Volume 3 – Chapter 243: Buzz-inga

Ever since I’ve known Carole she’s liked to take pictures.

One of her main vices is to get me to stand with my arms in the air (like I just don’t care) in front of signs and things of that nature because that indicates that a) we’re having a great time and b) where we are, which makes it easier when it comes to looking back through things.

In the past, I have stood by the signs for the shitty model village (not its real name) in Bridglington, The Deep in Hull and the Waterstone’s in Trafalgar Square (yes really, although it is from the time that strange Chinese lady was in the basement eating tomatoes from a bag and growling at everyone). I’ve also been asked to pose, comically, with a variety of statuary and to put my head through the cut out holes of many a novelty picture. Which is why, for quite some time, my Facebook profile photo was basically me as a carrot.

Today, we headed out to the Maize Maze in Cawthorne – a place we have been many-a-time and a place which requires a multitude of photographs to be taken of us lost in the maize (or the maze, I suppose) or posing with things in the maze – who can forget the year when the theme was Scarecrows and we ended up with pictures of the final scarecrow hugging us as we exited the maze. This year the theme was bees and, as we approached the maze itself, my heart sank a little…. because there was a picture of four bees in a row, with holes for the heads, obviously designed with the younger visitor in mind. I could see what was going to happen before it happened.

And yes, so it began.

“It’s better to do it now than when there’s loads of people about,” she said, gently persuading me to go and stick my face through a hole in a bee’s head. I knew that I should do it because if you don’t pose as requested she will turn violent, so I slowly trudged behind the bee picture and prepared to get into position.

Just as one of the Maze Masters came over, ready to explain the maze to us (we don’t need it, we’re experts!) and Carole just asked him to hang on for a minute because we’d just be taking a couple of pictures first. At which point I must have looked sad, or had pleading eyes or something because the Maze Master said the most magical thing ever.

“Oh no, this looks like it needs to be a team picture. You should get round there are well…” and took the camera off Carole so that she could join me in the throws of bee-based photographic japery.

Which, in general, is much better than the time she asked me to pose in the shark tunnel at The Deep and then, when I wasn’t looking, buggered off and left me standing there holding the pose.




Volume 3 – Chapter 242: Nobody Puts Baby In A Performer

I don’t normally trawl the celebrity-filled pages of the internet or magazines. It’s not really my place. Not since I once found an article in a magazine which carried a double page spread of celebrity tips for a healthy lifestyle and one of them was that Kelly Brook makes her own meals so she can control the calories.

But, while messing around on the internet spoiling the end of Dexter for myself (I haven’t watched any of the last two seasons anyway, so it’s not too bad. And, for that matter, I still have the latest Dexter novel to read) by looking at exclusive leaked photos from the final days of filming I started to head down a rabbit hole of tittle-tattle and gossip.

I’m still reeling from the fact that there is still a lot of debate about Storage Wars being faked. I mean, I like watching Storage Wars, but I don’t find it that surprising that items are planted in the lockers for the buyers to find. Especially when you factor in that one of the major hooks of the show is the pre-advert “ohmigod!” moment when someone uncovers some hitherto undiscovered treasure. If they didn’t plant stuff it would just be people unpacking boxes filled with old coat hangersĀ and tatty newspapers for half-an-hour, and who wants that.

But this was the start of a slippery slope which led to tales of various stars of Storage Wars being given the boot, and that Barry has left the show at the end of season 4. Barry is the only thing that makes the show worth watching, in all honesty, because he’s just old and eccentric and very entertaining to watch. But there you go, he’s gone.

But still further down the rabbit hole I go.

Until I stumble across a story about Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas (as opposed to Fergie from Manchester United) and her recent new arrival. Because she’s given birth to a baby produced in conjunction with her husband who was the one in the Transformers movies that wasn’t the black guy or the one off of Even Stevens. I can’t remember what the child is called, that’s really not the point.

The story I found about Fergie’s baby said: AFTER MONTHS OF WAITING FERGIE IS FINALLY A MOM

After months of waiting. Months of waiting. Finally a mom. As though, when she decided to have this baby, it was in stock, but as soon as she’d put the order in it turned out to be out of stock and she’s had to wait for it to come back in before she could finally have it. Saying “months of waiting” makes it sound less like a standard gestation period and more like an inconvenience. Like when you have to stay in because you know you’re having a delivery between 8am and 5pm but they can’t narrow it down any further than that.

