Posted in Life, Love and Laughter, Writing

(Some) People are Tools

People are funny sometimes. Some are ‘Funny Ha-Ha’ and others are more ‘Funny Peculiar’. Lately I seem to be plagued by the funny peculiar type and, I believe, I am in fact a magnet for them. I don’t know if it’s to do with being a woman travelling alone, or if the whole world just went funny when I wasn’t looking.

Urban Dictionary definition of a Tool: Someone whose ego FAR exceeds his talent, intelligence, and likeability. But, of course, he is clueless regarding that fact. He erroneously thinks he is THE MAN!

Which tool are you?

The Monkey Wrench

person holding silver crescent wrench behind vehicle wheels
The Monkey Wrench

Well, this bloke really took the biscuit when it came to funny peculiar. I shared a table with two lads for 2 hours on a packed train. The longest 2 hours of my life and 2 hours I will never get back. They did tell me their names but for the life of me, I can’t remember them, so I’ll call them Bill and Ben. They were only in their early twenties, if not younger, and they had Cardiff accents, so I knew when they got on at Birmingham, I was stuck with them for the duration.

I was already seated as they made a spectacle of themselves just finding seats. Ben carried one holdall and was dressed in joggers, a sweatshirt and trainers.  Bill had more luggage than Imelda Marcos leaving a shoe sale, and he had to put some of it on an empty seat next to another stranger. Bill was a dandy. He wore big rings on his fingers, a gold necklace with a cross, shiny leather shoes and a suit reminiscent of Rupert Bear. He wore a colourful striped shirt and a poppy covered tie. Clash much? He had a green paracord bracelet on his right hand, which didn’t fit with the rest of the ensemble and he must have bathed in a vat of aftershave.

I was reading a book when they sat down and started talking. Bill did not draw breath. He talked nonstop. I have never seen anything like it. He had an opinion and advice about absolutely everything you could think of, and he was as thick as your Nan’s doorstop cheese butty. I desperately kept trying to read and he kept interrupting me and the topics were completely random.

He couldn’t remember if people had 5 toes or 6 on each foot. I could see the cogs whirring as he was obviously trying to mentally count his toes from inside his shoes. He counted wrong. He didn’t know yoghurt was made from milk. He thinks he believes the Romans existed though he’s not sure Jerusalem is an actual place. He used his fingers to add 10 minutes to 58 minutes.

But the best thing was how he was trying to keep it quiet that they had just passed Army Selection (hence the paracord bracelet). He was so covert in hiding it that he kept calling me Ma’am, even after I told him my name, he answered “roger that” instead of a simple “yes” every single time, oh yes and he kept talking about it non-stop to a crowded train for 2 hours. He told me he didn’t want to advertise the fact that he was in the Army because it would, in effect, put a target on his forehead. He showed me his Facebook profile. His name was displayed as BILL TOOL (Soldier Boy) his profile pic was of him in uniform, and his cover photo was of his soon-to-be cap-badge. He may need extra lessons in camouflage class I think. SAS or Int Corps he most definitely is not.

They were perfectly lovely young men though (wow, how old do I sound?) obviously pleased as punch to have passed Selection, and rightly so.  I wish them both well. I am sure they will have a great future ahead of them and make their families and themselves proud. I don’t have a problem with people being factually challenged, it takes all sorts. People have different strengths and that is perfectly fine.

But oh my f god – he did not shut up for 2 hours straight. If you are going to talk incessantly, please try to make sure it’s not all total bo**ocks.

The Blunt Axe 

I took another train, this time to Southport. Just an hour each away so I took my knitting to keep busy. Nothing peculiar in that, right? The trip there was pretty uneventful. A little old gentleman sat opposite me reading his book, and he didn’t even raise his eyes to mine, let alone speak.

On the way back however, I was gifted with Derek (name changed to protect the peculiar) as a travelling companion. I know his name was Derek, because he introduced himself as he shook my hand and told me I have a very unique personality.

I knew I was in trouble when he interrupted a conversation across the carriage and told them they were wrong about water meters. They told him it was the best decision they had ever made and shut him down immediately. And so, he turned to me.

axe close up dark grass
The Blunt Axe

Derek was a nice enough chap. Reasonably well dressed in jeans with greying floppy hair, 50-ish I guess, a bit scruffy but not dirty. He had one of those softly spoken, gentle Liverpool accents, similar to Roger McGough the poet. The sort of voice you could listen to for hours if he were reading decent poetry. But Derek wasn’t reading poetry.

It was the knitting that gave him a conversation starter, although I’m sure he’d have found another ‘in’. But he soon lost interest in what I was doing and started banging on about all kinds of political stuff. I have no problem with people’s politics, each to their own, but if I wanted to hear some d*ck spouting nonsense I’d tune in to Question Time.

