The Wait of The World

Waiting.

Good things come to those who wait.

Waiting for Godot.

If I could travel back in time and meet my younger self, I would certainly make sure I mentioned waiting. I would advise myself to train, to mentally prepare for all the waiting I would face in my life.

I have waited for exam results.

I have waited through my wife’s labours.

Although my call is important to the company, I have nevertheless been held in a queuing system listening to muzak for hours on end.

Delays on holiday, waiting to board planes, waiting for the toilet, and waiting in the car to leave an event. I wait. I have waited to fall asleep, and then waited to hear the alarm to get up and start the day waiting in traffic on the Kingston Bridge.

When I think of all the downtime I have had, all the delays, hindrances and pauses in all our lives, I wish I could turn my impatience and stress into something better.

It is true that some waiting can be mitigated by smartphones and the internet, but I suspect that this is why queuing and waiting about is getting worse.

We have friends abroad who seem to have a different approach to this – they never arrive on time, they seem to quite like waiting around as they do it often enough. I wish I could get into that mindset.

Perhaps one day I will learn how to be patient. Until then, I suppose I shall have to wait.

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How To Be Happy By Being Undecided

My present main client is one of the most annoying ever.

He’s belligerent and rude to his staff. Luckily, he’s not quite that bad with me, but he is “trying” nontheless.

The biggest annoyance for me is that he thinks everything he asks can be answered by what he calls “a simple yes or no”.

This almost drives me mad because, in my long life and wide experience, hardly anything can best be answered that way – in fact it takes considerable skill in framing a question well enough for a yes / no answer to be appropriate.

Unfortunately, he does not have that skill.

One of the things I do for my client is to publish documents to a “common data environment” or CDE. This makes the document an official issue, revision or release. To do this, all I have to do is visit a website and log in, fill in a few fields and upload. That’s it.

He recently asked me if it was possible to take back or undo this procedure – to remove a published file.

Now the answer is both yes and no. No – because there is no method whereby I can visit the site and remove the issued file. Yes – because I can e-mail or telephone the site administrator and request that the file be removed. I tried to explain this, but was abruptly stopped.

He held up his hand like a barrister at law, “It’s a simple yes or no – can it be done?”

“Yes, but…”

“No buts, if it can be done, do it.”

“OK, I’ll ask them to remove it right away…”

“No, no – don’t alert them to this, just do it!”

“But I can’t do it…”

“You said you could do it!”

“Well, actually you asked if it could be done.”

“Same thing. So let me ask you again, in front of all these people, so take your time – a simple yes or no – can you do it?”

“No.”

“No?”

“No; I can’t do it, but it can be done.”

“Is the answer yes or no? I’ll ask you for the last time.”

“No.”

And he moved on. This is the worst kind of idiot – an idiot that doesn’t know he’s an idiot, an idiot that actually thinks he’s smart.

When I meet such people, which is all-too-often, I’m afraid, I am reminded of those wonderful paradoxes we used to enjoy at university. Simple enough stuff, but important enough, in my opinion, that they ought to be taught to schoolchildren in an attempt to be rid of people who demand yes / no answers to bad questions.

I am reminded of Bertrand Russell’s Barber Paradox – it still makes me smile.

The scene is a town where the law demands that all men be clean-shaven, and the town barber shaves only those who do not, or cannot, shave themselves. The problem is “Who shaves the barber?”

The answer is officially “undecided”. Really; there is NO ANSWER to this. None.

What I find is that, in life, in general, “undecided” is undesirable. To be undecided is considered as wishy-washy – it is taken as worse than being flat-out wrong. Undecided voters are fought over in political elections – they must be persuaded to NOT be undecided, even if they are wrong!

A simple Yes or No.

In Scotland recently, there was an independence referendum where the badly framed question required a simple yes / no answer. This was preposterous, yet no-one noticed!

What happened? Well, those who voted YES for change lost the election but got change. Those who voted NO for things to stay the same, got change. No-one got the status quo, and no-one got independence either. The issue was not resolved satisfactorily by the yes voters, the no-voters or the non-voters affected by it all. Everyone got all het up, and tempers flared. Things got ugly and have stayed ugly. It did more harm than good.

Clearly, the answer could never have been a simple yes or no.

duh.

In many things in life, I am proudly “undecided”. I can live with that, and that is one of the reasons why I am happy.undecided

Building Character

My son turned eight recently. As usual, though, he got gifts that require building.

