Greetings from the Meerkat Muse.
The image of the ocean has been chosen quite deliberately, after a period of introspection. The ocean can be a source of serenity, but underneath, it can be savage, cold and violent. Water gives life, and it can take it away. Watching the waves can be a cathartic experience, a soothing exercise, for it can look so calm, so at peace, but don’t forget the churning, broiling chaos under those waves.
The short version as to my self-analysis boils down to me being a bloody idiot, for reasons I do not even understand about myself. I was not transparent, and that upset people close to me. They may have forgiven me my stupidity, but I… well, I have reflected before as to how I am my harshest critic, and worst enemy.
Sometimes, I am self-destructive. I have long been convinced that my brain is faulty. I have a loving wife, a wonderful daughter, family and friends, and yet sometimes, I do not appreciate what I have. Quite why… I have no idea. There have been many, many times of late where I have quietly repeated to myself that I am an idiot, and that of course, is stupid in itself. Self-doubt is ruinous, yet at times I am riddled with it.
My way of punishing myself has been to strip away all the frivolous sources of fun I once turned to. Simply put, I do not regard myself as worthy of playing video or computer games right now. The one exception – because my wife spent money on it for my birthday – is Super Mario Wonder, but I won’t indulge in any other such activity.
There is a positive side effect to that.
I have referenced how I have been working on the sequel to The Awakening, and I still am. However, I have also referred to another story, one that bubbled up, rather insistently, and that story is Fontana & Istilor. I liken it to a ‘coming of age’ story, and I dare say it’s more emotional than The Awakening. I opted to self-publish this, for better or worse, and it is available to pre-order via Amazon! My aim is to release it on the 29th of February, though who knows, I may bring that forward.
With that out of the way, there is really now no excuse not to work on The Awakening’s sequel, and I’ve pressed ahead with that, though I am also dabbling with yet another story (another one of my problems is laid bare, I cannot focus!), under the working title of ‘Dragon and Books‘. Whereas The Awakening would carry a 12A/PG-13 certificate, and Fontana & Istilor would be a 15/NC-17 certificate, Dragon and Books is a family story. At most, it would up with a PG rating, and maybe not even that.
The Mystery of the Vanishing Shower Order
No, this is not going to be a book! This relates to a curious set of circumstances at work. Months ago, a customer ordered a shower system, then had it refunded, and with no trace of an order on the system for any form of replacement from us, he has wound up with what certainly looks like one of our shower packs. This shower pack has developed a fault, and he would like it dealt with. The trouble is, I cannot locate proof of purchase, and no one is going to tackle a fault without proof of purchase.
There is another issue. If we offer guidance, and even parts, to fix one of our shower systems, and it turns out it’s not one of ours, it might make matters worse, and it would certainly invalidate any warranty he does have. I can understand his frustration with it all, but something weird has happened here, something very weird.
I despise fox hunting. It wound up on social media on Boxing Day, as Boxing Day is traditionally when posh, arrogant toffs go hunting, where they will kill foxes for pleasure. It’s not sport, because sport implies at contest, and at least some form of chance for the other side. The foxes have no chance against a pack of spoilt rich brats on horses, armed with guns, and with packs of dogs at their command. It is also true that in some cases, the dogs themselves are mistreated. They are beaten and whipped if they do not comply, and discarded or killed if no longer useful in a hunt.
In short, there is nothing redeemable about fox hunting. It is barbaric. It is a perverse form of pleasure, enjoyed only by arrogant pricks. I will make no secret of my utter contempt for the practice, and those who defend it.
A few paragraphs ago, I mentioned a project I’m working on to do with dragons. That’s not the only dragon-based project. I mentioned to my daughter the idea of different types of dragons fighting each other, and she loved the sound of that. She loved it so much that she has pestered me to write a story along those lines. I am therefore writing what is tentatively called ‘Dragon Wars‘, though you can guarantee the title will change! My initial thoughts… well, that would give the game away.
Time to get Fit?
I have definitely developed a gut in recent times. I do a lot of walking, but not nearly enough actual exercising. The New Year is often a time when people declare ‘I will get in shape!’, only to put in a brief burst of effort, which swiftly fades. If I am to get into shape, I need to do more than offer token effort. I need to be disciplined (not exactly a strength of mine), and have a proper go. I can do sit-ups and press-ups at home, and I have weights (somewhere), and somehow, I need to motivate myself. I don’t expect to become a muscle-bound Adonis, but maybe I might feel healthier in myself?
By now, all you ‘kats are familiar with the stories of my strange dreams. On many occasions, they are peculiar adventures, and on recent occasions, they’ve featured alien invasions! On other occasions, they are emotional voyages.
