Life on Mars

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My and my bank buddy

 

We exited the plane and I headed for the EU arrivals whilst my entourage joined the lengthy Non-EU arrivals line.  Bizarrely the Non EU line was quickly handled but the passport control bloke in my line seemed intent on nailing at least half a dozen terrorists that day and he was going to harass everyone until he found a would be suspect.  I tried as hard as I could not to roll my eyes or make loud comments about him being a self important jobsworth but inevitably he cottoned onto the fact that I was the person responsible for the loud sighs and he cast a steely glare over me.  Rather than punishing me directly by holding me up he decided to drag out the inquisition of the Finnish family in front of me.  They didn’t fit the stereotypical image of terrorists.  Their group consisted of Miss Marples frailer sister, a couple of Macauley Culkin clones and  a married couple who looked uncannily like Bjorn Borg except for the fact the wife had slightly less facial hair.  As far as I could tell the only crimes they were likely to commit were against fashion but then I am not a security expert.  “What is the purpose of your trip ?” the guard asked them.  “Where are you staying ?”, “For How long ?”, “Where are you people from ?”, “Finland ? Is that near Fatland ?”  It went on and on until Marple feigned spell of dizziness and a supervisor of the guard waived them  through.  Sly old Marple was probably the one carrying the explosives.   A few dirty looks and mumbled insults later and I was finally through to the arrivals area. 

My Mum came to greet us because my Dad was trying to find somewhere to park.  Well in fairness he hadn’t had long to find somewhere since the flight was only four hours late.  We slowly hauled our luggage outside onto the concourse.  There were only three of us but we had outfits to keep the Partridge family clothed for 3 national tours.  I had insisted on packing all of our winter clothes because from my experience England was cold in February.  My parents had tried to convince us that global warming had altered the climate there to such an extent that south east England was now competing with the planet Mercury as the hottest patch of land in the solar system so we brought all of our warm clothes too.  Finally the day before we left my wife had noticed that we still had some money in our bank account and so she went on a spending binge to buy even more clothes just for the fun of it.  The end result was that I was struggling to carry two bags that felt like lead lined coffins.  My Dad finally emerged from the parking lot but rather than help with the carrying he decided to film our suffering with his camcorder.  At first it was funny but after the first few tendons in my lower arm snapped I started to get annoyed.  It made no difference to him since he was determined to get every second of our trip on film.  His actions seemed to confirm rumours started some time back that he was in fact the paparazzi who hit Diana. 

 We all packed into their compact relatively fuel efficient car and set off for home.  My parents were upset that their 33 mile a gallon car wasn’t fuel efficient enough for the leftie tree huggers running the country and they’d been hit with a penalty tax.  Imagine if we made rich snow birds pay extra for gas guzzling RV’s in the US ?  That being said imagine if we made rich snowbirds pay taxes period ? Anyway I digress but it is funny how very little changes over the course of time.  As we drove by I bored my wife with stories about every street corner.  “That is where Deacon claims to have been abducted by the UFO,”I said “and the roundabout is where Mark almost got hit by former England International football player, Peter Beardsley…allegedly.”  I am sure that my wife was delighted to hear my running commentary most of which consisted of myths and half truths that had developed down the years to disguise the fact that in reality absolutely bugger all had ever happened there.   It was good to be home though in the mildly warm country of my birth where you can have a beer without having to have a follow up counselling session on “Dr Phil.”

For the first 24 hours I felt a bit like Sam Tyler from “Life on Mars.”  I had been awakened from my coma and the bizarre life where I was surrounded by larger than life characters with whom I had nothing in common.  Playing ball in the yard with Pop, high school proms, mulletts and fish cookouts are as alien to me as rocks on the red planet and needless to say the Gene Hunts and Rays of Gainesville had even less interest in learning about the world of Ceefax, Wombles and Kenny Everett that I grew up in. 

