Archive for the 'You’re Unbelievable' Category

Struck Down

I have contracted an unpleasant stomach-bug that has necessitated many violent trips to the bathroom.  On some occasions I made it successfully, some not.  The highlight of today was desperate puking into a sink full of dishes.

The suspected source of the infection is a barbecue I attended on Saturday, where the host’s first statement upon seeing us was ‘Don’t get too close!  I’ve got a dreadful stomach upset.‘  I am trying very hard not to be irate that the host didn’t cancel the engagement, let alone recuse himself from food preparation.

Lo, on Monday morning at about 2am, I experienced extreme nausea and cold sweats followed by unmentionable bathroom visitations.  Suffice to say that at 6am on Monday morning I had consigned one pair of pyjamas to the laundry and was attempting through a sheen of dribble to cleanse the bathroom without waking K-man.

There has been some improvement in one sense: yesterday I was physically unable to get out of bed until midday, and made it only as far as the sofa before collapsing in front of a marathon of Judge Judy.  You know you’ve seen too many episodes of Judge Judy when you question her respect for her own precedents.  Today I have been up and about, done some editing work, and was able to keep pure water down.  No solid food will digest at all.

I don’t believe in using medication to cover up the symptoms: I want to know if my body is in trouble so I can treat it effectively with rest and relaxation rather than chowing down on a pepperoni pizza and attempting a gruelling hour-long commute.  However, this makes for uncomfortable research into healing involving consumption of dry crackers and peppermint tea.  So far, it’s not going well.

Most galling is that today I was scheduled to attend a court hearing (public gallery) where the sociopath (and I mean that literally) who has made my family’s life miserable for over a year will hopefully finally be exposed as the no-good lying embezzling bastard that he is.  I was really looking forward to seeing him squirm, but apparently my mother views my stomach upset as godly intervention.  She has been quietly terrified all along that I would go, and he would figure out who I am (we’ve never met) and make my life hell for ever more.  That’s not to say that she doesn’t sympathise with my pain, but that she’s thinking long-term.  These people are dangerous and you should stay the hell away from them, she said.

She has a point. Next time I’m invited to a barbecue I will absent myself when it becomes clear that I’m walking into a poison zone.

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Watching Television With My Parents

BBC Test card from my childhood.

Television featured large in my childhood and teenage years.  I couldn’t begin to calculate the number of hours I’ve watched with my face a couple of feet from the screen, and lo, my eyes are still round and functional.

I even adored the black and white TV that was carefully tuned using the twin methods of precision dial-turning and of adjusting the foil sail attached to the aerial.  So desperate was I to watch TV, that I have been known to watch snooker on a black and white set.  I would get up early on weekends and wait for the test-card to disappear and the cartoons to start.  Other activities were planned around the next episode of Star Fleet, since there was no way to watch it later.  One of my earliest TV memories is watching enraptured as Boris Becker (a child!) won Wimbledon for the first time.

Visiting family in the USA meant an added bonus of the sheer wealth of television on offer.  One grandmother had only the basic TV, no cable, and even she had upwards of 40 channels.  The other grandmother had a cable package and it was wall-to-wall Jetsons and Flintstones, transitioning to Baseball in the afternoon and episodes of Roseanne in the early evening.  I think she had over a hundred channels and my brother and I would simply flick through using the remote, eyes goggling at the wonder of it all.

I was in heaven for as long as I could fight off my parents’ demands to switch off and go outside.  Somehow, I still managed to fit in plenty of time to partake of reading, and outdoor activities – perhaps because my every waking moment wasn’t taken up with lessons or enforced socialising, or family visits (my extended family were over 3000 miles away in Chicago).  I had so much time I struggled to fill it.

With a wistful sigh, I say those were the days. Now, you can watch whatever you want, whenever you want, and too many stations produce 24 hour rolling schedules of constant low-level dribble.  News Tickers make my eyes hurt and are so distracting that focus on the events of the day is impossible.  There is amazing TV out there to watch, for sure, but the activity itself isn’t special and wading through the tripe to find the gem is too much effort.   I hardly ever watch anything at the time it’s broadcast.   Generally, I watch online or  DVDs, or I HD-record and watch later so I can speed through adverts.

