Volume 3 – Chapter 334: Opportunity Naps

November 30, 2013

I listened to The Postman Always Rings Twice this afternoon.

I caught the end of Any Answers which, for anyone who has never listened to Radio 4 on a Saturday, is where all the batshit crazy people go because You And Yours isn’t on at the weekend. Any Answers is the companion show to Any Questions which is like Question Time but not on the television and you can’t see the crazies asking the questions or – for that matter – the crazies answering the questions. Then with Any Answers the general public is allowed their say which usually leads to an hour of that sort of casual racism you get in the posher places amongst a certain age group and the presenters have to say things like, “Well, I think I’ll stop you there…” when stuff gets a little too near the knuckle.

And then it was the Afternoon Play – The Postman Always Rings Twice. Two lovers conspire to do away with her husband with all sorts of dramatic consequences.

I listened to it up until the point where they’d just clocked the husband in the head while he was in the bath but then, unexpectedly, a cat (having climbed a stepladder designed for the escape of the husband-bashing wife) had accidentally fried itself on a fuse box which caused a blackout and through all their plans into disarray.

And then I fell asleep.

Because when I woke up there was someone on Weekend Woman’s Hour talking about the lack of women cycling in London and what can be done to increase the numbers of ladies on bikes whilst also stressing how likely people are to die on bikes in London.

Which I don’t think was part of the play about doing in your husband so you could run off with an American man who sounded a bit like John Barrowman but wasn’t John Barrowman.

I think the thing that upsets me the most is not that I missed the second half of the play, or that I woke up being exposed to Woman’s Hour (although sadly not the usual mix of strongly presented feminism interspersed with recipes to impress your man). No, it’s more the fact that I’ve reached the age where I’ll just nod off sitting on the couch for no real reason.

I mean, sure, I’ve had afternoon naps before. Who hasn’t? But they were anticipated naps. They were naps in which I went and lay in or on the bed and “read a book” which – as everyone knows – is code for slept for a few hours before getting up and pretending you were never asleep.

But I have never just nodded off while sitting on the couch.

That’s something reserved for the domain of my parents. The post-lunch nap, where you find your parental units slumped in an armchair fast asleep or “just resting their eyes”, is not for the likes of me. I’m young and vibrant. I have my whole life ahead of me.

I don’t like it.



Volume 3 – Chapter 333: Are They Alright In The Same Bag?

November 29, 2013

“Are they okay in the same bag?”

I love that question in Gregg’s. It’s a question I don’t fully understand. I mean, I understand the words. I don’t have a problem with the words in the question. I have a problem with the concept behind the question.¬†Because all I’m buying, essentially, is more than one pastry-encased foodstuff. I’m not asking them for a glass of water and some lithium. They wouldn’t be okay in the same bag, definitely not. Because by the time I got home there’s a chance I’d have completely lost my lithium to a chemical reaction and – depending how much lithium – there’s a slim chance that the bag might be on fire as well.

But two sausage rolls that have been next to each other on a baking tray, under the screens that stop scratty people wiping bogies on the baked goods, they’ll probably be alright in the same bag.

If they were any of the fateful combinations of fox, chicken and grain that always seem to need transporting across a river by a farmer, then they wouldn’t be okay in the same bag. But that would be an opportunity to ask the farmer why he’s actually farming foxes. What possibly economic benefit is there to farming foxes? You can’t milk them. Well, you probably could milk them but that’s a bit strange. There’s probably not that much meat on them and fur is pretty much frowned upon. So why farm a fox? I suppose, in these modern times, the puzzle is changed slightly so it’s some grass, a cow and a TB-ridden badger that you have to get across the river in as few moves as possible.

But a cheese and onion pasty and a sausage roll? You know what, I’m okay if they bump shoulders. They don’t need to be sealed off from each other. They’re not going to cross-contaminate. Nothing can pass the pastry barrier of a Gregg’s pasty. Anything that tries is just driven back by the constant flow of butter and grease heading in the opposite direction like some sort of lipid tsunami.

Two pasties in the same bag means they can snuggle up and share body heat, like humans trying to survive in harsh conditions. If you’ve got one barely warm sausage roll and one cheese and onion pasty with the capacity to burn the roof of not only your mouth but the mouth of anyone within a ten-metre radius of you, then you can use that warmth to re-heat you sausage roll. You can’t do that as well if they’re in different bags. Nestle them together and you’re laughing. Until you eat the cheese and onion pasty, then you most certainly won’t be laughing.

