1000 Shades of Grey
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
Bank Holiday
Having spent the weekend doing our own thing, it was with a degree of trepidation that I did what everyone else does on a bank holiday, and paid a visit to a DIY store and a Swedish furniture manufacturer.

A few years ago, I made the mistake of popping to my local DIY/garden centre on a bank holiday to get some compost, only to be stuck in a queue for what felt like days. Joining the queue cleanly shaven I finally paid for my purchase with a face covered in stubble, such was the volume of people stood patiently in front of me.

This time, I vowed it would be different.

I was buggered if I was going to spend my precious day off work queuing in some jumped up warehouse. So we decided to try and beat the queues and go early.

Now, with the clocks going forward, and me staying awake to watch Enigma on Sunday night, the alarm going at 7.15 on Monday morning didn't cause me to leap forth from my bed, embrace the day, pull on clothes and leave the house. Instead, I groaned, turned the alarm off and rolled over.

However, by fair means or foul my wife finally managed to rouse myself from my slumber with a mixture of polite persuasion and setting the cat on me.

So it was that we found ourselves outside Wickes before 9.00 in the morning. We were about the fifth car in the car park.

Stage one duly completed, we made our purchases and returned home in record time, and had a quick bout of breakfast, before making the significantly longer journey to IKEA.

As time had now moved on, and as the store had decided to throw open its doors an hour earlier than expected, we were far from being the fifth car in their car park. In fact such was the anticipated rush that they had a man in a fluorescent coat pointing us to where we should park.

Anyway, we managed to find a space where we could still see the blue behemoth looming on the horizon, and left our car to trek towards it, like Hobbits heading to Mount Doom.

By the time we made it inside, it was obvious that rather than take the family to the zoo, the population of the East Midlands had chosen to spend the day perusing oddly named furniture rather than rare and wonderful creatures.

Fortunately we still had one card to play.

We knew what we wanted, and we charged through the store on a mission to find it, decide if we really liked it, and then get home as fast as possible. OK, so maybe this was more my plan than my wife's, but dammit I needed caffeine and I wasn't prepared to mess about.

So we ploughed through the masses, and decided we liked some stuff, but didn't like other bits that had looked nice in the catalogue, and even managed to locate it in the warehouse bit at the end – no mean feat I assure you.

We wheeled our planned purchases to the till, and thanks to our no-nonsense approach managed to get to the checkout before the masses, stopping only to collect a Daim Bar Cheesecake on the way out.

We were back home by 11.00 – and with a cup of tea firmly clenched between my fingers I was able to bask in the knowledge that our bank holiday hadn't been taken away from us by having to queue for hours.

Blissfully unaware that any rest I had planned for the remainder of the day would be rudely yanked from my grasp later when I came to actually assemble our purchases...

Thursday, March 17, 2005
The Name Game
Tonight we're going to pick up a cat. Not any old cat from the street, but one from a cat shelter. She's a small grey cat, who on arrival at the shelter promptly miscarried, and then had the nice people whip out her sexual organs before she did it again.

Despite the fact that we're doing the Shelter a favour, what with them having one less mouth to feed and everything, they're charging us for the privilege. Money grabbers.

Now, I've never actually had a pet before – the result of having parents who were cruel and kept me locked in a cupboard only letting me out to go to school and empty my slops bucket – and as a result I'm a bit nervous.

I've never been to a vet's for a start. What are they like? Do the extra years of medical training they get over doctors mean that their writing is even more illegible or do they all just act like Siegfried from All Creatures Great and Small?

Similarly, I've never had cause to name something before. This is a big responsibility, what with them likely to become leaders of the cat-world, or at least leaders of local cat society – hobnobbing with other cats at the local cat club over a bowl of water and a dead fish. Any name we give the little blighter needs to make them stand out from the masses, whilst not making them (or indeed us) sound stupid.

My wife keeps suggesting names that she thinks are relevant to us, e.g. "Trent" or "Tyne". I think naming the poor creature after its ultimate resting place is a bit on the harsh side.

"Witty" football gags are probably best left alone – naming a cat "Bonetti" or "Shay" really isn't going to help them on their way to achieve Cat greatness, and for that reason the Blackadder inspired "Bernard" and "Bob" should probably also be ignored.

Personally, I'm quite keen on "Claw", a strong powerful name to inspire the creature to attain greatness. A name you would be proud to shout in the street, befitting an animal you would feel confident enough to set on Kilroy-Silk should he ever come to your door, safe in the knowledge he wouldn't return without armour plating and a tetanus jab.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Wanted: Respite
Did you ever have one of those weeks where you simply wish you'd stayed in bed on Monday morning?

It's Tuesday and I've already come to the conclusion that Friday can't come soon enough. I'm tired, I feel run down, I badly want sleep, I nearly got killed on my way in this morning, and work is by turns both dull and stressful (trust me it can happen).

The situation isn't helped by the fact that (Easter aside) my first holiday of the year isn't for several months, and all of my colleagues are heading off to the slopes. Nor is it helped by the fact that I've spent the last season fending off some form of evil illness which makes me feel like crap, but not to the point where I can legitimately call in sick (not that I'd get any rest if I was – being ill is rubbish).

Is it just me, or are there times when we all could do to just have a few days where we don't have to go to work, and nothing bad happens in our absence? Not so much "stop the world I want to get off", more "pause the world I'd like a quiet sit and a bit of kip".

