I bet the real Santa wouldn’t tolerate this crap

The local radio station runs a delightful campaign where people are asked to donate an extra gift for a needy child who might otherwise get nothing for Christmas.  This is a beautiful thing and the year that I was asked to be part of it, I knew it would be so very special.   And special indeed it was.

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So I joined social services all young, fresh faced and full of enthusiasm.  I was going to right wrongs, restore harmony and generally do the right thing, goddammit.  Now this was misguided for many a reason and the year that I became Santa was just a tiny drop in the ocean of cynicism I was to develop.

But anyways…..a large sackful of gifts appeared in our office from the radio show.  Who would be in touch with more needy children than social services after all?  I had visions of grubby little urchins holding up their outstretched palms like marginally better fed Oliver Twists, tears of joy sliding down their little faces as they received the first presents they had ever had.  I saw families who had hitherto spent the kiddies Christmas pressie fund on fags and sky tv being so touched by the kindness of strangers at this miraculous time that they recanted of their shameful ways and abandoned the vodka and crack pipes in favour of homework time and extra cuddles.  Through my willingness to distribute the benevolence of others I was going to help create a new generation of doctors, academics and artists from those who might otherwise have been hanging around street corners with headgear at ridiculous angles and trousers filling with rainwater where they were puddled around their knees.

I know, I totally had it coming right?

So having leaped forward to volunteer myself for this mission, I gathered the massive pile of gifts and headed out into the gently falling snow, humming a festive tune, heart full of joy and face full of chocolate.

That all was not to go quite as I imagined first became clear as I arrived at the first house.  Now I am aware that poor deprived urchins probably don’t live in the most salubrious areas but manoeuvring through the burning tyres and used durex mountains was startling.  There was a flood of wide eyed salvation army collectors streaming past my car uttering oaths that I’m fairly sure were not in the Bible.  A group of carol singers huddled by the wayside, weeping softly and not even in key.

Undaunted I parked up and headed for my first destination.  The front door bore the welcoming notice ‘go rond bak’ so to the garden I duly headed.  Now I’m good with dogs, even the most slavering beast with extra fangs doesn’t faze me.  This family did not have a dog.  What they had was a hate filled bundle of furry, fury that launched itself on spring loaded rear legs straight for my throat.  Hideous screams filled the air, though whether from me or the hell beast I could no longer tell.  Luckily this brought the family to my aid.  Well I say aid, if aid means going ‘daft bitch is scared of the fucking bunny!’, anyway.  Seriously though, that was the shit scariest rabbit that ever existed outside of Monty Python.

Gifts were handed over, jugulars were bandaged and criticisms were uttered about the lack of willingness of the local populace to hand over Xboxes or Benson and Hedges during the festive season.  I’m guessing no-one thought those were ideal for a seven year old but that’s because they aren’t in tune with the youth of today who are all about the gaming and befanged cottontailed demons.

Several near death experiences later, I went to drive out of the estate on my remaining two wheels.  The softly falling snow was now a howling blizzard and  the roads were slick with ice and Special Brew. My car, unlike a sleigh did not rise above this and I found myself in a sort of bobsleigh of terror with no idea which  way I was facing let alone how to escape this hell.  I became grimly aware that should I survive this I was going to need a change of career and underwear although probably not in that order.

Escape I did however, and after flinging the remaining gifts in the faces of the now hideously threatening and peril strewn ragamuffin population with naught but a hastily muttered ‘ Mer’ Chrissma’ before dashing to the safety of my rapidly disintegrating vehicle, I headed for sanctuary at the local hostelry.  After telling my tale of woe and restoring my festive spirit by imbibing large quantities of gin (the most festive of spirits) I was able to regain both my perspective and control of my bladder.

But much as it pains me to let the truth get in the way of my story, it’s only fair to say that actually, several dicey moments aside the majority of people took my presence and presents in the manner they were intended and were genuinely touched that anyone could be bothered to think of them and their kids at a time when most of us think pretty much entirely about the irritations of fighting red eyed hordes for the last furby on the shelf or how many calories it’s possible to consume before actually turning in on oneself and inadvertently devouring planets in our newfound gravitational force (NB this may not actually be how physics works but if it turns out in the future that it is, you can share my Nobel prize).

Also my expectation had been all about the beaming, bright eyed seraphim and lo and behold generally they were beaming like little cherubs, well if cherubs were armed with flick knives and a vocabulary that would make Quentin Tarantino flinch.

