Saturday, 10 September 2011

Just one more game?

I'd never have thought that in my twenties I'd be starting sentences with 'when I was young'- but...

When I was young, my friends and I used to spend all of our time playing outside.  I had a bike, a skateboard, a pogo stick, skates, stilts and when we'd tired of those things we'd just use our feet!  We'd run, hide, climb, skip- anything but go back indoors.  I'd often be called inside still protesting "Just 5 more minutes Mum, it's not that dark yet!".

On rainy days and dark evenings when we had to stay in, I'd spend hours in my own imagination.  I'd make homes for my dolls from shoe or cereal boxes, complete with furniture!  I'd cut out the shape of a person from cardboard and design them a whole wardrobe of clothes with tabs on so you could change their outfits depending on the next adventure.  I'd grow the tops of carrots in a dish on the window-ledge, collect snails and keep them as pets and race them (if they were lucky enough to survive!).  I'd make toys for the cats and play with them- even dressing them up and pushing them around the house in a pram!  I'd have a walkie-talkie and my friend up the road would have the other and we'd talk for hours and hours in silly codes, making plans for how we could get our parents to take us to the park so we could skate some more- even if it was still raining!  We had computers, Sega, Gameboy... but these were a treat and I don't ever remember sitting in front of them for hours on end until I was much older.

My point is, we used our imaginations.  At times of course we still drove our parents crazy with that famous cry, "I'm bored... what can I do?" but on the whole, we kept busy!  Time has passed and I now hear those words on a regular basis. 

Today, our children seem to be obsessed with computers and consoles.  I was genuinely concerned that the youngest of the three goblins appeared to have an addiction to the Xbox360.  Of course we only have ourselves to blame for making the introduction between them, but what started with educational games soon moved on to shoot-em-up and racing games.  Tantrums ensued whenever he must switch it off, he will literally play for hours on end, only stopping when absolutely necessary- such as for toilet breaks.  He loses the ability to hold a conversation or even look away from the screen.  Worrying, but familiar, I'm sure you'll agree.  Whilst home alone with the goblins this weekend, I decided to try and change this behaviour.  I decided that the best approach was not to ban the consoles, but provide alternatives to see if I could entice them away.  So this evening, the smallest walked in, greeted me with a hug, kicked off his shoes and turned on the Xbox.  I proceeded to clear the table, make us all drinks, unpack 'The Game of Life' board game and settle down to play.  Within 10 minutes, the Xbox was off, the goblins gathered around and we were enjoying a game- together.  No complaints, no tears- just chatter and laughter.  We played the game until bedtime and still they wanted to pick it up again in the morning!

Tomorrow we're going exploring.  We're taking the dog for a long walk- we don't know where yet, we shall see where we end up.  After that, we may collect some pet snails.

I love the goblins.  We grown-ups shape them for the future. I want them to have the same happy memories I have of growing up, not how many zombies they shot that day- unless, of course, they are imaginary ones in the garden.  There really is no excuse for allowing endless hours of video games for a quiet life.  Yes, we're all busy, no there are not enough hours in the day, but if you take the time to do something fun with them, you might realise, like I did, just how much we've all been missing out.

The ironing can wait, as can that paperwork- I have a game to finish!

B & Queues

It will come as no surprise to most of you that I like to shop.  I may be slightly addicted to that 'new stuff' feeling.  I love shopping mostly for clothes, shoes, handbags- the usual... but any shopping is great as far as I'm concerned.  There is just one thing that can spoil this treat- well, two things if you include lack of funds, but I'm referring to shop assistants.  I'm not sure that's the most accurate description since they rarely seem to 'assist' these days.

There are various types of these people.  There are some that are just too keen.  You're happily browsing away and there they are, lurking, waiting to pounce.

Them- "Can I help you?"
Me- "No thanks, I'm fine." *wait for them to leave*....  *they don't*
Them- "Oh, good choice.  I have that.  How about this?"

At this point, I'm wanting to leave the shop.  I don't want opinions, I don't care what's in your wardrobe and I certainly don't want to be bullied or persuaded to look at things that earn you commission.

There are the 'anti-sales' types that will do anything to avoid helping you.

Me-"Do you have any of these left in stock?"
Them- "I don't fink so."
Me- "Would you mind checking please?"
Them- *rolls eyes* "I fink we sold the last one yesterday."
Me- "Ok, but could you please check? Then we will both know, rather that you just 'finking'"

There are also those that mean well, but are just highly irritating.

