Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Cop Out



Once upon a time I was an artless 22-year-old, fired with idealism, caring passionately about justice and fairness and society and all that.

Coincidentally (...or maybe not), my first 'proper' relationship was in its death throes. So, with a calculated eye, I looked about and wondered where all the men were, and I thought, 'they're in the police'.

The obvious thing to do was sign up for the special constabulary. I swore an oath, got given a costume, and happily went forth to direct traffic and stuff.

Mostly it was fun: zooming around in cars, watching fights outside nightclubs, flirting with men in uniform, etc. I avoided trouble wherever possible. Trouble was not my forte.

But one day, while dressed as a pretend police officer, I was walking round the town's annual summer fete, and the pretend police sergeant I was with noticed a tramp dozing peacefully under a tree.

"You haven't arrested anyone yet, have you?" the pretend sergeant said. "Go on, nick that old bastard. Get your first one under your belt."

"What for?" I said. "He's not doing anything wrong; just having a nap in the sunshine."

"Breach of the peace," he said. "He's bound to be pissed. BOP's a good 'un to start with, cos there's no paperwork - they just get chucked in a cell for a bit, then released. Go on, off you go."

I protested, but it was no good. I was just an artless 22-year-old, and he was a pretend police sergeant, and much bigger than me.

I shook the tramp's shoulder. He squinted at me, bleary-eyed.

"Hello. Excuse me. Erm, sorry, but, er, I've got to arrest you for breach of the peace. You, um, have the right to remain silent..."

I mumbled my way through the caution, thoroughly ashamed of myself.

Fortunately, the tramp had no idea what was going on.

I left the special constabulary soon afterwards.

But I was still rooting for the forces of good. I went and got a civilian job with the Metropolitan Police.

Soon after that, I stopped believing I could change the world.


Tuesday, 25 January 2011

How YOU Doin'?



The moment my mate Brendon discovered the pulling power of Facebook.


Saturday, 22 January 2011

Apology

Sorry to the people who found my blog yesterday using these search terms:



You must've been very disappointed.


Friday, 21 January 2011

I'm Starting To See Why My Rent Was So Cheap



NB: This is not a post - I am just thinking out loud.

Okay, so our landlord says we have to move out by the end of February.

He runs the shop beneath the flat. He rents the shop, and the flat came as part as the deal. He's eight years into a ten-year lease, and has had to pay the owner to get out early.

From the outset, it was clear the landlord was a bit, er, unorthodox. Cash in hand preferred, and my contract was scrawled longhand in biro. The "fully furnished, newly refurbished" flat was filthy, and it had no crockery, cutlery or cooking equipment. What furniture there was was broken or falling apart.

I was under the impression landlords must give their tenants 24 hours' notice before entering a property, but he'd wander in and out to use his store room on the top floor, and would frequently come crashing up the stairs to switch the washing machine off if its spin cycle was disturbing his customers.

He let me take my room month by month, though, so I didn't mind all that. Anyway, I like a bit of unorthodox.

Last September, he made everyone sign real, proper, assured shorthold tenancy agreements*. Except me. He knew by then I'd always pay my rent and keep the place nice. He just made me promise I'd stay six months at least.

So the boys may have some legal rights, but I'm definitely out.

Here are the options:

a) we talk to whoever it is owns this place, and find out why we have to go, and possibly persuade him/her to let us stay. It seems strange to me that just because the shop downstairs is empty, the tenants above have to leave. Surely the owner would adopt us? We are very low maintenance, and pay cash. I have a hunch, though, it is something to do with the utilities, and I have another hunch we are about to get shafted re utility bills.

b) there is, as Norti so rightly pointed out, no shortage of property to rent in this area. I could start looking for another room nearby, or we could start looking for a house to rent together.

(I've told Marvin already, if this happens I will be much less forgiving about the boy-grime.)

The problem with this one is money for a bond (I don't have it), much higher rent, and signing up for a long term lease with the Dad situation as it is. If I go solo, I might have to share with arseholes (the horror). Going as a team is unlikely because out of all of us soon-to-be evicted tenants, only one of us is in full time employment, two are international students with precarious visas, and the other is jobless old me. The one in full time employment obviously would prefer to share with people less flaky, and anyway we'd be lucky to get anyone to take us on.

c) I return to Kent and move in with my father. Strangely, this is not as bad as it sounds. There were two reasons I felt I needed to come 'home' from New Zealand: one was Flatmate, one was Dad. So this option has a touch of the destinies about it.

