The secret to keeping in shape isn’t gym membership, jogging or a healthy diet, I should know. It’s a rabbit…

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The rabbit is still with us. It’s taken over the hearts of everyone and has become the cherished member of the family I suspected it would. I couldn’t get rid of it even though I gave it some considered thought. Everyone seems to think the rabbit, or ‘Rabbit’ as she is now called, has a fondness for me over everyone else simply because she tends to stick close and follow me around. I agree. If I was her I’d stick pretty close. My children squeeze her too tight, often drop her, tug and pull her about, chase her around the house, try teaching her the basics of skateboarding, have her playing in the doll’s house dressed as a mermaid and given a few unsupervised moments, would give her a new haircut with pink highlights. A no brainer don’t you think.

As well as keeping her safe from the death clutches of the children, I take her out into the garden each morning and put her in our rather dodgy, makeshift ‘run’. That way she can get some air and enjoy a bit of space as well as earn her keep by trimming the lawn and fertilizing the garden. She knows the routine, she also knows that any opportunity of making a break for freedom must be taken at the moment when I am making the transfer from my arms to the outside cage. Every morning then, we have this routine, a daily dance that goes something like this; I pick her up from the hutch in the garage and take her in my arms upstairs to the garden, she cuddles up to me, licks and sniffs me and generally comes over as all lovey and cute. Being soppy and gullible I fall for this rouse each and every day and it earns her some stupid baby talk from me and a nibble at a chocolate biscuit I secretly still give her even though the vet would argue against it but which, judging by the way she gobbles it up and pesters me for more, I can confirm, she absolutely bloody well loves em!

The trap set, she prepares to make her move. As I take her out into the garden she kicks off big time. Now believe me, rabbits have one hell of a punch and so with the flexibility of a snake and some serious kicking and wiggling she fights her way out of my clutches and somersaults away. Landing catlike on her feet, she’s off, full speed down the lawn with me being left with no option but to give chase.

Have you ever chased a rabbit..? Like plucking a pig, it’s pretty hard to do. Not that I have ever tried plucking a pig but someone who I know who has, told me how hard it was. This may help qualify the difficulty. In the North of England they have this event where they set two greyhounds after a rabbit (maybe it’s a hare but come on, they are pretty much the same thing aren’t they) anyways, it’s a cruel thing but often the hare manages to out- maneuver and out-run the greyhounds. Hare coursing with humans would be a very dull affair even with an experienced rabbit chaser like myself as a competitor. I have neither the straight-line speed nor the ability to change direction as swiftly as a greyhound so the odds are firmly stacked against me. I think that adequately illustrates the situation.

The next ten to fifteen minutes involves much swearing as she runs me around the garden, into the flowerbeds and between the trees. Sometimes she stops and teases me, nibbling at the grass until I manage to get close, then she’s off again on her merry way. Eventually it gets serious and out come the big guns. The pool net with extendable pole makes its entrance. This is the game changer, with the odds now in my favour, ‘Rabbit’ goes for cover in the rose bushes, if I am quick I manage to catch her and like an alligator wrestler, roll about on the floor forcing her into a position of submission. Suitably subdued, she gets put into her run and a now panting, sweaty dad makes his way indoors for a coffee and a sit down.

In the evenings the routine is pretty much the same only longer and with the winter nights closing in, it’s usually in the dark. This means a torch is often required which further complicates the whole thing as keeping yourself on your feet whilst running with a pool net and one of those chunky billion candle torches is not as easy as it may seem, quick changes of direction are particularly difficult and ending up face first on the grass is a common result, which leads to even more swearing.

This evening ritual is often performed with an audience. The family seems to take some delight in watching this exciting event. I think my eldest is possibly running a book, taking bets on the outcome, certainly it seems to offer them all immense amusement. Yet rarely do they help, preferring more to cheer on ‘Rabbit’ with whoops and cheers and ‘you go girl’ before Cartoon Network draws them back to the sofa. They return every ten or so minutes just to tell me to hurry up as my dinner is on the table getting cold or to show me what book they want me to read to them that night. It would be nice if they were to help, once or twice they have but their dive bombs at the rabbit, if successful, I fear would lead to more vet bills.

