Thursday, 4 August 2022

Online Shopping Rage

Warning: Contains adult language.

Anyone else suffer from online shopping rage? I don't mean the grocery buying thing - I've never really done that as it requires planning ahead for meals, I would think. You know, I'm having this particular combination/menu on Monday, this on Tuesday, this one Wednesday and so on. And I'm a bloke... I ain't gonna do that! No, with food shopping I like to visit the shop, see 'stuff' in front of me and then put it in the basket. There is no plan. Consequently, when my provisions are at critically low level, I go to the refrigerator to see what I have left and what might make a meal, and get on with it. I did have to be particularly creative once when all I had left was bread, raspberries, potatoes and mustard! 

But, I'm veering away from the point. So the type of online shopping rage I'm referring to is when you want to buy a product, for example, a camera, a mattress, a jacket or a table, to name a few one-off type purchases. (I was actually looking for a mattress when I had my latest bout of shopping rage!) 

So, you go on line, Google the product you want and up comes a number of sites. You browse as far as the first three - any lower and you think you are going to get dodgy goods - and click on a site. Then it starts!

All you want to do is get an idea of what's out there, at your leisure, so you can maybe make a choice based on what appeals to you. This is just the browsing stage. It doesn't have to be complicated. But, no, it pans out like this:

Cookies - 'This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Do you accept?' 
Instant reaction - "Yes! I do. Everybody uses cookies now. We don't care, yeah? We don't even notice. We're used to our web searches being tracked. And you ain't concerned about me getting the 'best experience.' No, you're only putting that up because the law says you have to and and then you can bombard me with crap I don't want. "

Live Chat - 'Hi. Looking for a mattress? Anything I can help with?'
Instant reaction - "No. Fuck off. Of course I'm looking for a mattress. That's why I'm on the page that sells frigging mattresses. What d'you think I'm looking for? A baby giraffe?"

Discount - 'Get 10% off your next purchase.'
Instant reaction - "Next purchase? I haven't made any purchases yet. I'm just looking! And already you're assuming that I'm gonna make a 'next one'? Anyway, if your mattresses are any good, why would I come back for another one? I'd have one. So, sod off. You're not trying to do me any favours. You just want my email address."

Privacy Policy - A bunch of words that contain things like, '...our services may contain links to third party websites and applications.'
Instant reaction - "I don't care. I ain't reading all that. I just wanna buy a frigging mattress! If I buy one, you can share that shit. Who cares? I'm never gonna deny it! And what d'you mean your 'services may contain links to third party websites and applications?' May? Of course they do. Don't talk bollocks. Just put that, tell it like it is. They do contain links. End of story!

Terms & Conditions - If you do make a purchase then you have the T&Cs to read.
Instant reaction - "Bollocks. Just get me to the checkout. Nobody reads 180 pages of legal waffle that they don't understand and which, if ever I needed to apply, you'd wriggle out of anyway because no doubt it would be me who did something wrong. So, I ain't reading that either. Anyway, I'm buying a frigging mattress, not a baby giraffe. How complicated can it be? 

So, by the time I've gone through this several times, I've lost the will and enthusiasm to shop for anything.

I've decided to sleep on the floor!

Friday, 8 July 2022

Yesterday's Man

I went back to my home town the other day. I go back from time to time as I have a lot of history there. Now I live in the ‘sticks’ so when I go back my perception is coloured by my last visit and that history. It doesn't take long to feel at home in the geographical surroundings you are so familiar with, and it's easy to forget that time moves on in your absence. This time I hadn't been back in a while, mostly due to the pandemic that shut the world down temporarily and the fact that life in 'the sticks' is my new normality.

Anyway, armed with the confidence of being a 'local' and familiar with all the usual social haunts, I stroll up to a wine bar that I used to frequent. In the past I'd walk in, no problem, like a Giancana associate, no questions asked. I knew the door staff, they knew me and the geezer at the bar knew my drink, gave me priority. So, I guess I showed up with a ‘don’cha know who I am’ look on my face. As I approach, I realise that I have never seen the guy on the door ever before. He was all black gloves, big overcoat and high-vis lumo jacket, that 'uniform' that's supposed to add some authority to what must be a boring job, standing outside a social venue all night. 

