Tuesday, 31 May 2011

You Lose Some, You Win Some

I've forgotten what I was going to talk about today. I had it, and now it is gone - how frustrating! And it's not like one of those things you forget but can remember something that it had to do with, this time it has completely vanished. You could spend hours saying random groupings of words to me, and it still wouldn't trigger the memory of the intended subject. So I'm very sorry - at least I think I am. The trouble with not remembering what I was going to say, is that it might have been really good and really funny - but also it might have been the worst blog I've ever written. So although I am apologising (being a polite chap and all that), at the same time, you could all be thanking me. You probably dodged a bullet here.

But all is not lost, (or, you're not safe yet - depending on your point of view) as I do have other stuff to talk to you about.

Life - as we all know - is hard. The trials and tribulations that each and everyone of us has to go through at various times in our lives makes things tough - of that there can be no doubt. You can think of life as a war - you versus life, fate, whatever you want to call it. It is a long series of battles. However, it is not all big battles - we all have daily struggles, daily battles with whatever life chooses to throw at us. These aren't the big fights that we have to go through in life - like the death of a loved one, or the breakup of a relationship or a family - these are smaller skirmishes which happen to test our resolve, our mettle. I also believe that there is a percentage of these battles that we lose automatically - but also an equal amount of small victories that we win. The size of the battle varies - so much so, that no two are exactly the same in size or importance.

Simpsons Socks
Let me try and explain what I mean: I wear 'Simpsons' days of the week socks. Seven pairs of socks, each with Homer Simpson on them, his expression getting happier and happier as the days get closer to the weekend. I keep these socks rolled up in balls in my sock drawer (where else?), but in their rolled up state I cannot tell which day is which.

No, I haven't memorised the colours. I'm colour blind, and I don't have that long in the morning to get ready.

So, last Thursday, I'm getting dressed and I go to get a pair of socks. My hand hovers over one balled pair for a moment, and then I suddenly decide to pick up another pair. And hey presto! the pair I pick up turn out to be the "Thursday" socks. That is a little victory. It might not sound much, but it is a victory - because although any pair of socks would have done (and picking up the wrong day wouldn't exactly be a disaster), we all secretly would hope that we pick the right socks out for that particular day.

I had another small victory tonight: I had a bunch of underwear to hang out to dry, but couldn't be bothered to get the laundry basket and peg bag. So, I carried the clothing in my arms, and grabbed a handful of pegs out of the peg bag as I walked past. And guess what? I had exactly the right number of pegs for the type and quantity of items I had to hang out. That's another victory - the chances of me randomly picking up the right amount of pegs needed was pretty low, so to do it first go is a win!

Do you see where I'm coming from? Of course there is a flip side. Stubbing your toe - that's a small battle you've lost; going out to dinner in a restaurant and spilling your first mouthful down yourself - another tick in the "lost" column; locking your car keys in the car - a slightly more costly loss, but still not a major setback.

Everyday, the tide swings back and forth. Generally I think people remember their losses more, possibly because their are repercussions to deal with after the initial battle is lost - the painful toe; the soiled shirt or top to wash (or have dry cleaned); having to break into your car (or get someone to get in for you) and then pay for the damage you have caused yourself. But we shouldn't dismiss the tiny victories, because they keep everything in check. Sir Isaac Newton's third law basically says that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction - and although he was talking in the realms of physics, I believe the same applies to the battles we lose. For every stubbed toe, or soiled shirt there is a correctly chosen pair of socks, or an accurately estimated peg count.

But we must be realistic. When we lose a small battle, we must not expect to gain a small victory straight away. In all probability, the small victories we achieve will happen long after the losses we have suffered have been forgotten. It's not an immediate turn around. And I do think it is a one way street: if we lose a small battle one day, at some point in the future, we will gain a small victory to even things out. I do not subscribe to the notion that if we have a small victory, a loss is due.

I wasn't sure where I was going with this idea when I started writing it tonight, but it has turned out quite well I think.

That's another little victory.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Food Roulette, and The Headache Caused By Controlling The Galaxy

I've never been afraid to experiment with food. I don't mean in a sexual way - you'll never catch me in bed with an Aubergine and a tin of Golden Syrup.  No, I'm talking about in the kitchen, and in terms of meal / snack preparation.
A few of the culinary ideas that I have tried, and (I think) have worked are:

  • Chocolate spread and Peanut Butter in a sandwich
  • Tuna Mayonnaise with chopped peppers mixed in
  • Cheese and Marmite in a sandwich
  • Adding Marmite and gravy granules to a bolognese

And today, I have added to this list, by trying sliced beetroot in a sausage sandwhich. And it works - in fact, it was bloody gorgeous! Now, I will admit that these things I have tried may not be original, and may not sound very tasty - but I urge you (I'm urging as I type) to try them, or find your own variation on a classic theme. You never know, you might just stumble across a taste sensation.

Of course, you might also just stumble to the toilet with the most god awful stomach cramps. At this point you need to be aware that I cannot be held responsible for any illness incurred on your part by trying something new, and any complaints will be ignored. I will admit, this is a little like Russian Roulette, except with food and not bullets.

It has been raining ever since I woke up - not literally, I'm not suggesting that today's rainfall began the exact same second this morning that I opened my eyes, yawned, and scratched myself in......well, that's not important right now. What is important is the fact that I have not been able to go out on the walk I had hoped to do today. Technically I still could have gone as I have a coat with a hood as well as waterproof trousers and wellingtons, but I didn't fancy it. So I have been stuck in doors bored - and that is where the trouble starts.

You see, when I'm bored I start to think - not about normal everyday stuff like, when is my next electricity bill due, or how much do I need to save to buy a decent suit? No, I start contemplating things like: How stressful must it have been for the Death Star's HR and other departments during the fight between the Galactic Empire and the Rebel Alliance?

Think about it - the Death Star must have an infrastructure. Eddie Izzard talks about the Death Star Canteen in this video:

Going on from that, there must have been a Personnel department - a HR team at least. You couldn't have that number of people on a space station that size without someone making sure that all the shifts were covered, meeting rooms got cleaned etc. And it couldn't have been easy running the Death Star - I know that Darth Vader supposedly ran the Death Star, but he was just the corporate face of the empire - he got wheeled out for the annual conference, or the opening of a new base somewhere, but he never actually ran the Death Star. What you never see in any of the films is the dedicated teams of P.A's, Administrators, accountants, Marketing people, the legal team - to name just a few. The would have had to have been a whole army of people just to keep the Death Star running smoothly.
And like I said, it couldn't have been easy managing that many people - we all know or have worked with people that are team players, and have worked with people who aren't team players. And there must have been people like that on the Death Star - a Tie Fighter pilot on his lunch break when the call comes for all pilots to get to their fighters, who refuses to drop everything and rush into battle because he is "entitled to a one hour lunch break, and I will not go back until I have had my full hour". You know the types.
Also - What if the attack on the Death Star in Star Wars Episode IV "A New Hope", happened on a Bank Holiday? Along with organising the extra staff, there would have been double time and a day of lieu to sort out for everyone asked to work that day. Admittedly, no-one got to see the extra money or enjoy the day off later, as the Death Star was destroyed - but these things have to be taken into consideration.
And what about the PR people? They had their hands full right from the off. Can you imagine the meeting held the day after Alderaan was destroyed? How do you put a positive spin on something like that?

All I'm saying is that there had to be a logistical side of things behind the Death Star, and it must have been a nightmare keeping track of all the staff that died when the Death Star was destroyed. There would have been the final pay cheque to send to the family of the deceased, and then the cost of advertising for a replacement - not to mention the training costs etc.
Maybe the Empire didn't bother; after all, their record on human (and alien) rights was pretty poor. So they probably didn't care too much about who died and who didn't. And as for the cost of the Death Star itself,  for all we know the Death Star might have been tax deductible, so when it was destroyed they just claimed it all back.

The people with the real power in Star Wars didn't have lightsabers, or a blaster, or could pull people's arms out of their sockets when they lose - they had clipboards and calculators.

It's true!

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Constitutionally, Its The Sausages You Have To Watch Out For.