I had to remember not to use words like “soccer” “sucks” and “awesome” any more because I didn’t want to be accused of being a “fake American” although supposedly I now have an American accent which is hilarious since nobody in Gainesville seems to think so.  At work I guy I worked with for 3 years revealed recently that he thought I was South African and most of the customers at the bank seem to think I am either Australian or German.  There isn’t any logic to their mistaken attempts at pinpointing my origins it’s just that their idea of an Englishman is a bloke with a top hat and tails who rides around hunting foxes with a blunderbuss and so since the only other countries they know are Germany and Australia they assume I must be from one or the other.  Another thing that was strange about being back in England was that people would start conversations about sport … and actually have some knowledge of them so conversations lasted for minutes at a time.  At work in the US the sports discussion usually follows this pattern:

American male#1: “How about those Yankees huh ?

American male#2″How about them ?!!”

American male#3″Yep.  Those Yankees !”

American male#1″Did you watch the game ?”

American male#2″Nah”

American male#3″Me neither.”

Kjohn “I did so does that mean they’re going to win the world series ?”

American males 1,2 &3″Don’t know we don’t really keep up with it that much….Loser!”

Sports talk seems to be one of those strange rituals American men go through like looking at each others cars or boasting about upcoming drink fests that they have no intention of attending because they have to spend the weekend downloading software for the blackberry’s.  Englishmen on the other would cease to exist without football.  Every man over the age of 25 vicariously lives through his favourite team and it’s that kind of ultimately meaningless existence that I have come to miss.  It was good to be back but before I knew it David Bowie was reverberating around my skull and it was time to head to Ireland ….

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ueUOTImKp0k&feature=related

 

The Return

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One thing that really buggered me off last time I visited England was the fact that we had to fly to Heathrow airport.  Heathrow for those not familiar with it is like a giant greyhound bus station packed with sun burnt prematurely bald English soccer fans, Asian businessmen a small smatering of Hare Krishna book pushers, homeless hippies and at least 3 nuns reading Agatha Christie books.  The journey from Heathrow to my parents house is one of the most miserable experiences you could ever imagine.  You can get to their humble abode either by a series of filth ridden, rickety tubes and trains or in my Dads car with him driving.  I prefer the former because at least the train drivers typically travel somewhat faster than a snail across salt and you don’t have to watch out for white van drivers or deranged truckers trying to run you off the road.

We hadn’t been to England in four years for a number of reasons a) My family keep coming here to go to Disney every time I am off work.  b)The exchange rate is terrible so my mickey mouse money is worthless there c)Because due to my own self importance I think my visits should be a major event like the Olympics and come only once every four years although hopefully without condemnation from Richard Gere.  Since our last visit a certain airline had started flights to Stansted which is about 20 minutes drive form my parents house which means only a 2 hour round trip with my Dad driving.

The thought of flying direct from Orlando to Stansted seemed too good to be true … and it was… thanks to probably the worst airline in the world.  I know lots of people complain about airlines but my last trips with Airtran and Maleev had gone very well and I naively expected the same treatment from the airline I shall refer to simply as Crankey Yankees but was I in for a surprise. 

The intial arrival at the airport went fairly smoothly and after brushing off the saliva that was propelled in my direction by the phlegmatic check in clerk I was only moderately irriritated by the mute security officers who communicated only with eye rolls and sighs.  On arrival in JFK I was surprised to see that the weather forecast which had predicted “sleet and rain” was a little off track.  In fact we landed in a scene reminiscent of the opening part of the “Empire Strikes Back”.  Everything was covered in feet of snow which meant the Wookie ground crew were working over time as their human counterparts sought shelter.  Now I am not an aeronautical engineer but I did think that it might be a good idea to remove the 4 feet of snow that buried our plane before we took off.  How wrong can you be ?  The staff told us the flight was running on time.  The only qualm I had at this point was that for some reason they had separated our party.  Someone incompetant or evil (Darth Vader ?) had decided it would be a good idea for my daughter to sit by herself three rows away from my wife and I and between a couple of geriatric brothers from Guadalope who couldn’t speak English.  After being told by the stewardess that we couldn’t switch seats we soon discovered that the airline used a lottery system to decide on seating and NOBODY was placed together with their own groups.  Despite protestations from the cabin crew we revolted and everyone amicably moved around until we were back alongside our own families.  There were one or two suicidal teenagers and lecherous old men who were less than happy about being reunited with their kind but for the most part a degree of relief descended across the cabin.  Just then the captain spoke.  “Ladies and Gentlemen we are waiting to be de-iced but we will lift off on 15 minutes.  Until then I will be turning off the AC because of the fumes from the de-icing process.” We didn’t realise it at the time but this was the start of an Andy Kauffmanesque comedy routine that would last for four hours in the hot sweaty confines of the dingey plane.  Without fail and without a hint of a laugh the pilot repeated the same line every fifteen minutes for the next two hundred and forty minutes.  To make the situation more humourous from his sick point of view he kept the “seat belt fastened” sign on the entire time to ensure that all the incontinents on the plane could add their own fresh scent to the already stale air.  I thought at first we were on an episode of “You’ve been framed” until I saw the headline of the “Sun” newspaper being read by the guy next to me which read “Beadles not about.”  With him off the suspect list I figured this must be the work of either Fox TV or former presidentail candidate John Kerry.  There is no reason to think that John Kerry would have the ability or desire to delay a flight but since I routinely blame him for everything I decided to stick him with this one as well. 

