The Meerkat Muse: 15th May 2024

It appears Spring has finally sprung! Welcome back to The Meerkat Muse!

Tired Times

Back at the very end of April, my wife and stepdaughter went to see the band Train in concert, at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Getting there was reasonably straight-forward, but getting back had the potential to be very awkward. The trains were a bit all over the place thanks to engineering work, and at one stage, it looked like an expensive Uber was on the cards. Fortunately my wife checked some details with a friend, and discovered that whilst trains were not running to our home town, they were running to a nearby town. From there a taxi was a lot more feasible. Of course, she was home late (I think it was gone 1am when she arrived), and I had work the next day, which meant I was functioning on little sleep, and so was she.

My evening was spent watching over my daughter and granddaughter, who wanted to watch (and have me watch) the animated show Hazbin Hotel. I won’t be going into detail about the show, save to say that it’s incredibly rude!

Warmer Weather

We seem to finally be getting some sunshine, and it seems the mercury is finally starting to rise. The UK’s weather seems to be dealing lengthier cold and cool spells, turning April into what feels like an extension of winter. Conversely, September and October seem to be warmer than they used to be. May may (heh) or not mark the start of a generally positive upturn in conditions, but certainly the 1st of May brought a pleasant warmth to proceedings. It was nice to head out without needing a fleece or coat. Hopefully this continues!

Local Elections

On Thursday the 3th of May, the UK held local elections. Billed as a prelude to the General Election (which has to be held no later than January 2025), this was a major litmus test of where various political parties stood. At the of writing this, the local elections had not taken place, but predictions were suggesting Labour would take several seats from the Tories. There were also discussions about how the Reform Party might split the right-wing vote, and cost the Tories quite dearly. This ‘kat will not cry over that, for the irony of Tory voters flocking to the hard-right Reform Party is that Labour are more likely to win seats!

One noteworthy element to this is whether or not Labour are actually going to win – at both a local and national level – or whether the Tories are losing. The outcome is the same, but the reasons are different, and that’s important. Voting for Labour because you want the Tories to lose is not the same thing as voting for Labour because you believe they can enact genuine, meaningful, positive change for the country. Granted, I for one feel voting to get the Tories out matters, because they’ve been shambolic, especially over the past four years, but it would be nice to have a viable alternative to the Tory policies of greed and incompetence.

I will concede that Labour are starting to develop policies closer to what would be better for the public. There’s talk of a state-owned energy company. There’s plans to scrap the bonuses of water company executives when they cause environmental damage (though this does not go nearly far enough). There’s talk of nationalising the railways, and of closing tax loopholes for private schools. All of this is stuff I can get behind, though proper, definitive wealth taxes would do more. Nationalising water and energy is a must (Labour may be up for a national energy company, paid for by windfall taxes, but those private companies will still rip off consumers).

One thing Labour have mentioned is a living wage. This is great, in theory, but at the moment, all they’ve said is ‘living wage’. That’s a bit vague. Politicians do enjoy issuing vague promises, don’t they?!

I had suspected that the Tories would retain control of the local council, so I was pleasantly surprised – in fact delighted – with the results. Labour won a majority of seats, though not enough to take overall control. Instead, the local council is now considered to be ‘hung’, but even that scenario is better than Tory control.

Incredible Inclement Conditions

No sooner had I noted the apparent shift towards nicer weather than the British climate chose to retaliate. An astonishing thunderstorm lit up the skies the other night, and it was more or less constant. The thunder wasn’t too noteworthy, but the lightening was as epic as I’ve ever seen. My cat had gone outside earlier, so I wandered downstairs in the small hours to try and lure him in, only for him not to appear. I got back into bed, got comfortable, and then, as if on cue, ‘meow!’ He was a soaking wet mess, but with some food in his belly he was soon content.

I am struggling to recall a storm as amazing as this one. It really was something else.

The storm appeared to trigger a spell of utterly inconsistent weather. It was ridiculous. Rain one minute, bright blue skies the next. Why can’t it get warm and stay warm?!

One consequence of a brief bright patch was to finally mow the lawn. I hated every second of it, but for the time being it’s done and dusted.

A Ton of Work to Do

I came into work, having had a couple of peaceful, relaxing days off, to face a ton of tasks. Point of sale needed updating. Brochures needed putting out. Customer enquiries needed chasing. It’s par for the course of the job, but sometimes it hits you in the face like a brick wall, and that’s how I felt. The point of sale was particularly annoying, because we’d been told to remove and discard the old POS holders, and now (having gone through that particular effort) the sale POS required us to use… the old POS holders! This is not the first time my employers – as much as I enjoy working for them – have done this. It is frustrating, because there’s every chance we’ll have to to repeat a similar exercise again, when they update the new POS system. It’s needless extra work, and if there is one thing I cannot stand, it’s needless extra work.

