Sunday, October 30, 2005

Every Time We Say Goodbye 

I wonder if, during moments of stress whilst out and about in his Patmobile, Postman Pat ever uses intemperate language, shouting things like “Stupid fucking dog!”

We were back in the Dales on Saturday - me, Girlfriend, Leanne and Canoeing Instructor - driving along those steep, narrow lanes that wind up down, up down, down up, and which veer at unlikely angles all over the North Yorkshire countryside.
At the wheel of my recently re-vitalised Toyota Nosebleed - £800, by the way. £800!!! Grr. Don’t get me started, etc. - I mentioned that I felt like Postman Pat, bobbing cheerfully along like he does, when we passed a farmyard on the left where a sheepdog was sniffing about at the side of the road. I slowed down and gave it a wide berth and all seemed well until the brainless creature decided to lunge at one of my front wheels. I stopped just in time, but I’m sure that if not for my lightning reflexes and some extremely expensive brake fluid, I’d have killed my first ever sheepdog.
Hence my suddenly yelling “Stupid fucking dog!” If you were in the north of England on Saturday and you heard this uncharacteristic outburst, I apologise if I alarmed you.

We were there because, in exchange for teaching me how to paddle, I’m teaching Canoeing Instructor how to map read. We walked up - and down, funnily enough - Ingleborough. She did very well and I’m extremely proud of her.

Afterwards we had a drink in my favourite Dales pub, then when I’d quite finished shouting obscenities at sheepdogs for one day, we drove home for tea. Me and Girlfriend made chilli, and we all drank rather a lot of vodka, including some of the birthday Raspberry Vodka which Leanne gave me.
We stopped up playing board games, listening to music and generally chatting until about 3:30, or about 2:30, depending on whether you’ve put your clock back yet. It was good.

I had one of those incredibly annoying sleepless nights, staring wide eyed at the ceiling for what seemed like eternity, eventually nodding off at about 6:00 (or 5:00). I slept for three hours then went to buy a paper and a Dandy for Canoeing Instructor. She’d been saying how she used to read it with her Dad on Sundays when she was a kid, how it was their little tradition. It sounded lovely.
I wasn’t even sure if the Dandy was still published, and I had to try a few newsagents before I found one. I didn’t like to ask the staff in the shop just in case they stopped making it fifteen years ago or something. I wouldn’t want to give a false impression that I’ve just been released from a lengthy prison sentence.

I felt ridiculously sad when they left. I really like Leanne and Canoeing Instructor ever such a lot, but it’s not as if I won’t be having fun with them again soon, and I’m a grown man for goodness’ sake. This feeling sad has got to stop.
I mooched around the house, walked over to my Mum’s to feed her cats, played the piano and sang for them a bit, then shuffled back in the rain, kicking up fallen leaves, generally feeling a bit forlorn and accidentally knocking some kid off his bike.

Girlfriend has got up now and I’m alright at the moment, but I’m going to be completely knackered tomorrow.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Apple Bed 

A good crop - Cox’s Orange Pippins, Cornish Gilliflowers, and of course, Bramleys, from up by the old henhouse, next to the potting shed where helpdesk staff go to enjoy relations during their lunch hours, returning to their desks red faced, elbows and fingernails black with John Innes No. 3.

There are apples everywhere, racked up in cardboard crates in reception, free for anybody who wants them.
“Mrs. Rex makes the best apple crumble in the county,” says Rex the green fingered security guard in a matter of fact tone, ruddy cheeked and short of breath, leaving puddles of rain on the chrome and leather armchairs and a trail of muddy footprints on the faux marble floor. He smells of grass cuttings and lawn mower fuel.
“She’s got certificates from the WI to say so, but there’s only so many she can use. Here, take some, they’re delicious,” and he forces a carrier bag full of Autumnal goodness into your hand.
“Tabatha sweetheart, give Tom one of those recipe sheets. There, on the desk. Apple pie. Do you do much cooking? Blackcurrant and apple crumble. Some people put them in soup.”

Apples spill onto the floor, rolling around like ball bearings. Unsuspecting visitors trip on them, sending them and themselves scattershot. They wend their way onto every floor of the building, into every crevice, riding the lift all day, playing hide and seek in cupboards and filing cabinets, leaping out of the coffee machine - Boo! - when you least expect and buggering up the photocopier.
Their favourite place seems to be nestling among the network cables and power leads under the data centre floor, the air conditioning keeping them cool and dry, and of course it’s much healthier for the mice.

