[Enter Post Title Here]

Photo by EKATERINA BOLOVTSOVA on Pexels.com

In my office – ok, I’ll come clean with you, I call it my ‘office’ but only because it has my desk and my laptop in it as well as (most importantly) my music, my books, my favourite photographs, odds and sods, trinkets, curios, and various elements of sentimental jumble (that my wife chooses to call ‘junk’), various guitars, a red ukulele, more pens than you (or anybody else for that matter) could shake a stick at, (I also have a stick), some shells, some mugs, a pair of ‘cowboy’ boots, my favourite hat, a secret stash of chocolate and a nerf gun – I have a signal booster for the internet router.  Well, I say booster only because that is what it said on the box when I bought it.  It was implicit.  I remember it clearly.  Big letters: the words ‘Signal Booster’.  Nowhere did it say ‘A little plastic box that you plug in – after a set-up process that should take five minutes, but actually ages you by five years – and watch as the little green LED lights flicker listlessly for a while before turning red and switching off your entire network’, even though that is all the bloody thing actually ever does.

Not all the time, you understand.  Not even regularly.  Just randomly.  Just after enough time has elapsed for me to forget what it was that buggered it all up last time, so that I have to go through everything again: every conceivable setting on the laptop, boot and reboot, router off/router back on, ‘What the f…?’ before remembering that all that I have to do is unplug the little plastic box, give it a minute to compose itself and then plug the bloody thing back in again.  It serves to remind me that everything in my house has a Primary Function that it performs sporadically and badly, and a Secondary Function that it performs diligently and, for the most part, covertly.

To my right I have a printer that prints what I want it to print from time to time, but mostly fails to do so: that generally prints, instead, the last thing that it refused to print a week ago, without explanation or excuse: that extracts more joy than it has any right to from mashing up a perfectly decent document before splashing it down onto paper sideways and in an order that could only be explained by Alan Turing, turning it into the kind of thing that is only otherwise seen printed in the instruction booklet for a Chinese digital watch.

Below it I have a paper shredder which steadfastly refuses to shred paper, but is very happy to pass its time by reminding me not to stray anywhere near electronic gadgetry whilst wearing a necktie.  It is also very efficient at puking out an acrid white smoke, specifically designed to prove that the alarms are not working.

Finally I have a piece of useless junk, just an arm’s length from my computer keyboard, that is designed to think of something entertaining to say every now and then, but mostly just stares vacantly at the screen and nicks the chocolate from my stash when it thinks I’m not looking.  Tonight I gave it the task of thinking up a title for this evening’s post.  It is currently wiggling a cotton bud in its ear.  It is reading the instructions on the toothpaste tube.  It has forgotten why it is here…

Unsubscribe Here

Because, well… aren’t we all?

This is the time of year when all my guardian pigeons come home to roost.

Because December is a month in which I spend most of my time saying, ‘I’ll do it after Christmas’, January is a month filled with Insurance Renewals and Extended Warranty extensions (the capitals are my own).  I watch the TV, I know that Extended Warranties (I’ve started now, so I can’t stop) are seldom worth the paper they are no longer written on, but attempting to stop the myriad purveyors of same from contacting me annually to remind me that I haven’t extended yet is something I take, on average, about 3,000 hours per domestic appliance doing.  Each little ‘Cancel’ button that I cyber-press brings a ‘Did you really mean to do that?’ email, followed by a ‘Follow this link to confirm that you really, really meant to do that’, and ultimately a text assuring me that, just in case I hadn’t really wanted to do that, in case I am so mentally enfeebled that I do not understand the implications of a button marked ‘I never want to hear from you again’, they will contact me again in a year’s time to check.

The general reaction to an ‘Unsubscribe’ request is ‘Hey boys, I’ve got a live one here’ followed by yet another email to check whether I really, really wanted to do that.  The whole frustrating rigmarole providing a signal to the kettle that it is time to noisily give up the ghost and trip the electrics for half the village while it is at it, thrusting all access to the internet into an inescapable wormhole and setting the little wheel on my laptop screen spinning into eternity.