I was in the midst of suffocating myself with a “complimentary blanket” when we finally took off.  I would have been dead already but for the fact that my obviously second hand blanket had a series of holes on it that were either bullett holes or evidence of a new breed of polyester eating maggots.  The ironic thing was that I had spent all day saying private “Hail Marys” to myself and praying that our plane would not crash but by the time we were airborne I was so so sick of being on board that I viewed a potential crash differently.  “Shit happens” I thought to myself as the engines stuttered away from JFK. 

The rest of the flight was pretty unpleasant.  The stewardesses were not the Hollywood variety of old.  Instead the blonde hair and tanned skin were replaced with wrinkles and toupees.  The glistening white smile was replaced with a raised middle finger.  The passengers were made to feel about as welcome as a Bill Clinton speech at a Hillary rally.  Finally though as my ninth set of earphones packed up during my third viewing of “What’s new on CBS this fall” I saw a glimpes of green outside the window.  We were finally there.  This was it.  This was England.  God save the Queen ………

To be continued ……..

 

Are Europeans closer to God or just cheapskates ?

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I know a guy who attends a “church” here in Gainesville where he is required to bring his annual tax returns so that the church “elders” can decide how much money they need to take from his account each year.  He was complaining to me that they plan on taking about 15% of his annual income this year to use for “blessings”.  The “blessings” include cinema sized plasma screens among other things ohh and the guy who founded this church has gone from living in a friends garage to residing in a million dollar mansion within a short space of time.  The guy who is a member told me though that the beneficent church leader encourages his members to “bless” each other frequently and even suggests that they ask each other to be “blessed” when in need. The only times I can recall asking to be blessed were during confession and the “blessing” I received was forgiveness in exchange for three swfit “Hail Mary’s”  This guy though told me that he asked a friend to “bless” him recently by buying him a $100 dollar pink shirt for nightclubbing.  If I asked one of my friends to “bless me” with a pink shirt they would probably think I was gay and definately think I was a nutcase.  I don’t recall reading anything in the Bible about assisting fellow believers by enabling them to go to discos.

The church in America though is very different from the version I recall in Europe.  Back in the day before hitting up the pub I would go to the 35 minute Sunday night mass where I would donate a quid or even a fiver to the basket being passed round by the old blokes just before the offertory.  That fairly stingey donation was my only financial commitment to the church and just for the record I checked the Vatican and Diocese of Westminster websites and didn’t see anything about having expectations for donations.  The same cannot be said for the local Catholic church in Gainesville where they have a salary calculator to help you figure out how much 10% of your annual salary is so that you can make your “fair contribution” to the church.  10% seems pretty steep to me after federal tax, state taxes, mortgages, car payments, healthcare and gas expenses I probably only have about 8% left as it is so I guess I need to get some credit cards to make up the shortfall.  The Catholic church here though is nothing compared with the local Baptist church where new members have to attend an “audit” (Kind of sounds like Scientology to me) to make sure they give “at least” 10% of their wealth over before being admitted to the church.  I don’t know why it costs more to go to church in the USA than in England but 10% is the magic number here whereas the Church of England website asks for a meagre 5% but concedes that most people give no more than 3%.  Anyone who has ever been to a C of E church knows the place is full of loaded hooray henrys with more money than sense so if they are good at 3% than 1% is all you’re getting from me. 

