Birthday, Downsizing & Goodbye

It’s my birthday today. I’ve taken a week off work to spend it with Mrs Grump. 

36. Late thirties. Strewth. 

Mrs Grump has been asking what I wanted to do to celebrate but I’m a strange creature in that I really don’t enjoy my birthday. My instinct is to just gloss over it, ignore it, pretend it never happened. I don’t really see the date that I popped out into the world as worth celebrating if I’m honest. 

“What are you going to do for your birthday?” people ask. Why do I have to do anything? Why can’t I just ignore it? 

Yet I feel bad when Mrs Grump makes an effort to ask me what I want to do to celebrate and I just can’t seem to think of anything. I can’t think of anywhere I’d like to eat, where I’d like to go and I know I come across as a proper miserable git. When others want to make a fuss of me, I say I’d rather they didn’t. 

In a strange contradiction, I also feel sad that I can’t celebrate my birthday. A part of me would like to enjoy it but it intrinsically doesn’t seem to be a part of me. I am incapable of feeling anything other than uncomfortable about the 16th May. 

But I have eventually decided on going for some Japanese food. 

It’s the same at Christmas; I just don’t feel comfortable receiving gifts. It’s as if I don’t deserve any of this treatment. 

For much of last year and the early part of this year I have been unwell. I won’t go into details but I ended up in a pretty dark place and no, there isn’t a punchline about not paying the electric bill coming (although it did cross my mind). 

Part of my recovery has been to see a counsellor regularly and I’ve recently stopped seeing them. Again, I could shoehorn in a joke, this time about dating, but I won’t. 

One of the themes that kept appearing was that I don’t feel good enough, that I don’t deserve certain things and I think this is one of the fundamental reasons for feeling so uncomfortable about my birthday. 

But one of the biggest lessons I learned was about tolerance and acceptance of myself. To listen to myself and not resist how I’m feeling. 

It is for that reason that I decided that life has been a bit overwhelming of late. Not only have I had various things to deal with in the many facets of my life, I’d also taken on multiple personal projects, writing, creating, trying to change career completely and even managing to get a spot volunteering for 2 weeks at one of the best advertising agencies in the UK. 

But it was all too much and I had no respite. Eventually, I broke. 

So I stopped. I stopped everything. I downsized the sheer amount of information I had to deal with. I downsized the external influences I was exposed to. We’re not designed to be bombarded by so much. I took all the pressure off from doing anything and decided that I would only deal with what I could manage. I’d discovered the hard way that I had limits. Who was I impressing anyway? No one. What was I trying to prove apart from trying to abate my own insecurities and worries? I just did myself harm by trying to do too much and berating myself when I was struggling. 

We have to show ourselves compassion and there are times when it is acceptable to say, “No,” to things; always listening to yourself and how you feel. It’s self preservation. Sometimes it means making tough decisions but for your own benefit because you are the most important person in your life. You have to protect yourself from harm. 

So I stopped writing comedy and stopped all the projects I had taken on. I found balance again and said no to a few things to alleviate the pressure. I don’t follow the news much because it’s negative. I have left Facebook which is so liberating. I don’t need to spend hours of my life scrolling through people’s online personas and cat videos. It’s too much info to take on. We are not designed to be bombarded by entertainment, advertising, news media from all over the world and Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube. We are fundamentally creatures who are meant to manage our own survival through sourcing food, protecting our loved ones and ensuring we are sheltered from harm. Yes we are advanced enough to enter into social constructs but even that is limited. Know your place in the social hierarchy without the need to know what everyone else in your group is doing, what’s going on with every other group in your area, county, country, continent and beyond. I don’t think it’s healthy to take on so much information.

When I was in a calmer place I was able to exert my energy in a better way, rather than trying to keep multiple plates spinning. 

I’ve since got great job and promotion as a Training & Development Controller. I’m still in the insurance industry but my role is a world away from my previous role. I’m working for Head Office now. Yeah! I’m hanging with the big boys. It’s still early days but I love it. I’ve recently started back at the gym and will soon be the Birmingham equivalent of Wolverine. Maybe more Baldverine. 

I recently ticked another off my bucket list by having a go at stand up comedy. It went better than I could have imagined and I’m being encouraged to keep with it. I will, but at my own steady pace and not what others might expect. Primarily my energy is focused on the new job. 

During this period of illness, I discovered how much easier it was to express myself through writing and how cathartic it can be. My comedy writing is still very important to me and I will still do it when I can, but again, I’m not going to put pressure on myself to produce volume. As for this blog, well, I’m not so much of a young bloke anymore. Still grumpy but not young. So it’s time to say goodbye and continue with the downsizing of external pressures and responsibilities. Time to put the energy elsewhere, taking fewer projects, spending more time looking after myself and more time with Mrs Grump.

