Adrian Sturrock: ‘If I’ve got to have problems, let them all be first world ones.’

Nat is annoyed because, apparently, I disturbed her while she was applying moisturiser for bed.

     ‘Now look what you’ve done,’ she says, ‘I’ve gone and put day cream on instead of night cream.’

     ‘Really?’ I pick up both jars and study them closely. I can’t really tell the difference between the two. ‘Are you worried that your face might suffer some kind of jet lag by the morning?’ I ask.

     ‘Very funny,’ she says, sliding a dollop of day (or night – who knows!) cream across my cheek with her fingers.

     ‘To be fair,’ I say, ‘my face hasn’t fully recovered from the clocks going forward … in 1998.’

     ‘So you haven’t always looked this bewildered?’

     ‘Very funny right back at you,’ I say, rubbing my cream-smeared face across hers.

* * * * * * * *

First world problems, of course, take a number of shapes. I realise that there are many people without food in the world but, earlier this evening, I heard myself complaining that my pizza box wouldn’t fit in the fridge.

     ‘It’s all a matter of perspective,’ Nat tells me.

     ‘Well, I tried standing further away from it,’ I say, ‘but, annoyingly, the fridge gets smaller too. And at some point I still have to get close enough to both in order to attempt wedging the one into the other. Bloody physics.’

     ‘That’s not what I … never mind!’ She gets into bed and switches off the light.

    I stumble around a bit longer, stub my toe, then give up on my day altogether and get into bed too.

* * * * * * * *

I lay here, thinking about the things that annoy me on a daily basis, turning each one over in my mind, assessing to what extent any of them really matter in the scheme of things. After considering the hair that the cat fastidiously lays over the sofas each day, in preparation for my return from work, and the fact that we live in a hard water area and so we’re reduced to having to buy bottled water in order to stop the kettle furring up, my mind inevitably moves to the biggest irritation in my life – the fact that I’m employed. This, in turn, directs me to the words of that great philosopher and social commentator, Morrissey: ‘I was looking for a job and then I found a job, and heaven knows I’m miserable now.’

     I have always understood his dilemma, and I continue to feel his pain – my pain – on a daily basis. But I’ve only now considered how very first-world this actually is, as problems go. I blame Durkheim. If it wasn’t for him, spending his time being all French and inventing the ‘insatiable appetite’, I’d probably be happy with what I’ve got, would stop striving for things that I can’t attain, and would spend more time comparing myself to those who have less, rather than to those with more. Who knows, this might even lead me to performing more charitable acts.

     But such is life (or ‘c’est la vie’, as Durkheim and his mates would have one believe), I am destined to continue complaining about having to buy bottled water to supplement my clean tap water, while watching African street children on television drinking from polluted streams.

     Like it or not, I am part of the great Western problem. I might offer up my £3 per month to WaterAid but, as Joey from Friends points out, ‘there’s no such thing as an unselfish act– I do this to salve my conscience, in order to give myself the mental space to thirst for other unnecessary things that I don’t have in my life.

* * * * * * * *

I’m jolted out of my thoughts by Nat, who suddenly turns over and knees me in the spine.

     ‘We need a King sized bed,’ I huff to myself.

     ‘We’ve already got one,’ whispers Nat, in response.

     ‘I thought you were asleep, I say.’

     ‘I am,’ she says, ‘this is merely the voice of your conscience.’

     ‘My conscience sounds remarkably similar to you,’ I say.

     ‘I can’t help that,’ says my conscience, before turning over again and going back to sleep.

* * * * * * * *

I lay here a few moments longer, irritated by the purgatory being inflicted on me by my pillows, as they imprison me within my current ‘one pillow is too low, but two pillows is too high’ conundrum. Finally, I turn over sharply, take hold of the top pillow, and frisbee it across the room.

    Immediately, I feel a second knee connecting with my back, as a voice behind my right ear whispers up closely, ‘Hello, it’s your conscience again. Just a quickie to say that If you don’t lay still and go to sleep, I’m likely to stab you to death with your own bedside lamp,’

    ‘My bedside lamp isn’t very sharp,’ I whisper back.

