Sunday, 21 May 2017
Sunday, 9 October 2016
This summer, after a period of illness, I was told that I was no longer needed and was duly paid off. This was an interesting time which, if you follow me on Facebook, you would have seen that I labelled #vexit and allsorts of people were following to see the outcome.
After 33 years of continual employment this came as a bit of a shock to the system. All of a sudden I was unemployed. Too young to retire and, it seems, too old to start again. What does a chap do in this situation?
Well, too start with, I have to ‘sign on’. That is an experience in itself. Walking into a job centre for the first time in my life and finding my soul being sucked out of my body as I do so. There is something about the atmosphere of this place, from the pile pile of discarded cigarette butts outside to the slightly grim lighting inside, that is not conducive to a cheery outlook on life. It may be fine for those who have no interest in work an just want to play the system for whatever they can get out of it, but for someone who wants to work it is depressing, to say the least.
On the whole, I am positive. But every other Tuesday the thin veneer of positivity that covers the fear and depression that unemployment brings cracks like the sugary crust on a crème brulee and my will to live stalls. But I am not desperate yet. I am taking my time to find a job that I want to do rather than what I have to do. In a couple of months I will have to apply for any job but for the moment I look to the adage that if you find a job that you love you will never work another day in your life. That job is out there somewhere, I will find it (the crust on my crème brulee is, currently, intact)
In the meantime, starting from #vexit, I move to #vennployment. keep an eye on my Facebook page for further developments.
Wednesday, 15 June 2016
Friday, 5 June 2015
Like most of the great challenges in life, it started off as a bet. I was at a bbq at a friends house and posted a picture, on social media, of the 2 giant steaks that we were cooking. To be honest, the picture did them justice, they looked like they had been carved from the haunches of a dinosaur.
Anyway, a friend responded to the sight of said picture by suggesting that we should go vegetarian for a month. If we did, he would donate £100 to charity. Now, myself and my friend are Freemasons, so the logical charity was the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys. There quickly followed a couple of postings by Masonic friends saying that they would also match that figure. Rob, his name has not been changed to protect his identity, and myself, having imbibed a large quantity of red wine by this time, were laughing and thinking ‘no way!’ and then the RMTGB posted a response saying ‘thanks for your support guys!’
Bugger! There was no real way of backing out now.
So we decided that we would do this idiotic challenge, starting on May 5th, the day after Rob’s birthday. We made sure that at Rob’s birthday bbq we overdosed on meat. Understand that the pair of us are devout carnivores. I have no issue with anyone who wants to be vegetarian, in fact, I now admire them immensely. But this challenge required some thought. It is not as easy to come in from work and chuck something in the oven for dinner when you are on a veggie diet. It requires some planning and thought. It also needs some knowledge of nutrition. I have issues with my kidneys that mean that the normal foods that a vegetarian would eat to get their protein I can’t eat. So straight away I am putting my health at risk, but it is only for a month.
Our first vegetarian meal was at a Masonic dinner. Presented to us under silver domes and revealed with a flourish. I could hardly contain my indifference, and I think that Rob felt the same. It was nice, but we both felt that there was something missing. And this is what we felt about most of the meals we had. We missed the textures and depth of flavour that meat brings to a meal. We tried all the usual stuff, quorn being particularly tasteless unless you put so much in the way of herbs and spices with it that it strips the lining from your throat.
Someone did suggest a meat replacement from a vegan shop, peppered vegan ‘steak’. I went to this shop and found what appeared to be two dog turds in a plastic tray covered with clingfilm. But, any port in a storm, I gave them a go. There was so much chilli on it to give it flavour and it had the texture of, what I would imagine to be, dog turd.
In amongst all this we were being teased, polite word, mercilessly by other Masons with pictures of rare steaks, bacon, sausages, burgers etc being mailed and texted to us, it is surprising that we did not turn to cannibalism. But donations came in. We set up a PayPal account for people to donate to, and we were willing to accept cash and cheques. At the end of all this we raised over £1000.
As far as I can tell the only benefit I can see from changing to a vegetarian diet is that I was more regular, if you know what I mean, and it was more satisfying. The food itself always left something to be desired. Neither of us felt better for it, probably because we were drinking more beer and eating more puddings. Fortunately there is no meat in chips and cake! We had some fun along the way with reprisals against those who took the p%$$, and we raised loads of money. Would we do it again?
