Wednesday, 14 September 2016

First Impressions

I gently wiped the Nutella from Lexi's face.
"Remember, you don't get a second chance to give a good first impression."
I looked down at the blank expression on my four year old daughters face. Why had I told her that? It meant nothing to a four year old. I'd clearly been on too many customer care courses, the mantras of how to be liked coming back far too easily.  Four year olds need honesty and to be told that it's all going to be okay.
"Be nice to people, and kind to other children who are playing on their own, let them join in. It's going to be fun at school, this is the start of a big adventure."
Okay that bit was a lie. 
To me school had not been an adventure, more of an endurance. And the first impressions thing? At my first day of senior school I had gone to school with my naturally very curly hair slightly longer than it should have been and was called 'poodle' for the next six years. 
First impressions matter.
With the Nutella was wiped from her face and her hair brushed, it was time to leave for school. How do kids get so covered in Nutella?  I'd eaten just as must as she had, yet I'd stayed clean.
We slowly walked across the grass, the dewdrops on the tips of the blades of grass making out shoes wet, we held hands and Lexi seemed calm and unfazed. I wrongly assumed that the step from nursery to reception year, and being amongst a lot of far older children may have worried her, but it didn't seem to.
We walked past other parents with children in uniforms all slightly too big for them.
As it was her first day of school I went into her classroom and met her teacher for the first time, and also some of the other parents, all who seemed nice, but more worried about leaving their children than their children were about being left.
Lexi quickly left my side to play with another little girl as the buzzer sounded to start school.
Coming in through the front door I caught sight of myself in the hallway mirror, and that when I saw it. 
I had Nutella all around MY mouth.
So much for first impressions.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Sparkalaphobia - The fear of glitter.

The most dangerous season of the year is approaching far faster thanot you realise, ando with it comes a great fear and danger.

There are a lot of people who do not like Christmas for a number of reasons, the worry of affording presents for their families and the debt that it may incur. For others a lonely time and a sad time to reflect on the people they've lost. 
But for me it's the irritation of glitter on bloody everything. 
It’s not the actual glitter that irritates me, but the fact that it doesn’t every stay on the object it’s been placed on. And although I try to avoid it at all costs, I always end up with some of it stuck on my face.

I never know it’s on my face until I have that moment when I’m talking to someone, and become aware they are looking at me, but focusing on one particular place on my face, and I think "That's odd, why are they looking at me like that?"  And then I go to a mirror and look, and there is, glitter all over my face, and I look like a crap Roy Wood tribute act, except definitely not wishing it was Christmas every day.
I don't even have to touch it, I just have to be within five meters of some glitter, and hey presto my face looks like the ball hanging over a ballroom dance floor. 

Most of the year I only have to check birthday cards with the delicacy and precision of a bomb disposal expert to avoid it. But Christmas truly is the glitter season, and everything is covered - Christmas decorations, Christmas cards, if it's Christmassy it’s going to have some glitter on it, and therefore it will end up on me.
I say all this getting to excuse myself for something that happened just before Xmas last year, hopefully now you will see it more from my point of view rather than at innocent shop worker I abused in this incedent, it's a very stressful time for me remember. 
I was running late on the very last day of the working year. Whilst everyone was in a jovial Xmas mood I still had a couple of deadlines to meet before the office closed for Xmas.
I was hungry, I'd skipped breakfast to get a head start on work, and by 11am my stomach was rumbling and complaining. 
I needed food.
A nice simple cheese sandwich I thought, that would do it, I could have a quick break to eat it, and then carry on working and get everything finished.
And there was also that pile of Xmas cards waiting for me to open on my desk, but I just couldn't risk it, everyone at work knew about my loathing of the sparkly stuff, so no doubt the cards would be the world’s most glittery cards ever made, that or they would have just poured a whole tube of the stuff in the envelope, in a bid to keep me covered until well into the new year.
I put on my coat and headed out into the cold December air.
Half an hour later and I was still queuing in Marks & Spencer to get my sandwich, the biggest queue of panic buying shoppers in front of me,  the same two Xmas songs on loop, which added to the irritation levels rising inside my brain. 
I waited in the queue behind people buying Xmas decorations, while the shop assistant wearing a Xmas hat with elf ears insisted on individually wrapping each one, as the seconds and minutes I had left to use to eat lunch ebbed away.
Tick tick tick.
"Let me just wrap those for you" she cheerily said to a white haired old lady with enough baubles to decorate the tree in Trafalgar Square.  
Tick tick tick.
"No its OK I’ll do them individually, we don't want them breaking do we?"
Tick tick tick.
"Oh look the wrapping isn't very good on that one, let me do that one again for you... "
Tick tick tick.
I eventually got the front of the queue and locked eyes with the happiest elf in London, I slapped y curling cheese sandwich on the counter.
"Was there no one else here to serve?" I questioned "We are not all here to buy Xmas decorations."
I turned around to look for morale support from fellow lunch buyers, but behind me all there were in the queue were people buying Xmas gifts and decorations. 
I ignored this and turned back round to continue my rant.
"Some of us are still working and need to buy some lunch, and I’ve been in this queue so long that I now really don't have time to eat it" 
The shop assistant was staring at me in a strange and confused way, what was she looking at?
"I'm really sorry, I couldn't concentrate on what you were saying then. Do you know you have glitter on your face?"

