Volume 3 – Chapter 59: Home Alone

February 28, 2013

I’m home alone tonight. Carole’s gone off to the big smoke to meet up with some old friends and I’m left at home with one angry cat and one horny cat.

I’ve done what I always do, though, when Carole goes away. I’ve looked forward to the time I’ll have to myself because it makes a nice change to have the house to myself and to be able to do what I want, when I want with no immediate ramifications. It means that if I want to leave all the washing up until ten minutes before Carole’s home tomorrow then I can jolly well do that. If I want to stay in my PJs all day and have a lazy day then I can do that too. The world is my oyster.

But that’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I like some alone time as much as the next person. But I find that all my grand plans for spending hours and hours doing something (be it watching films, reading or playing games) never seem to pan out. And it’s not because of any outside influences (other than the four cold callers we’ve had today). No, it’s solely down to me. Because while I want to do all these things, uninterrupted and without consequence, I find that it’s somehow just not the same. It doesn’t hold the same magic in reality as it does in my head.

Which is why I’ve found myself pootling around the house doing odd jobs here and there. I’ve been doing the washing, although that’s fairly standard, and any plans to leave all the washing up have fallen by the wayside because I spent a good half hour in the kitchen earlier straightening things up. And I’ve found myself doing things that we’ve been putting off for ages as well. That window that needed a bloody good clean? I’ve done it and now my fingers smell of cleaning stuff. The ironing? I’ve done it. Well, some of it, but – you know – baby steps.

I have, yes, played games to excess, and I have read a book for a few hours as well, but I just can’t seem to do it like I used to. I can’t seem to switch off from all responsibility for a couple of days and just chill out, living by my own rules. It just doesn’t seem to work.

My plan, this morning, was to get up solely for the departure of Carole and the head back to bed. But I didn’t even do that. I was up to say bye and once I was up I figured I might as well stay up and get a head start on my day of leisure and videogames.

And what did I find myself doing?

Pairing up socks.

At half-past-six in the morning.

I’m not sure I should be left on my own…



Volume 3 – Chapter 58: Emulsional Turmoil

February 27, 2013

I’ve long maintained that girls can’t see High Definition.

A simple trip to your local electrical retailer that hasn’t gone bust is all you need to witness this phenomenon in action. You will, if you stroll through the TV section, see couples there arguing about the display qualities of the televisions on offer. While the male of the couple is gushing endlessly about the image quality and how everything is just crystal clear, the female will be there shaking her head and proclaiming, loudly, that she can’t see a difference and doesn’t know what the fuss is all about. And they’ll still refer to Blu-Rays as DVDs even though the picture and sound quality of a Blu-Ray is vastly superior to that of a DVD. And it doesn’t matter how many times you correct them, or point out how crisp things are in High Definition, you’ll never convince them that High Definition actually exists.

By the same evolutionary token, men’s eyes are incapable of dealing with paint colours and wallpaper samples.

A simple trip to your local DIY store is all you need to witness this phenomenon in action. You will, if you stroll through the paint or wallpaper section, see couples there arguing about the different papers and paints on offer. While the female of the couple is gushing endlessly about the different hues and how the go together perfectly, the male will be shaking his head and – in some instances – actually crying whilst wondering how close the power tools are and if he’ll be allowed to look at them before he’s taken to another DIY shop to repeat the process.

And that’s before you factor in that paint and paper looks different in the light of a DIY store to that of the room you’re decorating. While something might look amazing, say, laid out on the floor of Homebase, when you get it home it might look properly crap and you’ll start to wonder why you even considered it in the first place. And colours of paint in a booklet, which you like you’ve settled on, when applied in test patches to the wall and door of the room you’re painting may, in fact, look completely different and cause to you to re-assess the entire thing.

We’re in the middle of decorating the front room at the moment. Or, more precisely, in the middle of preparing to decorate the front room. So we’re at that stage of proceedings where we’re trying to decide on the paint colours for the doors, walls and woodwork. As I write this now, above the fireplace, a piece of wallpaper is taped to the wall. And across this wallpaper are some paint samples which we have, more or less, settled on.


