100daysofgrievances #41 CHEAP FLIGHTS AND TRIP ADVISOR

I’m currently a long way up in the air. I’m not going to hazard a guess as to exactly how high – I don’t really want to think about it – but definitely nowhere near the ground. I’m taking solace in a very useful fact (may or may not be true, but let’s not split hairs)  learned from binge-watching that well-known educational programme Orange is the New Black:

You are more likely to die from food-poisoning as a result of consuming aeroplane food than you are to die in a plane crash. 

As I’m flying with a relatively budget airline (no inflight meals unless you want to pay a tenner for a scabby sandwich and plastic cup of Nescafé), I’m feeling rather reassured right now.

The BF has yet to state that “it’s turned into a really nice day” and then promptly tried to drown out my laughter and derisive response that of course it’s a nice day, we’re above the clouds by pretending that’s what he meant all along.  He clearly learnt his lesson last time.  Actually, the only argument we’ve had so far today is the one about who would win in a fight.   The answer is that, today at least,  I would. I would make a highly tactical bee-line for his very sore side.  The very sore side that he has mentioned, on average, once every fifteen minutes for the past 4 days.  The very sore side that, after a thorough online diagnosis session, could  apparently be related to no fewer than three internal organs – I forget which ones. I think he must have concluded that they weren’t really vital internal organs though, as apparently his side (as very sore as it apparently is) is not sore enough to warrant an appointment with the doctor, or even a pre-holiday call to NHS24.   It’s not stopped him mentioning it though…

I don’t really like flying, hence the reason I thought I would attempt to write a mid-air blog to take my mind off it.  That now seems rather moronic given that I now feel obliged to list all the unpleasant things related to the experience.  Actually, as far as flights go, this one has been comparatively unstressful thus far (there I go, doing my best to jinx it).  For starters, we’re not flying with Ryanair or Easyjet.  Enough said, I think.  Also, touch wood, there hasn’t been any turbulence.  I know there will be later as the Canary Isles are well known as windy, but forewarned is forearmed (I’ll ensure I have a couple of medicinal G&Ts before then, won’t I?). We were also exceedingly sensible in our decision to go on holiday when the schools were about to go back after the Xmas hols, hence no screeching brats aboard this giant, heavy hunk of metal hurtling through the air miles above Earth. Okay, and I think that’s quite enough about the journey for now.

One rather positive thing about being so far away from solid ground is the fact that I don’t have access to Trip Advisor for the next few hours. If you want to get technical, I have heard rumours that the plane has wifi, but clearly I have no idea how to connect to that – this won’t be uploaded until I’m safely back on terra firma.  What is confusing me a little right now (and this is before my brain is addled by glugs of Gordon’s finest), is the fact that certain airlines won’t let you turn on any electronic devices for takeoff and landing, and insist that all phones be on flight mode for the duration of the flight as a SAFETY MEASURE, whilst others are bandying about adverts for their super fast wifi…

Argh, I’m not meant to be ruminating on the apparent disparities between airlines’ safety advice; I had changed the subject and was going to complain about Trip Advisor for a wee while.  Don’t get me wrong, I think Trip Advisor is one of the best inventions ever (up there with earplugs, hair oil and gin), what did we do without it?  That’s a rhetorical question; we stayed in a lot of BAD hotels and ate in several TERRIBLE restaurants. And as much as I love writing a TA review (both good and bad, you may be surprised to learn; nothing but fair, me), the forum is not without its problems:

  • Anyone can write a review, even complete and utter idiots.  People who write things like “i only gave this horid hotel one star coz I cant beleive that diet irn Bru isnt sold in there shop. What do ppl in Spain drink, m8!!!!” Don’t believe me? I suggest you have a brief peruse right now. Actually, scrap that, please don’t.  Save it until later as I know very well just how all-encompassing TA can be; you’ll never return to this blog. If like me, you become hooked, and can’t resist reading every single bad review of the hotel you’ve already booked (more of that later), then this can be a good way of weeding out the reviews to mentally discard… Complained at length that the food in the (Greek) hotel was Greek? Discard! Wittered on about the fact that the hotel wasn’t child-friendly? Result! Discard! Rambled for two paragraphs (sans punctuation) on the topic of where to buy the best Full English in Spain? Discard! Discard! The in-hotel entertainment wasn’t ‘lively’ enough? You get the picture. 

This  method of sorting the wheat from the chafe (is that the saying? I have no internet access so can’t check) also works for restaurants. My recent favourite one-star review for a restaurant where I had booked a table as a special treat complained that ‘not one member of staff asked how old my baby daughter was!’ (Shock horror!) What on earth this lady was doing taking a newborn to a Michelin starred restaurant, I have no idea!

  • People are allowed to publish reviews even if they didn’t stay/dine in the establishment. I recently read a one-star review (I spend  waste  quite a lot of time reading one-star TA reviews, even of hotels/restaurants I have no intention of visiting, in case that wasn’t already apparent) in which the reviewer complained at length about how she had cancelled a week-long stay with no prior notice, and the hotel had only refunded her for all-but-one of the nights (despite having a clear no-refunds policy).  Idiot.
  • Quite often it is apparent that multiple glowing reviews are written by the business owner.  Nobody seems to monitor this  (give me a job, Trip Advisor!). Giveaways are, for example,  numerous separate reviews all complimenting the ‘subtle lighting’ or the ‘most helpful manager’, or reviews purportedly written by people of all different nationalities but featuring strangely consistent spelling or grammatical errors…  Come on, if you’re going to write fake reviews, at least put a bit of effort in!

It goes without saying that a review is completely subjective, but I think TA reviewers should be made to undertake a basic online intelligence test before being allowed to submit a review.  I would like to point out at this point that I am not at all bitter about the review I once read of the pub I worked in: “Common and dirty, and that’s just the staff.”  I think that’s just rude (not to mention highly inaccurate)!

I think the fact I’m so obsessed with TA stems from some Bad Experiences*, but I can’t possibly go on holiday without reading all the bad reviews first (and checking religiously for newer, badder updates once the holiday is booked).  Take this holiday, for example…  The hotel we are staying in has mostly 4 and 5 star reviews, however the last time I checked (about 15 mins before takeoff), there were 62 one star reviews.  SIXTY TWO! And some of the reviewers sounded normal…Hours can be wasted checking out their other reviews to see if they are negative too.  I am however, feeling rather upbeat as the newest, baddest review mostly focussed on the reviewer’s belief that the hotel served too great a choice of fish.  He then went on to state that ‘luckily there is a McDonalds a short walk away’.  (Ha! Discard!)

I’m going to end here as I can here the rattle of the drinks trolley and it can’t be long until the seatbelt signs  light up.  In addition to that, when I flicked through the the inflight magazine earlier, I spotted an article about ‘cosmeceutical’ products that (surprise surprise) are sold aboard the plane.  It promises to be fascinating reading – I’m looking forward to tutting a lot and reading the most ridiculous bits aloud. That should take me through to that really annoying bit at the end of a plane journey when the plane comes to a standstill and  everyone stands up and crowds into the aisle.  Worse still, the folks who can’t fit in the aisle will happily loiter uncomfortably, stooped under the overhead lockers, looming over and tutting at us sane and sensible sitters.  And all for what? So that they can get off the plane thirty seconds earlier and then loiter for longer around the luggage carousel!

People.

*Return-journey blog, perhaps?

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100daysofgrievances #40 XMAS SUPERMARKET SHOPPERS

 

This one is to the tune of Away in a Manger…

 

 

Away to a big Tesco, Christmas songs in my head,

No more making excuses, if we want to get fed…

 

The voice over the tannoy tells of offers on beer,

You’d think all the shops were to close for a year.

 

The aisles they are a-heaving, and the customers are vile,

But locating the sherry makes it almost worthwhile.

 

I hate you fellow shoppers, you’d do well to stay out of my way,

Do not heed my words and you may well rue the day…

 

My shin rammed with your trolley, as you grab for brandy butter,

Leaning over me rudely, no ‘excuse me’ you utter,

 

Please take a little time out, and consider how you’ll feel,

When your family all blame you for ruining the big meal…

 

I shall move with precision and alacrity and stealth,

Your cranberry sauce will end up back on the shelf!

 

100daysofgrievances #39 A DIALOGUE WITH A BUILDER

This week we’ve been getting our kitchen re-done, along with some other odd household jobs. Below is a selection of some of the conversations I have had with the builder tasked with the work.

Sentiments in brackets I thought in my head but managed not to say out loud… 

Me: Hi, I got a voicemail saying I had to call you urgently. What’s the problem?

My Builder Friend: I was phoning to let you know that we have keys to your house so let ourselves in this morning.

Me: Erm yes, I saw you… I was the one who showed you where the teabags were. And the biscuits.

MBF: Well I just thought I should let you know that we are here. We have keys.

Me: (And early onset dementia?) Okay, that’s great. See you tomorrow!

MBF: Okay, we have keys so we can let ourselves in! 