So, today was the day. The day I chanced my arm at the lottery that is Barbecue cooking.

I had decided to not invite anyone else to this "practice" barbecue, mainly due to the high risk of me not cooking the food properly. Whilst I don't mind risking food poisoning, it is simply not done to expect your guests to do so - and as I couldn't promise a sickness free buffet, I opted to go this one alone.

Although I do have a fully functioning Fire Pit (and no, that is not a medical euphemism), I decided to "train" on one of those disposable barbecues. I found a sheltered corner of the garden, and lit the barbecue. Step one was complete! I stood back and watched the charcoal burn, my gaze following the wisps of smoke as they danced on the breeze......right to where my washing was hanging on the line.
A quick emergency clothing removal manoeuvre later, and all was well. The instructions for the barbecue said it could take up to 20 minutes for the flames to die down (and I quote) "depending on the conditions". I wondered if the manufacturer had included being doused in petrol, or being held underwater in the "conditions" they referred to - as I was fairly sure that conditions like that would have a large effect on the time it took for the flames to die down.

Who ordered the Salmonella platter?
Sure enough, after a period of time the flames died away, and all that was left was the smouldering coals (which incidentally sounds like a great name for a band). Like the stick I use to play pool, this was my cue - and I brought out the burgers and sausages to be cooked. I placed them on the barbecue, and stood back and watched the cooking take place. After a minute or so of watching, I became bored so I went into the kitchen and prepared some rolls and some salad bits. I was doing the whole shabang - oh yeah! I had some pre-packed fresh salad, and added some tomatoes (quartered), and some Beetroot (sliced by me). I do love a bit of Beetroot. In fact, I love a lot of Beetroot - I could happily eat it all day. And then not go out, because I'll have stained teeth and Beetroot breath.

Starting to cook
I kept popping out to the garden to check on the progress of my burgers and sausages, and pretty soon one thing became apparent: the burgers were cooking faster than the sausages. I don't know if this is a well known fact about burgers, but it was news to me. Clearly burgers are the "man" of the barbecue foods - ready is a short space of time, and still tasty with no worries about problems later. Sausages on the other hand are obviously the "woman" - taking ages to get ready, you and they never completely sure if they are properly ready, and if you have one there is a risk of being violently ill later on. The burgers were well on their way to being completed cooked, while the sausages were just getting the slightest hint of a tan. Undaunted, I carried on. And why wouldn't I? who ever heard of anyone being daunted by sausages?

Apart from vegetarians, that is.

Not long after, the burgers were ready. I brought out my plate laden with salad and tomato and beetroot and put two sliced buns on it. I put the cooked burgers in the buns, added some Branston Relish. The relish I had chosen was Spicy Chili and Jalapeno - which really was quite spicy (there's a surprise!). Now came the moment of truth; I picked up a bun with a burger in it, raised it to my mouth and took a bite. Instantly, I regretted it - not because the burger wasn't cooked, but because a big dollop of relish squelched out of the burger and splattered down my t-shirt. Typical. Mumbling a curse, I went inside and changed my top. Happily, that was the only downside of the burgers. Taste wise, they were fine, and I have every confidence in my ability to cook them from now on.

The sausages, however, would be another matter. As they sat on the barbecue slowly cooking, droplets of fat dripped onto the hot coals beneath. The hissing noise this made was not dissimilar to the noise a vampire makes when you show it a crucifix - and so I began to look upon the sausages as vessels of evil, sitting there cooking it their own juices, whispering to me "we're not cooked - we'll never be cooked properly!". Because that is the problem - you are never sure if sausages are cooked properly. I blame that advert that they show every year at the start of barbecue season, with the song "when will I see you again" in the background - you know the one, there's a shot of a blackened sausage on the barbecue and then they cut it open and it is not cooked inside. Because of that advert, I second guessed myself today about those sausages. In the end I spent an age crouched over that barbecue, turning the sausages to ensure they were cooked evenly. And when they looked cooked, every time I thought about taking them off, a little voice in my head said "give 'em a bit longer".

In the end, I made an executive decision and declared the sausages cooked. I put them in four finger rolls (that's four individual finger rolls, not rolls big enough to fit four fingers in), added some more relish - quite a bit more to be honest - and ate them. They tasted fine, but I will admit that ever since I ate them I have been waiting for the first pains of stomach cramps to kick in. At this present time we are at Sausages plus three hours, and all seems well. Have no fear, if I do end up vomiting my barbecue back up at some point tonight, I will give you all the details tomorrow.

All in all, I consider my practice barbecue a success. The disposable barbecue I purchased was a twin pack, so I can have another go at some point if I wish. Now all I have to do is get more chairs, invest in a beverage cooling system (a bucket and loads of ice), practice using the fire pit, invest in some barbecue toolage, and general stuff like that.

Easy peasy!!

Saturday, 28 May 2011

That's all Folks

Not a lot to say today:

Had my feet nibbled, and got some closure.

Time to move on.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Goat, Garden, Groceries, and Grappling with Hooks and Eyes!

"Sir Alan" - Sugarloaf Mountain

Goats: Rubbish Motivators
 T..G.I.F!! Yes, you heard me - That Goat Is Fired!!! I picked that up from a Brazillian take on "The Apprentice". Basically, it is a documentary about goat farmers on the slopes of Sugarloaf mountain (which has been given the nickname "Sir Alan"). This week, one of the Farmers was convinced that he had one Goat that was not only of superior intellect than the rest of the herd, but that he had been able to train said goat to look after the flock instead of him. The farmer left his herd under the supervision of this "Intelligoat" for three days - but when he returned to check on them, he found that all but the superior goat had been killed by wolves and holidaying tigers. The farmer was forced to concede that although highly intelligent, the goat he had chosen to lead the others had terrible interpersonal (intergoatal?) skills, which resulted in the entire herd feeling alienated towards it and ignored it's warnings about the wolves - and the tigers in hawaian shirts, with cameras round their necks.
The Farmer had no choice, but to sack the goat in question, hence the "That Goat is Fired!!"
I do have to say that that is the best photo of a Goat that I have ever seen. That is one mean muther of a goat - in the picture it really looks like the goat is staring right at you as if to say "You wanna piece of me - bring it on, Biped!!"

Of course, we all that there is another meaning to T.G.I.F.........namely,  "The Garden is Fine!". This phrase will be said up and down the country this weekend by weary men who just want to enjoy the Bank Holiday weekend in peace - not spend half of it trapsing round garden centres buying gnomes, plastic frogs, or one of those back half of a dog statues that you put on your lawn to make it look like a Terrier being sucked into the earth by a giant worm. And they definitely don't then want to spend the other  half of the weekend "doing the garden" like they (alledgedly) promised the wife last Bank Holiday. Us men work hard enough as it is the rest of time - hunting and gathering, making fire, etc. The weekends is our time to rest and re-charge our batteries. If the women want the garden done so badly, they should get out and do it instead of watching "Loose Women" or "Jeremy Kyle" every day.

Women eh? Next they'll be wanting the vote!

I'm joking of course - the true meaning of T.G.I.F is Thanks God It's Friday, and that is very true today. Mainly, because it is Friday, and it "thank god it's Wedensday" doesn't have quite the same ring to it. But I am also glad of today because I got paid today. As a result of having some money in my bank account, I promptly paid off my overdrafts, did a "big shop" (I spent £71 instead of the budgeted £40 - but I did buy lots of things that will last me the rest of the month i.e. buy two for £3, bogof's etc.), put money aside for going out next weekend, and generally got my self sorted for the month. So it has been a good day.

I also managed to fit in a walk with the Best Dogs in The World, have another fabulously bizarre conversation with my friend Harriet about whether a human could lick its own bum like a dog can, or if a person could only reach just above the knee. No, I don't know why we have these conversations either - but they sort of define our friendship. I also collected my push bike from my ex-girfriends house, so now I can ride it and get fitter - once I sort the gears and the brakes out.

