Monday, March 30, 2009

Tilling The Good Green Earth

This post is in praise of my gorgeous wifey, Karen, who for the past few weeks has worked her little green wellies off enforcing some kind of ideal middle class order upon the bramble infested jungle that once was our expansive garden.

The thorn bushes at the back of the garden have been brutally slashed and uprooted – uncovering various grotesqueries from within their thorny bowels: dead cats, the skulls of Cro-Magnon man, broken pot shards and ale bottles and a castle straight out of the Brothers Grimm replete with dainty maiden throwing down mile upon mile of golden flowing hair. All this detritus has gone into our green wheelie bin to be recycled whenever the local authority deigns to perform their fortnightly pick-up.

Actually, apart from the shards and the ale bottles all the rest was true rubbish, i.e. a complete fiction.

My wife has balanced this secateur driven frenzy with some choice acts of cultivation.

We now have a magnolia tree.

We now have a herb wheel (with an ‘h’ officer).

We now have a vegetable patch (red onions, potatoes, garlic and chillies being some of the produce that will shortly be available for consumption).

And I believe plum trees are also on their way.

It has been a sterling effort completed (gratefully) without the assistance of either Alan Titchmarsh or Charlie Dimmock. Indeed, in deference to the neighbours and clear notions of public decorum, all Dimmocks have been kept properly covered up.

After all, cultivation and titivation should never be mixed – unless, of course, the beds involved are not herbaceous...

Friday, March 27, 2009

Do You Know Ali Bongo?

As some of you know I’ve been getting more than my fair share of spam emails at the moment. Most of them purporting to originate from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. All of them asking me to claim vast sums of money held in trust by mysterious relatives who have all died in very inconvenient plane crashes.

For the most part I’ve been ignoring / deleting them but I’m now reaching the point where my irritation is seeking another outlet.

Taking my lead from others who have responded "in kind" to these emails I am embarking on a little programme of spurious RSVP myself. This could be a series of many or even just a series of one. But here, for your delectation, is one of the offending emails and below it, my carefully worded reply. Enjoy.



Pleasure writing to you at this moment of the day, I am Mr.ALI DONGO.
the director incharge of auditing and accounting Dept. of Bank of Africa OUAGADOUGOU -BURKINA FASO.I deem it fit to contact you regarding an inactive/dormant account fund that will benefit both of us at the end, if parties involved will take restrait and maintain absolute secrecy, honesty and integrity. I got your contact in my search for a reputable and reliable person to particularly assist me to claim the fund in question. During auditing, in our bank at the end of last fiscal year, We discovered the sum of Twenty five millions United States dollars (US$25M) in a dormant account belonging to an international businessman who was involved in the December 25th Benin plane crash. while travelling for his bussiness. I kept this information(secret) confidential within my jurisdiction to enable us submit claims and transfer this fund through trustworthy person whom we shall present to our bank as the bonafide next of kin to the ceased. Visit our investigations so far clearly reveals that there is no immediate survivor or even a relation to the deceased and as such, there is no immediate next of kin for further claims of the deceased fund as we have long been expecting someone to come forward with an applications. Further information's /verifications from reliable sources too have confirmed that the deceased customer supposed next of kin were all in the plane with him died with him.this is where the bank come in to do bussiness with who ever is interested.

Plane Crash Web site!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This fund is now ready for transfer into a foreign account, whose owner will be portrayed to our bank as the beneficiary and a next of kin to the deceased customer. The foreign account owner will impost himself appropriately as the next of kin to the deceased and respond positively like a true next of kin who wishes to speed up the release and transfer process of his inherited fund. Kindly be aware too that if the over-due fund if not claimed by the end of next quarter, the National Treasury and Bills of britain will take over the ownership of the fund in line with the National Edict Act of 2000. We do not want this to happen as it will not augur to our best interest, having worked all our lives in the banking sector, that is why I contacted you for us to do the deal together with absolute confidence, so that you will be portrayed as the bonafide beneficiary and an immediate next of kin to the deceased. I will give you further directives, advice and all needed information's required for this transaction as soon as I receive your positive response. Similarly, if you accept to carry out this transaction with us, we have resolved offering to you 30% of the total sum as commission, extra 10% of all proceeds to be generated from subsequent profit-viable. 5% of the total fund will be set aside to re-imburse all expenses incurred in this course of this transaction. This transfer will automatically be affected within 7 working days. Be rest assured that with the underground work i have laid so far, that this transaction carries no risk and no extra burdens on your part, except the above mentioned nominal roles you are required to fulfil and similarly will be required to maintain absolute information secrecy throughout the duration of this transaction, because discussing and exhibiting it with a third party might jeopardise the entire transaction.

