Saturday, 25 February 2012

The blind man following the blind man

This week we discover that in the kingdom of the blind it pays to have audible measuring equipment and all plans written in braille ....

We are having some fun with blind companies at the moment. Through an overly-complicated typical BlackLOG type scenario we have ended up using two blind companies to install some shutters – what could possibly go wrong?

Blind Man – No.1
We had used a particular blind company for some of the windows at the front of the house previously. This company seems to have the exclusive rights to the style of shutter that we like (“exclusive” translating as “expensive” - I don’t know how Mrs B finds these “exclusive” companies, she just has the knack I guess....) so we were committed to using them again for the remaining front windows at least.

We instructed the original blind company to match the new shutters to our previous order – they came out to measure. At this point I’m tempted to crack the old joke that Mrs B was in the shower when they knocked and she could not find a towel –

Mrs B - “Who is it?”
Man at the door – “It’s only the blind man”
Oh well thinks Mrs B what’s the harm and opens the door.
Blind man - “Nice boobs madam – now, where do you want the blinds?”

But I don’t think I should as it’s a bit corny....

The original blind company were happy to match the style of the existing shutters but despite offering a healthy 15% discount for being previous customers of good repute (i.e. good for the money) their quote for the windows at the back of the house was about 30% more expensive than blind company number 2.

Alarm bells should have started ringing, however, when the fitter for the original blind company said, in a rather puzzled voice:

“That’s odd, the open shutter blades shouldn’t touch the window handles.”

I looked at him and mentioned that he had been one of the people who had measured up for the shutters.

He assured me that it would not be a problem it just needed a bit of adjustment....

It was only after the fitter left and I was looking at the windows from the outside that I noticed the blades on the new shutters were a different size to the blades on our existing shutters.

With a heavy heart I checked the paper work for the order we had authorised and for the first time noticed that they had quoted for shutters with the right size blades for the rear windows (being the ones we decided not to proceed with) but bigger blades for the front windows. The first part of our defence was that on all our correspondence with the company we had always requested that the new shutters must match those of our original order. The second was the fitter’s comment about the blades touching the window handles - they had clearly built the shutter frames for the smaller blades.

I phoned the blind company with righteous indignation on my side, mixed with a sickening side order of knowledge that we had signed off the incorrect paper work. I had worked out all my arguments and was ready to fight my corner, like a ninja hamster who has just had his family wiped out by a slightly inebriated elephant on a unicycle. After a faint claim that they thought Mrs B might have requested the bigger blades and my firm rebuttal that she most certainly had not, they crumbled (like a biscuit at the bottom of the packet that has been through your tumble dryer) and agreed to either replace the shutters or give us a hefty discount. We decided on the replacement option at the expense of most of their profit margin.

Don’t you just hate it when you put all that preparation into an argument, ready for the fight, only to find the damn elephant in the room has left taking his unicycle with him trailing empty beer cans and bits of dead hamsters....

Blind Man No.2
The second company won the contract to fit shutters to the windows at the back of the house, including the conservatory. While they did a good job on the kitchen and utility windows unfortunately it all went tits up when it came to the conservatory.

First off the shutters for the conservatory doors were manufactured to the wrong dimensions - while they got the width right, for some reason they had a major cock up on the height front. It sounds like the window lengths somehow got used for the doors, which would have resulted in us having saloon doors. Seems rather appropriate if you think in terms of Cowboys....

Still, to be fair to them, they noticed the problem before installation and rather than try and fit them and hope we would not notice the missing bits, they let us know that the doors would have to be installed at a later date. What they did try and get away with however was fitting different height shutters on one wall to the other – only about 5cm but very noticeable and odd looking. This was made worse because the shutters are split so that you can have the top one open and the bottom ones shut. The split has been made at different levels and so when in operation looks as daft as a Duck Billed platypus driving a Formula 1 racing car up the side of Everest ....

The fitters agreed it wasn’t right and fortunately backed us when the guy who had done the measuring tried to claim that it had to be done that way. The company were apologetic and, other than Mr Measurer (whom I’m guessing lost his commission), agreed with us and are in the process of remaking the shutters to the correct specification.