Incidentally, I want to add something to the long list of "things" that a man should be able to do: A man should be able to push a bike along by holding the saddle only, and turn using precision balance. It is an art form, and something that should be passed down from generation to generation.
I don't know what else is on this list - changing a car tyre should be on there I suppose, along with how to  apply a tourniquet, and the ability to undo a bra single handedly.

At the moment, I can just about do the bike steer thing. My bra is in the post.

Not my bra, obviously - oh you know what I mean.

Thursday, 26 May 2011


Let me get straight to the point: Who the hell invented coffee whitener? Furthermore, who thought that it could possibly be a good idea?

I do like a cup of coffee. But I like it with milk. No sugar - for obvious reasons - but with milk. And in a cup or a mug preferably, as using my hands has a number of drawbacks:

Volume - I can't fit as much liquid in my hands as would fit in a cup or a mug.
Spillage - the gaps between my fingers and the lack of a lip around the edges of my hands means that the coffee slips out very easily, usually down my top.
Scalding - boiled water is hot!

At work, we don't have brand name coffee, we have Lidl own label stuff. I think this months coffee is called "Monte Santos", and is in itself an acquired taste. Nonetheless, over time my pallet (and the lining of my stomach, not to mention my bowels) has become accustomed to the taste - so much so that I can just about manage a cup of black coffee - but only when we are out of milk.
So guess what? today we were out of milk. In fact we had been out of milk for a couple of days. Only myself and one other person has milk in their coffee - the boss and his missus both have it black, so they are not bothered if there is milk there or not. Anyway, two straight days of black coffee was beginning to get on my nerves, when I opened up a cupboard looking for something when I saw a packet of coffee whitener.
My spirits soared as I spooned a couple of ......erm spoonfuls into my coffee, and stirred it. The dark liquid was transformed into a creamy brown elixir that just cried out to be drunk, so I lifted the mug to my lips and took a mouthful........

You know some people describe something that tastes nice as being like a party in their mouth? Well at the party I was tasting, half my furniture had been stolen, all my valuables had either been smashed or set alight, and someone had left a floater in the fish tank. I don't know what they make coffee whitener out of, but in this instance it actually made the coffee taste worse than it was without it!!! It really was the most awful thing I have tasted - and I cook for myself! I am never having coffee whitener again. NEVER.

It was that bad, it made my plain Ryvita taste good.

Yes, I eat Ryvita. I eat it for lunch along with a cup-a-soup. Every day. Why? It's a sort of diet thing. I usually take four Ryvita, one cup-a-soup, a banana, and an apple to work everyday, and then have a proper meal when I get home.
I don't know if anyone else has noticed this, but I find that there is an almost incomprehensible gap between the taste of plain Ryvita, and the taste of Ryvita with something on it. I buy the "Dark Rye" Ryvita (because it is cheapest - 88p a packet, as opposed to £1.09), and it is hard going eating it as it is. But even with just clover on it (other buttery type spreads are available), it tastes much better, and I can quite happily munch through six pieces no problem. The difference the butter makes is incredible. You could say it makes the un-edible, incredible!

But why would you, when I just have?

Tomorrow if Friday, and payday - yippee!!! Thus means I can do a proper grocery shop. I've got lots to buy - both food and non food items, and I expect that I will go over my weekly budget of £40. But it needs to be done. I shall make a "necessity" list, based on what I really do need to get, and what I want too get in order to be able to cook the meals I want to next week. Next week will be a week of firsts; I will be attempting new recipes (as in recipes that I haven't tried before), and I might even take myself out of my comfort zone a wee bit. And no, I don't mean that I will try cooking from a great height - I will try a food that I have never tried before.

Tomorrow I am also going to pick up my bike from my ex-girlfriend's house, as I want to take advantage of the lighter evenings and get a bit of exercise after work.

See? It's all coming together nicely - like the participants at a friendly orgy.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Blooming, Boxes, Barbecue

 Some of you may be wondering why there are pictures of flowers down one side of my blog today. Others may not be wondering - but may well be saying to yourselves "I knew it; Gay as a Maypole that bloke - he's gone all girlie!"
But why have I put pictures of flowers on my blog?
Why am I asking you?
The truth of the matter is, very simply, that my little garden (well the bits that aren't paving slabs) is pretty much in full bloom, and I just wanted to show you how nice it is looking. What I have been very careful to not show you, is the weeds and dead plants that lie in between the roses and other flowering plants.

But fear not - for this weekend I shall be embarking on my first ever period of green fingeredness. I will be pruning, trimming, weeding, watering - and any other "ing" that is needed to make my garden beautiful.
I might even do a couple of "before" and "after" pictures for you - provided I remember to take my boxer shorts off the washing first.

Photos of my undies are available on request.

I'd almost forgotten that this weekend is a Bank Holiday weekend, so we get an extra day, which is always nice. I'm not sure what the forecast is, but I expect we will get at least one day of good weather. I think this could be the weekend for me to have a test run of my barbecuing facilities. I have a small fire pit in the middle of my garden, which can be used for barbecues. I am having friends over on the 2nd July for the Haye vs Klitschko fight, and will be having a barbecue. So I need to know that everything works.

In truth, I know that the fire pit will work. What I need to make sure of is my barbecuing skills! So I'll by a disposable barbecue, a few burgers and sausages, a bit of salad, some buns/rolls, and a few beers. It may take a while, but I need to test thoroughly the barbecued food. And yes, I am aware that I could be horribly ill as a result. Have no fear, I will keep you updated on my progress here on my blog - with pictures.

So hope I'm not ill!

Whatever your plans for the weekend are, I hope you have nice time. But don't for one minute think that you can turn up at my place on Sunday expecting to get a bit of my barbecue - Larry doesn't share!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Share The Love - That's What I Say

Firstly, I was hoping to add a new video to this blog - but due to some problem or other, I have not been able to. Luckily, you can see it on my Facebook page.

You know those days when you get an idea, and the genius of it's simplicity - and the simplicity of it's genius - almost knocks you off your feet? I had one of those days today. I was merrily working away, printing labels for some stock that we want built in June when WHAM! the five digits of idea, inspiration, simplicity, practicality, and feasibility made a fist, and punched me squarely in the face.

I'll start the component parts of this idea, and you can see if you can guess where I am going with this.

Firstly, Care Homes. The places where many of our parent and grandparents spend the twilight of their years. I am not an expert on these places, and I don't presume to be. Also I am sure that standards of care and living in these homes have improved immeasurably within the last 10 to 15 years. Nonetheless, from what I have seen from the media, Care Homes do not appear to be very happy places - especially for the residents. Of course much of this is down to confusion and bewilderment brought on by unfamiliar surroundings and various mental and physical conditions. I would not be happy at all if I had to leave the house I had lived in for a long time, to go and live in a strange place full of strangers. I imagine that depression is rife in Care Homes.

Secondly - Dogs, the down side. As lovely as they are, dogs can be a restriction - especially when it comes to holidays. Your options are to either have someone stay with the dog, or pop in and feed it, walk it etc. every day - or you can put your dog in a Kennel for the time you are away. This can be expensive, as it can cost anywhere between £15 and £50 per day to keep your dog in a Kennel. So if you go away for a fortnight, you might have to fork out £700 to keep your dog looked after.

Thirdly - Dogs, the good side. Owning a dog has proven health benefits. Stroking a dog can ease stress, and releases endorphins which makes you feel good (chocolate does the same thing, but you don't gain weight with dogs). On average, dog owners have lower Cholesterol, and live longer. Dog owners that undergo surgery recover better and faster than non dog owners

So, do you know where I'm going with this? Quite simply - why no leave your dog with a Care Home while you go on holiday? Think of the benefits: Your dog will have lots of company, rather than spend a lot of time looking out from a strange cage or pen in relative isolation. It will get lots of attention. It will be a lot cheaper to let the Care Home look after your dog while you are away - I would guess at least 50% cheaper. All you would have to do is give the Care Home enough of your dogs food to last it  - care homes have staff there 24 hours a day, so there would always be someone with the dog.
And of course, there are the benefits for the residents. As mentioned above, having a dog is good for you physically and emotionally - so think of the happiness it would bring to the residents who are perhaps struggling in new surroundings, or those who haven't been visited in a while. A wagging tail can (in my mind) brighten any day, soften any blow, dry any tear, and go a long way to healing a broken heart. Dogs only know how to give love in my opinion, and I think there are not many better places where a bit of love wouldn't be more appreciated than in a Care Home.
Of course there would be details to sort out - the dogs must be people friendly, house trained (although I'm fairly sure that there is plenty of poo and wee in Care Homes already), and vaccinated. Obviously, not all size of dogs will be suitable, but the smaller lap dog type breeds would be ideal.

