Friday, October 31, 2008

My worst Hallowe'en ever

As it's that spooky time of year (when did Hollowe'en become such a commercial affair? Do pagans complain that it's obscuring the real meaning of Hallowe'en?) I thought I'd tell you my personal worst Hallowe'en story.

T'was a few years ago. I'm not sure how many now. I think it may even have been before me and Cath got married. Anyway, t'was Hallowe'en. I was very tired and so decided to go to bed. Shortly after I'd gone to bed, but before I'd gone to sleep, I was called back downstairs by Cathy, who was using her 'er, I think this might be serious' voice.

She had somehow fallen into a door and bashed her hand which was now incredibly painful. A trip to Casualty was called for. This was back in the day when the old Cardiff Royal Infirmary operated a casualty department, so we headed off there.

The CRI is a Victorian Gothic pile in an insalubrious part of town. It has seen better days... one would assume. To give you an idea of how sinister it is, in the past few years there have been a few episodes of Dr Who filmed there - using both the outside facade, and the interior institutional green hallways and waiting rooms. However the good folks in the BBC location department barely needed to do anything to grim it up ready for an invasion of gasmask-wearing child zombies or the like.

Anyway, so we were there in the institutional-green waiting room, waiting to be seen to. It was a Friday night as well as being Hallowe'en, so the main clientele were violent drunks or the victims of violent drunks with various bloody assault wounds. There was shouting and yelling from the drunks who had been brought in by police officers, and miserable sobs and moans from the bleeding and bruised. And it being the kind of building it was, every shout was magnified and echoed down the long hallways.

To compound the atmosphere, in the middle of the waiting room was one TV; an ancient machine mounted on one of those anti-theft brackets which look like they could double up as a torture device. As it was Hallowe'en the selected channel was showing a horror film, which was set for the most part, it seemed, in a creepy gothic hospital/asylum. All I really remember of it was that it starred Mark Hamill, and it ended rather abruptly after he chose to stab himself in the eye for some reason.

So we sat there, watching the blood ooze from Mark Hamill's eye socket, waiting for the X-Ray results to come back, and hoping we could get out of this creepy hospital, before anything worse happened to us...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

You know that moment...

...when you suddenly realise that a person you thought you knew quite well could actually turn out to be a crazy person. And they know where you live...

Although I did have a good discussion the other day about the difference between 'good weird' and 'bad weird'. I'd define it like this - 'good weird' is someone who has a few strange obsessions and interests, but is an interesting person to talk to and usually has a grounded view of the universe and a high level of self-awareness. 'Bad weird' is someone who's logical thought processes aren't quite as logical as they should be, and lacks that self-critical element to take a step back and say 'hmmm, is this sensible?'.

An example of 'bad weird': there's a woman on my web html course who hadn't switched on a computer in four years before she started the course. Her reason for coming on the course is that she's doing another course and one of the ways she could submit her coursework was as a website. But she doesn't know how to create a website. So she's had to come on a course to learn how to build websites. So now she's on two courses at the same time and is struggling to do both (and telling everyone how hard things are for her).

And I sit there thinking, well a) you had other options, and b) if you don't know how to turn on a computer, maybe designing a website is a bit beyond you.

My logical thought process would have gone like this: I could submit my coursework as a website. I don't know how to design a website. I'll do my coursework a different way. For me, as a sane person, opting to submit my coursework using a method I know nothing about is illogical. The solution is to do it a different way, not to go on a extra class.

My friend Anthony suggests that this woman is actually sabotaging herself deliberately. She's afraid of failure so she chooses a tortuous method of completing her task, which makes it even harder, but when she eventually fails to hand her coursework in it won't be because she didn't know the subject, it's because she couldn't master building a website.

But my answer is: she's weird in a bad way.

Talking of weird people, my friend Terri is back from Japan and meeting several randomers and mentalists in the rural backwater she now finds herself in. Serious lol rofl lmao moments on her blog. This is the best bit so far.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


It seems fitting that for my 500th blog post I mention the 10th anniversary Thanksgiving Service we held recently for Fair Do's. I gave the address at the service, and if you'd like to read it, I've posted it up on freelance theology here. Enjoy.

Today is the sixth anniversary of Cathy's Dad's death, which is slightly shocking how fast the time has gone. In our team coffee break on Friday we were laughingly discussing how to make an impression with the in-laws, when someone asked me if I got on with my in-laws. It was awkward to know what to say, but I gently said 'Well, they're both dead.' Unfortunately there's no way gentle enough to say that without killing the conversation.

I do however have a sister-in-law, who I get on well with. In fact we're so close, we're much more like brother and sister. And like siblings do, we usually wind each other up until we want to punch each other. But, hey, that's family.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Scaredy Citrus

As is slowly becoming common knowledge, I'm taking part on an am-dram panto in December. It's the Wizard of Oz and in our version (written partly by me) the lion (played by me) is called Elvis and has a secret ambition to become a singer.