My Lovely Sister and Her Lovely Hubby work long hours during the week, and frequently don't get home until 8 or 9 o'clock. They have been "taking the strain" of babysitting my dad for a long time already; in my sister's case, without the benefit of a 'cat on a bench' moment. I am the only member of my family who can tolerate him for any length of time.

Living back at Dad's would suit him for sure, because he'd have the company he craves and someone to take charge of things, and it would mean I could claim carer's allowance, and I'd have no bills to pay. (Then I could write my book. Ha!)

But living back at Dad's would also mean submersion in gloom and doom for an indefinite period, and that's a hard one to countenance. He could carry on as he is - not healthy, but not entirely dependent - for bloody years.

It would also also mean I couldn't resume my nice little part time job at the university library in Cardiff - they got in touch this week, asking me back for the new semester, with the possibility of full time hours from May. Arse!

It would also also also mean I would have to say goodbye to Tesco's Guy. While it may or may not turn out to be the romance of the century, it is certainly shaping up, slowly but nicely. Double arse!

It would also also also also mean I'd be living in Kent; in particular, DailyMailsville, Dulltown. Nuff said.

Dad is NOT open to the suggestion of moving somewhere more, ahem, suitable, by the way. And you can't talk to him about it, because he won't face up to stuff. Story of his life. And ours.

Other things mentioned in yesterday's comments:

I enjoy 'signs' but tend to rely on intuition. (Who cares about logical reasoning, pah!) For example, when I first saw this place listed to rent on gumtree, I knew instantly it was going to be the place I took. Then I went to view it and it was disgusting. But the feeling didn't budge, so I went back for another look, decided I was man enough to tackle the dirt, and took the room.

On the first visit I saw that someone had scrawled my initials in lipstick on a panel by the front door. This delighted me, and was no doubt a sign, but the flat was such a state there was still no way the lipstick would've persuaded me if the underlying instinct hadn't already been a great big yes.

Incidentally, I then had the pleasure of making the flat nice, which was brilliant.

(Since then I've always thought if the lipstick went, I'd move out. Watch this space.)

My intuition re moving in with Dad is that, well, it wouldn't kill me if I had to.

Experience has demonstrated that, if I pay close attention to my intuition, things usually work out fine (fine to my mind - I am unable to comment on the opinion of more level-headed observers). This is why I do so much stupid stuff. Every time I need a helping hand, the universe just seems to consistently bung good things my way. I call this process 'Best Possible Outcome' and I trust it implicitly. Even if it kicks up some stinky shit, it's done me good in the long run. So whatever's going to happen next, I don't need to fret about it. Just yet.

Cherish things while you have 'em, say I, because nothing is permanent. I love this place, yes, just as I loved my little bedsit in Wellington, and other places too, but I left them all behind and survived, just as I can leave here and survive. There will be other places to love. You take love with you.

Oh, and I also shirk responsibility wherever possible (apart from where it matters, and the flat doesn't matter, see above), so would not enjoy taking over any kind of management of anything, anywhere.

So, those are my thoughts.

Over to you, team - I'd appreciate yours.



* I only found this out yesterday


Thursday, 20 January 2011

Shit

(this beautiful image is by Valentina Ramos)

The biggest pleasure of coming home is, well, coming home.

I love where I live.

My room, though small, is comfortable. It does everything a room should, including providing a view of the sunrise should I feel inclined to wake for it.

There is a desk, a kettle, a bed which no longer collapses the moment you put any weight on it thanks to some creative DIY, houseplants, drawers, books, a wardrobe, and a sofa that takes up most of the floorspace. A pin board, a couple of mirrors, a super-hot radiator, some deliciously subtle lighting. A medicinal bottle of Baileys (a birthday gift from Tesco's Guy), a monkey or two, and lots of things to make things with (wool, material scraps, beads, paper and card).

It's home.

The flat itself is also comfortable. Since the feculent Hywel moved out and Vlad (Ukrainian) and Jack (Chinese) moved in, it is quiet, calm and friendly, though grimy in places - but they (and Marvin) are good people so I can forgive them a little boy-grime now and then.

The boys rarely use the lounge, but nothing pleases me more on a sunny day than to linger at the huge bay window with a steaming mug of coffee, watching shoppers in the street below. The double glazing drowns out the traffic noise, and nobody thinks to look up to the first floor, where I stand. The room is so peaceful, so light-filled, so perfectly placed, it makes me happy just to be there, observing the hustle and bustle outside.

