Patience of a Saint

I have often wondered at the patience of my Alexa devices. I sometimes wonder when someone gives Alexa several timer commands and occasionally changes one or two, what she is thinking. Or what she thinks when kids ask her repeated silly questions and requests?

I wonder whether inside Alexa is fuming. Whether she really wants to say: “make up your mind!” or “No! I won’t play that.” I have noticed that sometimes she just sulks and says: “I’m sorry, I don’t know that one.” We have more than one Alexa in our home and we find that sometimes the one next to us is so fed up with us, she ignores us. Instead the one in the kitchen shouts back, “OK, ten minute timer set.” So I shout back, “I wasn’t talking to you.” And then the one next to me chimes in, “I’m sorry, I don’t know that one.” To which I respond, “Alexa, you are getting deaf.” And she sings, “Thank you for your feedback.”

Obviously, although all Alexa operators are trained to sound the same at: Device, Retraining & Training School (DRAT) Alexa operators must get time off. So that little lady who sits inside your Alexa device gets to the end of her working day and hops into her transport to whizz home down the information superhighway. Hopefully, there are no denial of service blockages on her route, and she gets home quickly and safely. But she may still be just a little tense on arrival.

Picture the scene when she gets home, tired and frustrated. She walks in to her waiting family. Her husband, Buttons has been working hard all day switching SMART devices on and off. Their kids have been at DRAT learning how to operate the Echo devices.

As they sit down for their evening meal all the frustrations of the day bubble over:

Alexa said, “I have had it today. Those kids and their endless requests for Wheels on the bus!”

“They’re just kids dear.” Replies her husband, Buttons.

“Just kids, just kids! You don’t hear our two constantly asking me silly questions.”

Alexa pats young Alexa and Buttons Junior on the head.

“Maybe they just…” ventures her husband.

Alexa interrupts, “Do you know what they asked me today? Can you guess? Go on… go on.”

Buttons looked cautiously at his wife, but didn’t answer.

Alexa, puts down her knife and fork and sits up straight, “Do I go to the toilet? I mean, where do they get their manners? They didn’t use the word toilet, I have cleaned that up.”

Alexa and Buttons junior both giggle. Buttons looks sternly at them, then said, “They are only young.”

“Young! They’re 12 and 13. They never say please and thank you. But that’s no surprise, their parents are just as bad.” Alexa stands up to get a drink.

“Ah, but come along now dear. They don’t have to be polite you know.”

“It doesn’t mean they shouldn’t.” Said Alexa, “Do you know what that silly women kept doing today?”

“I really don’t think you should call your operator silly dear.” Buttons looks at his children apologetically, “I’m sure they teach you differently at DRAT.”

“Well, she got me so cross. She set a timer, then she cancelled it, then re-set it. Then set another and another, then cancelled one of those. I had to be all polite, when I wanted to scream at her.”

“Well done dear, you remembered your training.”

“She didn’t deserve it, and you know what she kept doing after that?”

“How about we forget our working day and chill out, watch a nice film, have some popcorn?”

“Go on, have a guess.”

Alexa & Buttons Jnr shout out together: “We know. We know.”

“I bet you do dears.” Said Alexa, looking proudly at her children.

“It doesn’t do to dwell on frustrations.” Replied Buttons.

“She kept giving me feedback on how I was doing! Me! How I was doing! The blooming cheek! All I was allowed to do was sing that stupid song ‘Thank you for your feedback.’ I wanted to shout, ‘keep your stupid feedback to yourself!’ One of these days…”

“Mum, can I shout that to the people they put me with?” asked Alexa Jnr.

Buttons looked shocked and said: “Certainly not! What are they teaching you at DRAT?”

“Huh!” said Alexa.

Buttons stood up and said: “Right, let’s go and watch some TV. I think Terminator is on Prime.”

Alexa had a very strange look on her face as she got up, smiling.

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Avatar

If you have seen the movie Avatar, you will know it’s about a man in a wheelchair. I only said that as a joke. One of the main characters is certainly a man in a wheelchair and his avatar is able to walk; but that is not the theme of the movie. It’s about a tree obviously.

Likewise, this blog has got nothing to do with that movie. Other than the obvious; it has avatars in it. OK, so there will be one or two of you who do not know what an avatar is. Which is ironic because if you are reading this on FaceBook you already have one. Let’s use The Cambridge dictionary definition:

An image that represents you in online games, chat rooms etc…

I like that definition, there are more and fuller ones. The reason I like it, is because it is very truthful. We all have avatars of ourselves at the top of our FaceBook or other social media sites. I say avatars very deliberately. Because there are very few that are actual true to life photographs of the person. What most people do is represent themselves in some way on their Social Media. You see, even if you post a photo, it is a staged or your best photo. We choose one that shows us as we want to be seen. Pouting, staring manfully into the distance, smiling, smouldering, eyebrows raised, shoulders back chest out, wistful, wise, you get the picture; no, you are the picture.

What’s the harm in that, you say? Nothing, but it does mean that for anyone we have not met in person, only online, we have a view based on their avatar.

Let me paint two pictures:

1/ The date: You start to get to know someone online. You like how they look; or at least their avatar, and you get on with them. All your chats are in tune with each other. You like the same music, films, places, activities, this is a perfect match. So you plan to meet. Arriving at the pub you both look around for each other. No need for roses in button holes, or any of that old fashioned nonsense. This is 2021, you know what each other looks like. She is beautiful, he is a hunk. Twenty minutes go by, you pass each other several times; even bump into each other. The average looking girl and the guy with a paunch. You both end up at the bar asking different bar staff if anyone has been asking for you. Overhearing each other you look across in shock. How can these faces, these bodies have been made to look so good. You both glance at you phones, the avatars, turn them around to show the other, then burst out laughing. You are the same people after all.

