Squealer’s Wheels

September 30, 2014

I was twenty minutes late for work this morning. When I knew I was destined to be late, I was only ten minutes late. But fate conspired against me and made me later still.

And, on top of that, when we eventually got into Leeds I really wanted a sandwich for breakfast because I was on the unhappy side of hungry, only to find the entire complex where I would purchase said foodstuff had been evacuated due to a fire alarm.

The cosmos was not on my side this morning. And its main tool of destruction? Squeaky Steering.

Which apparently is a thing.

A thing which can instill fear into the heart of probably one of the wettest bus drivers I’ve ever had the pleasure to encounter. He was certainly no Man-Who-Looks-Like-Whoopi-Goldberg-In-Jumping-Jack-Flash, that is for sure.

So, yes, squeaky steering. Basically, as I heard the driver explaining on the phone during one of the many stops we made due to panic, the bus was ok when it was being driven, it was just when he went to turn corners that the steering wheel squeaked.

From the time I got on the bus to the time I got off in Leeds, we had stopped to further worry about this squeak 6 times. On five of those occasions we had listened to the driver call it in to base and express his worry, and on one occassion a driver from an adjacent bus came to give a second opinion. At one point we left Dewsbury Bus Station to head to Leeds, only to immediately turn off and come back into Dewsbury Bus Station from a different direction because there was definitely something wrong with the bus.

“I’m just wondering,” said the driver at one point, “if there’s something I should have pressed, a switch or something that I’ve forgotten and that’s why this is happening.”

This made me think two things. One, that the driver didn’t really know what he was doing and at best could have been described as winging it. And two, that “squeaky steering” has some kind of toggle switch so you can have it turned on or off depending on the journey – like you can with a passenger airbag when you have a baby seat in the front of your car.

Having been on a bus that basically exploded out from under us, I think a bit of a squeak was nothing to worry about. What it did serve to do was unite an entire bus full of strangers into chanting expletives like some sort of cult every time we pulled over for an unscheduled stop and a further maintenance-based phone call.


A Picture Paints A Thousand Words

September 29, 2014


Farewell, little buddy.

Expecto Launderettus

September 28, 2014

We were supposed to get a text last night. A text which would tell us what time the washer was being delivered or, more vaguely, what four hour window the delivery was beibg thrown at.

We didn’t get a text. We got one from the vets telling us that Pumpkin has an appointment on Monday that neither of us made. Seemingly three hundred and twenty Great British Pounds isn’t quite enough, and they’d like to wring every last penny from us while they still can.

Incidentally, we’ve paid just short of forty quid less for Pumps than we have for the washer. And Pumpkin is no where near as good at getting your pants clean.

So, to recap, no text. No idea what time the delivery may be, just the knowledge that delivery starts at 7am.

Meanwhile, we’d also put new – hand-crafted by Carole – linings on the bedroom curtain to stop the light from the streetlight outside the window beaming directly in like an army searchlight.

I was awake at 5.30. They’re remarkably effective. But I was still awake at 5.30. Still, at least I’d be ready for the washer, I thought. As if thinking that the cosmic balance would be such that we’d be top of the delivery list.

Still, if I’d not been awake I would never have seen the text that came at seven and advised delivery between ten past one and ten past five. I’d have not got to have the fun of experiencing one of the longest Sunday mornings ever. When you wake up at 5.30 it becomes staggeringly clear how long it actually takes to get to anywhere close to, say, nine. A time when you could start legitimately making noises that would be frowned upon any earlier.

It also becomes apparent that waiting for a washing machine is very, very dull. We contemplated starting things that would be awkward to stop just because doing so would guarantee the arrival of the machine.

In the end, starting a crucial game of Quirkle spurred them on. And, I think, ruined my concentration causing me to lose the game.

Well, that or the fact that by that time eleven hours had passed since I woke up…

Tossing For Washing

September 27, 2014

During a portion of the endless waiting for Pumpkin yersterday, somewhere towards late afternoon where we were about an hour and a half too early to pick her up, we used the proximity of the vets to a branch of Currys to kill two birds with one stone – collect the cat and order a new washing machine.

