Thursday, January 29, 2009


The combination of being freelance (not wanting to spend my fluctuating income on luxuries such as new clothes) working from home (where every day is a dressing-down day and some are even dressing-gown days), and having a small child (often no room to wash and dry my own unfashionable clothes, necessitating wearing even older garments from the back of the wardrobe which then also invariably get smeared with food/snot, sometimes not even mine) means that normal standards of dress have been slipping for a while.

To save time in the morning, this look is often combined with my face being in the follicular hinterland between “hasn’t shaved” and “has grown a beard”. This state isn’t helped by the fact that although I have reasonably hirsute sideburns, moustache and chin area, my cheeks always look like they’ve been defoliated with Agent Orange, sporting as they do more bald patches than a monastery.

It was in this state that I went to the corner shop to buy some bread.

On the way I passed a hunched old man looking even scruffier and more stained than I was, shuffling along in flip-flops despite the cold weather. I asked him if he was OK, and he asked me the way to the corner shop. I told him he was going the wrong way and pointed the way he should be going. He looked confused. I pointed again. He looked more confused. After several more points/confused looks I realised that he was blind.

I offered him my arm as I was going that way, and we shuffled along together. He told me that he needed to pop into the greengrocer’s first as he needed to borrow some money from him, so we manoeuvred our way in through the crates of fruit and veg.

Unfortunately, only the greengrocer’s wife was in and she wasn’t going to be lending money to anyone. The blind man pleaded, but she was adamant. He told her that her husband often lent him a few pounds, but she was having none of it.

As the conversation wore on I looked up at the convex mirror that the greengrocer uses to monitor his shop instead of CCTV. In it I saw, to my horror, exactly what we looked like: two tramps begging for money.

I was in yet another socially awkward situation. I wished to help the man, and I didn’t mind being known as artistically, perhaps even eccentrically dressed by my near neighbours. But there is a fine line between “shabby chic” and “hobo” and I had to concede that this line was so far in the rear-view mirror as to be hidden by the curvature of the earth.

So, as the blind man continued his pleas I started trying to convey to the woman, using only facial expressions and my left hand, that I was in fact a middle-class, well-educated professional who was just having a bit of a bad beard day, and that I was not actually with this man. This was despite the fact that we had come in together and he was still holding on to my arm.

Neither of us were successful and we found ourselves back on the pavement, empty-handed. So I offered to buy the man’s groceries for him, and then we began the slow shuffle back to his house. I resisted the urge to casually mention that I was clean-shaven and wearing a pin-striped suit. Instead I listened to his sad story – about the wife in long-term care, the drug-addict son, the loss of his sight. I promised to phone social services on his behalf and tell them exactly about the help that he needed as soon as I got home.

I did, but first I shaved and went and explained a few things to the greengrocer’s wife.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Things That Are Great About Being a Writer #1

I have been hooked on Million Dollar Traders - the BBC2 show where eight novices are thrown into the deep end of trading for a hedge fund, with the added bonus (for us) that the world's financial system is collapsing around them. This would be like making a documentary about trainee firefighters in New York City on the day that... Oh, someone did, didn't they?

The thing I am most amazed/appalled by however is that these people have to arrive at work before 7am every day. The horror of this idea is brought home to me when I have a phone conversation with the producer of a show I'm working on. We don't get to go through the entire script, so agree to carry on the next day.

"I'll give you a call first thing tomorrow", says the producer. "Say about 10:30?"

"First thing" = 10:30? He's clearly worked with writers before.

EDIT: If that sounds insufferably smug then Things That Are Not Great About Being a Writer* #1: Companies going into administration owing you money. Grr.

(* Or indeed any freelancer)

And these days I am generally woken before those City-bound commuters anyway.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Dear Ikea

Re: Patrull drawer/cabinet locks

Congratulations! Not only do these prevent a young child from opening a kitchen cupboard and harming him or herself with a knife or bleach, they also prevent the child's parents from opening the cupboard to cook the child some food, thus stemming the childhood obesity epidemic and, eventually, global overpopulation.

Well done!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wunch of Bankers

I believe that I have worked out why the financial system is in such a mess. Last night I logged into my internet banking account and tried to move some money into another account. I typed in the amount and it then asked me when I would like to make the payment. As it was about quarter past eight in the evening and it usually complains about having to do anything after about three in the afternoon I selected the next day. I was surprised when it then reported:

Your adhoc payment could not be created: It's too late to setup a payment to leave your account for the next working day. However, you can send this payment now by changing the date to today's date.

Huh? What kind of bizarre logic is that? "Sorry, it's too late to do it tomorrow. Would you like me to do it now?" It's like the Queen of Hearts telling Alice "You can't have jam in three working days' time, you've got to eat the whole jar this instant until you're sick."

Surely with just a small modification to this system the banks can lend each other money yesterday and everything will be fine again.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The Stain Game

Now that the weather is cold and we don't want to open the windows much, space to dry clothes is at a premium in our tiny flat. With our LOVELY SON producing more than his fair share of laundry there is a strict pecking order of what gets washed first: faeces, vomit, urine, food, other dirt, then stuff that's merely been worn. (And that's just my girlfriend's clothes haha.)

So I was very happy yesterday morning when I put my jumper on and checked my reflection as I had thought there was a stain on the front of it, but it turned out there wasn't. Hurrah - that meant I could get another six weeks' wear out of it.

I wore it to my meeting. I wore it to the shops. I wore it at home when friends came round. It was only when I came to take it off last night that I realised that something about it had been annoying me all day - something scratching me at the front of my neck. Turns out it was the label. Not only was I wearing it back-to-front, but there was a lovely stain down what was now the back.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Yorkshire eBay

(Click for bigger. Previously available on b3ta.)