I understand the logic behind donating to church and if the money was well spent I wouldn’t have such a problem but here the churches invest in cinema sized plasma screens, luxury seating, video and sound recording equipment for making church movies, basketball courts, and many many other frivolities.  It is all a far cry from the days when Francis of Assissi wandered the streets begging for alms or John Wesley stood out in the cold wind with a rock as his only pulpit.  I don’t mind giving money to the poor but I do mind giving money to self important yanks who think that the church should be as comfortable as their own home.  No church here is complete without cushioned seating and a nursery like a mini Disneyworld.  What happened to people just wanting to pray ?  If old wooden benches are good enough for Catholics in Ireland or Anglicans in Essex then why are they intolerable to Christians in the USA ?

The worst thing about church in the USA is that every few weeks someone breaks away from the church and starts a new church that is not money orientated.  As the months pass more and more people who are disgusted at the excesses of their old church join the new pastor until such a time as they realise they need a new church.  Guess what ?  He then tells them they all need to hand over 10% of their wealth to finance the new building  and so the cycle begins again.  One old lady I know just built her own church which she calls the “United Christian Center” which is a contradiction in terms if ever I heard one for a breakaway group ! 

I really don’t know what they do with all the money between pointless refurbishment projects.  In my town the church organ would break and we’d raffle off a few “Chaz and Dave” records to raise the 500 quid to buy a new one.  Over here the organ would never break because they replace them every year and even if it did break they could get a live link up on the satellite system with the neighbouring church when it was time to sing.   The problem here is that there are too many self important people to go around and so each one of them needs to be a “deacon” at some church somewhere to feel good about themselves which means the rest of us have to cough up the money to finance new churches on every street corner.  It reminds me of the Roman empire where the rich and well to do built temples to their favourite gods except here they are to the same God (supposedly) and they have far less historical interest than the Pantheon.  Maybe yanks have to donate more money to church because they are more of a credit risk or a sin risk in the eyes of God.  That would seem to make sense since people with bad payment history pay more for their mortgages so I guess it should be the case that self absorbed people should pay more for salvation.

The weirdest thing you encounter here though is the notion that “God wants us to be rich”  This is a new phenomena sweeping the “evangelical churches.”  Personally I think that the pastors want you to be rich so that you don’t mind paying for their mansions quite so much.  As far as God is concerned I seem to recall Jesus stating that it is “harder for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to get into the kingdom of heaven.”  The problem is that no one here really cares much about God or Christianity as church is a social event where/nursery/baby sitting service/dating club.   As for the 10% thing well apparently that comes from the Bible when Jacob promised to giev God 10% of everything he had in return for having a safe journey.  How that translates to me paying 10% of my annual salary for a bunch of 18 year olds to go on “bonding” trips to Cancun is beyond me.

The Best Kids TV Shows Ever !!!!!

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1. “Boy from Space” – “Look and Read” : This was a popular TV show in the 80’s that kids would watch at about 11 am each day as a break from class.  The host Wordey was a legless red faced little man who would fly around chanting “Magic Magic E”.  Nobody realised at the time that he was a pioneering drug pusher getting ready for the era of raves.  “Boy From Space” was one of the stories featured in the show and it revolved around a couple of alien kids who looked like the children of the damned but with blue suits that appeared to be made from tissue paper and a language that only the teacher from Charlie Brown could imitate.  The actual episodes were all of 5 minutes long at the end of each “Look and read” segment and sci-fi obsessed kids all over Britain waited with baited breath each week for the latest fun installment.  The “Dark Towers” story was also a classic but the little lad from the stars was the pick of the bunch.

2.”Newsround”: with John Craven:  It may seem odd to highlight a kids news show as being a cult TV classic but the sad reality is that Craven and his sidekicks produced a 10 minute show containing more real news items than you’d see after a year of watching Fox and or MSNBC today.  I particularly liked the endless reports on giant Panda’s and space shuttle launches.

3.”The Flumps”: Long before that northern bloke was winning Oscars for dull films about Wallace and his dog the BBC had set the standard for animation with “The Flumps”  This was easily the best show of its genre and one of the all time classic moments of television was when Grandpa flump got stuck in his Flumpaphone.

