Friday, 30 September 2011

The Shape Of Things To Come

Nothingness. An endless, empty expanse which stretched out bare before his eyes. Dim shapes occasionally seemed to loom up into view, only to disappear again as soon as focus was trained upon them. He strained to try and make some shape or form out of the half-congealed masses which lurked in front of him but no order could he bring to the chaos. All of which is to say that I've got a nice long list of potential blog ideas which are all steadfastly refusing to be beaten into some sort of wordy narrative-ish form. The swines.

Quite some time ago, I gave a you a little teaser of things to come; most of which have been and passed and a couple of which are still percolating away and will emerge in the fullness of time (you didn't think I'd forgotten about "Bulgarian near-death experiences", did you?). In a similar way to before, here are some potential titles which may or may not come to pass as full-blown blogs (and which or may not remain as the titles - the author reserves the right to do whatever he bloody well likes at any time):-

- Clack Clack Clack Ding
- The Night Of The Fractured Nose
- Intergalactic Tomato Rustlers
- To Live And Die In Carlisle
- (Not) Bigger On The Inside

and a few more besides, including maybe a week or so devoted to the behind the scenes story of a low budget feature film...

Oh, also, I may well cheat a bit over the next few days and repost a set of blogs about my time as airport security at Heathrow (in keeping with the whole jobs vibe of the moment). What? They're from five years ago on a different site - you'll still be getting your money's worth (yes, free, that's right)...

Thursday, 29 September 2011

I Think Maybe They Do Sell Fridges - Part The Last

Occasionally, a father would bring the kids out on his own for the joy of bonding over the shoe shopping experience but their time with us was normally as mercifully brief as possible:- "Do you have anything that fits? We'll take it." (This wasn't necessarily a smart move on their part as more often than not they'd be back for a refund / exchange once the mother saw the hideous / wildly inappropriate / cheaply made footwear that had been purchased.) On the whole, though, the vast majority of our customers were women (when accompanied by partners, they seemed to be the ones in charge) and it was from this mostly pleasant majority that the troublesome minority would spring.

That minority had fixed in their mind exactly what they hoped to achieve and what they wanted was this - a mythical, durable, expanding shoe that would somehow last and fit for the child's entire school career and they weren't going to be leaving the shop until they'd tried on every possible shoe in the hopes of finding it. The phrase that would fill me with dread was "Can we just try it one size larger?" followed by repeated enquiries as to what I thought (with my actual opinion being ignored) and attempts to bully me into using the words "It's OK" so that they could buy an ill-fitting shoe and tell themselves their conscience was clear and "the bad man in the shop" told them to buy it while their poor child stumbled about with bleeding feet. Fortunately, this being children's shoes, we didn't get commission for sales (the fit was important, not the sale) so if they kept ignoring me, it was no skin off my nose if they went and bullied a shop assistant somewhere else.

I get that kids are an expensive business and you don't want to keep buying them expensive shoes every couple of months but a) kids do grow (no avoiding that bit) and b) don't ask for someone's advice then ignore it by bullishly trying to nag them into agreeing with you so you can save a couple of quid with a clean conscience. Also, if you really want to save a couple of quid, go to your local shoe shop and don't go shopping at an expensive Oxford Street store.

At least we had an endlessly looping video of The Lion King to keep the kids entertained while their mothers jammed every type of shoe into the shop onto their leaden feet. I did, however, become concerned when people started pointing out that I was unconsciously talking along with the script. And don't be alarmed if I suddenly start checking whether your shoes fit properly if "Hakuna Matata" starts to play....

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

I Think Maybe They Do Sell Fridges - Part The First

The first proper job I ever had (don't worry, this isn't going to go all Derek and Clive) was at a reasonably famous department store located towards the Marble Arch end of Oxford Street in That There London. This was way back in my gap year between school and university (before The Days Of The Temp) in which the intention was to build up a bit of cash for university. A friend who lived down the road was working in said shop and, being in need of help, drafted me and her sister (also a friend who'd been in my class a couple of times at school) to help out. So good was I in this role that I made the transition from part time to full time.

And this wondrous role in a reasonably famous department store, I hear you ask, what was it? It was the vital and important role of... children's shoe fitter. Yep, you read that right. I used to fit shoes for children as a living.