I love the area too. It is the best suburb in Cardiff, I live on the best street, and I will fight anyone who says otherwise. There are shops, libraries, cafes, bars, the city centre a stone's throw away, and the beautiful park.

My rent is a paltry £180 a month. Why so cheap I have no idea, but I am profoundly grateful for it.

So when I went to pay the rent on Monday after a spot of people-watching from my delicious vantage point which left me feeling enormously glad to have found this place and very relieved to be back in it, and I told the landlord I'd like to stay on until September after all please (my current lease runs out in February after I the commitment-phobe argued last September for six months, not a year), and he said oh, it was likely he'd be giving up the place in March because he has to go back to China on family business so we'd all probably have to move out, I was, it has to be said, rather dismayed.

Is the universe nudging me towards becoming my dad's full time carer?

Oh God.




Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Needles And Pins



They're testing dad for pericarditis. He had an ecg today & will have another on fri. They took him off oxygen today too.

So while I am waiting to find out when I must go and do the Nurse Weasel thing again, I did what anyone would do - started making a cushion out of an old pair of tracksuit pants.

It's looking rather splendid so far.


Tuesday, 18 January 2011

The Day A Broken Heart Mended



It's probably a chest infection.

It may also be a blood clot on the lung.

We shall see.

I lay in bed this morning thinking about the day I forgave my dad.

It was during my journalism course; a bright, sunny Sunday with a chill in the air, and I'd driven out to Anderson Park for a mooch.

In the rose garden, I found a large ginger cat sunbathing in a flower bed. With a little encouragement he was soon on my lap. I sat on the bench enjoying the warm purrs reverberating through my body. I thought, if only it were so simple for me to be that happy.

For 40-odd years I'd hated my father. Really, truly hated him. Couldn't look him in the eye. The sound of his voice made my flesh crawl; the thought of touching him made me shudder. He made me want to scream, cry, run away. I did run away, as far away as I could get - after all, here I was in New Zealand. It hadn't helped. After Mum died, I cut off contact with him for two years, and tried counselling. This brought some relief, but it didn't quell the anger. Where was the peace I so badly wanted to find?

I couldn't forget, you see. Couldn't forget the verbal violence he dished out to my mum. Couldn't forget the vile rages. Couldn't forget the chilling misogyny - women were to be loathed and feared, sure, but they were also objects to be handled. Couldn't forget the stupidity, the coarseness, the pathetic pomposity of a small-minded, no mark, bullying coward.

He disgusted me in every conceivable way.

The cat didn't care. I pushed my fingers through the fur on its dusty back and stared at some trees in the distance. My logical mind had known for some time that people just do the best they can with what they've got - why could I still not apply this to him?

I thought, just get over it, please; put it behind you. It's making you so tired.

Then it happened.

I just kind of felt it - a wave of compassion. He was a weak, stupid man, that was all. Damaged by his own upbringing, beyond question. It was unfortunate such an individual had had the opportunity to breed, but that's life. I couldn't carry on blaming him for not being the father I wanted.

Something detached. A lifetime's worth of tension drained out of me in a moment. I felt hollow, weirdly floaty. The cat stirred, jumped to the ground, and stalked off.

I sat there for a minute or two, wondering what had just happened. Was this for real, or just another false start? I'd had a few before. I'd tried so hard to love him - like him, even - in recent years, to get over the pain he'd dished out, but there was always some bitterness left. Now, I examined the darkest corners of my soul, prodding and probing to see if anything hurt. Nothing did.

I stood up, stretched, and looked around for the cat. It had gone.

I walked back to my car.

It felt like it was over, at last.


Monday, 17 January 2011

Hallowed Vera



It was so hard saying goodbye to my dad yesterday.

He is so old, so frail, so helpless.

"It's going to be no fun at all here without you," he said.

"You'll just have to make your own fun, eh?" I said, giving him a hug. When did he get so thin, so fragile?

"Oh yes, I'm sure I'll be able to do that," he said.

I'm sure he won't.

"Please look after yourself, Dad," I said. "Remember to eat, and let My Lovely Sister know the instant you need anything, and don't forget Vera's coming back again tomorrow so tell her if you have any problems, okay?"

(Vera is the lady from the home help agency I booked in November.

