Archive for the ‘A Passing Sense of Culpability’ Category

It’s not often that I look at a tulip and think, ‘I know exactly how you feel’, but that’s what happened this morning.

I woke up, wandered down our dingy hallway, through the study where I’m writing this, and into the kitchen to make a cup of tea and a bit of my patented All-bran/Alpen mix for brekkie. I confess to a certain early morning muddled feeling, which was mostly a result of getting back late last night from Walthamstow Dog-track.

I’d blown my cash gambling*. That and the contents of the hot-dog I had consumed while I was there (no…surely not) were double-teaming my mind and stomach. However, I was instantly lifted from my reverie by the fact that my garden had turned white during the night.

*not an experience I’ve had before, but oddly one which I very much enjoyed.

Snow in April?! And this wasn’t just snow. This was an unabashed, uninhibited eye-full of some of the best snow eye-candy I’d ever seen. This was global-warming weird-weather porn.

And it isn’t right, somehow, this sort of thing. It’s disconcerting. How do I feel about it? There were kids having a great time playing in next door’s garden. They felt great about it. But…I didn’t like it. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, until I saw this…

And I thought ‘That tulip with an inch of snow on his head – he knows this is wrong.’ And as our eyes locked, there was a silent understanding between that tulip and I.

‘Sorry, but WTF is this white stuff doing here?’ we asked ourselves…

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I don’t mean to imply that social networking is bad, because that kind of opinion is clearly for idiots. And I know that everyone has a Facebook story and people tell them just to pretend like they aren’t baffled by new media stuff, but really that’s not what this is about. I am baffled by new media stuff, and have only ever met one person who wasn’t and he was a total ass. So really, this is a just a little anecdote about something in my past coming back to haunt me, and yes I should have called it that, and not referenced social networking just to try and make it sound more significant than it is, but…sorry, ok? At least it is a true story, and you’ve read this far, so perhaps if you could just bear with me?


So I logged in to Facebook the other day, and someone had sent me a private message. The message only contained a subject line:

Originally from Northern Ireland?

This being facebook, I could see the name of the person who sent the message, and their picture. But in her mugshot she was wrapped up in a red scarf with her hood up, so I couldn’t see her face.

Intriguing, huh?

My memory for names is appalling, but I dredged it anyway. I thought she might have been a class mate from my first primary school when I was really young. I certainly lived in Northern Ireland back then. So I replied, asking if she had attended that school. I was hoping for a yes, and maybe a ‘hey it’s so weird/cool being in touch again, what happened to you? I’m an accountant.’ Y’know, the usual stuff of renewing connections that social networking has been about since Friends Re-united appeared 8 years ago.

[Aside – Friends Reunited is still going incidentally. Who knew?! Even better, it still has that awful logo with the old people wearing sun glasses. (It’s like, lots of our users are old, but they’re on the internet. That’s so craaaazy!!! We can represent that juxtaposition visually with a granny in aviators! It’ll be awesome! YEAH!)]

But I didn’t get that from my mystery mailer. Not even close. I got this:

Yes i did. My lasting memory of you is of you throwing my trainers in the river.

The Apologetic Blogger has a lot to be sorry for.

– The Apologist

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So, I pulled myself on the train on Friday morning, shoulders slumped, the anxiety of the things I had screwed up yesterday weighing heavily as usual. Little did I know, that my greatest screw up was yet to reveal itself to me.I got to the barriers at Blackfriars station, and beeped my way through. Except there was no through this time. Instead, there was just some embarassed shuffling out of one London’s longest and most ill-tempered commuter queues, and off to the side to report myself to the guard. They tried the card, and got the same result. Normally, in the event of a ticket malfunction, you then get a quick flick of the wrist, the barriers swing wide and it’s on to the next stage of human degradation. Or the tube as it’s also sometimes known…

…but not today. Today I got sized up. There was a distinct moment of looking me up and down. Eyes crinkled at the edges with the merest of squints. The lips curled slightly. The hands moved to the belt where the radio was in case help needed to be summoned. My amiable, if slightly care-worn, face fell. What had I done now?

Or rather what had I not done? My Oyster card had expired at the stroke of midnight between Thursday and Friday, unbeknownst to me. I hadn’t fed the bureaucratic beast my credit card in time. Never mind, I ventured. There’s a machine just over there, on the other side of the barrier. I have a season ticket, so if you just let me through, I can renew it now. Then we can just put this behind us and get on with our lives. You’ll have the huge amount money I give you for treating me like a battery hen every day (only without the free food and antibiotics) and I’ll continue to lose touch with my emotions as the only way to control the panic induced at being crushed by strangers in a metal cylinder on wheels.

