Saturday, 25 March 2017

Game of life

We've all played board games at some point in our life, and chances are we've even played some sort of sport. It might not have been since school when, if you're anything like me, you were one of the last to be picked for a team, but even if your only experience of sport was the humiliation of finding yourself face down in the mud on the rugby field, you understand that games and sports have rules.
Everyone generally plays by these rules and the game runs smoothly, at least until you land on Mayfair with a hotel for the sixth time in a row, at which point some kind of hissy fit results in all the cards, playing pieces and houses being scattered over a wide area.

But what happens when someone decides not to play by the rules? Imagine if Tiger Woods hit his ball onto the 18th green then decided to pick it up, dunk it in the hole and run around like a loony yelling "Touchdown!".
What if someone decided to sell all their property on the Monopoly board and bankrupt themselves by donating the proceeds to charity?
Well, if you're French there would be riots and the ports would be blockaded, if you're Spanish you might throw a donkey off a tall tower for no reason, and if you're British you'll probably tut and sigh.

It strikes me that life is much the same.
Most people just play by the rules that society has laid down, wanting to fit in with what everyone else is doing no matter how silly or pointless, and any attempt to go against the flow is met with anything from mild confusion to open hostility.
I remember the year we took the boy out of the state school system to home educate him. Anyone that heard what we'd done was full of negativity, but if anything he learned more in that time than he would have done at school. He only went back to school because of the frustration of all the hoops you have to jump through because you choose to do something different.

As anyone who knows me will be aware, I don't do Christmas. It doesn't affect anyone else, but the shock on people's faces when they're told this is always a picture. It's as though they simply can't comprehend how or why anyone would not celebrate Christmas. Funnily enough, many people go on to say that they wish they didn't get involved with it all either, but there's always some excuse that amounts to "everyone else does it".
This is the problem. We're expected to go through the motions regardless of how we genuinely feel about something.
Work hard at school, get good grades, get a good job, meet someone special, get married, buy as big a house as possible, have 2.4 children and an armoured personnel carrier to transport them around in, brag to other parents about how amazing your kids are, go to the gym, have holidays in Barbados, and if anyone asks if you fancy meeting up you have to drag out your phone and start prodding it intently while making a big noise about how busy you are.

Bollocks. I'm not playing that game, and hope I never do. I'm not that person and if I thought I was I'd be ashamed of myself, because I don't want to play that game or live by those rules.
I go to work to earn money to keep a roof over our heads, food on the table, and clothes on our backs.
I have a car to enable me to get to work, and a few things to make my home life comfortable.
The house is reasonably clean and tidy, but a show home it most definitely is not.
When it's my birthday I'd rather ignore it, when someone moves into a new house I have no interest in going round to be given 'the tour', I'm hardly ever busy and have trouble finding things to do to fill the time when I'm not working, eating or sleeping, and I'm not remotely interested in anyone's new baby - to me it's just another noisy, demanding shit machine until it's old enough to communicate and do something more interesting than projectile vomiting.
My life is what those that play by the rules would consider dull and boring, and sometimes I beat myself up about that, wishing things could be more exciting, wondering how it would be if I was caught up in a whirlwind of social interaction, parties, foreign holidays, fitted kitchens and one-upmanship.

Slowly but surely I'm becoming increasingly comfortable and accepting of my life, reasoning that if I was that desperate for it to be different I'd do something to change things. But I don't, so I guess that means I'm actually content with things the way they are.
I listen to music, I enjoy photography, and I love cooking.
I'm happiest when I'm in the countryside away from the bustle of the world, whereas cities fill me with frustration, anger, and a desperate urge to run and hide. I don't go to big concerts or events either, because I can't face the crowds, and this fear is the same reason I've never had anything to do with airports.
I'd rather spend the evening on the sofa with a big glass of red wine and a packet of Jaffa Cakes, watching a couple of episodes of Game Of Thrones, then going to bed somewhere around 10:30 and reading a chapter or two before dropping off.

