Switching on the Christmas Lights

After finishing work early this evening I wandered into town with Miss 19, met up with my other half, and joined the growing crowd in the high street awaiting the annual “switching on of the Christmas lights”.

Years ago this spectacle was performed by the mayor, or some other local person of note – but then somebody decided it would be a good idea to get one of the various celebrities that live nearby to do the honors – to press the pretend plunger while somebody else flicks a power switch nearby. We’ve had Steve Redgrave (multiple Olympic champion), Russell Brand (multiple swear-box filler), and Mary Berry (cake making Bake-Off double-entendre champion) switch on the lights in recent years. Tonight’s celebrity was Ross Kemp – “Grant Mitchell” from stalwart UK soap opera “Eastenders”, and host of a number of investigative journalism type TV shows in recent years.

What can I say? We stood in the cold for twenty minutes and waited for him to stand on top of a double-decker bus in the middle of the high-street while some idiot fired pretend snow (read:soap) over everybody nearby, and the local radio played the cheesiest Christmas tunes they could come up with.

He eventually appeared, rambled on for a minute or two about how lovely the town and it’s people are, and then pressed the pretend plunger. And ONLY HALF THE LIGHTS CAME ON. I don’t know how I didn’t burst out laughing. I wanted to.

On the plus side, we stopped at the supermarket on the way home, and I bought myself a pizza for dinner. Go me.

Cannot Catch a Break

On the way to work yesterday morning a four wheel drive monstrosity driven by a trophy mum forced be into the hedgerow alongside the road. She had just passed a passing place, but I was just a bicycle – so she carried on. I didn’t think much of it at the time, so carried on to work. When I came out of work yesterday evening I discovered a bike with very flat tyres.

After a panicked call home – because I was supposed to be arriving at the running club an hour later with Miss 19 for our weekly club run – my other half drove out to fetch me.

Arriving home in a blizzard of waterproofs, backpacks, coats, and bicycle helmets, I discovered Miss 19 in the dark of the study, waiting for me – wearing her running kit.

“I don’t want to go”

I didn’t hear her at first. She had such a small voice.

“What?”

“I don’t want to go.”

My shoulders sank, while pulling up my socks and slipping running shoes on. While my other half tried to talk her around, I watched the clock tick inexorably past the time we would need to leave the house, and then began washing up, taking rubbish out – all the usual chores.

We ended up running on our own. It’s worth noting that I’m still sick, and the cold has gone to my chest now – so any doctor worth their salt would have told me not to run under any circumstances. Balancing that against a daughter that would probably stop running altogether if I didn’t go, I decided to risk it.

I’m still paying the price now. I have not been able to get my breath back properly for the last 24 hours. On top of that, just as I was about to leave work this evening the phone rang.

“You’re not going to make it to the exam meeting at school are you?”

“What meeting?”

“The one I’ve been telling you about for months.”

(nobody has said anything to me)

“I’m leaving now”.

And that’s how I found myself cycling home through the darkness, coughing like an idiot, before dumping my bag, spraying half a can of deodorant over myself, and setting off for the school on foot.

I’m home now. The meeting was attended by perhaps 25% of the parents. I really didn’t need to be there. I still can’t catch my breath properly – or at least, if I try to, I explode into a fit of coughing.

When will the world give me a break?

Emptying Your Head

You know the funny thing about emptying your head? When you expose your thoughts for others to read, judge, and react to, you have to be damn careful.

Tonight I decided to try and give somebody I have followed for years a different perspective on the situation they find themselves in. Call it sitting on the fence – call it being an idiot. I should not have done it.

Sometimes we think we can imagine what it might be like to stand in somebody else’s shoes. We can’t. We really can’t. It’s so easy to imagine – to read the little somebody chooses to share on the internet, and to construct a picture of their life in our minds eye, and to think we might know the world they live in.

Killing Time

I’m sitting at my desk at work, watching the clock. Everything I wanted to get done today is done – ticked off – complete. There is still an hour left. Before I fall back into the darkness that seems to have envoloped me in recent weeks, let’s try and look at the positives.

I made it out of bed today. I had a shower, brushed my teeth, got dressed, went through the morning routine at home, cycled to work… I didn’t have a shave. Yes, I look a bit like a scruffy caveman now.

