Category Archives: Social

A Lazy Covid Summer…

I have never defined myself by the job that I do. I mean, I couldn’t, I’ve had so many of them. Maybe it would be different if I was a doctor or a lawyer, but for a number of reasons – at least some of which are of my own making – those things are not in my wheelhouse.

I haven’t worked since the tail end of March – that’s a shade over five months. At first (despite the circumstances that forced this upon me) this was great. I was getting paid by the government to sit at home. It gave me more time to relax and to do all those things that a full time job just didn’t allow me to do. I devised quizzes, I did jigsaws, I made board games. I read a lot more. If nothing else, it certainly put a stop to those 4am alarms!

I enjoyed staying at home, because it gave me a lot of time to myself. I know a lot of people don’t fly solo very well, but I’m one of those people who really doesn’t mind their own company. But as the lockdown restrictions were finally lifted and people started to find their way back to the workplace it began to sink in that something was missing.

The Fiancée© has been working through the majority of my furlough period. Because of the cutbacks and the fall in the market, her salary is less than it used to be, and she now has more work to do as well. Most days she is there longer than she should be (it’s 8.30pm as I’m writing this, and she’s still there) and although I’m sure some of her colleagues recognise this, she definitely doesn’t get the appreciation or the credit that she deserves.

Most days she arrives home tired and drained, cursing the circumstances that have turned her career into something that it never should have been, and looking forward to the day when all of this is behind us. Although she has the occasional moan about colleagues not pulling their weight (and whom amongst us can say otherwise?), or her job not being completed properly when she is away, she really doesn’t complain as much as she has every right to, and certainly not as much as I thought she would.

She tries to forget work when she is home, but not as hard as I would like her to. She still replies to emails, and gets embroiled in back-and-forths on WhatsApp, even when she should be putting her feet up and winding down for the night. It never stops. Even when we’re in bed, she will usually take one final look at her inbox before hitting her pillow.

I like that she is dedicated to her job, and I admire her committment to making sure everything is done correctly and to the highest standard, but it concerns me that she takes all of this on herself. That’s just who she is though. I’m not going to be able to change those things about her, and I don’t want to anyway. I just need to ensure she isn’t stretching herself too thin.

The point of all this is… I need to be back at work.

Maybe it’s a simple case of pride, or maybe it’s some residual macho gene that is tugging inside me, telling me I have to get out there and bring home the bacon. I’m not sure. Either way, I don’t want The Fiancée© to monopolise all the headaches that come with running a household, or to be the only one whose shoulders are weighed down by the stress of it all – I need to share some of that burden with her.

She deserves that.

What I’ve Done This Month #August…

I didn’t do any fresh writing this month, which – although a little disconcerting – is not altogether unexpected. Covid-19 has knocked everything into a spin, which is certainly no excuse, because I have absolutely had more time to write, but it has tweaked the way I go about my days. One good thing about the pandemic is that I am no longer having to wake up at 4am. That’s something I won’t miss.

I am slowly making my way through my exhaustive filing of stories, and I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. Starting with all the stuff I did far too many years ago to mention, I have filed and dated everything (in colourful lever-arch folders) up to and including 2012. By the time I write next month’s update I am confident I will have it all squared away and be able to dedicate some time to coming up with new stuff.

Over the last few days I have submitted a lot of stories to various markets, primarily to get back in the habit of doing it. There was a time when I’d get a response from a pubisher every day. Now, I go many weeks between replies, and that is mainly because I just don’t throw my stuff out there the way I used to. Well that is going to change. 2020 has not been a good year, but I’m determined to salvage something positive from it.

In other news, I was officialy made redundant this afternoon, so – with the thought that such an endpoint was coming sooner rather than later – I’ve been looking for other work as well. I don’t have anything yet, but I have a few irons in the fire, and I’m sure it won’t be long until I’m back out there earning a wage rather than taking the furlough payment for granted.

Take care folks!

A CBC and a Chem-7…

Doug Ross

Covid-19 and the national lockdown that a lot of us have gone through have allowed many of us to fill our days by catching up on some television that we may have missed, or in my case, that I can’t really remember watching.

Carol Hathaway

ER ran for fifteen years, between 1994 and 2009. I know I watched it in the early days, and that I was still watching it when the millennium turned, but I couldn’t tell you when or for how long. Maybe three of four full seasons at the most. To be honest, it was on for so long, and it was one of the most successful shows of all time, so it feels like almost everyone my age has seen at least a handful of episodes.

