Thursday, 6 April 2017
‘On your way home, will you stop off at the supermarket for some salad stuff?’ asked Mrs Jones.
My car was in for its annual service so I took the call on my mobile while sitting in the garage waiting area. ‘Yes, sure. What items do we need?’
‘Oh, the usual: lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes and red onions.’
Two hours later I returned home and deposited the contents of my supermarket bag onto the kitchen worktop. Mrs Jones exhaled – audibly – and I detected a roll of the eyes followed by an implosion of her cheeks which, after 36 years together, I knew could mean only one thing: I’d cocked up, big time.
Failure to live up to a wife’s expectation typically means that a man is subjected to a circuitous form of interrogation that is intended to shame and humiliate.
‘Where’s the cucumber?’ she asked, while her foot tapped on the tiled floor, as if delivering a countdown to the moment of my execution.
‘There,’ I said, pointing to the large, cylindrical item in front of us.
‘What makes you think that’s a cucumber?’
‘Well, it looks like a cucumber; it’s dark green, shiny and … … phallic.’
‘It’s much bigger than any phallus I recognise,’ she said, now relishing the role of the strident prosecutor. ‘That is not a cucumber.’
‘What is it then?’
‘It’s a courgette.’
‘A courgette. A marrow-like vegetable, sometimes referred to as a zucchini.’
‘It looks like a cucumber, so how was I supposed to know?’
‘Maybe the sign over the box in the supermarket that read, COURGETTES, might have given you a clue.’
Mrs Jones, savouring the taste of blood, broadened her onslaught. The tomatoes were insufficiently ripe, the onions partly rotten, and the lettuce much too big and shabby. (I must admit the lettuce resembled the severed, semi-decomposed head of an obese gladiator. Although it could have been worse; I almost brought home a cabbage).
And to add to my pain, I now recall that I don’t like the taste of courgettes. Something tells me they will be served up with every meal for a week.
Thursday, 16 February 2017
Life can be difficult for older people. In particular, advancing years and technology can be a discomforting mix, as I recently discovered when trying to teach my 85-year-old father how to use a cash dispenser.
Throughout his life, my lovely dad has always drawn his money from the local post office and, if paying his bills by cash is not an option, he has always chosen to write a cheque. Credit and debit cards are alien to him. Alas, all the post offices in his locality have shut down so he is now compelled to rely on the ‘hole-in-the-wall’ cash machine to get his hands on his money. He asked if I would show him how to use it and I agreed to accompany him.
The first time, he watched as I carried out the procedure step by step, while providing a running commentary. On the second occasion – in an attempt to consolidate his learning – I suggested that he perform the whole operation himself, while I observed. We chose a quiet moment at the cashpoint located 200 metres from his home.
The process went something like this:
DAD: Am I holding my card the right way up?
ME: Yes, it’s the right way up.
DAD: Then why won’t it fit in the hole?
ME: Because you’re trying to shove it into the slot where the notes come out; you need to put it here, where it says ‘INSERT CARD HERE’.
Card inserted, the menu of options appears on the screen.
DAD: Do I put my 4-digit number in now?
ME: No, not yet. You first need to read the options and decide which one you want.
DAD: But I can’t read them – I need my specs. (Starts rummaging in his pockets in search of his reading glasses). OK – I can see it now. So do I want ‘CASH ONLY’ or ‘CASH WITH RECEIPT’?
ME: Well, do you want a receipt?
DAD: Oh yes – I always get a receipt. You can’t trust anybody these days; they’re all trying to rip you off. I need a receipt to …
ME: So press the ‘CASH WITH RECEIPT’ button then.
DAD: Where is it now … let’s see … (Finger hovering over the screen, as if carrying out a subtle piece of black magic)? Oh, what’s happened now?
ME: It’s timed you out. Take your card out and we’ll try again.
DAD: Just my luck to get an iffy machine!
Dad inserts card again.
DAD: Do I put my 4-digit number in now? It’s 672 …
ME: No, not yet. Push this button here to say you want cash with a receipt.
Dad pushes said button.
DAD: Can I put my 4-digit number in now?
ME: Wait a moment. What does it say on the screen?
DAD: It says … (moves his face closer to the screen) … ‘DO …YOU…WANT…TO…CHECK…YOUR…BALANCE…BEFORE…WITHDRAWING … YOUR…CASH?’
ME: Well, do you?
DAD: Why would I want to do that? I wouldn’t be withdrawing money if I didn’t have it in my bank account. Me and your mother don’t spend money we haven’t got – unlike this younger generation who … …
ME: Then press this ‘NO’ button dad.