I say, 'hi'. He doesn't say anything, just looks me up and down, perhaps figuring out a response to 'hi' with his intellect and mental agility probably contained in the two pockets of the aforementioned overcoat. It's clear that he doesn't have a clue who I am, and he makes no attempt to step aside and allow me into the venue. 

So, I try charm but maybe it doesn't work on the dim. It doesn’t permeate the pockets.
Then he speaks. “You have to book to get in now.”
I look astonished, mostly because I am. I raise an eyebrow, intent on posing a question. Despite his ‘pocket IQ’, he gives me some bollocks about a new policy (he wouldn’t know what a policy was if it slapped him around his shaved head and left a big P on his skull) and repeats that you have to book, plus, as an afterthought, tells me, "they don’t let single blokes in who turn up as a walk in." As he mentions this only as an afterthought, I consider that it must be a sub-clause to the ‘new policy' that he's just remembered. Do I need to get married, I wonder to myself. And which is it - they don't let single blokes in or you have to book?

So I ask if a ‘single bloke’ can book. Seems like a sensible question! He stutters a bit, not because he has a speech impediment, but because it's the sort of question you might get in a court of law that leads to a devastating point that brings down your whole defence like a pack of Jenga sticks that can’t take the strain anymore. He tells me that a single guy can book provided they mention that they are on their own (which all single guys tend to be), and then the venue will sort out a table for one! I feel sorry for the guy as he is trying to be polite now, but seems to be making stuff up on the hoof.

Anyway, in an attempt to rescue things, I call a friend who lives fairly locally to see if he can pitch up and we might blag it as a ‘gay’ couple. He rings me back and says he’s at a golf club do that he had to attend because he won something that most people do not give a toss about. In fact, nor does he, but he's just trying to do the right thing and avoid members talking about a ‘no show.’ I’m okay with that but then he texts to say it’s an extremely boring event. Mildly irritated already because I'm being questioned about my status as a venue legend, I text my friend as follows:
“Boring! Of course it is! It’s at a golf club! You're probably surrounded by middle-aged geezers who can’t stand their wives so they prefer to talk about how shit they are at golf! And I bet they made that speech about how great the weather was and how fantastic the frigging course was too.”

He doesn’t respond.

At that point I knew I’d have to try to blag the door guy. So I chat to him, pulling out my best moves and eventually he says he will ask his boss if I can come in as I seem like a sensible normal guy. (Not sure his assessment was correct, but I roll with it.) Off he goes. A few minutes later he comes back and says he’s really sorry but the boss won’t let single blokes in. 
"Yeah, but you just said single blokes can get in if they book. Does your boss not know his own policy?" I ask.
He stutters again and then says, "Like I said, you have to book if you're a single bloke."
By now, I'm feeling argumentative and, even though I realise that argumentative has never won over any door staff ever, I say, "Cool. So I'd like to book, uh, for say, five minutes time? That okay?"
He laughs. "Sorry, mate, that's not how the booking system works."
I think to myself, 'isn't a booking system about booking ahead and if I give five minutes notice, that is booking ahead,' but I leave it. I came here for a convivial evening not a debate and just ask how the policy applies to single women. 
He stutters a bit more, glances back through the door, but the boss is nowhere in sight. He then falls back on the 'only doing my job' thing but adds, "if it was me, I'd let you in, mate."

I'm thinking, it is you, but by then, I don't care anymore. 

I wasn’t packing a Kalashnikov nor planning to fire-bomb the place. I wasn't wearing a balaclava and attempting to rob the place. I wasn't even drunk! I was just a guy on his own who fancied a glass of wine. So, yeah, time moves on and so do situations. Nothing stays the same. You are never more than a moment from being 'yesterday's man.' 

The lesson I've learned? I need a ‘backup girlfriend’ on speed dial to make me look like a 'couple' at such times. Not sure how I should approach that. Women get sensitive about being appendages.


