#baldmanproblems

I’ve discovered that I have a “look.” A “look” that’s more common than I realised. Since I bought some new glasses with a thicker frame, it’s become very apparent that I am indeed one of the many who have adopted “The Look.”

It’s like when you purchase a new car. You feel great as you drive around in your red Ford KA and then you see another, then another and another. Your bubble bursts when you realise that every other bloody driver on the road has a red Ford KA.

I’m the same now with my newly discovered “look.” I’m just another bald man with spectacles. Just another bog standard photo fit; another face in the classic 80’s game Guess Who; another creative possibility for a child at Christmas with a new Mr Potato Head.

Get a hard boiled egg. Draw a pair of glasses on it with a marker pen. Congratulations, you’ve just created “The Look.”

The other day I stepped into the reception area of work as I was heading home. I found a colleague who happens to be a bald man (completely shaved like me) with spectacles, signing out. Next to him, the coffee machine repair guy who just so happened to also be bald (completely shaven like us) with spectacles. He also had a striking ginger beard but he still sported “The Look.” He was part of the club.

“Bloody hell,” I said, “Three in a row!” I was genuinely enthused by this moment. I contemplated getting a selfie with them to share on social media to bring joy to all who gazed upon the three bespectacled baldies like we had just been uncovered on some kind of baldy scratch card where three baldies with glasses can win you a hair transplant and laser eye surgery.

Or we could have a selfie with our heads side by side, looking downwards. If we drew nipples on our heads and if the lady on reception stood behind us, we could be recreating that three breasted woman in Total Recall.

three-beasted-hooker

Unfortunately, I wasn’t met with the same level of enthusiasm in return. There’d be no time for banter here; no Total Recall re-enactment today. Personally I think they just need to open their minds.

Anyway, needless to say, I didn’t ask for a selfie.

Then today I left work a little late and had to get a dash on for the train. There’s a fine window of opportunity but who should I see running across my path as I burst through the exit door? Yes, a bald and bespectacled man, heading for the station.

As he ran past other commuters heading in that direction, I realised that my sprint for the train was now redundant. I will not be part of some humorous spectacle like a bald man charity dash or a glitch in the Matrix! I will not be a source of amusement! I was laughed at enough in the playground but not at thirty five damn it!

The fact that he was running in a kind of overly zealous, bouncy, children’s TV presenter way didn’t help and I didn’t want the other commuters to think I was chasing him.

Plus I’d probably try to beat him. It’s completely incongruent with the unwritten urban law of bald brotherhood. A baldy should never go head to head with a baldy.

So to prevent ridicule, I missed the train.

People with hair will never know the struggle.

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What Is A Melon?

What is a Melon?

 

Seems like a straightforward question doesn’t it? I know it’s a very delicious and juicy fruit but what I’m really trying to get at here is what does a melon mean?

 

I’m old school. Some might call me a purist. I don’t really do abbreviations when I text. I use full words, correct grammar and punctuation and I take pride in this. I’ve been told by friends that I am the only friend that they don’t abbreviate for when texting. I don’t get many texts to be honest.

 

I’ve got a bloody GCSE in English and I’m going to use it damn it!

 

So when it comes to texting, I like to write things out fully. You won’t get even the slightest whiff of, “C U L8r m8,” or “Loooooooooool.” What does that even mean? Okay, I understand that “LOL” means laugh out loud or lots of laughs or something that makes sense from the abbreviation. To some degree even I don’t cringe at that, but what’s with the several Os in between the laughing and the loud?

 

I am Laughing Overly Openly Octagonally On One Of Oliver’s Ostriches Out Loudly?!?

 

So yes, I admit, I cringe when I see text speak because I feel that the language is no longer evolving; it’s showing laziness by reducing the letters and opting for a phonetic approach to words. We’re not even bound by a limit of characters anymore! It’s not 1998! I’m a firm believer of go hard or go home. Even with texting. Do it properly or not at all.

 

I now realise that I may be coming across as a bit anal. I am actually okay to be around. Just ask my estranged Mother.

 

But now texting has moved on to another level with little pictures known as emoticons. We’ve moved on from deconstructing the English language, we’ve moved on with random images. A 21st century hieroglyphics.

 

Smiley faces and thumbs up, I can deal with. I’m not a complete heartless bastard. But, there are some occasions where I don’t know the context or the relevance to the message I have been sent.

