They say that midlife brings a certain crisis to men leaving them with a need to complete an unfulfilled goal. For some this involves the purchase of a motorbike with more chrome than is good for you. For others a clothing makeover is undertaken aimed at somehow recapturing their youth.
I have noticed a rather surprising trend in this respect in the number of middle aged men driving open top cars; especially when you consider the weather in these parts.
How often do you see men in their late forties or early fifties driving convertibles with the top still up because the water content in the atmosphere could ruin their luxury leather upholstery.
When a sunny day does arrive it is seized upon as a perfect way of justifying their decision to buy a roofless motor. Of course these occasions normally occur on Wednesday afternoons when most people are at work.
Then, every Silsden flood or so, a week of rain is followed by a Sunday of kinder conditions when our middle-aged heroes come into their own (or should that be go out on their own).
The hills and dales are filled with two-seater convertibles as couples pretend to be enjoying the wind destroying their neatly coiffured hair. You can’t imagine they could have a good conversation without having to shout at each other above the noise of the other traffic; give me air-conditioning any day.
A few weeks ago we went for drive in our car with a roof in the general direction of Ilkley deciding to stop off a pub on the tops for a bite to eat. We sat for a while after our meal and stared lazily at the incredible view before us, occasionally glancing at the cars arriving to find room at the inn.
It wasn’t long before several convertibles arrived seemingly in convoy; it looked like a mid-life crisis day out. I have to admit they looked quite good in their vehicles as the sun dared to peak from behind its usual grey blanket to smile on them; I almost felt a tinge of envy (I said almost); they were having their one day in the sun so you had to allow them a bit of showing off.
Within a few minutes, however, we were distracted by a loud noise above us as a helicopter circled, and then landed in the field adjacent to the beer garden. The pilot circled a few times which I presume was an important part of his approach to landing although it seemed like he was just enjoying the sight of us all holding on to garden umbrellas.
Once he ‘parked’ his chopper we joined the rest of the pub clientele, leaving our drinks to stand and watch this incredible sight; probably hoping to see a celebrity or two emerge.
Once the blades had stopped their whirring a fairly ordinary looking family appeared from the gleaming copter and joined the other revellers in their search for good ale and food. We all returned to our seats and our conversations slightly disappointed not to be in the presence of someone famous.
I had to feel slightly sad for the open top car drivers as they were severely beaten in the ‘looking cool’ stakes. They all looked a bit saddened by the appearance of the helicopter family and it wasn’t long before they climbed in to their vehicles to find a pub that didn’t welcome pilots.
We didn’t wait to watch the flying family take off again because we had plans to look around quaint shops in Ilkley and Skipton. I took one last look at the monster of a machine in the field not far from where I had parked my car and was comforted that the helicopter same colour as my Passat; at least we had that in common.
They say that midlife brings a certain crisis to men leaving them with a need to complete an unfulfilled goal. For some this involves the purchase of a motorbike with more chrome than is good for you. For others a clothing makeover is undertaken aimed at somehow recapturing their youth.
I took a day off work last week in order to get a few jobs done that had been building up for some time. You know! Those jobs that you convince yourself you will do on a Saturday morning but find that weekends are eaten up with other more important things, like watching cookery programmes on TV or trying to finish off that killer suduko that has been plaguing you for days.
I planned my day off to include a short, but well deserved, lie in and a breakfast that included bacon; chewing rabbit food every morning is more a chore than a pleasure. And, to ensure that I didn’t fritter away my time, I had written a list of important jobs.
When I woke on the morning of my much anticipated free day I noticed that some additions had been made to my agenda, in my wife’s hand writing I might add.
Apparently she felt that it would be a good use of my time to tidy up the wire drawer. I am not sure if every home has one but in our house we have a space specifically reserved for all the chargers, computer connectors, camera leads and other electrical odds and ends.
The development of this draw, like most home ideas, started off with good intentions; we were constantly being asked by the girls if we had seen the fire wire for the video camera or similar (as if we even knew what a fire wire was). We were so frustrated by the sight of daughters dashing around at the last minute trying to find a connector in order charge a phone that my wife suggested we choose one place that would become a safe haven for wires.