Good God! No!
I admire anyone who makes that choice, to be a vegetarian, but I am a meat eater, a carnivore. And that is what I will be until I die, which according those vegetarians will be soon.
Myself and Rob thank all those who donated for their generosity and the money raised has been gratefully received and will be faithfully applied.
PS. We finished the challenge with a steak. Rare & bloody.
Wednesday, 3 September 2014
Now, you know me as a grumpy bugger, and in queues at airports I could grump for England, so what was I going to be like here? Got out of the car and opened the boot, got the cases out and a bloke put them on a trolley and took ‘em away. So far so good, no queue to check in the bags. We walked into the terminal, had our photo taken for the ships records and 10 minutes later I am sat on the top deck with a beer in my hand, in the sunshine. Wow! No grumpy giant68. Yet.
And that was it for the day. Down to our cabin, sorry, stateroom, unpack, as the bags were delivered straight there, and out for a wander round the ship.
A modern cruise liner is a thing of wonder. There are cinemas, theatres, ice rink, shops, bars, restaurants, cafes, swimming pools, hot tubs, gym, spa… More than enough to keep me happy for a fortnight.
Twelve nights at sea were to follow, soaking up the sun on the deck during the day, when not ashore.. Weather was glorious.
But there was a black cloud hovering on my horizon. And it was all to do with the food. We would go to breakfast in a ‘cafe’ at the stern of the ship. There was a huge vista of sea for us to view while we ate, absolutely marvellous! But then there was the breakfast. A vast servery with every kind of breakfast food that you can imagine, and then some. I love breakfast, best meal of the morning. Every morning I would make a pact with myself that I would only have a light brekkie. And i would, invariably, turn up at the table with a mountain of food on a plate. I am sure I ate my own body weight in bacon every morning. And as my weight was increasing daily the amount of bacon would go up exponentially.
Lunch would be similar. And dinner, at 8:30pm, would follow along similar lines, although this would be delivered by the smiling gourmet assassin that was our waiter. Believe me, the food was a absolute pleasure, from the crispy bacon in the morning to the surf and turf in the evening.
I forced myself to use the stairs to our room on deck 10 every time. I even went in the gym a few times and did some miles on an exercise bike. Otherwise the stone I put on would have been joined by some more. I am currently sporting the spare tyre from the back of a Massey Ferguson tractor around my waist. My diabetic review is probably going to be soon and I will be lucky if my feet don’t fall off before it. The nurse is going to give me another rollicking. Oh well…
Next time I will tell you about kids, bad parenting, Barbary apes and Portuguese buses.
Saturday, 19 April 2014
You have read about my adventures in France, getting there and what we did while we were there. But now the adventure continues with ‘The Return Trip’
So, we have had an excellent time sat around a terrace of some French Gite. We are so chilled that you could hang a side of beef in us for 6 months. so relaxed that we are almost comatose. Now we have to go home. Load the car, lock the door and off we go. French roads are lovely, I have just spent a week driving around the French countryside and enjoying every minute of it. So I am looking forward to the drive, apart from the fact that we are going home. We make good time until we get close to Toulouse where we find traffic, it is football tonight and everyone wants to go to the stadium. Although no one is going to the stadium as they are stuck in traffic on the motorway heading to Toulouse airport, bastards! This is the point that you find that you have a car full of backseat drivers! Oh what fun!
Eventually we get to the airport and after only a few circuits of the carpark we find the drop-off point for the car. park the car only to find that the keys now have to be returned to the main desk, at the other end of the airport! I am suffering from a bad hip, the ‘hippy hippy ache’ as it was christened by Hannah, and Stuart has his problems, so where do we have to go now? The other end of the airport, quelle surprise, as the French would say. So we have now walked from one end of the airport to the other, now we are walking back again. And guess what! Once we have checked in we have to go back again! Why does this always seem to happen to me? Are the people who own and run airports that concerned with my health that they want me to do as much exercise as I can can? Again, bastards!
You may detect that my aura of chill is now starting to become the aura of a really pissed off person. Now I am stood at the departure gate, in stifling air, not enough seats and an aching hip watching the speedy boarders get let through. Now this makes me wonder. What is the point of the speedy boarding? Some time ago, when you checked in at the airport and took a chance on what seat you got speedy boarding would make sure that you got the best seats, for a price. But now, when you book in online you get to choose the seats you want. They let the speedy boarders through, then they let the rest of us through to catch up with the aforementioned speedy boarders. The point of speedy boarding is now lost on me.