I'm don't know if this idea has been thought of already - maybe it has, maybe it hasn't - but I think it definitely has possibilities, and could work. You can't tell me that if you had either of these little dogs on your lap, or snuggled in next to you where you were sitting, that you wouldn't immediately feel the benefit:


Incidentally, whilst I was researching the benefits of dog ownership, I came across an article on a website which is a parody of women's magazines. I was looking for evidence of the beenfits of stroking a dog, but the article I found was also very enlightening. You can read it yourself here:

By the way - I'm hairy. And single.

Because I'm hairy.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Castro was Fussy, Green Fingers Here I come, So Many People - Such Little Time

I tell you what, nothing beats the satisfaction of a good meal. Actually, that's not true; there are many,  many things that beat the satisfaction of a good meal - but I doubt if you could get them from eating Steak and Ale Pie, boiled potatoes, and veg.

Che Guevara - Fray's best mate.
I must admit, I have been loving a bit of Steak and Ale pie at the moment. The one I ate tonight was made by the famous pie making company Fray Bentos - who incidentally are named after the lesser known companion, advisor, and personal chef of the famous Argentinian Guerrilla leader Che Guevara. As Guevara was helping Fidel Castro overthrow the Cuban government in 1959, Fray Bentos travelled with him - documenting the historic events as they unfolded, talking with him about his ideals and dreams,  and keeping his strength up with an assortment of savoury dishes.
Che Guevara was so impressed with Bentos's food, that one day he suggested that Fidel Castro try one of the legendary dishes.
Sadly, this act of faith backfired horribly. When presented with the dish (a beautiful meat and vegetable pie in a golden crust), Castro criticised the pastry. Humiliated and enraged, Bentos tipped the pie into Castro's lap and turned to walk away. He only took two steps however, before Castro drew his pistol and shot Bentos in the back of the head.

That is a tragic, yet little known story behind one of the country's finest Pie makers.

Still - their pies are fab.

I've been back on the Karma train today, and in fact will be riding it all this week. I offered my driving services to my Friend Harriet, who was in need of a lift home from work all this week, as her mum (who usually collects her) is in Turkey. I have also offered to walk their three dogs - known to some of you as "The Best Dogs in The World" - every night as soon as I drop Harriet at home. So tonight was the first night - and I'm knackered!!! I used to walk those dogs regularly up the hill, but as I've been away, I've got really unfit (and fat). I am aching a little as I type this - and also seem to be covered in several bites of some description. Probably midges I expect - well, it wasn't the dogs.
Tired as I am, I will persevere and do the same tomorrow. By the end of the week, I should have shed a few pounds of wobbly stuff, which is no bad thing.

This weekend coming and will be taking the first steps to tackling my garden. When I say garden, I mean the soily (is that a word?) bits around the paved area at the back of my house. In total area, we are only talking a couple of square metres, but as my lack of knowledge of gardening is only exceeded by my lack of knowledge of women, I need all the help I can get. Therefore I have enlisted the help of my ex-girlfriends mother. She will come over on Saturday, walk around my garden saying "that's a weed, that's a flower, that's a weed....weed....flower.....weed....flower........flower..........." etc. etc. (I hope), whilst I makes notes behind her - "kill.....keep....kill.....kill.....keep......kill.....keep.....keep" etc. etc.
In return for her Horticultural knowledge, I am taking my friend to have her feet nibbled by little fish. She has been dying to try it ever since I told her I had it done back in March, so it seemed the perfect way to thank her for her help.
I will also be having the treatment again - I'm not one to miss out on a good thing.

I can't wait to get paid this week. I get to pay off my overdrafts, and be completely debt free. I am also able to budget a decent amount for food each week - £40. This money is not just for food - it covers cleaning products, toiletries etc. but it will allow me to eat properly, better, try a little proper cooking, and even have some money left for a beer of two. So I am finally turning the corner; as of my end of June wages I will be saving more, and will have a bit more cash in my pocket. Temptation is already flirting with me, as I have seen lots of nice things I tell myself I need. I will be strong however.

I also need to save some petrol money for the other road trips I have yet to complete. There are fabulous people in St Austell, Devon to see, and family way up in York that I promised I would visit - and of course, there are a multitude of old school friends, work friends, friend friends, ex-girlfriends (and family), and my own Brother and Sister to see in sunny old Essex.
And if that wasn't enough, I must take a trip to Edinburgh - my Mum's best friends is there, a lady who since I have been about ten years old has sent me money every year for my birthday. Also in the fine city of Edinburgh is a rather spectacular young New Zealand lady that I have not seen in about six or seven years.
And on top of all that, the fabulous Leigh and Jim Bell live not that far away from Edinburgh - and it would be rude of me not to stop by and say hi.

Mind you, I did only see them a fortnight ago - and that was after five years - so they could wait a bit longer.

You see what a busy bee I am? Like several identical copies of the same thief who are all holding up a local convenience store whilst standing in different places - I'm all over the shop!!!


Sunday, 22 May 2011

Bedding, Barry, Blackpool

Whatever you do, don't let me forget to put the clean bedding on my bed. I have already removed the old bedding, and indeed have washed it and hung it out to dry. But my bed remains unmade - and I have a terrible tendency to forget about completing the task and then go up to bed and then have to make it. I think I will make my bed while my dinner is cooking. I'm thinking about having either sausages, potatoes and veg or jacket potatoes and beans.


The photos above were taken on my walk along the trailway today. As you can see, it was a lovely day. I could have taken many photos like the one on the left above, as there were a lot of "isolated" trees along the walk. I very much like the photo on the right above, as to me the two trees look like islands in a sea of green grass. As for the photo at the bottom- who doesn't like pigs?

My walk was very nice - at least the outward journey was. Halfway through my walk, I bumped into some friends on mine - Alyn and Emma, and their two year old son Dylan. They were all going for a walk along the trailway too, so we decided to walk together. It was a bit like that film "The Wizard of Oz", but without the singing, or homosexual undertones. We walked as far as the Shillingstone Rail Project which, contrary to it's name, is not a Folk - Jazz combo group but a project to renovate a disused rural train station. You can find out more about it athttp://www.shillingstone.addr.com/ .Incidentally, Dylan (being two) did not walk all this way. He was clever enough to bring his ride on tractor (with trailer), and get mummy and/or daddy to pull him along.

Once we had looked at the station project for a while, we turned around and walked back. Alyn, Emma and Dylan walked back as far as their car and I carried on walking along the trailway. Alyn did offer me a lift back, but I foolishly refused. How I regretted that decision.

I set off in good spirits. I wasn't rushing, as it was a lovely day and I was in no hurry to get home. Well, I wasn't in a hurry to get home - but that was before I got the all too familiar call of nature. And this time, it was number two calling. I was in real trouble - I knew that I would never make home in time. Running in this state was out of the question, as I knew I could not sprint and clench at the same time. The feeling was getting worse and worse, and I was getting more and more desperate. Eventually, I had no choice but to get off the trailway and into some dense foliage and answer the call. I was lucky that the trailway was deserted in either direction for as far as I could see - but that didn't stop me rushing just in case.


I had found a suitable spot down a fairly steep slope and fully surrounded by shrubs and trees. I was below the level of the trailway, so would only be seen if someone happened to look directly down the slope as they passed. There was a chance it could happen, but I had no choice - or time.
As I had no toilet paper with me (which I am now beginning to think I should carry with me at all times, as this sort of thing seems to happen a lot to me recently), I was hoping for a "Clean Barry". For those of you who are unfamiliar with this term - as I was up until my Scotland holiday, thanks Jim - a Clean Barry is basically where you....erm.....evacuate your bowels so efficiently, that there is no need to wipe, or wiping shows no evidence of the evacuation. As I was crouched amongst stinging nettles, wiping was most definitely out. Not wishing to go into detail, all I can say is that a Clean Barry was not achieved. In reality, if there is an opposite to a Clean Barry - that was what I experienced. A "Dirty Simon" if you will. Nonetheless, disaster was averted. I felt - well, relieved - and made good time in getting home. Once I home I showered (extensively) and changed.