So it’s goodbye from me. Thank you for taking the time to read this and follow my blog. I hope it’s made you smile from time to time. 

This week is Mental Health Week in the U.K.  It seems poignant to write honestly and candidly about my own challenges. 

I wish you all the very best and thanks again. 

Dan

Scary Women Of The 90’s

I was listening to BBC radio 6music the other day, which has a feature where they ask listeners to send in the name of their ear-worm. What is an ear-worm? It’s a song that gets into your head and plays over and over, and you just can’t get rid of it. They then pick one and play it for all the other listener’s benefit so they too can have the same ear-worm.

 

The song on that particular day was a blast from the past; from a time of my teenage youth, with bad hair, social awkwardness and fluff on my top lip. The song was En Vogue’s track, Don’t Let Go from 1996.

 

I decided to reminisce and find the video on Youtube that evening. Here it is for your enjoyment:

 

 

Now as an adult watching this, I realised a few things which I didn’t really take any notice of when I was fifteen. I would like to share with you the things I realised as an adult watching this music video and listening to the lyrics, which basically ruined my memory of what I thought was a 90’s R&B classic.

 

So, the premise of the video, four, strong, powerful, dominant and slightly scary women are singing at a house party to one chap who has had a fling with all of them. They’re intimidating in a sexy kind of way but still kind of scary and rather than try to brutally murder the “player” and rip his testicles off, fashioning his scrotum into some kind of shower cap “Player” trophy (I bet the tall one with big hair would find that quite useful to be honest) which, they could share by way of a rota system on a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet (It was around back then; I’ve checked); they decided to all get up and sing to him in a powerful, emotional and slightly aggressive way.

These intimidating ladies are all singing about how they want to get beyond the friend zone and then the arrogant guy at the end looks in a contemplative yet slightly guilty mood. This video is a contradiction. It flies in the face of Girl Power because they all still want him despite what he’s been doing. Was that an acceptable thing to do in the 90’s? See four women until they collaborate and sing at a house party so you then have to decide which one you want? Surely based on this video and the sass that these girls are giving it should be a song saying, “Stop being a “Player” you shit!” That would be more befitting of this video.

 

Putting the premise of the video and the sexy yet scary women to one side; let’s have a look at the lyrics. As an adult man, I’ve listened to these lyrics and feel that they too are a little bit scary and very full on. I tried to explain this to my friend and comedy collaborator, Paul, who said that he thought I was really taking things too literally. I’m not so sure. Let’s have a look at some of the lyrics. I’ll put my comments underneath some of the lines, sometimes responding to what they’re singing.

 

What’s it gonna be ‘cuz I can’t pretend
(Note to self, don’t play charades with these ladies!)
Don’t you want to be more than friends
(Based on what I’ve seen in the video, that’s more than friendly behaviour. I mean, I’ve never said to my mate Malcolm, “Hey, Malc, why don’t you writhe on a bed while I film you? Come on, it’ll be a laugh! Where are you going?”)
Hold me tight and don’t let go
(Should I let go slightly if you start to struggle breathing?)
Don’t let go
(Okay, I won’t)
You have the right to lose control
(I won’t lose control, but you might if you become uncomfortable and then it’ll turn into a kind of control and restraint situation, then it’ll get awkward, I’ll probably get hurt and the evening will be ruined.)
Don’t let go
(Alright, don’t say I didn’t warn you.)
I often tell myself that we could be more than just friends 
(The video says to me that it’s already way past the friend zone!)
I know you think that if we move too soon it would all end
(To be honest, have you seen the clips of what he was doing? Have I lived that much of a sheltered life? Is that taking things slow? I thought a nice stroll around an art gallery with a bite to eat and a drink or two is a standard evening for the first three years. Not undies, camcorders, stripping and making the windows steam up in the back of a car!)
I live in misery when you’re not around
(Ah, that’s nice isn’t it? It’s nice to be wanted.)
And I won’t be satisfied till we’re taking those vows
(WOAH!!!!! Hold on a minute. I mean there’s getting some loving and then there’s THAT!)
Seriously though, was that acceptable in the 90’s? Can you imagine if a man said that? Even in the context of this music video! “Listen love, I know you’ve slept with me and my three mates here, some might call you a Slut, but let me be honest with you, I want to take it further and when I say further, I mean full on marriage! Will you marry me? What do you say? Oh, and if you’re pregnant, we’re going on Jeremy Kyle.”
There’ll be some love makin’, (Great!), heart breakin’, (Not Great!), soul shakin’ love 
(Is that like exorcism?)