I had to be trained for it, you know. Oh yes, they don't just any Tom, Dick or Baldy wander in off the street and start crippling the young. No, they send you on one-day course to show you how to use the big machine with the moving bars that you put your foot into, how to use the manual gauges that you have to slide up and down yourself in case of technological failure and also how to tell you're not permanently injuring someone whose bones are still growing. They give you a cheap looking "Your Name Here" style certificate at the end of the day and everything. I'm a Start-Rite certified shoe fitter. That's not something you'll find on every CV, you know.

The one thing that most people say when I mention The Shoe Fitting Days is, "Oh, the children, I bet they were a nightmare." And, yes, I suppose the odd one or two were complete and utter shitbags (as is the way with children and the bigger people they later turn out to be) but, for the most part, they were OK. Generally, they were bored out of their tiny little minds and filled with a hatred for the shopping of the shoes; an attitude with which I can sympathise to this day. No, the kids were mostly alright. At the risk of alienating some of my audience, it was the mothers which caused the grief...

To Be Continued

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Dust, Noise And Grit

In the late Nineties, as the world teetered on the cusp of becoming a predominantly digital place, filing seemed to be a big thing for most companies. Paper was sprouting all over the place and no one knew what to do with it. Or, more accurately, no one wanted to spend time sorting it and shuffling it from one place to another. In this world of endless paperwork to be filed, only one person could help and that person was... The Temp.

I seemed to spend a lot of my temp-based involved in the marshaling of paper-based objects. And data inputting. Oh my yes, plenty but plenty of data inputting. I remember working for a governmental department and being one of two temps hired to sort through the many, many hundreds of applications for legal work experience then entering their details into the system if they met certain (extremely high) standards. So good was I at this menial work that I was kept on for longer to pass contracts around for signature, duplicate them and file them. A university education at work, there.

This was by no means my worst filing experience - on the contrary, it was a very pleasant office to work in. No, my least favourite filing experience was in a set of portacabins within a building site for a set of new offices near Bank.

My mission, which I had already foolishly accepted, was to file all the on-site architectural plans in order of revision. Pretty simple, you may think. Well, you may think wrong as these things were updated seemingly every hour in varying colours and codes. Not only that but they were also huge - it was like constantly filing posters. Except that they were really boring posters.

Added to this were two more elements - the dust and the noise. The dust was everywhere and coated everything. I spent the whole day feeling gritty. To top it off, at certain times of day, the whole place reverberated to the sound of pneumatic drills. It was a lot like working inside a tin can while someone banged it with a stick.

I lasted the best part of a week and a half before making my excuses and leaving. Apparently, there was a pretty high turnover on this assignment. I was more than happy to keep that high rate ticking over.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Hi, This Is Nick Speaking, How Can I Help You?

Call centres. Hate 'em or hate 'em, you can't escape 'em. They seem to be one of the many necessary evils of this modern world what we do live in. Well, maybe they're not that necessary but I doubt that they're going anywhere anytime soon. This was a fortunate thing for me in the late Nineties as, fresh out of university and still sporting a little bit of hair, I found myself donning the headset and taking the abuse that a call centre operative gets.

There's something uniquely dehumanising about working in a call centre. You put on the magic (and fetching) headset, you log into the phone system and you cease being that individual person and start being defined by statistics. The amount of time you're logged in, the times you take fro breaks, the calls you clear per hour, the number of sales leads you pass across. These are the things that define you - not your likes or abilities but whether you maintain the stats, keep the numbers up, don't let them drop. Add to that the fact that you're just supposed to absorb all the bile and vitriol that is poured your way (with a healthy soupcon of "regular crazy and demanding caller" thrown in for good measure) and you begin to feel less like a person and more like some call-processing human emotional sponge.

All of which is not to say that the people who work there are inhuman. Not at all. They were people all right - a fair number of them graduates like me who needed to get that cash coming in and start paying off those student overdrafts (and the call centre temp jobs paid good money - high burnout rate). We did our time, plowed through our calls and got very drunk whenever we could (frequently, as I recall).

I worked there for six months as a temp, kept my head down, did my job and was offered a permanent position. I said yes initially, thinking that this was my way on to the career path. Then one day, a moment of clarity - I looked around at the people who'd been on the phones for years or those who'd made their way into the sales team and then stayed there for years and thought, "No, this isn't the life for me."

So I made my excuses, left and launched myself back into the wonderful world of temporary employment...

Monday, 19 September 2011

The Time, The Place - Part The Last

It is about eight years after I was last in the Trafalgar Tavern. My friend Rich and his brother Rob have finished shooting their first (nearly) feature length film Eightball, in which I play the unintentionally camp villain (well, look, I was going for menacing but it;s a very fine line...). Having self-financed the film itself, they decided to hire out a venue for a screening which they will also be paying for. The nicest venue they can find in their price range? Yep, it's the Tavern.