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Bad Toilet

I was in the toilets at work.
I had enough time for a quick wee before my lunch break, after all I didn't want to go to the toilet in my own time, that would just be wrong.
I went to the downstairs toilets in the basement, There are no offices in the basement, so as a result they were not used as much as the ones on the second floor. 
As I entered the toilet downstairs all was quiet, I looked at both cubicle doors, both were showing the green flash on the lock meaning vacant.
I breathed a sigh of relief, there would be no need for small talk whilst washing my hands. I felt I always had to say something if I saw a work colleague there, although I never really knew what to say in this situation, and I couldn't hear them over the incredibly loud air-blade hand dryer.
Better to bump into a client, or someone from the other offices at the top of the building, that way I could do a manly nod at them, without the need for making conversation.
I opened the door on toilet one, and was greeted with an awful sight, someone had, and I'm not sure how this is possible as there are no children in the building, someone had pooed on the seat. Not just a little bit, that could have been overlooked, but a large smear, all along one side of the seat.
How was that even possible? How would you smear such a smear? It looked improbable, but there it was, staring defiantly at me.
Would someone have gone in and thought, "I'm feeling artistic today, now what can I do with the materials to hand?"
Maybe it was some kind of dirty protest at the change of brand of the liquid soap at the sinks?

I quickly closed the door and edged towards  the other toilet, toilet number two, hoping that it would be far more welcoming. I pushed the door open and looked inside cautiously. All was good, the area was clean, and in fact the toilet duck bleach was still blue in around the inside. I closed the door behind me and let nature take its course.
I stepped out and washed my hands, planning what to have for lunch from the new sandwich shop in the next street. 
My thoughts were punctured by the toilet door swinging open, and in walked the company’s CEO, he nodded at me, and I nodded back, but inside I was thinking – say something, make a quick throw away quip so you don't look rude or dismissive, my brain drew a blank.
He pushed open the door to cubicle number one as I had, and was greeted by the same site.
“EURGGGHHHHHHH”  it was a noise of half disgust and half shock
“I just did that." I said, nodding in compliance, wondering why a look of total shock spread across his face.
I left the toilet, and was halfway back up the stairs when it dawned on me what he must have thought I meant!
The shame, the shame!

He must have gone back to his office and said to someone “I can’t believe what someone was just bragging about downstairs….”

Later that day the above sign was put on the door. Bad toilet indeed, it might have wrecked my so-called career.


Wednesday, 10 August 2016

My Awkward Moment

I stood up and announced to my work colleagues with confidence, "Did you know a moment is actually a real measurement of time?"
I paused for a moment to add impact, and the office fell silent. I was enjoying my moment of attention, and the fact that I, and I alone knew the information I was about to deliver.
“A 'moment' is actually three minutes."
I sat back down in my office chair, happy to have passed on my wisdom. Information that I had no doubt would be passed on by the people present to their friends, they would enjoy their moment also, and would remember me for having shared this with them originally. 
"No it's not." said Patrick
"What?" I was taken aback, I was not expecting to be challenged.
"It's not three minutes. It’s one and a half minutes actually." He continued.
"It definitely is three minutes." I replied.
I was standing up again, I did not expect to be standing up again this quickly. I expected to still be sitting down whilst the others thought over this new knowledge and how it would alter their lives from this point forwards. 
I knew I should have just said my piece and walked away, Dynamo style. He never has this problem, there's no come back to you if you’re not there to discuss it afterwards.
"Im sure I'm not wrong on this, a bloke in the pub told me this year's ago. Where did you get your information from Patrick?" I asked, waiting for him to back down. He would see the error of his ways now, as would everyone else.  This would be the last time he would question my interlect. 
"Well for a start, WikipediaGoogleanswers, the Guardian newspaper, I could go on.  I just googled it, while you were basking in the limelight, I thought I'd find out more about it and I did. I found out you were wrong and it’s really a minute and a half.
Curse that bloody Internet with its accurate and fast access to information.
I sat back down again, so high one minute, so low the next. From Oracle to obtuse in less than a minute, that's a new record I thought.
Patrick was now holding court, everyone having now turned their backs on me, the fool that had been proved wrong.
I tried to sneak away to make a cup of tea, maybe it would all be forgotten by the time I got back.
"Where are you sloping off to Chris" enquired Patrick smugly.
"Just going to make a cup of tea" I spluttered, "I’ll be back in a moment"
I knew what Patrick was going to say before he'd even opened his mouth 
"And how long is that again?"

