Thursday, 25 September 2014

Number 38

I'm zipping back home tomorrow for an evening and a morning with my elderly parents in Timperley. I don't get a good feeling when I get to Timperley - it's a soulless suburb of Manchester. I'm going to Riddings Court, which is the most soulless part of Timperley. I'm going there because I haven't seen my parents for a while, and they can't take a whole family visiting any more. I really like this challenge because it'll force me to think of details of the 11 years I spent there (6-17). It's going to add a really good layer to the trip. 
No one had ever heard of Timperley when I lived there. Recently, however, it turns out it is THE centre of British culture. I will use a bold font to explain how ... so ... Frank Sidebottom has a statue in Timperley village centre - he (Chris Sievey) lived next door to my friend Aidan Clarke, and was the closest thing we had to a local celebrity when he charted with The Freshies. The Stone Roses lived around the corner from me without me (or them) realising it - in fact they might have been the boys who stole my football in Greenway Road. I'll email them and see if they've still got it. And Caroline Ahern lived there for a while after I'd left. I missed all that stuff that was going on around me. I had some good times there, but I hope this challenge will get rid of the soul-sucking feeling I get when I drive past Timperley Station.
Five memorable memories is never going to be enough. I'll do six.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Number 35 update

A select group of men turned up, with an age range of nearly 20 years. Some guffaws were had and some rubbish was talked. My observing wife, who fancies herself as a bit of a David Attenborough, pointed out there was a long period of chest-to-chest standing up at the start, as we protected our masculinity and sorted out who was the alpha-male. She was wrong:
a) We were actually saying how good each other's hair looked, and
b) comparing our experience of the menopause and how it has affected us emotionally, and
c) the best of us is delta.
I was pretty moved that the social worker and the lawyer found common ground in a long and too-detailed discussion about the precise legal and physical steps that would have to be taken to have me certified 'for a joke'.
Next time I'll drop the cake, I think, but will definitely do something similar again. A very pleasant way to spend the afternoon. Thanks chaps.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Number 37

Hmm - didn't do too well with this one. In the stiff atmosphere of a new open-plan office, I didn't feel this was the right way to introduce myself. I tried to find anyone I knew a bit better to take them into a private corner and whisper a few 'ah-harrrs', but no one was around.
My last conversation of the day was to call Tim Walker to see if he was available for a run. I slipped in a solitary, pathetic 'harr', which was treated with the contempt it deserved. Pirate talk doesn't sound good if you hold back at all. I do wonder how Blackbeard would have talked if he'd had a job in an open-plan office, though.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Number 36

This is no longer a typical raisin - it was flattened by the scanning process, and probably slightly cooked. Hmm, not as wrinkly as I imagined raisins are, and it still has some of its old purple colour - I can definitely see it is an ex-grape. There's something morbid about that - it feels like I'm holding a grape corpse. Also morbid is that it reminds me of a bog body. Compare for yourself. Can you see which one is the raisin?
Apart from its flatness, its main unique feature is that it's burst at one end, also a result of the scanning. Reminds me of when I stepped on a slug on the kitchen floor and burst its head off. I'm putting myself off eating this. 
Quite cool to the touch, rough but slightly human-feeling, like a hand callous. The first few smells are blank, but as I tune into it I can smell sticky sweetness, that seems to stay on the inside of my nose. Nothing interesting is happening in my mouth.
Now it is! The raisin is in! It's in my mouth! I'm just letting it sit there so the sweetness can leak out. I'll give it a couple of nudges with my tongue. Hmm, shouldn't have done that as it definitely felt like a bog person's hand callous moving around in there. Right, I'm going to bite. Surprisingly moist, and an explosion of the taste that the smell was hinting at. Now I'm crushing it with my molars, which is quite a sad moment. I'd got to know the little fellow quite well. OK, so now I'm waiting for the swallowing instinct. Here it comes ... and the raisin is on its way down to my stomach. What a horrible end for a noble grape. How is my whole body feeling? Very hungry, like it's been tricked. Fortunately, a smell of is wafting up the stairs and it's lunchtime. 
I have just stuffed down four pieces of bread and a bowl of chicken and sweetcorn soup. Mindfulness was fun while it lasted, but not practical when you're hungry.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Number 31 update

