A Busy Day In Beetley

I am not used to being busy. My life is usually unhurried, with a certain familiar routine that comforts me in my retirement. But when a holiday is on the horizon, there are things that need to be done.

So there was much activity chez beetleypete this morning, including a rare trip into the heart of Dereham. (Sounds impressive, but it’s a very small town)

Up early, in the bath, dressed and ready by the time I am usually contemplating my second cup of coffee. I left a glum-looking Ollie wondering why I was going out without him, and drove through the gloom and light drizzle. In town, I was very lucky to find a nice big free parking spot right opposite the bank, my first destination.

As I do not yet cooperate with ‘Internet Banking’, occasional trips into the branch are necessary. This time I had to transfer funds from a savings account into a current account to ensure there was enough to pay the bill on Saturday week. Then there was a standing order to increase, and a transfer payment into our joint account. Second stop was across the road, to ‘Abigail’s’. This is a privately-owned gift shop that also sells a range of greetings cards.

When we are on holiday, it is our wedding anniversary on the Friday, so I had to make sure I had a card to take.

Back in the car, and less than a mile to the nearest supermarket. It has a petrol station attached, and I wanted to fill my car to the brim with diesel, ready for the longer than usual drive coming up. After waiting behind two cars, I was frustrated to discover that the diesel pump in that lane was ‘Out of Service’. Not wanting to drive around again to a different lane of pumps, I drove just over a mile to a much bigger supermarket where I was able to fill up immediately with no issues.

(*Worth noting here that the fuel prices have increased dramatically. The cost to fill my car has gone up from £55 to £63 today, in a matter of weeks)

Time to go back home. A very early lunch, followed by Ollie’s dog walk. (In light drizzly rain of course) After that, I had to fill the garden waste bin with hedge cuttings, so it can be left out for collection while we are away. I also sorted the regular waste bins while I was at it.

The time was now fast-approaching 4pm, and my next task was to iron the clothes I am taking on holiday. With chilly weather and occasional showers forecast for next week, it was an easy decision to take thicker shirts, and warm tops. I also washed a warm coat and thick fleecy cardigan, as I presume both will be needed.

It is now 5:15pm, and I am getting hungry. I think that is partly because of the early start, but also because it is decidedly cold for August, at barely 15C. Too early for starting dinner just yet, so I came in here to check blog posts and emails. (I also had been doing that between jobs, and when the iron was heating up)

For those of you with genuinely busy lives, my day might well seem like a holiday, I get that.

But I predict an early night for me!

“Dry In The South Today And All Weekend But Rain On Monday”

Yes, that’s what the weather lady said, as she stood in front of a map of Britain with everything south of Scotland showing a cloud-free sky.

Monday is a public holiday in England, so a forecast of heavy rain all day on a holiday is no surpise to anyone English. Still, I should have known better than to stupidly accept her optimistic forecast for south-east England at 1pm today.

Ready to walk Ollie, I wore shorts, a light fleece jacket, and took my dog-walking stick in preference to an umbrella. Leaving the house in reasonably bright sunshine, I could feel the nip of the east wind on my face.

Walking quickly soon made me forget that cold wind, and I covered the area of Beetley Meadows in good time. Once Ollie had marked almost every twig and shrub, I headed across to Hoe Rough, to make a longer walk of it. At the far end of the nature reserve, well past the point of no return, that moment when it takes longer to get home than I had already travelled, there were a few raindrops dropping onto my coat.

The skies darkened, as if someone had switched out the lights, and the chilly wind doubled in intensity. Then the heavens opened, soaking me and Ollie in minutes. My coat collar was damp and uncomfortable on my neck, and my unsuitable casual shoes were soon allowing my bare feet inside to get wet. What sparse hair I have left was slicked down onto my head, and the rain was running down into my eyes.

I headed for home, cursing the smug weather lady who must not have a single clue how to do her job.

Walking back in the continuing rain, I thought -not for the first time- what life would be like if everyone was as bad at their jobs as weather forecasters. Imagine a teacher who couldn’t read, or a policeman too scared to arrest a criminal. A chef with no sense of taste, or a fireman who is afraid of flames.

I could go on with a very long list, including things like a tone-deaf orchestra conductor. But you get the idea.

Weather forcasters are fakes. The snake-oil salesmen of the television age. High time they were all sacked.

Nothing Getting Done

Do you ever have those times when nothing seems to get done? I do, and this is one of them

Day 17 of rain means nothing has been done outside for almost three weeks, unless you count creating a blanket dam to stop the shed flooding completely. I would like to have cleared the gutters, so that they managed the downpours better. But that’s not a very attractive prospect, when you are on the tail end of a bout of Flu, and feel as weak as a kitten.

