Twas the day before Christmas

Into the woods

I don’t like queueing in traffic. I don’t like shopping when it’s busy. In the build up to Christmas these are the modest first world problems we must face. My trip to the supermarket was played out in slow motion as the chaos unravelled all around me.

Shoppers teetered on the edges of their patience apart from a delightful calm frail old lady, wide eyed and static amidst the frothing sea of madness as if waiting for somebody to lead her across a busy road. Here’s to her! I wonder what she thought of it all…

Twas the day before Christmas
Last chance to shop
I had bought all the presents
This was no time to stop

The food now needs buying
A list had been made
Now out to the supermarket
In the rain I’m afraid

The traffic was portentous
Never such queues
I suppose it was obvious
This day all would choose

To stock up their larders
With seasonal fare
So I held my breath
And for battle prepared

The cars they went nowhere
So I parked up and walked
Past drivers tight lipped
And passengers fraught

A walk through the car park
Though huge, with no space
And into the foyer
Last basket, worried face

Such scenes I have never
Encountered before
Trolleys were bashing
Like uncut Robot Wars

Gripping my basket
I dodged down the aisle
Weaving staccato
Through chicanes with guile

Couples with trolleys
Piled to the hilt
Are they feeding an army
Or feeding their guilt

Screaming young children
I know how they feel
Dragged here unwilling
You got a raw deal

Bewildered old granny
Waiting in line
With patience unworldly
For sherry and wine

To add to the carnage
A bottle is dropped
And aisle 9 is coned off
Until it is mopped

The air hums with tension
And shoppers are stressed
Perish the thought
If it’s not Sainsburys Best

Staff work like trojans
On endless till lanes
Cliff Richard on loop
How do they stay sane

My wait for self-checkout
Is mercifully short
Unrecognised item in bagging area
That didn’t scan like I thought

I fall through the exit
And rain hits my face
I made it in one piece
Survived the rat race!

Twas the day before Christmas
A tale of our time
When we see friends and family
It’s all going to be fine

My thanks to Clement Clarke Moore whose considerably superior parable Twas the night before Christmas was a source of inspiration.

Merry Christmas!

Your fortunes for 2010 revealed…

Lets be honest, 2009 was a stinker for me and not great for many of my friends. In fact if I had kept the receipt it would have gone back. Anyway, its over now and in a long tradition that I am starting today it is time to look forward to the coming year with a few predictions. Obviously I can’t normally see into the future but something amazing and special came into my possession recently that has bestowed upon me a magical far eastern power to do precisely that…

A sacred portal into the future that no mortal was meant to see has journeyed from distant China and chosen me as it’s guardian. Unknowns there are many. How was the journey made? Why am I the chosen one? Why even share these secrets? Over the Christmas period I have wrestled with these questions and although I have no answers I know this – it is my destiny to share with the world the ancient wisdom imparted by the scriptures within the sacred object! This unworldly oracle entered into my life discretely, bundled into a small bag alongside a Hot & Sour Soup and Singapore Fried Rice courtesy of the Hong Kong Chinese takeaway. Now I share it via my blog to YOU and to ALL of the other three readers.

At first I didn’t realise what I had within my hands. It was oblong and box shaped and yet it refused to reveal its’ secrets. I was unable to breach the container – it was as if it was bound by some form of magic seal. I stumbled by chance across the magic words that broke the seal. The box fell to the floor and as I uttered “oh bugger” it landed and fell open, released from its spell. Here then is the device, in the form of a 2010 calendar with complimentary notepad…

Mysterious oracle
Mysterious oracle

Within the “calendar” are prophecies for each of us, grouped by Chinese birth sign. Each sign is a mighty animal and every one of us is aligned to just one such beast by the year of our birth. On this very page are the precisely transcribed words that will shape your year and the year of everybody on this planet. Drink deep from the cup of knowledge, but remember that such power can be used for malevolence as well as benevolence. Knowledge is nothing without wisdom…

1914, 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998


Working pressure is high. Easily get hurt by “villain” talking behind your back, the “back-stabbers”. And keep a low profile.

A sluggish situation, try not to be opportunistic. Stave off money loan or you cannot escape from the fetters.

