It’s Hot Down Here

It’s time for this blog to back to it’s roots…commuting.

We all pray for sunshine – we are almost into June, but this year’s winter has lingered on. The warm sunny month of May hasn’t materialised – instead it has been replaced this year with a freezing, torrential winter extension….

…until today.

Finally the sun is up, the coats are off, and Londoners have pranced around all day, delighting in the start of summer. I’ve loved it, the sun has a unique ability to cheer even the toughest days.

But now I have been hit with the commute home and already I miss the wind, rain and cold.

In the 19th century The London Underground was a unique feat of engineering – groundbreaking – and testament to this country’s engineering brilliance. Victorian Britain was World beating – and leading the way and proving our greatness was London’s network of tunnels and trains, setting out the blueprint for an underground metro system that inspired and influenced similar projects across the globe.

But are we now victims of our ancestors success?

In 2012 the tube is awful. So far this evening I have stood for 15minutes waiting for a the straining District Line to catch up with the mass of bodies desperately trying to flee the city centre. When the train finally arrived it was heaving.

I forced my way on, but now I am faced with the harsh reality of the tube in Summer! It’s horrible down here. Unbearably hot – and the smell has already started to fester. Too many sweaty, suited men in one place dictates the ‘sweet smell’ of summer on the World famous London Underground. So now all those commuting Londoners, so happy to see the sun at Midday, are currently extremely hot, very angry and we all stink.

And there’s nothing we can do about it. Our antiquated tube system can never be replaced – it can only ever be slowly upgraded (much to the delay and annoyance of us long suffering 21st century Londoners). While cities like Singapore have new, high-tec, modern, air-conditioned, thoroughly pleasant metros – we are stuck with the pit that swelters beneath London’s dark Victorian streets!

No, don’t be fooled Londoners – we were too premature to celebrate the arrival of our English summer today. The London heat’s harsh reality has us all begging for winter to return again before the day’s end.

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Not Enough Snow

This morning there is the wrong amount of snow…

There is enough to make my morning commute long, slow, frustrating and treacherous – but there is not enough to justify that always anticipated and wildly celebrated “snow day”.

Let’s be honest, however old we are, our inner schoolboy always desperately hopes for mountains of the white stuff. Every worker, from the shop floor operative to the CEO secretly dreams of being wedged in, unable to make that long commute, so instead being forced to hold an impromptu day of festivities in a winter wonderland.

I remember those heady days, quietly listening to Radio Leicester, waiting patiently for that brilliant announcement that my school just couldn’t open. But not today kids, the dusting we got last night promised much at about 10pm…but it hasn’t delivered. Now any snowmen will be malnourished weak attempts and snowball fights will be more of a slight scuffle than an all out war.

Although a ‘snow day’ today would probably have been a disappointment. As my little boy is ill with a nasty cold and fever – he would have been confined indoors; and the days of long warm mornings under the duvet are far behind me. I would have been up and active at 6.30am regardless of what weather awaited in the outside world… but I suppose a day full of Cbeebies and hot chocolate would still have been a fun novel event in my working week.

But it wasn’t to be – I am faced instead with a slippery skate to the station, a slow, plodding commute and a miserable sniffly office.

Although I guarantee a handful of young singletons in my office will still find it ‘completely impossible’ to get in, despite living far closer to Central London than us dull, middle-aged parents! Lucky gits – maybe next week we will get a proper dumping *fingers crossed*.

Chavs vs. Toffs

This afternoon a shocking viral email hit my inbox – outlining the code of conduct for the G4…

For those of you who are still unaware of this exclusive group, and their “gunning” behaviour, I’ll give you a brief summary. The email outlined the ‘tour rules’ as laid out by four City twenty-somethings for their upcoming rugby sevens trip to Dubai. A quick google search will give you the complete breakdown – but their code revolves around bragging about daddy’s money, cheating on their wives and generally maintaining their wild, rich lad lifestyle when away. It concluded with a short biography of each member, stating their current insurance-broker employment, red brick university degree and public school credentials.

G4 is a brotherhood of privileged, well educated, rich-boys whose very existence is a stain on British culture.

But the email got me thinking – who would I rather be stuck in a hotel with – a disgusting group of stuck-up toffs or a nasty hoard of lager swilling chavs?