From the headline of the story, I imagine that Fergie has spent nine months nor daring to leave the house, just in case the baby came, knowing that if she went for a wee or in the bath she would be increasing the odds of it turning up exponentially.


Volume 3 – Chapter 241: Half-Baked

I used to love Masterchef. Not when it was Lloyd Grossman, because it was so far up its own arse during those years that it was practically turned inside out, but when the John Torode and Greg Wallace combo started, I really enjoyed it. It was fun and full of new things and it was lovely to watch. And then it changed, somehow, and it wasn’t as appealing. I don’t know what it was – it might have been the constant need for India Fisher’s voice-over to recap all the ingredients as if you’ve got some sort of Alzheimer’s. Or it might have been the way that Greg Wallace shoved a spoon into his mouth. Or the fact that he had a head that looked like a pebble with some googly eyes stuck on it. It might just have been the fact that the format changed and I didn’t really like it anymore.

Something just wasn’t right.

And then, last year, I found myself strangely drawn to The Great British Bake Off.

I watched a couple of the celebrity ones and was hooked. And so now I’m embarking on the first – for me, anyway – full series of the show.

Now I find myself looking forward to a Tuesday night – and not just because I don’t work on a Wednesday – I need to know what outlandish designs people are going to come up with for their Showstoppers. I need to know how impractical you can make a cake that you might want someone to eat. I want to know whether you can progress to the next round by just making a cob loaf and flavouring it with tomato. I need to know how many times you can cut your hands before they no longer function as hands.

Because that’s what I’m noticing. These people, accomplished cooks they may be, will be lucky to make it the end of the twelve weeks with a full complement of digits.

I don’t like watching anyone using a knife at the best of times. My mother is left-handed and watching her use a knife is one of the most frightening things ever. I could watch the scariest horror film ever and not be phased in the slightest, but make me watch my mum try to cut something and I’d be shitting myself and hiding behind the sofa.

It’s the same with Carole. Carole is the only person I know who can cut bread (and sometimes cheese) at such an angle that an overhang which would challenge the greatest of climbers somehow forms. And sometimes its as if she has no idea where the rest of her hand is in relation to the blade.

Luckily, watching the contestants of Bake Off use a knife is often edited out (probably because it more-often-than-not results in something being severed) otherwise I’d be a nervous wreck every week, and believe me I’m bad enough as it is wondering if Ruby will have a good bake or whether Howard will be too overboard with his flavours.

And yes, I realise it’s worrying that I know their names…


Volume 3 – Chapter 240: Pottering About The Graves

Carole has just discovered Instagram. Maybe two or three weeks ago she had some kind of internal monologue with herself and decided that what her photo-taking needed was a selection of negligibly different filters that could be applied to the finished article. And one that makes it look like a poorly developed Polaroid snap.

And so it began.

What this meant, for the week we were in Edinburgh, is that we had to stop and take pictures of things and then play with the results until they looked different to the original picture. Now, as she’ll read this, I will say now that the pictures do look good and that I’m not knocking the whole Instagram thing – apart from when we had to take pictures of the Monsters University thing in the cinema, that was maybe taking it a bit far.

No, what I am knocking is that without Instagram we would have made it through Greyfriar’s graveyard unscathed.

Instead, we ended up taking a tour with the oldest man in all of Scotland.

He saw Carole looking at her phone and assumed she was looking up some factoid about the graveyard when, in fact, she was probably applying a filter to the picture of the graveyard gate she’d just taken (after moving the discarded can of special brew which was ruining the composition).

“Ach,” he said, stereotypically, “will you be needing any help there? You’ll know about the Harry Potter connection?”

We automatically assumed he was meaning The Elephant House out on the main road, in which JK Rowling sat and wrote the first of the Potter tomes and which has, thusly, increased the prices of everything accordingly so that – ironically – a single mother with little to no money who is trying to write a book would now not be able to even afford a cup, let alone the coffee to put in it.

“Ach yes, there is that, but you’ll know about the graves as well?”

This is where Carole stepped from ordinary tourist to nerd on tour with a single bound.