Insurance policy renewals – as opposed to the five year conditional Extended Warranty on my tin opener – are not quite so easily ignored.  I have learned that I must not simply allow these things to auto renew as my reward for many years of loyalty is a premium that is seriously more than that of a newbie.  So, I become a newbie.  I re-register every detail from my renewal notice into a new on-screen application form that tells me, after several hours searching for my birth certificate, my marriage certificate, my ‘O’ level Art certificate; measuring my floors, calculating the average pitch of roofs and counting bathrooms (within the strict definition of the policy) that I do not exist since my email address has an unauthorised integer and my phone number is too long.  A simple typo of course, easily cured by an explosion of cursing and starting all over again.  My eventual reward is a policy that costs me only marginally more than last year’s, but does not cover damage to ‘sanitary wares’ – particularly annoying since I am attempting to renew my car insurance – resulting in a three hour on-line ‘chat’ during which I try (unsuccessfully) to persuade an AI employee that I did not intend to insure my home ‘Third Party, Fire and Theft’.

It is a month-long task that leaves me wondering whether I should subscribe to some kind of ‘We Renew Your Policies’ website – obviously based in Moscow – that deals with it all in return for nothing more than total access to my bank account details, medical history and a promise to allow anything up to one hundred people to open credit agreements in my name.  Also that I make a minimum of one kidney available for transplant on request.

But never mind.  I can unsubscribe next year…

Signs of Spring

It’s strange, isn’t it, that having enjoyed such a long and balmy autumn here in the UK and despite what December threw at us, the very moment the clock ticked onto 2023, we began to look for signs of spring?  It is the way we work: the more we ignore winter, the more likely it is to go away.  That December froze the noses off all those sadly deluded little pieces of flora that poked them out in the unseasonably mild November, thinking that April had arrived, is of no concern to us now, because April really is closer than it was then, and the clouts that I must not cast until May is out are already in the charity bag.

I have to admit that I quite enjoy the dark nights of winter, because nothing quite matches the thrill of hauling my multi-layered body through the door that lies between icy wind and lukewarm radiators, and not being able to see for five minutes because my glasses have steamed up.  Not daring to take my hat off for the fear of the kind of ‘hot aches’ in my ears that could force me to remove them with the bread knife.  Not realising that I have trodden in dog crap until it has thawed out on the door mat…  The coldest of the seasons does have its joys, although most of them lie in finding ways to avoid it: open fires, closed doors, hot chocolate and the kind of stew that substantially lined your arteries as a child.  When else can you come inside before you take your wellies off?  When else is it permissible to wear socks – although not tan leather brogues – in bed?  When else is it permissible to celebrate being on the face-side of a freezing nose by sticking it in a loved one’s ear?

I am notoriously unstable on snow and ice so I’m always pleased to see the back of that threat – there is a limit to how many times I can find myself on my arse before I get fed up with it – and, like everybody else, I look forward to reducing the number of layers I am forced to wear in order to keep warm (although not, these days, the thermal vest, which has something like a two week window in August to rest and recuperate before the temperature begins to fall again).  We are all happy when the thermometer climbs high enough for us to stop pretending that the central heating thermostat has broken.

The most important thing that spring brings is colour.  After a brief spell of snowdrops we get daffodils, aconites, crocuses, and bluebells – all of which lighten the soul even while warning of the impending ‘You will soon have to start mowing the lawn again’ scenario.  Each day the trees get greener.  Each day the weeds get longer.  Each day the evenings grow lighter and the threat of the barbecue season grows greater.