                                   *** 

Me: Morning, kitchen’s looking good. Although I couldn’t help but notice that there’s only one power point now… Stretching that flex taut over the sink to plug in the washing machine isn’t really ideal…Also, what about all the other appliances?

MBF: yeah, we put a cupboard in front of the old socket. It’s still there, you just can’t get to it. The others are the same. 

Me: Okaaaaay. So are you going to put some new sockets in? One for a whole kitchen isn’t really enough…Also, we can’t keep pulling the washing machine out so that the flex will stretch to the power point…

MBF: Would you like me to bring you some extension cables? That would solve the problem.

Me: SOME extension cables? What, as a temporary measure?

MBF: Erm… Well if you want actual sockets, we’ll have to call the sparkie.

Me: (well thank the lord they don’t let you mess about with electricity) Yes, I think that would be a good idea. I don’t think a load of extension cables trailing across the kitchen is ideal… Do you?

MBF: It’ll take longer if we do actual sockets. And there is the one here that works. Look I’ll show you! 

Me: Yes, I know it works! I had to plug the washing machine into it last night! And yes, I imagine it will take longer but plugging everything into that one beside the sink isn’t really ideal, is it? 

MBF: Yeah, it won’t look very good, will it?

Me: (Arghhh yes I’m female, clearly it’s the aesthetics that are concerning me!) No, no it won’t. All those trailing wires over the sink…

MBF: Okay, I’ll call the sparkie… But it will take longer to do it your way… I guess I’ll just do all the tiling whilst I wait…

Me: I’m no expert… But is that a good idea? Won’t the electrician need to take them off to put sockets in?

MBF: Yeah but I need something to do today. 

                                    *** 

Me: Hi, I had a message to call you back?

MBF: Yes, I wanted to let you know that we’ll be round at lunchtime on Friday to do some work…

Me: Okay… That’s fine. Just hang on to the keys.

MBF: We’ll get the keys from the management company.

Me: But you’ve got keys, haven’t you? Also, on the voicemail you got the address wrong. I’m at Cardiff road.

MBF: Cardiff Road? That’s funny, we’re at a job on Cardiff road just now!

Me: Yes, I know. My house. I saw you this morning.

MBF: Ominous silence

Me: So you’re finishing the kitchen on Friday? Including the sockets?

MBF: Yes, we’re coming to you on Friday, 40 Park View.

Me: (Oh sweet Jesus, give me strength!) I. Live. On. Cardiff. Road.

MBF: Are you sure? This is the number I was given.

Me: Quite sure. 

MBF: Do you think I was given the wrong number?

Me: I don’t know. You had my number already though; you’ve called me before. I really need to get back to work now.

MBF: Okay… But we’ll be on the job at Park View on Friday.

Me: Well you need to call the person who lives there and tell them that.

MBF: But this is the number I was given. Can you tell them?

Me: (Arghhhhhhh) No, sorry, I don’t know that person.

MBF: Do you think I was given the wrong number?

Me: Yes. Yes I imagine you were. But you’ll need to get the right number and call the person whose house you’re going to on Friday… (Incidentally, aren’t you meant to be at MY house organising MY SOCKETS on Friday?!)

MBF: (mutters) But I’m sure that was the number I was given…

                                       ***

MBF: I’ve got 2 smoke alarms I need to put up.

Me: Okay, great.

MBF: Where do you think I should hide them?

Me: Hide them?!

MBF: Yeah, where should they go?

Me: Well, one upstairs and one downstairs, high up. Not in kitchen…

MBF: Are you sure?

Me: (This is your JOB!) Yes, I’m sure. If one goes in the kitchen it’ll go off every time we burn toast. So how about one here above this door, that’s nice and central, and then one upstairs in the hall, too.
          

MBF: No, I meant do you really want them out in the open? I could put them under the stairs?

Me: Under the stairs?! No, they need to be high up. I’m sure they do… 

MBF: But we don’t want them somewhere obstructive. They won’t look nice.

Me: (I believe you might mean obtrusive, not obstructive, but I’m not going to correct you…) No, I really think they’ll be fine above the doors.

MBF: Well if you’re sure… Don’t you want them to look nice? I could attach them on under the stairs then you wouldn’t see them… I could hide the carbon monoxide detector there, too.

Me: No, please put them where I said.

MBF: (muttering) Well, don’t blame me when it doesn’t look nice…
  

100daysofgrievances #38 EXCUSES, EXCUSES.

This morning I woke up needing the loo.

 

And how is that for a punchy introductory sentence? I’ve not updated my blog in an age, but clearly haven’t lost my literary touch.

 

I shuffled through to my freezing cold bathroom (really must figure out those boiler settings some time soon) eyes half closed, assuming it was about 3am.  To my acute surprise and immense dismay I noticed the sky was just beginning to get light… Without a doubt, this would be a disappointing occurrence any workday morn, but it was especially niggling today because just before retiring for the evening, I decided against setting my alarm to awaken me for a crack-of-dawn run.  Instead, I said to myself ‘if I have had enough sleep and hence wake up early naturally, I shall go running’… And look what effing well went and happened. I woke up ‘naturally’ and then returned to bed feeling annoyed that not only did I not have another 4 hours to languish beneath the duvet, but that I had also let myself down and FAILED in my quest to go for a stupid early run, even though I had clearly woken up on time.  Equally clearly, I shouldn’t have had that last cup of tea before bed and then I would have slept blissfully unaware all the way through ‘running time’.

 

This reminds me of when my dad took my sister and me on a cycling holiday to Orkney when we were teenagers.  ‘Holiday’ is something of a misnomer here – think endless hills, relentless winds and a diet consisting predominantly of oatcakes and sweaty cheese with the occasional treat of a sticky bar of Orkney fudge.  Dad and Wee Sis had a whale of a time.  Me, not so much.  Anyway, Dad forgot to bring an alarm clock and, in his infinite wisdom, decided that the best way for us to wake up one morning (to catch the ferry off the tiny, almost unpopulated island where we had spent the night), was to drink loads of water before bed, thus ensuring our bulging bladders would awaken us.  Of course they woke us up, they woke us up hours before we needed to be awake, and of course we couldn’t relieve ourselves in case we subsequently fell asleep and missed the boat, as it were.  As it was, we did catch the boat (the lady in the B&B was rather bemused as to why we hadn’t asked to borrow an alarm clock as we arrived for breakfast bleary eyed and grumpy), and Dad denies this ever happened.

 

I was recently discussing this forgetful-parent phenomenon with a friend.  It would appear that it’s not only my own parents who have this unwavering ability to deny all knowledge of highly memorable childhood events.  My dad is not my only parent that this applies to.  My mother vehemently denies the time a drunk old man (okay, I say he was old, but he was probably about 35), picked my toddler sister up as we were walking down Girvan main street one morning and said “Oh what a lovely little boy”. My mum snapped “Put her down, now.  And she’s a girl.” I know it happened, I remember it clearly, I could even pinpoint the exact point on the street where in occurred, but Mum’s memory is blank.  A bit like when I remind her of how she used to mix brown and white rice together thinking we wouldn’t notice.

 

I’m waffling.  As I was saying earlier,  I’m in a bit of a bad mood today as I am sorely disappointed in myself due to the fact that I didn’t get up and go for a run this morning (don’t be too concerned, I’m almost over it).  So, I am updating my blog in a ‘I maybe didn’t go for a run, but I did tick ONE thing off my to-do list today’ kind of a manner.

 

I really would like to believe that my new-found love* of running is the reason that I have failed to update this blog for such a long time (78 days, according to WordPress – what is it about technology and its desire to make you feel bad?) It sounds kind of noble, doesn’t it – far better than saying that I’ve been watching far too much catch-up TV whilst consuming mulled wine.  Perhaps it is the case that running is to blame for my lapse in creativity,  although truth be told, the actual running doesn’t account for very many of these misspent hours (not only does WordPress update me on my lack of productivity; Map My Run likes to remind me how few hours I’ve spent pounding the pavements, too.  I even get email updates that I don’t know how to turn off).  I do however, manage to spend an inordinate amount of time partaking in the running-related activities listed below:

  • Planning running routes – it turns out there’s an amazing programme to help you do this (okay, amazing to me) http://gb.mapometer.com/ It’s possible to wile away hours deciding where to run (always longer than the run itself and often so long that it is suddenly and inexplicably too late/dark/cold to venture outside…How tragic, but it’s the thought that counts, right?).

