Women don’t like brown sauce

Women don’t like brown sauce. A controversial statement but one backed by huge amounts of research data. Well, a bit of research. OK, not much at all but nobody has argued so far. I’m not sure why. It has, when all is said and done, got fruit in it. It has to be good for you.

As stated, my data is limited but no more so than some of the tosh that passes for academic research these days. There was a “news” report last week that having a nap in the afternoon can lead to an increased risk of strokes. (Stop sniggering at the back – not that kind of stroke.) Could it be that not being very fit, high blood pressure and a pile of chips at one o’clock makes you feel a bit sleepy and up for a kip? No. The next generation of scientists insist that having 40 winks will increase your chances of having a stroke.

It is the same kind of woolly thinking that leads to the weekly story that *wine / butter / chocolate is a killer / the secret to eternal youth / one of your five a day.  (*Delete as necessary.) There has always been this kind of rubbish out there, the difference today is that the 24 hour news and blogging society needs more and more of this stuff to keep the wheels turning. Blogs should concentrate on the important stuff.

The sauce thing came about this week when Mrs B, aware that there would be a system for deciding (there always is) whether to go for tomato or brown sauce, tried and failed to work it out for herself. My theory is that most men will have a similar system and women just go for tomato. The system is as follows.

Burgers or communal pub chips – always tomato.

A proper roast dinner – no sauce at all. This comes from my mum banning it close on 50 years ago and I see no reason to change now. Mint sauce is allowed with lamb, obviously.

Chops, fish in breadcrumbs, chicken Kievs and the like, served with green vegetables – brown sauce. In this instance, carrots are green vegetables (otherwise it gets too complicated). Now the exciting bit.

Full English breakfast or omelettes – could be either depending on the mood. How mad is that? It was a bit much for Mrs B but I suspect by this stage she was glad we decided not to have kids. I have a secret fear of being interviewed by Danny Baker and having to play the sausage sandwich game – I would be useless at it. This last reference will only mean anything to men of a certain age who listen to Radio 5.

Brown sauce?

In terms of quality, it has to be Heinz ketchup and HP brown sauce. Imitations are not acceptable though I still mourn the passing of Hammonds Chop Sauce – a prince among brown sauces. Strangely, we bought an apartment some years ago on the site of the Hammonds sauce factory. Before its demise, I fondly remember walking home from the pub with the sweet aroma of another batch being brewed, wafting across the night sky. The trouble was I was always starving by the time I got home.

What about other sauces? Salad cream is a guilty pleasure but Mrs B won’t have it in the house. She also frowns on having Pizza Express salad dressing, mayonnaise, Branston pickle and brown sauce on the same plate but I AM EATING SALAD! Horseradish is just wrong. I have recently affected Worcester sauce with soup (very posh).

The one sauce related rule we both agree on – tomato and brown sauce on the same plate shows lack of decision making capability and needs to be stamped out. Get yourself a system and stick to it. Any dissenters out there?

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How much are we defined by our job title?

How much are we defined by our job title? Can we change things just by describing ourselves differently?

We have all been in the situation, meeting somebody for the first time, the obvious question is “what do you do?” Even more marked, a common ice-breaker on courses etc. is – “Tell me about yourself”. The usual answer starts “I am a road sweeper/ project manager / brain surgeon ” etc. It is rarely on the lines of “I believe that ear-wigs are evil” (don’t ask) or “I used to put salad cream on fish and chips”.

The point of all this and, unusually for me, there is a point, is that we rarely get the chance to make a first impression face to face anymore. Thanks to LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, any potential employer, client or even spouse can make their mind up about you in an instant by looking at your online profile. Is that picture of you on the beach with the ‘Kiss Me Quick” hat and candy floss the impression you want to make? Does your next boss really want to see you glassy eyed and belting out “I Will Survive” outside the Kebab shop?

Job titles and profiles. It is important to get the right photo
Maybe not the right tone for a professional network?

Give your profile some thought and set the right tone for each platform. A suitable photograph is essential. Needless to say, one of me doesn’t exist yet!

Job titles and online profiles. Professional work portrait
Professional work portrait

We tend to be a bit obsessed about how people perceive us from our job title. Over the years I have had many job titles but, recently, I tended to rely on IT Manager. Any mention of working for a certain bank was omitted to avoid obvious embarrassment or awkward silence. Since taking the decision to leave the aforementioned bank I have taken to describing myself as self unemployed. This causes problems when filling in forms as there is never a box for it (and this is somehow my fault).