This event I remember very clearly - it was a packed house (standing at the back even) and an appreciative audience. This may well have had something to do with the fact that pretty much everyone in the audience either knew or was related to someone in the film but still a good time was had by all.

Skip forward again to a couple of years ago. Bro and Soon-To-Be-Mrs-Bro were searching for venues for their upcoming nuptials. Yes, you know exactly where this is going so I'll just skip to the end - the Trafalgar was once again called into service as the venue for the ceremony, meal and reception (which saved a lot of faffing about). Due to your truly being on best man duties, however, the enforced sobriety that I went through prior to speech (which involved handouts of embarrassing pictures - always a winner) was counterbalanced by extreme drunkenness from the very instant the speech was concluded and thus my memories are once again befogged (although I am reliably informed that I was the life and soul of the party and did not leave the dance floor for the entire night which explains the extreme aching of the leg the next day).

One venue, showing up in three different capacities at various points in my life, completely unplanned on my part. Dance floor, cinema and registry office. I wonder what'll it be when it undoubtedly turns up again in five to six years time...

Sunday, 18 September 2011

The Time, The Place - Part The First

There are familiar faces that crop up throughout your life - sometimes expectedly, oftentimes not so much - but sometimes there are places which seem to keep randomly recurring at key moments. One such place for me is the Trafalgar Tavern in Greenwich.

Being the home of the National Maritime Museum (as well as the place where they make time before shipping it out to the rest of the world), Greenwich is fairly well populated with pubs featuring words like Nelson, Trafalgar, Hardy, Cutty Sark, Gypsy Moth and so on in their names. The Trafalgar is one such old drinking establishment, a lovely old place situated on the river. It's a pleasant if unremarkable pub downstairs but it is upon venturing upstairs that you discover the huge and rather stately function rooms. It is to these rooms that I have been drawn at selected times in my life...

First on the list was my unofficial sixth form ball at the age of eighteen. The school had, naturally, organised an official leavers ball but no one really relishes the idea of school-approved and sanctioned fun so one of the boys in my year took it upon himself to go off and organise a ball of his won. This was my first time at the Trafalgar function rooms but, I have to admit, my actual memory of the event is somewhat hazy - mainly due to the fact that I would have been very, very drunk.

I didn't really think about the place much again but, around eight years later, I was to find myself once again standing in those rooms but for a very different reason...

To Be Concluded

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Wage Monkey - Part The Last

When I arrived at the Oval, the usual selection of current, former and future criminals were there to make up my friendly, neighbourhood co-workers. This bit wasn't much of a surprise, though, and I wasn't expecting a day of witty repartee and general jocularity so I can't really complain about that.

We were assigned our areas to watch and sent on our merry way. Our mission - to just sort of stand there and either stop people going were they weren't supposed to or point them in the direction they needed to go. I was given a section of the stands to watch over and told to go forth and watch.

It was pretty much at this point, when I'd got myself in my allocated standing position, that the worst thing possible for a cricket match happened - it started to rain. For those of you not in the know, cricket is one of those sports which is prevented by rain (don't worry, I won't be blinding you with cricket facts, sport and I are very much uneasy bedfellows). Splendid , I thought, rain stops play, we all go home and I get my flat fee of £30 for doing nothing. Oh ho ho, thought the universe, you not getting off that lightly, Sunny Jim.

You see if the rain is heavy enough to stop play but not heavy enough to give the ground a thorough soaking then everyone will just hang around on the off chance that it could all kick off. And lo and behold, it rained consistently but not too heavily throughout the day whilst showing occasional signs of clearing up without actually doing so and so the Powers That Be decided to hang around all day on the off chance that it could kick off. The upshot of this being that I had to stand outside all day. In the rain. Staring at empty stands. And empty grass. In case there was cricket. Which I find boring anyway.

It was the soggiest and most miserable of working days during my career asa a temp. The day dragged on interminably with no stimulation for my bored little brain and no respite from the glorious summer weather. They made us work the whole day and, by the end, I was cold, damp and downcast. This was the final nail in the coffin of my glittering career as a temp steward. Some of my fellow knuckle-draggers seemed to enjoy getting paid for standing around all day doing nothing but get rained on but the mind-popping tedium of it all wasn't for me. I handed in my high visibility jerkin and bade farewell to the stewarding world.

Little did I know that the future would hold such glittering temp roles as call centre operative, airport security and cinema receipt sorter....