I will give you directives and all needed information as soon as I receive your positive response. Kindly understand that we could not carry out this fund-transfer on our own, based on the simple facts that we are civil servants and presently bank staffs and this office excludes us from operating foreign accounts, moreover conducting such magnanimous transaction from the same place where we belong to/coming from will raise eyebrows on our side and the truth is that this fund belongs to a foreigner, and as such demands same as next of kin.I am looking forward to receiving your interesting response on this project as this will greatly enrich the both of us at the end. please you are required to reply this message as a matter of necessity.

Best regards,

(Account Audithor B.O.A)

And my reply:

Dear Mr Dongo,

Felicitations from your grateful correspondent in England!

Your electronic missive reached me like a shaft of glorious sunshine in a very dark hour and has filled my heart with joy that there are such lovely, trustworthy people in the world who are at great pains to do good things and benefit others.

While I am deeply saddened to learn of the death of your client by plane crash I applaud your efforts to see that his financial estate is properly disposed of and I am willing to do all I can to assist you to this end. In short, Mr Dongo, I would be very willing to accept the money you so graciously offer me though I do, I admit, have a few concerns as to how its transfer to my holdings might be instigated.

You see Mr Dongo, due to a rather extravagant combine harvester accident 10 years ago I have since been closeted away in a nursing home, a broke and lonely man. I am virtually a paraplegic as my encounter with the combine harvester efficiently removed all of my limbs and my left ear making it impossible for me to wear normal glasses. I have had to have a special pair made that utilise the elastic from a pair of swimming goggles. I am told it looks ok but the elastic does tend to chafe my forehead. As I am unable to write in the normal way I must communicate with the world by tapping out words on a keyboard with a stick that I hold in my mouth. This is very time consuming – hence the long delay in my writing back to you. I do hope I am not too late and have not missed the gravy train.

Due to my disabilities all of my financial arrangements are handled by a trustee that I have employed for this purpose. Before my accident I was a famous racing car driver and had accrued a great personal fortune and I have been living off this for the last decade. So you see, I am used to handling great sums of money and would not be intimidated by the amounts involved in your proposed transaction. Unfortunately my accountant and indeed my Swiss bank manager – both rather sober fellows – might question a sudden influx of funds from Burkina Faso. Is there any way we can break up the money into smaller amounts that could be deposited into my account over a period of months? This would arouse far less suspicion. I must be careful not to attract attention from the authorities, you see, after I was accused of funding a diamond smuggling operation in South Africa a number of years ago. These accusations were entirely false I can assure you and my acquisition of gem stones since that time has been purely legal and without personal blemish on my part.

Regarding your proposal that I act as next of kin, I agree that this sounds the most expedite way in which to deal with your monetary problems. But I worry that it would be all too easy for my claim to be proved as false and my links to your diseased client proved as tenuous. To this end I will employ a legal expert with whom I have a long standing personal acquaintance and who, for reasons I do not wish to discuss, is not currently permitted to practice in the UK or Europe but is more than capable of providing me with all the necessary documents that will prove beyond any contestation my claim as next of kin to the diseased.

So much so I wonder if we might not renegotiate the 30% cut that you have so kindly offered me. As the legal next of kin I believe my cousin would rather the majority of his personal fortune stay within our close-knit family. To this end I wonder if 70% might not be a more realistic sum with 30% for your good self, Mr Dongo, to cover all of your administration costs? I am sure we can discuss this further and come to a mutually satisfactory conclusion.