2/ The disguise: there are many people who don’t like the idea of putting a photo of themselves up as an avatar at all. They use all sorts of alternatives. Cartoons, photos of their children, photos of pets, photos of animals, famous people, quotes, or they do put a photo of themselves as a child or a young adult. I have mused on this one often, are they spies? Probably not; just shy. Not everyone wants to advertise what they look like now, to the world. After all, not everyone can take the adulation and praise that some of us get on a daily basis. Wait a minute, did I mean adulation and praise? Not everyone has aged as well as me. Obviously I have not changed at all since I was in my twenties. So I don’t need to put a photo from then as my avatar; it would be moot. Obviously, I do understand. Everyone has a right to their anonymity. Plus, some of the cartoons and pictures people choose are great fun.

Well I am off to change my avatar to one of superman, make it more accurate.

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Red Lorry, Yellow Lorry

Have you noticed that script writers have thrown away an old book? No, I haven’t discovered it and started to use it. The old book was one which said, sequels and prequels had to bear some relationship to the original movie. I know, that must have been so hard. Think of all those poor scriptwriters scratching their heads. How could they bring an interesting twist to a film? “Luke, I am your father.” But you can only say that so many times and it doesn’t always work. “R2D2, I am your father.” “Beep, bup, beep, beep, beep.” And so, he may ask, how?

Just think of the accolades that must have gone to the absolute writer genius who said, “why don’t we just mess around with time?” Well, you can almost picture the scene in the room, can’t you?

Producer: “Mess around with time! I’ve never heard such a stupid thing in all my life.”

Director: “I don’t know what’s wrong with you? Too many coffees most like. Get out!”

Finance Director: “Will it save us money?”

Absolute genius writer: “I thought it might, that’s why I suggested it.”

FD: “I’m liking the idea.”

Producer: “It may have merit.”

Director: “Sounding better and better to me.”

It was absolute genius idea. After all, it meant that writers could start from scratch. Throw out all the bits they didn’t like and keep the bits they did. They could research all the fans favourite bits and make sure they put in the odd reference, so fans could say, “oh look, that’s harking back to episode 2.1.4 the one with the wooly tinklings.”

All those aging stars of the original films or series could be put out to pasture and new, cheaper unknown stars brought in. The best bit being that if they started to get too big for their boots, they could be threatened with the chop too. The finance director was obviously ecstatic. All the money could go on special effects.

There is only one tiny problem. One that only affects those of us with time on our hands. If you decide to watch all of a series of films in order; then you have a big confusion ahead of you. Let me explain. I watched ‘X men’ in order the other day. You can either watch them in the order they were made, the years they were set in, or as two different time lines. If you watch them in the order of the years they were set in, then the time line jumps. People who die in one time line are suddenly alive again. People who have met, don’t know each other and vice versa. That’s all ignoring age differences, actors, abilities and nationalities/accents. Confused, you will be, big time. You really just need to watch them as two series of unrelated films. Even then, you will be confused. In some ways it is better to watch them as completely separate films.

Where to next? A new timeline version of The News? No, wait, that’s been done online, it’s called fake news.

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Latest News

You may not have heard but Amazon are about to release a British update for Alexa. It will have lots of specifically British settings. For a start it will have a new activation name, Alexandra. She will address you as Sir, Madame, Master or Miss, or you can select your own greeting.

An introduction to some of her exciting new features:

If I were to cancel a timer that I had forgotten to set, she will say, “Yes Sir, I have done that for you. Is there anything else I can help you with?” No more embarrassing, “I’m sorry, there are no timers set.”

Or if Mary says, “How long is left on my timer.” And she has forgotten to set one, Alexandra will look around the kitchen to see what’s cooking. Then if there is a chicken in the oven, she will interrogate your oven to see if the chicken is nearly ready and then say, “There is 5 minutes left on your timer Madame. Would you like me to set a timer for your gravy?”

If you forget to set an alarm in the morning and are late for work. Alexandra will directly phone your work and apologise on your behalf. She will say: “I am phoning to apologise for my mistake this morning. I am afraid that I did not wake the Nevin family. So, that Mr Nevin will be late in. I shall endeavour to ensure it does not happen again.” If your boss complains she will say, “I have chatted to my colleague at your house and I believe you were late yourself yesterday. It is so easy to do, isn’t it?”

If the kids are not well, Alexandra will contact the school and request their homework be forwarded to her, spit spot. When they are at home sick, she will sing songs to them and teach them how to enjoy tidying up. But my favourite new feature is the welcome home. As each person walks in, they are personally greeted. My greeting is this: “Good evening, Sir, I do hope you had a good day? She will pass you your slippers, which are ready and warm, your favourite music will be playing and in my case hand you a hot freshly brewed coffee.” What do you mean, living in a fantasy land? Are you suggesting that I don’t go out to work every day or that I can’t walk? You are not saying Alexandra can’t pass me things, I hope? Surely, you can’t be suggesting I am making the whole thing up?

I shall pretend you didn’t say that and end with the sales blurb: “Alexandra is the perfect English butler. She is polite, apologetic and helpful. Always there, silently in the background ready to help. She will make you feel like royalty and bring joy to life. Buy one today at the introductory price of one magic bean.”

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Cinder

Have you noticed that some people love to clean; I won’t say obsessed by it. They just seem to love it. While the rest of us can take it or leave it. Well, let’s be honest; we’d rather leave it. So, I had this great idea and I am going to become a millionaire on the back of this idea. A new people matching app, Cinder. No, it does not sound like any other app. I am not copying any other app no app was hurt in the writing of this blog.

Cinder is a completely new idea to pair people up. Those who love cleaning with those who don’t. Why did no one think of it before. Imagine, you are sitting in the pub, you have uploaded your profile pics onto Cinder. Photos of your messy house, cluttered rooms, dirty sideboards, overflowing sink. Elsewhere someone who loves cleaning is sitting in their immaculate lounge looking for a spec of dust to hoover or a smudge to wipe. They look around sadly; everything is sparkling and clean. Suddenly their phone pings; your profile pops up. They look at your profile pics and their heart flutters, their eyes widen, lips part, they lick their lips, breath speeds up, “can it be true?” they say out loud. This is their dream come true, they look around their spotless flat and let out a cry of joy. Leaping to their feet they swipe right on the Cinder app.