I’m still not sure about the middle one, though.

Or maybe I am.

I don’t know.

Send help.


Volume 3 – Chapter 57: Competition Time

February 26, 2013

One of the things that took some time to come out about Carole is that she’s insanely competitive. I didn’t know that when we first started going out, and I didn’t know that before I moved in. I learnt that a short while after she discovered a game called Jewel Quest on the Xbox. What started out as something to while away a bit of time became something that she was mildly addicted to because, it turns out, that’s a side of her personality I didn’t know about as well.

I mean, how could that be anything but endearing?

A competitive addict.

So, yes, some weeks later when Carole had got every last morsel out of Jewel Quest – completing the entire game, unlocking all the achievements and the like – I was treated to a variation of comments, at random intervals, about how she had finished this game and how she was better than me and, basically, different ways of rubbing my face in it.

And that’s how I learnt Carole was competitive.

Spin forward a few years. Carole is still competitive. And still an addict. And she’s addicted to being competitive, which makes things even worse.

We both track the number of books we read each year on Good Reads because we are geeks that way, and we can look back and see what we’ve read and how much we liked them again, because we’re geeks like that. And this year, as with last, I have set myself a target of 100 books to be read by the end of the year. I’m nicely motoring along, being something like halfway through my 18th book so pretty much on target. Last night I completed book 17 and hopped online to mark it as such.

Carole, seeing that I’d logged on, asked me how many books I’d read. And so I told her. There was then various mutterings from the Shaw corner as she thought I was doing far better than her and so she made a move for her laptop to check her book totals. At no point in any of this had I made any kind of indication that we are having a competition. And yet, somehow, in Carole’s head that’s exactly what it is. I learn this because, moments later, she triumphantly declares that she has also completed 17 books this year and that we are neck and neck. And that if she hadn’t read some of the ridiculously long books she’s read this year – Gone With The Wind, for example – she would be kicking my arse. Again, I have made no attempt to turn our reading – what I thought was a leisurely hobby that we both shared – into any kind of balls-to-the-wall competition. But there we have it.

That’s how it is.

And, as if to prove that point, Carole headed off to bed and finished book 18 to cement a lead and, I’m fairly sure, if she hadn’t been restrained by the duvet she’d have done some kind of “In Your Face!” dance to accompany it.



Volume 3 – Chapter 56: Horse Balls

February 25, 2013

Horse meat.

It gets everywhere doesn’t it? I mean, that’s the thing about it, you can’t turn your back on some meat-based product without it ending up with horse meat in it. Horse meat, in a way, is like when you stand in some dog poo and nothing, but nothing, will get it off your shoe until you set foot on your own carpet. And then it’s everywhere. And that’s what horse meat is like. But instead of getting all over your carpets it’s popping up in lasagnes,spaghetti bologneses and the like.

And it’s been funny. It has. You only need to look at the internet to see how funny it’s been. Everyone, and I mean everyone, has made a horse meat joke. I, myself, have made several – you know, before I was told by the BBC that I wasn’t funny. And, if curries are ever found to contain horse meat then you can pretty much bet on it that I will bring out the greatest horse meat joke I have ever written for a second viewing.

But today the whole horse meat scandal has crossed the line.

It’s in Ikea meatballs.

I mean, what the hell? Is nothing sacred? Can the horses not stay away from the meatballs?

If you know someone who’s going to Ikea and they ask you if you want anything picking up, while you’re umming and aahing over things with silly names like Spelunkan and Scrotanium you’re already putting in an order for one bag of meatballs. Well, maybe two. Three if you can manage them. And some of the packets of sauce as well. Not much point getting the meatballs if you don’t get the sauce. And maybe a packet of the drinking straws (Suckums) and some napkins (Moppums).

And while I know I should be up in arms about it all and complaining about the state of the meat industry and demanding that THEY do something about it, without specifying who – in this particular equation – THEY are, I find that I’m not actually that bothered because Ikea meatballs are bloody delicious.