I sat down just in time to see the Man Utd vs Blackpool game. In the end Blackpool lost, and have been relegated from the Premier League. I am sad to see them go down, as they were really entertaining to watch, and I think their manager Ian Holloway was a breath of fresh air. I hope they come back up soon.

Right, that is that blog taken care of. Now to sort out dinner, put on the clean bedding, and settle in for the night. I get paid next Friday, and have already made plans to see a few people over the next few weekends.

I hope the rest of your Sunday is good, and I will see you here tomorrow.


Saturday, 21 May 2011

Sagging, Cull, Jennie.

I'm definitely getting older you know. That may sound a bit stupid, as we are all getting older as every second passes, but in this instance I actually meant my mental age. Physically, of course I am getting older - this was highlighted last night when I met up with friends for a few drinks. I was wearing my new Scotland T-shirt (pictured), which as you can see has a map of Scotland made up of place names on it. I was talking about the Isle of Rum, and was asked where it is. So I pointed it out on the t-shirt - it was just to the right of my right nipple. I then made a joke that as I got older the Isle of Rum would slip steadily southwards as my man boobs sagged, and end up somewhere near Birmingham in a few years.

Yes I have man boobs. Small ones.

The fact that everything sags is a fact of aging. You can fight it by taking regular exercise of course, but even then you cannot stop or reverse the process and some sagging will occur. It is just one of the signs of aging. However, I have always felt young in my mind, and refuse to acknowledge the possibility of my mind aging. But this morning when I woke up and saw what time it was, instead of having a youthful thought such as "what a lovely lie in, I'm going back to sleep", I had a much mature thought come to me - namely "shit! that's almost half the day wasted!". And the ironic thing about that mature thought is the fact that I had no plans for today, other than housework - which doesn't take me very long anyway.

So I got up, had some breakfast, and then decided to start the housework. The plan was to start upstairs and work my way through the house. It was a good plan, but it was quickly put on hold when I started to put some clothes away. As I opened my wardrobe door and searched for a empty hanger, I suddenly decided to have a clothing cull and throw out some items. Now I am not one to usually boast, but I am very good at clothing culls. I am completely ruthless - sentimentality does not affect my decision making. I have a few simple rules by which I decide if an item is to be thrown away: 1) Does it still fit? 2) Does it suit me? 3) Do I need an updated version of this type of item? 4) Am I realistically ever going to wear it?

With these guidelines in place, I worked through my wardrobe and chest of drawers. Over the next 15 minutes I would discard the following: All my ties; my suit trousers (I no longer have the suit jacket); two hoodies, all my festival t-shirts; one jumper; two pairs of jeans; a coat; a pair of grey pump type shoes; two shirts.

Some of these items were Christmas presents a few years ago; others were bought at a happy time in my life with a former partner. I still had to discard them as I just was not wearing them, and to keep them for sentimental reason was simply not reason enough. It might seem a bit extreme throwing out my only set of trousers, some formal shirts and all my ties - but this will ensure that one of my first things I save for in my new financial life will be a new suit, shirts and ties. I found it hugely therapeutic, clearing out my clothes. I now have more space - space I am looking forward to filling with new clothes when I buy them.

When I had finished, I took my clothes to a local charity shop. There is a possibility that this could backfire on me, as in theory I might start seeing people in my town wearing my discarded clothing which in turn might make me a wee bit sentimental and could lead to me missing the item in question and regretting giving it away.

It's a small possibility, but a possibility nonetheless.

The clothing cull completed, I carried on with the rest of the housework. It didn't take very long - namely because I didn't bother doing the kitchen or bathroom. I'll do them tomorrow - it'll give me something to get up for. Another thing I'm going to do tomorrow is go for a walk. I'm not doing enough exercise, and although walking isn't the most strenuous activity going, it is a start. I'll be walking a good few miles so will be working the old legs.

As I type this, Forrest Gump is on the TV. It's a brilliant film. This might make you laugh, but I can relate quite quite a bit to Forrest Gump. I had a "Jennie" once, a girl that I was completely and utterly head over heels in love with. Unfortunately, I didn't get the happy ending like the film - I didn't end up with my Jennie (who isn't called Jennie, I have used that name to protect her identity).  Forrest Gump also makes me think about where life can take you. I don't know where life will take me, but I'm looking forward to the journey.

I've just noticed the time - it's 8:15pm. I've been waffling on this blog on and off for two hours or so. I keep writing a bit, then stopping, and then writing a bit more. Which explains why this one is so rubbish. I really must try to improve this blog. I'm open to suggestions - although "stopping" will not be considered an acceptable option.

So that's another blog done. Again, I have managed to write about nothing - which is quite an accomplishment, if your standard of accomplishment is set really low.

I'll probably shouldn't have said that - now I'm under pressure......

Friday, 20 May 2011

Trainer, Eye, Dinner Apathy

Well kids, here we are again. Another Friday almost done, and the weekend before us. For those of you who work on the weekends, please disregard these comments (sorry).

As those of you who have been following my blog regularly will know, my life is full of little quirks. Today I have been able to add another one to the already extensive list of things that make me say "why?". I have developed a squeak in one of my trainers. The right one to be exact. It has been squeaking everytime I put my foot down for a while now - and I mean while my foot is in the trainer. It doesn't sit there squeaking as I walk around the house barefoot or in socks - that would be weird - but when I am wearing them and walking, the right trainer squeaks as it hits the floor and I put weight on it.

I have done the obligatory check on the sole. From the sound it was making, I was sure that I would find a piece of polystyrene stuck in between the tread. Or if not polystyrene perhaps a tiny mouse, wedged firmly in the underside of my trainer. Perhaps the squeak was the tiny mouse's cry of pain  as it was crushed between the sole of my trainer and the ground, and then as my foor lifted off the mouse would try and get a tiny breath with which to cry for help - only to have the air forced out of it in a scream of agony as I took each step. Maybe this terrible cycle carried on seemingly endlessly for the mouse as I walked around in my trainers.

As it turns out, there is no mouse. There is no polystyrene either. I thoroughly checked the sole for any other possible explanations for the sound (and by "thoroughly checked" I mean poked the sole with my index finger once or twice), but could find no answer. I must confess that I am at a loss as to why one trainer is squeaking while the other is silent. I bought the trainers as a pair; I didn't have to buy one and wear it while I waited for the other one to be delivered to me. I always wear them as a pair - I never wear them individually, hopping around my garden with only one trainer on,  saying "look at me, I'm hopping!" to anyone who might be within earshot. They have had almost exactly the same wear and tear, and have walked the same distance down to to the centimetre almost. So why does one squeak and one not?

Maybe it is because my right foot is slightly bigger than my left foot, and therefore fills the trainer slightly more and puts a fraction more pressure on the surface of the inside of the trainer it covers? Maybe this extra pressure has caused a tiny component in the right trainer to fail, and subsequently make that squeaking noise?
Oh hang on....it might be my left foot which is bigger than my right, and not the other way around. In which case, that last point is mute (unlike my trainer). To be honest, I don't know which of my feet is biggest - I just know that one of them is.

Being Friday, I finished early (you weekend workers are loving me more and more, aren't you?). However, although I had only done half a day, I still had a good and productive afternooon. I had an appointment with the Bank at 3pm to sort out opening an ISA. I am on the verge of winning the battle against financial instability, and therefore plan to put money away in both a normal savings account, and an ISA for longer term, rainier days needs.

My meeting was with the Bank manger herself (ooooh!!), who is a very nice lady called Sue. We sat in a small room with a computer on a desk with the screen turned so that we could both see it clearly. We had a brief discussion about Scotland - Sue knew I had been recently, and she was in turn going to Scotland in a few weeks. It sure is a small world!