But the beast is getting cranky these days.

‘Do you know just how many young men with difficult family lives and poor housing conditions had dodged their fare recently?’, it asked.

‘Several?’, I ventured.



‘And what’s more, they’re cheeky, and horrible to the staff, and rude to their fellow passengers.’

‘I know,’ I sympathised, ‘Quite often I feel threatened by them on your trains and buses, and they play horrendous music about killing authority figures and degrading women. It’s not on really.’

‘They? What’s this: ‘they?’ business.’

‘Huh?’, I asked.

‘Don’t you mean, I?’


‘Yep. You’re a fare dodger, ergo a reprobate who intended to deprive me of cash and who will now be disproportionately punished.’

‘But you can see me. I’m hitting 30, and I’ve got a job. Look, I’ve got job clothes on. I’m carrying a job bag. I’ve travelled to and from my job on this train for about 7 years on this very trainline, and this is the first time I’ve ever let my ticket expire, and anyway I didn’t get any of those ‘Near Expiry’ messages that normally pop up and…’

‘SILENCE. And while you’re shutting up, give me £20.’

‘£20 pounds. That’s rather a lot, isn’t it? It sounds like a completely arbitrary figure, not mention unjust given that I’m just about to renew my season ticket at that machine just across the barrier. That means you will lose exactly zero money, because I am not trying to scam you like a small number of other people might be. It may also be worth taking into account my seven year record as your customer, during which I have paid roughly £8400 to you in regular installments, and not a single one has been late up to this point. This is despite the fact that my experience using your service was less like public transport, and more like the CIA’s new alternative to water boarding…’

‘Give me £20 pounds, otherwise we will take you to court. Oh, and we’re keeping your details. If this happens two more times throughout your entire life, we will criminalise you.’

‘Oh…well…here you go’, I said. ‘Sorry…’

And, of course, I meant it.

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I left my playstation2 on standby overnight last night.

Sorry to anyone who was depending on planet Earth for survival…

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London bus drivers must have unhappy lives, I think.

As well as the stress of lugging a peculiarly unwieldy vehicle around the streets of London, they get people like me grumping at them. Just because (deep breath…) they inexplicably kick everyone off the bus a couple of miles short of their advertised destination at a ‘temporary’ bus stop that was so ‘temporary’ it didn’t exist they get tutted and glared at. They then have to deliver the news that no No. 68 buses would be going any further that night, that they had no information about alternative routes or indeed any idea how I might get home, and no transferable ticket because he couldn’t work the machine so if I did manage to get another bus it would double the cost of my journey.

The thing is, I actually do feel bad. It wasn’t the driver’s choice to leave us stranded in South London to walk home on our own in the dark, but he gets the nasty looks and the drunken disapproving ranting.

Modern life sets us against each other. In another time, we might have been friends.


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but the thing is, I get things wrong all the time. And I feel bad about it.

They aren’t big things. Not often at least. Usually they’re little things. I snapped at the wife a couple of days ago. This morning, I didn’t put enough milk in my sister’s tea. She didn’t complain. But she didn’t drink much of it either.

I feel guilty, and it’s only right that I do. But in the 1990’s, we decided that objectivity was probably not a real thing, and that actually all we had were our own perspectives. That meant all we could do with our thoughts, emotions and our lives in general is run around telling other people about them. They have no objective validity after all. Then blogging came along. If I was American I would call it a perfect storm. As I’m not, I’ll settle for ‘handy’.

So, the thing is, I feel guilty, but that only means anything unless I’m telling other people. It’s only valuable if others know about it. But I shouldn’t be bothering people with this kind of pointless trivia. It’s not worth your time, you know.

Really. It’s not.

It’s a bit catch 22. I feel bad if you read this, as it is clearly a waste of your time. On the other hand, since the 1990’s the guilt I feel for the things I do wrong is only real if I tell you about it, and only worth anything if you bother to read about it. So if I didn’t write this, that means I wouldn’t actually feel guilty for the things I had done wrong. That would make me a really horrible person, and I would feel really terrible about that.

So yeah, that’s for why the blog. I’ll be saying sorry for, y’know, being around, but also helping others out by apologising for them. Y’know, like this guy.

There might even be regular features. But then, there might not.


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