At Easter, K-man and I visited my parents.  My parents have become Homeland devotees.  They have no VCR, HD Recorder, unlimited broadband, or patience.  I was informed that when Homeland was on, they would be watching it, and we could do what we wanted but they would be watching Homeland.  This is parental code for AND THERE WILL BE SILENCE.

I was reminded of the fear engendered whenever, as a child, I needed something after bedtime and my parents were watching a programme.   Unless it was a genuine emergency, Televisual Interruptus had better not occur until either an ad break, or the end of the programme.  When my parents were watching something, they were watching it.

Well, I learned that behaviour from them.  I focus absolutely on the programme – think embedded – I need silence from others, and I rarely miss details.  I do not want other people to swan in halfway through and casually enquire as to what is going on.  Who is that and what are they doing?  Fuck off.  K-man’s trick is to fall asleep for ten minutes, wake up suddenly, have no idea what’s happening, and seek an emergency plot précis from yours truly.  Piss off, I tell him, I’m missing this now because of you.  You might think the advent of DVDs and HD-recorder would mean I would simply pause, but that would mean the spell would be broken and enjoyment curtailed.   K-man pauses a two-hour film an average of four times so he can leave the room for whatever reason, and it drives me utterly crazy.

In an odd way, I was looking forward to watching TV with my parents.  I briefed K-man on the rules, advising that even in the event of a rancid fart from someone in the room, noise-making was verboten.

Viewing commenced.  Homeland was OK, as far as I could tell in the first seven minutes.  Seven minutes is the time my father could spend in his chair without needing to perambulate slowly to the kitchen hitting every creaky floorboard on the way, and loudly clatter some pots and pans.  He returned with a bowl of peanuts and then proffered them around with verbal enquiries while plot-points screeched past.

After fifteen minutes, there was an ad break.  My dad sat in his chair and watched four minutes of Eat! This! Buy! This! Watch! This!  

Homeland came back on, and after five minutes, dad got up to go to the bathroom, only to return just in time for another ad-break.  My mother was asleep on the floor.

What. The. Hell?

Someone has abducted my parents and infected them with Hypocrititis before returning them home.  Ingrained teaching runs deep, so in the next ad-break I dared enquire whether they were actually watching the programme, because there was something else I might enjoy on another channel.

Yes, apparently, that is what passes for TV watching these days.  I asked if they recalled what would have happened to my brother or I if we had sneezed during an episode of EastEnders.  This was met with snorts of disbelief and statements along the lines that we kids were always interrupting their television viewing and yet remain alive.  I was accused of being unable to multi-task.   K-man chimed in: you should see her at home – I get yelled at if I even cough during Sons of Anarchy.

ARGH.  It’s not me, it’s you!

Icarus

Wildlife and greenery are two of the reasons living in the ‘burbs is beginning to seem not that bad.  London has creatures, but they tend to belong to the genus revolting varmint: sewer rats, mangy urban foxes, one-legged pigeons with half a beak, the little mice that live on the underground, and Lolita the flea-ridden aggressive cat with one ear who lived in a bush outside my parents’ house for years and yowled at passers-by.  Oh, and the hairy hand-sized spider I once found in my house when I lived near a fruit-stall that shipped fruit in apparently directly from the jungle.

My garden contains a range of more palatable creatures.  We’ve been here a shade short of two years, and seen a middle-class looking fox and a huge hedgehog snuffling around at the bottom of the garden.  Then there are the birds.

I love the birds.  I give the more regular visitors names, though really I am naming the species because there are probably hundreds of them visiting and I call them all the same thing.  Our garden has so far hosted a variety of the ubiquitous Little Brown Birds that are everywhere no matter where you go across the globe.

Regular guests are Fatty and Soames, the gargantuan well-fed wood pigeons who live in the trees at the bottom of the garden.  They fall down onto the lawn every so often to feed, and then are too lazy to really put much effort into getting back up to their perch.  It is touch and go whether they will actually make it each time.  They’re named after Nicholas Soames MP, a parliamentarian of astonishing girth, who is (perhaps not so affectionately) known colloquially as ‘Fatty Soames’.  I refer the honourable reader to the answer the Independent gave when questioned about Mr. Soames a moment ago.

We also have a bunch of tits: coal tits, great tits, and blue tits.  Only the latter are interesting enough and frequent enough to deserve a name, and we call them Bert and Ernie.

I could never take a photo this good, but I don't know who did.