 

It’s not just a kids thing either. One of my pals is in his fifties and he’s one of the worst I know. Scissor hands, monkey face, punch fist all while texting me a running commentary about Strictly Come Dancing.

 

Another friend of mine is all over these little emoticon things. His messages are even more nonsensical. He sent a message whilst I was out having a nice meal with Mrs Grump one evening. She returned to the table to see me in a state of confusion. We then started a conversation about the meaning of what these emoticons meant, particularly, the melon. It just had no context to anything unless you were texting someone a fruit salad recipe or a shopping list.

 

“Ask him,” Mrs Grump wisely said. So I did.

“He’s replied with another melon,” I replied.

 

So then we became, that couple. The couple who, whilst out on a date night, sit there staring at their phones. But it wasn’t to catch up on the events unfolding on Strictly Come Dancing; we already knew that someone had to punch a scissor-wielding monkey in the face. Mrs Grump and I were partaking in research to aid our discussion and learning about this strange world of emoticons. I know, riveting stuff!

 

Mrs Grump found a concise list of emoticons and their meanings. God bless Google and 4G.

 

“I’ve found a good page with a full list,” she said. She scrolled and scrolled and scrolled and scrolled and continued to do so for quite a while. “There are loads,” she said. I just sat there patiently contemplating what had driven a monkey to go on a scissor-wielding rampage and who would be brave enough to take him on.

 

“I’ve found it,” said Mrs Grump at last. “Great, what does it mean? I have to know the meaning of the melon!”

 

She stared at her screen, coming to terms with the mass of information. I could only guess that there are some things that are best left unsaid. The burden of knowing such a thing can be a huge weight to carry.

 

“The melon means….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…. melon.”

 

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Peaky Blinder

I was on the very busy train home. We were crammed in like sardines but I had managed to bag myself a good spot next to the door. This meant that not only was I the welcoming face of commuting for those embarking on the journey home, I was also in prime position to dash off as soon as the door opens at my station. It’s imperative that I reach my Grump Mobile as quickly as possible so as to not get caught in the queue of traffic attempting to leave the station car park.

 

I was stood there minding my own business and wondering who it was around me who was emitting the natural au de armpit fragrance. My instinct was telling me it was the young lady with the shocking fake tan.

 

Fake tan is something I’ve never understood. Surely it would be better to buy and apply creosote rather than fake tan? You see, the trouble with fake tan is that it’s… well… fake! Obviously fake. If you’ve plastered yourself in fake tan, everyone around knows that you’ve been trying to apply an even covering but instead look like you’ve gotten into a fight at a Dulux tester pot counter and lost to someone armed with Orange Mocha or whatever the colour is that you’ve rag rolled yourself in.

 

On the opposite side of the vestibule area, near the door on the other side of the carriage, were three guys in their early twenties. One of them was doing most of the talking. He was one of those guys who likes the attention he gets when his voice penetrates the silence of a small group of strangers in a confined space. He has an audience. We don’t want to be an audience but alas we are trapped and have no choice.

 

So he confidently cracks jokes and makes his friends laugh who remain more composed because they don’t really want the attention of complete strangers looking at them.

 

Then I hear him say to the other two, “Yo, have you seen dat show, Peaky Blinders?”

 

I knew immediately that he was referring to me.

 

Firstly we had just made eye contact and I could almost see the cogs working in his mind and his face change as he’s hit with a lightening bolt of inspiration. That, and because I was the only guy in the vicinity wearing a cap.

 

I am a bald man. Therefore, it goes without saying that I am a man of many hats. It’s what we do. We can’t have different hairstyles to change our appearance. We can’t decide to grow our hair, spike it, shape it, cut it or choose between a side parting, no parting or centre parting. We have always got a very large centre parting! So to change our style, we rely on accessorising. Hats are our accessory with practical benefits of maintaining warmth in the winter and protection from the sun in summer. All bases are covered.

 

Sure enough I was wearing a cap not too dissimilar to ones worn in the television show Peaky Blinders. With my black jacket on and shirt collar protruding from underneath the jacket layer, maybe I did appear to be Peaky Blinderesque.

 

The guy was obviously taking the piss. So how best to react to it? Ignore it? Acknowledge it? Metaphorically disembowel them with a verbal onslaught?

 

“Nah! I aint seen it!” replied one of his friends. “Why?”

 

Brilliant, the joke had been put out there. It could have just had a laugh and put straight to bed, but now it is being prolonged. It’s going to be left to linger on the air like au de armpit.

