Showing posts from 2017

It's beginning to feel a bit like Christmas

You can't really single out anything specific that makes a brilliant Christmas in the village. It's never like the daft songs or the hideously schmaltzy American films we are subjected to each year (how does Channel Five make any money?!) but somehow things change and we end up almost without noticing at December 24th, the panic slightly subsiding and the faint glimmer of fun appearing ever brighter in the distance. It's not necessarily the beloved pub which has just re-opened to much exultation and displays of great joy after seven months of loss and emptiness, with a superb range of beers and wines and a rearkably wide range of people including those you wouldn't expect to see in there. It's not necessarily the huge and delightful Christmas tree on the Green, put up at the start of December, enlightened a few days later and then subject to endless speculation about whether it is going to fall over this year in what is a very windy location - on top of a hill o

Recognition - at last!

I received some good news today: it seems I obtained a Masters Degree with First Class Honours from the University of Sheffield way back in 1995. This is exciting because, to the best of my knowledge I got no such thing. I passed but the flying colours were very much left folded up in the drawer - the student life being rather too much fun for any proper study on my part. [If my father reads this, I worked bloody hard, scarcely ever seeing the inside of a pub!] More likely is that the good people of the university, when asked to confirm details of qualifications by ancient alumni such as I now am - charging them a crisp £20 for the privilege - don't actually look at the records, instead no doubt pulling up a proforma, giving it the once over and then sending it out largely unread. Apparently, I 'passed all the necessary examinations' [I took none]. The Degree was conferred 'In Absentia' - a surprising revelation as I really enjoyed the graduat

Applying for that job

I have just finished a job application, a very uncomfortable experience for anyone English I would suggest, for to complete a good application you have to promote yourself shamelessly.  The whole process makes me want to cringe as I try to persuade the local manager of B&Q that I am the fulcrum around which their DIY business needs to revolve and that my two degrees and years of work in a quite surprising array of different jobs have been leading me to this moment, this one chance to sell shower heads like they've never been sold before! To be honest, the job I have just applied for is a bit more senior than that, although just think of the discounts you would get... The post is ideal for me and this has proven to be one of those rare occasions where I looked through the job spec and thought, 'yep, fine', which is very encouraging.  The trouble of course comes when I then have to demonstrate my all-round genius and capability in the specified areas. How do you persu

The country's no place fer a mobile phone!

Living in the country, we struggle at the best of times to get any appreciable mobile system.  Between us, the family has been through the whole range of service providers with variable results.  Most of the time this is a minor irritation but occasionally it becomes a fag. These days when you want to spend a reasonable amount of money online or to set up a payment, sensible banks will occasionally ask you to confirm details.  They do this by sending a 'one time passcode', or OTP.  This is an admirable idea and one I fully support, even as I am leaning out of the bathroom window holding my phone at arm's length, weakly imploring this magic that is a mobile signal to smile on me and bless my device with a connection.  The key problem is that these OTPs are time limited, so often once I have managed to complete a pilates exercise of rare athleticism, the deadline has passed and I have to start all over again. Security is very clearly A Good Thing but I wonder if the peo

Teenagers: it is you

An age old ritual was played out this morning, with the boy furiously emptying the airing cupboard trying to find some trousers for school - trousers he had only picked up off his floor and put in the washing bin the day before, leaving the laundry maid (me) all of a flutter as begging-your-pardon but it had been my day off and I had gone to the steam fair in Cholmondley-under-Brisket. My response at 7.30am was, of course, slightly less lyrical but this is how I would have liked to have answered his tirade.  I find the level of annoyance created by (i) humour and (ii) pretend lyrical references to be very rewarding. The tragedy of teenagers is that they think they're the first to have been in this situation. 'You don't understand!' - they cry but sadly, we do.  Unless you're a liar or in denial, you've been angry over something trivial like socks or a cup and you have blamed your parents and the universe for this catastrophic failure (mostly your parents but