Obviously the old one died on Wednesday in a cacophony of screams and plumes of smoke and smells of things melting and the sound of things falling apart. It was the second scariest equipment malfunction since the time the steam cleaner blew up with such force that I felt something whizz past my face.

But I remained calm in the face of adversity.

I unplugged the damn thing, opened all the doors and windows and, most importantly, said “Shit!” an awful lot in a variety of different ways. And then I hopped straight onto the internet and started looking at new machines.

Which, co-incidentally, is almost what happened as I was on the way home from work (or not work, I suppose) yesterday when I found myself thinking that Pickle was a really good name for a kitten.

But anyway, so we went for a new washing machine. We looked at each and every one in Currys. We instantly discounted any that said “last one” on them – because who wants a machine that’s ex-display and has been poked and prodded by every member of the great unwashed in the Huddersfield area. Exactly. We’ve been stung by that before, when we bought – for a very short time – the last one from Direct Discounts where everything you buy is covered in sellotape marks, muck, scuffs and who-knows-what-else.

In the end, we had it down to two choices. One, which I preferred, and one which Carole preferred. So we did what any sane couple would do making a big decision like that – we let the store assistant decide for us by tossing a coin. Carole’s one won, and we stuck with it. Primarily because, the one I chose – despite having a longer warranty – was blessed, like the Alpha Male from a council estate, with a chavvy knob.

So it’s coming tomorrow. On Sunday, the day we can lie in and enjoy the morning in peace… or we could, until we remembered that the washing machine is coming tomorrow. And that the old one hasn’t been moved yet. Or drained of any excess water.

So we’ve got an alarm set for 6.30 in the morning, to disconnect the old one and move it out of the way so we can just slide the new one in and get one with things.

I didn’t even know there was a 6.30 on a Sunday…

Pumpkin Panic

September 26, 2014

I won’t lie to you, today has been absolutely awful.

I went all the way to work this morning. Only to essentially turn right around and come all the way home because, sometimes, you have to put life before work. Even if it is the life of your ailing cat. But there was no question I had to be there with Carole. If only to make sure that at least one of us could form sentences the vet could hear over the sounds of crying.

We had to take Pumps to the vets. A trip which we didn’t think she was coming home from. I’d already planned tonight’s blog. It was three words. it would have just read “Pumpkin died today.” That would have been it. As it happens, she didn’t die today. Instead she drained £157 from us for the cat equivalent of some Lemsips and a stay at the vets for the day.

But it’s been awful. When you combine the fact that we know that her kidneys will, at some point, pack up, with the fact that she’s been off her food for the last few days – following the cat sick incident – it’s all been a tad worrying, to be honest. More than a tad worrying. Carole was beside herself this morning, and I felt like an absolute dick for going to work, instead of just diving off the bus and heading straight back home to phone work later. In my head I’d reasoned it would be easier to talk to my boss face-to-face than to leave a phone message. In actuality I nearly cried when talking to my boss – but not for Pumpkin, but for the absolute devastation that this was bringing to Carole. Maybe, in hindsight, a phone message would have been better.

A day that starts of quite frantic, with having to get her to the vets (once I made it back from Leeds) and then turns into a day of sitting around and waiting on the off-chance they need to ring us and we have to make *the* decision because she’s not improving on the fluids as they thought she might or whatever. And there was a lot of waiting. An awful lot of waiting. Even when we’d arranged to collect her there was till waiting. Lots and lots of waiting.

And waiting is awful.

But she’s home now. She’s asleep on the bed, with a day-glo green bandage hiding the catheter that’s still in her leg, just in case. She’s under house arrest. And we keep stopping what we’re doing to listen to her breathing. But at least she’s eating. And she’s not dead. And Carole’s not crying – either because she’s genuinely okay at the moment, or because she’s dessicated herself this morning.

So it’s all good.

Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

In Space No One Can Hear You Preen

September 25, 2014

Emma Watson made a speech the other day. And a very good speech it was too. And because it was about feminism and gender equality and the like, the people who play on the internet decided to have a go, and threaten to post naked pictures of her because that would absolutely underline all she’d said as a woman because, you know, boobs.