Love makin’, heart breakin’, soul shakin’…

What’s it gonna be ‘cuz I can’t pretend
Don’t you want to be more than friends
Hold me tight and don’t let go
Don’t let go
You have the right to lose control
Don’t let go

I often fantasize the stars above are watching you,

(What, like Prince and Michael Jackson?)
They know my heart, it speaks to yours like only lovers do
(Ah, that’s nice isn’t it?)
If I could wear your clothes I’d pretend I was you and lose control
(AAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!)
So here’s something else that was apparently okay in the 90’s. Ladies, dressing up in their men’s clothes and pretending to be them. I’ll be honest, if I came home to Mrs Grump, dressed in my clothes, with a swimming cap on to represent my baldness and writing a strongly worded complaint letter to someone, then I’d be pretty freaked out. But what also strikes me is how blatant it is, how disparate the equality of the sexes back in the 90’s. You see, back then, if a man was discovered wearing his wife’s boob tube and miniskirt, doing the ironing, he would be ridiculed and would probably lose all respect from his significant other. That’s why it was always done in private when the wife went to the shops. It was always, “His little secret,” and little did you now what Bob at work, really got up to in his spare time. But clearly, it was perfectly acceptable in pop culture for women to do that very same thing and openly sing about it at house parties! I hope that we’ve come a long way in the past twenty years, to the point where either gender would freak out equally on discovering their partner had been rummaging through the wrong underwear drawer and trying things on.
There’ll be some love makin’, heart breakin’, soul shakin’ love
Love makin’, heart breakin’, soul shakin’… What’s it gonna be ‘cuz I can’t pretend 
Don’t you want to be more than friends
Hold me tight and don’t let go
Don’t let go
You have the right to lose control
Don’t let go

Runnin in and outta my life
Has got me so confused
You gotta make the sacrifice
Somebody’s gotta choose
We can make it if we try
For the sake of you and I
Together we can make it right

(Can’t keep a running)
(In and outta my life outta my outta my life)
(You’ve got the right, you’ve got the right, I said ayou’ve got the
right to loooose controol yeah)

(The clearly blatant overuse of vowels here, to be frank, is off putting. I could never be with someone for such a blatant disregard of correct English language and grammaaaaaaar!)
What’s it gonna be ‘cuz I can’t pretend
Don’t you want to be more than friends
Hold me tight and don’t let go
Don’t let go
You have the right to lose control
Don’t let go Don’t let go
Don’t let go

What’s it gonna be ‘cuz I can’t pretend
Don’t you want to be more than friends
Hold me tight and don’t let go
Don’t let go
You have the right to lose control
Don’t let go

What’s it gonna be (don’t let go)
Don’t you want to be (don’t let go)
Hold me tight and don’t let go (don’t let go)

The rest of the song is much the same, but it does leave you wondering how the man dealt with that quandary because if he does pick one of those scary lasses, he’s got another three pissed off ones to contend with. I’d probably just leave town.
So there you have it, the ear worm that led me to a completely new, modern understanding of a classic 90’s R&B song.
I’ve taken it too literally haven’t I?
P.S, Feel free to play the video and then sing along. I know I have a few times.
Oh and please like, share and follow.
Thanks

Not The Look I Was Going For

I used to have a retro leather jacket. It was great. I loved that jacket but it was when Mrs Grump said that I was starting to look like I had a kind of Hobo Chique going on that it was time to get rid of it and find a replacement. 

I’ve had a couple of non-leather jackets since which were nowhere near as cool and retro as the one I had. They just weren’t the same. I just haven’t felt right since. So for the past couple of years I’ve needed to find another cool leather jacket that fits me well. 

Today I saw a strong contender. I tried it on, it fit perfectly and it was the only one of it’s kind left in store and on top of that, it was almost half price! Surely this was meant to be!?! Surely, this was kismet?!?

I needed a second opinion. I dashed to find Mrs Grump lurking amongst the make up counters of the nearest department store, trying her best to get some oxygen amongst the heavy cocktail of perfumes that had been sprayed on unsuspecting passers by. 

After a dash back to the other store, I uncovered the hidden jacket, (oh I know how to play the game my friends) and wearing the jacket, I asked for Mrs Grumps honest and sometimes cutting opinion. 

“It’s a nice Jacket,” she says. 

So far, so good, I thought. 

“Yeah, it fits you well,” she says. 