Now, after only a short while since the drawer was commissioned for its new purpose, it has started to develop a life of its own. Resembling a scene from an episode of Star Trek where an explosion has caused a panel to fall off the wall of the bridge, our drawer spews forth wires from every corner. It has also developed the ability to knot all the cables together during the night so that when you come to retrieve your much needed adapter you spend hours trying to untangle the spaghetti. This newly formed eco-system has grown so much that it is virtually impossible to now close the drawer.
It took me the best part of the morning, broken only by the delicious consumption of pig meat, to make any sense of the entanglement. I laid all the wires out on the floor in long straight lines and tried to work out what they were for.
I felt slightly annoyed that although we only have four mobile phones in the house we had seven different chargers. As well as the question about the Molineaux family’s inability to throw things away this raises another issue.
Why don’t all mobile phones manufacturers use the same type of charger?
Perhaps there are technical reasons that are beyond my limited subject knowledge but surely if you are cleaver enough to design a device that can not only allow you to talk to other people but can let you surf the internet, play music, and take digital photographs, why can’t you design a wire to fit all types of phones?
The world is full of such duplications; whether it is starter motors for your car or tv remote controls every new thing you buy will require a new version of a very basic component.
I suppose it is due to companies competing for market share with their latest inventions that leads this. In the days of the VHS/Betamax battle for home video players it was the same; pieces of equipment that were designed to do the same job yet not compatible with each other. Before that it was the compact cassette verses the cartridge and I am sure there have been many examples since.
I wonder if any one is still using a Betamax machine to record the telly; if so I think I have cable for it in my wire drawer.
Our youngest daughter is about to turn eighteen and I am feeling decidedly old. The problem is not directly related to her age as much as to how I will now have to answer the question ‘Do you have any children?’
It forms one of the many introductory questions that we Brits ask when meeting new people. Others include ‘Do you live locally?’, ‘Where do you work?’, and ‘Are you married?’ What an interesting bunch we are.
They are only beaten by the age old favourite for this island race of ‘What do you think of this weather we are having?’
There was a time when I used to simply answer the ‘Do you have any children?’ question with ‘Yes I have four daughters’ and then continue into details of the fact that there is two years apart between each of them as if this showed some sense of planning on the part of myself and my wife.
Now, however, I have to face up to answering it by replying with ‘I have four grown up daughters’. Grown up daughters! It makes such a statement about ones age.
It is interesting to me how we allow such things to define us.
When we announced to the world about the birth of our first daughter we were both only twenty-four and it marked an important moment in our journey into adulthood. Looking back I know that we were not prepared for all that parenthood was to bring.
All that I can say is that each new stage hopefully brings the necessary skills required to deal with the responsibility of bringing up a whole other person.
There seems to be four distinct phases in the process that should be considered by any prospective, or current, parent.
Firstly, you are faced with the ‘Bundle of Joy’, a misnomer if ever I had heard one. Of course they represent joy for the wider family and, in the initial stages, for the new parents too. They also signal nights of nappies, vomit, sleep deprivation, and marital arguments; Joy is not the word most new parents would ascribe to this experience.
Added to this is the fact that it is pretty much all one way traffic in the relationship stakes with very young babies; you might convince yourself that they have just smiled at you but everyone else knows it was just the result of wind.
The next stage is slightly more interesting when they reach ‘Little Person’ status. Here they engage with the world in an energetic, if not sometimes, slightly annoying way. It is the days of the ‘Why?’ question being asked at the end of every conversation and where parents break there own commitment not to follow the own mum and dad in saying ‘Because I said so’.
Still it remains fun because you get to see the child develop a personality and see the real them.
A short time later they hit the ‘Teen Terror’ stage and your child disappears from view to be replaced by a lodger dropping into the family communal areas to eat, complain, ask for money, arrange lifts, argue loudly, and then disappear to the underworld of their bedroom; it is like a youth version of ‘Eats, Shouts, and Leaves’.
Fortunately for all concerned there comes another stage that draws all the others together, the ‘just about an adult stage’. This is where it starts to dawn on them that, despite all of their previous objections, parents do actually know something.