So all in all, slightly annoying and a bit of a delay but overall not the end of the world.

Valentine's Days massacre
I got Mrs B tickets for Midnight Tango – the West End show starring Vincent and Flavia, professional dancers in one of Mrs B’s favourite TV programs – “Strictly Come Dancing”. Mrs B loved the show and I managed to catch up on some zzzzzz – interrupted occasionally by a loving elbow, which accidently and rather viciously collided with my ribs (still slightly bruised, thanks for asking). I’m afraid this somewhat reduced the number of brownie points that I had received for getting the tickets in the first place....

Looking around it appeared to be a similar story played out over a large number of relationships, lots of bored-looking men sitting next to bright eyed, over excited partners who could barely contain themselves.

Alfie to become legitimate
Congratulations to our young friends Joe and Kirsty who have got engaged – Kirsty got a massive sapphire and diamond ring, while Joe seems to have got a Range Rover out of the deal. It has a private number plate on it - “30 KJ”. Joe explained that it was on the car when he bought it but would be going back to the owner, once the car had been re-registered with a replacement plate. Being typical men we hadn’t noticed anything significant about it – A different story when Mrs B saw it –

Mrs B – “Nice touch: KJ”
Joe – “What?”
Mrs B “KJ – Kirsty and Joe”
Joe – “Oh Yeah”

Even better I believe they were 14 and 16 when they first met (I’m sure you can do the maths...) – So it’s a bit unfortunate that they won’t get to keep it – unless they stump up about £10,000 for it....

Alfie happy to be losing his
"Alfie the Bastard" tag from
the other pups at obediance
training classes....
 Watch of the Week
The regular section in support of Joe (Stunt Cock) and his growing watch business Xupes. Joe mentioned that they had been getting a number of hits via the BlackLOG.

Xupes has been trading for over 2 years and  Joe has recently developed some great contacts in the trade which enables him to pick up surplus stock and sell them at great prices. Mrs B is a regular purchaser from his jewellery section, going self service once she finally realised that her husband is not the jewellery buying type…

Stunning example in excellent barely worn condition.

Record of the week

Blind among the flowers by The Tourist – Featuring a certain Miss Annie Lennox from way back in 1979. I wrote and asked her if she could change the title to “Blind among the fitters” but she declined

Blind before you stop by Meat Loaf – Makes me think, should the law be changed so that all blind men must have either a white stick attached to the front of their van or be led around by a guide vehicle????

Blinded by the light by Manfred Mann’s earth band – We’re not anymore. Although we currently have the wrong blinds fitted they still do the job while we wait for the replacements....

Photo Finish
All pictures by The Beast

Local Birds auditioning for the remake
of Alfred Hitchcocks "The Birds"
Henry Moore they sure were some
 powerful drugs that he was on...

Kirsty spotting for Alfie in his bid
to make olympic qualification in
the clean and Jerk...

That's it for another week...
tune in next time for Kaiser Chiefs
and deatils of a competition
that I've entered.... 

Thursday, 16 February 2012

It would have been so much better if it was my phone that had been bugged

I’ve been treated to the joys of a stomach bug this week.  It’s an incredibly focusing experience -realising that it is imperative that you are within easy striking distance of the white porcelain throne.... The prospect of spending hours sitting in the Doctors' surgery surrounded by all that "other people" infection was not particularly appealing either.  Using my new found focus, in a Jedi-style that Yoda would have been proud of,  I discovered that our surgery offers a phone call service.  Not good if you have an interesting rash that you want to boast to your Doctor about or if you are a particularly sharing soul who doesn't like to keep ailments to themselves but great when you don’t want to find yourself in a fight to the death with expectant mothers* and pensioners**  over the limited facilities....

* That extra weight can put them up a couple of divisions in fighting class.

** They might not have sharp claws but those walking sticks and Zimmer frames can be lethal when Edith, Ethel, Reggie, Stan and co ... wield them in anger.

