Thursday, 29 June 2017

The Supermarket

Each week or so, I set off for the local large supermarket, whistling to myself as I drive, cheerful in the knowledge that it will be an hour on my own, away from the persistent demands of the kids and the weekend chores of The Boss.

The whistling and cheerful demeanour never lasts long. Let me talk you through the process.

The vein pulsing frustration all begins at the carpark, where the favoured supermarket of the family have introduced a scheme whereby traffic conductors are employed to supposedly keep the flow of vehicles moving. They don’t. These hi-vis clad hobo looking creatures seem to have received no training whatsoever, and spend the entire time waving their arms around like they’re going into anaphylactic shock. As a driver these erratic signals are completely down to interpretation and this results in bumper to bumper jams as cars turn down one way lanes when in fact the instruction was to wait where they were. This is a crap idea and doesn’t work. Please sack them all immediately.

Once parked, trolley pound and fifty bags for life in hand, you make your way inside, only to find the whole population of the town has decided to come shopping at exactly the same time as you. This is particularly true if the sun has decided to pop its head out from behind the clouds for half an hour, sending all residents in the county into a mad barbeque fuelled shopping frenzy. Ever noticed how you always see someone you know when you’re in a supermarket and the weather is warm? It’s because EVERYONE is there!

Supermarket packed, you always seem to choose a trolley that has at least one wheel that wants to go in a different direction to the rest. Due to this I am a firm believer that there should be some kind of competency test before you are allowed to take charge of a shopping trolley, especially if you are a pensioner. As you make your way around the aisles you are fully aware that at some point it is 100% certain that you will feel the sharp pain of metal trolley on the back of your heels. (Whilst were on trolleys, those a*sehole shoppers who leave their trolleys in the middle of the aisle while they browse the shelves can just royally f*ck off!)

Now, as I am a bit OCD I like to pre-prepare my shopping list in the order of the aisles I will be walking down, as I find this is the quickest route of escape. This plan works very well until Mr Supermarket decides that they will move the tinned items where the DVDs used to be and the fruit and veg to the crisp aisle. I kid you not, but baked beans in our chosen supermarket now reside in the ‘world food’ aisle with the Iberian salami and harissa paste. When the f*ck have baked beans been an exotic ingredient? Apparently moving items about draws the customer’s attention to newly stocked products. My bet is that they do it to ensure you get lost in there for days at a time, frantically filling your trolley with all sorts of crap you don’t need.

Having finally found all of the items on the list The Boss gave you, you make your way to the final hurdle; the checkout. Choosing the correct checkout aisle to moor your trolley to is a science that should be studied by the world’s leading mathematicians, as you always look on in frustration as the family of ten in the aisle next to you, with eight tonnes of groceries somehow manage to get out before you do. The other thing to be very aware of when choosing your checkout aisle is the person employed to sit on it. Do they look ‘special’? Do they look like chatters? Do they have a strange skin disease? If the answer is ‘yes’ to any of these questions, swiftly move on. Ultimately, if you are shopping on your own, whoever you choose will scan your items far too quickly for you to be able to pack, and you’ll end up with a bottleneck of fish fingers, Hula-hoops and prosecco at the packing end of the checkout. Finally after sorting out the bottleneck and packing up your remaining items you’re asked a series of eighty seven different questions; do you have a *** card? Would you like to apply for one? Are you collecting for schools? Did you know that you’ve saved 1 ½ pence on bananas this week? I don’t f*cking care, just give me my card back so I can escape this noisy, chav filled hell hole. I’d rather be at home with the kids!

As for self-service checkouts, don’t even get me bloody started. It’s a whole topic all of its own!

Each visit it’s the same. My brain somehow forgetting the peril that lays ahead of me as I set off happily whistling in the car. Maybe food shopping is similar to that of when a woman goes through childbirth. You do it again because your brain is programmed to forget the pain and misery you went through the last time.

More next week.


Thursday, 1 June 2017

A Holiday (Apparently)

So The Boss, the kids and I are due to jet off to sunny Spain a week on Saturday, for what seems to be incorrectly called a ‘holiday’. It will not be. (Incidentally this will be my last blog for a couple of weeks).

Now as any of you with kids will understand, the planning of the holiday began several months ago. At the last time of checking, the list of items to be packed resembled that of a Victorian era jungle exploration mission; only we don’t have the luxury of having 250 native porters with us to help carry all the crap, like they would in one of those god awful black & white King Kong Movies. Nappies, bottles, pushchairs, car seats, baby wipes, creams, baby bath, mosquito plugs, portable DVD players, a library of books, the list is endless, and that’s without clothes and the never ending selection of items required for a day at the beach with two young kids. There are four of us, and we have an eight seater taxi collecting us for the airport.

The airport is a place that I now only associate with stress and ding dongs with The Boss. Once we arrive, I give it ten minutes, at most before the first aggressive exchange takes place. Every year it’s the same.  It’s not always been that way of course. On our first holidays together we would enjoy a breakfast, washed down with a pint of Carling and a perusal of the duty free section. Not now. It’s now all about throwing some sort of Boots sandwich down our necks, baby feeding, bum changing and arranging the selection of kids entertainment that’s stowed away in our hand luggage ready for the plane. Then there’s security. A bit of a pain in the arse at the best of times, chuck in two young kids, a pushchair and baby formula that has to be individually scanned, and you have the recipe for total vein pulsing peril.