Maybe it's just because I'm tired at the moment, but I really want to just crawl under my desk and go to sleep for an hour or so…

Monday, March 14, 2005
Cakes are in the kitchen
Sunday marked the anniversary of my birth. Turning 26 has seen me lose the opportunity to travel for less on trains until either I have some kids, or become a pensioner. It's also moved me a step closer to thirty, and forced me to buy cakes for those people with whom I share an office.

Happily, I had a thoroughly enjoyable weekend, backing my native north-east. I enjoyed an excellent meal here, before going to the pub with my mates on Saturday night. Sunday, saw me make the trip back to the Midlands via St James' Park, and between them Shay Given and Patrick Kluivert ensured that my day was a happy one.

Friday, March 11, 2005
Giving money to charity
In the spirit of doing something for Charity, I'm going to give Mike's money to comic relief, and suggest a track for his bloggers disco.

Seeing as I'm quite late in getting in on the act, it'll be the end of the night before the DJ plays my tune. To that end we need to really finish on a high, and that requires Underworld and Born Slippy.

It might be a bit old, and it was played to death around the mid-nineties, but it's still a great tune to keep everyone in the party mood, and really pack the dancefloor.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005
When bloggers converge
Last night, for the first time, I met people who I only came across because of my blogging. Terrifying though the prospect of meeting complete strangers was it turned out that my fears were completely unjustified and they all treated me wonderfully - welcoming me into the bosom of the Notts blogging scene.

It's strange to finally meet such luminaries as Mike of Troubled Diva, and the tour de force that is Miss Mish, together with Mike's one-time guest blogger Alan, and Mish's friend Caroline. People who, but for the world of blogging, I doubt would have ever crossed my path.

Happily, the wine, beer, lager and vodka all flowed (although thankfully not all into the same glass) and the conversation did likewise.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable night.

Monday, March 07, 2005
Mocked by fate
"Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink."

How the words of the Ancient Mariner applied to us this weekend shows how God appreciates irony as much as the next man (provided the next man isn't Alanis Morisette obviously.)

Having enjoyed an excellent weekend in North Wales, including a trouble free journey on both the M1 and M6 on a Friday night, our Karmic retribution arrived with a vengeance when we returned home on Sunday afternoon.

Upon entering the kitchen, we were confronted by water pooling on the floor, and moving out from beneath our new kitchen units. Much swearing and scrabbling later we managed to identify the problem (a leaky pipe fixing) and locate the stop cock.

Unfortunately most of the pipes leading to our house are old and crap. The stop cock is no exception, and unfortunately fails to fulfill its primary duty and actually stop the water.

A bucket was found and an elaborate scheme involving putty, cling film and an ice cream lid was concocted to channel the escaping water into the bucket (I doubt a Blue Peter badge will be forthcoming – which is a shame).

Unfortunately, we're going to have to replace a strip of pipe to solve the problem. This will mean that we have to take out our new and previously shiny kitchen units (and probably replace those that we fear have been damaged by the water).

The irony is that we currently don't have any available running water apart from that collecting in the bucket and a slight trickle from the tap. So making a cup of tea, or washing hair are currently complex tasks, and having a shower is something we can only dream about.

We also have to empty the bucket at regular intervals. Needless to say, our sleep pattern last night was made uncomfortable by the need to get up every three hours to empty the bucket.

I imagine this is similar to the experience of new parents constantly getting up to attend to the needs of their children. Only with more liquid and less smell.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005
Funny How?
In the film Goodfellas, Joe Pesci switches from joker to psycho in a second, with his Funny How? Funny like a clown? Tirade.

It's a wonderful speech, delivered brilliantly.

Recently, I've been pondering my own attempts at humour. Whilst aspiring to write comically about my life I appear to have morphed into some sort of Jonny B-lite, which was never my intention. Firstly because what works well for one writer, may not work so well for another, and secondly because I could never live up to him, so any efforts in a similar vein would rightly be derided as not very good.

The other thing I've noticed is that broadly all my best internet humour is left as a comment on someone else's blog, e.g. the comment I left for Jill Twiss, which apparently made her laugh out loud, such was its humorous beauty.

I think this is because I work well riffing on someone else's ideas far better than I develop my own. It's not a criticism of myself (although it probably isn't advisable for me to book myself in as a one-man show in the Edinborough Festival), merely an observation about how my mind works.

The problem is how to translate that into witty blog postings that retain a degree of personality whilst also raising the odd smile. How I answer that one, I’m not quite sure, but it could be both fun and painful to find out.

Cleaning up at auction
We bought a vacuum cleaner on eBay the other day.

Keeping up with the times, as always, we shelled out a whopping twenty five quid plus postage for a Dyson DC01. After about two weeks wait it arrived, and we ripped open the box and started to use it. Compared to our crappy old vacuum it works really well, and was soon sucking the dust up.

The problem with the Dyson is that you can actually see how much dirt it picks up.

This has the advantage of showing it works, and also that you know exactly when to empty it out. However, it also shows precisely how much filth we generate.

The other problem is that I've rediscovered the delights of eBay, and have subsequently bought a load of tools to go with our new Dyson. Unfortunately I can't get access to them, as the postman couldn’t fit them through our letterbox, and is now holding them for ransom at his depot.

The depot is only open 7.30-12.30 Monday-Saturday and has no parking. Needless to say, collecting parcels is something of a nightmare.

Why can't the post office offer an evening collection service?

Surely it wouldn't take much to provide one member of staff from 5-7 pm so that people could collect packages after work – when they have more time to find a parking space. Sadly that particular measure is beyond them.

I'm also slightly annoyed that the man I bought the Dyson from hasn't left feedback as to what a wonderful human being I am – paying him promptly and not harassing him whilst we awaited delivery.

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