The minutiae of married life

Some years ago, on a visit to see my in-laws, we bought some plates in Norwich.  They are very nice plates - plain, simple, functional.  I remember that they weighed a ton and were given to us in a number of plastic bags so that we could get them back to the car via the park and ride.  I carried them through the streets of the city as if they were the finest porcelain.  They weren't but you get the idea. When we married, we were given some very generous gifts from friends and family, the kind of functional stuff married couples hope for to kit out the new home.  It's a bit silly these days given that we generally live with our partners before getting married and thus we have most of the essentials a house needs: nevertheless, we were extremely grateful for the various gifts and for the vouchers  which allowed us to buy a range of additional items which you wouldn't really get for a wedding present.  We bought a pedal bin - a much loved (by me) item which I refuse to get

The benefit claim - or what Tony Hancock would have done next

Having been made redundant in July, I decided that I would recoup some of my lifetime investment in UKPLC and submit a claim Jobseeker's Allowance. This is something I have had to do occasionally in my life and I take the view that I have contributed at a high rate for many years, so why not? The process of claiming remains one of the most Kafkaesque, pointless exercises I have ever undertaken. The starting point for any such claim is that the government hates you and does not want to give you anything since you are a wretched individual with no demonstrable worth to society at all.   However (big sigh and much huffing & puffing), if you must claim, you must fill in a form and provide evidence of everything you have ever done and everything you might do – information the government can trawl through to find anything which might enable them to stop paying you your few coppers each week. Knowing this all from bitter previous experience, I still foolishly embarked on what

Wash to do?

When my daughter was born, like many people we saturated her life with pink stuff: pink clothes, pink bedding, pink toys.  This, of course, was more for us that for the girl and would make a psychoanalyst wince, I'm sure.  Tough: we did it and the girl appears to be a normal, well-balanced individual with a wide range of interests, from fairies and princesses to history, The Beano and just about any book she can get her hands on. When I met my brother in law shortly after the birth I joked to him that I'd be introducing a pink wash to avoid all the other clothes in the house becoming slowly rose-tinted.  It turns out that modern clothing is generally very well made so my fears were unfounded.  These days I merrily throw in a pair of pink jeans with a yellow top on a 30 degree wash with the kind of 'devil may care' attitude a young Roger Moore would be proud of. Instead of colours being my main concern, these days the problem has shifted almost entirely, for now the

The silence in my life

The library – remember them?   We’ve still got one in Witney and I rather enjoy visiting it but opportunities to do so have been rare.   Now I have some enforced free time I thought I would take myself off there to catch up on various job searches, look for opportunities in the local paper (there were none) and generally get away from the house for a few hours to experience some noise.   The library’s proximity to Greggs wasn’t even in the top five reasons for going there. Libraries aren’t like they once were.   There is a bit more noise, more activity, with kids – horror upon horror - enjoying themselves reading and looking at books, various groups meeting and people working on projects from history searches to college work. After a quick wander round to look at the various new book and DVD displays, I found myself a table and got established, undertaking the student ritual of unpacking everything from my satchel-like bag and setting it all out on the table in the style of a cha


The first day of real life has arrived, with both children back to school and the very useful excuse of 'taking the Summer off to regroup' no longer available for me to hide behind.  It was up at 7.30 to bid them goodbye with a smile and an inaudible cheer, followed by breakfast, ablutions, then work. For work it must be as the day will be spent with the wife, who WORKS. In silence. I was subjected to a lecture yesterday as we both stared into the abyss of being forced together for the first time since we were younger and newly in love.  I was led to understand that she WORKS during the day.  She doesn't talk, she stops briefly to refuel around 1pm but otherwise she WORKS and if I dare to threaten this monastic approach, I will suffer in ways I can barely conceive. Don't get me wrong: we like each other and on those all too rare occasions when we get a night out we actually talk to each other, which is lovely.  But rare.  We now face the prospect of days, weeks,

The temptation of pastry

I seem to be spending more time commuting now I'm not working than I did when I had to crawl into Oxford each day. This is is because my son now spends most days at his job in a local cafe. Of course, he never ridicules his father over the fact that he is now earning more than me...When he does, I mention the need to discuss rent, eliciting a whine as lengthy and unpleasant as an old-fashioned air raid alarm or a Brexiteer. I very much enjoy visiting the local town every day but it holds risks for the indolent, not least the usually invented need to visit the supermarket for something or other each day, resulting in me leaving with a bag or two groaning with things we could very easily have lived without. Another problem is more malign. Greggs. Now, I'm no snob. Indeed, I have been eating products from this fine British firm for many years.  The trouble is I used to consume a pastry or two when I was younger and a bit more active so the fatted products could be w