I shall sign off here as my jaw is beginning to ache. My stick is not padded, you see, and keeping my teeth clamped for such a long period of time has a detrimental effect upon my molars. My dentist has warned me never to attempt novel writing or he will run out of enamel.

Before I go though, Mr Dongo, I must ask one more question that is pressing heavily upon my mind. I am sure you have been asked this many times before but I am afraid I must presume on your goodwill and ask it once again: are you in any way related to Ali Bongo, the Great British entertainer and master magician of huge renown? Are you indeed a member of the magic circle? Do you know any decent card tricks? Maybe we could set up a web cam for a future interview and you could show me some sleight of hand during our warm negotiations. This would be sure to bring a smile to my face although I will be unable – through no fault of my own – to applaud your most sterling efforts.

I look forward to your illuminating response.

Yours most sincerely,
Sir Reginald Wormall, MBE, OBE.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Pushchair Paranoia


This is my final day nursing Tom through his chickenpox before Karen takes over tomorrow and I have to say, as tiring as it's been, I have loved every minute of it. To spend so much quality time with a child is difficult for any parent these days but especially, I think, for a father. Tom has been great company - very affectionate and always ready for a giggle - and I shall really miss him when I return to work tomorrow.

One thing I have noticed during this period of close, sustained contact is how protective I am of him. I can recall one of my friends telling me years ago that it matters not if you're a shrinking violet - as soon as you have kids you become a lioness (or a lion in my case) on their behalf. And it's bloody true, I can tell you.

But while taking him out for walks in his pushchair over the last few days I've been amazed at the strength of my own reactions. I'm not entirely sure if they've been the result of fiercely proud lion-like protectiveness or just down and out paranoia.

I find myself constantly on the look-out for dangers.

When we pass one of Leamington's many meandering drunks I am instantly at the ready to whip the pushchair out of his reach and hoof his gonads to the other side of the road should he ever attempt to lay a single beer stained finger on my son. In fact just slurring the words "I fugin luv you, I do" would do it.

Idiots riding their bicycles on the pavement make my hackles rise. Especially when they pass so close you can barely fit an empty envelope between us. What if they mis-timed it? Had an accident? Careered into the pushchair? I think I'd kill them or at the very least park their bicycle some place so deep and moist a medical expert would have to be flown in from Europe to remove it.

And just for the sake of equality, people who cut us up with their mobility scooters also earn my wrath. Why are they allowed to travel at 20mph on a pavement when cyclists are quite rightly castigated? Those scooters are built like tanks these days and could do a lot of damage to a small body.

Scaffolding and ladders are other things to be avoided. At all costs. There was a story last year of a chunk of masonry falling off a building in Leamington and narrowly missing a mother and pram. I'm constantly alert to the dangers of falling objects. Can I get NASA on my mobile to warn me of potential meteor threats?

And as for cars... Geez. There's always that fleeting worry of someone fouling up their steering manoeuvre because they're (a) on their mobile phone, (b) on their partner's naughty bits or (c) on their way to hospital with an imminent cardiac arrest. You just can't trust them.

I'm currently mentally drafting a letter to the PM demanding that sirens be sounded 5 minutes before Tom and I leave the house in order that the streets can be cleared of all vehicles and pedestrians and the Star Wars defence system can be directed to monitor meteor incursions from space or rogue missile launches from the East.

If this inconveniences anybody I'm sorry. It's just tough.

Tom needs some chocolate buttons. It's important.

Or do you think I am over-reacting?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Aye, Me Hearties, 'Tis The Pox...

Blogging this week is going to be done in installments I'm afraid, segmented around various babysitting duties as our youngest has fallen foul of the pox.

Thankfully only chickenpox but his condition does require him to be in quarantine for a week to ten days. So no nursery attendance for Tom this week... he's going to be a home bird for the next five days.