 

  • Perusing online shops for state-of-the-art running gear that I never knew I needed (and couldn’t possibly afford, even if I could justify the expense).  Clearly if I had the desire (or means) to buy it, I would run like the proverbial wind.  PBs a go-go!  (I found out very recently that PB stands for Personal Best, and like to sprinkle mentions of such into everyday conversation whenever possible – nothing beats a  well-appointed reference to a PB).  Map My Run is great on the matter of a wee PB, incidentally.  It not only records PBs relating to a complete workout, but also to sections of a run.  So if, say, you have to cross a busy road on your regular run and the cars don’t usually stop for you (I live in Reading, remember), and then one time somebody miraculously does stop to let you across  (thus cutting your run time down by about 7 minutes of that jogging on the spot awkwardly malarkey), then you are ‘rewarded’ (with a virtual rosette and everything) a PB for that section of the run. You ‘achieve’ this PB regardless of whether you then have to wait for 14 minutes to cross the road on the way back, thus cancelling out all saved time. It makes for great anecdotes…

 

  • Preparing for an imminent run, which generally goes something like this:- Decide to go for a run – psyche self up mentally (positive mental attitude is all the rage to the avid runner) – pee – post a pre-run photo/comment on social media – decide what to wear – hunt for favourite sports bra – get dressed – stretch – do a bit more psyching up –  pee – search for something long-sleeved (it’s a wee bit nippy out there)  – stretch – change out of the running leggings that slowly ease down over the hips over the course of a run, thus exposing mottled mid-rift to all and sundry, and into the ones that stay up but dig into your calves leaving unattractive circles round your legs for hours post-run –  get a drink (hydration is important) – decide that the ‘thirst’ may actually be hunger pangs – hunt for trainers – realise it’s definitely hunger, and wouldn’t want to faint mid-run – prepare a small high-energy snack (cheese is always a winner, as is anything Nutella-based) – wash said snack down with another drink (hydration is important, especially the morning after excessive mulled-wine consumption) –  decide on a suitable running playlist (crucial for optimum running performance) – sit down to watch an episode of Peep Show whilst small snack digests – pee – hunt for special running belt – stretch some more (stretches worn off whilst reclining on couch) – change socks (comfort is important to the serious runner) – put other leggings back on (will now have circles AND bare mid-rift, but circulation to feet is in danger of being cut off and that would not make for a PB) – realise it is warmer now so long sleeves not necessarily necessary – pee – put short-sleeved top back on – fiddle about with Map My Run; check friends’ stats (healthy competition is motivational to the serious runner) – realise that phone needs charged (so annoying when it cuts out mid run) – plug phone in (might as well watch another episode of Peep Show whilst it charges) – psyche self up to get off couch again – hunt for hairband (the wind has picked up and it’s really annoying and no doubt dangerous to run with your hair whipping about everywhere, obscuring your vision) – have a drink (hydration is important) – pee – look for keys – stretch – fiddle about taking door key off key-ring and putting it onto footery attachment thingy on running belt (now where did I put the running belt?) – re-lace trainers (loose shoes are not conducive to a good run) – leave house – go back in to pee again – leave house – start run.

 

  • Updating social media with interesting information pertaining to my intentions to go for a run, or perhaps that day’s running stats, or maybe even a photo taken during my morning outing (with the tagline ‘taken during my morning run’, lest anyone wasn’t aware that I’d been for a smug run today).

 

  • Scrolling through my stats on Map My Run (to be honest, I’m not sure it’s entirely accurate; I’ve definitely run more miles than it claims…)

 

  • Daydreaming about how amazing it will feel to cross the finishing line of the half marathon that I’ve recently entered.  I also like to daydream whilst running, about how I will subsequently run the London marathon, for example  – nothing crazy like coming first or anything – but definitely beating a whole load of PBs.  These daydreams tend to last as long as it takes until I catch a glimpse of the sweaty mess that is me dragging my weary body past a reflective surface.  Leggings generally descending stubbornly, hair sticking to face).  The BF has told me that if I complete the Reading half in under 2 hours, he will refund my entry fee (the likelihood of me completing this sub-2 hours is on a par with the likelihood of me buying an adult tricycle any time soon**).  Luckily, he has also promised that if I finish in less than 2 hours 20, then he will, instead,  treat me to dinner in a restaurant of my choice.  Now I’m no mathematician, but even I can see that it would be rather foolish to aim to complete the run in under 2 hours – I can most definitely get more money’s worth in a posh restaurant.

 

  • Dreaming about what I might eat in an amazing restaurant after the half marathon.

 

  • Whiling away the hours/days feeling guilty because I had planned to go for a run…Thinking that I really should be out running (especially after partaking in all that ‘carb-loading’ last night….)… Wishing that I’d had the strength of character (and required lack of regard for a nice lie in) and sprung out of bed and into my running shoes at the crack of dawn this morning…Deciding to definitely go out for a run on Saturday morning instead – far more time to get ready on a Saturday (That is until it becomes abundantly clear that the prospect of a run in the cold is no match whatsoever for the lure of the new episode of Peep Show on catch-up, of course)…Etc.

 

Having read back through this, I can see how one could possibly suggest that maybe I should consider cutting ties with all these apps that monitor progress, and just run/write for the sheer joy of it… (Yeah right, what would be the point in that?!  It would almost be like it never even happened if I can’t post it on Facebook…) But one thing is for sure, it’s getting mightily cold out there and running is becoming rather less appealing, so watch this space for more rants – I need to release this pent-up frustration somehow!***

 

*I’m not entirely sure that I ‘love’ running….  However, I do love that brief period of time after a run when those lovely endorphins rush the system,  and I love being part of that smug elite who can casually drop into conversation anecdotes such as “Cold, yes it is rather cold.  During my run this morning, I thought my toes were going to fall off… Yes yes it is cold for this time of year…Did I mention I went for a run today? Dinner tonight? Yes, that would be lovely.  No, you choose, I don’t mind where we go, but I’ll need to eat lots to fuel my run tomorrow morning….” I also love being able to eat lots of lovely tasty things in an entirely guilt-free manner (I believe ‘carb-loading’ is the technical term…)

** To be continued.  Feel free to remind me about this future rant at a later date, should it escape my mind.

*** Also, I currently have workmen replacing my kitchen, and if that’s not material for a new rant, I don’t know what is…

100daysofgrievances #37 HEALTHFOOD FADS

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              An infusion of this, and an extract of that,

Antioxidants promise to blitz all your fat!

Call it a ‘Superfood’, the fashionistas will pounce,

Extra kudos to you if it’s hard to pronounce!

Quinoa and acacia, you catch my drift?

Will cleanse and invigorate and give you a lift!

Freeze-dried goji berry and chia and flaxseed,

All the trendy-pud toppings one could possibly need!

Don’t spoil your snackage with honey so dated,

It’s agave nectar for the nutri-initiated!

And how does one choose what to eat to be cool?

I’ll let you in on my fool-proof rule…

Look out for words such as ‘cleansing’ and ‘purify’,

It’s SCIENCE I tell you, no word of a lie!

‘Electrolytes’ that ‘energise’, it’s all honestly true…

These ‘experts’ believe in homeopathy, too…

Don’t miss out on this extra vim and vigour,

Start swapping for foods that are all de rigueur…

Almond butter and essence of kale,

Juice all your green things, you cannot fail!

One final wee thing, before I end here,

(To snack on cheese and such things those health-nuts fear)…

If you crave vitality and radiance and what-not,

I’ve one other suggestion in your quest to look super-hot…

Screw the expense and your personal taste,

And stock up on coco-water without any haste…

With all the hype and the press and the fuss,

This most Super of drinks may soon be like gold-dust!

IMG_2420-0

100daysofgrievances #36 CUSTOMERS – PART 2 (Festival time…)

I love a good festival, but living in a town that hosts a festival is, sadly, not the same as attending said festival.  This latest rant relates to the sheer tedium that is a pub shift in Reading during the rock festival weekend.  I like to think that with only a small amount of artistic licence/imagination, it could equally apply to any town in close proximity to a festival of almost any ilk.  Edinburgh barkeeps, just replace stingy music-lovers with wannabe thespians and you’re good to go…

“Hello? Sorry, what do you think you’re doing? Yes you, ducking under the table there, who did you think I was talking to? If you wanted to charge your phone/electronic cigarette/gigantic charger pack, don’t you think you should maybe have asked at the bar first? Well…because it’s polite?”

“Do you normally saunter into a pub, point your girlfriend in the direction of the toilets then proceed to unplug a light/TV/jukebox just so that you can charge your wares? No, alas, it didn’t escape my attention that you’re here for the festival…But I don’t really see how that makes a difference… What gave it away? Well, let see…The mud, the day-glo paint on your face and the faint whiff of stale beer, Johnson’s baby wipes and bonfire surrounding you, for starters… But it would still have been polite to have asked first! Get that outraged look off your face! You’re really not that hard-done-by and I really don’t think that if you intend to use our electricity, then me asking you to buy a drink is all that unreasonable a demand… Now telling me to fetch you a glass of tap water doesn’t really count as buying a drink, does it?  Stingy?! Me? Pots, kettles, all kinds of black thoughts springing to mind right now…”

“Right, here’s the tap water I grudgingly poured you after I got sick of you wittering on about how your girlfriend would most definitely buy a real actual drink, just as soon as she has finishing making use of our amenities.  What do you mean it ‘doesn’t taste right’?! You have been drinking lukewarm Tuborg out of plastic receptacles for the duration of the weekend; lovely fresh water is bound to taste alien to you after that…”

“You over there, I can see the look you’re giving me as you count out your coppers and I’m just going to pre-empt you right now… Please, please don’t complain about the prices. You are the recipient of a decent pint, a fizzy pint, an ice cold pint, served in an actual glass. You are drinking it in the warm and the dry. You are sitting on a comfy seat, or perhaps perching on a stool at the end of the bar annoying me. You have full use of facilities that don’t have ‘porta’ as a prefix. Your Super-sized Sonic Charger is currently plugged in to the pub power supply. Now pipe down.”