Time to start wishing for winter… 

The Crocheted Blanket

Photo by Anete Lusina on Pexels.com

Sometimes I gather up all of the literary bits and bobs that litter my desk, laptop and brain and stitch them all together, like the crocheted blankets of my youth and, somehow, these ill-matched, crudely conjoined conglomerations of bits and pieces often become the posts that make the most sense to me.  Whether that says more about them or me is something that you alone can determine, but if I am honest, it is how most of my life comes together: light squares, dark squares, holey squares, big squares, small squares and squares that really aren’t quite square at all, just tacked together with hope, red wool, gallons of tea and stacks of custard creams.  The dark squares, as long as they remain in the minority, are subsumed into the brighter whole.  Viewed from an appropriate distance, like Vladimir Putin, it is just possible to pretend that they don’t exist at all.  Somehow, despite them having a TOG rating equivalent to a knitted sieve and the weight of a wet sheep, under a crocheted blanket is always the warmest place to be.

It is my New Year Intention to have many fewer dark squares in my blanket, to try and cast away the concerns over all the things I cannot control.  Most of the time I am little more than an interested bystander in my own affairs, let alone those of anybody else.  I will enjoy everything that I can enjoy, and endure everything else just long enough for me to reach something else to enjoy.  Carrying worry, like an eyelash under a contact lens, might not seem much, but it doesn’t half mess up your day.  If I spend my entire life worrying about what might be, I will have no time left for what already is and, at my age, what already is, is unlikely to be augmented too much further.  Things are probably just about as good as they are going to get – and when I look at just how bad they could be, that’s really not too bad at all – so that is what I am going to carry forward from now on.

It is my intention to turn my face away from politics – and more specifically those who ply it as a trade.  They cannot be trusted with lives or emotions.  They would do well to remember that it doesn’t matter how much you spray the air, it still smells when you’ve done a giant poo in somebody else’s bathroom.  It is my hope to head into the New Year with a sunnier disposition – or at least one with less inclination towards snow at higher altitudes.  I am intent upon raising my cloud level above the neckline.  I am currently working on a project that, aside from a little skill in setting ducks in rows, requires nothing from me other than writing funny lines and throwing ideas around with somebody who makes me laugh almost all of the time, and that makes me very happy.  I realise that it is extremely bad form to laugh at your own jokes, but is it ok to smile at the fact that you can still make them?

My crocheted Blog Blanket has been on the go for over four years now, and I hope that most of it keeps you warm.  I enjoy the routine it gives me and occasionally the odd little patterned doily I produce.  I have decided that I must not fret too much about the occasional dropped stitch as long as, on the whole, the entire tatty, harlequin poncho manages to keep most of the cold out.

Now, what have I done with that old yarn?…

In the Wee Small Hours…

You know the kind of nights when you can’t stop your brain from working?  They usually coincide with those nights when you have the sudden realisation of age; when you can not only feel, but (if you close your eyes) actually see time slipping away; when you are convinced that your heart is joining in on a Neil Peart drum solo and that the small, previously innocuous mole on your forehead has become, in the scant few hours of tortured unrest, the size and colour of a cumquat.  It’s funny, isn’t it, that something that is so difficult to rouse at 6am becomes impossible to switch off at 2am?  Is it right that you should have to plead for sleep with the contents of your own head?  And what so preoccupies the synapses that they refuse to close down?  Well last night, for me, was the realisation that I had spent the entire day in Monday’s socks.

Now, I don’t want you to think that I was wearing the same socks as I wore two days ago, nor indeed that I had a pair set aside specifically for that day.  No, it is simply that I have a set of socks – fourteen in total – that are marked with the days of the week and whilst I find that useful when balling up pairs, I seldom look at the days when I wear them.  At midnight it occurred to me that I should.  Why?  Well simply in case somebody should assume that I am the kind of person who ensures that his socks tell the correct day when he slips them on and therefore that I have been wearing the same pair for three days.  Who might that be?  I have no idea.  I have no plans to take my shoes off anywhere but home, but when my mind decides that there is a possibility to be had, there is no way to dissuade it.

Until it starts to think about pants.

Now I don’t have pants with the days of the week on them (that would be madness).  I don’t have pants with anything on them, but it did occur to me that I had been wearing a pair of pants all day that, coincidentally matched, exactly, the colour of my (on the face of it) three-day old socks, which left open the possibility that anyone having seen my pant/sock combo (I have racked my brain to think of somebody, but to no avail) might deduce that I always go for matching and – having caught full-sight of the logo on my socks – that my pants too were therefore forty eight hours past their prime.

