The Meerkat Muse: 29/5/24

Welcome back to the Meerkat Muse! As we hurtle towards the end of May, what’s been happening?

Life Insurance

I’ll grant this is not the most exciting place to start a Muse, but a couple of weeks ago I had a call about my existing life insurance policy. As I do have life insurance, I figured this might not be a spam call, and was proven right. Over the course of the call I gently updated my policy, and ensured I remain covered for a considerable number of years. It’s not a pleasant thought, but you never know what’s around the corner, so it’s better to have the policy than not to. I want to make sure my loved ones are protected in the event something happens to me.

Erratic Weather

One minute I’m in my work jacket, the next I’m sitting in my living room wearing nothing but swim-shorts! Overall I’d say conditions are getting warmer and warmer, but with patches of windy, wet weather thrown in at random to keep us on our toes. We’re still weeks away from when the UK summer typically takes hold, and all we can do is wait and wonder as to what’s in store!

Will we be seeing more of this?

One consequence to the weather has been the flooding of a nearby underpass, which in turn has forced a slight detour to and from work. It’s a minor inconvenience, so one simply grins and bears it, even so it’s faintly shambolic. This underpass flooded quite recently, was successfully drained, and then flooded again at the first hint of rain! I am told this is not the only underpass in town to suffer from this affliction, so clearly there is something not right with the local plumbing!

Manic Magpies

There’s a small bank of trees right outside my home, and for whatever reason (there were no signs of cats, foxes, or other aggravators) the magpies that live in them went berserk the other night. They were squawking like crazy, and would not shut up. I’d love to know what was stirring them up so much.

The Cat gets a Fright

I don’t know why, but this pic makes me snicker.

Now that the weather is generally warmer, my cat has been spending more time outdoors. He likes to sunbathe, and he generally enjoys being out and about. Because he is out and about, he ends up encountering other creatures, such as foxes, other cats, and dogs. It is not unusual to hear a growl or snarl, though to give him credit, Castiel will generally remove himself from the scene. However, the other day he was presumably minding his own business, sitting by the front of the house, when we heard a heavy thud against our front door. Someone had just walked by with a dog (an impressive and stocky staffie), and the dog decided to lunge at the cat. This dog was so strong that he dragged her owner through our neighbour’s garden in pursuit of our boy, but fortunately Castiel was a lot quicker, and got away.

The dog had a bloody scratch across her nose for her troubles. The owner (bless him, a nice guy) remarked that she keeps going for cats, and never learns her lesson. It can be an instinct thing with some dogs, they think of a cat as somewhere between a threat for resources, and prey. Even the sharp claws that cats possess is not enough to deter them from the thrill of the chase! After a short while, Castiel appeared at the backdoor, and wound up safe and sound on the sofa, none the worse for wear.

Speaking of Castiel, here at the results of the ‘photoshoot’ from the other day…

The Strange Train Dream

By now, it is clear I am no stranger to unusual dreams, and the other night delivered one such nocturnal tale. I was at King’s Cross station, where there was some sort of event going on, possibly some kind of musical event, but it was certainly busy, and not laid out at all like it really is. I cannot recall where we were supposed to be travelling to, but at some stage, my family and I boarded a train (and being the sad act that I am, I knew this to be a Class 43 express train), which duly departed… and went around the corner to the neighbouring St Pancras station. It’s not actually possible for a train to loop around from King’s Cross to St Pancras like that, but leaving aside how the dream created some confused details, the reason for this little detour is because the service was supposed to start its journey from St Pancras.

It’s funny how dreams can twist reality.

Wet ‘n’ Wild

The other Tuesday delivered a reminder that we are not yet in summer. Whilst there have been some bright and sunny days, May keeps serving up outbursts of incredible rain. Tuesday was a case in point; it did not let up all day, and whilst it wasn’t heavy rain, it was so constant that the flooded underpass near us must surely now be a swimming pool. The irony is that for Saturday, some reports suggested temperatures could reach as high as 30C, a stark contrast to what we had only a few days before! On Wednesday the downpour continued, and if anything, it was worse! The flooded underpass was now so backed up, that another nearby underpass was starting to overflow.

