1000 Shades of Grey
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
The fat bruiser next door
Having packed her bags, and even arranged for a chauffeur driven car, we've sent the cat off on her holidays.

Well, we put her in her carry cage and drove her to the cattery (which is the same thing). Funnily, she was happy to walk straight into her cage this morning, which was definitely a good thing, as the thought of trying to cajole her into the cage, and then get her to the cattery on time, and then get to work 20 miles away before 9 am wasn't appealing. Apparently all it took was a pillowcase that smelt of us, and she shot inside the box! We live and learn.

Anyway, I arrived at the cattery and was immediately impressed by the number of country types in their matching red sweaters and obligatory green wellies. Funnily they all appear to be women. Do men ever work in catteries/kennels? The only animal job that I know blokes do is become vets – all the less glamorous (or should that be less well paid – I not sure there is any glamour in shoving your hand up a cow's arse) animal jobs seem to all be done by women: usually small middle-aged women with clipboards, or young gals who look like they have never had a roll in the hay with a young farmhand. (Not that I have, you understand – what with not being a young gal for a start.)

Anyway, the cat (in box) and I are lead into a large barn that says Cattery on the outside, and once we are through the gate it opens up like an aerial view of a PoW camp – all wire and wood, with each animal confined to a cage. Obviously I wouldn't want to spend my days cooped up in a tiny cage – but then we have a tiny cat, so what seems small to me is actually quite big compared to her.

Anyway, the clipboard carrying woman leads us through Stalag Cat until we reach cage 17, and the bolt is withdrawn, and the door opened, to allow Cleo access to her temporary home.

I open the door to the carry basket, and tentatively she sticks her nose out, before slowly starting to explore her new holiday home. I leave the cushion she travelled on, together with pillow case – hopefully to remind her of us, and watch as the door is closed. I resist the temptation to begin the monologue that sounded at the start of every episode of Porridge (Interesting fact for you – it was done by Ronnie Barker), and slowly leave Cleo to get acquainted with the fat bruiser next door and head off into the sunset.

She's only there for a few days, and unless she manages to trade the bell on her collar for a Rock Hammer and a poster of Rita Hayworth I'm confident she'll be there when we go to collect her.

Judgement Day
Sat outside the tip at 7.50 am on the Saturday morning of a bank holiday weekend is an incredibly depressing experience. More unnerving is that we are third in the queue (that's right, there's a queue – who would want to get to the tip even earlier than we did?).

Still, we finally dispose of our old kitchen, which has been sat piled up, inviting covetous glances from passing arsonists outside our backdoor for months.

We then head back to the house and begin work in earnest. The lawn is mown, the kitchen units are finally finished off, the floors are respectively swept, vacuumed and mopped, the windows are cast open to allow the fresh air in, the washing is done, additional storage was purchased, assembled and filled, and items are bundled together and stashed in the loft.

As you might have guessed, Sunday was the day of the visit. Needless to say, Saturday and Sunday morning were spent working like dervishes to get the house clean and tidy. We managed clean and fairly tidy – with some piles of clothes on the spare bed, and the odd neatly placed pile of stuff on tables or against a wall.

Apparently we've still got "a lot of work to do" and the question of where we were going to put everything reared its ugly head, but otherwise we passed – maybe not with flying colours, but certainly with a solid B.

As they left, we collapsed into our sofa, breathed a heavy sigh of relief, kicked off our shoes and relaxed.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Chumpions Champions!
Confirmation arrived today by email that Jens Lehman's heroics in goal for Arsenal, and in particular his penalty save from Paul Scholes which sent the FA Cup to North London, also sent the Daily Telegraph based Chumpions League Title to me (sadly I only managed to finish inside the top 32,000 in the country, so didn't claim any actual prize money).

Whilst one carries prize money, an old trophy, and a route in to Europe (for Middlesbrough bizarrely), the other carries a specially commissioned medal (in presentation case) and the chance to spend the next 12 months gloating over my mates!

Inevitably, the season wasn't as fruitful for everyone in our league, with fellow blogger and co-writer of blackandwhiteandreadallover, Ben seeing his team finish in a lowly joint 17th in his first season in the league.