I learned that he sees himself as a traditional man, not one of these “new -fangled New Men” (his words). He is a hard-working labourer, a man’s man, with a woman at home looking after him. I know he moved to Southport because his girlfriend wanted him to, so he obviously wears the trousers in that household. He was on his way to his ailing mother’s house with not one but two Mother’s Day cards, because he couldn’t decide which he liked best. He showed them to me. They were pretty much identical. He had no idea what to buy her for a present. He was angry about where they had positioned her smoke alarm where she could see it blinking all day and all night, and that it showed a lack of empathy (fair point). He also hated that they had cut her carers down, in a subversive move to force her into a home so they could take all her money and her house. Something he vowed would never happen “as long as there is breath in my body”. He banged his fist on his thigh and pulled a face.

Derek was a very angry man and had many an axe to grind, he was anti-establishment, disliked ‘The Man’, but he was so softly spoken that I missed most of it. I smiled and nodded a bit, and generally tried to concentrate on what I was doing, hoping he’d get off the train soon. I resisted the urge to mention BREXIT or Thatcher. I think he may have quietly combusted.

There was plenty more, but I couldn’t hear a word. Regardless, he talked constantly for half an hour. But it all felt a bit wet. The fist punching was weak posturing for my benefit, and he had no idea that I wasn’t engaging in the conversation. How he knew what kind of personality I had is beyond me.

The Mallett

egg power fear hammer
The Mallett

And in case you think it’s all men – I am actually writing this on the Library computer and next to me a woman is gesticulating and bashing hell out of the keyboard and mouse in temper as she has a Facebook argument. She is swearing and arguing at the screen, flicking the v’s, and waving her arms in despair. I’m not sure she realises they can’t see or hear her. I’d love to have a nose and see what the argument is about, but I think I might get a punch in the face.

I am sure that these three are all very nice people, perhaps they just need someone to talk to, someone to listen. It’s a colourful world we live in, and these guys make life interesting. But Christ can they make a train journey drag.

Okay, so perhaps I am being a little judgemental, but hey, they invaded my space, I was quietly minding my own business when they interrupted, so that makes them fair game in my eyes.

I love people watching, all writers do I guess, but it’s almost as if these guys came out from the TV screen and sat on my sofa. Well, they will be characters in a book someday and revenge will be sweet.  This kind of Funny Peculiar is too good to waste.

Which Tool are You?


Posted in Life, Love and Laughter, Swimming

Diary of a Swimming Snob – Etiquette

Joining swimming club as a kid, you learn to share the swimming lanes with other swimmers. You learn the etiquette of lane swimming and you learn to be respectful of your team mates. It then becomes really frustrating when trying to find a pool that is:-

a) open for public swimming when I’m not working

b) has at least one lane cordoned off for those that want to swim laps, and

c) is not so ridiculously busy that it takes hours to clock up a dozen lengths

I am really struggling to clock up the miles for the #swim22 this month for all of these reasons.

Much of the frustration of my third point could be alleviated if those that didn’t grow up staring at the bottom of a pool for mile after mile, would think about those around them when they’re swimming.

So for the uninitiated, here is a list of a Swimming Snob’s Do’s and Don’ts so we can all swim in peace and harmony – and I wont “accidentally” drown you by doing butterfly as you swim towards me.

  1. Do pick the right lane.  Take note of the lane signs and choose according to your skill. If you are a slow swimmer, please choose the slow lane. If the lane you should be in is full and the lane next to you is nice and quiet, there is no problem with you moving into that one, as long as you appreciate that you might be getting in other people’s way.
  2. swim laneDo follow the circuit.  The lanes have their own circuits, indicated on the signs. You either swim clockwise or anti-clockwise. Have you noticed the darker stripe down the middle of the lane?  When competing you swim above that line and follow it.  When swimming circuits you swim up one side of it and down the other. Don’t just swim up and down on one side, or worse still – in the middle. We’d all love a lane to ourselves, but, let’s face it, that is rarely going to happen.  
  3. Do realise faster swimmers have right of way.  Pay attention to those swimming in the same lane as you. If you are holding people up, or you have people constantly overtaking, it is simple courtesy to at least wait at the end of the lap for the faster swimmer to go first.  The number of times I have got to the end of a lane behind a slower swimmer, only to have them look at me and immediately push off for their next length. It just takes a moment to wait for the faster swimmer to go past and they wont be getting in your way. Gah!  You are the equivalent of the tractor on a B road.  You have every right to be there, you really do, but when you have a chance – please pull into a lay-bye and let those queuing behind you to pass.
  4. Do get out of the way.  Clubs will have a tap-feet policy, where the faster person behind taps the foot of the slower swimmer in front, who then moves out of the way.  This might be a bit weird in a public pool surrounded by strangers.  But just so you know, if you feel the need to tap me on the foot, I’ll know what to do and will act accordingly.