Me- *picks up re-usable bag, clearly marked '10p', about to scan on self-service*
Them- "D'you need a bag, love?"
Me- "I have this one, thank you"
Them- "That's 10p you know, that one"
Me- "Yes, I see that... thank you." *Turns back to scan the bag*
Them- "You 'ave to scan that y'know"
Me- *Beginning to boil with rage* "Yes.  I'm about to- thank you. I'll ask if I need any help- thanks" *Gives reassuring smile*
Them-*still lurking whilst I scan and pack* "D'you wanna hand love?"

Seriously... and whilst we're on the subject- what happened to manners?  So many times have I waited for 'please' and 'thank you' to appear, but they don't!  I am a customer, you are serving me, at least thank me for purchasing something and helping to keep you in a job (that you don't seem to want and definitely don't deserve).  Try, just try, to speak properly- 'ain't' and 'dunno' are unacceptable and unnecessary.  Don't call me 'babe'.  If my hand is out, please put my change in it- not on the counter in front of me.  If you're having a conversation whilst I'm waiting to be served, that's ok, but at least acknowledge me- don't just carry on without so much as a glance in my direction- that is very rude.  I don't care what you did at the weekend, it makes no odds to me what he said, I don't give a damn what she said and don't think for a second that I care an ounce as to what happend next, so please, serve me, give me a smile, then by all means carry on.

I have also been on the other side of this- I have worked in shops in the past.  I have served the general public and I must say, we too can be a rude bunch.  Yes, I may have been paid to serve you, but is that phone call on your mobile so important that the entire queue must listen to you finish it before you put away that '1 minute' finger you are pointing at me and finish up with an insincere 'Sorry about that' when you really aren't.  I still deserve a thank you after packing your bag when you can't even be bothered to say hello.  I manage to say please, even if you haven't even realised I'm a human being that you are ordering your lunch from, the least you can do is say it back when you demand your sandwich.

Today I was at the supermarket self-service checkout.  I got to the end, fed my £20 note in, to which the machine said "Please insert cash, or touch 'pay with card."
My shopping was £8.50, I was pretty confident £20 covered it.  I flagged down the nearest assistant- "Excuse me, I've put my money in but it's still asking for payment.  Can you help please?"
"Nah, I don't work in this bit.  Wait for that woman." *Gestures vaguely whilst walking away*
Now I'm mad.  But here comes 'that woman' now.  Again, I explain my situation.
"Put some money in, it'll be alright then."
"You don't seem to understand, I have.  My £20 note is in there, it just hasn't registered it so I don't want to pay twice..."
"Yeah, put it in there- that one *points to cash slot*, that'll do it."
"No, you need to open the front of this machine, it already has my money- so you need to retrieve it and then I will try again."
"Err... I'll have to call someone.  I don't know what you mean."
Blood.  Boiling.

I shan't bore you with the rest of this tale, other than to tell you that eventually I got my cash back- after much arguing (on my part) and accusation (on theirs).

My least favourite shop is B & Q.  Not once have I ever had a pleasant experience shopping here.  As I said, I like all kinds of shopping, it is not the nature of goods for sale in this store that puts me off, but the incompetent staff.  Oh, the changes I would make to the staff in this place if I could.  Never have I been so enraged after such a short time in a place!  Mr T will confirm just how much I despise this shop- he often follows behind at a distance as I rant 'Can anyone in here actually help me? Or are you all incapable?'

Yes, I'm one of those people.  I can't abide rudeness and will vocalise this should somebody irritate me.

I suppose the solution is simple- if we, the public, remember our manners, remember that these people are at work, they are people and we should be equally as polite as we expect them to be to us and if they, the 'assistants' remember their manners and that we require their help and they are in fact being paid to provide this help- we should all just get along just fine.

Thank you- please come again!

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

You've got a friend in me

Just like everyone else at some point in their lives, I have made some bad decisions in the past.  I have treated myself badly and allowed myself to be treated badly.  It's not always easy to move on from bad choices and when you find yourself in a situation that seems impossible to get out of, it takes a lot of strength to get back on the right track.

I have been very fortunate in that I haven't had to find that strength alone.  I have a wonderful man, some very good friends and awesome parents- I haven't always treated them all as well as I should, nor have I devoted to them the time that they deserve- but when I'm in need, there they are.  When I've needed to escape and hide away, my parents have always had a spare bed for the night.  When I've needed to cry and be held and told that everything was ok, Mr T would always be there to turn to.  When I've needed to forget it all and let my hair down, my girls are there waiting with a bottle and a smile.