Once on board the plane it’s time to play the game of: ‘how long is the crap we brought for the kids going to keep them occupied for’? This is where the portable DVD player and the library of toddler books come in. I estimate these will work for around half an hour before my eldest (4) is kicking the seat in front, and my youngest (1) has shat himself for the third time. Thank god they serve booze on the flight, I’m looked at strangely when I order eight mini cans of Stella Artois, but with a quick point of the finger towards the kids and the hostess smiles knowingly.

Having arrived at the other end and removed the families six cases, pushchair and car seats from the jam packed luggage carrousel, you allow yourself for a very brief moment to look forward to the two weeks of sun and no work. This is brought to an abrupt end as you reach the hire car collection point. The vehicle they want to provide you with looks nothing like the photo on the web page, has two less seats, no air-con and is five years older than described. You then have to carry out the very thorough walk around check, because the bastards will try and charge you through the nose for even the slightest grain of grit in the bodywork.

All of this is before you even arrive at your accommodation. I’m lucky as my in-laws have a place out in Spain and so the stress related to wondering where you will be staying is removed. I know what the room will be like and I know the fridge will be stocked with beer. There is still of course the chore of unpacking. I’m lucky here too as The Boss takes care of most of this. I’m just used as a donkey to ferry the various items into the correct bedrooms situated over the three floors. Of course I usually get this wrong and am chastised for ‘never listening properly’, but the process isn’t usually too bad.

So it’s time to hit the pool. Looking back on holidays gone by, I could lay out on my sun lounger, earphones in ears and read the latest Jeremy Clarkson book in the sun until it was beer o’clock. My four year old daughter frowns upon daddy doing this for some reason. If I even consider exiting the pool for a fraction of a second she turns on the waterworks, combined with a full on meltdown. It’s the same with the sea at the beach. So for fourteen days daddy spends every daylight hour in the water, and when he gets in the shower of an evening, his skin falls off like an overly poached pear due to over hydration.

Eating out in the evening has its challenges as well.  Kids don’t like sitting still and waiting for their meals. You have to choose what you want and order quickly. While it’s being cooked you spend the time not by enjoying the scenery and warm evening sun, but by walking the pushchair up and down some dodgy backroad, trying to calm the little bugger sitting inside down.

It’s a case of rinse and repeat from here really, until the day comes when it’s time to return home. All of the same things happen, only in reverse order.

When you next overhear a couple on the beach telling one another that they’re ready to come home. Odds on them having kids.

More in a couple of weeks


Wednesday, 24 May 2017

The Grumpy Gardener

I bloody hate gardening. Mowing the lawn, weeding, planting, growing. It’s all one giant pain in the bollocks as far as I’m concerned. I’m not particularly lazy, and I’m quite happy to do the odd thing around the house, but of all the jobs associated with owning a house, gardening sucks the most arse.  It’s also the job that my Mother In-Law likes to remind me about most.

You make the garden all nice and tidy and 2 weeks later it’s back looking like a scene from Jurassic Park with added cat shit. Why does stuff have to grow, and why does the neighbour’s cat have to shit in the exact same spot each time? Always on the direct route to the shed from the house, and always trodden through the kitchen so The Boss goes ballistic. (Speaking of cat shit, can anyone tell me why it always smells so cheesy)?

It’s not just the gardening work itself; it’s all of the different variations of equipment that you need in order to get it looking half decent. And it’s this equipment that fills my untidy shed. A shed I could have otherwise used as a man cave, a place of solace and some rest bite from the kids. After unloading the 3 ½ tonnes of rakes, brooms, shears, spades, forks, watering cans and trowels you get the extension lead out, plug it in, trail the lead out of the kitchen window, plug in the mower, push the mower down the other end of the garden to begin, and then realise you forgot to switch the fucking plug on at the wall in the kitchen!

After an unnecessary stroll back to the house, you begin mowing. Now this part of the process isn’t too bad really. You stroll up and down trying to keep the lines nice and tidy and begin to imagine future barbeques and family gatherings on the patio. You almost raise a smile. Then, just as your mind drifts off to a happy place, you’re hit in the face by a shard of gravel the kids have thrown on to the lawn. The mower having sliced it in half, creating one of those Neanderthal spear heads that they find on an archaeological dig on the Discovery Channel.

Lawn mowed and face shredded it’s time for the dreaded shears. You need these as apparently no matter how close to the fence you mow, you’re always left with a line of tufty grass. Grass that appears to mock you and take the piss. Now I don’t know if you have ever had the misfortune of using a pair of shears, but they always seem to design them so that when used your knuckles on each hand bash together until your bones break through your skin.  After 45 minutes of trimming and pruning those tufts of grass look no different, but you think “that’ll do” and the weeding, feeding, sweeping and planting can wait until next time.

After spending another half an hour reloading the untidy shed, winding up the extension lead and emptying the grass cuttings, you look out at your creation and mutter the words “see you in two weeks you bastard”. 

The Supermarket