So I learned three main things:

1) People are both much better and much worse than you think

2) Expectations are all about you.  If you think other people will go along with them or play nicely then you are doomed to a life of bowel bothering terror or resentful fury.

3)  There is a reason Santa wants nothing to do with you while you’re awake and he is a fucking genius.

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Sorry about that apocalypse guys

Now I love my cats, I really do.  At any given moment I’m only  a few whiskers short of being a proper crazy cat lady.  I had previously been looking forward to this and reconciled to the fact that I will probably end my days being eaten in my sleep because I bought the wrong brand of kittie bics.  However a recent experience has caused me to rethink this.  Let me share my pain with you……..

Imagine the scene if you will – it’s a cold, wet night and I am sitting quietly at home, wrapped in a blanket whilst lovingly crafting gifts for the festive season (ok I’m swearing like a trooper and bleeding from a crochet hook induced injury.  See https://talesofthemildlydiscombobulating.wordpress.com/2012/12/10/why-i-suck-at-christmas/)

Anyway, there is great clatter and cacophony and in comes a small, psychotic cat shrieking like a hell demon who has just discovered the matches are missing.  I of course leap up in great alarm to rush to her aid, tangling both legs in the blanket and damn near knocking myself unconscious on the coffee table. Fighting off the visions of being consumed by the felines rather earlier than I expected, I drag myself to my feet just in time to see her calmly depositing a dead mouse under the table.

Relief and mild revulsion mingling in my breast, I step up to  retrieve its sad little corpse whilst acknowledging the pride of the mighty hunter.  At this point it turns out that said rodent was only feigning death and with an almighty squeal, it jumped up and launched itself straight for my jugular as the aforementioned mighty hunter ran straight behind the sofa.  Clearly I was dealing with a zombie mouse with rage issues and probably a poor relationship with its mother.

Despite my obvious terror and the risk of inadvertently joining the legions of the undead and/or losing my remaining brains, I basically built a fortress of boxes around the rodent of the apocalypse to try and herd it into a place of safety.

All the while, frustrated hellcat is screaming and inciting kitty riots outside the sitting room door. Anyway, in the style of the Pied Piper’s really inept but well meaning third cousin, I lure the now extremely perky and distinctly homicidal zombie mouse into a box and carry it safely through the house to the garden. Of course, I was being followed by an army of baying felines, convinced that they can mob handedly (pawdedly?) destroy the satanic vermin.

In view of this I very firmly close the back door behind me.  That would be the door that automatically locks when you close it and needs a key to get back in.

I realise that at this point I have no keys, no mobile, no shoes and no sense of personal dignity. I was trapped outside in the rain and mud with an unrestrained, undead mouse that may or may not launch an assault upon my unprotected back as I attempt to break into my own home using nothing but a selection of garden produce.

Also, in my amazing, planning wisdom I had neglected to remember that I have a cat flap so the whole shutting the door against the marauding mousers was pretty much the third most ridiculous thing I’ve done this week…………sorry, fourth most but I’m not allowed to talk about at least two of those things until the trial.

Of course at this point, the highly disgruntled moggie popped out of the cat flap and firmly and decisively bit me as revenge for the theft of her mouse.  She then calmly waltzed back inside where it’s warm to laugh at my pathetic attempts at being McGuyver.   It’s amazing what you can do with a trowel, a garden hammock and some over ripe parsnips when faced with imminent hypothermia and the guttural squeaking of the animated cadaver of the rodent of the damned.

Apologies for the horde of zombie mice I might have inadvertantly created and released on an unsuspecting population. Try not to smell like cheese or brains for a while

Time off for excessively awesome behaviour

So I have week off work ostensibly to celebrate my birthday (more on that later).  Now work is very busy and it’s been hard to take leave but when my original plans fell through I offered to cancel my leave and do some hard office time.  My manager however insisted that I go and refused to revoke my parole.  Initially I thought this was a reflection of how hard I’ve been working and her intense desire to maintain my well-being.  On further reflection though it occurred to me that it may have been due to any or all of the following incidents:

The NHS love a bit of mandatory training but don’t differentiate between different types of clinical staff.  Apparently on manual handling courses it is not considered the done thing to point out that if you work in mental health ‘manual handling’ basically constitutes inappropriate touching and they probably shouldn’t be encouraging me to do that.

Also when being trained to use the new data storing system and being awarded ‘superuser’ status, they really don’t like it when you refuse to attend the extra training unless they give you a cape.