“I don’t care. I literally Could. Not. Care. Less. Seriously, if you can actually remember (and feel the need to tell me) that our pints cost 10p less last year, then quite frankly your festival ticket was wasted on you… Now I think about it, you are clearly one of those people who goes round snuffling about for empties at the festival so that you can save a few pence off your next pint. (Hey, I’m all for environmental objectives, but I do grudge you asking me for my cup before I’ve even finished my drink…). Clearly you have no qualms about collecting used receptacles. Why then, is the concept of bringing used tap water glasses back to the bar so alien to you?”

“Yes you, I’m asking you for I.D. No, I’m not joking. Nope, the fact that you are at the festival does not ‘prove’ you are old enough to drink. No, it really doesn’t. Actually, if anything, it makes you more likely to be under 18 in my humble opinion… No, I’m not wrong. And no, I think you’ll find that I’m not breaking the law. No, you are not just going to sit here and watch the football and drink tap water! Why? BECAUSE I SAY SO!”

“You again?! No, you’re still not getting served. No, not even a tap water. No absolutely not. Not fair?  Last time I was in the beer garden collecting glasses, it wasn’t raining…That went right over your artfully coiffed head, didn’t it?  No, your mate can’t act as your guardian. Why? Well, because he’s about 12. No, no once again, I think you will find that I am not breaking the law. Losing my patience, my mind, the will to live, perhaps, but no, not my ability to behave in a law-abiding manner… The other barmaid served you earlier?  Did she now?  Did she really?  Rather strange that it’s only me on today, isn’t it…  What was that, cat got your tongue, boy?”

“Hi, what can I get for you? The jukebox? No, it isn’t free. Well, because it’s not. No, never. I don’t know why… Actually scrap that, I do know why… Because this is a money-making business, not a charity (not that you’d know it by the number of people making use of the facilities, loitering and drinking tap water right about now). I can give you some change for the jukebox if you want? I don’t care about your local pub. Watch my lips. I could not care less about your wonderful local and its free effing jukebox…Bet the barkeeps there are enjoying a welcome break from you this weekend…”

“What, you just queued at the bar for 15 minutes with the sole intention of expressing outrage that your favourite song isn’t on our jukebox… When you could be inside the festival, the one that you paid about 200 quid for the privilege of attending, listening to actual live music being played by real life bands instead of bugging me? Are you kidding me?!”

“Our cheapest shot? The same as last time you asked. Yes, it is still the same price. No, I don’t think that is really expensive… Nope, no special deal if you buy two. I don’t care that you came in here last year too. No, I’m not going to get the landlord. Because I’m not. The cheapest pint we sell?  That will be John Smiths.  No, Fosters is more expensive.  Yes, so is Guinness. And Kronnenburg. Why is the concept of ‘cheapest’ proving to be such a difficult one for you to grasp?  No, cider is more expensive too.  I already told you, the cheapest pint is John Smiths… Okay, so 6 pints of John Smiths coming up.  What was that?  You all want to pay separately and on debit card?  No problem at all!  Now, if I could just see 6 lots of I.D. before I start pouring please… No, festival wristbands do not constitute  acceptable I.D.!”

“Please put your boots back on.  Okay I get it, they’re muddy. But could you at least put your socks on, and maybe remove your feet from that seat? Well actually, no, you’re not a paying customer are you now? I didn’t charge you for that glass of tap water you’re still nursing, now did I?”

“Can you get down off that seat please?  Yes, I can see you’re trying to close the window (the window you watched me open approximately 3 minutes ago in a vain attempt to rid the place of the fusty smell that pervades) but you’re getting mud all over the seats.  Yes, I get that you are cold, I’d be cold too if I was dressed like that.  No, sorry, I’ve no intention of putting the radiators on.  Freezing?  Well no, not really, I’m fine thanks…Hmm, you are, are you?  That might have something to do with those diminutive hot pants that you are all wearing…  Maybe you should have brought something a little more suitable to wear? Hmm and if your boyfriend over there were to just put his tee shirt back on, he might not be so cold, either… Just saying…”

“No sorry, I can’t give you cashback. Why? Well because you’re not buying anything… Yes I know you said your girlfriend would buy a drink when she came out of the loo… (Thinking about it, that was an hour ago, what is she doing in there?  I guess it takes ages to get those ubiquitous festival-flower-power headbands out of a tangled mane). If she pays for a drink, she can get cashback, that’s fine, but I can’t give you any unless you make a purchase. No, I’m not ‘trying to be awkward’, I’m really not. Yes, I am well aware that there are massive queues for the cashpoints in the festival. Yes I know that means you will miss some music as you queue (although you don’t seem to mind missing music as you argue with me…), but I still can’t give you cashback if you don’t buy anything. Positive. Yep, certain. No, I’m not fetching the landlord, and even if I did, he would tell you the same as me!”

“Oi, you over there, have you got some I.D.? No, you’re not just going to use the toilet! Don’t you think it might have been polite to at least have asked first? Even if I decide to believe you when you say that you’ll buy a drink just as soon as you’ve finished washing your hair (for the record, I don’t, I’m humouring you), then I still need to see your I.D. Why? Well because this is a licenced premises. No, by law, I do not have to let you use the facilities. And no, you are quite wrong, even if you just drink water, I still reserve the right to I.D. you…”

“Hi, what can I get for you? Grande Latte? No, we don’t sorry, we only do standard tea and coffee. Well… because this is a pub. Soya milk? No, sorry, standard tea and coffee only I’m afraid. No, no cappuccinos either, sorry – standard tea and coffee and that’s all. Flat white? I don’t even know what that is, but I know we don’t do them. What kind of milk can I offer you? The normal kind, the kind that came out of a cow and is currently residing in the fridge. Fat content? I have absolutely no idea. No, I hate to break it to you, but you won’t ‘just’ have a de-caf pomegranate green tea… Yes I’m sure we don’t. No, I’m not going to ‘check out the back’. Nope, no infusions, no earl grey, no de-caffeinated abominations, no herbal teas, no fruit teas and no hot chocolate with skooshy cream and/or marshmallows… Because WE ONLY DO STANDARD TEA AND COFFEE. Weird? No, I don’t think it’s remotely weird… Because this is a PUB! Yes, fine, I’ll get you another glass of tap water instead.”

“Sorry, stage times? Erm no, I’ve no idea, sorry… You do realise that the town isn’t just a big extension of the festival, don’t you?  You could check online maybe?  Yes we do have wifi but it’s really for customer use only… Yes, we do food. What is it that gave it away?  The guy at the next table tucking into the massive burger, perhaps?  Menus are on the tables, just order at the bar when you’re ready. Vegan options? Yeah, they’re on the menu too. Sandwiches?  Yep, on the menu. No, anything not on the menu, you can safely assume we don’t do. Trains to Cardiff? No, I don’t know, sorry… Maybe ask in the station? No, I don’t have a timetable just kicking about… Half a portion of chips? No, we only do full portions. Yes I’m sure. No, I’m not asking the chef. Burgers? Yes, they’re on the menu. Yes, I can quite imagine that we are marginally more expensive than Weatherspoons…You’ll also find our fodder to be somewhat superior… How big are the sandwiches? Well, sandwich sized… Yes you get chips with the burger. Yes I’m sure. Cheese and bacon, yep definitely… I’ll give you a clue… BECAUSE IT SAYS SO ON THE MENU! Ha, now your phone’s finished charging, maybe you could plug the light back in and then you’d actually have enough light to be able to see the menu… One burger and three forks you say? Oh and three more glasses of tap water. Of course, I’ll get those now. Yes, I’ll put ice in them. Pint glasses again, yes? I’ll be getting on to that right away!  Apologies for your wait!  How long will the food take? You’re in a rush you say? You’re missing your favourite band you say? I’ll be as quick as I possibly can. Gritting my teeth, me? No, you must be imagining it!”