London, P3

The Case of the Curious Knock

Referring back to Tuesday once more, my wife and I were sitting in our living room, minding our business, when there came a knocking on our living room window. Since the only way to accomplish this is to be in our front garden, someone must have reached around the corner of the house to do this. Why they would do this is a mystery. Was it some form of prank? Was it an effort to rattle us? Did the party or parties involved hope that we would venture outside, possibly into some form of ambush? Granted, the latter possibility is unlikely, but prudence is better than recklessness, and I figured it was generally wiser to ignore this little event.

Water Ripoff

This is outrageous.

The UK’s privatised water companies are going to ask the regulator for permission to increase their prices. The range of price hikes will be anywhere from 24% to 91%, depending on what water company you’re with, but it’s outrageous no matter what. It was recently revealed that water companies have paid out billions to investors, yet they expect their customers – who have no choice but to be customers of specific water companies, due to location – to foot the bill for much-needed infrastructure upgrades. If there was ever a demonstration as to why public services should not be in private hands, water companies are it.

Unfortunately there is a love of money and profit among the powers that be, and you have to wonder if Tory MPs – who voted in droves to prevent measures to stop raw sewage being pumped into our rivers and beaches – are among the chief beneficiaries of the existing arrangement. They certainly have a love of money, and will place financial interests ahead of the public good, whenever they get the chance.


Finally. After a lot of speculation, pent-up frustration, and strange denials from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, he has finally called a General Election! The date? The 4th of July. Does this mean the 4th of July will effectively be the British public’s Independence Day from these woeful, parasitic Tories?

There are a lot of pointed choices for people to make. Labour’s stance on Gaza and Israel is divisive among Labour supporters. The fate of the NHS is at stake. Scotland could be a wildcard element. Labour could win a huge majority, or we could wind up with a hung Parliament, in which case there will be a scramble to form a coalition. Every political party will be expected to present cohesive, well-defined policies, and explain how those policies will benefit the average Briton. People, if they pause to consider the Tory record of the past 14 years, will vote for anyone but them. Unfortunately, a lot of people will not consider the performance of the Tories, and will still mysteriously vote Tory, out of a bizarre, misplaced sense of loyalty and ideology.

The country cannot afford another five years of Tory ineptitude. It is time to make them pay for their cruelty and incompetence.

Spirited Away

Last Thursday, the first in a trio of London trips took place. All of these adventures are for the benefit of my daughter’s birthday, and the first voyage involved a theatre production of Studio Ghibli’s animated classic Spirited Away. I collected her from school, we wolfed down a quick dinner, then we were out the door for the trip to London’s famous Leicester Square.

Trips to London are always quite fascinating. The city is a vibrant scene, at once both filled with historic pomp and also displaying plenty of rough edges. I would not trade London for any other major city, though it could be a lot cleaner!

How about a somewhat mediocre silhouette of Nelson’s Column?
I took a pic of a bank of shops under Charing Cross station, because I think I incorporated this into a story I’d been writing.
Pertinent words.
Like many London theatres, the London Coliseum has been in place for many years.
Barry the Beaver!
Some more internal features.
The stage is set!

The production itself was brilliant. I’d wondered how they would stage some of the film’s gorgeous elements, and they used a rotating stage, sleight of hand, and clever costumes to dazzle and bewitch the audience. My only issue was that the play was a fair bit longer than the movie, and as such, we didn’t get out of the theatre till gone 10:30! Still, it was worth it, and it would have been worth it solely to make my daughter happy.

On the train home, my daughter virtually fell asleep, bless her! It was a very late night (we didn’t get home till shortly after half-past midnight), though the conversation on the train that we overheard did raise an eyebrow! I won’t divulge the details of people being sick and such…


Not for the first time, on Saturday my wife, daughter and I ventured to the ExCel Centre, for an anime comic-con known as MCM. These events are typically very colourful, with incredible costumes and amazing characters on display. There’s a lot to relate to (well, there is if you’re a geek!), and in some respects I feel like I am with ‘my people’, when surrounded by so many fellow nerds! On the other hand, there’s lots of people. These events are usually obscenely crowded, and you can easily end up feeling overwhelmed by the throng. It’s hot, it’s noisy, the queues for the toilets (to say nothing of expensive food stalls) are insane, and thus I have something of a love/hate relationship with conventions.

