I’m going to enjoy this weekend.
For the uninformed, this Saturday is of course Valentine’s day, a day which you approach with mixed emotions depending on what is happening in your life at the particular time it rolls around. In the past I’ve done most of them:
– The desperate teenage hoping that something will arrive for you, immediately followed of course by the self loathing that comes from being completely ignored AGAIN.
– The oh-my-God-am-I-really-doing-this feeling you get when you go out on a limb and send something lavish to someone that you have feelings for but are too scared to articulate them in a, you know, conventional sense. This also is followed by either the humiliation of being discovered or the emptiness of realising you have no way of finding out how your gesture was received given that it was totally anonymous.
– The cringeworthy moments when you actually receive something from someone only by a process of elimination realise it is from the last person you want to receive this kind of thing from and then have to spent hours agonising over how to deal with it. This is often followed by the realisation that the person you were chasing in phase 2 above probably used the same logic to work out it was you in the first place.
– The bah humbug feeling when you decide you are too old and cynical to worry about it and can sit and marvel at the way everyone gets sucked up in the blatant commercialism of it all.
This year however things are different. I am attached, committed and shacked up. Best of all it is with someone who comes from a country that doesn’t have a Valentines day except as a kind of European by-product. So it means very little to her – thus is money saved by James.
On the downside for some reason I’m being bombarded with complaints from friends about how crap this time of year is, how they will hate the weekend and boo hoo why does nobody love them, complaints which of course in previous years I would have empathised with totally but which now are getting tedious. Pull yourselves together people and stop texting me suggestively hoping I will rescue you from your misery.
February 14th is important for another reason anyway, Mum’s birthday and as usual I have nothing to get her. I mean what do you buy a woman you are related to when the shops are full of fluffy teddy bears and hydrogen filled heart balloons?
Strangely enough all the work doesn’t seem so bad when you have it out of the way and can look back with satisfaction.
What helps is the odd highlight that makes it all worthwhile. Take Saturday night for instance. The presenter who I desperately had to keep in line was Mike. Not the usual host of the slot and perhaps with good cause. An opinionated and argumentative man who never quite manages to strike the balance between debate and out and out abuse.
By one stage during the evening I was starting to get quite annoyed at how bad the whole thing was. That was until one caller came on the line in response to a debate about America and whether we would be better off being a part of it.
The caller was a fan of Michael Moore and was in the process of recommending his books, entitled Bowling For Columbine and Dirty White Men. Yes, I know that is not what they are called and all of us in the studio did too, but the caller was quite convinced that was what they were. I immediately dissolved into giggles behind the glass and ran the risk of seriously rupturing something when the caller went on to talk about his latest, Hey Guy, Where’s My Country Gone?.
The rest of his points were almost certainly lost on those of us in the studio. I was unable to see with tears running down my face, Mike frantically trying not to lose it on air as well. Therefore we should apologise to the caller who was almost certainly making a very valid and very serious point. Even if his grasp on his favourite literature was somewhat limited.
I’m my own worst enemy of course, unable to say no when people wave the prospect of paid work in front of me. Without wishing to boast, this is the almost ludicrous schedule I am currently in the middle of:
Friday – work at the office 9-6. Dash home for dinner before racing out to the radio station to work from 10pm until 2am. Taxi home, fall into bed exhausted.
Saturday – rise mid-morning and try to have some semblance of a life outside work. Not for long, immediately race out to the radio station again to get paid to listen to a football match and press the odd button along the way. Have a three hour break from 5pm before going back on the air at 8pm. This shift lasts until 2am during which time I discovered that a taxi home was a non-starter and so had to trudge through the rain across Blackfriars bridge to the bus stop. Two night busses home results in a one hour journey.
Which takes me to where I am right now, bleary eyed and unfocused. Ahead of me I still have another six hour shift at the radio station before coming back home to write the Launch column before bed.
Yes, I actually said I would do this and was enthusiastic about the prospect. Some people are their own worst enemies.
Do you know what the most entertaining thing about this week is? The overwhelming shock-horror reaction to the fact that in the height of midwinter we are having a spell of extremely cold weather.
Combine that with the barely suppressed glee with which people greeted public transport grinding to a halt at the first sign of snow and you get the feeling that actually we British would feel hard done by if the usual things we complain about did not materialise.
Actually I feel hard done by as most people I’ve spoken to today are full of horror stories about their journey home and/or the disasters they had attempting to arrive at work today. My journey last night was so smooth that I caught a half-empty tube home, called Mila to discover she was still in town, travelled back to meet her and then travelled back home again. Or is that showing off?
I think I envy Mila this week, not only is she revelling in weather that is a proper home from home but she is possibly one of the few people in the country who can hear the words “Hutton Report” without grimacing.
I never had a favourite football team. I’m not sure why the whole culture of having a lifelong allegiance to a particular side passed me by. Either it was a childhood indifference to sport as a whole or a lack of any encouragement from parents who were similarly ambivalent.