Even things that can be done inside are not getting done. Remember the expensive camera I got got for nothing from Amazon? Well other than a quick play with it to justify my review, I still have not set it up as I would like. What’s the point? I have no intention of taking it out to photograph rain.

And as some things get fixed, others keep breaking. The printer can wait, as I cannot muster the will to try to fix it. Then Julie took my car out today, and got a slow puncture. I do less than 4,000 miles a year, but the local neglected roads chew through at least two tyres a year on average. Something else to deal with, come Monday.

I could sit and type a list of all the things that need doing; from the simple mopping of the kitchen floor because of trodden in dirt and leaves, to routine paperwork that needs to be sorted out by the end of the month.

But truth be told, nothing’s getting done.

Thinking Aloud On a Saturday

Getting a man in.

This occasional Sunday post is a day early this week, because I woke up thinking about that phrase this morning. I remember in my youth when a widow or elderly man would say “I will have to get a man in”. That referred to having to get a job done, or something fixed. Generally, it was because the elderly person could no longer do it, had no idea how to do it in the first place, or didn’t have a relative nearby who could help.

My Dad took pride in never getting a man in to do anything. If he couldn’t do something himself, it wasn’t done. But a change in his job meant that he wasn’t always around, so when we needed new wallpaper in the house, he got a man in. This was done with a sense of achievement, not regret. He now had the income to pay someone to do jobs that he was capable of doing, but didn’t have the time to do them. He could even be boastful about getting a man in, as it meant he no longer had to do repetitive or manual tasks.

When I was old enough to own my own home, I also had a good income. I got a man in to do things I was capable of doing, but didn’t want to have to do after a hard week at work. I got a man in to paint the outside of the house, and someone else to do electrical wiring. When some fencing fell down, I got a man in to fix that too.

Some time later, living alone, I no longer had the luxury of spare cash to pay people. I did my own painting, and turned to friends to help with two-man jobs. The only thing I didn’t attempt was anything to do with electrics, but if a friend couldn’t help, I had an uncle who was an electrician. When he got older and moved away, I finally had to get a man in to sort out electrics.

Then I retired in 2012, and had more time on my hands, though only one third of my previous income. I tackled most things on my own. I painted rooms, cleared gutters, maintained the garden, and cut all the hedges. Very soon, I started to realise that this hard work was getting beyond me, and if it was going to get done, I was going to have to get a man in to do it. It was no longer something to be proud of, and I certainly didn’t have the funds to pay for everything at once.

But I got someone in to do the painting. Then I got someone in to do the electrics, and someone else to fit new carpet. As I wandered around the house watching them work, I had to face the fact that I had arrived at that time in my life where getting a man in was going to be the first option, not the last resort.

Last Friday, I got a man in to give me a quote to cut all the hedges and shrubs. That used to take me close to sixteen hours, over the whole weekend. Then I had to remove all the cuttings, and take them to the recycling centre in two or three trips. The genial garden man looked at the job, and announced it would take him around four hours. He would dispose of the cuttings and branches, taking them away in his pick-up. We agreed on his very fair price, and he will do the job in January.

I am now sitting here wondering what else I might have to get a man in for.
If it comes down to employing someone to type up my blog posts, then I will know it is close to the end.

Writers Wanted!

Daniel of Longshot Press and Thinkerbeat has contacted me. He is looking for writers from the UK and Canada to work on projects.

Here is what he sent me.
As you maybe know, I have lived in Taiwan for a long time. Almost 15 years. Recently the Chinese government put a ban on Hollywood movies, due to the trade war. They also issued a new fund to build the sci-fi market. I’ve got connections (friends) in both Taiwan and China who are applying for the money. We’re also working with the copyright office to protect the stories, because the money is big enough that people will take your content, given the chance.

So here is a genuine chance to work with him on projects for the movie market in the Chinese-speaking world.

He is looking for writers with some interest in the following genres.

Artificial Intelligence.
Robots and Romance

If you think you fit the bill, please contact Daniel Scott White at this email address.
contact@unfitmag.com

Home Improvements

I am reblogging one of my earliest ever blog posts here. It has hardly been seen by anyone, since 2012. It made me smile, as the jobs mentioned are either still waiting to be done, or have been done by someone else! 🙂

beetleypete

In the U.K., we know this as DIY (Do-it-yourself). I am not a person who has ever naturally taken to this concept. I did my job, and if I needed a plumber, I called someone who had chosen that job as their career. To go to work all day, get home late, and have two precious days off, only to spend all that free time working on my house, did just not compute in my brain. Besides, I had never learned those skills, I had been too busy pursuing my own chosen career.
My Dad had tried to teach me. When I was about 12 years old, he would have me holding car tools; strange spanners, grease guns, and other oily, hard objects. I had to pass him brushes as he hung wallpaper, stir paint, standby with the correct size screw, or hold a torch steady, whilst he was upside-down…

View original post 1,384 more words

‘Stuff to do’

Is your life full of ‘stuff to do’? Mine is.