“There’s no loo roll? Are you sure? There was loads this morning, I stocked it up myself in anticipation… Have you actually looked? Hang on a sec, what’s that I see poking out of your girlfriend’s bag? I’m not accusing anyone of anything…It’s just that it looks remarkably loo-roll shaped… I’m being rude to a paying customer, am I? Well… if we’re going to get technical about it, you’re not actually a paying customer now, are you? Sorry, who’s next? What are you after? Baby wipes? behind the bar? Seriously? No, no I don’t get asked for them all the time. Yes, I’m quite sure.  No you are definitely the first…Can I get you a drink?  Yes, yes we do tap water…”

“What time do we close tonight? One o’clock. Yes I’m sure. Yes I’m aware the main stage doesn’t stop until after 11.  I actually intend to be in the audience myself if this never-ending shift is ever over… Yes, I imagine there will be big crowds. You’re right, you probably won’t be able to get a taxi. No, we won’t consider opening later in case you’re running late… Yes prices are the same in the evening. No, shots aren’t cheaper. Nope, none of them. Tequila? No, same price. All shots will be exactly the same price as they are now. Yes that includes Sambuca. And Jagermeister. Yes, definitely. No I will NOT ask the landlord… Yes your mate will need I.D. No, a festival band doesn’t prove anything…Even in the evening. Yes, I’m sure. Positive. No, I’m not getting the landlord. No he won’t. No, I know for a FACT he will agree with me. And no, the jukebox will NOT be free… What was that? One glass of tap water, with ice? Your friend bought a half of diet coke two hours ago you say? Sure, coming right up…”

“Hi, what can I do for you?  You want to return your pint?  John Smiths is nasty?  Why yes, I quite agree, but you asked for a pint of our cheapest beer and I gave you a pint of our cheapest beer.  Ahhh you meant our cheapest lager…. Well that’s not what you asked for, is it?  It’s also not what you watched me pour 6 pints of, is it?  I can swap it if you want, but you’ll have to pay for the replacement pint. Not fair?  Life’s not fair, mate.  And no, for the very last time, I am NOT fetching the landlord!  A letter of complaint?  A letter of complaint about me?  Good luck with that, I very much look forward to reading it!  Just out of interest, what do you intend to write it with?  It’s just if my memory serves correctly, you just returned that pen you borrowed from me to copy down all the set times onto the back of a napkin so that you could save yourself £5 by not having to buy a programme…What was that?  Another two glasses of tap water?”

Not bored of hearing me moan about customers? You can read my original diatribe here: https://caththebruce.wordpress.com/2014/08/22/100daysofgrievances-1-customers/

100daysofgrievances #35 THE MORAL OF THE STORY…

Today did not get off to a good start. Actually, I lie, it got off to an okay-ish start. I intentionally (and successfully) misinformed the BF when he asked me the time (clearly he should have looked himself and not been so effing lazy). As a result, he scurried off to the shower a good fifteen minutes earlier than usual, thus enabling me to stretch out in peace and enjoy a lovely languorous  snooze. After that, things rapidly descended into the dastardly depths of a traditionally tedious Tuesday.

 

I’ll start at the beginning (that being the logical place to start)…  Last night – after enduring a very long pub shift, I hasten to add (one in which I excelled myself by managing to ID two incredulous twenty-somethings… And their weirdly smooth-faced mother.) – I decided to create a wholesome yet tasty packed lunch for myself and for the long-suffering BF.

 

I have learned through years of experience, that I am better not to make myself a sandwich for lunch.  More often than not, it will be consumed before 10am (and sometimes even during my walk to work…) Hence, a salad (and the corresponding footery fork requirements/resulting difficulty in powerwalking whilst consuming) was far more likely to survive until lunchtime.

 

First of all, I whizzed up a few sundried tomatoes and a good glug of their accompanying herby oil, some green olives, a couple of cherry tomatoes, a wee dash of balsamic, some salt and pepper, a spot of tabasco and a squeeze of lemon.  This created a delicious tapenade-esque dressing of sorts. I know it was delicious because I had to keep sampling it during the concocting process. Now please bear with me; whilst you quite possibly have no desire to know the contents of someone’s lunch box (said the actress to the bishop), it is very important for your enjoyment of the remainder of this story that I set the scene adequately.  If you take nothing else from the description of my dressing, I want you to remember that sundried tomatoes are oily and that balsamic vinegar is smelly…

 

I then added my oily, vinegary dressing to a mixture of cannellini beans, halved cherry tomatoes, more olives (I like olives a lot), capers, chopped raw red pepper and a little fresh parsley.  This bit isn’t actually all that relevant but by now you might be, against your better judgement, wondering what was going to form the bulk of my lunchtime snackage.   So, I stirred that all up and decanted it into two tupperwares (Sistema brand, and VERY IMPORTANT that you retain this particular piece of information). I then topped each Sistema container of beany brilliance* with some avocado, a couple of pungent spicy mackerel fillets and a soft-boiled duck egg (think ever so slightly soft in the centre, not running all over the place – as that would be quite vile).

 

So, there you have it: oily, vinegary dressing and smelly mackerel and soft egg (not forgetting my very own blood, sweat and tears), all residing within a SISTEMA packed lunch box.  I actually remembered to extract my lunch from the fridge this morning – so often it is the case that I don’t think about it until I am approximately half way to work – and was feeling rather proud of myself.

 

Today, the half-way-to-work point was punctuated with my dawning realisation that something was somewhat a-kilter… My immediate environment was a little damp, a little oily, a little malodourous (one of my all-time favourite words, incidentally).  Yep, you guessed, it, my comparatively expensive SISTEMA packed lunch box had systematically malfunctioned, rendering my bag and all its contents and my Goretex jacket (this product placement is relevant too, please do read on…) saturated in my oily, vinegary, fishy, eggy lunchtime delight.

 

I was quite cantankerous (most excellent word #2).

 

I don’t embrace a minimalist lifestyle (much to the chagrin of the OCD-in-the-nicest-possible-way BF) and it goes without saying that there was rather a lot of STUFF in my bag today.  Lots of lovely stuff to absorb all the lovely oily, fishy goodness. My purse and all of its contents, an assortment of mismatching makeup, an empty padded envelope, three lip balms, my sunglasses pouch (been looking for that!), a lightbulb (my plan was to nip across to B&M after consuming my lovely lunch, and I didn’t want to come home with the wrong bulbs again), a surprisingly absorbent headband, a cereal bar, various receipts – ink now running everywhere and adding to the general chaos, 4 pens (that’s clearly where they’ve all been hiding), hand cream, a tub of vitamin tablets, a packet of Twiglets (salvageable, thank goodness), a disintegrating ibuprofen box, some hayfever tablets, chewing gum, a sodden nail file, etc, etc. You get the picture.

 

Funny how there definitely wasn’t nearly that much dressing before it all decided to leak out of the stupid Sistema container. Funny also how I am not remotely looking forward to my lunch now that all the stinky mingin’ dressing has leaked out and drenched all my belongings.  Ever want to embark upon a crash diet?  Douse all your effects in my trademarked mixture of fish oil and vinegar, you’ll be a skinny malinky before you know it!

 

So, back to topic, what was the relevance of  the Goretex?  (Or should I say, stinky, oily, damp Goretex). Well, I shall tell you…  My dad is a big fan of the brand (my dad is also currently cycling from Scotland to Reading for the second time in the space of a year – read into that what you will in terms of common gumption).  Since I was a kid, he has instilled in me the (many, dull) virtues of this particular brand.  A couple of Christmases ago, he kindly bought me a waterproof jacket (Goretex, of course).  I imagine he was picturing me trekking up mountains in it, or perhaps embarking on cycle rides of ridiculous length.  In reality, it became my jacket of choice for festivals and for walking to work on days where the weather was tending towards the inclement (i.e. today).

 

I am a firm believer in the tenet of wisdom that allowed me to arrive at the conclusion that waterproof jackets are, by their very definition, self-cleaning.  Clearly they are designed to be worn in the rain, and hence do not require frequent further washing – common sense if ever I heard it.  Unfortunately, after a particularly boisterous (and beer-logged) festival last summer, I realised I was simply going to have to wash my jacket if I didn’t wish to go round smelling like a brewery for the foreseeable future (a brewery that hosts bonfires and is situated in a field, if I’m being specific…) As my dad holds the sacred material in such high regard, I knew this was not going to be straight-forward… (My dad actually enjoys carefully applying layers of nickwax to his boots, and considers waterproofing things a hobby of sorts).

 

Obviously, I didn’t keep the ‘looking after your Goretex garment’ cardboard leaflet-y thing that was attached to the zip of my jacket (who does?!), so I had to go on their website for further instruction.  And instruct me it did!  There was a lengthy list of ‘do’s and ‘do-not’s pertaining to care of my cagoule and, after skim-reading the several pages, I wasn’t really any the wiser. I sat down with a glass of wine later on and really got stuck into the manual.  Basically, I had to wash it in the machine (specific temperature, certain cycle, using a certain ilk of detergent, but never ever, EVER any softener – it was pretty adamant on this particular point), and then, whilst it was still wet, I had to iron every single inch of the stupid thing.  And get this – any bit that didn’t come into contact with the iron, would no longer be waterproof! As a rule, I don’t buy garments with particular and pernickety washing instructions, and it is very seldom that the iron makes an appearance in our household.

 

What a palaver.

 

What a palaver I had no intention of repeating for at least another year. It’s not even like I can forget about the fact that I am going to have to faff about washing my stupid Goretex when I get home – as I sit at my desk I am constantly getting less-than-tantalising whiffs of eau de poisson (everyone else probably is, too). Hmmm… Thinking about it, my dad arrives any day now, punctures permitting… I like to imagine he might take the chore out of my hands, perhaps quite literally.  Maybe if I shove the stupid jacket in the washing machine whilst simultaneously waving about the Summer Breeze softener in a slightly threatening manner, he will feel duty-bound to relieve me of the tedious task… He’ll probably enjoy it!