This means I build them and he criticises.

I remember when he was four, he was given a toy garage to construct (it was clearly marked as for Age 6+). There were tears, sore fingers, ripped wallpaper. And in the end, he didn’t even play with it.

toy_assembly_instructions

Look, I am not one to complain (as you well know, just ask anyone), BUT, one of the things that seems to be my remit, is to BUILD ALL THE FURNITURE we own. It seems that every stick of furniture these days, arrives in a flat box, and can be assembled using an Allen key. Incidentally, instructions that have a question mark in a think bubble has the international translation: “F**k this”.selfassemble

For Christmases, I have to assemble bicycles, build dolls houses, and set up parental controls on tablet computers and phones. In secret. Like a ninja elf. It’s a “challenge”.

For birthdays, I get to build elaborate machines and robots in Meccano and Lego and more out in the open, in front of everyone. Excellent!

Even if my boy was the right age for the gift, it would be difficult for him – I mean, it’s difficult for me, so it stands to reason that it would be tricky for him.

You would be forgiven for thinking that this assembly of toys would prepare him for adulthood IKEA sessions… and you are right; I can see the future where he gets me to come to his home to build all of his furniture, and then criticise it.

Why Life Is Good If You’re A Man.

Dear Sir/Madam,
The Knights of The Round Table are now all women.

The age of chivalry is no longer possible for men. All the politeness, the romance, the courtesy, the courtly activities and all modern day equivalents are no longer for us lads.

It’s just the way emancipation and political correctness have worked out over time. Facts are facts.

As a man, I cannot freely hold open a door for a female; it would take gumption to pull off such a socially risky business. The thought of offering to carry bags or parcels for a lady is simply just that – a thought. Of course one would never be so silly as to attempt such a thing.

There is no way I would help a woman on or off a horse, bus, train, steps or whatever – unless they were a well-known and elderly relative, and only if I did it overtly, playing pantomime to the gallery, a sardonic pastiche to the pedestal where women once were so protectively put.

IMG_20150524_155528639_Fotor

Am I bemoaning a loss? Nope. Am I grumbling about cultural emasculation? Not a bit, sir. No, no, and thrice no.

Au contraire; I prefer my metrosexuality, my culturally promoted role of narcissism and selfishness. To be a man today is most excellent – the world insists that I be carefree, stressless, and tensionless, I can grow a fabulous beard, get a manicure, wear a manbag, be a phone fiddler – and yet still do guitar, or football, fishing, or drink beer. Where’s the downside?

On the other hand, my modern wife is getting it all full-on. She’s getting the grief and the guilt trips. I can’t wear a dress, not really, but she can wear the trousers.

She feels compelled to help mothers with wayward toddlers and wonky prams. She offers assistance to women who have a broken down car at the roadside. She feels that she can’t just drive on past; who would help her?

In fact, a few months back she had a puncture, and was changing the wheel herself with the children strapped in the back. The car was parked up on a busy pavement near a school and shops. Lots of people walked to and fro – but only females offered to help.

It is quite a remarkable reversal of culture and customs, and how odd that, back in the day, when it was a “man’s world”, men were required to do a lot more, they were more responsible, and expected to not merely contribute, but to lead.

Women can earn more than their male partners, they can do the same jobs, have the same careers – but the super thing is that they still have to bear the children, and generally they get to do the cooking, cleaning, shopping, meeting school teachers and feel guilty about letting their appearance slip.

There is no way that I would swap gender roles in this day and age. Be a woman? Hell no.

I get BONUS points for helping her about the house. If I do anything with our children, I get praised and applauded. And when I do the attentive chivalrous routine at Valentines or Birthdays, I gain so much karma gold and kudos simply because men are not meant to do anything anymore.

These days, men can stay boys for life. While we no longer refer to this as a “man’s world”, it really is much easier for men now. We can relax and put our feet up to watch women take up all the tasks that once were ours.

On top of their own old ones.

So when letters from the bank begin, “Dear Sir/Madam”, it doesn’t mean Sir OR Madam, it means this new thing, this blend of Sir AND Madam that is the modern female. These letters are for my wife; she does all the banking anyway.

Rosie Cheeks

Whenever the wind blows up a girl’s skirt, I am reminded of the iconic Marilyn Monroe photograph – where the subway train blows up air through a street grille, and Ms. Munroe pushes down her skirts against the up-draught.

upskirtThis reminder lasts for a second because the reality is far less iconic and a lot less sexy and alluring.