Positive, this is going well, I thought. 

And that was it. She added no more. I was going to have to push this. 

“Does it suit me?” I ask, “Or do I look like a dick?”

“You don’t look like a dick,” She replied.  

What did that mean? It seemed like there was an imminent “but” due which never materialised. 

“It’s different to your normal look,” she follows up with. Which is a fair comment but that’s because generally speaking, I don’t think I have a “look” apart from a bespectacled Birmingham based bald bloke. No doubt I have a small collection of head wear for all occasions and some of that head wear would be redundant with this jacket, but I also have other options and I don’t actually think that a bald head looks bad with this jacket. 

Because it’s very difficult finding a decent style as a bald man, let me tell you. Sometimes I have to google famous bald men to see what their style is and what potentially looks good. Obviously avoiding any photos of Richard O’Brien during his Crystal Maze days. I haven’t got the legs for leggings, cowboy boots and leopard print coats. 

But seriously, it’s amazing the sheer amount of style choices you have as a follically gifted person. Only bald brothers would know the struggle. 

I needed to make a decision and then came the classic mantra from Mrs Grump; the mantra that empowers the indecisive shopping wife or girlfriend, you know the one, “You can always bring it back.”

Yes, yes I can always bring it back for I will have the all empowering receipt!! 

I took a decision and bought the leather jacket and damn it, I felt like I was almost my old self again. 

Later, whilst Mrs Grump continues to wander the aisles of the ladies wear section of a second department store, to purchase something to bring back next week no doubt, I stopped in a carbon copy costa coffee shop, and as the soya milk curdled in my coffee, decided to google “bald man leather jacket.”

I expected to see pictures of Jason Statham, Bruce Willis and perhaps even Billy Zane who have all embraced their baldness with pride. I needed a boost of confidence. 

But instead, the very first image I see is:

….

…..


This is definitely not the look I’m going for. 

At least I’ve got the receipt. 

The Estranged Dilemma 

I’ve been seriously considering quitting this blog. Before the thousands upon thousands of you start a very intense leaflet campaign, an online petition, maybe even write something on the side of a campaign bus, hear me out.

I’m estranged from my parents. We parted company sixteen years ago and through my concerted effort I have kept my distance. Call it self preservation. I won’t go into details because to be honest, it’s nobody else’s bloody business.

Earlier this week, I discovered that my Father has been reading this very blog. Clearly the popularity of this has spread Westward, around the globe and back from the East to Birmingham and that’s how he’s heard of it because I definitely haven’t told him.

Anyway, he’s read an old blog post of mine where I offered some advice about noticing your child’s talents and nurturing that, so they grow towards a vocation they will hopefully enjoy and find fulfilling. In that blog I also explained how I didn’t really get any guidance from my parents. My aspirations of being an artist were shot down. But I also explained that my parents were from a different generation. They had to leave school and get jobs to bring money in for the family. So as much as I felt I didn’t get much guidance, I kind of understood why. The point of the article was not to criticise my parents and I made a point of saying that I hold no resentment towards them and I still don’t; the point was to encourage and hi light to other parents the importance of nurturing talent in their children so that they don’t end up in an unfulfilling job like me. When I say nurturing talent, not in a Joe Jackson kind of way!

I’ve discovered that my Father has posted extracts from that blog post on Facebook and hasn’t exactly painted me in a good light. His friends who I’ve never met, have therefore made judgements about me without knowing both sides of the story but even so, according to their comments, I am clearly a terrible person. I must kick dogs, push old ladies over in the street, shout at babies and sell meth to children in nursery schools.

The sad thing is that they don’t know me, don’t know the journey I’ve taken, my struggles, my achievements and yet, based on the comments of someone who doesn’t know me either anymore, have made totally inaccurate judgements. I guess this must be like how Brad Pitt is feeling currently with the media. Have I really just drawn a parallel between myself and Brad Pitt?

I left Facebook because I was tired of the narcissism. I was tired of the negativity and the bullshit of it all. I was tired of people who you don’t talk to and don’t really know wanting to connect and have an insight into your life. And, I hate it when people air their dirty laundry on there to invoke a flood of sympathy from “friends.” It’s a surprise to discover some dirty laundry being aired on there is about you.

It’s difficult being estranged from your parents. There have been many times that I wished I had parents around to share my life with. When you go through certain times in your life and see the help, love and support that friends and cousins have had from their folks during similar times, it can amplify your own sense of separation. I really do wish it were different, but it is what it is. I was pushed and so I stayed away, which I believe, is for the best.