Monday, 1 August 2016

The Art of Noise

Jean-Paul Sartre said 'hell is other people'. I say hell is other people's noise.
There are many kinds of annoying noise, people sniffing sitting next to you on the bus, mums shouting at their kids while out shopping, THAT noise in dumb and dumber. 
But noise at night is a different matter completely. When you’re in bed and someone is making noise there is no escape.
It happened to me. 
I was living nice little Bedsit flat, big enough for just me, but small enough to Hoover the entire flat from one plug point.
It wasn’t that noisy at night time, once you closed the door you could be anywhere at all, it was nice, and homely. You didn’t hear any noise; you didn’t hear the hum of the lifts unless you were in the lobby. You didn’t hear many of the neighbours at night.
It was a Tuesday night and I decided to have an early night. It had been a busy weekend with lots of drinks and laughs, so I was feeling drained. If I was going to make it to the next weekend I needed one good night’s sleep.
I unplugged the phone, switched off the TV, set the alarm on my bedside clock radio and headed for my pillow.
As I lay there and my thoughts slowed down I became slowly aware that I could vaguely hear some music. I had to strain to hear it, but once I was aware of it that's exactly what I did. I strained to hear it rather than sleep.
Where was it coming from?
I lay in the dark and tried to listen for which direction I could hear it from, but it was not quite loud enough to make a judgement. I pulled the covers up over my head and hoped it would stop soon.

An hour passed.
So much for my super early night, it was now ten o'clock. At least I would have an extra hours sleep though than usual.
11pm - Another hour passed, it sounded like someone had the radio on, but how loud must it be that I could hear it in my flat? I got out of bed a listened at the floor, no noise coming up from downstairs; it had to be one of my next-door neighbours. I knew that the ones to my left were on holiday. It had to be my neighbour to the right; it was the only other explanation.
Perhaps noise always carried this well, but as I  usually also still awake at this time I just hadn't noticed. I was sure that he would soon go to bed and the noise would end.

12am - what the f? My early night had slipped away, tomorrow at work I would look like one of the living dead.

2 am - I imagined myself looking like Tom from the Tom and Jerry cartoons when Jerry kept him awake, eyes bloodshot, my body bouncing in the bed along with the bass of the music, alyjough it wasnt loud i could feel every note.
Enough was enough, I had to stop this now.
I got dressed and went over to the wall dividing our flats, I pressed my ear up against the wall, the music wasn't any louder, but it had to be coming from him, there was no other alternative. I did one very loud sharp bang on the wall, he may have fallen asleep with it on, although it must have been deafening on the other side if the wall if he had.
The music kept playing, my bang on the wall hadn't helped. I did it again, and then again and again. But it was still no use, the music still played on.
I sat down on my armchair, defeated. I would have to go round to his flat and bang on the door, make him see how unfair he was being.
I got dressed quickly and headed outside and onto the communal walkway.  I pushed his door buzzer. Nothing happened, no light switching on behind the frosted glass, no sound of movement. In fact there was no sound at all. Odd.
I listened at his door and could no longer hear the music. He must have turned it off when he heard me knocking. Well I'd come this far, so I was going to have this out with him, make a stand, make sure that  this did not happen again.
I lifted the letterbox and called through it "I know you're in there, don't just switch your music off and pretend to be asleep".
I heard a noise from inside and thought I saw a shape moving in the darkness of the hallway, "hiding eh?" I called out, and slammed down the letterbox. I felt sure that now I had made my point.
As I got back in bed, still cold from the cold winter night outside, I noticed that the music was still playing just loud enough to hear.
Then I noticed something, the light from MY radio was on, and the remote was on the bed.
I walked over to the stereo and listened at the speakers in disbelief. It was MY radio that was on, not loudly at all, but loud enough for me to just hear out from the other side of the bed.
I must have sat on the controls as I first got in bed what seemed like a lifetime ago.
As I pushed the off button the flat fell into silence.