Sue is very helpful, friendly and professional - but is unfortunately distracting. The reason she is distracting is the fact that she has a lazy eye. When looking straight at me, her left eye looked straight ahead but her right eye looked a little to the right. It is a tiny thing that I never noticed before when she served me over the counter - but in a closed room with just me and her, it became hugely obvious.

The trouble is that I, though various customer service training courses I have been on, have been trained to maintain eye contact when talking to someone. It shows you are interested and that you are listening to the person talking to you. So of course, not wanting to seem rude or uninterested, I mainained eye contact with Sue - or at least tried to. Everytime I looked at Sue's right eye, I felt like her left eye was looking over my left shoulder. So I then fixed my gaze on her left eye, but then felt like I was staring at it, and reverted back to the right eye. Soon I was concious of spending too much time looking at her left eye, and so would start looking again at the left eye. The longer this went on, the more sure I was that Sue thought I was staring at her. And the more I thought about it, the more I stared. In the end, I employed a fail safe tactic of focusing my gaze on a few different things for only a few seconds each - right eye, left eye, computer screen, desk. Right eye, left eye, computer screen, desk. Right eye, left eye, computer screen, desk. This way I wouldn't upset Sue by staring at one eye weirdly.

Of course, sitting opposite Sue rolling my eyes at her in stages like some sort of nutter was a much better idea.

Thankfully, the ISA application process didn't take very long, and I was able to get out of there.

I went home, played a bit of Call of Duty on the Wii, and then went to do my weekly good deed of picking up my friend Harriet from her workplace and taking her home. Today, he fabulous brother Stan was at home and we had a brief catch up before Stan and Harriet started arguing - so I politely said my goodbyes. I did also get to see the best dogs in the world, which is always a bonus.

I stopped off at Co-op on my way home to get some bits and pieces that can be used for meals next week, and that brings us up to speed. I'm sitting here finishing my blog, trying to decide if I can be bothered to have something for tea. I try to eat before 7pm if I can help it - so that is out the window tonight. Maybe I'll just have a cup a soup and some Rvita.

No it doesn't sound appetising, or filling. Luckily, I am full as it is - full of fat, so not eating much won't do me any harm.

Plus I had a bag of M&M's and a bottle of Coke earlier.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Eyes, Saving The Miserable, Ring, and One - or Both!

I actually only had 24 seconds of video time left, so I was cutting it close!

While I was at the hospital this afternoon I did it again. I started having random, funny little conversations with complete strangers. I can't help it - it's like a sickness with me. It always seems to be in places that are usually depressing - the hospital, a car park, or Tesco's. I think it is because these places are so sad, and miserable that I'm almost fighting the depressingness (is that a word?) of it all with my humour.

Maybe that's it - maybe that is my calling in life. I could be a brand new type of superhero - Randomly Bizarre Unoffensive Humour Man!!! I could travel the world, making sad people smile (and by sad people, I don't mean 45 year old single men who still live with their mother), and cheering folk up. It's not a bad idea - for example, as I got back to my car to come back to work after my appointment, another car pulled up. The passenger door side was closest to me, and I could see a lady in the passenger seat waiting to get out. But I also noticed that she had one arm in a sling. So, I motioned to her to ask if she wanted to get out (by pointing both index fingers at her, and then pointing them both the left while mouthing "get out???"). She nodded, so I opened the door for her and then offered my harm for her to hold on to and help her get up out of her seat. Once she was out I shut the passenger door for her. She said thank you, and I got in my car and prepared to reverse out of m parking space.

How ironic that she walked behind my car, and I ploughed into her - killing her instantly.

I'm joking of course (officer). But as I was sat in my car, the lady's husband came over and thanked me for helping his wife. I said it was no trouble, and that I hoped that someone would do the same for me one day if I needed it. The man joked that he would if the situation arose, and I said that if he gave me his number I would call when in need.

You see, that makes it all worth while - when the other person has a laugh with you. When they don't, it's just not fun. Like the time I saw this woman walking through town. I ran up to her and said "oh my god! your hair is on fire! - oh, my mistake, you're ginger." Didn't even get a giggle out of her.

Some people eh?

This (meaning the picture to the left) is the ring I bought from Skye Silver (www.skyesliver.com) whilst on holiday last week in Scotland. I only ordered it on Tuesday 10th May, and it arrived today. Which is pretty good considering they had to make it for me (I'm a size Z+ cos of my fat sausage fingers. Mmmmm........sausage), and they told me it would be four to six weeks for delivery. I was very impressed and very happy to get the ring so soon. I had the same ring many years ago that I bought from Skye Silver about 9 years ago, but it broke and I hadn't been able to get back to replace it until this year. The ring I got today is quite thing and feels a little fragile, so it will have to be a "going out" ring not an everyday wear ring.
Imagine the bunny that has just been awarded first place in this year's "Happiest Bunny" competition. That's me.

So, it's Friday tomorrow and the weekend starts. I've got an exciting appointment with the bank to discuss ISA's - this is part of my sorting out my financialness (is that a word also? or am I making this stuff up?), which in turn is part of the grand scheme to sort myself out and convince Cameron Diaz that she really wants to settle down with me.

Of course, if Cameron is unavailable I would happily take either of these two beautiful older women:
Jamie Lee Curtis
Sharon Stone

I would. Oh yes.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011


When I find the sod that wrote "sod's law" I'm going to punch him firmly in the face - and probably break my hand.

Why is it that the day after I cut my fingernails, every roll of packing tape I pick up at work has a hidden end that I just can't find.

Why do I take the time to place my dinner plate on a tray to avoid spilling it as I carry it to where I am going to eat - only to slop my first mouthful down my t-shirt?

Why was I only told a few years ago that the girl I had a secret crush on at school, also had a crush on me?

Why is there a direct connection between the increasingly desperate need for the toilet I feel as I walk home from work and the steady lessening of the dexterity in my fingers, so that on a regular basis I don't know what will be opened first - the door to my home, or my bladder.

Why don't we know what we have got until it's gone?

Whose is the voice in our heads as we head off to the airport at the start of our foreign holiday that asks whether we locked the front door, and turned everything off?

Why did I, as a child, try to pressure myself into scoring that goal or getting that basket, or throwing the paper ball in the bin by saying things like "If I don't get this, then my mum's arms will fall off", or "If I miss, my whole family will die in a horrible biscuit accident" ?

Why am funnier spontaneously, than if I try to plan it?

Why did I think writing this for today's blog would work?

If a vampire bat cuts itself, could it then suck itself dry of its own blood?

Why does "Ambiguity" have a definition?

Is a sound only a sound if it can be heard?

What if life is just a practice run, and the serious stuff happens after death?

If ignorance is bliss, why must we know so much?

Why is it that the only two people to ever have a "mobile" were Batman, and the Pope?

Where are all the pens we lose each and every day?

When looking for something, why do we return to the spot we checked earlier - even though we know what we are looking for isn't there?

Why is "Abbreviation" such a long word?

If the grass is greener on the other side, by the time you get there won't the grass where you have come from now technically be on the other side, and therefore look greener?

Why do we wait until it is too late to say sorry?

Why am I six and a half feet tall, and scared of heights?

Why do we never want to hear the truth, but always think everyone else should?

If bees make honey, do earwigs make chutney?

Can you have poor circulation and high blood pressure? Wouldn't the high blood pressure force the blood round your body, improving circulation?

And Finally.....

What if all the ifs, buts, and maybes in the world were turned into a simple "yes."?

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

The Greatest Man That Ever Lived

My Father - My Hero
 Twelve years ago today, I was sat at the hospital bedside of my father, Peter Francis Lagrue. He was on a life support machine, having developed Septic Shock sometime after being admitted to hospital with food poisoning a day or so earlier. The life support machine was basically keeping him alive - there were two tubes coming out of his nose and one out of the corner of his mouth, and I remember thinking how horribly large they were and how uncomfortable they must be for my father. Of course he didn't feel a thing as he was unconscious.
He had been I'll off an on for the past couple of years really. Nothing too major - colds mainly - but he never seemed to shake them completely. I remember him saying to me about six weeks before he died that he was just tired of being ill all the time.

