I have what I like to think of as a special skill.

It’s what sets me apart from other people. What lifts me above the realm of mere mortal. Honestly, if the X-Men were real, I’d be waiting for a visit from a shiny-headed Professor in his wheelchair. Or hoverchair. Depending on where we wanted to slot in along the time line.

Basically, I can do things which an outsider would think to be dangerous or carry an associated risk of injury with little or no consequence. But doing a ridiculously simple task leads to untold misery, injury,  or blood loss.

It’s a skill I share with the likes of Jennifer Lawrence. Except while she’s busy just falling over at award ceremonies – so she could, if she wanted, blame it on long dresses or ridiculously high shoes – I am just toppling over for no discernible reason outside Westminster Abbey in the dark. Or the West Yorkshire Playhouse. Or a street in Huddersfield. Or any number of steps or stairwells at school and/or university.

Today we destroyed an armchair using all manner of dangerous tools. Saws, hammers, stanley knives. All were employed in the course of removing one tatty armchair from existence – reducing in to pieces small enough to be transported to the tip in the rear of a Renault Modus. No injuries befell me, despite swinging a lump hammer round like the was no tomorrow, using the stanley knife like I was carry out a particularly heinous slashing attack and the saw like I was cutting through large pieces of wood.

No blood was lost. No splinters were gained. Nothing happened.

And then we took the pieces of it to the tip.

Where we threw it away.

And a lot of the surface skin of my thumb.

It’s a gift.

Albeit a messy, painful one.


Balls To The Ward

My dad’s in hospital at the moment.

It’s nothing major but, equally, it’s nothing particularly minor either. I mean, considering he’s been in there for a week or so, we’re not really any the wiser as to what is actually afoot as it’s been a week of casual fire-fighting, rather than actively chasing down the arsonist.

It’s weird having thinking about your parent’s mortality. Or having to have a discussion about it with the parent in question. Almost a film cliché level discussion along the lines of one day being the man of the house. One thing which our family does not do is discuss things.

We never really have and I don’t think we ever really will. We are a family of stilted conversations and long pauses, sarcasm and snappy answers. That’s the way we work. And, in a lot of ways, those pauses and snapped responses mean as much as a long, drawn out conversation could do. Nobody likes to discuss what’s going on with them, health wise. And we’ll also go out of our way to not do anything about something until the last possible moment.

I don’t think all this will change any of that. I don’t think we’ll all suddenly open up and become a sharing family. We’ll still be a quiet family for whom the answer “yes” to the question “are you okay?” is acceptable. We won’t be a family who will dig deeper, wondering if that yes was said with enough conviction to be believable or whether there is something else which needs to be discussed.

Likewise, hospital visits will be stilted affairs in which conversation is about ridiculous things of no consequence and not the number of tubes, leads, wires and whatever else that are attached to, or in the vicinity of, my father. That’s just the way we operate. It’s strange to the people on the outside, but it’s a very familiar and comforting place to those of us on the inside.

I can totally live without the man in the bed opposite whipping off his bed clothes to cool down his balls, though.

I didn’t really need to see that.

Life Through Two Lenses

I collected my new glasses today.

New glasses are weird. Because they’re exactly like your old glasses but also entirely different. With your old glasses you’ve got used to them – parts of them that your eyes can see but which you brain removes from your field of view, or stops you really noticing. And then you put on a new pair and you’re suddenly hyper-aware of the fact that, out of the corner of your eye, you can see the arm of the glasses heading off towards your ear.

Or the edge of your lenses.

Or in my case, as the lenses are slightly larger, no edge of my lens.

For the first half an hour or so, everything that was previously beyond the edge of my old lenses was blurred, despite the fact that my new lenses encompassed it. It was almost as if my eyes were detecting the outside world with clarity but my brains was screaming “noooooooooo!” and pixelating what I shouldn’t be able to see until it had a chance to work out what was going on.

And in between all that it was letting me think something was coming at me in my peripheral vision by showing me what the inside of my spectacle arms look like.

But new glasses are fantastic. They are.Because for a couple of hours at least, they’re clean. Cleaner than you could ever clean them yourself. Free of greasy fingerprints, eyelashes, dust, detritus and the imprint of cat paws. It’s like an HD upgrade for your eyes. And for a brief time you can drink in the colours and vibrancy of the world.

When I put the glasses on again tomorrow it’ll be back to the dull, dusty, fingerprinty view of the world I’m used to.

But for now it’s magical.


Bus Napped

I’ve finished work for a week. This year I’m looking at any holiday time as a dry run for the upcoming work-free period of my life – a period which has led to the cancellation of a trip to Edinburgh because it was the right thing to do in the circumstances. Even though, now, timescales seem to be working against us and it could have maybe possibly gone ahead. Although not going this year is still the best thing to do. Even though I really REALLY want to go this year, probably more than any.

But that’s by the by.

As today was my last day at work for a week a few things happened, as they inevitably do. I had to change my password because it couldn’t just wait another week, could it? I got embroiled in things that couldn’t be resolved in a day and have to be picked up by colleagues next week. And I learnt that I have a new special skill.

That skill being the ability to fall asleep on the bus precisely one bus stop before the one I have to get off at.

Not on the way home. Nah, that would be too easy. No, I’ve started nodding off on the way in and having a good old snooze as we head into Leeds city centre. If I miss my stop it’s not the end of the world, but it is what we in the trade call “a ball ache”. So this is a special skill I will really be looking to get out of my system before I return to work on the 7th of March with a spring in my step and a cold sweat inducing panic that I can’t remember the password I had to change to today.

The only conceivable way I can think of to get it out of my system is to sleep as much as is humanly possible over the next nine days of freedom. Whenever there is an opportunity to grab forty winks and rejuvinate my tired cells, I should snatch it with both hands. That way, by the time I return to work I will be perky as the perkiest thing in perky town and won’t fall asleep on the bus on the way in within sight of my office.

Until at least the Thursday…


Crispy One

I’m a few months shy of thirty-nine

My childhood is far behind

But when it came to my tea tonight

There was only one thing on my mind

Slices of bread, white and with butter

Two of them at the very least

And a packet of crisps – the flavour’s your choice

And damn if you don’t have a feast.

The softness of bread and the crunch of the crisp

It’s a pairing that cannot be beat

Whether it’s ready salted the sarnie’s filled with

Or a crisp with the flavour of meat.

Judge if you want, of my crisp-based snack

But you know in your heartthat I’m right

And I guarantee now after reading this rhyme

You’ll be wanting a crisp sandwich all night.