Although there will probably still be tears.

Volume 3 – Chapter 332: Christmas Is Coming

November 28, 2013

For some people, the coming of Christmas is marked by the arrival of Christmas tat in the shops. For some people it’s the first viewing of the Coca Cola advert. For some people it’s when Elf is shown on the TV. For others it’s when the Christmas Radio Times comes out.

For us, though, it’s when Not Sid – assisted by his tiny daughter, Ruby No! – decorates the outside of his house.

Last year, this decorating took place in the dark, while it was raining and blowing a gale. But this year, thanks to the fact that he appears to be somewhat of a work-shy fop these days, whiling away his hours just washing his car with a pressure washer whilst wearing a dinosaur onesie, he did it during the day.

And, luckily for me, on a day when I was off work so I could watch the full majesty unfold.

I first noticed that he had some sort of 3D lights. I couldn’t tell what they were, at first. I thought it might be Santa in his sleigh pulled along by a variety of illuminated reindeer. But no. It’s that other traditional staple of all good Christmases – the steam train. And there it is now, erected on top of his garage. Lights blazing, flickering to give the illusion that the wheels are turning and that smoke is billowing from the funnel.

There’s nothing more festive.

But wait, maybe there is.

Because the train is not enough.

There’s a Santa firmly secured to a fence post. Standing tall and proud at the entrance to his drive, ushering people in to witness the massive flickering train monstrosity.

There really is nothing more festive.

Aside from the group of snowmen also firmly secured to a fence post but, this time, at somewhat of a jaunty angle as though the base is far larger than the area it is attached to and it is, in some way, unlikely to see out the remainder of December in situ.

It can’t possibly get any more festive than that.

Oh, but wait. There’s a flickering star on the wall. And some bells, lit up to make it look like they’re ringing.

Nothing can top that.

Fairly lights around the garage? Well the garage is often overlooked in these sorts of festive scenes. No one really makes much of an effort with a garage. Garages want to feel the Christmas spirit too. And now you can also work on your car at night as the lights seem to have the same candle power as the sun. We almost need to buy a welding helmet just to sit in the front room. If we forget to close the curtains there’s a chance that all will be found of us will be our blackened outlines on the wall as the intense heat and light from this barrage of festivity has vapourised our very being.

I can’t wait to see what he puts up tomorrow.

I refuse to believe that this is finished.

Volume 3 – Chapter 331: Hat’s All, Folks

November 27, 2013

During a welcome break in various visiting tradesmen, shopping dissemination staff and parents-in-law I took the opportunity to nip to Tesco’s to buy, in no uncertain terms, something nice to nom on at lunch time.

The more observant of you will have noticed that I’d already had a delivery from a shopping dissemination staff member who had furnished me with a multitude of things – including the mistaken belief that ginger paste is, somehow, the same thing as actual real-life ginger. But that was predominantly cooking stuff. The kitchen is now a wonder of cookery ingredients. We have fish sauce, for chuff’s sake. Fish sauce. I do not want to know how you even go about getting sauce from a fish or – for that matter – what the person who discovered it thought he (or she) was doing. But we have some. Just a few years ago all that cupboard contained was a couple of bottles of oil and some salt. And now it’s filled with vinegars of flavours too baffling to comprehend. And the juice of a fish.

So, clearly, I couldn’t enjoy that at lunch time. And I needed something to get over the crushing blow that – just as it starts to look like the bathroom will be finished – we have the wrong sort of ceiling. Our ceiling, it would appear, is not in any way, shape or form plaster friendly. If plastered, our ceiling could fall down immediately, after some time, or never. Whichever way you slice it there’s only a 33% chance that sucker would stay up.

So I needed something nice to eat. Something to take my mind off things. Something I could nibble on while I kicked back on the couch and watched a film which I’d been quite looking forward to seeing but actually turned out to be nowhere near as good as I’d thought it would be. Not Flight – because that was last week’s crushing disappointment, but The Watch which – aside from a couple of good bits – was really actually quite shit. But still the nibbles were good.

So I went to Tesco’s. Which normally would be a chore.

Because at any time outside of winter I’d have to do something with my hair.

There’s a finite amount of time when my hair behaves itself. The day it is cut and up to a week afterwards. After that, all bets are off. It just does whatever the hell it likes. One side can look fine, while one side sticks out. It can start to look like Wolverine’s hair. Or Tom Hanks in Sleepless In Seattle. Or, at its worst, Ian McShane in Lovejoy. So getting it to do what I want it to do to – say – go to Tesco’s can be a really ball ache.