I've had times that I've been so low I've shut everyone out and not known how to face the World again.  I've been selfish and wallowed in self pity (can you hear the violins yet?).  When I've come out the other side, sometimes, barely making it- guess who's there waiting for me, to help me up, to carry me on.

As I've mentioned previously, as you will now know, I have only recently become Mrs T.  On our Big Day, I've never felt so loved.  By my wonderful husband, by my parents, by my friends and by my new family.  Those people waiting to helping me along in life joined forces and lifted me up.  My life-long friend was on hand to curl and powder and generally make us all beautiful- it just wouldn't have been the same without her.  My inspiration was there to snap away and capture our happy memories of our special day- and a truly wonderful job she did too.  My parents were there with a ribbon on their car, smiles on their faces and empty wallets of all that they could spare to help make our day magical.  Mr T's family were there waiting for me to arrive- I've never felt so welcome, they too made huge contributions to such an important day for us.  Mr T himself, a sight to behold, ever faithful, waiting for me- I've never been so proud.  Of course the 3 lovely goblins, all dressed up, happy to be part of the occasion- I couldn't ask for a more wonderful little family.

The people that I've always thought would stand by me, heart and soul, have disappointed.  The ones I thought would never let me down, never hurt me- these are the ones that cause the most pain.

The ones I have taken for granted, the ones that have loved me me selflessly, that I have neglected- there they are, still waiting for me.  For that I am truly grateful.

Thankfully I am now in a position to be happy, so happy.  I am now healthy, mind body and soul and I can finally say- I'm here for you too.  If you need me, I won't be far away.  If you don't- I'll still be here... just like you were. I would apologise for my behaviour in the past, but I now realise that there is no need, that there is nothing to forgive, I just have to be here. 

I can't thank you enough, but I can promise- you've got a friend in me.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Keys, anyone?

Why is it when you're in a hurry that the keys are nowhere to be seen? Late for work, hopping around at top speed with one shoe on, the other in hand, piece of toast hanging our of your mouth, dog happily playing in the garden suddenly deaf when you call her name...

You're just about ready,  grab an apple for the drive, wallet-check, phone-check, keys- bugger...

Where do they go?  We always enter the house in the same fashion, greet the dog (who apparently hasn't seen us for over a year by her reaction), dump bags and collected post in the kitchen and head for the sofa for that 'Aaaaaaah... ' feeling when you stop and recline for the first time all day.  So, the keys should be in the kitchen you say? Too easy.  In the door? Nope.  In the car? Not a chance.  We search high and low, on an almost daily basis! Where do they go?

Well, actually, usually into Mr T's pockets which he discards along with his jeans into the wash basket at the first opportunity.  But when this is the first place we check? Of course not.

One of life's mysteries I suppose, destined to make you late along with the binmen, the old coffin-dodger that should have handed in his driving licence long ago and the annoying cyclist that insists on moving as slowly as possible in the centre of the road.

But now I must go, we need to fill the fridge before the 3 hungry goblins arrive home from school, walk the dog and they'll be out of school in about 2 hours...

Keys, anyone?

Monday, 5 September 2011

Dog and all

I recently became Mrs T, very recently- Thursday in fact.  It was the perfect day, the sun was shining, those that were there to celebrate with us were full of support for us- a truly wonderful day.  Mr T looking smart in his posh suit, me in my fancy dress as 'The Queen' as a dear friend's daughter described me! We couldn't have asked for more. As tradition goes, after a wedding comes a honeymoon, so off on honeymoon we went...

We'd booked into a hotel by the name of 'The Royal Court' for a long weekend, this one was dog friendly so along came our companion Mackie, the troublesome chocolate lab.  We were full of excitement for our stay as newlyweds in our 'Executive Suite' with jacuzzi bath- the pictures on the website looked amazing!  We pulled up, lugged our bags in (I may have over packed for a weekend!) and struggled to reception- dog and all.  Happy-chappy on reception checked us in, directed us to our room and off we went lugging heavy bags- dog and all.  5 long corridors, 3 flights of stairs and 3 old couples later- "Oh isn't he adorable!", "She can be, yes, thank you"- we reached our room.