 

“Oh, it’s just dat I’ve see someone who looks like it like.” Yes, he said, “like it like.”  Another friend of his craned his neck around like something out of the exorcist and looked in my direction.

 

So now I had to decide what to do. I couldn’t just ignore it, the reference was so loud that it was obvious. Any apparent lack of awareness of what had been said would be so obvious it would be embarrassing. No, best to tackle this head on. ‘Smile at them,’ I thought to myself. Not in a kind of cheeky, flirtatious smile you might send across a carriage to someone who catches your eye. (Something which I’ve never done by the way). No this was going to be a straightforward friendly knowing smile. A hypothetical tip of the cap to say, “Good one fellas. I know it’s a gag about me and I’m totally cool about that. I am so cool and confident in my own skin that I take no offense to your accurate observation.

 

I would gain their respect by demonstrating that I can laugh at myself. They’ll think I’m cool. Maybe they’ll want to “hang out” or whatever the on trend noun is for sitting in a skate park with a few bottles of cheap cider. I wouldn’t be hanging out with them though. They’re not the kind of people I would fraternise with.

 

So, to the guy who made the observation and the exorcist one, I nodded and smiled.

 

There, that’ll gain their respect. I have revealed myself to be a cool guy, up for a bit of banter.

 

But I haven’t. You see, I wear glasses and when I wear a cap with my glasses, sometimes when I move my face in a certain way, for example chewing or smiling, my glasses do something weird.

 

There I was smiling and nodding and appearing to float in front of my face are my glasses having lifted off my nose and hitting the underside of my cap’s peak. There the lenses hovered, vibrating slightly like a plucked guitar string in super slow motion. I resembled a cartoon character when the male lead sees an attractive female and their eyes pop out on storks. That was I. But this wasn’t a cartoon, there were no attractive females, just a handful of youths, a lingering joke aimed at me, au de armpit, my smile and my glasses floating out of control in front of my face.

 

I don’t think I gained any respect. But I was first out of the car park.

It’s Me!

I stepped off the train this morning and onto the escalator. As I ascended into Grand Central / New Street Station (Is it a shopping centre? Is it a train station? Both!) and I became aware of the wonderful sounds of string instruments. It was somewhat ethereal.

My fellow commuters briefly snapped out of their Monday morning depression and had similar quizzical looks as we tried to work out the source of the grand music.

I had to pass through two ticket barriers and so I removed the annual ticket from its small photo ID wallet and fed it into the slot in the barrier which quickly snatched it from my hand and then spat it out at the top of the barrier. Upon retrieving it, the gate opened and I stepped through.

I let the sounds of the music guide me to a central area of Grand Central/New Street Station to find a  group of commuters watching a string quartet playing the dramatic Game Of Thrones theme tune. It was a promotional thing for the new series that has started. When they finished, they started again and I then noticed that the musicians, despite playing the music to absolute perfection, looked like they were slowly dying inside. From a distance they were playing with exuberance but their eyes betrayed them. All four of them looked like they were so bored of this same tune that they had been playing over and over since perhaps 7.30AM and were due to continue to play over and over until well after rush hour.

I thought that it was kind of like doing lines at school as a punishment. But instead of writing, “Santa Claus is not evil and I have no need to defend myself against him,” the music teacher has said, “You will play the entire theme tune for Game Of Thrones for two and a half hours!”

After hearing the tune for the second time and then after a two second break before they started again, I headed for the second ticket barrier to get to platform 5.

But where was my ticket? I had it just a couple of minutes ago. I checked my pockets, my man bag, my pockets, the pockets of my man bag, my pockets, my man bag pockets again, my back pocket, my man bag again and finally my pockets. Nothing.

Panicked, I saw two sweepers chatting so I asked them if anyone had handed them a pass. “Check lost property,” one said pointing to the sign for “Lost Luggage.” In there I was greeted by a chap in his early twenties who looked like he was fighting to keep awake. Sitting slouched feeling sorry for himself, he was either tired from the early start or the continuing sound of the Game Of Thrones theme tune was really starting to get to him.

My pass, much like his enthusiasm, his hopes and dreams, wasn’t there.

This was not a good start to the week. That bloody music didn’t help either! It only amplified the very dramatic situation I had found myself in.

I emptied my pockets and bag of their entire contents in a quiet little corner because, despite checking these twenty times previously, you never know.

Nothing.

So with the sixth rendition of the Game Of Thrones theme tune, I thought I would ask the two chaps at the gate I had passed through first.