    ‘Exactly! It’ll hurt more.’

    ‘… Point taken,’ I whisper, and resign myself to laying still.

* * * * * * * *

I suppose that being stabbed with my very own table lamp would be considered a first world problem in some corners of the world, with the fact that I’m rich enough to own one being the clincher.  I think this to myself, quietly … in my head … with as little movement as possible.

    (It is quite a nice lamp.)

* * * * * * * *

 

____________________________________________________________________

IF YOU ENJOYED THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE CONSIDER SHARING IT ON YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA PAGE FOR OTHERS TO ENJOY TOO.  (Even us poor writers have to eat!)

YOU CAN ALSO FIND MY TWO CURRENT BOOKS, *Random* AND *The Sat Nav Diaries*  ON AMAZON. 
____________________________________________________________________

 

 

 

Adrian Sturrock: ‘There’s nothing more miserable in the world than to arrive in paradise looking like your passport photo.’

‘Did you sort out your passport, today,’ Nat asks, as she comes in from work.

     ‘Turns out you can do it all online,’ I say.

     ‘I know,’ she says. ‘So, did you do it?’

     ‘I made a start.’

     ‘A start?’

     ‘I got as far as the bit where they ask you to take a picture of yourself.’

     ‘Did you have difficulty uploading it?’ she asks. ‘The site was being a bit temperamental when I was renewing mine.’

     ‘I didn’t get that far.’

     ‘Why not?’

     ‘It was my face,’ I say. ‘My face was being temperamental.’

     Nat stops what she’s doing and looks at me. ‘What?’

     ‘My face has been stuck on ugly today … I’ll try it again tomorrow.’

     ‘Why will it be different tomorrow?’

     ‘… I don’t think I like your tone,’ I say.

* * * * * * * *

There are a lot of rules to taking a passport photo. You have to look straight in at the camera, no smiling, must use clear light only, no sunglasses or hats. I’m guessing Photoshop is out of the question, then.

    ‘Whatever I submit I’m going to be stuck with for the next ten years,’ I say. ‘Like last time.’ I hold up my present passport picture to remind her. ‘I don’t think that sniggering is a very supportive gesture,’ I say.

     ‘Nobody looks great in their passport photo,’ says Nat, ‘I think the deal is that you’re meant to look a bit like a dishevelled criminal caught in the act, it saves the police and the media time and effort later, should you ever have reason to go on the run. Then, it’s just a quick copy and paste for them, for the “This man is dangerous and should not be approached” posters.

     ‘Well, I’m not dangerous,’ I complain.

     ‘You have been,’ she says.

     ‘I don’t think leaving the hairdryer plugged in all day constitutes ‘dangerous’,’ I say.

     ‘I think we should leave that up to the insurance company to decide,’ says Nat.

     ‘One time,’ I say. ‘One bloody time.’

     ‘ … Twice,’ she says, then quickly ducks out of the room before I can argue further.

* * * * * * * *

This morning I get up early. As soon as Nat leaves for work, I reach into the bedside drawer and take out the home hair-dye kit I bought yesterday.

     While I’m in the shower, I think back to when my friend, Jon, got mistakenly arrested for a robbery he didn’t do. They let him keep a copy of his arrest photograph.

     ‘You look like your own photofit,’ I said, looking down into the pic he brought to the pub with him.

     ‘I was in there a long time before they took it,’ he said, ‘I fell asleep on my hand.’

     I’ve left the dye on a little longer than I meant to. It’s gone too dark. I wiggle my hair around in the mirror – as if wiggling it will make it lighter again. I note that my skin now looks quite pale, in contrast to it.

     In an attempt to bring back a degree of balance between my hair and face, I reach into the bottom of my wardrobe and take out the spray tan I bought in preparation for our last foreign holiday, the one that I then forgot to pack, rendering me the number one most translucent body on the beach that year.

     By 2pm, I have a worryingly orange face to go with my overly darkened hair. I look in the mirror again and am instantly reminded of what despair feels like. I look around the room for any inspiration I can pull out of the air, to limit the damage already caused.