How was I going to explain this to my neighbour, I’m certain that was him I saw hiding in the darkness. That was going to be an interesting conversation.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

The Cupboard of Doom.

The cupboard of doom.
I know what you're thinking, it sounds like a really disappointing Harry Potter story. But is not. 
It's actually the place I most fear in our flat. 
Although perhaps fear is too strong a word.
Annoyed by. Irked. Irritated by. 
It's like that thing you forget exists, and then you remember and it really irritates you all over again. 
It's bloody Piers Morgan.
Some people don't like their spooky attic or cobweb filed loft, for me it's the narrow cupboard just to the right of the cupboard under the sink. That's where the food containers and plastic boxes live, and the leftover containers from the Chinese takeaway, waiting patiently for me to open the cupboard door so they can all jump out at me, like a toppling Tupperware tower of terror.
It happens every time. I forget until the very moment the door swings open, but then it's already too late, a plastic tsunami engulfs my feet, and I have to spend the next five minutes trying to match up the lids and boxes to stack neatly back in the cupboard,  before I give up and just throw them back in, setting a trap once again for my future self to blunder into next time I open that cupboard. 
A few weeks ago Kat had made some lovely spicy butternut squash soup, and the next day there was just enough left for me to take to work for my lunch the next day.
I looked at the clock, I had a couple of minutes to spare, I just needed to put the soup in some kind of receptacle or container, and then I could be on my way, just in time to catch my train and maybe beat my train nemesis to the last remaining seat in that end carriage (The train nemesis situation is a whole different story for another day..).
"Now where would I find something to pour the soup into?" I said out loud to myself, looking around the kitchen. Then my eyes closed in on that little narrow cupboard next to the one under the sink, and I remembered there was a plastic soup pot in there, "that's what i need to use." I start to open the door and then I remember.
"Noooooooooo." I cry, and out falls every plastic item hiding inside, and the cupboard of despair had won yet again.   Five minutes of picking up plastic boxes later and I've missed my train. I can't say to my work colleagues I was late because of plastic boxes otherwise I'd be laughed out of the office. I just mumble something about overrunning engineering works and flop down onto my chair beaten before the day has even begun.

This week though I finally had my revenge.
It was time to pack the cupboards ready to be moved to our new house. 
I saved the plastic cupboard for last, as a little treat to myself. 
I opened the door, and as usual was hit by the tidal wave of tupperware terror, but this time I smiled. 
It could have its moment of glory. Then I picked them up one by one and threw them into a packing box, they would not be stressing me out today.

Later that weekend at the new house Kat was looking in a small narrow cupboard
"We could use this one as the plastic cupboard," she said enthusiastically "Have you found the box with them in yet?"
There were still a number of boxes in every room still to be opened, but i knew exactly where the one containing the plastic boxes was located, that was the one box I'd tracked all day so I knew exactly where it would end up.
"No I haven't seen that one yet." I lied.
Later I walked through the house and into the garage, and there behind the already empty packing boxes was a box marked 'the plastic cupboard of despair' 
I gave it a hefty kick and a smile spread across my face, and then walked out and locked the garage. 
I felt like that man in the warehouse at the end of Raiders of the lost ark, losing the ark in a vast room of identical boxes, never to be seen again.  
i knew at some stage it would be discovered and then its reign of plasticy tyranny over me would start again. 
But not today, today was my day.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Boris the bear

Boris is a bear. 
My son Oscar's bear.
He’s had him since he was one, I can’t remember who bought him for him, but he has been a constant companion since that day. 
I can’t even remember why he is called Boris – I don’t know if Oscar himself named him, or it was chosen for him as a tribute to the Mayor of London, or the Russian President from the early nineties. There is no real resemblance to either, although the London Mayor Boris has the reputation of being as woolly headed as the bear Boris, I’m sure the naming of the bear wasn’t Oscar’s first attempt at satire though.

When Oscar was around three he suddenly gave Boris a voice (The bear, not the Mayor or Ex Russian President), the only way I can explain Boris’ voice is a high pitched but growly, which I suppose is exactly how you would expect a small bear to talk, if small bears could indeed talk.
“Would you like any ice cream Oscar?”
“Yes please.”
“Me too.” said ‘Boris’ from behind me as I reached into the freezer.
I turned to Oscar, "I'm not going to get an extra scoop of ice cream out for Boris."
"Why not?" Oscar looked at me, puzzled.
He caught me off guard, and I answered without thinking, without realising what I was about to say.
"Well, because Boris isn't real, he's not really going to eat ice-cream."
I saw the look in his eyes and knew, I'd broken the spell, I'd ruined the game we were both playing, or supposed to be playing.
I tried to back-track immediately, trying to repair that hurt, paper over the cracks caused by why I had just said, after all it was really sweet when he made Boris talk.
"I mean, I'm just not sure bears like ice cream that's all." he nodded, but I could see that he was upset.
I hoped I hadn't heard the last of Boris' voice, the guilt weighed heavily on me after I said goodnight.