Monday, October 17, 2005

The Final Push To The Sum 

I think I’ve located the problem under the bonnet of my Toyota Nosebleed. I left a cheese sandwich in there, sometime around Easter, I think. It’s now a crispy fried, steam-toasted cheese sandwich. It’s going to be a job for an expert, unfortunately. If they can manage to scrape it off the fan thingy that’s supposed to whiz round and keep the engine thingy cool, I’ll tell you what it tasted like. I’ve booked it in on Friday to see a chef.

On Sunday, me and Girlfriend went for a blast of fresh air in The Dales. We walked up Pen-y-Ghent, which was a good re-introduction after a bit of a lapse on the going up hills front.
Here are some trees.
And this, shimmering invitingly in the distance like a shiny footpath, is the Pennine Way.

It was a beautiful day. Pretty blustery on the top - you wouldn’t want to hang around eating your egg for longer than absolutely necessary - but as we descended it was more like a peaceful summer evening, warm and calm and still. All you could hear was the sound of sheep baa-ing, children laughing in the distance, and the gentle rub of leather against blister.

I’ve been quietly willing Girlfriend to buy some proper new fangled techno-boots for ages. I think we could finally be making a break through. Mine are like slippers, I tell her, toasty and cosy and lovely. Why deny yourself the sensory pleasures that await you in Millets?

If only she could just overcome the psychological hurdle that, at a purely technical level, hiking boots are a type of shoe.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Alpha Male 

Hands up if you enjoy people sneaking up behind you and jabbing their fingers into your ribcage, before exclaiming “Hey, you’re really ticklish, aren’t you?”

I don’t see many hands raised. Maybe you’re suspicious. Are you afraid that if you lift your arms very slightly for just one moment, some hilarious pillock is going to take advantage and give you the tickling they think you’re asking for? I don’t blame you.

Creepy Keith from Accounts does it all the time, tiptoeing furtively around the building, twirling his imaginary moustache like he’s the dastardly Baron Von Thigh Slap, funniest man alive. What will that old rascal do next with his crazy index fingers? Oh look! The King of Comedy has just buried them deep into your ribs! Again!

“Fuck off Keith!” you howl as you fly through the air. “Do that once more and I’ll stab you with this, erm…” - when you land you reach for the nearest object to hand - “…and I’ll stab you with this yoghurt.”

Stella, your eighties style yuppie witch of a team leader, is hooting with joy. “Oh Keith!” she cackles, “that was genius!”
You’re fuming, mentally preparing official complaints, resignation letters, and she’s rolling around in stitches, helplessly bashing her broom for mercy. What must she be thinking?
“Go on Keith! Do it again while they’re not expecting it!”

Which, of course, is to miss the point completely. Because you’re always expecting it, flinching whenever he ever comes near you, you’re permanently on edge.
In one sense, it’s a blessing in disguise. It’s nature’s way of telling you that this person can’t be trusted, not just in matters pertaining to tickling, but in other ways too. For tickler, read unfunny control freak who only wants to have power over you. Danger! Trouble ahead!

And to think of it: you could so easily have become friends with Creepy Keith, or someone like him, he seemed so, well, interested in you, and tactile too, forging ahead, maybe even falling in love, blinded with gratitude, out of the frying pan, into another frying pan, discovering only when you were starting to singe - what’s that burning smell? Oh! It’s me! - that they were in fact just some unfunny control freak who only ever wanted to have power over you.
Perhaps you did.

Kid, trust your instincts. You’d be far better off without him.

In Ticket Stub Temple Of Coolness news, on Thursday, me and Girlfriend joined Röyksopp in Manchester for one of their nights out. They were very good indeed, all dressed up like Kraftwerk, and beating the living daylights out of their gadgets. Cööl.

Then last night, the holiday gang met up for daft vodka drinks and that. Thank goodness Long Tall Wanda was at an Elvis party. Last time we met, I kept thumping her on the leg as a way demonstrating my affection and she duffed me up. They’re healing over now though. We hatched plans for future escapades.

Everybody’s got to have them, and today mine is to try and work out why volcanic clouds of steam keeping erupting from my Toyota Nosebleed at inopportune moments. I think I’ve got an idea.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Light At The End Of The Tunnel Is The Light Of An Oncoming Train 

It’s been madder than mad. I haven’t had time to fart.