I cooked sausages last night. I tried a new method with the oven grill. A new method, that is, for me, you know, instead of frying them. In my enthusiasm I even got the oven handbook out to make sure I understood the grill settings. I put them in and killed time by playing guitar. I checked on them about seven minutes later intent on turning them over to ensure even cooking, but found that one side was incinerated beyond recovery and looked like space modules that had tried to enter the Earth’s atmosphere without the benefit of a heat shield!

I pulled the tray from the oven and immediately two smoke alarms went off with that banshee screaming sound that sets your nerves on edge and makes the neighbours think you are sacrificing a lamb or something, but are too worried to check on what’s happening in case you are indulging in some ancient ritual and they don’t want to impinge on your rights. 

Anyway, I flapped at the smoke alarms (which were in two separate locations but had now tuned to one another’s frequency like some demented version of a rock choir on hard narcotics) with a tea towel in an attempt to silence their high-pitched cacophony, when what I should have done was shut the oven door where black smoke was belching into my home like George’s dragon in its death throes. Eventually, I silenced the screeching, opened a couple of windows and turned my attention to rescuing the sausages. 

Rescuing was, perhaps, optimistic and probably inspired by the fact that the other side was still uncooked. I lowered the heat, put the tray down a shelf and crossed my fingers. No, the sausages didn’t improve. When I pulled them out of the oven some minutes later, they looked like the remnants of the incident in Pompeii - but I ate them anyway! A geezer that lives on his own and is hungry rarely has backup options! 

Monday, 4 July 2022

Small Talk

I'd dressed up. I looked smart, I thought, even if I'd made that assumption myself from several glances in the mirror. It was a first date. I hadn't been on one for a long time so I was keen to make an effort and a positive first impression. As I approached the bar I felt the anxiety rising. I was early so ordered a small glass of wine. Dutch courage, perhaps, but I wanted to get this right. I ran through a number of conversation topics in my head but then decided that it was best to be spontaneous, unrehearsed, it would be much more natural. And anyway there was enough information on her profile for me to be able to show interest and have a conversation without any rehearsal. 

She was on time and I liked her instantly. She seemed a little tense, probably the same pre-date nerves that I had experienced. After the formalities and ordering drinks I decided to break the ice with a nice, relaxed chatty approach. Maybe it was 'small talk' but no need to go into any in-depth stuff straight from the off.
“So, how long you had the saloon?” I asked.
“Sorry? Saloon?” she replied, frowning.
“Yeah, it says you run a saloon on your profile. Seems pretty cool job,” I said with  smile.
“A saloon? No, a salon. A beauty salon. You must’ve misread it.”
Thoughts of free beer vanished immediately. I shuffled uncomfortably in my seat and tried to recover. Maybe small talk wasn't my forte! “Oh, sorry. My mistake. Uh, I don’t s’pose you really get much opportunity to use it yourself?”
Her frown grew more pronounced. “I beg your pardon? What’s that meant to mean?”
I shuffled in my seat again. “Nothing. Uh, I meant, you know, erm… you probably don't get time to take advantage of... you know, what with, err - ”
“No, I don’t know. What’re you trying to say?”
I realised I’d fallen into a trap of my own making. I took a large gulp of wine, thinking how I might retrieve the situation. “I just meant that as you own it... the saloon... sorry, the salon, you probably don’t get to use it… uh, not that I think you need to use it… you look fine without any… without all that beauty treatment thing… uh, make-up, stuff.”
She leaned forward, the frown emphasised considerably. “So, you think I look plain?”
I never said that, I thought, but I didn’t get a chance to respond.
“For what it’s worth, I’ll have you know I made a great deal of effort for our date tonight. I didn’t expect you to be so dismissive.”
Dismissive? “Listen, I just… there's a balance between a lot..." I hesitated. I realised I might be digging a deeper hole for myself. "Look, your make-up looks great. I can see you’ve taken lots of time over it and - ” 
“Oh, I see. So you think I have too much on then?”
I opened my mouth to speak but was cut off, as she stood up abruptly.
“Let me tell you, mister. You’re no oil painting yourself so don’t be going around commenting on other people’s appearance until you sort your own out.” She turned on her heel and headed for the door.
So much for checking my own look in the mirror! I slugged the rest of my wine, beckoned to the barman for a refill and considered that perhaps I should book an appointment with a life coach before I contemplated another date.