I cooked dinner for everybody yesterday evening while my other half took the younger children out to both rugby and hockey. We had roast – with chicken, potatoes, carrots, and cauliflower. It was kind of basic, but tasted good. I somehow drew the washing up short-straw too – it’s funny how that happens. As soon as you mention any sort of help to the children, they magic homework out of their arse instantaneaously.

I didn’t go running last night. Miss 19 did – with her sister. I suggested they go together, otherwise the entire running escapade might founder completely. The unexpected result? Following their return, Miss 19 quietly tiptoed into the study with the biggest grin on her face – at about the 3 kilometre mark she realised she felt good – proof that training WORKS, and that she is now fitter than her little sister (who had thus far run circles around us all).

We’re supposed to run for two lots of twenty minutes tomorrow night. I haven’t told Miss 19 that the run will take her to well over five kilometres. Next week is the final run – 5K in one go.

My wonderful other half has already signed us up for a 5K “fun” run around town in a few weeks time – where all involved dress as Santa. I can’t help grinning about the idea of dressing as Satan instead, and claiming I made a mistake reading the email.

Falling into Shadow

It feels like I’m slowly falling away from the moving crowd. I find myself sitting, lost in my own thoughts, rather than reading and contributing to the online communities I have played a small part in for so long.

A few days ago I scrolled through the endless stream of posts at WordPress, Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr – and wondered what purpose they really serve. Why do so many people share so many moments from their lives – places they are going, places they are leaving, happy thoughts, sad thoughts, and everything in-between ?

For a little while I wondered about pulling the plug on all of it, sitting down on a comfy chair in our back room, and reading one of the books I’ve been promising myself to read for the last couple of years.

I’m not sure why I didn’t pull the plug. I’m equally not sure why I’m still here. This is awfully existential, isn’t it. The entire post is bordering on “why are we here?”, and “why do we bother?”.

Perhaps the reason I bother is because of you. Because you’re reading this. And because you’re reading this, you might think “I’ve thought that too, from time to time”, and you might reach out – and we might find out that we’re not alone in this endless questioning of everything – and we might find out that part of the reason to keep going is because we know we might read each other’s words.

I wonder though – at what point does writing for an imaginary audience turn into pressure? At what point, when you know a few people will read – at what point does that turn into pressure to provide something for them to read, lest they forget you?

There’s probably some inspirational crap that can be spun about your voice being unique among the thousands surrounding you. I’m not sure I have the energy to counter that right now.

I’m off to make a cup of tea.

The Week That Never Was

I returned home from work on Wednesday lunchtime, and went straight to bed. Actually, that’s not entirely true – I cleared the kitchen, tidied the lounge and hallway, put washing in the machine, and hung damp washing out to dry before going to bed.

I worried on Wednesday night that it might be flu – I couldn’t get warm, and my body started to ache. Thankfully the aches had vanished by mid-morning the next day. I briefly contemplated coming back into the office, but then thought “to hell with it”. It’s rare that I get sick, and I usually just soldier on – putting one foot in front of the other.

I spent much of yesterday sitting on the couch with Miss 19. She’s had a pretty tough time recently – the anxiety issues she has battled for the last several years have returned with a vengeance. We never know from one day to the next how the next day might unfold. Yesterday we were quite the pair – she fell asleep on one end of the couch, while I made endless cups of tea, and tip-toed to the bathroom to blow my nose repeatedly. We binge-watched Silicon Valley (or rather, I did).

Today I am back in the office. I’m having trouble focusing on anything. Hence taking a few minutes out to write this (in reality, I’m waiting for an installation PowerShell script to run on a virtual server – you really didn’t need to know that though).

What else has been going on? Nothing really. I feel like I’ve fallen off the internet horse, and fallen out of the loop of those I know. I haven’t emailed or chatted with anybody in days. I looked in on the various social internet sites earlier, and realised there’s no way I’ll ever be able to catch up.

Of course I’ll spend the entire evening now holed up in front of the TV with a laptop, madly reading, commenting, liking, and all the other things – because I’m an idiot like that.

A Few More Miles

I went to the running club again this evening, and put a few more miles in the bank. I quietly got on with the run, and kept half an eye on Miss 19. I’m not sure what I expected to be honest – I thought she might struggle towards the end, and she did, but she did well, considering how many training sessions she has missed in recent weeks.