Distracted; the development of relationship is like rowing upstream, must be cautious.

1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999


Smooth and of great momentum. It is time to strive for further development, hardworking and promising.

Being prosperous, you may pioneer your own enterprise or invest on property. Beware of avarice and arrogance of wine and sex, for it might cause you loss of money

Busy with social activities, you are gaining good impression upon others. Can easily devleop congenial sentiments towards the opposite sex.

1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000


Stay away from nosiness. Do not argue with superiors and be cautious when talking. Cultivate quietly to overcome the hardship.

Badly-off situation, keep savings and should broaden sources of income and reduce expenditure.

Filled with emptiness, difficult to develop relationship. Loaded with heavy heart but no one to talk to

1917, 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001


Able to turn disaster into luck and happiness. Do not take any chance or else you may face lawsuits.

Abide by the presence and should not make any move. Be cautious when making acquaintances. Beware of “moneyed pitfall”

It is difficult to get along with others and easily having conflicts. Take the initiative to communicate with more people.

1918, 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002


Yielding twice the result with half the effort. It is because of great support from friends of eminence. Stay away from “villain”. Do not offend the law.

A prosperous and fruitful year with big improvement in luck. Keep a low profile with the money made.

Sentiment love life is blank. Sweet and tender words will not affect much to have effect on lover. Try not to be too critical and stubborn.

1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003


With great improvement in luck, career is promising. Yet you should not make it widely known. Keep in low profile.

Luck is being unhindered, yet you should be aware of the leak in finance. Be cautious in handling money and avoid overspending

Easy to attract the opposite sex. With happiness comes with joyous occasions, you become cheerful. Still, do not get confused because of with plenty of choices.

1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004


With ups and downs, yet it is good to develop outward abroad. You may turn disaster into good fortune if you handle your problems calmly

Inadequate and unsatisfactory, it may cause heavy financial damages if you do not tap new financial resources.

Discrepancy will occur between lover. Should take it very easy and do not drive your emotion to a dead end.

1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005


Luck is smooth. It is time to show your talent. Avoid being greedy for it is the reason to cause loss.

Prosperous, it is good chance to make great fortune. Still, you must handle your money carefully and aware of the sudden “flow away” loss

Easy to gain good impression from others, coincidentally. It might bring damages to both parties if the emotion is out of control.

1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006


Luck is down on you. Development is halted because of numerous restraint.

Economy is at low ebb. Be cautious to handle the finance.

Relationship between friends is not in harmony. Easy to offense people because of your unpredictable temper and moodiness.

1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007


The luck star is ascendant and will turn the disaster into happiness. Grip the chance to strive for progress. Do mind your inappropriate words for they might bring damages. Do not show off your fortune.

Money pours in many resources with excess. Still keep close look at your finance.

Good at making acquaintances and particularly in attracting the opposite sex. Beware of the meddler who might jeopardise the good course of true love.

1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008


Too many variables lie ahead. Should try to suit the circumstances adapt in order not to be eliminated. Easy to get involved in litigation, stay away from the gossipmongers.

Luck goes in-and-out, comes and goes, unstable. It is not wise to make big investment for it might be a total loss.

Feeling lonely and solitary, it is difficult to find a soul mate. Open your mind and socialise actively.

1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009


There will be many obstacles to success. Must strengthen your ability and double your effort or else you might collapse after serious setback. Do not by any means offend your superior, for it might jeopardise your career.

Money goes and will be peculated easily. Be cautious to manage your finance.

Rich in sentiment, sweet and tenderly. Still it remains to be a lukewarm relationship. Try not to be too concerned, for it is no good to extort.

…so the secrets are out. I’m a rooster so for me it’s looking good on the job front and I may have some luck with the ladies but I have to keep a look out for the “flow away” loss this year. I hope things go well for you too – Happy New Year!

Danger – High Voltage!