Still there’s always next year for him when the pressure on me will increase as I attempt to something never done in our league before and retain my title.

If only Graeme Souness had these sorts of problems…

Monday, May 23, 2005
Hole in my plan
After a pleasant weekend visiting my in-laws, we returned on Sunday afternoon, armed with all manner of tools to enable us to fully prepare for next week's visit (but sadly no bunting).

Right, I thought, time to connect the Tumble Dryer.

So it was that I, armed with an elongated drill bit, began drilling holes in the wall of my shed. (Obviously it's my shed, as the man, all things shed-related automatically become my responsibility – I think it all stems back to cavemen, but I could be wrong.)

Two hours later and I have stopped drilling, and taken to attacking the brick with a hammer and chisel. I had planned to be finished by now, with my feet up and the TV on. Instead I am crouched in the rain attacking a stubborn brick wall.

Suddenly, movement!

The half of the brick I want out finally gives way, and light gushes forth through the hole into my shed. Unfortunately, the Tube that I need to feed through the wall still doesn't quite fit. I then spend a further forty minutes chiselling away odd pieces of mortar before finally forcing the tube into the hole (perhaps lubricant would have been helpful at this juncture – but it's no use being wise after the event).

After that it was all relatively easy, with the pieces all fitting together perfectly, and now we have a working tumble dryer, and a space in our kitchen where it used to sit.

The Great Tidy Up has started, and the shed now looks immaculate.

As an aside, it's interesting to note that both our sets of parents have commented on the fact that we'll need to spend the whole week tidying. Despite the obvious fact that this is true, it still seems slightly hurtful that without their even having seen the place lately they think it will need a week's worth of cleaning.

Friday, May 20, 2005
Living in a fantasy
40 weeks ago, my Fantasy Football Team started a journey that ends on Saturday in Cardiff.

Obviously, the idea of Fantasy Football is that you pick a brilliant team of players, and through the use of cunningly judged transfers you climb your way to the top of the heap and pocket £50,000 courtesy of the Daily Telegraph.

Sadly this prize is probably beyond me now.

However, with only one game left to go, the Superleague that I, and some of my friends from home, have entered into for the last few years is still within my grasp. In fact, I'm one solitary point off the top going into the FA Cup Final.

Now, several years ago, I was out in front and running away with the league, when I rather took my eye off the ball, and allowed someone to catch me and overtake me with two weeks of the season left, never to recover. (As a Newcastle fan this had a particular resonance.) However, this time round it has been me closing the gap – from being fourth and 30 points off the lead two weeks ago, I'm now second by one point.

With no transfers left, Chris (whose team top the league) and I have shown each other our teamsheets in advance, and the final now hinges on the actions of a handful of players. If Man Utd win, and Scholes or Ronaldo score then I'm stuffed. But, if Pires scores the winner for Arsenal, and the gunners keep a clean sheet, I'll be dancing in the streets and climbing lampposts in jubilation.

It won't make up for the terrible season I've endured as a Newcastle fan, but it will allow me a small moment of satisfaction – and give me a trophy to stick on my mantelpiece with pride!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005
Back of the NET
Building a public transport network in any major city is clearly meant to facilitate one thing and one thing only. People might argue that this is easing commuters into work, or consumers to shops, or kids to schools, but really it's drinkers to pubs.

Needless to say, this very fact is advertised on the Tram Company's website, and has been given the approval of those nice bearded men at CAMRA.

Seeing as so many people had gone to so much trouble it seemed rude not to put their hard work to our use, and consequently together with fellow bloggers Ben and Lisa, and non-blogger Steve, I found myself in The Green Dragon in Hucknall at 12.30pm on Saturday.

By the time we had consumed a couple of halves, and moved on a couple of pubs, our number had swollen to 12 and things were in full swing.

Pubs and trams came and went as we worked our way steadily back towards the city centre. Notable highlights included the offer of stickers by the charming lady in The Newstead Abbey, and the opportunity to witness animal instincts in full flow outside a Greggs in Bulwell. Lowlights were limited to the fact that trams were not running up the extra limb of the line and prevented us from getting to the two pubs out there; and the incredibly long hike to reach The Oxford – a pub that really was not worth the effort.