DAD: Oh, the damn thing’s timed me out again
By this point, a queue had formed behind us. Their facial expressions suggested that, after witnessing this odd couple hovering over the cash dispenser, many of them suspected I was guilty of elderly abuse, trying to rip off the old fella.
We let those waiting go before us and, about 20 minutes (and three further attempts) later, my old dad was able to withdraw his £250. He then proceeded to count it out – note by note – in the midst of passing shoppers. I think I will need to accompany him a few more times before he gets the hang of it.
Saturday, 7 January 2017
As we enter into a new year, I thought I’d share with you my personal highlights of the festive season, the most memorable moments of the last three weeks. In no particular order, they are:
1. Singing with my mother-in-lawSadly, my 81-year-old mother-in-law is afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease; her memory span is no more than a few seconds, she’s lost her sparky temperament, and - even when surrounded by her family – she sits in silence with a blank expression. Well she does until she hears Dusty Springfield.
Late on Christmas Day, when all the feasting had ended, we played some songs from the 1960s on You-Tube. Watching mother-in-law belt out her rendition of Dusty’s ‘You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me’ (word perfect, face glowing with delight) will be an image that will remain with me for ever.
2. Greeting cards from my elderly parentsBoth my parents are in their mid-80s and, while yet immune from the ravages of dementia, they do tend to be a tad confused and forgetful. Sending greeting cards is a case in point.
We received a delightful Christmas card, wishing us wonderful cheer, but there was nothing written in it – completely blank. A process of elimination, and detective work of a quality Sherlock Holmes would relish, was required to identify the source.
For Mrs Jones’ birthday (2nd January) their greetings card arrived two days late due to their decision to use a 2nd-class stamp – my lovely mother is as tight as a her compression stocking – the post code was wrong, and their birthday wishes were to their ‘daughter’ rather than ‘daughter-in-law’. Ah well, it’s the thought that counts.
Ryan opted to attend his football’s team’s annual fancy-dress pub crawl in the role of Alex, the
evil star from the cult film, A Clockwork Orange. Never one for half measures, the
resemblance with the Malcolm McDowell character was chilling, not least because he had informed me that he’d recently rerun the film six times to get into role. I was left to hope that,
during his tour of all the local drinking holes, he refrained from beating an old lady to death
with a giant phallus.
4. Arse grabbing
Shortly after midnight, in the midst of new-year revelry, the wife of my best friend grabbed
my right buttock. She can be forgiven for I was wearing my favourite slacks, the cut of which
shape my arse into an irresistible pout. The butt-clutching incident was made all the more
remarkable as the lady in question is typically reserved and self-conscious. Luckily, she was
so pissed at the time I’m sure she’ll retain no memory of her cheeky squeeze; I’ll choose the
right moment in 2017 to remind her of it!
5. A vivid dream
have visited. One night over the Christmas period I experienced the most vivid of dreams. I
will not go into detail. Suffice it to say that it involved me, Mrs Jones, two burly builders and
a hosepipe. Watering the garden will never feel quite the same.
6. Prettiest lady in the pub
opposite and thinking that she was, undoubtedly, the most attractive individual in the whole
pub. My second thought was that I’m so very fortunate, as the lady I was eyeing was none
other than Mrs Jones. And in addition to her beauty - inside and out - there is an additional
bonus: she can’t half hold her ale.
Best wishes for 2017 to you all.
Friday, 2 December 2016
I’ve been thinking a lot about sex and lust. (What man doesn’t; even the 58-year-old variety). And over the last few years I’ve realised that my inclinations towards the female form are changing. I find I’m less and less activated by the exposed flesh of young women, while my proclivity towards the older form seems to grow stronger with each passing year.
Of course, this transition may be an adaptive one, a part of man’s evolution. It would be crushing for a bloke to yearn after something he can no longer attain – someone like me, on the cusp of drawing his state pension and lacking both millionaire status and an enormous phallus, is never going to attract beautiful ladies who are half his age.
I should emphasise at this point that I never have, and never will, seek sexual liaisons with anyone other than Mrs Jones. But, to repeat an old adage, there’s no harm in looking. And now, when I look – in the street, pub, or on
Naughty America TV – my taste is
evolving in the direction of a mature spruce with more concentric rings around
A real woman should not own a sculpted, porcelain-like, body. And boob jobs are a definite no-no; when on the move, and unsupported, breasts should not remain firm and static in their silicon straitjacket but should swing, independently of each other, like two pendulous orbs frantically striving to get as far away from each other as possible. A lipid cushion around the girth and buttocks never fails to please a heterosexual, middle-aged male, being more rewarding to touch and warmer to snuggle against in the cold of night.
