Speed traps

January 12, 2013

I try not to drive too much, because living in London – well, ok, Brentford – generally renders a car unnecessary, expensive (congestion charge), a target for thieves unless you pay a fortune for a garage, and a general waste of time, money and emotional capital.

Thus it was with some trepidation that I finally made use of my zipcar account last week. This was partly because I was dpi g some work for them (online direct mail, or if you prefer, e-newsletters) and partly because I had to move some stuff for Magnus, my son and heir.

Hmm. Well, I haven’t told you about Magnus. I’ve been blogging for , without looking, a couple of years now, and I may not have talked about him much on here because, well, to be brutally frank, we haven’t seen eye to eye for some years.

There is much of his mother in him, but no great evidence of me, which sometimes makes me think uncharitably of his mother… Oh there’s the doorbell … To be continued.

Where was I? Oh yes, Magnus, and his stuff. Well, I was curled in my Minnie driver onesie last Friday night when the doorbell rang. Answering it, I found a tall young fellow who much to my surprise, embraced me and tearfully blurted out ‘dad!’ as if in some strange unaccountable way, we might be related. Now, I didn’t stint myself-3-


Chasing hounds

January 6, 2013

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there are an awful lot of joggers at 7:30 am. I see them each morning from my balcony window (as I tend to the geraniums in my dressing gown, obviously) on their way to the river. Some are fat, their wobbly bits jiggling as they  puff along and I  know that for them this is a fad, a New Year resolution that will evaporate quicker than they can pant to ten. Others are seasoned proper runners who sprint with the ease of an Olympic athlete. I can, of course, also tell that they are proper runners because their faces are saggy and their jowls wobble like a St Bernard dog’s. That, of course, is the real reason why I don’t run. No saggy jowls for me, I’ll have you know. Well, that and my dodgy knees, but let’s not get into that.

Anyway, I have thought about getting fit. I think about it quite a lot, but you know how it is. I did quite take a fancy though, to the gold plated dumb bells I was told to write a pitch for last week. Great big shiny things that looked like – well, not dumb bells. They were curved and golden and long and I couldn’t quite see how, if you were really going to use them for a spot of weight lifting, you could easily grasp them. They were, if truth be told, a bit phallic and a bit rude. I wondered if they were really intended as sex toys, but then my imagination failed me and I couldn’t see what you would do with them. Emily, the new office PA obviously did though, because she and that silly girl she works with kept making excuses to walk past my desk and giggle. So immature.

Anyway, one thing I did learn about Emily during her many detours to my desk was that she likes being chased by hounds. Proper hounds. Emily is a cross-country runner, you see, only she is one of those who thinks nothing of doing 15 miles with salivating hunting dogs hot on her heels. Apparently it is all the craze in the fox loving country set. Those inclined let dogs become familiar with their scent and then let them hunt them across the freezing countryside, thereby saving the good old British fox.

“You should try it one day, Alan,” she said, and then, looking me up and down added: “Well, may be just come and watch. The idea is not to get caught, you see.”

Very funny.

I give her ten years before she gets that saggy jowl look. That’s if the hounds don’t catch her first, of course.

What I really, really want

January 5, 2013

I don’t get very many presents at Christmas.I drop a few hints, but there is something a bit British and embarrassing about asking for something that you really, really want. I know the Spice Girls made a lot of money about singing about what they really, really want, but they’re girls so probably got what they wanted anyway.

Other than me, of course, every other man on the morning tube appears to have very generous friends this Christmas. I have never before seen so many i-pads and tablet computers and kindles.  Terribly useful gifts, particularly because  gadgets assist in the avoiding of fellow commuter eye-contact – and you get to watch Danish murder dramas on your way to work – wonderfully time-saving.

Anyway, as I said, I dropped a few hints this year, but must admit I might have been a bit too subtle.  I briefly pointed at something practical in a magazine (i-pads are practical, aren’t they, allowing you to read emails on the move?) and I got a woolly hat. It’s a nice woolly hat, but it is a woolly hat nonetheless  And the jumper is a jumper and the expensive stuff to put in the bath is, well, expensive stuff that goes down the plughole.I quite like the shortbread biscuits, though. And the bottle of vodka was a fabulous idea, so perhaps some of the hints I dropped were less subtle than I thought.

And I am not ungrateful, really I am not.

Thank you for the hand knitted socks, Aunt Mildred.


Year of the Sheep….

January 1, 2013

Apparently, according to the Chinese Calendar it is the year of the Black Snake.  I am a Sheep, so regrettably it appears that I am doomed for  a year of misfortune and dismay. How do I know? That great British tabloid, the Daily Mail, of course. Apparently 2013 will be a sub-optimal year for all who have the misfortune to have been born Sheep. Bah.

I hadn’t realised I was a Sheep. I had thought I was a Rat (not exactly the most attractive of creatures but you have to admit there is something a bit racier about being a rat than a sheep).  Or a cockeral (hmm, sexy even). But perhaps that was last year.