There’s also a Wren, who is easily the cutest bird on the block.  It’s called Tweet, and let me tell you Tweet is the Christina Aguilera of the bird world: I have no idea how something that tiny can produce a sound that big.  It’s beautiful to listen to.

Again, anonymous photo: credit - the Internet

More unusual birds we’ve been lucky enough to see in our garden are the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, doing its best to beat some steel into submission.  I’m going to open up the naming competition here because I can’t think of anything better than Woody and that’s just wrong.

Photo Credit: Derek Belsey

About every three months or so, I’ll see a jay:

Photo credit, Steve Round

We have a few chaffinches, but they’re not as great as they think they are.  Last week, and this is really quite something because these guys are fairly rare, we had a Bullfinch.

Photo Credit Ray Wilson

This is a male, but I think I saw his partner a few days previously because what looked like a tiny jay flapped past.

Then there are the robins, gang-members of bird-land, who show up any time you go into the garden and start moving things about so they can stare you down and frighten you off.

Photo credit, the Internet

There, I think I covered everyone.  Oh, no, the crows, jackdaws, and magpies.  And doves.  You get the picture: we have significant birdlife.

I like the birds and I want them in my garden (apart from the crows, jackdaws, and magpies – they can fuck off).  So I put food out to encourage them to visit.  England doesn’t really have critters that are an actual risk to you.  There might be a few mildly-poisonous snakes about, but you’re not going to find them in your garden because you left food out.

However. There is something that while cute, creates a dull ache in the rectal region if you’re interested in attracting birds.  We see these little puffballs of pain every day from our window, battling to get an unfair share of what’s left out for the little people.  Oh, they look all warm and fuzzy, but these are the greedy, grasping bankers of the animal kingdom.

Thank you, USA.

They are a menace, and not only because they’ve all but wiped out the indigenous and much more lovely Red Squirrel in the UK.  No, they have an astonishing willingness to straight-arm the entitlements of others into their gobs with nary a second thought.  They will go to extraordinary lengths.

To wit, this weekend we bought a new bird-feeding pole device.  We wondered how long it would take before the vultures-in-disguise arrived.  It took about an hour.

Photo Credit, K-man

K-man isn’t blessed with a steady hand and seemingly can’t comprehend auto-focus, but you get the idea.

This last is my favourite, because it perfectly illustrates what happens if you’re too greedy and lean out too far.  You Augustus Gloop your way four feet to the floor below, approximately two seconds after someone takes a photo of your impending doom.

I have christened this squirrel Icarus.  Hello, Icarus, I’m laughing at you! 

This weekend I’m going to grease that pole.  You may have won the battle Icarus, but you will not win the war.

 

Festering Nob of the Week

As an ardent complainer to anyone who will listen regarding press underhand tactics, pandering to populist pap and ignoring journalistic professionalism standards which would seek to present more than one side of an argument, I have long held News International as news source second closest to the devil incarnate.  Closest to the satanic heat is of course, The Daily Mail and stablemates.  A while ago I analysed over 1,000 frustration-inducing articles and I have the stats and the eyeball-scars to support my opinion.

So it is with measured glee that I watch the News International empire begin to unravel in the face of the awakening of politicians’ enlightened self-interest.  I’m sure they’ll stitch themselves back together soon enough, and no-one will go to prison, but for the moment it’s as though a Balrog has awoken from a century-long slumber and fought through the earth’s crust into the brains of those who ‘lead’ our country.  I’m just sorry so many innocent people had to have their privacy trampled for it to finally happen.

Now that the cat is enjoying itself among the pigeons, almost everyone in public life is under the microscope in some way. Either they were under News International’s microscope, or they are implicated in this whole sorry state of affairs and are now under the microscope of public scrutiny. It’s amusing to watch the press eat itself, with the exception of the Guardian which blew the lid off the whole can of worms.

Is it a coincidence that I read the Guardian? No. It’s not perfect, but my own scientific study leads me to conclude it’s the best available daily newspaper.