We’ve suffered yet another casualty at work this week. This time it was Trevor on the receiving end of an exploding kettle in the kitchen – 3rd degree burns and some scalding – should be out of hospital and in the queue for plastic surgery in the next week or so. That’s the second time we have witnessed the horror of that particular occurrence. Last month it was Diane who fell victim to the overheated photocopier. Some idiot left it switched on over night (can you believe it!) and it went up in a puff of toner leaving Di with flash burns and breathing on a ventilator. We had hoped to have seen the last of this sort of thing after tragic events at Easter when we sadly lost Graham after he was electrocuted on the water cooler that somebody had turned off at the mains but foolishly left plugged in. Turns out the current jumped the switch, the device malfunctioned and he caught the full shock via the plastic cooler casing in cruel defiance of the laws of physics.

This seemingly endless sequence of office maimings and fatalities no longer even makes the local news but it’s a real inconvenience to the teams who regularly find their headcount down with the same workload to deal with. Thankfully we seem have put a stop to all of this now by turning off every electrical device in the evening, switching the mains sockets off and then removing the plugs. I have been the first arrival recently while early bird Jane is off (berzerk shredding machine incident) and I accept that the reconnection of every mains operated device before I start working is a small and worthwhile price to pay for the knowledge that lives are being saved. Indeed we must all make the effort to do our bit and remember that the minor risk we each take when endlessly connecting or disconnecting a multitude of high powered devices from the mains with our sweaty bare hands is making the workplace safer for everybody. Or something.

Personally I would like to see the fuses removed from all disconnected mains plugs each night by blindfolded members of staff who are standing in buckets of water. Why? Because we will all be sorry when one day a microwave that has merely been powered off, then switched off at the wall and the plug disconnected, spontaneously plugs itself back in, turns itself on at the wall and on the front panel, before setting itself to maximum power and jumping out at a passer by in the kitchen and cooking their smug little head.

That said I will never really feel 100% safe until a vague and generic dictat about what safety measures we should all take filters down from Health and Safety via an email chain in response to soaring insurance premiums. Only then will I be able to truly relax and not think for myself about the common sense things I could do to protect my wellbeing.

In fairness my current workplace isn’t the only magnet for paradoxical thinking on some health and safety issues. At my last place the cleaners used to mop the floors around the kitchen areas twice a day. Their rationale for doing this during work hours was that people sometimes left splashes of drink on the floor that could lead to a slip. Their proactive response? Mop the whole floor area regardless so it is regularly all wet rather than the odd drink splash here and there a couple of times a week. To mitigate this self created hazard they would then leave out a knee high plastic sign in the middle of the floor bearing a “warning – slippery floor” message. Ironically this was more dangerous than the coffee splashes and floor mopping combined. Firstly the signs would get left out all day long after the floors had dried so their message was rendered meaningless (a bit like those expensive overhead signs you see on major roads that always tell you there are queues on slip roads despite the fact there usually are none. Bad information is more dangerous than no information). The worst part was that people were always tripping over the signs – sometimes resulting in spillage of a hot drink – because the signs were so low and often out of the line of sight with other people milling around the area. They were also a particular menace to the blind chap who could navigate his way around the building brilliantly except for these plastic assault course escapees. I was one of a number of people to raise all of these issues with the cleaning manager but to no avail. The response I got was that Health & Safety reviews had demanded these measures and so they had to follow them.
Perhaps global warming or pandemics are less of a threat to our future survival as a species than bureaucracy and dumbing down. Once again Douglas Adams got there first, this time with his “Restaurant At The End Of The Universe” subplot involving the Golgafrincham Telephone Sanitisers
I would love to hear any stories you have about misguided safety initiatives. I’ll be sure to append any good ones to this blog entry. Just be careful not to cut yourself on your keyboard as you email me or to inadvertently attach yourself to the message and end up with a hand stuck fast in your DVD drive.

