Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Kryptonite for everyone

We all have our weaknesses. Junkies like a bit of smack, arseholes buy Audis, those who value style above all else are drawn to Bang & Olufsen stereos, and orange women with too much makeup and bleach-blonde hair need extra large wardrobes to house their collections of shoes and handbags.
Some of these weaknesses can have a profound effect on others, whereas others are more discreet and may not be obvious to anyone other than the person involved.

I'm certainly not without my vices, but leaving aside things like the pink and moist side of the internet and the countless hours spent playing 'Farming Simulator 15' on the Playstation, the really big one for me is alcohol.
Don't get me wrong, I don't drink to excess, but the urge is always there. I'm fortunate that I possess a great deal of self control because otherwise I'd be in a pretty bad way.
I just find great enjoyment in wine, whisky, rum, beer, port etc, and if it's in the house it'll be calling to me. The urge I really have to fight is when I get home from work, at which point the desire for a beer is huge, and when I'm cooking it only seems right to have a glass of wine on the go.
I like the taste, and I enjoy that slightly fluffy feeling that seems to knock the corners off the world, but I also know when to stop.
Even though I enjoy it and I manage to keep my consumption within sensible limits (nobody wants one of those big strawberry noses or to damage their liver) I still feel that alcohol has a grip on me.
A few years ago I went teetotal for about a year, and at the same time I also stopped drinking caffeine. During this time (after the caffeine withdrawal had abated) I felt better than I could have imagined. I was happier, I felt healthier, and the world seemed like a better place.
Eventually I caved in, although I don't remember why, and alcohol and (to a far lesser extent) caffeine found their way back into my life.

I regularly beat myself up about the drink, but somehow never quite make the break to quitting it.
I tell myself that a large glass of wine or a triple measure of rum a day, with a day or two a week without alcohol to give the liver a break isn't a problem but I know that if my self control were to weaken, there is the potential for things to go very pear-shaped.
At the moment there are three or four bottles of wine in the rack (including a bottle of Barolo and a nice Chablis) and there's a little bit of Captain Morgan spiced rum left, and it strikes me that what I need to do is finish up what's in stock and then quit completely.
It will be tough - I've done it before but this time I just need to stick with it. The only question is, can I find something more wholesome to fill the hole left by the alcohol?
One can but try.



Monday, 29 August 2016

Eat, sleep, repeat, bored.

When I was a wee kid, my parents took me to Linton zoo. It wasn't far to travel, it wasn't particularly expensive at the time, and as it turned out I enjoyed the experience.
On the strength of this I was taken again the following year. And the year after that. And the same again the next year and so on until I was old enough to rebel against doing the same shit over and over again.
At that time it was a similar story with camping holidays. Forget any notions of spending a few nights under canvas in the glory of the lake district - oh no. Due to a lack of funds and an even more catastrophic shortage of imagination, for several years we went camping at Landbeach Marina Park, which was a staggering seven miles away from home as the crow flies.
The first time I was too young to know any different and was quite happy to spend the days playing on the adventure playground, looking for fish in the shallows of the lakes (read: old gravel pits) watching the water skiers, and maybe having the odd game of Space Invaders in the clubhouse.
But of course once wasn't enough, and it ended up as the go-to destination every year, with the only exception being when the parents decided to go all Edmund Hillary and dragged me off to the deepest reaches of lesser-explored Comberton (four and a half miles from home) to spend the weekend in a field where the most exciting attraction was a very small toilet block.
Fortunately Landbeach Marina Park was sold off and the land used to build a commercial research development, which has saved countless children from the same experience that I endured.

I think we all do this to varying degrees. You do something, you enjoy it and therefore want to do it again to revisit the same good feelings.
This is not always a bad thing of course - sex somehow manages to avoid becoming boring enough to not want to do it any more - but for many other things the novelty wears off very quickly.
Sometimes it's not even things you enjoy. I can be terribly clumsy and frequently end up leaking red stuff, whether it's from a sharp piece of metal at work or removing the skin off the end of my thumb with a cheese grater like I did yesterday. This sort of thing happens with alarming regularity and the fact that I never liked doing it in the first place should encourage me to be more careful, but so far it hasn't happened. The repetitive nature of this issue generates not boredom, but frustration.

Today we went to the Fenman Classic bike show in Wimbotsham which I first attended a few years ago when I still had the Yamaha FZR1000. The second time was when I had the BMW F650, and I was riding the Bandit 1200 the last time I went.
This year was the first time I've been without owning a motorcycle, and although lots of people turn up by car it does take something away from the experience when you're not rocking up on two wheels - and to be honest, the Beemer isn't built for driving on a farmers field like that provided by the organisers to serve as a car park.
I've enjoyed the experience of being at this show in the past, but this time it wasn't long before I'd had enough and was ready to go. I daresay part of the problem is that my motorcycle involvement is now in the past and as much as I still appreciate bikes, this kind of thing just makes me reflect on the past rather than enjoy the present, so to be honest I doubt I'll go again.