There is however a positive side to this course of events though. Since we have been in possession of the rabbit I have managed to lose enough weight to now fit back into my Mickey Mouse T-shirt I treated myself to back in 2006, I’ve no flat pack stomach by a long way but I fit into it without the bulge screaming out ‘Old Tosser’. My better half reckons it still screams ‘Old Tosser’ simply because she thinks at my age you’d have to be one to wear it. But I like it regardless. I’ve also developed thighs, rock solid ones! I’ve never had thighs before and rather like the fact that sudden bending risks ripping my jeans, just like when Bruce Banner morphs into the Hulk. It’s a strange world don’t you think, all this unplanned exercise means my old T-shirts now fit me whereas my month young jeans now do not.

A few more weeks of all this running about and I may consider entering myself into a half marathon or one of those mini iron-man things, come to think of it, I could even wear my Mickey Mouse T-shirt. My training regime may seem unwanted and unconventional, but it’s working wonders as, according to my pedometer, each day the rabbit runs me around for 2.7 kilometers and now I don’t even break a sweat.

So forget expensive gym membership you’ll hardly use, forget riding a bike or forcing yourself to go through the punishment of jogging endlessly up and down the road. Get yourself a rabbit. Oh, and get yourself a pool net for when it just isn’t that funny any more!

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Never listen to anyone’s financial advice but take it from me, mushrooms could be the next big thing.

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We must be going back close to 20 years ago, possibly more. Business was doing well and I had managed to pull a decent profit. The year had been good and I’d treated myself to a sporty car, spent a few pennies on new clothes, furniture for the house, a big TV, the toys you surround yourself with when you’ve cash to spare. Thinking I was now the head honcho, the top dog, I decided that the remaining cash in the bank should now be put to work and earn its keep. Time to invest and join what at the time seemed like a mad rush by everyone to keep up with the Joneses and jump on the stock market bandwagon. All the national businesses were being privatised, building societies were turning into banks. It seemed like everyone but me was making effortless and large profits seemingly overnight from the Governments desire to sell off all its assets. I hadn’t been able to join in before, but with some cash now burning a hole in my pocket, I wanted a piece of the action. The Financial Times and the business section of the Guardian became my read of choice.

That led to my first mistake. You see what I then did, along with many others I am sure, was to read what the ‘experts’ were saying, do what the ‘experts’ were suggesting, then sit and wait the profits like the ‘experts’ said would come. They were in the most part totally wrong. Some bigwig guru suggested that the currency markets were going to explode, another said the oil market was where the action would be happening. Instead of accepting this is a world I do not inhabit, I fell for the glamour of having funds in these exotic markets. I could imagine myself in Monte Carlo sharply suited with a large expensive watch, casually rolling the casino chips between my fingers.

What I should have been doing, what my gut feelings were telling me was that the lure of this was really a silly pipe dream and investment, if any, should be going into the things I understood, enjoyed and knew a little bit about. I’ll take you back a few years now, just to draw a more complete picture for you. A typesetter I often used had the Tax Office breathing down his neck. I’d done a few pieces of work for him and he owed me some money which he told me he would not be able to pay. Instead he offered me a computer which he said was loaded with some great software. I took it but had no real idea what I was going to do with it as I had never used a computer before. I bought numerous guide books and magazines and settled down for the Christmas holiday, reading, learning and practising. By the end of the month I had a good command of a vector drawing programme called Freehand, a photo editing thing called Photoshop and some page layout software called QuarkXpress. The computer itself turned out to be easier to use than I had imagined. An Apple II. It changed everything. I was in total control of my workflow. I could set the typeface, modify it, change the colours, change the image or change the size…No longer did I need a typesetter or finished artworker, I was complete. The computer, the Apple Macintosh gave me a new start, the opportunity and freedom to create what was in my head. Friends who were using PC’s and Microsoft pitied me, they had games. All mine had was software and peripherals that supported my business. True I envied them the ability to play fun games, buy steering wheels and joysticks, but every time I sat with them at their machines I was amazed at how complicated things were to do anything when compared to my easy to use, child’s play beige box.

I loved it, I loved the company and all the companies who made stuff for their machine. So why did I listen to some Financial Journalist whose words sold me the glamour and excitement of the unknown, who urged me to move fast, to go in hard and trust him, these markets, he warned, are going to explode. I did it because the fantasy of his world seemed better than mine. Windows was the ruler of the World, Apple were for the few arty types who kept GAP in business by buying their black turtle neck sweaters, not a glamorous investment at all and judging by everyone’s endless gushing about how super Microsoft and Windows were, Apple would be broke before the end of the year. I bought not into Apple, but instead into the currency and oil markets. If it exploded, I didn’t notice or no one told me, a few weeks later the very same journalists were telling us all that the futures market was where the action now was or that any decent carpet bagger would be buying into this or that building society right now! Maybe he’s telling us to do all this because he is looking to bail out and wants to inflate things a little to make a few pennies more.

