Thursday, 27 September 2012

Googling garden sheds

At half past nine last Saturday morning I was standing in a very quiet Argos. Yes, Argos. The shop for lazy people. The shop for folk who can’t be bothered going looking for something but can be bothered standing and flicking through a gargantuan catalogue, writing out a number from the big book, handing it over the till and then proceeding to a waiting area where they then go on to another desk but only after your number has been called. Surely the only shop that still operates with not only catalogues but also pencils. Short, neatly sharpened pencils.
Whatever happened to the bookie pens? They must have been too expensive. Maybe they were too old fashioned? We are now back to the lead and wood.
That Saturday morning had been dry since we awoke so I had decided, since it was the day of the grand house warming, to run up to the retail park and purchase a lawnmower and get the lawns cut, just in time for the visitors arriving at three in the afternoon.
Along with having our own staircase, we now have our own gardens. Something else that is currently a novelty.
Unfortunately we haven’t yet been gifted with good enough weather to enjoy the gardens but as the grass had needed a cut and there was a distinct lack of rain in the air for a change I zoomed straight up to the local catalogue shop after having spotted the lawnmower at a good price on one of my web meanderings during the week's lunch hours in work.
Due to the busy workload of recent weeks I've found my break times changing from day to day so have completely lost track with everyone else's tea times and have found myself eating my sandwiches at the desk, all alone. Spending my lunchbreaks googling lawnmowers is not how I'd imagined things to change after my move to the Glasgow offices.
The other day I found myself googling Garden Sheds!
Is this how it all starts? Middle age? Googling garden sheds?
Surely it's too soon for all of that... but then I do need somewhere to put a lawnmower now. The garden shed idea has been temporarily knocked on the head anyway as they seem to be far more expensive than I'd first envisioned. Even in our trusty local catalogue store.
Ka and myself had visited the same Argos the previous weekend after seeing a baby bouncer chair online for a good price. We’d went along to investigate and found the item unavailable. The helpful, slightly over enthusiastic, wee woman behind the desk that served us asked if there was any way we’d been interested in a store card. We turned the opportunity down. The Argos lady then asked if there was any particular time we could accept its delivery from another store further afield. We decided against it after finding that the bouncy chair would have to be delivered on a work day. The Argos lady wandered whether we’d consider travelling to pick the item up. We shrugged and then told her it didn’t matter that much, we would pick up another bouncy chair elsewhere.
Obviously this was the wrong thing to say. The woman asked if there was any other bouncy chair of interest to us. We said no. She asked if there was any other item of interest to us. Anything at all in the massive catalogue. Again we insisted it was fine, there was nothing else. Now with a hint of desperation in her voice, the Argos lady asked if there was anything else she could look up for us, anything else she could do.
I had no idea Argos employees were on a commission. I wonder how much she would have got for a bouncy chair.
The same lady was behind the checkout desk when I bought the lawnmower on Saturday morning. A Flymo Easimo, complete with grass trimmer.
I have no idea about lawnmowers. This one had wheels, a blade and a collection box so it looked fine to me and my Dad also confirmed it seemed like a reasonable price when he phoned me up that morning. Being the green fingered expert my Dad is the guy to ask when any gardening advice.
Thankfully the lawnmower was available to pick up, there and then so half of the wee Argos lady’s questions from the previous week were not needed making her look a little disappointed as she started the payment procedure. The lady did try and talk me into some monthly cover payments but after some quick, fraudulent, consideration from myself, involving some unconvincing humming and hawing, I was off to the pick up point in the deserted store. It was obviously too early for all the usual Argos customers so I had the pick of the plastic blue/green seats at pick up point B. Clasping my massively long receipt, for my one item, I looked up at the television screen to see at which position my number stood at.
I was second. There was literally no other customer in the store so how I was second in the queue I don't know.
Still it was only a matter of minutes until the lawnmower was delivered. One of the young employees shouted my number out, even though I, the only person standing waiting on an item, was already making my way up to the pick up point.
And it was the wrong pick up point. The girl had planted the lawnmower down blatantly under the ‘A’ sign. My receipt told me I would be picking my lawnmower up under the ‘B’ sign.
Obviously I couldn't be bothered hanging around any longer than I had to so let them off with this, grabbed the large box and ran for the car, ready to cut up some serious greenery.