It is as if your kids have been away on a journey of self discovery and have now returned to listen and share.
So when your kids are ‘Bundles of Joy’ don’t expect much conversation (from children or your partner. When they are ‘Little Persons’ try to keep smiling whilst they ask ‘Why?’, this too will pass. When they become ‘Teen Terrors’ hope and, if it is your way, pray that all the good stuff that you taught them will hold fast.
And when they finally get to be ‘just about adults’ enjoy it because more than likely you will be just about to hit the ‘I am a grandparent’ stage.
I have reached the age when I have the need to utter phrases like ‘Is it Friday again, the weeks come around so quickly!’
This feeling is only beaten by the speed at which Mondays arrive signalling the end of the weekend and the return to work.
It seems that the progression of the years brings about an increase in routine fuelled by a distinct aversion to change.
We have friends who, noticing this development in their own lives, decided to do something about it. They had read a book advising them to add some variety to their lives by changing one thing that they did as part of their normal lives.
So, with full commitment to the cause, they shopped at a different supermarket for their weekly produce. Not exactly cutting edge thinking Anne and John (you know who you are!).
Having been in the new store only a few minutes they undid their new found appreciation of change and decided to go back to their usual retailer the following week. It seems that not all supermarkets fill their shelves in the same order and this can cause a serious amount of inconvenience to the previously happy shopper. How inconvenient that different things should be………different!
I understand their feelings towards change; it seems that it is easy to find comfort in the familiar. Occasionally I vary my route to work but it is normally due to traffic congestion rather than the search for variety.
When I was younger change seemed to be a welcome friend but now it breaks in to my normality as if to steal some of my comfort.
All this resistance seems at odds with the involuntary change that is happening to us all of the time. I would love to be able to slow down the increase in my waistline or the development of lines around my eyes but, this form of change happens without invitation.
I wonder whether the growing suspicion of all things that alter is a direct result of the feeling that we cannot slow down the aging process no matter how much we moisturise, exfoliate, or tone (probably in the wrong order but you get my point).
Perhaps the advice to bring some variety to our usual routine is useful in helping us to feel like we still have some control over our ever evolving lives.
So this week why not buy your fruit and veg from a different store, travel an alternative way to work, eat a new type of cereal for breakfast, or tune your car radio to another station.
As long as you can still get your cherry tomatoes, arrive at work on time, stave of the 11 o-clock hunger pangs, and put up with Radio One all will be fine.
On second thoughts I think I will keep things the same and listen to a Radio Station that plays music. Change is so overrated!
I gave my wife a digital camera for her birthday just a few weeks ago and it has disrupted our usually precise routine.
She seems determined to record our every waking moment and so now all of our tasks take twice as long. I am not sure whether this new obsession is an age related thing because, as I feel the need to point out, I am three weeks younger than Mrs M.
It is not just the taking of pictures that has added years to every minute but the additional process now required to make use of the images.
There was a time when a 24 frame film was consumed out of a sense of duty, full in the knowledge of the fact that at least 20 shots would be discarded as virtually useless. Only after the full roll has sat on your shelf for several months will you get around to dropping it in for developing.
Now, with the advancement of digital photography, we are faced with the frightening prospect of every shot being placed on view electronically. Needless to say I am somewhat concerned; I don't have the physiology to allow for too many pictures to be taken with any confidence.
In the days of film there was the natural censorship of the cost of developing at the back of your mind. The picture taker would have had the good grace to at least wait for you to smile and breath-in before pressing the button. Now they just take shot after shot without any care, safe in the knowledge that they can, in theory, erase them later.
Once my bride has filled up a storage disk with pics she is ready to download them onto the computer. I say she is ready when what I actually mean is she is waiting to be shown how to do it for the umpteenth time.
Invariable we cannot remember where we have put the connecting wire even though we have a special drawer for such things. Several minutes and many arguments later we sit down to press all the correct buttons in the right order so that our memories can be stored.
Once this part of the process is complete my wife then wishes to 'Facebook' them (she cares nothing about turning nouns into verbs) and so the logging on to the internet and uploading fun begins.
