Fall Survivor

Autumn is in full swing, marching steadily on towards winter. The heating is going on more and more – partly because I am out of the house more, and Carole is a heating fiend whereas I will turn blue and lose all feeling in my extremities before I will line the pockets of the gas company fat cats.

And throughout all this, there’s a tree out the back with just one single, solitary leaf on it. It’s just clinging on, refusing to let go of the life it had before the weather turned and all the chlorophyll started to degrade and send the leaf through the traditional autumnal palette.

It’s changed colour. It’s a yellowy brown. But it’s still there. Clinging to the end of a branch like its life depends on it. Which, I suppose, it does. All its friends lie scattered around the garden, now nothing more than leaf litter of the future and a current play thing for a certain black kitten who we are going to steal likes to make our garden its home during the working day.

I’m not sure, now I’m aware of this leaf, that I can stand to see if fall. I like looking out of the kitchen window and it being the only remnant of the spring and summer months still on show out there. I like the resilience. It’s like the tree version of the poster of the cat on a washing line that says “hang in there!” It’s the sort of thing that, if trees and bushes had access to YouTube and the like, someone would make a video about it. You know, something like “The leaves turned brown, but what happened next will leave you stunned.”

I know, though, that it is not long for this world. It has, it would appear, quite a large degree of rotational freedom. That, I’m sad to say, is not normal for a leaf. It’s clearly hanging on by the last vestiges of whatever it is that holds a leaf to a branch. Tree glue. Or whatever. The leaf, now browned, is unable to produce energy through photosynthesis and the tree is shutting down for winter. It’s getting rid of everything it no longer needs for that process. But this one leaf is just holding on, refusing to let go.

It’s an inspirational leaf. It’s the sort of leaf poems should be written about. Portraits painted. Songs sung. It’s that kind of leaf. It’s amazing.

I’m assuming it’s still there. It’s dark now and I can’t see. I’d hate to thing I’d written all this – really bigging up the leaf – and it’s given up the ghost while the sun’s gone down.

When it falls off, that’s it. I’m calling winter. Screw the official changing of the seasons. That leaf is clearly the point by which that kind of change should be measured. And when winter is upon us, maybe we’ll have the heating on just a little bit when I’m around instead of not at all. It is winter – or will be – after all.

But maybe not. Maybe, rather than running to the warmth of a radiator, we should learn from the leaf and just cling on as long as we can without resorting to the pull of inevitability and the lining of a gas person’s pocket.

I’ll suggest it to Carole tomorrow.

If the leaf is still on the tree, I suspect she’ll run outside, pull it from the branch and stamp on it until it is nothing but dust.

And then put the heating on because she’s cold.


A Question Of Escape

So, for those of you who don’t know, I have actually found myself a job that pays actual money to me. After a year of mooching – a period of time much, much longer than originally planned but also bloody lovely – I am now gainfully employed.

And, hold the front page, I’m genuinely enjoying it. Like really emjoying it. Like get up and go to work happy enjoying it.

I know, right? That didn’t happen before.

Basically, I am a games master at an escape room in Huddersfield. It is my job to lock people in a room, and watch them try and escape for an hour. And then reset everything and do it all again.

On the face of it, you’d think it’s going to be pretty boring – after all, you’re just watching people for an hour (or less if they’re super awesome) and nudging them in the right direction. Nudging, I was told by one team last week, is just a polite way of saying they’re too stupid to work the answers out themselves. But that’s not the case. It’s a way of focusing the mind onto a single problem. After all, once that timer hits zero you’re taken away to be executed. So it’s in everyone’s best interests to get out, because it’s a bitch to get the blood off the walls.

But what I have discovered is that every single team is different. Even though they all go into the same room to face the same puzzles, every single time is different. They struggle with things that – to me – are obvious. And not just because I know all the answers. I had to play the room before I got the job. We – the people who applied for the job, thrown together by fate – formed a cohesive unit and got out of there with a couple of minutes to spare.  And we probably tackled things differently to the teams that I have led to victory (or execution).

We – Carole and myself – had been told before, after the rooms we tackled, that we did things in a completely different way to other teams. In the first room we did, we solved a puzzle straight off the bat that most people don’t do until well into the proceedings. Now I get to see that sort of process with my own eyes, and it’s genuinely fascinating. I wish I knew more about the workings of the brain, so I could collate the findings. Why is it easy to solve a certain puzzle, but really difficult to solve another? Why do people naturally want to add up numbers when they’re written in a certain way?

Why? Why? Why?


Welcome To The Jungle, He’s Got Lost Again…

One of the things I like best about exploring impenetrable jungle looking for long-lost tribes is that I don’t do it. At all. Unless it’s in a game. Then it happens. But otherwise, I just don’t do it.

But if I did do it I’m ninety-nine percent sure that I would take some form of GPS or communication device with me when I did it. Because this is the 21st Century and there is no excuse not to, really. Regardless of whether you want to do it old school or not, if explorers of old could have done it they totally would have. They weren’t idiots. Probably. It’s hard to know for sure because a lot of them were cooked in large pots and eaten.

But not so the explorer Benedict Allen. He buggered off into the jungles of Papua New Guinea to meet up with a tribe he last saw 30 years ago and didn’t show up for his rendezvous a couple of days ago. So his kids get worried, his wife gets worried and people have to go into the jungle and look for him.