Cathy's sister rang last night and asked what we were doing. "I'm making Jon's lion costume," was Cathy's reply. There was an outburst of confusion on the other end of the phone.

"Not lime... LION." said Cathy.

Now that would be a fun version of the Wizard of Oz as Dorothy is befriended by the Cowardly Lime. Talk about giving the story a juicy twist...

Friday, October 17, 2008

“We’re reclassifying our seat locations”

No more evidence of a global economic crisis is needed than this mini-article from the email newsletter from the San Diego Padres.

Season Tickets at '07 Prices
Guarantee your seats to all the big games in 2009, at 2007 Season Ticket prices! The Padres will not be increasing Season Ticket prices for the upcoming season. Plus, through a reclassification of nearly 10,000 seat locations, about 25% of seats will go
down in price, some by as much as $8 per ticket.

Don't miss out; get your Season Tickets on Monday!

Or, alternatively:

“Oh crap, no one’s got any money any more. Slash the prices quick!”

“We can’t say ‘Prices Slashed!’ People will think we’re panicking.”

“Okay, okay, what to do, I know, reclassify the seats!”

“Yes, sir!”

Monday, October 13, 2008

"You said you didn't give a ---- about hockey..."

That's a line from a Tragically Hip song, but actually I quite like Ice Hockey. We've started doing separate boys and girls activities on Sunday nights once a month and yesterday t'was a boy's night so we took them to see Cardiff Devils versus league leaders Belfast Giants. (Prompting complaints from some of the girls who really wanted to come too!)

There were three of us (notionally) responsible adults and 23 kids. My philosophy was simple - they could go off and eat as much candy as they could get out of the candy machines, and drink whatever gruesome slush drinks they wanted and, as long as they didn't tell their parents how much sugar they'd had, I wouldn't either. But most of them were very happy to sit and watch the game instead of hunting for snacks.

It helped that the game was a real humdinger. With just one minute on the clock Cardiff scored a beautiful goal, upsetting the form book, and meaning the Giants had to come out and play. Before the end of the first period both teams had had a player sent off for fighting and Belfast had equalised. At the end of the second period it was 3-3, the Devils twice coming from behind.

The scores were still 3-3 at full time, so they went into sudden-death overtime, then to a penalty shoot out, then to sudden-death in the penalty shoot-out. Eventually the Giants edged it, scoring their penalty and Cardiff missing theirs. But in Hockey you get a point for losing in overtime, which is 1 more point than Victoria, the ardent Devils fan I work with, had predicted the Devils would get.

Then we had to leg it out as parents were waiting outside. But it was a great night. We even got our group photo taken with the club mascot Lucy Fur, a giant cuddly devil. That's one for the rolling PowerPoint on a Sunday morning, methinks. I also got to try a pizza cone - think of a pizza base cooked into a cone and then filled with pizza topping. Fun to try once, but not recommended, mainly because you end up having to bite through the cone into red hot cheesy filling.

I think the kids enjoyed it. The best quote of the night was the lad sitting directly behind me who said, in all seriousness: "I don't think I'd like to play Ice Hockey. It seems very violent."

I quite agree. But it's a helluva game to watch and if we can swing it next term, we may very well be back!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Checking in or checking out?

About two months ago I did some freelance writing for a friend who works in the NHS. He said 'send the invoice to this guy' and I did and thought nothing more of it.

Thursday I picked up Cath on the way home from work and when we got home she picked up the post that had come while we were out.

"What's this?" she asked, as she handed me an official looking letter franked from Velindre Hospital (for those outside Cardiff that's the cancer hospital) "Is everything okay?"

I opened it up. "It's a cheque," I say.

"A check for what?"

I showed her the cheque, which made her even more confused. "Why are a hospital sending you money?" Then I remembered the thing I'd written and the invoice I sent off and suddenly it all made sense.

How we chuckled.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Another weird life event

Genuine phone conversation this afternoon:

Sian: My chickens have arrived. Do you want to come over and meet them?

Me: I'd love to, but I've got to go to the fabric shops to buy fur for my lion costume.

Am I somehow living in an American comedy-drama? Maybe the real me is lying in a coma somewhere.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

These things only happen in soap operas don't they? Er, no,...

On Tuesday a work colleague discovered that, due to a mistake in the paperwork, her marriage wasn't technically valid. I thought that only happened in badly-written movies and soaps.

Yesterday another friend told me that she was repeatedly having dreams about me, and in the latest instalment in the saga we were the new presenters of the One Show. (Which is doubly weird considering current presenters Adrian Chiles and female colleague have allegedly shacked up together)

Life is getting weird.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Have you noticed?