     I quickly realise that changing my shirt isn’t going to be the answer, and so am forced to pursue a more radical approach.

     ‘Where’s your mum’s make-up bag?’ I ask the cat, who has now entered the bedroom and is probably wondering who this total stranger standing in front of him is.

     I lean into the mirror. Maybe if I thin out my eyebrows a little with these tweezers it will detract from the heaviness of my hair colour.

     It’s 5.30pm when I hear Nat’s key in the door. What am I going to tell her? I avoid a final brave look into the mirror and, instead, opt for a different shirt. 

     ‘Hello,’ she shouts up the stairs.

     ‘Hello,’ I shout back.

     ‘It was a crazy day at work, today,’ I hear her say, as she takes off her coat and starts her way up the stairs. ‘First off, there was a traffic jam on the way in and then … (as she enters the bedroom, she catches sight of me and pauses) …Who are you?’ she says. ‘And what have you done with my husband?’

     ‘Your husband is temporarily unavailable,’ I say, as I look up from where I’m sat on the edge of the bed, where I’m fairly convinced that I’m looking like something resembling a dejected clown.

     She comes a little closer to take me all in. ‘…Oh, my …,’ she says, and places a hand over her, quite frankly, unsupportive smile.

     ‘I know,’ I say.

     ‘And did you sort out your passport?’

     ‘I sent in a picture,’ I say.

     ‘Really? … Oh, my’

* * * * * * * *

Three weeks later, I receive a letter from the Passport Office. It informs me that they were unable to process my application. 

     Alongside the letter, they have enclosed a leaflet outlining what is and isn’t acceptable as a passport photograph. The list includes the usual things:  I must look straight into the camera, no smiling, must use clear light only, no wearing of sunglasses or hats, etc. At the bottom of the page, someone at the passport office has run a highlighter pen over the words, ‘No use of Photoshop or similar’.

     ‘But it’s … How absolutely bloody rude!’ I say.

 

* * * * * * * *

____________________________________________________________________

IF YOU ENJOYED THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE CONSIDER SHARING IT ON YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA PAGE FOR OTHERS TO ENJOY TOO.  (Even us poor writers have to eat!)

YOU CAN ALSO FIND MY TWO CURRENT BOOKS, *Random* AND *The Sat Nav Diaries*  ON AMAZON. 
____________________________________________________________________

Adrian Sturrock: ‘If you find yourself walking a mile in my shoes, perhaps you could pick up a bottle of wine?’

My wife is hoping that it’s not going to snow tonight, in case she can’t get to work in the morning. I, on the other hand, am hoping that it’s going to snow tonight, in order to ensure that I can’t get to work in the morning. This isn’t because I’m lazy; it’s because I have a low boredom threshold – and because I like snow.

     There’s a word for people who don’t like snow (besides ‘boring’); it’s ‘chionophobia’. ‘Chion is, apparently, Greek for snow. My first reaction when I heard this was, ‘But it doesn’t snow in Greece. Why would they have a word for it?’ But then a friend of mine, who is Greek, pointed out that Greece has its own ski resorts. The subtext to this heads-up was, ‘I can’t believe you’re so ignorant.’ His words were kind; it was his face that gave him away.

     I went on to question how much protection the toga offers in sub-zero temperatures, though I have since found that the average Greek person does not wander around in a toga. I feel cheated and lied to by Hollywood.

* * * * * * * *

Nat keeps alternating between checking online weather reports and peeking through the curtains to see if there is any snow on the ground outside. According to the world of ‘online’, we are currently on Amber Alert; according to the real world, it’s all rather normal out there.

     It’s a strange tradition, this need to guess the weather. It’s like a weird form of gambling addiction, without the opportunity to win cash. If I was the Met Office, I think I’d simplify things by recording one basic message to play on loop: ‘It’s January, you’re in the UK, the weather is likely to be crap. Don’t forget your coat and your scrapie thing for the car.’ There really isn’t much else to it.

     ‘Should I take some extra warm clothes with me in the morning,’ Nat asks, ‘in case I get stranded?’

     I’m guessing this question is mostly rhetorical and that she is merely thinking aloud.

