Chicken Blogs

This week’s entry was going to be about our firm’s Christmas party a couple of weeks ago, and to be honest I had well over 1,000 words penned before I decided to ditch it and start again with something else, but I can pretty much sum up the evening in two paragraphs:

I got drunk, then realised I was going to have to dance, so got even more drunk. As the evening drew to a close, a lady collapsed on the dance floor, and, having published my blog entry about fainting earlier that day, I decided that not only was my presence on the dance floor some kind of fate, but I was suitably qualified to offer medical assistance – ignoring the fact that she worked for a GP surgery, and most of her colleagues were either nurses or doctors.

Undeterred, I insisted on trying to offer advice (‘You’re a nurse, I get it, but this has happened to me before’), and was in the process of trying to lift her legs up (the collapsed lady, not the nurse), when one unnecessarily aggressive chap told me to fuck off. So, being a lover not a fighter, fuck off I did, but then another bloke stepped in, squared up to original dickhead, and started a brawl – which ended up with a security guard getting head-butted. We scarpered, and the rest of the evening is a little hazy. 

So, that’s my original entry in a nutshell. Quite how I stretched that beyond 1,000 words is a mystery, although I suspect many years spent as a lawyer might have helped.

Then, just as I was mulling over what material might replace it, the Comedy Gods smiled down on me, and Isaac got chicken pox.

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That’s not to say I found his itchy misery amusing, far from it, but I had to take my last day of annual leave to look after him on Monday, and decided to keep a record of events….

07:30

My wife just left for work, and I’m stuck with two particularly grumpy children. Isaac has every reason to be, as he looks like an extra from The Walking Dead, but quite why Ollie is being such an offensive little twat remains a mystery.

07:45

Despite Ollie’s mood, and Isaac’s persistent itching, I have managed to get them both sat at the kitchen table eating cereal.

I initially considered this to be a win, until Ollie chose to have a completely unnecessary tantrum. Essentially, he was lining up some toy animals, to represent a ‘Lion Guard’ (crap Disney spin-off from The Lion King, don’t ask) and insisted that this:

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is a honey badger.

Clearly, without any shadow of doubt, it is a cat, and I’d even go so far as to suggest it is Jess from Postman Pat, but one thing it is very much not, is a fucking honey badger. I’m not even sure I know what a ‘honey badger’ looks like – other than a strong suspicion that it bears more than a passing resemblance to a ‘normal’ badger – but I am 99% certain it doesn’t look anything like a black and white cat.

It’s not often that I side with Isaac, over Ollie, when it comes to matters of intellect (in his defence, Isaac is four years Ollie’s junior, and has had a number of head injuries of late), but on this occasion I am very much Team Isaac. Which has only angered Ollie all the more, and made the entire screaming dispute rather confusing – because I am in no doubt that he knows full well it’s a cat, so I’m not sure why he’s being such a dick about it.

08:15

Progress has improved considerably. I have managed to put a load of washing on, pay some bills, half-listen to Ollie read his school book (then wrote a note in his planner, giving the impression we spent yesterday afternoon lovingly reading together in front of a burning fire, rather than a rushed five minutes this morning while I forced his shoes on), and I fixed Isaac’s pushchair ready for the school run – the wheel fell off in Waitrose yesterday, amid a string of curse words that I surprised even myself with.

09:15

School run complete, and aside from Ollie crying twice, I have safely delivered him to his teacher, fed and fully clothed. Since I now have 50% fewer children than twenty minutes ago, the day is bound to improve.

09:30

Realising that I still hadn’t booked my car in for its emissions upgrade with those naughty folk at Volkswagen, I phoned on the off-chance they could fit me in today, and they can – so long as I get the car to them in the next hour. Fine, except I want to hang the washing out before I go.

10:15

The final spin cycle finished ages ago, but the door is still locked. I’ve tried kicking the machine, and calling it an ‘insufferable piece of shit’, but neither worked.

10:25

Washing finally finished and on the dryer. I might have been able to hang it out quicker, but Isaac insisted on ‘helping’. And, by that, I mean throwing wet socks at me, before running off with a pair of my pants on his head.

10:40

Arrived at Volkswagen ten minutes late. They appeared to be put out by my tardiness, until I pointed out that the only reason I was there on my last day of holiday, with a sick child, was because they are a bunch of lying, cheating, rule-dodging fuckers, and we decided to call it quits. They have assured me that the car will be ready for 1pm, which means I can take Pox Boy into Crewe for a bit.

11.10

Turns out my recollection of the distance between VW and the town centre is woefully inaccurate. I’ve been walking for nearly half an hour, hunched over Isaac’s crappy pushchair (the handle won’t extend to suit anyone over 5’4”, and the steering appears to have been modelled on the QE2), and I’m still nowhere near. I’m inclined to Google which is longer – this journey, or the river Nile.

