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.

Skeleton Crew #19 – Big Wheels…

Word count – 5,100

Big Wheels: A Tale of the Laundry Game (Milkman #2), which is this story’s full title, follows on from the previous story in this collection, Morning Deliveries, but centres around a couple of laundry workers who go out in the middle of the night trying to find a place to inspect their vehicle and deem it roadworthy… all while they are both knocking back the beers.

As with Morning Deliveries, this story has been cobbled together from chapters of an abandoned novel that King was writing called The Milkman, but unlike that first story, Big Wheels meanders and ultimately doesn’t stand on its own. It also includes references which I am sure are intended to allude to other parts of the novel that he hasn’t included here.

So I will have to pass on this one. It may very well work as part of a larger narrative, but snipped out as a story in its own right, it falls a little flat.

Not Recommended

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.

Skeleton Crew #18 – Morning Deliveries…

Word count – 1,600

Morning Deliveries (Milkman #1), to give it its full title, is exactly what you think it is – a very short tale about a milkman who is going about his daily deliveries. Except, of course, he is not just leaving milk on the doorstep. Where would be the horror in that?

We follow Spike as he does his rounds, but it quickly becomes evident that he is not a model employee, or anyone you would want to accept a milkshake from. At random doors, he leaves a surprise in with the breakfast accompaniment – be it a spider, liquid poison, or maybe even a deadly gas, and then he just continues on with his work.

Morning Deliveries is one of the shortest stories in Skeleton Crew, but it’s also one of the better offerings. Another storytelling example of simplicity sometimes being more important than complexity.

Recommended ⇑

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.

Being Keith – Review…

Ooosh!

I like Keith Lemon. I know he is extremely crude, and a lot of his humour (most of it, in fact) is not very sophisticated and therefore not to everyone’s taste, but there’s something about his innocence and infectious nature that appeals to me.

And yes, I know he is a character.

Being Keith is a fictional account (told in his distinctive patois) of his success leading up to the production of his movie, Keith Lemon: The Film. He details how he rose to prominence as an entrepreneur, quickly winning Businessman of the Year 1993, and his subsequent rise to fame on television… as well as documenting anecdotes about all the women he has banged along the way. And I do mean all the women.

Keith Lemon is a funny guy, but it has to be under the right circumstances. Off the cuff and unscripted. He’s great on Celebrity Juice, where he is allowed off the leash, and he even works on segments of This Morning when he is giving out advice, because you can see him trying to push the boundaries of the restrictions of daytime television.

But unfortunately, a 250 page book is not the way to experience Keith Lemon, because what makes his personality work doesn’t translate very well to the page. Sure, I chuckled on a few occasions, but there’s only so many times you can read about him smashing in the back doors or finger-banging a Z-List celebrity before you switch off and start skim reading.

This is maybe worth looking at if you’re a die-hard fan of Keith, or if you just have to consume everything he does (and they are likely to be the only ones reading this anyway), but it is certainly not essential, and definitely not his finest hour.

Skeleton Crew #17 – Uncle Otto’s Truck…

Word count – 6,900

Uncle Otto’s Truck is about a old beat-up pick-up that has a bit of an evil streak. After being used as a weapon itself, the vehicle sets out to get his revenge on the murderer. Uncle Otto tries to tell his nephew this, but he is waved off as being crazy.

Stephen King certainly likes writing stories about vehicles that come to life (most famously in Christine)… actually, any kind of inanimate object. In that respect Uncle Otto’s Truck treads familiar territory. I’m sure he would be the first to admit that it’s basic horror, but when it’s done right it can be very effective, and here he is mostly successful.

Although this story starts off quite slowly, once it finds its footing it picks up nicely and is a good read through to the end. Another fine addition to this collection.

Recommended ⇑

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.