I arrived back at Dad's on Christmas Eve to find the house cleaner than I'd ever seen it, and Dad like a coy schoolboy as he recounted how she'd given him a kiss on the cheek as she'd left that day.)

"And remember to make that appointment to see the doctor first thing on Monday. You've been very wheezy these last few days. You've really got to keep on top of things like that; don't suffer in silence like you did last year, for God's sake."

"I will," he said.

On the way home, I wondered how I could leave him when he so clearly needs somebody there. Crippled by physical problems - the latest being heart failure - but even more crippled by learned helplessness, he is a child, a timid, frightened child who doesn't know how to care for himself or for anyone else, doesn't know how to communicate, doesn't know how to love.

I wasn't that surprised when I got a text from My Lovely Sister this morning:

Vera arrived and found dad complaining of chest pains. She phoned dr, then ambulance, then me. He had them half the night. Waiting to see dr in a&e now.

He's literally losing heart.


Sunday, 16 January 2011

Ha Bloody Ha



Then suddenly, it was time to go home.

My Lovely Sister and Her Lovely Hubby dropped me at the bus stop.

"I guess you'll be seeing Stalky McStalker tonight?" Her Lovely Hubby said.

(This is his name for Tesco's Guy, who followed me round a supermarket before finally plucking up the courage to speak to me outside.

And later admitted to hovering hopefully during lunchbreaks in the canteen at the place we both worked while I scarfed a sandwich, absorbed in a book. And to seeing me sunbathing in the park in the summer, circling for a bit wondering if he was brave enough to speak to me, then deciding he wasn't.

Blinded by the cuteness, I'd been foolish enough to relay all this to my brother-in-law. My brother-in-law is incapable of not taking the piss. Hence the Stalky McStalker epithet.)

"Yep," I said.

"I bet he's got another one now."

"Another what?"

"Another woman. Tesco are doing two for the price of one this month."


Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Best Foot Forward

If you fancy walking from Dover to Land's End, this is how Google suggests you do it:



Genius.



[click to big, obv]


Monday, 10 January 2011

One Day I Will Kill Him



It was a beautiful day, so I asked Dad where he would like to go and he said Elmley Marshes.

I drove, because he'd driven the day before and by the end of the outing he'd got tired and was starting to drive across rather than around roundabouts, etc.

At the Marshes, there was plenty of splendid wildlife pootling around, and it was all very interesting and scenic.

"What's that?" I said, at a bird pecking around metres from the car.

"A crested plover," said Dad.

"Wow," I said. "It's huge. I bet it tastes nice. Look at all the beautiful colours when the sun hits it. God, I wish I had a camera."

"You need very good equipment to get photos of birds," said Dad.

"Well, nowadays you can get pretty good shots of things with an ordinary camera," I said.

"I mean technical knowledge," he said. "You have to have the technical know-how."

"Not necessarily," I said. "These modern cameras do everything for you. It's all digital. You can just set it onto auto, and point. I mean, you won't get professional results but you can still get some pretty good pictures."

The plover continued to scuttle about within spitting distance. From time to time it stood stock still, staring at the car.

"Well, I'd still manage to get a fuzzy, far-away blob in a tree," Dad said.

I've known my father for 44 years now and it has not escaped my attention that he seems to find it impossible to say anything positive about anything.

Most of the time, I try to ignore it, while screaming silently inside.

Sometimes, however, I adopt my brother's tactic, and pull him up on his constant stream of negativity (my brother doesn't visit much).

After letting this particular statement brew for a while, frustration finally fizzed out.

"Why," I asked, "can you never say anything positive about anything? I cannot remember you ever owning a camera in my lifetime. So how do you know your photographs would be terrible? How do you know that, even with a modern camera, you'd not be able to take a good shot of a plover stood motionless a few feet from you? Why do you make these assumptions when you've never even tried?"

A pause.

"All right then, I'm the best photographer that ever lived," he said.


Saturday, 8 January 2011

Spot The Difference

Question - what is the difference between these two images?


1. Opening sequence of Dad's Army


2. 'Dioxin scandal' story from today's Daily Fucking Mail

Answer - nothing. Nothing at all.

Poisoned food in shops for THREE WEEKS: Supermarkets clear shelves of cakes and quiches containing contaminated eggs from Germany

British families have been eating food tainted with poisonous toxins for at least three weeks. Supermarkets are now stripping shelves of the children’s cakes, sponges and quiches made with contaminated German eggs.


That's German, in case you missed that.