Key in the door- yes an actual key, not a swipe card... bad sign- we stumbled in to find... well, a manky mattress in the middle of a room with decor inspired by a retirement home and a television set that seemed to have survived from the 80's!  Executive suite my arse elbow!  The only saving grace was the jacuzzi bath- it was present as promised in the en suite... if a little yellow and worn.

Back to reception we struggled, back along 5 long corridors, down 3 flights of stairs and passed many more old couples (sensing a theme here?) to reception.  We explained to happy-chappy on reception the situation, how there must be a mistake, this is our honeymoon - pause for congratulations... awkward silence, continue- we had booked an executive suite and this was more 'bargain basement'.  He checks his computer (also from the 80's) and explains that our room is most definitely an executive suite.  After some debate about what defines the room as 'executive' we agree to take a look at another room- the only other vacant room in the hotel that night.  You get the idea- off we trundle around the hotel in search of this other room- dog and all.  We open this door- onto the bed.  The door literally opened onto the bed!  Small?  I had more room to move in my old fiesta!  Back to the 'Executive Suite' we go.

We decide to make the best of it, we set the bath running, unpack a few bits, settle the dog in her bed and head for the bathroom.  We thought we'd found the silver lining, we'll spend the weekend soaking the hours away in the jacuzzi bath!  We turn on the power, prepare to jump in- and the jets shoot out some murky, suspiciously brown crap 'stuff'... not so appealing.  Oh well- a nice walk with the pup around the 'many beautiful acres' described in the brochure.  Or, after checking with happy-chappy, a trudge around the neighbouring football pitch as the rain came down!

To the bar- this can't go wrong... and it didn't.  Until the wedding party spilled out into the main bar with us at which point we decided to retire to bed- it had been a long drive after all.

So, the dog is settled, we are showered (neither of us braved the bath) and ready for bed.  We throw back the duvet in a hurry to jump in (we are newlyweds after all!) and both pause at sight of the mattress.  Collapsed in the middle, springs protruding on either side, generally sad looking, this mattress had seen better days.  We shrugged, tried to have a cuddle without obtaining an injury and resorted to watching a bit of TV.  Of course the remote had no batteries, of course the buttons on the TV no longer worked, of course we just resigned ourselves to watching 'Red or Black' or whatever the title of the dull game of chance was called.  At which point we noticed an odd smell.  I blamed Mr T, he blamed the dog.. even the dog was taking refuge at the far side of the room.  After much 'sniffing' about the place, we found the source of the odour... the bed linen.  I can only describe this fragrance as... well, feet.  Nasty, unwashed, summers-day-walked-a-mile-in-trainers-with-no-socks feet.  I do not like feet.  I don't like the look, the smell, the feel, the general presence of feet.  At all.  Ever.  Least of all do I like them up my nose.  We couldn't stand the thought of facing happy-chappy's 'how can I (not really) help you?' service again, so we put up and shut up.

Six o'clock the following morning, after very little sleep- sadly from the sharp pain of springs in my back rather than the reason you may expect- I took Mack for a very long, very muddy walk in the rain.  She loved it and seeing her so happy cheered me up remarkably.  Back at the hotel, dear Mr T was at reception trying to get us an upgrade to a less odorous, more comfortable room- preferably with a clean, working bath- and I arrived back just as we were being advised to enjoy the facilities and check back in an hour to see if a room was available.  Off we went to the pool feeling much brighter.  A little dip in the pool, a little time in the steam room followed by the hot tub... bliss.  Only the pool was full.  Full of old people.  The spa was out of action.  The bar was closed.

We decided to cut our losses, back to the room we went to pack with muddy pup in tow.  Mr T took the bags down to the car, I made a final check of the room and the bathroom- to return to find a very muddy, very pleased with herself Mackie stood in the middle of the bed, on the cheesy white sheets, about to shake.  Whilst I knew I should spring into action and do the right thing and chastise the dog, I found myself saying 'Good girl!' in a high-pitched, excited voice that belonged to someone else entirely.  I turned over the duvet, hurried down to the car and away we went- dog and all.

In the words of dear Dorothy, 'There's no place like home'.  We were home early, but our television has working controls, our bed is comfortable and smells of freshly laundered sheets and whilst our bathtub may not have bubbles (unless you include Mr T's own brand), it is clean.

The moral of the story? Well there isn't one really, I'm just British and can't help but complain, but there's more to a honeymoon than where you are.  Mr T and I managed to have plenty of laughs along the way and the point was we got to spend some valuable time together- dog and all.