Last week I strolled out of the office to buy a sandwich at the shops, and a bunch of other office workers were doing much the same. They came out of their office block and headed toward me.  At the mid point, we would all turn and head to the shops.

Among them was a tall girl with chestnut hair up in  a pony tail. She had high heels on, black tights, and a short bomber jacket. She was smoking. The main thing was that her skirt was too short, and the day was windy.

She guffawed, giggled, shrieked and attempted to control her thin skirt. This was far from sexy, but passed as a light amusement.

Until today.

Today, she was there again. Same routine. I clenched my teeth.

This may have been cute once (to some), but now it was worn thin.

I wondered if this girl could actually walk a street without showing her knickers. I despaired for her husband or boyfriend now or to-come. I blushed for her mother, siblings and (most of all) for her poor dad.

No matter how much I blushed, my cheeks would never be as red as hers.

From now on, in my mind anyway, she’ll be called Rosie. Rosie Cheeks.

Who Is Running This Show?

“Watch out; if the wind changes, your face will stay that way forever.”

I have no idea of the origins of such warnings, but I gave them out to my children as freely as they were once given out to me. Why did I do this? What good could possibly have come from such nonsense?

Of course, it never stopped me pulling faces, and I have never suffered from my face sticking (so far so good), yet I still pass it on to the next generation as gospel.

This came to mind when my son asked me, some time ago during a quick trip to a Lidl supermarket,

“Did the wind change for that man, Dad?”

“Sssh – what do you mean?”

“Was he making a daft face when the wind changed?”

Quick thinking is the key in such situations – something I am incapable of – so I went with the classic stall:

“It might have.”

– followed by a swift change of subject.

Once again, my children place me on the spot. In the full glare of their honest, naive, scrutiny, I squirm at the blatant lies I have passed on so thoughtlessly.

I mean, who is the parent here? Who is running this show? Why am I the one feeling awkward about all this?

When my wife was caught creeping in to swap the tooth with the coin it was No more Tooth Fairy. The look of hurt. The accusation. The realisation that It was All lies. How could we do that to them? Shame on us.

gurning

But we enjoyed the collusion, the grown-up conspiracy. We bonded with the other parents, but boy are we paying for it now. We have the Dread of the Direct Question. The Cross Examination.

“Do storks really bring babies?”

“If I eat my crusts, my hair will go curly, won’t it?”

“Did man set foot on the moon?”

“People can be big-boned instead of being fat, can’t they?”

“Is Santa / Jesus/ Muhammad/ God real?”

“You’re not allowed to get married unless you really love each other, that’s true isn’t it?”

“Carrots make you see in the dark, don’t they?”

“If I swallow chewing gum, my insides will get all stuck together, won’t they?”

“If I sit on a cold stone wall or steps, I will get piles, won’t I?”

I blame the parents every time.

Blurred Lines

My recent eye test seems to have made everyone eye conscious.

Everyone I know, who hears that I went for an eye test, has an opinion or story. Quite why this should be is beyond me.

My mother-in-law, for example, sat at the dining table this evening, and chose to conduct her very own eye test on the spot.

She placed a napkin across her left eye, and declared her vision to be “blurry”.

Then she covered her right eye, and – somewhat to my surprise – stated that things were “even more blurry”.

And then she drove home.

This is what I have to deal with. Everyday.

The Earnestness of Being Important

What is it with some jobs that make people think they are so superior?

receptionistaI once met my GP’s receptionist socially, and she had delusions of medical grandeur – she was so earnest and reckoned that she knew everything about every ailment and its treatment, and had firm opinions on diets, healthcare, nutrition, and the NHS in general. And people actually listened.

Yet, as far as I can determine, a GP receptionist is not a profession – she cannot be “struck off” – I mean, all she does is answer the telephone, call people in the waiting room, and hand out repeat prescriptions.

None of which my GP receptionist does very well. She gets prescriptions muddled, has a terrible telephone manner, and is disorganised and irritating – yet she’s venerated in the community.

At parties and other social functions, they have competition from people who work in chemist shops who also know too much, which is why, if I have to get anything from the chemists, I drive to a town far, far away, just to be on the safe side. It annoys me that they don’t seem to want to sell you freely-available, over-the-counter, creams and lotions without sticking their noses in first.