Mark Greene

What I do remember is that I was one of those hold-outs who were trying to tell everyone that Chicago Hope was the better medical show – newsflash: it isn’t, but it’s still worth watching.

Kerry Weaver

Over the last few months I have been taking it all in from the start. I’m halfway through Season Six – so only 125 of the 332 episodes it produced – and although there are a lot of major story beats that I can remember (including one I’m just about to get to – sorry Lucy…) most of it feels new. And for the most part, it holds up extremely well. It’s no wonder that it is considered the genesis of modern medical shows.

Peter Benton

Consuming the show in such a manner is certainly not revelatory these days – in fact, it’s almost exclusively how the generation coming up watch TV (if it’s even fair to call it TV, seeing as so much of what we digest is courtesy of Netflix or Prime, or any number of other streaming platforms) – but watching it this way means that I have zipped by six years of television in only a few months. If this was the nineties, I’d still be waiting for the Season One finale, and I wouldn’t yet have met Weaver, Korday or Luca, nor would I have lost Doug or Susan.

Susan Lewis

It’s funny to see characters discuss the internet and email, back when it was in its infancy, and mobile phones before they became ubiquitous, and it’s interesting to see how some characters have developed while others have stagnated and fallen into the background, the latter of which is the kind of thing the average viewer may not have noticed when there was a full week between episodes and a full four months between seasons, but when one episode just rolls into the next without you even leaving your seat, you pick up on these things.

John Carter

There is certainly something to be said for the way we used to watch TV. You had time to anticipate what was going to happen, and you would talk about it with your family and friends. There’s really no such thing as a cliffhanger when there is literally no space between the fade-out of one episode and the fade-in of the next. I’m not sure the kids today would even have the attention span or patience necessary to deal with a show that only throws out one forty-two minute chunk every week. But I don’t think those days are coming back, so that’s probably all right.

Yes, I know. I’m just an old man yelling at clouds.

But grumpiness aside, if any of you haven’t seen ER – and there can’t be many of you – you really are missing some classic TV.

A Snooker Anecdote…

I’m sitting here watching the first semi-final of the World Senior Snooker Championship, between Jimmy White and Stephen Hendry. They have both (visibly) aged, and they don’t do it like they used to, but it’s a fun reminder of the many battles these guys had during the nineties.

It’s also the 63rd birthday of my favourite snooker player of all – Steve Davis.

I met Steve once. It was early 2002 and I was at the cinema with my mate Andy watching the previews before The Royal Tenenbaums. I saw two guys walking towards us, and I turned to Andy to exclaim how much one of them looked like Steve Davis (he was here for the Scottish Open). Of course, he didn’t watch snooker, so he had no idea who I was talking about. But as he got closer I quickly realised it actually was him.

Before I could figure out what to do, Steve and the other guy (who I assumed was his manager) squeezed into our aisle and excused themselves so they could get past us. I quickly shot out my hand and said, “Hi Steve, I’m a big fan. How are you?” He graciously bundled the big tub of popcorn and super-sized Coke to one side and shook my hand…

After the movie, (in fact, as soon as the credits began) I dashed to the toilet so I could avoid a repeat of the awkward moment when I had met my idol two hours earlier. My intention was to stay there long enough for the screen to empty and I could save myself any further embarrassment, which was a fine idea, until Steve walked in to the bathroom and went to the urinal next to mine.

So there I am in a public toilet, standing next to a snooker legend I had looked up and respected for years… with my dick out.

I zipped up and went to wash my hands (yes, something I did even before Covid-19), looked in the mirror, and told myself not to say anything. Just be quiet. There’s nothing else to say – you’ve introduced yourself, and he shook your hand. What more do you want? Dry your hands and walk away. It was already weird before the bathroom, you certainly didn’t need to add any more fuel to that particular fire. And besides, you don’t talk to a guy while he’s at the urinal, everyone knows that!

Of course, instead of taking the sensible route I asked Steve if he had enjoyed the movie, and I immediately wanted to fall into the sink and slip down the drain. I’m not really sure what he said – I was out of there before my embarrassment bubbled to the surface.

So if you ever hear Steve Davis tell a story about the creepy guy he met in a toilet one day, that was me!

Anyway, happy birthday Steve!

Money For Nothing…

s-l640I do not actively collect coins, but over the years I have amassed quite a number of them from over thirty countries. I have picked them up from various places and people, and without even trying, I now have a couple of hundred coins, separated by country into their own plastic pockets.

Sure it’s nerdy, but I would never claim otherwise.