Is there a finer sight than a mature, voluptuous lady – naked as the day she was born – wobbling in your direction? (Sweet baby Jesus, I’m going all unnecessary at the thought).
So if you are an 80 year-old mother of a daughter, and see me approaching, I suggest you lock her away for her own safety. Indeed, you might wish to take cover yourself as, when I think about it, isn’t there something weirdly alluring about dentures, wrinkles and arthritic limbs.
** Alas, Mrs Jones refused to pose for the photograph - women, eh; I'll never understand them - so I had to import one courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net. **
Saturday, 15 October 2016
It is often said that when you live with the same person over many years you grow more and more alike. In our house this phenomenon is most apparent in regards to our newly-fitted shower cubicle.
Mrs Jones is rather obsessive when it comes to cleaning our house. Following the recent fitting of our spanking new bathroom, it was no surprise to find her devoting three hours each week to scrubbing the glass and tiles so as to maintain their sparkle. Her urge to cleanse was, she told me, mainly activated by her noticing water stains on the sides of the shower unit. To counter these triggers, she bought a squeegee – those plastic-handled implements with the rubber edge, commonly used by window cleaners. She told me that she uses this squeegee to remove the drips from all four sides of the cubicle (two tiled, two glass) immediately after each shower. Strategically, she left the device hanging from one of the bathroom fittings.
Immediately following my daily rinse, I now feel compelled to replicate my wife’s cleaning behaviour. If anyone was unfortunate enough to spy on my after-shower routine in the cubicle, this is what they would witness:
STEP 1 – Turn off the sprinkler and pick up the squeegee.
STEP 2 – Standing on tiptoes, dripping wet, stretch and place the squeegee at the top of one glass wall, and slide it downwards to the floor in one smooth, squeaky stroke, while being mesmerised by the strangely addictive droplets of water toing and froing in all directions as if to evade capture.
STEP 3 – Upon reaching the crouch position at the bottom of the stroke, I contemplate how my scrotum swings dangerously close to the shower floor; another few years and I fear my balls will slap against the plastic base like two sloppy dollops of Play-doh.
STEP 4: Repeat the above, stretching up and down as if in an exercise class, until all of the glass wall is completely free of rogue droplets.
STEP 5: Turn 90 degrees and follow the same procedure with tiled wall only to find that, as I bend, my arse cheeks leave a soggy, two-crescent imprint on the previously cleansed glass which then requires more strokes of my squeegee.
STEPS 6 to 12: Repeat all the above, involving a psychedelic kaleidoscope of gangly bits and hairy rump.
So each morning I spend a half-hour in the bathroom: five minutes to shower and 25 minutes to clean the damn thing. But it does continue to sparkle.
Tuesday, 13 September 2016
I’m sure we’ve all had jobs in our youth or young adulthood that trigger a smile when we reminisce about them. As a naïve 19-year-old, I recall a temporary summer job during college vacation that instantly rendered me the most unpopular person in the whole factory.
It was 1978, during my 12-week summer recess from university. To earn beer money I needed to work, so my mother helpfully found me a job at the local textile mill where she was employed as a weaver. Initially, my efforts were directed to general labouring tasks – such as scraping grease off the weaving-shed floor – but after a couple of weeks the boss called me into his office.
‘I’d like you to become my “time and motion” man,’ he said.
I was unsure what this role involved. Was it something to do with shit? A toilet monitor, perhaps? Or would I be running errands for him, maybe nipping out to the shop to buy his cigarettes? Maybe he wanted me for his bitch, to bugger me over his work desk whenever the urge arose? Whatever the job involved, it would surely be a step up from chiselling a year’s worth of detritus from between the power looms.
‘Great,’ I said. ‘When can I start?’
The boss was engaged in a mission to boost productivity. The factory was not churning out enough cloth and he wanted to know why. My – terribly important – role required me to sit on the top of a step ladder (like a tennis umpire) in the main weaving shed with a clipboard in one hand and a stopwatch in the other. This room contained 10 looms that rattled away transforming threads of yarn into linen, each machine manned by a responsible weaver. When a loom was active, a green light flashed above the machine; when stopped, a red light flashed. My job was to record the cumulative time that each machine was dormant.
As one might imagine, my presence in the weaving shed was not generally welcomed by the weavers; if their machines were stopped for any length of time, the management would ask questions. Nevertheless, I took to my ‘spying for the bosses’ role seriously, and was soon transformed into a Gestapo-like overseer of the inmates. Each time that red light flashed, my stopwatch started and remained on until the green light was restored; the period of inactivity was then noted on my chart.