When encouraging attendance for the anaphylaxis training  which basically is not catchy on account of no-one can spell it; the suggestion that they use the tagline “stab ’em or bag ’em” to promote epi pen awareness did not go down as well as I would have expected.  Not even when I drew them pictures complete with body bag wielding undertakers looking all sad and shaking their heads in a ‘oh, if only more people knew about epi pens’ kind of way.  I guess they thought undertakers would be pleased about more people dying like giant red balloons (but the kind you never give to children, not even with a ribbon attached).

On the same day as this, we also get CPR type training which is run by an organisation called ‘Back to Life’.  Now the obvious conclusion when you see this is that you are going to be trained to be either Jesus or some sort of zombie master.  Not being sure which made it very hard to plan my wardrobe for the day.  Who would have thought that some people think blending the two is blasphemous?  If there was no such thing as zombie Jesus we wouldn’t have Easter now would we? I think it’s just that the trainer remembered me from last year’s unpleasantness: https://talesofthemildlydiscombobulating.wordpress.com/2012/12/20/stupid-ankle-sprain

The final straw however was possibly me doing a massive sea of printing on our shiny new printer. I was feeling pretty chuffed with myself until it stopped dead, flashed its lights and refused to go any further until I tended to its needs.  I topped up its paper,  checked its ink levels and patted it reassuringly while whispering sweet technological nothings into its flappy bits (totally not as dirty as it sounds)

Nothing.

After swearing, pleading, pressing every single button and opening every drawer, flap and orifice (the printers not mine) it finally grudgingly gave up the message ‘JAM’.

At last I knew what the little blighter was after so I hop to it and acquired the finest fruit preserves available on the NHS. Now I’m no IT whizz despite having worked out how to turn it off and on again, so I wasn’t quite sure which of the aforementioned orifi (that’s gotta be a word right?) one would apply jam to.  So I guessed and I guessed liberally.  It was like a messy but enthusiastic union between a donut and a jammy dodger only with more bees (an unexpected side effect that I probably should have thought through)

Anyway it must have worked as our admin was so tearfully grateful she says I don’t have to do my own printing anymore.

So basically the only logical conclusion is that I’m being given time off to top up my awesome after having so freely and generously flung it about the workplace ( the awesome not the………oh actually sorry, that too)

Cookery for A&E lovers

So I’m usually a reasonably ok cook.  I go into the kitchen, a moderate amount of swearing happens and every single pot, pan and utensil somehow ends up in a filthy pile in the sink before finally food emerges at the other end (of the kitchen I mean, not the other end ….well I suppose that too but for once it’s not that kind of story).

It’s fair to say however, that the path to stomach based contentment has not always run smoothly for me.  On one particularly fine occasion I became distracted, wandered off and actually managed to burn soup.  The marks of my battle with squid risotto will remain forevermore on my kitchen walls (how was I to know that when you cut into those neatly prepared tubes, they shoot their tentacles out of the arse end like small, slimy, face eating rockets?)

Just for anyone still questioning their own culinary skills, here is the tragic tale of me versus poached eggs.

Now poached eggs are tricky little blighters.  They pretend to be all basic with their “ooh, just drop me into hot water and I’ll be all oozy and delicious for you baby” come on’s but we all know that this is lies.

The water has to be heated to exactly the right kind of hot and bubbly.  Ever tried to poach eggs in a Jacuzzi? Just don’t, really.

Then you need the right kind of acidy, vinegary something that has to be purchased from virgins by the light of the second full moon of the month.  If I were a cynical type I might note that the latter is in somewhat greater supply round this neck of the woods than the former.

Finally you have to have an egg in the precise moment of poachy freshness which is neither so close to it’s birth date that it can still smell chicken poo, or three seconds later than that, when it has resigned itself to an unfulfilled life of mere frying or boiling and is now a little depressed and resentful.  There is a whole untapped market for ovum therapy.

Anyway, once you have gathered your accoutrements, you need to crack the egg in one smooth movement, drop it from precisely 4.6cm above the highest bubble on the surface of the water and then stir frantically in order to create a tiny vortex, from inside of which the spirit of Delia Smith will emerge and speak the magic words that transform your dinner from a sodden, snotty pile of string to a perfect ivory sphere, complete with internal molten gold  (yes, I know I’ve been watching far too much Masterchef).

Now on this fateful occasion I really thought I’d got it right, I’d prayed to the great goddess Nigella, sprinkled herbs and aromatics all about me (ok, knocked the spice rack over) and said the special incantation (fuckityerbastardbloodywellwork)

Suddenly there was a great cloud of smoke and a sense of unusual warmth about my hands.  I gazed at them in wonder, convinced that at last I had found the wizardry which would propel me to gastronomic stardom among the poached egg connoissuer set and imagining the accolades that would be laid before me.