I have so many jobs waiting to get done, I have given up on even proritising them. Let’s face it, they are known as ‘chores’ for good reason.

CHORE
noun
a routine task, especially a household one.
“the early risers were up and about, doing their chores”
synonyms: task, job, duty, errand, thing to be done, burden; More
a tedious but necessary task.

Note the two important words in the above definition. ‘Tedious’, and ‘Burden’.

I also decided to read a lot this year, and downloaded a lot of books to my Kindle Fire. As I was in the mood, I bought some used paperbacks and hardbacks too. Since January, I have managed to read sixteen books. But now the others are crying out to me. “Read me!” “Read me next!”

I charged up the batteries for the cordlesss hedge-trimmers last night. The front hedges are beckoning. I can hear them calling through the open window. “Trim us, trim us”. Don’t even get me started on the back hedges. They will have to be satisfied with admiring the job I do with the front ones. Presuming they get done, of course.
Then after wearing myself out weeding a few patio slabs recently, the rest of the slabs are whining. “Weed us, weed us”.
I might have to mow the lawn though, as that is pretty ‘visible’, and best not left to its own devices.

Did I mention all the wood staining? Probably not, as I am trying to forget that. Panels of fences, bars of gates, and the sides of a huge shed. Oh, and the bits around the garage door.
Did someone say “side gate”, or “bin storage fence”? I hope not, as they have zero chance of being done.

Cleaning windows? Where they are concerned, I am actually hoping it rains again. Who cleans windows when it might rain? Not me, I can promise you.

Washing cars? I haven’t washed a car in ten years. The rain does that too. Doesn’t it?

I can tell you, ‘stuff’ mounts up. There is never less ‘stuff’ to do, only ever more.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Tuesday.

I could hardly avoid thinking about Christmas today. There is a big decorated tree in the corner of the living room, surrounded by a huge pile of wrapped presents. Cards received adorn the doors, and we have one of those ‘candle bridges’ (electric) on the window ledge too. The main door onto the street has a wreath hanging on the outside of it which may be very wet now, but survived the storm-force winds.

Nine days to go, until what I like to call, ‘Tuesday’.

OK, so I am not a big Christmas person. I was at one time, until I woke up one night and spied my Dad stacking presents at the end of my bed. That clinched it, Santa didn’t exist after all. That didn’t worry me unduly, as I realised that I could now hint directly to my parents, instead of worrying that Santa might not have had time to read my note.

There were fond memories to follow. Parties at my Nan’s house, dressed in my best new clothes. Extra gifts from men I called ‘Uncle’, or ladies I called ‘Auntie’, usually some well-received money. Lots to eat, staying up later than ever, and sweets, lots of sweets. Long before I had got around to getting married, the age-old argument began. I had to be at my parents’ place, or my grandmother’s, if they were going there. But my girlfriend had to do the same with her family, so we could never actually see each other on the day in question. When you are married, that debate starts early in the year, usually just after the Christmas you have just argued about. Do you split the day? Morning at one, evening at the other? Perhaps have two Christmas Dinners, one at lunchtime, another in the evening? (Yes, I have done that)

Then there were the presents. In the absence of any list, most of the stuff given to us was either unwanted, or downright awful. If people stuck with reliable standbys like cartons of cigarettes, or vouchers, it was a relief. Buy jewellery for my wife, and I could guarantee that the chain wouldn’t be long enough, the stone the ‘wrong’ colour, or it was just something that she would never wear. Such gifts ended their days still in their boxes, at the back of a drawer. Dare to buy something useful back then, like kitchen utensils, and be left open to accusations of male chauvinism. And supposedly ‘sexy’ underwear? Never go there. Ever.

In 1980, I had to work on Christmas Day, for the first time ever. I was 28 years old, and felt liberated by having a genuine reason not to have to eat a dinner cooked to extinction by my Mum, whilst pretending I was alright with having a paper hat on my head. Ambulances must be available every day of the year, and it was my turn, I told them. For the first time I could remember, my Mum left her house on the morning of the 25th. She went to eat dinner with my wife and her family, twelve miles across London. She was collected, made welcome, and taken home after. But for her, it was unacceptable, and was certainly never going to happen again.

That left me in a dilemma. My Dad had left home when I was twenty-four. So Mum was on her own, and I had no brothers or sisters to spend Christmas Day with her. She made me promise to try to never work on Christmas Day again, so she didn’t have to leave her house for any reason. That started thirty-two years of always trying to get the day off, if I was scheduled for a shift on the 25th. A lot of the time I was lucky, if I applied to be off by January 1st, at the latest. Sometimes, I would be on night duty, so spend the day half-asleep, before having to go back into work exhausted, after shovelling down the meal Mum prepared for me. On a few occasions, she was in hospital on Christmas Day, rushed in by ambulance. So we spent our seasonal celebration in the relatives’ room, waiting to hear if she would pull through.

