Friday, 31 August 2012


You know that feeling, when you get back from holiday, how it’s nice to get back be home, to get back to normal?

Odd isn’t it?

People spend months looking forward to going away and then are glad to be home. It seems to be all about routine. Routine comforts us. We don’t have to think, because we know what’s going to happen and when.

(I know, for instance, that the second I’ve finished this post, I’m going to make a cup of very strong coffee. It’s what I do at this time of the afternoon.)

Now, the thing about this comforting routine is that it gets pretty dull after a while. Monotonous. Dull. Monotonous. Dull. Yes, like that. So we want to do something different. Then after a while, that something different becomes the norm. Routine, you might say. Maybe even a little bit dull.

A person could spent their lives going around in that kind of loop. I think I have. I doubt I’m alone.


Friday, 24 August 2012

Don't Call Me

It finally happened. No, not with me and the girl from Clapham.

I’m talking about one of those phone calls. The ones where the caller wants to talk to you about computer problems. They act as though you’ve been in touch with them, and they’re ringing back to help you. Nearly everyone I know has had one of those calls. But I haven’t, until now.
            I pick up the phone.
            ‘Hello?’ I can hear a call centre noise, but no voice.
            ‘Hello?’ I debate putting the phone down, but decide against it. I’ve been sitting at a desk on my own all day, whipping words into order. A distraction wouldn’t go amiss. An argument wouldn’t either. I’ll give it one last go.
            ‘Ma’am, it’s about your computer problem.’
            How delightfully non-specific, I think, I know what this is. I open my mouth. Nothing comes out.
            It must be over a year since I first heard about this scam, and in all that time I haven’t come up with an appropriate retort. And I can’t think on the spot. Really, I can’t. This is why I prefer to communicate with the written word.
            ‘Ma’am, you have a problem with your computer?’
            My brain’s working on the retort. I’ve only just sent in the request though. It’s going to take a while.
            ‘My problem,’ I say, ‘is people ringing up trying to scam me.’ I put the phone down.

I expect, in about three weeks, a suitably witty quip will pop out of my brain, unannounced yet fully formed. In all likelihood, I’ll be in the shower when this happens, unable to write it down. By the time I get out, I’ll have forgotten it.

*This week, I’ve launched a collection of short stories in electronic format, Treasury #1. I won’t attempt a hard sell, because I’m not sure I’d know how (and even if I did, I wouldn’t be able to keep a straight face). I just thought I’d mention it. In passing, y’know. You can get it at Amazon for the Kindle, and Smashwords for pretty much anything else.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Open Sesame

Have you ever struggled to open a door?

I don’t mean you’ve had your hands full, balancing a full glass of vodka and coke (or whatever’s your poison) in one hand, a blackcurrant ice lolly in the other, with a book tucked under your arm, and struggled with a door handle.

I’m talking about being so damn stupid you can’t open a door. I find myself in this particular situation a lot. Well, maybe not daily, but certainly more than I believe is statistically average.

If there are two entrances to a place, and one is locked, I will always pick the locked one. Always. If a door needs to be pulled, I push it. If it needs to be pushed, I pull it. Mostly, I just try both. And still the door doesn’t open.

I have to come to a halt in front of automatic sliding doors, waiting for them to do their stuff. I feel like I’m awaiting validation from some unseen source. When my identity has been confirmed, the doors slowly slide back into their recesses.

Not having a door can equally be a problem. You know those stores in shopping centres that are completely open-fronted, with no doors or windows? I was in one of those once, or at least I thought I was. When I went to leave and walked straight into the plate glass window, I realised I wasn’t. The sales assistant seemed very genuine in her concern, despite her tears of laughter. I must have gone in through a door to get into that shop (I certainly did to get out of it, quite quickly and with a glowing face), but hadn’t remembered doing so. I guess it must have been one of the few occasions that I’d managed to open a door seamlessly, therefore obliterating the action from my memory.

Which doors have flummoxed you?

Friday, 10 August 2012

The Man on Platform 2

From somewhere in front of me in the carriage, a loud voice talks into a mobile phone.
            ‘Have you had that Pot Noodle?’
            ‘Well I’ll be hungry!’
            ‘I’ll cook the Pot Noodle when I get home. Have you had that beer?’
            ‘You fat cow!’

I’m three quarters of the way through a long journey, the day is nearly over, and I’m feeling dozy and daydreamy. My head is resting on the window as the train makes its way across the green, lush landscape. A tractor is hard at work in a field, cutting hay. I watch the sun slowly setting. We seem to be chasing it.
            The window spans my seat and the one behind. There is a blind above it. Without warning, the blind is yanked downwards. It stops half-way down the window, a large wodge of chewing gum in the frame preventing it moving any further. I toy with the idea of asking the person behind me if they’ve considered that I might like the view. I decide against it. I’ll say it’s because I prefer to stay dozy and daydreamy, which is partly true. We all know it’s because I’m a wimp, though.

A rap-based ringtone blasts out from in front of me.
            ‘Hello babe.’
            ‘You didn’t! You fat cow!’

The blind inexplicably goes back up again. The sun has not set. I wonder if the person behind me has had an epiphany, and suddenly discovered the beauty outside the window.

A short while later, the train pulls into a station. Two people are standing at the train door, waiting for it to come to a complete halt. The woman behind me gets up and joins them. She looks normal, quite pretty. I wouldn’t have had her down as a blind puller. A man gets up from in front of me and joins the queue. He has short, brown hair and his face is set on scowl.
            Through the window, I can see the passengers disembarking. A woman gets off first and, despite being at the back of the queue, scowly man is off next. He heads back my way along the platform. Through the window, over the thrum of the engine, I hear a rap-based ring tone. He pulls a phone out of his pocket.
            ‘Hello babe.’
            ‘You cow!’

I’m glad this isn’t my stop.

*I've tried a new sandwich this week. I started by toasting two pieces of multigrain bread. I smooshed a ripe avocado into one piece of the toast, then sprinkled over black pepper. I topped this with chopped red and green peppers and red chilli. I spread plain houmous over the other piece of toast and sandwiched the lot together. It's no Pot Noodle, but pretty good. 8.5/10.

Friday, 3 August 2012

My Least Favourite Waste of Time

Sandwiched between crisp, white cotton sheets, in those moments before going to sleep, is my favourite time. I can finally stretch out and relax, exorcising the day.

My least favourite time of day is a three or four hours later. No longer am I relaxed, but I am still tired. Insomnia is a bugger of a thing. And the longer I’m awake, the more tired but less like sleeping I feel. Round and round my mind goes – ‘must go to sleep now, only (look at clock) X hours until I have to get up’. The lower the value of X, the greater the tension. It’s a nightmarish countdown, but with no chance of having a nightmare.

I used to find, after an hour or so of sleeplessness, some cheese on toast would knock me out as reliably as any (over)dose of vodka. Then I came over all vegan. From the point of view of getting some sleep, it was not my wisest move.

Anyone want to join me in a potato-based fermented beverage?