With desperation I asked one of them, let’s call him Vikram, “Excuse me, has anyone handed in a lost train pass within the last 5 minutes?” “What’s the name?” he asked. “Grump,”* I replied. “Grump,” he whispered. I wondered if my notoriety had reached these shopping centre / public transport kingdoms. Damn it, I was starting to even think like a bloody Game Of Thrones character.

He strolled over to a little cupboard and opened it up. He removed a pass and opened it. Lo and behold, in time with a very dramatic part of the seventh version of the Game Of Thrones theme tune, I saw the photo ID card, that familiar bald, dome shaped head and miserable face that I see in the mirror on a daily basis. “That’s it!” I said.

“Nah, it’s a different name,” said Vikram. Was this guy serious? I had told him the name and he had repeated it to me. “Grump!” I repeated with an obvious air of frustration. If only I had my bloody broadsword. “G. R. U. M. P. Grump!” I said with a raised voice. Still Vikram looked at the pass, with my name on it, clearly written in block capital letters, but he still wasn’t convinced.

The music reached another swell as I pointed to the pass, to the one obvious thing about it that could surely end all this confusion. “You see that? That’s a picture of my face!” I said clearly on the brink of going full-on barbarian any second. My weapon? Forget a broadsword or axe. I’ve got a man-bag.

“Oh, yeah, right,” said Vikram, finally handing the pass to me. I thanked him because I was brought up with manners, and relieved that the drama was now over and grateful that a good willed person handed the pass in, I set off to miss my train and escape the eighth rendition of the Game Of Thrones theme tune.

On the later train heading to work, I suddenly found myself humming the bloody theme tune. It had become my ear-worm and would continue to haunt me over and over and over.

Bloody Game Of Thrones. I don’t even watch it!

 

 

* Please note that the author’s real name isn’t Grump. He has a secret identity to protect!

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5 Grumpy Lessons Learned Moving Home.


A huge life event has unfolded. We have moved. Myself and the lovely Mrs Grump are now home owners. Well, I say home owners. Home owners in association with the mortgage provider.

We have had to leave behind the rented haven that was Chateau Grump. Goodbye Dudley. Goodbye Rocky the arsehole cat next door and goodbye unwelcomed EDL marches.

Our new base, a bungalow. Yes, a bungalow. Well, I say bungalow, it’s actually a bungalow with two other bungalows underneath.

Okay, it’s a flat.

No, it’s a Penthouse! We’re on the top floor. I’m going to settle for Condo. Condo de Grump. I don’t know, I’ll have to decide on a suitable name. It’s not a chateau anymore, that’s for sure, but we have still got two bedrooms.

I wish I had a funny story to tell you about the move but I really haven’t. It went relatively smoothly and we have now settled in although there’s still some work to be done to make it all to our taste.

But I have learnt a few things since moving in.

1) I’m incredibly clumsy. 

It is remarkeable how you can get used to your own space and know the limits of your surroundings. You zip around your home without even a second thought, vacuuming with speed and grace like a well oiled machine of precision.

I thought it was just a holiday thing where I keep banging my head. No, it’s not just a holiday thing. Put me in an unfamiliar space and there’s a chance I’ll bang my head. I’ve also dropped things, clipped things and scuffed things. Nothing major but still, Mrs Grump is concerned that I’ve managed to devalue the property since moving in. A one man demolition crew working inside out!

I think that’s a bit of an exaggeration. I’m getting used to the space now and besides, this bubblewrap suit that Mrs Grump made me is fantastic.

2) We need a third person in our relationship. 

Now before any swingers start writing in offering assistance, allow me to explain.

“It’s pink,” I said, staring at the small piece of lining paper with a tester pot’s worth of paint in a nice neat square, courtesy of Mrs Grumps appreciation for symmetry and straight lines. I’d have done a large splodge. Maybe a hand print.

“That is not pink!” replied Mrs Grump. “It’s an off white with a hint of blue.”

“There’s no blue in that,” I insist.

“Are you just trying to wind me up?”

“No,” I reply and although I’m smiling at the notion that she thinks I’m joking with her, it doesn’t help my case that what I do actually see is a slightly pink square.

“You are.”

“I’m not. I genuinely see pink there.”

“What is wrong with you? You’re bloody colour blind!” said the good lady.

“Hold on; how do I know that you’re not the colourblind one?”

It was a stale mate. We need an independent adjudicator to determine who can see the correct colour.

