Thursday, 31 March 2011

It's Not Too Late...



...to sponsor Cliff.

On 28 June 2010, he couldn't run more than 60 seconds without getting out of breath.

On 10 April 2011, he will be blitzing the Paris Marathon while raising money for Médecins Sans Frontières.

That's just awesome, no matter how you look at it.

"It doesn’t get any easier, you just get better at it."


Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Fetch Me The Flux Capacitor



I asked Tesco's Guy where he would go if he had a time machine.

He said, "Back to the early 80s so I could watch Auf Wiedersehen Pet."

I said, "Don't you have that on DVD?"

He said, "Yes."


Thursday, 24 March 2011

Monday, 21 March 2011

Kevin



I'm on my way to the housing benefit office.

It's a sunny day.

I stroll past the museum, the town hall, down past the castle. I'm road-testing the new pair of flip flops I bought yesterday. I've rolled my jeans up. For the first time this year I've come out in nothing heavier than a T-shirt. Still, it's almost too hot.

In the crowd of people waiting at the pedestrian crossing on the corner of Queen Street, I notice a man on a bike. He's standing up on the pedals, craning to get a better view of something in my general direction. He's got dark glasses on, so it's hard to tell what he's looking at. I suddenly get the feeling he's staring at me.

I keep walking.

Outside the market, a bike pulls up beside me. It's him. "Sorry, I thought you were someone else," he says.

"Who?" I demand.

"Kelly," he says, not missing a beat. "What's your name, by the way?"

"Weasel," I say. "What's yours?"

"Kevin," he says, whipping off his aviators.

"Pleased to meet you, Kevin," I say, and offer my hand.

He shakes it, removes his cycling gloves, shakes it again.

"Nice gloves," I say.

"Thanks." He looks pleased. "Where are you off to this morning?"

"The housing benefit office," I say. "Going to the housing benefit office on a Monday morning is becoming a bit of a habit these days."

"Oh right. You not working then? What do you do?"

"I care for my dad," I say, "What do you do?"

"I just finished my cleaning job, me," says Kevin. "I do cleaning, and now I'm off home on my bike."

"Nice bike."

"Thanks," he says, delighted.

"So where do you live?"

"Whitchurch," he says proudly.

"That's a long way."

"I got me bike, see, so it's not that far."

"Ah, well, I'm on foot everywhere I go, so it's a long way for me."

"Oh, so you got no bike then?"

"Sadly, no."

"Where do you live?"

"Roath."

"That's very close."

"Yes."

There is a pause. I think for one sweet moment we have run out of conversation. But no.

"Can I take you out for a drink?" he says.

I laugh.

"Are you a random psycho?" I ask. "It's just that the people who ask me out like this usually tend to be random psychos."

"Well, I'm a bit daft, like." He shrugs. Then his face brightens. "But I'm half Italian!"

"Half Italian? Kevin's not a very Italian name."

"My mum's called - " [he rattles off a very Italian-sounding name] " - but my dad's Welsh and he's called Kevin. So I'm Kevin," he explains.

"I see."

"I got all the Italian looks and that." He ruffles his hair.

"Yes. You have very beautiful eyes. They're a lovely colour."

"Yeah." His chest swells with pride.

"How old are you? You must be in your twenties, thirties?"

He waggles a hand, toying with me. He is enjoying this.

"Mid twenties. Yes?"

"Twenty seven."

"A-ha! Spot on."

"Nearly."

"And how old do you think I am?"

"Thirty five?"

"Sort of. Forty four, mate. Way too old for you."

"I'd still like to take you out for a drink though."

"I'm kind of seeing someone at the moment," I say.

(Yeah, the last random psycho who asked me out like this, I don't add.)

"Could I take you for a drink anyway?"

"Um, no. That makes life terribly complicated, don't you think?"

"Well, you could take my number and then when you're not seeing anyone anymore I could take you out for a drink then," he says hopefully.

I don't want to hurt his feelings. I'm impressed by his determination. Also, I am very pushed for time and need him to go away. So I take his number.

"I'm doing this because I admire the fact you had the balls to stop someone on the street and ask them out. That's very brave - respect to you, my friend. I doubt if I'll call you, mind."

"That's okay," he says. "You might, one day."

"Well, maybe. Look, sorry, but I've really got to push off now," I say.

"Oh. Well, it was nice to meet you, Weasel."

"Thank you, Kevin. It was nice to meet you too. Thanks for cheering me up today."

"That's okay."

He stands beaming as I slip off down an arcade.


Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Slip Slop Slap



I read the posters in the doctor's waiting room, trying to quell the butterflies in my stomach.

