So Far, So Bad

The week started off well enough but as is so often the case it went downhill the longer it went on.

The week started off well enough but as is so often the case it went downhill the longer it went on.

Last Sunday on my 50th birthday, I was enjoying a lie-in on the morning after a very big night before.

I haven’t slept very well these past couple of years so when I heard a knock at the door I was in no mood for leaping out of bed.

The letterbox slapped and there was the distinctive rustle of post landing on my doormat.

I dwelt on this and then the penny dropped – it must be a last-minute birthday card and hand-delivered no less.

Maybe it was a make-up card from a long-forgotten old flame? I have been thinking about her recently. Surely 30-odd years should be plenty of time for her to realise the error of her ways.

And who else would be shoving post through my door on the morning of my 50th? It must be a birthday card from someone significant…

When you’re old, free and vulnerable – you get in to silly thinking patterns like this.

Full of intrigue and possibility, I bounded down all 13 stairs and picked up the post to tear it open.

It was a flyer from the local Green Party candidate and I must say, I haven’t been that disappointed since the release of Be Here Now (25 years ago).

I trudged back upstairs, put the kettle on and adjourned to the fire escape to enjoy yet another Hamlet cigar moment.

The humourless so-and-so’s stopped doing the adverts in 1991.

Not that I could watch them now even if they still made them.

The Butchelor Pad is a TV-free zone so during bouts of insomnia I play music and obsess over clever lyrics.

The oldest of old flames liked Annie Lennox of The Eurythmics – Love Is A Stranger (1982) which still sounds fresh 40 years on, and, of course, the late Meatloaf, Two out of Three Ain’t Bad (1978).

Meatloaf was the nearest music got to a one-man rock opera. I always felt some of his stuff went on a bit too long.

I was also stumped by a recent quiz question asking me to name a more successful female-male duo than Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart?

But I did at least get a genuine laugh from my sister’s birthday card.

‘Brother. You are an example to us all*

*Not a good example. More a not what to do!

I was also very moved by all the birthday messages and feedback to my last column.

The day after my 50th, I received an email from my sister recommending a firm to sort out my will, which means she won’t now be getting my record collection. That was followed by a text message from the doctor’s inviting me in for a blood pressure check.

How do they know I’ve just received my new council tax demand?

And the landlady at the local pub pulled me to one side and cautioned me against sitting where I have. Apparently I have chosen the ‘Stool of Death’.

The last four fellas who have sat there have all died within two years,’ she warned. I asked had they been waiting to get served, but I’m not sure she heard.

My attention was then drawn to a framed photograph on the pub wall that I had never noticed before.

It shows a full-sized model skeleton sitting at the same stool with a pint.

It does explain why that spot has never been taken every time I’ve called in.

Yet all it does is make me doubly determined to prove the superstitions wrong.

It’s true that black cats scarper from me whenever I cross their paths and lone magpies have been known to salute me as I drive by.

But given that I now have to park my car 1.7 miles away from the Butchelor Pad due to a lack of spaces, all this extra walking should do me no harm.

So imagine my surprise on Tuesday morning when I opened the front door to go to work and found myself under a ladder -propped directly over my threshold.

The man at the top shouted down that he was painting the front of the building.

I joked that he might give the windows a clean while he was up there, but it was not taken in the spirit intended.

I was lucky not to get a bucket of emulsion over my head.

I read this week that the link between walking under a ladder and bad luck dates back to the gallows – so expect to read next week about me having crashed into a shop selling mirrors.

But this week I also found a single white feather stuck in a cobweb on the fire escape and defying the wind.

I have also spotted clumps of purple crocus poking up through the turf in a sure sign that we got through January and spring is coming.

Great Eggscape

Well it hasn’t taken long for the honeymoon period to wear off and I’ve never been a fan of that unfortunate turn of phrase…

Well it hasn’t taken long for the honeymoon period to wear off and I’ve never been a fan of that unfortunate turn of phrase.

I write having wasted an entire day of my holiday entitlement on hold trying to get the Butchelor Pad hooked up to the utilities and burning up my monthly mobile data allowance in the process.