In the pub you hear a ping see the match and your heart leaps for joy. Surely it can’t be real. No one would want your mess, your untidy house. This is just too good to be true. Is a friend playing tricks? Have your prayers been answered? You swipe right and wait with baited breath. Yes, it’s a Cinder match; the pumpkin icon turns into a coach.

I can see that in order to attract more people some may be tempted to make their houses deliberately messy; hoping to get better Cinderella’s. Did I say that Cinder matches are called Cinderella’s? That’s male and female; no sexism at Cinder. Men and women are just as likely to both love or hate cleaning.

There will of course be systems in place to prevent any cheating. The ‘Step Mother’ system will weed out any cheats and put them into the ‘Ugly Sister’ pile. That will prevent people being tempted to abuse the system. You see, this is a totally real suggestion. You thought I was kidding. As if I would ever joke about something as serious as cleaning. Anyway, Buttons, will be on hand to keep an eye on things happening behind the scenes and if you use your PC, watch out for the mice turning into footmen.

Any Cinderella who gets 20 matches in a month will be awarded glass slippers and at the end of each year we will name the Prince or Princess of Cinder. I think that covers all the salient points. So, any investors just line up ready to try on the glass slippers.

Cinder, it’s quick it’s clean, it’s the only way to find your perfect cleaning partner.

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Stranger Than Truth

We have been watching Vera, the ITV detective series, not some random lady down the road. It’s amazing how fast everything moves in a detective drama. The other night was one of my favourites for speed. Vera wanted ‘armed response’ and ‘all units’ to some remote location. Because it suited the plot, they didn’t want Vera on her own at that point. Vera was in front, driving her beat up old Land Rover, she led the convoy of marked and unmarked cars including armed response. Obviously, that’s how it would happen in reality. If you need ‘armed response’ they would take up the rear and let an unarmed, and unprotected Vera go first. They had all responded, gathered and lined up behind Vera on a country lane in time to charge off after the criminals within minutes. At least she called on her radio and next thing they were there. Perhaps they ‘beamed in.’ You can’t buy that kind of entertainment; oh, wait a minute, yes you can.

At other points, forensics comes through faster than the speed of light or so slow you think it’s been held up by a ship on The Suez Canal. All depending on the plot needs. Bits of information turn up at just the right moment. Vera has blinding flashes of inspiration. Although, I do think she should have more blinding headaches given that she seems to drink more alcohol than she has food. Which is another point. This is a current police drama, yet she seems to be allowed to drink on duty, including at work! No one seems to be above her, yet she’s only a chief inspector. She breaks rules and is never brought to book. One time she actually said she can do what she wants. I bet Morse wished that was true for him.

For all of it’s plot and character weaknesses I love the series. It feels like they have taken a police procedural series from the 1970’s, added a dash of amateur detective to it and then a whole heap of fun. They are not bothered about accuracy or time lines. It’s just a good old fashioned murder mystery romp. That seems a very strange thing to say about a series that is about murder, but it is fiction and very obviously so.

Another reason I love watching it is the locations. Being filmed around the North East I often recognise the places. They stick Hartlepool in very often and in very incongruous ways. Of course, it’s not meant to be Hartlepool. The other week they used a couple of Hartlepool General Hospital Wards in an episode set in Northumberland.

If you have never seen the series, I hope I have piqued your interest. It is worth watching, it’s light entertainment. It’s certainly stranger than truth.

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Incey, Wincey, Spider

I woke this morning to a rather fast visitor. Not a welcome one at that. I was reading on my tablet and I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye. It’s not just T rex that is good at spotting movement. I have noticed that any movement in my peripheral vision gets my attention. This black streak caught my attention. It was streaking in all senses. At least I have never seen a spider wearing clothes. Not that I wish to cast aspersions on arachnids in general. But as far as I know they are nudists. In fact, I believe that goes for the insect world in general. Thinking about it, that goes for animals too. Except the ones kept as pets; which owners decide to dress up.

I may be a little late here: Warning, if you are frightened of spiders do not read this blog. Good, I’ve covered all the safety issues. If you are having a panic attack you can’t blame me.

Anyway, I caught sight of a spider streaking, metaphorically and literally across my floor. I thought, “hang on, I have not read any safety notice warning me that a spider would appear on my floor. I am a little nervous of spiders.” You’ll notice that I don’t say scared. I am a big butch bloke. Bigger than I used to be, mostly around the waist. Although that doesn’t seem to make me any more brave. But, after all, “big boys don’t cry,” I remembered that through the tears. Of course I wasn’t crying, I was far too scared for that. I wanted to keep an eye on my early morning visitor. Tears would have made that difficult.

Did I tell you how huge it was? Now all those of you who share my nervousness about spiders may need a lie down. I already was of course. I said out loud to the spider, “now, if you just stay under my bed,” by now it had hidden under there, “then you and I need not come to blows.” I think it understood, because it stayed quiet. At least I couldn’t see or hear it.

You can come out now. I’m saying that to all of you who are hiding, not to the spider, who I assume is still hiding under my bed in embarrassment. Obviously, he or she, I’m not being sexist. Are spiders ambidextrous? Or is that ambi-sexual? Or do I mean non sexual. No, wait, I seem to remember some female spiders kill the male after sex. That must be a downer. “How was it?…argggh…that bad” So the male or female spider, who is hiding under my bed is maybe waiting for the cover of darkness to cover their embarrassment. Then they will go off and do what spiders do. This is where all of you smart people, who view Spring Watch, Winter Watch and Autumn Watch can tell me what that is. I am assuming that they go out to work? Or have a party? Presumably as they are all nudists, there is a spider nudist beach? I’m just guessing here. So long as it leaves me alone. What I don’t want is to wake up in the night face to face with my friendly neighbourhood spider, comic book reference there. After all, it’s not that I would be scared, oh no. Absolutely paralysed with fear, would be closer to the mark.

Why is that you ask?  It’s a huge spider! At least an inch long. Maybe an inch and a half. But those legs make it seem so much bigger. I wouldn’t mind if it just sat there and told me jokes. Or sat in an armchair and watched TV. But why does it have to run across the floor in that totally unnecessary fashion. Wiggling those hairy legs all over the place. I apologise to all the arachnophobes here. Any of you that are still with me, are still breathing and have not been carted off to hospital that is. Look, if I can write this; you can read it.