4.”Mr Benn” : This guy was the ultimate master of disguise.  Every week he went to some kind of fancy dress shop and disappeared through the dressing room into many weird and wonderful places.  He tried his hand at being everything from a cowboy to a clown but his real brilliance was in his ability to persuade the shopkeeper to let him keep trying on costumes all the time without ever buying a single item from the store.

5.”The A-Team”: In this era of cheesy remakes I am surprised that no one has decided to make a big screen version of the greatest US TV show of all time : The A-Team.  I bet George Clooney would like a stint as Hannibal alongside Jim Carey as Murdoch and perhaps Di Caprio as Face.  BA would be harder to cast but perhaps DMX would be the man for the job and it would be the kind of thing that could lead to at least 3 or 4 sequels which is right up Clooneys alley.

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6. “Tim Tyler “(aka Timm Thaler) : This was a German classic about a kid whose laugh was stolen by an evil Baron in 1970’s Berlin (?)  The show was great because the worst sound editors in the history of television hired some drunk B movie actors to dub it into English and during the whole series not one word was uttered by a character in English at the same time his mouth was in motion.  Aside from the cheap production this show was also memorable for the flairs and hippie hairstyles that defined an otherwise forgettable era.

7. “Degrassi Junior High” : This was Canada’s answer to Grange Hill and was so terrible that it was actually  good for its utter patheticness.  I remember that one episode caused a stir as it featured the revelation that one of the teachers was a lesbian before the old BBC watershed.  Oddly enough the BBC didn’t buy a lot of shows from the land where people say “aye” after the ratings for this one were compiled but I still have a soft spot for it.

8.”Silas”: The people who dubbed this Polish gem into English did a marginally better job than their counterparts had done with Tim Tyler but the real issue was the fact that phrases that take about two syllables to say in English take 5 minutes to say in Polish and vice versa.  I remember that Silas was harrased by an nefarious harridan who was known simply as “The Old Shrew”.  I can’t remember the plot of the show but basically it involved around a kid riding around on a horse and every  week it had the same cliffhanger ending as he crossed paths with his nemesis and he exclaimed “the shrew”  Brilliant !

9. “Airwolf”: Some people may remember Ernest Borgnine as the Roman soldier at the foot of the cross or as the cop who married a hooker in “The Poseidon Adventure” but I remember him most fondly as the pilot of the best helicopter ever built, Airwolf.  This show had a simple message:  Criminals beware of copters loaded to the brim with machine guns because no matter where you run Ernie will blow your head off.  This was much better than anything you’ll see on CSI, eat your heart out David Caruso.

10. “Neighbours”: Not technically a kids show but try telling that to anyone who grew up in the UK in the late eighties.  So many kids were skipping school to watch this Aussie classic that the BBC moved it to the 5.30 spot after “Blue Peter” which had usually been reserved for shows like “Doctor Who” or “Friday film: The Glitterball.”  I was skiving off school in 1987 when the first episode was broadcast and after I saw Max Ramsey lose his temper, Des fall for stripper Daphne and Shane introduce the southern hemisphere to the mullet there was no looking back.

CBS KILLS JERICHO

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There are times when I wish that I hadn’t tempted fate and one of those times occurred this past week.  A guy at my work with whom I regularly discuss television news was asking me about the season finale of my best show “Jericho”.  After giving him a run down of the thrilling cliffhanger I couldn’t help but take a swipe at “Entertainment Weekly”.  Back in August that magazine had proudly declared that of all the new shows being broadcast in the fall that “Jericho” was the most likely to be cancelled.  They had also predicted great success for “Smith” (haha 3 episodes and scrapped) and “Sunset Strip thing with Chandler from Friends” or whatever it was called but either way it was also a flop.  I knew “Jericho” had been popular earlier in the year but it turns out that after CBS decided to give it a prolonged break mid season that some ungratfeul good for nothing selfish bastard viewers didn’t bother to watch the most recent episodes because they were too busy mowing their lawns, attending PTA nights or having “American Idol” parties.  As a result CBS have decided to send the show to the scrap heap where all great shows seem to end up these days.  The same thing happened to “Invasion” and I am sure that long before the next 48 padded and pointless episodes of “Lost” have been broadcast that all of the broadcast delays will ultimately lead to a sad demise for that show as well.