On Twitter I describe myself as an ex IT manager, currently getting away with reviewing my options. Blogger, photographer, rugby league and music fan, fine wine taster and part time super model. This has had some unexpected consequences. One social media fixated company has automatically added me as a preferred model and photographer. I am still awaiting the call of the catwalk but you never know. I have, of course, got form in this area having, many years ago, featured in Madonna’s video for Vogue. It was a small part but beautifully done if I say so myself. But that is another story.

So, maybe by changing your title, you can change your station in life? As my thoughts on what to do with the rest of my life start to clear (sitting on a beach with a glass of Viognier is not an option apparently) it is time to revisit my LinkedIn and Twitter profiles. With various websites under construction and an online magazine gestating maybe publishing mogul would be a good title. Then again, there may be a coaching / counselling element thrown into the mix as well. Publishing mogul, coach and mild mannered despot has a certain ring to it. Maybe not.

I may have stumbled into the life of a super model by accident but there is nothing wrong with setting a target and working towards it. Be realistic but imagine a future contact reading an online profile and reacting to it. Would their reaction be what you wish for?

RB – Media mogul and mild mannered despot.

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5 things I learned from the Brits

5 things I learned from the Brits

1 Ant & Dec are not funny

Brits 2015 Ant & Dec
Ant & Dec

Whether it is presenting the Brits or any of their turn the handle TV shows, Ant & Dec are not funny. With that sentence I will probably have upset half the people who read this (both of you!), but it has to be said. I saw them referred to the other day as the new Morecambe & Wise. Hang on a minute! Eric Morecambe was a brilliant comedian, with perfect timing (even when the material was mediocre). Ant & Dec can’t even get the timing right and the material is never better than mediocre. Ernie Wise was a consummate straight man, while these two are both straight men – they forgot the comedian bit. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being amiable, professional Geordies who pop up on just about everything. It’s just that there are far funnier things from Newcastle. Ross Noble for a start. Hebburn was brilliant and the Newcastle United back four are funniest of all.

2 Madonna is a true professional

Brits 2015 - Out damned knot out
Brits 2015 – Out damned knot out

Madonna’s wardrobe malfunction and double back flip was fairly spectacular but did have an upside – the singing stopped (albeit briefly). By that, I mean she was actually singing. Sometimes at these events there is a strong suspicion of miming to pre-recorded performances. Just to show how professional she is she got up and, despite being in obvious pain, continued with the routine. Not bad for a 56 year-old. Certain footballers would still be rolling around now trying to get the cloak sent off.

3 If easily offended – don’t book Kanye West

Brits 2015 - Kanye West Censored
Brits 2015 – Kanye West Censored

Have any of the ITV production staff heard of Kanye West (other than being married to someone famous for being famous)? Had they listened to any five minute spell of any of his albums they would know that there may be a little choice language coming up. I suspect there was also a rehearsal which could have alerted them, though with 500 people on stage this would have been a touch chaotic. So, what was the tactic for making sure we didn’t hear language that may offend us – muting the sound every few seconds. Far better not to  show the performance, surely? Having said that, it was after the watershed which I thought meant adult programming? While I am in full flow, language will rarely offend me. Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe (now that is FUNNY) is shown at about the same time with very choice language and no muting. Back at the Brits I was slightly uncomfortable with the pseudo military imagery on stage which went completely uncensored. Was it just me who thought having flame throwers that looked like rocket launchers coupled with the style of dress looked a bit intimidating? Still, so long as kids don’t hear on TV the sort of language they use in the playground where’s the problem?

4 Paloma Faith is a star

Brits 2015 Paloma Faith
Brits 2015 Paloma Faith

Looking at the lineup before the show, you would have put money on Madonna turning in the most polished and imaginative performance. Obviously, the dodgy knot in the cloak impacted things but, even without the slapstick, surely the performance of the night would still go to Paloma Faith? The Arena’s scale allows the sort of dramatic staging we saw but the tiny singer certainly made the most of it and turned in the best singing in the rain since the aforementioned Morecambe & Wise.