You could turn round tomorrow and tell me that the Ikean meatballs are made from ground up weevils and some floor scrapings and I don’t think I’d mind. I’d probably lean over and ask if you still wanted to eat yours, in all honesty. And working out how much space I have in the freezer and how many packets I could fit in.

I know I should be bothered about it all, because it throws up questions about everything but I’m not. I heard a very well-spoken man on Radio 4 (there are no other kinds on there) saying that horse meat was actually better for us anyway. And he should know because he sounded posh. But there’s also the slight worry that we’re getting caught up in all this horse meat malarky and then find out it’s all been a massive distraction and while we’ve been busy throwing out perfectly good lasagnes and wotnot, the government has dismantled the NHS and started charging people for bedrooms they don’t use.



Volume 3 – Chapter 55: Sitting Down Again

February 24, 2013

So, last Wednesday, I tried stand-up for the first time. And, as I rather succinctly put it, it was amazing.

I’d been persuaded, by various friends – both of a comedic bent and not, to give it a go. And since last August had been giving it some serious thought anyway – you know, after my run-away success as the bloke pulled up from the audience to play Mr Devere in Cariad Lloyd’s Kitty Romford sketch (for which I was widely recognised by the two women who went everywhere we went). If I was Josh Widdecombe, all my stuff would say “Star of The Freewheelin’ Cariad Lloyd” on them, by now.

So, anyway, I tried it. And it was amazing. I enjoyed every buttock clenching moment of the whole thing.

But, alas, that is where that particular chapter of the story ends because I was not good enough to make it through to the next stage of that particular stand-up journey. One of the other comics at the event – and yes, that’s how I’m describing everyone – that I was talking to, Katy Mullen, was lucky enough to receive an email yesterday letting her know that she’s through to the next bit and will be performing at Sheffield City Hall on the 12th of March. So, unless my email is really, really slow or I gave the wrong email address (neither of those things is likely) I’m not doing that. I’m sitting it out. On the 12th of March I’ll be sitting at home and feeling sorry for myself.

But still, the journey’s not always about the destination is it? Sometimes the journey is actually about the journey.

I mean, sure, the destination would have been bloody amazing and it would have meant no end of buttock clenching for the next few weeks but the journey – short as it was – has been brilliant as well. There’s no way that I would have envisaged myself doing what I did, and certainly not in the middle of The Light, playing to a stony-faced woman in a woolly hat and a group of people enjoying their lunch at Bagel Nash.

But I did it.

I actually bloody well did it.

I didn’t just think about doing it and then not do it.

I got up there and I did it.

So, I’ll not find myself, in ten or twenty years time, looking back and thinking “What if..?” because I know the answer already. I know that if I stood up in front of people and did stand-up I’d actually really enjoy it and get a buzz from the whole ordeal and really enjoy the panic two hours before leaving home when I became convinced that nothing – absolutely nothing – I had to say was in any way, shape or form the least bit funny.

And then having the conviction to stand there and say it.

And for people to laugh. People that I didn’t know. Laughing at things that I said.

That was pretty amazing.

I didn’t know I had it in me. I didn’t know that I could do that. I didn’t know that I would have the courage to do any of it.

But I did.

So while I might not have “won” a place performing in Sheffield, I think I can walk away from this with my head held high. I stepped so far from my comfort zone that I almost needed to get a bus back. And I loved every minute of it.

I think that’s victory enough for me.

Volume 3 – Chapter 54: In A Flap

February 23, 2013

We’ve started letting Peppa out now. She’s not been dealt with, you know, reproductively yet, so each and every excursion she makes into the garden is a little bit like playing Russian Roulette with a pistol loaded with cat sperm but if you can put that thought out of your mind then it’s fine.

Now, whether it’s because we’ve kept her in for a lot longer than we probably should or whether it’s because she just doesn’t really like the outside world that much, like some kind of feline hermit, she doesn’t tend to spend much time out there. I mean, sure, there are times when she is gone for what seems like ages and I’m already going through all my photos of her to find the most recent one to put on the “missing cat” posters that I would put on every lamp-post between here and somewhere far away in the hopes she would be returned to me.

