Friday, 7 July 2017

A man's got to know his limitations




I’m good at some things. My Sunday roast propels fellow diners into orgasmic rapture, I’m a more-than-decent public speaker, and the speed of my mental arithmetic makes Sheldon appear mathematically challenged. Nonetheless, it is important to be aware of one’s weaknesses – in the words of Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry, ‘A man’s got to know his limitations’.



So here is a list of my limitations. And I’m not referring to the ‘I’m-not-quite-as-strong-at’ sort of deficiencies – no sirree – these are activities where I demonstrate such stunning incompetence that onlookers assume parts of my brain have gone walkabouts.



  1. Opening cereal boxes

Mrs Jones begs me to ask for her help when opening breakfast cereals. By the time I’ve prised off the cellophane wrap from my Kellogg’s cornflakes, I’m in no mood to explore the subtleties of the cardboard re-fastening device on the top of the box. Instead, I assault it from the flank, penetrating it with a forefinger and tearing it open. For its remaining shelf life, it sits bloated with its inners exposed, as if opened by a stick of dynamite.



  1. Singing

I love listening to popular music, but when it comes to singing I’m tone deaf. When I let fly in the shower with my rendition of the Eagles’s Lying Eyes, Mrs Jones cringes, the local authority sees a sharp rise in reported incidents of noise pollution, and the nightingales self-destruct. My attempts at the high notes have even been known to interfere with my neighbours’ Wi-Fi connection.  



  1. DIY

Men are expected to shine in the Do-it-yourself department, delighting their ladies with displays of competence around the home and garden. Not this bloke; I’m utterly useless. I’ve no idea how to rewire a plug (all those colours are so confusing), the prospect of putting up a curtain rail causes me sleepless nights, and my sole contribution to assembling a flat-pack wardrobe from Ikea is checking we’ve received the correct number of nuts and bolts (as I’ve said, I’m great at counting).



My level of ineptitude reached a humiliating high last week. Armed with my brand new hedge trimmer, I strutted into the front garden to prune the bushes. Within ten seconds, I was left holding an impotent machine with a limp six-inches of wire dangling; yep, I’d inadvertently cut through the electric cord and short-circuited the house.

  

  1. Wrapping presents

For 30 years, the task of wrapping Christmas and birthday gifts has usually defaulted to Mrs Jones. She excels at it. Her dressed parcels always display crisp, symmetrical edges, with a skin-tight paper covering, minimal sticky tape, and a decorative bow.



Unfortunately, it wouldn’t seem right to ask Mrs Jones to wrap my gifts to her (although I have considered this option) and I’ve no choice but to do it myself. On these rare occasions, the end product looks as if it presented a moving target, one I didn’t quite catch up with. Excess wrapping paper loiters at each end of the parcel, forming unsightly bulges, and the (half-a-roll of) sticky tape appears to have been applied via a scatter gun with each piece creased and misshapen.    



  1. Drawing and artwork

I can recall sitting in an art lesson as a child and the teacher leaning over my shoulder and whispering, ‘You’re bloody useless, Jones’. That man was a shrewd judge. If I’m denied the use of words, I’m void of all creativity. My attempts at drawing resemble the scribblings of a three-year-old and, if it’s not painting by numbers, the colouring stuff remains in the box.   



  1. Directional sense

When God was giving out internal radars, he must have skipped my name. Either that or he had a sense of humour, and relished the prospect of me groping around the earth in a permanent state of spatial confusion. My sense of direction is dreadful. In a strange town I can enter a building and, when I exit, I often fail to recall which direction I approached from. Many hours have been wasted trying to find my parked the car. And when driving to a specified destination I’ve sometimes, after hours of futile circling, given up and headed for home - that is, of course, if I can find it. 

Thank goodness for the greatest invention of our time: satellite navigation.







Does anyone else care to disclose their ineptitudes?








Tuesday, 6 June 2017

What do doctor's receptionists talk about?




My haemorrhoids are misbehaving again. After completing my morning evacuation, the bathroom porcelain resembles the aftermath of the siege of Leningrad, with sufficient of the red stuff to supply the national blood bank for the next decade. So, reluctantly, I decided to see my doctor.



As per the formal procedure, I rang the health centre at 8.00 am to request an appointment. After noting my name and date of birth, the receptionist found me a slot later that morning. But the conversation was not yet over.



‘I’m now obliged to ask this,’ she said, followed by a short pause. ‘What is the problem that you want to see the doctor about?’



Somewhat taken aback by the intrusiveness of the question, a range of retorts pushed into my mind:

I’ve ruptured my foreskin while engaged in athletic love-making;

I’m farting so much I’m a fire risk when near a naked flame;

I tried on my wife’s bra and the metal wire from the left cup has punctured my lung;

My testicles are hanging so low, when I sit on the toilet they plunge into the water like depth charges.


But I resisted the temptation and, instead, told the truth.



‘I’m bleeding from the arse-hole.’



