My Life in 2012: Rock on 2013…

I sit here with the silence of the house ticking like a murmuring death watch beetle and I rack my brain on what to blog about today. I’ve already cheated a bit by just posting my 2012 statistics up that WordPress so helpfully provided me with this morning and not wanting to be too lazy, I’ve decided that I need to do a “proper” post.

As usual, I do have a blog-post that I should do, that lovely chap Rich over at Sunday Night Blog has nominated me for the Super Sweet Blogging Award. I will do a proper thank you to Rich, but I wanted to do a link to his site just to show that I had noticed and do appreciate his thoughtful kindness.

But the silence surrounding me is a little un-nerving. Usually if I am alone in the house, I have the next door neighbour’s kid running up and down the stairs and across the first floor (that’s second floor to you relatives of Uncle Sam) in his concrete over-boots. His shoes must be made of concrete because he is a little teeny chap who cannot weigh more than a couple of stone (if that).

*a stone, by the way, equals 14 pounds*

And yet this one little chap sounds like a herd of elephants thundering in stampede across the floors and up and down the stairs whenever he is at home with Mum or Dad. The fact that the house next door is empty is a blessing, just one that I’ve only had the pleasure of when Meg and I first moved in here. And before you ask, yes we were here before the heavy footed neighbours.

Meg has gone off somewhere to celebrate the New Year with friends and I am left to my own devices. Re-reading this last bit makes me feel like I should be fiendishly rubbing my hands together whilst hatching some world dominating plot. But, no; this is me I’m talking about here. I have no immediate or long-term plans to take over the world. I have no wish to do so and, more importantly, do not have the capability to.

So I have reverted back to staring silently (there is that wonderful word again) around the living room and wondering if I really should think about taking down and packing up the Christmas decorations that were only put up on the 23rd of December or if I should get the Hoover out.

*again for those relatives of Uncle Sam, Hoover equals vacuum cleaner (which I’ve only now just discovered that I have been misspelling for a lot of years)*

I can never manage to look this happy when I Hoover…


Since cleaning up or pulling down decorations both require something resembling physical effort, I have decided that I will do neither. I will instead finish up this blog post, edit it and publish it. That is about as taxing as I want to be taxed. This being the last day of 2012, I don’t want to ruin it by being too over industrious. So instead, I’m going to reflect, only in the most broad terms possible, over my year.

My 2012.

The year  has been a very strange one.

It has been a year of injury, pain, surgery (times two) and rehabilitation; along with discovery and shocking revelations. It has also been a year where I have worked hardly at all. There are those I work with who would claim that I don’t work when I do show up, but that is another story. Counting the time before my work injury and the time I spent “returning to work” I have only been “at work” for just under two months this year.

But 2012 has also been a year of meeting new folks and making new friends, Marilyn, Gary and Tyson just to name a few. There are loads more friends that I’ve met via the auspices of WordPress and their wonderful blogging community. I have been blessed with support and well wishes from lots of you and that has helped me to get through the more “agonising” and maddening aspects of my year.

2012 is also the year that I finally realised that my daughter Meg was a grown up. She stepped up smartly to the plate, bat in hand and hit a home run with how she dealt with my near death and all the vagaries that went with it. She has also been there to help me deal with the work side of things and its ensuing trauma.

The most amusing aspect of this entire year (apart from the amount of time it took me to realise that I was having a heart attack while smoking three cigarettes and drinking two cups of coffee) is that I had my heart attack while I was returning to work. A scheme that allows you to increase your work week hours on a steadily increasing rise. Deliciously ironic.

When I was told I was going to receive an ill-health retirement certificate, apart from being shocked (I’d been told you had to be practically dead to get a medical retirement certificate, which is what an ill-health retirement is) I already felt that I’d pretty much already been retired for the whole damn year.

Of course that was on full pay. Now of course, when the dust settles, I’ll be on less money; a  lot less money. I am still reeling over the ill-health retirement deal and scrabbling around to find out what I am entitled to. When I called the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) the earliest they could see me was the 15th of January. Rather than panic, I’ve been doing the, “I’ll just ignore it and it’ll get sorted when it gets sorted,” approach.

I’ve not ignored it completely though. It interrupts my sleep on a regular basis in the form of disturbing dreams. The last of which had to do with living in the world’s largest cardboard box and getting into a tizzy about where all the furniture was going to go.