My investment has grown, but if I had instead laid just half of that hard-earned money at the temple of Apple, I would today be sat on a golden beach with busty, bikini clad ladies massaging my feet and serving me Banana Daiquiri’s before retiring to my yacht for a fancy meal and a romp in my huge circular playboy style water-bed. I’m not. Someone did massage my feet once but then they tried to steal my wallet afterwards and to be honest, it tickled a bit too much. No, I followed some trumped-up blokes who told us that they knew best. It is a tough lesson knowing your lottery numbers have come in when you’d forgotten to buy the ticket but I have learnt.

I’ve learnt that we are all very much alike. That I am not too dissimilar from the rest of you, that we follow each other even though we all deny it. If I stop suddenly and look up, so do lots of other people, what I like tends to be what everyone else tends to like. We all drive the same colour cars, wear similar clothes, enjoy, in general, similar music, similar books and have matching taste in houses. It’s not a perfect assumption but overall it works. I think it’s called The Herd Mentality or something like that. Buy an odd-shaped house whilst your friend buys the standard Georgian inspired box, the market rises and your friend with the more ‘conformist’ home will sell it quicker. Buy a pink car and a year later the very same dealer you bought it from won’t take it off you in part exchange because he knows he’ll never sell the bloody thing. Stick with what we’re told to wear, told to do and importantly, do all this when we’re told to do it. Dare to wear your underpants outside your purple corduroy trousers, even if they are Kalvins or D&G and even if you do find it more comfortable that way, you will certainly stand out as not being part of the herd! And the doormen wont let you into the nightclub either. When those nice people on the telly or in the newspapers or that banker with his graph with arrows all going south tells us Gold is the way forwards, do as they say. They know better than you. They are experts aren’t they..?

There’s a book very few of you may be aware of, ‘The Genera of Fungi’. I haven’t actually read it but I am guessing it will never become a bestseller because in general, most of us are not that interested in it. It sounds incredibly boring and my hunch is that boring it indeed is. Now of course some people are very interested in this sort of thing, we’ll laugh at their knitted tank tops and point out how the veins on their heads seem to pop out as they excitedly tell us that Fungi managed to bugger up a few important pieces of kit on the MIR Space Station a few years back. They’ll be the ones with an App so they and the worlds other 7 Mycology fanatics can ooh and aaah simultaneously at photos of filamentous moulds, but what we wont appreciate, because they are not financial experts, is that their passion and interest means they’ll have invested in the pharmaceutical company that is researching these mushrooms and toadstools, a firm with a stock price hovering at 65p. Then when some fungi, only found on a piece of rock on Tierra del Fuego in August, depending on the weather, turns out to be the key ingredient for the cure to that frightful disease we’re all so scared we’re going to die of, their investment in the tin pot lab turns out to be priceless. Then we’ll all jump aboard in the hope of joining their good fortune, the herd will stampede, but we will be too late. Like Apple, our lack of initial interest in this weird thing and mistrust of their investment advice, because they are not experts right, means when the experts suddenly see what is going on and start telling us to get in quick whilst it’s still a bargain, the price will be hovering around £45.

My tank top knitted friend and his bulging veins invested in what they knew about and liked, no listening to what some fashionable twits have to say. Which is exactly my point. If I had listened to myself, oil and currency would have been left well alone in favour of Adobe, Apple and the other ‘uncool’ companies of the time.

No more polished knobs with newspaper columns or TV slots will I be listening too from now on. Nope, I figure if I like company X, just about everyone else will sooner or later. That I invest before the herds figure things out is my strategy. Until then, the yacht, the bikinis, the water-bed and the Banana Daiquiri’s are on ice, my middle class status is secure for the foreseeable future. That said, I have just ordered The Genera of Fungi’.

The mystery of my missing, time travelling parcel…

I’d been told by TNT that I filled in the forms wrong for the Next Day Delivery that, four days after I sent it, still hadn’t been delivered. Apparently I should have ticked the ‘Express Delivery’ box, the ‘Next Day Delivery’ I’d ticked does get there the next day but after 12 noon. Express delivery is for a before 10am delivery.

Easy to do I guess and I appreciate them coming back to tell me this even though I suggested to them that four days is a fair way off Next Day or Express. But it fails to answer my original query that started this whole affair in the first place, the question of where exactly is my parcel?