I've elected to do the first watch, so to speak, and am home looking after the little chap until Thursday when Karen will take over. Apart from being spotty Tom doesn't seem to be too bothered by his condition - but then we haven't reached the itchy and irritable stage yet...

As usual the timing of this is awful - I'm out of holiday at work (though ironically will get awarded my next batch in April) so will have to take this time off unpaid just at a time when we can ill afford it. Karen too. But what else are we to do?

Needs must as the devil drives.

So for the next three days I am giving myself over to kid's telly and games of tractors and trucks and tickle tummies (spots permitting).

See, every cloud has a silver lining.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Please Sir, Kindly Take Receipt Of This $9 Million Dollars

As some of you will know, whilst launching a new blogging project recently I had cause to publish an email address of mine online. Only a Yahoo webmail account but still one that I use frequently.

I didn’t think anything of it to tell you the truth. I doubt it was online for more than a day or two.

But by God have I been deluged with spam mail.

Nothing about Viagra or sex techniques to make my woman “cry like a baby with ecstasy as I keep going all night without stopping” – well, I could write a book about that myself, couldn’t I?

Just loads and load of emails from various gentlemen in Burkina Faso who, it seems, wish to enlist my aid in helping them out of a rather sticky financial quandary. They’ve obviously heard that I‘m a financial whizz and regularly move immense sums of money into and out of my bank accounts without rousing any kind of suspicion whatsoever.

Take Dr. Alim Hadi for example. The poor man is the trustee of a monetary estate worth $9 million. He’d like to release the money to me as it seems I am the next of kin to his client who died in a plane crash with all of his family in July 2000. The account has lain dormant since then with nobody coming to claim the money. Nobody at all. The money has just sat there all this time. Unmolested. Wow.

Apparently I am entitled to 40% of the above sum which he will happily see transferred into my account provided I supply him with all of the necessary banking details. Of course I must keep this all top secret. And delete the email if I am not interested. Confidentiality is very important. As a high roller like myself fully understands.

Yeah right.

I think what insults me the most (though of course none of this is particularly personal) is the assumption that I’d be stupid enough to fall for it. I mean please. Next of kin to a previously unknown African branch of the family?

Mind you my granddad did spend time in Durban during the war so it’s quite possible he got up to some naughties with an African beauty of big bosomed persuasion whilst on shore leave...

Hmm. Whatever.

The thing is Dr. Hadi, you’re not even trying. Your attempts to screw me are clich├ęd and formulaic. At least be a little more inventive. A little more theatrical.

I want to see photographs of the crash site. I want to see mortuary pictures of my long lost relative laid out on the slab (something for the family album). I want a lock of hair or a fingernail – hell, the whole finger if possible (who’s going to notice its absence?) – something I can get DNA tested. And I want paperwork. A letter from my great granny perhaps talking wistfully of her elicit liaison with the late denizen of Ouagadougou and exhorting him to one day get in touch with the UK branch of his family should he ever fall onto hard times but especially should he fall onto good.

And most of all I want a huge, obsessively detailed family tree laid out on parchment and an episode of “Who Do You Think You Are?” reserved for my very public reconciliation with my long lost African brothers – something in the style of Roots would be fine.

Give me all that and you can have my sodding bank account details with absolute pleasure. And, if I really must, I suppose I’ll accept my 40% cut of the $9 million. After all it’s what my cousin, Kunte Kinte, would have wanted.

*Sigh* Global families. Don’t you just love ‘em?

P.S. Can I just say that I am not available for babysitting?

Monday, March 16, 2009

My Dreams Of Academia Are Over

Last week saw the beginning of the end of my life at University.

My final lecture was sat through. My final seminar was participated in.

I also completed my final essay – getting it finished a mere 6 days after the title choices were published (unlike my fellow students – the younglings – who will no doubt complete theirs a mere 6 hours before the final deadline).

I’ve waded through a reading list of 18 books this year and all have been codified and footnoted to within an inch of repetitive strain injury.

All that remains is a couple of revision seminars after Easter and my final exam sometime in May / June and then I’m done.