Photo courtesy of paksil.blogspot.com

It is nice to know that on the last day of 2012, I can take a break from spinning all those damn plates and not care when a few of them come crashing down to the ground. Like Scarlet O’Hara says, “Tomorrow is another day.” But in this instance tomorrow is not just another day, it’s another year. A year where my son is going to be marrying his beloved (lovely girl) and “good Lord willing and the creeks don’t rise” Meg and I will both be attending.

It is nice to have at least one thing to look forward to in the New Year.

Until then, or at least for the rest of today, I am going to put off doing anything that could possibly be related to work or industry. I’m going to procrastinate my way right up to the New Year.

I am going to leave you with Happy New Year Wishes just as soon as I’ve finished my cup of coffee.

Spring Cleaning

Spring cleaning
Spring cleaning (Photo credit: Bianca Nogrady)

Okay, I know that I’ve kind of missed the spring cleaning season. But not by a lot. Especially if you go by the weather. The calendar may say summer, but the weather says spring. That’s my excuse and I’m not changing it.

I’m not referring to the spring cleaning you do to your house. I talking about spring cleaning my ‘blog’ and it’s dusty contents.

I’ve made it pretty well known that I am a wordpress junkie. When I decided to make the switch from Blogger I moved all my old posts over with me. So there are quite a few that haven’t seen the light of day for a while. So I have been dragging them out and giving them a good old dusting off.

I have also been ‘tarting’ them up a bit. You know, adding a few pictures, putting in some links and giving them some tags and categories. In essence making them look prettier.

I’m sure I can hear some of you grumbling. A few of you muttering under your breath about ‘re-runs’ and serving up the same old crap again. I guess that my only excuse is that like a Thanksgiving turkey, you’ve got to keep serving it till it’s all gone.

If you don’t like that metaphor (or is it an allegory, I’ve always had a tendency to mix the two up) think of it like television. If I skip the idea that I am spring cleaning. I can always say that I’m giving folks another chance to see the original before moving into the fall season.

I guess if I am honest with myself, the reason I’m trotting out the ‘older’ posts, is a (perhaps misplaced) sense of pride. I like  my old posts. And I kind of want the folks who follow me, or just stop by for a quick visit, to see if they like em.

Almost like a proud parent dragging their child out to ‘perform’ for the visiting relatives. “Wow, Mike. that kid of yours can really sing!” (or dance, act, juggle, I’m sure you see where I’m coming from here). If you don’t like that image, replace with, oh I don’t know, a performing dog or cat.

I can also admit something else. Here, come in a little closer, I don’t want everyone to hear this. I’m sometimes a little bit lazy. Did you get that? I don’t want to have to repeat it. I don’t want it to get out too much.

So there you go. If you’re wondering why I’m shoving leftovers in front of you, now you know.

I’m a lazy proud papa who wants to show off his ‘babies.”

Father’s Day: A Time to Fish

Fishing reel
Fishing reel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So tomorrow is Father’s Day. I will call my Dad tomorrow and wish him a happy one. I will also take a little walk down memory lane with him. Because Father’s Day when my brother and I were kids meant one thing.

Fishing.

Every year on Father’s Day, we would get up early. I am talking early here. Certainly no later than half five in the morning. We would creep out of the house and gather up all the fishing poles and tackle boxes, jump in Dad’s truck and head for the cafe.

Once there we’d fill up on the southern delicacy that is biscuits and gravy. Dad’s favourite was sausage gravy, but mine was and still is bacon gravy. It’s making me salivate just writing about it. Then we would head to the store and buy saltine crackers, all the better to catch minnows for bait. We also bought giant Cokes and Dr Pepper‘s to go with our purchases of Pork Rinds.

Then it was off to the bait shop for a big tub of night-crawler worms and some minnows to start out with till we caught our own. We would drive to Cincinnati creek (our favourite place for fishing) and park up the truck. By now the summer heat was intense, so Dad always tried to park the truck in the shade. All the fishing tackle would be gathered up from the back of the truck and we would start walking

Fishing Tackle shop, Malden Road, NW5

Dad did tell me the other day that Cincinnati creek, named after the little town of Cincinnati, Arkansas, no longer really exists. A tornado came and changed its course and pretty much wiped the little town off the map. Another childhood place and memory destroyed by the march of time and, in this case, the weather.