I think to go into the nitty gritty, to give my side of the story would be airing my dirty laundry but it’s nobody else’s bloody business is it? My intention here is to write about the effect of being estranged and discovering that I am currently some dirty laundry like a white shirt with unjustified yellow armpits, being aired on Facebook and how to react to that. This is certainly not retaliation with personal attacks. No, this is simple honesty and as a keen writer, it’s actually given me something interesting to write about and share.

So I’ve had a quandary. Should I close this down? Should the Grumpy Young Bloke be no more? Should he just lose his powers and become a Dave, a John or Kevin? I get enjoyment from plodding through my days, seeking inspiration to write something amusing for any strangers who might want to read it. Then to have someone you want to stay away from, and equally, want them to stay away from you, encroach into such a space creates a dilemma. It’s as though it becomes tainted. The bubble I had around myself, suddenly burst and in a reflexive response, my instinct says to close this down and try to keep that distance again. They might be trying to cling on to any remnants of their son, but I don’t want them to.

It seems like a straight forward decision to bring this to a close but then something occurs to me. Just who am I? Am I the same person I was sixteen years ago? Hardly; I used to have a centre parting for a start. How many experiences I’ve had, how many things I’ve done and achieved without help or support from anyone, by my own volition, and I’m not talking about vocation here obviously, although the insurance industry would crumble if I were to leave. Who am I? I’m a man who has been shaped by his journey of many different experiences. This Grumpy blog is only one small comedy outlet of this matured personality; just one facet of my life, a life in my bubble, with my beautiful soulmate Mrs Grump, in our Penthouse with a tree outside containing a wood pigeon and furthermore, happy, relatively content and still very much a work in progress. It’s not the full picture of who I am by any means. I’m still a stranger to you; unless you’re Mrs Grump or Malcolm who both sometimes read this. (I’m waving at you now Malcolm)

That negativity on Facebook was directed at a different person to the one that writes this. I actually take comfort knowing that. Similarly, reading this blog is hardly an insight into the inner depths of me. You can’t read this and know the person writing it. I don’t open up to you. I merely aim to amuse with observations of my day to day. So it’s fair to say that I am the Grumpy Young Bloke, but he isn’t me.

This blog, a creative outlet with literally…. ooh several followers, I enjoy. So why should I give up something so important because of who might read it, misinterpret it, twist it, and fuel their fire against a different person from all those years ago? If I stop this, they’ve won. They will have indirectly caused a chain of events that will once again make me miserable. They will have hurt me.

But I won’t be hurt this time. I don’t care who reads it. I don’t care what people think. This isn’t me, this is The Grumpy Young Bloke. Although at some point I can’t be considered a “Young Bloke” anymore. I feel like I’m pushing it as it is at 35.

So, lucky for you, the Grumpy Young Bloke will continue. “Hoorah,” I hear you cry. Read what you will, share what you like, interpret however you so wish but know this, this is not me, this is The Grumpy Young Bloke and if/when this comes to an end, it will be on my terms.

An honest and very candid post today. Forgive me but I write about stuff and sometimes it’s not always about commuting, coffee shops or arsehole cats. Service shall resume shortly.

P.S

Malcolm, why didn’t you wave back?

The 90s

I was sat at my desk doing insurance stuff. I know, sounds exciting doesn’t it?

Not a lot happens in our office. Our entertainment seems to be hedging bets on whether the notorious member of our department will phone in sick, and if they do, what will it be this time? An overnight skiing accident? An all terrain knitting calamity? Or perhaps the classic allergy to carbs causing a nasty swelling of the hepaglobulous region.

That option isn’t there anymore because they left a couple of weeks ago.

Therefore, any change from the monotony and status quo is indeed thrilling and captivating.

Today we had a brief visitor; a chap from another department. I didn’t recognise him but I did recognise his incredibly floppy hair. It had all gathered at the front and seemed to match the long, laid-back gait of his walk, the skinny jeans and baggy, red jumper.

Now as you know, as a bald man, I tend to get follicle envy from time to time. Not only because I no longer have a choice in the matter, but because I find it a travesty to bear witness to what can only be described as a “hair crime.”

I looked across to my nearby colleague, let’s call him Kevin. Kevin is a comrade, someone who also enjoys a good moan sometimes, but above all else, a bloody nice bloke. He’s a bit younger than I and if I’m honest he’s better than the job he’s in. I said to my insurance brother, “Look at him and his floppy hair.”

“The Corrs,” he replied.

I looked at the floppy haired chap who looked like he could play bass in an indie band but I didn’t get the reference to an Irish family pop quartet from the 90’s.

“Eh? The Corrs?” I asked.