‘Oh … right … sorry,’ she mumbled. ‘I’m told that I must ask, but it seems … it feels a bit…’



‘It’s OK, no worries,’ I said, starting to feel sorry for the lady’s awkwardness.



***



As I sat in the doctor’s waiting room two hours later, listening for my name to be called, I sensed eyes on me. When I glanced up, there were three female receptionists behind the glass talking and giggling to one another. I wondered which of the trio I’d spoken to earlier on the phone. Was it the young blonde lass, barely out of her teens; her inexperience might have been responsible for the awkwardness? Or was it the older, worldly-wise woman in the middle of the threesome, who seemed to be in charge? Maybe it was the smirking receptionist on the end, whose gaze was fixed in my direction?



And what were they discussing? The weather? What each was planning to eat for lunch? Or whether I was the bloke with rivulets of blood trickling down the crack of his arse? When I arose to see the doctor, I imagined them checking my waiting-room seat for stains.



But I subsequently realised that all my speculations were likely to be groundless. As I was leaving the doctor’s surgery, I overheard another patient - an old lady - standing at the reception window.



‘I need a follow-up appointment with the doctor,’ she announced. ‘I have to let him know whether I’m still leaking yellow goo out of my cherry.’



Clearly, the receptionists hear more spectacular stories than mine.





Photo courtesy of pixtawan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net



   






Thursday, 6 April 2017

The elusive cucumber



‘On your way home, will you stop off at the supermarket for some salad stuff?’ asked Mrs Jones.



My car was in for its annual service so I took the call on my mobile while sitting in the garage waiting area. ‘Yes, sure. What items do we need?’



‘Oh, the usual: lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes and red onions.’



Two hours later I returned home and deposited the contents of my supermarket bag onto the kitchen worktop. Mrs Jones exhaled – audibly – and I detected a roll of the eyes followed by an implosion of her cheeks which, after 36 years together, I knew could mean only one thing: I’d cocked up, big time.



Failure to live up to a wife’s expectation typically means that a man is subjected to a circuitous form of interrogation that is intended to shame and humiliate.



‘Where’s the cucumber?’ she asked, while her foot tapped on the tiled floor, as if delivering a countdown to the moment of my execution.



‘There,’ I said, pointing to the large, cylindrical item in front of us.



‘What makes you think that’s a cucumber?’



‘Well, it looks like a cucumber; it’s dark green, shiny and … … phallic.’



‘It’s much bigger than any phallus I recognise,’ she said, now relishing the role of the strident prosecutor. ‘That is not a cucumber.’



‘What is it then?’



‘It’s a courgette.’



‘A what?’



‘A courgette. A marrow-like vegetable, sometimes referred to as a zucchini.’



‘It looks like a cucumber, so how was I supposed to know?’



‘Maybe the sign over the box in the supermarket that read, COURGETTES, might have given you a clue.’



Mrs Jones, savouring the taste of blood, broadened her onslaught. The tomatoes were insufficiently ripe, the onions partly rotten, and the lettuce much too big and shabby. (I must admit the lettuce resembled the severed, semi-decomposed head of an obese gladiator. Although it could have been worse; I almost brought home a cabbage).    



And to add to my pain, I now recall that I don’t like the taste of courgettes. Something tells me they will be served up with every meal for a week.













   








Thursday, 16 February 2017

Hovering over the cash machine




Life can be difficult for older people. In particular, advancing years and technology can be a discomforting mix, as I recently discovered when trying to teach my 85-year-old father how to use a cash dispenser.



Throughout his life, my lovely dad has always drawn his money from the local post office and, if paying his bills by cash is not an option, he has always chosen to write a cheque. Credit and debit cards are alien to him. Alas, all the post offices in his locality have shut down so he is now compelled to rely on the ‘hole-in-the-wall’ cash machine to get his hands on his money. He asked if I would show him how to use it and I agreed to accompany him.



The first time, he watched as I carried out the procedure step by step, while providing a running commentary. On the second occasion – in an attempt to consolidate his learning – I suggested that he perform the whole operation himself, while I observed. We chose a quiet moment at the cashpoint located 200 metres from his home.



The process went something like this:



DAD: Am I holding my card the right way up?



ME: Yes, it’s the right way up.



DAD: Then why won’t it fit in the hole?



ME: Because you’re trying to shove it into the slot where the notes come out; you need to put it here, where it says ‘INSERT CARD HERE’.



Card inserted, the menu of options appears on the screen.



DAD: Do I put my 4-digit number in now?



ME: No, not yet. You first need to read the options and decide which one you want.



DAD: But I can’t read them – I need my specs. (Starts rummaging in his pockets in search of his reading glasses). OK – I can see it now. So do I want ‘CASH ONLY’ or ‘CASH WITH RECEIPT’?



ME: Well, do you want a receipt?



DAD: Oh yes – I always get a receipt. You can’t trust anybody these days; they’re all trying to rip you off. I need a receipt to …



ME: So press the ‘CASH WITH RECEIPT’ button then.



DAD: Where is it now … let’s see … (Finger hovering over the screen, as if carrying out a subtle piece of black magic)? Oh, what’s happened now?



