Category Archives: Social

Skye? What Skye?

It was a terrible day. Well, at least, the weather was terrible. Most of the time. We did squeeze a few moments of sunshine from the sky, but really, we were mostly trying our best to avoid the rain.

Still, rain doesn’t ruin a holiday – attitudes do. We made the best of the inclement weather and visited Eilean Donan Castle in the morning, on our way to Skye. It’s a beautiful location and having been there now I can see why it is such a popular wedding venue… although I imagine it has an extremely long waiting list.

After that we crossed the bridge and went to see the Fairy Pools on the west of the Isle of Skye. It was a bit of a let down, but mostly because once you’ve parked the car you still have (literally) miles to walk to get the most out of the excursion. Because it had been raining, and the trek involved crossing a couple of rivers, we got as far as we dared, took a few pictures and turned back.

No biggie. We saw Krka last year in Croatia, so we’ve done the amazing waterfall thing.

We then looped over the top of Skye and back down the east coast, by which time the sun (what sun?) was going down and the rain was not letting up.

All things considered, it was a fun day. I’m glad I finally got to see Skye, as it’s a part of Scotland that has always escaped me. The scenery is postcard-worthy almost every step of the way, and even when it’s wet, those mountains are still mightily impressive.

Go West, Life is Peaceful There…

We’re away for a much needed break. Or rather, The Fiancée© needs a break – I’m just along for the ride. So we packed the next few days into a suitcase and headed west.

We haven’t been away overnight since February, as I’m sure is the case for many people, and going around feels more than a little strange in this changed world. Now we are taking our masks everywhere we go, only entering small stores if there are no other customers, and using hand sanitiser when we do go inside.

We are in Invergarry, a small town to the south of Loch Ness. It was a three hour drive that we stretched out to seven. Well, the journey is part of the holiday, isn’t it? Besides, Scotland is filled with beautiful scenery, and a fair chunk of it is on the way to where we are now.

We are in an elegant country hotel – traditionally Scottish, except for the fact that the restaurant serves Indian food for dinner. Odd, but actually really good. So now we’re stuffed and sprawled out in the king-sized bed we have.

I mean, I know she’s here somewhere, but she’s so small, and this bed is so big…

Mum’s the Word…

I went over to visit my mum today, with the intention of telling her that I had been made redundant… only she already knew.

Turns out, she read it on my blog last week, which wouldn’t really be all that surprising, except she isn’t subscribed to my blog and only happened upon the site because she had Googled my name… and I thought I was the only person who did that.

She used to be on my mailing list, but then she changed her email and I never bothered to set the alerts back up for her. I didn’t see the point. A lot of the stuff I post wouldn’t interest her in the slightest, and some of the other stuff would just make her worry about me more than she already does – which was the entire reason I didn’t tell her about the redundancy in the first instance anyway.

So, now that I know I may be under surveillance, I will have to be a little more vigilant about the gratuitous sex, violence, and bad language that I post here.

Modern Inconveniences…

My friend Steven called me today from Canada. We send messages back and forth on WhatsApp (all too infrequently, really), and it’s been a long time since we have spoken on the phone.

And we’ve never done it with video enabled.

I’m fairly old school when it comes to phone calls. I want to be able to be naked or to pick my nose or to go to the toilet, if the need or desire arises. I just can’t do those things if the guy on the other end of the line can see me. Well, I certainly can’t do them comfortably.

So I pulled on my pants and answered the call.

It was good to hear his voice, and although he’s had a rough time of it lately, I’m glad to hear that things are beginning to get better for him.

Hopefully the world catches up and we can all begin to see a little happiness in our lives as 2020 begins to wind down.

Pastures New…

Today, The Fiancée© said goodbye to her first born as he moved away from home. He hasn’t gone far – just a half hour drive away, into student accommodation, where he will stay while he studies to be a midwife – but that distance may as well be the other side of the world.

I have got no children, so I don’t know what it feels like to help pack away their things, bundle them into a car, and drive them off to waters unknown. This is as close as I have come to that feeling of loss and emptiness. I have only known him for a couple of years, and I obviously don’t have the history with him or the wealth of memories that The Fiancée© does… but even I found myself fighting back tears this afternoon as we helped him set up his new home.

The Fiancée© is crying – right now, as I write this – but I know that while there is a lot of sadness in those tears, for all the times she has had with him over the last nineteen years, and I know she will miss him greatly; those tears also represent the joy of possibility, of how his life will progress, and what he will achieve now that he is beginning to walk without her guidance.

I am proud of her emotional strength, and of how she has handled this difficult day. I know she will be fine – they both will – but today marks the next chapter for each of them, and I will be here to make sure it goes as smoothly as possible.

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.