By the time we reached the Vernon Arms, at least one of our number was feeling so remarkably well that she suggested adding shots of vodka to the round, but thankfully sense prevailed and her attempt to undermine our remaining sobriety was halted.

By the time we left the Bell Inn, 17 pubs down the line from where we started, things that were already blurry disappeared into an even murkier haze. I remember having another drink in The Dragon – not a pub on our list, but considered by all to be better than Weatherspoons. Unfortunately this decision was not fully communicated to the group, with half our party heading off in an altogether different direction and with our numbers halved things rather dwindled away.

An attempt was made by some to carry on, but the queue outside Lloyds, and the lure of Thai food proved the final nail in the coffin of our crawl, and so it was that I found myself eating noodles and drinking a lot of water before staggering to the bus stop and lolling on the back seat of the bus all the way home.

Unsurprisingly both NET and CAMRA suggest that the crawl should be attempted over two days, and it was our own sense of recklessness and bravura that prompted us to attempt a feat which ultimately just proved beyond us. However, for a mere £2.20 to travel the tram all day, and (by drinking halves) the pub crawl becomes far less painful on the wallet (or at least seems that way) and proved to be an excellent way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Friday, May 13, 2005
Royal Visit
Having slogged our guts out over the bank holiday, I finally finished the intricate gloss work on our small bedroom this week. Good job too, as the man came to fit the carpet on Wednesday.

It looks great. Despite his doubts about the size of carpet I ordered, it fits beautifully

(Sample quote from him: "How sure are you of your measurements?" Me: "Over 90%" Him: "Is that all, I'll charge you if you've fucked up?" – well he didn't say the last one, but it was what he was thinking.)

Anyway, it's a good job that it's done, because news came through this week that we will be visited by my mother-in-law's mother in a couple of weeks time.

Helpfully my father-in-law suggested we bring them tea whilst they stay in the car and look at the outside of the house.

However, we're determined to rise to the challenge, and present a clean, tidy, organised, well maintained home for the visit.

I imagine this is what happens to scout huts and village halls when they hear that the Queen is popping round – a mad flurry of building work, painting, scrubbing and bunting hanging probably goes on for months, only to be seen for about two minutes by the Her Majesty, before she goes to watch Horse Racing.

Still, we're psyching ourselves up for the big push, and the house will be gleaming by the time the visit occurs.

If all else fails, we can always carry their mugs outside…

Friday, May 06, 2005
No sleep till Erewash
So. Very exciting. Peter Snow. With his swingometer. Jumping about. Showing us. Where. Our votes were going. Breathless. With excitement. And talking. In a staccato fashion.

And that was just after Sunderland South had come in.

Always enjoy election night coverage on the TV. Perhaps it's because I've only been entitled to vote since 1997, but for whatever reason I was glued to the TV last night. Cheering every time a Lib Dem got in, and at one stage worrying that Michael Howard might actually have lurked his way in to Government.

There's something bizarrely mesmeric about a swingometer. I don't know what it is, but I can't help but be transfixed as Peter Snow prances about talking about hypothetical events, and making predictions based on an exit poll and a handful of results.

Still, I stayed with it well into the early morning, waiting to make sure that my neighbours hadn't been so stupid as to vote for Kilroy or the astonishingly short Tory candidate.

They weren't.

I'm not saying our current MP is doing a marvellous job – (Sounds like the start of a bad mother-in-law joke) and I disagree with how she voted on many of the key issues, but at least she isn't old leather face.

That said, having been told to expect the result at 2.30 I was wilting badly when it finally arrived at 3.50am.

Suffice to say that getting up for work this morning was something of a struggle, and I might as well have hooked myself up to an intravenous tea drip.

However, I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005
One year on
Twelve months ago, I opened the doors to 1000 Shades of Grey, and ventured into the world of blogging.

Since then, I've posted about a wide variety of things including: naming a cat; touching another man’s penis (metaphorically speaking) and running 13.1 miles for charity.