This is probably the area of digital photography that causes me both the most pleasure and the most pain. There are pictures of me on the world wide web in poses that should not be seen: part way through eating a pie on a day out, half asleep on a deck chair, looking petrified on the Manchester Eye, and spilling decent red wine down my shirt on a night out in Saltaire. Added to these are the numerous shots of me mouthing the words 'Don't take another picture!' I am usually caught mid way through the 'O' of another and looking like a slightly disappointed baboon.
The delight comes in laughing at my many friends who have been caught in similar positions by their partners.
At least my wife can take a decently framed photo. I, on the other hand, produce snaps with the edge of my finger appearing like a shadow in the top left hand corner; I like to make my mark.
So digital photography has removed from our language words and phrases like negative, developing, over exposed, and photograph album. And replaced them with ‘where did you put the wire?’, ‘You should have cleared your old pics off the disc by now’, ‘Could no-one be bothered to charge the battery up’ and ‘why did you put that one on Facebook’.
My wife asked me what I wanted for my birthday when I reach the same age in three weeks time and I am pretty sure that I don’t want a digital camera; one pictorial historian in the family is enough I think.
Mrs M doesn’t seem phased that I have named her such, she just points out that if history is written by the victors then all the power lies with those who own a digital camera.
In a recent quiz we were challenged to think of twenty well known proverbs; fine you might think! If we weren’t under the pressure of having to come up with them to save our team’s honour against other collections of humanity it would be fine. As it was we were struggling big time.
We could come up with three straight away and then all went blank. I don’t want to blame age as a the main cause of our unfruitfulness but it does seem to be a recurring theme these days as we rush our way towards fifty not out. The memory loss is one thing but the propensity to be easily distracted is another.
Our first two proverbs caused me the most problem in this respect. ‘Two many cooks spoil the broth’ and ‘Many hands make light work’. I couldn’t help pondering how such seemingly simplistic proverbs could be so diametrically opposed. With these two sayings we are faced with a serious problem when it comes to soup making; either we suffer the consequence of having too much staff in the kitchen and consume sub-standard minestrone, or we find it to be such hard work due to lack of help that we become too exhausted to eat it.
When we finally got going with our quiz answers we were faced with other contradictory problems. How am I supposed to believe that I am ‘never to old to learn’ if at the same time it is impossible to ‘teach an old dog new tricks’. This never seemed to be problem when I was younger but now it has a certain poignancy.
When I was in my twenties I was happy to try new things living by the spirit of the youthful saying ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’. Now, however, it appears that the power of this saying has been reduced by the fact that is ‘better to be safe than sorry’.
I turned to my team mates and asked them if they felt a similar amount of confusion at this point; after all we were joined together because we had much in common, as if confirming the truism ‘birds of a feather flock together’. Nobody else shared my concern leaving me to feel slightly excluded until one of our group pointed out that ‘opposites attract’; thus proving my point. I think perhaps I am at the age where I should make up my own proverbs that fit with my midlife status. Try these:
‘Whatever hair you lose on you head grows in your ears and nose’
‘If it is not on the shopping list it doesn’t get bought’
‘Pastry can only be eaten once a week’
‘If you wear that style of clothes long enough it will eventually come back in fashion’
This one is important because after all ‘clothes maketh the man’ although, come to think of it you shouldn’t ‘judge a book by its cover’ so it doesn’t matter after all. Confused! I think we should let sleeping dogs lie.
Its all been a bit gloomy on the news over recent weeks and it is quite tempting to stop watching so that you are not faced with depressing pictures. I am, rather unwisely, partial to a spot of burying my head in the sand.
The problem with this approach is that you can easily miss things that you might want to see. I have developed a cunning method for deciding whether to hit the off button during the bulletin. It involves listening to the news readers tone as they introduce the piece. If they start in a bright ‘it feels like a Friday afternoon’ voice then you know that they will be talking about fluffy subjects like abseiling vicars and celebrities doing charity work.
If, however, they begin to talk in sombre tones it is sure sign that trouble is brewing.
It is the same principle as being able to guess the score of the football match as the reporter reads the results on a Saturday afternoon.
I had hoped that I might be able to transfer this new found skill to watching the weather report but the presenters are not as helpful in this respect.
