Volume 3 – Chapter 212: Some Say…

July 31, 2013

I imagine, in the greater scheme of things, that I really love a lie in.

But every time I think about having one, it never seems to work out properly.

I mean, sure, on a Wednesday when I don’t have to go to work I sometimes stay in bed later. But that doesn’t really count as a lie in because I was awake at half-past six listening to Carole move around the house like a really bad ninja and having conversations about what we’re having for tea or what we need to do at the weekend. That’s not a lie in. Because I’ve done things. If anything it’s just a glorified nap.

Sleep. Things. Sleep. More Things.

That’s the very definition of a nap (not one that you’d find in a dictionary, but I think mind sums it up better.

This morning – a glorious, work-free Wednesday, there was an opportunity for a lie-in. I was off work and Carole was off work. In our future was some traipsing around bathroom shops wondering what the fascination with square sinks is, but before that there was a chance for a good old-fashioned lie-in.

And we seized it with both hands.

And we didn’t get up until about nine o’clock.

So that’s definitely a lie-in.

But for me, sadly, it was just another glorified nap.

One of the strange things about our street is that when business of any nature is conducted on the threshold of a property – be it some kind of domestic slanging match, a chat, or sometimes even a phone call, it has to be done loudly. Really loudly.

This morning and something past five, I think, next door was having a discussion about cars with a couple of his mates. In the street. Very, very loudly.

Whereas I would have welcomed this with open arms on a work day, being like some kind of pre-alarm alarm that try as I might I could not turn off, on a day when me, my pillows and the duvet want to have some serious together time it’s just not a good thing.

Especially because who in their right mind has a car-based conversation at half-past five in the morning anyway, let alone a three-way debate about the merits of a silver car with a ridiculously pointless spoiler on the back of it. It was like a completely unwanted episode of Top Gear, happening right outside the bedroom window but where all three of the presenters were Jeremy Clarkson and – like when you watch it on TV – while you might want to, you couldn’t punch any of them.

There is a time and a place for that kind of chat.

I’m fairly sure, as I tried to go back to sleep, that neither the place or the time was right for it this morning.



Volume 3 – Chapter 211: The Wisdom Of The Train Platform

July 30, 2013

This morning the train was late.

I know this because it didn’t turn up on time. And because that guy that catches my train who swears at the weather and went to Tobago about a gazillion weeks ago but hasn’t taken the label of his rucksack said so. Repeatedly. To anyone who would listen.

“It’s always late, this train. It’s always a minute late. That’s like its default setting. Every time I check it’s a minute late.”

This morning, however, due to a broken down freight train in Manchester – or, because Mr Man knows best “I bet lightning has hit something” – it was a little bit more than a minute late.

Which was winding him up no end.

To the point where he tried to form some sort of disgruntled train passenger committee to claim back all the lost time that the trains had cost us.

“Have you ever thought,” he said, assuming a pose akin to that of Martin Luther King when he was talking about having a dream, “that we should claim back all the lost wages for these trains being late?”

He said that a good couple of times. And people just looked at him.

And then someone said, “No.”

And he said, “Well, that’s the problem, isn’t it?”

In his head, he thinks that the train companies are getting away with this slip-shod slap-dash service because everyday working folk aren’t standing up to them by putting pen to paper or finger to keyboard and writing a strongly worded letter in which we attempt to claim back, as compensation, the amount of money owed to us in lost wages because the trains make us late for work.

He didn’t ask me about it.

I stood to one side and just read my book, or looked like I was reading my book, while I was taking everything in and thinking to myself that, for starters, I don’t catch a train that would only just get me to work on time anyway. I get one that gets me in a little bit earlier. So I couldn’t actually even begin to start working out how I would claim all these lost minutes back. Also, I’m not really sure what my hourly rate is. That’s kind of a problem. I know what I get paid per month and I suppose I could break it down that way and do lots of convoluted sums and things to work out what this one or two minutes I’m losing out on would actually cost me.

But it would probably cost me more to do all that than it would to just say, “Hey, you know what, I’m going to be late today. Bloody trains. I know. Shocking aren’t they?”

If I’m seriously late for work, I’ll just work through a bit of my lunch.

Maybe I’m doing it wrong.

Volume 3 – Chapter 210: Child’s Play

July 29, 2013

I saw my sister on Saturday.

I see her, on average, about once a year when she has an exceedingly large number of weeks of work and travels down the country to see how the other half live in sunny Halifax.

And when I saw her we spent the first fifteen minutes or so arguing – in a nice way – about two family heirlooms.

A bowl.

And a doll that is the very embodiment of evil.