You see, I’d taken advantage of their flashy online tracking service. Go to their website, type in your tracking number and you can see the route, times and status of your parcel. The wonders of modern technology. Now, according to this nifty little tool, my parcel, destined for a client in Switzerland via road, had somehow been taken off the truck, put on a plane and flown to Johor Bahru, then it spent 7 hours in Kuala Lumpur before arriving on some island off the coast of Taiwan at a place called Baisha Shan where it was signed-for by a person I don’t know, whose name I struggled to pronounce. Oddly enough, the delivery was at 9.30am. But more surprisingly, it managed to arrive 3 months before I even sent it!

I checked my dates. It’s November, not April, so this couldn’t be some mad cap April Fools stunt. Had it been, I would have been the first to laugh my socks off at the brilliance of the joke, marketeers the world over would be envious at such a great idea. TNT and their creative team would have jumped for joy at the oodles of publicity generated by them ‘supposedly’ screwing up everyone’s deliveries and sending them off to countries no-one has ever heard of with dates all mixed up. What a funny lot they are we’d all be saying. But it’s not funny because it’s not April and my parcel really hasn’t been delivered and they are telling me that this is all my fault.

So just what mistake did I make when I filled out the form for Next Day Delivery..? They had said I should have ticked the ‘Express Delivery’ box, but did they really mean the ‘Pot Friggin Luck’ one?

I explained that the time frame is now not a major concern, that I ticked either the before 10am or the after 12 noon box is somewhat irrelevant. It must simply be an error as TNT, I am assuming, do not yet have the ability to bend the Space-Time Continuum and unless they print it really small, the ‘Delivery before you’ve even sent it’ box is not on any of the transit forms I’ve filled in. No, I guess they just have a few too many lackwit bumpkin idiots in their IT department or some disgruntled member of the team was recently made redundant and decided to give TNT the ‘digital’ finger before he packed his desk into a box, handed in his pass card and was escorted off the premises.

They agreed time travel wasn’t an option they were aware of, they would look into things and call me back shortly.

2 hours later I get the call, they’ve found my parcel. It’s stuck at Customs in Geneva. The paperwork I sent with the parcel is wrong and until that is dealt with, there it will be staying. That being the paperwork for passing through the Swiss Customs that they helped me fill in when I called them four days ago. Did I tick a wrong box again I ask..? No, the commercial value of the goods declared was wrong. I told them the goods had no commercial value, it’s only brochures, they are not for sale, they will be given away. So I had written 0.00 just as they had told me too when I phoned them to ask what the ‘Please declare the commercial value’ box meant.

They agreed that company brochures have no commercial value and the forms should have been acceptable for customs, they would look into things and call me back shortly.

An hour passes and I get the call back. The commercial value declared is correct but the Swiss Customs office refused entry and the parcel is now making its way back to the UK.

Why is the parcel going to the UK, I asked? I sent it from Spain. They agreed that sending the parcel to the UK when it originated from Spain seemed a little strange, they would look into things and call me back shortly.

I settle down with a coffee and see an email has come in from the client in Switzerland. They’d been trying to call me but the line was engaged. Good news, the parcel was delivered and they have the brochures. Minutes later I get a call from TNT in Geneva. They had been contacted by my client and wanted to apologise for the delay. Bad weather and a strike by French Partridge farmers unhappy about the reduced EU funding budget was to blame.

The puzzle solved, matter closed. At least I thought it was until the Spanish office called me back. They told me they had managed to change the return delivery and it would now be coming back to Spain. I explained that the delivery had been made and TNT in Geneva had been in touch to explain the delay and apologise. Confused, they said they would look into things and call me back shortly.

I cancel my bank instruction with TNT and open an account with DHL. A day passes and TNT UK call me. They’ve received the letter of complaint I had sent to their Spanish office, which the Spanish office couldn’t be bothered to read as I couldn’t be bothered to write it in Spanish. They understood why I had decided to cancel my account but asked me to reconsider. I explained I now had an account with DHL and so far things were good. I asked for confirmation that my TNT account was clear bearing in mind I felt there was no reason I should be paying for the mess-up they had caused. They confirmed my account was clear, nothing owing. Thank you very much and good bye.

A week or so passes and I get a call from TNT Spain yet again. This time chasing me for payment! They are now looking into things and will call me back shortly.

Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it…

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I cannot help being late or ‘just in time’ for a flight. Maybe me not wearing a watch has something to do with it but now that I am supposed to be a responsible parent, wear sensible shoes and ask the barber for a ‘trim’ instead of a green mowhawk, I find myself being better prepared and often arrive at the airport with time on my hands. Add that to the fact that it is a fight for the seats and everyone now only takes carry-on luggage, finding space to stow your bag anywhere remotely near you means timing is everything.

My latest trip was going without incident. I’d checked in, passed the security checks and was stood in line at the gate with time a plenty. I get to the counter and the girl at the desk scans my ticket and asks me to put my bag in the size testing thing to make sure it was suitable to go as carry-on. All good, except she notices I have a small satchel as well. A satchel that I open up to show her has just a pad of paper and a couple of pens, stuff that I use whilst onboard to doodle and write. She explains that the one item rule is strictly enforced and I will have to check my hand-luggage into the hold. And pay a 50 euro fee as well.

I ask her that if I was able to fold up my satchel and put it into my carry-on case, would that be acceptable? “Yes that would be acceptable so long as it all still fits.” she replies, pointing to the size testing thing.

I do this, it still fits and she is now happy. But before I leave her, I ask if it will be okay, once I am aboard, to remove my satchel so that I may sit with it and use the pad and pens I have inside. Again, her answer is positive.

“So,” I said “Just to be clear on the way things are. I can take two bags to the airport. I can pass security with two bags, I can wander the departures lounge to my hearts content with two bags but, for the short walk from the gate to the aircraft, I am not allowed two bags. Yet when I get onto the plane, having two bags is now no longer a problem?”

“Thats the rules, gold star for you.” She says with a cheesy smile.

The next thing she said left me stunned. Now in my time I’ve come across stupid people. I’ve known a few idiots, dated a couple even and daftness doesn’t often slow me down. But this time the biscuit was taken, the bar of stupidness was raised way up there.

“We have a very busy aircraft this morning sir and we are expecting there to be very little room on-board for all the passenger hand-luggage so we are asking passengers if they would help us by putting their hand-luggage into the aircraft hold. There would be no charge for this and passengers agreeing to help us would be able to board first, after the speedy boarders and mums and prams.”

See, I’m right, the bar has gone into orbit here. “Sweetheart,” I said. Honestly, I really did, no joke, call her ‘sweetheart’ a word I don’t think I have ever used before, ever. But one that summed up my attitude towards her.

“Sweetheart, the whole point of me carrying ‘carry-on’ luggage, the clue being in the word ‘carry-on’, is because unsurprisingly I want to ‘carry’ it on with me. Not let some rodent in baggage handling sift through it, swipe all the good stuff and send it to the carousel with my shirts and underpants hanging out of the seam that broke when he went for the ‘see how far I can throw this bag’ record! I’ve packed this case to ensure I meet your strict weight and size restrictions, had to do it twice in fact, just to meet this airlines sufferable rules, did it with the OCD type zealousness my son displays with his bizarre insistence that each night his slippers must be left beside the bed facing due South 32mm to the right of the bed leg nearest the door. A zealousness that means even if I sneak into his bedroom during the night and set them a few degrees off, something I admit to doing with a certain regularity, when I go to get him up in the morning, they will have been realigned to the correct pole.”

I continued… “I have even put my satchel into the bag so I now have only the one piece of luggage to avoid having to pay the 50 euro cost you were about to hit me with. And I am now stood here, at the gate, having my ticket checked by you, on the very cusp of entering the plane, minutes, possibly just seconds away. Unless you are about to send me to the back of the line or the invisible man and his invisible family of 12 are stood in front of me, how can I possibly get to board the thing any quicker?”

She looked at me… I could see she was still processing what I’d just said. “So is that a No then?”

“Correct, that is indeed a No.”

I walked the 50 foot down the gangway to the plane with only one piece of luggage, boarded the plan, took out my satchel, sat down and decided if I win the lottery I will most definitely buy myself a private jet.

How to get rid of a pet before it becomes a cherished member of the family.

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I am an animal lover at heart, my whole childhood had me surrounded by all manner of pets. Cute little guinea pigs, chickens, dogs, a ferret, a frog once, goldfish obviously and even a stick insect found its way to my adolescent heart for a couple of months. However, as an adult I tend to enjoy other peoples pets. It makes for an easier life. No having to walk the dog, no animal smell in the house or clothes with hairs dotted all over them, no vet bills, no mess and no tears when it pops its clogs.

But, being an animal lover, my guard went down one day when an abandoned rabbit found its way to our house and the begging, trouser tugging and promises to look after it properly from the children made it through my normally steel exterior and I agreed we would take it in. That day, the family gained a new pet and my life took a change for the worse.