They must be trained to speak in an ‘I have the best job in the world’ kind of voice no matter what the weather conditions. Smiling, almost smugly, they announce that storms will be covering the country.
I don’t mind them being happy when it is going to be sunny but do they have to enjoy telling us to expect grey skies and showers.
Thinking about the summer we have just missed out on perhaps they have had to try and over compensate in order to keep us watching.
Some years ago when Michael Fish brought us news of the climate he would do so in a fully professional way only offering us an occasional smile or chuckle when asked if a hurricane was about to hit our shores. He was more understated, of course, when he came on our screens to apologise later that same week.
You have to feel slightly sorry for weather men and women when it comes to presenting the forecast especially when you consider the last few months.
My father-in-law, with his eighty-eight years of experience refuses to trust them because for years he compared the picture on the screen with the summer view he experienced on his holidays.
Every year he would ring up from a caravan site in Cornwall to tell us that ‘it is glorious sunshine’ and for us not to believe the big black cloud depicted on the map just after the news that evening.
‘They just read it off a piece of paper’ he would say in his broad northern accent as if to imply that they knew nothing and were being fed lines.
I can always tell what he is going to say as soon as I answer the phone and here his very positive voice declaring ‘its sun shining here!’
I wonder if they need any eighty-eight year old weather forecasters.
After spending what seems like weeks moving house we finally have a free weekend; well in theory at least.
I had approached this minor miracle in our social life with a certain amount of anticipation until my wife uttered the “P” word in reference to it.
I am not sure if this happens in other households but in mine it seems an all too frequent occurrence and so I have come to dislike the word “pottering”.
I dared to ask my wife for a definition so that I could attempt to gain back some control of my promised free weekend.
Apparently, by the list she reeled off, it consists of doing the things around the house that have built up over time.
Correct me if I am wrong but that just sounds like work and it seems to be at odds with the very notion of having a relaxing weekend.
I mean, anything that has the potential to produce a list or require the use of a screwdriver must be categorised as graft in my book.
My wife, however, approaches this possibility with an undue amount of glee; it seems that she relishes the opportunity of pottering.
I tried to tie her down to a time frame for the proposed time that we should potter on Saturday and she gave non-committal answers like ‘We shall see’ and ‘It depends’.
Needless to say I don’t feel comforted by this; I could probably take it for a couple of hours but after that it would just become a chore.
I dared to ask whether I needed to clock in to planet pottering before we start but my words were lost on Mrs M who had set off to the basement with a dustpan and a giant sized list of her favourite jobs.
It seems right to me that if I am going to be forced to engage in work, by any other name, then I need to have the same conditions as with my weekly employment.
Health & Safety; I am sure that I need ladder training before attempting do anything above head height. I know that I need knife training before opening all the boxes of stuff left around after the house move. Surely I need manual handling training before I move any object over 10kg.
I asked my bride whether we should wait until I had attended all said courses and the documentation was completed but she wasn’t interested in my plea.
She did, however, offer me a bottle of red and lunch at my favourite Portuguese restaurant if I agree to take part in her plans.
‘And if I don’t?’ I asked tentatively.
‘You will get your pottering P45’ she replied ‘and the promised wine and griddled chicken will be removed from your wage packet’.
As an employer Mrs M knows how to deal; a life of pottering it is. I wonder how many days holiday I get a year!
In these days of our credit being crunched we all have to make little sacrifices. I for example am committed to making sure that we consume all of the food in the house before we shop for more.
When I announced my plan to the female members of the family it was treated with a high degree of derision.
I don’t know what they are complaining about we did this every year when we went camping; its amazing how breakfast cereal can bulk out a curry on the last night of a holiday.
I searched through the kitchen and found several tins that seemed to have been in the cupboard for years; mackerel fillets, pears, luncheon meat, sweet corn, and kidney beans. I can’t remember the last time I bought sweet corn and yet there always seems to be a tin in the cupboard.
I have to admit that I couldn’t find a suitable recipe to include them all so we had an omelette made with the eggs that were seconds from their sell by date.
For dessert I offered them crushed ginger snap biscuits heated with butter, topped with ice cream and toffee sauce, which everyone agreed, proved a great success.