And, of course, the Daily Mail did their bit to further the cause of feminism and gender equality by writing a piece about the clothes she was wearing and how she looked every inch the strong business woman in a white outfit.

So that seems to have totally worked.

And then there’s Russia who are sending a female cosmonaut into space. This has caused all sorts of mutterings and things of that nature. For starters, a lot of the journalists at the press conference seemed to be unduly interested in how she would look after her hair in zero gravity. As though, if she was to do a space walk at any time, she would spend several hours getting ready, doing her hair and trying on a variety of different space suits until she found one that she thought suited her best. Probably the first one she’d tried on.

That’s pretty much what Sandra Bullock did in Gravity, I think. Spent all that time doing her make-up and wotnot by which time George Clooney had died from a lack of oxygen.

So yes, a female cosmonaut. She’s going to cause some problems on the International Space Station, apparently. Because, you know, five men and one woman on in a tin can orbiting the Earth at blistering speeds. Of course, she’s naturally going to be a massive distraction for the five men because they are only human and she is an attractive woman, according to various Russian experts in this sort of thing. They are, of course, assuming that she is going up there to play an active role in these distractions and not to be an unwilling victim of workplace sexism for which there is literally no escape. Nyet means Nyet,as they say in Russia, whether you’re on the surface of the planet or free-falling through the void.

Apparently, the Russians go on to say, they don’t generally send women to space because they are not as strong as men. Now, one thing I know about space is that you’re pretty much weightless and so are most other things. I’m not sure the strength thing really matters. I think saying that someone is not strong enough to go into a weightless environment where everything can be moved around with the slightest push is a little bit odd.

They were probably too distracted by her hair swishing to form a coherent argument.

The Call That Came In From The Cold

September 24, 2014

“Hello, my name is Katie and I’m calling from ‘Switching Supermarkets’…”

That’s as far as she got, in all honesty. She didn’t sound like someone who was happy in her work, but at the time she rang the house was still filled with the rather pervasive smell best descibed as “oh shit, the washing machine appears to be on fire”, so I didn’t really want to talk to her.

But as the day has gone on, I think I’ve begun to regret that decision because on reflection I realise that she was ringing from a company which has been set up to advise people that there are supermarkets out there that aren’t necessarily the one they use. Someone has actually sat down and drawn up a business plan which involves setting up a call centre (which sounded, from the background noise, like a place that fun went to die) which employs people like Katie to tell you that there’s an Asda at the end of the road and that their sausages are 28p cheaper.

Is that where we’re up to as a society, now? We can’t make our own choices about things unless someone has rung us up about it at a time which is inconvenient.

For example, would you have even thought about that PPI claim if someone hadn’t repeatedly rung you up over the course of several months. Or that accident at work you’ve had. Or the time you worked in “industry”. Or something about a boiler, solar panels or some other load of old bollocks.

It’s like when you go into a bank and they offer you their products before you leave. As if, in some way, you couldn’t fathom out on your own what the best way to cover a financial shortfall might be. Or that up until that point you thought you could raise the capital for a house using rainbows and moonbeams.

Maybe I’m in the wrong job. I could probably sit here and work my way through the pages of the Thompson Local, ringing everyone from A to Z and saying that I was calling from, I don’t know, somewhere that wonders if you’ve tried keeping the coffee and mugs near to the kettle because it really does save time. Or something like that.

I think I could do that.

Well, I couldn’t, because if there’s one thing I hate more than coconuts and peaches (and believe me, there are very few things on that list) it’s the idea of cold-calling someone and rattling through some pre-scripted bollocks from which you should never ever deviate.

But I really think I should do that.

Or maybe writing radio adverts – like the one for healthier lifestyles which actually explains that to cut down on sugar in your fizzy drinks buy the ones with no sugar. Because up until that point, you’d been sitting on the floor of the pop aisle in the supermarket rocking backwards and forwards like a Romanian orphan and smashing a can of Dr Pepper into your forehead.

Maybe that could be my cold-calling company. Maybe I could ring people, all the people in the Thompson Local, and tell them all that they could really blow their minds if they just tried using some common sense…

I think that’d probably get less take up than the PPI thing, though.