Dont buy the Sun.

Dont buy the Sun.
Hillsborough Justice campaign - Remember the 96.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Package Number 8168013267

With my new career comes new found wealth, and with that new found wealth comes the chance to indulge in conspicuous and extravagant consumption. Another way of phrasing this is to say that the second tier of Large Mansions (known as 1st floor in the UK and the 2nd floor in Canada) might, just might, finally be rewarded for its patience and be granted the floor-covering it deserves. This is not aesthetics - the floor in the second tier currently comprises a mish mash of broken planks held together more by theory than any physical force. Tony Monk would be proud.

I decide, after scrutinising the monthly accounts, we can afford the new floor. "About time" the assembled multitudes who regularly encamp at Large Mansions cry with one voice "We're heartily tired of losing small children and pets who have fallen through the gaps in the floor of your second tier!". " What type of flooring will it be? " they continue.

Well here's the rub, the first one anyway. We have enrobed Large Mansions floors in bamboo. Not only was it 'eco' (more on this) but it was also the cheapest hardwood floor. It is also the squeakiest floor that has ever existed, making -a remote possibility but one has to consider everything - that secret midnight tryst between occasional visitors is well night impossible. At least the 'secret' part is.  We decide to go for bamboo.

As far as the 'eco' is concerned, its true that bamboo, the plant, is pretty 'eco'. It doesnt need much in the way of nutrients, it mops up greenhouse gases as any other plant does and, the clincher, its associated with pandas and you dont get much more 'eco' than pandas. Well, ok, elephants and tigers are very 'eco' but neither of those critters have been as intimately involved in the creation of an ecosystem with the express intention of providing humans with hardwood floors. Admittedly, after the pandas' food has been chopped down for flooring, the 'eco' bit gets a bit fuzzy,  what with the special high energy demand drying process required, oil based glues and laquers involved, shipping across the world and its short lifespan as a product which is caused by  the fact that most people will remove it and throw it in a skip within a week of installation on account of being foiled in their trysts by the squeaking floor which makes secretive movement inpossible.

But, we're nothing if not self-defeatingly stubborn here at Large Mansions, so we decided to complete tier two using bamboo. In order to check compatibility with existing, we ordered a sample. I did have to pay a small sum for said sample, but given aforementioned consultation with the monthly accounts  (which is much more fun, and much less complicated to do after a few glasses of Pinot Gringio), the fee was paid to a company we had used before. The next day, I was sent a confirmatory email and an order number so I could track my order. As I am currently in the very final days of my thesis, doing the interminable job of formatting and correcting small errors (there never was the revolution in the UK in 2014 I predicted but so what, Alex Jones is always predicting doom and everyone thinks he's  a genius) any association with anything that is apparently associated with forward progress - like the idea of something moving through a factory - is a straw, or piece of bamboo perhaps, to be grasped. Grasp I did, and I bookmarked the companies 'track order' page.

The first time I checked my order, a few hours later, I was rewarded with the STATUS notification "ORDER RECIEVED".  "Great" I thought, "these guys are really on the ball". About two hours later, when I was trying to decide whether to annoy my external examiners by using the American 'z' in words ending '-ise' throughout my thesis, I checked again. This first  check told me my order had still been recieved. I was a little disgruntled, after all it was progress I was looking for, but if the thesis has taught me anything, it is patience, so I resisted the temptation to check my order's status again till that evening. I was rewarded for my patience over the two hours since check #2 on  check #3. On check #3, it was clear there was progress  as "WORK ORDER ISSUED" was proudly displayed in the STATUS box. I was immensely excited and subsequently returned to the STATUS page on a regular (by which I mean about four times per day) basis. It became my lifeline - a symbol of progress in an otherwise completely static world of daily exactly-the-same-thingness. The nest day, the status changed to "ORDER IN PROCESS". Excitement mounted.

Twenty three days later,  the status of my order changed to "DELIVERY IN PROGRESS". I have to confess, during the twenty two days in which my twelve inch long, 3/4' deep, 3' wide sample of hardwood floor was "IN PROCESS" I had begun to loose a little bit of hope. The fact that the delivery was now in progress re-ignited my optimism. I decided to use 'realize' throughout my thesis to give it that international flavour.

And that, nearly, brings us up to date. The day on which it was announced "DELIVERY IN PROGRESS" was 13/08/2015. On that fateful day, I was redirected to the courier's website. Once there, the first entry was promising "Pickup done". I presume this meant the couriers had picked up from the producer. It seemed clear  enough. In fact,  the first few entries, after some thought, seemed clear enough and were impressively thorough: 

13/08/2015:   CHINA  21:00    PICKUP DONE  
13/08/2015:   CHINA  23:25    SHIPMENT DEPARTURE SCAN

Optimism soared  as the sample's journey was meticulously recorded, but the next day, the first entry caused me a little alarm


"Hang on",  I said to the cat,   "Nothing has arrived at the destination, maybe we ought to contact them". Toshack (the larger of the two cats), disagreed,  taking the view, typical of cats, that if you want something, it will arrive. His theory, based on his knowledge of how doors open and how food is caught,  was that I should just stare at the screen for hours and the sample would get here. Having effectively done this already over the previous twenty three days, I was skeptical. Soon after, however, my faith was restored as the following entries clarified what was going on:
14/08/2015:    UK  18:26  CUSTOM CLEARANCE IN PROGRESS
14.08/2015:     UK  18:54  CUSTOM CLEARANCE COMPLETE
14/08/2015:     UK  19:45 SHIPMENT ARRIVE AT HUB

"Brilliant" I thought "Tomorrow I will have a sample of bamboo."