Since returning I have somehow spent three hours achieving very little. I read the news, caught up a little with the various social networks, and filled the washing machine. Oh – I also emptied my nose about twenty thousand times – the cold is STILL hanging on.

This post has so far taken well over an hour to write.

Maybe tomorrow will be better.

I Still Haven’t Read Moby Dick

I got home a couple of hours ago, and opened the back door to a kitchen full of the smells of roast dinner, and an unfolding scene of mayhem in the kitchen as my other half battled to cook and wash up while the children got in the way. I had called home when I left the office, and got an abrupt “why do you always call when I’m busy?”.

Can I be brutally honest? As much as I like eating roast dinner, the preparation and washing up time are not worth it. I feel like that about a lot of meals – and know all my “foodie” friends would recoil in horror at such a thought. When I found myself unexpectedly home-alone on Saturday I made myself baked beans on toast with grated cheddar cheese on top. When my other half first knew me, it was the first thing she changed about me – it had been my staple diet for some time. She also forced me to buy house plants and candles in order to “brighten the place up”.

I’m not sure I’ve ever written about my apartment – the one I bought while I was still single. It was on the first floor of a condominium – a relatively new building on the edge of an estate that had been built perhaps twenty years previously. The entire place was decorated with flat primary colours. I filled it with black ash flat-pack furniture, and similarly stark soft furnishings. For months I couldn’t afford a couch, so sat on the floor to watch TV.

A young couple lived below me – their first place too. I could never figure them out – she was beautiful, and seemingly always annoyed with the world. He was friendly enough, and wore enormously thick spectacles. I sometimes wondered how they ended up together.

I only lived there for about six months – I moved in during the summer with very little belongings. I can still remember boiling water in a saucepan on the first night because I had no kettle. I remember shopping for mugs, glasses, tableware and so on in a discount store in town – some of the coffee mugs survived until very recently.

The one thing I did have was books. My first major purchase was free standing wooden bookshelves from a shop in town. We still have them now – they will no doubt be handed down through the family for generations. I filled them with the colossal collection of books I had amassed throughout my life. I’ve always had problems letting go of books – I’m not sure why. I can’t walk past a bookshop either – particularly a second hand bookshop.

When my future father-in-law came to visit, he stopped at the bookshelves and pointed out “Moby Dick” by Herman Melville.

“I’ve tried to read that several times, and never finished it”.

“Me too”.

Finally Getting Better (with no bacon)

After perhaps fourteen days, a thousand cups of tea, countless cups of boiling water laced with paracetamol, boxes of tissues, an entire pot of vicks, and the removal of several gallons of snot, my body finally seems to be winning it’s battle with the nefarious cold virus that took hold the week before last.

Of course the world doesn’t stand still. In about half an hour I’m heading to rugby with my middle daughter – primarily to film her. She’s doing PE as an examination subject at school, and requires demonstrable evidence of “skills” – which roughly translates to one or other of us losing a couple of hours every weekend standing in the cold, holding a camera in the blind hope that she’ll demonstrate one or more of the required skills.

I was first up this morning. After having a shower and a shave, I remembered a packet of bacon hiding in the back of the fridge. A few minutes later I was standing in the kitchen with a morning radio station, a cup of coffee, and the smell of bacon pouring from the grill. I buttered several slices of bread, and stood in anticipation – listening to the radio, and the gentle crackle of wonderful things cooking.

It came as no surprise that the smell of bacon caused all of our children to raise from their slumber. One by one they appeared in the kitchen, and I made them each bacon sandwiches – realising along the way that there would be none left for me. I ended up filling my already buttered bread with leftovers from the fridge.

We won’t talk about Miss 19 appearing in her pajamas, grinning at the smell of bacon, and then having an instant and furious meltdown when I suggested that she could make her own. I haven’t seen or talked to her since, so that’s going to be fun later. We’re supposed to be going running this evening (you know, in-between filming rugby, washing up dinner things, washing clothes, and all the other bullshit chores).

In other, completely unrelated news, I finally got a chance to play around with the computer my Dad gave me yesterday. I was supposed to be standing in the rain at Wembley Stadium watching England ladies football team get beaten by Germany – but figured the almost sub-zero temperatures and driving rain would probably finish me off. So I stayed at home – and tried to learn how to fly a pretend 737. Badly.

Anyway.

I wonder if the rugby club will be serving bacon sandwiches later ?