So, I resolved that, in future, when wearing my day of the week socks I would endeavour to ensure that I always wore them on the appropriate day and, furthermore, that I would match them with pants of the same colour in order to make it clear that both were changed on a regular basis.

Except that I was not at all certain that I have seven pairs of pants that match the socks and there was no way that I could check because a) my wife was asleep, b) the drawer squeals when opened and groans when shut, c) the bedroom was (it now being 1am) pitch black, d) my bedside lamp which contains the dimmest bulb in the known Universe, becomes a searchlight in the middle of the night and e) my wife really doesn’t like being woken by my bedside light in the wee small hours.  The only thing I could do was to attempt some kind of stocktake in my head, but I became distracted by the olive waistband/burgundy welt/burgundy waistband/olive welt conundrum and I could think of no way of solving it without laying them all out physically in a line and matching them up.  At 2am?  No, of course I didn’t.

I did it at six, when I got up…

Old Man/New Year

For those of you who have been around long enough to formulate the question, but not long enough to have gleaned the answer, I will myself embark upon the New Year Blogging Schedule by addressing the conundrum that I know will be occupying your holiday brains: why do my blogs so rarely tackle the issues of the day?  Well, it is because what is topical on the days that I write these little nosegays seldom remains so by the time I publish.  Time moves on and I post so far in arrears that it has often left the building before I get round to hitting the button.  So, New Year/New Man etc etc and so on, here’s what I intend to do about it.  Henceforth I will collect all my ‘musings’ (I hope you will excuse the word – propriety will not allow me to use the word that is closer to the truth) into two piles: General Twaddle and Topical Nonsense, the contents of the latter, I will be able to drop into the stream of the former like a turd into the Thames.  It will be seamless: you will not spot the joins – even when a general topic suggests itself to me mid-topical rant, I will be able to accommodate it by instigating a third pile, a ‘somewhere between mis-understood topical issues and palpable tosh’ pile, which would occupy the space heretofore occupied by The Sun.

Today’s little time-waster is itself almost topical – a chance to wish you all a happy, peaceful and primarily healthy New Year – but already I have managed to drop a full day behind.  I am no great fan of the New Year Celebrations – it makes me too aware that the years that lay ahead are very much fewer than those that lie behind – and it takes me until today to resign myself to the bloody-minded rationalities of the year ahead.  First among them is my birthday.  I am 64 years old today.  In the days of my youth, that would have put me just one year shy of my pension (and judging from those at that time around me, probably two years from death) but what it does today is make me wonder exactly when it will be that I actually start to feel my age.  When I was a boy, men of the age I am now had worked much harder and for much longer than I have.  Most of them had fought in the war.  Women had kept the home fires burning, brought up the kids, controlled the purse-strings, managed house and home and husband and lived with the knowledge that they deserved far more than the second-class status that they then endured.  They had definitely all earned the right to feel a whole lot older than I do today: old enough for a young Paul McCartney to assume that 64 was as close to ‘end of life’ as it gets.

Now don’t get me wrong here, I do not feel like a spring chicken – probably just as well given the current avian flu situation – I start every morning with an array of pills that serve to remind me that my blood pressure and my cholesterol levels are not at all what they should be and that the little time-bomb inside my prostate is still ticking, but I don’t actually feel anything like as old as I expected to and I worry that this just could be the year when it all drops in on me.

I’m doing what I can, but I don’t want to allow staying alive to take precedence over being alive.  What I most desire from this year is that I can end it in the same kind of fettle as I head into it and that the world, itself, is still there for me to be part of on my 65th birthday.  It’s not too much for an old man to wish for is it?

Anyway, I wish you a Happy (belated) New Year one and all.  May your God/Boss/Wife/Mistress/Children (delete as appropriate) grant your every wish.