I hate going to the doctor. This is twice in three years now: too often for me.

Strangely, amid the notices for whooping cough and measles and food poisoning, I see there is one advertising anti-wrinkle injections. I don't have time to give it much thought before I'm called into the doctor's lair.

It is the trendy Indian bloke again.

"Hello," I say, just like last time.

"Hi," he says, at the risk of becoming repetitive. "What can do for you today?"

"I'm here because of a freckle on my foot," I say, unlacing a sneaker. "I'm a bit worried about it actually."

He arches his fingers across his silk tie, and nods sagely.

"First of all, it's come up from nowhere. It appeared about a year ago and it's getting bigger. And it's starting to get crusty. I've been living in New Zealand more or less since 1998 and have worn flip flops pretty much all of that time and I rarely think to put sunscreen on my feet, even though I have the skin type that is most prone to melanoma and New Zealand is famous for its skin cancer. Er, so that's why I'm here really. I'm just a bit worried."

The smartphone on his desk rings. He frowns at it, then answers.

"Hi, oh hi Jermaine, yeah, look, I'm with a patient, I'll call you back, okay? Yeah. Okay. Laters."

He sets his face to 'listening' once more.

"There aren't any other freckles anywhere on my feet at all..."

I trail off, clutching my sock.

He kneels, grabs my foot, and scratches at the freckle.

"Looks fine to me," he says, sitting back on his haunches to peer at the crusty bits under his fingernail.

I am gratified to see the hair on the top of his head is thinning, the brown scalp shining through. That'll learn the smug git, I think.

My moral victory doesn't last long.

I become suddenly aware of how awful my feet look - chipped red varnish across ten unpleasantly overgrown nails.

"Urgh, sorry about the state of my toes; I haven't had time to do them recently," I say.

"What? Oh, right. It's fine. The freckle, I don't think it's much to worry about," he says, going over to the sink to wash his hands.

I stare at his sharp-suited back and think I would trust him a great deal more if he didn't have a flash attitude and a home counties accent. I suspect a doctor with an antipodean drawl would be cutting great big chunks out of my foot right now.

"I'll refer you to a dermatologist, okay?" he says, grabbing a dictaphone and rattling off a letter. "Should take about 6 to 9 months. Anything else you need?"

"Nine months?"

"About that, yes. Just keep an eye on it; any changes, come back and see me, okay? Anything else?"

"Er, no, that's it, thank you."

"So why haven't you had much time then?"

"Pardon?"

"Your toenails. Are you working?"

Oh god, here we go again.

"No, I'm looking after my father at the moment."

"Where does he live?"

"Kent."

"You travel down to Kent?"

"Yes, four days a week."

"How long you been doing that?"

"Since the start of February."

"And how's that panning out?"

"It's tiring. But I've got a part time job and a boyfriend here, so..."

"You've got a boyfriend? What does he do?"

"Admin."

"And where does he live?"

WTF?

"Adamsdown."

"You been seeing him long?"

"No. A couple of months."

"And how's it going?"

"Okay," I shrug.

He leans forward.

"Thought about having these done?"

With a manicured fingertip, he strokes one of the heavy creases that run from my nose to the corners of my mouth.

I snort. "Mate, I'm on Carer's Allowance. I don't have any money."

He flings himself back in his leather chair, flips a leg over his knee.

"Well, come and see me when you do," he says.

The cheeky cunt.


Wednesday, 9 March 2011

My Latest Crisis



Guess what!

I am having another nightmare.

The house I just moved into, well, I am hoping to move back out again as soon as possible, or sooner, whichever comes first.

I have had a bit of a run in with the new landlord over council tax.

He claims I didn't tell him I was on Housing Benefit before I took the room.

But I did, honest.

(Well, what happened when I went to view the room was I told him I'd just applied for Carer's Allowance because I was going to be in Kent four days a week looking after my dad, and if the Carer's was approved then I'd be applying for Housing Benefit. But I said if he had a problem with that I'd understand if he didn't want to rent me the room.

He told me the next day I could take it.

So it's his fault.

Honest.)

Anyway, over the course of February, on those rare days I wasn't in Kent, I moved into the downstairs bedroom of his five bedroom house, and I let the council know my new address because of the Housing Benefit application.

The council then rings the landlord and says, oh, has the other person moved out then?

Turns out Mr Landlord has only been telling the council for god knows how long there's only one person living in his house. Each month, the council tax bill has been coming through addressed to one of the little Polish girls, and she's been splitting the bill between everybody.