     I pull out a selection of my mountain gear from the back of the wardrobe while she’s in the shower and place it in a pile on her side of the bed.

     ‘Thanks,’ she says, as she returns to the bedroom and packs them into her small rucksack. ‘What are you doing?’ she asks, smiling at me across the room.

     I look up from behind my laptop. ‘I’m researching,’ I say.

     ‘Researching? Researching what?’

     ‘I’m researching at what temperature the human eye freezes.’

     ‘What? Why?’

     ‘I’m curious. It’s quite cold out there.’

     Nat seems to be waiting for a fuller explanation than I’m currently giving.

     ‘It says here that … Oh, that’s disappointing …’

     ‘What is?’

     ‘It says here that our eyes can’t freeze while inside our living body, no matter how low the temperature gets.  Apparently, they’re protected by a series of warm blood vessels and the heat from inside our heads.’

     ‘And this is disappointing because …?’

     ‘Because I was looking for a dramatic fact about cold weather,’ I say. ‘Sometimes, one would just like to believe in at least one good urban myth,’

     ‘Remind me again,’ she says, ‘I married you because …?’

     ‘… I’m lovely. Keep up.’

    She looks at me with her very specific frown. ‘If human eyes don’t freeze because they’re packed tightly against a warm brain, I suggest you don’t venture out until at least spring.’

     ‘Not even your tears would freeze,’ I continue, ignoring her, ‘because of the salt in them.’

     ‘Oh, there’s no worries there,’ she says, ‘there’s no tears in my cold black heart.’

     ‘That was my guess too,’ I say.

* * * * * * * *

I’ve always had a thing about snow. I’ve also always had a thing about chilling at home while everyone else is at work. This could be my lucky week.

     I’ve even gone as far as to make a quick post-it note list of things I’d like to get done during my possible snow-day tomorrow. Why mess around with weather predictions when wishful thinking will do just as well.

     Meanwhile, Nat has trudged down to the shed at the bottom of our garden, in her pyjamas, to fetch our garden spade. ‘In case I’ll need to dig the car out,’ she says, pre-empting my question.

     ‘OK,’ I say.

     She stands the spade up in the hallway, next to her rucksack of emergency clothing. Later, I wander past her Shrine to Winter, and place my mountain trekking boots neatly next to her bag.

     ‘Thank you,’ she says, ‘but I probably won’t need those.’

     ‘Take them anyway,’ I say, ‘And if you do find yourself walking a mile in my shoes, perhaps you could pick up a bottle of wine?’

* * * * * * * *

The next morning, we both get out of bed together and rush over to the window to squint between the blinds.

     ‘Thank god’ says Nat. ‘No snow.’

     ‘Bugger!’ I say.

* * * * * * * *

UPDATE: twenty-four hours later:

SNOWMAGEDDON!!!

* * * * * * * *

Adrian Sturrock: I’m very excited to say that my second book, ‘RANDOM’ is currently holidaying in Munich, where it’s being edited. Cover artwork is also about to begin in Greece, once I’ve finished having artistic differences with myself … More news, including release date, to come soon.

This book is
RANDOM 
… as is my life

“This is my life. It’s not an outstanding one; it’s probably much like yours – except with me in it.

* * * * * * * *

After forty days and forty nights of wandering through Europe in their Mazda MX5 Miata, Adrian and his wife, Natalie, are back home – mostly because that’s where they live. RANDOM explores their everyday life, and continues where THE SAT NAV DIARIES left off. Life must go on, it seems.

‘Is it just me or do my feet look further away to you?’ This is Adrian Sturrock’s first collection of unpublished articles, in which he fumbles his way through a number of vaguely irrelevant 21stCentury issues, including:

  • How to pull off a social media romance
  • Why you shouldn’t cheat on your hair stylist
  • How to ensure that speed cameras capture your best side
  • Why phishing no longer requires a rod
  • How come today’s DIY still means having to do it yourself

“You might learn a lot here, though this is highly unlikely.”
Alternatively, you might just have fun learning nothing at all.

* * * * * * * *

Adrian Sturrock: ‘We’re dreaming of a Skype Christmas.’