I remember one year when all in the same hour, I had a Water Moccasin snake wrap itself around my right cowboy boot to sleep and we saw a King snake killing a Cottonmouth snake as they floated down the creek.

English: Florida Water Moccasin Agkistrodon pi...

Creek fishing was the only way my family went fishing. We would walk miles down a creek looking for that perfect spot where the fish were biting. Every year without fail, we went creek fishing on Father’s Day. So tomorrow I’ll re-live those long ago days with Dad over the phone, well Skype actually, and remember how special those Father’s Days felt.

Happy Father’s Day Dad.

The Haunted House

Haunted House
Haunted House (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)
Summers when I was a kid were fantastic. The greatest thing about summer was the obligatory three months away from school. The second greatest thing was that because it was three whole months, summer seemed to last forever. I split my time away from school between working for my Dad and meeting with my friends. I also got to see a lot more of my two female cousins.
My cousins and I had a close relationship. My oldest cousin was about two years older than me and her sister about a year older. When we were together we acted more like brother and sisters than cousins. Things were different back then. When we were younger and one of us got a Doctor’s kit for a present, we immediately played Doctor. Of course our version was like that old Bob Hope  gag. We diagnosed each other with exotic illnesses and then sued each other for malpractice.  Those were the days.
One summer when I was about twelve or thirteen I had my then best friend Peter over. *note: Peter was not his name, but as I don’t know where he is now to get permission to write about him, Peter will do just fine*  His father was a local preacher. Peter at that time had no intention of following in his father’s footsteps. Not surprising as most kids of twelve or thirteen don’t know what they want to do when they grow up. I was showing off my new CO2 gas powered BB pistol that could also shoot pellets. Pretty cool all right, except for the fact that when you shot pellets it was a ‘one-at-a-time’ affair that could be a bit laborious.
It was while we were doing a bit of target practise that my two cousins showed up. They were actually there to visit our Grandmother who lived right next door to us and the town school. Introductions were made and we started talking about different things when Peter asked if we had heard about the haunted house.
Our interest peaked, we all said no, we hadn’t heard of it. Where was it? “Not too far from here.” My cousins and I were delighted to hear this. It meant we could go see it quite easily. “Yeah,” Peter continued,”You just go down to the end of the road, turn right and go down to the end of that road.  When you get to the stop sign, look straight ahead and you’ll see the house. You guys know where I mean?”
I did. It was “catty corner” across the road from where my biggest crush lived. She had black hair, cornflower blue eyes and a slight dusting of freckles across her nose.  She also had a figure. Where most girls her age had the build of a ten year old boy, she was different. I was ecstatic. I hoped that we might just bump into her when we went to the haunted house.
My oldest cousin, being the older smarter member of the group, asked how Peter knew it was haunted. Peter grinned confidently. “It’s haunted because the owner died in his “easy” chair while he was watching T.V. and nobody found him for days! They say if you are really quiet you can hear him having the heart attack that killed him!” We were suitably impressed by this information. We all decided to immediately go down to the house and check it out.
You could see the house as soon as you turned the corner. At the end of the road was a ‘T’ junction. The house was right in front of the ‘T’. It was a two story clap board house that someone had painted a horrible shade of yellow. It was surrounded by brush, black oak trees and junk. As we approached the house, I shot a quick glance over to my crush’s house. No one seemed to be at home.
We all entered the house via a broken  back window. In a hushed tone Peter explained that a lot of the furniture was still in the house. Apparently, the owner had no relatives to sort out his affairs, so most of it was just falling to ruin. Inside the house was like a sauna. As we moved through it, we noticed that there was no air circulation at all, despite most of the windows being smashed. It was so quiet that even though we were “tip-toeing” every move we made sounded like a gunshot.
The “easy” chair was still there. You could see the stains left by the owners decaying body. It seemed that Peter was telling the truth about the amount of time it took for folks to find the poor sod. There was also a horrendous smell in the still air. It made me think of rotten tomatoes. It also made all of us gag. On the wall next to the ‘easy’ chair was a doorway into a closet. The owner had put a sheet up over it in place of a door. As we looked at the sheet in that still house, it suddenly began to move. It looked as though the closet was trying to breathe.
In. Out. In. Out. As the sheet started to go in for the third time we were galvanized into action. All four of us ran out of there as fast as we could. We did not stop running until we got back to my house. Overheated by our stampede from the house we shakily laughed at our scary adventure. After catching their breath my cousins then went to my Gran’s house and Peter and I went back to our target practice.
Peter then decided that he should stay over at my house. The idea was that when it got dark we would go back to the haunted house. Peter did stay over, but, we never did go back to the house. Why? Well, just as it got dark the empty field across from my house suddenly had a tall white shape in it. We were on my front porch when I saw it. “What is that?” Peter looked across at the field and said, “I don’t know. But it’s moving toward us!” We both flew back into my house, closed and locked the front door and stood peering out of the big picture window in the front room.
The white shape looked man-sized. It moved back and forth. Sometimes it would  come up to the edge of fence near the street light in front of my house. Peter and I were terrified. We were convinced that the dead owner had followed us to my house and was now trying to figure out how to get past the street light to get us.
Peter and I stayed up all night.
When the sun came up, we decided to go down to the local cafe for breakfast. After eating the “special” Peter went to his house and I went home to tell my Mom about the ghost. I told her about the haunted house and the white shape across the road in the empty field.
My mother suddenly broke out into gales of laughter. I couldn’t quite see the humour in it myself. Her eyes streaming with tears, she then explained about our neighbour who owned the field across from us. It seems that the day we went to explore the  haunted house, they had bought a white horse and put it in the field.
For years my Mother  would break into hysterical laughter every time she told the story of how Peter and I were haunted all night long by a white horse.