Quite a dilemma. The blight of chav culture is well documented – there are countless TV documentaries outlining the antics of Wild Brits Abroad. All seem to focus on Burberry clad youths taking over Magaluf and Benidorm – downing bacardi breezers, destroying town centres, and eventually rushing to a Spanish hospital for a quick stomach pump. The images of girls in stilettos and boob-tubes, passing out in their own vomit, shock and disgust the middle classes and most Brits do their best to disown this TOWIE generation.

But are they any worse than the G4? Not in my opinion. The privileged rich boy, spending a small portion of the inheritance on a hedonistic shameless tour is a much more vile image in my eyes. Maybe it’s because I feel closer to them; on the chav-toff spectrum I am probably closer to the posh-boy end, and many are only just outside my social circles. In fact I see some of them on a daily basis – they all live in Fulham or Kensington, wear clothes that display their public school heritage, take at least one annual ski trip to Verbier and loosely flaunt their daddy’s wealth with complete disregard for the wider society. At least the chavs work hard and save all year in order to booze it all away on their annual destructive vacation.

No, give me ‘Geordie Shore’ over ‘Made in Chelsea’ every time. For me the chavs have better values, better ethics and more fun. In fact I think I’d quite enjoy a chav holiday – although I’d probably be in bed by midnight, I’m just too old now for all that nonsense…

The Parent Relay

A Lament for The Loss of Freedom:

When you’re expecting everyone is quick to warn you about the horrors that await when the baby is born. Mostly these concentrate on the lack of sleep, extreme fatigue, escalted stress and financial burden.

Don’t get me wrong it is tough, but most of these exhausting obstacles are overcome in a few hard and fast months. In the short-term all new parents suffer as they struggle through the new born trepedations.

But it all gets easier. I emerged from my fuzz at about 5 months and since then it has been a steady slope of slow mental improvement. You start to get you life back…almost.

It’s Friday night – I have had a long, tough, stressful work week, but instead of heading out to blow off some steam I am trekking home to relieve my still shattered wife. It’s her turn – she is heading out into London tonight to grab a ‘few’ glasses of wine and glance into her former life – when I arrive back the torch (monitor) will be passed. And I certainly don’t deny her this rare opportunity. I at least have some sense of normality, I go to work, interact with ‘grown-ups’ on a daily basis and ocassionally get the opportunity myself to nip out for a few beers after work. Her only source of interaction is a largey incoherent, messy, demanding 14month old.

But I’m still jealous, not necessarily of her, but of my happy group of colleagues, intent of celebrating the weekend for a few hours down the local. No doubt on Monday morning stories will be regailed of another epic night of fun-filled, alcohol-fuelled excitement.

When you are free to be spontaneous you don’t appreciate what you have. A quick drink after work, or a long dark heavy Friday night, is a privilege that can quickly be taken away.

I love my little boy, I love spending time with him, and his perfect smile is so much more rewarding than the wash at the bottom of a pint glass. But I still fancy a ‘few’ beers after work at the end of the week…

And we can never go out together. Not only do did I enjoy the group sessions I also love to spend the evening out with my amazing wife. That too is now off the agenda, at any one point in time he must be guarded (and he is asleep by 7pm).

God I sound so miserable…I’m not.

If I am being honest it’s just not that bad. I was usually too tired to last past 11pm and have always been the one to retire early to the warmth and comfort of my 12.5tog.

And it’s minus seven tonight in London Town. My poor tired wife is heading out into the Siberian winter, while I have a cosy, centrally heated, evening planned of pizza in front of the TV – maybe life ‘ain’t so tough!

Bald and Graceful

It’s bloody cold in London today. I am currently standing on the platform at North Sheen station, once again wishing I had worn some gloves. Gloves would seriously affect my ability to ‘iPad type’ but i think I should start making that small sacrifice.

But one important item of clothing I simply cannot live without is a hat. As a child I started collecting a bizarre array of headwear – and maybe I was somehow subconsciously stockpiling for an inevitable bare-headed future…

When I look back now the signs were there from an early age. My stylish undercut, centre-parting and curtains in the mid-nineties was always a little thin, but it was at university when the effects of my hereditary condition really started to take hold. My dad sports an impressive combover, and my maternal grandfather pulled off a classic ‘Bobby Charlton’ sweep – I had no chance. And I feel sorry for my little boy; no doubt he will share his family’s folic curse, in fact you can already see it in the hairline.