While I was there at the hospital, the decision was made to turn off his life support. He was not breathing on his own, and it was only the machine keeping him alive. As I sat by his bedside, watching his heartbeat get gradually slower and slower, I said to him that I knew he was tired, and that if he didn't want to wake up then that was fine. But I also told him that as far as I was concerned, his job as my father wasn't over and that I still needed him, needed his advice and counsel.
But he needed to sleep, so when his heartbeats stopped I kissed him on the forehead, told him I loved him, and said goodbye.

A few years back, I saw my father in a dream - as clear as if he was stood before me in the flesh. In the dream, he walked round the corner like nothing had happened. But when he tried his key in the front door of our house, it wouldn't work. I remember him asking me why his key didn't work, and all I could say was "but you're dead" over and over. I woke up from that dream at both ends of the emotional spectrum; I was crying my heart out because I missed him so - but at the same time had a massive smile on my face because I had seen him again.

The older members of my extended family (cousins, aunts etc.) have often said how much I am similar to my father. Not so much in looks (although I am tall like he was), but more in my sense of humour. Those of you who know me, and my sense of humour are only seeing a pale shadow in comparison to my father. His sense of humour was just a silly at times, but also much more reserved and clever. My father was an amzing story and joke teller. As children my brother and sister and I could not help but hang on his every word - even if we had heard this particular joke before.

For a long time, our father practically raised me and my brother and sister single handedly, as our mum was suffering terribly with Depression. Although we never noticed at the time (I certainly didn't), looking back I have more memories as a child of dad being there than mum. I do have memories of mum also, but not as many.

Incendentaly, I'm now referring to my father as "dad" from now on. To change half way through might be grammatically incorrect, but I don't care.

So, Dad worked (he was a teacher at a school for children with learning difficulties) full time, then came home and cooked and cleaned etc.  And he did all that plus did his best to support and love mum who was really not well at times. I don't know if I could have the strength - both physical and mental - to do that.

Dad never hit us (well he never hit me - hopefully he beat seven pounds of crap out of my brother and sister, they derserved it probably), and I can't remember him getting angry even. But he was always there. He had the most horrendous legs - covered in bruises and cuts from where the pupils at his school hacked chunks out of him when they played football. Let's face it, if you struggle to understand the basic curriculum, you are hardly going to be able to make a well timed tackle.

Like me, my dad was a writer. Unlike me, he was good at it. He won a local writing competition with a poem he wrote about the day the school he worked at took some pupils on a trip to london. At one point, several pupils got on a tube train - and before any teachers could get on the doors closed and off they went. Luckily they got off at the next station and waited for the teachers and the rest of the pupils to catch up with them.

Also like me, dad didn't learn to drive until later in life - at the age of 60 in his case. So throughout my childhood, Dad would take his three childen across London on the tube whenever visiting his mum or brothers and sisters. And typically, at one stage in her early life, my sister was afraid of escalators. So my father had to somehow get three small children up (or down) an escalator single handed. I guess it's a bit like that riddle where you have a fox, a chicken and some corn that you have to get across a river - but you can only take one thing at a time. You can't leave the chicken and the fox together, and you can't leave the chicken and corn together. It was that sort of set up. And yet he did it - at least once a month for two or three years.

I miss my dad very much. Not just because I can't see him anymore, but also because I know he would have loved the people that I have loved, and I would have loved him to meet the friends I have made. I also wish he could see the life that I have now - because it is due to him that I am the person I am. Everything good about me, comes from him and my mum.

And I know he does see me - I believe he is looking down on me, seeing my life. He is the smile on my face in the morning sun, the beating of my heart when I fall in love, the acceptance of my mistakes when I fail, and the joy I feel in the company of my family and friends.

Twelve years have gone by so very very fast, but I would give up the rest of my life for just one more second with him.

I love you Dad xxx

Monday, 16 May 2011

The Journey Home Part Three: Basildon to Dorset

I awoke this morning at 7am - a full hour before the time I had set the alarm on my phone to go off at. I picked up my phone, cancelled the alarm and lay back down. I knew I wouldn't go back to sleep - mainly because I had just cancelled my alarm, and to go back to sleep now would be a really bad idea. So I lay there with an unzipped sleeping bag across me as a makeshift duvet, one leg in the end of the sleeping bag, the other doing its own thing uncovered.
I don't remember thinking anything specific whilst I lay there, so my mind must have been blank. As usual.

I looked at the time on my phone again, and it said 07:50 - that fifty minutes had gone really quick! I got up, went to the toilet, and got dressed. Let me re-phrase that: I got up, walked to the bathroom, went to the toilet, walked back from the bathroom, and got dressed. Then, being as quiet as I could be, I left.

In the car, my first port of call was the Tesco petrol station in Pitsea - right next to the Tesco store. I put £20 worth of petrol in the car, as this was virtually all the money I had left. I did have about 110 miles worth of petrol already in the car, but it is a 167 mile journey from Richard's place to my home, so I needed to top up. £20 worth of petrol gives me about 160 miles, so I knew I would have enough to get home, and then get about for the rest of the month. Once the car was topped up, I put my home as the destination in my Sat Nav, and set off. It was 8:30am.

The roads were still throbbing with rush hour traffic, so initially it was slow going. The M25 was fairly horrendous due to a combination of volume of traffic, perpetual roadworks, and an accident. I seemed to trundle along at between 8 and 20 miles per hour for a long time, and was very glad to get off the M25 and get on to the M3.

Mainly because 13 miles into the M3 in this direction (away from London) there is Fleet services - marking the halfway point between Basildon and Home. My ex-girlfriend, Louisa always used to stop there on her way to and from me when I was living in Basildon. When I moved to Dorset, she didn't need to do this anymore, so she stopped. The thought of not stopping at all had entered my head, and although I am sure I could have driven all the way home without a break, I did need the loo, and wanted an coffee and a muffin (I'd had no breakfast). So, Fleet services it was.

The time was 10:45am, and the services were bustling with the dregs of humanity that seems to collect there. The people you see at service stations, are never seen anywhere else. I don't know if it is the fact that they all have been, or are, on a journey but the outfits you see and the hair and make up on display would only seem normal on the set of "Jeremy Kyle". I could easily create a new reality TV show called "Motorway Services Makeover" - where Gok Wan, and Trinny and Suzanna battle it out to transform these poor fashion waifs into something more acceptable.

A Bafta? For Me? I don't know what to say..........

One Cappuccino and a skinny blueberry muffin later (this lithe, athletic build doesn't keep itself you know) I was ready to set off on the second part of the third part of my journey home. I re-joined the motorway, and promptly swore very loudly. I had planned a small experiment, namely seeing if I could wedge my Kodak mini video camera into the display part of my dashboard, and do a video blog on my way home. Of course I had forgotten to take my video camera out of my bag. In hindsight, this was probably for the best as the only place I could put my mini video camera was directly in front of my display. I would have had to have chosen to obscure either my petrol gauge, my speedometer, or my warning lights - all of which are important to prolonged and successful driving.

So I carried on regardless, and soon enough I was home. I got home a little later than planned because I stopped off at Tesco's to get some groceries, and then popped in to see my ex girlfriend's mum and step dad and give them their presents from Scotland. Once I had done that (it was great to catch up with them), I cam home.

And here I have been ever since - putting loads of washing on, and generally chilling out. It's 7:40pm. I'm back to work tomorrow, but it's only a four day week for me, which is good.

And that is my Scotland adventure over - at least for this year. Next year (and every year after that) I will be re-visiting. Unless of course I can sort out moving to Scotland, in which case I can visit every day!!

Incidentally, on my way home I saw a sign, which had a large piece of paper over it that read "THIS SIGN NOT IN USE". Now, surely the piece of paper informing me that the sign was not in use was a sign itself - in which case, wasn't the sign in use after all?

Sunday, 15 May 2011

The Journey Home Part Two: Tillicoultry to Peterborough, then Peterborough to Basildon.