One quick phone call to mention the unmentionable and I was on my way to pick up a  sample bottle left at reception.  No instructions on how to use it though - are you meant to hover over it and:-

 a.  attempt the precision-bomb technique (not that easy when your backside is      
     like a particularly unstable time bomb....);

b.  poop and scoop; or even

c.  Bob a job (no Scouts required)
 Then a trip back to make a non-refundable (at least I hope it’s non-refundable) deposit....

Jobbie done...

Down to the wire
After a number of years of trying I finally managed to get Mrs B and the critically-acclaimed cop show “The Wire” in the same room. My triumph lasted less than 15 minutes, however, as she declared, after an opening salvo of language that would make a docker blush , “There is too much f#ck#ng swearing and it’s having a bad influence on me.” .....Point taken Mrs B.  Now where did I put that box set of Bagpuss....?

Snow Patrol 1
As we had snow last week I took the opportunity to take The Beast out fox-hunting. Some of you might remember the photos I got a few years back of the fox running up and down our road. After trailing around the local streets for around half an hour,yes; with not a sign of my vulpine friend, I returned home to discover in my absence he had left foot prints across our drive way, just meters from our front door. Now that’s just not playing fair ....

Guilty of maliciously leaving
foot prints in the snow....

Taken with The Beast
December 2009

Snow patrol 2
Despite the very worst efforts of the O2 ticket service and my upset stomach we got to see Snow Patrol this week.... I really can’t believe that O2 can get away with advertising*** their priority ticket service.... Since when did the worst tickets in a  venue become "priority"? 

*** Talking of which there are a couple of new unbelievable UK TV adverts that have caught my eye recently
  • The pay for your funeral now and die later plan....
Which informs us that with burial costs rising we should be worried that we won’t be able to afford our funeral in the future....So why not pay for it now....

At least I think it means that, unless I misinterpreted it and it is actually an advert for Exit, advising us to die now while you can still afford to or possibly even save money and bury yourself before you die. 

Yes it is true you can’t take it with you but I for one think you should at least enjoy it while you are here...
  • When there is blame you should make a claim....
Four supposed lawyers walk towards the camera wittering on about how they can get you loads of money for any accidents that you might have. One of them trips over their own feet and sprawls to the floor....

Who do they think they are going to sue?....themselves??? 

As for Snow Patrol, while I doubt they will be many people’s absolute favourite group, except perhaps aging Goths (they have a tendency to stray to the  morose), they have built up a decent back catalogue.   They also have a wonderful ability to build those sad songs up from a slow start into punchy anthems .  Gary Lightbody, while not the most stunning of frontmen, is entertaining and has a good repartee with the audience.

Watch of the week
The regular section in support of Joe (Stunt Cock) and his growing watch business Xupes. Joe mentioned that they had been getting a number of hits via the BlackLOG.

Xupes has been trading for over 2 years and  Joe has recently developed some great contacts in the trade which enables him to pick up surplus stock and sell them at great prices. Mrs B is a regular purchaser from his jewellery section, going self service once she finally realised that her husband is not the jewellery buying type…

IWC Portuguese Chronograph
Price £4,395
RRP £5,200
Saving    £   805

 Mens Portuguese Steel Chronograph watch, on a black crocodile strap with a Stainless Steel deployment clasp. This is the mens size measuring 42mm. The dial is White/Silver. The watch is complete with IWC Box & Papers. This watch is in excellent condition and has barely been worn.

Record of the week 
Footprints by Paul McCartney  - Yes mr Fox I have the measure of your Paws....

Just Say Yes by Snow Patrol - Oui

Shut Your Eyes by Snow Patrol - Can I trust you?

This Isn't Everything You Are by Snow Patrol - What more can there be?

Open Your Eyes by Snow Patrol - But you just told me to shut them....

 Photo Finish

All pictures taken with the Mega Mini Beast

"Just Say Yes"
Up to now (2009)

"Called out in the Dark"
Fallen Empires (2011)

"Shut your Eyes"
Eyes Open (2006)

"Grazed Knee"
Final Straw (2004)

"When it's all over we still have to clean up"
from the 2001 album of the same name

Tune in next week for more sick (hopefuly not me sick) adventures

Monday, 6 February 2012

Why it’s best to find out the facts before going off the deepened....