Case in point, the other night, in what started out as a weird dream (I was initially competing on the old gameshow The Weakest Link), I was reunited with a long-lost loved one. As dream so often do, the scene shifted from the show, and I found myself in a Church, singing Christmas carols. To my left, sitting in the pews, was my Nan.
I can feel myself becoming emotional as I write this. I went over to her, hugged her, held her close, and cried. She spoke to me, told me something about £50 from an uncle of hers (as I remember it), but my abiding memory is of hugging my Nan. I felt like a kid again. For a moment, I believed my Nan was alive again.
If there is one constant in this universe, it will be love. Love is eternal.
Bloganuary is the annual event WordPress uses to kickstart people into posting in the New Year. I did briefly consider taking part, but I’m still producing my Writing Prompt posts, and whilst these will no longer be a daily occurrence, they’re enough to occupy me. The era of daily posts was enjoyable but gruelling, and I lack the endurance to do it again!
The family PS5 has encountered something of a problem. I went to fire it up the other day, and it powered up, but there’s something up with the HDMI connection. I tried three different cables, via two different ports, and yet the issue remained. The console is barely more than two years old, so for it to suffer a fault such as this is pretty frustrating. My Nintendo Switch is going to be seven this year, and has worked fine during its entire life. To give Nintendo further credit, my Super Nintendo (aka SNES) still works, and that’s more than 30 years old. The controllers died a few years ago, but with replacements, I could still hook that thing up once more.
I guess this is a demonstration of that classic adage, ‘they don’t make them like they used to’. Then again, to give Sony credit, I don’t think PlayStations generally suffer from hardware failure. It’s bad luck, and at least it’s not a major component, like the hard-drive! For some mysterious reason, the issue had resolved itself the following morning. I will not tempt fate by speaking of it any further.
OK, I will freely admit that when I saw this trending on Twitter, I got excited. There have been rumours for the past couple of years, but they’ve stepped up in recent times, with a lot of people believing 2024 will be the year Nintendo reveal the Switch’s successor. Alas, this recent trend was nothing more than snowballing speculation! Talk about a tease…
Not for the first time, I must lament the late arrivals. You can probably guess where this is going. I fully understand that some people can’t reach us until late in the day, but when our showroom is open for as long as it is, seven days a week, and you appear to have almost deliberately waited till 10 minutes before closing, I think that’s pretty rude. Those of us who work in retail have lives beyond the store. We are not drones; we need our time away from work too. Waiting till the last possible moment to hop in your car and drive to the store, given all the hours we are open (including weekends) is not on.
The most annoying part is that we have to grit our teeth, and smile, and be pleasant. I can guarantee to anyone who casually strolls into a store a few minutes before closing time, that all our politeness is incredibly forced. Imagine if you suddenly have to stay late at your office, because someone waited until five minutes before closing time to phone up for some information. It’s no different for us in retail. Please be considerate!
The Awkward D
You there, at the back, stop sniggering! A difficult D is no joke! If it stops working, I’ve found giving it a good pounding usually restores the D to life! I am of course, referring to my laptop’s keyboard. What did you think I was talking about?! Sheesh, you lot are so dirty-minded. Humour aside, the issue with the keyboard was probably down to debris underneath the key. A damn good thrashing soon restored the D to its full, magnificent glory. Speaking of innuendo…
It’s a rarity for me to go to the local panto with my wife and daughter, as I am usually working, but this year I was able to go. It was a production of Cinderella, with all the usual panto tropes (booing the wicked stepmother, mocking the ugly stepsisters, roaring with laughter at the jokes, and laughing all the more when things went wrong!), and who doesn’t love a bit of innuendo. It’s fun to be in-your-end-o. Urgh, give me strength! I did however learn that the local prince has the most amazing big balls…
If there is a more compelling ‘reality TV’ show out there than The Traitors, I have not found it. This fiendish show of intrigue, back-stabbing, money-making challenges, and careful manipulation became a smash hit on UK screens at the end of 2022, and after just over a year, it’s back! Last time, the Faithful were able to claim the money, but will the Traitors be more cunning, and more devious, this time around?
I have alluded to a few issues with work, and stressful times due to that throughout 2023. I wish I could say a line had been drawn under those problems, but early 2024 has seen a lot of them resurface.
There is a balancing act to play here. A tightrope to walk, if you will. We are a small team, so if there is a major problem involving one of us, it can impact all of us. We’re targeted as individuals and as a store to hit certain sales goals. If the store hits its goals, we all get a bonus, irrespective of who contributed what.
For example, I could achieve only 30% of my target, but if my colleagues hauled the store across the finish line by picking up my slack, I’d still get the bonus. If my colleagues were to hit 100% of their targets, but I was behind on mine, no one would get a bonus. In effect, one person can impact whether or not we earn extra money each month.