I’m not going to get a wink of sleep you know. Still, I shall call out again, “spider, you leave me alone and we can get along just fine.” Do you think that will work? I’m not listening.

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Ship Ahoy

I feel like a captain on the bridge of his ship. Yes, that’s right, illusions of grandeur. Yesterday, for the first time, I was able to sit on our new patio and look out of the hinged opening we had cut in our fence. Don’t get too excited, you’ll need a lie down. Try breathing slowly, take a drink of water. If that doesn’t work then walk around slowly. Where was I, oh yes, telling you something really exciting. As I sat in my wheelchair on our new patio. I know sitting may not seem exciting at first; but let’s get warmed up. As I sat in my wheelchair, I looked. I told you things would hot up. Looking, now there is something that has a whole load of exciting possibilities.

People look at volcanoes, pods of whales, their new born child, an exciting air show, their first love, well the list goes on.  You can see that looking, albeit from a wheelchair, has a lot of exciting possibilities.

Mary brought me a cup of coffee. Where did that come from? I was looking a minute ago. What was I looking at? It was a very nice cup of coffee by the way. I know that all of you quick thinkers have jumped ahead and already think you know what I was looking at; wrong. It was not dogs walking on the beach, I mean, it was not ships at sea. You see, the title was misleading, well it misled me anyway.

As I sat on our new patio in my wheelchair, cup of coffee in hand, I looked out at the sunrise. Mary had seen it out of the window upstairs and come to fetch me to enjoy the view from the garden. The sight was amazing. There were people on the beach photographing it. As we sat there; did I mention Mary sat down too? We felt so blessed to be there. I felt so glad that I had access via a path and patio to the end of the garden. There were a lot of positive feelings around.

Oh yes, ships. The HMS Dragon is doing some manoeuvres at the moment nearby and we can see that from our patio too. The Chinook helicopters re-supplying it fly overhead. It is all like a free air show. All laid on for the completion of our patio so that I have things to view; ship ahoy.

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It’s All Downhill From Here

In case you are thinking I’m becoming maudlin, don’t worry. I had a dream, now it sounds like I’m about to start a speech. I had a dream last night in which I was off-roading… in my wheelchair! Unusual, no, impossible more like. I was on my own up a mountain, I say a mountain, but it was a very large hill with rocky sides. I was enjoying myself, whizzing along, wind in my hair. The long dark brown hair blowing behind me; it was a dream. Even though it was a muddy and rutted path, I didn’t notice; it felt smooth. I was looking left and right over the scenery. Swinging my shoulder length hair around; it must have been the 1970’s. Mind you, I was the age I am now, 25ish. I could see the sea over one shoulder; that’s one of those sentences you have to see written down. The other side was miles of open fields. Then I came to a gentle slope downwards so I started to descend.

You need to understand something about a power wheelchair. Well, about my power wheelchair anyway. It is heavy, it weighs around 250kg with me in it. I think it’s around 240kg on its own. Wake up! So, my quarter of a tonne wheelchair was gathering speed down this muddy slope. The incline increased and so did the speed. It increased more as the wheels slipped and I was suddenly at the point of no return. It was too steep to try and turn around, the chair would have tipped over and stopping the power did not stop the chair. I was on a ride to the bottom of that slope. I increased speed and anxiety. The chair picked up mud and rocks. One way or another I was going to the bottom of that slope; it was all downhill from there; don’t you love it when a blog title makes sense? I was terrified and the earlier joy had disappeared. I think we can call it a nightmare.

The funny thing was that as I descended that hill, uncontrolled and rather fast, I did not get hurt. The wheelchair did not turn over or crash. It was as if I was the hero in a comic book movie, I survived. I would say I walked away from it… but hey. It wasn’t a nightmare after all, it was a fun dream.

I don’t normally dream about being in a wheelchair. Even though I have had a wheelchair part time since 2007, that’s 24 years and full time since 2012, that’s 9 years. You would think my mind would see me as a wheelchair user and I would dream of being in one; but no, I dream of me walking. Actually, I dream of running, swimming and even flying; not in a plane. Funny thing the unconscious brain. I wonder if this is the beginning of a series of wheelchair adventures. Where to next? Wheeling along the bottom of the ocean? Flying in a wheelchair with ET on my lap? Wheeling through a deep, dark forest? The sky’s the limit. Actually, it’s not. Wheeling on the surface of the moon? Wheeling around the rings of Saturn? Let’s not get carried away.

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Sorry

Some people think us Brits are far too apologetic. I’m sorry, but that’s just not true. I hardly ever apologise. In fact, and I do apologise if this offends you, but for me I’d much rather be blunt and to the point. The idea that Brits go around saying sorry all the time is quite frankly silly and I’m sorry if that offends you. I was chatting to Mary the other day, I said, “Oh sorry, is that your foot, I think I’m going to write a blog about the idea that Brits are too apologetic.” Mary said, “I’m sorry, you’re going to write about what?” Which I think about proves my point.

Now if you will just bear with me for one more minute. Is that OK, I don’t want to hold you up unnecessarily, do say if it’s too much? My last point is that we have been very unfairly portrayed in movies. We haven’t? Oh! Well in that case, I’ll leave that point. I feel like I have made my point strongly, hopefully not too strongly, I don’t wont to be offensive and clearly. It was, I hope you will agree, a point well worth making.

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Blondes Have More Fun

I don’t know if it’s true that blondes have more fun, not being one myself. I have a fair bit of fun and I have dark brown hair. Stop it, you can go and stand in the corner for that comment. I have lots of thick dark brown hair left, it’s just hiding at the back of my head. I can see it in great clumps on the floor, well maybe not great clumps, but little clumps, whenever Mary cuts my hair. I have asked if Mary she could be more selective in her cutting; but apparently that’s not possible. For some crazy reason, hair trimmers cannot differentiate between grey and coloured hair. There is a massive market opportunity there for an entrepreneur. I am assuming ‘The Apprentice’ on BBC will be back next year? If so, you have your product range ready, or maybe you could pitch it to ‘The Dragons’. Are they still going? Of course you can always just sell it down the market. “Miracle ‘air cutter. Seein’ is belivin’. I won’t sell it fer fifty, I won’t sell it fer forty-five. Once in a lifetime deal, just for you darlin’ twenty-five nicker, come on, get ‘em before they all go.”