5 Two presenters of awards doesn’t work 

Brits 2015 - Two presenters doesn't work
Brits 2015 – Two presenters doesn’t work

Time and again, producers of this kind of show think that having two presenters for each award somehow adds to the spectacle – it doesn’t. (With the possible exception of Rita Ora’s dress – her mum should have made her wear a vest to avoid catching her death). Rarely do the scripted ad-libs work, nobody knows who speaks next and usually, at least one of them is the worse for drink. Once again, it was left to Russell Crowe to show how it should be done. It looked like he had come straight from his taxi as he strode down the catwalk with his coat on. No clumsy jokes, give Ed Sheeran the award and get off again – class. If only the hosts could do the same. Where’s Mick Fleetwood when you need him?

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Wine – is a little knowledge a good thing?

Wine – is it worth learning the difference between grapes, regions and climates or just go for what is reduced or most expensive?

Most of us have had that moment of panic. You are with a group of friends for a meal; the waiter hands you the wine list and everybody says that you should choose. You have no idea what people will be eating – does it matter? Do you go for the house plonk and look cheap? How about the expensive one at the end of the list – too flash and bound to cause an inquest when the bill comes. My wife maintains that she has never had a poor glass of wine from a bottle with a nice label, but wine lists rarely come with pictures of labels – Livin’ Italy being an exception to this rule. Maybe somebody there works on the same theory. Asking the waiter to recommend something is fine in theory but, in practice is fraught with risk. They may be even more clueless than you and could easily push you towards that bottom end of the list – dangerous territory. The obvious cop out is to pick a red and a white at random from somewhere in the middle of the list and cross your fingers.

Wine - Go by the label?
Wine – Go by the label?

There is another way. Just a little knowledge can go a long way, the rest you can fake. So, you want to learn enough to get by, where do you start?

Whatever the subject, my first port of call tends to be the excellent Dummies series of books and, as you would expect there is Wine For Dummies. This covers all of the basics of wine varieties, regions and how to get the most out of tasting.

If you want something a little more sociable, wine is meant to be enjoyed with friends after all, why not try an organised class or wine tasting session? The Yorkshire Wine School run regular events at both the Radisson Blu in The Light and at Livin’ Italy on Granary Wharf. The Radisson sessions include lunch and introduce the world’s major wine growing regions and grape varieties. You will learn how to taste like a professional and where to buy. Best of all your tutor will guide you through tasting twelve wines As you would expect, two hour sessions at Livin’ Italy concentrate on the wines of Italy and how they pair with different foods. It is worth attending for the nibbles alone!

Wine - Livin Italy - The Deli
Livin Italy – The Deli

My advice with events like this is to drink water as well as the wine and take notes. The memory can prove a little unreliable after a few glasses. Some years ago, on a visit to London, my wife and I spent the evening at Vinopolis, described as a “wine experience” – they weren’t wrong. The huge building near London Bridge is a series of tasting rooms, each dedicated to a particular type of wine. After an introduction where you are taught the basics of tasting, you are armed with a charge card and let loose with detailed tasting notes. A swipe of the card and a machine dispense a small glass of your chosen wine. You then rinse and repeat as often as you wish, touring the worlds wines in the maze of arches beside the Borough Market. Afterwards, you can enjoy a meal in the restaurant and order any of the wines that you tasted earlier – very civilised. After starting out very seriously, reading the notes and comparing the warm and cool climates we started to sound as if we know what we were talking about. As the evening progressed, the notes seemed to be printed in a smaller font and unaccountably caused giggles. There was big talk of hitting the Absinthe room once the wines of the world were exhausted but for some reason we never made it. We did however enjoy a great meal and a terrific night out. We both remember to this day the difference between warm and cool climate wines but after that it is still a bit of a blur – remember to take notes!

If all this fails, you could always try buying what is on special offer at the supermarket! If this is your strategy, why not at least use an app such as Vivino to record your thoughts. It will help you remember what you like (and don’t like) as well as getting the views of others.

So, is it worth learning the basics? Yes, without a doubt. Just as you would with a sport, painting with oils or cooking. Grasp the basics and you open up a world of experiences.

As for that panic moment, with a little knowledge, you will realise that you can’t please everybody. Ask a few questions – do people want something light, fruity or powerful then set your new knowledge to work. If that fails – simply choose something that you will enjoy – the others can please themselves.


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Can Leeds a big city without a Premier League team?

Can Leeds be classed as a big city without a Premier League team?