Sheep are dull. I like a nice bit of roast  lamb on a Sunday, but I can’t say that sheep are interesting in any other way. When I was a boy, my mother told me to stop being a sheep  and give up on following the girls every other boy fancied (looking back, her advice probably had a good deal to do with the fact that I never got lucky). Any how,  I took her advice and ended up with the Peacock wife. Well, at least I didn’t have to compete against Randy Ron. He called her a bit queer (in the old sense of the word, of course).

So this is me in 2013.  Happy New Year to all Sheep!

Christmas for commuters

December 20, 2012

I may have mentioned that I am commuting out. Well, in and out, since I have to change at Feltham. I am tempted sometimes to spend the day in the company of some young offenders, especially when I’ve missed a train and am facing a long wait, but I haven’t succumbed. Not yet, anyway.

No, I go nearly every day to Reading, queen of the Thames valley. And why, I hear you all chorus as one? Well, of course, there is only one reason. Money.

I go out there to try to enliven the prospects of a once mighty technology empire that now seems to have fallen behind the curve, as we say in tech land.

It is quite pleasant in that I am taken to be the wise old owl in the company of a lot of younger and thrusting squirrels, bit one of the sad things about this recession is that people don’t change jobs as much as they did a few years ago, but rather stay put, so there is little young blood.

The youth and thrustingness seems to come from an excess of testosterone, caused – in my view – by too much time in the company gym, which is a heaving mass of masculinity at 7.45 in the morning, when I check in for a reviving sauna, to ease my ageing bones and listen to the gossip. That and the smoking shed outside are the two places where you really learn what is going on.

Yesterday, for example, I heard a share tip which if I acted on it would probably have got me sacked and most likely a few years at her majesty’s pleasure, which might ease the looking pension problem but do little for my health in other ways.

Flashing nipples

November 17, 2012

I have been down South for so long, that the family back home call me a southern softie. I don’t often head up north. Since my mother passed away (bless her, she could never understand why I wanted to live in west London with a motorway running behind my flat), there is little reason to go back home other than for funerals, weddings and the like. So when I headed back up the M1 last weekend, it was with some trepidation. As I drove (in the left hand lane, obviously, none of that sitting in the middle lane I’ll have you know), I tried to get back a bit of the Northern  boy I’d left behind. After having an imaginary conversation with the Peacock wife for at least 20 minutes, I managed to get a bit of the old Derbyshire lilt back and, by the time I got to the outskirts of South Normantan you’d never have thought I made my living at some arty-farty ad agency in namby-pansy London.  I had almost managed to convince myself that I worked down some mine  (well, okay, no mines in South Normanton nowadays, but you get my drift).

The good thing about weddings up North is the amount of beer you are expected to consume. Within 30 minutes of arriving, I’d managed to drown two pints of the local ale (and that was before the actual ceremony). By the time the groom had kissed the bride and all the ceremonial stuff was over, I was pretty hammered. So much so, that when, on the dance floor, one of the bridesmaids gyrated, her nipples flashing white, blue and red, I didn’t think anything of it. In fact, I thought it rather patriotic and somewhat fitting following the success of London 2012. It was only much later, when I lay between the starched sheets of the hotel single bed, pondering on the events of the day, that I realised that flashing nipples were not really normal. Well, not in West London. I wondered whether she had little light bulbs under her dress, or whether she’d stuck them over the taffeta,  and how she managed to get them to flash in time to Thriller. 

You’d never see flashing nipples in boring Brentford.  I might have to go back home again. May be.

The Gaff with The Hammock

September 28, 2012

Sorry, sorry, sorry to both of you out there waiting with baited breath for the latest instalment of my exciting life. The truth is, once the Olympics and the Paralympics finished, I went into a sort of post-Olympic tristesse, only to be awakened a couple of weeks ago by a recruiter anxious, nay, desperate, to find me a job worthy of my talents.

Now I get calls, even at my age, a couple of times a week, trying to do just that, but once they find that the client really wants a 25 year old called Emma who goes riding in the country every weekend, they realise that an old Northerner called Alan really won’t do, and they go all silent.

So imagine my surprise, dear reader,when one of those calls actually results in something. At a reasonable rate, although admittedly out in the Heart of Berkshire (which is what Conrad wanted to call his novel until his publisher persuaded him that ‘Darkness’ had a better ring to it). This will involve that terrible thing called Commuting, but I shall stock up on mummy porn on my Kindle and the journeys should pass pleasantly enough, and I can claim the exorbitant rail fares back, so it means less tax to pay.

I have to say, ever since the dot-com days when every self-respecting office had table football, a basketball hoop and free fruit, one corporate necessity that seems to have passed everyone by, is the humble hammock.  It can’t just be me who needs a post-prandial snooze, even if that prandium (lunch for those of you like David Cameron who can’t translate simple Latin words) is a prawn baguette and a Muller light.

No, I really don’t understand why HR teams look askance on that. It needn’t get in the way, it’s no more intrusive than company showers and piles of towels in reception. I think it must be down to the rather dopey idea that people should be firing on all cylinders all through the day. Not only is this physiological hogwash, it amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. Many’s the office I’ve worked in where you could walk into the gents at around 2.30 pm and hear the gentle sound of snoring from behind a locked cubicle door.

Stand up for hammocks, I exhort you. Though don’t stand up in them, obviously. Health and safety…