There will always be variation with this sort of thing. One month, I may do 105% of my target, and if a colleague does 97%, and others do say, 101% of theirs, as a store we’ve hit our goal, and we’ve all had a good month. Another month, I may be on 88% of my target, and my colleagues will all be on say, 107%, and we’ll do target. If we are all there or thereabouts, that’s fine. The trouble is, we’re not all there or thereabouts.
I had to have a discussion with the powers that be relating to all this, which was unpleasant, because I fear I was throwing someone under the bus, so to speak. I am loathe to do that, but equally, the more the store misses out, the more the rest of us miss out, and the more scrutiny we’ll fall under. The further behind we fall, the harder it becomes to claw back the deficit. I don’t want to have people from head office breathing down my neck, and nor do I need the extra pressure and stress that goes with my targets going up, to cover someone else’s.
It’s a sales role. Every sales role will have targets. Every retailer is in this to make money. The showroom has a minimum threshold it must meet to break even, let alone turn a profit. The company as a whole wants to make profits, to reinvest into the business. They’re not obliged to offer up the precise details as to how targets for stores are derived, though a lot of the time, they’re looking to outperform the previous year. If they give one person an exemption from sales targets, they will not drop the store’s overall target, which means more pressure for the rest of us.
The whole situation is a mess. I do not want to create difficulties for my colleague, but difficulties are being created for everyone else, and I also have to look after myself in all of this. A by-product of all this is more lone-trading days in the near future, which is not automatically a problem for me, but it has the potential to create still more stress.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has a problem. He needs to hold an election, and has to do so no later than January 2025. He recently said there probably won’t be an election in the first half of 2024, but that there might be one in the latter period of the year.
All of this is wishy-washy, which is typical of politicians, and even more so given that the Tories are currently poorly-placed to win an election. Polls conducted at the end of 2023 suggest Labour would have a 17-point lead over the Tories, which would be enough for a majority – albeit not a huge one – at the next General Election. Labour have led virtually every poll, across various regions, since December 2021, and thus, the Tories are hardly going to rush to trigger an election.
Of course, once campaigning begins in earnest, who knows what may happen? The media holds a lot of sway, and I am not at all convinced they aren’t responsible for why 26% of polled voters would still vote Tory, despite 14 years of increasingly devastating failures. I am baffled as to why people will doggedly continue to support the Tories, but then politics is often polarising, and it has become even more polarising in recent times. The ‘us versus them’ mentality often leads to people bunkering down, with no room to consider other perspectives, or even facts. The ‘right vs left’ attitude, which is often fermented by the press, keeps people divided, and working against finding common ground. It is impossible to find room for change in those conditions. Whilst political arguments should be driven by facts and evidence, they are often driven by passionate emotions.
Alongside the consequences of the work issues I mentioned earlier, we have recently come to the end of a sale, and this typically means busy days. I had some lone-trading to do, which I don’t actually mind, and there were days with a lot of customers in and out of the store. You’d think that sort of day would go by really fast, but sometimes they drag out, as people have endless questions about one thing or another. Then you get away from that group, only to be collared by another. Typically, lunchtime is busy, and that’s when I want to eat lunch!
Sunday was manic. We had a great day in terms of money, and then on Monday, we had a bitty day. Point-of-Sale changes are annoying, and I yearn for the day when all the price tickets go digital. That way, all the price changes can be done at the push of a button! Sadly, we are a long way away from that!
Still, for all the moaning I can do (and I can do a lot of moaning), I have things to be thankful for. I have a job, I have friends and family, and most importantly, I have a wonderful wife, and wonderful daughter. I often don’t feel I deserve any of that, which is something I need to work on.
On Monday morning, the first snow of 2024 drifted across the landscape. I watched it from the windows at work, and thanked my lucky stars I wasn’t having to go outside at that moment. I like snow, from a distance! It looks pleasant when it falls, and when it settles, but I don’t want it to linger. As I go to work five days a week, that means a lot of trudging through the stuff if it takes root. I am not keen on that!
Will it snow more? Quite possibly. Will it settle? Perhaps. There’s no way to know. Weather predictions have improved a lot down the years, but it’s one of those things that’s impossible to get 100% correct. We’ll have to wait and see.
Let’s conclude this Muse with a brief rundown of my subconscious voyages. The standout examples this time around include sneaking around a theatre, whilst trying to work out who the killer is within a group of people (don’t worry, this was a roleplay, a sort of live-action game of Cluedo, if you will), and boarding the wrong train home, ending up at some random stop, with several war veterans around. To return home, we had to build a new station, and the tracks. I think this was semi-inspired by my wife’s farm game, in some weird way.
Will I ever unravel what my brain tries to tell me through my dreams? Or am I doomed to be tormented by my dreams? For that matter, do I want to be relieved from my dreams?
With all of the recent chaos, what comes next? You’ll find out, in two weeks.