 

In conclusion to today’s tale of woe, I feel that there are several morals to this particular story that could be of use to us all in our daily grinds:

  1. Never, ever buy Sistema lunch boxes, regardless of the fact that they are currently ubiquitous (another most excellent word), to the extent that they are even found adorning the shelves of Waitrose. They may be expensive and available in pretty colours, and all kinds of fancy shapes and sizes, but they are rubbish and they leak.  Ignore me at your peril!
  2. Buying expensive waterproof things is a false economy as it takes ages to wash them and time is money! (And laundering things is exceedingly boring). Writing strongly-worded emails of complaint is a far more satisfying use of one’s time and energy.
  3. Don’t make smug lunches – nobody likes a smug luncher and a simple sandwich would have sufficed and would not have smelt nearly as bad for the duration of what is proving to be a Very Long Day. I can’t even go for a pint after work because I smell like the inside of a packet of Scampi Fries and am currently lugging all my hastily-wiped belongings about it a crinkly B&M carrier bag…

 

*’beany brilliance’: Quite clearly I’ve missed my calling as a food critic, A.A. Gill would be quaking in his boots!

 

The End.

   

 

 

 

100daysofgrievances #34 ALL HOT AND BOTHERED

A couple of people have recently (and rather rudely) raised the question as to whether I am perhaps running out of steam now that I am a whole THIRD of the way through my grievances. I answer these doubters by exclaiming that I’m only just getting started. Anyway, if I ever do find myself running out of rants, I will take a leaf from the book of those 100happydays-ers and start repeating myself. Instead of endless photos of food/alcoholic beverages (I post those anyway), I shall adorn your newsfeed with tales of terrible tasting menus and disappointing drinking holes, letters of complaint and threats to take matters further (I have a whole folder of such correspondence on my laptop). Sorted. 

In the meantime, I am not remotely close to reaching the end of those instances of annoyance. Actually, NEW things seem to irritate me on an almost daily basis. Take yesterday, for example. It came to my attention just how annoyed I am by formulaic ‘chick flicks’ (don’t get me started on the sweeping generalisation that is that genre title itself), and indeed Netflix categorisation in general (‘exciting films’, ‘super swashbucklers’ ‘independent films featuring a strong female lead’…). I also wasn’t impressed with the titles the app advised I watch based on my previous selections – how on earth did it arrive at these ridiculous recommendations?

Interestingly, Netflix was able to inform me that the last film watched was titled ‘Hot Girls Wanted’… When I’d finished falling about laughing at the BF’s claim that it was, in fact,  a documentary, I looked it up and found out he was telling the truth. What a STUPID and misleading name for a documentary. I’m not planning to run out of grievances any time soon. 

The change in the weather was obviously perfect fodder for a new gripe. I – along with everyone else – was all hot and bothered last week.  So much so that I actually braved the crowds in Primark in order to buy a new pair of trews before embarking upon my pub shift – I knew I might actually kill someone if I had to endure 6 hours behind the bar whilst dressed in jeans.  Primark is hell on earth in much the same manner as the sports shop I mentioned last month.

Today, in contrast to the majority of last week, I am somewhat underdressed.  The temperature has dropped by about 15 degrees overnight, I would estimate. Yet today I set off for work wearing Primark cut-off linen trousers and a vest top.  That is all.  No cardigan, no jumper, no nothing.  Then of course, it started to rain and I knew with absolute certainty that my high quality Primark linen trousers would go see-through when I went out to fetch my lunch and would then stick uncomfortably to my legs for the remainder of the afternoon. I was correct.

In a most uncharacteristic declaration (on an unusually positive note), I have to state that I love the sunshine.  I simply  cannot pretend otherwise; I can often be found first thing of a summer’s morning, perched in the garden, jammies rolled up to my knees, head angled towards the sun, dozing contentedly.  I think it’s a throwback to growing up somewhere with significantly less summer sunshine – when the sun comes out now, I’m scared I’ll miss it and it’s almost a compulsion to spend every possible second basking. 

I also quite like the fact that I can listen to Belle and Sebastian again – they don’t sound right during the winter months – and I like having freezing-things experiments.  
This week alone, I have discovered that frozen coconut water is tasteless and that frozen Ribena is delicious, although you have to put a surprisingly high concentration of Ribena in there if you want it to taste right. Next I am going to try frozen gin and tonic and frozen blueberry yoghurt (not together, you understand), and I am expecting great things. Clearly I am going to use my new-found knowledge of correct concentrations when glugging  in the Gordon’s (no point using decent gin in freezer experimentation).

And now back onto a more characteristically grievance-riddled ground… One thing I absolutely abhor about the start of summer is the way that the hot weather encourages people to shed their clothes. All the papers feature pictures of crowded beaches and bikinied ladies – I don’t want to see such scenes when I am waiting in the lunchtime sandwich queue. However, if ever there is an entirely apt time and a place for wearing a swimsuit, it is during a heatwave on a beach. Other venues  are not quite so suitable. In particular, I am referring to men who think it is a good idea to wander around urban areas sporting what can only be accurately described as beachwear.  Topless in town? Two words: NO NEED.

It’s not just the sights of summer that annoy me, I also detest many of the sounds: buzzing wasps, high-pitched and splashing kids, sinister-sounding ice-cream van jingles, and, most particularly, birds in the morning.  Their grating crack-of-dawn chirping makes me so cross! At this time of year, closing the windows is not an option so I am subjected to the worst of early morning alarm calls – one that cannot be snoozed. 

I spent my formative years living beside the sea so the sound of a squawking seagull is not alien to me.  Having  said that, you usually couldn’t hear them over the sound of the rain lashing the windows or the wind howling down the chimney. I currently bide in Reading – that’s about as far inland as you can get – yet there are still seagulls!  How is that even possible?  Where I dwell these days, the sound of one lone seagull can be heard every single godforsaken morning.  We’ve decided that somebody must be keeping it as a pet – tied to the end of a string in a terraced-house garden. There’s no other explanation.

I moved from the seaside yet didn’t manage to shake off the plague of the dreaded seagulls and their screeching salutations. I was, however, greeted with another summertime affliction. Hay fever. For the first three summers I lived down here, I genuinely thought I  contracted a season-long cold each year. I also tended to blame my choked-upped-ness on the Rubbish English Air that I was being forced to breath (a close relation of the Rubbish English Water with bits in that I was having to drink…)  I argued with anyone who dared to suggest that I might have fallen foul of the curse that is hay fever: “But I don’t get hay fever” I would naively announce.  And then I took an antihistamine tablet (just to shut someone up, I recall) and have never looked back. Nobody can be right all the time, I suppose. 

Hay fever is  prevalent here because Reading sits in a valley and all the pollen sits in the valley too. Then all the pollution from all the many cars belonging to all the aggressive Reading drivers who never slow down to allow poor pedestrians to cross sits on top of all the pollen and keeps it all squashed down in the valley.  Or something like that. In Scotland all the pollen gets blown away.

As already stated, I love the sunshine – I don’t miss that bad weather at all. Being as peely-wally as I am, I tend to get my sunburn out of the way nice and early in the year in a “don’t be ridiculous, of course I don’t need factor 15, it’s only April, now pipe down” kind of a way.  I burn once and then that’s me – lesson learned and epidermis adequately protected for the remained of the year.

Having covered the season’s sights, sounds, and tastes (gin ice lollies – keep up!), I think it would only be right to finish on a small discussion relating to summertime smells – in particular, barbecues.  I love a good barbeque, who doesn’t?  What I cannot abide, however, is other people’s barbeques that:

a) Smell amazing and make me wish that I, too, had some tasty sausages to cook and not just a fridge full of leftovers, various flavours of sriracha sauce and a variety of small pieces of cheese wrapped in cling film and in various stages of decay. I grew up in a household where we were only allowed two types of cheese open at any one time – usually medium cheddar and red Leicester – the novelty of being allowed to open anything other than this (in terms of quantity and of interesting variety) has yet to wear off…*

b) Make all my washing smell as it dries on the line.

What I also don’t love is a bad barbeque.  Just because an over-processed Farmfoods burger (contains 63% pure beef… which begs the question as to what exactly is the other 37% made up of), is cooked atop a barbeque, it does not suddenly become something tasty.  My other BBQ bugbear is the fact that people tend to cook everything for far too long ‘just to be sure’…  Sure of what?  Sure it’s going to resemble a lump of charcoal by the time it reaches my plate?