During my search I discovered a new taste sensation that the rest of the family were quick to turn their noses up at. It was a combination of two of my favourite tastes that, coincidently, the rest of the family cannot abide.
Liquorice pieces dipped in Marmite.
I accept that some of you will be immediately disgusted by such a thought. But there will be some, just a few, who will find the whole idea intriguing and will be rushing to the kitchen to test it out.
My wife, ever the wit, patted me on my extra sized tummy and questioned whether it was pregnancy cravings.
I have a friend who has admitted to also being conscious of the need to make savings in their weekly grocery bill. He has, however, upset his wife in the process.
Being a keen fisherman he knows the intricacies of finding the best bate for successful angling. He slipped up by admitting that although he has made the sacrifice of buying the cheapest sweet corn for the family cupboard he has continued to buy the premium brand for his favourite hobby.
It seems that saving money is important but we all need the opportunity of making a luxury decision now and again. In light of this I suggested that each family member had the chance to nominate a couple things that would not be sacrificed as part of our economy drive.
The list included such minor luxuries as coffee and breakfast cereal but there were a few items that the female members of clan Molineaux were agreed on: Tomato Sauce, Shampoo, and Tea bags.
As for me; I was happy to concede that although most value options were worth trying I was adamant that neither Marmite nor liquorice would be sacrificed. I have my standards!
It is amazing how the day of the week can have an effect upon your state of mind. Often people speak of the ‘Monday Blues’ or ‘that Friday feeling’.
There are some, just a few, who seem to ride through the week without such a sense; either by being constantly happy or permanently miserable.
Mrs M is convinced that the Monday blues do not affect her; I am quick to point out that this may be due to her not working on this day with the result of merely transferring the feeling to Tuesday.
At this point in our conversation my bride changes the subject towards the jobs at home that she performs in order to prove that she does indeed work on a Monday.
The list was endless and I eventually had to concede, party because I knew I had crossed a line in suggesting that she does not work at the beginning of the week and partly because I was distracted by midweek football on the telly.
It is interesting that each day of the week was named after something significant but has now just become a descriptive word to help us to plan our lives.
So whether Thursday is recognition of the god Thor or Monday is an acknowledgement of the moon is irrelevant to our daily lives.
Perhaps we need to think again about what we call them in light of our effected mood.
Monday could be ‘moan day’ to give understanding to our depressed association with returning to work after the weekend. In a similar way Friday could be designated as an extra day off and be known as ‘free day’.
Altogether a more pleasing way of looking at it I think.
I recently visited France for a few days with work and had the pleasure of meeting some of our fellow Europeans. I had in mind the British preoccupation with feelings being linked to certain days.
I was pleased to note that they too seemed affected in a similar way. At the beginning of the week there was a general lack of motivation visible. By the Friday they were a lot more upbeat as the thought of weekend came in view.
I cannot claim that there is any connection but I did notice that lunchtimes contained more red wine after Thursday than is usual back at home. The only celebration of the weekend that we indulge in is a bacon butty on Friday morning.
Perhaps this is it; for the French they are merry due to wine and we are merry due to eating pig on bread.
On returning from the continent I asked my wife to comment and she concluded teo things: Only a man would wonder about such things and only a man would be excited by the thought of a bacon butty. O Contraire!
There was a time when Sunday afternoon TV was a family safe experience; apart from Songs of Praise that is.
Now, however, I am forced to get through my well-earned weekend slice of toast whilst watching someone called Bear Grylls eating all manner of creepy-crawlies.
As I write he has just caught a beetle, that seemed to be minding its own business, and popped it in his mouth without thought for what it might do for my digestion. He followed this less than appetising starter with a main course of moth maggot. He first removed its innards before consumption because otherwise, apparently, it would have been disgusting and contain something harmful. To say that he was trying to present it as an enjoyable experience he seemed to do a lot of spitting out.
I think the point of the show, apart from putting me off my mid afternoon snack, is to remind us of our long lost role as hunter-gatherers.
Well let me nail my colours to the mast and say that I am truly glad that we have moved from hunter-gatherers to shopper-baggers.