Bridgewater Place
Bridgewater Place in evening sunshine

I always had a very hazy view of where Shropshire was. My knowledge of geography was largely based on following the exploits of Leeds United in the seventies. So, whilst I knew that Ferencvaros was in Budapest and Juventus played in Turin in Northern Italy, Somerset was a complete mystery, with no football league team. There was the odd non-league impact in the FA Cup but, largely, Somerset may as well have not existed. Maybe it didn’t exist – who knows?  My knowledge has now widened, thanks to life experience and getting lost on the way to Devon, but also, Yeovil were admitted to the league in the nineties. There are other counties without teams – Cornwall at least and who knows what else is lurking down south? The point I am gradually rambling towards is that the perception of a large section of the UK population and, these days the rest of the world, is based on weekly TV coverage of the Premier League.

So, can Leeds be classed as a big city without a Premier League club? The obvious competition is not encouraging. Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool all have two each, whilst London has six, admittedly including QPR and Crystal Palace which will probably prove temporary.  As you would expect, these top four cities in terms of population dominate the league. Leeds is fifth, followed closely by Sheffield, Middlesborough (Teesside), Bristol and Bournemouth – all outside the Premier League. It is only Stoke at 11 that has representation. Punching above their weight are Hull (24th in population), Burnley (43rd).

Kasabian at Leeds Arena
Kasabian at Leeds Arena

I admit that my view may be a little narrow. How does Leeds rate on other facilities associated with big cities?  As a music lover, the most glaring omission was a large concert venue. Of course, the Arena has more than made up the shortfall in that area. Some of the biggest names in entertainment (and McBusted) have been drawn to the superb venue. As a result, large numbers flock to the city to spend their money rather than the flow being to Manchester, Sheffield and even Nottingham.

There are many wonderful places to eat in Leeds but not a single Michelin star between them. Obviously, the list is dominated by London but Bray boasts four, albeit with a rubbish football team.  It is probably in one of those counties that doesn’t exist.

Grand Depart
The Grand Depart as Leeds puts on a show

I could go on and quote numbers of museums and the like but, you know what, I don’t care! The very essence of what makes Leeds special is that its size is manageable. I can walk across the city centre and be anywhere in 20 minutes – try doing that in Manchester or London. I like the fact that I can walk into bars and restaurants and be greeted by name – you don’t even get that in most workplaces in the capital. The city is vibrant and constantly changing – just look at the number of cranes on the skyline. A large student population keeps it young at heart with a lively live music scene. We still have a thriving, independent retail sector, not relying on the large chains that make most town centres replicas of each other. We need to cherish places like the Corn Exchange and make sure it sits comfortably alongside Trinity and Victoria Gate. We know how to put on a show – just look at the Tour De France. Think what kind of show we could put on for the European City of Culture. Leeds Loves Food, Live At Leeds, Leeds Festival, The Waterfront Festival – all firmly established as part of the calendar alongside many more.

It is not perfect, far from it. Manchester’s tram system would be great, but would it be worth the years of disruption to achieve? Rather than a headlong rush to be the biggest, let’s embrace what makes Leeds a great place to live and, until United allow us to live the dream again, maybe the Rhinos and Yorkshire cricket will continue to fly the flag. (As a lifelong Bulls supporter that last sentence was really difficult.)


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I looked like gravy in human form

They say that fashion is temporary but style lasts forever. I like to think my first work suit fell into the latter category but suspect not.It was a brown, three piece job, a bargain at £14.95 from Hepworth’s, one of the many tailoring chains then based in Leeds. I complemented the ensemble with a knee length, corduroy overcoat – again in brown. With matching suit and tie, I looked like gravy in human form. The coat proved to be pretty much useless at its primary function, namely, keeping the cold out. I remember being picked up from work to travel to Hartlepool for an FA Cup tie. It was January 1979 (just looked it up!) and Leeds won 6-2 but the wind off the North Sea must have been the coldest thing on the planet that night.

The journey to work each morning involved an hour on the 56 bus to Dewsbury. (I could have pretended another form of transport to refer to the gravy train but decided against). A few weeks into my glittering career disaster struck in the form of sitting on some chewing gum. After an hour, steaming on the damp bus, I was well and truly stuck to the seat. I tried to stand (frankly the alternative of life spent riding endlessly between Bradford and Dewsbury was easy to resist). There was a moment when the velour seat and brown suit seat fought a battle to see which could hold the gum longest and the trousers won.  I walked slowly around the corner to work, dreading the inevitable piss taking.