Let’s pass quickly through the multi-layered scandal involving cozy relationships between politicians and News International journalists, the mystery of Rebekah Brooks’ apparent invincibility, and the unconscionable behaviour of hacking a missing girl’s voicemail to not only listen to messages from increasingly concerned friends and family but also to delete them, leading to false hope she was still alive not to mention obstructing a police investigation. I’ll also skim over the fact that the same technique was applied to the victims of the 7/7 bombings. I’ll take a breath to mention that an additional allegation floating around that Rebekah Brooks called Gordon Brown shortly after the diagnosis of his son’s illness to tell him that she knew all about it already.  And I’ll just take this opportunity to cast a beady eye of disdain towards any line of argument seeking to hold one upchuck of a ‘private investigator’ solely responsible.

Let’s skip through all of that and get to the police and their non-investigation of the issue in years past despite multiple banners reading CLUE being waved at them.

Maybe they half-investigated it. Maybe they didn’t try too hard because senior officers were taking payment for feeding confidential information gleaned through their own investigations straight to News International journalists. I don’t know. I don’t have all the facts. Nobody does. Nor, I suspect, will they ever.

That doesn’t prevent me from shoving this week’s Festering Nob Award at Andy Hayman, a senior police officer in charge of a variety of things during the time these events took place.   I do so even though it’s only Wednesday.   Here is his reaction to a straightforward question from the people trying to get to the bottom of debacle:

To me, it screams Entitled Asshat Fake Affrontery. It may be that you’re leaning towards understanding his righteous indignation at such a question. Notwithstanding that it’s a question it is surely sensible to ask under the circumstances, it appears that Mr. Hayward left the Metropolitan Police in order to take up a position writing for a News International publication after harbouring a boyhood dream of journalistry.  You do not need to be a conspiracy theorist to arrive at a pretty damning negative inference based on that nugget of information.

I simultaneously want to puke and reach for the nearest copy of my other favourite news source, Private Eye.

The Gym Adjustment

This household has had a run-in with the gym.  Letters were exchanged, unsatisfactory responses were received, and demonstrable idiocy was observed wherein the customer was told ‘I am not sure what your problem is’ when said problem had been clearly articulated in writing.  It was one of those discussions where you wish to write back ‘if you are unable to read, I am unable to help you.’

I’ll set aside the several phone calls and three unanswered letters seeking resolution of an issue.  One might question the customer care strategy which involves making a Peak Membership significantly more expensive than the already eyeball-crushing Off Peak Membership yet having the vast majority of the classes at a time when Peak Membership holders are unable to access them.

Because they’re not around during off peak times, which is why they pay more for peak time access.

One might also question the customer care strategy of representing that you have a specific class available at the time of a customer joining but shortly thereafter setting up an off-the-shelf legal entity, hiving said class off into that entity, and declaring that because it is a separate legal entity albeit on the same premises and with an astonishingly similar name, your membership is no good there, and entry to the new legal entity will cost your other arm and leg, sir.

Technically, the beef is K-man’s.  But I am, in solidarity, boycotting the gym.  I can’t wait for those mofos to ask us to renew our membership.  We expire in two weeks.

Which leaves a problem.  If this were London, I would simply proceed to the nearest competitor and join it, casting evil glares in the direction of the previous gym.  But this is the Burbs, and the gym is the only gym.   Their monopoly is exactly why our gym can behave like such astonishing fuck-wits.  K-man is in London every day, so he might find a gym there, but I am not.

Since I was 20 years old I’ve had a gym membership of some kind.  What to do?  My palms began to sweat.

But wait!  I thought.  I do not need a membership.  

I run outside, not on the treadmill any more.  My reason for going to the gym at all is to access the free-weights, which access is usually impeded anyway during peak hours by bonehead testostero-dudes standing around posing for photos of themselves with – gasp – a weight in their hand.

It really would be much nicer if I didn’t have to deal with that, I thought.  I would simply purchase a pair of dumbbells, which would then be mine forever.  You can do a lot of lifting with just a pair of dumbbells.  They would be a two-second journey from my hands, and there would be no dudely impediment to lifting shit up and putting it back down again.

I’ve been looking into options.  I decided on these.

Not really.  But looking for that image did lead me to the awesome No Pink Dumbbells blog.

Part of the issue is that I lift heavy enough to need some fairly serious weight.  At the moment, at least 10kg in each hand and moving up to 15kg after a few weeks.  That’s quite a lot of weight, and weight doesn’t come cheap.  It is amazing how much iron can cost when you start adding it all up.