After a quick unpacking of various orange and black metal pieces and a short ten minutes or so of construction, a quick cup of tea, a piece and sausage and a conversation with Dad over the phone who was now warning me of the dangers of cutting wet grass. I’d never really heard of anyone electrocuting themselves whilst mowing a wet lawn but Dad insisted it happens quite often. Surely there’d be health warning about cutting lawns then? Would lawnmowers come with safety gear or a license if they were that dangerous?
Whilst Ka prepared the food for the housewarming guests I tackled the back lawn only pausing to empty the collection box hitched on to the mower’s back and to talk to the wee neighbour whose head appeared over the hedge at one point. Betty chatted away for around five minutes, introducing herself and eventually her husband, Malcy, (not sure of the spelling there!) who ventured out into their garden when he heard his name mentioned. Ka introduced herself from the back door, still in her pyjamas and polka dot dressing gown. After the giving us the lowdown on the surrounding neighbourhood Betty and Malky disappeared back indoors and let me finish the back lawn before I headed out to the front. Dad turned up halfway through my frontal assault to either find out if I needed a hand or to make sure I wasn’t electrocuting myself.
Whilst cutting the front I met the neighbour on the other side. An smartly dressed old gent by the name of Leslie whose getting his windows replaced by the council shortly, has a son and a daughter and an alsation dog whose getting a bit long in the tooth and will have to be put down. I didn’t quite understand everything the old guy said but managed to translate most of it. Ka introduced herself from the front door, still moaning about being in her pyjamas and polka dot dressing gown.
After Leslie had gone back inside I quickly finished the front lawn, neatly strimming the edges, Dad disappeared off to get on with his various gardening jobs dotted around East Kilbride and Ka got herself ready after finishing her work in the kitchen, finally taking of her polka dot dressing gown.
Before long everybody started arriving. Cherly and Roslyn were the first to arrive, with Cherly’s two kids, Eilidh and Orla. Orla, being a small baby, was immediately dumped into my arms, for practice.
Around half an hour later the front door didn’t seem to close. Coats were taken, drinks were given out and the washing hanging out on the lines in the back garden, which included my space invader boxing shorts, quickly taken in. There were more babies and kids than predicted and soon babies were being tripped over, wiped up after, kept entertained, fed or generally watched like a hawk and all within the confines of the living room and kitchen.
Nobody went outside.
The rain was off, I kept telling everyone, it’s not rained all day, let’s go out and sit in the garden. I’d spent half the day mowing the lawns and making the gardens acceptable for guests so it was the perfect opportunity to show them off, not to mention my hard graft from behind the spinning blade.
“It’s too cold” David, the nursery teacher from Ka’s work, shook his head, to which everyone else seemed to silently agree and chat on among themselves. All the hard work had been for nothing.
Tony and Suzanne could see my plight but after Milo got his boots a little muddy from running over the grass, they decided against it.
At least Milo appreciated the freshly cut lawns.
Resigning myself to the fact that no one was going to be sitting out on the lawn anytime soon I went into the fridge and got out another beer.
Around ten or eleven hours later, and more than ten or eleven beers later, Ka and myself seen off the last of the evening guests. Chaz and Pauline sauntered out into the street to jump into their taxi and we shut the front door for the last time and got to our bed.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Gorillas, gritted teeth and grannies

£155. Brilliant. That’s the total I’ve managed to raise thanks to all those that sponsored me in my Glasgow 10k on the 2nd September. 310% of my predicted sponsor target. Fantastic. Facebook, email and twitter made using the Just Giving site so much easier so no one could have missed it really and even it they did, the sponsor page is still there, so it’s never too late!
Like I said I couldn’t have done it without you guys that gave your hard earned cash to such a worthwhile cause, Glasgow Sands, so thanks very much all of you, (you know who you are!).
The whole experience wasn’t without a certain amount of pain and hardship though as I did suffer a little for around four days. It wasn’t until the following Friday that I actually started regaining my usual walking abilities and stopped moving like a hungover John Wayne who’d been up all night. Going up and down stairs turned into an exceptional challenge, lurching up and down, like a limping Robocop. I’ve only got myself to blame, of course, it was the first time I’d ran 10k in a oner and I got very little training in beforehand. I even had to put the usual thrice a week trips to the gym on hold while we flitted at the turn of the month. If training for a 10k had included loading, lifting and the unpacking of heavy boxes, not to mention the seemingly constant use of a screwdriver, I would have completed the run in no time with no unfortunate after effects. Never before had small, menial, tasks been such hard work such as getting up off the couch and walking to the kitchen to make a brew. All with gritted teeth and noises and muttered sweary words.