But a colour has been chosen for the bedrooms and “Marble” is a subtle and soothing colour that we both like. Mrs Grump swears it’s a kind of creamy soft yellow. All I’ll say is it’s a good job I like purple.

3) I don’t really have any opinion on colours.

Well, except pink. I don’t want pink! But other than that, I just don’t have an opinion. I think it’s a man thing.

4) Noise travels. 

When you move into a new place you become hyper sensitive to all of the new house sounds that you have to get used to; or in our case, Condo sounds. Living in a condo you also have to get used to the sounds of the neighbours. There are more of them now than before. We have one next door and one underneath us.

It had been a couple of weeks and we hadn’t heard much. But then we heard a couple of things. Nothing major; a cupboard or drawer banging next door and the TV underneath being too loud. I had to ask him to turn it down. Okay, I think the shaved head helped. That and the large stick with a grimace. Of course I joke. I wasn’t grimacing. Neither did I have a large stick!

But this was after a couple weeks of living here. I’d already made noises of my own for which I do wonder whether they were heard. Mainly the noise that a great majority of men make shortly after waking up. It’s like a call to the world to announce to all within the vicinity that the alpha male has awoken. Of course, I’m talking about the fart.

Hey, it’s a natural bodily function. It happens. Let’s not ignore the elephant in the room. But I fear that it may be too late to now start suppressing them. It’s as if the neighbours remained in a quiet vigil for a few weeks to draw us into a false sense of security. Meanwhile, I’m thinking that the sound proofing in these condos is amazing and most mornings perform a very healthy alpha male call to nature. To my neighbours, am I known as the neighbour with a wind problem? I don’t have a wind problem, I’ve spent time with plenty of mates to understand that I am not alone in this morning call. But even so, it may well be my only discernible feature right now within our block of fla- condos.

5) I am a nosy neighbour. 

I don’t go prying into other people’s lives but being on the top floor with such a vista to survey, I can’t help but peer through the Venetian blinds now and again to check all is in order. We also have a spy glass in our door; I believe the technical term is a door viewer. But quite often I pass the front door and can’t help but take a peak. There is literally nothing of interest to see, only our neighbour’s front door and the top of a stairwell. Nothing ever happens of interest and I know this. So why do I feel compelled to peak? I’m hoping the novelty will wear off.

So there you have it. I have no doubt that the search for paint, furniture and other elements of creating domestic bliss will be a source of Grumpy material. Watch this space.

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?

Illness, T.V & Sex

This week I’ve been off work, ill.

Unfortunately, if you’re not in bed trying to sleep it off, day dribbling into your pillow, then you’re in front of the T.V with a hot drink and as many over the counter drugs you can get your hands on without the need to call an ambulance and get your stomach pumped.

I was flicking through the channels when I reached This Morning, with Phil and Holly and they were just about to start their sex phone in. I admit, I thought this should be interesting so I put the remote down and grabbed my hot drink, settling into the perfect viewing position.

The first caller was a lady who had split up from her husband, they had both had other relationships and now they are back together again. She was struggling to deal with the fact that her husband had been intimate with someone else. Holly was straight in there saying that her husband might be feeling the same thing. She’s wise beyond her years is Holly.Phil just nodded in agreement. Out of his depth, clearly.

Next caller was a young lady who’s just had her second child and feels that the intimacy has fizzled out. Again, Holly was straight in there saying that it’s normal when you’ve just had a child. You’re too knackered for any hanky panky. The sex therapist recommended setting aside five minutes on a regular basis specifically for hopping on the good foot and doing the bad thing. I’m paraphrasing there. The one thing that stood out to me, (no pun intended) was that five minutes isn’t much time at all is it? If he’s wearing overalls and work boots for instance, it could take a good three minutes to get undressed! Even if he was primed and ready to rock, it’s assuming that he hasn’t got much stamina.

After that call, Phil said, “We’re almost out of time but we’ve got time for one more quick one,” I admit I was wondering where he was going with this. He meant a call. A call from another Phil. I’m paraphrasing again but this is what he basically said:

“I’m 65, my wife’s 35. We’ve been together 19 years and we’ve got 5 kids, the youngest is two. We’re at it hammer and tongs on a daily basis! We love a bit of it. Drop the kids off at nursery or school, Boom! Straight back to bed. Boom! Love it! Boom!”

Presenter Phil then ended the call by saying, “We’ve ended on a happy one there,” in other words, a happy ending. Yes Phil; a happy ending. I saw what you did there you sly fox.