I was never really any good working with wood. My childhood go-karts tended to fall apart, often at speed and my attempts at skateboard ramps never quite had the curve that allowed for a smooth ride. So tasked with making a hutch for our latest family member was fraught with bruised thumbs, splinters and frequent cursing. The result was a slightly wonky but not too bad wooden cage that in fairness, may look a bit odd, but serves its purpose.

It’s gone downhill since then though. The promises given by the children have not been honoured. The messy business of cleaning up has become mine. Feeding and changing its water, that’s my job as well. Putting it out into its run each morning and bringing it back inside each evening. Me. Paying for the vet bills. Me as well.

And I’ve also discovered that rabbits are not the eating machines I guessed they were. Oh no, we got a stern talking to from the vet about our poor dietary regime. How was I to know what food is and is not okay to feed them. Bugs Bunny eats carrots. But real rabbits shouldn’t. Lettuce, sometimes, biscuits, chocolate, flowers past their glossy shine, no, no and nope. A cup of tea in a saucer. Idiot! Holdy on. That means we have to buy rabbit food from a shop. Madness.

Well, I have a lot going on in my life, work being the main proportion of my day and I am finding the rabbit takes up too much of my time. Like I said, I am an animal lover through and through, so in bad weather I let her hang out with me in the office, if she is outside, I pop out every now and again to make sure she is okay, setting up her run each morning is 20 minutes, getting her bedded down for the night is another 20, checking her water supply, food bowl, cleaning the hutch… Honestly, these things are not fire and forget.

So what are the benefits..? As far I can see, none really. The children get to kiss, cuddle and manhandle her each evening so they love this fluffy ball. I get to take care of everything else. Well I have been thinking how best to get shot of her. I need to do this pretty sharpish because I am becoming fond of the thing and if I don’t sort it out soon, I will be unavoidably attached and will be unable to inflict anything other than kisses and cuddles myself, Which brings me to the point. How to get rid of a pet before it becomes a cherished member of the family.

My line of thought could work for you as well, you’d have to adjust things accordingly depending on the size of your pet but I think you will find they are workable. Remember though that all attempts will need to be done whilst the children are at school. That gives you the time to do things properly and saves you from having to explain the blood stained axe, hammer, tiny noose, rifle or concrete block with little feet sticking out of it, or whatever, that you may be seen walking around with. So avoid the weekend, call in sick one day instead.

Contracting a hit man is a bit excessive unless you are filthy rich or have the right ‘connections’ as finding a hit man is pretty tricky, Google doesn’t help nor does Yellow Pages.  Plus, entering the underworld could prove dangerous to you personally. My advice here is to bite the bullet so to speak and prepare to do the dirty work yourself.

I’ve spent a number of hours sitting on the toilet pondering workable methods. I wont go into details here but between you and me, I am rather proud of what I have come up with. On reflection, I couldn’t read all my hand-written notes that well but the gist is that some are messier than others, as you’d expect, but importantly, none of them cost anything apart from my initial idea of attaching a hosepipe from the exhaust into a slightly open window of the car. Fuel is a costly pollutant and nowadays we should be considerate of the environment. A greener, more sustainable alternative is to rig up your bicycle so that the rear wheel is off the ground and it can be pedalled in the garage, fast pedalling for 15 or so minutes with the wheel connected to some form of static generating device could create enough electrical energy to knock out an elephant. And don’t forget, it’s not only reusable, cycling is a good way of keeping fit.

I’ll leave this particular subject at this point and move onto the next thing you will need to consider very carefully. Hiding the evidence.

Obviously throwing it into your neighbours garden won’t work, especially if it is a pet elephant, I’d imagine even a baby one weighs a fair bit and you’d do your back in something rotten. You could however sneak into their garden and bury it under the cover of darkness, although you’d need one of those torches that has a strap so you can put it on your head, it makes digging the hole quicker and easier (elephant owners may find a trolley stolen from the local supermarket helps with transportation, unless it’s wet and muddy, then I would suggest a sledge or something similar). But do remember to check the site during daylight hours, you’d be silly to find out the next morning you’d buried it in the middle of their garden leaving a somewhat conspicuous mound. Do your homework first!

My office shredder isn’t up to the job either and I don’t think it’s worth buying one of those top of the line shredders that can chop up a whole phone book in one go, they are too expensive, even secondhand on e-bay, and should it malfunction, my guess is you wouldn’t be covered under the warranty.

