Long grass

We knew the grass out the front of the house was getting long.

We knew it was getting too long when our neighbours enquired whether I was unwell – because why else would the grass have been left for so long?

It’s not even our lawn, it’s a small piece of grass next to our house.  We’ve co-opted a little of it to grow raspberries and gooseberries, but the council still come and mow it.

Well, usually.  They hadn’t been for about two months and, as I say, the neighbours were beginning to complain.  Very very politely, but still complain.

JohnnyRottensexpistolspunkhairSo, the Lovely Melanie rang the council and they promised to do something about it (I would have done it but the lawn mower’s low on petrol, and not having a car makes it surprisingly difficult to get to a petrol station where we live).

The very next morning two chaps from the council arrived and cut the grass in the most bad-tempered and half-arsed way possible.

It now looks remarkably like an early ’80s hairstyle, all angry spikes and unexpectedly uneven surfaces.

S-hard work!

Funny old place, The Shard – I took the girls to visit yesterday (taking advantage of a “Kids Go Free” half-term offer).

Considering this is the tallest building in Europe it’s remarkably hard to find – at least, the entrance is.

ShardArriving at London Bridge station, there it is, towering (quite literally) in front of you.  Unmissable!

“Hello,” I say to the doorman, “We’ve got tickets for the Shard,” and wave the printouts of our advance tickets at him.

“Round the corner and down the escalator,” he smiles.

We go down the escalator to the second set of doors (the first are quite obviously a hotel).

“Hello,” I say to the doorman, “We’ve got tickets for the Shard,” and wave the printouts of our advance tickets at him

She points behind us: “Round the corner”.

We go round the corner to another door.

“Hello,” I say to the doorman, “We’ve got tickets for the Shard,” and wave the printouts of our advance tickets at him

The doorman points at a lone woman stood near the door.  “You’ll have to get in the queue,” we’re told.

“We stand in “the queue” for 40 seconds before being allowed in.

“Hello,” I say to uniformed inspector inside, “We’ve got tickets for the Shard,” and wave the printouts of our advance tickets at him

“OK, just go and scan the barcode over there,” he tells us, pointing at some screens.

After five minutes of pressing buttons, waving barcodes and poking at slots another uniformed lady asks if we need any help.

We explain we are trying to get our tickets.

“But these are your tickets,” she says in confusion, looking through the printouts of our advance tickets.

Then she takes us upstairs with our tickets to the entrance gate, where our tickets resolutely refuse to scan.  She helpfully sorts this problem out for us and we’re in – at last!

Or, at least, we’re into the security section, which is more than a match for any airport security I’ve ever been through.

Our bags are x-rayed, our watches, money and phones removed, and we have to walk through a metal detector.

I’ve missed ten pence in my pocket, so the metal detector beeps and I’m frisked by a burly guard.

“Pull your top up,” he mumbles at me.

Like a good (and innocent) citizen I begin to pull up my t-shirt, but then stop.  “Er, what??” I ask.

He points at my bag, which has now emerged from the x-ray machine.

“Pick your stuff up.”

I pick my stuff up.

I’m relieved when Millie asks me, “Why did he want you to pull your top up?” because I thought I was going mad.

“You heard that, too -‘Pull your top up?'”

“Yes,” nods Millie, and we both look back at the security guard with suspicion.

Next, the lifts.  The Shard’s lifts are astonishing – so astonishing, in fact, that each one requires a person stood outside to guide you into them, and then, when you reach your destination, another person to guide you out!

We finally arrive at the top and it’s bloody high.  Bloody bloody high!  It’s also raining so the view isn’t as good as it could be, but it’s still bloody impressive.  After marvelling for a while at the tiny cars and trains hundreds of metres below us we take the stairs to the next level.

There’s no roof on the next level.  And it’s raining.  A lot.

Still, it’s bloody impressive and the girls do an impromptu Singin’ In The Rain style dance routine – everything is at last going so well!

Unfortunately they then get into endless arguing and bickering with each other, completely spoiling things.  As a result, I don’t speak to Millie all the way home, and she is sent her to her room when we get in.

Sigh.

More experiences of depression

You may recall that, following Trev’s death, I struggled a little with depression, which manifested as a bad temper and lack of patience; basically, I was a grumpy bastard.  Not sad or unhappy, it’s interesting to note, but grumpy and unpleasant.

I tried counselling, which helped a little, but in the end it was drugs that helped – antidepressants.

Even a tiny dose worked instantly like magic, and the old Stu came back.  In fact, they worked so well that I came off them after about a year.  Unfortunately, I then landed a new job, one which I was initially very excited about, but that turned out to be very different to what I expected.

Eventually, it led to me going back on antidepressants.  That was a year ago, and now I’ve been working towards coming off them again by reducing my (admittedly minimal) dose.  Unfortunately, it’s not been as easy this time – once again I’m snappy and prone to angry outbursts of impatience.