I received a text a few weeks back:

Anonymous Acquaintance - “Hi, how are you? Was thinking of doing a photo shoot for some advertising. Would you be interested? Only the feedback on the other shots you did for me was really good. I would like to pay my way though! And obviously if you’re busy I totally understand.  It might take a wee while to organise so I'm not thinking tomorrow or this week just in the near future.”

I suggested we met for a coffee to talk through details of what AA was looking for and said I would text when I was next in town for coffee.

About a week later and after three unanswered texts I changed tack and put my head into the shop and said I would be over in “Delicious” my favourite coffee house.  Great.  AA said they would meet me over there shortly....

Two hours later and no sign of AA.

I sent AA a text.

“Sorry I had to go” How English is that? Apologise for something that is not your fault...

I wasn’t very happy but it was not the end of the world.  I had my PC, access to the internet and so had been able to get on with my work, plus the Delicious staff are always friendly and entertaining (if anything the Delicious team got the worst of it, having to put up with me for longer than my normal visiting time). It was a bit of a surprise since I had not instigated the meeting and figured that was the end of the project...  

A week later I received the following text...  

Anonymous Acquaintance “Hi, sorry I messed you around! Ok on an honest level I struggle going to places on my own! Even walking across the road I freeze! If you still want to meet up for the shoot do you mind popping in and I'll walk over to the cafe with you?! I'm not a freak or anything. 'Hopefully' I just suffer from a mild case of agoraphobia. I'm a very strong, outgoing person but this is a weakness I've had for years! I don't want to miss out on this shoot so if/when you are free I’d really like to chat.”

My Reply - "No problem, glad you told me as I was a bit worried that my deodorant had failed spectacularly.   I should be around Monday through to Thursday so whatever is best for  you."

Anonymous Acquaintance “It's embarrassing. I guess people see me as a strong business person so it's really frustrating! I can go places and sometimes on my own, then for some strange reason I just freeze up and can only be in my comfort zone! Crazy! Anyway thanks for your reply. I can do anytime Wednesday.”

My Reply - "Don't be embarrassed about it, we all have issues, hang ups. It's no different to any other fear or phobia that people have*  If people know about it they can help you deal with it.  If  they can't cope with it that is their problem..."

* my personal phobia is a fear of being stood up.... kidding, I come into Delicious most days when I work from home and I had my PC with me so it was not a issue for me other than worried what had happened to you. 

I picked AA up and we walked over to Delicious, where we had a productive chat about ideas for a photo shoot over coffee (please note no cake Mrs B).We also talked about AA’s interesting problem for someone who has not only set up but continues to run a successful business. How AA has managed to avoid the attempts by doctors to prescribe medication for depression.  For despite the problems it causes, AA has refused to let it get them down.   

AA kindly gave me extracts from a diary they have been keeping about some of the issues they face... showing how they get by on a daily basis, often hiding from people the problem of not being able to go out on their own.... I’ve made a few changes to help disguise AA– but hope one day they will have the courage to publish either in blog form or as a book to demonstrate to the many other people suffering similar problems that they are not alone and people can, despite the odds, make a success of their lives....

Extracts from - The truthful liar
I know I for one would certainly be interested in reading more (especially if you remove my clumsy editing, which is aimed to give my friend the anonymity they need at the moment)....

I could kill for a milky coffee right now,  but I’m out of milk. The shop is no more than a two minute walk away and I have money in my pocket. The truth is, I can’t go! My legs or my head just won’t let me. My usual helpers ie my friends are all at work, I won’t be expecting a call to say they are popping in for a coffee, and therefore I can’t lie to them and say that I totally forgot to get milk on my way home and for them  to swing by the shop via my house. The reason is I just can’t get my body or my mind to walk in there on my own.