Frankie & Benny #6 – Christmas

“Ah Benny, Merry Christmas old chum.  Come in, come in and slip off your shoes.  Your slippers are by the fire and your breakfast sherry is by the toast.”
“Breakfast sherry?  Excuse me for saying so Francis my friend, but is it not traditional to drink Bucks Fizz on Christmas morning – fine Champagne and freshly squeezed orange juice – and not cheap British sherry from a milk bottle?”
“It may well be Benny, it may well be, but only in the kind of circles that can live with the fact that a litre of pasteurised orange juice is twice the price of a pint of draught sherry and the nearest the local mini-mart has to fine Champagne is warm Lucozade.  If you are worried about your health, I can put some roughage in the sherry for you: I’ve just burned the toast, I can scrape it into your glass if you’d like.”
“Don’t get angry Frankie – you’ll burn the eggs as well – you know full well that we like to push the boundaries you and I.  We may well set the trend.  Within a year or two the landed toffs will be sending the faithful old family retainer down to the corner shop on Christmas Eve saying ‘Here’s a tenner.  Bring us back a bottle of that sweet sherry with a picture of a stagecoach on the front and a couple of vacuum-packed kipper fillets if they’ve got them: the ones with a little pat of butter in.  Get yourself a pack of five Park Drive with the change and Merry Christmas Jeeves.  Make sure you’re back in plenty of time to stuff the turkey mind…’
‘…And give that orange juice and fizzy wine shite to the kitchen staff.  Let the chef cut the meat up first though, I don’t want thumb in my duff again.’  How do you want your bacon Benny, crispy or crispy?”
“Tradition dictates that it is crispy my friend, like the eggs and the tomatoes.  The black pudding, however, should still be frozen in the middle and the mushrooms left, forgotten in the fridge until New Year’s Eve.”
“And how do you like your fried slice these days, my Masterchef friend?”
“White or wholemeal?”
“White.”
“Crispy, able to withstand a sound dunking in tomato ketchup.  Shall I pour the sherry?”
“The cups are on the table.”
“Cups?  How very refined.  And they’re matching too – at least they both have handles.”
“Well you can’t have mugs, can you?  Not on Christmas Day.  Anyway, they’re still in the sink from yesterday.  I’ll wash them for the wine at dinner.”
“We’re having wine at dinner?”
“Of course.”
“What kind?”
“The cider kind.  The kind you buy in plastic two litre bottles and drink from a mug.”
“Lovely.”
“So have you brought the bird?”
“Yes, of course…  In a manner of speaking…”
“What kind of manner of speaking?  You have brought a bird haven’t you?”
“Well yes, in part, yes.”
“In part?”
“Legs, I’ve bought legs!  It’s all I could afford, but we’ve got two each.”
“Legs?  Where am I going to put the stuffing?”
“In the Yorkshire Pudding?”
“Yorkshire Pudding?  Who has Yorkshire Pudding with Christmas dinner?”
“They were on offer at the Co-op with a packet of Surprise Peas and a Mint Vienetta.”
“Then we shall stuff the Yorkshire Puddings and set fire to the Vienetta.  Cheers my friend.”
“Cheers…  You know I could quite get to like sherry and fried egg.”
“It’s like a deconstructed advocaat.”
“Lovely.  So, when shall we unwrap our presents then?”
Unwrap our presents?”
“Yes, should we do it now, before lunch or after tea?”
“We always buy one another the same thing Benny, every Christmas, year after year: you buy me a bottle of cheap scotch and I buy you a bottle of cheap ruby wine, and we drink them both with a packet of cheese and onion crisps before falling asleep on the sofa with a mince pie each and two Gaviscon.”
“I know that, but it’s Christmas, we still have to unwrap our gifts.”
“I haven’t wrapped mine.”
“…Can’t you go and wrap it now?”
“In what?  Why?”
“In anything.  It’s the only thing I have to unwrap on Christmas day.  I’ve wrapped yours…”
“You have?”
“Of course.  Really colourful paper too: robins, snow, all that jazz.  It’s got the football results on the other side if you’re interested.”
“…I could put it in a bag.”
“What sort of bag?”
“Well, it’s not a bag exactly, it’s what the toilet rolls came in.  it’s got polar bears on it.”
“Ok.”
“If it means that much to you.”
“It does.”
“Fair enough.  I’ll do it while you prepare the sprouts.”
“Ok, we’ll clear the breakfast stuff and then we ought to have a bit of a check on the dinner.”
“It’s not a problem.  We’re all set: look, we have turkey legs…”
“…Chicken…”
“…We have chicken legs, frozen; Surprise Peas, frozen; Yorkshire Puddings, frozen; potatoes, tinned; carrots, tinned; stuffing, powdered; gravy, powdered…” 
“Do you think we really need sprouts?”
“They’re traditional.”
“Do you like them?”
“No.”
“Me neither.  I’ve got a tin of baked beans back at mine.”
“Then fetch them, after all, we thumb our noses at tradition don’t we?”
“We are at the vanguard.  We are the way forward.  We are the new normal…  When shall we have the marzipan fruits?”
“After the washing up?”
“Good idea.  I’ll put the kettle on.  If we’re having marzipan, we’ll need tea.”
“Oh yes, lovely.”
“Merry Christmas, my friend.”
“Merry Christmas…”