The big news from work is that Bill Surname, Chief Executive Officer, has rejected a series of buy out bids from Jumped Up Yobs In Suits Corporation. He told them to stick their money where the sun don’t shine, which is ironic considering that’s exactly what they were trying to do. It’s impossibly gloomy around here.
I had money on him taking the cash and legging it: doing a bit of travelling, filling the house up with Rickenbackers, pottering around the garden indefinitely and watching The L Word. I would have.

Instead, he thinks he’s turned around the mildly harrowing experience of almost being taken over to his own advantage. Something about the cut of their jibs must have appealed, because he’s “persuaded” the Four Horsepersons Of The Apocalypse to come and work for Company X. We’re all colleagues now. They’re just a bunch of crooks on the make. It’s a terrible idea.
They can’t shake the habit of looking at you with complete disgust. It’s their entire world view. One poor sod made an innocuous comment in a team meeting last week and for the difference it made, he may as well have said “Hey guys! Why don’t we all have a communal dump, right here? It’ll be a gas!” They took him out and kicked his head in.

Stella, my eighties style yuppie witch of a team leader, has responded with a bit of a shuffle. The long and short is that Mike and Terry now spend a lot more time out and about on customer sites - or taking the piss, as it’s also called - while the short and curly is that I’m more deskbound than ever and my workload has doubled, maybe trebled, in recent weeks.
Everybody wants everything now and they seem to think that constantly bombarding me with those awful instant messenger thingies - surely a greater threat to the well being of the planet than global warming and George W combined - will help them deliver their shitty little projects on time.

I bumped into Neil, my former team leader, this morning. He’s been out in the car park for the last couple of weeks, digging a big hole in the ground. It’s quite impressive, actually. Sometimes it fills up with rain, other days it all but drains away. You can imagine jumping in and never hitting the bottom.
He was wearing muddy workman’s boots and an orange vest. On the back it read “Your donkey jacket would look good on my bedroom floor.”
He told me he was digging for victory. I said the light at the end of the tunnel is the light of an oncoming train.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Shyness Is Nice, And Shyness Can Stop You From Doing All The Things In Life You’d Like To 

It’s a rum business when you start liking people you’ve never even met.
Harmless enough in moderation I suppose, but it’s only a stone’s throw from fandom, which in turn is a mere slippery slope away from court injunctions and restraining orders.

One minute it’s “Hi, we’ve never met but I really enjoy your stuff,” and before anyone can say Intruder Alert you’ve descended into “Yeah, I’m a big fan actually. Huge.” No wonder people look at you funny. You’re flat out on your back on a patch of black ice but the words won’t stop coming out of your big stupid mouth. “Did you know I rent a room across the road from you? Very nice area. I love what you’ve done with your bathroom. Blue is so your colour. By the way, don’t forget your car tax expires this month.”

A little while ago, me and Girlfriend went to the London Blogmeet and I got the chance to meet a whole bunch of people who I’d never met before but already kind of liked. It was really good.
If my own experience was anything to go by, this is what happens: you sidle up to somebody and say “Hello, my name’s Tim” – and this bit is key – you say the name of your blog immediately. Otherwise there’ll be an agonising silence while they think “Tim? Do I know a Tim? Tiny Tim? Timmy Mallett? Tim Henman? Who was that actor who played James Herriot?”
Once the penny drops – ah! A Free Man In Preston – you tell them how great it is to meet them at last. You need to get this in quickly as well, to spare them the embarrassment of accidentally saying out loud “Gosh, I thought you’d be much better looking.”
You then make a point of telling them that although you like their blog very much, you don’t read it obsessively or in any way that could be misconstrued as creepy.
“I haven’t read your stuff for weeks actually! That’s how not remotely creepy I am! Go on – ask me about something you’ve done recently. I won’t be able to answer. I know nothing about you at all, come to think of it. No, honestly - ask me, ask me, ask me!”

In no particular order, I spent a jolly afternoon bothering various bloggers in this fashion.
It was lovely to say hello to A Brazen Hussy In Paris, who of course was neither brazen nor hussy like. She recited back to me one of the comments I’d once left at hers that she liked, which I thought was very decent of her. She also said that she liked Charlotte, Bill Surname’s loyal PA. We chatted about this and that, although on reflection I think it might have been more of an inquisition on my part. I can’t remember anything that I said to her of any particular consequence, as I can’t with any other blogger I met that day, but it was really good to say “Hi” nonetheless.