“Jericho” was bloody brilliant though and I am furious that that the network that thinks having a crappy actor in a black suit with bright orange hair putting on and takingoff his sunglasses repeatedly for an hour at a time constitutes “drama.”  CBS needs to be shut down for crimes against television.  Anyone could have told you that an old git who uses expressions involving “tornadoes and trailer parks” to describe elections would be far more liked than some kind of 50 year old Olsen twin wannabee as the host of the evening news.  CBS don’t know what the hell they are doing when it comes to quality programming.  “Jericho” had everything you could ask for : a failed movie actor in the lead role, gun wielding yanks, terrorism, love triangles, a bar, a bald headed villain and even a pumpkin patch that Charlie Brown would be proud of and yet we will never ever know the fate of Skeet and the boys now as someone has decided that it would be better to show a new drama about Swingers in 1970’s Chicago instead.  For anyone who thinks that new show sounds interesting I wouldn’t even bother wathcing it because the only shows that last past one season these days are reality shows and cheapskate quiz shows.  Whoever made the decision to cancel “Jericho” will have to smoke a turd in hell for sure but instead of cancelling the show they should have maybe fired the person who decided to interrupt its broadcast for a few months mid season and therefore lost it half of its audience base.

I really have no use for CBS now so I don’t expect to be watching it ever again.  I used to watch “King of Queens” when it was funny but after about 57 scheduling changes that show has now become nothing more than the unfunny show featuring the fat guy and the miserable, old looking Scientologist chick.  They should have cancelled that before it died it’s slow tedious death but no that would have required some intelligence on CBS part.

I guess I will start a new life based around the Discovery Channel and CMT whilst CBS can carry on being mismanaged and firing folks like Imus for being innapropriate whilst saying nothing about the vulgar content of their music channels.    One day pretty soon they will get their just desserts when David Caruso loses his sunglasses on the way to work and everybody realises that they were the only thing that held the whole “CSI” franchise together. 

 

Denver and the Black Death

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The day had gone exceedingly well.  The drive to the airport had been uneventful, the flight comfortable and we arrived in Colorado on a perfect spring day.  I had no idea what was going on but I missed one early clue when we were heading to get our rental car.  My wife had wanted to get an SUV for driving in the Rocky mountains but since I am used to driving a sedan I insisted on getting a midsize car.  I have never had any issues with midsize rentals except once in Tampa when Avis gave me a PT Cruiser that could barely hit 50 mph and I was almost crushed to death by an truck as I pulled onto I-75 naively thinking that I might be up to speed within ten minutes of hitting the road. 

As we entered the Denver Airport car rental area I joked with my wife and said “Don’t worry a midsize will be fine as it’s hardly likely to be a PT Cruiser !”   Ohhh what a stupid thing to say as inevitably the first words out of the clerks mouth were “PT Cruiser ?”  Despite the raised pitch of her voice indicating that she was asking a question she was in fact making a statement.   This wasn’t a “Is it OK if I give you a crappy car ?” question but rather a “The only car we have other than SUV’s is a PT Cruiser.” statement.  I couldn’t believe it but c’est la vie.  Twenty minutes later and we were on the road in our rental SUV.  We drove into Denver and marvelled at a spectacular view of the snow covered Rockies.  A swift visit to the “Nature and Science” museum was followed by a delicious lunch and a lovely stroll through the city.  I had wanted to move to Colorado for some time but within 4 hours of arriving I was convinced that this was the place for me so I told my wife “we need to move here.” 

Anyone who knows me is aware that I am pretty stubborn and once I have made my mind up it can’t be changed.  As we walked though the city center park on the freshly cut grass with the spring air gently blowing through our hair there was nothing that could possibly sway my mind.  Well practically nothing however just as I was starting to look for local real estate listings I noticed a yellow banner had been hammered to the sign post beside our car.  The headline was pretty eye catching “PLAGUE” it read.  Apparently Denver has recently experienced an outbreak of the bubonic plague.  That’s right, the bubonic plague.  13 million people died of the “Black Death” in Europe and it is something that has kept terrrified germophobes awake for centuries and yet suddenly here on this perfect day it was suddenly thrust into my world.  I didn’t even know that the disease still existed but it would appear that the rodent population of Colorado decided to reintroduce it to the world this April.  It seemed almost as if this was a a joke. What better way to persuade a would be Denverite to pack up his crap and get on the first plane back to Florida than this ?