Merry Christmas one and all! I’ll see you on the other side…

Christmas Conundrums

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Children have so many questions to ask about Christmas, some of them unbelievably complex and few of them satisfactorily resolved with a packet of Midget Gems and a bottle of Cresta, but do not despair, all queries can be answered to the complete satisfaction of the juvenile brainboxes with the careful application of scientific principle and baseless speculation.  It might be necessary to take two plus two and make something that neither of you has ever heard of, but do not panic, extensive research (half a bottle of Single Malt) has furnished me with the following irrefutable answers…

Einstein demonstrated that in travelling faster than the speed of light, it is possible to travel back through time – even though travelling slower than the speed of light does not, for whatever reason, appear to throw us forward.  I have friends who walk so slowly they should be five years ahead of themselves by now: if they took any longer in getting to places, they would be perpetually early.  (Eh?)  Anyway, putting that to one side – which we must do to ensure that my brain does not melt and trickle out though my ears – I presume that by travelling at exactly 299,792,458 metres per second (670,616,629 mph in old money) it should be possible to actually make time stand still.  Now, I realise that this would be a bit of a lick for nine reindeer pulling a sleigh, but I figure that it’s a bit like dragging a three year old around the Garden Centre: once you get them moving, almost all resistance vanishes as long as you just keep going and maintain a reasonable distance from the Haribo. This then, is how the reindeer get up to speed and how Santa gets around the world in a day and, as it has been made provable by Einstein, it is per se true beyond all reason.  Set the tachometer for ‘Speed of Light’ and you have all the time in the world to deliver all manner of tat to the 2 billion children that inhabit it.

By my calculation (computer aided guesswork) that is 83,333,333 presents per hour, which must be a doddle with time standing still and the little buggers, for once, doing the same.  Mind you with – let’s be conservative – about a billion sweet Sherries on board by the end of the night, Santa probably needs a little ‘getting out of the chimney’ time available I suppose.  Christmas Eve intake often means that I, myself, often struggle to get into and out of a T-shirt without wedging my head in the armhole.  And I’m guessing that by Christmas morning the reindeer will probably never want to see another carrot for as long as they live – or until next Christmas Eve, whichever comes soonest (I’ve been to Finland and witnessed the attrition rate of reindeer on the roads there.  Quite how they manage to survive year after year without winding up as grille ornaments on a Scandinavian bus is, frankly, beyond me).  I would like to think that Santa shares a glass or two of Oloroso with his antlered friends: it would explain Rudolph’s nose after all.  Let’s face it, if you were expected to lug a giant sledge all the way around the world in a single day with nothing but another reindeer’s arse for a view all the way, you’d probably require something by way of distraction yourself.