A few days after the phone call to the landlord, I get a bill and she gets a bill. She is upset because her bill has gone up by £100. I am aghast because even though she generally talks to my collarbone, she is not a bad person and I don't wish to cause her any grief.

I ring the council.

I say, "The little Polish girl is upset because her bill's gone up. Could it possibly be because she's no longer getting a single occupancy discount?"

They say, "No, that's her final bill, it's just an adjustment. Your landlord told us she'd moved out and you're the only person in the house now."

I say, "Um, I suspect the landlord hasn't been entirely honest with you. As far as I know, she's still there. And anyway, it's a five bedroom house. "

They say, "Oh, really? With that many people living there?"

I say, "Er, maybe."

They say," With individual tenancy agreements and all that?"

I say, "Erm, yeah."

They say, "That's interesting."

I say, "Can this conversation be off the record?"

They say, "Nope."

I say, "Ah. Right. Okay. Oh dear."

They say, "We'll obviously have to investigate this."

I say, "Will the landlord be prosecuted?"

They say, "Possibly. He'll get a back-dated bill at the very least. He's clearly been very naughty. I expect we've been giving him a discount because we thought only one person lived there."

I say, "Oh fuck."

They say, "Don't worry, it's not your problem."

I say, "Well, it is a bit, isn't it? I can't stay there now, can I? Makes it a bit awkward, don't you think?"

They say, "Hmm, I suppose."

The landlord summons me to the cafe he runs to ask if I have sorted out the council tax situation. I do not mention I have effectively already dobbed him in, because I am a cowardly weasel. I merely pass on what the council tax person told me - that as the owner of a multi-occupancy house he should've told the council it was a multi-occupancy house. I explain the council said his name needs to be on the bill then it's up to him how he recovers the money.

No no, he says, he can't be bothered with all that. If he goes down that route he'd have to get landlord insurance and start lodging bonds with the bonds lodging people. He wants nothing to do with that kind of bother so this is what he is going to do: instead of having the little Polish girl named on all the bills, he is going to put my name on all the bills with effect from 1st March and he's going to tell the council again that very afternoon that it's just me living there.

Anyway, this is effectively true, he says - she will be leaving soon. He moans for a bit about the little Polish girl. She is meant to collect money for bills each month from the other housemates, he says, but three times she has failed to do this simple thing and he has had to pay £97 for gas and water and electricity when he doesn't even live there. This is no good, she is no good, and it's why I must be named on the bills instead of her, he says.

(He doesn't mention that for a while he rented a room to a couple who never tidied up or cleaned and only paid their share of the bills when they felt like it. The little Polish girl told me that, and even looked into my eyes to say it, with a look of quiet desperation on her little Polish face.)

He tells me the little Polish girl has just given him notice on her room, and so has one of the other little Polish girls, her friend. So when they are gone by the end of March, he says, it will be just me (and the third little Polish girl, and whoever he gets to take on the vacant rooms) living there. So there is no need to change the council tax, you see. I must help him with the viewings, and I must collect all the money for the bills each month with no issues. He doesn't want this to happen ever again. Why should he pay when it is not his bills?

Then he tells me he's got to go away for a month on the 15th of March. He tells me there is no way this council tax thing can be sorted out before then, although he'd like it to be. He shakes his head. He tells me I have caused a big problem. He tells me he is not happy.

The little Polish girl used to work for him in his cafe. I notice there is a new 'staff wanted' poster in the window.

I think, I do not like this man.

I think, perhaps I should just sneak off quietly while he's away.

I think, yes, perhaps that is what I should do.

When I am not accidentally dobbing people in to the authorities then running away very fast while they're not looking, thereby breaching my tenancy agreement, I am actually a perfect tenant. Quiet, friendly, housetrained.

Honest.

So if you know anyone who's letting cheap but honest rooms in Roath or Cathays for immediate occupation, please do let me know.


Friday, 4 March 2011

Monkey Lovin'



















"Wow. Would you look at that?"

I looked at the headboard on my bed, where Tesco's Guy was pointing.

Except he wasn't pointing, he had his finger in Downstairs Monkey's mouth.

"This little guy, he sits there smiling all the time, but if you put your finger in his mouth he actually registers disapproval. Look at his eyes! He looks really pissed off. He's saying, "Gtt yrr fkkn fngr utt uff my mmmfff." You can see it in his expression."

I looked.

He was.

"Stop abusing my monkey," I said.

I'm starting to quite like Tesco's Guy.



Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Warholised



That's me, that is.

I had fifteen minutes of fun with the National Galleries of Scotland Warholiser today.

(I have no idea why it's given me a beauty spot, nor indeed why it's made me look a bit like Michael Jackson.)