Because we live in fear that when the time comes for our Grandma to shuffle off this mortal coil, ownership of these items will be passed to us. And, frankly, neither of us want either.

I mean, in the greater scheme of things, a bowl is handier than some kind of demonic doll, because you can put things in the bowl. Like nuts. Or sweets. Or car keys (in a non-swinger way) or whatever. Whereas you can’t do that with a doll that is always watching you.

On the flip side, you can’t tell the bowl to go out and kill someone, whereas there’s a reasonable chance that with the doll you actually could.

Apparently, I’m getting the doll. Despite the fact that my sister didn’t want the bowl when it was first mentioned, she’s suddenly never been so interested in a common-or-garden blue bowl that is quite new and not some kind of historic heirloom as our Grandma would have us believe. She doesn’t want the doll. She wants nothing to do with the doll. She just won’t take the doll.

I don’t know why.

I mean, look at it…



It’s lovely.

Volume 3 – Chapter 209: Butterfly

July 28, 2013

Peppa brought me her first hunting trophy today.

I don’t think it was out of love, or her wanting to prove herself. I think, if anything, it was because I happened to be the closest person at the moment the death strike was made.

Which is how I came to be in the possession of what can best be described as a well-chewed butterfly.

I’d seen Peppa leaping around the front room, but I’d not seen what she was after. I assumed that it was her favourite prey of the moment – a fly – and that she would bash it from the air, chase it around the carpet for a bit and then just eat it in a few crunchy bites.

But as I stopped what I was doing and watched her, it became obvious that the fly had a much larger wingspan that I was expecting. I assumed, then, that it was a moth. In particular the moth that had made a daytime home on the back of the sink in the bathroom and, under no circumstances, would be moved on. I thought that Peppa had got wind of it in some way and had chased it down the stairs into the kill zone.

But no.

It was a butterfly. A beautiful butterfly which, had I seen it before it met with cat jaw and paw, I would have scooped up in my hand and released into the outside world. But, sadly, when I eventually got hold of it, it was missing two-thirds of its wings, its body was well-chewed. Oh, and it was dead, which kind of took the fun out of it.

But, I suppose, we’re getting off lightly here. We haven’t been brought birds or mice in varying states of near death. Peppa seems more than happy to act as some sort of feline fly spray and contend with the myriad of flying beasties that the warm weather-open window combo is more than happy to provide.

I mean, there was a pheasant in next door’s garden not so long ago. I don’t relish the thought of hearing a noise in the kitchen and looking out to find Peppa trying to fit a rather large game bird through the cat flap. Maybe with one of the other cats who seem to think they live here on the other end of it giving it a push.

But I still kind of wish it hadn’t been a butterfly.

I feel guilty that that’s the case.

In some ways I’d rather it had been a not-dead mouse that I’d then have had to chase around the house before it runs under the kitchen cupboards and I’m forced to give up my own hunt and shut Peppa in the kitchen under strict instructions that she can’t come out until it’s gone.

Anything other than a butterfly.

Deposited, half-eaten…

… on my foot.



Volume 3 – Chapter 208: The Curiosity Mission

July 27, 2013

I’ve mentioned our inquisitive next door neighbour before.

He’s three, I think, or maybe four. He’ll talk to anyone and wants to know anything.

When he sees you, he’ll shout out hello and ask you a series of questions. Where have you been? What have you been doing? Where are you going? and then he’ll ask follow-up questions based on the answers you have given or the things you are carrying. Have you been to the shop? What have you bought? Have you bought sweets? What’s in that bag?

At meal times he’ll ask what you’re having. Is it chicken? Is it chicken nuggets? Are you having chips? Are you having noodles? He particularly likes the noodle question and will ask it several times.

When the small child next door (on the other side) is out in his garden, he will shout across the gardens. “Baby!” he will cry. “Baby!” Until the baby pays him some attention. At which point he will then offer a crisp, which he will hold out at arm’s length to the “baby”. Unfortunately, the combined arms of a baby and three/four-year old child do not the span of our garden make and so “baby” goes without a crisp. But sometimes one of the plants in the garden will get it. So it’s not all bad.

During the summer months, when it’s warm and muggy and generally just, well, this, we tend to have the back door open. It will be open throughout the day, as long as we are somewhere in the house and – for the most part – one of us is usually downstairs anyway. The open door allows cats to come and go and for a vague feeling of breeze to waft into the house and bring relief to our overheating sweaty parts.

But recently, the inquisitive child has started to just meander into the garden. He’ll open the gate and stroll along the patio. We know he’s there because he’ll shout “Hello!” as he goes, to announce his approach.