We might have become slaves to the sell-by date and the nutrition label but at least you know where you stand with a bag of salad leaf and a tin of tuna.
Whilst Bear forages in the undergrowth of Latin American countries I am happy to dodge the shopping trolleys of the Great British public in order to makes sure that my family doesn’t have to eat grubs and bugs; give me fruit and nut any day.
The only bit of foraging we do in the supermarket these days is when we chose loose fruit and veg rather the pre-packed product offered to us. Perhaps this is the retailer’s way of appealing to our basic need to feel as if we are fully involved in the gathering process.
This said, I have noticed a similarity between Bear Grylls and me on a Saturday trip to the shops; neither of us can get a plastic bag without an argument. His need for them is less than mine because he does tend to catch and eat his prey almost in one move.
When our kids where younger they seemed to have this immediacy as an in built mechanism when it came to the pick and mix sweet section. Whilst we parents were looking around the shelves for our required produce they would appear with chocolate stained faces.
My wife was always fearful that we might be challenged by the management about our children’s’ waywardness but I had a solution ready to offer the store in such circumstances.
They could weigh the child on the way into the shop and compare this with their weight at the exit and we would willingly pay for the difference.
I could, of course, just claim they were exercising their basic instinct to be true hunter-gatherers and if all else fails blame the influence of Bear Grylls.
We are just recovering from a week off work; we didn’t jet off to the sun we just enjoyed not having to follow the usual routine. When I was a kid this kind of holiday was described as ‘we just went out for days’.
I was ok with this for a while until my wife used the ‘p’ word again mixed liberally with the ‘s’ word; so we spent much of the week either pottering or shopping.
Neither of these two activities seem fitting for a proper relaxing holiday but my wife feels the whole idea is rather thrilling.
In truth I didn’t find the shopping part too much of a problem because it meant we were able to work our way through our Christmas present list, something we normally leave until nearer the 25th.
There was, however, a change that had taken place that seemed to have both shoppers and shopkeepers confused; the reduction in the rate of VAT.
Most establishments had signs on the doors proudly declaring that they would pass on the saving to the customers ‘at the till’. I presume because the cost of re-labelling would have meant a price rise thus defeating the object of the exercise.
Two things were disorientating about the whole thing. Firstly, our normal ability to roughly calculate the cost of our purchases was completely ruined. You could see customers expecting to pay £12.99 instead being asked to hand over £12.72.
We don’t work with 72p in our world. We always expect to pay a number ending in 99p. I just ended up with 28p of loose to carry home and put in the tin on my bedside table.
You could hear elderly couples asking each other ‘Is that right?’ and ‘I don’t know’.
It was like going back to the days of decimalisation when we went from 12d to the shilling to 20p.
Back then we all complained that the price of chips went up for no reason and never came down again. Ever price rise was blamed on the changeover.
I am predicting the same complaints to be popularised over the next six months as we all come to terms with the 2.5% change.
Not all of this saving can be easily passed on to the consumer; car parking meters for example will have to remain the same otherwise we will have to put in 39p for the hour rather than 40p.
I suppose the same is probably true for other vending machines.
There is one type of establishment that I feel particularly sorry for during this time of customer confusion; The Pound Shops. Will they have to change their signage to read The 97.98p Shop.
The Chancellors stated intention for the reduction was to stimulate the economy. I hope it does. I fear, however, the net result will be a rise in the price of chips and more loose change in the tin on my bedside table. Mark my words!
In the days before twenty-four hour telly we kids would have to find many ways to entertain ourselves through the long summer break between school years. Nostalgia tells me that the weather was better then but only just; let’s face it, it couldn’t have been much worse.
My parents had a stereo record player and a collection of vinyl discs that represented something of their youth. We would listen to singles and albums, giving scores to each track as if we were experts on a TV programme.
After we had travelled down Penny Lane and boarded the Chattanooga Choo Choo (they had eclectic tastes) we would turn to an odd collection of records that contained the spoken word.
One of my favourites on offer was a record containing the radio shows of Tony Hancock. Much of the material was a little too subtle for a young mind to conceive but I recall laughing at lines about a pint of blood being ‘very nearly an armful’.