The other factor is an early start. To ensure we were all successfully out the door in time to get the right train, I had to set my alarm for 7am, on a Saturday (mind you, it’s usually set for 7.30 on a Saturday, due to work). Next came cajoling a teenager into getting up and getting ready. Finally, we had to navigate a combination of mainline trains and the Docklands Light Railways, which included changing for different DLR services, which tends to make the journey quite bitty. However, we managed to get there in one piece, and from there, I spent a small fortune on food, and also on a book for my daughter, whilst admiring the creative cosplays and the exotic stalls.

More on food in a mo, but this caught my eye.
This must have been stiflingly hot!
Having seen Spirited Away on stage two days earlier, this was a timely spot!
I don’t know what show or game this is from, but this looked very uncomfortable!
Make way for the Daleks!

I mentioned food earlier, and here I had something of a fail. You see, there was the duck burger stand, a few Chinese food options, a fried chicken vendor, and a burger van. I opted for the burger van, but failed to spot a telling sign. You see, it turned out the burgers – and everything associated with them, including the bacon and cheese – were vegan. Now, I have eaten plant-based burgers before, but honestly, for me, they cannot match the real thing. The trouble is, by the time I’d queued up, I had more or less committed myself to the burger van, and had no desire to queue again, so I had to go for it. It was alright, and it filled a hole, but I will be more discerning next time!

We didn’t stay too long, because we had no photo shoots or autographs booked, and left around 3pm, but that still made for a long day with a lot of walking! There’s another convention in August, and that one might be more challenging, especially if the weather is hotter.

A Rapid Comedown

I awoke Sunday morning to a throbbing headache, and all the indicators of a cold. This was less than thrilling, not least of all because my parents were coming down to see my daughter for her birthday. Still, I grinned and bore it, because there isn’t much else I can do! The annoying thing is that I felt absolutely fine when I went to bed, so this little cold hit me out of nowhere. I can only assume I caught something off someone at MCM; all those people, packed in tight, is a great way for colds and sniffles to spread.

London, P3

Monday delivered us back to London, for the final part of my daughter’s birthday activities. We went to Forbidden Planet (a huge sci-fi and fantasy store near Tottenham Court Road), then walked down to the huge Waterstones book store in Piccadilly. There, we enjoyed a nice coffee, some toasted sandwiches, and in my daughter’s case, one of the biggest croissants I have ever seen!

We stopped in Duck World, if only because the advert caught our attention!
Piccadilly Circus is one of a number of London’s instantly recognisable landmarks.

Following the trip to the bookstore, we took ourselves to Covent Garden to kill some time, before getting our Chinese buffet dinner, which certainly filled a hole!

Chinatown is vibrant and colourful!

After this, we had to navigate something of a gauntlet on the Tube, owing to partial line closures, and delays caused by fire alarms. The trip from Leicester Square station to Baker Street was punctuated by several line changes, but that’s what we got for travelling on a Bank Holiday! Eventually we made it to the famous road (the home of the character of Sherlock Holmes), and to the Marylebone Theatre.

My daughter wished to see The Government Inspector, a considerable change of pace from Spirited Away! The play was certainly entertaining enough, and there were several sharp ripostes aimed at excesses of government and greed that make me chuckle. The venue was a lot smaller than the London Coliseum, so it lent itself to a more intimate, personal experience.

This wouldn’t be a Berwick family story without some sort of chaos, and sure enough, we experienced this on the way home. We got back to our London terminal only to find it was closed! It turned out they were doing evening engineering work (why do they always schedule this for a Bank Holiday?!), but when I bought the tickets, no one had the presence to tell me of impending disruption! Granted, I could have been more vigorous in my checking, but still…

Cue darting back on the Tube, and arriving to Liverpool Street, only to find that there were no direct trains home! We had to go via the branch line to the nearest stop, and get a taxi from there. In the end we were home before midnight, which was an improvement on Thursday, when it was all a bit frantic, and I hate that. We weren’t helped by the presence of two young women who were both playing music and videos quite loudly on their phones, showing no awareness or consideration for other passengers. I get wanting to listen to music on a long train ride, but that’s what headphones were invented for!

The string of late nights, combined with this cold I’ve come down with, nearly caught me out on Tuesday morning. Bearing in mind I start work at 8am, why did I set my alarm for 7.30?! My wife woke me up just gone 7, if she hadn’t, I might well have been late! My brain is absolutely fried by everything of the past few days, and I need a good week or so of normality to recover! Will I be that lucky?!

With that, I bring this Muse to a close. I hope you have been entertained!

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