Thursday, 6 January 2011

To Love And Be Loved

[from cafepress.co.uk]

I am helping my dad fill out his online driving licence renewal application form.

It is asking him to provide answers to security questions, in the event of him forgetting his password.

Memorable date, memorable name, memorable town.

He looks blankly at the screen.

"How about your wedding day?" I suggest.

"Oh yes," he says. "That's a good idea."

"Memorable name? I suppose that should be Kath," he continues, after a lengthy pause.

"Memorable town?"

Now he is completely baffled.

"Well, why not stick with the theme and put in where you got married? Nice and easy to remember then. Leeds, wasn't it?" I say.

"Leeds, ugh," he says. "Getting married there was about the only thing memorable about it."

"Right. And how about the birth of your first child there later that year?" I say.

"Oh, yes, I suppose," he shrugs.


Wednesday, 5 January 2011

No Change There Then



From an old diary:

Friday, March 18 2005

I heard an advert on the radio for RyanAir or Easyjet or somesuch - £2.99 for a flight to Stockholm. It immediately got me dreaming of exotic day trips.

I thought out loud: "Stockholm - that's EU, isn't it, so I wouldn't need a visa."

Dad chipped in: "Oh, they say Stockholm, but it's actually a little airport miles from anywhere."

"Yes," I said, "it'd be like flying to Stanstead or Luton instead of Heathrow."

"No," he declared. "It'd be in the middle of nowhere; up a mountain, in a forest, with no way of getting anywhere."

"Dad, it's an international airport - there'd be buses, trains, maybe even a subway."

Met with a sneer. Absolutely not. "Sweden is all mountains and forest. The only roads are around the coast."

Silly me for thinking Sweden was one of the more affluent, sophisticated countries in Europe with shitloads to spend on public transportation systems because everyone's taxed to buggery.

But what do I know?

Maybe these crazy Swedes have built an international airport up a mountain, in the middle of a forest, with no way of accessing it except by air, just for shits and giggles.

Maybe Dad secretly nips off to Sweden regularly on budget airlines, and is speaking from experience, rather than from having read something about it in 1953.

"Why would they build an international airport in the middle of nowhere with no transport links for God's sake?" I said.

"It wouldn't be £2.99 anyway."

Dad and I have been having these pointless, humourless arguments for centuries and they still reduce me to incoherent rage.


Monday, 3 January 2011

Reading Is Brilliant



Because spending time with my dad is like wallowing in toxic waste, and because thinking about my dad makes joy and hope and memories of beautiful things seep out of my ears like a river of crushed promises, as a distraction technique I am going to offer you a three-word review of all the books I read in 2010.

1. To The Is-Land by Janet Frame
Haunting, absorbing autobiography.

2. English Journey: Or the Road to Milton Keynes by Beryl Bainbridge
Frequently mildly interesting.

3. Four Letters of Love by Niall Williams
Perfect for long-haul.

4. The Book of David by Beverley Eley
She cannot write.

5. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Aphorism loaded chiller.

6. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Crap ending: rescue!

7. Faces in the Water by Janet Frame
Harrowing, beautiful, resonant.

8. The Case of the Frozen Addicts by J William Langston and Jon Palfreman
Gripping reality drama.

9. E=mc2 by David Bodanis
Science gets sexy.

10. Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedanis
Cute, funny, smart.

11. Crash by J G Ballard
Kinda freaky. Urgh.

12. Last Bird Singing by Allan Bush
Bleak, bold, brilliant. (Or simply: read this book.)

13. Saturday by Ian McEwan
Dull - too clever.

14. The Sound of No Hands Clapping by Toby Young
Best use: loo-roll.

15. Life Is Elsewhere by Milan Kundera
Deliciously sly. Wonderful.

16. Where Did It All Go Right? by Andrew Collins
Waste of paper.

17. The Image Men by J B Priestley
Predictable, dated. Yawn.

18. The Invisible Girl by Peter Barham and Alan Hurndall
Unpleasant anorexia story.

19. The Widow's Tale by Mick Jackson
Tidy but forgettable.

20. Look Back In Hunger: An Autobiography by Jo Brand
Aw, bless her.

21. Flat Earth News by Nick Davies
Don't believe newspapers.

22. The Nature of Things: The Secret Life of Inanimate Objects by Lyall Watson
Well-meaning. Useful doorstop.

23. Cultural Amnesia by Clive James
Mind-expanding historical cleverness.

24. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby
Exquisite. Mesmerising. Blink...