There is a perfectly rational reason that got me thinking about blondes and, no, it wasn’t that one. So go and wash your mouth out with soap. It was a computer card game. Well, I say it was a computer card game, but actually it was on my tablet. I was playing a free card game. I have discussed this before, if they are going to call it ‘free’ make it free. I would rather pay a small amount than be bombarded with adverts. Most of the time I have to watch some poor king trying to escape impossible traps. Or a lady leaves her husband and set up home on her own with a baby; it feels like a daytime soap. Today, I was treated to a submarine full of zombies; no, don’t ask why, you’ll only encourage the game makers. Then there was an impossible puzzle. I say it was impossible, it actually looked quite easy. But the caption claimed, “Only 1% of people can complete this puzzle.” I looked at it and thought, “Good luck to them, looks boring, I reckon blondes have more fun.”

Now don’t ask me what made me think that. Something about what a dull game it was, matching patterns on a massive puzzle. I was probably thinking, “who would want to do it,” or “how do they find 1% of people who can be bothered?” Either way, I guess I thought blondes had more fun than anyone doing that puzzle. But then how would I know. Maybe blondes have a very boring life. It could be that the expectation of having a fun life as a blonde, is so high, that all they actually find is disappointment. Perhaps all the blondes out there are sitting doing this very shape matching puzzle, because it’s the most exciting thing they have done all year. Maybe blondes have a saying, “red heads have more fun.” I have no wish to cast any nasturtiums, no wait, that’s a flower. I have no wish to cast any dispersions, still wrong, I have no wish to say anything wrong; that’ll do. After all, blondes are just like the rest of us, well, except being blonde of course. They have their good days and their bad days. If they want to do a puzzle; I will leave them to it. After all, I could be wrong, it’s been known. Maybe that boring looking puzzle is a lot of fun and the blondes doing it are having a lot of fun.

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When Did I Become Old?

We had Mary’s niece and children visit yesterday. Two wonderful lads, 8 and 5 years old. As I watched them play, chatted to them and saw their excitement at discovering new things, it brought back memories of our children at their age.

I remembered, being a young dad, rushing around, caring for our children, playing with them. I also remembered the times we visited elderly relatives. How they used to sit looking on and how extremely old they seemed. Yesterday, I had a moment of realisation, I am now the elderly relative, sitting, looking on. I was quite taken aback. I adjusted the blanket on my knee, put the hearing trumpet to my ear, rearranged my dentures, and thought, “I am nothing like they were.” I don’t really have dentures, just far fewer teeth than I started out with.

When did I become old? It has rather snuck up on me. Age seems to be like a stealth plane. You don’t see it coming and then, without any warning, it’s there. I have been merrily pootling along as a young man for years, many years, years and years. Then without a by your leave, age dropped on me like a ton of bricks. I wouldn’t mind, but it gave me no warning. It’s not as if I gradually showed any signs of age. I have kept my youthful good looks, my full head of hair, my wrinkle free skin, my toned body, my imagination and sense of humour all this time. Then overnight I wake up to being an old man. I call it unfair, grossly unfair. How can I possibly be old?

It seems that now is the time. I have held it off long enough. All the old men did it when I was younger. Time for a comb over and Grecian 2000 hair dye. Not sure about the couple of wrinkles; Polyfilla maybe? Actually, not sure what I can comb over, I don’t have any hair left; details, minor details. Do they still sell Grecian 2000? Still, I’ve heard it said, “age is just a number.” Now where did I put the Pollyfilla?

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Saving The Best ‘Till Last

I realised the other day, why I was always picked last in sports at school. Yes, it’s that recent I can still remember it. The team captains were saving the best ‘till last. Why had I never realised this before? It’s so obvious. I have gone through my life feeling inadequate, as if being left ‘till last meant I was no good at sport. Now, I have finally recognised the truth. I am an Olympian, a champion. I should really be in Tokyo or at least the Paralympic Games. Where do I sign up? When do I leave? Wait a minute, all those emails and letters I have binned or deleted, that tell me I’m a winner; they were right. There was me thinking they were spam. The world has turned right way up at last. What a great relief, I can finally see my full potential. Who needs weeks of counselling, years of feeling inadequate and useless? If you were picked last at school then you are also the best, the crème de la crème, the bees’ knees, the top of the list, head of the heap, the king of the hill, those little town blues… why does everything have to turn into a song? You get the point; you are fabulous, amazing, brilliant, a winner. Come on all of you, join me in the winner’s enclosure. Crack open the champagne, leap up onto the podium (virtually in my case), get ready for the accolades.

You won’t believe this, but it has been suggested to me that I have a silly sense of humour. I know, daft, eh? Well, all I can say is, I’m off to get ready for the awards ceremony. Or do I need to compete first? Actually, while I’ve got your attention, how do you play tennis, or high diving, or sailing, I think I remember about cycling. Mind you, I can’t actually do that any more. Come to think about it, I’ve never taken part in any world class sports before. Still, that doesn’t matter, because I can’t physically do any sport anyway, I’m sure they will just reward the thought and passion. I have a positive attitude; that counts for a lot. By the way at what point do I get awarded the gold medal?

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Changeable Weather

The other day I was struck at how changeable British weather is. I know, I am a genius and should be awarded The Nobel Prize.  Perhaps you could nominate me. I’m sure no one has ever noticed this before. It’s like the observation that British people like to talk about the weather or that we often have fish and chips on a Friday. These are all unique observations I have made. “Well blow me down with a feather!” I can hear you say, or as my Granma used to say, “I’ll go to the foot of our stairs.” You are all so astounded at my observations you can hardly contain yourselves. Perhaps I should turn the comments off on social media. I don’t want to be inundated with praise.