Triggers

So Christmas has finished, in my mind at least, I’ve never celebrated the “12 days of Christmas” thing. We started taking down the decorations today. The tree is the last decoration standing at the moment. With my work schedule, it will be late in the week before we take the tree down and put the bits and bobs back up into the attic.

The funny thing is, we started talking about taking everything down two days ago! I suppose it has something to do with the total lack of Christmas spirit this year in our reduced household. Moving just before the festive season really left no room for presents or for much in the way of celebration. This I suppose was due, in part, to lack of immediate funds. But mainly, I think, it was down to triggers.


“Triggers” are things that set us off, or set us up, if you know what I mean. I was introduced to the phrase via the Mental Health Team where I work. I had always thought it was an overworked and over-relied on term that was used to explain a multitude of sins. I’ve had a change of heart.

My daughter and I were discussing these triggers the other day.

It was after an argument interestingly enough, about the laptop and my “umbilical” attachment to it. She had asked me, quite reasonably, to put the lid down for a minute while she finished telling me something. I was, as usual when I’m on the computer,  just half-listening. I was cruising the net – that’s spelt facebook and twitter – and I reacted in a remarkably bad manner. I was furious that she would dare to ask such a thing of me.

I don’t mean that I worked up to this emotion. It happened instantaneously. After apologising for my stupid behaviour things went back to normal.  Then a short while later, I said something about the state of her room. Nothing serious going on in there, just a surplus of clothing that hadn’t been put away. She blew up and pretty much tore a strip off me. Again,  apologies all around and things back to normal.

We discussed both situations later over tea. I explained that I knew where my reaction had come from. Her mother used to complain every time I got the laptop out. My daughter then realised that her reaction had stemmed from her mother’s complaining constantly about the state of her room. I then mentioned triggers and the reaction that they have on us. We both concluded that we needed to be aware of the trigger things and try to avoid reacting to them when they popped up.

I have now come to the conclusion that our “lack” of  Christmas this year – although I must add that we did do a Christmas video this year and had a lot of fun doing it – was as a result of the trigger of last years festive season. Last year was the first time we had not spent the holidays as a family unit. It was strange, uncomfortable and awkward. I honestly believe it set us up for the overall downer that was Christmas this year.

We are now looking forward to the new year and have high hopes that it will be better than the last two years. I think we have a pretty good chance of succeeding as well. We just have to look out for triggers. Everyone has things that “trigger” a response from them. These responses or reactions can be good or bad, we just have to learn to recognise why we have them and how to avoid them if they are of the bad variety.

So that is my wish for everyone in 1012. Learn what your triggers are and change how you react to them. It will help make you a calmer person in the end. It will probably be the one time in your life that it’s okay to be “trigger happy.”