Febrrruary

I took a lump of butter out of the fridge to soften it this week, but it has been so cold in the Butchelor Pad it has frozen solid.

I took a lump of butter out of the fridge to soften it this week, but it has been so cold in the Butchelor Pad it has frozen solid.

February has brought with it cold weather and a rising panic about the cost of living crisis.

I’ve turned all the heating down to Dennis Nielsen levels and sit here typing in a flat colder than the South Pole branch of Iceland.

If this carries on, I might have to stand around a candle to get some warmth. On the upside, at least the ice in my glass is lasting longer but it’s playing merry hell with my carpal tunnel syndrome.

This week it even crossed my mind to go to bed wearing oven gloves, not that I get much sleep when I get there.

It would be nice to have a Carol Kirkwood figure as a hot water bottle as I could do with a warm front moving in until spring.

It might help me move on or live more in the moment, which keeps being suggested to me.

This usually comes from happily married couples with dual incomes, who see their children every day and have both parents still alive.

I moved back to the past four years ago and like it there where everyone who meant anything is still with me.

Having slaved relentlessly over a hot keyboard for 33 years in a trade which requires you to relentlessly looking forward, it’s comforting to look back.

It’s certainly better than living in the moment which seems to involve me ruminating on how I might put bread (and frozen butter) on the table.

Not just my own table but the kids, hers and now technically ‘his’ as well.

A good distraction from the buzz of the fridge and the drip of the tap of the single 50-year-old is watching old television series like Tales of The Unexpected, and The Onedin Line.

The theme tunes alone whisk me back to being a happy little boy; sitting by a (warm) fire in brown paisley pyjamas watching a black and white portable in the 70s.

How simple and easy life was then too.

February 2 also marked an anniversary of having lost nana Butcher. Her house was also a bit of lighthouse to us all and it’s hard to think two years have gone already.

I can still see her watering the hydrangeas as granddad tried to feed me radishes.

At least I hope it was that way round.

And this week two white feathers spiralled out of the sky again and landed directly at my feet, which makes a change from the usual bird s**t.

And in another example of life’s impeccable timing, nana Butcher’s funeral service took place on Valentine’s Day 2020, which is another milestone to get past.

On the plus side, Strong Independent Woman has been in touch to apologise for not sending a card on my 50th. On the downside I have told her she is now on a final written warning for February 14.

I must say the big sister also possesses an uncanny nose for incoming cold weather. Last weekend she jetted off on a pre-booked trip to balmy Madeira.

Right now, she’ll probably be sipping cocktails on a sunbed as mozzies buzz round her backside.

I waved her off last Sunday in gales and drizzle and as her car disappeared around the corner it suddenly hit my unstiff upper lip.

This is the dress rehearsal for that awful occasion in five months time when she emigrates for good, so I walked home in the rain trying not to think about it.

Who will I have to breathlessly regale me of stories about rushing to order three cut-price bikinis online before the holiday – only to get them and discover the reason they were so cheap was because they were child sizes.

So, as I dwell on the cost of living, remember Chris Rea’s take on money: ‘It’s all just bits of paper flying away from you.’ (The Road to Hell) (1989).

And when I think of Nana Butcher’s hydrangeas, it has to be that devastating line about flowers in Nothing Compares 2 You (1990).

The next flowers to die in the back yard will be the big sister’s when she says adios, so I’ll have to make sure she cultivates an orange tree for all our Tequila Sunrises.

So if you’re in the market for career advice it might be better to find a job in high finance like she did, than one in the words business like me.

It’s surely better to be under a sunbrella in Madeira dropping Jagar Bombs than fighting an actual umbrella and worrying about Putin dropping his.

If it comes to World War Three, at least I have a hard pound of butter and a heavy typewriter to throw at them.

But tonight is still young, even if I’m not.

It’s high time I ignored the cost of living crisis, pulled on my winter coat and went in search of living in the moment.

I’m not going to find a Carol Kirkwood water bottle moping around this bloody flat, am I.

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.