The after effects didn’t actually kick in until the Monday morning when I had tried to get out of bed. I thought a gorilla had came in during the night and attacked me, refraining from waking me during the assault, as I slept.
Mysterious, nocturnal, gorillas aside, immediately after the race, under Nelson’s Monument on Glasgow Green, I’d felt great.
The run had gone well.
Later the results were published on the official website I had taken 58 minutes and 1 second.
Standing there, in Glasgow Green, I knew I had done it in around 58 minutes as I had timed myself with my trusty Rotary. I had aimed for under an hour at least so I was quite pleased with myself. Unfortunately I had no one to celebrate with.
Ka and the Mums and Dad’s had travelled into Glasgow to cheer us runners, Colin, Jillian and myself, off the starting line in George Square and, presumably, had the intention of cheering us over the finishing line. As I ran up through the last leg of the route, over Victoria Bridge and up Clyde Street and Greendyke Street into the Green, hollering crowds on either side, there had been no sign of the wife or either of the couples so I had assumed that I had missed them among the colourful, cheering crowd. As I slowed to a trot beyond the finishing line I picked up my medal, the traditional bag of runners’ goodies, and avoided the giant boxes of bananas, (I don’t like bananas… not sure why?) at the foot of Glasgow Green’s needle walked out on to the green picking a spot to stand and wait for anyone who may want to run up and congratulate me.
Nobody did.
Instead I watched all the others runners coming out through the finishing gates picking up their own medals and getting their goodie bags and then being greeted by loved ones over the surrounding temporary metal fencing.
I wasn’t bothered. I had run it in under and hour. I had seen it, even if no one else had. I kept an eye out for any of the ‘support’ but none could be seen. Not even the wife. Typical.
Around ten minutes later I spotted the familiar sight of Jillian in her Sands T-shirt, making her way through the puffed out running crowd, in the expanding queues for the medal, goodie bag and banana collection, a big smile on her ever so slightly red face. The brother-in-law’s missus to be, turned thirty that day and was celebrating by crossing yet another finishing line before she headed down to Newcastle for the Great North Run later in the month. This 10k was probably a mere walk in the park.
Jillian and myself then headed further down the park to the fencing at the side of the finishing line where we eventually met Ka and the meandering Mums and Dads who’d missed me because, on the long, tiring, arduous, walk down from George Square, they had felt the need for a McFlurry. In her wisdom, Ka had refused and walked on but had still managed to miss me, by a matter of minutes we worked out. However, minutes is everything when it comes to this kind of thing (especially 2 minutes, that’s donkeys… as long as it’s under an hour).
Ka has an excuse, of course, so I let her off, the fact that she’s currently carrying another Reid lifeform in her belly, (an excuse she uses way too often to be honest), and after we cheered Colin over the line we headed off, back to George Square to celebrate Jillian’s birthday over lunch in the Italian La Vita Pizzeria. We had tried the Greek Restaurant Elie first, where we met the rest of Jillian’s family, but the staff of Elie claimed half past twelve was too early to serve 12 hungry people, on a Sunday afternoon. This was the be only the first meeting for Jillian’s birthday though as her highly anticipated Muppets and friends 30th Birthday party was to follow the next Saturday in Kirkintilloch. Unfotunately, however, this was not be be, as Jillian’s wee Gran, Helen Hodge passed away early on that week.
Helen had not been too well the previous week and had been thought to be on the road to recovery and had missed Jillian’s birthday lunch whilst recuperating. So when Saturday did come around we all sadly found ourselves attending a funeral, rather than a birthday party, remembering the little 90 year old lady, with the seemingly endless energy with which she had constantly travelled up and down the country with her family, visiting relatives and seeing the sights whilst still attending all the party’s going and even the odd clubbing night. There is no doubt Helen will be sorely missed in the Hood household, not to mention the family parties, but forever remembered.
Like all grannies. Each one a massive cog in the machine of the family.
When that cog stops turning you wonder if the rest will keep going, knowing there’ll be none, in any way, similar to take it’s place.
Somehow though, the cogs do keep turning.
It’s the remembering of loved ones lost that sometimes keeps you going.