Two weekends later I was talking to Oscar again, as we drove home I watched in the mirror, Boris sat on Oscar's lap, but so far no voice.
"So who fancies ice cream today?"
"Me" Oscar said excitedly.
"Boris?" I asked, tentatively, waiting, hoping that I would hear that voice, that all would be okay again, and that I hadn't ruined this for Oscar forever.
"Yes please."said a growly high pitched voice from behind me.
I quietly celebrated, never had I been so happy to hear a bears pretend voice before in my life. I hadn't traumatised my son for life after all.
We got home and had the first of a new weekend tradition, Oscar had a bowl of ice cream, Boris had a bowl of ice cream. Once Oscar had finished his I always made an excuse to leave the room, and on returning marvelled at how clever Boris was for eating his bowl of ice cream too.

Then one Sunday we sat at the table, Oscar, me, my Mum and Dad, and of course Boris, sat on his own chair at his own place at the table, next to Oscar.
We'd eaten our dinner and my mum appeared with the ice cream tub. 
"I'll dish up." I said, and got an extra bowl out for Boris.
I passed Oscar his bowl, and looking at Boris asked 
"Would Boris like some too?"
Oscar looked at me and frowned, before shooting a concerned look at my parents. 
"Dad, you do realise Boris isn't real don't you?"

Friday, 5 February 2016

Arm Wrestling a Student

I never expected the night to turn out like this. 
It's not something you expect when you start off going out for a 'quiet drink' before a big day. You don't think you'll end up arm wrestling anyone, and certainly not someone who you don't actually know. 
But this is how I found myself at the end of the night, arm to arm, locked in combat, with a student. A large student at that.
And I'm really not the arm-wrestling type.

I was in Brighton, I was on the planning team of the works summer away day, and I went with the event organiser, another man named Chris.
We agreed on a quiet drink before going back to our rooms to prepare for the next day.
But the plan had changed. Drinks had been drunk, and shots had been consumed.

I stepped out of the toilets and heard Chris, the other Chris, say "He'll do it!" pointing my way.
I looked over and Chris, who was sitting down, looking far too unaffected by the levels of drinks that had been consumed.
What was I going to do?
The students talking to him looked over at me too, hopeful looks in their eyes
"He'll arm wrestle you." Chris confirmed.
They looked hopefully at me, and I found myself saying the words "Yes okay I'll arm wrestle you." like this was a regular thing for me to do. I looked at them all, not knowing who my competitor was to be. Up stepped the biggest if the lot, bigger than me, I fact bigger than anyone else in the bar. a mountain of a man.
It was to be a test of age versus experience, man versus boy, drunk versus drunk. 
The wrestle began. The instant the wrestle began I realised quite how out of my depth I really was, he was very strong. 
Ours hands locked in the middle, in the 12 o'clock position, not moving, I was smiling, but it was taking all my effort to hold it just there, my opponent look unfazed, bored even. 
My tactic had been to win quickly and quietly. This was not going to happen.

Two minutes in and we still hadn't moved. I was clinging onto this position, and he was beginning to waver. If I could just hold on till he got tired.

Another couple of minutes passed, all seemed tense in the bar, probably no one was really watching, but it felt like all eyes were watching.
One of the students mates came over and said, some on lads, I'm going to make this more interesting. and put 50p down on the table for the winner.
Not that interesting then.
I felt like telling him Ray Winstone usually offers better in-play rewards, but they were students, and I was mid arm-wrestle.

Another minute later and my arm was aching, surely I couldn't hold out for much more, I thought about feigning defeat, pretending he'd got the better of me after all, but if come this far,
He let out a gasp, and I pushed his hand onto the table top - I had won! Me! I had won an actual arm wrestle!
That's how i came to be a professional arm-wrestler. Lets not forget that 50p prize money - that's means I had been paid to do it. Okay not that much, but paid all the same. I wont be adding it on my 'skills' on linked in just yet though, that may cheapen the victory.

We shock numbs hands, and I sat down, the victor.
"I was joking" Chris said as I sat down, "I think they were too." he nodded to the students.
They couldn't take victory away from me now though.
I have vowed though never to arm wrestle again. 
The stats do not lie. 1 bout, 1 win - so I remain the undefeated champion of vodka revolution Brighton.