I've also started up a second blog, with the help of Ben, and moved all my ranting about Newcastle Utd over to it.

I've met people I wouldn't otherwise have come into contact with. Step forward Mike, Mish and Phil, and come to treasure the thoughts of other people I either already knew or have never met (see the blogroll).

I’ve gone through stages of posting several things a day, to times when I've gone quiet for well over a week.

Throughout it all, I've thoroughly enjoyed having an outlet to express my feelings, thoughts and views and look forward to posting in the future.

If this is your first visit, or you stop by regularly I'd like to welcome you. Thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings, and please leave a comment!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005
The sound of leather on willow and skin
Yesterday, taking advantage of some free tickets that came our way, we went to watch Nottinghamshire CCC take on Glamorgan in a one-day cricket match.

The sun shone down, the hard work of the weekend was behind us, and we sat in the glory that is Trent Bridge and soaked up a fascinating game of cricket, which reached a climax when Notts needed 18 to win off the last three balls, and managed to reduce this to 6 to win off the last thanks to two glorious sixes from Patel.

Unfortunately the last ball of the match only went for a single, to give Glamorgan their first win of the season, but nonetheless it was a great day out.

Unfortunately the old woman who was sat five seats along from us couldn't say the same having been hit by a massive six struck during the Glamorgan Innings.

Now being hit by a cricket ball hurts.

Being hit on your arm as a woman in your sixties must really bastard hurt.

The poor woman slumped into her husband, and approximately 10-15 minutes later a steward and a member of St Johns Ambulance turned up. Now if they were busy with someone who was dying then fair enough, but I suspect it was simply a case of really poor provision for crowd safety that left this poor woman being cared for by well-meaning spectators for a long time.

Put simply, it wasn't good enough, and left a sour taste in the mouth on what was otherwise and enthralling day's cricket.

Terracotta? Looks like orange to me.
Over the course of a weekend, wor lass and I managed to either spend or commit ourselves to spending a small fortune in the space of 6 hours.

On Saturday, we awoke to glorious sunshine and the prospect of a long weekend stretching out before us. So what did we do with our time?

Well, firstly, we took advantage of DFS and their half price sofa sale. Cheap furniture? For sale? On a bank holiday? Who would have thought it?

Now, I like sitting on sofas, and I quite like spending money (although at times it scares me that I'll have to pay the debts off one of these days), but I detest sales people. Sitting in a show room, having decided what we wanted, we then had to listen to a bloke prattle on about some all singing all dancing spray that they put on the sofas to stop them getting covered in red wine and blood.

Now, surely they should just put this on at the start if it's so bloody important. But apparently that would mean they weren't competitive in the market place. So instead of being up front about their charges, they shove them all on as "extras" after you've committed to buying the sofa.

Surely they misjudge the intelligence of their customers. It's not hard to judge the whole package between shops, rather than just the start price, and in many ways that would be a fairer comparator, wouldn't it?

Anyway, we signed up to his magic spray (although the temptation to tell him to shove the whole thing up his arse was quite great). Then we had to deal with an even bigger moron who came and took our bank details (obviously a task too demeaning for the salesman), and who couldn't grasp the simple question we asked about the date that money would be taken from our account.

Anyway, as the ball of rage rose inside me, we managed to complete the purchase before I tested the blood repellent aspects of the cover with the arterial spray of the salespeople, and left the shop mercifully spatter free.

We then went and bought a stereo.

Now as background to this, we've been without a decent working CD Player for about three years now. In which time I've still bought CDs, but not really listened to them as much as I would have liked. However, it's all been worth the wait.

Staggering home from Richer Sounds with boxes under our arms, it was like Christmas all over again as the product of my tax rebate left me with the most complex of 3D jigsaws. (I put this bit of cable where?) Still, it all seems to work now, and it sounds bloody brilliant.

Finally, on our day of mad spending we bought a carpet for our study/ third bedroom. Unfortunately, this meant we had to spend the whole of Sunday and half of Monday painting the bloody room, and getting rid of the terrible colour scheme we had inherited form the previous owner.

So not quite the restful weekend that I'd dreamt of on Friday night...

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