Why else would you go to the bother of running 10k?
Certainly not for your health.
My ankle still hurts.
But it was worth it.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Flitting, phones and forklifts

Has it been so long? Sheesh, it’s been donkeys since I’ve had the time to sit and write anything on this here blog.
Ka and myself have now, more or less, fully settled down in our new abode.
The boxes have all been emptied, the rooms have been organised, the wardrobes have been built, the books unpacked, the Cds put into alphabetical order, the Virgin tv finally activated, the wifi enabled, the loft filled, all the junk cleared out and the dates for the all important housewarmings organised. We’ve had to arrange two housewarmings, one for family and one for friends. There’s just too many people to invite in one go. Don’t get me wrong, we could attempt it but not even a three bedroom house could hold everyone.
Three bedroom house. It’s strange even saying that.
We now have stairs. I was on the phone to Aunt Linda there and had to travel downstairs when it came to Ka’s turn in the conversation. The wife was sitting on the couch, supping a coffee, watching Eastenders when I made my way down to the living room and handed the phone over.
We have stairs now. I had to walk and talk in order to pass the phone over. Back in Kenilworth we simply shouted for the other person to take the few steps from the next room to take a shot on the phone.
Okay, yes, it’s probably nothing amazing to the likes of yourselves, but we’ve been living in a one bedroom flat for the past seven years. Not only that, we were using a cord phone handset. Now we have cordless handsets with which we can saunter around the house, visiting various rooms as we talk. Perhaps one of the three bedrooms. Perhaps one of the two toilets. Perhaps the sizable kitchen, the comfortable living room or the lower or upper hall, both connected by that weird, unfamiliar, rising passageway known as a staircase.
Very strange having a staircase actually inside my home after having used the cold, stone steps of the flat close for so long. We can now climb stairs without fear of jumping spiders, meeting neighbours on the way down, encountering singing postmen or noticing the absence of a wheelie bin. Well, the latter to some extent. We can just about see the blue of our recycling wheelie bin through the front door’s window and would probably notice if it suddenly went missing one night but I doubt it would be going missing in this neighbourhood to give the youngsters a quick thrill and fix as they sniff away over an open fire in the local forest at the bottom of the street which, unfortunately, had been the fate of one of our past wheelie bins. No, this neighbourhood feels a little different.
We put a pile of old carpets, garden furniture and general rubbish out on Sunday night for the council to pick up on Monday morning and found that anyone passing in the street was giving the pile of unwanted goods a dirty look or a shake of the head. If that had been Kenilworth the unwanted goods would have got a quick look over or a quick, inquisitive, glance at the very least just to make sure it really was for the scrap heap.
I’m always seeing stuff lying about in streets, left out for the council to pick up, presumably the next day, and always cast my eyes over it just in case I see anything that would come in handy. I seen a pram recently, lying unwanted at the end of a garden path and considered it briefly for more than a few seconds. It was missing a wheel though so I opted against it. If you see anything out there, we do need a wee table for the corner of our living room for the new cordless phone’s terminal box to sit on. (Is that what it’s called the ‘terminal’ box? That’s make’s it sound awfully final or important. We better not get any immigrants that have a more than passing resemblance to Tom Hanks hanging around the corner of our living room).
The actual flitting was great. I met Auntie Lorna’s son-in-law, Robbie, with his van in Birkenshaw Industrial Estate on the Saturday morning of the 25th August. Robbie had offered his services and his van for the flitting, which was great as it meant we didn’t have to go through the whole hiring of a Boulevard deathtrap.
The only problem was, it wasn’t quite a van. It was an 18 tonne Mercedes lorry. Brilliant for flitting with. Not so brilliant, I predicted, for flitting into a tightly packed, curving, uphill street on a oddly sunny, warm August afternoon. Anyway, I led him home in the car, dropping Grace off at the new abode to help Ka with the cleaning, and pulled up, back at Kenilworth, to find Tom waiting with Jack the dog. My Uncle Tom had been told ten rather than half ten so was getting a little impatient. After Robbie pulled up the large Merc lorry, with Dougie in the front passenger seat, we soon got started. My other Uncle Tommy then pulled up, followed by Uncle Laurence and Steven who all got to work in shifting the piles of boxes from out the wee one bedroom flat.