What is with all the personal questions? Just sell me the acne cream or odour eaters or whatever!

It’s the same even with hairdressers – I mean, who made them the arbiters of style, music, and fashion? Frankly, they seem to me to be mostly made up of sullen, foolishly dressed, and badly coiffed youths. No one ever complains about a bad hairdo, no-one returns to demand their cash – or hair back. It’s a racket. And you have to sit there listening to their opinion on what so-and-so was wearing last night, or where the latest lame club is. Like, duh,  I would ever be allowed in after they have butchered my hair.

Sadly my job affords no social status whatsoever. This is because I don’t deal with people. I’m lower than someone who sells jeans and jumpers. I have no basis to critique, judge or evaluate my fellow man. None at all. Therefore I am unimportant.

I went for an eye test last weekend, and the optician checked the computer and noticed that my last eye test was five years ago. Jeez, he took it personal. I was berated for leaving it so long – eye tests are so important to this guy.

Turns out that my eyes have not changed much since the last one, and he seemed a bit miffed at that, I reckon he wanted to find a serious problem so he could have said, “If only you had eye tests at small regular intervals we could have saved your sight.”

He was important enough to let me leave feeling that I was lucky… just this one time, but I’d better keep checking back with him or face the horrible consequences.

I get this at my dentist too; they get very upset if I leave it too long between visits. The atmosphere is tense and there can be tutting.

Actual Tutting!

Every time I go, I get roped into arranging a stream of expensive appointments as punishment. Is it any wonder I try to leave it as long as possible. I don’t get why hygienists are so expensive -over fifty quid for a 30 minute appointment that is usually only ever as long as about 15 minutes – and that includes the cross examination and lecture on flossing. That’s a racket too.

Is there even a qualification for cleaning teeth? But it’s the attitude that gets me – they are not real dentists, and dentists are not real doctors, and none of these are anywhere near the level of GP receptionist. Obviously.

Gryll and Bear it

The Island with Bear Grylls” is on the telly just now.

However, if you are a Bear Grylls fan, forget it; he’s not in the show.

The show is about dumping people on a deserted island to film themselves trying to figure out how best to survive. Which is all fine, but it has nothing whatsoever to do with Bear Grylls.

I have a problem with the title.

I feel it’s cheating.

It’s a damn lie.

I seem to the the only one who has noticed, and that worries me too; is this what we have become? Even websites about the telly program state “STARRING Bear Grylls”. Seriously.

Some things on UK TV just now are frankly puzzling – there is a surreal advert for a company called 118 118. I just do not understand it.

I do not know what it does, what is being sold. And that’s not good for starters.

The scene is a white room with two thin adult men shown from the waist up, side-by-side, facing the camera. They are presented like twins, same Zapata moustaches, hairstyles, and a white shirt with a black 118 on the front.

They are playing Happy Families, and seem to have red cabled earphones in on some kind of conference call. They refer to each other as “one one eight”.The person not in the room, but on the line, is from an old movie clip, and the problem is that he doesn’t have enough to wager 29 pence…

…and they are BOBBING UP AND DOWN!

It is beyond me. It really is.

Strange and meaningless.

118 118

I rarely watch telly these days, but when I do, I cannot explain it.

Perhaps I have the beginnings of dementia, it certainly feels like it with all the plus ones, and omnibus editions.

Some days I snap on the telly in my kitchen and what’s on is something I saw the last time I snapped on the telly in the kitchen, which was what was on the previous time I snapped on the telly in the kitchen…

The worst case, I think, was when I chanced upon the same episode of “Come Dine With Me” six times – that’s six consecutive switching on of the telly at random times over several random days. At times I feared from my survival – but like the Island, I couldn’t count on Bear Grylls showing up to help.

Corps of the Matter

Apparently Apple Computers settled a legal dispute with Apple Corps by agreeing not to go into the music business – Apple computers would stick with computers and Apple Corps would deal in music, that way people couldn’t get mixed up.

I have followed this dispute, and remember laughing that even the computer’s little audio files couldn’t be called anything remotely musical, and they ended up calling the beep, “so sue me” (sosumi.wav).

This is all hilarious, but what irks me is that every time the dispute is mentioned on the telly or radio, Apple Corps is mispronounced.

The Beatles wanted their record company to be called “Apple Core”, “Corps” used to always be pronounced as “Core”.

Actually saying “Corps” ruins their cunning verbal joke.

rotten apple