I play the game by some of the rules because it's the only way to make life work, but all of the peripheral bullshit can go hang. Especially that ridiculous way of greeting someone by sort of kissing but not kissing, because I have absolutely no idea what the etiquette is.
The rules of the game are too complicated to be bothered with, so mostly I just go with what feels right for me.
I suspect I'm not alone, but those who do play the game by the rules have a habit of shouting so loud about it that the rest of us can't be heard.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

.... as a newt

In the wee small hours of Saturday morning, the boy stumbled in very much the worse for wear. Again.
Having spent the evening in the company of his young lady friend, doing the standard "ooh, that drink made me feel good, let's have another" thing, he fell into bed about 1am.
Within a couple of minutes, he embarked upon the first of many trips to the bathroom to drive the porcelain truck. So much for a good night's sleep.

It must have been a session of biblical proportions, because he spent the whole of Saturday in bed with nothing but the odd glass of water for sustenance.
We left him to it and took a trip out to the big Garden centre in Cambridge in search of an appropriate gargoyle (don't ask), and I took the opportunity to give the wife's Smart car a long run as it's usually confined to short local trips.
 Having driven it a few times since she got it, I have to say that it really is a fun little car. Okay, so I wouldn't want to swap the the BMW for one, but it really does put a smile on your face as you bob along, metaphorically sticking two fingers up at the 'considerably richer than you' brigade.
The boy was ritually dragged from his festering pit of doom this morning and ordered to shower and have breakfast, but the sum total of his day after that has comprised of sitting in front of the Playstation.
As usual.

As I sit here typing my vague attempt at a blog post, the wife is watching an episode of 'Call the midwife' on the BBC iPlayer, which keeps distracting me with the intermittent appearance of Charlotte Ritchie.
Hardly surprising as she's gorgeous.
The mad thing is that I'll sit through all sorts of programmes if there's a bit of hot totty involved.
I'm such a tart.
'The Crimson Field' was a pretty good drama series, but I wonder if it would have held my attention quite as strongly if it wasn't for the presence of Oona Chaplin and Alice St Clair.

After a week of rest on doctor's orders, my pain has subsided significantly. The chest x-ray results came back normal, so the conclusion is that I'd suffered some sort of torn muscle in the chest wall.
Amazing that the pain was greater than anything I experienced during my shattered knee episode, from something that sounds relatively trivial. The body is a weird thing.
As it turns out, I'd booked this coming week off work too, so by the time I go back I should be over the worst.
After that it's just a matter of being careful not to overdo it.
Easier said than done.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Medical mystery and a Bavarian moneypit

In the words of Bill & Ted, it has been a most unusual day.
With a day's leave booked, I had two objectives to complete - get the car fixed, and see a doctor.
It shouldn't be too hard. The car was booked in at the local BMW specialist to have a new differential fitted, so I dropped it off at 8:00 before wandering up to Sainsbury's for a cooked breakfast.
I sat looking out the window at the world as I worked my way through sausage, bacon, egg, beans, tomato, toast and coffee. I knew the job on the car wouldn't take long, but I was also aware that the bill would be monumental.
I finished breakfast and walked into town, which was only just waking up, before making my way back to the garage to wait for them to finish the job.
By 11 o'clock I was back home, partly elated because the awful whining noise had disappeared, leaving the car eerily quiet, and partly angry because it doesn't seem right that a diff should be knackered after only 44000 miles, costing me over 1600 pounds, especially on what is supposed to be a premium brand vehicle with a reputation for quality German engineering.
Oh well, c'est la vie. Or should that be 'So ist das leben'?

Time to get an appointment with a doctor then.
I've had pain in the side of my chest for a week now, and as is usual with me I've been trying to ignore it in the hope it would go away.
Unfortunately things seemed to be getting worse so, tired of being nagged, I gave in to the idea that I really ought to do something about it.
So I called the GP's surgery and was told there were no appointments available for two weeks.
This is normal. There seems to be an assumption that everyone has ample warning that they might need a doctor.  However, there's no way I can tolerate this level of pain for a further fortnight, so I impressed upon the receptionist the urgency of my situation. I'm not one of those people who waste a doctor's time - I only resort to seeking one when there's something practically hanging off.
She relented, telling me to call back at 2pm when I would be assessed for triage and shoe-horned in at the end of the day.
I didn't make it that long.