On that note, I’m off to put an hour or two’s concerted effort into perfecting those palate-numbing lollies. I’m pretty sure there’s some sloe gin lurking somewhere and that would work WONDERFULLY with the Ribena…

*Thinking about it, there were several food variety limitations in the Bruce household: we were also only ever allowed two types of cereal open at any one time (almost certainly why I have 5 different varieties going soft in my cupboard presently) and one of these was always unsweetened muesli – my dad’s favourite; 2 types  of cracker (one of which was consistently oatcakes – again, my dad’s variety of choice); 2 variants of conserve (the Roberson’s marmalade that Dad has spread on his two pieces of toast every single morning since time began, and then either strawberry or raspberry jam – never both at once); and two types of ‘sweet’ biscuit (generally two out of the following unappetising selection: plain rich tea, plain digestive, garibaldi, and brought-back-from-a-camping-trip shortbread which was always slightly soft and smelled suspiciously like stale tent), I don’t think I need to clarify who enjoyed such Calvinist biscuit varieties. Interestingly, there was never any limitations placed on the number of malt whiskies that could remain open in the drinks cabinet at any given time…

  

100daysofgrievances #33 SUNNY SUNDAY SPORTS SHOP HELL

This promises to be a shorter-than-average rant as there is only so much one can whinge about on the subject of the dreaded sports shop.  You can, however, rest assured that I will give it my very best shot.

It was by accident rather than design that I ended up spending a unpleasantly large chunk of my Sunday afternoon in what is quite probably the most hideous shop on the high street. The plan was to hire bikes (those big clunky ‘Boris-style’ monstrosities that have recently popped up on orange stands all over town) and embark upon a lovely wholesome and healthy cycle along the canal.  Alas, it was not to be.  We overcame the initial administrative obstacles – the BF  regrettably realised that one has to register for the scheme in order to utilise these bikes of doom (I was all ready with my “Oh no, how annoying, I guess we’ll have to sign up during the week and cycle next weekend instead.  I guess we could just walk to the pub this afternoon…” spiel), so we had no excuses.

  
We walked into town to pluck our cycles from the stand nearest the canal (minimising the likelihood of accidents resulting from traversing town aboard bike, and also of being spotted by anyone I knew whilst attempting to clumsily control a vehicle weighing approximately the same as a small car).  We eventually managed to release a couple of bikes (well, The Expert did, I was in no real rush to clamber aboard), and off we set.  It became immediately apparent that these bikes were not remotely user-friendly:

  • My brakes didn’t work.  As in, didn’t work at all.  Now, I’m not going to lie to you, I was not intending to reach high speeds at any point during the day.  However, as the sort of cyclist who travels along with her hands poised constantly above the breaks, regardless of incline, this did not bode well.  Especially given the fact that as I gave away my helmet a few months ago (naively hoping I wouldn’t ever be needing it ever again), my head was helmet-less and hence horribly unprotected.   The Expert offered to swap, but as he had ill-advisedly chosen a bicycle with bird dirt all over the handles, I politely declined.
  • They were really really hard to steer (“overly large turning circle” or some other technical jargon according to The Expert).  I don’t ask for much, but when I’m cycling along a tow path with a murky canal to my left, ominous-looking nettle-beds to my right, and un-tethered dogs running amok every which way, the ability to steer is pretty high up there on my list of priorities.
  • The seats were exceedingly uncomfortable.  Just because I have a father who does crazy things like cycling all the way from Scotland to Reading for fun, does not mean that I possess a genetic immunity to the discomfort of a poorly-designed bike seat.  The Expert’s advice (just stand up and pedal) did not go down too well, either, as I’m sure you can imagine.  His question regarding whether I’d managed to ‘work out’ the (grand total of three) clunky gears, was met with a query of my own relating to what would happen if one or both of the bikes hypothetically speaking were to end up at the bottom of the canal (given that he registered us both using his bank card…)
  • Did I mention how HEAVY they were?  When I threw mine down in a huff and demanded we turn round (around mile two – I did fairly well in my opinion – that was a four mile round trip), it was really difficult to pick the stupid thing up again – not easy to strop as you struggle to lift something so unyielding from a sea of nettles.

The only piece of apparatus that was even remotely efficient was the extremely loud bell that each bike was equipped with.  The novelty of this quickly wore off as I rang it in order to wobble past the same group of pedestrians for the third in ten minutes (every time I stopped to let a proper cyclist pass, the walkers would overtake me in the time it took me to get the tonne-weight-on-wheels moving again). In retrospect, it’s probably a blessing for all canal-users that we didn’t even make it as far as the first pub.

I’d like to be able to say that I was fully expecting to spend the remainder of Sunday’s daylight hours happily cycling along and loving life, but that would be a blatant lie for two reasons:

a) There were a lot of daylight hours, it being the longest day of the year (depressing thought of the day: mornings and evenings are only going to get darker from this day forward), and I simply can’t cycle that far (even when in possession of a decent bike).

b) The first pub is only 4 miles along the canal.

Alas, we didn’t even make it that far. In retrospect, I should have pushed myself – 4 miles is definitely do-able and it would have been totally acceptable to ask The Expert to expertly cycle one bike back post-pintage, return on foot and then repeat the journey aboard the second one.  Meanwhile, I could have lingered over my ale and stumbled back merrily on foot.  Being the glutton for punishment that I am, we decided instead to kill some time in town.  Namely, in the sports shop from hell.

Where do I even start? Should I begin by describing the truly dreadful can’t-hear-yourself-think booming music (whichever genre it fell into, it wasn’t a shining example of it)? Or would I be better to mention just how many people were crowded into the limited space of the shop? I could elaborate and give statistics pertaining to the number of screaming children, varieties of cheap aftershave,  buggies, double buggies, entire families wearing matching tracksuits shouting across the shop at each other, brats aboard scooters, etc. present.  I could also note the ratio of potential customers to shop assistants (approx. 734,000:1).

So why didn’t I just leave? Well, after successfully navigating the badly-positioned racks of luminous sports attire (not to mention the sticky-faced children sitting on the floor, the abandoned trainer boxes, and the odd rogue coat hanger), I actually found a pair of trainers I wanted to buy.  Not only were they rather nice, but they were also in my size, in the sale, and apparently ‘child-sized’ and hence accordingly priced!

Believe it or not, I can be rather stubborn when the mood takes me.  So, despite the fact that it would have been far easier to give up and  make a desperate dash for the door, tenacity prevailed and I decided that I would stick it out, regardless of my increasing discomfort.  I would have those trainers! Someone of a less bull-headed nature, perhaps possessing a little less dogged determination, might have given up upon waiting in a lengthy checkout queue, only to be told it was imperative I speak to someone on the shop floor. Or traversing the obstacle course back to the trainer department, single shoe in hand, only to discover that the one member of staff assigned to Sunday afternoon trainer-duty had gone AWOL (presumably hiding and crying in the stockroom and praying for 5 o’clock). Or finally homing in on the member of staff (after a few false starts – lots of the shoppers were dressed rather like the staff) only to be unceremoniously shoved out of the way by a pack of circling mothers, all piling tiny trainers into the arms of the teenage shop-worker and demanding that they get served first. 

Not me, I stood my ground – even when the sales assistant muttered the immortal line “No, sorry, we don’t have those in your size”…  Ha! Well actually yes, yes you do because I am holding the left one in my hand! Now run along and fetch it for me, I don’t mind if you take some time out to sit and rock for a few minutes in the store room (you can rest assured I’d be doing the same), please just make sure you return before it gets dark.

After what felt like about 17 hours, I could see my bounty (at the bottom of a towering pile of boxes) and made to retrieve it and hotfoot it to the till – the final obstacle on my bid for freedom (or, so I thought…). The assistant refused to relinquish the box and something of a battle ensued…  Apparently, the only way I was allowed to buy these trainer was if he took them to the till himself (which, he would do shortly, he promised, just as soon as he’d served the rest of the people milling around brandishing shoes and yelling requests for half sizes and alternate colour-ways).  I would have screamed if I had thought anyone would have been able to hear me. 

I was so enraged by the time I actually got to pay that I wasn’t even in the right frame of mine to point out that 80% off something originally costing £59.99 does not make it now £24 (as per one of the posters).  I really can’t have been feeling myself.

To top it all off, I then had to walk about for the remainder of the afternoon sporting a bright yellow bag (one of those ones with a horrible cord that digs into your shoulder as opposed to a nice practical set of handles) leaving nobody in any doubt as to my classy shopping habits.

Next weekend, I am neither cycling, nor shopping, and that is a veritable FACT!

  

The perks of possessing small feet.