Although I’ve enjoyed taking this part-time degree, after 10 years of juggling study with full time work and full time life I’ve had enough. I hadn’t realized how exhausted I was feeling until I’d completed the essay and gradually woke up to the fact that I was effectively free. The sense of relief was amazing. The reality of being able to read what I want again for sheer pleasure is not to be underestimated. It’s wonderful and I’ve dived straight into some Philip K. Dick (Ubik) as an antidote to all the University texts that are swimming around in my head.

Don’t get me wrong, I will miss University. For all I’ve moaned about the other students – the non mature ones – it’s been interesting to hear what they have to say and how they view the world. It’s also been interesting to note how I’ve changed in how I interact with them. I started off feeling more like them than the other mature students I originally started with but now, here at the end, I truly feel a generation away from them. I’ve got older. And got older in my thinking. I’m not sure whether that scares me or not.

What I shall miss most of all though are the dreams.

I used to dream about school once in a while as a matter of course anyway. But while I’ve been back in the academic world my dreams about school have increased both in number and regularity.

And they’ve been great. I’ve never had a bad dream about school – even the obligatory “late for exam” dreams which I get but rarely have never been that bad. There’s always something fun about my school dreams (not sure why as I never found school particularly fun when I was actually there). But then there’s an added element to my school dreams... Somehow they have become inseparably fused with the world of Harry Potter.

No matter whether I am at Junior school, Secondary school, college or University, Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger are regular colleagues. It’s bizarre. Yes I am a fan of the films and I’ve read the novels but it’s weird how and why this crossover has occurred.

Evidently the world of Harry Potter resonates deeply with my subconscious.

Possibly that says that even in curmudgeonly adulthood I still retain a childish need for escapism, and fantasy. I don’t at all see that as a bad thing.

But thank God I grew out of reading the Famous Five and Mallory Towers back when I was 9... at least Harry Potter has some adult themes! I’m not sure I could cope with having regular dreams about "midnight feasts" and friends who say "Golly gosh" all the time.

I much prefer "Expelliarmus" and chocolate frogs...

Friday, March 13, 2009

Comic Relief In Unintentionally Funny Shock

The Comic Relief version of The Apprentice was always going to a sure-fire laugh-a-minute for the sole reason it had Alan Carr mincing his way into SirAl’s boardroom like he was about to impersonate Shirley Bassey on a cruise ship.

But the best laughs of all came – unintentionally – from the mouth of Gerald Ratner, the ex Ratner’s jewellery retail chain director who has made a media career (almost) from verbal gaffs and interview based faux pas.

For those of you who don’t know, Mr Ratner once caused the shares of the Ratner’s jewellery company to plummet after telling a journalist that they were able to sell their products so cheaply because they were “total crap”.

One can’t find fault in his honesty or his accuracy but, really, he’s not the type of man you want on your marketing team if you’re trying to scrape together a living in the retail industry.

Mr Ratner first raised a titter when, discussing the reality of working with the insanely ebullient Jonathan Ross and Alan Carr, he turned deadpan to the camera and announced in a voice like a coffin lid being prised open with a jemmy that “he liked laughing; he liked to laugh”.

The best moment however came at the end of the show when the boys' team were trying to sell their new toy idea to a room full of high powered toy trade execs.

After a slick speech by Mr Ross and a less than slick but very funny advert voiced-over by the chocolaty tones of Mr Carr (I’m talking Fruit & Nut) it seemed the boys' team had the contest totally in the bag. The girls' team surely couldn’t compete.

Step forward Mr Ratner to give a business professional’s spin on the boy’s product...

He had to be honest, he said, their product (a utility belt to which kids could attach various collectable toys – I can still hear Alan Carr screeching “Swap-belt” on the commercial) would only succeed if a company went for broke in terms of marketing.

The selling concept had to be – and I quote – “shit or bust”.

Cue baffled silence from the audience as this sank in and Mr Ratner realised he’d possibly garbled what he’d originally meant to say.

Or had he?


