1000 Shades of Grey
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Sitting Pretty
It arrives.

It's in a box, but it's here, safe and sound. Now I just need to put it together.

Abandoning all pretence of work, I spread the pieces out on the floor, and slowly begin to attach them to one another.

When it is done, it stands majestic, proudly surveying the whole of the office.

Despite being a relatively junior member of staff I have a new chair. It's leather and truly magnificent.

The reason for my sudden surge up the chair hierarchy is that previously I was on the crappest chair in the office. So shitty was my old chair, that even the secretary on what she thought was a crap chair has turned her nose up at it as a replacement.

See how easily I have distanced myself from the old thing.

It served me fairly well for eight months, but now that my new love has arrived, I've abandoned it – cutting it loose in the office to see whether anyone wants it. It sits unloved and empty – a forlorn picture of blue fabric and armless plastic.

I sit in my leather chair, complete with arms, and lovely tilting back and pity the old chair in its worthlessness. I feel like I have abandoned an old faithful servant for a new exciting younger model, and I just don't care.

If it's always going to feel this good, I'm not changing my chair again, ever.

Fuelling my rage

I went to buy petrol this morning on my way to work.

Not an uncommon occurrence, and hardly worthy of note, you would think.

This morning, I left the house in plenty of time to get fuel and get to work on time. I drove to Asda and pulled up at their automated petrol pumps. I got out of the car, and inserted my card into the machine. My card was accepted, and an automated voice told me to insert the pump into my car and begin to take fuel.

(I wonder if the same person who voices Stephen Hawking does the Asda self-service petrol pumps, or whether it's Stephen Hawking himself making a few quid on the side.)

I did all of these things, except the last one. The nozzle sat in place, but no fuel came forth.

So I tried all the things that you would in this situation, I waggled the nozzle, I pumped the trigger, I swore at the machine, and finally cancelled the transaction.

Not to be deterred, I tried again at the same machine. Same machine unfortunately meant same outcome, only with more swearing on my part.

Giving up on that useless thing, I reversed up and tried the machine behind the one which didn't work. This time it refused my card (probably because it thought some joker was messing with the pumps) and I had to scrabble round my wallet to find an alternative.

Credit card duly accepted, I followed the usual routine, and once again no petrol came forth.

Issuing a torrent of obscenities I got back in the car and drove to an Esso garage, paid the extra 1p per litre and filled the car up. Happily the lady in the shop accepted my original card, and I was able to get to work on time, no thanks to Asda.

Monday, April 25, 2005
Big week this week, in the 1000 shades household.

Like Jonathan I've moved into a new part of the office, sitting with knew people in a different department and with an inferior view out of my window. What it does mean is that I now have to learn a lot of new information very quickly and pick up work that has been part done by my colleague (who has to do likewise with work I've started but not finished – like Mastermind but with an inferior chair).

It's a slightly scary time, as I'd grown very happy where I was, however it's a good challenge and important that I show how much I've developed over the last few months to my new colleagues.

We also started to let the cat out of the house (officially) over the weekend. At first, we took her out into the back garden, with a string leash attached to her collar to prevent her from running away from us. At first she was very timid, and nervous about what she would find behind the next bush, but by the end of Saturday she loved the outdoors, and whined like mad when we closed the backdoor and shut her inside.

Sunday saw more of the same to begin with, although this time we let go of the string, and let it drag behind her, safe in the knowledge we could always grab it if she started going into places we'd rather she didn't. Everything was going well, until next door's massive dog started barking – Cleo showed an impressive lack of fear at his noise, until his head appeared over the top of our fence, at which point she puffed herself up to three times her size, and shot inside to hide underneath the kitchen units.

However, she wasn't going to let this temporary set back put her off, and at lunch time we removed the string and let her wander off on her own. She promptly headed into the garden of the house behind ours, then into each of their neighbours, before returning briefly to visit both of our neighbours (the dog had now gone out).

So happy was she in her new, wider environment that we lost sight of her, and could only track her movements by the sound of the bell on her collar. That was, until we heard an almighty hissing cat scrap from about two gardens away, presumably where she had strayed into someone else's territory, and she returned shortly afterwards.

Still, she obviously liked it outside, as she clawed my hand to ribbons when I picked her up to bring her inside.

We'll let her out again tonight, and hopefully at some point we'll teach her to use the cat flap on the back door. Then she can spend her days popping in and out.

Like the cat, I now have a wider environment to explore and learn about quickly, but hopefully we'll both find that our horizons expanding in an enjoyable and relatively safe environment. If all else fails, I suppose I can act like her, and just crap in the corner before scratching my colleagues and hiding under a table.