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Wage Monkey - Part The Second

It quickly became clear that the majority of the blokes I was to be stewarding with (and they were all men at this particular event) were of a criminal persuasion. They'd either recently been released, were currently inside and seemed to be participating in some of community service programme or were yet to be apprehended for criminal activities that they were currently indulging in. Only a couple of people there seemed to be fellow students like myself. The rest were the sort of people who listed "beating up students" as one of their hobbies (which actually reminds me of a trip to Carlisle but that's a story for another time). To say that I felt a little bit of a fish out of water would be something of an understatement.

The day itself was fine - reasonably boring and with little in the way of banter with my agency colleagues - if a little on the low paid side. Still, I'd got through it, it hadn't taxed me and I'd made a fairly small amount of cash. I reckoned it was worth going back for more so I signed up for a day of stewarding the cricket at the Oval. This is where I went wrong.

From what I can remember, it was something like a ten hour shift and, for this, they played a flat rate of about £30. oh yes, a handsome wage for a handsome day's work. We had to be there for a briefing at about 8 in the morning - which meant that I couldn't get cheap travel and had to pay around £7 to get there. Having been mini-bussed previously, I had not realised this was the case and had not factored this in before signing up. Suddenly my earnings for the day were down to about £2.30 per hour. This did not bode well..

To Be Concluded

Monday, 12 September 2011

Wage Monkey - Part The First

Temp jobs have a special category of contempt reserved for them. Unless the temp job in question is covering someone on leave, the sort of work involved in the average piece of low paid contract work is generally a) so menial that it would be a positive affront to include those duties in a regular persons role and b) so mind- meltingly simple that you could shave a monkey and get said shaved simian to do it. I have, as have most of us at one point or another, been that monkey.

The most memorably depressing day of temping that I ever spent was as a cricket steward at the Oval. I won't name the company - admittedly mainly because their name is lost in the dim and distant haze of my alcohol-numbed student memory - but they specialised in staffing for events from a catering and security / stewarding point of view. It was in the twilight of my university days and I needed a bit of additional cash to see me through. My flatmates were working for the agency in question and doing silver service and bar work at events. I thought I'd get in on a bit of that action and signed myself up.

Sadly, my complete lack of catering experience meant that I wouldn't be landing any of those plum silver service gigs. No, I was only qualified for stewarding which was basically pointing at things that were further away and standing around in a high visibility jacket. My three years as a children's shoe fitter at Selfridges cut no ice here. Well, fair enough, I thought, a job's a job and money's money and various other tautologies.

I signed on for a day of stewarding at the races - can't remember which race course. It had horses at it, that's about the best I can do. We had to arrive early at the agency offices to be mini-bussed to the event and it was there that I met the people I was to be shackled with for the rest of the day. If hell is other people, I was in for a fiery day indeed...

To Be Continued

Sunday, 11 September 2011

She's A Boy

I was round at Chez Ma and Pa's the other night, working a late shift, when the phone rang. It was Gorgeous Girlfriend.

"Darth Vader's a boy!"

This statement left me completely surprised. As a self-confessed Star Wars fan (who has talked about the Wars extensively on this here blog), my reaction may well seem a little odd to you. As it happens, she was not referring to the character once known as Anakin Skywalker who grows up to become a Dark Lord of the Sith and slaughterer of Jedi. No. We're both well aware that he's a boy / hideously scarred cyborg-type thing.

No, she was in fact referring to our reasonably recently acquired black kitten who we had previously assumed to be a girl (and derived much amusement from then naming Darth Vader). Gorgeous Girlfriend had been sat with the kitten that day, happily tickling Vader's tummy when, Vader obviously being slightly happier with the tummy tickling than expected, out had popped Vader's old chap (well, we've all been there). Upon closer inspection, it was quite clear that there were a healthy pair of testicles located just underneath too. The knackers must have been a recently descended development as not only had we failed to notice them but the vet didn't notice them either when we took Vader for the standard set of injections.

So it turns out that she's a boy and I'm still getting used to describing her as him. I'm just hoping that he carries on being a cat and it doesn't turn out that we've got a bit of a funny-looking dog...

Friday, 9 September 2011

A Little Bit Off The Front - Part The Last

A short interval of time had passed. I was standing before the mirror with my hair-based masterwork revealed to me in all its glory. Except that glory was entirely the wrong word as my fringe was a diagonal, crenellated mess. It looked somewhat like someone had given me a fringe by cutting around a selection of seashells. I had utterly destroyed my hairstyle and made myself look like a mental patient. I was, in short, an idiot and the evidence of my idiocy was there for all to see. There was only one thing left to do:- some quick panicking followed by a dose of crying, ultimately culminating in slinking sheepishly downstairs to tell Ma and Pa what I'd done.