Maybe this was the clear choice Mr Ratner faced back in the early 90’s when the Ratner jewellery designers were laying out ideas for the latest Ratner jewellery range?

Shit or bust?

The answer is obvious, isn’t it?

They were in it to make money. They were hardly going to vote for bust.

Like I said. Not a man you’d want on your marketing team. The girl’s won.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Wii Wars

I have a love-hate relationship with computer games / games consoles which roughly translates as 20% love and 80% hate.

I’m not sure why I should feel so ambivalent about them as in every other respect I am a tech-head and dedicated gadget nerd.

And it’s not like I never play computer games.

I have a version of Unreal Tournament 2003 on my PC which I quite happily fire up for a quick session most weekends. Only for 20 minutes mind you. A quick fix and I’m done. The best thing about this particular game is that it allows me to rename all the “bots”. This means I am able to shoot, hack, blow up and disintegrate anyone who has annoyed me during the previous week.

At any one time I can gorily fight my way through an army that comprises work colleagues, Russell Brand, assorted d-list celebrities and the ex-president of the USA.

It’s very cathartic and allows me to maintain my Buddha-like equilibrium for the rest of the week.

But most other games irritate me. Games consoles irritate me.

I see them advertised on TV – Wii, Xbox, PlayStation – and I can feel my face start to twitch like Clint Eastwood in City Heat. When I see the fake advert families bouncing around on their plush leather sofas screeching with joy as they wave their Wii consoles around like they’re tossing off the invisible man I just want to get my plasma rifle from Unreal Tournament and blast them all into little heaps of marrowbone and jelly.

This attitude, I admit, makes life difficult for my eldest boy who is a PlayStation addict. He has rationed access to the console anyway – too much makes him hysterical – but even short bursts of it turn me into Mr Hyde.

Why do these games annoy me so much?

I think a lot of it stems from countless Saturday nights at my best mate Dave’s house – back in the days before I was married (i.e. when I was a sad and lonely git)...

Dave was a true tech-head. The kind of guy who upgraded his computer every month (by hand). The kind of guy who bought every single games console the moment it came out – and as a consequence couldn’t get within 7ft of his TV because of the swamp of joy pads and tangled console cables that were a death trap for any creature unable to fly over them.

Now, when Dave generously allowed me to have a go on these games myself it was, I admit, highly addictive. I can see where my boy is coming from. But most of the time the evening was spent watching Dave play the games. Playing the kinds of games where you have to explore a fathomless computer generated world that has no cyber end. Playing the same bit over and over and over again until it was done properly.

There is nothing more tiresome, more mundane, more teeth shatteringly infuriating than watching someone else play a computer game.

The fact you’re watching it means you are unwittingly involved. Ooh. I wonder what’s in that room? I wonder what that device does? Would a 3 combi double-punch kick move work at this juncture? But you are unable to do a damned thing about it. You can’t make any decisions or moves yourself. Just watch someone else play the game possibly better, possibly worse than you.

It’s like being a disembodied spirit. Or Arnold Judas Rimmer from Red Dwarf. Or Gordon Brown when Tony Blair was still in power.

It winds me up just thinking about it. Gah!

Maybe the answer is just to grab the spare joy pad without permission and pitch in with my plasma rifle? Get involved? Give myself over to the addiction? Surrender to the dark side?


But I can’t help feeling it would just be far more enjoyable to stamp on the bloody thing until it’s dead dead dead...

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Google Gail

More earth shattering news this week from these greenly septred isles...

Oxford's Corpus Christi College, who stormed to victory a few weeks ago on the BBC’s University Challenge, have had their memorable victory wiped from the annals of the immortal, their victor’s trophy rudely snatched back from it’s silk pedestal (leaving a hole like a wound in the college’s trophy cabinet) and their academic street-cred irreversibly soiled.

It seems they fielded a ringer.

One of their team members, Sam Kay (no relation to Peter), was no longer a member of the college when the final was recorded and thus was illegible to take part.

Thus the sacrosanct rules of University Challenge were broken rather like the stone slab in The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe and now all the magic has been overturned.