I talked about stock photography with Andre, because that’s something I’ve always wanted to get into but never have, while he actually gets on with it and does it. I thought he was really great - just like in his blog, only more so - and could happily talk Smiths B-sides with him any time he likes. He talked about himself a lot - come on, we wouldn’t want him any other way, would we? - but he also asked me and Girlfriend about various stuff going on in our lives and I thought he was thoroughly charming.

Unfortunately Jonny B, everybody’s favourite Norfolk blogger, couldn’t make it due to a last minute bowling emergency. Instead, he sent one of his sub-editors to stand in for him, a nice enough youngster despite a tendency to prod you in the chest to emphasise whatever point he was making at the time. He’d obviously been instructed to play up the “wouldn’t say boo to a goose” personality trait, and I thought the whole business with the table was rather unconvincing, but it was good to meet somebody from the I Don’t Believe It franchise even if it couldn’t be JB. Just like his employer’s blog, he was infuriatingly popular.
I told him that The Proclaimers sing in a similar way to those annoying people who think it’s necessary to shout at the deaf. He gave me a look and wandered off to talk to someone else.

I talked to Anxious, Greavsie, Tilesey and Celeste, and Jamesyboy - who were all very nice, naturally - about the loneliness of the long distance runner; Bombardier; erm, can’t remember; sorry, still can’t remember; and nope, it’s completely gone respectively. I was thoroughly impressed by Merialc’s courage to turn up on her own in spite of not knowing anybody and being very nervous (apparently) about it. I thought she was lovely.

I asked Laura about property development - hooray! - and thought she was ever so nice: good fun and much more up and together than I’d expected, somehow. Don’t know why. Perhaps it’s a post-rat race thing.

Anna was very nice. I can’t explain why but I’ve always been slightly scared of her. But she wasn’t scary at all. She had a big smile and a cheeky twinkle in her eyes. Her fella was a very charming chap, and I enjoyed having a good look - as many others did during the course of the day - at his musical wafer.

I talked about Joni Mitchell and other music stuff with Paranoid Prom Queen and Bonobo, who were both really friendly and very easy to talk to. I liked them a lot.

I talked to Wibble and thought he was wonderful. Amazingly honest and frank, and you know, just somebody who you could happily imagine hanging out with. And him and Andre organised the whole shebang, so big respect where it’s due to both of them.

Obviously there were others, but my memory is fading. No offence intended in the likely event that I’ve forgotten you. I would have liked to talk more with Vaughan and Troubled Diva because I’ve read their stuff since and like it, although not in a creepy stalker kind of way. Ahem.

As the evening progressed, we did the ‘levitating’ somebody in a chair thing - me, Girlfriend, Jonny B’s sub-editor and Laura lifted Lisa Badger if I recall correctly. And in the interests of revisionism, we apparently didn’t play I Have Never…

The most bizarre thing - for me, anyway - was meeting Maria, who entered the pub hotfoot from Mexico.
“Mexico?” everybody thought, wondering if perhaps they’d misheard, and she’d actually said something that just sounds like Mexico. Like Manchester, say, or possibly even Nottingham.
“Yes, Mexico,” she smiled. “But I’m not just here for the blogmeet. I’m here to meet my lover as well.” She said she was hoping to see some of London during her week long stay. That is, if she ever got chance to leave the hotel room.
“Oooh,” everybody winced quietly, “that’s got to hurt.” Didn’t they?
She told Girlfriend the whole trip had been paid for by her husband. It’s certainly not how we do things in Preston. Again, she was really nice.

Afterwards, our generous hosts Lisa and husband TA took us to a miniature Japanese restaurant in Leicester Square, where it’s considered courteous to bang your head on everything. It was really good of Ms. Badger, TA and assorted Australian housemates to put us up for the weekend and great to see them again. They’ll be welcome here anytime they like.
Other highlights of the weekend were seeing Alison Lapper Pregnant, and a swift whizz around the National Portrait Gallery on Sunday morning.

With hindsight, perhaps it wasn’t too smart expecting my poor old Toyota Nosebleed to transport us to central London and back without throwing a hissy fit. I worry that its days are numbered. Next time we go to a blogmeet, we’ll travel by Concorde.

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