11:45

Made it to the retail park in Crewe, and headed for Costa. Handed over life savings for two drinks, a piece of cake for me, and a penguin biscuit for Isaac.

He initially wanted a penguin biscuit, then chose a cookie, and finally a gingerbread man, before settling back on the penguin biscuit. Just as I was about to buy it, he changed his mind again to the cookie.

Then, as soon as I had made the purchase, he demanded the fucking penguin biscuit. I decided to teach him a lesson, and insisted he have the cookie…. but within ten seconds, I gave in to his embarrassing screams and queue-jumped to make yet another swap.

“Hi. Yes, I know you just served me. Yes, I was the guy with the indecisive little shit. Turns out, he does want the penguin biscuit after all – if you could exchange it again please. Yes, I’ll be sure to tell him you hate him.”

11:55

The women next to me are giving me filthy looks, because I have apparently brought the Bubonic Plague into their miserable lives. I’ve tried having a loud conversation with Isaac, about how he’s much better and no longer contagious, but this has not appeased them.

To make matters worse, Isaac has now finished his penguin biscuit, as well as most of my cake and hot chocolate, and is demanding the cookie we put back. Time to leave (but not before letting him cough over the woman next to me as we pass).

12:30

Have managed to buy all my family’s Christmas cards, including a ‘Merry Christmas Brother and His Pregnant Wife’ (see, Mum, I can buy overly specific cards too), and have started the long walk back to VW, just in case they haven’t also lied about my car being ready for 1:00pm.

12:50

Just encountered the scummiest man in Crewe (which is some achievement). He hurriedly overtook us as we were walking towards the train station, then dashed to pick up a discarded fag packet on the pavement, which he obviously thought I had my eye on. No, mate, be my guest.

He then turned, while checking through the sodden packet, and shouted ‘well, you gotta check, just in case, eh?’ Amazingly, I found myself nodding in agreement, but this only confirmed his suspicion that we were indeed in competition, and so he scuttled off to make sure he was first to the next one.

13:10

Arrived back at VW, ten minutes late again. Naturally, the car was only ‘nearly ready’, but they would give me a shout in a few minutes.

13:30

Lying bastards.

13:45

The car is finally ready.

The generous people at VW, by way of an apology for their multi-million pound scam, have given me a VW gift set, comprising a VW key ring, a VW key fob, a VW pen, a VW flask, and two VW business cards, in case they can ever be of assistance in the future, should I need something else illegally tampered with.

They have also apparently washed the car – which I was initially grateful for, until I remembered that I had washed it myself only yesterday. So now I’m just left feeling insulted, as if they saw the job I had done yesterday, and decided to make it better. Cheeky swines.

They’ve also done a ‘health check’, and have told me that various parts of the car need attention, so although the emissions upgrade is free, if I would care to spend my children’s university fund on some brake pads, they’d be happy to help. Not a chance.

14:05

Don’t judge me, but after the morning I’ve had, I’m taking Isaac to McDonalds for lunch. Well, I’m not taking him inside, clearly (not after the Costa incident), but we’ll get a Drive-Thru and take it home.

14:15

Had a row with Isaac at the Drive-Thru. He only wants beans on toast for lunch, but when I said I’d happily make that for him at home, he screamed and insisted that he wanted it from McDonalds. I tried to explain that McDonalds don’t do beans on toast, but he wasn’t having it, so I had to ask ‘Sally One-Star’ at the Drive-Thru window to play along.

Quite why I thought someone who struggles with the concept of a ‘plain hamburger’, would be able to master a bit of impromptu role-play with an irrational toddler, I don’t know.

14:30

Finally home, and having wolfed down my burgers, fries, and diet coke (the bloody milkshake machine wasn’t working, as if my day couldn’t get any worse), I feel much better.

No, of course I don’t, I just ate a McDonalds. I feel like shit and hate myself.

Time for a lie down.

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The Old Blog And Bone

You may recall that, in June last year, I had something of a disagreement with Ford over a fault on my Kuga, and their subsequent ‘handling’ of the situation (#29 – ‘Once Upon A Blog’).

I then explained in a later entry (#39 – ‘We Blog Any Car.Com’), that I was thinking of changing my car, and would not be returning to Ford as a result of their terrible customer service – and the fact that they have no idea how to fix their own cars. I went on to say that, unfortunately, Ford are not alone in having pissed me off, and so once I had discounted all of the manufacturers who have upset me over the years, there weren’t many left to choose from when buying my new motor.