Thursday, April 21, 2005
Chip and pin
To the vets again! This time it's for Cleo's second set of inoculations against the evils of the outside world. Unfortunately due to my not being very awake first thing in the morning and standing with the door open, she's already been outside, but only briefly before being rounded up and ushered back in to the house.

Once again the massive struggle to get her into her carry box is fought, with bribery, brute force and pleading all employed to a greater or lesser degree of success before finally we succeed in getting the door shut with her inside.

Having managed the brief car journey to the vets, we register Cleo and take our seat in the waiting room, surrounded by a collection of vastly inferior animals; the cat manages to sneer serenely from her cage, before we are finally called through, the last appointment of the day.

Unfortunately, instead of being confronted by the over-vigorous stroker from last time, we get a different vet. It's a lady, who despite her small stature would clearly meet any job description where the title of the post holder is "matron".

She sternly drags Cleo from her retreat inside the cat box and forcefully grasps her whilst shoving needle after needle of injections into her, and then she asks us the question: "So, should I microchip her for you? It should really be done before she goes outside."

Little does she know…

Adopting the approach that coming to the vets is a chore we could all do without (the cat particularly) we say yes. At which point matron pulls out a massive needle, bips it under a chip scanner and proceeds to try and force its contents in to our poor cat.

"What tough skin she has!" says the matron, in a manner disturbingly similar to the wolf in little red riding hood, before finally forcing down the plunger and electronically tagging our cat. To confirm everything is OK, a tri-corder is wafted over the cat, and reassuringly bips in the right place.

Having been electronically tagged, I wonder whether we can now expect visits from some kind of feline parole officer, checking up on Cleo and ensuring she sticks to a government imposed curfew, or alternatively whether we will receive a pin number through the post, and be able to load electronic money on to the cat, before using her to pay for goods in Tesco.

"Card, cash or cat sir?"

Wednesday, April 20, 2005
I'm taking part in a discussion over on Silent Words Speak Loudest this week about the General Election, which is worth a read.

On the subject of the election, I've just seen the list of candidates campaigning for my vote. Step forward candidates for Labour (current MP Liz Blackmore), The Liberal Democrats, The Conservative Party, UKIP, the BNP, The Official Monster Raving Loony Party (there's an unofficial one?), The Church of the Militant Elvis Party and the party leader of Veritas (one Robert Kilroy-Silk).

If anyone's interested, I now know where Kilroy lives. Shockingly he doesn't even live close to the Borough, but then neither does the Tory, so I'm sure both will be in touch with local issues.

What unnerves me most is the preponderance of parties with a broadly right-wing agenda. What does it say about the neighbourhood that at least four anti-Europe parties would consider standing (I don't actually know the views held by the Monster Raving Loonies or the Church of Militant Elvis on Europe)?

Also, I never realised Elvis was militant. Or is it his church that is militant? They hardly sound very friendly. Presumably they all get together singing Heartbreak Hotel and march up and down before going home to polish their guns and blue suede shoes. Having read their manifesto I'm not really any the wiser, but at least they appear to be seasoned campaigners.

I look forward to having them come to my door, provided they leave the fire-arms and jump suits at home.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Dryer for Dinner
Last weekend we went to Cardiff. We abandoned the cat for the first time, leaving her to fend for herself (well we left litter, food and water – so it's not like she had to raid the cupboards and rustle up some food). In fact, it's a bit like when my mum leaves my dad alone for the night – all his meals are clearly labelled, complete with instructions (although I think he can still find the loo himself).

Anyway, we went to Cardiff, and stayed with some friends. On the Saturday we went out round Cardiff Bay, which is very nice, and ate ice creams by the water. While we were there, a load of Geordies walked past and remarked that it was "Just like Whitley Bay" - praise indeed.

After much chatting away, we somehow acquired a tumble dryer in exchange for dinner, and keeping to our side of the deal treated our hosts to kebab and chips. (We even got them one each, to prove we aren't tight-fisted. That's a kebab each, not one chip each, that would be mean).

Having drunk a lot of alcohol on the Saturday night, we hauled ourselves out of bed in the morning to watch Paula go to the toilet in the middle of London. I seem to recall ex-Newcastle player Warren Barton getting in trouble with the police when he attempted something similar in the middle of Newcastle, but because Paula did it on TV it's OK apparently, although she still had to apologise on national television.

We then went to a football match which didn't go as planned, and you can read about it here if you're interested.