“Yeah, cos he looks like he’s from the 90’s. That’s what the 90’s were all about weren’t it? The Corrs.”

This readers, left me shocked and somewhat appalled. Kevin, who was only very young during that period but still, his definition of that era, a culture, the period of my teens when I had bad hair and aspirations of being a heavy metal drummer, was summed up by three hot Irish sisters, a fiddle and some cheesy pop songs. I think they had a brother in the band somewhere, I can vaguely recall there being some bloke in there but hey, did I mention the sisters were smoking hot?

“What? The Corrs? You’re defining an era by The Corrs? What about the rise of Grunge? What about Nirvana? Brit pop? Blur and Oasis? The Corrs? The Corrs!?” I was obviously quite passionate about this as this was my teenage years which still only seem like yesterday. It’s not the 80’s which can be summed up by Chris De Burg or the 70’s that everyone knows is summed up by Clive Dunn’s Grandad.

Kevin looked at me wounded, silent and a little uncomfortable, like I had just kicked his dog.

So, for your pleasure, behold! I bring to you, The 90’s!

 

 

Did I mention the sisters were hot?

The Chase

I had left the office, stepping out into the dark, damp and drizzly evening and I had mere minutes to make it to the train station. I started to get a jog on. Not quite a run. I was in a thick coat, dressed for business, and it wasn’t really a sprint kind of situation. A jog would suffice. Plus, I was dressed for winter wearing a scarf and my winter hat of choice.

 

One of these:

Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 19.57.46.png

 

I know, it’s not exactly a fetching look but I’m almost 35 and I feel that “fashion” has had to make way for the preferred choice of the mature man, yes, “functionality.” As a follically challenged man, this type of hat provides warmth to both the exposed parts of my cranium as well as keeping my lugholes protected from any cold draft. I hate cold lugholes, don’t you?

 

I didn’t fasten the strap of my hat under my chin, I needed some ventilation, especially as I was jogging along. Besides, I’m not seven years old. Although, I admit I have fastened it in the past, yes, but only on exceptionally cold mornings!

 

As I jogged along to reach my train in good time, I became aware of the clip clop sound of footsteps at pace behind me. They were more regular than my own steps and getting louder, I was indeed being followed. Or was I being chased? I contemplated looking behind to see who it was but I thought I might look like I’m afraid or paranoid. I could have just suddenly turned in a pre-emptive strike scenario. But that might unnerve an innocent commuter who, like me, were merely in a hurry to make the train. I still didn’t feel very comfortable with this situation though. ‘Great, I look like I’m being chased. I look like an executive man-bag thief!’ I thought.

 

Now a part of me, namely, my competitive ego, thought that I should pick up the pace so that he wouldn’t overtake me. This could be a physical challenge and I could use this to spur me on to make the train in record time. But what if he picks up the pace and I end up in a sudden race? I wasn’t dressed for this and I’m wearing a stupid hat. I’ll be sweating buckets and needing my inhaler by the time I get to the platform! So I decided not to take the bait. No, today will not be a day of athletic competition between two office workers. I’m a grown man, comfortable in my own skin without the need to allow the ego to throw me into sudden competition. I’m better than that.

 

Eventually, I was overtaken by a taller man than I, in business attire, without a hat, running. He wasn’t jogging like me, he was definitely what I would consider running. ‘Great, now I look like I’m chasing him!’ I thought. Then I thought, ‘He’s getting away, you look like you’re losing this chase!’ So I think I may have sped up my jog a little to maintain a certain gap between us. He was now essentially my pace runner.

 

We blitzed past pedestrians heading in the same direction. I wondered if they thought we were part of a new executive running club. I thought of the strapline, Literally Running The Business. ‘I bet we look like a pair of bloody fit blokes,’ I thought. I don’t know what it is about running and my apparent belief that it impresses people. It’s something ingrained from school, when the only way I could impress the girl I fancied was to just run as fast as I could. It never worked. Mainly because, by the time I’d reached the far end of the playground, she had forgotten who I was and Neil Malone had stepped in with his Nike trainers. Damn you Neil Malone with your Nike trainers!

 

The fact is that a 34 year old bald man running doesn’t impress anyone.

 

We continued to keep the pace, running along the wet pavement; our shadows shifting and altering as we both pass each street lamp. As I looked down, I saw his shadow; the light from the street lamp ahead casting the shadow of a running man behind him. I also noticed my shadow cast in front of me from the street lamp behind me. It was then that I noticed the flapping of the sides of my hat. They resembled something. I almost stopped as I realised that our shadows looked like a man being chased by another man, in a dog costume. Yes our shadows resembled an artistic representation of the pursuit of a shoplifter at Euro-Disney. If it was a modern art film, it could be called Le chase a la Goofy. 