More difficult to explain is, of course, how Santa fits 2 billion presents onto his sled, or indeed how the reindeer manage to pull it.  My little car just about manages to pull the Christmas ‘big shop’ home; it certainly wouldn’t get airborne without me dumping the sprouts.  Don’t worry, I do have a theory which just might make sense of it all.  If you are travelling at the speed of light and the Universe is, therefore, standing still and not doing any of that rapidly expanding nonsense, it would take no time at all (quite literally) to nip out to the nearest black hole and have the entire contents of a sled, including ribbons and bows, compressed down to the size of a pickled walnut.  I have seen those bags that you pack your unseasonal underwear away in before sucking all the air out of them with a vacuum cleaner – proof, if any was needed, that Hoovers do not have a trade union – and the way in which they expand to something like ten times their original size if they become victim to the tiniest pin-prick violation.  I imagine that the heavily condensed Santa-freight is probably decompressed in much the same way, tempted out of squished oblivion by an unexpected chimney descent and the faintest whiff of Santa’s amontillado exhalations.  Full expansion must take place post-stocking insertion, explaining why nobody can get the wooden fort out of the bloody thing in the morning without unpicking the stitching.

And in case you’re wondering how, with four billion eyes soon to be scouring the skies for him from dusk to dawn, S.C. manages to make it through the night totally unseen, well here’s an experiment for you: shine a torch into a darkened room, shrouded through a toilet roll holder.  You cannot see the light until it hits a wall when it is reflected back into your eye.  The beam of light, although obviously still there, is not visible.  This is the same with the old man in red, as he is also travelling at the speed of light and would only be seen if he crashed into a wall.

I hope this helps.

The Twelve Posts of Christmas

Photo by Jill Wellington on Pexels.com

Don’t panic!  I do not intend to put you through twelve Christmas posts in the run-up to the seasonal festivities.  I merely wish to offer you the option…

My memory, on occasion, can be very short; particularly, it must be said, when it comes to my own eminently forgettable output.  It takes a startlingly short time for me to forget what I have written and, on occasion, when I am forced to look back upon what I have done, I might be caught off guard by an old quip, a line I do not recognise as my own, and I might, fleetingly, smirk – because smirking is not laughing – at my own joke even though, for the life of me, I cannot remember making it.

I put a lot of effort into Christmas posts: I hone, if I might be so bold; I polish and buff.  I check spellings, I check definitions, I check that I haven’t written exactly the same thing in the years before.  I am always happy to have produced Christmas offerings, but I do find them time consuming: I start in mid-July most years.

So, here’s the nub:  this year – it being already mid-November (at time of writing) – I begin to fear that I might not be able to adequately fill the bloggy stocking this year.

Loath as I am to admit it, I am an absolute sucker for Christmas.  I love the entire over-sentimental, mawkish, looking-back-on-what-we-never-really-had-in-the-first-place faux nostalgic-ness of it all.  I love mince pies, I love the over-emotional outbursts of over-lubricated adults and under-funded children, I love helping with the Lego, dressing up as a reindeer and mopping snowball out of the living room carpet.  I love ‘Love Actually’.

For me, the best thing about this blessed season is that all of the naysayers, the Grinches, the ‘I hate Christmas’ers will, given a reasonable application of egg-nog, admit that it’s a nice time for the children and will try, at least, to show some good will to all.  Who could resist the mantra ‘Happy Christmas’ and, at least for a limited time, not mean it?  Father Christmas is a spirit and not an old man.  So when I say, as I do, that I believe in Father Christmas, I mean that I believe in this spirit and I really do ‘wish it could be Christmas every day.’  Imagine people smiling benignly at the eccentricities of family members rather than screaming at their backs.  Imagine siblings not tearing one another’s hair out.  Imagine the children of the Ukraine being able to scan the skies in the search for Father Christmas rather than Cruise Missiles…

So, what I have here, with something akin to unforgivable vanity, are links to my own favourite Christmas contributions and the suggestion that, if you can find the time, you might like to drop into the ‘comments’ section some links to your own festive outpourings.  It is, after all, the season for giving…

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas
I believe in Father Christmas
Christmas Dinner
A Christmas Tale
A Boxing Day Tale
Festive Planning Principles
Green Ink on the Back of a Pizza Delivery Receipt
Searching for the Christmas Spirit
Supplementary Philosophy
A Pre-Christmas Exchange
Christmas Present (part 1)
Christmas Present (part 2)

P.S. Please do not take this as a guarantee that I will not attempt to post at least one Christmas Special this year – you have no grounds for legal action!