“No! What! Where! Show Me!” she more or less said. I’m surprised she didn’t grab hold of the elderly gentleman and shake him until every Harry Potter nugget of information he possessed came tumbling out of him.

So we saw the graves which inspired Professor McGonagall, Mad Eye Moody and Voldemort himself. Although not Voldemort, because that would have been too perfect, we just saw one for Tom Riddle who, the old man explained in case we hadn’t been paying attention, was Voldemort before he was Voldemort.

He explained how the grave stone for Tom Riddle was cleaner than all the others because they washed it every day, he explained that Edinburgh castle – on one side – is full of bullet holes as the Luftwaffe emptied their magazines into it on the way home from bombing runs until Hitler found out they were perforating the side of his proposed new home and told them to stop it. And he told us that J.K. Rowling comes to the graveyard once a year for a walk round.


At the beginning of our little stroll he showed us Professor McGonagall – named after the Scottish poet William McGonagall who wrote a scintillating 28-verse poem about the Tay Bridge disaster – and explained that he’d asked J.K. why she chose McGonagall and she’d told him it was because of the photo of him. There’s a photo on the memorial and It looks very Professory, you see.

And then after we’d seen Voldemort’s lot we were walking back up towards the church and it was like someone had put 50p in the meter for the tour to start again.

“So I asked her, I asked her why she chose McGonagall, and do you know what she told me?”

We did.

Volume 3 – Chapter 239: Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud, Nothing Quite Like It For Getting All Over The Streets Of A City

You’ve got to hand it to the clever people in the street cleaning department of Leeds Council, you really do. Because they were doing a sterling job this morning of taking dry and sweepable mud and reconstituting back into wet and muddy mud.

Because, of course, over the weekend it had been Leeds Festival, which probably featured some acts popular in the hit parade and with the youth of today. I don’t really follow all that sort of stuff – I know, shocker – but what I did enjoy was the massive levels of devastation a swarm of muddy teenagers and probably emo twenty-somethings can cause to a town centre.

I’m fairly sure there would have been less mud scattered around the town if someone had imported a field into the middle of town, somewhere near Next, and just blown it up with copious amounts of C4. It was absolutely everywhere. There cannot be any soil left on the site of the festival. It must be down to the bedrock. It has to be. It’s all over the train station, all over the murder-rape steps, all over the pavements, all over the roads, all over the uneven cobbley things outside the BT offices, all over everywhere. People from villages where everything is made out of mud could have come to Leeds today and stood, shocked, at the mud-encrustedness of it all, probably saying something along the lines of that they think we’ve gone a bit too far. So much mud that, I’ve heard, Tony Robinson is coming on Thursday to carry out some excavations in a Time Team special because they’ve heard that a city might be buried on the site.

And, as I say, it’s all dry and fairly sweepable. Sure, some of it is slightly ingrained, but it is the arse-end of August so we’ll be due some outstanding pissing it down weather soon which will soon shift it all if, maybe, Leeds Council went out with those little motorised sweeper things and just, you know, swept up the big bits.

But instead, they have chosen to wash the pavements using those self same sweeper things. What this does is many fold (I don’t know how many yet, we’ll see how many I can come up with)

a) it makes the mud muddy again
b) wet mud is stickier
c) wet mud makes the pavements slippy
d) people have to walk in the road to avoid being pressure-washed off the edge of the pavement
e) the run-off from the pressure washing etc is in the roads which is making the mud in the roads muddy again
f) the wet mud makes the road slippier

And so it goes on.

As I walked to work this morning there was a lot of activity underway to clean the pavements. Everything was wet and everything was slicker than a teddy boy’s hair style. There was pressure-washing going on in the way that people who have got a pressure washer do pressure washing – they don’t really care what they’re doing, they’ve just got a pressure washer. It all seemed very industrious.

This evening, upon leaving work, there was no discernible difference to the mud/pavement ratio of the morning. Nothing had changed. The pavements weren’t cleaner, the mud wasn’t gone. If anything, I would have gone so far as to say that there was actually more mud – almost as if some of the festival revelers had run back to the town centre to give their wellies and/or inappropriate-for-the-conditions footwear one further bang so they’re not treading all that field into their house.