In that situation, everybody is an expert. I now know that putting the trousers in a freezer for an hour would have worked but not very practical in a bank, particularly when wearing only two thirds of a brown suit. Eventually, I was despatched to Boots to buy a bottle of carbon tetrachloride, the fluid used by dry-cleaners. Remember, this was the seventies and many dangerous things were freely available! I suspect this is not possible now in a country where paracetamol is only allowed in tiny packets. Another thing to have disappeared since the seventies is the role of bank messenger. Donald, chief messenger, was a lovely bloke, fond of a show tune in the afternoon and teller of the filthiest jokes I had ever heard. He was tasked with scrubbing at the offending spot with the evil smelling chemical. He insisted on doing this in open view of the entire office with a running commentary that left me blushing many weeks later. The final piece was removed to the refrain of ‘gotcha, you little fucker’ and a spontaneous round of applause broke out in the bank.

Every office should have a Donald

Every office should have a Donald. It was his instruction that enabled me to make a round of drinks for over thirty people with every conceivable combination of coffee, tea, sugar and milk that was humanly possible. I got it right every time – the consequences of error were just too terrible to contemplate. Today’s trainees get it very easy! I also got to help Donald with a job that would definitely be banned today. The banks in the town had an informal agreement that if one was running short of cash on a particular day, the others would help out. Donald soon twigged that walking around town with  briefcase full of used tenners was eventually going to draw attention from some of the many local villains. Instead, the two of us used to set off with pockets stuffed full of cash – sometimes as much as thirty grand. This was very exciting for a 17 year old in a brown suit.

Apart from the show tunes, one of Donald’s favourite topics was dog shit, the volume of it on the streets of the town centre and what he would do to the owners of the culprits. You can imagine. That brings me to the point of this ramble, if indeed there is one – PooPrints. What a brilliant idea for a business! Just in case you missed it in the papers this week and your mind is off on some bizarre Jackson Pollock weirdness, hang on a second. There is a company (American obviously) that offer a service of matching DNA found in dog poo to a database of dogs – genius. Apparently, where the scheme has been rolled out, dog poo has completely disappeared from the streets.This would make Donald very happy. But why stop there? A human database would mean we could be freed from bogeys stuck to the underside of desks, people who don’t understand the curtesy flush and, of course – chewing gum on pavements and bus seats.

Let me know if there are any other service my new company can offer!


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Christmas hacking

Not being an online gamer, I wasn’t affected by the problems that beset Sony and Microsoft on Christmas day. I can see how it would be very frustrating, unwrapping the latest console or game and then being unable to blow the online world to pieces because somebody had hacked into the network. The solution was simple, at least if you were a millionaire who knew a thing or two about programming. Apparently, Kim Dotcom simply bought off the hackers with credits on his latest website. The culprits turned out to be teenagers who admitted that they had done it just because they could. Sounds strange as most teenagers are more likely to have not done it because they couldn’t be arsed.

According to The Times, one of the hackers was traced to a school in Kent. They tried to contact his mum for a response but got nowhere. However, this opened up a line of thought for me. Why can’t all master criminals be dealt with via their mums?

“Ah, Mrs Moriarty, do sit down. It’s about young James, turns out he has been up to his old tricks again.”

“Sorry, he’s been a right little bugger since his dad ran off with that barmaid from the Duck and Blowtorch. What’s he done this time?”

“We’ve had another complaint from Mrs. Holmes.”

“That old bat? What’s he meant to have done now?”

“Something to do with a waterfall. Apparently there was a bit of a scuffle that got out of hand.”


“Don’t tell me, he’s done it again hasn’t he? Wait till I get hands on him I’ll wring his bloody neck.”

“Thanks Mrs Cowell, we’ll leave it with you.”



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The view from the back of the ambulance

Perspective makes all the difference to a story – here’s an alternative view of our adventures on Sunday night.

Bruce (of Bruce’s Taxis) brought us home from the hospital, sun shining, radio playing, all well with the world.  Turns out my Grandma was right – things always look less scary in the daylight.

Doctor Dave (a very suntanned version of the Swedish Chef from the Muppets) had prodded me, held my hand reassuringly and told me that these things happen to middle aged women, not to worry unless I fainted again, Happy Holidays…… off he wandered spreading good cheer throughout A&E.