My stomach is rumbling as it’s way past lunch, I reach my hand in my back pocket to grab some money, staring through the window at the street, watching the world go by, wanting so badly to open the door take ten steps, pick up a sandwich and enjoy it with the coffee I just made. I call to ‘Rachel’,  one of my trainee staff , ‘Yes’ she sharply replies. ‘I need to call my supplier in the back office it’s really important, can you run over the road and grab me a sandwich please?’ She did not need to ask what I liked because all the staff working for me know, they have all been Rachel at some point in the past.

Chewing each mouthful without tasting. My mind takes me back to my to do list. VAT return, the wage slips from last month’s wages needed to be printed, then the sick feeling of remembering it’s Thursday. Because that means it’s only 3 more days till Saturday, Saturday I have been invited out with friends, something to eat, few drinks, good catch up. My heart beating faster and the feeling of my whole body turning into a bean bag and the beads gashing down from my head through my body to my feet that are now glued and heavy to the floor, my ears not hearing a sound and my eyes not registering what I’m looking at. I hope I have a good day on Saturday. I hope I can go out! 

“Cab’s here”, my partner calls. My heart beating faster and faster, I try to remember how a real smile looks like. Smiling at them they say “You look great, I can’t wait to eat, I’m so hungry” for a split second my smile becomes real, I can hear what they just said to me and my heart slows. Aiming for the cab I silently tut thinking why could you not park right outside my flat, why do I need to walk 20 steps to get in you. Oh that’s right No-one knows my secret.

‘It’s so good to see you both’ our friends have wanted to arrange something for ages but have been cancelled last minute because I “had too much paperwork to do”, “a court battle to prepare for”, or “my Nan needed me last minute”. They believed my lies, so I believed me. The truth was I wanted to go more than anything in this world, but my body wouldn’t let me.

The conversation is flowing, I can taste every mouthful of my food, excited about the dessert. The wine slightly hitting my head and the compliments firing at me from our friends. ‘So are you busy?’ me answering at the top of my glory, telling them how I’m smashing business, in how I now employ 12 staff members, but trying to also play it down to a modest level and telling them that I still need to work really hard, gloating to them that I brought a watch just the other day, hoping they don’t realise that actually it was only an impulse buy and that on that particular day it was a bad one and I needed a happy release in some way. And that I can’t actually afford it. 

I feel their proud voices talking to me, I feel good. If only they knew my secret! But the thought of trying to explain something I don’t even understand myself shatters me, Its best to show them the side of me they want to see, the me they can applaud and praise!

The shots keep coming and the music is loud, I can just about make out the lyrics, but it’s because of all the conversations around me that it muffles my ears, not because my brain shuts them down. My smile, my real smile, lasts hours.  We’re all having such a good time, planning our next night out, our plans for a holiday. And even though I know different, I pretend for those precious hours that I am going to keep to my promises, hopefully they won’t think that I will once again cancel last minute. Maybe this time they will forget how busy I get, how things crop up in my life all of a sudden, maybe they won’t realise there is a whole other me they don’t know, hopefully they can just see the me I’m presenting now, this minute, this night. In the back of my mind hoping so very much that they cancel before me, that something crops up, or they are too drunk to remember what we have planned. Holding on to the fact that this might be the last time they put up with being cancelled, or worse they find the other me. 

The adrenaline that I feel at that moment tells me that I am going to stick to my plans, I will have a good night! Then the sudden firework of an impulse and saying to myself…tell them, tell them who you are. My lips almost making a sound. ‘Shall we go dance?’ ‘Yes great let’s dance.’ It’s gone, it’s too late, maybe I’ll tell them another day. If that day comes.

Stretching out my body, my head starting to thump, I must be the only person to actually enjoy a hangover. I went out, I had fun! I’m me again! Getting out of bed, jumping in my tracksuit grabbing the left over change from last night I fly out the door!

Right I need bacon, I need eggs, sausages, and the Sunday paper. My feet are walking me to the local shop, my lungs feeling the cold air. My head is yes still banging but I don’t care, I’m walking, I’m walking and I’m free! I went out last night, I’m out today and its going to be a good day! I can see so many more days like this. No bad thoughts enter my head, I don’t care, I’m doing it, I’m strong. If I can run a successful business, run a home, fight a court battle, deal with my mum dying when I was young I can do anything! I can do this!