Inevitably, tomorrow never came. For three whole days nothing happened. Frustration turned to despair. Inevitably, my thesis tidying-up ground to a halt. "How?" I raged with exactly the same kind of logic displayed by both FOX news and Donald Trump, "...and why....are  pandas so intent on  ruining my whole career through the deliberate sabotage of my delivery thus making it impossible for me to do my entirely unconnected  work?".  I went back to formatting, this time trying to make decisions on whether to use ":" , ";" or "-" in sentences or whether to just leave the 3,456 'and'-s in place. Then, there was a status change:


I was happy the status had changed but confused. What does "DEPARTURE HUB FINAL DESTINATION" mean? I wrestled with this. Did it mean there was a second HUB close to the final destination? Did it mean there was a section within the central  HUB called 'Final Destination'. I was puzzled but not alarmed as whatever it meant, my sample was getting closer. The next day, though, there was full alarm as the status read


"NOOOO!!!!" I cried "It has'nt!!!! Large Mansions is the 'delivery location' and there ain't no bamboo here!!! Damn you PANDA!!" . The cat jumped up, swawking in protest. I decided to protest as well. I  wrote an email to the couriers, requesting clarification. At 04.55, the company responded "The TEAM will contact you shortly". "Team?" I thought "What Team? And why do they need to contact me? They just need to either clarify the whereabouts of my sample or deliver it".

The next day, the picture murkened, if   you accept that  when I say 'murkened', I mean "became less clear". The status of my order was updated to


"WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?" I screamed at the computer screen, frustration coalescing after twenty four days of cat like patience,  "HOW CAN MY SAMPLE HAVE ARRIVED AT THE 'DELIVERY LOCATION' THEN GONE BACK TO THE 'DELIVERY SECTION'? AND WHAT IS THE 'DELIVERY SECTION'? IS IT IN THE 'HUB'?". The cat, used to my screaming at the computer by now, did'nt move, he just continued to stare at his food bowl. I sent off a second email:
"Hello, thank you for your reply. The status on my tracking now says 'departure for delivery section'. Can you tell me what that means? I ask because if parcels are to be delivered I want to make sure I am here to recieve

SO can you just let me know where exactly, the parcel is and if possible, what day it will be delivered?


Underpinning this email was a knowledge of geography: (or ';' or '-' depending on which is correct) I knew that if the sample had arrived in the UK it's arrival airport was most likely Heathrow. Which is about five hours away from here by car or eight hours by Megabus. How is it possible for it to take four days for something to get here from Heathrow? Perhaps, I thought, I should have volunteered to pick it up - (or ';' or ':') the Megabus only takes eight hours and I could have left, picked up the sample and been back here in two days. Currently, I am awaiting either a reply, an updated status or my floor sample. Reluctantly, I have decided to go back to formatting.  But yesterday, something Large mentioned induced either minor trepidation or a full blown panic attack (like my thesis its all a matter of interpretation). She told me we were going to act as guarantors for a friend in a business matter then asked me if this was ok. Naturally , I agreed to this already made decision , and having checked the accounts sober, noted that as long as - in the unlikely event of a default  - the sum required of us was no more than £165.34 , we could cover any eventuality. This I was happy to do and is not the reason for the panic attack/mild trepidation. Instead, what caused me anxiety was that to confirm my willingness to act as guarantor, I have to log on to a website and enter some numeric digits. They start '81680....'

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Slap bang wallop

Slap, bang, wallop :  our luggage  shot out of the mysterious door onto the carousel and majestically sailed round. We were at Halifax International Airport, it was half past midnight. I shoved fellow passengers aside, snatched my luggage then gambolled down the stair and out of the arrivals lounge, eager to be on Canadian soil (Toronto airport does not count), eager to smell the air and eager to jump into a massive embrace with my great friends who I could see waiting just beyond passport control. I bounded down the stairs, leap across the slippery tiles and presented myself in front of Grasshopper, arms spread, crying with happiness. She looked at me blankly, then asked "Who are you?". I walked away crestfallen, and Nel and I spent the next ten days in the Comfort Lodge, just outside of the perimeter of the airport, watching day time tv, ordering pizza and drinking rum. 

Actually, although most of the above is true, the last bit  is not. Not at all. The fact is that like many of us who advance towards decrepitude, twelve thirty at night is quite late, and for some of us, aspects of our vision, which are'nt that great in the first place, are gradually getting worse. For this particular friend, she has the visual recognition skills of cave dwelling fish. Fortunately, unlike a cave dwelling fish, she is both a great friend and does not smell. And of course, we had a great re-union.

These are the pictures from our holiday.