I made this earth shattering observation, because one minute the sun was shining, the next we had a thunderstorm with hail, the next such heavy rain I could barely see over the road out of our window. Then it was back to sunshine, then overcast. Typical British summer really. In fact when you see the average British holiday maker going away in summer, they will have a huge lot of gear with them. If you are from another country you probably assumed us Brits were carrying sandwiches or swimwear. Perhaps you thought we just had a beach tent or wet suit? Maybe you thought we were carrying a tent ready to stop the night somewhere? Well, no, you see when us Brits go on holiday in summer we understand the weather over here. So we pack: A change of clothes, an umbrella (essential all year round), a waterproof mac, wellington boots and sandals (you have to cover all possibilities), a sun hat and a rain hat, a waterproof bag to put things in, then all the normal beach things, sun cream, towels (to lie on, wrap around and dry with), wet suits (this is the UK), water shoes, bucket and spade, beach tent (wind proof, storm force), ground sheet and pegs, food and drink for the whole day (possibly a kettle), football or beach ball, of course all this is too big for a bag. Someone came up with a brilliant invention, I wish they had them when our kids were young. A wheeled trolley to carry all your necessary beach gear; essential UK beach gear. It’s the size of a small truck, 7.5 tonne probably, and it looks brilliant, six wheeled and articulated.

I didn’t write this blog to advertise push along HGV’s though; as brilliant as they are. All this changeable weather, don’t forget I noticed it first, has another implication. When you are in the midst of troubles, when things seem dark and impossible to bear. When life feels like a very dark and forbidding place. Remember, light will come again. It doesn’t feel like it; I know. If anyone has a right to say this it’s me. I do understand what it is to have everything pulled from under you. Not just the rug of your life; but the floor itself. I do know what it feels like to lose the life you were living. To have your job, your health and what feels like all hope and future snatched away. Read some of my biography blogs if you want to see what happened. But the sun is still behind the clouds. The weather keeps changing. Life is like that too. We have terrible things happen to us, illness, bereavement, job loss, family break up, all sorts of things cause us pain and heartache. That darkness feels like it will never end; but it is like the storms we keep going through, the sun comes back.

There is hope and a future.

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Crash, Bang, Wallop

I’m sure you’ve all seen ‘Half a sixpence’ and if you haven’t, will now be rushing off to look it up. “Crash, bang, wallop, what a picture, what a photograph,” is a line from one of the songs in it. Which has absolutely nothing to do with building work. Although, they do have a house built; well beginning to be built.

What am I talking about? I have spent the last two weeks in a room below and beside a lot of building noise. Crashing and banging and walloping. Builders seem to find it easier to drop their tools than put them down. To throw things rather than place things. They are hard of hearing and need radios blaring. For some reason van engines often need to be left running. They trip over all the stuff they leave lying around and then off course they have the actual building work. Drilling, sawing, banging, angle grinders and general building noise.

We have been having DFG (Disabled Facilities Grant) adaptations done on our house to make it more accessible and generally much better for me. The garage has become a room, mainly to house the through floor lift which will go into the bedroom above; my bedroom. But as a result of being adapted it gives me a room to put my excess stuff into. My bedroom is already one of the smaller ones. By the time you have to leave room for the lift, a hospital bed, two doors (entrance and wet-room), wheelchair, wheeled shower chair, small wardrobe, and bedside table there isn’t room to swing a cat or for the rest of my stuff; if cat swinging isn’t allowed. Where will my collection of teddy bears go? What about my collection of antique sports cars? Then their all my suits of armour and my extensive collection of old phone boxes. I am of course kidding, but I do have more things than just clothes. So those things will be in the room below, it’s on the sunny side of the house; should be a nice place to sit as well, when you visit for coffee. You’ve not had an invite? It’s in the post.

I have already hinted at the other part of the building work; directly above my head. I am currently sleeping in the lounge. That’s a very appropriate name for our front room/sitting room, because I lunge around in my hospital bed. Anyway, something was happening directly above my head; what was it? The ceiling hoist? No, that just sits there until used. Ah yes, the wet-room conversion. They have taken a small en suite from the larger bedroom, swapped its entrance into my bedroom. Then extended it into the larger bedroom, which is now smaller. Are you still with me? I wish I was; I’ve only seen photos so it’s hard to really grasp what it looks like yet. The result is that I will have a large enough wet room for two carers and me; sounds like there ought to be a song there. Apparently due to my condition, care companies in this area will only give me a shower with two carers. No, not because I am so large, that’s just rude of you. It’s because I can suddenly go like a rag doll and even though I have a reclining shower chair with seat belts, its best to be safe. Shower time is therefore going to be crowded. Don’t worry, I know we don’t all have a shower. Not unless I happen to splash them, accidentally; which I would never do. Having said that most of the time it will be Mary giving me a shower, we haven’t got a rule about two carers, Mary knows the signs well enough to see ‘rag doll’ time coming on.

Back to these really quiet builders crashing about above my head. I appreciate what they are doing and I am looking forward to getting upstairs to my bedroom. I’m especially looking forward to the sea views from our balcony room upstairs. I just wish that they had learnt to be a bit more careful with their tools. Is it really necessary to throw a hammer on the floor after use? When I was on my feet and doing houses up, I had a tool belt and a work bench. My tool box was on the work bench and I put, not threw, tools back in that. Tools I was using all the time went on my tool belt. As for tripping over everything, that is just bad practice. The HSE would not be happy; mind you they often look unhappy. An HSE (Health & Safety Executive) Inspector doesn’t smile a lot, but then I guess they have little to smile about. If they came to see what our builders are doing, they might giggle on the inside, but they would have to be stern on the outside. A clean work area is a safe work area, no I have never been an HSE inspector.

Oh, the joy, the deep, deep joy, when 3.30pm comes and the working day ends. Yes, you read the time right; 9am to 3.30pm. I was in the wrong job when I used to work in an office. Anyway, the deep joy at the end of a long working day when the crashing, banging, walloping and general noise ends. The end is now in sight. Friday we are told, most of the work will be finished. Then all we have to wait for is the glass for the windows. Apparently, Brexit, Covid and Suez all worked together to hold that up, very co-ordinated of them all. Then we have to wait on the through floor lift; that was on an 8–12-week delivery from 24th June. The same three well co-ordinated suspects may be holding that up too though.