But I’m persevering, trying not to rely on drugs, and instead rein in my temper.  A few years ago, I’d generally see the best in people and their motives – a joke would be instantly recognised and treated as such.

Today, I’m not quite as good with irony.

The Lovely Melanie might catch me playing Titanfall during the working day and ask “Busy?”  Previously, I might have laughed; today I find myself taking it as a personal dig and getting defensive.

The girls might have a petty argument about whose turn it is to let the chickens out.  Previously, I might have rolled my eyes and sent one of them out out; today I find such pettiness infuriating.

I’m trying to be on my guard against negativity, to recognise and douse those black flames whenever they flare up, but it’s not easy (certainly not for my family!)

It seems odd that the working of my brain has been changed by Trev’s death.  That relatively fleeting emotions (or, at least, ever-changing emotions), have somehow become locked into a new inescapable mode by a single outside event.  That my entire personality has been shifted by this.

I don’t think six months of working from home has helped my recent attempts to leave the antidepressants behind either.  Not being with people subtly erodes your memories of them; your imaginary interactions with them – the models in your head of what so-and-so would say about such-and-such – drift, and not for the better. 😦

Sadly, meeting with friends I’m often surprised at how nice they are and how good it is to see them in comparison with their image in my memory.

Top of the third most successful party!

The election results for Bexley have just been published and they’re a bit shocking.

We Greens came in a very respectable third place – and the brightest star was…me, with 356 votes!

I would genuinely have been happy not to come last (as I did previously), so to more than triple my share of the vote and come third of all the parties standing… Seriously, I’m amazed!

Thanks to everyone who voted – particularly those who voted Green (and most particularly, those who voted for me).

I should say most of the thanks should go to Jonathan Rooks, who did virtually all of the organisation and hard work.  Quite why I got more than votes than him is a mystery…

2014 Bexley Local Election results

Vote for me and I’ll set you free!

wpid-img_20140522_064603.jpgBusy day yesterday – not only did I have to go and vote for myself in the local council elections again (and some other bunch of chancers in somewhere called “Europe”), but my new office was officially ready!

Well, perhaps “ready” is too strong a word; “inhabitable” might be more appropriate.  Nevertheless, I had to leave the house, catch the train into town and sit in a building with four other working people, which was very novel after six months of working from home.

I managed to be surprised by how busy it was, even out of rush hour, but even more surprised by how young people seemed.  That’s not a consequence of me being old (well, I don’t think it is), more to do with the average age here in Bexley, which is older than me.

Oh, and it was also nice to see people wearing something other than “sports casual”, which has long been the fashion for men in Bexley.

Regarding election results, there’s still no word, but I’m hopeful of not coming last this time.  We bumped into one of our neighbours on the way back from voting who told me I’d won their vote.

It might be only two votes, but it was really encouraging to hear – Amber was even more excited than I was! 🙂

Green (PR) Machine

For those of you who didn’t already know, I’m standing as a Green Party candidate for the council elections here in Bexley again on Thursday.

Again, I’m unlikely to win, Bexley being about as right-wing as it gets, but it’s about giving the people the choice and putting the possibility of Green politics in their head, even if they still tick the same old “Conservative” box when it comes to voting.

wpid-20140518_053722.jpgStill, never mind.

I wanted to thank my tireless PR machine, i.e., Millie and Amber, who helped me deliver a few hundred Green Party leaflets yesterday.

After a full day of school, on a very hot and sunny afternoon, both of them were incredibly enthusiastic and eager to help.  Despite the occasional excited dog or impenetrable letterbox they scampered about the local streets dispensing leaflets to one and all; I barely got to post a single leaflet, they were both so quick!

What could have felt like rather a thankless task was turned into some genuinely lovely father-daughter time, and I was very proud indeed of them both. 🙂

RIP Uncle Dave

A sad day with some high mileage at the weekend as I took a day trip to beautiful Taunton for the funeral of my Uncle Dave, who sadly died last week after a relatively short struggle with a form of cancer.

wpid-wp-1400489865764.jpegHere’s the cover of the funeral booklet, included here because it’s such a great picture of him.

Dave always had a very dry sense of humour so I think he would have appreciated the funeral – especially the readings by Glyn and Gary (his two sons, my cousins); while bursting with love and pride for their Dad they were also full of humour and more than once raised smiles in the packed crematorium.

Sadly, Taunton is such a long way from London that we could only stay for an hour after the funeral.  I caught an early morning train to Swindon, was picked up by my brother, then we drove to Bristol to pick up Conny, before heading down to Taunton, arriving just in time to grab lunch at a nearby pub.  I finally got home to Bexley just after 10 that night!

But I figure a little bit of travelling is the least you can do when a decent and likeable man like Dave has died.