My recommendation, visit your local party shop and buy some balloons filled with helium. I have calculated, based on weight, that 22 party balloons filled with gas should provide enough lift to give a flight time of about 30 minutes, on a windy day that should travel a fair old distance. Buy a few extra balloons for the kids while you’re at it, they love things like that!

Having made good the disposal, the next area that needs to be considered is the touchy subject of explaining things to the children. Now obviously you don’t let them know the truth, come on, that’s heartless! No, you have to let everyone think it was beyond even your super powers to prevent things happening. A suicide note or letter from heaven could work, depending on the age of your children this could be a drawing, a text message or a video posted on their Facebook page. It doesn’t have to be that highly polished, just a letter saying bye bye, I love you, I am much happier here with my friends, blah de blah.

One common ploy is to tell the children it must have escaped. Then you can describe how it has probably befriended others and is, as we speak, probably enjoying the open fields and bountiful food natures larder provides, free of any cage, free of any worry. They like that sort of thing.

Getting Mum to do it is often a better solution. I should mention here that letting ‘mum’ in on your plan may not be such a good idea though, the chances of failure increase proportionately as the number of people involved in the misdemeanour increase. Loose lips and all that. No, ‘mum’ explains the loss of loved ones much better when she herself thinks the loss is genuine. Which is why hiding the evidence is the most critical aspect of the plan. Invest time into this and you’ll never have to worry about being rumbled.

At this point though there is a caveat I should add in. There is a real risk that because the children react so staggeringly bad to the news of their loss that the only consolation, the only way to mend their broken hearts, take their mind off things and bring some sunshine back into the home, will be that mum, without consent or discussion with you beforehand,  will purchase a replacement pet. Which puts you right back to square one and makes a repeat of things highly dubious.

I’m stuffed. From having the perfect plan I have found the flaw is Mummy. Taking her out of the equation is tricky. And it’s only a pet after all. Hold on though, I think I have something…

The ugly truth about Spanish drivers…

I’m not one to complain that much. I think I am generally tolerant, probably more so than many and have no real issues pending with religion, politics, sex, the neighbours. No that’s wrong, I do have an intolerance to the neighbours. The ones on our left should be dumped in a big hole and that hole should be filled with something smelly and slimy. But apart from the neighbours, maybe the ruling political party in Spain… And the UK now I’m thinking of it. Bankers, obviously. And the twit who manages the bar where I have breakfast. Other than that and a couple of other things, I would say I am the accepting type. Well maybe upon revision I’d probably more likely say I like to complain about something every now and again.

Motoring is a subject I do have strong opinions on. Voicing these opinions tends to elevate me above those who are the focus of my complaint and thus takes me out of their circle which is odd I suppose because most of what motorists do that I complain about, I do all the time myself. I could be a professional cutter upper, I think everyone does enjoy listening to MY music when I drive past with the windows down and come to think of it, yes I do own the road!

So that qualifies me without question to be able to complain about other motorists. Which is the point of this post. I started scribbling my list one evening. The TV was just running repeats of repeats, everyone else had gone to bed, there was nothing else to do really. Being honest, I did struggle with things and found myself doodling. That got me thinking about drawing my complaint, but that couldn’t work, I needed a mix. Then I remembered how Newsweek once impressed me during the Gulf War by using infographics to show me who was up for it, who didn’t want to get their hands dirty, something about a petting zoo for Sads children and the chances of the weapons he had that started the whole messy war business in the first place, not actually being weapons at all. Anyway, what it was about isn’t really important. This was the route I would take and have taken. No more words, I give you… The Ugly Truth about Spanish Drivers.

IT’S NOT A GIFT, IT’S A CURSE…

ImagePeople assume being able to draw is a gift. They see creativity as something bestowed upon the chosen ones. I guess I see their point but I usually disagree. I can’t think that being able to draw is anything other than the combination of desire, practice and opening your eyes to what you are seeing. As for creativity. Well for that you’d have to get into the topic of what exactly creativity is because when you look long and hard at it, we’re all creative. Explaining to my dad that I didn’t just crash his car, that I had in fact been escaping an alien UFO that was, I am sure, going to abduct me, is being creative. Baking a cake in the shape of woman’s breasts and decorating it accordingly, is also being creative. Making the company accounts look okay when actually all the time you’ve been fiddling the books is I suppose in some way being creative…  So it’s not a gift, it’s something you work at or something you don’t. I work at it and for my efforts it can sometimes become a bit of a curse.