One thing was for certain, I definitely would not be going back to Volkswagen. Not only were they appalling when I had my previous Golf and Golf Plus (the latter of which packed up spectacularly – and expensively – on the A50 just outside Derby), their global reputation is currently in tatters over the emissions scandal. No, there was no way I was buying a VW.

Fast forward to January, and I became the ‘proud’ over of a Volkswagen Tiguan. I’m such a two-faced git.

I won’t go in to my reasoning for such a dramatic change of opinion, but suffice to say I was glad to be rid of the Kuga. It was a lovely looking car, and very nice to drive when it wasn’t faulty, but it seemed to be jinxed and I wanted a change. Of course, the fact that all of my previous cars, without exception, were also jinxed, at no point led me to conclude that perhaps the problem might actually be me.

So, I now drive a VW Tiguan. I affectionately call it ‘Tiggy’, although I’m not entirely sure why, as there isn’t a great deal of affection there so far.

Look, it’s ok. It’s nothing special, just ok. It’s not quite as nice to drive as the Kuga, but to date – touch wood – it hasn’t chosen to accelerate towards a tree all by itself, so on the ‘trying to kill me’ front, it’s currently Tiggy 1-0 Kuga (or the other way around, depending on how you view it).

One thing I do miss about the Kuga, however, was the in-built phone system. It was ridiculously easy to use, but even better it actually understood what I was saying. I know that’s the whole point of voice-recognition software, but as anyone who has ever tried to book cinema tickets over the telephone will tell you, voice-recognition systems never, ever, work. Kuga’s did though.

Of course, VW being the miserly bastards that they are, my Tiguan doesn’t have a phone system (despite being three years newer than the Kuga). Apparently, I should be grateful that VW were kind enough to equip it with windows and wheels, such is their stingy approach to kitting cars out. I’m pretty certain they’re still making cars with tape players fitted in them.

Anyway, had I never had the luxury of the Kuga’s excellent in-built phone system, I might not have taken it for granted – and then missed it when it was gone. However, it was so handy to have, and so efficient, that the absence of a similar system in the Tiguan immediately soured what should have been the joyous first few months of driving a new car (you know, until the stench of wet dog and the ‘that better be fucking chocolate’ child stains appear).

I started researching similar systems online, to try and get one installed into Tiggy as soon as possible, and judging by the reviews, my best bet was to go for a ‘Parrot’ system. I made some enquiries at Halfords, who informed me that I would need to travel to The People’s Republic of Stoke-on-Trent to have one fitted by a specialist technician, and off I went.

I opted for a mid-range product, as I wanted to replicate what I had in the Kuga as closely as possible, and this seemed to be my best bet. It came with a little screen that affixes to your dashboard – so you can see incoming and outgoing calls – and a remote control (essentially a dial, a ‘green’ phone symbol and a ‘red’ phone symbol) which I decided to have ‘fixed’ to the window controls to my right hand side whilst driving.

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I say ‘fixed’, but it remained in place for all of three miles before dropping off onto the floor, and so far I haven’t found anything sticky enough to secure it back on again. VW, it would seem, like to make their car interiors as slippery as possible (to prevent drug use?) and I’m rather reluctant to superglue the little plastic bastard back into place.

I had contemplated giving Isaac a lollipop to suck, as the last time we did that he became almost entirely adhesive from top to bottom, and I could perhaps harness some of that stickiness for the car, but I haven’t got around to it yet. So, for now, the control sits in one of the many drinks holders by the handbrake (the Germans don’t like you to be making and receiving calls whilst driving, but they do at least ensure you can have 14 drinks on the go at any one time).

To be honest, I can live with this. Even if I never find anything sticky enough to secure the remote control back into place by the window, I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it. What I cannot live with, however, is a phone system which makes it so unbelievably difficult to make and receive calls, that I would be far better securing my messages to a carrier pigeon, and then hurling the disease-ridden-rat-with-wings out of the window while driving.

At least if the company had called the product a ‘Pigeon’, I would have been expecting something large, irritating and mostly pointless, but I naively thought that the ‘Parrot’ was so-named because it would understand me and my voice, and I would be able to converse with it (and therefore my family and friends) hassle-free. Silly me. Apparently, it is actually called a ‘Parrot’, because it is colourful, won’t stay put for more than a minute, and is fucking hopeless at making telephone calls.

I shall give you an example. The other week, I was travelling to County’s last game of the season with Ollie, and we were due to meet a friend of mine – who we shall Tim because, well, that’s his name – in one of Stockport’s fine watering holes.

As we left the M60 to come into Edgeley, I decided to use the Parrot system to call Tim and find out where he was. The conversation (once I had rooted around by the handbrake – and in amongst my many drinks – to press the green button) went thus:

Parrot:  “Who would you like to call?”