It seems the adverts offering easy credit have disappeared from our TV screens. You know the ones: “Have you been refused a loan elsewhere? Got bad credit ratings? Insolvency and county court judgments? Can’t afford to pay more bills? Come and rack up even more debts with Idiotloans™”

Who would have thought that an industry built on giving money to people who had a history of being unable to pay money back would have been an unsustainable business model? Or that lending money against a house which is already mortgaged to the hilt will result in there being no money to pay you back when house prices start to drop?

(Insider tip - secondary mortgage companies which give you a new massive loan to pay off all your old debts suddenly have no assets to claim. If you can’t pay your bills, your primary mortgage provider gets the money from the sale of your house, and if you’re in negative equity your secondary mortgage provider will get nothing if the primary mortgage provider has taken it all. Which is why 'consolidate your debt' companies are suddenly not touting for business. Their 'secured' loans are no longer secure.)

So I guess that’s one positive thing about the “Credit Crunch”/financial meltdown/death of capitalism - Carol Vorderman won’t be patronising us with talk of ‘one monthly payment’ and pretending that you’ll pay less under the scheme she’s pitching.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Credit crunch? Wot credit crunch?

I know the Credit Crunch™ is about banks loaning money to each other and not about consumer credit, but it still strikes me as funny that in the last couple of days I've received two credit card applications through the post.

Naturally I've given them both the 'Stop Killing Trees' treatment - ripping up all the bumf they've sent me and returning it in their prepaid envelope. The two recipients this time were Barclaycard and Citi. The Citi one in particular came with a load of junk like a booklet of terms and conditions, several smaller leaflets covered in more terms and conditions and their application form.

I imagine the thought processes in the marketing departments are 'everyone's worried about money - it's a good time to tempt them with some credit'. Or possibly 'oh crapola, people are starting to realise they can't put stuff on the never-never for ever, we'd better find some new suckers...'

Whichever way, they're getting their rubbish posted back to them.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Chiquito's Cardiff Bay

I'm umming and ahhing over whether to write a complaint letter, but while I consider it, here are a couple of comments about our dining experience Friday night.

Firstly, it took us an hour and a half to be served our main course. When I commented on this to the waitress she said it was because they were "busy" and "many people have turned up to eat". Hello? It's a restaurant. It's a Friday night. What were they expecting? I mean surely it's not a huge step of logical thought to assume people might turn up at a restaurant expecting to eat?

Plus when we got there the place was virtually deserted. Fortunately we'd had our starters before the place filled up. But the only reason the place was so full was because after our starters had come out, no one had been served with any food. Here's a tip for anyone from Chiquito's reading this - this is how restaurants work: you serve people food, they eat, pay for it and leave. If you don't serve any food, people tend to stay.

Around us were table after table of very hungry looking potential diners. And we waited, and we waited, and we waited. Some people left having just had drinks, to be replaced by more waiting hungry customers. It got so bad I began to wonder if Bob Geldof was about to release a charity single on our behalf.

Eventually, as we crossed into a new geological epoch, our food came. Given the huge wait, my chili and rice had obviously been sitting under a hot plate for too long. The rice had burned underneath into an inedible clump. The chili was tasty but had that lukewarm temperature of chili that's sat around for a while. My friend Bryan's "Chilli fries" were just oven chips with ordinary table pepper sprinkled on them.

I asked to see the duty manager, having warned my table that there might well be a scene. The waitress went off to find said manager, and returned to say she was in the kitchen helping with getting all the orders out and she was very busy. I found that staggering in terms of customer service. You've got an annoyed customer who asks to see the manager, and the manager is "too busy" to see them. How to not win repeat business in one short lesson!

It's not as if Chiquito's has no competition. New restaurants are springing up every other day in Cardiff Bay. It's not cheap either. You'd have thought that in the current climate, as people's going out funds are reduced, restaurant managers would be switched on to the need to keep customers happy and hopefully loyal.

Like I said, I think I'll be writing a letter to the Head Office.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Antisocial posties

How come on weekdays, when there's a strong chance of everyone being out in the middle of the day, the postman tries to deliver stuff at noon, but on weekends, when people are more likely to be having a lie-in, they come round and ring the bell at 8.23am?

Do they have a working policy to inconvenience the customer at every opportunity? No wonder the Post Office is struggling to stay afloat.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Laughing so hard

Well, I've been put in my place.

Discussing by email whether to play Trivial Pursuit tomorrow night with my friend Elaine, I said:

We can bring Trivial Pursuit as long as you promise not to hate me if I win (which happened last time!)

To which Elaine replied:

I promise not to hate you if you win (arrogant smart arse) as I have no thoughts of winning at all after my last humiliating game of trivial pursuit, which will go down as one of my blondest moments (and you know there is competition for that spot).

I particularly loved the way she insulted me in a smaller font as if that made it okay!