The producers should have left it at this since I immediately decided not to relocate from Florida at all but they over did it a little with their next stunt.  I say the “producers” since it is pretty bloody obvious you are in the “Truman Show” when immediately after being told your dream city is plague infested that you pick up a copy of USA Today which proudly anounces “Gainesville, Fl is the best place to live in the USA.”  Seriously that is what happened.  We left the park and my wife (who rather suspiciously was against the whole Denver thing to start with) handed me a copy of the hot of the press paper which had that headline on the front page.  Ohh how realistic that Gainesville the insiginificant, over crowded, alligator infested, sweaty swamp hole that I just happen to live in is suddenly the best place in the country to live.  Give it up “Truman show” execs.  The game is up and I’m onto you.   For months I thought my 5 year old daughter was weird because she walks around the house reciting TV commercials but now it all makes sense.  I should have realised when you pulled the stunt with the PT Cruiser but this is too much.   That is it I am leaving the show.

Satan, Soprano and brunch.

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The great thing about work is that no matter how bad your day is you know that at least it is not as bad as tomorrow will be.  I am currently trying to develop some kind of system for measuring different levels of shitty work days.  I have been tracking recent events and noticed therehas been a definite increase in the degree to which my days have been crap but the amazing thing is that what seemed like the ultimate in bad days just one week ago has now been surpassed 5 times over.  I now believe that there are no boundaries to how bad work days can be.  I suppose it is like the universe constantly expanding to infinity as every day people invent colourful and cruel ways to make my job more and more intolerable.

There are two root causes of suffering at my work : the public and my superiors.  The public are the unpredictable wild card whose actions constantly shock and amaze.  I called a customer recently and suggested that she should look at re-financing her house.  The customer seemed keen on the idea so I invited her to come to the branch within the next few days to put in a loan application.  An hour after I had made an arrangement to meet her at 9am on Friday she called back and asked me if she could bring her friends with her.  I thought it was an odd request but said that was fine.  One hour later she called again and asked if it was OK if she brought 12 family members along with her in addition to her friends.  I explained that my office was fairly small but she was free to bring anyone along although their presence was hardly necessary.  So Friday came along and the branch manager unlocked the doors only for my customer and a mob of friends and family to come barging in demanding to know “what is there to eat ?”  The branch manager was a little confused by their request but politely explained that we had no food for them.  It was at this point that it emerged that my customer had a problem differentiating between an English person inviting her to the “branch” and the American word “brunch.”  The mob caused a small riot before finally leaving in a mad fury.  I would have thought that anyone with half a brain would have realised that the chances of your local bank providing a slap up breakfast for the half the town were pretty remote but in this crazy world these are the kind of nutcase customers I have to spend my time with. 

My new boss has little sympathy for me when I explain how my honest attempts at generating new business result in dismal failure on a regular basis.  This week for example I had one mortgage fall through because it transpired that the customer trying to refinance the house neither owned it nor had any connection with the business that did.  I had another customer who I called to see if he wanted to do a refi and having agreed to do so he arranged to come by the branch between his wifes funeral and the post burial reception.  Nice.  I am surprised he didn’t come by before the funeral so he could have her sign the docs with her cold dead hand.  Those nutters were at least nice as opposed to the customers who have spat at me, called me a “###king Mick Bastard” and threatened me with walking sticks within the last 2 months. 

The boss doesn’t care about the insanity levels of the public as he decided to tell his boss that we would double our goals this month for no reason other than to make himself look good.  The fact that he looks and talks like Tony Soprano is a pretty good reason to try and keep him happy because he has already insinuated that anyone who fails can expect to get some new concrete shoes and spend the rest of their days as gator bait.  Soprano has been going more and more insane each day lately but tomorrow promises to be the absolute worst day we have had this year since Soprano’s boss is coming to town and his name is Satan.  I have never really had a good rapport with Satan perhaps because of my insistence on wearing a crucifix round my neck or possibly because he is a complete bastard.   Ohh well at least tomorrow after I am whipped, hung drawn and quartered by marauding demons I can rest easy in the knowledge that at least tomorrow is not as shitty as the next day will be.

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