February 1, 2019 by Mike Madden

I Know What You Are Thinking

Its been a quiet time in the kitchen – with Enchiladas and very slow roast beef top of the menu. However, there has been activity as Zac is improving his culinary skills as part  of his Duke Of Edinburgh award.

His first effort was Thai fragrant rice, and he followed this up with quick brownies. To be honest he seems to have lost interest – but maybe the thought of steamed chocolate pudding will bring him back again.

Ole was very chilled at home over Christmas, until he found a message on his uni group chat. The essay that he was planning to do in the New Year had to be done by tomorrow. Cue a major panic and nuclear fallout as to whose fault it was (not Ole’s, obviously!)

Anyway, mum helped, dad helped, and Ole did a bit. Zac looked on, bemused! The essay was done and with a Herculean effort we anxiously wait to see if we got a first.

New Year’s Eve was party time at our house, and Zac was showing how grown up he was having a beer. To be honest, he probably took a sip, didn’t like it, but continued carrying the bottle around to be manly! Anyway, he reverted to type when he put some bread in the toaster. “Toast with beer?” someone said with a sneer. “Some people have mini cheddars with weed, I have toast with beer,” came his somewhat troubling reply.

Actually, there was another triumph in the kitchen – pulled jackfruit. I got the idea from some sandwiches that Sainsbury’s sell, and it was actually pretty easy to make once I had procured some jackfruit. It was a revelation to most people, particularly my vegetarian friends, and no sooner had I made it than it was all over the tv on various programmes. Always like to stay ahead of the curve!

One of Ole’s friends went home after the party and his mum asked him what he had eaten. “Some pulled pork I think”, he said, not realising that I was turning him veggie!

Anyway, the party was not without incident, as towards the end of the night Ole’s friends were systematically emptying the kitchen of food. However, one of them nudged a sideboard. It tottered and fell, releasing about 30 jars of chutneys, sauces and various other condiments onto the floor. Most were ok, but the ones that smashed, well all I will say is that chutney and red cabbage look a lot worse when they spill out across the floor. Sally was just out of view when she heard the crash. She moved to get up, but Ole’s girlfriend saw the mess and said, “its probably better that you just stay there!” I cleared it up, so no harm done, and it got rid of a lot of chutney that could have been there five years or more. As people went off to bed Sally remarked that the party was quite a success. Zac had other ideas. “It’s cost us about £40 in jam,” he said.

Had some fun post-Christmas with customer service. Runner-up in this imaginary contest were KLM. I booked our flights to Chicago with KLM, who used to partner with Virgin. I know this because of their tie up on my ill-fated trip to Washington DC and Toronto a few years ago. Anyway, the points had not been credited to my Virgin account (there is a space to fill your Virgin number in on the KLM booking), so I contacted KLM.

KLM “Ah, the flights were booked via Delta.”

Me “Actually they were booked through Expedia, but what’s the difference? Delta are one of your partners along with Virgin.”

KLM “Well, they were marketed through Delta, but I can see that Virgin have taken the points.”

Me “So where are they?”

KLM “You will need to ask Virgin.”

I contacted Virgin who said that the alliance in terms of points no longer exists, and no they have not taken the points. They can’t! I told KLM.

KLM “Ah, I see that Virgin have not taken the points. They are with Delta. Would you like me to add them to your account?”

Me “I would rather you add them to the Virgin account but if that is not possible, then yes please.”

KLM credited 11,500 points to my previously empty Flying Blue account where they will sit until either I use them or they expire. Anyone fancy a trip to Amsterdam?

So, KLM were pretty bad, but the winner, and not for the first time, is Carphone Warehouse. I bought Ole a phone from there, and he did not like it as the handset was too small. I contacted them via chat and they said just take it back to any Carphone Warehouse store for a full refund. Fortunately, I saved the chat transcript.

The following day I went to Carphone Warehouse inside PC World in Stockport. There was no-one there, then a flustered lady rushed through the door, put her handbag down and asked what I wanted. I explained the situation, but she said she could not process the return. The system will not allow it as I had had the phone more than 14 days. I explained it was a Christmas present and the guy on the chat said I could.

Turns out she is not from that store – she is just filling in. She normally works from Altrincham. Not understanding what possible difference that could make I waited for her next move. “I will call my boss,” she said. After a brief conversation she said I should go to the Trafford Centre branch and they would accept the return there. Not fancying the traffic at the Trafford Centre I said, “No – do it here.” She said that she could not as she did not have the authorisation code. At the same time I got Carphone Warehouse live chat again on my phone. They said the lady should call retail support. She did. After a brief conversation she said she could still not process the return. I told the live chat agent the result of the conversation. “She has not called retail support,” was the answer, and they provided me a number. She called it but could not get through. So I called it and got through. They said they could not speak to me as I was not a Carphone Warehouse retail person. “No shit,” I thought, but I passed the phone to the lady and she spoke to them. In the meantime she suggested I walk across Stockport to another branch to see if they could help. I politely declined her suggestion.

I had been in the store for well over an hour when she finally got the answer that she could not process the return, but a return label would be emailed to me. Sure enough, it appeared in my inbox. The phone was returned, a full refund was issued, and all’s well that ends well.

However, this is the second time I have had issues with the incompetence of Carphone Warehouse customer service. I won’t make that mistake a third time!

I have no strong views on Brexit either way. That may seem unusual, but I simply do not have the facts. And neither does anyone else, really! Its a bit like a weather forecast, and we know how reliable they are!