In the parallel universe where I win the lottery, I would have a pair of these:

These bad-boys clip and unclip weight plates automatically once you set the weight you want on the dial.  Plus, they look like Q invented them especially for Bond’s gym.  Like if you try to lift too light, your secret personal trainer spy would press the remote detonator in protest.  That kind of function and style comes at a price and while it probably is a saving, I don’t need the higher weight settings (yet) and at the moment I don’t have 200 doubloons to drop on them.

I’m going with something like this:

Only, without the dreaded spin-lock mechanism.  I simply do not have the patience for all that nutting and un-nutting times four.  I’ll go with the standard-issue spring collar.

I have calculated that I can obtain handles, weight plates up to a reasonable amount (17.5kg in each hand) and collars for around 90 of my hard-earned doubloons.  At that price, I can throw in a bench and still be 350 quid up on a year’s gym membership at the worst gym ever.

The Seven Year Check-Up

This weekend was our seventh wedding anniversary.  There’s always a reason that our celebrations are limited to a brief discussion about how yes, last time we checked we still love each other, and our wedding really was the best wedding either of us have ever been to and yes, we both remember how cool it was to see everyone on the dance-floor doing the YMCA hand actions.  Then, we score each other out of 10 (following recent promotion my current score is 41), get up, and get on with our day.

Celebrations past have ranged across seven shades of ineptitude.  In 2005 we went away for the weekend somewhere I’ve forgotten.  That might also be true for the second year, though I struggle to dredge up recall because that was in the middle of my masters degree.  My brain had imploded and whole chunks of my existence sucked into a black hole.

This might be easier if I try to work backwards.

Last year, we lunched at a country hotel before spending the entire weekend eradicating pink from the bedroom.  Our wedding anniversary involved swearing at glued-down laminate floor tiles and splattering each other with the cheapest magnolia paint money can buy.

In 2009 we had just got back from New Zealand and in a cosmic timing debacle, the shipping container full of all our worldly goods arrived on June 4.  Our wedding anniversary is June 5, so we were unpacking.  We went out for dinner but both of us were so sick from exhaustion that we barely made it home without expelling the very expensive food we’d just eaten back up the way it had gone down.

In 2008, I forgot our wedding anniversary and instead pre-booked tickets for a night out with the girls to see SATC.

2007 was a bumper year.  We were visiting the UK for a couple of weeks during our three year sojourn to NZ, and of course our anniversary coincided with the time allocated to K-man’s family.  Scheduling was tricky, but we sliced ourselves a breakfast at a posh hotel and asked that for an hour and a half, the world fuck off and leave us alone.  After we’d been breakfasting for an hour, K-man’s mother called apropos of nothing.  The day went downhill from there.

Which brings us to this year.  We topped out our celebratory chutzpah with a visit from my parents!  Yes, my parents have relocated to an idyllic venue over 300 miles away but that does not stop them having numerous meetings for the four charities they are actively involved in, which require them to be frequently in London.  Which means they stay with us.  This weekend was the second of three visits in a one-month period, where they arrive prior to my finishing work on a Friday and don’t leave again until Monday.

When I agreed to host them this weekend, I pointed out that it was our wedding anniversary so the timing was undesirable.  I was misinformed that they would be leaving on Sunday morning.  Some time between my acquiescence and last week, that changed so that they wouldn’t be leaving until mid-morning Monday, yet despite being permanently plugged into the Matrix my father failed to inform me using any one of the five devices at his disposal for communicative purposes.

So what have I learned, in seven years?  K-man has the kind of patience usually reserved for zen masters of sofa-lounging.  I’ve learned that the following behaviour of mine makes him twitch slightly:

  • not putting things away when I’m finished with them.
  • supervising him.
  • ranting, and then running out of things to rant about, so picking something really huge (e.g. global reliance on labour abuses) and then getting very annoyed about global structures.  Loudly.
  • being on the internet when it’s a sunny day.
I’ve learned that I am fundamentally impatient, and borderline obsessive about my personal private space.  The following behaviour of his enrages me:
  • not thinking through arrangements so that the sequencing makes sense and is achievable without bending time.
  • total lack of ability to deal assertively with unreasonable parental behaviour.
  • spraying a copious unnecessary quantity of deodorant in a giant cloud of noxious gas in my vicinity so that the taste in the back of my throat takes days to disappear.
  • constant temporary (sometimes quite lengthy) misplacement of important personal possessions, through unwarranted tidying.
I’ve learnt that we love each other anyway.

 


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