Lion Hell

It was dark but it was always dark in the animal enclosure deep beneath the grounds of the Colosseum. Night and day didn’t make much difference. One of the lions, a mature male, was restless. His fidgeting disturbed one of the other lions.

“What’s up mate? Somethin’ botherin’ya?”
“Can’t sleep,” the restless lion said.
“Mate, you need to try an’ get some rest. Big day tomorrow.”
“Always a big bleedin’ day here, ain’t it. Hundred days of games and we’re only on day thirty-nine.”
“Well, at least we get to eat a bit better, what wiv all them slaves, criminals, prisoners and Christians they feed us. Stop whingin', will'ya.”
“Well, same flippin' diet every day. Can’t say I like 'em that much. Prefer an antelope or a zebra meself, like wot we used to eat 'fore them Romans captured us and locked us up. Bit barbaric, if you ask me.”
“Wot, eating zebras?”
“No, dickhead. The Romans... locking us up and throwing slaves and people in for food. All them Emperors doing, ain’t it, and they got the cheek to have statues of themselves all over the place an'av things named after them as if they've done people favours.”
“Yeah? What statues and things?”
“Mate, don’t you keep up? I’ve been listening in on the slaves chatting. There’s statues of Caesar, Caligula, Nero, Claudius, Trajan... even Commodus. And that Tiberius geezer, he even got the river here named after him.”
“He did?”
“Yeah, the Tiber. It ain’t right. I reckon they should pull all them statues down and rename the river. He's a wrong'un.”
The other lion rubbed his chin with a paw and stared at the restless lion for a minute. Then he said. “Yeah, but loads of rivers are named after people. Ain’t nuthin’ unusual 'bout that.”
“Yeah? Like which ones?”
“Uh, well... there’s, uh... the Mississippi named after that married woman wot sells a lot of flowers. Then there’s the one in Amerikey, the Potomac named after that Scottish drug dealer. The Congo, named after the old party dance and -"
"Hang on. That ain't right. It's the conga, ain't it?"
"What the river?"
"No, the dance, silly bollocks. I tell'ya how I know that, yeah. 'Cos them slave drivers make the slaves do it as they bring 'em into the arena."
"All right. So, then there's the Missouri, named after that girl who had a sewer and drain cleaning business. Uh... the Mekong in Asia named after that famous acting gorilla. And they even named one after that parcel company, the Amazon."
"I didn't know any of that, but the point is, the Tiber name should be changed into a name that honours all of us wot been affected by them Romans who kept us prisoners and slaves.”
“Yeah, but that’s history, ain’t it. You can’t go wiping out history just 'cos it ain’t bin good sometimes. I mean, you take down all them statues and change all them names, you’re cleansing things as if they didn’t happen.”
“Don’t really care,” the restless lion said. "I look it this way. We don't make a stand now, nuthin'll change. You don't want your ancestors in, I dunno, a thousand odd years living' in captivity and stuck in cages do'ya?"
"Don't be stoopid. Ain't nobody gonna stick wild animals in cages! It's just this lot now, them Romans. All that conquering and power's gone to their heads. It ain't gonna happen."
"Wanna bet?" 
“Nah, I ain't a betting' lion. Anyway, so wot you want to change the name of the river to?”
The restless lion yawned and then said, “Somethin’ that reflects the hell we bin through, particularly us lions.”
“What, lion hell?”
“Yeah! That’s it. Lionel.”
“Lionel? Mate, people will think it’s named after that footballer, Lionel Messi and he’s from Argentina. He's got nuthin' to do with Rome.”
“Don’t matter. I like it. The River Lionel. We’ll start a petition. Right, I’m gonna sleep. Like you said, big day tomorrow.”