That’s when I realised that I’d got too close to the gas hob and set fire to my sleeves.

Caravan of doom

So everyone loves a caravan holiday right?  It’s like camping but less shitty.  You can connect with the great outdoors but still pee inside which is basically the definition of civilisation.  Philosophy, religion and politics all become irrelevant in the face of having somewhere warm and moderately snake free to unload your digestive system.

Now this is all well and good until you are on your journey home from a folk festival, quietly congratulating yourself on achieving bacon sandwiches at both the preparation and disposal ends of the spectrum with a modicum of dignity.  At this point the car makes a strange flatulent noise (a bit like the disposal of aforementioned sandwiches alongside several pints of beer and a large kebab) and sputters to a halt in the middle of a very busy dual carriageway with no hard shoulder and a caravan that is quivering like an agoraphobic snail.

Luckily for me and all those who use the highways of Britain, I was not alone.  The practical thinking, macho type man beside me uttered all the appropriate swears before donning the hi vi jacket of super official responsibility. The one day of British summertime was in full force and no hazard lights were visible to the hordes of motorists who had attempted a day trip to the seaside to complain about how hot and busy it all was.

 Anyway, my stalwart companion boldly strode forth into the road and attempted to shoo away oncoming traffic as if it were a flock of particularly malevolent geese.  Profanities streamed from his mouth in such a way that would make the saltiest of sea dogs quake in their undergarments and the trauma of the moment caused gusts of arse turbulence such as could only be emitted by a man who has spent a whole weekend on real ale and now faced his imminent demise under the wheels of a thousand Nissan Micras.

Now I was not idle during this time.  I was frantically calling for rescue and vodka in equal proportions.  Being stranded in the West Country on a Sunday, both were in short supply, as was my sense of perspective.  It appeared that my breakdown cover was only valid on days with an ‘x’ in them if the moon was full and goblins had attacked otherwise there were additional charges.

At this point a saviour appeared.  Far from being  a Christ like figure in white robes and with the power to summon hard liquor at will, he was a six foot son of the land complete with shit stained overalls and a Somerset accent so thick it could cut treacle.

He also had a large Landrover complete with a very large chainsaw on the back seat and two very bemused sheep in the boot.  Our hero, recognising the plight of the terminally middle class and helpless, dragged us to the safety of a nearby layby.  The sheep by this time had happily ensconced themselves in the caravan and were enjoying a quiet gin and tonic whilst criticising my curtains.

So anyway, rescue happened but I can’t tell you much about that on account of losing the whole night doing tequila slammers with extra mint sauce

 

 

 

Car maintainance for the mechanically vague

Through years of determined disinterest and bodging, I have garnered some essential facts about keeping cars on the road.  This isn’t a ‘girls don’t know about cars, isn’t that cute and funny?’ type post, merely an observation that some people nod seriously when others discuss head gaskets, other people giggle and make up their own jokes when others discuss head gaskets.  I think we can all guess which category I fall into.

So as I’m all about the sharing of wisdom and innuendo (one much more than the other), have some mechanical know how on me:

– If there is any kind of disturbing rattle type of noise coming from the car, simply turn the radio up until you can’t hear it.  Hey presto, noise is no longer disturbing.

 

– If you need to check the levels of things under your bonnet such as oil, water and pixie dust (my mechanic assures me that this is vital for the smooth running of my vehicle), simply locate the little lever that makes a delightful poppy, clunky sort of sound and pull it.  This is not the same lever as the one that makes the seat go back and forward.  Learning this saved me many hours of frustration and back pain.  Also, bonnets should never be opened with a can opener.  Seriously.

Anyway, the non seat lever performs a magic trick that allows the bonnet to be lifted and secured with a stick.  I don’t know who thought a stick was a good way of supporting a weighty sheet of metal that you are about to put your head underneath but presumably that just demonstrates my total lack of automobilic IQ.

So once you have the stick in place you simply stand and wait.  The newly exposed car techy parts release a pheromone like odour that will attract all the people in the area who know what a head gasket is (and several that don’t but think that they will appear macho and knowledgeable, or have got fed up with daytime tv, or want to know how to do the bonnet trick without ending up attempting to drive from the back seats).  These people will stare intently into your inner workings like a gynaecologist with a brand new speculum (I knew that ‘word of the day’ toilet paper would pay dividends) and eventually one of them will stop sniggering at the word ‘dipstick’ long enough to identify the vital fluid required for motoring merriment.