Throughout each day of employment in this lofty position, a typical interaction went something like this:
WEAVER: What stoppages have you got for loom 7 this morning?
ME: (scrutinising my chart, my lips pursed in readiness for delivering bad news) Inactive on just the one occasion between 8.14 am and 8.35 am, that’s 21 minutes in total.
WEAVER: But that shouldn’t count. It wasn’t my fault – the warehouse bloke was slow bringing me my yarn and I ran out.
ME: Sorry, pal, but there is not a column on my chart for explanations. My task is to solely record the period of inactivity.
After a few days in the role I even noticed that a couple of the workers would strategically position themselves in front of their lights, obstructing my view, thereby requiring me to descend from my stepladder and strut through the weaving shed to (invariably) discover their red bulb flashing; the subsequent dramatic flash of my pencil on chart screamed the message, ‘you can’t fool me’.
My ‘time-and-motion’ role lasted two weeks, after which I returned to removing grease and other debris from the factory floor. To their eternal credit, none of the weavers held a grudge and I received no criticism in the aftermath. Come to think of it, they didn’t say much to me at all. And, now I look back, there did seem to be a sharp increase in number of accidental spillages that required my attention. And my break-time cup of tea acquired a strange yellowy-green tinge and a whiff of ammonia … …
Has anyone else ever worked in a role that made you unpopular?
Image courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Thursday, 4 August 2016
I’ve never availed myself of the services of a prostitute. In Amsterdam in the late 1970s I gawked from afar with youthful curiosity at the ladies of the night, each sitting in her individual shop window, before my trance was disturbed by the appearance of a testosterone-fuelled snarling pimp, who triggered my hasty retreat. But the prospect of entering a cavern where a multitude of semen-seeping males hitherto thrust and drooled has never appealed to me. There was, however, one occasion in 1987 – at the age of 29 – when I found myself up close and personal with a couple of working girls.
I’d opted to pursue some further vocational training that necessitated Mrs Jones and I moving home to live in the centre of Birmingham (England’s second largest city). Money was tight so the only place we could afford was a £20 ($28) per week ground-floor flat in the red-light area. The landlord, a pleasant gentleman of Asian origin, lived upstairs from us and dined on curries each evening; the unsettling smells of cinnamon, drifting down the stairs to mix with the mustiness rising from our carpets, lingers to this day.
Around 8.30 pm one dark winter’s evening I headed out for the shop on the corner of our street to buy bread, my coat collar pulled up over my ears and my head bowed to defend against the icy December gusts. Fifty metres from the grocery store, I glanced up and spotted them; standing outside the shop entrance were two women, perhaps in their early 40s – although the daily grind of their profession might have rendered this an overestimate – wearing only black stilettoes, flimsy tops and crimson skirts that scarcely covered their pubic bones.
I hesitated. My instinct was to about turn and head back home, but the two shivering ladies had spotted my approach and appeared to be anticipating a transaction, so my retreat at this point would look absurd. Trying to adopt a nonchalant, man-of-the-world, seen-it-all-before swagger, I continued my journey, avoided any eye contact, and strode past them to the entrance of the shop, keen to escape into the well-lit interior. But to my horror, the door was locked.
‘I think he’s just nipped out for a few minutes, love,’ said one of the ladies. ‘Should be back soon.’
‘He’ll have left a note on the door telling ye how long he’s gonna be,’ said her colleague.
While offering this helpful clarification, both women had approached and flanked me, each peering over my shoulder, forming a huddled trio, as we searched for the message estimating the time of the shopkeeper’s likely return. Their faces within an inch of my own, the pungent smell of excessive perfume caused my eyes to water.
Disturbing images of potential exclusives in next week’s Birmingham Post pushed into my mind, a photograph of our crouching threesome captioned by:
TRAINEE PSYCHOLOGIST IN RED-LIGHT SCANDAL
PUNTER AND PROS DO THE BUSINESS IN SHOP DOORWAY
THERE MAY BE MORE THAN BREAD AND MILK ON SALE AT YOUR LOCAL GROCER
I was about to state my intention to come back later, when the shopkeeper appeared and unlocked the door. Muttering my thanks for their help to the two ladies of the night, I slipped inside to obtain my loaf, ensuring that my time spent browsing the shelves was sufficient for the women to vacate the doorway. As I left the shop I spotted one of the prostitutes leaning into the open window of a car that had pulled up alongside her.
‘If you want a blow job, it will cost you 40 quid, love,’ she said to the punter.
As I sped for home, I remember thinking how that was 2-weeks rent.
Photo courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net