    Sponsored swims
    Sponsored swim hats
  5. Don’t walk, swim.  Don’t stop half way down the length and start walking.  Similarly, don’t stop 5 metres from the end and walk the rest. This has happened to me a lot this week, where the swimmer I was following suddenly stopped and stood up mid length, almost causing a pile-up.  If you can’t swim a whole length, perhaps you should swim elsewhere.  The roped off swimming lane is for exactly that – swimming.
  6. Do keep the end of the lane clear.  If you are going to have a rest, get out of the way of incoming swimmers. The number of people who appear oblivious to those behind them and stand about chatting while others are trying to finish a length is really annoying.  It’s particularly difficult for people who do tumble turns (something I have never mastered) and you’re likely to get kicked if you’re in the way.
  7. Do trim your nails – fingers and toes. No matter how careful you are, at some point you are bound to brush against a passing swimmer and you don’t want to be drawing blood with your grotesque big toe nail as you scrape it down someone’s shin.
  8. Don’t swim backstroke in a crowded lane. You can’t see where you’re going, you’re likely to drift across a lane, slap the backside of the guy behind you, or crash.  Just check ahead and wait until it’s clear before you head off.
  9. DON’T PEE IN THE POOL! Did you know that you don’t get red eyes after swimming because of the chlorine? It happens when urine, sweat and dirt cause a chemical reaction with the chlorine. So shower before you get in the pool, then pee in the toilet and swim in the pool, not the other way around.  The hours I’ve spent in a public pool, and the amount of water I must have swallowed – urgh – it doesn’t bare thinking about.

OK rant over. The public pool is just that – public.  It’s designed for everyone, and the pools do their best to accommodate all.  I love swimming, and love that people of all ages and abilities also enjoy the water.  If I wanted to join a masters swimming club then I have that option.  But to be honest, I’ve had enough of swimming clubs to last a lifetime.  I am not trying to show off by constantly overtaking you.  This is me exercising in the most enjoyable way I know how.  I can’t run, I hate exercise classes, I just love to swim.

It’s not rocket science.  It really just boils down to paying attention to the signs and your fellow swimmers.  It’s simple good manners.  So can we please try to be considerate of each other?

pool water splash feet
Photo by Markus Spiske on


Posted in Life, Love and Laughter, Swimming

Diary of a Swimming Snob

I am a swimmer – check out ‘Badass Mermaid‘ – and it is pretty much the only sport I have ever done. At school I was OK at squash, but not tennis. Netball bored me to tears and a smack in the face with a hockey stick put me off that too. I still have nightmares about my cross country running trials. I was the one at the back limping along, drenched through to the skin, blue with cold, splattered in mud and holding the stitch in my side. Running was not for me, which became even more apparent when I joined the Army.

So swimming is my ‘thing’. My brother, sister and I were in the local swimming club. We swam most nights after school, before school, at weekends and during holidays. We swam for miles. And this was back in the day when we did no other exercise other than swim. We didn’t go to the gym, we didn’t stretch, we didn’t have water bottles poolside, our warm-ups involved jumping in and swimming 20 laps. We just swam.

My brother was the kid that broke swimming club records and later went on to complete an Ironman. My sister was also a very strong swimmer, breaststroke especially. Unfortunately, she was born into the year that contained the elite swimmers. All the girls she had to swim against were awesome. She didn’t do a bad job at competing but it was an unfair time to be in her age-group. She is the middle child though, so if it was going to happen to any of us, it was going to happen to her.

I, on the other hand, had very little competition, and I still never won anything. I was a steady swimmer. I could keep up but I was no Sharron Davies. I once entered a 50 metre butterfly race. 2 laps long and I lost by 1 lap. I got the silver – because there were only 2 of us. I was up against Theresa – she really did put the fly into butterfly.

A few years ago I was encouraged by a friend to enter an adults swimming gala. I didn’t do too badly in most of the races, until it got to the backstroke. I used to be quite good at it back in the day, but not on this day.  I was slow, I messed up the turn and I had that awful pity applause as I came in miles behind everyone else – it was mortifying.

But I was (and still am) a stylish swimmer. My teachers used to ask all the other students to get out of the water and stand on the side of the pool. Then they would make me swim up and down to demonstrate how to do the different strokes properly. Style and grace I had, speed and endurance I did not.

Swimming led on to other sports. Octopush was one of my all time favourites. (Yes it has an ‘H’ on the end. To this day I struggle to say octopuss without it.)  If you have never heard of Octopush you should really look it up. Invented by SCUBA divers as a way of keeping fit during the winter season, it can best be described as underwater hockey.  I may not have been keen on getting hit in the face in regular hockey, but that was nothing compared to Octopush. It is supposed to be a non-contact sport, but it is more comparable to ice-hockey with the pushing and shoving – except it’s played underwater!

And finally a few years ago I qualified as a SCUBA diver, something I have always wanted to do but never had the chance before. I’ve still not had chance to do a great deal of diving, but I love it when I do. I especially loved meeting this little cuttlefish in Tenerife a couple of years back. It’s the only time I’ve been diving outside of the UK so far.


Cuttlefish – Tenerife
underwater motorbike (2)

A chilly murky dive in an English quarry

For now though I mainly swim in a warm indoor swimming pool. I recently signed up for the Diabetes UK Swim 22. The challenge is to swim 22 miles over 12 weeks – the distance across the English Channel – and it has brought back memories of those swimming club days. I would like to tell you about in the next couple of blogs.