     ‘You haven’t listened to a word I’ve said.’

     ‘That’s a strange way to start a conversation,’ I say.                    

     My wife tuts loudly and leaves the room.

     I’ve just done a twelve-hour shift. At the moment, I’m mostly thinking about murdering all of my colleagues, setting fire to the building, and disappearing to Bolivia to become a drugs lord. Failing that, can I afford to drop a few days and go part time?

     Some moments later, Nat re-enters the living room with a large glass of wine which she carefully places into my hand as she kneels in front of me and whispers, ‘I’m told that this magic potion enables the drinker to not give a single buggery about the world of work. Quick, drink it.’

     It takes a second glass for the magic to really kick in but, when it does, the result is absolute. ‘You’re right,’ I say, ‘I’m cured. I really don’t give a shit.’

     ‘Good. Now, can I please have your attention, just for a few moments? We need to talk about Christmas.’

     ‘Today, I learned that the Japanese for hedgehog translates as ‘needle mouse’, I say.

     ‘… What?’

     ‘Isn’t that great? I like a name that fully describes the object … like the Welsh word for microwave: ‘poppity ping’. Genius.’

     ‘I suppose the person who named the pullover totally nailed it for you, too?’

     ‘Exactly. It is what it does. Why would anybody call it a jumper? That’s just dishonest.’

     ‘… Is this your second or third wine?’ Nat takes the glass gently from my hand and places it at arm’s length behind her. ‘So, Christmas. What?’

     ‘Can we go somewhere sunny? I’m not a big fan of the UK in December; it’s merely tinsel and muddy puddles. And I’ve seen Love Actually too many times.’

     ‘We’ll need to see family too,’ she says. What are your thoughts on the best way to do this?

     ‘Skype,’ I suggest.

* * * * * * * *

As a child, Christmas just happens around you, while one is perfectly distracted by presents and shiny lights. I’ve attempted to drag this simplicity into adult life but more often than not the grown-up world doesn’t favour straightforwardness. To put this into more scientific terms, I’m told, nature likes to fill a vacuum. Where one might endeavour to remove a problem, therefore, nature will conspire to create new difficulties to take its place.

     At this time of year, nature’s usual weapon of choice is heavy use of the ‘F’ word: Family. Or more precisely, family politics.

     ‘Where did we spend Christmas last year?’ I ask

     ‘Last year, it was here,’ Nat reminds me. ‘The year before was in Somerset, with my parents.’

     ‘Then, logically, I guess this year will be at my mum’s, in Wales,’ I say. (I told you I like to keep things simple.)

     ‘Ah, thing is,’ Nat begins, ‘Rhys says he can’t get time off work, as he’s the newest member of staff. And I don’t want him spending Christmas alone.’ Rhys is Nat’s son; my step-son. ‘Any chance your mum could come to us?’

     And this is where grown-up life plots to make what should be a simple family get-together a social maze of dead ends. ‘The problem with that,’ I say, ‘is that she won’t leave the rest of the family. And we don’t have the space to invite them all.’

     So, there we have it: political stalemate. By the time the wine is all gone, Nat and I have taken this discussion around in circles more than once, with the apparent consensus being that, to please the majority, we are forced to spite ourselves – unlike Theresa May’s current Brexit plan, which aims to spite everybody, whilst pleasing nobody.

     The final decision seems … well … final: Christmas means Christmas. Apparently. Nat is to stay here, to ensure Rhys is not without company, and I am to spend this time in Wales, in order to represent us amongst the Welsh contingent.

     This feels neither a strong nor particularly stable decision, but it’s all that we have, unless we can re-negotiate our position and/or take the choice back to the people.

     One thing we don’t have to compromise on, however, is our decision to meet up – just the two of us – to see the New Year in, in Europe – thus stretching this current Brexit analogy to breaking point.  ‘I like the sunshine too,’ says Nat.

* * * * * * * *

In the meantime, the best that Nat and I can dream of is a Skype Christmas, complete with festive pullovers (not jumpers!), and the usual barrage of Christmas TV repeats where, no matter how you spin it, Two Ronnies do not make a right.

* * * * * * * *