Trigger's bike

Tasks achieved today: taken boy to school to not get form signed taken boy to work disinterred and rode old bike advertised old bike for sale - a traumatic undertaking dealt with endless village hall accounts fitted kitchen cupboard door - badly Today I booked the car into the garage to have the orange light fitted to the roof.  That way I can at least charge the boy for the now daily trips to work. The little charmer has taken to ridiculing me for the fact that I am at home while he is working.  What will eventually dawn on him is that the income earner pays the bills, a fact alluded to as he shuffled to the car in as yet untied shoes. He joked that he would break these ones soon, like all the other pairs he has owned, to which I was able to respond brightly that he might reflect on who buys the next pair. Little victories. This morning we stopped off at his school where he needs to get a form signed by numerous teachers to say he was there.  Failure to do so could result

Day three: a modicum of drift sets in

Day three has arrived and this quite eloquently illustrates the problem with being one of the Great Unwashed. Day two appears to have been one of drift, with a large degree of pottering going on to no great end.  That's not to say there wasn't an appreciable amount of washing up, tidying the back room and generally giving the house a zhuzh but the impetus to change the world this Tuesday appears to have got lost somewhere around toast and jam time. To today therefore and the need to hit the ground running.  This was helped by the need to get up early to convey the eldest to his job in a fancy cafĂ©. That got me out of the house and enabled me to carry out some useful tasks including a spot of shopping and some banking for the village hall I help to run - all vital stuff, you understand. One of the most curious problems I have encountered with this changed life is that my wardrobe is suddenly no longer suitable.  Having prioritised suits, shirts and formal shoes for many year

Day one: keeping busy

In an attempt to mollify my critic (she knows who she is...), on my first day away from the office I have: changed two beds done a load of washing (second load going in soon) cleaned the bathroom washed up and tidied up after breakfast written a job application in my vest and pants (okay, no vest but the phrase works best that way) made a delicious, reasonably healthy lunch using leftovers And with the sun shining and temperature rising by the hour, this not being in the office lark is turning out just fine, at least for the first four hours.  All I need now is a rich mistress or a lottery win. I'll buy a ticket.

Leaving work

Things I shall miss on leaving work: The opportunity to work with people who, although you might not view them as firm friends, nevertheless offer good company, a warm welcome and a different perspective on the world. The campus I work on, a green oasis on the edge of the city, styled as only the 1960s knew how, yet graced with a lovely Shaker-style chapel in the middle, a very attractive canteen known grandly as ‘the refectory’ which sold some of the best salads known to humanity freshly prepared by a huge Eastern European chef, an empty car park which nevertheless required you to buy a ticket each day using one of the most truculent parking machines in the world, friendly maintenance staff who wander around all day cutting, hacking, grubbing up and generally destroying any attempt by nature to grow by more than an inch, and a generally relaxed demeanour to the place which tells you that people are happy to be here in general. The morning pastry. Where will the rationale be n

Off betimes

Leaving work tomorrow, I find myself alone in the office on my penultimate day.   What to do? Should I write ‘Knickers!’ on every third bit of paper in the photocopier tray? Or a story comprised of individual words or phrases on successive sheets, proving both intriguing and annoying at the same time. "I know the report needs to be sent out today, Maxine but dammit, I need to find out whether Abigail marries Dirk in the end or if Jenny can lure her away to that retreat in Corfu, saving her from a loveless marriage!" Maybe I could very slightly bend all the staples in the stationery cupboard so they don’t work or take the lids off the dry wipe pens. Paper clips are easy prey so they will be spared. I could put glue on the start buttons on everyone’s computer. Or blu-tack under the desks so it feels like chewing gum. I’ve decided against the traditional poo in the kettle as I love a good cup of tea as much as the next person – assuming, that is, that they are not a