Having negotiated our way back to our friends' house, we then loaded the tumble dryer into the car and headed home to see the cat. Unfortunately lots of other people had chosen that moment to leave Cardiff, and the M4 struggled to cope with the volume of traffic. So instead of racing up the motorway to see the cat, we sat for hours crawling along in a Nissan Micra with a tumble dryer sat behind us and cat miles away, chewing her way through her collar, but thankfully not pissing on the floor a la Paula.

Friday, April 15, 2005
I'm currently trying to ward off man-flu. My whole body aches, my throat is sore, I've got a fuzzy head and generally feel a bit crappy.

Unfortunately, I've also got too much work to do that I can't take a day off sick, and am due to be in Cardiff this weekend, so can't afford to be unwell.

My wife (who is obviously not a man) is not being particularly sympathetic.

However, I think this has more to do with the fact that by dint of her gender, she can't have experienced man flu. I suppose it’s like child birth, only then the boot is obviously on the other foot. Although, at least then you get something new at the end of it, to compensate for any discomfort that you might feel, and doctors on hand to offer all manner of drugs.

Man-flu on the other hand just leaves you (well, me) feeling crappy and desperately in need of both sleep and lucozade, and the closest I get to being offered drugs is the paracetamol in the cupboard at work.

Thursday, April 14, 2005
Another new one...
A hearty welcome to Jo, author of Not Much Going On.. to the 1000 Shades Blogroll.

I trust you'll all go and pay her a visit.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005
I know her pain
Hurtling headlong into the heady world of blogging, I present the latest addition to the 1000 Shades blogroll. Step forward Long Suffering Wife, who resisted the temptation to (with a nod to Zoe) simply call it My Husband's a Shit. Something I'm eternally grateful for.

Just like Sven
The cat can't sleep. Well, she can, because that's what she seems to spend large parts of the day doing, but unfortunately she insists on waking up at 4am and making a fearful racket. Consequently one of us invariable has to get up and let her out of the lounge where we are keeping her at which point she promptly goes and walks over the other one of us to try and rouse us from our slumber.

Needless to say this is becoming slightly annoying.

It wouldn't be so bad, if we weren't also being woken on occasion by some foxes that appear to delight in making a noise in next doors' garden, and according to our curtain twitching neighbour spend the night on our doorstep.

Perhaps we could arrange some form of exchange trip with Jonny B? Some of his rabbits could come and eat the weeds in our garden, and our foxes could dine on the remaining rabbits in his.

I must admit to being slightly disappointed in the foxes as I've yet to see them do anything fantastic.

I don't mind the foxes in the garden so much, but would be grateful for any suggestions as to how to shut the cat up.

Maybe the cat is simply trying to chat to the foxes? Maybe that’s what is fantastic about them, maybe they speak cat. Maybe we have foxes with a gift for languages.

That's it! Our foxes are the equivalent of Sven Goran Eriksson – generally quiet, but with a gift for languages, and always chasing pussy.

Friday, April 01, 2005
Over vigorous stroking
Last night we took Cleo to the vets. This is a new experience for me, as I've never had to care for an animal before, and certainly never had to take them to see a trained professional.

I suppose my visions of vets surgeries have been coloured by my parents watching of All Creatures Great and Small when I was young, and imagine that all vets do is spend their days shoulder deep in cow and driving round the Yorkshire Countryside.

Obviously this is wholly impractical for our urban vet, particularly as we don't live in Yorkshire.

Having finally coaxed her into her cat box, through a mixture of subterfuge and pushing, we take the cat to the vets, and register on arrival. Foolishly, we give the vet our name to show we have an appointment, only for the vet to ask if the appointment is for Cleo.

I resist the temptation to reply with a smart-arsed comment for fear or finding my sphincter stretched by a vet who doesn't have a sense of humour shouting "Who's laughing now, bitch?"

Finally we are called into the surgery, and Cleo gets to run round the room, looking for nooks and crannies to hide in. Sadly the place has been designed to prevent this, and Cleo is forced to confront the slightly funny looking man who purports to know how to fix broken creatures.

Despite clearly being somewhat unnerved by his over vigorous stroking technique, the cat dutifully sits while he injects her against all manner of unpleasantness and shoves a pill down her throat.

At which point we are finished. Cleo decides that she'd rather spend time in her cat basket than let the vet stroke her again, and makes a mockery of my earlier struggle to get her in the box by charging straight in, presumably to get out of harms' way.

We pay the massive vet bill and head home – amused by the thought that of the three of us, only our cat is registered with a healthcare professional in the area.

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