At the time of writing, my radiators blaze away all day when I’m out at work while my temporary BT Wifi drops out every time I dare look away from my keyboard.

Why is it that customer services advisers paid to answer telephones ask if I have visited their websites or downloaded their apps? Do they not realise they are talking themselves out of their own jobs?

Needless to say, if I ever see that little 8-bit T-Rex dinosaur figure signalling lost connection again, I might turn into Captain Caveman if I can lay my hands on a decent club.

And don’t get me started on the seemingly simple task of taking the meter readings.

The meter is so small it wouldn’t have been out of place in a doll’s house. You also need fingers as tiny as those of a garden gnome to work its illogical keypad and the eyesight of Superman to see it.

I’ve never had much energy, patience or inclination for all this stuff and after two days of it I felt like putting my head in the oven (not that I could get it to work, you understand).

I somehow contrived to programme my washing on a nine-hour spin cycle and one week on my packing is unfinished. On one day this week, I had to suffer the ignominy of eating my breakfast boiled egg out of a shot glass.

I know I unpacked my egg cup but like everything else in my universe, it seems to either go missing when I need it most, die on me when I least expect it, or sprout a pair of legs and walk out.

But worst of all, in my impatience to get signed up to the utilities I may now have mistakenly cancelled the electricity and gas supply to the shop downstairs who are registered to the same address.

Any day now, I’ve been told the post man will deliver them a “final invoice” which I’m sure will endear me to the new neighbour no end.

When I finally got through to speak to E.ON (so-called because it takes an aeon to reach a human?) – they were very helpful and promised to sort it out.

But then I got an automated text contradicting all previous conversations, so god knows where we are in the process.

At least I could rely on the big sister to come to the rescue and she managed at least to get the uneccessarily complicated oven working.

And with the impeccable timing that only a woman can possess she immediately identified my biggest problem of all.

“Your cushions don’t match your curtains,” she said. (They do now thanks to her and her endless generosity).

Praise this week must also go to my malnourished nephew Tom. He who once ate three selection boxes in a night burnt off several calories with his impressive heavy lifting. Rapidly shuttling three boxes up the stairs at a time and declaring everything in the new flat as “decent”.

And I suppose it is, although I’m acutely aware that this must be what happens to men of a certain vintage when they are released back into the wild.

So after all this dreadful Orwellian online misery and pop-up chat bots, I was forced to drop into the new local for a pint – just to speak to a real person.

The landlady was typically charming although the hours beyond that first drink remain a bit of fog.

I do have a vague recollection of playing a good game which involved flipping 20p coins across the bar to try and land them in a charity pot.

I also ended up in another pub with two very witty ex-forces guys who helped put a smile back on Butcher’s chops.

That is until they challenged me to an arm-wrestle. It was all my fault, of course, having stupidly announced that I had once “arm-wrestled professionally” as part of a feature I was writing for a newspaper 20 years ago.

I was convincingly stuffed by the one eight years my senior who had biceps like polished teak. His friend, 12 years my junior, also had a vice-like grip and chuckled in my face as he crushed all my typing fingers.

Then the week ended with a breathless phone call from the lovely nurses in NHS Scotland suggesting my Dad might have had another stroke. He’s had a scan, hasn’t had a stroke and is ok, but it certainly put my lost egg cup in its place.

There’s not been much on the music front this week but the first CD played in the flat was from 1986 – Queen’s A Kind of Magic

Chris Rea – another favourite of mine – did the finger clicks at the start.

Then in my new loft I spookily found somebody else’s cassette tapes. They included Jesus Christ: Superstar which I swerved, and 1988’s The Living Years by Mike & The Mechanics, which got me thinking of my old man in the Orkneys. Then Auberge, also by Chris Rea, which I played to death last summer.

Well I’m 50 next week, so onwards and downwards as they say. A fella in the local told me that when the careers officer came round school and asked him what he wanted to be, the fella said he looked him dead in the eye and said: “Not a careers officer, that’s for sure.”

Harsh but true.