Aged 19 I was devastated – I was proud of my wolverine look, but it simply couldn’t last. I finally took the monumental decision to hack it all off, and have never looked back. Helped by a symmetrical head I have rocked the ‘Phil Mitchell’ look for ten years now – as a proud bald man.

So I was disheartened to see Wayne Rooney fight so hard against his retreating hairline – you will never catch me transplanting hair from my arse to my head. Although, if I did, I would bare a striking resemblance to Pat Sharpe from Funhouse…

Lift Heaven & Hell

Today it happened, that thing you often dread (yet sometimes strangely hope for) actually happened to me…

Today I got stuck in a lift.

Despite the Baltic weather consuming London, our whole office is always well heated and it was surprisingly warm as I shuffled into the lift. I was only nipping out for 20 minutes, to pick something up from Covent Garden in my lunch hour…or so I thought. As it turned out there was no nipping involved.

The lift was full but not squashed. Eight of us stood silently as it quickly descended from the 6th to the ground floor…and then it happened. There was a loud grunt, followed by a terrifying bang as we hit ground zero. One lady let out a small yelp, but most of us stayed silent, still shocked as our predicament unfolded. The doors tried to open, but only managed a few millimetres before locking into place. A small slither of light informed us that we were near the correct ground position, but not quite there. We were definitely stuck.

It’s a common topic of conversation – who would you love, and who would you hate, to be stuck in a lift with? I used to play this game, although my lucid love list changed considerably over the years: MJ is no longer with us, Britney has lost some sparkle, Beckham, Botham, Arnie, maybe Nelson Mandela? I’m not sure anymore, I should probably say me wife, although in reality she would not be a calming presence in this situation.

In fact in many ways I didn’t do too badly on the lift heaven front. Jess and Luke from my office were both relaxed, and we managed to cover off a few interesting topics: The Olympics, The Six Nations, Oscar Pistorious…

But we were not alone. A number of people from ‘other floors’ were also in our space, and one in particular was not quite as pleasant. I now have a solid definition of lift hell… as I have been there. He was the first to panic, he was the first to bark instruction and the first to lose control. What’s more I suspect that he was very cause of the lift malfunction! The gentleman in question was larger than average, considerably unhealthily larger. Within minutes he was sweating profusely, flapping and hyperventilating. His constant alarm ringing, loud complaining and frantic fidgeting was certainly not helping. I was stuck in a lift with a morbidly obese demon, set upon drawing out our uncomfortable experience. And it was him that forbid me from trying to re-route the elevator to an alternate floor.

Finally, after roughly 20 minutes, under the instruction and guidance of our prompt lift engineer, we shuddered and started ascending. As the doors opened on the first floor the was a universal sigh of relief – from now on we will all take the stairs.

And maybe I was too quick to judge our hefty companion. If we had been stuck fast for months, and if our animalistic life preservation instincts had really taken hold, he would have definitely provided the most meaty meal…

Dirty Dawgs

It’s a lovely crisp clear day in London, and as the sun rose this morning on my short walk to North Sheen station the sky lit up with an array of soft colour. However I didn’t have the chance to wonder at nature’s natural beauty…no, I had to treacherously navigate my small suburban street with my eyes fixed firmly on the pavement.

For as usual throughout my morning stroll I had to weave my way through the minefield of daily dog turd.

I live within 10 minutes of the spacious Richmond Park and the wondrous Kew Gardens; my neighbourhood is a dog walkers paradise. But almost all of these mutts seem to disregard their animal’s deposits, leaving them for the dog-less masses to smear and stick to shoes, wheels and hallway rugs.

And more recently for me the issue has become all the more relevant and frustrating. Although my little boy can now toddle (just), in order to transport him any distance I must fish out my impressive off-road pushchair. It’s hydraulic suspension and chunky wheels can easily negotiate the tough Richmond Park terrain, but unfortunately it is also a magnet for the nasty brown stuff…

At least once a month I have to mix up a bucket of detergent and scrub down every floor in my house, to prevent my baby from crawling around in the gruesome poo trail that his pushchair has smeared from room to room.

I don’t blame the animals, they are unintelligent and much further down the evolutionary scale. Unfortunately it seems that in my area so are their owners…