‘Morning’ the staff look at me in an almost shock but let’s not make it obvious way because they know that it is 8.30am and on the days I’m in early is a good one. They all know I’m in a good mood and that it will be such a good place to work in today.

Not needing to dart for a latte because I have had milk in the fridge all week now, I start by getting the staff motivated, reciting my to-do list and thinking I’m so happy that the only thing I need to do today is my job. Everything is done! Even my Tesco shop! 

I hear everything, I enjoy the music, I’m laughing when I want to and not on cue. I have an opinion I don’t just agree. I feel free! Today I choose my own sandwich, today I taste the smoked salmon with the ever so slightly salted cream cheese. I crunch the granary bread with my teeth. 

Two weeks of feeling great! My life is on track, my office is tidy, the takings are up! 


The dreaded text message flicks on my phone,

‘Hey how are you? Are we still on for next Friday? I can’t wait!

My fingers hit the reply, blocking all the feelings of dread in the back of my mind I start to type….O wait that’s right, I can’t.

My fingers so badly want to say that I’m still on, my head wanting to convince myself, the voice pounding my ears saying ‘let her down now, you know you will anyway’

I tell myself to stop being silly, I’ve been great this week, I was good the week before, I’ll be ok next Friday! I’ll reply later!

My Email to AA- "The Truthful liar is wonderfully written,  One day I hope you get the chance to publish your story because I believe it would act as an inspiration to the many people who suffer from a similar problem but who allow it to stop them from succeeding with their dreams and aspirations.  

You asked me today if I felt differently about the you I knew before finding out about the mask that you wear and the you that I now know beneath that mask – A kind of modern day Wizard of OZ, only this story starts in Bishops Stortford rather than Kansas. Since you are playing the Wizard behind the curtain I’m hoping that I’m not playing the Dorothy character – I’m not sure I could carry off those ruby red shoes....I just don’t have the complexion or the singing voice for that matter.....  

The answer I would say is, I didn’t really know you before. I thought of you as a very strong minded, determined and successful individual who has achieved a lot at a very young age.  Now I see someone who has achieved this through adversity and my admiration for you has gone up.  As I said today it must have taken a lot of courage to send the text, explaining why you didn’t make our meeting and to open up to a relative stranger who hopefully can become a friend and ally in your battle to stand on solid wood and not those needles of self doubt.....

Part of being human is that, as brilliant as we are, we all have weakness, self doubt and issues, even the most successful people.  I would say that the more successful people are the more pressure that builds up around them, either from the expectation of others or the expectation they heap on themselves.  Take most comics or entertainers, they have a public face which allows people to see them as happy confident people.  The reality is that most of them are probably fighting  inner demons that suck at the very heart of their confidence and which sends many of them into deep bouts of depression.  If there is a positive that you can take from this, it is that as difficult as it is to deal with, thankfully you have a strong enough personality not to allow it to drive you to depression.

I look forward to working with you on our photo project and thank you for your honesty. Sadly I can’t promise that I can help you beat the problem but I will do everything in my power to work with you to minimise the impact ....". 

I for one am glad that I didn’t go off on one after I was stood up and said or texted something I might have regretted.  It just goes to show  it’s best to find out all the facts before making a judgement.....

Record of the week 

Stuck in my mind by the Glass Child - The closest song I could find, which appears to represented what AA  goes through.  Not nearly in the same league but thinking about it I realised that I have a similar freeze when it comes to the thought of eating vegetables.  I can see them,  I can think about eating them but can't actually bring myself to do it. The product of being forced to eat them  as a child. 
Take me with you by Prince - For when you have to be somewhere but can't manage it on your own....

Not much action this week, but thankfully the dip in temperature gave me a few photo opportunities

Photo Finish
Despite his claim to the contrary her new man clearly
didn’t understand the concept of foreplay. It was just as
well  she hadn’t put Soixante-neuf on the menu....
Moses duck soon lost most of his followers
when they realised he had not actually parted
the water, it had just frozen overnight........

Don't forget to tune in next week