Wirral Meet Again

I’d booked a day off work today – something I very rarely do because I don’t feel the same need to distance myself from my desk as I used to – and we used it to do things. Well, thing. It was supposed to be things but we decided not to do one of them earlier in the week because the weather was supposed to be crap.

So, obviously, sunny as anything today and it would have been totally fine. But, alas, 2018 goes down as a year in which we have missed the Maize Maze at Cawthorne because we’re incredibly bad doing things, apparently. We have had ample opportunity, in hindsight, but it is what it is. Which is a phrase people use to mean “it’s shit” but in a polite way.

But the other thing did happen. We pootled over to the Wirral to play the escape room over there. It’s been a room I’ve wanted to do for a while, ever since meeting the lovely couple behind it – Amy and Ian – when they came to play our Murder Mystery room earlier in the year. And finally we did it. Huzzah.

It’s weird playing a room when you know – even if it’s only from one meeting and copious amounts of internet banter – the person running it. It adds another layer of pressure to the proceedings because you’re very conscious that you don’t want to look like a doofus.

We smashed it. We were amazing. Puzzles were falling left right and centre. We solved things all over the place. We pretty much sailed through with no hints – definitely none around puzzle-solving. A need to double-check a code in a lock, and to second search something sure, but puzzles we were shit-hot on.

Apart from one. Apparently, no-one has ever tried to do it in the way we tried to do it.

That’s not a compliment.

That’s more-or-less an intervention. That’s the escape room way of taking someone on one side, supportively placing an arm around their shoulder and saying, “Are you alright, mate?” We burned so much time on one puzzle because we over-complicated to dizzying levels of trickiness. I mean, we also didn’t do one thing which would have made it so much easier, but I have an excuse for that. I was doing it in my head. And it only went to pot when I tried to talk to Carole, or write anything down or, you know, breathe in and out. But otherwise it was in my head and all ship-shape and Bristol fashion.

Apart from that we were absolutely bloody brilliant. As was the room. The room was amazing. I thoroughly enjoyed it. If it hadn’t been for that one puzzle I think it would have been one of the first rooms when we truly “got” everything – but that might be experience, because I think it was a similar situation in Svengali’s Lair in Edinburgh. We complimented each other’s thought processes so well as we went along, because we think in slightly different ways when it comes to puzzles and the interpretation of things. But those different ways gel together to make a cohesive unit.

We’re still terrible at searching for stuff. That’ll never improve. But we understand that weakness and just accept it.

And the issues with that puzzle that we wasted time on lie solely with me. Which, if you’d been in the car with us on the way home, would surprise you.

Because at one point Carole just went, “Aren’t cars amazing?”

Out of nowhere.




The weather’s turned a little bit colder these past few days, with Storm Whatever-It’s-Called blowing bins over willy-nilly and causing a woman to need to be rescued from her car in flood waters. Because there’s always one who things they can drive through flooded roads, but the dramatic rescue of someone from a car when the water is half-way up the doors isn’t that dramatic, in all honesty. It’s no raging torrent and she was narrowly saved from death.

But anyway, I digress.

My issue is, I’m not sure I remember how to wear a coat.

I don’t think I’ve worn a coat for about six months. That might be a slight exaggeration but I don’t think I’m that far off with my guestimate. The idea of putting a coat on now just fills me with trepidation. Will I still like the feeling of my arms being encased in material. I’m not a big fan of sleeves at the best of times, and I can cope with a coat but after so long of just being able to be bare-armed… I don’t know. The idea seems entirely alien to me.

I managed to do today without a coat, and it wasn’t too bad in all honesty. I could feel a potential for a chill in the air, and I can smell coat weather on the horizon but I’m determined to hold out as long as possible, even if Carole tells me it’s nippy. Or my colleague at work is already counting down to what she calls “heater weather”. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s already back up to three pairs of leggings instead of her usual two.