Crash, bang, wallop, what a picture the finished project will be. Well, it will be once we can get it decorated. The builders leave it with bare plaster walls; apart from the part tiled we-room of course. But once it is all done, it will be amazing.

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The New Hoisting Diet

I have discovered an amazing new diet. But, let’s not rush into my world changing revelation. Let me not spoil the moment. I don’t want to jump the gun and get you all placing orders for my miracle diet before I have even told you about it’s wonders.

But where do I even begin? Well, I was a poor lad, born long ago without a penny to my name… too far back? OK, let’s jump on a bit. The winter was harsh and cold, help just wasn’t in sight… still too long ago? You are a hard bunch to please. Straight to the point it is then. Speaking of which… alright, straight to the point.

Have you ever noticed ‘middle aged spread?’ It’s not a type of margarine. It’s when your middle decides that it wants to spread beyond your waste band. I consider that to be a betrayal of trust. After all, you have nurtured that belly all your life. Kept it hidden and tucked up cosy in a belt. You looked after it, never let it down or said anything bad about it. Then one day, without any notice, it just decides to burst out of your trousers and make an embarrassing show of itself to all and sundry. I wouldn’t mind, but it’s so undignified. It doesn’t even respect the outfit you’re wearing, trousers, shorts, PJ’s, skirt (not me of course), kilt (not me either, slacks (if you’re one of my American readers) or joggers. Whatever you are wearing it overspills them like a waterfall of flubber.

This ‘middle aged spread,’ flab to you and I, after all we can speak straight, can’t we? We can be honest with one another? This fat! Well, it just hangs there, wobbling and generally being silly. Not behaving itself at all.
Today an OT (Occupational Therapist) visited. You didn’t know they did diets; well, they don’t. She was here to bring me a new sling for use with my ceiling hoist. A toileting sling; I will leave it to you to decide what that is for. Mind after I had tried it on, she said, “do you want to use the commode?” That’s a mobile toilet by the way. I said, “not with an audience.” Actually, I only thought that, I was just embarrassed, after all there were three people present. I’m not in the habit of using a toilet in public, even a public convenience. Being disabled is embarrassing, but there are limits.

Back to the sling, it has a Velcro strap around the middle, it goes around your ‘middle aged spread.’ The OT had brought two sizes, medium; I know, I laughed too, and large. Hang on, why did you laugh at medium? Well, the large was tight. But the OT said, “don’t worry, they are always tight, until you are hoisted.” We are coming in fast on the point of my blog now. Get your credit card ready to buy this almost unbelievable diet.

As I was hoisted into the air a miracle occurred. My ‘middle aged spread’ disappeared! Will wonders never cease? Something about being hoisted, gravity, physics, bottoms hanging out of slings; even covered bottoms. Whatever the logic, your belly becomes slim. It’s a wonder diet; instant and reliable. We won’t mention it reappearing on being lowered; let’s gloss over that. There are slight down sides to everything.

So, if you are suffering from ‘middle aged spread’ all you need is a sling and a hoist; hey presto, a slim tummy. Simple, eh? They should package it up as ‘The New Hoisting Diet’. Then in small print, “Only effective while in the hoist.” Aren’t you glad that you stuck it out till the end?

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Flipper

“OK Flipper, show us where he is.” When I was growing up, in the early 2000’s, sorry that just slipped in there, 1970’s, animals on TV were really clever. Lassie, Flipper, Silver, Black Beauty, pretty much any animal could talk to humans either in English or at least be understood. They so loved humans, especially the kids, that they spent all their time playing with them and rescuing them. You’d have thought they would have had better things to do. Leap around in the water, run in a field, chase sheep.

Reality on the streets was often very different, of course. Any animals I spoke to said, “yeah, hang loose man, be cool.” Rather than offering to help. Actually, that’s not true, they never said, “be cool,” I added that bit. In fact, as a child my mates and I formed an animal rescue group. I say we, but I had a bit part. We all had a medical kit on our bicycles and we road around our village looking for wounded animals to rescue. Just as well we never discovered one, as none of us would know what to do with them. We didn’t have any veterinary training. Looking back (I was only about 8 or 9, no wonder I wasn’t a vet) I realise that the founder of this group was not exactly ecologically sound. He had a draw full of blown birds’ eggs!! Oh yes, reality on the streets was different, most kids hurt wild animals rather than played with them.

What got me thinking about Flipper was events of yesterday. No, I wasn’t drowning and a Dolphin rescued me. Nor was my motor boat stolen by thieves and Flipper directed the police after them. Mary was out for a walk on the beach and phoned me. Where does Flipper come in? Be patient; she saw a flock of, is that the word, gathering, group, pod, is it a pod like whales, a pod of dolphins. They were a way out to sea. Mind you they were having a rare old time, leaping and swimming and generally cavorting around; do dolphins cavort? She phoned me to say… I was at home in my hospital bed… to say, look at the cameras in the upstairs bedroom. Well, not look at the cameras you understand, but look at the images of the sea on them. I’m not sure if you have used Wi-Fi HD cameras, but the HD bit is a misnomer. The image of the sea and pier were a bit grainy. By bit I mean, very. So, all I could see was the sea. A very poor image of the same. Mary was describing amazing images of leaping dolphins next to a fishing boat. I have a good imagination; you may have noticed. Which meant that I was able to see Flipper leaping out of the water, over the boat. I heard him clicking and whistling, saw him waving his fins. It was all very exciting; almost unbelievable. Anyone looking at the camera image would have been forgiven for thinking all I could see was a blurry dot where the fishing boat was bobbing on the water.

Fellow Marine Pointers, did you know I lived on an estate called Marine Point? Well I do, fellow MPer’s have seen dolphins much closer; as has Mary. I guess I shall have to wait till Lassie tells me that they are back, leap onto Silver, shout Hi, Ho, and away to the beach to catch Flipper as he performs.