I awoke at 8am. Leigh and Jim's house was quiet - everyone else was asleep. Or awake, but lying very still. Or dead.
I got dressed, put away the bed linen from the camp bed (and by put away, I mean dump on the chair in the room), and went down stairs. As I crossed the landing, Ben appeared from his room. I greeted him with our holiday greeting of choice, "you don't know things!". Ben followed me downstairs and we woke Martin and Richard - by punching them as they slept. By the time they stirred (they took a lot of punching) Jim and Leigh came downstairs, and we all had breakfast.

Once we had eaten, we loaded the car and said our goodbyes. I don't know when I will see Leigh and Jim again exactly - but I know it won't be 5 years before I do!

Ben, Martin, Richard, Cain and myself set off for Peterborough. There isn't too much to say about the journey apart from the Cheap KFC meal for Cain (extra large chips and popcorn chicken for £2), the hilarious album by Flight of The Conchords, and the fact that for the last 30 miles or so Ben was desperate for a wee - but didn't see a services with toilets that he liked the look of.

Picky, or what?

Six hours after setting off from Tillicoultry, we arrived in Market Deeping, near Peterborough - home to Ben, Cain, the lovely Michelle, and their dog, Alfie. After hellos, kisses, and tea/coffee it was pretty much time for me to take Richard and Martin back to Basildon. I checked the car for coolant, screen wash, and the ability to start. All got the thumbs up. We said more goodbyes, put the destination in my Sat Nav, and set off.

The journey to Basildon was uneventful. There was a tail back due to an accident after junction 8 of the M11, but you don't need to know that. Oops! Too late....

So, we made it to Basildon. I dropped Martin off, then me and Richard got some pizza for tea (mine is almost ready now). And here I am, in Richard's flat, typing my blog.

My love and heartfelt thanks to Ben, Leigh, Jim, Martin, Richard, Cain, and Jack for the best week I have had in many years. I have never laughed so much, been so terrified, and enjoyed the company of my closest and most special friends so much before in the space of one week.

Can't wait for next year - Scotland, yeah?

Saturday, 14 May 2011

The Journey Home Begins....

Day Eight - the final day of our Scotland adventure - began with operation "clean up the mess". We had to tidy and clean our abode, and dispose of all left over and unused food and drink (well, that which couldn't be kept in the fridge or the cupboards). We also had to pack our things, and load the cars ready for departure at 10am.
To be fair, it didn't take that long to sort; the washing up was done first, and then pretty much everything else was categorised as either "take with" or "throw away". Once that had been done, all that was required was to wipe the surfaces and Hoover through. When we had finished, it was 9:15am - 45 minutes before the departure deadline.

This was a good thing as Ben's car was coming under scrutiny as he checked everything from his Oil to his tyre pressure. Originally Ben had decided to top up his oil while his car was parked outside our accommodation - but discovered this was not a good idea on a slope. The car was moved to flat ground, and the necessary checks were completed. With everything done that was needed, we set off!

We didn't get too far, as it was agreed that a final visit to Fort William was in order. Out first port of call was a cafe, where I had a cooked breakfast. I also had a severe case of Deja Vu, and saw a guy that looked just like me. I was beside myself!
After breakfast had been consumed, the various retail establishments within Fort William town centre beckoned. I had not planned to buy anything - but that didn't stop me coming away with a new hoodie, a new t-shirt, a rubber duck, and an ice cube tray that made ice cubes in the shape of the Titanic and the Iceberg.

All quality purchases, I assure you.

With our shopping done, we drove to the inn that we had lunch in yesterday to spend a leisurely few hours having a pint and a bite to eat. It was a very enjoyable afternoon: the food was great, the company even better, and the scenery outside was amazing. The scenery inside was pants - but they did good food.

And then it was time to leave Glencoe. As we drove through the magnificent valley with its towering peaks looking down on us, I cried like an over tired infant. Our destination was Tillicoultry - home to the fabulous Mr & Mrs Jim Bell.
En route we stopped at the "Green Welly Stop Shop" (or something) - a small but popular shopping emporium. I bought some shortbread, and for a moment convinced myself that I had lost my phone. I hadn't - it was safe in my coat in the car.

We set off again soon afterwards. There would be one more stop - but that was to get some pictures of some Highland Cows - woo hoo!.
Eventually we made it to Leigh and Jim's house. We grabbed fish and chips for tea and then watched a dvd of a series called "Flight of The Conchords" - its a comedy series about two Kiwi musicians in a band. It's a bit weird in places, but very funny. You should check it out.

And that is it. I'm typing this blog on my mobile laying on a camp bed in Leigh's office.

And now I'm stopping.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Great Scenery, and The Danger of Death.

Day Seven of our Scotland Adventure reared it's ugly head like the Loch Ness monster rearing it's ugly head above......something.

I was actually quite glad to wake up, as I had been having a very strange dream where I was trying to fortify a town against an imminent attack, but Daniel Craig (James Bond, Defiance) wouldn't let me. And for some reason I was of African descent. HUH????

Anyway, I got up, had breakfast, had a shave and prepared for the day ahead. We had agreed that today would be a walking day, but a local walk in Glencoe. It would be me, Ben, Cain, Jim, Leigh, and Jack the dog going - Martin and Richard would be doing their own thing.

Probably wrestling each other naked in the shower whilst oiled up, Ben suggested.

We set off to Glencoe, but stopped at a local craft shop as Leigh wanted to make Jim buy her something - I mean, Leigh wanted to have a look around. It was a nice little shop, with the usual things in it - a shop assistant and a till. We looked around for a bit, and I bought an unusual noughts and crosses game (with sheep as the noughts and sheep dogs as the crosses), and a tea towel. These are presents for two very good friends on mine - and before you get your hopes up, it's not you.
Suddenly, I received a surprise call from nature which I had to answer. Typically, some git was in the gents toilet (there was only one cubical), so I had to wait. The git in the loo was taking ages, so I was forced to nip into the ladies loo next door and use one of their two cubicles. Why do women have more cubicles than men? is it because they always go to the loo in pairs?. Anyway, I did the needful and came out - just as the git from the men's loo appeared. And who was it? None other than my best mate Ben.

See? I knew it was a git.

We left the shop, and drove on to Glencoe. We found a parking space, put on our walking boots and rucksacks, and then promptly walked to a nearby pub because Leigh needed the toilet. We ended up having two Latte's, to pepsi's, an egg roll, and some chips. That's just the way it happens with us I guess. Having eaten we set off on our walk. It was a forest walk - so nice and flat and gentle, but with still great scenery.


Glencoe is the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen - the peaks of the mountains and Munros towering over you, combined with the tranquil beauty of the rivers that flow around and down them really makes my spirits soar. I will definitely be coming back here every year from now on.


However, there is a darker side to this beauty. Along one side of Glencoe is the infamous "Ridge" The pictures above do not really do it justice. It is basically a walk along the top of the peaks in the pictures above. It takes a good 11 hours to complete, and in some parts you have to negotiate a ledge only inches wide. I have not done it myself, but Ben and Jim have. Looking up at the ridge from the valley below it was impossible to see how anyone could do such a feat. Even as we looked today, the weather along the ridge changed minute by minute as clouds rolled across the peaks. It is an awesome sight to behold, and I take my hat off to Jim and Ben - and anyone who has managed to conquer the Ridge. Ben has said that when he did it, they were passed by people doing the ridge with proper climbing equipment - ropes etc. Ben and Jim did it in just walking boots, waterproofs, and a whole lot of nerve.

We spent a long time looking up at the ridge. We actually saw someone negotiating it. We also saw what must have been an Eagle - we could see it hovering above one of the peaks along the ridge, and if we could see it with the naked eye from down in the valley, it must have been a big bird.
Time was ticking by, so we headed back to the cars got changed and drove back the the pub for a meal. The food was excellent, and was enjoyed by all.

After that, we came home via the local Co-Op store where we picked up goodies. I got Tim Brooke-Taylor.

And here I am now, sat downstairs finishing my blog. A game of Pictionary is due momentarily, so I must away. Tomorrow we clean up and go home. 

And no, I don't want to.