Carole’s had the first hot water bottle of the season this week. I have been to bed with a t-shirt on instead of my usual naked, rippling torso and shorts combo. So I will admit it’s colder than it has been. And I know Carole is eager to “test” the heating and just, you know, run it for a while to get all the dust off the radiators – the distinctive smell of a heating system coming on after several months of non-use.

But do I really have to go back to a coat?


Brownie Frownie

Carole’s left out a selection of tasty goodies that she has purloined from a variety of Fresher’s Fayre stalls around Huddersfield University this week. Being part of the staff means that she can meander through the back of places and generally blag her way to all sorts of things.

So the selection of things I have been left includes some toasted seeds with a salted caramel coating. I don’t know how I feel about that. There are words in that sentence which I don’t feel should go together necessarily. But I am open to trying new things so I’ll give them a whirl.

There’s a box of Jelly Beans – Berry Burst, in fact. So all the good flavours. No time is wasted picking out all the coconut ones, or hoping that you’ve not accidentally got a marshmallow one instead of something with similar markings. They’ll be nice. They’re a safe bet. We are on solid ground with those.

And finally, two – because one just wouldn’t be enough – “Wheyhey” chocolate peanut brownies.

Mmm, brownies. Just the word makes me salivate – where related to food, anyway. Not when associated with the young girl survival cult. But chocolate brownies are delicious. Moist. Rich. Luxurious. I mean, I am spoiled, but when I think of brownies my mind immediately heads over to the lovely, lovely ones from Tarte & Berry because they are all sorts of sexy and everything a brownie should be. Soft. Moist. Rich. Delicious.

The Wheyhey ones are none of those things.

They are low sugar, high protein brownies.

What that means is, they have all the right words in the name. But none of the fun. None of the umph of a brownie.

What they do have is an eating experience which I can best describe as what I imagine eating a stick of plasticine straight out of the wrapper would be like.

I’ve never had a brownie that has required me to supplement the very chewing of it with further liquid from outside my body. Anything you eat and your body is incapable of providing enough saliva to go with it is something you need to take a long hard look at. This is why people think they can eat three cream crackers in a minute, but actually can’t.

But then, cream crackers are not marketed to be eaten in triplicate within a minute.

These brownies, though, are sold ready to be eaten.

I have never had anything like it. And I don’t think I want to again. While there might be two in the house, it’s highly unlikely two will be consumed. For starters, I don’t know if I have the time. It took me about fifteen minutes to eat the first one today.

I’ve never had to set aside a portion of time to eat a snack before.

Having said all that, I don’t know what I expected a brownie made out of mainly chicory root fibres to taste like. Maybe I was just fooled by the word brownie. Like when vegetarians and/or vegans craft things to be like bacon but they couldn’t be further from the truth. I should have realised.

I should have questioned the fact that I couldn’t even squeeze it in the packet. That it resisted all pressure applied by fingers.

And any foodstuff that carries a warning about laxative effects should be sending up a red flag immediately.

Although I salute anyone who can eat enough of these in an arse-affecting timeframe. But, equally, they definitely deserve it.




Stick To It

I went over to Halifax this morning to meet my mum and do some exciting admin – well, put some signatures on some paperwork, at least.

What I love about any trip I make to Halifax is that I can plan it down to the last detail and somehow still end up there way too early. And do you know what there is to do in Halifax when you’re super early for something?

Not a whole heap of much.

I had forty minutes to kill. In the olden days I would have called into Game and mooched about until someone young and spotty asked me if I was ok with the baffling array of games on display – at which point I would make the noise that means “I’ve been doing this longer than you have been alive, my friend” and then say “Yeah”. Or, if it was during a school holiday, hang about and watch how many kids got their parents to buy them an age inappropriate game because otherwise they wouldn’t be cool.

But Game has moved now. It’s slid down to the lower side of Woolshops in the parade of shops that’s probably not all that necessary given the large number of empty shops in the actual town centre these days. I mean, that can’t all become e-cig shops, surely.

Although they probably will.

A small part of me was looking at them, sizing them up for Escape Room potential. But that’s by-the-by.