Has Beans

I’m in a hotel and I've just had breakfast, a full English. But... can anyone explain why, when you have beans with it, they put them in their own little dish and serve them up on exactly the same plate as the rest of the breakfast? I wouldn’t mind if they were produced as a side order, but on the same plate? What's that about? It’s not as if there’s no room for them (on the plate, I mean, not in the hotel - odd if some beans checked in for the night). It keeps happening wherever I stay and it baffles me. I mean, they don’t serve the sausage up in its own separate receptacle... nor the bacon, nor the mushrooms. And the egg gets free range to sit where it likes on the plate. So what’s the deal with beans? I’m going to ask for peas with my next full English breakfast and see what happens when they serve them up.

Saturday, 4 June 2022

Eye Sight!

I'd had a bit of trouble with my distance vision. Nothing too bad, but I knew that it could only get worse and I needed to sharpen up the detail. I'd been looking at laser surgery but I was told that wasn't the right procedure for me. There was an alternative - lens replacement. That's a procedure where they remove your natural eye lens, the one you were given at birth (or strictly speaking, a tad before that, I just don't remember). Sounds horrendous! None of us want people mucking about with our eyes. But, after extensive investigation into the procedure, I decided to go for it!  Both eyes at once, bit like a two-for-one thing but without the price deal! I had to go to Leicester to get it done.

Anyway, I got there and I was given a form to sign that says you accept all the different ways your surgery can go horribly wrong, including the ultimate ‘fail’, death! With pen poised above the dotted line, I’m thinking, ‘hang on, do I really want to do this? I mean, I can actually see already. Okay, sometimes people appear blurry, but I can think of several who look better that way so, uh, does that matter?’ I then began to search the form for the bit that might have all the upbeat, happy clappy positive stuff about lens replacement surgery (a word that, due to my dodgy eyes, I often read as ‘sugary’ but there was nothing ‘sugary’ about the ‘death form.’) I scanned the marketing stuff and found the words that said this surgery can be ‘life changing’ but I had already established that from the form. Then I remembered that I had paid the equivalent of half a day’s wages for a very average Premier League footballer, to have my eyes sliced into and realised I was at zero hour with no money back. So I shut my doomed eyes and signed.

The guy who collected the form offered me a drink and I was given a coffee that was strong enough for the caffeine to send my heart rate into high intensity work-out territory, something I didn’t need given that my adrenaline levels were already such that I could have taken a beating from Mike Tyson and still said, “that all you got, sucka?”

I was then taken to a room next to the theatre - the room, that is, where they carry out the sugary… err, surgery... not Leicester’s finest cultural performance building to watch a show (if indeed they have one) - where I had a consultation with a nurse. She took my blood pressure and I swear I saw the monitor start to glow. However, she seemed satisfied with 230/120 so I assumed that most patients who are about to have their eyes slit open are in the ‘abject terror’ reading range. Then she put what felt like a pint of eye drops into both of my eyes, separate shots made up of eye cleaning fluid, anaesthetic and an infection prevention liquid. To finish off, she placed a plastic head cover over my hair so that I looked like I was about to enter a nuclear facility.

Next I was taken into the theatre proper, which was staffed by three nurses and the surgeon who was to perform the procedure. I surreptitiously checked him for shaky hands, you know, just in case he’d been out the night before in Wetherspoon’s and had sunk several pints of cheap ale (well, it was Saturday morning and even surgeons are entitled to a social life.) I was asked to lie on a trolley bed and had a pillow placed under my legs, behind my knees, by one of the nurses. I’m not sure why that was done and just assumed that the nurse had intended it to go behind my head but perhaps she had never actually had her own eyesight checked.

So then, the surgeon placed what felt like a giant one piece oven glove over my eyes and opened a section of the material exposing the first eye he was to work on, my right eye. He poured another couple of pints of liquid into it and then proceeded to apply a clamp to keep it open. Yes, a clamp! Like some bondage routine - uh, not that I'm used to... I digress! At that point I began to question why I’d elected to have both eyes done and started to wish I was a cyclops. In fairness to the surgeon he did explain what he was doing and about to do, although none of his dialogue gave me an option to suggest alternatives. I reckon he was leaving ‘stuff’ out too, and he mentioned ‘iris’ a couple of times. I assumed he was speaking to one of the nurses and ignored it.