ME: It’s timed you out. Take your card out and we’ll try again.



DAD: Just my luck to get an iffy machine!



Dad inserts card again.



DAD: Do I put my 4-digit number in now? It’s 672 …



ME: No, not yet. Push this button here to say you want cash with a receipt.



Dad pushes said button.



DAD: Can I put my 4-digit number in now?



ME: Wait a moment. What does it say on the screen?



DAD: It says … (moves his face closer to the screen) … ‘DO …YOU…WANT…TO…CHECK…YOUR…BALANCE…BEFORE…WITHDRAWING … YOUR…CASH?’



ME: Well, do you?



DAD: Why would I want to do that? I wouldn’t be withdrawing money if I didn’t have it in my bank account. Me and your mother don’t spend money we haven’t got – unlike this younger generation who … …



ME: Then press this ‘NO’ button dad.



DAD: Oh, the damn thing’s timed me out again



By this point, a queue had formed behind us. Their facial expressions suggested that, after witnessing this odd couple hovering over the cash dispenser, many of them suspected I was guilty of elderly abuse, trying to rip off the old fella.



We let those waiting go before us and, about 20 minutes (and three further attempts) later, my old dad was able to withdraw his £250. He then proceeded to count it out – note by note – in the midst of passing shoppers. I think I will need to accompany him a few more times before he gets the hang of it.






Photo courtesy of jk1991 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Saturday, 7 January 2017

My six enduring memories of Christmas and the New Year


As we enter into a new year, I thought I’d share with you my personal highlights of the festive season, the most memorable moments of the last three weeks. In no particular order, they are:

1. Singing with my mother-in-law

Sadly, my 81-year-old mother-in-law is afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease; her memory span is no more than a few seconds, she’s lost her sparky temperament, and - even when surrounded by her family – she sits in silence with a blank expression. Well she does until she hears Dusty Springfield.

Late on Christmas Day, when all the feasting had ended, we played some songs from the 1960s on You-Tube. Watching mother-in-law belt out her rendition of Dusty’s ‘You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me’ (word perfect, face glowing with delight) will be an image that will remain with me for ever.

2. Greeting cards from my elderly parents

Both my parents are in their mid-80s and, while yet immune from the ravages of dementia, they do tend to be a tad confused and forgetful. Sending greeting cards is a case in point.

We received a delightful Christmas card, wishing us wonderful cheer, but there was nothing written in it – completely blank. A process of elimination, and detective work of a quality Sherlock Holmes would relish, was required to identify the source.

For Mrs Jones’ birthday (2nd January) their greetings card arrived two days late due to their decision to use a 2nd-class stamp – my lovely mother is as tight as a her compression stocking – the post code was wrong, and their birthday wishes were to their ‘daughter’ rather than ‘daughter-in-law’. Ah well, it’s the thought that counts.
                                                               


3. Disturbing images of offspring
My two babies are now aged 26 and 22, both away from home and enjoying their lives to the full. Over the holiday period, each sent me an image that unsettled me.

Ryan opted to attend his football’s team’s annual fancy-dress pub crawl in the role of Alex, the
evil star from the cult film, A Clockwork Orange. Never one for half measures, the
resemblance with the Malcolm McDowell character was chilling, not least because he had            informed me that he’d recently rerun the film six times to get into role. I was left to hope that,
during his tour of all the local drinking holes, he refrained from beating an old lady to death
with a giant phallus.
Becca is gallivanting around the world and sent me a video of her sliding, head first at high velocity, on a flimsy piece of matting down an improvised mud slide in Brisbane, Australia. When she hit the pond at the bottom, she skimmed across the water and almost hit the banking on the other side. She afterwards tried to reassure me that the only injuries she’d sustained were 'a few friction burns'.
video
                                                                     
 

4. Arse grabbing
           
Shortly after midnight, in the midst of new-year revelry, the wife of my best friend grabbed
my right buttock. She can be forgiven for I was wearing my favourite slacks, the cut of which
shape my arse into an irresistible pout. The butt-clutching incident was made all the more
remarkable as the lady in question is typically reserved and self-conscious. Luckily, she was
so pissed at the time I’m sure she’ll retain no memory of her cheeky squeeze; I’ll choose the
right moment in 2017 to remind her of it!


5. A vivid dream
Over recent weeks, our house has undergone a few renovations and, as such, many workmen
have visited. One night over the Christmas period I experienced the most vivid of dreams. I
will not go into detail. Suffice it to say that it involved me, Mrs Jones, two burly builders and
a hosepipe. Watering the garden will never feel quite the same.


6. Prettiest lady in the pub
A couple of minutes before the end of 2016 I recall glancing across the table at the woman
opposite and thinking that she was, undoubtedly, the most attractive individual in the whole
pub. My second thought was that I’m so very fortunate, as the lady I was eyeing was none
other than Mrs Jones. And in addition to her beauty - inside and out - there is an additional
bonus: she can’t half hold her ale.
                                                                          
                                                                                
Best wishes for 2017 to you all.