatever the phrase should be nowadays – you don’t really put your head into the Kindle in the same way you could be said to bury it in a book. Anyway, if it had been a real book I would have had my head in it) but it made a lot of noise and the driver of the bus was a little bit shifty looking and it wouldn’t have surprised me too much to find that he had homemade tattoos that he’d done with ink from a biro and a folded out paperclip.

Obviously at the sound of the thud I stopped reading. I looked up expecting to see a body pressed against the windscreen or blood splattered along the length of the bus. But there was nothing. No screams, shouts or anything of that nature. Just a thud, thud, thud, jolt kind of noise as the obstruction – person, animal or otherwise – passed under the bus.It was strange. But no-one else on the bus was in any phased by the noises. But they could have all been in on it too.

And so, in my insatiable quest for knowledge, when I got off the bus I cunningly walked forward of the bus, as though I was going to cross the road once the bus had set off, and cast my eyes upon the frontage of said vehicle – as I have learnt from the likes of CSI and NCIS – for any telltale signs or clues as to what we had hit. But sadly, either due to the fact that it was dark or that all we’d run over was a traffic cone or something totally unexciting, I could see no signs of evidence transfer. No clue to a larger crime.

Probably.

I’ll be checking the paper tomorrow.

Volume 3 – Chapter 28: May Contain Nuts

Dear Sir,

You don’t know me. To you I am just a stranger. Someone you have never met and probably have no cause to meet. Before this morning, I would have said the same about you. You were someone I had never met, never would meet and would have no cause to have any kind of interaction with. But this morning changed everything. This morning turned things around a little bit.

Because this morning you substituted condensation for curtains.

You can’t fault curtains, really. They keep light in and they keep light out. If the sun is streaming through your window, you can pull the curtains and block it. Likewise, when it’s dark outside, you can put on the light in a room and know that the curtains you have will stop any of that light spilling out on to the street. During the Second World War, that was a very important thing – hence why the character of Hodges on classic sitcom Dad’s Army is often to be heard yelling, “Put that ruddy light out!”

But this morning you dispensed with all that thinking, instead, that a thin layer of condensed water on the inside of your window pane was enough to obscure you from the world.

And let me tell you, sir, that it was not.

Condensation is not a budget way of provided curtains or even a frosted glass effect. All it means is that the air in your house was marginally warmer than the air outside your house and so, as the air touches the window, it condenses. It’s a simple thing. It’s science, basically, in a nutshell. You’ll have probably done some experiments with condensation tubes and the like when you were doing Chemistry at school. Think back to those days. Did the test tube ever become so obscured by condensation that you thought, “Hey, you know what, when I grow up I’m going to use condensation as a cheap alternative to soft furnishings around my window”? I’m willing to be that it didn’t.

And with good reason.

You see, as I strolled along the road this morning, making my way to the bus stop, I happened to walk past your house. Your condensation-lined windows there for all to see. And the light was on in an upstairs room. You could see that, you know, through the condensation.

And what you could also see, sir, was you shaking your tackle into your undercrackers.

That’s not something that, when I set off this morning, I particularly wanted to see. It’s not something that, having now seen it, I ever particularly want to see again. I once, at my parent’s house, had the misfortune to look out of the front room window just as the woman opposite – who resembled a xylophone with skin stretched across it – was looking out of her top bedroom window in just a bra. That was a bad experience and, indeed, one that has etched itself, indelibly, on my brain.

And this is another.

A grown man wriggling his way into his underwear.

It’s not something I needed to see, wanted to see or would like to encounter again. So I hope that this little note encourages you to buy a curtain for that room or, if you already have curtains, to pull the bloody things because some things once seen, can never be unseen and I think as many people as possible should be spared the image of another man’s testicles at 6.30 in the morning.

Thanks

Jake

 

Volume 3 – Chapter 27: The Last Stand

Have you noticed, these days, that we don’t have any proper action heroes?

Back when I was younger, you had a certain group of actors who were action heroes – Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Willis and the like – who did action films. If you saw their name then you knew it would have plenty of action. And, of course, every now and again they would take a role that wasn’t action orientated, and that would be a big deal. Arnie did Twins while Sly did Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot which – to be fair – drew most of the comedy from that fact that his mom was played by that little woman off of The Golden Girls and very little else.

It was a big deal, though, because these guys only did action movies, normally. But here they were, turning their talents to comedy with varying degrees of success. Sure, their action films contained one-liners and things of that nature, but they’d never really done a full on comedic film. Or whatever category Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot falls into.

But nowadays anyone can jump between action, comedy and romance without a second thought. There are no pigeon holes for actors. But, I suppose, thanks to things like The Expendables the older action heroes are getting a bit of a second wind. Bruce is still Dieing Hard, Sly’s putting a Bullet To The Head and Arnie is making The Last Stand.

Which is really rather good, in all honesty.

I was worried when I first heard about it because Arnie, particularly in The Expendables 2, comes across like a crazy Uncle who you haven’t seen in ages and is a little bit weird. Almost, in fact, like Austria’s version of Milton Jones but with less one-liners. So I did worry that he’d be a bit like that in this film. And he is. He’s pretty wooden, still. Like he’s taken lessons from the Daniel Radcliffe school of acting but, you realise as you watch the film, he’s loaded and he can do what the hell he wants and doesn’t give a shit.

And what he wants to do is bring back the feel of the action movies of old. Because that’s what The Last Stand feels like. It feels like an old film. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s cheesy, it’s funny, it’s clichéd to hell. It’s an 80’s action film in a 2013 film’s body. And it’s bloody – literally – good fun.

I found it slow to start, because there’s a bit of a set-up to the whole affair, but once the film gets going it’s pretty much just balls to the wall action, with Arnie still kicking arse while acknowledging the fact that he is knocking on a bit and, maybe, can’t quite do it all on his own.

And what I also learnt, while watching this particular movie, is that Carole can make more noise than a gang of six teenage lads. Just her. On her own. I was all ready to pretend that I didn’t know her. But still, she managed to make it through the entire movie before she told me that Johnny Knoxville isn’t aging well. Which she says almost every time she sees Johnny Knoxville.

She’s not entirely wrong.