By the time I arrived in Norfolk, in 2012, I had well and truly had enough of the Christmas merry-go-round to last me a lifetime.

In fact, it has almost been my lifetime.

A Birthday week

It was my habit, a few years back, to have a ‘birthday week’. This generally started on the night before my birthday, and continued for six days after the event. During this special time, I would do no housework, and complete no chores, of any kind. I revelled in the absence of responsibility, claiming that anything unacceptable was due to it being ‘birthday week’. I made arrangements to see friends, ate out a lot, and generally did whatever I wanted to.

I refused to cook or wash up, and any behaviour or silliness on my part was deemed to be acceptable. This once a year festival of my birth was taken extremely seriously, and no exceptions were considered to be allowable. They were good times indeed, and immensely enjoyed by me, if nobody else.

Unfortunately, age and responsibility have a way of creeping up on you, so my birthday week in 2015 just didn’t happen. Problems with the heating seem to have overtaken my justifiable celebrations. It is now working, but there is no hot water. So yet again, tomorrow I have to wait in for the engineer. I still have my normal dog-walking duties too. I cannot get out of those, or Ollie will suffer. Other things must be done of course, as Julie is at work all day. So, easy cooking has been the order, just stuff thrown into the oven. I have washed up too, and put out the bins, and most other things required of normal life.

The next few days do not have openings for further celebrations. The weather forecast is dire, for one thing, and I have no plans in place anyway. I am beginning to think that this ‘birthday week’ thing has had its day, and run its course. I’m going back to one day next year. It’s a lot easier to manage.

A tribute to tradesmen

And I should add, tradeswomen too.

I have been decorating a small room in our house. It was a relatively easy project, as I did not have to paint the windows, or gloss the door and surrounding wood. Clear the room, fill the cracks and screw-holes, sand down and wash the walls. This was followed by two coats of paint on the ceiling, then two coats of a different colour, on the walls. Some fiddly finishing touches followed. Making good the straight lines, going over tiny bits that were missed, and clearing the dust and spills from the carpet. This was not a mammoth task, and many readers could have probably completed this in a weekend, without giving it a second thought. However, I was hampered by a serious decorating liability.

I am just no good at it. Adding to that, I hate doing it, and can get absolutely no enjoyment from it. I have no genetic code for DIY. I am one of those people that will pay someone else to do it, or put it off until the last possible moment, or until other factors make it absolutely necessary to undertake this odious task. That sense of achievement that inspires others to get on with things like this just does not enter into my thoughts. I chose other paths in life, and put aside decorating in the same way that others decline to write, read, or watch films. Working in this room for a few hours each day, I have only spent around twenty-four hours on this job. To me, it seemed like an eternity. As I was finishing the last of the painting on Tuesday, I suddenly thought about the people who do this for a living. This is my blogging tribute to them.

I have never held with snobbery about jobs and careers. I believe that someone who empties my dustbin is as valuable to society as a surgeon who operates on me. There is far too much made of the social standing of different jobs. This not only applies in this country, but is the same all over the world. Tradesmen make the decision, usually at a very young age, to learn their craft. And in so doing, set out their life ahead. They work an apprenticeship, low paid for some years, and either continue with examinations, or learn on the job as they grow. They become accomplished in their chosen field, and can then offer their services to anyone with the means to pay them a fair rate for the job. There may be the odd exception, but they generally take a pride in their work, and want their customer to be satisfied, and to recommend them to others. We have all had occasion to use tradesmen, or to benefit from their services at some time. But unless we are related to one, or have a close friend  who is one, we know little about them.

This got me thinking, and for obvious reasons, about painters and decorators. How does anyone actually get the enthusiasm to do this for a living? A life spent with brushes, rollers, dustsheets and ladders; Gloss paint, Matt paint, eggshell, filler, and sandpaper. Wallpaper and paste, masking tape, white spirit, spreading knives, tins, trays, and pots. The paraphernalia of a chosen trade and career, carted around daily, loaded and unloaded into vans. Overalls and hands covered in paint. Waking up to the smell of paint, and going to bed at night, knowing that the same thing awaits you tomorrow. Rolling, brushing, stirring, sploshing, cutting in, and clearing up again. This is dedication indeed, and something unknown to me.

So I can only praise you. Whether decorator, carpenter, plumber, electrician, or gardener. You do things that I could never do. You do them well, with skill and commitment; and you carry on doing them, day in, day out. This is my salute to you all.