Me:        “Tim.”

Parrot:  “I’m sorry, can you repeat that?”

Me:        “Tim.”

Parrot:  “I’m sorry, can you repeat that?”

Me:        “Stop apologising. Call TIM.”

Parrot:  “I’m sorry, can you repeat that?”

Me:        “Ollie, cover your ears a second…. CALL TIM, YOU PIECE OF SHIT!”

Parrot:  “There’s no need to use language like that. Who would you like to call?”

Me:        “Sorry. Please, please call Tim. Please.”

Parrot:  “Did you want to call… Joe McElderry?”

Me:        “NO, I DON’T WANT TO FUC…. Wait, what? Joe McElderry? The guy who won X-Factor about ten years ago? Do you have his number? Go on then, yeah, phone Joe McElderry smart-arse.”

Parrot:  “I’m sorry, I did not understand that. Goodbye.”

Having taken a few minutes to calm down before Ollie learned some new curse words, I then realised my mistake. There are two ‘Tims’ in my phone, so the Parrot inevitably wanted a surname as well. That still doesn’t explain how it had Joe McElderry’s number, especially when I sure as hell don’t, but I decided to try again:

Parrot:  “Who would you like to call?”

Me:        “Tim *******” (I’ve omitted his surname, before you think that it is either a swear word, or just a line of symbols. He’s not Prince.)

Parrot:  “Would you like to call, Tim *******”

Me:        “What a good idea. Yes, let’s call him.”

Parrot:  “I’m sorry, can you repeat that?”

Me:        “YES! YES! YEESSSSS! For the love of everything holy, call Tim now, you utter cockwomble.”

Parrot:  “Calling Tim *******”

Me:        “Thank you. Dickhead.”

Parrot:  “What did you call me?”

Me:        “Never mind. Just call Tim, and I promise I won’t crush you under my foot as soon as we’re parked up.”

Eventually, the system started to dial Tim, and shortly afterwards he answered. Unfortunately, because the phone system is terrible, even when the volume is turned up as high as it can go (and this has led to some deafening, and rather embarrassing, Taylor Swift songs being blasted out of the car when any call has been terminated), and because Tim was currently walking through Stockport in the lashing wind and rain, we really struggled to hear each other:

Me:        “Hi mate, whereabouts are you?”

Tim:       “I’m walking.”

Me:        “How delightfully vague. Are you on your way to the pub?”

Tim:       “I can’t hear you very well. I’m going to the pub.”

Me:        “Which one?”

Tim:       “Eh?”

Me:        “WHICH ONE?”

Tim:       “I’m going to the pub.”

Me:        “Got that bit. Which one?”

Tim:       “It’s raining.”

Me:        “I know that mate, I’m about five minutes away. Which pub are you going in?”

Tim:       “I’m just heading there now.”

Me:        “Yes, I get that, but to WHICH ONE?!”

Tim:       “About 2pm.”

Me:        “Never mind, we’ll go in all of them until we find you.”

Tim:       “I’ll see you in the pub.”

I decided to hang up before I lost the will to live. It wasn’t Tim’s fault (many things are, usually ending up with me suffering with a chronic hangover, but this time he wasn’t to blame).

Still, the entire conversation provided huge amusement for Ollie, who couldn’t breathe from laughing, and had tears streaming down his face.

The system is as equally useless when trying to answer calls too. You would think that the appropriate answer to the question “Incoming call from ********. Would you like to take the call?” would be either “yes” or “no” wouldn’t you? Well, either that’s not the case, or I have such a strong regional accent (as is often the way with people from mid-Cheshire), that it cannot understand me.

Actually, it’s neither. I have come to the conclusion that the system understands my non-accented voice perfectly well, it’s just that it enjoys messing me about. Apparently, we got off on the wrong foot (something about being called a cockwomble), and it hasn’t forgiven me since.

I know this for a fact, because I recently had an incoming call from my wife, and having answered ‘yes’ at least three times with no success, it then decided to accept “Fine, don’t accept the call then…” as a suitable response to connect me, so that my other-half, once connected, immediately heard me shout “… you useless piece of shit, why don’t you just fuck off so I can get a better one?” You can imagine how well she took that.

I even tried answering in German once, to see if that made any difference to our apparent language-barrier, before I realised that it’s the car which is German, not the phone system. Besides, I can only remember how to ask where the Town Hall is anyway.

Actually, I’ve just checked (out of curiosity more than anything), and it transpires Parrot is in fact a French company based in Paris. Presumably it is pronounced ‘Pah-roh’ then.

No wonder it doesn’t work properly.

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