 

But I didn’t give up, even though I could see my opponent fellow runner start to slow down. ‘No stamina,’ I thought.

 

He stopped running and continued at a walking pace. I thundered past him, jogging / running, my dog ears flapping in the wind, my man-bag under my arm, my lungs gasping for air as I ran past the diesel guzzling black taxis outside the station.

 

But still, I reached the station first. I was the winner! Better luck next time loser!

 

You can call me…. The Greyhound.

 

 

Do You Stick To Your Principles?

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Yes I usually do. But there’s a fine line between principles and stubbornness.

“Screw you capitalist swine!” I shouted, with my middle finger raised at the woman behind the till in Starbucks.

This was in my mind of course. It was probably a bit harsh to take it out on her. She just wants a job like the rest of us. Probably a nice person, with bills to pay, dreams and aspirations of escapism towards a fulfilling and meaningful existence. She might even be more of a tea drinker.

I had purchased my last Starbucks coffee. I had made the decision and that was that. My line in the sand was drawn damn it. The reason? Simply, I refuse to part with my money to a company that doesn’t pay tax back into the UK economy. Using this legal loophole is crafty, but fundamentally and morally wrong. We’re undergoing severe austerity cuts here in this country and our National Health Service, which we should be proud of, is struggling and falling into disrepute because of financial difficulties, even resorting to putting parts of the service out to tender to large corporations, which will run put profit ahead of quality care.

Anyway, I made the decision that Starbucks would no longer get my hard earned spondoolies.

I tweeted, ‘That’s it. My last @StarbucksUK coffee. Not fair to spend my money when they don’t pay tax. @TaxAvoidance_UK Power to the small independents.’ Yes, I copied in Tax Avoidance UK. I don’t mess about. My tweets automatically link to my Facebook too, so all my family, friends and 48 followers on Twitter were going to hear about this. I knew that this ripple would escalate through social media and send a shockwaves around the world.

I was right. Within a matter of days, I had gained 7 likes on the Facebook post. No response on Twitter. I always preferred Facebook anyway.

Must be a slow burner.

A few days later, I walked past a Starbucks and raised my fist saying, “Ooh pay your taxes you bloody tax evading bastards!” My friend looked at me and asked whether I was turning into Alan Partridge intentionally. It’s not a conscious decision.

I decided to Google companies which do not pay tax in the UK.

1. Starbucks – I will miss the Caramel Machiatto and shortbread cookie that I see as an odd treat. I shall also miss sitting in a certain Starbucks in Birmingham City centre. Oh well, I am a man of principle. I will not falter and change my mind now. Especially as I’ve told the world and the world has listened!

2. Amazon – I do a lot of online shopping and Amazon is my usual first port of call. My regular purchase consists of nasal strips to minimise my snoring and the resultant bruises from the good lady. Blue is usually my colour, but not when it’s skin tone. Oh well, at least there’s always eBay.

3. eBay – Bollocks!

4. Facebook – So much for social media campaigns then. My seven supporters will have to get on Twitter. I err, always preferred Twitter anyway…. honest.

5. Google – There’s an irony that I found out that Google don’t pay UK tax through a Google search. Oh well, I’ll have to find a new search engine. Is Ask Jeeves any good?

6. Apple – Well that’s me completely f****d! My Mac, my iPhone and iPad need to be binned. I can also forget about all my music on iTunes and on my iPod. I’ll have no means of surfing the web, using a different search engine, for other online retailers or alternative independent coffee shops!

I am a man of principle, stubborn, easily agitated and distracted by balloons. Much of that sentence is irrelevant. But if I stick to that principle and apply the whole boycotting of non-tax paying companies, it is going to prove very awkward and expensive for me.

So I’m sitting here, enjoying a shortbread cookie and a grande caramel macchiato, but not tweeting about it. I don’t need seven friends on Facebook, including my aunty Doris to boo and hiss at me with placards calling me a Judas!

Happy New Year to you all!

Is This Supposed To Be Fun?

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Try this on the train home from work. It only works during winter months when it’s dark outside. Sit by the window and stare at someones reflection. When they see your reflection staring at them, do not react. Enjoy as they try to work out whether you are staring at them or looking out of the window.

I was doing this and freaking someone out until my concentration was broken when a young chap sat next to me. He had hair and was within my comfort zone. Rarely do I come into such close proximity with hair product. I felt uncomfortable and didn’t like it.