The folks mainly came down on the side of anger but there was also a healthy dose of amusement at the prize chump I'd made of myself. I did, after all, look like a right tit. It was shortly before bedtime so finding somewhere for an emergency haircut was out of the question. With a glint in his eye, my father stepped forward to solve the situation in his own inimitable way.

Dad is a D.I.Y. enthusiast and likes to have a specific tool, preferably power-driven, to provide a convenient solution to any potential household problem. The Problem Of His Eldest Son's Mangled Fringe was no exception. He'd sort this out, it would be all right and all he would need would be his trusty electric shaver with clipper attachment.

A short time later and Pops had finished his work. The angle of fringiness had been reduced from around 45 degrees to about 15 degrees and the amount of fringe was virtually non-existent. In short, I still looked like an idiot who had cut his own fringe as I now had a moptop haircut with a missing front piece.

There was a punishment for my stupid desecration of my own hair and that was to spend the following day at school with my mental patient barnet; a haircut was out of the question until after school had finished. The other children at school, being the kind generous souls that they were, teased me all day long. I spent as much time as possible with my hand clamped to my forehead and avoided every break time by skulking around in our upstairs classroom like some junior Quasimodo while my tormenters danced outside the windows. Suitable punishment indeed for I was never again tempted to cut my own hair with a pair of nail scissors. Or any scissors really.

There was one upside to the whole affair - my hair had to be cut so short that the moptop hairdo never returned. In retrospect, though, just asking Mum and Dad for a different haircut would probably have been less traumatic / moronic.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

A Little Bit Off The Front - Part The Second

The bathroom contained plenty of mirrors so I was all right on that front. Just the one vital ingredient missing then - some scissors. Cupboard doors were opened, shelves rooted through and only one pair of scissors was discovered - Ma's nail scissors. Fair enough, they would have to do.

Not too much of a problem, you may be thinking. Well, let me give you a bit more detail about them. Two blades and two loopy bits to put your fingers through in order to operate them - so far, so standard. However, these were those particular types of nail scissors with curved blades. Yes, you're probably getting an inkling where this is going. Run with that inkling. While you're at it, if you could also nip back and clue in my eight or nine year old self, that would be spiffing as that fella didn't see a single thing wrong with them.

Scissors grasped in hand and and hair secured between two fingers (like what the proper hair cutting people do), the first cut was made. And all I had done was manage to cut a noticeable semi-circular section out of fringe. At this point, I started to feel the creeping fear that something was going horribly wrong here as, one cut in, it didn't seem to be turning out the way that I had hoped. I had committed myself, though, and at this point if I'd just shown Mum and Dad the curved result of my cack-handed barber skills, the shouting would have begun. No, I could still fix this, it was only the first cut; if I just kept going, it was bound to all turn out alright, wasn't it? Wasn't it?

No, it wasn't.

To Be Continued

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

A Little Bit Off The Front - Part The First

Today's ramblings concern an object of myth and legend; an item which some claim to have knowledge of but whose existence has faded into memory with the inevitable passage of time. Once it proudly displayed itself to the world but today, it is a thing of rumour. I am talking about my fringe.

As I sit before you (not literally, of course, I've no idea where you are... unless, that is, you happen to be reading this quite near to me, in which case, give us a wave), it is hard to imagine that that vast tractless expanse of gleaming forehead was once held at bay by a bordering fence of hair. That is very much the case, though, for I was not always shiny of pate.

As a youth, I had a full head of thick hair which, as it continued to grow at a reasonable rate, needed frequent cutting (from what I understand, this is still standard operating procedure for hair). Mother was, is and ever shall be a Beatles fan and so, as a consequence, the hairstyle of choice that the Brother and I were subjected to was a sort of bowlish, 60s-style, moptop-like affair (cheerfully provided by our neighbour Lin down the road). This being the 1980s, however, our haircuts were naturally around twenty years out of date and we were duly ridiculed for them by the kind and generous souls who were our schoolmates (school children being one of the most evil creatures to walk the earth).

After our umpteenth trim into this same old hairdo, I decided that I'd had enough. My hair was starting to get long again and I wanted something different, something new and I knew just the person to do it - me. I'd seen Lin cutting our hair and it looked pretty easy - she just sort of snipped at it a bit and hey presto, freshly cut hair. I was pretty sure that I could manage that. All I needed was a pair of scissors and a mirror. To the bathroom...