100daysofgrievances #32 BEING A GIRL (Part 1)

I wouldn’t call myself a girly girl, but a couple of weekends ago I indulged in some activities that were most out-of-character for me (and stereotypically ‘girly’).   Firstly, I drank prosecco in my garden (I’m much more of a real ale or red wine in old men’s pubs kind of lass) and secondly, I went to a nail bar.  I blame the blondes. The blondes being the friends who arrived for an al fresco brunch chez moi brandishing bountiful bottles of fizz. Are blondes more likely to encourage the pre-prandial consumption of fizzy wine than acquaintances of any other hair colour?  Certainly in my circle of friends.  There’s a sociological study in there somewhere, methinks…

Before I’m accused of slandering blondes, I’ll carry on with my story.  So, having downed a couple of glasses of prosecco, my defences were also down and I somehow ended up sitting at a table in a nail bar with some sort of lamp device in front of me, perusing a chart in order to decide which particular shade I wanted my nails painted…

These nail bar places are crazy (and clearly popular; there are gazillions of them popping up in once-derelict shops all over town).  The services they offer are quite bizarre – seriously, who actually pays for toenail extensions? Despite my obvious intrigue, I opted not to get my toenails extended this time, and instead chose to have a gel colour painted on my fingernails instead. I found the whole experience really rather awkward; even with the prosecco swilling around inside me it was reminiscent of visiting the hairdresser (for me, majorly stressful).  But at least at the hairdresser, I know what to do.  https://caththebruce.wordpress.com/2014/09/19/12-hairdresser-hell/

It was only after the third coat of polish (out of about 27 different coats – think pre-pre-polish, pre-polish, polish x12, post-polish, shiny stuff, etc.) that I realised that I was meant to manoeuvre my hand until the light/heat thingy came on in the light/heat box thingy that I kept having to stick alternate hands into. The bottom few coats probably remained liquid for days underneath all the shiny stuff on top.

Despite my reservations, I have to admit it, my nails looked great; they were all pale green and shiny with no smudges resulting from me deciding to risk making myself a cuppa mid painting-session, and no duvet crease lines from me giving up waiting for the stupid stuff to dry and retiring to bed. They looked fantastic for all of about 48 hours…

It was on an ill- fated evening that I decided to make a vegetable curry (consisting of chickpeas, onion, spinach, cauliflower, mushrooms, tomato and  paneer, if you’re interested).  I love a proper homemade curry. Clearly it involves making a bespoke curry paste (never again to be accurately re-created) using copious quantities of every spice residing in the cupboard above the cooker. Even those ones in the slightly sticky unlabelled bags that have lived  there forever. I made a massive big pestle and mortar full (or is it mortar and pestle, I never know. I also don’t know which bit is the mortar and which is the pestle…). Anyways, I used a lot of turmeric. Lovers of curry will see where this is going… As tasty as turmeric is, it is also the permanent hair dye of the spice world… It dyes everything it comes into contact with… The pestle, the mortar, the work surface, the tiles it splashed into (I’m a somewhat messy cook), the tea towel and dish cloth, my socks where a wee bit jumped out onto the floor and I mopped it up with my foot, my lovely shiny new pale green nails. 

Earlier in the day, I had done my research  and discovered that this particular type of manicure can last up to 4 weeks. Clearly I intended to get every last penny of my money’s worth, even if this meant sporting green nails with a slight fluorescent tint for the remainder of the month. When I put on my obligatory walking-across-the-yard-at-work hi-viz jacket, my day-glo nails set off the outfit splendidly – I looked like I was on my way to a ’90s rave.

In a rather tenuous link-y kind of way, I shall continue on the food/hair dye theme. My friend (one of the prosecco-swilling blondes) has long been trying to convince me to dye my hair red. Last week, emboldened by my mostly-positive nail-painting experience, I almost succumbed when I found an unopened hair dye languishing in the box of lotions and potions in the bathroom. I can’t recall when I bought it, but it was almost certainly in excess of five years ago. I had pencilled a night in to do the dastardly deed (a night when the BF is out, giving me ample time to dye my hair, and then clean up the resulting mess, paint over the splashes on the walls, bleach the bits of grout it got to, etc.) but something made me change my mind…

So what changed my mind?  Well, I also happened to locate an aged bread mix in the back of a cupboard – I’ve no idea how we have all this old out-of-date stuff when we’ve only just moved house and the BF insisted I do a massive clear-out before the move – and I concluded that flour can’t actually go bad and the fact that it was ‘best before’ 2012 was neither here nor there. Well, I stand corrected! The bread was a disaster. It didn’t rise and the resulting loaf was about the size and density of a cricket ball. I took it as an omen and discarded the ancient hair dye along with the bread-ball and have no plans to buy any more.

And so, back to the nails…As much as couldn’t stop admiring my perfect fingertips (although alas, not any longer – I will get onto that in a bit) it does bug me immensely that as a female of the species, certain things are expected of us. Things involving primping and preening and squishing our feet into uncomfortable shoes on special occasions, things pertaining to hair removal and the like. In the words of Tammy Wynette, sometimes it’s hard to be a woman. 

There’s an element of sexism that prevails across every aspect of life.  Obviously, I’m blonde-ist but let’s move swiftly on from this little example of a double standard and allow me to illustrate with a few examples of some common prejudices:

  • Eating. This is one of my all-time favourite pastimes but the topic is not without its bugbears. If I eat out with the BF and I order a steak (the rarer the better) and he orders his usual fish dish, the hunk of meat is invariably placed in front of him. As, for that matter, is the bill. It’s not massively important, but it is hugely annoying. Continuing on the subject of eating-related inequalities, I recently got involved in an argument in the pub. Nothing new there, you may proclaim, but on this occasion, my nemesis attempted to persuade me that all men are naturally better chefs than women because most top chefs are men. I’m not even going to begin to pick apart this ridiculous logic. I will, however point out that this argument came from the man who was stinking out the entire place with his carrier bag of chicken-shop chicken…


  • Music. I love live music, especially music festivals. I have no problem with magazines and newspapers advising me which bands to look out for, or which tent to splurge on. What I do take great umbrage to is being told what to wear whilst I listen. Festival Looks, Festival Fashion, Festival Chic etc etc. Who cares what colour my sparkly wellies should be, or where best to buy fake flowers for my hair?! I want to listen to some music and dress for the weather, not for some imaginary catwalk!  Men aren’t deluged with this sexist idiocy.


  • Clothes. It’s not just festival attire; far more emphasis is placed generally on how women dress. Whether you are accused of being a lesbian for daring to find Doc Martens comfortable (for the record ‘lesbian’ isn’t an insult, you absolute troglodyte) or assumed to be ‘easy’ because your skirt is too short, complete and utter sexism prevails. There’s a whole other rant in this little sub-topic alone so I’m going to leave it there, lest I run out of rant ideas and wish to devote a full 1500 words to it one of these days…


  • D.I.Y. I like to think I’m pretty adept at getting stuck into a bit of DIY.  Okay, I do tend to improvise quite a bit, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using – for example – a rolling pin in lieu of a hammer. I get the job done, instead of talking about doing the job for months on end… Clearly I’m not going to leave myself open to another accusation of double-standards by stating that this is a predominantly Male Trait… Why is it so often assumed that simply because I’m female I’m assumed to be biologically inept at undertaking basic tasks such as changing a fuse or hanging a picture?

I have a most unsisterhoodly theory on that last one; I firmly believe there are women out there who simply don’t help the cause. You know the ones, they phone a male family member every time they need a lightbulb changed or a spider removing from the bath. I’d tell you to man up if it didn’t contradict everything I’ve just said! There are also women around who witter on about wanting to earn the same as men, not be treated as sex objects, be treated with respect, etc. (so far, so fair) but then expect men to buy all their drinks, pay for all their meals, open all the doors, etc. Therein lies feminism’s worst enemy (in my opinion).

The fact I’ve just got my claws out links very nicely back to my nails again! (It’s all about the rubbish linking of paragraphs today). So much for my ludicrously expensive manicure lasting a month! After a mere two weeks, the urge to pick it all off became too great to resist (added to my immense reluctance to venture back to the salon for some more awkward chat as the varnish was soaked off professionally). I subsequently went online to check this was okay as my nails were a wee bit rubbish-looking… One ‘manicurist blogger’ claimed it was ‘literally as bad as slamming all your fingers in a door’… Hmm. I chose to ignore that little pearl of wisdom just as I disregard any trip advisor reviewer who can’t distinguish between ‘there’ and ‘their’ or complains about the lack of Full English at the brekkie buffet of the Greek hotel in question. I carried on with my research and somehow managed to justify buying a UV lamp off Amazon so that I can DIY it at home  …(Cost the same as one and three quarter trips to the nail bar, no small talk necessary, I can watch Celebrity Masterchep whilst I manicure myself. Result!)

This week was all about the saving money. A few months ago, I signed up to a kick-boxing class. At first it was great – loads of kicking and punching pads as hard as I possibly could (sometimes even pretending they were individuals who claim men genetically make better chefs) – most therapeutic. After a few weeks, however, it became clear that in order to progress, I would have to develop a sense of coordination. Being devoid of coordination at an aerobics class is one thing, but at a class which requires you to continuously and swiftly move a pad in front of your face so that  your partner can whack it, is quite another. Add that to the fact that the weather is warmer now and the hall where the class is held has started smelling like a school gym, and kickboxing has lost a little of its initial appeal for me. I just wish I hadn’t over-enthusiastically signed up for a year’s membership…

So yeah, I’m most glad I’m saving all that money on manicures (never mind that I indulged in my first ever one less than a month ago)… And on that note, I’m going to finish here – the BF has promised to let me practise on his toenails!

My first effort – not bad if I do say so myself – I’ll be extending toenails before you know it!