How a one bedroom flat had held so many boxes I’ll never know. There was a pile in the bedroom, a pile in the hall, a pile in the living room, and a few more in the kitchen. Some of the boxes were easily lifted, others were not. In fact, I’ll have serious considerations the next time I go to buy myself another hardback book. I think I may have inadvertently strained a few muscles that day with my book collection. Three shelves that had stood in the Kenilworth hallway for over seven years, filled with hardbacks, had filled three and a half boxes and had the potential of breaking three and a half backs. Once all the boxes were packed in the back of the lorry Dad and young Michael turned up closely followed by Iain, who had driven over from Motherwell, leaving a hungover Roslyn, in bed. This completed the A-Team and together we made our way over to the new house where the lorry slowly clambered up the street, reversed, then maneuvered, reversed then crawled up into Robertson Drive where it was swiftly unloaded in an organised line of straining, growling, humfing and, occasionally, complaining relations. Quote of the day had to go to young Michael who, as another large box of hardbacks was hefted through the house’s front door by two uncles, looked up the stairs at me and moaned.
“Michael, get a kindle!”
My Unlce Tom wasn’t at all happy either when a box of VHS videos was lifted into the house.
“VHS?!” Tom lamented. “Gawd’s sake Ka, get him told!”
Ka agreed with him oblivious to the fact, at the point, that Tom had sneakily nicked a couple of wine gums that had been left in one of the untaped boxes lifted from the Kenilworth kitchen. It wasn’t until later, when all the boxes had been unpacked in the kitchen that the pregnant Ka had went looking for her favourite confectionery only to find the bag with only a few remaining gums left. Fortunately for him, Tom had left by that point but as soon as Ka shouted as to the whereabouts of the rest of her bag of gums the other relative removal blokes, keeping their dignity, quality and conscience clear said only three words.
Unfortunately the words did not consist of “we don’t know”, or “we’re saying nothing”, or even “we’re no grass!”. The words were:
“It was Tom!”
The loudest accusation from Laurence. So much for brotherly love.
It was 2pm when the last of the 2 lorry loads finally made it’s way into the house.
The second lorry load had consisted mostly of the larger pieces of furniture, and a hastily deconstructed bed which Steven had toiled over back in the flat, obviously making up for the garden shed incident which he put me through on his own flitting day.
Have I mentioned that before?
I think I might have. (I can imagine Steven rolling his eyes with a groan as he reads this…)
Imagine opening a garden shed during a flitting and being being met with a tidal wave of screws, bolts, plastic balls and spirit levels (okay, it wasn’t quite a tidal wave, but this is my blog, and I’ll exaggerate if I like!).
As Robbie had pulled the lorry up once more with the second lorry load, into the tight curve of Robertson Drive, Uncle Jim turned up, just in time to help with the unloading and maneuvering of the couch.
Mum claimed at one point that Jim had turned up with a forklift to which she got quizzical looks before we realised she was referring to the two wheeled baggage trolley parked on the front door. A forklift would have been great though. Saying that, an 18 tonne lorry was annoying the neighbours as it was. I’m, not sure we would have got away with a forklift also driving up and down the street.
As Iain and my Dad chatted out in the garden, the sun was shining down over Robertson Drive, the tea was getting poured, a couple of bottles of Kronenbourg were being cracked open and people were resting on various boxes and oddly positioned furniture in the living room. As everyone else settled down for a wee drink and a chat, Steven, obviously still keen to work on, moved upstairs and started reassembling the bed.
Within the next hour Angela, Morgan and Joshua turned up and Morgan wasted no time in insisting that I order my four swimming pools that would fit in the back garden.
Not only do we have stairs of our own now, but we also have a back garden. Not to mention a front garden. We obviously don’t have any swimming pools as yet, but considering it was a suggestion I first put to Ka upon seeing the slightly overgrown back garden upon our first viewing, you never know.
Then again, maybe I should just stick to being grateful for a staircase and a cordless phone.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

A quick message about a wee run!

Hello everyone!
Please sponsor me a £1, £2, anything you've got?!
It's all in aid of SANDS, Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society and in memory of little Lucy Reid.
I'm running 10k tomorrow, Sunday 2nd September, in Glasgow and am looking for you, kind friends, family, readers, and folk out there, to sponsor me something, anything, to make it all the more worthwhile.

I've never ran 10k in a oner before, so it should be interesting...

Thanks in advance to all those that click this link: