Volume 3 – Chapter 365: Another Year Over

Well, that’s it for 2013.

Or nearly it, I suppose. There’s still a couple of hours left as I write this. A couple of hours in which to wilt and just nod off before the stroke of midnight when you’re rudely blasted from your slumber by your neighbours who have – some how – got hold of some display grade fireworks and are currently peppering the skies with explosions powerful enough to shake the contents from your bowels.

This year, I have:-

* Done stand up for the first time and really enjoyed it.
* Learnt how long it takes next door to mow the lawn.
* Had to scour the streets of the neighbourhood for the body of Pumpkin after she failed to return home one day and it turned out she was just napping in a field.
* Actually found a train to catch which gets me to work on time and allows me to have a seat!
* Failed at my reading challenge of completing 100 books by the year end (unless I can read 23 books in the next 66 minutes)
* Learnt that Peppa likes lemon meringue and will fight you for a curd tart.
* Shunned most of the contents of the advent calendar.
* Discovered that I really don’t enjoy bathing in the kitchen sink.
* Rediscovered a love of a good shower.
* Found a love of board games
* Mourned the passing of a Time Lord
* Learnt that you should never trust a plumber.
*Actually got 3 stars on every level of an Angry Birds episode.
* Made cake in a bucket.
* Agreed to see Phantom Of The Opera next year.
* Seen (and enjoyed – shhh!) a show about Julie Andrews.
* Not bought a new games console.
* Finished the year on the same amount of medication as I started it.
* Slid on the ice into our car and was asked, by many people, if I dented it.
* Caught a shrew in the back bedroom.
* Started a small fire in the kitchen.
* Broken many things.
* Mended some of them.
* Been thrown into a wall by a six year-old girl.
* Read about, but not watched, the last season of Dexter.
* Still not seen Breaking Bad.
* Or Lord Of The Rings.
* Or The Hobbit.
* Or The Wire
* Rekindled my love of shitty films by watching Sharknado.
* Spent far too much time watching Wheeler Dealers.
* And Finding Bigfoot.
* Had some comments read out on Absolute Radio.
* Picked up my harmonica and thought, I really should learn to play this properly.
* Bought too many sausage rolls.
* Messed with several cold callers.

Let’s see what 2014 has in store…



Volume 3 – Chapter 364: Some Pain, No Train

Dear Northern Rail,

What was all that about then, eh? A train delayed because there was a problem with a member of the train staff. A delay that was so immense it had no discernible time scale and then, when it was resolved, a train that didn’t stop at any of the stops it should have stopped at because it had to make up the time it had lost because of the problem with a member of train staff.

I must say, though, I do like the jargon you use when it comes to reasons for delays. I mean “a problem with a member of the train staff” could be anything. They could have died, or be ill. They could have nipped into a teleport pod with a fly and be currently undergoing a terrible transformation. Anything could have happened.

But it hasn’t, has it.

The problem with the member of train staff is that they’ve not turned up.

You might as well say, “Sorry, you’re going to be late for work because one of our staff members couldn’t be bothered to turn up for work this morning.” Or “He’s late, so you will be too.” We all know what it means. You don’t need to hide behind this vague “problem”. Just say it like it is. We’d all be inclined to accept your pre-recorded apologies for any inconvenience if you were just straight with us at the outset. Just tell me if the train’s broken, the signals are stuck or someone’s so late that the entire transport network is going to be buggered for the day.

And just tell us how long the delay will be. Actually announce what’s going on. I know, in this age of smart phones, that we can just hop online and get a blow-by-blow account of the local rail travel, but it’s quite disheartening to read one thing on line and here a pre-recorded posh bird saying something else through a tinny speaker. And, I notice, when the train is delayed, that you don’t play that broad accented guy encouraging us to get in touch via twi’er, whatever that may be.

The upshot of your member of staff having a lie in is that I had to persuade my lovely girlfriend to drive me all the way to Leeds this morning which, you may think, is quite a sweet thing for her to do. And it is. It really is. It’s above and beyond the call of duty. And I appreciated it.

But, you see, I’m never going to hear the end of it. I’ve already been asked to fetch various drinks for her because she drove me all the way to work this morning, and I’m sure that won’t be the last of it. I’ll be asked to carry out all sorts of menial tasks over the next few days, and all because one of your members of staff couldn’t be arsed to turn in for work.

You might apologise for the inconvenience, but I don’t think you really understand how much a commuter can suffer…


Volume 3 – Chapter 363: Food Glorious Food

Who keeps restocking our fridge? Come on, you must know who it is – because no matter how many little sausages or stuffing parcels I eat, there are more in there. More and more. What looks, for all intents and purposes, to be a bottomless supply of them, in fact.

I mean, yes, every now and then the numbers do seem to go down and lull you into a false sense of security as you switch from a large plate to a smaller plate or a bowl, but then that smaller plate or bowl is full to overflowing where the big plate looked as if it was almost empty. Something’s going on. Christmas food just multiplies.

How many slices did we cut that pork pie into, for goodness sake. There’s still a large number of slices left, but I’ve eaten a large number of them, slathered in pickle. It can’t still be going on.

And those chocolate truffles. I’m sure I didn’t make that many. But there are still some even now, winking at me from the shelf of the fridge, the bitter dark chocolate ones with their fine dusting of cocoa powder just clammering for the attention that I have been lavishing on the white chocolate ones with their hundreds-and-thousands outer shell.

And all those bags of crisps, and the nuts. When will they end. When will we be able to claim back the cupboard or worktop space taken up by countless packets of crackers and those long Ryvita thins that shatter into a million pieces if you even so much as look at them funny.

I’m beginning to think – three days after Boxing Day – that we might have made just a smidge too much stuff for the family gathering. Or, to put it another way, that the family present at said gathering didn’t eat nearly enough of the stuff that I slaved over a hot stove to prepare. Whichever way you slice it, there’s still a ton of stuff left.

And that’s without getting onto those sausage rolls.

I think we’ve probably got about 120 of them to go…


Volume 3 – Chapter 362: Sale Away

I think there’s something wrong with me.

Because I’ve spent a decent portion of today looking at sales on various websites and… well… I haven’t bought anything.

And that’s never happened before.

Even Amazon, with its 12 Days of Kindle deal – something which I spent a fair bit of time on last year – remains untouched by my “Buy Now With 1-Click” button as I can’t find anything on there that appeals to me, even for the low price of 99p. Or if I do find something that appeals I have already bought it and it nestles, snugly, on my Kindle already, just patiently waiting its turn.

I’ve been on Game’s website several times today and while there are a couple of things on there I want, I’ve resisted the temptation primarily because the new look website is terrible and looks like it’s been built by a child high on E-numbers and I don’t want to have to click continue shopping after each item I add to my basket. If that was a real shop, that would be like having the shop assistant come up to me after I pick up each item and try and drag me to the till, and I’d then be thrown out of the shop for punching the shop assistant. So I’ve thrown myself out of Game’s website before I virtually punched it.

This has never happened to me before.

And don’t tell me that it happens to a lot of people, and that it’s perfectly normal because it doesn’t feel like that. It feels strange. It’s like the first time I shunned a – sadly now defunct – 3 for 2 offer in Waterstones, or the first time I walked through HMV without buying anything. It’s unsettling. That’s what I do. I buy things – be they books, DVDs, games or whatever.

There should be jiffy bags, boxes and those corrugated card packages made from the stuff covered with the glue that sticks to itself but not your thing, dropping through the letterbox. The postman’s bag should be straining under the weight of all the things he has to deliver to our house.  Do you know what he brought this morning? A mailshot from Sky reminding us that there is the Sky Store which we can browse and rent films from if we so wish, because that’s what we need – a piece of mail reminding us of that because the constant adverts for it and the way it pops up first when you press the On Demand button isn’t enough. 

And yes, Sky, there is the Sky Store which we can rent films from… but you know what? I’ve had a look in there as well.

There’s nothing I want.

Volume 3 – Chapter 361: Games Night Gets Serious

We’ve introduced a new element to Friday nights now.

Where before it was just a humble games night where we would play a game of some description and I would invariably lose miserably, it is now much the same but with the prospect of a trophy at the end of the month. Or, in my case, the prospect of watching Carole win the trophy at the end of the month.

Now trophies can be expensive things, but luckily ASDA have cornered the market in cheap, tacky, plastic trophies which perfectly suit our need and using Carole’s Christmas present of a label maker we can customise the trophy to say whatever we need it to. Or, just twelve trophies that say Carole’s won everything. I very much doubt, by this time next year, my name will be on any of the trophies but a boy can dream.

So as a kind of launch for the new, improved, more trophy-driven games night we invited Carole’s cousin round for a few hours of hard gaming with the prospect of a trophy to take home at the end of it.

And, wouldn’t you know it, he did indeed take the trophy home with him.

Because, I discovered, the main difference between playing games with Carole and playing games with Carole and any other person is that there is just another person in the room with us when I lose.

We played three games.

I won precisely zero.

I tried to win them all. I tried really hard to win them all.

But I didn’t.

Ticket To Ride – a game which, to be fair, I’ve only ever won once and that was because Carole was feeling a bit ill – saw me beaten, while the next game on the Switzerland map saw me losing out on the victory by one train carriage. And Pointless… well, Pointless looked to be in my grasp for a very, very short while as I sailed through the rounds about Mr Men and Kylie Minogue hits, only for it all to come unglued with the NATO alphabet.

And so the trophy, loving labelled, left our house.

And as it went, I kind of realised that I wanted one.

I want to win one.

At least one.

I want my name on a trophy in embossed Dyno tape.

I’d like to win all twelve, but let’s just start with one. Just for now.

Next Friday night will be the first games night of the new year.

Bring it on.