He like many others on the train remained glued to his phone. I glanced down to notice that he was playing a game.

Now back in my day, when I was a young baby faced adonis with beautiful blond locks and a glint of potential in my wide eyes, with one of the first in multifunctional Nokia mobile devices, I used to play the game to play. A real challenge, a test of grit, patience, skill, prognostication (I used a Thesaurus) and yet an extremely simple premise. Of course, I’m talking about the legendary game known as, “Snake.”

I’m not a gamer. I don’t have a console and don’t have any intention of getting one. I grew out of gaming when I discovered boobs, guitars and bourbon…biscuits. But it looks like gaming may have taken a few steps backwards.

What was this game? I don’t know the name but let me explain the rules. You are behind a fast food stall. You have sausages, fries, cartons, skewers, donuts and dips. A cartoon character approaches your stall; a speech bubble appears with a picture such as a carton of fries. Then you select the carton, select the fries and then hand it to them. They eat it and they might order something else like a sausage on a stick with ketchup or they’ll walk away and you wait for the next person to come and make an order.

I know, you’re blown away by this aren’t you? As soon as you finish reading this post you’ll be hunting on your phone for the app!

Okay, Snake wasn’t the most exciting game but it was a challenge. This game was essentially being a fast food vendor. The endless unstoppable imagination and subsequent possibilities of the gaming frontier and yet here, this chap is serving up greasy fries and donuts to ungrateful computer animations. And at no point did I see money changing hands! It’s not even encouraging good business sense!

So is this where we’re at with gaming these days? We’re done with exploring planets, flying fighter planes and space ships, racing supercars, first person shoot em ups, martial arts masters and strategy. No, they’re all old hat. Let’s spend twenty minutes frying food on a street corner!

I wonder if there are other jobs that are seemingly mundane that we can then turn into a high octane, heart thumping exciting rollercoaster of gaming excellence.

The Librarian!

Stamp a book, stamp a book, receive a book, stamp a book, someone joins up, ooooh collect a fine for late return of a book about penguins!

The Ticket Inspector!

Check the ticket, check the ticket, check the ticket, check the ticket, check the ticket, Issue a fine, check the ticket, check the ticket, check the ticket, check the ticket, tell them they’re on the wrong train, check the ticket, call British Transport Police because a drunkard is swearing at you, check the ticket, check the ticket, check the ticket, check the ticket, check the ticket, check the ticket, check the ticket, issue a fine!

The Potato Quality Controller!

Good potato, good potato, good potato, good potato, Bad potato, Bad potato, good potato, good potato, good potato, good potato, Bad potato, good potato, bad potato, bad potato, good potato, good potato, good potato good potato, good potato.

Level up!

Good potato, Bad potato, Bad potato etc etc.

But then I notice that this young chap next to me is dressed in formal trousers and shoes and has sensible socks, so it’s safe to assume that he works in an office environment much like myself.

So I wonder if somewhere, perhaps on a street corner in New York, there’s a street vendor having a break, on his phone playing one of the greatest gaming apps ever invented. It’s addictive and thrilling. So thrilling you risk missing your stop when gaming whilst using public transport. That is because he’s playing the cutting edge in realistic gaming technology. He’s playing, The Insurance Claims Handler!

 

Game play may consist of the following:

Set up a claim, check the policy wording, turn it down, take a call, get shouted at, pay a claim, pay another claim, set up another claim, take another call, get shouted at, bonus points for calming them down, tell them they’re underinsured, bonus points for hearing the phrase, “What’s the point in having insurance!?”

Level up.

Set up a claim, check the policy, pay a claim, turn another claim down, deal with some post, have a colleague next to you have a break down, take a call, take another call and get shouted at, pay a claim, pay a claim, close a claim, deal with someone who has a leak and doesn’t realise that you are not a plumber, avoid another colleague who has a break down, go to the loo for five minutes to escape, bonus points for getting the drinks in to try to raise the morale of your colleagues, take a call, get shouted at for not picking the phone up even though you are actually on the phone, lose 10 points!

Level up!

Just a thought. Am I wrong? What do you think would make a good mundane game?

Am I Wrong? #3

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I received some stuff through the post from work. It was about my retirement or if I should die.

I couldn’t help but wonder what they were thinking when they designed the cover of this thing?

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What is this saying? Retire and spend your days enjoying an adrenaline pumping extreme sport, traversing tracks and dodging trees at high speed?

Or is it saying that if you’re going to die, it’s going to happen on a mountain bike?

Maybe both?

Am I wrong? Do you see where I’m coming from?