In an effort to kill a bit of time I went out to the wife's car armed with a bottle of polish and a cloth to give it a nice shine-up. Big mistake. Something in the buffing action triggered the most incredible pain in my chest, and it was all I could do to stagger in to the wife and demand she take me to A&E immediately. She was all for calling an ambulance, but I wasn't having any of that.
Although there was a massive waiting time posted at the A&E reception, one look at me convinced them to get me in for checks within twenty minutes.
After exhaustive questioning, an ECG, blood pressure check and a session of poking and prodding which culminated in me virtually hitting the roof as I let out a scream of agony, they still didn't know for sure what was going on.
From there I was sent straight to the GP where I was subjected to further torture, after which the doctor admitted she wasn't sure either. I left with some heavy-duty pain killers and a referral note for a chest x-ray, which I have to make an appointment for tomorrow morning.
In the meantime I'm told to stay off work, rest, and avoid driving.

In summary then, the NHS is so overstretched you now need to plan any illness or injury in advance, codeine isn't man enough to subdue the pain I'm still in, and even though I have the option of chopping the Beemer in for something small, frugal and brand new, I'd rather fork out to have it fixed because it's just so damn good to drive.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Hard Day's Night

Last weekend saw a concerted effort to start doing something positive about the assorted collections of crap around the house and garden.
You know how it is. There's always one drawer that becomes home to all those little things that don't have a place to live, and if those things are too big for the drawer of shame, there's always the shed or the loft.
Some stuff seems to just accumulate without you realising, such as phone chargers and cables that don't appear to have any practical use other than getting tangled up in the useful ones.
Other things have outlived their usefulness, but you don't want to throw them away because you never know - it might come in handy one day.
The trouble is, if you don't get rid of these things from time to time, you could easily turn into one of those nutters you see on TV documentaries who keep absolutely everything including old packaging, ancient newspapers, mouldy food and even (most disturbingly) bodily fluids.
I don't like clutter at all, and while some people like a 'homely' feel with lots of random frippery scattered around the place, I prefer a more clean and minimalist approach which is hard to achieve with three people living in a small bungalow.

First thing to tackle was the shed. With just a small but eclectic assortment of storage solutions, the space in the shed has never been very well utilised. This was resolved by taking a trip to Machine Mart for some of their 350kg metal shelving units, which I knew were good because we had some at work. A well-timed journey it was too, because just entering Cambridge I spotted a bright green Lamborghini Aventador, followed by an orange Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder, a 2-for-1 supercar deal which had my internal ten-year-old boy wetting himself with excitement.
Getting the new units built and set up required the shed to be emptied first, when it soon emerged that not only was there a fair amount of stuff destined for the recycling centre, but that the local population of big hairy spiders has been booming.
A few things, such as a home cinema system, will find themselves on Gumtree in due course, while others have another destination lined up.
Amongst these items is my son's acoustic guitar, bought a few years ago during one of his many bouts of unfounded optimism, which is currently propped up in the bedroom awaiting dispatch.
Last night as I threw aside my clothes before getting into bed, my trousers flicked across the strings, striking a note which sounded just like that first chord of 'Hard Day's Night' by The Beatles, and now that song is firmly wedged in my brain and refuses to budge.
With everything neatly arranged on the new shelving and the old random storage units disposed of, the shed now looks more like there's some sort of order. Time to move on.

The next area to tackle is the loft, with the intention that it should be left empty apart from the water tank.
The loft is currently long term storage for many things. Some of these will be rehoused in alternative locations, like the new shed shelving where they can be accessed without using a ladder, while most will end up at the dump.
Motorbike crash helmets, boxes I kept for things still under warranty, a CRT television and an old PC will be disposed of, while The Vax and the boy's extensive Lego collection will be relocated.
It's a task that requires a certain determination and sense of purpose. It's easy to give in to that little voice that says "No, you can't just throw that away, that cost money" but if you do, you end up drowning in useless shit that doesn't get looked at from one year to the next.

Hell on earth. Never gonna get like that.