For several years now we've taken our holidays in North Yorkshire which we both love. It's nice to go to that region with the incredible scenery of the Dales and Moors national parks, and the more familiar we've become with it, the more comfortable it feels. Yet even this is beginning to feel a little tiresome, making us feel that perhaps we should broaden our horizons. We've talked about getting passports and trying holidays abroad, but although the idea has enormous appeal, the prospect of having to deal with airports and countries where English is not the first language somehow feels overwhelmingly scary.
Perhaps Scotland should be next. Baby steps and all that....

To keep everything fresh and exciting would mean constantly trying new things and going to new places, which although fine for the more adventurous people of the world is rather more difficult when you're about as outgoing as a hermit with one foot nailed to the floor.
Being such a person means that doing things you've done before gives you a sense of comfort, and the prospect of doing something different or going somewhere new brings on at best a major case of butterflies in the stomach and at worst a blunt refusal to do it.
This is what makes me a creature of habit which means that I'm usually quite happy doing the same things because they're within my comfort zone, but eventually I find that the repetition has made me bored shitless and I have to face up to the anxiety associated with doing something different.
Once I've done that and enjoyed the new thing I'll keep doing it until it becomes mundane and the cycle repeats.
I know what I'm like but I can't help it.


Monday, 8 August 2016

I'm a bit bored now - think I'll invent the wasp


After a number of false starts, summer has finally dragged herself out of bed leaving just enough time to have a quick shower and throw on a small cotton dress and strappy sandals before autumn comes knocking at the door.
A lot of people love summer and as soon as the clouds clear and the mercury in the thermometer shoots upwards they're in their element, with exclamations of "Ooh, isn't it lovely?".
Me? I prefer to stay in the shade, taking advantage of any opportunity to bring my body temperature down even if it means hanging around the chilled food section in the supermarket, trying not to look suspicious.
I don't function too well when the temperature goes up, which is why my ideal foreign holiday would probably be in Norway, not Spain. The hotter it gets, the more useless I become, with a steady decline in physical and mental function as it sweeps beyond about 22 celsius, and by the time it gets to 30 I'm good for absolutely nothing beyond sitting in the fridge with the beer until it goes away.

The heat isn't the only unwanted thing that summer brings out with her in her little sequined clutch bag.
Tucked away behind the bright red lipstick and a spare lacy thong, she keeps all manner of bugs specifically designed to make our lives unpleasant.
Probably the most useless creature in this little menagerie of meanness is the wasp. The idea of al-fresco dining is an attractive one, but the reality is that any attempt to do it will be spoiled by the arrival of a squadron of wasps with the sole intent of hanging around everyone's heads and stinging for no reason other than the fact that they can.
Depeche Mode said "I don't want to start any blasphemous rumours, but I think that God's got a sick sense of humour", and they were spot on. If indeed creation is real, then it would take a pretty twisted mind to come up with something as despicable as the wasp. Either that or wasps were one of the last things to be made and by that time the creator was so bored with making nice things like giraffes and meerkats that his frustrations came out in designs that expressed his grumpiness.

Like mosquitos. Last night I'd just switched off the light when my dog-ears picked up the distinctive whine of a patrolling mozzie in the room, so rather than spending the night being a three-course meal I put the light back on and went hunting - knowing I'd be unable to relax until the bitey little bastard was dead.
Summer provides us with an abundance of flies too, with one of the greatest annoyances being those tiny little fruit flies that aimlessly circle the light fitting for a while before committing suicide by drowning themselves in my glass of Italian merlot.
During the summer every sip demands a quick inspection to ensure the glass doesn't contain more protein than it's supposed to.

Then we have ants. During the winter their miniature armies remain below ground where they belong, but as soon as summer gets her party frock on they despatch themselves to every corner of their kingdom, and on the hottest days they send out the air force to conquer new territory. There are few things as disturbing around the home than the sudden appearance of a wave of flying ants, You squish what you can before making an emergency run to the shops to stock up on Raid because the can left in the cupboard from last year only contained enough product to mildly inconvenience three ants with asthma.
If ants were the size of dogs we would not be the dominant species on this planet.
They appear to have no purpose in this world beyond expanding their numbers and territory at the expense of everything around them, including other colonies.
Much like humans when you think about it.