25. Sex & Bowls & Rock & Roll by Alex Marsh
Blogger. Norfolking way!

26. My Life In Orange by Tim Guest
People, fucking up.

Plus I'm still reading Scott and Amundsen by Roland Huntford (snow, snow, snow) and Duende by Jason Webster (flamenco, fire, fizz).

I love books. They take your mind off, you know, stuff. Having to work several times last year severely impacted on my reading time.

Thanks for listening.


Sunday, 2 January 2011

Food And Whine



I wandered downstairs on shaky legs to find my father in his customary position, propped up over a copy of the Daily Fucking Mail.

"Oh! You're up. How are you feeling?" he said.

"A little better, thank you. How about you?"

"Terrible, actually."

"Righto. Care to expand?"

"A really low mood, very miserable, morose, and fearfully achey too. I think I've got what you've got."

"Mine started with an upset stomach and lots of coughing."

"Oh, I haven't had any of that."

"No," I said. "You haven't got what I've got. I know what you've got and it's not flu."

"What is it then?"

"You're feeling rubbish because you haven't eaten for three days."

"I have eaten," he said.

"No you haven't."

"Yes I have."

"No you haven't. I've seen what you've been putting in the dishwasher. Since I got sick, you've existed on cornflakes."

"I've had other stuff too."

"Mince pies and Quality Street are not food, Dad. How many times do I have to tell you, you need square meals, or you'll get ill again. Hot, cooked food."

"I made myself a hot meal this morning," he said.

"And what was that?"

"Scrambled eggs."

"And what did you have the day before? And the day before that?"

Silence.

"Look, I've explained this a thousand times. You don't eat, so your energy drops, so your appetite goes, so your energy drops even more, so you feel horrible, so you don't eat. It's pretty basic. You simply have to make the effort. Why didn't you boil yourself up some mashed potatoes and have the rest of that gammon last night?"

"I finished off the sausage rolls."

"Let me ask you something. Why is everybody running around, busting a gut to keep you independent like you say you want to be, and then you don't do even the simplest thing to look after yourself, like eat properly when you're perfectly capable of preparing meals? Why is that exactly?"

"I don't want to be independent. I don't want to look after myself. I want to be in a very deep, dark hole," he shouts petulantly.

There are nobler, quicker, and less irritating ways to kill yourself, Dad.


Saturday, 1 January 2011

One, one, one one



2010. What a load of arse. My Flatmate dreams died a horrible death, AND Charlie bloody Brooker got married to someone who wasn't me when I was there for the taking.

Then to piss me off even more, while all you fuckers were letting off fireworks and stuff and having a good time last night, I was dying quietly in bed.

I haven't had flu since I was a kid, and it was infinitely more tolerable back then with a mother to soothe you and wait on you and mop your fevered brow and cook you chipolata sausages when you were feeling a teensy bit human again.

This time, I was well and truly on my own, although on day two of my suffering my father (for I have returned to Kent for the Januaries) did offer to lend me his Sinex.

Now my eyeballs have stopped hurting, I can reflect on all the people I've potentially infected:

My ex-workmates at Royal Mail.

My housemates (three guys, already suffering vocally from man-flu; the real thing may well finish them off).

Tesco's Guy: I invited myself round to his flat on the night of the 23rd for an evening of canoodling, cups of tea, and Stewart Lee DVDs.

National Express customers on board the 509 and 022 services, Christmas Eve: sorry about coughing and sneezing in your atmosphere, etc.

Everyone in central London: I had a couple of hours to wait between buses so bunged my stuff in left luggage and set off to see the sights. The sights included to a large extent Victoria St McDonalds, once I realised I wasn't feeling very well.

My Lovely Sister, her family, her Christmas and Boxing Day guests, my brother and his family. Why oh why did I let the four-year-old examine my tonsils?

The Mighty Bean, whom I drove to London on Wednesday despite feeling poorly, because I am a magnificent aunt who bestows great kindnesses on her nieces. Unfortunately, the reason I drove Niecey to London was to deliver her to a cosmetic surgery clinic, to have the bandages removed from the nose job she had done the week before. If she sneezes too hard in the forseeable future, there is a strong chance her face will fall off.

And of course my dad.

My dad... my 78-year-old, pleurisy and pneumonia-ridden, arthritic, heart failured and generally idiotic father.

It's the last one that's worrying me a bit.