The two hours before that are a bit foggy – machines that went beep waking me up each time I dozed off.  The nurses were great – lots of admiration for my accent and my frilly cotton nightie.  I think we all decided I was going to be ok when they offered me the alternative of removing my nightie myself or having it cut off me so they could put me in a puce-coloured hospital gown.

On balance I suspect ambulances are more fun riding up front than in the back.  Roy was playing with sirens, I was in the back being hooked up to yet more machines and watching the road disappear behind me.

Man and bike
The hero!

My husband is my hero.  He sat calmly while alarming machines beeped, heart monitors flashed, needles were inserted and removed, blood pressure rose and fell then rose again.  He gathered together clothes so that I didn’t have to come home in my nightie.  He remembered that it’s 911 in the US instead of 999.  He chatted with the Sheriff about college football / baseball (we realised afterwards that the Law were there in case he was a wife-beater).  He even found me some clean underwear so that I was carried out to the ambulance with some modesty intact.

Sandbar sunset
A great place to recuperate

The medics were fantastic – only in Florida would they describe the ride on the trolley / chair as being better than Disney because there was no queue.

All in all, my advice would be: when you get up in the middle of the night, do it slowly; when you feel dizzy, sit down before you fall down; if you do fall down, do not under any circumstances stand up again by yourself – it is the second fall that does the damage.  If you decide to ignore all of the above then make sure you are in paradise, where your recuperation can include sunset walks on the beach, time by the pool and gentle bike rides.


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A memorable birthday

Beach Bistro
Trying to eat the pattern from the plate as well

I had a memorable birthday on Sunday. I got to read the Sunday Times from cover to cover,  a ten mile bike ride, a trip in an ambulance and dinner at the best restaurant in Anna Maria. Oh yes, the ambulance bit. Everything is OK now but we did have a bit of a drama.

Reading the paper always makes me feel like I should be doing something else but it was my birthday. The advent of the iPad edition means that, wherever you are in the world, you have the latest copy (internet permitting).

The bike ride was a pleasure. Compared to the mountain bike last summer that tried to kill me, this one is much friendlier. Built in the northern shipyards with a seat that is kinder to the ‘gentleman’s area’. We looped around the northern tip of Anna Maria Island then headed south before a left turn took us on Key Royale. I suspect this is where the majority of the million dollar plus houses are but not a shop or a bar for miles. The car definitely rules in the US.

Man and bike
Man and machine in harmony

My only regret is that I passed on the best photo op of the day. One house had supplemented its normal garden display with some Christmas figures. We saw Mary and Joseph (presumably carrying an infant) but standing next to a three foot long cannon. Well, you could’t be too careful, it was the Middle East after all. I am very tempted to cycle back later in the week for a furtive pic.

With a Florida thunder storm brewing, we almost regretted our decision to do without a car for this holiday. We needn’t have worried. The rain held off and the driver of the brilliant free shuttle bus dropped us off almost by the door. The Beach Bistro is quite formal for this part of the world but the food is amazing. The waiter managed to up-sell us a couple of times (even though I was ready for him). I suspect we were meant to recognise the couple next to us who were something in TV but, sadly for them, we didn’t.  Just when we would normally settle in with a second bottle, we realised we had to set off for the last bus! The gods were with us again as the rain had stopped.

Now then, the ambulance! We commented on the fact that we were in bed by 11 and relatively sober for a birthday. Previous birthday celebrations have been known to enter a third day but we won’t talk about that. All went well until about 3am when I woke up and realised Ruth was no longer beside me. I did what most blokes would do at this point, rolled over and tried to get back to sleep. At this point I heard a muffled shout followed a second later by a series of loud crashes. Like a cross between Mr Blobby and Hong Kong Fuey out of the filing cabinet, I was across the bedroom and found Ruth sprawled on the floor just outside the bathroom. She was shaking violently and I can honestly say I have never been so scared in my life. I managed to get her turned on her side and grabbed a pillow from the bedroom to support her head. Two strides and I had the phone, somehow remembering it was 911 not 999.  By the second ring, Ruth was calling that she was OK and still capable of giving orders! I hung up and went back to her. At this point the phone rang, the emergency operator following up the suspicious hang up. Anyway, we quickly decided she wasn’t OK and could we have an ambulance please. Less than 5 minutes later, huge ambulance, flashing lights and the sheriff (or at least one of his boys). The paramedics were brilliant and quickly established that the likely scenario was that something had caused Ruth’s blood pressure to drop sharply, she fainted and cracked her head and knee on the way down. It was only later we realised the sheriff was probably there in case it was a domestic. After half an hour they decided she needed a trip to hospital. I wasn’t allowed in the ambulance so would have to follow by car. What car? I am sure they thought we were a bit weird for not having a car in Florida. The upshot was, Ruth refused to go without me so rules were bent and I got to ride up front. I resisted the urge to turn on one of the three sirens (called cycle, yelp and fek off out of the way, interestingly).