Manchester University, who put up a good fight but were ultimately trounced have now been awarded a rather specious victory which, I’m sure, tastes just as much like ash in the mouth as their actual defeat.

I think it’s a great shame: (a) because Mr Kay pretty much did bugger all to secure Oxford the victory and (b) the real star and unbeatable information engine on the team was the legendary Gail Trimble whose intellectual superiority cannot be denied.

Her depth of knowledge was so all-encompassing she has now been nicknamed “Google Gail” and her hair flicks so enticing she has been approached by sundry lad’s mags to do “tasteful photo shoots” (which she has sadly – but probably wisely – declined).

A lot of people found Gail pompous and aloof. But I kind of liked her. She was intelligent. She was articulate. She was confident. Role model stuff. And she’d undoubtedly worked hard to get where she was and her team worked damned hard to win.

I actually think it’s wrong to strip them of their title.

I know, I know. Rules have to be adhered to... but really nobody is a winner in this situation. I bet Manchester are just as gutted by the circumstances as Oxford.

Why not just have a rematch? You can’t get fairer than that, surely?

I know it will cost money – film crews, studio time, Paxman to read out a few more brain-bashing questions, etc – but if the BBC can afford to pay Jonathan Ross £6 million they can afford one more episode of University Challenge.

Come on! Let’s give Trimble a chance!

And with more time in the limelight Nuts may yet make her an offer that she can’t refuse...

Monday, March 02, 2009

Oh My God, I’ve Got Legs!

Since Tom’s birth nearly 17 months ago Karen and I started to do our weekly food shopping online.

It wasn’t that we found visiting a supermarket each week particularly onerous – in fact it was quite nice shopping as a family – it was just that it was so damned time consuming.

OK. OK. It was particularly onerous.

Nearly two hours of our precious weekend disappeared every week up the supermarket swanny. Nothing about supermarket shopping is geared up for ease, efficiency or pleasure. You have to use shoddy, ill-kept equipment (the ubiquitous trolley). You have to fight your way through herds of ignorant, selfish, grumpy animals (other people) barging their way passed you in the opposite direction. And then you have to pay for the entire social carbuncle at the tills which are merely a bottleneck of disgruntlement.

All you need is to have a favourite item of food discontinued or sold out to complete the misery.

Quite frankly shopping was a nightmare.

Hence our eagerness to embrace online “virtual” shopping.

And all in all it’s been great.

You still spend an hour or so doing it because the server is so damned slow but you can sit down while you do it. With a cup of tea. In the comfort of your own home. With the telly on.

And then some nice man in a van delivers it all to your door at a time that you specify.

It’s blooming marvellous.

If only I could find someone to put all the goods away in our freezer once they’ve arrived it would be a perfect system.

Anyway, the near perfect system let us down for the first time yesterday.

The fridge on the van broke down so they couldn’t deliver our fridge / freezer stuff. We could have waited another day for it but with a baby in the house you can’t really go without milk for any length of time. So we elected to physically drive to the store and collect our cold items ourselves.

My God, but it’s amazing how quickly shopping online de-skills you for the real world. The supermarket – once so unpleasantly familiar – is now totally alien... Horrid lighting, aisles like blocked arteries and... worst of all, people... living, breathing, moving people absolutely everywhere.

And not a cup of tea in sight!

I felt like a modern 21st Century man hurled back in time to a medieval darkly bygone age. How can people live like this?

The internet has plainly weakened me. It has destroyed my ability to cope with the real world. Reality has suddenly become antimatter. If it ain’t pixelated I can’t cope. I carry my modem around with me like a security blanket.

I’d already noted my recent inability to cope with the alphabetized system used in CD / DVD shops (where’s the effing search box?) but plainly the malaise is worse than I thought.

The rise of the machines has begun. They are prising us away from the real world one pinkie at a time and are wrapping us up warm and snug in little individual technospheres of automation and one-click ordering.

The game is up. Or rather it has just begun. And what can any of us do but be on permanent stand-by...


Oh no!