To Be Continued

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

MacBook Girl, Greasy Guy And The Make-Up Lady

It's true, I don't want to speak to or engage in any sorty of communication with my fellow commuters but that doesn't mean that I'm totally oblivious to them. I know they're there, naturally, especially the ones who engage in an unspoken war of minor shifting in order to gain more ground on the double seat. I'm starting to recognise familiar faces, though; people like me who get on not just the same train but the same carriage every day of the week.

There's Oversized MacBook Girl, for example. She seems to have purchased the device with the main specification being that it's three times too large for her lap. She generally spends the entire thirty five minute frantically tapping away at her emails, whilst threatening to annex the lap of the person seated next to her (which has been me on occasion and has caused me to... well, betray no reaction whatsoever and try harder to focus on my book while trying to ignore her frantic tapping and the fact that I'm in danger of becoming a lap extension; it's the English way).

A stop or two further on, Greasy Hair Guy gets on. He has slightly thinning hair on top which he has slicked to within an inch of life and clumps together in thin slimy fronds at the top of his forehead. This combined with his small, beady eyes gives him the look of a man who hobbies include touching himself at inappropriate times and mole-strangling. He may well be a perfectly lovely bloke but he really needs to drop the creepy serial killer look.

Make-Up Lady is next and she spends the entire journey re-applying her make-up in a slow methodical fashion while staring into a ridiculously small hand mirror. I say "reapply" as it doesn't look as if she forgotten to put her make-up on before she left the house when she starts working away at her face. She reminds me of the two girls on one of the floors below at the office who spend their breaks busying away with hair straighteners in one of the meeting rooms (maybe hair needs that much constant attention - I don't know, it's a foreign country to me).

These are my fellow commuters then and I feel like, in some small way, I'm beginning to know them. Just don't any of you talk to me. I'm reading my book.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Back Once Again

Ah, two weeks of relaxing and recharging. Holidays are indeed a thing of wonder and beauty and wondrous beauty and beautiful wonder and so on and so forth. Then it turns out that you're back home again and suddenly you have to readjust to all these little habits you comfortably got out of, like:-

1. Walking. I've barely walked anywhere for the last two weeks. My daily commute involves three to four miles walking every day (partly out of choice to avoid tubes and buses). My "commute" over the last fortnight involved bed to sofa, sofa to sun lounger, sun lounger to pool, pool to sun lounger, sun lounger to sofa and sofa to bed, sometimes in different variations but always with a protracted period of being pretty much horizontal in between any of these journeys. It was a tough life but someone had to do it.

2. Mainly Reading On Commutes. I got through around ten or eleven books while we were away - near enough a book a day. Brilliant. And the previously mentioned new Electronic Book Reading Device was utilised non-stop. So long, large-chunk-of-the-luggage-allowance-taken-up-by-books. Hello, portable-e-library.

3. Not Drinking Beer At Any Time You Feel Like. What's that? Heading towards midday, you say? Yep, it's definitely past time for a beer. And then maybe time for another after that. We'll play it by ear from there.

4. Wearing Clothes. I've barely worn more than a pair of swimming trunks for a fortnight. Socks? What are these constrictive foot prisons I must wear? Oh, shoes, too? Cover up my man-boobs and beer belly, you say? Fascist!

So, all in all, good to be back, really. When's my next holiday? Oh.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Letter To My Newly Arrived Nephew

Dear Evan,

Hello, it's Uncle Nick again. Yep, head-wrong-way-up uncle, that's right. Just a quick one, really, to say welcome to the world. The bad news is that you don't get to go back in to that comfy, snug little room you've had all to yourself for the last nine months and you do have to stay in this bright place with all the big blobby things looming at you where you have to use your lungs and do breathing and stuff. Yeah, sorry about that.

The good news is that you've got a big old family that will love you and protect and care for you and, in all likelihood, spoil you absolutely rotten. Trust me, That Nephew Fella, this is a pretty damn good option.

We haven't actually met yet as I inconsiderately booked my holiday before I knew you were going to be born. I know, it's disgraceful uncling behaviour. Don't worry, I know when your birthday is now so you'll at least get a birthday card by Christmas from now onwards.

I'll be meeting you very soon. Try not to be too scared by the beard; the shiny glittering glasses and shiny, glittering head should keep you entranced, though, so focus on those.

Loads of love,
Uncle Baldy