Marketing meat and the militia

On my travels to Norfolk this week a couple of wonderful signages caught my attention and demanded consideration. Firstly in a Hunstanton shop the following “toy” was pointed out to me (thanks Sarah)…

We come in peace, shoot to kill
We come in peace, shoot to kill

So what – it’s a combat soldier armed with a variety of firearms, knives, explosives and a head mask just to make sure that any mobile phone camera footage sneakily captured by a terrified member of the public as the soldier storms and ransacks their family home as they act on “military intelligence” that a fugutive was hiding inside, does not identify him on CNN replays later in the week. A wholly inappropriate icon to wrap in birthday paper and hand to a young and impressionable child then…

…but hang on – what does it say at the bottom of the packaging? It’s ever so subtle and easy to miss but there it is…

World Peacekeepers

Well that’s different! The perfect gift then for a young boy with an imaginative mind. We can all sleep safer in the knowledge that all of these baddies the government keep telling us about are being kept off our clean and democratic western streets by these heroes who are stamping the problem out at source. Three cheers for George W, Maggie, Winston Churchill but mostly for the marketing genious who came up with such a simple way of legitimising & protecting sales of an endangered genre of toy!

Picture, at the other end of the marketing spectrum a high level executive meeting at the meat marketing board. The graphs don’t lie and it’s there for all to see. Sales of pork have been losing ground to other red and white meats. Extensive surveys on the streets of Norwich by mimimum waged baseball capped students with clipboards who have collared a couple of dozen slow moving obese junk food addicts has revealed that people aren’t eating pork because they think it is bland compared to Big Macs, Turkey Twizzlers and Bernard Mathews mechanically derived meat and bone substitute offal sticks in lard, salt and E-number seasoning. The tension is palpable as the head of marketing is asked how he intends to put pig back onto the public plate. Want to know what he came up with?

Hmmm, pork...
Hmmm, pork…

Apparently there’s now a senior vacancy in the marketing section of the MMB if anybody is interested.

Heavenly Praise

This isn’t a blog as such, but a cut and paste of the lovely email I received from Wilson & Dottie today. Just had to share it with you…

Hi Tim,
Sorry this is late,but we couldn’t track down your address and this is what the church finally gave me.

Both Wilson and I really appreciated your duet with Rebecca,Your voices blended so perfectly and your words were both challenging and meaningful.Once again we applaud you for sharing your talent in an effort to make our worship experience more meaningful.(it really does)

May GOD bless you richly as you continue to honor HIM….In HIM ….Wilson & Dottie Riedy

I’m not one to blow my own trumpet but it’s great to be truly appreciated, especially by people you have never met for something you have never done. If I get any more of these charming but errant epistles I’ll be sure to “spread the good word” with you.

Anyone for tennis?

It’s that time of year again when tennis membership rockets for a couple of weeks before people realise that it is much harder than it looks on TV and that “serve and volley” is supposed to be the quick & efficient way to win a point – not represent a rally.

As you probably know this year marks the debut of the sliding roof on centre court at Wimbledon and what a success it has already been. Sure enough the rain inevitably came on Saturday and the roof was closed enabling play to continue without any impromptu singalong from Sir Cliff Richard. The nation owes the LTA a debt of gratitude for their foresight to install the roof (codenamed Project Mute) and as it turns out the roof also enables play to continue, which is a bonus. I’m still not entirely sure why they couldn’t have saved £50m and just got a restraining order on him though.


Well Jacko wanted some healthy sales to help pay off his debts and there’s no more sure fire way for a popular recording artist to cash in then by dying. Putting aside the human tragedy – he was still human despite his best efforts – I have been struck by the wall to wall media coverage, and one facet of it in particular. Have you heard this question yet from a news anchor to his hapless man in the field?

So Josh [or whoever], has there been any change in the situation?”

Whoa – hold on a second! He’s dead (Jim). Just what kind of “change” do we think might be on the cards? Unless of course the media really believe it is some kind of publicity stunt and that Jacko will re-emerge corpse-like from a cemetery wearing a red leather jacket and jerking around with a vacant look on his face.

The other footage I found interesting was that of Jo Jackson (father) appealing to the press to respect the family at this hard time, which is entirely reasonable. I do wonder however whether he is aware of the irony of this request given that he physically & emotionally abused Michael as a child (not allegedly – he admits it) – robbing MJ of a childhood and casting a shadow over his adult life. If we think Jacko was eccentric it would serve us to consider why this might be. Families eh!

Finally, thanks to that anonymous band of creative minds from all around the globe who in the face of tragedy pulled together so quickly to come up with a stream of bad taste jokes to mark the occassion with. I’m sure you have provided invaluable support to countless people in making the incessant media commentary bearable. You certainly cheered me up!