Let me explain. Friends, apparently not wanting to take advantage of this so called gift, often ask me to ‘knock up’ a quick logo for them or take a look at their website. But the worst offenders of my good nature are by far my children. They take full advantage of Daddies abilities by wanting me to create the invitations and cakes for their birthday parties. When they were unable to walk properly the invitation was a phone call to friends, as they started to mutter words the invitation was a quick chat in the school playground with the parents, but as the years pass and their ability to think, talk and demand increase, they sit me down and brief me on what their expectations are, what the theme is to be for this year and what deadline I shall be working to. The terms are made clear at the outset. In return for my services, they will settle things up with a kiss and a cuddle, the shallow promise that they will share their Sherbert Dip with me and that I may come along to the party myself!!!

Now I may be thought of as greedy, that money is a major influencer, bills to be paid and all that, but the kiss and cuddle offer is far more attractive and although I am partial to the odd Sherbert Dip, experience tells me they’ll not honour that side of the agreement. Willingly I therefore accept the brief knowing in the back of my mind that this will be a difficult project from a demanding client and, as always, with very little time left to do it.

Squeezing time out of my day, running late into the evenings to meet the deadline I toil away creating the invitations. I try and unwrap the reasoning behind their temporary yet obsessive current love of things like Ben 10, My little Pony, Hello Kitty and Thomas the Tank Engine. I try and see the merit of the Nerf gun and wonder why an 8 year old and his mates would want to climb a tree and zip wire down to the ground, then do it again and again all bloody afternoon. My childhood feels so distant from theirs, Action Man was all I had, it was all I needed. Apart from my bicycle, Mr Potato Head and a game of Mousetrap rendered useless due to a few important pieces missing.

After hours of working late into the evening, countless sketches, hastily shot photos and a dozen drafts. A presentation is made. Usually at the dinner table, after they have done their homework of course! It’s a nerve wracking time, grubby fingers crease and curve the proofs, comments on choice of colours and typefaces used dominate the proceedings. Mummy points out the date is wrong and the conversation drifts onto what flavour cake, what colour and how many balloons will be needed and whose job it will be to blow them up the night before. I refocus the group and explain why a sans serif font is better suited, how the subtle elements in the image reflect the values of the host and the planned event, how the target audience will be seduced by the carefully considered mix of words and pictures and how a matching web page can increase response and make participation easier. I talk about distribution channels, print processes, delivery times and copyright issues. They must have taken this all in because what seems like thoughtful silence follows. I wait for comments, for approval that my efforts and skills have gone some way to meeting the brief, I want a ‘wow’, a ‘that is fantastic’, a sign that their choice of designer has exceeded expectations…

It never comes. The homework has been done, food has been eaten, I am now disrupting their vastly more important evening free time which takes priority over everything. So, meeting suddenly over, I am left alone at the table now holding proof artwork that has taken a toll on my life, that I have slaved over, been passionate about, has been thought about, re-thought about, worried about and excited about. It now sits in a little puddle of apple juice, has been torn a bit, has gravy stained fingerprints all over it and my daughter has kindly drawn a little picture of a rather too anatomically correct woman in the corner in pink crayon, her favourite.

Later that week I correct the date, modify the colours and reproof. This time, the night before, I just leave the print out on the kitchen table for them to look at. Come the evening I pick it back up, off the floor from under the kitchen table. It’s been torn, the fingerprints look like jam ones and my daughter has drawn a picture of me on it, in pink again, this time not very correct, I seem to have a beard, have what looks like boobs and am wearing a dress.

I try and get everyone gathered for a meeting to review the design but piano lessons, homework and the fact that I promised to read them a funny bedtime story means they have little time to give me on the subject other than a ‘yes it’s fine, go ahead’ which I take as a positive.

I arrange the printing of the invites, the matching t-shirts and the edible print that will go onto the cake. I build the web page, test browser compatibility, test the QR code and sit back with a coffee pleased with my efforts. The campaign will be over shortly and I will be able to pat myself on the back, knowing inside that I have given this project 100%, knowing that although the client, like all clients, won’t ever give me the full credit I would like, that for them, yes the design is important but they are dealing with many other issues and priorities, which is why they commissioned me in the first place, to let them get on with other things.

And that’s the point really. I can let real clients get away with all this, they’re paying me, the curse is that even though this is not a client and cuddles, no matter how big or how often, won’t pay the mortgage or buy the latest software update. The curse is I have no choice.