On the edition entitled ‘The Radio Ham’, Hancock relishes in the benefits of the latest technology allowing ordinary folk the opportunity of speaking to others via short wave radio. After asking a few people from as far away as the east Asia ‘What is the weather like?’ he muses on how he has made connection with so many people that he has never met.
‘Marvellous!’ he exclaims ‘To think I have friends all around the world’ because of this communicative invention. After a short pause he says, ‘None round here mind, but hundreds around the world’.
Today our children have much more to occupy their waking hours and so it is not surprising that many will not even know what short wave radio is never mind be aware of the comedy of Tony Hancock.
My girls have all joined Face Book on the internet; think personal scrapbook that you can share with others in a micro second. They show their favourite photographs to each other, comment on their lives, and join groups of others wishing to save the rain forest or ban quiche from Britain’s dining tables (there really is such a group).
Encouraged by their excitement, and the fact that we have heard of other wrinklies who have ventured into this brave new world, my wife and I signed up.
The basic idea is that you enter details about yourself on what is effectively your personal page and then you invite others to agree to be your friends. All of those who respond to your request can then see your information and you in return can see theirs.
Once the connections are made you are then offered friendships with the friends of your friends resulting in a list of people on your page that grows by the day; should you wish to accept them. Added to this list you can search for other people that you may have known from school and invite them to be connected to you as well.
My daughters have hundreds of names on their lists and I have regularly seen people who have in excess of five hundred people connected to their page.
During the time that you are on-line a box will appear giving you a list of other associates who are connected at the same time as you. You can then have a conversation with them by typing messages and waiting for replies.
So if you have a friend in Japan and want to know what the weather is like you no longer need to resort to short wave radio.
My wife has already amassed over one hundred names on her list and, for the record, I am running at about thirty.
It is not that Mrs M is more popular it is just that I am more selective in how I let my group grow – at least that is what I tell myself.
So what of those who have in excess of five-hundred friends? You have to ask what quality of relationships they are agreeing too.
Perhaps the danger is the same as with short wave radio; Hundreds of friends around the world………….but none round here.
Da da da da da da da, da da da da da!
Yes, you’ve guessed it, we have been watching Strictly Come Dancing over the last few weeks and have been captivated by the drama of it all.
Mrs M usually comments on the frocks and frills whilst I, being a fully qualified DD (Dancing Dad), give my expert opinion of the fleckles and heal leads. It is amazing what three months of lessons at the Renee Buckley School of Dance can do when you are 8 years old.
To be honest I know nothing but I can talk a good talk when faced with daughters who disagree with me about who should be voted off.
I was sad to see the end of John Sargeant; not for choreographic reason but democratic ones. It was great to see the British public showing the BBC who is boss. They blame us when we don’t vote (phone in now to save your favourite) and then they blame us when we do (it’s ridiculous that the worst dancer is still in)!
I haven’t yet admitted to my bride and daughters that I have been calling in for John every week without them knowing; please don’t tell her
I think the main reasons I love the show is that it is full of true stars; unlike some of the programs with the word ‘Celebrity’ in the title.
I refer not to the actors, singers, and sports stars who attempt to trust their stuff but to the professional dancers who train the novices each week and encourage them to move out of their comfort zones.
These true dance stars have trained for years without any promise of either fame or fortune in their future. Then along comes an entertainment show that brings their unique skills into our homes every week (or every day for Mrs M).
Their dedication was fuelled by a love for dance rather than seeking celebrity status and yet they have found fame and hopefully a decent level of fortune.
After the panel of judges discuss how well the ‘famous’ contestants have done at tripping the light fantastic, the professionals treat us to an expert display of how the dances should be done.
The quality is only interrupted by Bruce Forsyth’s jokes; I don’t know who writes them for him but I wouldn’t count them as a friend if I were Brucie.
Saying all that I am still surprised that he hasn’t been made a knight of the realm by now; if only for his services to hair weaves and catch phrases. You have to admire his reference to the press calling him doddery.
Whether you watch it for the dresses, the jokes, or the judge’s comments it has to be the skill of the expert dancers that keeps us coming back for more.
If only I had carried on dancing with Renee Buckley I could have been with them performing every Saturday night. In my dreams……..