Claire had said for years that she'd like to do the backing-singer role for some sort of performance, and that she had friends who were also keen. So I needed something that expressed my feelings about being fifty in a style that lent itself to a backing group. I spent a few hours putting together a fifties-style verse/chorus parts, and we met up for the first of two practices. Jen and Sharon threw themselves in, and the only thing holding us back was a total lack of short-term memory. Half an hour before the party, I finished the intro and we had a last run-through - for the first time we managed to remember the whole thing.
With the party in full swing I rearranged the stage and carried down the keyboard, and got the nervous backing singers on standby. I got on the stage (not easy in a pencil skirt), eventually got everyone pointing the right way, thanked them for coming, almost fell off the tiny stage twice, and announced the song. The rest is a blur. The camera captured from after the intro, when the Half-Century-ettes made their entrance ...

Being fifty is quit an adventure
Each day brings a new ache or pain
Every morning a slightly bigger bald patch
A little more fog around my brain
My elderly parents are going batty
My teenage son's gone twatty
All my time is taken up with responsibility
And my sodding eyesight's failed
My childhood heroes have all been jailed
Sometimes it feels like all I have left is my dignity ...

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Number 35

Nice. Maybe we'll all dress up as Jane Austen characters.

Number 33 update

Having found out that nearby Wiltshire is the world crop circle centre. I was excited already. I found out that is the place to find out where the latest ones have appeared, and you can phone up to find whether the farmer whose field it's on is allowing access. I was lucky – there were a couple of fresh ones only a mile or so apart, and the farmer was letting people on. An hour and a half later, in the middle of the Wiltshire countryside, we noticed a couple of cars parked where they wouldn't normally be, and we stopped and got out. Across the field we could see a couple of distant heads, and, to our horror, a combine harvester. Had we arrived moments too late? I hadn't travelled all this way to visit a crop semicircle.
We made our way across the huge wheatfield.
Already it felt like we were in a different world, with the sound of traffic replaced by the gentle shushing of acres of wheat in the breeze. We reached the brow of the hill, and were standing on the flattened stalks of the outer circle. A handful of people were sitting silently and contentedly in the centre. We walked around then walked to the middle along a spoke and joined them. The circle was extremely simple, a ten-metre flat circle joined by a few spokes to a thin, one-metre outer ring. If this was made by an alien, it was made by a useless one on his first lesson. 
It was certainly noticeably peaceful in the centre, although this could have been down to sitting still in a quiet place rather than having our stress sucked out by a lay line.
After a few snaps, we repeated our walk through the wheatfield – the most memorable experience so far – to go to the next circle, which had a bit more of an exciting design. One of the friendly couples told us the exact obscure track to drive up along the road. We did what they said and walked up the track, where a small group of lost people were gathered. It turned out they were crop circle tourists – another species I had no clue existed – visiting from Cambridge for a couple of days. A young chap told me that although humans can make crop circles, 'true' crop circles have their stalks bent in a unique way ... 
... and traces of metals can be found in the soil. The tourist group sent a runner across the fields to find the circle, and she waved us in. This circle had more of an intricate design – perfect triangular islands inside a circle. More interesting, for sure, but not mind-blowing like the giant fractal patterns I'd seen on the Internet. After examining the shapes I lay down for a few minutes and looked up at the perfect blue sky, willing a UFO to appear. I tried to put myself in the aliens' tinfoil, pointy shoes and work out why they would do this. The only conclusion that made sense that it was teenage aliens borrowing their parents' spacecraft, drink a couple of litres of mercury, and go and tag some planets. 
A few souvenir snaps and we were off. It was a brief experience, but it grabbed my interest. I'm not going to be a crop circle tourist, but crop circles will stay in my consciousness from now on, and I'm going to keep half an eye on the night sky for a glimpse of a Venutian Banksy.

Number 34

Right - better not have my usual breakfast - really hard to draw porridge, from what I've heard. Good excuse to stuff myself on easy-to-draw and colourful food.