The next few hours was mainly sitting around listening to machines that go beep, waiting for blood pressure to stabilise.  The doctor decided that there was nothing serious and we could go home. Wheelchairs were wheeled and a short taxi ride later we were home and preparing to go back to bed for most of the day.

Ruth is feeling better today, sore head and ankle with a massive bruise on her knee. Obviously, the stairs to the basement are out of the question so I get to keep laundry duties. Certainly a birthday I won’t forget in a hurry.

Please leave comments if you have ridden with emergency services!


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Fifty Four – the annual audit

I knew it was coming but, here we are, I am now fifty four. This is not earth shattering or newsworthy in itself but, given the title of this blog, fairly significant for me. After a week of unbroken sunshine at our rented holiday home in Florida, the clouds have gathered so a good time to sit and do some navel gazing, a kind of audit of where I am and where I am going.

The most obvious thing at the start of my fifty fifth year is that I have no job. A couple of weeks ago, after one too many sleepless nights, I finally took my wife’s advice and quit. While I am still officially on the payroll until the end of the year, the long-planned holiday means that my last day in the office was last week. This situation unlocks a couple of powerful emotions. Firstly, quite frankly it scares the shit out of me. Secondly, and the one I want to embrace, it is quite liberating. I could put into practice any of those “one glass too many” ideas that we all get. Over thirty years ago, I decided to move to Spain and start a rental business for those new fangled VHS video things. Nobody else was doing it. Instead, we had another pint and the rest is history. Actually Blockbusters – the laugh is on you cos it didn’t last forever did it!

Coloured chairs
A good place to sit and think

I think it is fitting that I am using this time in the land of the free (unless you were born somewhere else) to do a kind of mental detox. I am opening up to new possibilities and ways of looking at things. Just today I tried a new tooth brush. I have been a committed electric brush user for a number of years but, since it switched itself on inside a suitcase once (airport security not known for a sense of humour) it has stayed at home, replaced by a good old manual. However, this time, I accidentally chose a completely new animal – the vibrating brush! The cynical Yorkshireman doubted that I would work but, having parted with a couple of quid, I wasn’t going to throw it away. In the spirit of openness, I have to report it worked well. Teeth feel zingy but now a bit worried I will develop vibrating white finger.

The new experiences are coming thick and fast. Just an hour ago I was despatched to the basement to put the wet washing into the tumble drier. This is something I can do quite confidently at home – simple. The thing in the basement was a whole different beast. It has more knobs and dials than were used in the Apollo mission control room. Feel the fear and do it anyway. What could possibly go wrong? Quite a lot apparently. We had a hasty refresher course on the instructions and I found myself back in the basement.

I digress. The biggest plus of the job situation i.e. not having one, should be that I have more time to do all of those things that I have always wanted to do. I am a world class procrastinator (thank heavens for spell checkers).  I have just spent the last five minutes stopping myself going to make a second cup of tea since I started this. Now, if I went onto App Store, I am sure there would be a dictation app. That way I could make a cup of tea and continue writing. Damn, just looked at App Store and there are eight updates waiting for me to install them. Resist, resist.

Actually, this cup of tea is probably better than the first one.

So, next year is a blank sheet of paper with so many possibilities. Most people seem to be expecting me to go straight back into IT but I would rather keep this as a longer term option (unless a prospective employer is reading this in a few months time, in which case, I have always dreamed of being a project / software development manager with Asda / Morrisons / Yorkshire Building Society *delete as applicable). I already have a number of options starting to formulate, a couple of them are even quite grown up and responsible. I would start the business cases now but it is  getting dark and the Beach Bistro awaits. Well, it is my birthday (assuming the tumble drier hasn’t shrunk all of my clothes).


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