‘Tis the Season to be Germy


Today is the 19th of December and also marks what is commonly known in many a UK town and city as “Black Friday”. Decades ago, when swathes of England had a workforce dominated by factories, the last Friday before Christmas called for an en masse half workday followed by an en masse drinking session. Old folk reminisce of these glory days, telling tales of festive camaraderie that took place in traditional pubs that closed at 11pm. Parts of this tradition are still withheld. The drinking starts as early as possible, but many don‘t work in factories and finish at different times. . Everybody drinks way more booze than they normally would, with less food lining their stomachs and for way more hours. 11pm marks not the end of the night, as in previous decades, but merely the mid point in a very long, very poisonous, very tinsel littered session.
I am pretty certain that if I were not currently snot ridden and ill, I would be avoiding he city centre, or any busy bars altogether today. Don’t get me wrong, I love to go out and socialise, but when five times as many people as normal, who are fives times more drunk than normal are crammed into every bar it takes five times longer to be served and you have to shout five times louder than your comfortable speaking voice to be heard and it all becomes a chore.
It was over a week ago that I first displayed the usual snotty, chesty, feverish symptoms and just assumed it would be a typical three or four dayer. A combination of extra shifts at work, increased social opportunities, panicking around the crowded shops for unknown presents for unknown recipients and the fact that people are everywhere, hugging, kissing, eating, drinking, coughing and sneezing is to blame.
A week is too long though. Sleep deprivation caused by breathing difficulty begins to affect my perception of reality. My decongestant nasal spray use has gone from the recommended two squirts a day to two an hour, which only then brings a pitiful three seconds of breathing relief. I call my mum to tearfully tell her that I am dying of AIDS but she seems to think that I am just being silly and recommends I make a nice cup of tea. She also points out that she was just off out and I suddenly realise that my imminent death is getting in the way of her Black Friday celebrations. Before I hang up, she queries me on my remedies and I confess that alongside some disgusting Lemsips, I have been overdosing on nasal spray because it doesn’t work. My mum then urges me to Google “nasal spray overuse” as apparently it is quite common for people to do as I and sniff too much spray in the hope of some sleep, only to develop an adverse reaction, leaving you with exaggerated symptoms of the very kind you were taking it to rid you of in the first place.
My decongestant nasal spray goes straight in the bin. I query my ability to go out after all…maybe nobody would question my wide open mouth breathing and red, sore, runny nose…except, of course, for the odd coke head winking and remarking that they to are enjoying a “White Christmas”.
Truth is though, I feel like turd on toast and the fact that I have not slept in four days has caused me to move through several of the levels of reality required of an apprentice shaman. So, it is highly likely that I would probably say weird things to people, whilst wiping my nose a lot and sneezing. I’ve put the kettle on, so I’ll cheers you with my Lemsip.


Polyester Coffee Shop Blues

photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/anseledwardsphotography/8497093122/">Ansel Edwards Photography</a> via <a

In UK cities coffee shops are everywhere and all pretty much the same.

I recently visited my old home, a piddly little market town in Leicestershire and it has only recently acquired its first franchised coffee shop.  It is, I have observed, a pitiful and embarrassing caricature of its city cousins.

It took five staff to prepare me a pot of Earl Grey and put a slice of carrot cake on a plate: One to ask what I wanted, another to set the wheels in motion and get the teapot. Third one gets a teacup as a fourth enquires about the reason for the teapot, whilst fifth gets a teabag in and adds water. Number one then needs a reminder on the cake front as number two lifts it onto a plate. Number three works the till whilst remarking that number four might want to rest their arm, which is in a gross plastic splint and sling and looks like it might smell.

I got the impression that they saw themselves as something akin to a gang of Butlins Red Coats during peak season. The reality was more like a load of ex guests from The Jeremy Kyle show had been given their first ever jobs and, unfamiliar with the new found smartness of their polyester mix uniforms start acting all hyperactive like a bunch of kids at a wedding disco.

Finally, when I sit down with my drink and snack, I am amazed to see a load of dirty cups and plates on every table. Each member of staff trying to hog the stage/counter lest they be seen wiping a table. I mean, come on, you were on Jeremy Kyle last week, it’s all uphill from here. Number four can’t do it though, obviously as she has a gammy arm.