But quite a lot of the time she’ll go outside, mooch around in the back garden for a bit and then come back into the house.

I mean, she’ll also spend ages just sitting on the kitchen floor with her head out of the cat flap for reasons that no-one fully understands. Just her head, poking out of the door, as if she’s kind of decided she want’s to be outside, but doesn’t want all the hassle of actually doing it and so has elected to just put a body part out into the open and she’ll see how that works out for her. Sometimes it’s just her head, sometimes it’s the front half of her body. And she’ll just stay there, like it’s the most natural thing in all the world.

She’s a very odd cat.

If you’ve read this blog before, when I’ve discussed the riveting cat flap situation you’ll know that we keep it locked so it only works one way. This is so that Pumpkin (and now Peppa, I suppose) can get out but they can’t get back in and nor can all the other cats that live round here. And believe me, there are a lot of cats that live around here. So many, in fact, that it makes that alley in Top Cat look positively deserted. But for the purposes of Peppa’s ins-and-outs, we’ve unlocked the cat flap so it works both ways. Pumpkin, of course, still can’t figure this out.

Peppa, on the other hand, has.

It’s just stopping she has a problem with.

Because Peppa comes in through the cat flap and doesn’t actually stop until she’s halfway into the front room. She, for some reason, runs full pelt through the flap, the kitchen and starts to skid to a halt once she passes the end of the sofa. You’d think that she’d just hop in gently, like she does when she goes out, but no – she basically flies in like she has the hounds of hell snapping at her heels (do cats have heels?). Which she doesn’t. And even if she did, they probably wouldn’t be able to get through the cat flap.

I forsee this will be a problem when we start locking it again…

Volume 3 – Chapter 53: I Have The Power! No, Wait, I Had It… Where Is It?

February 22, 2013

The British Gas man giveth, and the British Gas man taketh away.

That’s the valuable lesson we’ve learnt this week as our boiler was fixed and then, almost immediately, capped off and rendered useless with a big “Immediately Dangerous” sticker slapped on it and all down to a faulty flue through which we have, more than likely, been gassing ourselves for a good few years.

But it’s all fixed now. It was all repaired last night and we have access to hot water and heating and all is right with the world.

And this morning, I was looking forward to getting up and the house being warm and being able to enjoy a nice, steaming hot sink full of water to have a shave in.

And then we had a power cut.

Now, not so long ago, Carole and myself were having a discussion about power cuts. We haven’t had one for a really long time, but not long after I moved in there were a lot of them reasonably close together, but since then almost nothing. And then there we are, it’s four-something in the morning and every single burglar alarm in the area is going off. It’s either a sudden crime wave or we’ve lost power. Whatever it is I’ll have to deal with it myself because Carole is dead to the world and snoring away while I’m lying in bed sniggering about the fact that we were so close to having a nice warm house this morning only for it to be snatched from our grasp by the fickle finger of fate.

Now, one thing I’ve learnt living here is that no-one tends to report any sort of power outage. People will go from door to door and ask each other if they have any power, but no-one will actually ring up the electricity board and let them know. So I found myself padding around the front room trying to find the phone books so I could find the emergency number and report the fault. Only to find that, because of the decorating, we’ve moved the phone books and I didn’t really know where they were.

So I gave up and went back to bed.

Where Carole still slumbered, despite the noise of the various burglar alarms and me tromping around the house trying to find things by the light of my iPhone screen because whilst we had bought a torch with the power of a million candles from Homebase, I had no idea where that was. And all this at a time when one million candles of luminosity would have been quite handy. Although not for finding the emergency number for the electric people in the phone books because, nowadays, phone books are shit.

So I lay in bed, warm, unable to sleep due to the volume of the various burglar alarms while Carole slept on, and I googled the number for the electricity people. And it came up. And I could actually check online to see if the fault had been reported. Which, it turned out, it had. So all that staggering around in the dark was unnecessary anyway.

And then the power came back on.

But the heating didn’t.

So I had to get up again and move the boiler timer on a little bit to make up for the time it was off.

And Carole slept through it all.

Lucky cow.