30 Jul 2015

The ordinary everynight

The Night Watchmen are whiling away the small hours of the night passing out hi-vi to pilgrims on their way out The Gate and repeating the phrases '....keep to the right please.... Quiet in the village.... Single file... Thanks very much...'

The Field is our haven and The Gate its sole point of exit and entry. We are simultaneously haemorrhaging and being transfused with pilgrims and the medics are unable to do a thing. The volume of hi-vi in the big green box fluctuates as the ebb and flow continues throughout the night, deeply disturbing Hamish who wishes all hi-vi to remain in the box at all times and not be draped over the edges. His OCD is amusing to the rest of us and we purposely leave reflective yellow material hanging over the edges. Hehehe...

The regular activity that continues throughout the night means many things to us. The flow of pyjammied pilgrims diffusing through the boundary of The Field and What Lies Beyond is:

a) Our solemn duty and privilege to oversee. We Night Watchmen cannot and will not rest until all pilgrims are safely back within the fold where they belong. We shall not desert our post at The Big Black Gate while any of our number are unaccounted for in the wild uncharted territory of Little Walsingham.

b) A welcome distraction and opportunity to engage with a wider range of people than is customary between the hours of 10 and 8. Many of them stumble past us in animal print onesies, incapable of speech, but the pool of faces with which we can exchange friendly greetings has widened significantly tonight.

c) ... yet ANOTHER interruption to the current game of Skitgubbe which was imported into our lives only a few days ago and the most addictive thing on the face of the earth. Well maybe- I've never done crack so can't say for definite.

As an obsessive collector of stickers, stamps, key rings and rubbers in childhood, my adult obsessions are not benign. I have the ability to sacrifice sleep and not feed my children when consumed by a decorating or craft project. I can watch 4 episodes of Once Upon A Time back to back with no pee break. I have an overwhelming need to store items where they belong AT ALL TIMES and get far too excited when IKEA being out a new storage range. Thus I have never tried crack. I am genetically primed for addiction.

Hmmm- but Skitgubbe flew in right under the radar and is now lodged at the forefront of my mind begging attention and draining hours and hours and HOURS of my life.

Which as a Night Watchman, has proven to be a good thing.
Thank you Joel. 
For IKEA and now for Skitgubbe.

29 Jul 2015

The Fallen Watchman

07.59 hrs sees the conclusion of the 97th game of Skitgubbe and the arrival of day steward Mark to relive us from our post. Gleefully we leave the newly buntified steward's tent and make our way to Bev and Mike's for bacon butties, a warm brew and the knowledge that bath and bed await. We split company, bonded by the sharing of stories and secrets throughout the long hours of duty, the short but enthusiastic Imsotiredifeelaweebitdrunk dancing on the gate at the arrival of dawn and the knowledge that tonight we get to do this all over again. Dear God- life is sweet and I'm grateful for it.

Bath and bedtime pass without incident and soon I am enveloped in sleep.

I awaken feeling totally and utterly refreshed. Twice now I have arisen after a night watchman's shift in this manner. Why does my body never embrace 07.00 hrs in this way? Because I was BORN for this life- that is why! To face the cold and hostile night, brave and unslumbering in the company of fellow outstanding individuals: We are The Night Watchmen.

It is a calling of the highest order, setting us apart from others and demanding so much- but the sacrifice is worth it, so feel no sorrow for us. The safety of all pilgrims who camp within the The Field with The Big Black Gate, the camaraderie within our team and the treasure awaiting us in heaven are thanks enough.

I pick up my phone to check the time, already wondering what's for dinner. It's Wednesday, I think. Lasagne, Pie, Sweet and Sour, (Blank) then fish or chicken. What is today's (Blank) dinner again? I'll find out soon enough. Yawning, I look at my screen...

11:40hrs?!? Noooooo... It cannot be. Quick! Phone down. Eyes closed and resume foetal position. That's it. Let's pretend this little glitch did not happen. There we go. Just sink into the pillow of unconscious rest and...

No thinking about dinner. Think not of the rained off procession. Think no more of Mr Cross' granny blanket or Skitgubbe or muddy roads or the separation of church and state and the consequences for society - just SLEEEEEEP.

That's an order Watchman.
C'mon dammit- just stop THINKING. It's not that hard.

Except it is.
And now that I've started, it's hard to switch it off.
My brain's woken up my stomach and now I'm hungry. My body is betraying me.

I get up and wedge a towel at the top of the bedroom door, then fold another one along the bottom of the door to block out the little slivers of light which have suddenly overtaken hunger as the primary cause of my wakefulness. I take a pillow off Jo's bed and rest it on the floor against the curtains, blocking out a little more light there too.

Right- no excuses. You're not hungry. Bed. Eyes closed. Snuggle down. Go to your dolphin channel. End of.

After an hour I get up and make a brew and write this report, baring my soul and my failure to my fellow watchmen. And the greatest distraction whizzing around my head? Not the separation of church and state or the grass to mud ratio of roadways on The Field, but my laundry currently languishing in Greg's washing machine. I could be hanging it up right now. For the first time in days it is not raining and we are dangerously low on clean underwear.

To my fellow Watchmen: apologies in advance for falling asleep on duty tonight. Please don't post the photo if I'm dribbling.

17 Jul 2015

Cold calling

Junk PPI calls made to a contract phone belonging to a teenager are really not going to make anyone any commission. How many insane conversations do unlucky call centre people need to have before the whole scheme is abandoned as a big fat waste of time?

Today in the UK, 47% of 12-15 year olds have a smart phone. So just under half of every junk phone call made at random to people who have not been in an accident in the last 12 months or accidentally purchased PPI ever in their lives will probably be answered by a teenager who, on average will have far more disposable time on his hands than your average call centre worker on minimum wage.

Teenagers are energetic and fun and full of imagination. As a collective, they possess the ability to think up dozens of creative ways of wasting the time of call centre people. These include:

• Agree that PPI has been mis-sold to you at some point in the past, become distraught and weep down the phone.

• Agree that PPI has been mis-sold to you at some point in the past and then become enraged and shout a lot.

• Ask call centre person how their day is going and what qualifications they got in high school.

• Pretend to speak fluent French and not understand English.

• Pretend to only speak Minion.

• Tell the cold call centre person to 'hold the line please' then mute the speaker for at least 30 seconds. Un-mute to reassure call centre person that their call is important to you and you will be available to speak shortly. Mute once more. Repeat.

• Pretend to fart down the phone.

• Try to order a pepperoni pizza.

• Ask to speak to your friend 'Ryan' at the next desk. (You know Ryan... Yes you do - Ryan! At the next desk along from you! Opposite you then... What - he's not in today then? No, he DOES work there- I spoke to him yesterday... Stop messing with me mate, I NEED to speak to him, Pleeassee!!)

• Pretend to be hit by a car mid-sentence. Have nearby friends scream and call for help.

• Pretend to be deaf and pass your phone to a mate who will adopt one of the call centre handling approaches as detailed above.

I am torn between feeling proud of my teenager's ingenuity, annoyance at the call centre company who invaded his privacy, puzzled that the whole thing was ever considered a sound business model and sympathy for Ryan - who probably did quite well in school and has targets to meet. And probably a massive wad of student debt as well.