A Matter of Habit

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Each morning I go through my checklist: am I breathing?  Yes.  Good.  Are the paramedics, teary-eyed, looking down on me and shaking their heads?  No.  Excellent.  Am I wearing a shroud?  No.  Even better.  I check my eyes: white is good (obviously the surrounding bits and not the blue bit in the middle – finding that to be white would be most disconcerting); yellow very much not so.  Since the government started regularly monitoring the poo of people of my age, it has become something of a morbid fascination for me, so I check it (thankfully, just a passing glance into the pan remains the only requirement.  I do not need to rummage through it.  I do not, yet, have to check my underwear): too dark means I need an appointment with the doctor; too pale means that I need an appointment with a solicitor and an undertaker.  I check my teeth: all there, a miracle has occurred overnight – perhaps the tooth fairy, in straitened circumstances, is trying to get some money back; some there, the dental status quo has been maintained; none there, my wife has taken exception to me snoring again.  I take my morning tablets: this routine often involves much needed bending and stretching exercise as I scrabble around the floor in order to retrieve whatever I have dropped.  If it is a workday I will put in my contact lenses, if it is not I sidestep the need to ram my fingers into my eyes and poke myself in them with the arm of my glasses instead.

Between the pill retrieval and the contact lens insertion comes the shower – at least that’s what I tell the optician who always insists I must not wear my contacts in water as, if I didn’t wear my lenses in the shower, I wouldn’t be able to find the tap.  Showering has become more and more of a ritual as I get older.  I am reconciled to becoming an old man – I can just about cope with that.  What I can’t cope with is the possibility of becoming a smelly old man.  I don’t know whether it is possible to drown by syphonic action, but the risk is preferable to that of smelling of wee.  I am instead accompanied wherever I may go by the whiff of shower gel and shampoo.  I seldom take a bath.  It’s ok if I want to read a book, although by and large I prefer to do that dry, but I never get out feeling clean.  I’ve been laying in the water that I’ve been washing in, for goodness sake!  Surely all the muck makes its way back onto me.  And no matter what I do with myself, I always seem to be left with some extremity or other (usually a knee) protruding like a Pacific Island, just above the waterline and it always makes me feel cold.  The only way I can manage to submerge all of me – breathing apparatus excluded – is to lie flat and corpse-like below the suds and that makes my blood run cold.  Perhaps it is not quite so space-restricted, but the bath is a mite too coffin-like for me.  I’m much happier taking my ablutions in the vertical.

Breakfast is two small cups of strong black coffee – never one large, even if I am in a hurry – and porridge with sultanas, blueberries and honey (anything other than taste the oats).  I watch the news, because you just can’t beat starting the day in a state of depression, and I watch the weather, although I must admit that it is mostly to see exactly who is forecasting it.  I trust some of them, but I just know that others take pleasure in sending me out in the wrong coat.  If I am leaving the house I check that my hair does not look too unruly (it does), that my flies are zipped up, and I take a final ‘just in case’ wee, at which time I invariably forget to redo my flies.  People used to recognise me by my hair (red, long and very thick – still) but now I fear that it is my underwear.  I check my ‘state of dress’ so often these days that I am developing a callus.

When I was younger – before I had to check that I had locked the doors at least three times before I left the house – I laughed in the face of habit.  It was something that sad, old people were tethered to.  If I could write a letter to my younger self it would say “OK smart-arse, so you were right, but not bright enough to stop yourself from falling into the traps you saw everybody else falling into.” 

Oh, and I talk to myself…