But it’s winter.

So I did what any self-respecting hair-hating lazy bum would do.

I just wore a hat.

Then, afterwards, if anyone said anything about my hair I could instantly blame the hat. “It’s hat hair,” I could say. “I wore a hat earlier and when I took it off my hair looked like this. I know. Like Ian McShane playing Wolverine. Yeah. It really is terrible.”

Which is all well and good, but I’d seriously over-estimated how cold it actually was today.

So I was wearing a hat on a reasonably warm (for the time of year) day, in a warm supermarket.

I was sweating like a fat lass on the dancefloor.

Which – as you can imagine – just ruined my hair.

Volume 3 – Chapter 330: Get Me Out Of Here

November 26, 2013

For the past week or so I’ve noticed, when I’ve gone up to bed, that Carole has fallen asleep with the TV on. And, aside from the night when it was half-way through Die Hard 4, most of the time it’s showing that TV Roulette thing that appears late at night on crappy free-to-view digital channels.

You know the one. It’s roulette, with some busty bird doing the ball thing, presented by a smug face in a suit for those gamblers who, for whatever reason, would rather be sitting at home and putting a couple of quid on red or black than experiencing the live action of a casino. But then, if you go to a casino it’s very rare that they let you in just wearing your pants and scratching yourself whilst cracking one off to the woman spinning the wheel.

Anyway, it’s made me wonder what she’s been watching. What it is that – night after night – has gripped her attention.

And tonight she finally admitted it. She finally admitted to something I’ve suspected. And, frankly, I don’t know how I feel about it. She could have told me that she’s been frequently reading the Daily Mail website and I’d feel better than I do now.

She’s been…

I can’t even bring myself to type it.

Deep breath. Here we go.

She’s been watching I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here.

I mean, how can you trust someone after that revelation comes out. How can you talk to them seriously about anything when you know that at the back of their mind their wondering what stupid thing Joey Essex is going to say or having internet debates about what exactly it is that is stopping Rebecca Adlington from doing some of the tasks.

You think you know a person. You think that the confession, early on in the relationship, that they used to enjoy watching Big Brother quite a lot is where it will all end. They’ve got it out of their system now, you think. They don’t seem to be drawn in by the lure of TOWIE or Made In Chelsea (do we shorten that to MIC?) or any of those Real Housewives of Blah-Di-Blah shows. Because of that you think you’ve got someone who’s well-adjusted. Someone who’s not going to go screaming mental because one of the Celeb Spots in Heat was somewhere only five feet away from where they have just recently been.

And then this.

And then they try and get you involved. Telling you about a challenge in which only one of them could hear some music and had to dance and was covered in fish guts. You have to pretend to care. You have to nod and smile in all the right places and not say something about turning that shit off and just going to bed.

It’s like waking up a sleepwalker.

You should never just cut an addict off from their slice of reality TV in one fell swoop. You have to do it in small increments. Gently ween them off it until they come back to you, if you’re lucky, the same as they were before.

So tomorrow, while she’s at work, I’m going to put a picture of Carlton off of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air in a bush in the garden.

That should help.



Volume 3 – Chapter 329: Accent Week

November 25, 2013

For the first time in what, I think, is probably too long, I enjoyed a continuous day of Radio 4 programming. Well, I say enjoyed, but as anyone who has experienced Radio 4 over the lunchtime period will know, you can’t enjoy You And Yours. It’s specifically designed that way, I think. It must be. There’s no other explanation for it.

But from about 10am until just before The Archers invaded my life, I listened to, ignored and throughly enjoyed what Radio 4 had to offer me. Including The Infinite Monkey Cage which is, pretty much, essential listening for anyone who likes science and has ears.

And then it came to PM.

When they started what they are calling “accents week”. Yeah, this appears to be a thing.

It’s come about, it would appear, because some listeners have written in to complain that they only ever hear the plummy English that instantly characterises Radio 4. Radio 4 is the only Radio station you can, with absolute certainty, tune your radio to even if you’re completely oblivious to what wavelength (ask your dads, digital age) it’s broadcast on. Normally you can tune in your radio and have to listen to whatever’s on for a little bit in the hope that you’ll hear a station ident or something that will point you in the right direction. With Radio 4, that’s the entire broadcast. It’s just obvious.

So, accents week, in which, at half past five, the headlines will be read by someone with an accent you wouldn’t normally hear on the radio. So they say.