It wasn’t such a happy ending for the viewers who wanted to get through because they had genuine problems though. All thanks to a geriatric Russell Brand who thought he’d just ring through to a national television programme and gloat about how he and his considerably younger wife are banging more often than the Kodo school of taiko drumming!

 

 

Then an ad break but not before a message from Loose Women about today’s show.

I wondered if that was some sort of tedious link.

 

How To Create A Monster

I fear I have created a monster.

 

I was sat on the train approaching my stop when the train manager’s voice came through the speaker. His voice had a personality. He made a slight joke, changing Sandwell & Dudley to, “Dundwell and Sadley,” and following up with, “So good, they named it twice.” His light manner with a slight hint of sarcasm was actually a breath of fresh air. I looked around to see other commuters smiling at this.

 

Usually, the train manager sounds like he is slowly being killed by his job. Like he started the job with all good intentions, but the constant dealing with the general public has ground him down to a mere shadow of his former self and he now sits quietly questioning his life choices and he also thinks his wife is having an affair and his children hate him despite his staff discount on rail travel. This comes across in their usual announcements.

 

But the endearing message from our affable train manager today was good to hear. So much so, that I took to twitter about it.

 

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It’s important to get positive feedback. It’s encouraging, a nice thing to do and despite my normal grumpy exterior I am actually trying to be more positive this year, hence the positive outpouring of appreciation. Okay, maybe not an outpouring. It was just a tweet.

 

Anyway, I received a reply.

 

 

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A few days later, I was on the train heading back. Then the train manager’s voice came over the speaker, “We are now approaching Sandwell & Dudley, that’s Dundwell and Sadley, so good they named it twice!” It was the same guy but something was different. It just wasn’t the same. He’s obviously had the feedback I had given and that had given him a lift and that’s great but, he had become over enthusiastic and too contrived. He was trying too hard to be the comedian. He no longer had the endearing quality that made him so likeable before. He was now, if anything, a bit annoying. Annoying in a kind of Holiday park rep way.

 

I looked around the carriage. Not a single smile on the faces of my fellow commuters. This was a Friday too so this should have been an easy audience to please! No, his genuine, slightly sarcastic and likeable quality had gone. What had I done? I was Frankenstein and I had created a wannabe comedian train conductor who was now annoying. I’m to blame for this!

 

But it’s not the first time I’ve done this. A few years ago I was friendly with one of my neighbours.

 

He was into writing poetry and he also enjoyed playing guitar. “Well, effectively, you could be a song writer then,” I said like a bloody idiot. He then began to write songs and became a bit obsessive about it.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of exploring creativity and I would always encourage that, but then he started singing and, well, it wasn’t the best. Too nice to say anything negative, I continued to encourage it. He didn’t have a bad voice….. for a car alarm.

 

Then he played his first gig and of course, friends and family showed support for him. I was also there showing support and applauding after each song. With the sudden rush of fame, it fuelled his fire even more and while he continued to practice loudly songs about his ex-wife, his current wife patiently put up with it whilst cringing and secretly hating my guts for it.

 

They’re not together anymore and I am certain I’m not to blame for their amicable split. However I can’t help but think that his daily practicing, and the pain that inflicted on his wife, only fuelled her fire and sadly (and dundwell), that was down to me.

 

So, the moral of the story? Sometimes a positive intention creates monsters who become unlikeable to the public.

 

Or you’ll start a chain of events that can ruin a marriage.

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.

 

 

The Benefit Of An Early Start

I needed to catch up on sleep. So last night I went to bed much earlier than usual, before 10pm.

Did I catch up on extra hours of sleep? 

No. 5am this morning I was wide awake. 

So I got up. 

It’s an exciting prospect waking up early and having precious time to kill before you go to work. I’ve always wished that I could get up early and utilise the time efficiently to be super-proactive. Doing…. stuff. The possibilities are endless. 

Actually, that’s not the case. Mrs Grump was beautifully snoring away and to do anything to wake her would be dicing with death. 

Perhaps I could go for an early morning walk? A jog along the beach? Fresh air? Not possible. I live in Dudley as well as not exactly being a beauty spot, we’re getting a beating from Storm Eva. 

Reading? Good idea, however, I have the tendency to fall asleep when reading which would completely contradict the whole idea of getting up extra early. 

What did I feel like doing? Nothing. 

Why?

Because it’s bloody Five in the morning, that’s why! 

It was boring.