 

– Pimping your ride is totally not what you might reasonably expect it to be.  Let’s never speak of this again (also it was part of my plea bargain not to)

 

Actually, I think that might be it.  Perhaps my mechanical insights are not the way to fortune and fame after all.  Still, at least I know that my pixie dust comes all the way up to the tappets

 

 

 

How I nearly became the most awesome pirate in the west

So back in the days when I worked for social services I’d been thinking long and hard about my next career move and come to the conclusion that I would be better off as a prostitute as I’d be better paid and get screwed less often.  Then it dawned on me that I could combine my love of shiny things with my love of digging big holes and become a pirate!  Sure, the hours are long and the hygiene dubious and also rum makes me sick, oh and I’m a bit scared of birds and am moderately fond of all of my limbs………but hey, I’d be a fucking pirate and that would be enough awesome for anyone surely.

The obvious flaw in this (other than the ones previously mentioned and a shit tonne of others),  was my lack of a suitable seafaring vessel.  I couldn’t very well become the most feared pirate in all the seven seas with nothing but an inflatable rubber ring with a horsey head on it.  Not even if I put an eyepatch on the horsey. What I needed was something, bigger, faster, classier and piratey-er (totally a word, see if you can think of a better one).

Well it turns out that most naval vessels are a really dull, undercoaty shade of grey like someone started to paint them up like killer whales or Cthulu and then got told that “that’s not how we do things in the British armed forces young lady” (in future posts – how I became barred from ever becoming a member of the serving forces in any country, under any circumstances and even if I apologised).

So anyway, this got me to thinking about my ideal craft.  I was thinking rigging, lots of cannons, mainbraces and crows nests (admittedly I have no actual clue what a mainbrace is but I damn well wanted one).  Really there was only obvious choice in terms of style, sheer audacity and being a pirate legend right from the start – I had to steal HMS Victory from the dockyards in Portsmouth!

Now you would think that would be a  pretty straightforward endeavour but it turns out that these navy fellas aren’t so very keen on actually doing any real sailing.  It’s all boats with shiny buttons that make it go, and prolly some sort of remote control function so they can play with it without getting seasick, and not a single mainbrace to be had among the lot of ’em.  The long and short of this sorry state of affairs is that my spangly new boat was not actually in the water at all but was sitting in a dry dock with holes drilled through it’s bottom.  Let’s face it, we’ve all been there and it’s not pleasant.

I will be the first to admit that I’m no nautical expert but I’m pretty confident that one of the main features you want for a life on the ocean waves (other than big, fuck off cannons) is the ability to float.  Bobbing along the briny rarely goes well in a craft that has neither buoyancy nor bob about it.

Not to be disheartened however, I set about creating master plan for the liberation of my much abused ship.  Clearly what I needed was something that floats and floats effectively.  We all know that when it comes to floating powers, it’s a well established fact (which was on Monty Python so must be true) what you need is either witches or ducks.

Now, I know a fair few witches and they’ve never struck me as being especially floaty.  In fact with all the silver occulty jewellery and millions of layers of wispy fabric which beswathes them, they are positively hazardous when it comes to aquatic pursuits.  Besides it makes their mascara run.  I obviously know the wrong sort of witches for buccaneering.

So that left me with ducks as a simple, elegant and potentially tasty solution.  All I needed to do was acquire the ducks and then smuggle them unnoticed into a dockyard full of armed Naval personnel.  Now this posed a bit of a challenge as ducks are not known for their fighting skills which meant distraction was my weapon of choice. So I thinks to myself ‘what would provide ample distraction for salty seadog types?’

It was obvious really- what do sailors like best in the world?  Prostitutes, rum and a good old fashioned fight of course!  Good thing I’d listened to all those 80 verse long folk songs to get myself an education about what goes on down the dockyards when they come home from shore leave.

So the plan seemed simple, disguise the ducks as prostitutes, arm them with hipflasks of gut rotter rum and send them in.  The sailors would either be exhausted, unconscious or fight each other to the death for a glimpse of fishnet clad duck leg in webbed stilettoes.  All I have to do, is creep in, fill the dock with water and attach my buoyancy ducks round the sides and head for the high seas and untold riches!

Yeah, it didn’t quite work out like that…………..let’s just say that ducks are not as seductive as you might think, even with feather boas and lipstick.  Furthermore they make bloody terrible crew members and not a single one of the buggers knew how to swash a buckle, let alone the finer points of mainbrace splicing.

Sometimes I fear my genius is wasted