This only really became an issue when I started working in sports broadcasting. Strangely enough for a non-sports fan most of my career has revolved around the production of football matches but that is at least enough to generate a spark. Hence for several years I worked for a radio station close to a team that was most definitely on the up. During my career there they rose from the second division all the way to the Premiership. I was there with heart on my sleeve they day they won a playoff at Wembley and could hardly bear to look at the match on the final day of the season when anything other than a win would deny them automatic promotion.
Sadly I don’t work there any more and the club are pretty much back where they started. Hardcore football fans will hate me for this but it means I can walk away with a clear conscience.
The whole point of this really is so I have some self-justification for occasionally betting on football matches. Tonight was a case in point. Having to spend the entire evening engineering reports on Aston Villa v Bolton for a radio station was not a prospect that filled me with utter joy. What I needed was a reason to care. One quick trip to the bookmakers website and I had my reason: £10 on Bolton to win 2-0 and a further fiver on a 0-0 draw just to hedge. I figured that there was no way Villa were going to score and that as Bolton did not need to, 0-0 was a likely chance but if Bolton did score they were unlikely to stop at one.
In case you ever try the same thing, never ever mentally start spending the winnings just before kickoff. This is almost certainly why Villa scored within ten minutes, thus wrecking both bets before we had barely begun. At the very least having to engineer a reason to care about a football match is good training for a future career as a bankrupt.
When I embarked on the bold new adventure of being responsible for hosting a foreign visitor to this country for an extended stay, I knew it would bring with it some unusual new experiences. One such experience was introduced to me today and in the great list of “things I have done in life” I can now add:
Becoming incandescent with rage at a public servant.
To explain. People from outside the EU who are staying in this country for an extended period are required to register with the police within seven days of arriving. So it was that Mila and I found ourselves at the “Overseas Visitors Records Office” in South London this morning, passport in hand and ready to be swallowed up by the system.
We queued up (along with a rather startlingly large number of other young men accompanying foreign wives and girlfriends), were allocated a ticket number and given the form to fill out. On this form were the details of the registration fee payable – £34.
Yes, £34. Almost half as much again as the cost of the visa that allowed Mila into the country in the first place. The hard-faced agent, sorry cashier who processed the form seemed unimpressed with my protestations, explaining blandly that the Home Office imposed the fee, yes it was compulsory and could I please keep my voice down and stop using expressions such as “legalised extortion” and “daylight robbery” or they would have to call security.
Now a small fee for the processing of the paperwork I could understand. £5 or maybe £10 would be a reasonable, nominal sum, especially as in return you get a professional document complete with your photograph that is effectively your ID as a legal alien in this country. £34 however is nothing short of extortionate, particularly when you consider that you have to pay it. This isn’t like paying the fee for a passport or a driving licence whereby to a certain extent market forces operate – if you disagree with the cost you simply don’t buy one. In this case you don’t pay the fee, you fail to fulfil your legal obligations to register and risk deportation.
So I’m not going to let my objections rest with shouting at the lady behind the screen. Having paid a large amount of money for a visa, you certainly should not have to pay a similar amount for the right to use the thing once you have arrived. Imagine paying for a flight only to be told upon landing that there is a compulsory tax for use of the steps down to the tarmac. Nobody would stand for it.
I guess I need to be content that Mila only wants to love me, rather than love the systems and bureaucracy of my country. Right now I’m having a hard enough job of that as it is.
My video died this weekend. I’m not talking broken down, jamming tapes or generally being dodgy. This is hardware death, where even plugging it in causes precisely bugger all to happen.
The only problem was that it had died with a particularly crucial tape inside and my only way of recovering it was to take the lid off and then set about the innards with every tool at my disposal. Chances of it ever working again after this process: nil.
So I went to buy a new one with half an eye on the clock owing to the fact that I had to be at the radio station later in the afternoon. In doing so, the universal law of the electrical shop kicked in with full force.
Most people will know the one I mean. This is the law that dictates that if you have gone into with the express aim of spending money there and then on a particular product of your choice, the shopfloor will instantly become devoid of sales assistants. The few hardy souls that remain will be occupied for at least the next hour attempting to explain the benefits of widescreen televisions to an old lady. People who want to spend money in these places must give off some kind of repellant hormone – similar to the one I used on girls at the age of 14.
Bizarrely if you ever go into these places just for a nose around, to have a dream or to simply find somewhere warm to get out of the rain then you are instantly set upon by every nylon shirt in the place. “Can I help you sir?”. “Er, no I’m er, just browsing.”
Well here it is then.
You know I always swore I would never do one of these. I think this attitude was formed thanks to certain online friends who when asked “so how are you?” would reply: “Just read my blog, it will tell you everything.” Well actually no I don’t want to sit and read your website just to find out things that you can tell me face to face. Come back into the real world, the water’s lovely.
Having said that when you have a website of your own that is all but dead and with no time to maintain it properly then this is a nice lazy way of doing things. So colour me lazy, here is James Masterton for all the world to see.
I’ll still talk to friends though.