And as they trailed this I thought that it might just be an average Joe from the street, albeit a street further away than a stone’s throw from wherever the hell Radio 4 comes from. It might be a portacabin in Eddie Grundy’s yard in Ambridge for all I know. I don’t think it is, though.

A voice you wouldn’t normally hear on the radio.

“And now, at five thirty, it’s time for the news headlines. And because it’s accent’s week, it’s being read, each day, by someone with an accent you wouldn’t normally hear on the radio. So here, from BBC Radio Cumbria…”

Sorry, that’s an accent you would normally hear on the radio. It belongs to a man who works for BBC Radio, reading out the news. With his accent.

And, I’m guessing, tomorrow will be another news reader from an area that’s not London. But you can’t claim it’s an accent you don’t normally hear on the radio when it belongs to someone you could – if you so wished – hear on the radio. It’s more of an accent you wouldn’t normally hear on Radio 4. And that, I think, could actually be any accent at all. Aside from Scottish, I guess, because Susan Calman has got that one covered. And Yorkshire, because Tom Wrigglesworth is all over that one. And…

Actually, Radio 4, there are plenty of accents you’d normally hear on the radio. They’re just happening outside of the confines of the PM studios.

So as accent week continues, I’d like to think that somewhere in Middle England there’s a family sitting around the table, spreading quince onto those little toast biscuit things and trying to work out what these “chaps with the funny voices” are saying on the 5.30 headlines before admitting defeat.

“It’s no use, Cynthia, I don’t have a bally clue what this chap is saying. We’ll have to wait for the headlines at 5.45 and try to make some sense of it then…”


Volume 3 – Chapter 328: Tweedle-Plumb & Tweedle -Me

November 24, 2013

We’ve found the list of what we ordered for the bathroom – everything from the bath, to the taps, the toilet seat and the shower. We turned the house upside-down to find it, tucked away in the midst of a stack of bathroom brochures and the like. And armed with that list and a copy of the Plumb Centre catalogue from which we ordered everything we went and took stock of what we’ve got.

It’s pretty much all wrong.

Which is quite exciting.

I mean, since the time that bath was actually fitted we’ve had a bit of a funny feeling that the taps weren’t the ones we actually wanted. We both stood in the bathroom and said “Square taps? Why would we have ordered square taps when everything else is rounded?” but we thought that maybe we were wrong, and without the catalogue – which we’d given back when we ordered – we couldn’t remember what the things we ordered looked like.

But now, we know. And it’s basically not like what we’ve got on the bath at the moment.

And the sink doesn’t have the right number of tap holes in it. Well, it does for the tap that matches the ones already on the bath that we didn’t ask for in the first place, but not for the taps that we did ask for but haven’t yet received.

So the taps are wrong. The toilet seat which, according to our order should be some sturdy bit of kit with a stainless steel hinge is flimsier than the plot of any episode of The Archers. The toilet itself is actually right, so that’s a bit of a bonus. And the bath is right. Probably. As is the bath screen. We think. Although that doesn’t actually pivot on the hinge like it should do, which may have something to do with the piece that we found thrown away when we were putting the recycling out. But we are not trained bathroom-fitting professionals, so what do we know?

And the shower, of course, which is clearly a mistake on the part of the Plumb Centre and not one that was just panic-bought from the cheapest place possible after the latest round of demanding that all our stuff be brought here as soon as possible.

Which is all well and good, but I’ve got to face the plumber tomorrow and a) remain civil and b) not punch him repeatedly in the teeth each time I think a lie is going to pass his lips (i.e. every time he opens his mouth to speak). I’ve got to be all pleasant and say things like “Yes, it certainly is quite trying, this whole bathroom thing.” and “No, it’s not practically tearing us apart because our entire day seems to be occupied with worrying about some aspect of it.” From the minute we wake until the moment we drop of to sleep the bathroom is at the forefront of our thoughts – previously it was because it just never looked like it was never going to be finished and now because if it is finished there’s a possibility that all the stuff in it is made not of high grade materials, but of unicorn tears and cobwebs. It’s getting in the way of work, it’s getting in the way of our lives and if you mention the C-word (Christmas) to Carole she goes into some sort of Chicken Little-esque panic and sits in a corner rocking like a Romanian orphan.

So Carole’s dad is coming down for a “coffee” tomorrow.¬†

Which I think is some kind of code between him and Carole for “holding Jake back, just in case”.

I think I’d actually rather be at work*

* I wouldn’t.