Post Office Pain

Le Sigh!

I don’t often have cause to go to my local post office, but I had to post both my brother’s birthday card, and my new book contract for The Schism, so I took myself down there the other morning. For my bro’s card I was able to use the self-service machine, but when I attempted to use it for my contract (which was to be sent to the USA), the machine informed me of a customs form. OK, no problem, except there weren’t any forms! Cue, err, queuing, to speak to a human being. Cue the usual post office problem of a queue, and few people to serve customers. My local post office often seems chronically understaffed, and they have a tendency to leave the desk to attend to other matters quite a lot!

Granted, I have no idea what the job entails, but they do with at least one extra person at any given time. I got to the front of the queue, and asked to send my documents, at which point the member of staff was determined to sell me a much more expensive service than I wanted or needed! I have no wish to spend £60, or even £20, dispatching what the computer tells me should only cost £4! I get it, they need to try and upsell, but there are vast differences in play here.

The Mysterious Burger Dream!

Ever had a burger so good you go cross-eyed?

I dare say this latest very weird dream drew inspiration from the Fallout TV series, which has presented us with the unique dystopian steampunk future dreamt up by Bethesda Studios for their video game series. There were several disparate elements to this dream, which included leaving a school, walking through a park and kicking a football around, and then winding up at a shanty town, where I was going to start a job involving, of all things, telesales. Despite the rough-around-the-edges appearance of the ‘office’, everyone seemed enthusiastic about working there, and the lunch options were pretty tremendous!

I opted for a burger, and had to pay a little extra because I grabbed two buns by mistake (there’s a pun there, crying out to be made, but I will resist). Oddly, my server was the singer Cher! I have no idea where she came from, but that’s dreams for you!

The Return of the Doctor

Doctor Who returned at the weekend, and it certainly seems that we have a more frenetic (if that’s possible) show, with the Doctor and his new companion Ruby flung into adventures against fundamental forces of the universe already! The show seems slicker, and somehow bolder, and I am intrigued to see where this will go.

The Unaware

I was walking home from work the other day, and there was a guy walking towards me down the path. Nothing odd there, and nor was it especially odd that the guy was totally engrossed in his phone. He was so completely engrossed that he was barely walking in a straight line, and despite my efforts to pick a side, he nearly walked right into me. He carried on, seemingly completely oblivious to our encounter, and demonstrated something of a worrisome trend. That complete, all-encompassing lack of situational awareness is the sort of thing that leads people to walk out into the road, or get hit by a cyclist, because they are so enamoured with their phone or screen.

I get it, sometimes we want to switch our brains off and have a bit of screen time. I do it myself. However, to be that ignorant of my surroundings would be frightening. I could have tripped that guy over, or punched him in the head, or done who-knows-what, and he’d never have seen it coming. It was scary. For the record, this was not a kid, this was a grown man, in his twenties or thirties, who was displaying this lack of awareness.

Back to Grey

The brief burst of bright blue skies and warmer weather we had in early May drifted away from us by the middle of the month. Cloudy, damp conditions have returned, though it’s maybe a touch warmer, which means it’s going to be muggy as well. To put it another way, the UK – or at least my patch – is going to be sticky. The trouble with these conditions is that a coat will render me too hot, but going out in just a t-shirt is not an option, unless I want to be soaked! Good ol’ British weather…

The Cat gets Chipped

My fuzzy-wuzzy boo-boo!

By law, cats must now be microchipped, which serves as a way to identify and locate them. A recurring problem in the UK is of people stealing pets, usually dogs, but it can happen with cats too, plus cats like to roam, and sometimes their normally impeccable sense of direction desserts them. I carted Castiel to the local vets yesterday, and duly got him done. The needle was quite long, and the vet asked me to keep a decent hold of Castiel whilst she inserted the chip, as some cats have been known to react a bit badly to it! I have to say that Castiel took it like a champ. He did not flinch, or whimper. He mewled a couple of times whilst in the carrier, but other than that he took the entire affair in his stride.

Friends, Reunited

Yesterday I was supposed to meet up with some old friends from a previous job down the pub. I have a lot of time for both of these people, and whilst we don’t meet up often, I always enjoy it when we do. My head doesn’t necessarily appreciate it quite so much the following morning! It’s good to spend some time doing stuff outside of the normal routine. Meeting up with friends is one way to accomplish that. Alas, one of them had a family emergency, so we’ve had to put a pin in our plans. I hope their emergency is resolved in the most peaceful way possible, and I hope we can meet up soon.

With that, I feel like this is a good place to wrap up this latest edition of the Meerkat Muse. I’ll be sporadically posting my Writing Prompts (as always), and if you have any ideas for prompts for me, please let me know in the comments! In the meantime, stay tuned for another Muse in a couple of weeks!

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