And then his little head will pop around the door frame and he’ll be staring into the house asking even more questions. Do you have stairs? Where are your stairs? Where’s Peppa? Where’s other cat? Why is she asleep? Are you reading that book? Do you sit on that chair?

Now, this is all well and good when we know he’s coming. When, for example, we can see him reflected in the glass of the back door and can see his approach, or when we’re in the kitchen or even on the couch in the front room. It’s absolutely fine. Because we know he’s coming so we can get up and head him off, if you like, and just talk to him in the doorway.

But, we fear, it’s only a matter of time before we’re upstairs for some reason – maybe changing the bed, or just nipping up to get a load of washing – and we turn around to find a small child’s face (attached, hopefully, to the rest of the small child) just peering around a door because, bless him, he’s just meandered into the house for a chat.

I give it about a week.


Volume 3 – Chapter 207: If You’re Happy And You Know It, Busk In Leeds

July 26, 2013

Picture the scene.

A nice, sunny lunchtime in Leeds.

An hour to kill and no intention to go to Travelling Man and spend some time looking at board games because you know, full well, that you’ll end up coming home with  something you’re not supposed to.  And I know I would have – the expansion for Pandemic, Formula D, Legendary, Alhambra… the list goes on and on.

So, instead, I went to Starbucks and enjoyed a nice refreshing iced beverage in the glare of the midday sun. Especially when, for the first time in ages, my actual name was on the cup. I know. My actual name. Not Jane, like last week. Or Jeff. Or whatever else I’ve been in the past. It was a rare moment, and one which deserved to be savoured. So I headed outside to sit at a table, browse the internet on my phone and generally just chill out away from the office for a bit.

But it turned out I was near the most depressing busker in the whole of Leeds.

Singing sad, sad songs about climbing too high up a ladder into the sky and asking people to hold him as his legs collapsed. That was the general gist of the songs. They were terrible. Maybe if it had been pissing it down, blowing a gale and the temperature had been round that which would freeze the balls off a brass monkey then it would have been ok. But not when it’s gloriously sunny and warm and all is right with the world. There’s just no need.

I wanted to put some money in his guitar case. A lot of money. Just so he’d stop. I wanted to go up to him and say, “Here, take this. Now go. Go away. Don’t darken this corner again with your depressing songs. You could do so much better than this.” Or go up and ask if he had any CDs for sale and then buy one before smashing it in front of him.

In the end, under the heat of the noon-day sun, I just had to throw caution to the wind and risk the onset of an ice cream headache by drinking my drink as fast as the little straw would let me. Which was still long enough to listen to a couple more depressing songs and program the number for the Samaritans into my speed dial.

Still, it could have been worse.

He could have had a bloody accordion.

Volume 3 – Chapter 206: Paws For Reflection

July 25, 2013

One of the problems with owning a tiny, yet inquisitive, cat was revealed last night. Or, more precisely, this morning.

As we know, Peppa is more than capable of letting herself in and out of the house. It no longer phases us, it’s just part and parcel of the day. A long white leg pops through the cat flap first, followed by the rest of the cat. It makes dealing with her constant need to go in and out of the house an absolute doddle and it means that we can sleep soundly at night without having to worry about her being out all night.

And, as the heat wave struck, it meant that I would be woken up in the middle of the night by inexplicably cold cat paws on my exposed, naked flesh. But it wasn’t a bad thing. She’d pad about a bit, doing the paw massage thing that all cats do before settling down with her legs on either side of my leg, say, and going to sleep for a bit. It was a nice set-up. It is a nice set-up. There’s something incredibly comforting about waking up and finding your cat asleep on you. It makes you feel loved and that you’re not just there to do the cat’s bidding.

And that’s the way it’s been.

And then last night it rained. It rained a lot. Not hard, or heavy, just a lot.

And when it started Peppa was asleep at the end of the bed, lording it up on her pillow and rolling onto her back with her legs outstretched, waiting for a tickle, if anyone walked past. But at some point during the night she went out to explore the big wide world and to come back in wet.

That, I have to say, is a downside of her just letting herself back in.

When you control the cat’s return, you can prepare for a wet cat. You can lay down towels, cover things up and protect things against extreme cat wetness.

When your cat just lets herself back in, and always craves the company of others, you have a bit of an issue.

And instead of cold cat paws, you have cold wet cat paws.

Which, again, wasn’t too bad.

I vaguely remember going “Aargh!” in the middle of the night when Peppa treated me to her wet feet. But other than that it was nice, and she settled down for a nap on my leg before bolting off to do whatever cats need to do at a rate of knots.

And I thought nothing of it.

Until this morning.

When I got up, and staggered into the bathroom to get ready for work.

And there, across my torso, was a series of small muddy cat footprints.