However, I do have an opinion on why we now seem so screwed…

The ignorant elite (parliament) who get paid to run the country couldn’t decide about membership of the EU so they abdicated their responsibility and left the decision to the ignorant majority (ignorant in that no one knew the consequences). Then the ignorant elite took sides despite accepting that they weren’t qualified to make a decision.

The decision was made for them but now in their role of running the country they can’t implement that decision.

The ignorant masses are not ignorant about everything!

A vote of no confidence in the government? No, a vote of no confidence in parliament would be more appropriate.

We have reached a constitutional crisis and the only solution is a general election in which no one who has had any part to play (including all current MPs) should be allowed to stand.

At least we haven’t got Trump at the helm!

Over the past few weeks my kids have been singing Delta Dawn, Country Roads and The Night Hank Williams Came To Town. So proud!

Badminton has become a popular sport in our house. Zac has been playing at school, and Ole is always up for a sporting challenge, so they decided to head to the leisure centre and have a game. Ole was ready, racquets in hand. Zac appeared, and they were about to set off until Ole saw how Zac was dressed. “No, no, you’re not coming with me dressed like that.” The problem seemed to be Zac’s socks that went all the way up to his knees. Not wanting to give up the challenge, Zac rolled them down and off they went. An hour or so later they returned, and the socks were back up again. It turns out that the socks were just one of many reasons that Zac gave for coming second. A week or so later I took them both on. Its about five years since I played, and they have both improved a lot since then. I struggled in the first half hour, losing to both of them, but once I got my eye in they were disposed of. It took me another half hour to be able to breathe properly again!

We played another game of Risk, and I have to admit that we still do not know all of the rules. However, the more you play it the more realistic it seems. I settled my troops in Berlin, and using that as my base I was seemingly allowed to march my troops across Europe to wherever they were needed. Seemed obvious that I was going to win. Zac insists we read the rules a little closer before the next game.

Sally bought a multipack of crisps last week, but within a day or so they had all gone. Ole seemed to be the major culprit, though I suspect Zac chipped in too. I said she should hide them, and she agreed, but there was a problem with that concept. “I’ll forget where I have hidden them,” she admitted.

Anyway, the problem may not last much longer, as Ole has started to eat healthily again, including egg whites and spinach every morning. This is not going well. I even whipped them up for him, like an uncooked meringue, but he grimaced with every mouthful. I think he has been watching too much Popeye.

Meanwhile, Zac came home from school and was ready to go to football training later in the evening. His warm up included a Magnum. Sally looked on disapprovingly, as he had had no tea. “What about your fish?” she asked, to which he replied, “Fish after football mama.”

He got an Alexa for Christmas and absolutely loves it. Unfortunately, Ole is not as pleased. Zac asked Alexa to wake him up at 7.30am for school. She tried, bless her, but Zac would sleep through a nuclear explosion. Eventually Ole had to come in to tell Alexa to shut up.

I’m about to start a podcast. Never done one before, but if the studio get it right I have an hour of ready made material each week interviewing various guests for Ex Pat Radio.

I have two other subjects, my IT career (one for the purists), and cookery. Now you may think that cookery wouldn’t work well on a podcast, and you may be right. But my cookery book without pictures sold loads – so here’s hoping! The first pod should be up and running within a week. I’ve bought new headphones and microphone, stand, filter – very techno! I now need to create some artwork and music to introduce each show. That means getting the piano tuned and letting Sally loose!

Finally, I bought some shaving stuff from Amazon. Two Wilkinson Sword razors and 24 spare blades – all for a bargain price. Incidentally, I looked in to Dollar Shave Club, Harry’s Razors, etc. They were set up because shaving was perceived to be expensive. Well, if you enrol with a club it will get really expensive, with butters, balms, lotions and potions all designed to give you the look and feel of a baby’s bottom. I’ll stick with Wilkinson Sword! Anyway, I digress. So the razors and blades arrived, but I did not need them at that precise moment, so I left them in my office. They then made their way to the stairs. Eventually, they moved upstairs, and were on a chest of drawers just outside our bedroom. I made a mental note. A couple of weeks later my last blade was used up, so I went to get a new one. Unfortunately, they had gone. I looked in the chest of drawers, behind it, in the bathroom, in various cupboards, back downstairs, they were nowhere to be found. Zac denied ever having seen them, so I asked Sally. “Have you seen my shaving stuff? It was on the chest of drawers.” Now, I did not put them on the chest of drawers, and I am 100 per cent certain that Ole and Zac would not have done, so only Sally could possibly have put them there. She thought I was being a tad accusatory, but I was simply asking a question. “Have you tried Ole’s room, the bathroom cabinet, the drawers in the bedroom, or ask Ole?” she said. I had checked all of those places, but I checked them all again, and then I texted Ole. “Yes, my bad,” he responded. “I took them all by mistake when I went back to uni.” Mystery solved, though I had to reconstruct my razor and order more replacements. Mission accomplished and I sat downstairs doing some work. Sally came in and stood over me. I wondered what she wanted.

Me “Yes?”

Sally “I’m waiting”

Me “What for?”

Sally “An apology”

Me “What for?”

Sally “You know what for?”

Me “I’ve not accused you of anything, Ole admitted he took the razors so that’s the end of it”

Sally “I’m still waiting?”

Me “I have nothing to apologise for – I haven’t said anything”

Sally “No – but I know what you were thinking”

Big Brother has nothing on Sally!