Anyway, I ended up in Caffe Nero, where it was lucky that I had forty minutes to kill as they chatted to each and every customer in the queue for quite some time while I just waited, patiently-ish, for a drink. For quite some time.

And then I met mum who approached me in her brightest yellow coat looking like a tiny woman had crawled inside a Sooty costume and then, as she faffed about in her bag wanting to facilitate the trade of courgettes and other fruit and veg products, proceeded to whack me, repeatedly, in the groin with her white stick.

What I like about mum’s white stick is that it’s there as a guide, really. She holds it out to one side of her as she walks and it hits against things if she gets too near. Whether that’s a bin, lamp-post, person, car or literally anything else. Nothing is safe from the stick. At that point she’s supposed to think “Oh, my stick has hit something, I shall adjust course appropriately.”

Which I am led to believe is what she does.

Unless, it appears, she’s whacking me with it. In which case she’ll carry on until I pull her up on it.

When I’m out with mum, I take more of a hard-nosed approach to things that Carole or my aunt. I’m very much of the opinion that if I do everything for her she’ll start to lose her independence. It’s been a bone of contention for me for a while that my aunt – when she’s with my mum – tends to do everything for her and treats her a bit like an idiot. I don’t do that. I do nothing, but am always on stand-by. I still treat her like a bit of an idiot, though, because we’ve always done that and you don’t get a free pass even if you’ve had a stroke. And because there’s always the chance she’ll double over with laughter at something and become absolutely useless at everything for a short period of time.

There’s another reason I don’t link arms with her, though.

It’s easier for plausible deniability.

She’s quite prone to calling people arseholes, nowadays, if they get in her way or are in any other way inconsiderate. I tend to find it’s slightly less mortifying if you’re not holding on to her and so can distance yourself from any comments that she might make.

Today, though, she was quite well-behaved.

I mean, I think she was. I left her at the door of Boots. Anything could have happened once she got in there…

Degrees Of Separation

For almost as long as I’ve known her, Carole has said she wants to do a degree in History, or something along those lines. Definitely something Humanities-ish, anyway.

And after however long she’s finally doing it. Starting with an access course, she’s beginning a quest to broaden her mind via the Open University.

But I’m not sure if this isn’t all just a cunning ploy – albeit quite a long-running one – to justify her getting a new pencil case. Because she’s putting a lot of thought into the preparations for any sort of study.

Now, you need to understand that Carole loves a bit of stationery. Paperchase flows through her veins. She has so many notebooks for things – her notebook of things to look up, her notebook of things she’s done, her notebook of other notebooks. All that sort of thing.

And, I think, she’s determined to be a pen and paper student as well. Sure some of her work is going to be done on the computer – which, undoubtedly, she will claim is running incredibly slow for her – but I think she’s mainly leading towards the old school way.

Because then she can get herself fancy pens. And fancy notebooks. And a desk tidy – she seemed very excited about the desk tidy thing. Which is good, but also annoying because I know that we, as a couple, have moved a variety of desk tidies around this house for over ten years. None of those, though, will be up to scratch when it boils down to it.

I don’t think I dare look into her study space once we’ve set it up. I just expect there to be, one day, a rustle of carrier bags as she comes home and flies straight upstairs. Just the sound of pencils being sharpened as she gets everything just right. Pens aligned parallel to the edge of her table – with attractive covering because the one she’s using is a paint-spattered affair – and desk tidy with everything carefully arranged by height. Notebooks with cute cartoon animals on them. And a wall planner with little sticky stars on it.

I wouldn’t be surprised if she doesn’t visit the poster stall at work during her lunch hour and get a few stock student posters for her walls. If she doesn’t get the “Hang In There” cat one, I don’t think I even know her anymore.

But joking aside, I’m really proud of her for doing this. It’s going to be a long journey and it’s not going to be easy but it’s a great thing she’s doing.

And that’s before I enjoy the peace and quiet of her study periods…