Most of the coins are fairly recent, but I have a lot that come from the nineteenth century, including a silver Crown from 1888 that – according to available resources – seems to be worth up to approximately £300 from a generous dealer…

… not that I have any intention of parting with it or any others I have that could pay the electric bill. I may well be out of a job soon, and I could be sitting on a veritable goldmine, but that’s a few steps down the line yet.

The Next Chapter…

After several months of being on furlough, it seems that Covid-19 may finally have added my job to the thousands of others across the world it has chewed up.

I’m disappointed, of course, but I won’t moan about it. There’s nothing I could have done to change things, and there are many others who have been dealt a far worse hand this year. Everything happens for a reason, as they say, so perhaps this is my chance to move onwards and upwards, and find a job that allows me to stay in bed later than 4am.

I’ll get something else, I’m sure, but the uncertainty of everything that is happening in the economy at the moment makes it a little frightening to be without that job security.

Things would perhaps pan out differently if I was single, and I only had to look after myself, but I have The Fiancée© to consider, and a house to maintain, so that is a responsibility I cannot forget or neglect.

Hopefully the world will settle down soon, and we can pick up the pieces of this broken year.

Skeleton Crew #10 – Word Processor of the Gods…

13440

Word count – 7,000

Word Processor of the Gods is about a writer who happens upon a word processor, left to him after the death of his brother. He quickly discovers the machine has the ability to add and delete things from his world.

This story spends a long time setting everything up, and – although the background is relevant to the protagonist’s justification – it really doesn’t make the words more enjoyable. In that way it feels unbalanced.

Word Processor of the Gods is a great concept, and the writing itself is competent, but it’s not as good as I wanted it to be. After the initial set-up, it seems to reach a crescendo very quickly and then it just fizzles until the end, but thankfully, there is enough good stuff here to see it across the line.

Recommended ⇑

After the Storm…

This morning I was awoken by the most almighty crash of thunder I have ever heard. It sounded like a bomb… or how I imagine a bomb would sound. The rain was coming down hard, and lightning was strobing the sky for what seemed like hours. The whole thing was adrenalising, not unlike how you may feel riding a rollercoaster.

It wasn’t just here either. There has been flooding all over the country. People have lost their homes and their belongings – some have lost their lives – yet, looking around now, it’s hard to see any of that.

It’s early evening just now, and it’s currently 23 degrees where I live. There is no wind to speak of. I’m sitting in my back garden, listening to the neighbours talk about the best way to barbecue a steak. The sky is clear, and the kind of blue you usually only see in paintings or cartoons. It’s one of the hottest days of the year.

Tomorrow’s forecast is for more rain.

Swinging Back…

I found a Swingball set in our shed today that I had forgotten was there, and given that the weather was so great I figured I’d get it out and give it a go with the family.

I must admit, I got more than the five minutes of fun out of it that I had expected. It actually scratched an itch I did not realise I still had, and made me pine for my summers playing tennis, which is a sport I reluctantly let go of a few years back after having played it consistently – and at a fairly competent level – for over two decades.

At least tennis affords you a proper tool for the job. Those undersized plastic bats are extremely unforgiving, and I won’t be surprised if there’s a blister the size of a dinner plate on the side of my thumb when I wake up tomorrow… but it was worth it for laughs we had.

Of course, this year is a bust for tennis (this year is a bust for most things), but maybe I’ll get my racket out of the garage and smack a few balls against the wall anyway.

On Our Way Back to Square One…

So – after confirmation of dozens of positive Covid-19 cases from a handful of pub in the city-centre – it was announced this morning that Aberdeen (a place that doesn’t lead the pack in anything) would be the first city in Scotland to be subjected to a local lockdown.

And you know what? We deserve it.

I say we, but of course, I’m actually talking about the dickheads who have deemed alcohol to be of such great importance that they will go to any lengths to sit in a crowded pub, and nurse a £5 pint of beer. Because the virus won’t strike them, will it? Nor will it touch anyone they have been in contact with, right?

No. Don’t be silly. You just sit there with your drink – you’ve waited so damn long for it.

If people can’t stick to the rules (rules that have been put there to protect all of us) then they deserve to stay home and forego the social norms that were recently given back to us. Because guess what? If you break your toys, then you can’t play anymore.

It’s just a shame that these bad apples (and yes, it’s a minority) spoil the progress for everyone else as well.

Most of us are doing our best to put Covid-19 behind us, or at least, learn to live with it responsibly, but until people wise up to what is going on – to what has been going on for months now – it’s going to be a long time before this pandemic is in the rear view.