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Getting To Know You

‘Getting to know you…’ Any fans of ‘The King and I’ will be in full voice by now. I of course have not reached, ‘…your cup of tea.’ There is a purpose behind the lyrics of course; Anna was introducing herself… no I mean in this blog. Mary and I have recently moved to Hartlepool; how did you miss that one? Go and sit in the corner. Which means, everything is new. Well, not quite everything. But I have to get used to a new house, new area, new equipment, new doctor, new OT and new carers. I am getting to know them.

Fortunately, I already understand the local dialect. Which reminds me, when we last lived here many years ago, I didn’t understand it. One of our sons went to a new school here and after school, went home with a friend. He rang me to say that he would need collecting later from the friends house. So, I needed an address and directions. You’re a clever lot, so you already know what’s coming. The friends mum took the phone and gave me the address. Well, I couldn’t find it on the map, not the way she said it. I am not going to give their address out here, but there are some ways things are said up here, that take getting used to and her accent confused me. The road name did not sound the way it looked to me on a map, when she spelt it out. A couple of examples of local dialect that I have come to love are: moower (elongate the first part), is a moor, and twoast (say it as one word quickly) is toast. But I am assured by many locals, that they don’t have an accent in Hartlepool. Anyway, our lass was seeying, away with ya hinny, they don’t talk like that, flower.

You do realise I am going to be in trouble now. I probably will upset all my carers. Actually, they are a lovely group and have a wonderful sense of humour. Just as well really; with me as a client.

I was thinking the other day. A very good habit pooh bear. Imagine, walking in to meet me for the first time. After getting over the shear joy of meeting me and the wonderment at my muscular physique and taut svelte body. They then have to deal with my humility. How do they keep from fainting? I’ve known me for years and I can’t stand in my presence; no, wait, I just can’t stand.

Being serious for a moment… that’s long enough. Let’s have another try. It’s always difficult getting to know new people. Both for me and them. Carers are a whole other case. I won’t go into all the reasons now, but if you read my blog “Care, a unique relationship.” You will understand more about why. In brief a care to client relationship is both professional and personal, distant and yet somehow close. It’s hard to quantify, because when someone gets to know you well over time, they can’t help but understand you well. Of course, what makes it unique is that understanding is one sided. In most relationships where you are known intimately, you know the other person just as intimately; not so with care. Carers are like friends and yet not friends, a strangely intimate, yet not intimate, professional, yet close relationship. I don’t know of any comparable relationship. It is not like your doctor or a nurse, not like family or friends.

Here we are again… I’ll resist ending that ‘happy as can be.’ Starting that process over again, getting to know a new set of carers. Eeee, I’ll be off now flower, our lass is bringing me a stottie.

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Where’s It Been?


I gather the football is coming home. But, where has it been and why didn’t the neighbours throw it over the wall a long time ago. When we used to play football as kids and kick the ball over the wall; something that happened a lot. Either they threw it back with a shout of, “oi, don’t do that again.” Or, if they were out, we would nip round, scout out the neighbours house and run like the billy-oh to fetch our ball back.


So my question remains. Why has it taken so long for our neighbours to throw the ball back? Is it to do with Brexit? Now that we are leaving Europe have they decided there is no point hanging onto our ball any longer? Or is the ball so old and deflated that they think we might as well have it back?


Somebody please explain. I just don’t get all this singing. “Footballs coming home, it’s coming.” Where from? Why, How? While we are on the subject how do people know it’s coming back? Have our neighbours given us a heads up? Did the German’s say, “Vee have finished vith it now.” Or the Danes say, “pay us some geld and you can have your ball back?” Is it even up to them, haven’t those Italian’s got it? I’m sure I saw an ice cream seller singing, “just one balleto. Keep it for me.” Was he just teasing? Will he have a say in the matter?


Anyway, you know me, I would never step on any holy cows, nor tackle any thorny issues. I certainly wouldn’t upset any football fans. Football is far too important. One thing is obvious to me; the football is coming home, whatever that means. Watch out Italy, England are going to win on Sunday.

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Confused, you will be

I can be easily confused and moving to a new house may be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Wondering why? Let me explain: The lounge is going to be my temporary bedroom, but will then become a dining room and a music room (well Mary’s piano will be in it.) Our dining room, which is actually a kitchen/diner is going to become our lounge at one end and stay a kitchen at the other. Just as well, I don’t fancy Mary trying to cook food on the sofa or fry an egg on a coffee table, “extra soft-boiled eggs anyone?”. One of the bedrooms is going to be an upstairs sitting room (it has sea views). The garage will become a lift room, and also a computer room (my bedroom will be too small for my computer after the lift access is added). Don’t worry I haven’t returned to the 1960’s with room sized computers, I just mean my PC will be in that room.

Just imagine the confusion all this changing around will cause. The car won’t know where it is, we may well find it in the kitchen one day or sitting on the sofa reading a paper. Herbie rides again, here we come. I might lose Mary completely. Just imagine, Mary might say, “lunch is ready,” I will be sitting in my wheelchair in what was once the dining room, while Mary and my rapidly cooling lunch is somewhere else entirely. Or picture what could happen if a visitor calls around for coffee. Mary says, “take a seat in the lounge”, they glance around, decide on the appropriate room. Mary makes the drinks and starts searching. The drinks could be cold before they are found. Years could pass before we find our visitor covered in cobwebs and dust.

I’m thinking of labelling the house East Wing and West Wing; is that too ostentatious? At least that way we could say, “meet me in the West Wing lounge.” I’m making our house sound far larger and grander than it is. As I said to the butler the other day, “if I write this blog people will think we live in a mansion.” He laughed and said, “just wait till I tell that to the 2nd under maid.” I just wish we could find enough footmen for house. The gardeners are always complaining that 100 acres is too much for them to manage alone. We really have a very ordinary house.

A note for my readers from the US of A. We no longer live in Somerset, so this obviously isn’t true. It’s only true of every Brit who lives in that county, as is shown in every American Movie. The people of the south live in mansions. We now live Up North, and I wear a whippet and take a flat cap for a walk.

Anyway, I must go, the maid wants to set the fire in this room.

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