Now comes the funny bit. The large bint who has realised that she is going to be crammed in to a window seat beside a mother and baby. This doesn’t appeal to her, obviously, as she is trying to get the cabin staff to move her to a better seat. The arguments that it would be better for the young mother are not working. Nor the ‘I am a frequent flyer on Easyjet and i know how this works’, or threats of complaints to head office. If she wants to move she must pay £19. To be honest, I was tempted to pay the £19 to move the mother and baby to the front, that would have really pissed off fat bird! She already had a face that looked like a bulldog licking piss off a nettle so God knows what would have happened. She announced, quite loudly, that she would spend the rest of the flight composing her letter of complaint. The fact that she made herself look like a laughing stock was lost on her. She remained quiet, though, for the rest of the trip until the steward wanted to make sure that she had her belt done up. As he couldn’t see it she got quite fired up again. Me? I watched a TV show on my phone that I had downloaded earlier, the flight seemed to fly by, so to speak.
This was a good holiday, one of the best I have had. We went away with good friends and we returned as good friends, what more could I ask. We ate cheese sandwiches in the car on the way back to their house, we went to Wetherspoons for breakfast the next morning and then we came home. Holiday now seems to be a million years ago. But we can look forward to the next one. Or just meeting with friends for lunch, or a day out, or just a drink. Good friends make the difference and i have enough to make a big difference. I hope you do too.
Monday, 14 April 2014
I am getting worried that I may be losing my grump! I haven’t felt grumpy enough to write a blog for quite a while, but it may have returned. And this is down to my holiday. I know, a holiday should not make anyone grumpy and, on the whole, it didn’t. Just parts of it.
Back last year it was suggested by friends, for the sake of this blog we will refer to them as Stuart and Hannah (probably because that is their name!), that we go on holiday together. This could be dangerous as we have only spent a couple of days together since we met, apart from the week or so that we spent on a Nile cruise where we first met. But in those short meetings we have got on like a house on fire. So we weren’t really worried. They booked it and we paid our share, I think although i must check the final numbers, and off we set to their home before our flight from Gatwick. We were all making our way to Broze near Toulouse somewhere down the bottom end of France. Mrs Giant68 and I have never been past Paris and this, sort of, coloured my opinion of our neighbour across the channel in a negative way.
But enough of that. Where did the grumpiness come from? Airports, that’s where. Your holiday and, therefore, the start of the process of shedding the stress begins at the airport, in my opinion. But no, the stress levels build. You arrive at the aerodrome looking forward to the adventure that is launching yourself inside a metal tube full of other peoples farts into the sky. You are shot down almost immediately as you join the queue at check in. Even though you have taken advantage of ‘online check in’ you still have to join the line to drop your bag off. You are met by a surly airport worker, I was, who wants to know why you are in this queue. To drop my bag off, I inform her. No you should be in that queue comes the response comes, and she sounds as if she has been sucking a lemon all night.
Once you have lost your bag you have to wait, one eye on the departures board, for information on your flight time. In this case the board told me that there would be more info at 8:15. It was already 8:20, huh?
Next? The queue at the gate. First through are the ‘speedy boarders’, those who have paid extra for an allocated seat… hang on! I have an allocated seat but I am not a speedy boarder… Seems like a waste of money to me. But the queue gives way to another queue to get on the plane. The first person on will now hold everyone else up as he is sat by the door but must now stand in the aisle while he gets everything he, or she, needs for the flight out of their hand luggage and then put said hand luggage in the overhead locker. While there is a size limit for carry on bags it seems that this doesn’t apply to some travellers as they try to force a bag the size of a grand piano into the overhead locker.
You take off. Then begins the added torture, worse than the CIAs waterboarding: crying babies, small children kicking the back of your seat, being crammed into the smallest seat possible… the list goes on. Is there any wonder why I am grumpy?
You will be pleased to know that my stress level did drop when faced with these views:
There was also this stuff called ‘red wine’, food and friendship. You will be pleased to know, maybe, that I survived the airport experience and returned home a bit less stressed, although depressed at being dragged away from the aforementioned items.
Enjoy your holidays