Next he shone a light into my eye that seemed brighter than a deep space quasar, so bright that it eliminated my ability to see anything else at all. Maybe that, along with giving the surgeon something to see with, was the point. I wouldn’t notice the difference when he obliterated the lens that nature had given me… uh… a while back!

The next few minutes went by in a blur, as you’d expect, with my awareness only that of moving lights and floods of liquid. I started to wonder if I’d ever see again. Then I began to get some clarity around the edges of my vision but the middle was still a blur. To my alarm, the surgeon said, “That’s that one done.” I’m thinking, ‘done? That it? I could see better when I got here and that was my dodgy eye!’

Unaware of my mental turmoil, the surgeon then went ahead with exactly the same procedure on my other eye, the left one. Fifteen minutes later, he declared that it was all done, removed the ‘oven glove’ and I could see. 

At first I thought I had entered an alien spacecraft but then realised I was staring at the lights in the room which had developed an extremely bright white halo around them. The rest of the room was super bright too, the sort of celestial ‘whiteness’ you’d expect if you’d just walked through the gates of Heaven. Perhaps I had! A moment of shock coursed through me and I reached down for the sides of the trolley bed to see if I was still in contact with earthly ‘stuff.’

I was still trying to adjust and re-orientate when a voice that I assumed belonged to Iris, asked if I could sit up. I hoped I could as the procedure had been on my eyes only. I raised myself into a seating position and swung my legs around so I was sitting on the edge of the trolley bed. I’d obviously been a tad too enthusiastic hoping to demonstrate my powers of recovery and I swayed slightly to one side as an instant dizzy spell hit.
“Are you okay?” Iris asked.
I nodded. I mean, I’ve had dizzy spells, seen fuzzy lights and been totally disorientated before, usually on a Saturday night when out with hardcore drinking mates, but I didn’t mention that to Iris.

After a few minutes I was taken to the recovery room where Iris taped two plastic see-through shields over my eyes so that, with my plastic hair attire, I actually did look like I’d just emerged from an alien spaceship. Iris then proceeded to tell me all the things I must not do in the coming days. 
When she’d finished I said, “So, to sum up, basically, I should just sit on the sofa with my eyes shut for a week!”
Iris smiled and said, “Have you got anyone to look after you?"
My first thought was, 'I'm not five,' but I thought about it. Okay, I live on my own, so wondered what the downside was. I asked Iris.
"Well, your eyes need a while to settle down and you may find that there is some blurriness, so you might need some help with basic things, like cooking, putting the kettle on, that sort of thing."
"How long for?" I asked.
"It should settle after the first week but probably around a month." 
A month! I could starve to death in that time. 
Iris saw my concern. "Most people find it settles quite quickly but if you have someone who could help, that is useful."
I don't and I’m unlikely to find anyone if I have to wear this outfit for weeks, I thought, but I just said that I could manage on my own. I then asked, unnecessarily perhaps, given Iris’s list of ‘don’ts’, if I was able to play tennis.
Iris got cheeky. “I don’t know,” she said with a smile. “Have you had lessons?” She saw my confused look as I began to stutter a reply. “I’m teasing. No, no physically activity.”
I said nothing, surprised by Iris’s jokey bedside manner and wondered if she was going to carry me to the car if all physical activity was banned.

My recovery concluded after fifteen or so minutes. Iris gave me six bottles of eye drops but no barley sugar sweet for being a good boy and sent me on my way. I was allowed to remove my plastic alien eye shields and put on my sunglasses, the only time I have had a legitimate reason for wearing sunglasses indoors. The upside is, I can walk around like a flippin' rock star... and I may buy a jaunty hat to enhance the look!

Now, the getting back to normal stage. We'll see... or at least I hope so!