Although if you read his Twitter feed, you’d wonder why you’d be bothering risking your neck to find him when he’s more-or-less smugly put a message on that says he knows where he’s going and no-one would be able to find him anyway. Meanwhile his wife is wondering if he’s fallen, been bitten by a venomous thing or generally eaten (with or without the big cooking pot). I mean, I don’t want to use the phrase selfish bastard…

And then it turns out that this isn’t the first time he’s gone missing on one of his expeditions. He once went missing for three months and then just strolled out of the jungle wondering what all the fuss was about. One of his friends say that this expedition he’s gone on now – where he went missing but has probably turned up now and is wanting to be rescued – had no plan, no evacuation plan and he didn’t tell anyone where he was going.

But that’s actually a typical man approach to the whole thing isn’t it. Don’t ask anyone for help. Don’t use a map if you can help it. Just go for it and it’ll be alright. And he will, of course, get his fifteen minutes of fame jabbering on about his incredible adventures in getting lost at the National Geographic Society and, probably, on countless TV shows. I bet Loose Women are already chomping at the bit to have him on.

The thing is, you can’t help but think that he should be made to cover all the costs incurred in rescuing him from the jungle. I mean, he’s been seen at an air strip and is asking to be rescued so getting a team to him is probably going to be costly. If he’d filed some sort of plan, people could have been in place and contingencies made, rather than having to scramble everything at short notice to get a guy who – probably – can’t even be guaranteed to stay where he’s been seen without wandering off for a bit and getting lost again.


For The Glove Of…

I was lying in bed this morning, while Carole quietly went about her morning routine. Quietly plugging in the hair dryer, for example. Quietly drying her hair with the hair dryer. Quietly turning on lights.

You know, all that sort of stuff.

I don’t fight it anymore, I just roll with it and figure that once she’s left the house I can just nod off again anyway, so I lie in bed and drink in the joys of YouTube, or the news. Or Star Trek Discovery until it decided to have a mid-season break until January. Bloody January. That’s literally next year. I can’t wait that long.

Anyway, this morning was a bit different because Carole came to tell me she’d done a bad thing. In a bid to be organised she had, just this very morning, labelled her rubber gloves. Not, as you may suspect, to indicate which is the right and which is the left. But, instead, to show which were for washing up and which were for cleaning. Had she been thoroughly trained, as I was, in the art of hospital cleaning she would know the easiest way to do this is with different coloured gloves. But, in the absence of that, a biro is just handy to write “cleaning” or “washing up” on them.

Job done.

Except the biro transferred from the glove to the worktop.

And despite a liberal application of elbow grease, Carole could not shift it. So she buggered off to work and left me to deal with it. I thought I might have to break out the nail varnish remover. I thought it would take me a while to deal with.

But then I nodded off for a little bit and forgot all about it.

I eventually dealt with it while I was in the kitchen preparing our evening meal. I just wiped it with a dishcloth. And it went. Just like that. I didn’t put anything on it. I didn’t treat it with gallons of Flash like Carole had this morning. I just wiped it. I can only assume that all the stuff she threw at it had just worked at the ink during the course of the day and I just happened to be the lucky person who got to wipe it away. Like if you leave a particularly foody dish in the washing up water for a while and when you come back everything just sort of falls off.

I mean, I won’t tell Carole that. I can’t have thinking that this sort of graffiti isn’t hard to remove, otherwise she’ll start tagging everything like a modern-day Banksy or, worse, just leaving her rubber gloves around transferring ink all over the place.

The next time you see me, I might have the word “cleaning” printed backwards somewhere on my body.


There’s A Cat In The Kitchen, What Am I Going To Do

The new kitten a couple of doors down has formed something on an attachment with our garden. We think it’s because our garden is the only one that is festooned with pots, and has bushes and grasses and goodness knows what else that a small kitten can bound about in quite happily. For hours, in some cases.

She’s also, however, taken a shine to coming in the house as soon as the door is opened.

Not that we are bothered, obviously. Because she’s adorable. But it would be just our luck if she crawled under our cupboards and went to sleep behind the cooker. It’s one thing for your own cat to do that, but when you’ve essentially imported a kitten – accidentally – it’s not the best thing in the world.

And contrary to what anyone might tell you, I didn’t spend twenty minutes in the garden – once I’d convinced the kitten to leave the house – playing with her with a cat toy on a long swishy stick. I mean, that is totally not something I would do. In the slightest. No sir. Not at all.

But if I had done that, I would have said that it was one of the most entertaining twenty minutes I’ve had for a while. You forget how entertaining small cats can be until you start messing around. She’s there flying through the air trying to catch the faux bird on the end of the line, and she’s accidentally catching bushes or being distracted mid-jump by a falling leaf or an insect flying by.

And then when the fun and shenanigans has finished. When you think it’s time for you to leave her be and go back to your day-to-day business, you realise you cannot get in the house without having a small furry shadow. I tried to get in three or four times but even standing right next to the door I couldn’t do it quicker than her. She’s like a super-charged ninja. One minute she’s not there, the next she’s in your house. Trying to eat the food that is definitely not designed for kittens.

In the end I had to pick her up and carry her to the bottom of our garden, distract her with a bouncy ball, and dart into the house. We don’t have that many bouncy balls. We can’t keep doing that. And, I suspect, she’s going to wise up to what I’m doing when I position her at a distance from the house. Not to mention the fact that she seemed to be having a good study of the working of the cat flap today. But, luckily, appears to not have the strength to open it.


Pretty soon I reckon I’m going to be contending with a cat that is not ours trying to sleep on my laptop…